Tuesday, August 26

Against the Darkness

There is a line in a hymn by Ronald Klug, “Rise, Shine, You People” that plays often in my mind since I first heard this stirring 20th century hymn. In recent months, it has become a constant reflexive refrain for me to the disturbing news-of-the-day . . . 

               “Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.”

Many ask in light of all the escalating troubles in the world, “What can I do about it? Little old me? Just one person living on a quiet street in Your Town USA?” Here are two important things we can do . . . 

Sing and Pray.
Pray and Sing.
Sing your prayers.
Pray your songs. 

Alarmed by world news that is increasingly savage, along with my denomination’s recent call to a day of prayer and fasting for persecuted Christians (and other people groups) around the world, I want to renew my commitment. I want to part of the solution. Do you too? Join me in countering evil, promoting justice and peace by singing the church’s songs and praying her prayers with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

King Denethor Feasts While Pippin Sings
I recently saw a video of a festival at a church where only a handful of people in a filled sanctuary were actually singing on a congregational hymn! This was not because the song was unfamiliar or they didn’t have tools to sing along. I watched incredulous at what the face of apathy looks like in the pews. Were these people focused on something other, like the stupefied King Denethor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, oblivious, self-focused while Pippin sings a prophetic song?     

What a contrast to the another King, not one in a fairy-tale, but the King of the Ages. A King who bled to rescue his people, yet ever lives to intercede for them and bring them home to glory. Here is the blessed framework for living in difficult times; not a cowering fear or lethargic apathy, but confident and faithful living under the gaze and grace of our Lord.

Anonymous, Yaroslavl School, 17th cent.

The hymn “Rise, Shine, You People” is especially embraced in Lutheran churches and is included in their recent hymnals (Augsburg Publishing House is the copyright holder). The text is so rich with imagery:

Rise, shine, you people! Christ the Lord has entered

Our human story; God in Him is centered.

He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,

With grace unbounded.  

See how He sends the pow’rs of evil reeling;

He brings us freedom, light and life and healing.

All men and women, who by guilt are driven,

Now are forgiven.
ASCENSION, John Singleton Copley, 1775

Come, celebrate, your banners high unfurling,

Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.

To all the world go out and tell the story

Of Jesus’ glory.

Tell how the Father sent His Son to save us.

Tell of the Son, who life and freedom gave us.

Tell how the Spirit calls from every nation

His new creation.

With this and many other songs of the church, we are challenged to rise up and counter evil with the goodness, truth, and love that comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. One person praying and singing, one congregation praying and singing, many churches . . . well you get the idea. Our songs help convict and challenge us not to stand idly by in the face of injustice and evil

And most of all, songs like this turn our attention to our Lord. He is not absent, unmindful, or unable to help. We can be at peace in our hearts, even in the midst of mountains of difficulty, when he is our constant companion and focus.

Here is a prayer to use when news of thousands of people fleeing to a barren mountaintop or a journalist’s beheading makes one feel ill and helpless:

Prayer of Intercession for a 
Time of Persecution and Suffering

With trust in the power of God’s word, we pray:

R:  You are our life and our salvation! [all pray response]

For all those imprisoned or persecuted for the sake of God’s word:
- Strengthen their hearts by your presence and word. R

For all those who suffer for their faith:
- Grant them the courage to persevere in their commitment to you. R

For those of other faiths who are persecuted by evil men:
- Remember they are your creation and protect them Lord. R

For all those who have the means to help those who suffer:
- Grant them the wisdom and courage to know what to do and do it. R

For all Christians who are called to prayer:
- Grant them and us the discipline to pray earnestly for all who suffer persecution. R

For all those who have died for the Gospel:
- Raise them to newness of life forever. R

(other personal or specific petitions)

The Lord’s Prayer … [all pray]

Closing blessing:  May the Lord guard our going and coming, both now and forever. Amen. (cf Psalm 121:8)
May the Lord grant all Christians everywhere the determination and strength to lift up holy hands in prayer and song without ceasing.*

~ ~ ~
Music Links

View the hymn and its tune here:  

Here’s a discussion of the text to the hymn, “Rise, Shine You People” from “Common Hymnsense” by Madeliene Marshall (Pages 190-191)

Hear a choral concertato here (click on "Samples")

* For other practical ways to help, check out this list of organizations through which you can contribute financially or serve alongside in other ways, or check out resources in your own church or denomination. Citizens in the USA need to exercise their democratic freedoms and contact elected officials with their concerns and opinions. Contact your Senator, Representatives, or the White House here.


Saturday, August 9

Table Prayers

What a joy it was recently to have our dinner host ask us to stand at table and hold hands, asking my husband to pray before our shared meal “as is our custom.” I woke with that scene shining in my mind in the wee hours of this morning. How profoundly simple prayers said in peace at meal time shape our lives.

Here is the prayer my husband prayed on that occasion, one he learned as a child and holds dear to use in our home. It is followed by a simple prayer our granddaughter loves to use. Following these are partner prayers for before and after meals...

Friday, August 8

All the Crayons in the Box

Do you see those two boxes of crayons on my conductors stand? One a box of eight fat big ones, the other the largest box of regular size crayons with all the colors, even gold and silver.

I like to use those boxes as an illustration to inspire the singers to use all their resources to make the music as excellent as possible. After going through a section, I may hold up one or the other box of crayons and they smile, knowing what I'm getting at. "Use all the crayons in the box, not just one or two." . . .

Monday, July 14

Declines, Inclines, and Happiness

What does this report from the Barna Group mean? 
Global Poverty is on the Decline
But Almost No One Believes It
Do more people care now? Less people care? Are there more resources to go around? Less resources?

Has the little bit that our household shares made a small dent? One or two lives are a small dent in millions, but to those one or two who are fed, clothed, etc. it means the world.

Monday, July 7

Stretch Out Your Hand

Do you like stories of intrigue, with endings that mix triumph and sorrow? 
Those who find the music of Arvo Pärt deeply meaningful will want to watch this video which tells that kind of story.

Monday, May 12

A Place Called Home

Only four letters but they contain the world,
A place where one is their truest and most real.
The locus of life in its widest berth,
Where body, soul, and spirit
Shine in their brightest, most radiant hues.

Home is a simple place,
Where the sights, sounds, and smells
Pile upon one another over the years
Forging memories that remain strong
And motivate us in the outside world-
Whether for good or ill depends upon
What occurs in the ticking minutes and days
Of life in this captured space of intimate living...

Thursday, May 1

Tea Time

Monday I chatted with my friend

While we wrote poems

And sliced life into

Bits of cake with tea in old china cups;

Sparking memories that

Sweetened our friendship

With warm looks from

Gentle eyes

Steeped in loving thoughts

That grew fragrant

With the delicious ritual

Of conversation.

Nancy Gerst, © 2014

Thursday, February 27

David of Chapter 16 and 17

Who is this youth, fresh from wooly fields,
Emissary bearing bread and cheese
To trembling troops in tented camp?
It had been priorly said,
When a skillful harpist was sought
To allay the darkness of a tortured king’s soul,
“I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite,
Skillful in playing,
A man of valor
A man of war
Prudent in speech,
A man of good presence”
And then this final note, the capstone cadence,
“And the Lord is with him.” . . .

Thursday, February 20

So Many Stars, So Many Flowers

So many stars, so many flowers adorning
Life’s paths from crystal cathedral heavens
To earth’s deepest bourgeoning bowers.
I cannot contain all the joy they sing out,
All their ripening beauty too rich for rhetoric,
Each a magic universe bustling about.

Is this streak of unseen light wasted,
An anonymous eddy in time?
Is that velvet petal, demure in its forest floor retreat,
Unspectacular because it lacked my gaze? . . .

Saturday, February 15

For This Good Day

For this good day let thanks arise,
Let sinews birth forth praise.
With God-tuned mind let songs resound,
Shout out with heart ablaze.

A night of rest, now morning sun;
New duties press and call
Toward ripening fruit of tasks well done,
Deeds shining, great and small.

At cusp of day resolve is fresh,
It whinnies, snorts so bold;
Lord, give us grace when burdens press
To strive and never fold.

Good gift of life, sweet juice of hope
This day a path toward home,
Strong Spirit help us more than cope,
Infuse with your Shalom.  

                                                     Nancy Gerst © 2014

This poem may be sung hymn style to the English folk tune FOREST GREEN, CMD.

Saturday, February 8

"This Evening of Content"

Grace Before Sleep

How can our minds and bodies be
Grateful enough that we have spent
Here in this generous room, we three,
This evening of content?
Each one of us has walked through storm
And fled the wolves along the road;
But here the hearth is wide and warm,
And for this shelter and this light
Accept, O Lord, our thanks tonight.

Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933

Sung here in a setting by Susan LaBarr by the East Carolina University Chamber Singers

Happy at home, November 2013

Saturday, January 25

Etching Out a Poem on a Cold Winter's Morn

A stretch of exceeding cold, snow, and general winter misery has settled in for several weeks across the country. Waking early on this Saturday morning, this little poem stirred me out of my warm bed. The tea and slippers in the poem are not imaginary. Etching these words on the bedroom window...maybe that's a wee bit of a stretch. For all my shivering friends, whenever you are tucked in this morning!

January Nights

Under reams of blankets lie
Shivering dreams filled with
Icycled images of sunny days
Clothed in picnics and bare feet
Along the beach.
Dare not to wake me from this
Warmest reverie!

Echoes of crunching snow beneath
Scraping blades of plowing truck
Scamper along the ceiling height
Then fade in the distance as the
Howling wind follows behind,
Undoing with mocking glee
The tracks left bare and cold,
Ripe for drifting snow.

In sheltered cocoon of bulging bed
The weather conversation continues
In my head where sniffles
Tickle frosty nose that peeks
And points to dominant theme
Of single digits sinking fast
Until a minus temperature raps
At windows draped in winter caps.

It is not a small thing to battle
The cold in one’s dreams
When the elusive imp of
Nighttime refreshment
Dons mittens at midnight,
Sipping the heat from my soul
Until waving the white flag
Of morning sheets my scuffing slippers
Mutter their way into the frosty room,
Where rattling teacups hot with lemony hope,
Fuel the day with raw energy
Arriving in the woolen coat of daylight,
Beckoning me to button up,
Muster up the courage to
Blast away the cold with duties of
Home and hearth and happiness.
                                                 © 2014 Nancy Gerst



Footprints in the Snow - Claude Debussy 

Here's a recent snow photo from my brother ...

Photo by Jerry Begly
Photo by Jerry Begly - Drive to work through the Colorado Rockies