They lined both sides of the road. Old, young, families…carrying flags, but no signs that we could see.
We had passed the small local airport a few miles out of town with more than usual security near the entrance.
There was a group of brass musicians near a museum waiting expectantly.
Law enforcement was everywhere, even mounted police, and firefighters with their trucks from many different towns.
Scores of motorcycles were congregating many carrying flags, but no signs.
They were getting ready for someone, but who?
We searched our phones as we slowly made our way out of town.
Marine LCpl Rylee McCollum was coming home today. My sister, Nancy’s voice broke as she explained to my granddaughter that he had been killed in Afghanistan and was receiving a hero’s welcome home. The date was 9-10-21.
This isn’t how he expected to come home to his wife and soon to be born baby.
“No one has greater love than this; to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
In my quest for discovering old hymns, I’ve been collecting old hymn books. My sister, Nancy, who was supporting my endeavor, recently brought me an old Lutheran Hymnal that she had picked up at a garage sale. She had put a bookmark with a note on one of the pages.
It was a song our Dad used to sing to us in German when we were children. I imagine his mother sang it to him as well. Sometimes he would play the tune on his violin. Since I had never heard the English version I didn’t know how sweet the words were that he was singing to us. Below you will find the song with German and English words.
Sometimes simple is best. This is one of those times. I hope you enjoy it.
(In the first line there should be an Umlaut over the word Lasst and erlosen. I simply can’t figure out how to type it. Also, please forgive my very rusty German pronunciation.)
Gott ist Die Liebe – by August Rische (1819-1906)
Gott ist die Liebe, lasst mich erlosen, Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.
Drum sag ich noch einmal: Gott ist die Liebe! Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.
God loves me dearly, Grants me salvation, God loves me dearly, loves even me.
*Therefore I’ll say again: God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, Loves even me.
I was in slav’ry, Sin, death, and darkness; God’s love was working to make me free. *
He sent forth Jesus, My dear Redeemer, He sent forth Jesus and set me free. *
Jesus, my Savior, Himself did offer; Jesus, my Savior, Paid all I owed. *
Now I will praise You, O Love Eternal; Now I will praise You all my life long.*
P.S. This is dedicated to my six grandchildren. Ashlee, Arianna, Aidan, Emerson, Will and finally Jase who was born 7-6-2021.
Henry Francis Lyte was born in Ednam, Scotland in 1793. He went on to be a poet, musician, and preacher. “Abide with Me” is probably his most famous hymn. It was published after his death. The following song is also his. The words have been set to a new tune by Bill Moore.
Henry Lyte (1793-1847) / Music Bill Moore (modern)
Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition! God and heaven are still my own.
Let the world despise and leave me, They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, Show Thy face and all is bright.
Man may trouble and distress me. Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, twere not in joy to charm me, Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure, Come disaster, scorn and pain.
In Thy service, pain is pleasure, With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather; All must work for good to me.
Soul, then know thy full salvation. Rise o’er sin and fear and care.
Joy to find in every station, Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee, Think what Fathers smiles are thine.
Think that Jesus died to win thee, Child of heaven, canst thou repine.
Haste thee on from grace to glory, Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heavens eternal days before thee, God’s own hand shall guide us there.
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)
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 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