How Great Thou Art!


This morning in church we sang a most beloved hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” one we sing often. It’s a favorite. And every time we sing it, I’m swept back to a very special memory from long ago…

Many years ago in my single life, I spent some time in Mexico visiting a missionary aunt and doing some volunteer work with her organization. I was privileged to do some wonderful touring with the group of missionaries, and one Sunday found us on a bus headed out to an Indian village to participate in their church service.

We bumped along the dusty roads and finally stopped outside a worn, stucco building proclaiming “Iglesia Christiana.” We found our way into the dark, cool meeting room and crowded in on the hard wooden benches. Soon the church service was underway, the pastor preaching from the Bible—in a language I didn’t understand at all.

It was hard to keep up with him, trying to guess from gestures and expression what he might be saying. As I looked over the small crowd of Indian villagers, I was struck with such a sense of ‘foreign-ness’—me the one out of context, sitting here in a different world.  But they loved the same Jesus I did. That much was clear. This is what heaven will be like, I thought. We’re all here for the same reason, to praise and worship Almighty God for inviting us to spend eternity with Him, forgiven and clean.

Then a man with a guitar stood up, strummed some opening bars, and the congregation swelled into their hymn of praise. Chills ran up my spine as I recognized the tune, “How Great Thou Art”—here in a village in the middle of nowhere!--sung not in my language but theirs. The dear words in any language meant the same thing. I joined in, singing in English, fighting back tears.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; 
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

It was a moment I’ve never forgotten, a peek into the incredible world of heaven that I’ll one day share. As we climbed into the bus to head back, the little girl in yellow in the photo above smiled a shy goodbye. Her precious sweetness seemed to distill the whole experience for me, her smile feeling like Jesus Himself was smiling at me.

A good remembrance this Sabbath day!


God and the birds

The birds came back today!

Our first real promise of spring winged their way into our yard this afternoon, chirping and singing and eating and drinking—a large party of robins, woodpeckers, starlings, orioles, juncos.  We threw open the windows to watch and listen to this late-winter gift, knowing it would only last a short while.  This happens every year as the migratory flocks return from their warmer homes in the south, and we always stop whatever we’re doing to savor the spectacle.

And it does mean spring is not far off!

It’s funny, I’d been thinking about birds just yesterday. A couple of verses in my Bible reading moved me with such a touching picture of God’s great heart.  This passage is where God was laying out his laws to His people, showing what His love should look like when lived out in our lives.
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.”  (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)
We’re talking about birds here!  He ties His blessing on our lives to how we live with justice and compassion, just as He does. He cares about and places high value on the whole of His created world, even down to the smallest and most helpless of creatures.

Jesus showed us the Father’s heart, too, using birds to illustrate.

He spoke about worry:
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature.”  (Matthew 6:26-27)
And about fear:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  (Matthew 10:29-31)
It was a wonderful reminder today…the loving God who cares for these little creatures wants us free from worry, free from fear.  We’re treasured and valued and cared for by the God of the universe, and nothing about our lives is outside of His loving care and will. I hope that comforts you as much as it does me.

And...spring is coming!