“To understand…”

What is your first thought of the morning upon awaking? (besides one’s bladder screaming “Get up and go.”) This morning mine was “He hastens and chastens His will to make known.” It is a line from a hymn of the season, “We Gather Together” (Celebration Hymnal #790):We gather together
to ask the Lord’s blessing;
he chastens and hastens …
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us,
our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining
his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning
the fight we were winning;
thou, Lord, wast at our side,
all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee,
thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still
our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation
escape tribulation;
thy name be ever praised!
O Lord, make us free!

History of the hymn: (from Wikipedia) a Christian hymn of Dutch origin set to a Dutch folk tune written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout. It is popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and is often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day. At the time the hymn was written, the Dutch were engaged in a war of national liberation against the Catholic King Philip II of Spain. Under the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship. The hymn first appeared in print in 1626..
According to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, “We Gather Together’s” first appearance in an American hymnal was in 1903. It had retained popularity among the Dutch, and when the Dutch Reformed Church in North America decided in 1937 to abandon the policy that they had brought with them to the New World in the 17th century of singing only psalms and added hymns to the church service, “We Gather Together” was chosen as the first hymn in the first hymnal.
The hymn steadily gained popularity, especially in services of Thanksgiving. According to Carl Daw, executive director of the Hymn Society, the “big break” came in 1935 when it was included in the national hymnal of the Methodist-Episcopal Church.
According to Michael Hawn, professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, “by World War I, we started to see ourselves in this hymn,” and the popularity increased during World War II, when “the wicked oppressing” were understood to include Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Hymn trivia: This hymn was sung at the Opening of the Funeral Mass for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and was referenced in the second season, episode 8 “Shibboleth” of The West Wing.


It was kind of an odd first thought of the day. But I’m sure that it is very true. God does not hide His will. He makes it clear. The problem, it seems, is in our ability to see, understand, and obey it. When I opened my computer to type this post, Google’s message this morning was this: “To understand is to stand under which is to look up to which is a good way to understand.” Sister Mary Corita – 1965 Corita Kent’s bio says of her “Corita Kent, also known as Sister Mary Corita, gained international fame for her vibrant serigraphs during the 1960s and 1970s.
A Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she ran the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College until 1968 when she left the Order and moved to Boston. Corita’s art reflects her spirituality, her commitment to social justice, her hope for peace, and her delight in the world that takes place all around us.” I’m pretty sure, having been formed to a considerable degree by the 60’s and 70’s, I’ve probably seen a lot of her art without being aware of the artist, just as I’ve sung many hymns without being aware of the composers and lyricists. 
Stand under God’s Word today, it’s authority over our lives, and look up to Him……and understand.Sometimes I feel like my posts are “streams of consciousness”…..one thought just flowing into another….But actually, it’s more like God has placed things in my life in the moment and invited me to be observant and pull the threads together to make sense of the moment, to understand His will, His purpose, and His guidance. That’s how this morning’s “first thought” weblog post came together (which appears on  my facebook page, too). This is very much how my journal posts of the last 20+ years have gone. But now I am more aware of how God uses the written word to inform and to form one in His will as He speaks to us in our hearts and minds, if we are conscious of HIs presence and include Him in the process of making the connections, taking the time to reflect on the observations and write them down. I know that my posts are mostly just for me. It is my moment and place in time and my observation based on what I know about God and how He is speaking to me. I hope others will note the process, be observant in the moments of their lives and pull the threads together to make sense of it and understand what God is saying in that moment by the circumstances, by His presence, by confirmation in His word, and sometimes by His people, too (like Sister Mary Corita). Follow your stream of consciousness…God is there in it.