As I enter what will probable be my last couple of decades on this side of eternity, I have the opportunity to reflect on what has been quite the unexpected journey. Frequently, I consider how different I am now from the young person who was often very frustrated by his lack of perceived ability. There are so many areas in my life which I have achieved a reasonable modicum of success, yet when you look at my very limited ability and success as a young person, no one could have anticipated what I would ultimately accomplish.

A great example of this is my hymn playing! Anybody who has wandered onto my YouTube channel would never guess how poor my ability to play a most basic hymn was when I graduated from a prestigious Christian college with a piano performance degree. I lost my first two church jobs because I could NOT play a hymn to save my life! Even with a week to prepare, I just could not do it. This was both embarrassing and very frustrating. Somehow, even though I could play very substantial solo literature, something about hymns completely eluded me. So, I decided to fix the problem. Starting at the beginning of the 1955 Presbyterian Hymnbook, I would studied each hymn, looking at its harmony, voice leading, etc. I continued to do this for well over a year and eventually got to the place where I did not embarrass myself every Sunday. Still, I had bad days, but they became much less frequent.

As a young person (and that includes everybody under 95 years old), we so terribly underestimate the ability God has given to us to improve. Especially as we age, we expect to be able to perform and learn faster than a young person. We place completely unreasonable goals before us. And sinfully (and it is sinful) look at those around us and wish we could have what they have (covetousness).  Wishing to have what another has is not healthy or even allows us to grow. Growth comes from small incremental change. We don’t improve 100% in a day, but rather a good day may leave us 1% better.

As it was with my learning to play hymns, it required hundreds of days of careful practice and study. Only then was I able to improve enough to fulfill my ministerial calling. If I could do this simple thing, so can you!

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945

Book of Psalms for Singing (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Hymns Ancient and Modern

Here are my new projects:

Trinity Hymnal 1960

Lutheran 1909 Hymnal

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales


Dictionary of Hymnology:

American Hymns Old and New