Keep Singing!

The lyrics of songs … of the great hymns of the faith …  and of contemporary worship have always touched my heart in deep and meaningful ways.

Words, when set to glorious melodies, become more than pedantic poetry; they become marching orders … they become life-changing inspiration … they become wisdom to live by … and they become comfort to many a weary soul.

Vocabulary, when combined with music, has the tangible power of bringing life-changing impact and offering enthusiastic hope that soars.

Today, as I recover from yet another cancer surgery, let me share with you some of the lyrics that are stirring richly within my heart.  Perhaps you would be interested in the “back-story” of these lyrics as well!

We Press on!
“When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall
When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all
In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on”

Can anyone relate?  Do I hear an “Amen!”?!  Is there anyone reading who needs to be reminded to simply, “Press On!”?!

We Press On”, recorded by Selah, was written to a friend who was struggling in his faith.  The words were meant to be an encouragement not to give up! 

The lyrics were written with one obscure friend in mind and in heart.  These words speak to you and to me that in spite of life’s circumstances and in spite of unanswerable questions that we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.

Done.  I will press on.  I will do it.

Or … how about these lyrics … written in 1882 by Louisa M. R. Stead?

‘Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus!
“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Louisa Stead, the author of these tender lyrics, felt the call to missionary service from the time that she was just a little girl.  However, ill health kept her from serving the Lord on foreign soil initially.  She married young and had a daughter, Lily, whom she and her husband both completely adored. 

When Lily was only 4 years old, the happy and Godly family of three decided to enjoy a sunny day at the beach at Long Island Sound.  While eating their picnic lunch, they heard cries of, “Help! Help!” coming from the water.  Louisa’s husband went racing into the ocean to save a young boy who was drowning.  As so often happens, the boy pulled his rescuer down with him and they both drowned while Louisa and Lily watched frantically from the shore.

What did Louisa do?  What would you do if such a tragic event happened in your life?

Weep?!  Wail with no control?!  Blame?! Become Bitter?! Walk away from your faith and from your calling?

What Louisa did was that she wrote the lyrics to “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus!’”

Louisa knew the secret of singing through the fire.  Rather than being scorched or maimed by the fire of tragedy, Louisa worshipped.  The life of Louisa Stead lives on and on simply because she was a woman who decided to sing.

But perhaps the song that has played most loudly on the sound system of my heart over the course of 2015 is this one, written in 1903, by a man by the name of George Young:

God Leads His Dear Children Along
“In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.”

Who was this man by the name of George Young?  Where did those powerful lyrics come from? Certainly he was a statesman … or a renowned evangelist … or a famous author. 

Actually … George Young was an obscure 19th Century preacher and carpenter who spent a lifetime humbly serving the Lord in small rural communities. Often his financial support was small, and life was hard on his family.

After a long struggle, the family was able to move into their own small home (which George built himself). But then, when George was away preaching, some local thugs, who didn't like his Gospel preaching, set fire to the house, and it was totally destroyed.

It was out of that experience that Young reaffirmed his faith in God by writing God Leads His Dear Children Along.

But the story doesn’t end with the song …

Around 1942, a famous Christian hymnologist by the name of Dr. Haldor Lillenas decided to track down George Young’s widow and find out the story behind the lyrics as well as the story behind the man.

Lillenas was able to find an address in a small town and, driving there, he stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. When the attendant saw the address, he said, “Why sir, that’s the County Poor House, up the road about three miles. And mister, when I say poor house, I really mean poor house!”

Not knowing what to expect, Lillenas made his way there. He found Mrs. Young, a tiny, elderly woman, in surroundings that were far from congenial. However, she radiated the joy of the Lord, and spoke of how the Lord had guided her and her husband over many years.

Then, the widow Young exclaimed, “Dr. Lillenas, God led me here! I’m so glad He did, for you know, about every month someone comes into this place to spend the rest of their days…So many of them don’t know my Jesus. I’m having the time of my life introducing them to Jesus! Dr. Lillenas, isn’t it wonderful how God leads!”

Read the defiant words to this resounding chorus one more time:

“Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long!”

Oh!  We must linger in these words again!! 

“Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long!”

I don’t know what flood you are in today … but my advice to you is to keep on singing!  Don’t allow the roar of the ocean’s waves to steal your song!

Sing louder than the flood!

I don’t know what fire you are in today … but always remember that the blood of Jesus has the power to quench the fiery darts of any dastardly enemy crossfire!

Sing louder than the fire!

Even in the place of great human sorrow, God will give a song.

Sing louder than the sorrow!

Even in the darkest of all nights, the song of the Father pierces through the blackness and gives direction and hope.

Sing louder!

What song has ministered to you while you were going through a difficult time?  I would love to hear from you and hear the song of your heart!