Music streamed from the hotel meeting room as instruments and voices fused the chords of an achingly beautiful and poignant message. Even before I gently pulled on the door handle, the melody and harmony flowed straight into me. I quickly found a place to stand with the gathered worshippers as they continued with the song’s first verse: “Teach me ever to adore Thee, may I still Thy goodness prove, while the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love.”
Moisture found its way into my eyes as I glanced around the room at the pastors and chaplains gathered for the conference and retreat. I realized at that moment that the words of this hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” was salve for weary souls, and encouragement for hope-filled hearts. Raising my meager voice with the throng of women, I remembered another experience in which those around me drew comfort from this message.
The Los Angeles Convention Center became a home away from home for several days during the Your Best Pathway to Health mega clinic in April 2016. I was not one of the more than 4,000 volunteers assisting the 10,000 patients who received free medical and dental care at the three-day event. Part of the media crew, I gathered stories and helped conduct interviews for video and print use.
During the dizzyingly busy height of service in the dental treatment area, two of us were setting up a photo opportunity when almost a dozen Adventist teens and young adults sauntered in from the vision area. Conversations dropped off as the group neared. With an acoustic guitarist volunteer in tow, the band sang, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love,” as both patients and medical volunteers paused and pondered for the few moments their proximity that allowed the musical message to be heard. Faces softened and flagging energy renewed.
The parable Jesus told about the lost sheep (Matt. 18:10-14) is apt: we are prone to wander, even though we know that the fountain of life is with Him; and in His light we are able to see (Ps. 36:9). Even though we may have accepted God’s gift of salvation, even though we labor for Him, even as we share His Word and care for His children, we are prone to lose sight of God. We can lose our joy and love. We can drift out of tune.
But God and His streams of mercy can renew us. He can—and He does—renew church leaders. He can—and He does— lighten the loads of those committed in service. He can—and He does—bestow His surpassing grace (2 Cor. 9:14) so freely on all of us. We are nothing without God’s grace. But in Him we may stand as strong as an Ebenezer stone (1 Sam. 7:12).
Our heavenly Father has given us the Bible. He’s given us nature. And He’s also gifted us with music. I am grateful for these gifts—a way to grasp our souls, our minds, our hearts—to seal us for His heavenly courts.
Our responsibility? Ask, as the hymn goes: tune our hearts, bind us close, teach us. Say, “Here’s my heart—O, take and seal it . . . for Thy courts above.”