Not My Hands

Over the years in this space we’ve talked about inspiration—where and how and when we’re moved to make something new and fresh. For me recently, it was a something very old: the song “Not What My Hands Have Done,” LUYH 624, PsH 260 written in the 1860s by Horatius Bonar. There were fewer than twenty people at a staff retreat where this song was part of the morning’s opening worship. A keyboard softly accompanied us in a retreat center clad in hard surfaces so the overall sound had a really nice echo. Though we sang a number of carefully selected songs, this one stuck with me all day and for days after.

Not what my hands have done

Can save my guilty soul;

Not what my toiling flesh has borne

Can make my spirit whole.

Not what I feel or do

Can give me peace with God;

Not all my prayers and sighs and tears

Can bear my awful load.

We can all sing this song, but a look at our calendars—mine included—suggests we might actually think our salvation is dependent on the number of things we’re involved in or the work we’re planning to do. The words hit home.

Things That Stick

I try to pay attention to things that stick. If they do, they invariably find their way into my sketchbook.

It doesn’t always go this way, but for this design I started with the typography and figured I’d contrast it with an image of a nail-pierced hand. It was important for the word “my” to stand out, so I used an italic font for that.

In some settings or for some audiences, the nail-pierced hand will be too graphic, perhaps enough to be a distraction. Another option is to replace the the hand with a simple cross or even to project the text against the cross that might already hanging in your worship space.

Whichever route you take, for many of your fellow worshipers just seeing these words will fix a tune in their heads and a reminder in their hearts.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 130 © December 2018, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.