Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Oldies but Goodies...

Lately my ears have been inundated with the sounds of old hymns. As I was driving to the dentist, the radio was playing an updated version of "Come Thou Fount". We sang "All Creatures of Our God and King" in church a couple weeks ago, and Pastor Jon noted in his weekly e-mail message how meaningful "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" was to him.

I have a soft spot for these old hymns. Not that I don't enjoy contemporary praise and worship music, because I really do. I just hope we don't forget about these beautiful old hymns. Seems they have gone the way of the stodgy and the outdated.

I grew up attending a really small country church - maybe 80 to 100 members on a good Sunday. We sang out of an old green hymnal that I would share with my mom or dad or my brothers if the situation was really dire. But for some reason God blessed that church with some incredible musicians. We had excellent vocalists, talented pianists and organists, and we even had a lady who played the accordion - beautifully (is that an oxymoron?). Sometimes both my ears and my heart ache to hear the four part harmonies of my old country church. It is not Googleable - I tried.

I distinctly remember singing "Wonderful Grace of Jesus". Accompanied by both the piano and organ, the melody starts out pretty slow, but then builds to a rollicking chorus with the bass line rumbling underneath the tinkling sopranos. Tenor and alto (I sing alto - always and forever the middle child) neatly filling their niche somewhere in the middle. The song ended with Pam G landing firmly and with great conviction smack dab in the center of the high G (that's the one above the high E and F) to round out the final chord. She hit it every time. We would raise the roof on that small country church, sister, like no one's business. God's grace should illicit that sort of "High G "response, I think.

I also remember singing "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" at a Maunday Thursday service during a spectacular spring thunderstorm. Let's just say it left an impression.

Old hymns are poets. The Sunday we sang "All Creatures of Our God and King", was a gorgeous one here in NW Iowa. As I was doing dishes and looking out my open kitchen window it was impossible not to notice that "the lights of evening" had indeed found their voice and were praising God with abandon. After a somewhat trying week for me, the words in bold that reached my ears on the way to the dentist this morning from "Come Thou Fount" were "prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." I had to bow my head in shame right out there in the parking lot.

I play (kinda) the piano (very badly) on occasion and I like to pull out the old green hymnal we used to sing out of at Newkirk Church. They gave them away for a small donation when the new ones were purchased. The binding is broken and ripped, the pages are falling out and the Captain almost chucked it on our last move. I find it therapeutic to pound out the chords of an old hymn (much to the dismay of our neighbors, I am sure). But it comforts me, mistakes and all, and brings me back to a time when things were much simpler, and my faith was young and new without so much reason and tarnish. And as a hymn said it best, it is well with my soul. What's your favorite hymn? Consider yourself tagged.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above!


Karen Dykstra said...

Oh Shannon, how you touched my heart this morning as I read your blog. I'm still wiping my eyes!! I agree totally about the importance of our old hymns-I hope they are never forgotten. And to sing "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" anywhere near Harry VP was quite a treat!!

Baloney said...

I love reading those words.
I miss the hymns! Our service is mostly praise and worship music and it is beautiful. But there is still something so comforting about the hymns we grew up with.

'Captain Craig' said...

Dateline: MAR 28, 2009
Location: Manchester, NH Fairfield Inn, Room 409

Very nice. Reluctanly, as a 'man', I admit you got me.

Rather, your moving story, the spirit, and beautiful singing of that glorious hymn by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir got me. Tell you one thing, they can sure sing!

Still wiping away tears as well. Easy to cry in the privacy of your hotel room! Thanks for blessing me with that SG!

Hymns are great, we should sing one every Sunday. I remember being moved by 'Crown him with many crowns' the first time I sung that at BSF.

Amy A. said...

Be thou my vision is my favorite. I started singing the first verse as a lullaby to my kids when they were littler and sometimes I still get that request before bed.

They all sit up a little taller when we sing it at church.