I had a lovely Sunday yesterday. I think I like our new 9:00 a.m. church schedule. Our ward's choir practice has moved to 4:30 p.m. and Sabrina Clasen is our new choir director. The first hymn we started to practice was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" an old time hymn not included in the current version of the hymnal. However, it wasn't an unfamiliar hymn to me.
Last summer I participated with my daughter Sarah and her two oldest children in their stake's pioneer trek. For those not familiar with those terms, the pioneer trek was an event designed to expose the youth to the experiences of the early Mormon handcart pioneers. We actually pulled and pushed handcarts through a fairly hot and sandy part of eastern Washington for about four days. It was both a very demanding and very inspiring experience. I had participated in our own stake's pioneer trek about five years earlier as support staff but had not actually pushed and pulled the handcarts in the heat. It was amazing how much more I got out of this experience than I did from the earlier one. I guess it is just part of human nature that we learn much more from experiences that involve sacrifice. "No pain, no gain." Anyhow, I gained a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices of the handcart pioneers and am very grateful for their devotion to the gospel.
"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" was on the fairly short list of hymns included in their trek hymnal. It also happened to be the hymn my daughter and I chose to use to teach the penny whistle and harmonica to the youth of their stake. What astonished me was my emotional and spiritual response to singing the hymn. I got so choked up that I was unable to sing for quite a while. It brought back a rush of feelings and memories from my trek experience. It was like opening a jar of raspberry jam in December and having memories of summer come rushing back, only much stronger.
One of my favorite trek memories is associated with this hymn. I was sitting in the shade on a hot, uncomfortable afternoon playing that hymn on the penny whistle. Two young sisters started to sing the words of the hymn in harmony and were then joined by a third. I got a little choked up but managed to keep on playing. That can be a challenge with an instrument that requires breath control. It was a very sweet experience.
The hymns have always had a great influence in my life. Nothing can cause me to feel the Spirit more easily than the hymns. Especially hymns that have personal meaning to me and are associated with prior spiritual experiences. Many years ago when we lived in Spring, Texas I often used the hymns to deal with the stress of my hour long commute to downtown Houston. It was difficult to be annoyed with the other drivers or feel stressed about work while singing a hymn. I memorized about 20 hymns and that number was more than adequate to get me to work. To quote John Taylor, "I love to sing the hymns of Zion."