I am missing singing in a large group, particularly, I miss some of the old hymns. I was brought up part brethren and part C of E because of the two churches that my parents attended. Birmingham Cathedral with its stained-glass windows and bellowing organ music and choir with my father and Streetly evangelical Church, silent services missional hymns. Two of the hymns I enjoyed were: To God be the glory, great things He hath done, and Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.
These were both written by Frances Jane van Alstyne, more commonly known as Fanny Crosby. She was a remarkable woman, as a mission worker, poet, lyricist and composer she was on of the most prolific hymn writers in history. The last verse of To God be the glory says:
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.
This last line is all the more poignant as Fanny lost her sight as a baby, but blindness did not hold her back from her work for the Lord. I have found a remarkable quote from her: “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” She also once said, “when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Saviour”.
I find that amazing, Fanny had a positive attitude to her circumstances because of the assurance of seeing Jesus. She didn’t just sit around writing hymns though she memorized five chapters of the Bible each week from age 10, with the encouragement of her grandmother and by age 15, she had memorized the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. Puts my one verse a day to shame.
Fanny was a campaigner and she joined a group of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. arguing for support of education for the blind. She was the first woman to speak in the United States Senate when she read one of her poems there.
There is loads more you can read about Fanny Crosby on Wikipedia, she had a difficult life and still triumphed in a way that even she might not have presumed or wished for. She shunned the wealth that she earned with her hymns and gave it away or used it to better the lives of the vulnerable and oppressed in her community and country.
I am fascinated that she thought that beauty and interesting things about her would possibly distract her from praising God. I find the beauty of creation brings me closer. But I am easily distracted and especially at this time a bit of light relief and distraction might be helpful. Go onto You tube and enter in some of your favourite hymns and songs titles. You will get to hear them sung by choirs, individuals, individuals trying to be choirs or even signed or illustrated. It’s a good way of seeing a new angle on the words and you can sing along as loud as you like. It can be a time user but not a time waster. Or if you feel you need to concentrate on something why not try and memorize some verses, I’m not suggesting that you do 5 chapters a day but revisit some verses that you might have learnt as a child. But above all Praise God for his blessed assurance.