Hymn Ponderings {Pondered Pages}

I love to play the piano. However, as I've said often recently, my love for playing has always exceeded my ability, even back in the days when I practiced all the time. :)  Those days are in the far distant history now. I went for ten years barely touching a piano, and then tried to rapidly brush up my skills when I played for our church's children's choir for a few years. I've now gone another several years without playing on a regular basis.

All that changed a few weeks ago, though, when our wonderful pianist at our little church was led elsewhere, and I began playing for our Sunday worship services. I'm suddenly practicing an hour or more a day. Eek! :)  I'm about to drive my poor family batty by playing the one Hanon exercise I remember over and over again, because I can't locate my Hanon exercise book and I need some serious finger strengthening! Mostly, though, I'm practicing hymns...the specific hymns for the upcoming Sunday when I have them, and practicing from one end of the hymnal to the other when I don't.

As I played through hymn after hymn the other day, I was reminded of the many, many people who've been used over the years to encourage my love of hymns. My parents, first and foremost. Their church choir figured prominently in their courtship over 50 years ago, and it's not surprising that two long-time choir members (and a former church pianist) would pass their love of hymns on to their daughter.

Daddy not only passed on his love of the hymns themselves, but the stories behind them. Horatio Spafford, Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, Francis Havergal, and many others became heroes to me through Daddy's recounting of their lives and the stories behind their hymns.

Next would be Bro. Bill Probasco and Don Bingham at FBC, Conway, the first pastor and minister of music that I remember. Bro. Don led a worship music program that set the bar for my future church music experiences. But oddly enough, it's Bro. Bill who comes to mind even more when I sing/hear/play certain hymns. I'll never be able to hear "Sweet, Sweet Spirit", "Victory in Jesus", or "The Church's One Foundation" without thinking of Bro. Bill. Those were precious days.

Bro. Roy Chatham was part of those days as well, but his tenure was much longer in my church life, spanning 15+ years and two churches. He and his wife were also just dear lifelong friends of our family. Other than my parents, he may have had the most impact on my love of church music in general, and my love of hymns in particular. There are several hymns that I associate closely with him, as well, particularly those he taught us over the years in chapel time in VBS. And if I close my eyes and try, I can hear him whistling in the hallways at FBC, Conway. It wasn't unusual for him to be whistling at one end of the building, and my daddy to be whistling at the other. Sweet, sweet memories. *heart*

As I played through a section of the hymnal the other day, I was reminded also of Mrs. Marguerite Vann and Mrs. Austin. During my teen years, I helped both of these ladies with music in their elementary and middle school Sunday School classes. They both loved the old hymns and enthusiastically shared them with the children week after week. How I wish I could play hymns like Mrs. Vann! What a treat to learn from and play with these ladies week after week in those years!

Since then there have been many others, not the least of which has been Lyndel Hobbs from our years at Oak Cliff.  Lyndel is another whose leadership in worship music is just unparalleled. One of many, many things I'm thankful for from my years under his music leadership at Oak Cliff is Lyndel's care to sing nothing, ever, that doesn't line up with Biblical truth. As Guy Penrod says of hymns, "We don't sing 'em because they're old; we sing 'em because they're good!" It may be a well-loved old hymn, but if it doesn't square with Scripture, it's not worth singing. I'm thankful for Bro. Gary and Bro. John at Grace who share that commitment to singing Biblical truth.

Last week we sang an old favorite of mine, "The Solid Rock". I was reminded of the way God used it in my life during my college years, when my beliefs were challenged heavily, and although they weren't shaken, it was just utterly wearying. I remember sitting out by the lake (we were starting a new church and didn't have a building yet, and had some evening services outside by the lake :)) one night and singing this song and realizing the truth of these words in a whole new way, "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand."

I was prompted to journal this wonderful old hymn in my Bible, along with one of the verses from which it came. *Love* :) This was a really simple entry...we have several old hymnals that we saved from a trip to the dump (our church gave the ones in good condition to another church in need, but these were too far gone for church use), so I pulled out the hymn itself to use as a tip in, then used washi tape, letter stickers, and some of my own journaling on a journaling card from my stash. :)

Do you have a favorite hymn? Or like me, is the list too long to write down? :) Are there people who come to mind when you sing certain hymns, or those who just encouraged your love of hymns in general? I'd love to hear in the comments!

I recently had the blessing of teaching a Scripture Journaling class for a group of ladies...it was such fun, and I'm hoping to do a couple of additional classes soon! I wasn't able to share nearly all I'd planned during the evening, though, so I'm planning to do a blog series from my notes. If you are interested in keeping up with that series, please follow the blog in one of the ways listed below. Thank you! 


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