The Story – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

GreatisthyfaithfulnessThe greatest testimonies of God’s faithfulness that are written in song have come from those in difficult circumstances. How would we know of God’s faithfulness if not pressed far beyond our own strength and resources?

I posted a video today on another site of a hymn arrangement I want my son, Will, the resident organist, to play for me. My friend, Bethany Lewis, responded with a link which shares the beautiful story of how the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, came to be.

How many millions has this hymn blessed down through the years? The suffering man who penned it could still look to the goodness of God and His loving care in the middle of trouble. If you are suffering today, worried about how to pay bills, struggling with untold and seemingly intolerable burdens, look to the One who has not forgotten you. He is faithful, a loving Father who has engraved you on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16.)

Here is the link to the hymn story. (Thank you Bethany!) And below is the beautiful hymn played by the young man who is the senior organist at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The text of the hymn is below the video.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Refrain
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Refrain
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And All The Souls Within These Walls…

blessingYears ago, I attended a house warming party for some friends who were moving into their first home. They had always rented up until that point, and they were delighted to move their children into a bungalow they had refurbished over the course of many months.

They were a Christian family, and they had asked a pastor friend of theirs to the gathering. It made a deep impression on me as the pastor stood up after the socializing and said a prayer of blessing on the new home. He prayed for the protection of the occupants, for the marriage of the parents and for the growth of the children within those walls. It was almost 30 years ago, but I remember that beautiful prayer very clearly.

We have not had a house warming party, yet, anyway, for our new home. We are still in the lengthy process of settling in. But the very first day the home was ours, we received a card from my dear sister-in-law and her husband, Mike. The words were a simple but profound blessing on our home.

I want to share Kris’s words to us with you. Words can wound and kill a spirit. They can destroy. But words can also give life, strength, hope and joy. With our words, we can literally bless those around us. Thank you, Kris and Mike, for this blessing on our home. True family is a beautiful thing.

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When the Past Meets the Present

I have a diverse and wonderful group of friends on Facebook, and one of them is Anne Schaller Koch from my home state of Wisconsin. She recently posted some interesting photographs about her life on her page, and I asked her if she would mind writing out more detail for my Hope Blog. I love hearing about life as it was years ago. There is much to admire and to learn from in reading and hearing these stories. Thank you so much, Anne, for sharing these memories of your life that is rich in love and faith.

Baking and cooking from scratch appears to be enjoying a revival these days, at least in our family. Our daughter-in-law is working on creating a cookbook for her grown children containing the recipes she used when they were growing up. Here is a mother who grows her own herbs, makes her own pure vanilla from vanilla beans, rolls out the dough to make noodles, and more recently made all the candied citron for her Christmas baking—so it should not be any surprise to find most of her recipes are “from scratch.” Anne2Our daughter also follows this pattern, including making her own yogurt on a regular basis. It started me thinking that this is where I came in, the difference being that when I was growing up, cooking from scratch was the only option!

My early years were spent during the Great Depression in our country, and like the free range chickens we favor so much in our day, everyone was scratching for ways to put food on the table. Stores were small and sold only the staples needed to bake bread, create simple meals, and get along with the bare essentials. Even at that, few people had the “scratch” to buy even the basics. We lived in western South Dakota where the drought, dust storms, and armies of grasshoppers kept many a family from harvesting crops for animals or family. Yet the generosity of people was a blessing to experience, and the members of our congregation kept us (the pastor’s family) supplied with milk, eggs, garden vegetables, and whatever meat they could spare.

Anne4One of my earliest memories is of my mother making cottage cheese. When someone gave us more milk than we could drink in a day (no refrigeration), mother would put the naturally curdling milk or cream in cheesecloth bags and tie them with string to a stick supported between two chairs. As curds formed, the whey dripped into a pan below. No doubt we were sternly instructed not to mess with this set-up, and the memory stuck in my mind.

Being only five when we moved to our next home, I was not fully aware of the struggles or ingenuity my mother put into keeping us well-fed, but saved family letters tell the story in detail. I do remember that just before we moved, the church ladies came to help mother prepare the chickens to be canned so we could take the meat with us to our next home. I do not know how chickens came to be raised on the church property but am guessing it was another of mother’s attempts to make ends meet.

AnneOur next home was in eastern South Dakota, finally near relatives. My mother’s sister and family lived in a small town within visiting distance, and now there were cousins to play with from time to time. Here we are making mud pies (really scratching it) and washing up the dishes outside our playhouse. Note the broom to sweep the dirt floor. Our circumstances were now better since we had a garden and there were lakes where my Dad could fish. I can still remember my mother preparing frog legs for dinner, and being alarmed to see how they jumped in the frying pan. Mother needed to assure me that they were not alive and did not feel any pain. Mother was a stay-at-home Mom, and I was a very curious child, so as she cooked and baked, she explained “why” she was doing what she did. At Christmas time she was very particular about her Christmas Stollen and Lebkuchen. Ground cardamom from the store would not do; it must be whole cardamom seed that we would bring home and turn into powder by mother’s own method. I helped take the soft shells off the seeds, and then Mother would put about a tablespoon of seed into the corner of a dishtowel, and with a hammer she would pound those seeds until they were reduced to a fine powder. The aroma was pungent, and she had her freshly ground cardamom! I followed her directions for a few years after I was married but kept ruining my dishtowels, so I just decided I did not need to be so particular.

Food was as special as it gets at Christmas time. My grandmother from Minnesota would put a packet of dressed duck or goose on the train in the morning, and after its long trip, we would receive it in time to bake the bird for supper. With an orange in my Christmas stocking and an apple in each of my three Christmas Eve sacks (my father was pastor of three congregations), we enjoyed the only fresh fruit I recall eating during the winter months. The only convenience food I remember having in my childhood home was Jello, sometimes with bananas, and it was a real treat.

Our next move was to Minnesota, and compared to South DakotaAnne3 it was like the promised land of Canaan. We had fruit trees, gardens of both flowers and vegetables galore. We moved once again after two years, still in Minnesota but closer to New Ulm, where I would be attending high school and college. In this home I grew to adulthood, learning to cook, bake a pie, can vegetables and fruit, make jelly, pickles, and help with most all the household duties. By this time Mother had a large class of piano pupils coming to our home, and though I was away at boarding school a good share of the time, I came home weekends and summers to help at home. After three years of teaching school (and boarding at the homes of others), I was eager to be the homemaker I always wanted to become.

When I married Paul, we also moved to the Dakotas (this time not far from the Montana border), and armed with recipes dating back to Grandmother’s kitchen, I was all set. Some recipes required math to figure out measurements. One particular favorite had all ingredients listed in pounds (whether liquid or dry) and the shortening was specified as so many “egg lumps” of lard. One ingredient was “a glass of wine” and I never did figure out whether that meant four ounces, eight ounces, or more. Seems it didn’t matter, since the additional flour called for was equally unknown, written simply as “add needed flour to form dough into a roll.” I have made these cookies for sixty-two years now, and they always taste just fine!

In our retirement years we continue to cook from scratch whenever possible, though convenience foods are good to keep on hand. I say “we” because Paul has gradually taken over the cooking, as I gradually rely more on my walker to get around. I serve as arm-chair consultant now and help as I am able. Paul still has a generous garden, so we eat well, freezing our vegetables for the winter months. Paul is a good cook, and I like his fried chicken the best, made from those free-range chickens! We can’t compete with the young cooks in the family but we still bake our own bread and eat simple but healthy meals. We give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good!

~ Anne Schaller Koch

An Obituary Full of Life

“So, I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor.But, I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?”

These lines are taken from an obituary sent to me by a friend. The words that were penned by the woman before she passed away sum up a life rich in many ways, but most of all in love. She wrote, “I’ve always maintained that my greatest treasures call me Nana. That’s not exactly true. You see, the youngest of my grand-angels, Ella Ashley Kramer and Finley Christian Kramer call me “Grand Nana…”

I don’t care what religion you claim to possess, what creed you profess, if you don’t cherish your own children and grandchildren, your own brothers or sisters, you’re very poor.To be pitied. And your religion, if it doesn’t produce love for your own family, is worthless.

I read through this piece several times, it’s so full of life well lived. The gratitude for blessings received is exemplary. As the woman wrote, “How much more blessed can a person be?”

That’s why counting blessings ought to be a daily exercise.

Count your blessings one by one
When dawn appears and day has just begun
They will light your heart with happiness
Make each hour bright and bring you gladness

Count your blessings one by one
When twilight falls and toil of day is done
And in sweet dreams they’ll come again to you
If you will count your blessings each day through

Count your blessings while you may
For we are here but little time to stay
All around are hearts sincere and true
Lovely things abound just waiting for you

Count your blessings while you may
The big or small, whichever comes your way
For then you’ll find this world a place of love
If you will count your blessings from above

Reginald Morgan & Edith Temple

A Holocaust Survivor Rescues Persecuted Christians

ChristiansSyriaHere’s a heart-warming story of a holocaust survivor who has set up a fund to rescue the persecuted Christians in Syria who are facing terrible persecution.

Charles Krauthammer writes about this amazing man in an article in National Review.

“The consequences for Christians [in the Middle East] are terrible — enslavement, exile, torture, massacre, crucifixion.” — Charles Krauthammer

But a man, who himself was taken in by Christians in 1938, has stepped up to try to help. Here’s the story.

 

 

Beauty for Your Day (or Night)

{To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.}

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

~ Psalm 19

Here is Haydn’s setting for the opening verses, and the words they are singing.

The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

Today that is coming speaks it the day,
The night that is gone to following night.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

In all the lands resounds the word,
Never unperceived, ever understood.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

“Thus far the LORD has Helped Us”

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” I Samuel 7:12

These are beautiful words from the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament.  Whether people lived thousands of years ago or today, our human needs are the same. The guiding and preserving hand of the LORD in our lives is essential, and what a joy to have an Ebenezer in our own lives, marking the fact that “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

mygarden“I was about to fall,” David wrote in the Psalms, “but the LORD helped me.”  We were despairing, and God lifted up our heads. In the midst of so much ugliness, God has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies and has given us beauty for ashes. His love has rained on us through the love of others so many times in the last few years. His hand, even when it didn’t seem to be there, has continually led us and continues to lead. We are grateful for that kindly light in the gloom of this world.

When we live by faith, God takes the broken glass of our lives and builds a stained glass window, a unique mosaic built from all the shattered pieces. The glass is illuminated by the Light of his presence, and no earthly hand can make such a design.

Our family has seen and experienced the mercies of the Lord and help in time of need.  This spring and summer have been times of change for us, and these changes are a blessing. I have never been busier, working as a producer for a national radio show, having the privilege of scheduling excellent guests and news makers and assisting an able and experienced radio host. I haven’t enjoyed myself this much in a long time! (Meeting up with my old publicist friends has been fun. One said, “Ingrid, we worked together for 20 years. Welcome back!)

We are settling into our new home. Last weekend, I spent four hours sorting and putting all my books on the various bookshelves. It isn’t home until I have Spurgeon and B.B. Warfield on the shelves. I also unpacked a little mini-library of light novels from the early 20’s and 30’s that I have saved for our little daughter, Emily. These gems are disappearing from library shelves as the new books come in, and some authors can’t even be found anymore, sadly. But I have a small trove of treasures for Emily if she loves to read like I did when I was a girl. I also have two shelves of classic literature that spans childhood, so our daughter will have a rainy day library of the best books for children.

These are the best and worst of times. The best part of these times is that we can vividly watch the spiritual battle underway that Holy Scripture clearly describes. God’s Word is being proved true again and again in every headline you read. There is no neutrality in these times, no middle ground between good and evil, between life and death. Life and family are cheap in this world that rejects God and His goodness. But we have a glorious hope for a future where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and where we will know joy forever more. In the mean time, as the poet put it, “God stands within the shadows, keeping watch over his own.”

A Little Fiesta

Our youngest turned six years old yesterday. Emily had the “fiesta” she requested with a taco feast. We are thankful for all the smiles and hugs and laughter this little surprise daughter has brought our family, and thankful that God preserved her life and mine six years ago. Her two little nephews, Peter and Max, were there with our son Sam, his wife Laura, brother Jonathan, sister Mary and Aunt Kris to celebrate with pink cupcakes. A good time was had by all. <3

One of the traits I so love in Emily is her interest and love for other people. She sees a neighbor’s car pull up the street and runs to meet them. “I have to say hello to them!”

We met one of our neighbors through Emily’s friendliness.  We had been on a ‘wave only’ basis with the people for years when this summer, Emily went over and introduced herself and met the family dog. We began chatting out in the yard. “Why didn’t we do this before,” I wondered. We sometimes assume people aren’t interested in meeting us. Emily doesn’t have any such qualms, and I am glad. She brings sunshine and concern to those she meets. You really can learn a lot from children sometimes. A friend from afar sent her a doll with a bathtub and a fully packed doll diaper bag. She is hauling it all out this morning and requesting a doll bathing session for her new friend with fully washable hair. Fun ahead!

Emsfiesta

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Ride of a Lifetime

Tom received a birthday gift he’ll never forget. In June, he got a call saying that he was the recipient of a flight on a P51 Mustang. Tom’s had a long time interest in aviation from WWII and has visited the Imperial War Museum in London and the air field at Duxford. For him, getting a ride in a Mustang was a dream come true. Here’s my “Top Gun” getting the ride of his life! He said afterwards that it was such a privilege to ride in the cockpit of a plane that had such a big role in preserving our freedoms. He couldn’t have been flying in a better machine! He had a photo of his dad, Bill Schlueter, with him. Bill also loved aviation and was a frequent attendee at air shows. Bill also built intricate models, from scratch, as a hobby. They were little works of art.

 

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