Spiritual Journey: Poetry
Words mark the path of my journey. They guide me. They remind me. They encourage me. They fall from poems and songs and sermons and conversations. They tumble from the pages of books and from Scriptures.
I began my journey at a very young age.
It began one summer, when days are hot and evenings are long. It began in a time when there was no air conditioning, just large fans that hummed and paper fans on wooden sticks with pictures of funeral homes on the front. It began under a tent with a sawdust floor, with ropes tied to stakes that tripped young feet, with light bulbs hanging overhead that attracted insect hordes. It began while the organist was playing and the people were singing. . .
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Stirred by the words, stirred by the music, stirred by the message, stirred by God’s Spirit — my young heart responded to His call, and Jesus embraced me in His arms. (“Just As I Am” (1835) — written by poet Charlotte Elliott, restating in verse the gospel of pardon, peace, and heaven. [story of song])
Through the falls, winters, and springs of my girlhood . . .
Our home bustled with activity as my four brothers and I got ready for school. Hot breakfast eaten. Lunches packed. School books gathered. Almost ready to say goodbye and head out for our mile walk across town to the brick school on the hill, near the highway. But there was always time, before we put on our winter coats, before we shouldered our book bags, before we gave goodby hugs, there was always time to sit down in the living room and listen while my dad or mom read to us.
They read from Psalms . . .
Or they read from Proverbs . . .
And after a short prayer offered by one of them, we chorally prayed. . .
On Sunday mornings…
I sat beside my mom, on the front pew, in my Sunday best–a frilly dress, with my feet dangling in my lacy white socks and shiny black patent leather shoes. The voices of young and old swelled around me and filled me with words. And the words and music drew me into peace, love, grace, mercy, and wonder. My small voice joined in.
Through the years, so many hymns — poems from the hearts of men and women, set to music, living on in our voices today — have lifted me up and given me voice when I could not find words.
Doxology (1674) — the final verse of the poem “Morning Hymn” by Thomas Ken.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (1758) — a poem written by Robert Robinson to go with one of his sermons.
Amazing Grace (1773) — written by John Newton, an English poet, for a New Year’s Day sermon.
Holy, Holy, Holy (1861) — a poem written by Reginald Hebert and found by his widow in his personal papers.
Before the Throne (1863) — a poem, “The Advocate,” composed from different parts of Scripture by Charitie Lees Smith to accompany one of her father’s sermons.
It is Well (1873) — a poem written by Horatio Spafford as the ship he was on passed the place where his daughters drowned when the ship they were on collided with another.
How Great Thou Art (1885) — Carl Bobert penned a poem after witnessing a storm while walking home from church and listening to church bells.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (1923) — a poem by Thomas Chisolm written during a mission trip, shared with his friend.
And some –like this medieval Irish prayer, for centuries a part of Irish monastic tradition before being set to music in 1919 (history of the hymn )— are always the prayer of my soul.
Be Thou My Vision
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 the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, 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 Heav’n’s Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
As my journey continues, I find poetry in the words I hear. . .
You’re wandering the road of a desperate life
With a troubled mind, and a doubter’s heart
Wondering how you got this far
Faith in Christ can fill that void.
–Billy Graham (sermon)
. . . in books I read.
Most recently, from the words of C.S. Lewis, I composed a found poem, “The Resurrection”
Strangest story of all,
story of the Resurrection,
get the story clear–
something perfectly new
in the history of the universe.
I celebrate this journey that I am on because I’ve been set free by God’s Amazing Grace.
“[S] peaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for all things to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, …”
Spiritual Journey 2018
Hosted this month by
Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
Thank you, Carol!
I loved your post, love those hymns, love the verses…all poetry, all beautiful, all thoughtful. Thanks!
Your description of that sawdust trail brought back many memories – as did the rest of your post. Thank you! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Fun to share same kinds of memories. Thanks for sharing with me, Ruth.
Alice, I really enjoyed your post, rich in story, lyric and poem. Love the list of classic hymns with the mini-stories of how they came to be. Reading the lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision” has the song playing in my head. Thanks for taking us on this spiritual poetry journey of your life. As a fellow pilgrim I could so relate!
Aw… thanks, Violet. It is so good to meet you in this space and get to know you, my fellow pilgrim.
Alice, thank you for sharing the hymn that is YOU! I love all these references, and the way you describe your childhood is rich and evocative. Thank you! So glad to share a little of the journey with you. xo
I’m glad we are sharing bits of our journeys with each other, Irene. Blessings today!
With your voice you have made melody in your heart to the Lord for all of us to appreciate your gift of voice. I don’t know how I missed your Resurrection poem last week but I am so glad that I was able to read it tonight. Reading the SJ1stT posts tonight was like having a poetic evening of prayer. Thank you, Alice.
Thank you, Carol. I’m so glad you did. With the end of SOL and beginning of NPM on the same weekend as Easter, it would be easy to miss someone’s post.