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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“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.”

Somebody With a Soul

In this cold world where there is so much loneliness,
so much apathy and so little kindness,
we can be different.

Many years ago in high school on Valentine’s Day, I turned from my locker and a boy was standing there. He was one of those kids who was treated badly all the time. He had a way of dressing and speaking that made him a target. I watched him get smashed between a wall and a mean kid’s desk one time, and he was really hurt. Nobody liked him. At all. There was no cause for this abuse other than the stupid, mindless, bestial cruelty that so often springs from adolescent hearts.

Standing there by my locker he held out a small wooden plaque with a valentine shellacked on it.”I made this for you in my basement,” he said simply.

I was only 16 at the time, but his work on that piece of wood for me touched my heart. I accepted his plaque and thanked him for it. Several kids saw what he had given me and tried to get me to laugh about it behind his back. It wasn’t funny, and I didn’t laugh.

Every one of us can probably recall a time in our lives when we felt alone, felt like we were on the outside looking in while longing to be valued in some friendly context. Maybe there are readers who feel this way now. Rejection is some of the worst pain you can experience.

Many times the isolating work I did in the past and my unique circumstances in life growing up in an evangelical para-church ministry caused that sense of loneliness and the longing to fit in somewhere. Let me tell you, I understand.

All I can say is this: Whenever an opportunity comes along that you can salute a fellow human soul on this journey of life, don’t pass it up. People don’t need pity or fake concern, they need to be treated like human beings with feelings and with souls. It isn’t complicated. Someday you may find yourself needing that salute from a fellow human. Remember that.

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A Surprise on Heartbreak Hill

hillIt was so warm this week that Tom and I went out after he returned home and took our first real walk of the season. The last little dirty piles of snow from the bitterly cold winter had melted, and the late afternoon air was filled with the promise of spring.

Conversation with Tom is one of my life’s chief pleasures, and we get so deep in discussion at times that I forget where we are walking. There is a big hill that leads to our home, and last summer when Em and I did our three-mile walk several times a week, that hill was a killer at the end. (It always makes me smile to think that my sister, who is two years younger, tosses off marathons and half-marathons, while I congratulate myself on walking for a mile or two.)

My sister has mentioned the last stretch of the Boston Marathon that she has run several times. It’s called “Heartbreak Hill.” Well, my Heartbreak Hill is the one that leads to our house. But as Tom and I were walking earlier this week, I stopped suddenly and realized we were halfway up my Heartbreak Hill without me noticing it. When I am not with Tom, that hill seems enormous, exhausting and so hard to climb when I am tired.  However, when I was with the man I love, the hill faded away as we walked slowly up, deep in conversation.

It occurred to me that this is what love does. It halves the burdens. It makes the difficulties in life easier to face and the hills less daunting. Real love from a good man brings out the strength inside that you didn’t realize was there. Real love doesn’t deplete what is inside another, it bolsters what already exists, however small.

Love doesn’t take away the hills, but it stays with you on the climb, urging you on–not by badgering or hectoring or demanding, but by quietly being there, by listening and showing you how strong you really are.

As Tom and I approach our 20th anniversary this June and I reflect on what comprises a good marriage, I only have to think of that late afternoon walk up the big hill with my best friend, and how I looked back and realized how very far we had come.

He is ‘Lord of the Small’

Praise to the Lord of the small broken things,
who sees the poor sparrow that cannot take wing.
who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street
who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.

Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid
who girds them with courage and lends them His aid,
He pours out his spirit on vessels so weak,
that the timid can serve and the silent can speak.

Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
who heals their afflictions or carries them till,
they leave this tired frame and to paradise fly.
to never be sick and never to die.

Praise him, O praise Him all ye who live
who’ve been given so much and can so little give
our frail lisping praise God will never despise-
He sees His dear children through mercy-filled eyes.

Text: Johanna Anderson

Music: Dan Forrest