Mining the Treasure of the Second Verse

When was the last time you heard a new Thanksgiving hymn?  There are the old standards that many of us recognize, perhaps from our childhoods:  “We Gather Together”, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, “Now Thank We All Our God”.   But since Thanksgiving is mostly a single weekend observance – and sadly, one that is overshadowed now by “Black Friday” and the start of Christmas shopping season – it’s rare we hear a new take on Thanksgiving songs.  The lyrics of the traditional hymns are beautiful, the melodies memorable and it’s all so, well, comfortable.  Nothing wrong with that.

Just a few days ago, however, I read in Psalm 96: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.”  Since I’m no composer/songwriter, what would that look like for me? How could I sing a “new song” to thank God for all my blessings?  I decided to look past the familiar first verses of these old songs to the second verses, to consider where the hymn writers went with them next.  It was a great exercise in examining things a little differently and perhaps more deeply.

Here’s an example.  Verse 2 of “Now Thank We All Our God”, a song written in the late 1500s, says:

O may this bounteous God

Thro’ all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace,

And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

The evidence is clear here that God is a bounteous God – His presence, His peace, His grace, His guidance and His deliverance; all are listed among  His blessings to make the case for His generosity.  (And I love the reference to being perplexed!)  The songwriter encompasses the full span of our human experience: “all our life”, “in this world and the next”.  What a wonderful reminder to keep the long view and remain joyful!

How about you?  What is your favorite Thanksgiving hymn?  How does the second (or third or fourth) verse help you to worship God with a “new song” this Thanksgiving?

My Slap in the Face Six-Word Memoir

Capturing the essence of your life in exactly six words has become a fascinating and oddly clarifying past-time. I even saw there has been a board game created around this concept just in time for Christmas. It’s being promoted as “Twitter meets Password” and the object of the game is for teams to compete to create and identify hundreds of topics based on six-word descriptions.

Somehow, calling it a micro-memoir is more appealing and less final than, say, thinking of it as an epitaph, though there are some great six-word epitaphs that seem to qualify as memoirs in their own way (think, “I told you I was sick” or “At last I get top billing”).

My daughter was recently asked to come up with a six-word memoir for a job application and we both spent the next several hours blurting out funny (and some not so funny) combinations of words that told our stories within those parameters.  The one I came up with that really seemed to resonate with me also made me kind of sad. Here it is:

“I never did get it right.”

True, my life isn’t over yet so I still have time to “get it right”.  After all, this is just a six-word memoir, not my epitaph. But summing up my life that way sounded so negative and defeated. I want to be more optimistic than that and I have every reason to be. In many ways, I have led a fascinating and even charmed life. I have always been deeply loved (maybe that would be a better six-word memoir) and my Christian faith has sustained me (another one).

But by some standard in my own mind, the phrase: “I never did get it right” reverberated and taunted me. And there are days I let that define me.

No, I never did get it right. But you know what the truth is? Neither did you. Neither did the most accomplished among us. And that’s really okay. It’s good to try, but if we could get it right (whatever that means by your definition, which is no doubt different from mine), we would have no need of each other and no need of God. We would be sinless, and Jesus’ death would have been irrelevant.

I think I’ll accept imperfection, how about you?

Do you have a six-word memoir you would share … and maybe explain?

Why Singleness Is a Lot Like Green Beans

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would get frustrated with you because you wouldn’t eat your vegetables? Your mom would try to convince you that they were good for you (as if that were a compelling reason for a 9-year old to eat something like green beans). Finally, in a fit of exasperation your dad would boom, “You will EAT them and you will LIKE them or you won’t be allowed to (fill in the blank)!”

I think that’s when I first got really good at passive aggressiveness. Okay, I would eat them, but he could NOT make me like them!

Yes, I know, some kids were crazy about green beans, but I wasn’t one of them. It took a while for me to find something about them that could get me past their taste and texture to actually choose them as part of my diet. Certainly, my taste buds had to mature; but more important, I had to mature enough to see the big picture: that my health was key to my happiness.

My mother was right; those green beans were loaded with nutrients that made them good for me and that was reason enough for me to eat them and eventually come to like them. Now they bring back memories of Thanksgiving casseroles and the particular warmth and aroma of my Grandmother’s kitchen (especially if you throw in some cream of mushroom soup and a can of those fried onions).

Singleness can hit us the same way. Maybe deep down we know being single could be the best thing for us right now. We may have some work to do on ourselves before we have any business being in another relationship. We may even know that singleness could actually be a wise choice for our long-term happiness.

Fine. But darn if we’re going to like it!

We stamp our foot (figuratively, of course) and refuse to consider that God may have something important to teach us during this season and that it could actually turn out to be a time of unparalleled spiritual growth and emotional healing. We don’t want to approach singleness with a sense of expectation and humility; we just want to be in a relationship!

Turns out, green beans won’t kill you. They might even make you healthier, if you make them a regular part of your diet. (And go easy on the cream of mushroom soup and fried onions!)

I’m pretty sure singleness won’t kill you either. You could even find something about this season to like, as you look at the big picture and choose to trust that God will use your present to form your future.

Now. About Brussels sprouts . . .