Friday, June 28, 2013

dusty tunes on ancient paths

There's something about an old hymn.  The sound of it seemingly familiar- even as your ears meet its melody for the first time.  Something in its depth calls to the deep in me.  Its more than sonnet language....more than a thee or a thou sprinkled here and there... more than the indescribable nostalgic bliss that can accompany such songs.  Its both a comfort and a challenge to let music and lyric take you back to the trail of worship that was blazed long before our feet touched down on the path... forerun by saints who are now in glory.  Oh the joy of a hymn that can lead one there... I want to nestle into the tattered curl of its pages and stay for a while. I want to let the words- exhaled from scripture- settle on down into my bones... to light up the dark places within and cause faith to spring up from old wells. 

I find there to be a woven theme through the lyrics in the hymns of old... and that is their ability to capture the sense of awe toward an unseen God.  Well, of course Julie.. that is the nature of a song of worship... true, but do you ever feel like we ...modern folk... could stand to take a page from the old hymnal and learn a little about the dying art of reverence? There's something about these dusty tunes... that speak of ancient paths... the good old way.  They can move the soul to heights that lie unreached in the present day I think.  I'm not trying to disregard the revelation and depth in a modern day worship song- I think I'm just trying to grant due affection to an old friend.  The hymn that's lost its mojo in the church these days.  The depth of a lyric, a resounding melody... stripped bare before an invisible, living God...void of all the bells and whistles present in the Millennium we wake up in.  Simply awe inspiring. 

I like old things.  I always felt I was born in too modern an era to suit my "old soul."  We grew up in a house of old things... and old people. Mom and Dad received free antique furniture from every Great Grand that went before us.  Our Great Granny lived with us for the first 5 years of my life....the last years of hers.  I have fond memories of walking her up the stairs to bed at night... both of us heavy-eyed and in full nightgown attire. I was her little shadow. Toward the end of her days, Granny lived on a diet of blackberry brandy and prunes... so Mom gave me sips of brandy, and coaxed me into believing that prunes were candy... (I still think of them as a treat... so weird). Great Granny and I were pals.  Because one circles back around to childlike simplicity at the end of life, the 90 years that separated us didn't seem to much matter.  Oh Granny.  You hold a sweet place in my heart.  I'm sure you were lovely when you were young... but I only knew you old... and I adored you old. 

History has always excited me too.  Maybe because perspective can widen our eyes to see things more fully... enabling us to long for Eden past and Eternity as it approaches.  To remember the city to which we call home.  To remember it's Builder and Maker... our Builder and Maker... and to groan and long to be with Him.  To gaze, wide-eyed, into forever as things are made right.  An old hymn can do this to me... in a measure.  It can evoke thoughts and feelings I seem to have known before... like a deja vus of sorts.  It can point my eyes toward the One who was, is, and ever shall be. The Rock of ages to which we cling.

I didn't grow up knowing hymns... so in college my lovely southern sisters enlightened me, and from then on, I could never get enough.  The Tarleton girls and I would sit on the rocking chairs, overlooking old Milledgeville, and harmonize the night away.... one of my favorite things on the planet.  They'd always sing those old hymns up-to-tempo.... as they'd learned them in their country Methodist church growing up... but I begged that we could slow each one down and let the harmonies ring out (Yes, Daddy... this is all due to the barbershop tags that flow through my very veins because of you :-)  ....Being from the gene pool of a long line of Barbershop singers, its always seemed to me, an injustice, for one to cut a harmony short without letting it complete its magical work of resounding. Hah. Poor Beth and Amy Tarleton... what sacrifices you both made to sing with me in slow motion... sweet girls. 

Here are the lyrics to one of my newly acquainted old friends.... its one of the very best I've ever heard.... This hymn came to me by way of a dear one :)
... and goodness... if you've read this far... for the treat of being stirred in your soul.... read the hymn :)

He is worthy of all honor and praise.... and He inhabits the praises of His people.
with great love,

In the Secret of His Presence

In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to the secret place I go,
To the secret place I go.

When my soul is faint and thirsty, ’neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Savior rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter what He says when thus we meet,
What He says when thus we meet.

Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens! and my drooping soul He cheers:
Do you think He ne’er reproves me? What a false Friend He would be,
If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see,
Of the sins which He must see.

Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face,
Of the Master in your face.