Saturday, March 12, 2016

I Am Thine O Lord -- Frances Jane Crosby

Birthplace – Cincinnati, Ohio. Parents – Crosby and Doane. Or, perhaps another should get some credit for the composition of “I Am Thine O Lord”; see what you think after you learn what inspired the pen of 55-year-old Frances Jane Crosby in the year 1875. It’s apparent from reading about her life that circumstances did not have to be extreme for “Fanny” to write a poem that would later become a song. It probably helped her to know that her partner William Howard Doane was in tune with the same Spirit that inhabited her inner self. She was able to write on the spur of a moment, a gift that helps explain her abundancy as a hymnist – over 8,000 over her lifetime – that was more amazing because her hymn-writing career began so late in life. But, it’s never too late to connect with a new mission in life.

Fanny Crosby had many musical collaborators, but perhaps none as close to her as Howard Doane, whom she visited on occasion in his Cincinnati home. Though their musical teamwork was often the outcome of their get-togethers, during this one incident perhaps they both were not intentionally seeking such a result. It’s said they were sharing about God’s proximity and His impact, and how He had blessed them both. Indeed, Fanny and Howard were both success stories outside of their music-making ventures – she as a writer and musician with hundreds of secular works to her credit, and he a very prosperous businessman. Their conversation sparked her imagination, but perhaps there was some other synergistic element there too. It’s said that as the sun set that day, a shadowy scene portrayed His handiwork. While this would have been invisible to Crosby, was it something that Howard related to his blind friend – a further evidence of God’s presence, and an additional ingredient in the topic of their conversation? To the perceptive Crosby, could she feel the descending sun’s warmth vanishing bit by bit, but in a way calling out to her? Whatever the cause, Crosby was seeking to go deeper (vv.1-2) than she’d been up to that point. She recognized His presence had indeed come as she’d sought Him (v. 3), but understood that she would not fully experience Him here (v. 4). She reportedly spoke the words of the verses to Howard on the spot, obviously with the movement of the Spirit giving her the inspired words. Howard apparently wrote the music accompanying ”I Am Thine…” the following morning. It would be interesting to know how often the Crosby –Doane collaborative relationship worked in this way. They reportedly produced some 1,500 songs together.Isn't it great what Christian fellowship can do?

Can it be said that Fanny’s musical life is proof that God’s presence is persistent? Sometimes it seems He’s near, but is He gone at other times, particularly when evil seems so pervasive?  Would the planet lose its way in orbit if He was missing for even a brief second? Conflicting evidence might tell us ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are at once the answers to these questions. Maybe these are questions that Fanny asked herself too, spurring her onward to a renewed mission work commitment as she broached the age of sixty, five years after “I am Thine…” was born. To bring God close to those who needed Him most was her urgent desire. A Cincinnati evening wasn’t a one-time experience, but something Aunt Fanny wanted to build upon. What’s your building look like?    

See more information on the song story in these sources: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006; and Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1990. 

Also see this link, showing all four verses and the composer’s story about the song:  

More in-depth biography of composer here:

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