Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thou my best thought, Thy presence my light

I've been thinking about the things I need to change up in my life. One of the things I decided to do is read the Bible through this year. I chose to read it chronologically, in the order, as best scholars can tell, that things happened. I am reading it in two versions, the New International and The Message. The experience, three days so far, has been fascinating. Having grown up reading and studying the Bible, the stories are not new (Creation, the Flood), but I am new. Not only new every day, but certainly vastly different from when I first learned the details. Now, I am looking at it with fresh eyes. And I am amazed all over again at what God did.

This week, I was seeing Him as a creator, an artist, having created something and then seen it go awry. As with many literal artists, He decided to ball it all up and start over. That's what the flood was about. I'm not saying He did it in an artistic fit of despair, but I am sure He was greatly disappointed in the way humanity did not respond to His gift of life. I was equally impressed to read, at the end of the flood story, how He promised He would never do that again, never completely (all but 8) destroy the world. I wonder how many times He's itched to do it, though! How many times He's looked at who and what we've become and sighed a heavy sigh.

It's another gift to us that He's let us muddle on, trying to find balance and focus. Instead of interfering, or putting us out of our misery, He's held back His hand and let us figure out, or not, that we need him. How amazing is that?

The hymn Be Thou My Vision has been on my mind this afternoon, perhaps because I am working on clarifying my purpose. I know I'm on the right track, but I need to tighten my grip on what I am doing, zero in, with specific intention, on what my vision is. This hymn knows the answer lies in Him. I looked up the origin of the hymn, and this is what I found:

With its heartfelt poetry and moving melody, "Be Thou My Vision" beautifully expresses the desires of the Christian heart. Though its popularity rose only in the past fifty years or so, the hymn actually has a rich history dating back to the eighth century.

Between the years of 400 and 700 AD the Irish people lived out a passionate faith in Christ. Ireland took up the missionary endeavor with excitement, and the country became known for its all-absorbing efforts to share Christianity throughout the world. Irish missionaries were found from Scotland to Switzerland, spreading the Good News wherever they went.

Some scholars believe that the words to the hymn are the product of a man known simply as St. Patrick. Patrick was born in A.D. 373 along the banks of the River Clyde in what is now called Scotland. When he was 16 he was kidnapped by pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. There he gave his life to Jesus Christ. He eventually escaped, but he never forgot this experience and when he was about 30 he returned to his former captors with only one possession: the Latin Bible. History tells us that St. Patrick was the man most responsible for the Good News of Christ coming to Ireland. As a result of his preaching, over 200 churches were established and 100,000 converts were baptized.

"Be Thou My Vision" undoubtedly comes from this spiritually rich period. Its prominent theme encourages single-hearted focus and devotion to Christ. In the hymn lyrics, the poet expresses his adoration of God through the many titles he gives him: Vision, Wisdom, Word, Great Father, Power, Inheritance, High King of heaven, Treasure, bright heaven's Sun, Ruler of all.

Today, we continue to sing the words of this hymn, echoing the poet's response to God's many titles. "Thou my best thought, Thy presence my light."

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul's Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Image from Snapshots of Joy

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I have read the Bible chronologically a few times and it is the only way to make sense of the historical events. I have the Narrated Bible (NIV) which puts it in order for you and also has an interesting commentary by F. LaGard Smith. It is divided into 365 readings. I love that hymn...