1 Corinthians 14:15 (NIV)A few things to put on the table. The first is a bit of clarification. When last I wrote, wee in the early morning hours the day after our fourth son entered the world, I attempted to explain the pronunciation of his middle name, Evert. It’s Kristie’s father’s father’s middle name, as noted earlier, and he’s always pronounced it like the last name of the famous tennis player. But Kristie, wanting to both honor her grandfather and that entire side of the family’s Dutch heritage, wants it to be pronounced as the Dutch would.
So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
And how is that exactly? Well, what I typed was EH-vert. But then my music teacher sister and my lifelong singer mother and my exasperated wife informed me that just because Canadians add an “eh” to the end of many sentences and it sounds like the letter a does not mean me typing “eh” conveys the same phonetic notion. Rather “eh” is like the e at the beginning of the word edge or extra.
What I should have conveyed is the entire vowel sound of the name. So that’s Evert as in saver or waver. Perhaps AY-vert would have been more accurate. But the T at the end is there, loud and proud, so that’s vert as in vertical, without the ical. Got it? Again, in my defense, it was very, very late and I was very, very tired. I’m sorry son (and wife). Won’t let it happen again.
That said, as I was recounting the reasons we chose to name our son Isaac, I neglected to add the tipping point that brought me around to the name. As covered months ago, landing on a mutually agreeable name was difficult for this child. We’d gotten so used to calling him Floyd at one point I was convinced it wouldn’t be such a bad name to hang on a child born in 2013, despite the fact it has not been in the Social Security Administration’s top 1,000 baby boy names since 1998, when it checked in at 981.
But the moment I walked into church Sunday morning, I remembered a night a few months ago when I awakened to the idea of Isaac being so suitable. Kristie suggested it months earlier. Heck, we both suggested just about anything one could imagine. I’d never totally ruled it out, but the night I remembered the name and legacy of Isaac Watts, the pieces fell into place.
Watts is one of the most significant writers of hymns in the English language. Many times in the course of the 500 entries I’ve composed for this project I’ve reflected briefly on a classic hymn, or simply written an entire post on one beloved old songs. Time and again I’ve expressed how close I feel to God when surrounded by a jubilant congregation and skilled choir, loudly singing a great old song of the faith. Many times I can’t make my voice function, as I’m too busy choking back tears of joy to actually sing.
And so on Sunday morning, where every time I turned a corner another dear friend offered a congratulatory hug or handshake, when Max sang with his kindergarten choir at the front of the sanctuary, when baptisms formally welcomed other families’ little ones into the family of faith, when a sermon about the ten lepers drove home the message of the one who lived in complete gratitude for what the Lord had done for him, where all of those things happened and my eyes welled with tears each time, I managed to find a few moments to flip through our congregation’s current hymnal and make note of a few of the words of Isaac Watts that so deeply touch my soul. Such as:
From “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun”:
People and realms of every tongueFrom “I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cries”:
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His name.
I love the Lord; He heard my cries,From “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”:
And pitied every groan;
Long as I live, when troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to His throne.
I love the Lord; He bowed His ear,
And chased my griefs away;
O let my heart no more despair,
While I have breath to pray!
My God hath saved my soul from death,
And dried my falling tears;
Now to His praise I’ll spend my breath,
And my remaining years.
I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,From “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”:
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.
The sure provisions of my GodFrom “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
Love so amazing, so divine,From “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”:
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Thus might I hide my blushing faceThose are just a smattering. Watts, after all, is credited with writing nearly 800 hymns. Some of those lines probably tweaked me a bit more as the father of a child not yet alive for 48 hours as I read them in the balcony. Of them all, I think the one I like best is “While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care.” Thinking about my life as something borrowed from God sets it apart from the notion of life as a gift. It somehow helps deepen my desire to make the most of my chances here on Earth. We’re all on borrowed time, in a way, and thus increases the urge to be positive, to seek and strengthen lasting relationships and to walk proudly the path set before me by my creator.
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
And then, of course, are two other verses from a well-known Watts hymn. I adore the entire song for numerous reasons. But the two verses in mind are even more special because of what happened Friday afternoon. After the lengthy pre-operative process, the nurses ushered my very pregnant wife into the surgical suite. They’d instructed me to don scrubs — a first in my four childbirth experiences — and asked me to wait in an isolated hallway.
Behind me were the nurseries (regular and higher risk) and I could see a bit of activity. In front of me was a door with no handles, and I was just waiting to see it open. They told me it would take ten or fifteen minutes, but I had no way of marking the time. It certainly felt longer, but time always slows when I’m left entirely with my own thoughts.
All l could think to do was pray. Yet I could not find any of my own words to use. So I turned directly to Isaac Watts, found words already imprinted on my heart and offered them there to my maker:
Our God, our help in ages past,Mere minutes later, I heard my new son’s cry for the first time, and again my eyes welled with tears of joy. May God guard him as well, and may my son find peace in knowing what it means to be home.
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last,
And our eternal home.
A prayer for October 16:
Lord, dissolve my heart into thankfulness. All around me are examples of the glory of your creation, the wonders of your love and the blessings of this life I am so lucky to live. May all my work be praise to you. Not just in the words I say and write, but through my interactions with people, the relationships you have encouraged me to build and the children you’ve trusted me to raise. And may my children grow to understand the way your love and protection allow us to see the world through your eyes. May we be lights of your love. Grant us peace, and help us to promote peace. Amen.