Friday, October 30, 2009

how great thou art

Teach me a hymn, I entreated one day while we were driving in the car.

A hymn? Drew asked skeptically.

Yes, a hymn. I don't know any, you know.

And I didn't. Well, not unless you count Amazing Grace, which everybody knows anyway, so I don't.

See, I grew up in a church that sang songs more likely to be written by a guy sporting a pony tail and no shoes than anyone who had ever graduated with a masters degree in sacred music. And I love those simple songs we sang. All about hope, redemption, our need for a Savior, and who needs more than three or four chords in one song anyway?

But then I met Drew.

He grew up in a church with hymns. They sang them on Sunday mornings--and Wednesday nights, too, I'd imagine. They had books with notes written on the pages and people who read the notes with the text, singing harmonies because they were reading them and not just because they heard them somewhere in their head.

And it's not like I didn't know about hymns. I would hear them every once in a while and they would haunt me in a wonderful way. At funerals. At weddings. I even learned some in order to sing in my friend's Catholic wedding. And for me, discovering these old songs might be something like discovering your parent's old Beetles albums in the attic. This music that had been moving people for generations had finally reached me and I was entranced by the poetry of the text, glad to be another person to sing this song that had been so deeply worn in by many others before me.

So I started asking Drew to teach me some of those hymns. And though he was a little bewildered by my request at first, pretty soon he got into it too.

The first one he taught me was How Great Thou Art. The imagery in the lyrics is perfect. I loved the thought of connecting what we could see and hear with the wonder of who God is. It made creation personal. Like instead of just reading the newspaper, something that was for the masses, I was reading a letter, an encouraging letter that helped me believe. That helped me have hope.

And pretty soon we were both belting out that hymn in the car. He was holding the melody steady while patiently singing a certain section over and over again at my request so I could get my harmony just right.

And inside I felt a sense of wonder.

And lately, I have been playing this hymn over and over again. Sadly, I've had to trade the car for random closets and basements; Drew for my guitar. And I've also added some lyrics of my own, not because what they were wasn't perfect, but because it's how I am feeling right now, and so it helps.

(lyrics in bold are my own)

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
and then I know, my God, how great thou art

I see this world, and what a beautiful mess it is
and then I see the way you gently enter in
You take my heart, you hold all the million pieces
and then, my God, you make me whole again

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art

I look for signs, for some kind of reassurance
and then I see the mountains in the distance
and I believe, I take creation's word for it
for everything I see speaks of a God who makes a difference

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art...


James Ricardo The Actor said...

As a tear falls down my face! That was so beautiful, and my late grandma's favorite hymn! Thanks so much for blessing me with it this afternoon!

kathiek said...

Beautiful. :-] One of my favorite hymns.

jason said...

Let me know when you learn "Ivory Tower" - the Clayton Family Singers will be so proud.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Ivory Tower...sheesh...that one was always so tough! And here we were just crossing our fingers that we would finally get to sing Amazing Grace--something that we actually knew!!!

jason said...

They would always insist that "once we heard it, surely we'd remember it."

Mom & Pop said...

From Pop & me: just heard your song: very creative arrangement, beautifully done, showcases the range and abilities of your voice, and very worshipful. We loved it! Well done!

How wonderful to be able to hear you like this in our own kitchen! Kind of heals the taking away of the piano :)

This was a good beginning of Pop's BD! Thanks!

Pop said...

Beleive it or not, our old (1972 or so) Jesus People meetings in Wilmington--replete with those songs by pony-tailed, barefooted hippie type Jesus Freaks--ended every time with How Great Thou Art! All 300 of us would join hands in this humungous circle and belt out a couple verses and that great chorus. A fine way to finish those old strange Jesus meetings!