April 10, 2012

The Christian Life in Hymns

Note: during college, one of my dorm-mate's dad wrote this, and gave us permission to share it and use it. I don't know his name, but want to give him the credit for this neat piece!

How to get a Soul Stirring from Songs and Hymns
Since Jesus Came into My Heart, I Love to tell the Story how I read in My Mother's Bible that Christ Receiveth Sinful Men.  

One Day, Love Lifted Me to Higher Ground and now I Know Whom I Believed and I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. I Surrender All, so I'll keep Living For Jesus and Follow On Where He Leads Me.

Since Now I Belong to Jesus, He is All I Need and I am Resolved to Bring Them In so that they also can kneel Beneath the Cross of Jesus and be Saved by the Blood, then experience what it's like to be Never Alone.

So together, let's Only Trust Him, have A Passion for Souls, and stay in The Service of the King. What a Day that Will Be when I will Praise Him, along with you, then He the Pearly Gates will Open and He Will Lead Me while we're Face to Face.

If I reach The Haven of Rest before you, Stand Up Stand up for Jesus, Look to the Lamb of God, keep Resting in His Promises, and Fight the Good Fight until Some Golden Daybreak We Gather Together Under His Wings, where we'll Praise the Savior while Dwelling in Beulah Land. Oh, What a Day That will Be!!

April 3, 2012

Hymn History: Have I Done My Best For Jesus?

Edward Spencer was a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He was a budding Olympic swimmer, the first to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. He had the strength and potential to do much more as an Olympic swimmer, if it hadn’t been for that one fateful day.

Northwestern University sat on the banks of Lake Michigan, which is known for its sudden storms. Ed was studying in the library one day when he heard the news that a boat, the Lady Elgin had collided with another boat and was sinking. People were drowning, and nothing could be done because of the strong currents.

Ed ran from the library to the shores of the lake. He saw that the situation was indeed serious...people were floating in the icy waters, close enough to shore for their cries of help to be heard, but unable to swim to safety because of severe undertow.

Without a hesitation, Ed stripped himself of excess clothing and dove into the icy, rolling waves. He was able, with his olympic strength, to reach the first person and bring them to shore. He repeated this heroic act several more times before onlookers and friends began to say, “Ed, you’ve got to stop. You’ve done all you can. You’ll kill yourself if you keep going!” Ed did not hesitate. He replied, “I’ve got to do my best,” and plunged again into the water.

Ed rescued 17 people in 16 trips in that pitching, rolling storm. After the 16th trip he collapsed unconscious on the shore, unable to go on. He lay there repeating, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?” All night he battled for his life in the infirmary, continually repeating, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?”

Ed Spencer had done his best - but it cost him his health and his future as a champion swimmer. He lived the rest of his life as a semi-invalid in Phoenix, Arizona. It was there in a humble cottage that Ensign Edwin Young found him. Mr. Young had heard his story and heard that he could be found in Arizona, and so went looking for this hero. He found a man no longer a robust athlete, but a shadow of the strong man he once was.

During the course of their visit, Mr. Young commended him for his heroic action and asked how he had been recognized during his life by the people who’s lives he had saved that day. With tears streaming down the invalid’s cheeks, he replied, “Not one ever came back to even say thank you.”
It was the retelling of this story that led Ensign Edwin Young to write, “Have I Done My Best for Jesus?”

Despite the fact that none of the survivors recognized Ed Spencer’s heroic act, the students of the Northwestern University did not forget him. A large plaque in his honor hangs on a campus wall with this inscription:

To commemorate the heroic endeavors of Edward W. Spencer, 1st Northwestern student life saver. This tablet is erected by the class of 1898. At the wreck of the Lady Elgin, off Winnetka, Sept 8, 1860. Spencer swam through the heavy surf 16 times, rescuing 17 persons in all. In the delirium of exhaustion which followed, his oft-repeated question was: Did I do my best?”

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calvary!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

The hours that I have wasted are so many
The hours I’ve spent for Christ so few;
Because of all my lack of love for Jesus,
I wonder if His heart is breaking too.

I wonder have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

No longer will I stay within the valley
I’ll climb to mountain heights above;
The world is dying now for want of someone
To tell them of the Saviour’s matchless love.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?


March 27, 2012

Hymn History: He Lives!

Alfred H. Ackley was born on January 21, 1887. His father, a Methodist preacher and musically gifted man, gave Alfred his foundation in music at an early age. Alfred went on to study harmony and composition in New York and London. His specialty was cello. Over time, he felt a call to preach and pastored for many years, but never stopped writing music and hymns.

One particular morning, Easter Sunday in 1932, Rev. Ackley was preparing for his services of the day. As he was shaving, he tuned in to the radio in time to hear a special Easter broadcast.

“Good morning!” The well-known liberal preacher began. “It’s Easter! You know folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned His body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The man thing is, His truth goes marching on!”

Rev. Ackley was furious. “It’s a lie!” he shouted at the radio set, forgetting that the speaker could not hear him.

Mrs. Ackley did hear him, however, and questioned, “Why are you shouting so early in the morning?”

“Didn’t you hear what that good-for-nothing preacher said?” he replied. “He said it didn’t matter whether Christ be risen or not!”

Rev. Ackley knew that the truth of the resurrection DID matter, as evidenced by a conversation he had had with a young Jewish man just a few weeks prior. “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” the young man asked; to which Rev. Ackley had replied, “That’s the whole point. He isn’t dead; He’s alive!”

Rev. Ackley, in telling the story later, said that he preached that Easter Sunday quite differently than he had ever preached before, but at the end of the day, still felt that he had not yet said everything he wanted to say!

His wife sized up the situation and said, “Listen here, Alfred Ackley, it’s time you did that which you can do best. Why don’t you write a song about it and then maybe you’ll feel better. You’ll have something that will go on telling the story.”

That very night, Rev. Alfred Ackley wrote out the words, and then composed the melody just as it appears in our hymnals today.

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He lives, he lives Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!

Adapted from Music in the Air, Mark Ward Sr. and Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories

March 23, 2012

The Best Of: Easter Activities Edition

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week! PS: These links are best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. :)

Susan Paradis has a  new worksheet Bunny Basics (as well as a whole host of other Easter activities...which you should be able to see if you go here.)

Melody at The Plucky Pianista has several Easter activities: an Easter Egg Scramble, Easter Egg Scavenger hunt in Middle C position, Easter Egg Scavenger hunt Elementary,  and Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt Early Elementary

Pianoanne says Hooray for Eggs! =)

I am sure there will be more links as Easter draws closer. For now, does anyone know of any I've missed?

Have some great online musical content that you don't see featured? Perhaps I don't know about it! Leave me a comment so I can check it out! =)

March 20, 2012

Hymn History: His Name Is Wonderful

Audrey Mieir was used by God to write this chorus that has become a favourite in the gospel field, and she tells the story of its writing this way:

“Christmas came on Sunday that year and for once His birth seemed more important to everyone than toys and presents. Fragrant pine boughs perfumed the air in our little Bethel Union Church in Duarte, California. A kind of hushed expectancy filled the place as ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ swelled from the organ. All heads were bowed, eyes were closed, and an occasional tear rolled down a wrinkled cheek - remembering 50, 60, even 70 other Christmases, thankful for the love of God and family, their presents and His presence! Little children sat impatiently anticipating the re-creation of the old, old story - their eyes sparkling, reflecting Christmas tree lights, not wanting to miss anything including the Christmas play, afterward the dinner and presents which were stacked and waiting.

The curtain opened. There it was as it would be depicted countless times that day, the humble manger scene. Mary was a shy teenager, cheeks flushed with excitement, holding someone’s baby doll close in her arms. A young Joseph hovered over her, his smooth face discreetly hidden in old drapery. A beautiful angel glittered and shone, out-brillianced only by the flashing smile for mom and dad in aisle two. Her halo had slipped precariously to one side. Eleven-year-old shepherds shuffled down the aisle with unmistakable reticence, their jeans peeking out form under dad’s old robe.

The procession halted and the choir sang, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” Dr. Luther Mieir’s voice filled the small church - ‘His name is wonderful,’ he said with his hands lifted heavenward. And I - I heard the familiar rustling of angel wings. I did not know at that strangely moving moment that a once-in-a-lifetime experience was about to happen. As I grabbed my old Bible and wrote in it, more than with any other of my songs, I felt as if I were only a channel, as if I were not otherwise involved

God blessed ‘His Name Is Wonderful’ and it seemed to capture people’s hearts but one day I met Tim Spencer who said to me, ‘Audrey, it’s a good song but there just isn’t enough of it. Maybe you could write a bridge for it.’ he explained the word to me and showed me how I could extended the song and enlarge the blessing of its message. I was just on my way to lunch. After I had ordered my hamburger, I began to think of Tim’s suggestion and so I opened my Bible there in the booth to the concordance and began to run my finger down the list of names given to Jesus in the Scripture. I wrote them down on my napkin. After I had returned to the office, I went to the piano and finished the song.

At that moment, I did not foresee the ministry one little song of praise could have and that I would hear it sung all around the world. I heard it in Sweden, all through Korea, and the Philippines. Never shall I forget the thousands of students in Hong Kong lifting it heavenward from their roof top schools; nor hearing it sung in the Garden of Gethsemane - and experience that was truly ‘joy unspeakable!’”

God bless you, Audrey Mieir, and thank you for the immortal “His Name Is Wonderful!”

Adapted from Al Smith's Treasury of Hymn Histories

His Name is Wonderful,
His Name is Wonderful,
His Name is Wonderful,
Jesus my Lord.

He is the Mighty King
Master of everything,
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord.

He's the Great Shepherd
The Rock of all ages
Almighty God is He!

Bow down before Him
Love and adore Him
His Name is Wonderful,
Jesus my Lord.

March 16, 2012

Best Of: Little Things Edition

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week! PS: These links are best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. :)

A Little Thought: "Thought for the week"

A Little Truth: "This Quote Should Be on Every Wall of my Studio"

A Little Note: "You Know You Are Doing Ok When"

A Little Game: "The Amazing Keyboard Race"

A Little Arrangement (just released!): "How Great Thou Art"

A Little Humor: Cocktails? During piano lessons?

Hope everyone had a fabulous March break!!

Have some great musical blog content that you don't see featured? Perhaps I don't know about it! Leave me a comment so I can check it out! =)

March 13, 2012

Hymn History: Onward Christian Soldiers

The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould was ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England in 1864. He must have been an interesting man, for he was not content to merely propose to his future bride, but he also performed the ceremony! It must have been quite an experience to hear the officiating minister ask himself, “Will you, Sabine, take this woman, Grace, to be your lawful wedded wife?” and then reply to himself, “I will.” Anyway, when the bride kissed the groom she was kissing the minister at the same time. Whether he took the fee out of his left pocket and deposited it in his right after the ceremony has never been determined.

Pentecost, the Sunday that comes fifty days after Easter, is knowing in England as Whitsunday, an abbreviation of White-Sunday, from the custom of wearing white on that occasion. The day following, Whitmonday, is a legal as well as a Church holiday. On Whitmonday, 1865, Rev. Baring-Gould had arranged an outing for the children of his parish, including a hike from his own Church to a nearby village. Knowing that children like to march, and also how difficult it is for their elders to keep them together unless they are marching, he asked his helpers to find a good marching hymn to help them keep order during the hike.

The helpers could find no such hymn. Since Rev. Baring-Gould had already written other hymns, several of the parishioners suggested that he write his own marching hymn.

Unperturbed, this thiry-one-year-old pastor did just that. With no thought of writing a hymn for a nation at war, little dreaming that his stanzas would ever be so misconstrued, and taking a theme from Haydn’s “Symphony in D” for his music, he dashed off five stanzas of this thrilling hymn.

Rev. Baring-Gould lived to the age of ninety and wrote over eighty-five books, but he is more often remembered for one of the most militant marching hymns in all Christendom.

An interesting note: both this hymn and another of Sabine Baring-Gould’s hymns are written in the same metrical pattern: The first and third lines have six syllables; the second and fourth contain 5 syllables, with the whole pattern being doubled into a poem of eight lines.
Adapted from "Living Stories of Famous Hymns," Ernest K. Emurian

March 9, 2012

The Best Of: St. Patrick's Day Edition

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week! PS: These links are best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. :)

Super short list today, but wanted to share some new games ala St. Patrick's Day!

Susan Paradis made my job easier, and complied all her St. Patrick's Day related games and activities here. (Includes composing activities, games, and worksheets!)

Sarah designed some Shamrock Interval Builder Cards that look easy to use this coming week!

I did some internet hunting, but this was all I could come up with for St. Patricks day! Does anyone else know of some other resources/links that you could share with us? We'd love to hear! Just leave a comment below. Also, tell us what you are doing to celebrate this week with your students!

March 6, 2012

Hymn History: Lord, I'm Coming Home

Professor William H. Kirkpatrick had been writing Gospel music for many years, but perhaps no piece worked in such miraculous ways as the one he wrote in 1902.

Mr. Kirkpatrick was leading the music for a Methodist Camp Meeting near Philadelphia. God had given him reason to doubt the salvation of a certain soloist that had been chosen to help with the meeting. Each night, after singing his solo, the soloist would leave, never staying to listen to the message or participate in the fellowship of God’s people. Feeling burdened for this singer, Mr. Kirkpatrick began to pray for the working of the Holy Spirit in his heart.

Two days went by, and although the messages of the evangelists were stirring many people’s heart to decide for Christ, the singer failed to be moved. As Mr. Kirkpatrick continued to pray he questioned, “Will God ever hear my prayers?”

He was so burdened that he felt the Lord led him to perform a rather unusual plan. The Lord led him to write a special invitation song with the soloist in mind, and then have him sing it. He did this, and that very evening, the Lord worked. The soloist, instead of leaving directly as was his custom, stayed for the preaching after and was the first at the altar to accept Christ as Saviour. This new song that so worked in his heart was, “Lord, I’m Coming Home.”

George Sanville, a close friend of Mr. Kirkpatrick, tells the following interesting story about the Professor:

“The year was 1921. Kirk was at his desk in his study working on a poem which he would later put to music. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was tired and had retired for the night. She awakened sometime later and seeing that the light was still on in her husband’s study, she called to him, ‘Professor, it’s very late, don’t you think you had better come to bed?’ He replied, ‘I’m all right, dear, I have a little work I want to finish. Go back to sleep, everything is all right.’ Mrs. Kirkpatrick went to sleep, but when she awakened a second time and called, there was no response. She went to his study and found him sitting in his chair but leaning forward on his desk. Mr. Kirkpatrick had boarded the Heavenly Train for that continuing city of which he had so often written so beautifully.”

This is the poem that Mrs. Kirkpatrick found, so accurately depicting the life that the Professor lived dedicated to the Lord:

Just as Thou wilt, Lord, this is my cry
Just as Thou wilt, to live or die
I am Thy servant, Thou knowest best,
Just as Thou wilt, Lord labor or rest.

Just as Thou wilt, Lord, which shall it be?
Life everlasting waiting for me --
Or shall I tarry, here at Thy feet?
Just as Thou wilt, Lord, whatever is meet.

That was all. He left this life quietly, in full obedience of a complete surrender to the Will of God. “I will receive you unto Myself, that where I am, ye may be also.”

Adapted from Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories

I’ve wandered far away from God,
Now I’m coming home;
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod,
Lord, I’m coming home.

I’ve wasted many precious years,
Now I’m coming home;
I now repent with bitter tears,
Lord, I’m coming home.

I’m tired of sin and straying, Lord,
Now I’m coming home;
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word,
Lord, I’m coming home.

My soul is sick, my heart is sore,
Now I’m coming home;
My strength renew, my home restore,
Lord, I’m coming home.

My only hope, my only plea,
Now I’m coming home;
That Jesus died, and died for me,
Lord, I’m coming home.

I need His cleansing blood I know,
Now I’m coming home;
Oh, wash me whiter than the snow,
Lord, I’m coming home.

Coming home, coming home,
Nevermore to roam;
Open wide Thine arms of love,
Lord, I’m coming home.

March 5, 2012

The Best Of: Considerations Edition

Normally I post "The Best Of:" on Friday afternoons, but my computer was giving me fits and would not post! Instead, you get to enjoy a Monday edition, so sit back and enjoy some great reads. Happy Monday!

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week! PS: These links are best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. :)

Some things to Read:
Don't Warm Up - WHAAATT?? Greatest piano tip ever! :)
Adding Another Dimension to your Studio - Karate? Who knew?
Called to Authenticity - do we take this call seriously enough?
I Have Been doing this for 30 Years 
Teaching Tips from Snowboard School - this has been a great series so far! Who would have known that snowboard school and piano could go together! :)
Congregational Accompaniment Considerations - 3rd in a series of great posts

Specifically for teachers:
Assignment Notebook/Pages for Students - Joy has such and interesting discussion going on in the comments section! It is inspiring to learn from other teachers!
When Students Forget Their Books - 25 great ideas

Vintage sheet music candle (ends today!!!)
Music-inspired necklaces (ends Thursday)

What musically-inspiring things have you been reading this week??

February 28, 2012

Hymn History: The Wonder of it All

Throughout the 1950’s, Billy Graham and his team had a profound impact in shaping and showcasing the Christian music of the day. Songs such as “To God Be the Glory” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” were popularized for the first time. George Beverly Shea, by a wide margin, became America’s best loved and most recorded gospel singer. And with the success of “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” he kept on writing more songs.

In 1955, when the crusades and the Hour of Decision radio outreach were at their height, Shea boarded the ocean liner S.S. United States en route to meetings in Scotland. A fellow passenger struck up a conversation and asked Shea about the typical program sequence at a Billy Graham crusade. Shea described how the meetings were conducted, but then, as he recalled, “I found myself at a loss for words when I tried to describe the responses that usually accompanied Mr. Graham’s invitations to become a Christian.” Turning to the other passenger, he exclaimed, “What happens then never becomes commonplace, watching people by the hundreds come forward. Oh, if you could just see the wonder of it all!”

As he mused over that thought later in the evening, Shea was inspired to rough out a melody and to write down the words of a song. In eight years traveling with Billy Graham, he had truly seen amazing things. Yet to Shea the most remarkable was not the adulation, the fame, or the immense public and media interest. Seeing men and women come to Christ was “The Wonder of It All.”

Adapted from “Music in the Air,” Mark Ward Sr.

There's the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

There's the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that's only begun.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

February 27, 2012

20% Off Suzuki Method

Get 20% off Suzuki Method books over at Sheet Music Plus! Discount ends 3.20.2012

Go here and scroll down to sign up for their email newsletter...that is how I found out about this discount! Thanks, Sheet Music Plus!

Any other discounts that you know of? Leave a comment!

February 24, 2012

The Best Of: New Games and other stuff Edition

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week!

Piano Finger Twister from Joy (looks like so much fun!)

Smash Hit Games with the Eggspert (again, why can't I be the student?)

Jennifer uses the Eggspert Quizzing System to play Accidental Adventure

Want to listen to some phenomenal pianists? Listen to music from Carnegie Hall!

Here are the goodies: Hal Leonard is offering 40% off select teacher resources until the end of March!

Slightly humorous, but so very important are the truths in this post about the person hiding in your church's back closet!!!!

Any other great links that you have read this week that you would like to share with us? Please do!

February 23, 2012

The Teacher's Personality

“The teacher should generate as positive a personality as possible in working with students. Negative aspect detract and should be eliminated. It is helpful to portray the following qualities:
Be pleasant. A pleasant attitude is one of the most valuable attributes a teacher can possess. A genuine display of kindness can often defuse even the most hostile and disagreeable child. Although moods vary greatly from day to day, teachers need to conduct themselves with as much poise and self-control as possible when dealing with others. (including parents!!!)
Be enthusiastic. An enthusiastic person is one who evidences a positive, bright outlook in relationships with others.
Be encouraging. Realistic encouragement whenever possible is a sign of an outgoing personality. Rather than trying to get results by negative remarks, the positive teacher can bolster and uplift the student with encouraging remarks.
Be patient. Working with children either privately or in groups can be trying at times. An understanding teacher will “keep cool” and not resort to negative remarks.”
Adapted from How to Teach Piano Successfully by James W. Bastien

I am sure that describes all of you wonderful teachers out there, right? You always have a neat house or studio, a smiling face and a positive word, no matter what is going on around you.  :) You might be thinking, “And what did he dream the next night??” Often we find ourselves clearing books and papers off the piano for a student’s lesson, (oh, that’s where that list went!) greeting our students at the door after just dealing with a annoying tele-marketer over the phone, or just simply having a “down” day. Yes, it is true that we are never happy and pleasant all the time, nor do we deal with each situation in a positive way. We are human after all! But I believe it is so important that as we teach and interact with other people, we keep our attitudes and reactions in check.

I am teaching a young girl right now that is 12 years old, in the throes of puberty changes, and often has drastic “mood changes,” to say the least! :) If I choose to, I can watch carefully the things I say and my attitude, and keep the lesson upbeat and positive, no matter her mood when she comes in! It does take a choice on my part to not let the negatives affect me and to choose how I am going to react. But it can be done!

There is a small booklet called “Your Reactions Are Showing” (Sorry, I don’t remember the authors name!) that I have read a couple of times that contains vital information for anyone that deals with other people. Which would be pretty much everyone! The basic premise is, don’t just be concerned about your actions, but also your reactions! They tell a lot about you that you otherwise would be able to hide or mask. Keep those reactions in check!

As a teacher, how do you deal with negative attitudes or mood swings in your students? Maybe you aren’t a teacher, but are still interacting with do you keep your attitudes in check? What do you find helps you stay calm and positive? We all have areas we need to work on, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as a help to me!

February 21, 2012

Hymn History: Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus Care?

For two years of college, I was privileged to take piano lessons from a Godly lady named Sue Smith. She helped to shape and mold the pianist I am today more than anyone else, and I was truly blessed by her example in piano and in her walk with the Lord. I took a Hymnology class from her, and she shared this personal hymn history story with us:

“When my mother was a little girl, she attended a Methodist Church in Philadelphia, PA that was pastored by Frank E. Graeff. My mother did not remember him telling this story, but she DID remember HER mother relating this hymn story to her from their pastor.

Apparently, the Graeffs had a daughter who was a beautiful girl. She was a young lady at this time and as was the custom of the day, all girls and ladies wore floor-length dresses with many layers of lace or frills. Their homes were heated at that time with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. One day, the daughter got too close to the fireplace, and her long skirt caught on fire. They frantically tried to save her, but the fire consumed her so rapidly, nothing could be done, and she was burned to death in the fire.

Pastor Graeff was overcome with grief, as you might imagine. As is the case with many Christians, he began to question if Jesus really cared about this tragedy that had engulfed their family. He began to write,

Does Jesus care, when I’ve said goodbye
To the dearest on earth to me?
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks-
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Pastor Graeff then related that as He asked these questions and others of the Lord, he could almost hear the Lord answering audibly with a resounding voice…

‘Oh, YES, He cares! I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights derary;
I know my Saviour cares.’ "

More verses followed:

‘Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth and song;
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?’

‘Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into dep night shades,
Does he care enough to be near?’

‘Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief I find no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?’

‘Oh, YES, He cares! I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights derary;
I know my Saviour cares.’ "

I am so thankful that we now have these words to comfort us during time of affliction, even though the author had no idea what God was going to do during his time of grief. Certainly God knows best!

February 17, 2012

The Best Of: Get Free Stuff Edition

Here are some musical freebies I noticed throughout this week! Looks like some great resources available to us musicians, for which I am thankful!

Scale and Key Signature Worksheets

"Gallery of Music" Symbol Drawing Worksheets

Valentine Card Hunt (I guess there is always next year. :)

Giveaway of Chordelia App

Piano Arrangement of "When We All Get to Heaven"

Snowman iPad Background and Printable

Finale NotePad 2012 is a free download!!!

Enjoy your new resources! Has anyone noticed any others that I missed?

February 16, 2012

Why I Love being the Pianist for a Small Congregation

Last night, our church took our mid-week service to combine with another church 45 minutes away. This church is like a sister church to us, and just in the last couple months had a new pastor and his family move to the area. Being still in the throes of adjustment and change, we decided to be an encouragement to them and combine services, offering some added fellowship for an evening.

I can't begin to tell you what a blessing this was to all involved! Our church people went away feeling refreshed, and I believe that church family did as well. There is something so reassuring in talking to fellow Christians and knowing that there are others out there that stand for the same things as you. As good Baptists, we had a time of physical refreshment as well, ending the evening with sweets and coffee. :)

But what I got on here to tell you about was the fantastic time I had playing for the service. I am the pianist for our church, but the sister church does not currently have a pianist. It was a joy to sit down at their old upright (which was in surprisingly good tune, I might add) and bring out a few songs...something those walls have not heard in a while! It was a great feeling.

I have played for services of all sizes, from merely a dozen people to several hundred, and there is something to be said for them all. But here are a few reasons why I love playing for small crowds:

1. You don't have to be a fantastic piano player. 
I think those people last night thought that I was the best thing since sliced bread...which is simply not true! I enjoy playing, but I lack in so many areas. They were just so excited to have anyone play their piano! I could have been terrible and they might not have noticed. :) This doesn't give me any excuse for playing poorly, don't get me wrong...but it is nice to know that even my limited ability can be used in a mighty way.

2. Where numbers are lacking, you get to bridge the gap.
We took a couple dozen people from our church and joined about the same number at their church, so compared to some, this was an extremely small crowd.  We filled that church building, however, almost to capacity...and everyone sang heartily! The sound was awesome! I think they raised the roof a few times. ;) So even though the numbers were few, the simple strains of a piano really round out the music...and IMO, we sounded better than a 100-voice choir! Almost....

3. There isn't as much "pressure."
As I said before, these people wouldn't have cared if I played standing on my head, so long as there was music coming out of that piano. I didn't, of course. :) But it does take some of the pressure off. In a large church with an impressive orchestra or several other pianos following your lead, the tendency is to feel the need to "perform" instead of play from your heart! With a small crowd that is appreciative of your efforts, that mindset is taken off, and I could just enjoy playing and hearing them lift their voices in praise to God!

Although some would view such a small crowd, simple building and traditional hymns as a waste of time, I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to be a blessing, honor my God, and have loads of fun!

I would love to hear your thoughts on playing for large or small congregations: which do you prefer? What is your normal playing atmosphere? How do you handle the "pressure?"

February 14, 2012

Hymn History: The Love of God

Frederick M. Lehman was a California businessman that lost everything through business reverses. He was forced to spend his working hours in manual labor, working in a Pasadena packing house packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. Not an ideal environment for writing love songs, but this was the environment the Lord chose to use.

Mr. Lehman was a Christian who rejoiced in his salvation. He was so moved by a Sunday evening sermon on the love of God that he could hardly sleep. The next morning, the thrill of the previous evening had not left him. As he drove to the packing house, the makings of a song began to come together in his head, with God’s love as the theme.

Throughout the day, as he packed oranges and lemons, the words continued to flow. Perhaps he jotted down words on various pieces of broken crate as he went along. He could hardly wait to get home and commit these words to paper.

Upon arriving home, he hurried to his old upright piano and began arranging the words and composing a melody to fit them. He soon had finished two stanzas and the melody to go along with them, but now what was he to do? In those days, a song had to have at least three stanzas to be considered complete. (A far cry from the songs of our day that only need have three words!) He tried and tried to come up with a third stanza, but to no avail. The words just would not fall into place.

It was then that he remembered a poem someone had given him some time before. Hunting around, he found the poem printed on a card, which he had used as a bookmark. As Mr. Lehman read the words, his heart was thrilled by the adequate picture of God’s love they pictured. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:

“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love - whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”

Lehman went to the piano and began to voice the words with the melody he had just written. They were a perfect fit. It was a miracle! The song was published - and remains today - with these words as the last stanza.

In later years, the origin of these words became known to Alfred B. Smith, which reveals an even greater miracle in the writing of this song. The original third stanza was written in Hebrew around the year 1000 by Meir Ben Issac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God, knowing that Lehman was going to write a song, also realized that Lehman would have trouble writing a third stanza and so He chose this Rabbi, who though not accepting Christ as the Messiah did possess the skills to graphically paint a picture of God’s love in words. He would preserve these words and then hundreds of years later He would have them translated by this prisoner into a language that did not as yet exist, namely English.

And to think, He did it in the exact meter to fit Lehman’s melody!

Adapted from  Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories

(My note: Because of this miraculous story and the vastness of God’s love that the words present, the third stanza is my favorite! Just listen to these words…)

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angel’s song.

February 10, 2012

The Best Of: Food For Thought Edition

Welcome to a new weekly series of posts, "The Best Of:" where I am delighted to be able to share some of my favorite reads from around the web with you - all musically related, of course! Here's what I've enjoyed reading this week:

When Unwillingness in Practice is a Good Thing - What? Unwillingness is good? Read the post. :)

Piano Books as Gifts - Great thoughts!

Do You Have to Have a Degree to be a Good Piano Teacher? - Consequently, having a degree doesn't necessarily make you a good teacher, either. But I digress.

Teaching the Congregation a New Song - Especially for song leaders, but equally important for their pianists, too!

Joy-oh-joy! The traditional Wedding March is getting a makeover! Can't wait for that to come out!

And a free arrangement of It Is Well With My Soul - one of my favorite songs!

Happy Weekend Everyone! What have you enjoyed reading this week?


February 7, 2012

Hymn History: Just As I Am

The year was 1822. Charlotte Elliott was mad at herself, her family, and God. At thirty-three, when she should have been enjoying radiant health, she had become an invalid because of the strain of a musical and artistic education. “If God loved me,” she complained, “he would not have treated me this way.”

This rebellious spirit not only poisoned her heart but put a strain on the life of the entire family. It was to try and mellow the soul of his talented daughter that her father, Charles Elliot, invited Dr. Cesar Malan, noted Swiss minister and musician, to be a guest in their home in England. Dr. Malan, who was called “the greatest name in the history of French hymnology,” was seated at the dinner table with members of the Elliott family when Charlotte broke out in one of her typical emotional outbursts. She condemned God for His cruelty to her, and criticized her brother, sister and father for their lack of sympathy. Her father, embarrassed at her lack of respect for their distinguished guest, excused himself and left the room with his other children.

Dr. Malan watched Charlotte from across the table. After a few tense moments of silence, he said, “You are tired of yourself, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” she asked angrily.

“You are holding to your hate and anger because you have nothing else in the world to cling to,” he replied. “consequently, you have become sour, bitter and resentful.”

“What is your cure?” she asked.

He said, “You need the faith you are trying to despise.”

Charlotte soon unburdened herself to the understanding heart, releasing the pent-up feelings she had been struggling to conceal for many years. Dr. Malan explained how God, as we know Him in Jesus, could help her find peace for her soul as well as her mind and body. Suddenly she saw herself as God knew her and was ashamed.

“Dr. Malan,” she said, “I want to apologize for my disrespectful behavior during dinner and I want to ask your forgiveness. Also I want your advice. If I wanted to become a Christian and to share the peace and joy you possess, what would I do? How would I go about it?”

“You would give yourself to God just as you are now,” he explained, “with your fightings and fears, hates and loves, jealousies and quick temper, pride and shame, and He would take them from you in proportion to faith, and put His great love in their place.”

“Just as you are now,” she repeated, and then added, “I would come to God just as I am. Is that right?”

“Exactly,” he replied, “Praying this prayer, ‘O God, I come to you just as I am, to be made over by you and to be used by you for your glory and your Kingdom.’”

Fourteen years later, on the anniversary of that conversation, Charlotte, soon to be lovingly called “The Sunbeam of Brighton,” received her annual letter from Dr. Malan. Reminiscing over the events of that meeting, and the wonderful change that had come over her life, she recalled his words, “Come just as you are,” and her reply, “Just as I am, I come.” Now forty-seven, Charlotte penned her spiritual autobiography in a seven-stanza poem which began:
Just as I am, without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.

Her brother later remarked, “In all my preaching I have not done so much good as my sister has been permitted to accomplish by her one hymn ‘Just as I Am.’”

She passed away in her eighty-second year, in 1871, “in the full hope and triumph of the Gospel she had sung so long.”

Adapted from Living Stories of Famous Hymns, Ernest K. Emurian