Posted by: jevcat | October 25, 2010

A Good Hymn Hummed Hopefully

Why is it some hymns we “own” and others we “rent” as needed – and still others, no matter how much we like them, seem to belong to us only in pieces?

I started thinking about this yesterday when we slept too late to get to the earlier-than-usual church service (thereby depriving ourselves of an excellent celebration brunch).  Having missed Mass, I did the next best thing:  took a long walk by the water.  I’ve been so busy it’s been a while since I’ve done that, and it felt wonderful.

It was a gorgeous Indian summer morning – maybe the nicest we’ll see until next year – the air warming but crisp, sky blueing as overnight clouds moved out.  I walked, enjoying the sunshine and the sounds of the harbor:  the splash of wavelets against the seawall, the chugging of tugs, boat horns, the calls of sea birds.

After a bit, I sat on a bench, reveling in the feel of the sun, closed my eyes, turned my face toward the light, and found a snatch of hymn floating in my mind:

“As the tender flowers

eagerly unfold them,

to the sunlight calmly hold them,

so let me, quietly,

in thy grace imbue me,

let thy light shine through me.”

Those lines kept circulating in my mind along with other bits and pieces:  “Let my soul like Mary be thy earthly sanctuary,” “soul and life and each endeavor,” “thou pervadest all things,” “love and honor would I render” – out of order, disconnected, the phrases percolated through the rest of my day.

I eventually remembered the first line and so the name of that hymn:  “God Himself Is With Us” (#475 in Hymnal 1982), and looked up the full hymn text, but maybe it took so long because I didn’t need the missing parts, somewhere I knew them.  The seeds of the lines I’d had in my possession had blossomed anyway, and given me what I needed to get on with the unpleasant and scary (checkbook!) things I’ve been postponing.

It is, as they say, the little things – sun, seasons, friends – that help us know the Author of our story, nurture us, and get us through, and sometimes, it takes a little quiet by the water to remember that.  As Welsh poet W. H. Davies said in “Leisure”:

“A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”


  1. I’m glad you’ve been receiving the hymns you need, even when not in church.

  2. My grandmother sang hymns out loud throughout the day and I find that I have hymns going through my head on a daily basis. In fact, I quite often simply “sing” my devotional time. I am often surprised when a hymn will come to mind that I didn’t even know I remembered. “It is well, it is well with my soul.” (from “When Peace Like a River”)

  3. Janet–what a lovely day I felt I was able to share with you–just through your vivid descriptions…
    the hymn is beautiful, as well.

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