Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Love to Thee -- Elizabeth Prentiss

Written by Elizabeth Prentiss, one verse of the hymn “More Love to Thee” does not appear in the hymnal Songs of Faith + Praise. It’s a pity, because they tell us something about her--about her faith. This song has been translated into many languages, including Chinese and Arabic, speaking to its widely accepted and genuine sentiments among believers. Elizabeth Prentiss only reluctantly shared her thoughts on this poem she wrote. In fact, she failed to show it to even her husband for 13 years after writing it…maybe she felt it wasn’t very good, or that it reminded her too much of a sad episode in her life. It is said she wrote this song while struggling to overcome a great loss, the death of two of her children. At the time, though inconsolable – as any of us would understandably be – she still leaned on her God. While reading + meditating on the story of Jacob, Mrs. Prentiss prayed that the Lord would meet her need in a special way, in the way that Jacob experienced the Lord. What experience was she thinking of? Did Elizabeth want to wrestle with God, the way Jacob did and walk away limping? (Gen. 32:24-32) Or, perhaps she was hoping for an eventual reunion with her children, the way Jacob was reunited with his son Joseph after giving him up for dead for so many years (Gen. 46:28-30). We really can’t say for sure, but if it was a family reunion that Elizabeth trusted God would grant her, that would be a praiseworthy event! It casts a different light on her song verse doesn’t it? She sounds like a confident, trusting disciple when she writes ‘Let sorrow and grief do its work’, because she knows God will send her messengers with a promise she can believe, a rock-solid guarantee that she’ll meet again in eternity those she has loved in Christ. That same reunion promise is for us, too. And not just for people we’ve known here on earth, but to meet God Himself. That’s really an awesome thing, and certainly worthy of each one of us pursuing God more zealously, with more devotion and commitment. And so, I can sing the song Elizabeth Prentiss wrote with expectation and gratitude. And if I’m feeling the sting of losing a Christian friend or relative, this old hymn, this 19th Century psalm, a love song directed toward our heavenly Father, speaks to me. It tells me that someone else was hurting once, and yet she found that a greater devotion to her Lord helped her through the struggle. Elizabeth Prentiss’extra verse: Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain; Sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me, more love O Christ to Thee,
More love to Thee, More love to Thee.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Potter's Hand -- Darlene Zschech

“But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him”. (Jeremiah 18:4) Perhaps that is what Darlene Zschech (pronounced ‘Zheck’), a Christian songwriter, was thinking about herself and God when she wrote the song “The Potter’s Hand”. Darlene has a life today most would say is charmed…she’s a key part of the Hillsong church ‘down-under’ in Australia, a gifted songwriter whose resume has dozens of songs and albums that are familiar to millions of Christians, a mother with 3 daughters, and a husband who is her partner in Christian ministry. If you dig a little deeper, however, you discover that her life at times has been anything but charmed, and might even be characterized as ‘marred’, more like the message Jeremiah heard from the Lord. Darlene’s had bulimia, the eating disorder; she suffered through a miscarriage during a pregnancy; and she endured financial struggles -- not exactly charming life experiences. Does Darlene Zschech’s life sound like yours? Do you feel that your ‘pot’ is misshapen, or even broken apart? I know I never welcome adversity. Yet, experiences - good or bad – shape us. The good news is that the Holy Potter doesn’t need a perfectly smooth, beautiful vase, and maybe that’s what Darlene Zschech was reflecting upon when she put together the “The Potter’s Hand” and the album titled “Touching Heaven, Changing Earth”, on which it appears. That album title is a good description of what God does for the believer – He changes us - and that’s a supernatural hope for you and me as we grapple with life. I may begin my walk with God, lamenting or even despising the repulsive parts of myself. But when I realize that I’m not the only strange-looking clay jar, I gain something, and so do we all. I’m unique, and if I own that as a gift from above, I climb above my shrinking, self-doubt, and contact the Divine One.
Information on Darlene Zschech developed from sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlene_Zschech http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2001/marapr/3.36.html