Friday, February 10, 2006

Forever Friend

So I sat down to write about all the old hymns and how they were all about the same thing, God’s grace and mercy. My intention was to rant about how the songs we write today are all about our contributions to the kingdom of God and our sacrificial lives, but I’m feeling rather convicted. You see, when I did a little research what I found was that they really aren’t much different at all. Short of a few grammatical and language differences, the subject matter is all the same. They all tell the same stories, complete with longing, suffering, wonder, appreciation, and an ever-present need for redemption and many of them speak of our desire to serve the God we love. All of it’s right there, on the pages of the old hymnbooks and the overhead projectors of our “worship” communities. Nothing has changed, really. But I do have a strong fondness of the old hymns. They’re so raw and unedited. The writers seem so passionate and certain of their hearts’ desire and for the most part, that was one thing alone, Jesus. Sure, there are numerous hymns about God, but almost all of the ones I came across were sung to and about Jesus (yes, I know all about the Trinity). There is one thing I can say for certain about my own view of “worship” songs. When I sing songs today, it’s almost as if I’m singing to a stranger, like some distant pen pal I’ve never met. But the writers of the hymns seemed to be much more connected to their subject matter. They seemed to be intimately involved with Him, on a much deeper than surface level. They were friends with Jesus and it shone through in their lyrics.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make that connection with Jesus when I sing to Him and the only way I know how to do that is to explore what exactly that connection looks like. What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? How do I go from looking upward to Jesus, to standing before Him, face to face? I think to do that I have to understand who He really is and what He means to me. Jesus has been called so many things because He truly was so many things to so many different people (and still is). He’s been called a shepherd, deliverer, healer, king, potter, purifier, redeemer, restorer, rock, servant, saviour, unspotted lamb, vine, cornerstone…shall I go on? Wow, those are some serious shoes to fill. So here are a few names I particularly love that really define who Jesus is to me.

Counselor (one who gives advice) – Let me take this one step further. Jesus does not just give advice; He gives sound advice and even my best friend sometimes messes that one up. Any counsel from Jesus is more than trustworthy, because He is the author of perfection. He is the measure against which we hold every question of morality and every act of judgment. So when I’m stuck at a crossroads and I’m not sure which path to take, I can rest assured that the right way is the way of the savior. And though it may not be the path of least resistance, as long as my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I will always come out alright on the other side (and I don’t have to pay $100 for an hour session to get there). What a friend I have in Jesus!

Lover (an affectionate or benevolent friend) – My personal favorite. Jesus doesn’t merely think I’m kind of cool and somewhat fun to hang around. Jesus loves me affectionately and passionately. He cares for me, which, lets be honest, sometimes our parents don’t even do well. He is a benevolent friend, inherently good, and devoted to me whole-heartedly and I know this because anyone who willingly goes to the grave to secure my fate does nothing half-heartedly. What a friend I have in Jesus!

Nourisher (to promote the growth of; sustain) – To think that Jesus actually cares about my growth! Well, He does. And I’m not talking about my growth as defined by a life of less sin or greater works. I think spiritual growth is simply growing closer to Jesus by getting more real with Him. Once I grow up by coming clean and learning to lean, He truly does sustain me and nourish my soul. What a friend I have in Jesus!

And now a final word about my faithful friend, Jesus. I heard someone say once that every time you see a penny on the ground, you should stop and reflect upon what it says, “In God We Trust.” And then try to remember all the times you’ve trusted God and all the times He has never failed you. Brilliant! God’s faithfulness to us is not in question. What we struggle with is remembering His faithfulness amidst our doubts, fears, and painful circumstances. So I thought this was a cute way to remind myself and now, whenever God proves Himself faithful to me yet again, I drop a penny in my “trust fund.” ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.

So I think if I keep focusing on the attributes of Jesus and realize that He is truly the greatest friend a girl could ever have, the words on the overhead projector may actually come to life and instead of sending my praises up to the one who loves me, I can whisper a simple “Thank you” to the friend standing right beside me.

So here are a few of my favorite hymns about my forever friend.

Anywhere with Jesus
Words by Jessie Brown Pounds - 1887
Verses 3 and 4 by Helen Cadbury Alexander - 1915
Music by Daniel Brink Towner – 1887

Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go,
Anywhere He leads me in this world below;
Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade;
Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid.

Anywhere, anywhere! Fear I cannot know;
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.

Anywhere with Jesus I am not alone;
Other friends may fail me, He is still my own;
Though His hand may lead me over drearest ways,
Anywhere with Jesus is a house of praise.

Anywhere with Jesus, over land and sea,
Telling souls in darkness of salvation free;
Ready as He summons me to go or stay,
Anywhere with Jesus when He points the way.

Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep,
When the darkening shadows round about me creep,
Knowing I shall waken nevermore to roam;
Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home.

The Touch of His Hand on Mine
Words by Jessie Brown Pounds
Music by Henry P. Morton - 1913

There are days so dark that I seek in vain
For the face of my Friend Divine;
But though darkness hide, He is there to guide
By the touch of His Hand on mine.

O the touch of His Hand on mine,
O the touch of His Hand on mine,
There is grace and power in the trying hour,
By the touch of His Hand on mine.

There are times when tired of the toilsome road,
For the ways of the world I pine;
But He draws me back to the upward track,
By the touch of His Hand on mine.

When the way is dim and I cannot see
Through the midst of His wise design,
How my glad heart yearns and my faith returns,
By the touch of His Hand on mine.

In that last sad hour as I stand alone,
Where the powers of death combine,
While the dark waves roll He will guide my soul,
By the touch of His Hand on mine.

And now I think I’ll try my hand at one of my own…

Forever Friend
I sang the songs of yesterday,
And let them wake my heart.
And in the words I’d held at bay,
Discovered who you are.

Jesus, Savior, Nourisher,
Teach my soul to trust.
Counselor, encourager,
Who raised me from the dust.

Son of Man, whose grace abounds
In morning, noon and night.
Holy God with nail-pierced hands
That steered my wrong course right.

What a friend we have in Jesus.
Faithful friend who never leaves us.
What a friend who truly sees us.
Loving friend who daily frees us.

Father of the weak and poor,
Lover of the lost,
Son whose mercy opens doors,
Bearer of another’s cross.

Shepherd of a wandering flock,
Cornerstone on which to build,
Humble servant, solid rock,
Vision of promises fulfilled.

What a friend we have in Jesus.
Faithful friend who never leaves us.
What a friend who truly sees us.
Loving friend who daily frees us.

Remover of all obstacles,
Deliverer, with lives to mend,
Redeemer of the prodigals,
Mighty King, forever friend.

May songs I sing, with heart unbound,
Be praises to my faithful friend,
For what an honor to be found,
And know what lies around the bend.

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