This week at church orchestra rehearsal we practiced a modern arrangement of one of my favorite hymns – Come Thou Fount. Playing it again resonated my heart, sending me back to the files to find this piece I wrote in October 2000. I needed to say it again.
What music do you like to sing in church? I've been thinking about that since reading a biography of Rich Mullins titled, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, by James B. Smith. The author quoted Rich, who was talking about the old hymns we sing in church: "There are songs that you make and there are songs that make you." I wrote in the margin of my book: What are the songs that made me who I am?
It's hard to know exactly why a certain song means so much. It takes a combination of melody and lyric - powerful lyrics that are hard to sing just bounce off without sticking - and beautiful melodies with shallow lyrics get sung once and then fly away never to be remembered. It takes both; that’s why some songs stand the test of time, and others don’t.
Amy Grant used to sing, "It's not a song 'till it touches your heart, it’s not a song 'till it tears you apart." She was right about that.
I’ve sung hymns out of the Baptist Hymnal for almost sixty years (I held a hymn book in my hands long before I learned to read), and the more I study the words of those songs, the more I realize how much they’ve defined my life. They have a permanent grip on my heart.
The first song I thought of was "Blessed Assurance":
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long
I learned to love that song when Cyndi and I lived in Brownfield. The choir used to sing a version that wasn't as choppy as the way the congregation usually sang it. It was slower in tempo, a lilting waltz, and I loved it. Waltzes always lift my spirit.
I also listed "There is a Fountain," even though we don't sing it much nowadays. Songs about blood are out of fashion.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
How else do we describe God's grace but by singing of His shed blood and His redeeming love? I want this to be the theme of my life, until I die.
The third song I listed was "Come Thou Fount." I like the serious melody and ancient-sounding words like "Ebenezer" and "hither" and "melodious sonnet." Together they present the finest description of grace I can think of. And besides, this hymn has my favorite line of all, “Tune my heart to sing thy grace”
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 They redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home;
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Oh to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let They grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand'ring heart to thee;
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for They courts above.
There are hundreds of songs that I love, both old and new, and it almost hurts to start listing them because I know next Sunday I'll be reminded of another favorite I forgot to include. I also have a lot of new choruses that are "making me" even today, but I'll have to save them for another essay.
I'll finish with a song I remember from children's Sunday School. It may be the song I've known longer than any other:
That's the book for me
I stand alone of the Word of God
Isn't that great? Solid doctrine for a four-year-old. It made me who I am, and continues to make me today, day after day.
What are the songs that made you?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32