A Short Hike in the Woods

We had hiked a lot the day before so we decided on a short hike that we could do quickly.

(Note to self: Short doesn’t always mean quick.)

We found the trail head and “steps” leading up the side of the rocks.

My daughter was carrying her three-year old on her back, which made it more challenging. We wondered out-loud about the difficulties in going back down. A passing hiker told us there was a simpler way down and gave us quick instructions. We made mental note of it and continued our ascent. The views were amazing. Once we reached the top, we followed the ridge for a while.

We thought it was time to start back down when it started raining. The thought of climbing down slippery rocks with a three-year old on her back was not an option for my daughter, Anna. We sent My husband, Bill, down the shorter way with the three older grandchildren.

I agreed to find the easier route with Anna. In case she had trouble I didn’t want her wandering alone on the mountain.

We retraced our steps and repeated what the hiker had told us earlier. We were to make our way down the opposite way until we got to the railroad tracks and then follow them back to the parking lot. Seemed easy enough. There was a big sign post that said “You Are Here”. It also had several trails marked. We took what we thought was the correct one and tried to move quickly. It was raining harder now. After the first 30 minutes Emerson, the three-year old, fell asleep. It was easier to have him sleeping than have him squirming to get down. It was dangerous for him to walk on his own.

We plodded on.

We could see another sign that said “You Are Here”…only it wasn’t where we expected to be. It had taken us North when we wanted South. We made corrections and took what we thought was the correct choice out of three. The trail seemed to be turning when we didn’t think we should be turning.

We plodded on.

We kept finding “You Are Here” signs and each time they were a disappointment. Either the signs were wrong or our map reading ability had seriously deteriorated with the rain and fatigue. I was glad I hadn’t let Anna go on this trail alone. The two of us were discouraged, but I couldn’t imagine being on this trail alone with a three year old on my back.

We felt like crying, but we spent a lot of time laughing. It is almost always better to laugh when you have a choice.

It was raining harder now and we were wet to the skin. In my desperation I prayed out loud. “Father, you can do what you want, but it would be wonderful if you would just stop the rain.” The rain continued, but it seemed to get less and less.

Suddenly we saw the railroad tracks through a break in the trees. It was far below us. We felt somewhat hopeful. If we could just get to the railroad tracks we knew we could find our way back to our car. Thirty minutes later, (or was it an hour), we were on the same level as the tracks. Then the reality of our situation hit us. We were at the North end of the lake when our car was parked at the South end. Since Anna had the only set of keys to the car we couldn’t call Bill to come get us. Our only option was to hike the 3 miles back to the North end. Again, we chose to laugh instead of cry. I won’t tell you what we talked about. We were imagining different scenarios. The three-year old continued his nap.

An hour earlier I had gotten a text message from my husband Bill.

“We are back”, he texted.

“We are not”, I texted back.

I was too tired to say more than that.

About 20 minutes later Bill asked where we were. All I could respond was. “Railroad”

By now Emerson was stirring, not quite awake, we let him be.

When we finally made it to the trial head there was the rest of the family, somewhat dry and playing games under a shelter. We felt like crying, but we laughed when we saw them.

The rain had all but stopped. The rain which we had found so discouraging as we hiked had kept us from overheating as we steadily made our way down the mountain.

“Thank you, Father, for giving us what we needed, not what we asked for.”

“…for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him” Matthew 6:8b

“…For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” Psalm 127:2

(Location – Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin – USA)

My Heart is Steadfast – Psalm 108

Parfrey’s Glen, WI

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.

Awake, harp and lyre; I will awaken the dawn!

I will give thanks to Thee, O LORD, among the peoples; And I will sing praises to Thee among the nations.

For Thy lovingkindness is great above the heavens; And Thy truth reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, And Thy glory above all the earth.

That Thy beloved may be delivered, Save with Thy right hand, and answer me!

God has spoken in His holiness;

“I will exult, I will portion out Shechem, and measure out the valley of Succoth.

Gilead is Mine, Manasseh is Mine, Ephraim also is the helmet of My head; Judah is My scepter.

Moab is My washbowl; Over Edom I shall throw My shoe; Over Philistia I will shout aloud.”

Who will bring me into the besieged city? Who will lead me to Edom?

Hast not Thou Thyself, O God, rejected us? And wilt Thou not go forth with our armies, O God?

Oh give us help against the adversary, For deliverance by man is vain.

Through God we shall do valiantly; And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.

For Further Study:

What is David determined to do? When? Where?

Why does he sing?

What is his request?

Notice the last 3 lines. What is the problem, What is the solution? What outcome does David see in the last line?

Things may seem hopeless, but our hope isn’t in human leaders or programs, but in God.

Jesus My All to Heaven is Gone

John Cennick (1717-1755) / George Coles

Jesus my all to heaven is gone, He whom I fixed my hopes upon;

His track I see, and I’ll pursue the narrow way till Him I view.

The way the holy prophets went, the road that leads from banishment,

The King’s highway of holiness I’ll go for all Thy paths are peace.

This is the way I long have sought, and mourned because I found it not;

My grief a burden long has been, because I was not saved from sin.

The more I strove against its power, I felt its weight and guilt the more;

Till late I heard my Savior say, “Come hither, soul, I am the way.”

Lo! Glad I come; and Thou blest Lamb, Shalt take me to Thee, as I am;

Nothing but sin have I to give; Nothing but love shall I receive.

Then will I tell to sinners ’round, What a dear Savior I have found;

I’ll point to Thy redeeming blood, And say, “Behold the way to God.”

Awake, My Soul, in Joyful Lays

Sometimes I just don’t feel like singing. But first, let me explain…

I grew up in a family that sang often. We sang in church. We sang in the car. We sang outside. We sang around the piano. We sang at school. We all had just ordinary voices, but we sang anyway.

Then I grew up.

Life was hard.

It became harder to sing.

When my Dad got sick with a brain tumor we watched him put his violin aside, and soon his voice was gone too.

It didn’t seem right to sing without him.

After he died it took me a year before I could sing without crying.

Many years later, as my Mother lay dying, the only thing that would make her stop whimpering was if we sang to her. So I found a hymn book and sang softly until my own tears prevented me from continuing. When she would start whimpering again I would sing until she calmed down… until tears choked my voice.

Again and again the cycle repeated itself. Those were hard days, but my sisters and I were glad we could be with her.

There have been other hard days, when singing seemed impossible. Yet, singing should not be dependent on how we feel, but because we owe our God praise.

Below is a song I find myself singing when I don’t feel like singing.

Notice the words in the first verse...”He justly claims a song from me…”

We sing, not because our life is free from trouble. We sing, because we have a Great Redeemer who has rescued our souls from hell.

There will be trouble here. But this isn’t all there is. We have eternity to look forward to. This trouble will seem little when we are face to face with our Savior. In the meantime we remember His care of us in the here and now. We remember that He asks us to sing, to remember, to cling to this God who day by day covers us with His lovingkindness.

David wrote the following words when he had to flee to the wilderness of Judah, when his son, Absalom, took over the throne. (See II Samuel 15:23-30; 17:16)

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise Thee.

So I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name…

For Thou hast been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy.” Psalm 63:3,4 & 9

David wept when he was in trouble, but he also didn’t stop singing. Neither should we.

Samuel Medley 1738-1799

Awake, my soul in joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise; He justly claims a song from me, His lovingkindness, oh, how free! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how free!

He saw me ruined by the fall, Yet loved me not-with-standing all; He saved me from my lost estate, His lovingkindness, oh, how great! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how great!

Tho’ numerous hosts of mighty foes, Tho’ earth and hell my way oppose, He safely leads my soul along, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong!

When trouble, like a gloomy cloud, Has gathered thick and thundered loud, He near my soul has always stood, His lovingkindness, oh, how good! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how good!

Soon shall we mount and soar away to the bright realms of endless day, And sing, with rapture and surprise, His lovingkindness, in the skies. Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, in the skies.

He is Calling for You!

He spent his days begging on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem, unable to make a living any other way. His name was Bartimaeus and he was blind. 

A cloak was his only possession. It shaded him from the sun, protected him from rain, became his only comfort and blanket at night.

He had heard of a man named Jesus who heals. Miracle of miracles today he was passing right by him. Being tired of barely surviving he cried out to the one who could change his life.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!”, they scolded. Leave the Master alone!

He cried out even louder. “Have mercy on me!”

He knew his situation was hopeless. Sooner or later he would die from lack of food or exposure to the elements. He would not be quiet. In desperation, he shouted again. “Have mercy on me!!!”

And then the unbelievable news…”Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside, jumped to his feet and ran to Jesus.

“What do you want?”, Jesus asked.

“I want to see.” Was Bartimaeus’ reply.

“Go your way your faith has made you well.”

But as Bartimaeus looked at Jesus, he couldn’t go his way. He followed Jesus on the road, wherever that road would take him. He left it all. His cloak, his future, his dreams of a seeing life. All he wanted was to follow Jesus.

This would be Jesus last trip into Jerusalem. He was on his way to the cross.

William MacDonald sums it up “It was a good thing that Bartimaeus sought the Lord that day because the Savior never passed that way again.”

Are you like Bartimaeus? Do you see your need? Do you see your hopeless situation?

If so, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

For further study: Mark 10:46-52; II Corinthians 6:2b

Rise, My Soul, and Stretch Thy Wings

Robert Seagrave 1693-1759? (England) / James Nares (1715-1783)

Rise, My Soul, and Stretch Thy Wings

Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings; Thy better portion trace;

Rise from transitory things toward heaven, thy native place;

Sun and moon and stars decay, Time shall soon this earth remove;

Rise, my soul and haste away to seats prepared above.

Rivers to the ocean run, nor stay in all their course;

Fire ascending seeks the sun; both speed them to their source:

So a soul that’s born of God pants to view His glorious face,

Upward tends to His abode to rest in His embrace.

Cease, my soul, then cease to mourn, press onward to the prize;

Soon the Saviour will return triumphant in the skies.

Yet a season, and you know Happy entrance will be given;

All our sorrows left below, and earth exchanged for heaven.

Sometimes a Light Surprises

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William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was born in 1731. He is considered one of England’s finest poets.

His life was filled with melancholy and sometimes despair, which may have had its roots in his mother’s death when he was only six. He was hospitalized on more than one occasion for “madness”. He wrote many hymns that were full of hope instead of the despair he was so familiar with. (God Moves in a Mysterious Way; There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.)

The following hymn is especially hopeful. The encouragement that comes from singing is in the first line. The original tune is one by Hayden – Petition 76.76D. The words also fit nicely with the tune – Sally Garden. I am unable to record anything this week, since I am out of town with a family emergency, but have included a link below of an unusually beautiful version of this hymn. You will notice some of the words have been changed from the original.

SOMETIMES A LIGHT SURPRISES, Stillwaters Music – YouTube

Sometimes a light surprises the child of God who sings; the light of one who rises with gentle, healing wings.

When comforts are declining, God grants the soul again A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation with joy we shall pursue the theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.

Set free from present sorrow we cheerfully can say, let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but God will bear us through. Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe the people, too.

Beneath the spreading heavens no creature but is fed: the one who feeds the ravens will give the children bread

Though vine and fig tree neither their yearly fruit should bear, though all the fields should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there,

yet God, the same abiding, through praise shall tune my voice, for while in love confiding I cannot but rejoice.

For Further Study: “And he shall be as the light or the morning, like the rising of the sun, A morning without clouds; When from the sunshine, after rain, the green grass springeth after rain.” II Samuel 23:4

Sources:

http://www.hymnary.org;

The Story of the Hymns and Tunes – Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth – copyright 1906 American Tract Society

Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

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Joseph Hart was a prodigal. Born of Christian parents in 1712, he learned early to fear God and follow His laws. But the world attracted him and his focus shifted to baser things. The early training seems to have been wasted and his life took a decidedly anti-Christian turn. He didn’t just leave his faith, he aggressively attacked it through the things he published.

God still pursued him and Joseph wrestled with God for years. Eventually he turned again to the God who loved him. This time the struggle was between “Earning his salvation”, and “Assuming on God’s grace”. Neither extreme was Biblically sound and eventually he came to a saving knowledge of the one who saves us not because of our merit, but because of His grace. He also bids us to follow him, by leaving our old ways behind. But here I will let him tell you in his own words.

“He hath plucked me from the lowest Hell. He hath plucked me as a brand out of the fire! He hath proved himself stronger than I, and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He gives me to know…that without Him I can do nothing…Though an enemy, He calls me his friend; though a traitor a child; though a beggared prodigal, He clothes me with the best robe; and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand,…He secretly shows me His bleeding wounds; and softly and powerfully, whispers to my soul: ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul…When my dry empty barren soul is parched with thirst, He kindly bids me come to Him, and drink my fill at the fountain head. In a word He empowers me to say with experimental evidence, ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and Amen.”

He struggled with assurance of salvation until one Easter he was confronted again by the God who loved him. After being overwhelmed by the suffering Christ he wrote the following hymn. For God uses even our wanderings to Honor Him. He became a preacher in London about 1760. Think of Joseph Hart as you read the words. They are a powerful testimony.

(The chorus was added later by an unknown author. The original tune was also replaced.)

(Joseph Hart 1712-1768)

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy weak and wounded, sick and sore,

Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity love and power.

Chorus: I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify

True belief and true repentance every grace that brings you nigh.

Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;

All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.

Chorus

Come, ye weary, heavy laden lost and ruined by the fall.

If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.

I will rise and go to Jesus! He will save me from my sin.

By the riches of his merit, there is joy and life in him.

Chorus

View Him prostrate in the garden on the ground your Maker lies.

On the bloody tree behold Him sinner will not this suffice?

Lo the incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood

Venture on Him, venture wholly. Let no other trust intrude.

Chorus

For further study: C. H. Spurgeon often quoted from Hart in his sermons. The above hymn being his favorite. He applied it to Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

(Above information taken from “The Story of the Hymns and Tunes” by Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth – copyright 1906 – American Tract Society. and “www.biblicalstudies.org.uk” – Joseph Hart and his hymns by Peter C. Rae Cowdenbeath. His source was “Hart’s hymns” – Palmer’s edition of 1863.)

Hymn of Trust – (Give to the Winds Thy Fears)

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Paul Gerhardt’s life was not an easy one. He was a preacher without a parish, tossed from place to place, (Mittenwalde & Berlin) Four of his children died, and at some point his wife also. He had been dismissed from his last church because of disagreements with the Elector Fredrick. He wandered from place to place for two years.

The following hymn was written while he was staying at a wayside inn, homeless and discouraged. After completing it he was finally offered a parish in Lubben where he stayed until his death.

He wrote 123 hymns and was a favorite hymn-writer of the German-speaking people.

Hymn of Trust – (Give to the Winds Thy Fears)

Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)/William H. Walter

Give to the winds thy fears, hope and be undismayed;

God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way;

Wait thou His time, so shall this night soon end in joyous day.

Who points the clouds their course, whom wind and seas obey;

He shall direct thy wandering feet, He shall prepare thy way.

Leave to His sov’reign sway to choose and to command,

So shalt thou wond’ring own His way, how wise, how strong His hand!

Thou seest our weakness, Lord, our hearts are known to Thee;

O lift Thou up the sinking heart, confirm the feeble knee.

Commit thou all thy griefs and ways into His hands;

To His sure trust and tender care Who earth and heaven commands.

Let us in life, in death, Thy steadfast truth declare,

And publish with our latest breath Thy love and guardian care.

For further study: I Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 125:1; Psalm 37

Be Thou My Vision

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The older I get the more I struggle with my voice. It doesn’t always cooperate. I had given up putting any more songs up, but then I ran across this quote by Henry Van Dyke.

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.”

So today I am asking you to sing with me. This is also a nod to my Irish Son-in-law, Joshua. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Be Thou My Vision

Ancient Irish Melody – Translated by Eleanor H. Hull (1860-1935) versified by Mary E. Bryne (1880-1931)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art –

Thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one;

Be Thou my battle shield, sword for my fight; Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight,

Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tow’r: Raise Thou me heav’n-ward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won, May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Son!

Heart of my own heart, Whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.