For the first time since I began looking at old hymns, a friend asked if I had anything using a particular text. I have had many requests for specific hymns, but never for specific words. She hoped I might post something that would be of comfort to a friend of hers who was going through a difficult time. After a bit of research, I found this old hymn written around 1882 by William D. Longstaff. As far as I can tell, it’s the only hymn he wrote and while it is familiar to me, I hadn’t heard or sung it in a very long time.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
The words in this hymn are powerful. I was struck by how relevant they are for all of us – whether we believe the specifics of the language or not. We live in a world filled with turmoil, anxiety and stress. Our days are busy. Our minds are full of thoughts, good and bad, happy and sorrowful. We worry and we struggle to achieve all that is on our calendars. We are constantly adding to our schedules, fitting things in, trying to balance the details. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. We are faced with unknowns, with crises, with the unexpected. This is our normal.
And yet, as I read these words, I was reminded of our deep need to take a moment and be still. To be holy. One of the definitions of holy states that it is something worthy of our complete devotion. For some of us that is about God. For others it may be something else, or maybe it is just about quiet contemplation or meditation. I think the key is that it involves our complete devotion. It requires us to put everything else aside and take the time.
I love the way these words exhort us to take this time. I love how they suggest that we need to feed on what is holy. I love that they suggest that this feeding involves calming our souls but also helping the weak and becoming fitted for service. These words are about renewing ourselves and then looking outward. Past the rush of the world and into a place where our friends can see this little bit of holiness. We are rejuvenated, but we also rejuvenate those around us.
During this very busy time of year, these words are a comfort. Taking a moment to be calm and looking upon whatever is holy for you, is a gift. It may be difficult, but the renewal is available. It may be lonely, but these secret moments bring their own blessings. These moments allow what we believe to be strengthened and renewed, maybe even found for the first time. These moments allow us the space to become who we wish to be; allow us to see past the chaos in our lives. These moments encircle us with what we hold dear, what we truly believe – they help us see what is holy. And these are the soft places where we find our peace.