Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sweet Will of God -- Lelia N. Morris

This organist was a 38-year old who wrote something like a confession in the church where she’d spent a lot of time, but it wasn’t the last time she would write something like “Sweet Will of God”. Lelia N. Morris had decided to make songwriting an important part of her life several years earlier, as she pored over some words about God’s will in 1900. She wanted to say she’d been wayward, an admission that might have seemed a little unusual for a churchgoing, spiritually active woman such as herself. She did play the organ and thereby help guide the weekly services of the church, and had made a habit of being at camp meetings too. Perhaps her zeal need a dose of reexamination.     

Lelia Morris was born, raised, and lived almost her whole life in southeastern Ohio. McConnelsville, in Morgan County (see map here), and the Methodist Episcopal church were her home, and where she spent much of her energy to compose some 1,000 hymns over her lifetime. But, some of the trips she took to central and northeastern Ohio to frequent camp meetings (to Mount Vernon and Sebring) no doubt had their impact on Lelia’s spirit. Perhaps one or more of those or some experiences closer to home had dawned on her the need to say what she did in “Sweet Will of God”.  She called herself ‘stubborn’ in the song’s first few words, and elsewhere ‘weary’, ridden with’ discord’, and ‘wayward’. On the other side of confession, she finds no remaining struggle, but ‘home’, as the final word of her thoughts testifies. Were they her own struggles, perhaps Lelia would not have chosen to write ‘Sweet Will…’ for public consumption. Even in a church filled with other believers, or travelling many miles from her home to coax others into His ways, Lelia must have met many others that she felt shared her emotions. She uses the ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’ over a dozen times in her poetry, but must have known that others needed what she expressed too.

It is reported that Lelia kept going in her songwriting life well past when others may have decided to put down their pens. Thirteen years after she wrote ‘Sweet Will…’ she was still at it, albeit with difficulty, due to a deteriorating eye condition. A jumbo-sized chalkboard provided by her son allowed her to continue, evidently, telling us her poetic words were appreciated. A historical marker in her hometown moreover tells of her notoriety, including well beyond the confines of that small southeastern Ohio town. She must have been gratified to know that her local efforts had travelled so far and wide. They, in fact, should help connect us to the One who will carry us to the way beyond. That was Lelia’s goal.  

See the link here for all four verses:
See brief biography on composer here, including a picture of an historical marker that tells some more of her:

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