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2020-07-04 America the Beautiful

Today we celebrate Independence Day - the Fourth of July - with many parades, celebrations and firework displays.  I am always touched when I hear America The Beautiful, a patriotic song which probably is no longer politically correct to sing.  I wonder if it is ever sung in our schools anymore.  

The lyrics were written by Katherine Lee Bates and music was composed by a church organist and choirmaster, Samuel A. Ward.   Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, Pikes Peak, first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. At that time, the poem was titled America for publication. In 1893, at the age of thirty-six, Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, took a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Many of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem. These included the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City" with its promise of the future contained within its alabaster buildings.  Likewise the wheat fields of America's heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding as well as the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Zebulon's Pikes Peak.  It was on the pinnacle of that mountain that the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room. 

Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward too was inspired to compose his tune. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City, in 1882, and he immediately wrote it down. He was so anxious to capture the tune in his head, he asked fellow passenger friend Harry Martin for his shirt cuff to write the tune on. He composed the tune for the old hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem", retitling the work "Materna". Ward's music combined with Bates' poem were first published together in 1910 and titled, America the Beautiful.  

This song is such a great reminder of how God has blessed this nation over the decades, something that sadly is no longer remembered today by many of our citizens.  It reminds us of the many "heroes" who gave their lives to gain and preserve our freedoms and independence.  It reminds us of the dreams that these patriots had for our future.  But in verse two it also pleads that God would mend our every flaw.  I can't help but wonder if we have passed the point that God would continue to shed His grace on us as a nation if we would return to Him. Would He forgive us for turning our backs on Him in so many ways?  May it be our prayer that we would return to Him and that He would bring a revival to this nation which appears to be in rapid decline.  Thank the Lord for what this country has stood for in the past as God blessed and preserved us as a great nation.  Truly I have been blessed to have been born here and to have lived here. "America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!"


 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

II Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
for amber waves of grain; 
for purple mountain majesties 
above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
and crown thy good with brotherhood 
from sea to shining sea. 

O beautiful for heroes proved 
in liberating strife, 
who more than self their country loved, 
and mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine, 
till all success be nobleness, 
and every gain divine. 

O beautiful for patriot dream 
that sees beyond the years 
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! God mend thine every flaw, 
confirm thy soul in self-control, 
thy liberty in law.



Although we all knew the day was coming, it still saddens me to announce that today will be the last Hymn of the Day.  I want to thank all of you for allowing me to share my love of God, music, and beautiful hymns with you these past few months.  I believe that God uses a multitude of ways to speak to us, bring us comfort and peace, and give us hope for a brighter tomorrow.  I am blessed that He has chosen me as a vessel to that end, and I hope that you have felt His presence in your life and received some measure of blessing as you have read the words and listened to the music of some of the great songs of our faith.


I am so grateful for the poets who were moved to write their thoughts in verse, the composers who were inspired with tunes that brought those words to life, and to the talented musicians who have brought depth of feeling and meaning to those tunes through their piano arrangements.  As for me – I have a plaque in my piano room, a quote from J.S. Bach, which reads “I play the notes as they are written but it is God who makes the music.” Thank you, God.


I have been asked about recording some Christmas hymns during the month of December.  If you would like to be on that mailing list, just let me know.  


Until next time - 


24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)


Jane Cockrell

2020-07-03 Jesus Paid It All

On Sunday many of us may participate in Communion in our church.  This is a beautiful celebration when we remember the death of Christ for us - his broken body and the blood that was shed for our forgiveness and redemption.  Hopefully this is a very meaningful time for you as you thank Him for that matchless gift.  And during the celebration you just might sing or hear today’s beautiful hymn which reminds us that Jesus Paid It All!  There is nothing that we can do to earn this gift or pay for it.  Our debt is paid - in full!  Praise the Lord!  The words to the song were written by Elvina Hall (1822-1889) in 1865. Elvina was a member of the Monument Street Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. The Choir Director of the same church was John Thomas Grape (1835-1915). Unaware of Elvina's composition, Grape composed a tune he called All To Christ I Owe.  The pastor of Monument Street Methodist Church, Rev. George W. Schreck heard the music written by Grape and immediately thought of the verse written by another of his parishioners, Elvina Hall. At the pastor's suggestion, Hall's lyrics and Grape's music were combined, and then sent to Professor Theodore Perkins, publisher of the periodical Sabbath Carols. The hymn quickly became a favorite and has been published in and sung from hymnals across America ever since.  The hymn vividly reminds us that we, children of weakness, have nothing good to bring to Him.  We are complete in Him - His power and His alone can cleanse us.  And like many of the old hymns, this one concludes by reminding us of that day when we will stand before His throne - complete - and we will lay our trophies down at His feet.  May we never forget the price that He paid for us to make this future day possible!



45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45 (NLT)


18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

I Peter 1:18-19 (NLT)


 I hear the Savior say,
"Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all."


Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.


For nothing good have I
Where-by Thy grace to claim;
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv'ry's Lamb. 


And now complete in Him,

My robe, His righteousness,

Close sheltered 'neath His side,

I am divinely blest.


Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow'r and Thine alone,
Can change the leper's spots
And melt the heart of stone. 


When from my dying bed

My ransomed soul shall rise,

"Jesus died my soul to save,"

Shall rend the vaulted skies.


And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
"Jesus died my soul to save,"
My lips shall still repeat. 

*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

2020-06-30 Thanks to God for My Redeemer

It is easy to thank God for roses. It is much harder to thank Him for the thorns.  This hymn offers a mature approach to thanksgiving, showing appreciation for pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow.  

August Storm wrote this hymn in 1891 while still a young man of twenty-nine.  He worked for the Salvation Army in Sweden and published this hymn in the organization’s periodical, The War Cry.

Just eight years after writing this hymn, Storm was stricken with a back problem that left him crippled for the rest of his life.  He managed to continue his Salvation Army work, and he maintained a thankful spirit even during this most difficult time.  If anything, his troubles gave more power and credibility to his sermons and writings.

William J. Petersen and Randy Petersen, Great Songs of Faith, 1995

 This hymn was written in Swedish and was translated into English in 1931, by Carl Ernest Backstrom (1901-1984). In Storm's Swedish version, he lists some thirty-two things to be thankful for.  His hymn could serve as a good outline of things that we should thank the Lord for.  Right now, no matter what you are facing, consider all the reasons you should be thankful. Remember God’s promises. He has a plan for you. And He is with you! Think about what He has done for you. Be specific. Tell Him how thankful you are!

18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.

Psalm 105:1-4 (NLT)

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

2020-07-02 On Eagle’s Wings

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:31. Each morning I read these words on a plaque hanging on our wall at home.  I am reminded of the beautiful eagles which soar through the skies with apparent ease.  Then I am reminded that God provides the strength for us to soar above the many problems of this life.  What a beautiful and comforting picture.  Composer Father Jan Michael Joncas wrote this song after he and a friend, Doug Hall, returned from a meal to learn that Hall's father had died of a heart attack. Joncas doesn't recall if he ever met Hall's father, but he remembers wanting somehow to console his friend. "I knew this was a hard, hard experience in anybody's life, and I just wanted to create something that would be both prayerful and comforting,"  In the days preceding Hall's father's wake, Joncas returned to his parents' house and composed the song on his guitar, sketching out a melody line and accompanying chords. The hymn debuted at the wake.  He didn't pay much attention to the hymn after that, but he became aware that the song was gaining popularity outside Catholic circles when his publisher forwarded him requests from other denominations to reproduce the song. Then, following the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Cathy Keating, the governor's wife, requested that "On Eagle's Wings" be played at a memorial for those killed.  Much of the inspiration for the writing of this song comes from Psalm 91. Today many of us may be more familiar with the chorus than the words of the verses. But together they provide us with a needed reminder of the Lord's care and protection in our lives. "This I declare about the Lord: - He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;  He is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly diseases He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection." (Psalm 91:2-4).  Rest in this truth today.


Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.

Psalm 91:1-7 (NLT)

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,

who abide in His shadow for life,

say to the Lord: "My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!" 


And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,

bear you on the breath of dawn,

make you to shine like the sun,

and hold you in the palm of His hand.


The snare of the fowler will never capture you,

and famine will bring you no fear:

under His wings your refuge, His faithfulness your shield. 


You need not fear the terror of the night,

nor the arrow that flies by day;

though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come.


For to His angels He's given a command

to guard you in all of your ways;

upon their hands they will bear you up,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

2020-06-29 Be Not Afraid

This hymn was written in the early 1970s by American Roman Catholic seminarian Robert (Bob) Dufford SJ - who ordained as a priest before the song was completed.


It was initially written to help people who were at a point of transition in their lives - in Dufford's case, the transition from laity to ordained priesthood.


But several decades of use have seen it cross denominational boundaries and become particularly popular as a song of comfort for people who are dying or bereaved, and at funerals.



As I’m writing this, I am with my dad at the hospital while he has a series of tests done. My mother is in a room upstairs, but I can’t go see her because of the COVID 19 restrictions. There is so much uncertainty surrounding me. I am overwhelmed by concerns for my parents and what the coming days and weeks might look like. Today’s hymn is for me. I actually recorded it it back in March for our first Facebook worship service, when we first began “sheltering in place”.  When considering what to share today, this hymn came to mind immediately. I love the message of comfort it brings to me - and to all of us, regardless of the crisis we are facing. 


Be not afraid – waiting for a medical diagnosis.  

Be not afraid - of what the future might look like.

Be not afraid – through the pandemic.  

Be not afraid - through social and political unrest.  

Be not afraid – through the storm - whatever that “storm” may be.

Be not afraid.  

I go before you always.  


Whatever the outcome, He is there to hold us and guide us – if we only seek Him.  What a comfort to know that regardless the crisis or the source of uncertainty we may face, we are never alone! 


When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
    I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT)


20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,

“God blesses you who are poor,
    for the Kingdom of God is yours.

Luke 6:20 (NLT)


You shall cross the barren desert,

but you shall not die of thirst.

You shall wander far in safety

though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands

and all will understand.

You shall see the face of God and live.


Be not afraid.

I go before you always.

Come, follow me, and I will give you rest.


If you pass through raging waters in the sea,

you shall not drown.

If you walk amid the burning flames,

you shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow'r of hell

and death is at your side,

know that I am with you through it all.


Blessed are your poor,

for the kingdom shall be theirs.

Blest are you that weep and mourn,

for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked tongues insult and hate you

all because of me,

blessed, blessed are you!

*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

2020-07-01 My Savior First of All

The lyrics to today’s hymn echo a thought that all Christians should have: that when we either die or rise in the rapture we should desire to see Jesus Christ, our Savior, first.  We all have loved family members and friends in Heaven. It will be joyous to see them again and to be with them forever but to see Him, the one that gave Himself so that we could enter Heaven, will be joy unspeakable. 


Most readers know Fanny Crosby was made blind at a very young age by tragical application of medicine to her eyes. Years later at the age of 71 Ms Crosby wrote My Savior First of All in further response to a statement by a minister that it was a pity God did not give her sight.  She answered “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition to my Creator, it would have been that I should be born blind?” The minister asked why. Fanny Crosby responded, “Because, when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”


The music for My Savior First of All was written by renowned song-leader and hymnist Dr. John R. Sweeney who co-published the lyrics and music in Songs of Love and Praise in 1894. The hymn was spread quickly to Europe by evangelistic campaigns.


Such is the same with many of Crosby’s hymns; they have kindled hearts around the world.




These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

I Peter 1:7-8 (NLT)



 When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide, 

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see; 

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, 

And His smile will be the first to welcome me.


I shall know Him, I shall know Him, 

And redeemed by His side I shall stand; 

I shall know Him, I shall know Him 

By the print of the nails in His hand.


Oh, the soul thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face, 

And the luster of His kindly beaming eye; 

How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace

That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.


Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come, 

And our parting at the river I recall; 

To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home, 

But I long to meet my Savior first of all.


Thro' the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white, 

He will lead me where no tears will ever fall; 

In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight, 

But I long to meet my Savior first of all.


*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

2020-06-28 When We All Get to Heaven

Eliza Hewitt was born on June 28, 1851 in Philadelphia.  Her exemplary grades gave her the opportunity to teach school.  After a few years, her life was changed by a normal day on the playground with her students.  At recess, a student carelessly threw a rock and struck Eliza in the back.  The impact caused a painful spinal injury which forced Eliza to bed for months as she recovered.  Even after some progress, she was semi-invalid for the rest of her life with regular pain and a lack of mobility.

While she was confined to bed, she felt the presence of the Lord every day.  She began taking her time to study Literature and English as she recuperated.  Without being aware, God was using this time to prepare her for a work of writing poetry and hymns.  Many of these hymns were used in camp meetings and to teach children in Sunday School.  While not the type of teaching she intended to do, God used her mightily to teach young minds greater truths than she could have ever imagined.

She wrote hymns like, “When We All Get to Heaven,” “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place,” “Sunshine in My Soul,”  and “More About Jesus Would I Know.”

The following hymn has meant to so many for so many years, but knowing the author’s story sheds some extra beautiful light to it.


17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 4:17-18 (NKJV)

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
sing his mercy and his grace;
in the mansions bright and blessed
he'll prepare for us a place.

When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus
we'll sing and shout the victory.

While we walk the pilgrim pathway
clouds will overspread the sky,
but when traveling days are over,
not a shadow, not a sigh. 

Let us then be true and faithful,
trusting, serving every day;
just one glimpse of Him in glory
will the toils of life repay. 

*Devotion and music provided by Jane Cockrell

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