Month: January 2020

Words that last forever


From my journal entry dated January 9, 2020

The selection I read for spiritual and poetic nourishment today is number 251 in The Broadman Hymnal: “Praise to God, Immortal Praise”, words by Anna L. Barbauld. It is brief, just three stanzas in a half-page-length song.

Contemplation of a hymn text daily: a valuable and edifying discipline

When I plunge into this Daily Hymn exercise, I try to examine every phrase. Doing so opens many channels of contemplation. The praise referenced in today’s hymn is from people’s mouths (and, first, from their hearts/minds), yet it is called “immortal.” Does that mean it transcends our present mortal state? Does it mean that the praises rise and become something permanent in the heavenly realm we cannot see or grasp yet? Does it convey additionally that the praises (though not the ones praising) are undying? Everlasting words. This gets back to the idea of permanence just noted. All of this can be extracted from one brief phrase in the first stanza of Ms. Barbauld’s text penned in 1772.

What’s “basic” isn’t automatically not noteworthy

We may tend to use the word basic in the sense of average; vanilla; meh; not special when judged against a stack of similar items. On the contrary, the word really means foundational and essential! We wouldn’t ever think of basic necessities like food, air, and shelter as unimportant. Accordingly, not ever to undervalue such a lofty text or its (former?) use in corporate worship, I would describe “Praise to God, Immortal Praise” as a basic worship hymn message that covers these topics:

  • God’s provision of love and joy to us His people
  • thankfulness for life-sustaining produce harvested from field and from gardens
  • prosperity and the stewardship of it that we rightly owe
  • being kind as a response that proves our gratitude for God’s mercies to us

Below are the three stanzas. See if you approve my breakdown shown above.

Praise to God, immortal praise, For the love that crowns our days;
Bounteous Source of every joy; Let Thy praise our tongues employ.

For the blessings of the field, For the stores the gardens yield,
For the joy which harvests bring, Grateful praises now we sing.

As Thy prospering hand hath blest, May we give Thee of our best;
And by deeds of kindly love For Thy mercies grateful prove.

This article says the poet was seen at one point as “a moralising writer for children” (she was English). The literary movers and shakers whose opinions mattered then did not intend that description to convey admiration for her body of work. But I say, “Bravo!” She has my applause for apparently being true to some measure of personal conviction in order to make a particular impact that cannot be underestimated in its potential effect! Producing wise instruction for minds most susceptible to both impression and improvement is highly admirable.

Popularity is different from enduring value

The world much more often than not fails to comprehend – and to apply – the value of the best works, thoughts, products, contributions of its brightest members. In current language, getting so many “likes” and “shares” is a marker that may make or break careers and business enterprises, yet those very numbers are by nature highly fickle and fleeting. The sheer volume of available choices in what to view, read, like and share causes much worthy content of enduring value to be dismissed (or missed altogether) and causes plenty of popular works ranging from books and film to cute memes and unimportant videos to be grossly overvalued.

Words that last forever

This brings us full circle to the point about our mouths emitting “immortal praise” to our God and Creator. From the best to the better to the faltering but sincere, the vast majority of created poems, novels, and essays will be undervalued. Praises to God, never so! What is produced for eliciting “likes” from earth’s eyes, minds, and wallets will perish. What rises to heaven now from humble and grateful hearts will endure and will never cease to matter.