When I was a kid, during summer vacation from school, just when I might have started to whine, "There's nothing to do," along came Vacation Bible School to save us.
My friends and I loved VBS. What's not to love about making crafts and playing games? And we'd get to spend the last day at the Palmerton Memorial Park and pool! Sure there was a lesson, but even learning Bible stories was fun.
I loved the singing the best. Maybe it was because our song leader was the minister's wife, Bea Bohner. She was small in stature, but mighty in her love of music. I will forever be in her debt for instilling in me the love of three of my most favorite hymns ...
"I Come to the Garden Alone" was written by C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), pharmacist turned hymn writer, church music director and amateur photographer. He was waiting for film to develop in his dark room when he had an incredible vision of Mary Magdalene visiting the empty tomb of Jesus. He saw her leave the tomb and walk into a garden where she met the Master and heard Him speak her name. Miles quickly wrote out the lyrics and later that evening composed the musical score ... "I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other, has ever, known!"
"This is My Father's World" was a poem written by Maltbie Davenport Babcock, a minister from New York. He had lived in Lockport and often walked along the Niagara Escarpment to enjoy the overlook's panoramic view of upstate New York scenery and Lake Ontario. He would tell his wife he was "going out to see the Father's world" and was so inspired to write ..."This is my Father's world, And to my list'ning ears, All nature sings, and round me rings, The music of the spheres. This is my Father's world, I rest me in the thought, Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, His hand the wonders wrought."
"How Great thou Art" became an instant hit as soon as Bea Bohner introduced it to us. She had copies made and glued them to the inside cover of our hymnals. It is one of those songs that people's voices just swell up in joy and brings tears at the majesty of our earth and the intense love our Lord has for His children.
In 1885, Carl Boberg, 26, a Swedish preacher, wrote a poem entitled, "O Store Gud" ("O Great God.") Stuart K. Hine, an English missionary, in Poland in the 1920s, learned the Russian version of Boberg's poem, coupled with an original Swedish melody. He became inspired to write original English words and made his own musical arrangement for the Swedish melody to become "How Great thou Art." It didn't become the popular and well-known hymn until Dr. J. Edwin Orr introduced it to a college-age conference at a church camp in California in 1954.
My sister came up with the idea to combine glorifying God for His art (nature) and celebrating the artistic talents He gave many of our local artisans in a fundraising event called, "How Great thou Art."
It was held in our church's picnic grove, surrounded by the beauty of God's natural artistry. There couldn't have been a more consummate musical experience than to have the lovely strains of harp and flute music provided by Kathy Reder washing over us on a perfect outdoor summer eve. ("When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur, And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.")
Our refreshment table was laden with the delicious culinary artwork of our volunteers. ("How great thou art.")
The donated items for the silent auction ranged from talented people who love to paint, make jewelry, work with wood, work with fabrics and create in so many various mediums. ("How great thou art.")
As in everything in this world, there is diversity ... in our foods, our art, as well as our music. ("O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made.")
The performance of the Caribbean Steel Rhythms Band transported us musically to warm tropical islands, bringing smiles to our faces and making our bodies sway in tune to the beat. ("I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.")
I can't imagine a world where the arts don't have a prominent place in our lives.
All things come from God. The beauty of the earth ... All our talents, from song writing to discovering a cure for a dreaded disease ... All our thoughts ... All our feelings. To me, one song seems to express that so succinctly ..."Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to thee, How great thou art, How great thou art!"