Hymns: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

One of my favourite things about Scripture is that there is always something to read, always something to learn, always something to comfort, always something to bring hope, always something to console, always something to reassure. So when I’m feeling stressed and lonely, there is Scripture for that. Scripture that will not only comfort and reassure me outwardly, but inwardly bring me closer to God.

And when that Scripture is set to hauntingly beautiful music, it literally reduces me to tears.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say is simply beautiful. Simply reminding us of the rest, fulfilment and hope that we have in Jesus. The tune, Kingsfold, is stunning. In a melancholic minor key, it can end with a spectacular tierce de Picardie – in my mind emphasising the hope expressed at the end of the hymn.

My favourite lines are probably the last ones, talking about the future – a continued journey with and in Jesus, although I will share the whole hymn – since it has given me such hope and encouragement.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water, thirsty one,
stoop down and drink and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me; your morn shall rise,
and all your day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till travelling days are done.

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Year Abroad: First Impressions

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

One of the things we have to do on arriving for our year abroad is to write something about our first impressions. So here is a much-abridged version!

  • Weather: Very sunny, but also very hot. 😦
  • City: Very noisy – the heat doesn’t help as I have my window open almost all the time! 😦
  • Halls: Lonely. The kitchen is tiny and is shared between the whole floor. Not ideal 😦
  • Uni: Not very many trees (although that’s not really a problem, just a difference). But fairly small, easy-to-navigate campus 🙂
  • Church: Found somewhere to try out on Sunday! 🙂 Although Sunday feels like a long way away. 😦
  • Friends: Not yet. 😦 But hopefully by this time next week! 🙂

So generally I’m looking forward to a few weeks’ time. Once I’ve become accustomed to the heat, the tiny kitchen and the city, and once I’m settled at Church, things should get better. But I’m currently in a state of being frustrated, lonely and overwhelmed.

Book: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

I bought this book recently as it was recommended by friends at Church. And now I’m going to recommend it myself.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the writer’s testimony. How he grew up in a loving Muslim home, and how he came to discover Jesus, through the people God put in his life and fairly intellectual reasoning.

It’s a incredibly powerful and challenging book. It details the author’s objections to the Gospel, along with how others refuted those objections (as well as how they often admitted that they didn’t know, looked it up, and got back to him). It shows the attraction of the Gospel, but also the incredible challenge. The necessity, but also the huge cost. It taught me quite a lot about how much love and patience it takes to bring someone to Christ. And just how much I have to learn.

But it’s also incredibly easy to read. Essentially it’s a narrative, split into 10 parts, each with a few chapters. So it’s easy to read a small part, although I read it all at once. I was too gripped.

I won’t go into too much detail because the book says it better than I ever could. I’m just going to recommend it.

This Time Two Years Ago

A-Level students in the UK have been getting their results today. Two years ago I was in the same situation, getting my results and then getting geared up for uni. Now I’m effectively getting ready to start uni again. My expectations are in many ways different to then though.

As with two years ago, one of my first important priorities (oh dear, thinking tools I learned in year 7 are still ruining me…) is finding a Church. Although what I’m looking for in a Church has also shifted slightly. Two years ago I was looking for a welcoming, traditional Church that I could get involved in, with getting involved probably one of the most important aspects. Now, I don’t really know what to expect when I walk into a French Church. I know for a fact I won’t know any of the music (which is part of what I appreciated on my first Sunday at my uni Church) and I know that the more traditional Churches in France are likely to be Catholic rather than Protestant. So I’m looking now for a welcoming Church, ideally with a small group I can join.

Two years ago I knew exactly what societies I was going to join. I was going to join the Brass Band to continue the music I’d enjoyed so much up to that point, and I was going to join the CU mostly to make some Christian friends who wouldn’t judge me for not drinking or going out. Now I’ve barely even looked at what societies are available. I know I’m going to join the GBU – and in the two years I’ve been at uni, serving and talking to fellow students about the Gospel is something I’m growing to love. If I can continue to do that in France – excellent! And I’ll make some Christian friends as well.

My worries about starting uni are essentially the same, but larger, because I have to do all that again but in a different language. Although I could say the same about my prayer life.

In my first two years of uni I learnt a lot about Linguistics. I learnt a lot about French. I learnt even more about God. Hopefully that will continue in my third year.

And to any A-Level students (or indeed anyone on the way to university): Congratulations, good luck, and enjoy! 🙂

Hymns: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

As I so often seem to do, I’m coming back to the theme of God’s enduring faithfulness.

I know some people who don’t particularly like this hymn. Those who find it too slow or too long, or those for whom it was ruined in school (there are two that I absolutely hate for that exact reason, so I can’t exactly complain…)

But I have my reasons.

Firstly, the words. It’s full-on praise. Lamentations is a pretty dark book (for a summary, The Bible Project is amazing) and yet from there – from that expression of grief – comes the wonderful bit of hope. And the hymn takes that hope and is almost defiant in reminding us of it!

The music is interesting, with a whole load of chromatic movement, and works pretty well peacefully or in exuberant joy. I think I prefer the exuberant joy – it fits better with the themes of praise and hope, even in the little things.

Hymnary.org says that the hymn “is inspired by the simple realisation that God is at work in our lives on a daily basis”. I’ve certainly come to that realisation more than a few times myself, and Great is Thy Faithfulness is a great reminder of that.

Ways to Pray: Prayer Tree

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8

Trees are a useful metaphor. Jeremiah is using this idea here to describe one who “trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him”.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I find it really useful to use something creative in prayer. It generally helps me to focus, and having something physical to keep means I’m more likely to keep coming back to it and keep praying.

This is fairly similar to the paper chain, in that it can be easily added to and is a pretty visual way of doing things. It does require a little more effort but it’s also super easy to add to.

I used a simple tree outline (stretched horizontally to fit A4), copied it a few times and then put the three parts together to make a self-standing tree (with instructions here, of all places, about slotting them together). And then used a printout of a simple leaf to pin on.

Reasons I like using this:

  • It’s easy to look back on everything I’ve prayed for/given thanks for
  • It’s easy to update – just adding a new leaf
  • It’s quite compact but also nice to look at
  • I actually really like the visual metaphor – being rooted in God and seeing more of His goodness every day.

This last point reminds me of John 15 – Jesus being the true vine, how we only bear fruit when rooted in Him, but we must also be continually “pruned” in order to produce more and better fruit. It’s a wonderful bit of scripture. I could go on about it for a while…

Hymns: I Will Sing The Wondrous Story

There is a worrying amount to do before September. It’s very tempting to just stick my head in the sand but I’ve done that enough already. When I finally dare to take my head out of the sand I always worry that I’ll be surrounded by paperwork. Fortunately, it’s mostly under control. But try telling that to the part of my brain that likes to panic…

So how good it is to have a hymn that reminds me of the wondrous story – the story of Christ, who died for me.

In the version I’m currently looking at (different versions seem to split the verses up differently), verse 2 is probably my favourite:

“I was lost, but Jesus found me,
found the sheep that went astray,
raised me up and gently led me
back into the narrow way.
Days of darkness still may meet me,
sorrow’s path I oft may tread;
but His presence still is with me,
by His guiding hand I’m led”

It’s a reminder that God’s always been there. A reminder that Jesus reaches out to help – He is not distant. And a reminder that He will always lead me, no matter what the circumstance.

The beginning of Isaiah 43 sums this up pretty well. It starts off, in verse 1, saying Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” This links very well with the line “I was lost, but Jesus found me”. And then Isaiah 43:2-3 sums up the rest of the verse pretty well.

But of course I enjoy the whole hymn. The wonder expressed in the repeated lines of “Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story/Of the Christ who died for me” helps to remind me of my salvation. And my privilege to share that with others.