Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hymnal Dipping

I thought I might start another feature on this blog as I really enjoy starting new features. The other night Laurie and I were listening to a sermon by Arturo G. Azurdia III where he mentioned going to his church early one morning and, upon finding himself alone in the building, started belting out hymns in the empty sanctuary, only to be met a few minutes later by a repair man checking to see what the ruckus was about.
I picked up one of our hymnals the other week to look through the hymns, become more familiar with some, cement the lyrics in my brain of some of my more favorite, and possibly do a little research on some favorites as well. As usual when I get excited about something I want to share.
I'm beginning to notice that I seem to have a favorite time period and style. It probably has more to do with the church in which I grew up where the people who were old in the 1980s favored the sort of hymns they used to hear on the radio when they were young. The sort of hymn that lends itself easily to Dixieland versions. I am sort of a young fogey in case you didn't know. My friend Charles once told me that I had the most extensive knowledge of pre-WWI popular music out of anyone he knew. Anyway, I love the old hymns because of their tunefulness and because the lyrics tend to be little theology lessons.
As I began a post on a hymn I went to The Family of God, Because He Lives, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, The Church in the Wildwood and finally settled on one I find myself humming and singing a lot, which is His Eye Is On The Sparrow. I love that old hymn.

The lyrics were inspired by Matthew 10:29 in which Christ offers these words of great comfort which have stuck with me through this horrible Recession, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
It's a portrait of a sovereign God who, while unfathomably vast, also is concerned with and in full command of the minutiae. It's such a comfort to me in what appears to be a Universe of so much chaos and defeat to know that God is in control and that we know from His word that He works all things out to good.

The hymn was written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin with music by Charles H. Gabriel. Civilla Martin wrote about the inspiration for the song, "
Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: "His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me." The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me. The hymn "His Eye Is on the Spar­row" was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence."

I wasn't sure which version to post here as there are so many wonderful versions out there. I found a Dixieland one, but the video quality wasn't the best. There's this wonderful version I remembered from A Prairie Home Companion although it takes about 5 minutes or so into the clip before you get to the song. But it's a nice version and you clearly didn't have anything better to do for the next 15 minutes or else you wouldn't be reading my blog.
Ethel Waters, of course, was well known for her renditions of this hymn but, to my surprise, the only versions I could find on Youtube only included the first verse. But I know and love this version from Jessi Colter's Out of the Ashes album from a few years ago, so I went with that one.

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