Some years ago at a Calvin Theological Seminary chapel service, the college choir led us in singing “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” by Robert Lowry, also known as “How Can I Keep from Singing” (see p. 3). It was a good service, but I don’t remember reflecting on it much as I tucked the bulletin into my coat pocket.
A day or two later I received a call that my mother, who was battling cancer, was in intensive care and was not expected to live. I sped off to the hospital and spent several anxious days with her.
At one point during the first night of my vigil I put my hand in my coat pocket and found the chapel bulletin. It contained these lyrics: “My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation, I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging. Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”
Lowry’s text spoke such comfort to me that night, and it has continued to do so in the highs and lows of life. In just one stanza the song manages to remind us that though there is the reality of life that we face day to day, for Christians there is faith in the much larger reality of our sovereign Lord, who has redeemed the world and one day will return.
While the song testifies that we are in God’s hands, it does not ignore the fact that on earth we still lament; we face tumult and strife. Yet in the midst of the laments, the underpinning of our lives is a different tune—a peaceful, hope-filled song of faith. “How Can I Keep from Singing” is the song of my heart.
I share this with you for two reasons. First, because in many ways this song summarizes the hopes of the editorial committee that worked on Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. We wanted to create a hymnal that told the true story of the whole world—God’s story, the story of redemption, the story that forms the backdrop of every Christian’s life. We also wanted to create a hymnal that would sustain the church as a community and as individuals in times of celebration and lament. We wanted to name the tumults of life hand in hand with the gospel message. Finally, we wanted the hymnal to include the heart songs of the church, the songs that sustain us in difficult days and give voice to our praise.
The other reason I share this with you is because behind every favorite song lies a story. When someone says that they like a particular song, ask them to share their reasons. More than likely you will be blessed by their testimony.
Our God is gracious and provides for us in many ways. What a gift poets and musicians, both past and present, have been to the church! Our prayer is that Lift Up Your Hearts will help pass those gifts on to the greater church.
New Worship Study Released
Wondering how to get thoughtful conversations about worship started at your church? Consider the newly released study Wise Church. In Wise Church you’re invited to enter a conversation about worship that draws on the wisdom and experience of Christians around the world. Based on the document “Worshiping the Triune God”—a collection of proverbs on worship adopted by the World Communion of Reformed Churches—and on a series of studies written for Reformed Worship by Paul Detterman, this book and study guide by Paul Detterman and Emily Brink offers a global perspective on how and why we worship. Use this study with your worship team, church staff or council, or small group.
While this issue of Reformed Worship focuses on Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, much of what is written can help you evaluate any hymnal you currently use. While we heartily recommend LUYH, these articles can help you discern which hymnal will best serve your congregation in the coming years.