HYMN NOTES: Take my life and let it be

What we call Contemporary Christian Music got its start in the middle of the twentieth century. Baby boomers who were bored with the old music of the church brought new styles into the mainstream of American evangelical churches.

Much of the music deserved the criticism it got. It was sometimes silly, doctrinally anemic, and borderline heretical. And it was often man-centered and appealing to the flesh. But something amazing happened in the latter part of the century. Contemporary Christian Music grew up.

In the midst of all the clamor, there emerged a plethora of excellent Christian composers, writers, and singers who brought us some of the best and most inspiring, classical and contemporary, God-honoring music in our lifetime.

It was in that musical environment, that a frustrated, renegade music professor developed a new, revolutionary approach to choral conducting. Most of his contemporaries were overly critical but Dr. Gary Bonner’s master’s program produced hundreds of graduates who launched a rebirth in Church choir music throughout the Christian world.

Children’s music was elevated too. A man named Ernie Rettino painted his face blue, put on some blue tights and a big foam costume in the shape of a book; and the character, Psalty, the Singing Hymnbook, was created. Ernie and his wife, Debby, produced dozens of musicals designed to teach children biblical principles and doctrines using new and traditional hymns.

In one of their most successful productions, the characters took a Hymnological Adventure in a Time Machine. They traveled back in history to meet some famous hymn writers like David, the Shepherd King, Isaac Watts, and Fanny Crosby. That musical resulted in teaching some of the greatest old hymns of our faith to a whole generation of children.

One of those hymns, TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE, is a prayer of consecration written by Frances Havergal. It may have been inspired by these words in Leviticus; “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy.“

In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

In this hymn, Frances Havergal holds nothing back in her offering to the Lord. She starts with a dedication of her life but then she gets specific; not only her life but all her days and every moment. When she offers her hands and her feet, she is asking God to direct everything she does, and everywhere she goes. She submits every word from her lips and every thought to His control. Her treasures, her will, and her heart; everything she has is Consecrated to God for His use and His glory.

(Ralph Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the Olde Towne Emporium, located at 212 E. Main St. In Rogersville. Your questions or comments about this column are welcome. Readers may contact Ralph at ralphmpetersen@gmail.com.)