Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

“Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

(Psalm 62:8)

I am feeling a little under the weather today (for the curious, here’s a link to about the origin of that phrase).  Not only have the allergens of NW Iowa finally caught up to me, making my head feel like a bowling ball spinning down the lane, but my stomach is rebelling today too.  I am in mourning, for it has been made perfectly clear that I can no longer eat Pizza without paying an extreme price.  All of that being said, writing an article to encourage and cheer my fellow disciples of Christ seems near impossible.

I thought what I’d do instead, is share what I turn to in times like these.  I’ve never read Chicken Soup for the Soul, not that I have anything against that kind of devotional material – I’ve just never needed it.  No.  It’s not that I’ve never needed the soothing, healing words of encouragement.  I just get it from another source.  For example, today the Soul Salving Soup is found in the old hymns of the church.

Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel

But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?
No still the ear of sovereign grace,
Attends the mourner’s prayer
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there

Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet,
Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet.

© Words: Anne Steele; Public Domain

What a great reminder.  When the sorrows rise, when the troubles roll, when doubts prevail and the worldly comforts fail, we can cast our hope, place our trust, cleave our soul upon the only refuge of our weary souls.  His Word brings sweet relief from every pain, the ear of sovereign grace attends the mourner’s prayer, His mercy seat is open still.

I hope you are well today.  But well or weary, may you cast your soul upon the one true source of hope, the everlasting fountain of joy, the eternal arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

SDG

P.S. – Here’s a link to the YouTube video of the Hymn

1970’s Hymnody

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!”
Psalm 96:1 (ESV)

In a moment of weakness during a worship service yesterday, my mind began to wonder, “were there any good hymns written in the 1960’s and 70’s?”  I’ve yet to find one.  Either the music conjures memories of a slightly out of tune six string, played real mellow while the people sang around a campfire, or the lyrics could have come from cutting room floor of a Simon and Garfunkel recording session.

I realize that broad, sweeping statements about an entire generation are unfair, and I try to avoid them.  Still, when it comes to the 60’s and 70’s, it’s too easy to get caught up in a love/hate attitude toward whatever might have come from that time period.

Sure, there were some good things that came from that period, but right now I am struggling to name one.  Images of polyester pant suits, wide ties, floral shirts, bell bottom pants, and disco haunt my recollections.  The cars of the seventies were, for the most part, forgettable – but they even managed to ruin the Mustang for an entire decade – yeesh.  The automobile and fashion industry seem to have rebounded, but our church music is still trying to recover from the damage done.

Just for example, here are a couple of songs to help illustrate my point.

There is the song, “We are God’s Children” which seems to start strong.  It’s Trinitarian.  The song presents a fairly well stated, and rhyming, understanding of ecclesiology. And while it falls into the trap of many contemporary hymns in trying to preach a sermon through song, it is not too heavy handed and overbearing.  But the song falls apart at the end.  The final stanza closes with, “we die alone, for on its own each ember loses fire: yet joined in one the flame burns on to give warmth and light, and to inspire.”  Erm, uh, what?!  Talk about getting blindsided.  Forget about Psalm 23 and the whole, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” stuff, apparently, “we die alone,” but our flame goes on…

Then consider the old campfire favorite, “They Will Know We are Christians by our Love.”  I don’t think this song was ever intended to be sung by Presbyterians, at a Presbytery Meeting, with Organ accompaniment.  That would be like asking Metallica to do a cover of the theme song to “Dora the Explorer;” it really doesn’t work.  Still, we all know and love the song, so let’s sing it, right.  But have you ever thought about the words.  In the third verse the song has us commit to “guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.  Now, I have nothing against guarding the dignity of those around me, that is a praiseworthy cause.  We are created in the image of God, that image bearing comes with great dignity, and we should strive to honor our neighbor.  But don’t  ask me to save your pride.  Isn’t pride what got us into this fallen mess in the first place?  When we labor to build up our pride, our ego, our self-confidence, that’s when we begin to say, “I don’t really need God after all, I think I will manage just fine on my own.”  No, I don’t think I’ll be singing that one again.

Could it be that the music wars we struggle with in the church today are a result of really bad hymnody from 40 years ago?  I’m sure there will be those of you who disagree with me (that’s what the comment box is for), but give me an Ira Sankey, Fanny Crosby, or Horatio Spafford hymn any day.  If we sing our faith, then we must be very careful when we pick up our hymnals and sing along.  The words you sing will become ingrained into your theology, whether or not you recognize it.  So keep singing your praise to the Lord, and let me know if you find any good 1970’s hymns – I’d love to be proven wrong on this one.

SDG