Thoughts about the journey through life.

This is My Father’s World

By: Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901)

Usually sung to: Terra Beata by:  Franklin Shepherd (1852-1930)

Here is a YouTube recording:

http://youtu.be/ThlHAfnCUAA

1 This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.

2 This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

3 This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

 

Maltbie Davenport Babcock was born in Syracuse, NY on August 3, 1858 and died in Naples, Italy on May 18th, 1901 as he was returning from a trip to the Holy Land. He graduated from Syracuse University and Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. After briefly serving two smaller congregations in Lockport, NY, he became the pastor at the Brick Church in Lockport. He would take frequent walks in the countryside surrounding his hometown which sat upon a hill overlooking Lake Ontario. He would often explain that “I am going out to see my Father’s world” as he set off on these outings. He was very athletic, having been recognized for his accomplishments in swimming and baseball at the university. He was also a skilled amateur musician playing both the organ and piano.

This poem originally had 16 four-line stanzas. Shortly after his death, his good friend Franklin Shepherd (1852-1930) adapted an old English folk melody he learned as a child and condensed Babcock’s poem to the form we find today. The tune he wrote for it he titled: “Terra Beata” which means: terra (earth) beata (blessed… as in “beatitudes”)

Recently, I came across three different articles which look at various cosmological issues of time, space, and dimensions. One was written from the perspective that if it were not for the absolute precision of the universe; so many aspects of cosmological history and law having to be exactly as they are, the universe couldn’t exist in its current state if this were not the case. The conclusion was there must be a God for this to have happened. Another looked at the same set of issues and concluded that this was proof that there was no God. The final article looked at the 10 dimensions of reality physicist/philosophers believe can be postulated. One of the most fascinating part of this article was the discussion of the 4th and 5th dimensions.  I won’t even begin to try to explain these; I will leave that to my physicist brother. But suffice it to say what was described as being knowable from these perspectives completely explained the Biblical concepts of Jerimiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Or: Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Existing outside of time (the 4th dimension) would put one in the position to see all of time in an instant and not experience it linearly as we must.

As I look out of my office window, I see snow covered ground, evergreen bushes, and bare, leafless trees. The sky is clear with only a few whiffs of clouds. This could be seen as either the end of life which winter inevitably brings to the north, or the season which is preparation for the return of life in the spring. Our understanding of time, the seasons, and God’s providence would determine how we understand the world we live within.

This is our Father’s world! All of nature loudly proclaims this to be true. From the cosmos filled with galaxies unknowable, whose light we finally see hundreds of millions and billions of years after it was made, to the strangest sub-atomic particles and dark matter we can only theorize about, we can rest assured that His hand is present.

For all we know about life, we still do not understand what it is which is life. Yet, this mystery we see all around us, the birds in the air and spider descending on a thin string, all share in this wondrous mystery. Everything which has the breath of life declares the wonder of our Father and his work. In this we should take eternal comfort. Though we cannot always understand why Evil might overcome Good for a day, God is the ruler over everything, it is our Father’s world, and in this we shall be glad.




I Sing the Mighty Pow’r of God

By: Isaac Watts 1709

Commonly sung to: “Ellacombe” and sometimes “Zerah”

Here are two YouTube recordings:

(Ellacombe) http://youtu.be/NI1aL8uAZCk

(Zerah) http://youtu.be/T59AmMKWIIo

 

  1. I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
    That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
    I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
    The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
  2. I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
    Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
    Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
    If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
  3. There’s not a plant or flow’r below, but makes Thy glories known,
    And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
    While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
    And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God, art present there.

Though Isaac Watts had no children of his own, he was very concerned with the education of children. He wrote an entire book of children’s songs called: “Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children (1715)” for use in worship and education. “I Sing the Mighty Pow’r of God” is the only one left in common use.

Its original title was: “Praise for Creation and Providence”. Though traditionally titles are taken from the opening phrase of the text, the original title covers the entirety of the text very appropriately. The first two stanzas speak to the various manifestations of God’s power and goodness. It is His power which made the mountains and seas and set the sun to rule the day and the moon the night. It is His goodness which filled the earth with food and made all of the creatures. In every aspect of the creation the providence and power of God can be seen; from the flowers to the storms, everything is in His order and care.

Much has changed in the 300 years since this text was penned. In Isaac’s time, life could be easily described and short and brutish. Disease, war, famine, and death were a daily presence. The notion that we should expect anything less if God was indeed “good” was inconceivable. Life was a continuous dance with death. Yet, out of this existence, which would be seen as utter barbarous to a 21st Century American gave rise to this exquisite recognition of the undeniable evidence of God’s hand in all of life. And we, as simply borrowers of life for a short time, must continue to see God’s presence in his creation and our experience of it.




Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

by: Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot 1864  (July 22, 1836  – August 3, 1897)

Traditionally sung to: Margaret by Timothy Matthews 1876

YouTube recording:   http://youtu.be/2Pfhdlm9qJs

 

1) Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:

Refrain:

Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee;

2)  Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth cam’st Thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:

Refrain:

3)  The foxes found rest, and the birds had their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee:

Refrain:

4)  Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:

Refrain:

5)  When heaven’s arches shall ring, and her choirsshall sing
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me up, saying, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!”

Closing Refrain

And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me;
Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot (1836-1897) was associated with the Evangelical Party of the Anglican Church (also known as the “Low Church Party”), she spent her life working with rescue missions and children in their Sunday Schools. For six years she edited a magazine called the Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor. She published at least two books of hymns, and “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” is the best known. She also wrote many books for children and early adolescents, most based upon some biblical moral theme.

She was a niece of Charlotte Elliott, author of the hymn: “Just as I Am.” Two of Emily’s uncles were Evangelical Party ministers, including Rev. Henry Venn Elliott, author of the hymn “Sun Of My Soul,” based on a poem by Rev. John Keble.

In Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, Elliott weaves several Biblical images and scriptural references together to form a strong theological exegesis of Jesus Christ’s deity and role in our salvation. In Phillipians 2:5-8(KJV) 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. This claim starts with Christ being in the presence and having equality with God. Yet he chose to empty himself of all the glory which was rightful his and become the humblest servant, even to His death on the cross. This is the opposite of the typical human understanding of humility as the not striving for something greater and accepting our low or humble position. In Christ we see the true example of humility as in leaving all rightfully glory and gladly accepting the lowest position available and serving there.

This descent into humility was proclaimed throughout heaven and earth by the angels as we read throughout the Nativity stories found in the Gospels.

The greatest irony is the Creator of earth had no home in His creation! If the master of the home has no place to rest his head, then no less should be expected of his disciples.

19And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.20And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

In the fourth stanza Elliot continues this theme drawing from the beginning of John’s Gospel. The Word, the very breath of God, became flesh to live amongst us and yet, we, the world rejected Him who made all of us.

John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

Yet in the end the heavens and all the angels will declare the victory that is Christ’s.

9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.




It is Well with My Soul

Horatio Spafford

Music by Philip Bliss

Tune: Ville du Havre

YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/tPR-vSCRNlE

1)When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

2) Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

(Refrain)

3) My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

(Refrain)

4) For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pain shall be mine,

for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper

Thy peace to my soul.

(Refrain)

5) And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain)

After the great fire of 1871, in my beloved home of Chicago, which destroyed nearly everything I owned, I spent my days helping those whose loses were even greater. I worked with my dear friend D.L. Moody to do whatever we could to help our neighbors. Out of this, I began to feel His calling to know Him ever more and to pursue a different path for my life.

A couple of years after the Great Fire, my beloved wife, Anna and our four young daughters set sail to Europe for an extended vacation and to visit Mr. Moody as he preached throughout England. At the last minute I was detained on business and would have to follow them later. While in New York, booking them on their passage, I felt a need to change their cabins from mid-ship to the bow. I am not sure why I did this, I just felt it had to be done.

Oh what tragedy! My heart is broken into pieces! Why, oh God, did you take my children from me?

Just days after leaving my arms, my precious children passed into His arms as the Ville du Havre sank to the ocean’s bottom, rammed mid-ships by another vessel. Only my beloved Anna survived.

After receiving Anna’s telegram which read: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” I set out immediately to bring my beloved and heartbroken Anna home. One day, during the crossing, the captain calls me to the bridge. He shows me on his chart where we are and tells me it is here that Annie, Margret Lee, Elizabeth, and my infant Tanetta went home to be with Jesus.

Upon returning to my cabin I pour out my anguish and my continued dependence upon my Savior. Despite my utterly broken heart, I know that peace, which flows through my life, comes from the blood of Christ which was shed for me. No matter the hardships or trials which Satan may throw my way, I can rest in the comfort of my Savior.

Andrew Remillard from the perspective of Horatio Spafford

(A few years later Horatio, Anna, and their two young daughter born after the tragedy, Bertha, and Grace move to Jerusalem. They established the American Colony and dedicated the remainder of their lives to the care of the poor and needy without regard to faith or status. Horatio died of malaria in 1888 and was buried at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem. Anna continued their labors in Jerusalem until her death in 1923. Their daughter Bertha also lived her entire life in Jerusalem.)



In the quiet, dusty corners of the social media world there is a site called: “You must be from Bad Axe, Michigan…” with around 1700 members. Most members are old Bad Axe natives who like to keep up with what is happening in their old hometown. Every once in a while someone will share a photograph, memory, or comment; that is until the recent passing of Mr. Ervin Ignash. The site erupted with activity after that, it seems everybody had a fond memory of Mr. Ignash’s tenure at the Bad Axe schools, his service and dedication had spanned generations and touched thousands of lives with his fairness and equanimity. This prompted an even a more intense and detailed conversation about others in the community who had shaped and impacted the lives of so many from our fair town.

What proceeded was a very long thread (still growing) listing dozens, if not hundreds of local business men and women, doctors, lawyers, and pastors who had worked and yes thrived in Bad Axe for decades. We reminisced about the days of the “drawings”, candy stores, 5 & 10 stores, cruising town (that didn’t take long), the Fair, and so on. What follows is something I shared with the group and I hope you might enjoy it as well.

“After Ted Rapson’s and other’s recent walks down memory lane, (felt so good it hurt), I came to a realization which I think has been slowly growing on me since my parents moved back to Bad Axe to retire about 8 years ago; Bad Axe really was a great place to grow up. My family moved to town in 1970 and I moved out in 1980 and couldn’t have been happier; off to the big city and the world beyond! I settled in another oddly named town: Downers Grove, IL, just outside of Chicago, (well, farther outside than Bad Axe is from the lake) I have 60,000 neighbors in Downers Grove and another 1,000,000 just in the county, about the size of Huron County. I can drive for 2 hours and still be stuck in the Chicago area.

I leave at every opportunity I can. I take poorly paying work way out in the country, hours away, just to breath the air and listen to the quiet.

I could never earn a living in my chosen field in a town such as Bad Axe, but I have found my heart and soul never left after all. My children have lived longer in Downers Grove than I did in Bad Axe, but they have no special attachment to this town. How could they? It is no different than any of the other 100 suburbs around here. When your high school is larger than Bad Axe’s entire population, you can go 4 years and make few friends. But when you go to school with the same kids for years… everybody will at least know your name not to mention your brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and parents.

If you walk into a store here, you are one of 10,000 customers for the week and you almost never see the same employee twice, let alone learn anything about them. I try to patronize the small retailers here, but every year there are fewer.

I know Bad Axe has changed a lot since I left and will never be the same town many of us grew up in back… you know… then (however many decades you wish to admit to). But I think we had a sense of community and family which is impossible except in the small towns of the USA.

If I am destined to live the rest of my days away and only visiting on occasion, I am very thankful for the few years, many experiences, and life influencing people I met in that little town up in the Thumb.”

We never fully appreciate what we have until we have it no more; whether family, friends, prosperity, or a true home town.  It took me over 30 years to learn that lesson. Thank-you Bad Axe for being, well, Bad Axe.

 

Sentimentally and respectfully

Andrew Remillard

 


Play it Again, an Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan Rusbridger

Browsing through the new book collection at my local library I came across this book, at first I thought: “not another ‘how I came back to lessons as an adult’ book!” However, the “against the impossible” part of the title intrigued me a bit so I thought I would at least give a start. After the first bite my appetite became insatiable.

For those, like me, who have no idea who Alan Rusbridger is, let me give a quick biography of him. He, like most of us had piano lessons throughout his childhood, often he was less than a great student, sliding by on his wits more than his effort. He even took of the clarinet in his early teens. He advanced well but always short of his potential. He ultimately goes into journalism where he does excel and is quite successful reaching the editor’s desk of a major English newspaper by his 40’s. He has continued to play throughout his college years and adult years, though as his responsibilities increase he has less time for his past time. For a couple of years leading up to the events of this book he has attended a sort of summer camp for amateur pianists for a week. During the camp about two years ago one of the students plays the 1st Chopin Ballade and Alan gets bitten. He wonders “Could I possibly do that too?” He rashly commits himself to playing for the group the following summer and sets out to begin learning this work on about 20 minutes of practice a day!!?? (And this from someone who readily admits he never “practices”, he just plays around.) Through over 350 pages Rusbidger chronicles the personal discovery of what it means to commit oneself to the mastery of a great work of art.

During this period of his life, while sitting at the editors desk of The Guardian, he must deal with several major issues and stories, any one of which could have commanded all of his attention. There were three primary stories which compete with Chopin, 1) the need of traditional newspapers to find new business models to survive in the internet age 2) The Guardian was one the primary outlets for Julian Assange and Wikileaks 3) the Murdock news organizations engaged in massive illegal wire tapping of celebrities, politicians, and even crime victims, The Guardian broke the story.

Throughout the year leading up the next summer music camp Rusbidger shares the same struggles we all face in finding a balance between our work and our art. Unlike the rest of us, he has the opportunity to interview several internationally know pianists who share their thoughts about his adventure including, Emanuel Ax, Murray Perahia, and Alfred Brendel. In the end he finds that life has conspired against him, and though he has made remarkable progress by the next summer’s music camp, he is far from ready for a real “performance”. He reset the goal and plays on a couple different occasions in December of last year 1 1/2 years after starting to work on his project against the impossible.

He admits his performance is far from what one would expect from a professional pianist, but he and his audience found it a profoundly musical experience nonetheless. And here I think is the most important point of his writing. It is a celebration of the amateur’s music making. We often overlook the importance of music making in the living room as we get caught up in the celebrity of the concert hall or recording studio. Which is really more important to the art, Andras Schiff recording all of Bach’s Partitas or Mrs. Jones, down the street, learning her first Prelude and Fugue?




Earlier this year, just before Easter, I effectively lost the use of my left hand due to arthritis. I had surgery to restore some functionality and while the surgery went fine, the infection which followed was devastating. When I was admitted to the hospital I feared that anything which hurt this much could not stay attached to my body. But through the grace of modern medicine, the skill and patience of my doctors and nurses, the love of my wife Diane, and the many prayers from my fellow Christians I survived and have been able to return to my seat behind the keyboard.

Throughout this episode I had the time to reflect on a number of questions. Before I knew for sure that my hand would work well enough to play again I considered why was it so important for me to play again?
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of the master who gives his three servants various amounts of talents to manage in his absence. I had always assumed that my “talent” had been the ability to play and share my skill with others. For me to play is an act of worship. All of the many hours of preparation leading up to the first notes of the Prelude are an act of sacrifice and worship. Every day of the week I would rise and plan my day around the my preparation for each Sunday. And now I feared that this would soon end.

God and I had already faced the greatest test when my son Kurt died and I knew he was always faithful. So as I laid in the hospital and then spent weeks in occupational therapy I came to realize that my ability and opportunity to worship God extends to everything I do, not just my piano playing. How I treat my neighbor and how I encourage my brothers and sisters every day is an act of worship. The patience you show a restless child is an act of worship and the patience you show the careless driver is also an act of worship. The daily practice of life provides opportunities to worship our God. We don’t do this to “feel good” or for any other purpose. Worship is an expression than God is altogether worthy of worship and is deserving of our faithful worship for no other reason.

So Sunday morning as we gather together to worship corporately, when you first hear the piano or the band begin to play please join us for we are here to worship, we are here to bow down, and we are here to say that you’re our God.



This old Yiddish proverb has rung especially loudly in my life of late. If you would have asked me a year ago if I would ever open another piano store I would have stared at you mutely for a minute and simply said: “NO!” I also didn’t plan on losing the use of my left hand and having to endure three surgeries, nearly two weeks of hospitalization, and weeks of infusion antibiotics.

As I talked over my plans to reopen my store, my wise brother-in-law, Richard Southworth, shared this Yiddish proverb with me. It struck me as also quite a summary of my life. As the inveterate goal setter and planner, I am used to most of my plans and goals coming to naught. I always keep getting tripped up by the unexpected and the mundane of life.

A number of circumstances came together to make it almost inevitable that we would reopen our store so rather than sticking to a plan which was not working we decided to go ahead and reopen.
The new showroom is located at 2749 Curtiss St. in Downers Grove, IL; just a few blocks west of our previous location. It is open by appointment only for now.

The more I thought about what Rich said to me I realized that this laughter of God is not in the context of mockery. When the three travelers told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed out of joy and Sarah laughed in derision. However, when Isaac, (whose name means laughter), was born all the laughter came from joy.
It is easy to become discouraged when things don’t go our way and our plans are thwarted. I am sure that the lack of offspring was a source of great pain and frustration for Abraham and Sari for decades. For their entire lifetimes they watched as those around them had children, gave their children away in marriage, and bounced their grandchildren on their knees. This vital marker of a complete life, which they surely wanted as much as their next breath, had eluded them into their old age.

Yet, God brought laughter and joy to this yearning of theirs after waiting until they were very old, and out of this laughter came the salvation of the world.

When I was asked last year how I felt about closing the 8000 sq ft shop, I answered that I had mixed emotions: joy and happiness. And now that my plans have once more met with holy laughter, I must meet this new opportunity with the mixed emotions of joy and happiness.

If you know anybody who needs a good used piano give me a call… I have a few.

Andrew Remillard
2749 Curtiss St, Downers Grove, IL
630-852-5058