Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lifesong In The Limelight/Betsy Markman

I truly believe that a person's testimony, salvation or otherwise, is one of the most powerful expressions of the Christian faith. I thrive on hearing God-stories. When I had my blog giveaway/contest, I asked for testimonies based on songs affecting one's faith. Well, people submitted, and I was moved. That's where "Lifesong In the Limelight" on Saturdays was born.

No doubt, today's featured writer will strike a chord within many of my readers. She certainly did with me. Betsy Markman from Just Another Clay Pot is someone who writes with the Lord's power behind her words. She's not into fluff writing--it's the deeper things with her. And I love it! Anyway, I'll let you see this for yourself in this Saturday's...


Why The Old Hymns Bring Tears

I had a precious time in the Scriptures with my two youngest children one Sunday morning. It was a divine appointment. We were supposed to be at the first hour of church/Sunday School, but we just weren't able to get it together in time. My hubby took our oldest to youth group, but the two youngest stayed home with me and got ready late.

And somehow I just knew that God wanted to meet with us.

When the kids were ready, we sat down in the Living Room and opened the book, "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. I read to them from it, and some good conversation came out of that.

Then I got out the old hymnal and went looking for a song that would fit what we'd been discussing. I came upon "Jesus is All the World to Me," and I knew I'd found what I was looking for. I knew I wouldn't be able to sing it. I get too choked up. But I figured I could at least read the words to the children.


I got partway through, and suddenly the tears came. It worried the kids a bit, until I helped them understand that these were caused by joy, by beauty. In the end, those tears added a great deal to the sweetness of our time together.

Why can't I sing hymns any more? Why the huge lump in my throat, and the streams from my eyes?

Partly its the joy of seeing old friends. The songs themselves, I mean. So many precious friends rest hidden in between the covers of that old hymnal...friends that filled my mouth not just on Sunday mornings, but throughout the week. Friends that visited me over the radio. Friends that I sang next to my dear Nana in the choir loft, where she taught me to sing harmony. So many friends that I haven't seen in far too long. They've been replaced in church services by the new songs on the block.

I miss them. And when I get to sing them again, it's too sweet to bear, especially when we slow down and sing them at a pace that lets me savor the words.

Sometimes the tears come because of old associations. Faces of those long gone, who once stood beside me and sang those sacred words with me. That's true of all the old familiar hymns, because I sang them all with my loved ones so many times. But there's one hymn in particular that slays me because of a very strong tie to particular people. I had never even heard "Be Thou My Vision" until my uncle and aunt chose that as their "life song." They had lived far from the Lord for decades, but had repented and turned to Him, and then felt called to the mission field in Ireland. "Be Thou My Vision" was sung at their dedication service, and in my heart it is forever linked with them.

My uncle was killed in a motorcycle accident several years ago. I can't help but weep when I sing that song now. Or rather, when I mouth it. I can't actually sing it around the lump in my throat.

Partly hymns make me weep because of the deep meaning of their words. Modern songs sometimes can match their earlier counterparts for depth and richness. "In Christ Alone" is an exceptional example of a song almost too good to be new. I'm thankful for those types of songs, and glad that we sing them in our church. Some of them bring tears, too.

But there's a slightly different taste to the tears that come from the old hymns, and I've recently realized what it is.

It's fulfillment.

Think of a movie that has made you weep because of its happy ending. Think how the fulfillment of the promise of joy at the end felt so moving, especially contrasted with whatever hardships had to be overcome to get there.

That's what I feel from the old hymns. When I sang them as a child, they were unproven theories. Untested promises. Unfelt praise to an as-yet unknown God. I enjoyed them then, but they were only implanted seeds. I could not yet taste the fruit of promises kept.

Now I taste it.

Oh, the hardships I've known on my way here! The grief, the heartache, the overwhelmedness... and all of that only makes today's joys sweeter. Jesus is becoming "all the world to me." I've spent time "In the Garden," and I know there really is delight in His presence there. I've truly come to cherish "The Old Rugged Cross." Jesus is becoming my vision. "Trust and Obey" is starting to take root and blossom.

And all of the old associations become more precious. It's not just that I used to sing that song with Nana. It's that Nana now enjoys, with unveiled face, the God about whom we sang. And call me corny, but I feel a growing kinship with people I've never met, people perhaps in long prairie skirts and bonnets, singing the same words a hundred years ago. I feel as if my voice joins in a chorus that stretches back through time, all affirming the eternal goodness of our mighty God.

And when you boil it all down to its main point, it's really Him. The greatest sweetness of all is not just that promises were fulfilled, but that He fulfilled them. I feel no kinship with anyone who sings hymns only out of religious duty. I sing in chorus with those who love Him, who cherish Him, who praise Him, many of whom now see Him face-to-face. He is the promise of the hymns, and the fulfillment of them. He is their melody, and their harmony. He is their heartbeat.

Why do the old hymns bring tears? Because they touch me with the music of the One I love.

Betsy is a wife, mother, and homemaker whose life is enriched by family, by a love of writing, and most of all by a wonderful, loving, holy God. Her husband is John. Her sons are Nathanael (born 1995), Phillip (born 1997) and Andrew (born 2000). Her hope is that, with her blog, Jesus would shine through, and "that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us." Visit her blog, Just Another Clay Pot or see some of her other writings at

On another note, my friend Yvonne, from My Back Door keeps the hymns and great songs of the faith alive by sending out a "Morning Song" to your email each morning. Head on over there to sign up if you're interested. I find that when I read them each morning, I am singing them all day long.

In the Key of HE,

16 friends shared a comment:

Denise said...

Bless you dear Betsy, this was such a sweet post.

Homesteader in Training said...

Oh my goodness! I whole heartedly agree with everything about this. I love hymns. I grew up singing them and recently we went to a church that sang them once again and I too almost couldn't sing them as I would start to get choked up! I loved this testimony.
Thank you for sharing your heart.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Love this post by Betsy. She's an extraordinary writer and thinker, as you are. Thanks for giving her voice another venue.

Grace and peace to you this Saturday.


Josh said...

Wow. Betsy sure knows how to write. She got me kind of choked up from reading what she had to say about the hymns. I think it's because it is so true. I may have grown up with some of the more contemporary praise and worship songs, but I still remember my grandparents and parents teaching me the great classic hymns. I personally wish that more churches would quit being afraid of going back to them and would throw them into the mix with their contemporary counterparts.

Thank you for sharing your heart, Betsy. It is both beautiful and insightful.

Denise said...

Come by my blog sweetie, you have been tagged.

Joanne Sher said...

Betsy, this is absolutely beautiful. I love the old hymns too (though they're new to me hehe). Beautifully written. Thank you, Laura, for sharing this.

Debra said...

Wow! This was just awesome Betsy and I couldn't be in more agreement. There's just something about those hymns that well up the biggest lump in my throat!

But it's a good lump and I cherish when they do get played at church.

Thanks for sharing this with us today!

BethL said...

I loved reading of Betsy's divine appointment. Her "journey" with the old hymns is beautiful!

Patty Wysong said...

Betsy (LoL, and LaLee), I love this post! It resonates with me tremendously! The old hymns do that with me too--even when we sing them with they newer melodies (um, old words, new music--I'm musically illitterat and can't spell either. LoL)

Love this!!

Amy L Brooke said...

Thanks for stopping by the cafe and commenting. It was encouraging.

Darlene said...

Songs are so powerful! I remember singing "I can only imagine" at a friend's funeral, and I was bawling my eyes out. I was so emotional.

Melanie said...

Oh, my... what a beautiful testimony! I, too, love those beautiful hymns. I have so many memories tied up in them and the Lord never ceases to speak to me thru them.

JesusRulzMe said...

"I feel no kinship with anyone who sings hymns only out of religious duty. I sing in chorus with those who love Him, who cherish Him, who praise Him, many of whom now see Him face-to-face."

Ditto for me! I love old hymns as well and they have the same affect on me. Not so much b/c of the memories since I'm the first Christian in my family, but b/c of how God fulfilled my every need in spite of the fact that physically, I was alone.

Thank you for sharing these sweet sister Lauralee!

I love you dearly precious sister,

P.S. Darlene emailed me your comment under her "Letter from the Editor". Awwww....aren't you just the sweetest thing? You bless me constantly!

AnooCre8ion said...

What a beautiful post.

I so feel the old hymns of the church so deeply as well.
They always bring me to tears, without fail. My grandmother raised me and one of her favorites was, 'Thy way, not mine O Lord.' I always always cry whenever I sing it because I hear her voice.

My favorite of all time is 'My God How Wonderful Thou Art, Thy Majesty, How Bright. This hymn just fills me with a deep deep longing to see Jesus.

For me I sang them because I loved them then, now I totally get what they are saying and they are so real to me.

Thank you again Betsy for sharing your heart with such beautiful writing and thank you LauraLee for featuring her.


Beth said...

LauraLee, you won my Cafe Holiday Expo Giveaway!! Please send me your contact info at


lori said...

You are right Betsy has a gift...and a passion...
The hymn that brings me to tears every time is Blessed just moves me to the know what I mean....

What a beautiful post:)
Have a blessed, blessed day!