I love hymns. You know, the really old ones that have been sung in churches for hundreds of years. Yeah, the ones that aren’t hardly ever sung anymore? Those ones. I love them. I probably should have listed that under my 6 Random Things in Who I Am. I think it’s a shame they’re not sung hardly ever anymore. I have to laugh every Sunday when the “token hymn” is thrown in obviously for the older folks at church. Nobody up front leading looks remotely like they want to sing it (except my dear mother at the piano), but they do it to “appease” the older generation. So sad. There’s so much depth to old hymns, I think. I wanted to share my top 10 with you and the reasons why. I’d LOVE to hear what your favorites are and why! Seriously – I’m not just saying that.
#1: “How Great Thou Art.” Why? When I was in like 2nd grade, the first Gulf War was going on. Our next door neighbor was out in Kuwait fighting in it and I took to writing him letters. He wrote me back and even brought me souvenirs when he finally got home from his tour. I remember him giving his testimony in church one night and saying that while laying out under the stars in the desert in the middle of the war, he would sing the second verse to “How Great Thou Art.” I still can’t sing this song without tearing up, thinking of him. “When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gently breeze – Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee! How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”
#2: “And Can It Be?” Why? I’m a daddy’s girl and this is my daddy’s favorite hymn, too. He used to have the congregation sing it so often in Vermont, I’m positive they got sick of it because after that for years, we hardly sang it at all! After studying grace and mercy and redemption at Bible School, this song came alive to me. I love Charles Wesley’s story, too. The entire song is just a beautiful, dramatic, emotional rendition of grace. “Amazing Grace! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Can’t you just hear Charles Wesley belting this song out in a field somewhere in Europe, tears streaming down his face, hands uplifted to the sky, as the realization of what God did for him finally sunk in?
#3: “Come Thou Fount.” Why? We used to sing this song at Bible school. I think our praise director took a liking to it and passed it on to the rest of us. I love the part where it says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love! Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it – seal it for Thy courts above.” That song rang through my head so often while at school because it was so applicable. Prone to wander, Lord – I can feel it coming! Seal my heart for You and You alone.
#4: “To God Be The Glory.” Why? Two words: Fanny Crosby. When I was a kid, I listened to “Adventures in Odyssey.” They did one episode where they “interviewed” famous hymn writers and Fanny was one of them. She was blind from birth and yet never complained. My favorite line from Fanny is (paraphrase, I’m sure), “I don’t mind being blind because the first face I’ll ever see is that of my Savior.” Wow. “O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To every believer the promise of God. The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives!”
#5: “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Why? My answer is “Why not?!” This hymn is so full of JOY. I love not even participating in this one and just listening to the echoes and the people singing as loud as they can and the one or two women who can actually hit the high note at the end. “Oh magnify the precious name of Jesus – PRAISE His name!” Yeehaw! 🙂
#6: “When We All Get to Heaven.” Why? It reminds me of my grandparents – Ray and Ruth Ribble who passed away just a year apart, 2001 and 2002. I played my own rendition on the piano of “Be Thou My Vision” mixed with “When We All Get to Heaven” for my grandfather’s funeral. It was a hymn they loved and I will always, always think of them when I sing this song. “When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory!”
#7: “Be Thou My Vision.” Why? The lyrics are so powerful in this song. “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 heaven’s sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall still be my vision, O Ruler of all.” I want that played at my funeral, FYI.
#8: “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Why? Again, the lyrics. “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather have Jesus than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” I try to make that my motto every day when I get up, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. And you should see George Beverly Shea sing this song! So much expression. Love it.
#9: “The Love of God.” Why? The word pictures in this song make me want to write some cool story to go along with it, but I can’t think of anything comparable to it! Listen to this: “Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade – to write the love of God above would drain the oceans dry nor would the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” Can’t you just see it? So cool.
#10: “Because He Lives.” Why? This song gives such hope! Last year at Candidate Orientation for BCM, we had two couples who were Latino – one was our Latin American Director and the other, the Director for Spain. Our Latin American director and his wife could SING! And this was their song of choice, “Porque el vive.” They would BELT this song at the top of their lungs in Spanish! Phenomenal. Gives me goosebumps just thinking of it. “Life is worth the living just because He lives.” How true is that?
I love the history behind hymns, too. I’m sure there is history behind the newer praise choruses, but they haven’t been around long enough to circulate as much. The history behind hymns make them come alive all the more. Stories like Fanny Crosby and Horatio G. Spafford and Martin Luther make those songs become more than just hymns and old melodies. They come alive! And they’re so full of Scripture and truth, they speak for themselves. Ah hymns. If only other people enjoyed them as much as I do! 🙂 What are yours?
Here’s a video for “The Love of God” sung by MercyMe. Enjoy!