"Eternal Father, Strong to Save"

I’m nervous around water.  Not the water-in-the-sink kind of water, but the it’s-over-my-head-and-I-can’t-swim kind of water.  Water makes a lot of people nervous.  Storms make a lot of people nervous.  Storms on the water can be downright terrifying.  Have you ever had any storms in your life?  Those can be terrifying, too. William Whiting was the headmaster of…

"For All the Saints"

Some churches celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1.  Others set aside the first Sunday in November as All Saints Sunday.  As predictable as singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, those congregations will be singing “For All The Saints” sometime in early November.  The day is set aside to honor departed saints, whether known or unknown.   This…

"Come, Ye Disconsolate"

Turn on the evening news and your home will be invaded with images of war, disease, famine and cruelty.   These stories aren’t just from some distant land.  It doesn’t matter where you live.  Every nation, state, province, county and town has its own version of corruption, lawlessness and injustice.  And if that isn’t enough, many families turn on one another…

"Shall We Gather At the River"

Multi-talented Roberty Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist, and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. Lowry once said, “I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative, receptive congregation than write a hymn,” yet he wrote nearly 500 hymns and gospel songs, including “Shall We Gather At the River,” “I…

"Work, for the Night Is Coming"

The text for “Work, for the Night Is Coming” was written in 1854 by 18 year old Anna Walker Coghill (1836-1907) and published in a Canadian newspaper.   Ten years later, it first appeared in a hymnal paired with a tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) and has since appeared in over 1000 hymnals. The clear and persistent ‘call to action’ of this song is…

"Be Thou But Near"

Johann Sebastian Bach.  Often considered to be the organist among organists and the composer among composers, many of his melodies are instantly recognizable and familiar. And such is the case with the song we are looking at today, Bist Du Bei Mir or Be Thou But Near.  There’s just one little problem.  Bach didn’t write…

"It Is Well With My Soul"

Their story began quite happily.  Anna Larson was young, lovely and intelligent.  Horatio Spafford was a businessman and senior partner in a successful law firm.  They married in 1861 when Anna was 19 and Horatio was 33, and had a beautiful home in Chicago.  They were devout and active Christians, Ira Sankey and Dwight Moody…

"Children of the Heavenly Father"

Here’s what we know:  The author of the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father”, was Karolina Sindell-Berg (1823-1903).  She was Swedish, small and sickly as a child, and very close to her Lutheran pastor father.  With 650 of her 2,000 hymns appearing in print, she is sometimes called the Fanny Crosby of Sweden.  Among her…

"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

A personal favorite of mine, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go was written by pastor and scholar George Matheson, D.D. (1842-1906).  Matheson wrote, “My hymn was com­posed in the manse of In­ne­lan [Ar­gyle­shire, Scot­land] on the ev­en­ing of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone…

"Be Thou My Vision"

It took almost 1,500 years for the hymn Be Thou My Vision to come together as we know it today.  Irish poet, scholar of Latin scripture and Christian saint Dallán Forgaill (ca. 530–598) is believed to be the author of early Irish poem “Rop tú mo baile,” the basis of the modern English hymn Be Thou My…

"Battle Hymn of the Republic"

John Brown believed he could free the slaves, and in 1859, with a small band of dedicated men, raided the arsenal at Harpers Ferry to gain weapons and supplies to help the effort.  Thirty-six hours after the raid began, most of the men were wounded or killed, and John Brown was captured.  Abolitionist Brown was…

"Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty"

They disagreed.  Some took the position that Jesus was “begotten” of God the Father from his own being and therefore had no beginning.  Others believed that Jesus was created out of nothing, therefore having a beginning.  They couldn’t agree when Easter was to be celebrated.  They couldn’t even agree how to run the church.  And…