I just got home from our district’s annual Mens’ Retreat. It was a great time, if not way too short. The music part of the services was led by a good friend of mine, an old cowboy from a country church. He wore camouflage, made up the songs as he went and added a twang to every strung.
In between songs he reminded us of deep theological truths like, “Now you all are going to know the words to this next one but we’re singing it a bit different so don’t go getting all legalistic on me. If you do you’re never going to get along with God your whole life anyway.”
And, “Now I have a guy running the media shout down here who doesn’t know what he’s doing because there is a lot of leakage that happens in my email communication with him. So show this brother a little bit of grace now. After all it is my fault, not his.”
Yesterday morning during our last time together before hitting the road back home, he introduced an old hymn to the group. He explained that in the old brown Nazarene hymnals this song was the very first one. The denomination updated the hymnals in the early 90s by rearranging the hymns. Then in the early 2000s all the songs went up on the screen and now the hymnals collect dust in the pew racks. As someone who came of age in the early 2000s, I didn’t even know the old brown ones existed.
So we sang hymn number 1 from the old brown book. My friend leading the music mentioned that he loved it because it was the only hymn he knew where God was speaking to us, not the other way around. I am not entirely sure he is accurate on that account but the spirit of the comment rings true.
And here is the thing: I had a brutal week last week. To be honest I am not even entirely sure what really happened or even if I will ever fully know. There are some metaphors that help describe it. A dam holding back years worth of frustrations broke. A piece of straw broke my poor back. An evil spirit of discouragement overtook my soul. Or maybe I just had a nervous breakdown, otherwise known as a panic attack.
And while singing Hymn Number 1 from the old brown hymnal I felt myself begin to tear up. The old and probably dead editors of that book wanted to begin by reminding us of these wonderful words of God. I thought I would post them for your Monday mornings as you brave another week on this treacherous earth. You can follow the link to hear the original melody line.
How firm a foundation you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all-sufficient shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no never forsake!”