Hymns may be one of the longest lists, and one of the hardest to narrow down for me. I've been known to say, "most of the Baptist hymnal...and a few that aren't in there!" And that's pretty true. I love hymns, and so many are so precious to me for so many reasons.
I realized yesterday that if I were forced to decide on a "life hymn", it would have to be "He Keeps Me Singing". Maybe it's because I've always loved to sing, but I've always loved the chorus. It's one of those you just almost can't sing without it bringing a huge smile. And the verses cover it all...salvation, joy and grace, suffering and trials, and our sure hope of heaven.
The summer I was 17, this hymn took on new meaning. I had really wrestled about spending my usual 3 weeks at summer camp in Lousiana as a "Whitefoot" (Jr. Volunteer Staffer/Counselor) because my grandfather was in the last stages of cancer. We had finally decided that I should go ahead and fulfill my commitment. It was a hard time in a lot of ways. Health and job issues in our family, my grandfather's illness, and the beginnings of turmoil in our beloved church.
I remember standing in the chapel singing this song one evening that summer and the words taking on a whole new meaning...especially the fourth verse. It became my theme song for that summer, which included my grandfather's death just a few days later, and throughout the coming year, in which we would end up leaving the church I'd grown up in to help start a new church in western Conway, among other difficult days.
It's continued to be a favorite in the years since, but this year it's become especially precious again. I'm always amazed when John sends the hymns for the week, as it so often seems that God has hand-picked just the hymns I need to be immersed in as I practice each day. This week's were especially good for a hard week: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Amazing Grace", "I Stand Amazed in the Presence", and then "He Keeps Me Singing". I practically wore the piano out with the last one in particular this week.
Then I realized that the last one was actually the one scheduled for Sunday night, but we weren't having services Sunday night due to Mother's Day. I sent a special request to Bro. Gary and to John that we add it Sunday morning, and they were kind to oblige. :)
It was our last hymn for the morning, and Bro. Gary said something about singing it all day long. I actually did, catching myself singing it as I took pictures in the rain on the Mother's Day drive my family indulged me in and as I walked through the grocery store later in the afternoon.
If you've read here much, you know I love hymn stories. I always think of this as such a cheerful, encouraging hymn, and yet it was written out of great sorrow. Luther Bridgers was preaching at a conference when he received a phone call from home. He answered excited to tell his wife all the great things God was doing at the conference, only to discover that she and their three sons had perished in a house fire.
"He Keeps Me Singing" was written out of his grief in this horrible loss.
I was struck all over again this week at how many of our greatest hymns have come from hymn-writers who have known great suffering. What a testimony!
There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His shelt’ring wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
Do you have a favorite hymn? Or a few? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
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