Well, I really couldn’t come to the end (almost) of this hymn project without including a Mennonite hymn. And this one is just that, through and through. Both the text and music were written in 1890 by Amos Herr, a farmer and Mennonite minister from Pennsylvania. Returning from caring for his livestock early one Sunday morning, in the middle of a blizzard so bad, the story goes, he and his family were unable to get to church. So he took the time to remember all that he was thankful for, despite the hardships of farm life and bad weather.
I owe the Lord a morning song
Of gratitude and praise,
For the kind mercy he has shown
In lengthening out my days.
He kept me safe another night;
I see another day;
Now may his spirit, as the light,
Direct me in his way.
Keep me from danger and from sin,
Help me thy will to do,
So that my heart be pure within,
And I thy goodness know.
Keep me till thou wilt call me hence,
Where never night can be,
And save me, Lord, for Jesus’ sake;
He shed his blood for me.
There are a few themes that come up repeatedly in these hymns we sing. One of them is gratitude. I love the way this one speaks to the value of singing a morning song – in exchange for all there is to be thankful for. A lovely gesture and a beautiful reminder of the treasure we each hold within our voices. The ability to express our thanks.
I also love that we have this debt. To owe God, or whomever provides one with kindness, mercy, safety, light and goodness, is a privilege. It is a good debt. It is the kind of debt that carries us through storms and shelters us when we are under stress. It is the kind of obligation that allows us to sit down and write words of gratitude in a blizzard and see beyond the moment into the possibilities that life has given and offers, despite its challenges.
And, I love the means by which we can remit our payment. We owe a morning song. A song that recognizes all and says thank you anyway. A song that is willing to be beauty amongst ugliness, joy amidst sorrow. A song that rises above the realities of our lives to spread something lovely for our own, and others’, ears to hear. What better way to pay for what we owe? What better way to receive payment?
I am once again struck by the power of our songs. The power of our voices. We see it over and over again – concerts, recordings, videos, religious celebrations – people singing and those listening being moved. Moved to applaud, moved to cry, moved to be calmed, moved to act, moved to share, moved to challenge, moved to love. Our songs are who we are and what we believe. They are our frivolity and our depth. They express our humour, our creativity, our complexity and superficiality, our histories, our cultures, our beauty, our feelings, our experiences, our skills, our talents, our good and our bad.
So I’ve looked at these hymns and I’ve sung them in my own way. Because I owe a morning song. For all of my life, and the life I have left. I sing alone, I sing with friends, I sing with strangers. I sing in gratitude, I sing with thanks.