O Thou Whose Bounty Fills My Cup


May this hymn remind us to consider thankfulness in every area of our lives!

O Thou, whose bounty fills my cup
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop—
The bitter and the sweet.

I praise Thee for the desert road,
And for the riverside;
For all Thy goodness hath bestowed,
And all Thy grace denied.

I thank Thee for both smile and frown,
And for the gain and loss;
I praise Thee for the future crown,
And for the present cross.

I thank Thee for the wing of love,
Which stirred my worldly nest;
And for the stormy clouds which drove
The flutterer to Thy breast.

I bless Thee for the glad increase,
And for the waning joy;
And for this strange, this settled peace,
Which nothing can destroy.

-Words: Jane F. Crewd­son, Lays of the Re­for­ma­tion, 1860.
Music: Bel­mont, Sac­red Mel­o­dies, by Will­iam Gard­in­er, 1812

“In the Christian understanding of reality, what we see on earth is just the first few moments of life – just the birthing process; the vast majority of life will be spent in an eternity with no more pain or suffering.” — Vince Vitale re “The Problem of Suffering & the Goodness of God”

Sorrow is inescapable as long as death and sin are in this world. There are times when you are very clear on the source of your pain, but there are also other times when pain is an inexplicable melancholy that settles upon you. You do not know why and you cannot explain it. We all experience times of sorrow at one point or another.   The only question is how to deal with it.

Scripture doe guide us as we work through our distress.  The theme of sorrow is woven throughout the pages of the Holy Book. While every biblical figure dealt with the issue to one extent or another, I always come back to the story of Job who I see as the classic example.

Despite feelings of intense pain, Job remained faithful to his Lord as he struggled to understand why devastating events had besieged him. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)  He tells his wife in 2:10, “’Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” 

The Psalms do also bring great comfort.  Draw near to the Lord; He is your shelter: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:4-5 NKJV)

Follower of Jesus Christ can be reassured by His word to us in John 14:1-3.  “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Revelation 21:3-5 says that “the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Let us proclaim along with Job, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”  (Job 19:25-26)

Jesus Christ is our Hope and our Redeemer; He will make all things new.  Praise be to our God! The poem and later hymn written by Jane Crewdson in 1860 is a good conclusion.

About the Hymn Writer!

Crewdson, Jane, the daughter of George Fox, was born at Perraw, Cornwall, England, in October, 1809, and was married to Thomas Crewdson, of Manchester, in 1836. She was always delicate and fragile in health. Toward the close of her life, it is said that she became a confirmed sickling and bed ridden and suffered a lot. However, it was during this period of hardship that most of her hymns were written.

Jane Crewdon died at Summerlands, near Manchester, September 14, 1863, “leaving behind her the memory of a beautiful Christian life and many admirable verses.

She truly learned in suffering what she taught in song. Her husband wrote beautifully of her:

“As a constant sufferer, the spiritual life deepening and the intellectual life retaining all its power, she became well prepared to testify as to the all-sufficiency of her Saviour’s love. Many felt that her sick room was the highest place to which they could resort for refreshment of spirit and even for mental recreation. From that apartment came many a letter of earnest sympathy or of charming playfulness.”

Jane Crewdon published anonymously several small volumes of poetry, and the year after her death a book of her poems was published under the title:

A Little While and Other Poems, 1864. A verse, written just before she died, titled “During Sickness,” is a gem worthy of immortality:

  • Saviour, I have naught to plead
  • In earth beneath or heaven above,
  • But just my own exceeding need
  • And thy exceeding love:
  • The need will soon be past and gone,
  • Exceeding great but quickly o’er;
  • The love, unbought, is all Thine own,
  • And lasts for evermore.
  • Thou, whose bounty fills my cup 531


Returning to Say thanks


In Luke 17:17, Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? When people pray, it is not always that they come back to give thanks for what God has done in their lives. The tendency is to move on with our lives once God has sorted out whatever it is that was bothering us.

I heard of a story of a man who got lost in the forest one day. Later, in describing his experience in the forest, he told of how frightened he was and how he had even finally knelt and prayed to God for rescue. One of the persons he was speaking to asked him a question and said, “Did God answer your prayer?” “Oh, no,” the man replied. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the way out.” So to this man, the guide just appeared by chance, and it was not God who sent the guide his way.

Like that man, many people are blind to the many blessings that God daily showers upon them. They awake to see the sun shining, and do not give thanks to God. They hear the birds chirping and see beautiful flowers and trees, but they don’t give it a moment’s thought that God has given those blessings and given them the senses to enjoy them. They grumble about having to eat the same old ugali (nsima), forgetting that many would gladly exchange places with them and eat anything for breakfast. They complain about their jobs, forgetting that many would be grateful just to have a job or even to have the bodily strength to go to work. They complain about their lack of money, forgetting that they spend more on entertainment each month than many around the world earn as their total income.

As couple, we have much to thank God for. We just want to come back to God and say thank you Lord. What the Lord has done for us. We cannot say it all. He has done great things, bless his holy name.

But first we must confess that there is a delicate act of balance between giving glory to God for what He has done through us and to glorify ourselves for what God has done through us. We are persuaded that it is the right thing to do when God has answered your prayers to publicly give thanks that the glory of God may manifest. That God may be raised as we diminish. But the right balance is often elusive for these fallen heart of ours. Our prayer is that in the process of wanting to glorify God, He really gets glorified and not us instead.

This is our testimony that after much prayer and trusting the Lord through many family dangers and storms, the Lord has answered from His holy mountain and we cannot tell it all. We remember praying like the psalmist in Psalm 61. We have cried to the Lord to hear our cries, to listen to our prayers from the ends of the earth. During those moments when our hearts were faint. He led us to the rock that is higher than us. Because the Lord has been our refuge, a strong tower against the foes.

The Lord answered our prayers this week in ways we cannot understand. We are overwhelmed with owe, for no appropriate words can express our gratitude to our God the most high. God has been good to us. Truly we can confidently say that we have tasted the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He does as He pleases with His people. The Lord who is sovereign and neither slumbers nor sleeps. What He has planned He will be determined to bring it to pass. We are grateful that He has remembered his servants in times such as these.

Like Job, while we were still wondering, messengers came from the East and the West. From the North and from the South with messages of blessings from the Lord. The manner of it all can only be divine to show that He is still on the throne and deals with us, not as our sins deserve, but with mercy and grace because our God of love is rich in mercies and love.

Word fail us to say thanks. But we are very happy and grateful for everything we have received from the Lord. When we trust God and submit ourselves to His will and plan. When everything crumbles around us He comes at the right time to rescue you before everything falls flat on the ground. God’s timing is perfect! What we have witnessed has taught us to trust God for who He is. Yes, He will come and save you. The Lord your God will come and with His mighty arm when you call on His Name. He will come and save you.

So we thank God for allowing us to see the things we have seen, to hear what we have heard, to live lives we have lived full of love, guidance and wisdom from all the people he has allowed to come our way and touch our lives in various ways. Some for good and others for evil. What we have witnessed had taught us to trust in the Lord and not in man nor our own understanding.

All we can say is echo the words of Andrea Crouch – To God the Glory for the things He has done.

The Kind of Fast God Requires For Zambia on National Day of Fasting, Prayer & Reconciliation- 18th October, 2015

National Prayer Day 2015

If there is one thing Zambia desperately needs, then that is prayer. My hope is that the nation is already praying not only for salvation out of our economic troubles, but for a righteous nation. The call to national prayers by the President of the Republic of Zambia on 18th October, 2015 is therefore, a worthwhile cause. More than that, my prayer is that God will raise up a President and leaders in Parliament who fear Him and see the need for this nation to turn back to Him. The call to prayer by the President is also recognition that we have abandoned the Christian way over the years. We are a Christian nation that does not honour God. Now that we have acknowledged that we have strayed, we need now more than ever to begin again. Prayer and fasting is the way to go. However, I wish to say that prayer and fasting alone will not endear us back to the Lord. Only repentance will.

Zambia’s most loved spot is football. Our national team has won the Africa cup once and the Chipolopolo songs always remind us of our great game. Football our most loved spot has something called halftime as part of the rules of the game.

Halftime is not only a time to rest and refresh for the 2nd half of the game, but it is a time where the coach can speak to the players to help them to refocus on the goal, which is to win. It is amazing how a team can be behind on the scoreboard, but right after the halftime huddle, the team would come out charging and eventually win the game.

After 50 years of getting it wrong, is it halftime for Zambia to gain expert coaching advice from the Coach of Coaches. I want Zambia to reflect a little more about the national prayers on 18th October, 2015. Is this the kind of Fast the Lord requires?

In the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isa 58:2-9 NIV), God spoke to the Israelites in the midst of their religious fast and sacrifices and said this,

“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’”

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?’”

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (Isa 58:2-9 NIV)

As Zambia prepares to heed the call for national prayers and fasting, we need to check our motives and get our hearts in line with what God desires. A lot of times, it is easy to think that as long as we have all the external things in order (i.e. going to church, calling upon God in troubled times and doing certain things), then somehow God has to answer some of our prayers. But the reality is that God does not have to do anything for us as Zambians and as a nation.

If God does answer our prayers and even perform miracles after 18th October, 2015, it is purely out of His Sovereign grace and mercy. In some ways, this should humble us knowing that we cannot “twist” God’s arm to “do” something for us as a nation.

Now I am aware that a number of Zambians have taken this opportunity seriously, but I want to challenge all of us to rethink about our motive and re-examine our hearts as a nation.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that has a way of bringing to the surface our selfishness and our self-centred motives. But if this fasting is just a change of diet, then we have missed the point.

If as a nation we are serious about starting afresh, we should repent and do the right fast that the Lord requires. Let us loose the chains of injustice, corruption and untie the cords of the yoke (heavy taxes), let us set the oppressed free and break every yoke of tribalism, nepotism and blatant laziness.

The Lord expects us to share our food (national wealth) with the hungry (the poor Zambians) and to provide the poor wanderers with shelter. When we see the naked (streets children and adults), to clothe them, and not to turn away from our own flesh and blood? Only then, and not until then, will Zambia’s light break forth like the dawn (Kwacha Ngwee), and Zambia’s national healing will quickly appear. At that time Zambia’s righteousness will go before us as a nation, and the glory of the LORD will be Zambia’s rear guard. Then Zambia will call, and the LORD will answer; Zambia will cry for help, and God will say: Here am I.

Let us correct the wrongs done in this nation. The name calling, the unleashing of the police on helpless Zambians should end. If we only pray and not do all these things, we waste our time. The Lord is looking for true worshipers. Will Zambia qualify to be one such faithful worshiper?

I look forward to all political parties reconciling.

The Hour for National Economic Dialogue in Zambia Has Come


That the government of the Republic of Zambia is overwhelmed by the economic slump is no longer a secret. We should spare each other insults and the blame game. We are a sinking titanic and we must act as one to survive. There are many ways of reacting to this development. One is exploiting it for political gains, another is to sympathise with the government hoping and praying that somehow miraculously the present government will be able to turn the tides round. There however, yet another way of reacting to this, it is to stand up and be counted in the hour of need. Becoming a part of the solution. I can no longer take it in, I feel I must do my part per adventure; the Lord may be raising us for such a time as this.

This hour is tempting for emerging leaders like me to want to enter the Presidential race now. I must confess, I am prompted to want to stand for the President of the Republic of Zambia. But reason demands otherwise. I will weigh my options in the coming months and probably years. But for now, I think it is time to put our heads together for a National Economic Dialogue. We have come to a point where it does not matter who you are and what you political persuasion is, but uphold national interest. It is time for unity of purpose.

Why a National Economic Dialogue now?

It’s Time to change our way of thinking as Zambians

In 1945, Albert Einstein said, “The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking.” During the last 70 years, Einstein’s statement has often reminded us to be critical of anachronistic worldviews in a profoundly changing world.

In view of the declining Kwacha and the Moody decision to downgrade the credit ratings of Zambia, all sides of the political divide should be less preoccupied by contentious issues, but be more inspired by Einstein’s call for a new way of thinking. Two important factors have highlighted the urgent need for this broad strategic rethinking.

First, over reliance on Copper exports can no longer be sustainable. This matter has been an issue of discussion for many generations and nothing has happened to date. It will not happen soon unless some drastic measures are taken. The recent steep depreciation of the kwacha is raising inflationary pressures and expansionary fiscal policy which has created large budgetary imbalances. Zambia is Africa’s second biggest copper producer and this red metal accounts for 70% of our export earnings.

In recent months and weeks, demand for copper, which is used across industry from construction to car manufacturing, has suffered from the slowing Chinese economy. Commodity prices have been plunging in recent weeks, caused by China’s economic slowdown. Zambia does not process copper but sales it as raw material weakening our price bargaining power.

Copper prices have declined more than 9% in 2015, making servicing of our national foreign debt more costly. Copper last traded at $3.06 a pound in New York after a steep slide for the week as worries mount over growth in China, which buys half of all Zambia’s copper.

Our government scrapped restrictions on the use of foreign currencies this year as it tried to halt the slide in its currency. The forex measures which were introduced by late Michael Sata in 2011 were abandoned by the current government after the demise of Sata.

Now GRZ is again seeking help from the International Monetary Fund, after an 18% slump in the Kwacha and the value of our key export commodity – copper. For how long will this be the only solution? I am weary of the proposals from IMF, as they will only sink us further to the bottom. No, not IMF again since the Chiluba era. When will we learn? It’s time to swallow all manner of pride and seek local solutions for local Zambian problems.

The Second reason is that we need a Paradigm shift for our nation Zambia.

A new thinking and a new way of doing business is necessary to see us out of this mess. Good practice follows sound theory. Successful managers and problem-solvers always start with a paradigm, a conceptual framework with widely accepted assumptions that they can turn to for analysing and solving everyday problems. We have come a long way as a country without analysing how we are moving. It is time to stop, think and reflect. Good ideas work. If the paradigm is defective, a solution will not work, at least not for long.

I am one of those that are beginning to ask whether our government’s welfare approach is out of date for a nation like Zambia. I am questioning whether income security can be guaranteed by the government of Zambia – a unique social invention which was never intended to be an efficient producer of goods and services or a generator of income for Zambian citizens. What the government of Zambia does well and was designed for is to ensure that all citizens can enjoy equal justice and to lift unjust social barriers to equal opportunity, not necessarily equal results, for all.

Clearly the Marxist paradigm introduced by our first President Kaunda and carried on by successful governments albeit in a modified way has been discredited with the breakdown of the Zambian economy especially our current crisis. Increasingly the benevolent behaviours of successful governments have proven to be inadequate in being able to predict the future condition of our economy or to guarantee income security for most of the Zambian citizens within a welfare country guided by Keynesian principles.

A new approach or paradigm based on the expansion of equity ownership opportunities for working and poor people is beginning to emerge around the world. This paradigm envisions a private, free market economy that genuinely empowers every citizen. Rather than redistributing the present economic pie or relying on trickle-down economics, this new paradigm offers ways to ensure that all citizens become owners of the new wealth created by a more sustainable economic expansion.

It is time for a new thinking based on proven approaches to empowering the poor people and the working citizens, without increasing government spending or transferring existing wealth from others. For a country as poor as Zambia we need to start challenging all policymakers to move beyond the traditional opposition vs. ruling party debate. The new thinking of empowering citizens offers Zambia new means for improving the quality of life for citizens who are largely left out of the mainstream of our economy.

For the last several years in Zambia, there has been much glib rhetoric on the subject of “empowerment.” There is, however, little talk about economic empowerment. A National Economic Dialogue can focus primarily on the issue of economic empowerment and how those at the bottom of the social ladder can begin to enjoy effective economic empowerment. How can we start empowering Zambians to own mines? How can one of the largest Copper producing countries have no local mine owners? How? Surely how?

What about other minerals, who owns the mines? What are we doing with our vast land? Giving it away to foreigners in the name of investors? Are we any better today since we privatised to foreigners and not to Zambians all of our economic production means? What became of us after Chiluba sold our national assets? Simply professional beggars for the international community to bail us. We turned into professional importers of product made by other nations causing an imbalance in our trade business. Ooh Zambia, who has bewitched us that we cannot think or arise anymore?

I think as a nation, we have compelling reasons to have a robust discussion of our country’s economic trends and to try to make progress on turning round the tide. If anything, tension and anxiety in the nation right now makes the economic talks more important.

The most important part of the dialogue which we should have should be to stage a strategic discussion of issues affecting our economy

Draw Me Nearer

Draw me near

  1. I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
    And it told Thy love to me;
    But I long to rise in the arms of faith
    And be closer drawn to Thee.

    • Refrain:
      Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
      To the cross where Thou hast died;
      Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
      To Thy precious, bleeding side.
  2. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
    By the pow’r of grace divine;
    Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
    And my will be lost in Thine.
  3. Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
    That before Thy throne I spend,
    When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
    I commune as friend with friend!
  4. There are depths of love that I cannot know
    Till I cross the narrow sea;
    There are heights of joy that I may not reach
    Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Another of Fanny Crosby’s hymns. This lovely hymn was written and literally born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fanny Crosby, the prolific blind poetess, was visiting her friend and collaborator, William H. Doane in his home. The sun was setting, and though Crosby could not see the changing light, she could certainly hear and feel the hush of twilight. Their conversation turned to the nearness of God. Crosby was touched by their talk and wrote the words of this hymn before she retired that night. Doane added the music in the morning.

The text appeared with the following inscription from Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (KJV)

Crosby seems to mix her cleansing metaphors intentionally—“pure water” and “bleeding side.” The connection becomes clearer when one reads the previous verses in Hebrews 10:

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God. . . .”

It may be that the “friend to friend” communion of the third stanza is an allusion to Crosby’s fine friendship with Doane. If a mere human can be such a friend, how much greater would a friendship be with the Author of love, the Lord of all!

Like so many of Crosby’s hymns, “I am thine, O Lord” is written in the first person—a personal testimony of her relationship with Christ. Stanza one begins with a total surrender to Christ, “I am thine, O Lord,” and the desire to “be closer drawn to thee.” The second stanza appropriately draws upon the closeness of this relationship as an impetus of service: “Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine.”

Stanza three defines the relationship further as one forged in prayer: “When I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend!” In the final stanza, Crosby acknowledges that her relationship will not be complete until she reaches heaven (“cross the narrow sea”) and then she will find “rest in peace with thee.”

The refrain is the theological hub around which the spokes of the stanzas all connect: “Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side.”

In this case, it is Christ’s blood that cleanses and perfects the relationship. She had a talent for focusing attention on Christ, and on the glories of eternal life with Him. In that way, she opened the eyes of believers everywhere.

Nearer, My God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!

By Sarah Flower Adams, 1841


Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

NOTE– The text is taken from W. J. Fox’s Hymns and Anthems; with a single change, referred to under “Some Points for Discussion.

This is one of the hymns that I have taken long to review. At one point at the peak of reformed theology reintroduction in Zambia, I had trouble singing this hymn. But now I look back and appreciate it more than ever before.

This hymn is one of my favourites. It has a simple but beautiful melody and powerful lyrics. It conveys the longing of being with Heavenly Father again; it conveys the longing of home. There is the desire to be close to God, regardless the cost – even if it takes our own cross to get us there (which it often does in our own way).

Much of the hymn refers to an experience the patriarch of old – Jacob – had on a journey toward Haran. I’ll quote at length from the Bible (Genesis 28:10-22) and insert italicized commentary as appropriate.

Now I am very much aware that this is not the accepted stance by many. This hymn has been quite controversial especially among the reformed minds.


In the year 1820 there came to Dalston, then a rural suburb of London, a little family composed of Benjamin Flower, a widower, and his two daughters, the younger of whom was afterward to write this hymn.

Something of a career lay behind Mr. Flower, then an elderly man. Unsuccessful in business speculations as a young man, he had become a traveling salesman on the continent. There he became an adherent of the French Republic, and in 1792 published a book on the French Constitution which was really an attack on that of England. He was selected to edit The Cambridge Intelligencer, an influential weekly of radical principles. Accused of libelling the Bishop of Llandaff, whose political conduct he had censured, he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Newgate with a fine of £1oo. He was visited in prison by Miss Eliza Gould, a lady who is said to have suffered for her own liberal principles, and shortly after his release he married her. They settled at Harlow in Essex, where Mr. Flower became a printer and where Mrs. Flower died in 1810. These facts of their father’s career help us to understand the atmosphere in which the motherless girls grew up.

Both daughters had inherited their mother’s delicate constitution, but both were talented to an unusual degree, and they attracted to the Dalston home many friends who afterward became distinguished. Among these were Harriet Martineau and Robert Browning, “the boy poet,” as Eliza Flower calls him in her letters, who came often to discuss religious difficulties with her sister Sarah. Eliza, the elder, was a skilful musician with a remarkable gift for musical composition. Sarah, the younger of the sisters, was also musical, and possessed of a rich contralto voice, and was much given to singing songs in costume, with appropriate dramatic action. The elder sister always furnished the accompaniment, and sometimes the musical settings of these songs, in their domestic entertainments.

Sarah Flower was born at the Harlow home on February 22nd, 1805. She had the dramatic instinct, and from childhood cherished the ambition of adopting the stage as a profession. She idealized the stage as an ally of the pulpit, and held that the life of an actress should be as high and noble as the great thoughts and actions she was called upon to express. In 1829 her father died, and in 1834 Sarah Flower was married to John Brydges Adams, a civil engineer and an ingenious inventor in the early days of railroad building. Her husband encouraged her dramatic ambition, and in 1837 she made her first public appearance, at the Richmond Theatre, as “ Lady Macbeth.” Her success was great enough to gain for her an engagement at the Bath Theatre. But her health gave away under the strain of public performances, and she suffered a siege of illness at Bath which at once put an end to all hope of a dramatic career.

Mrs. Adams determined to devote herself to literary work, for she had in addition a considerable literary gift. She wrote much for the Monthly Repository, but her most ambitious effort was “Vivia Perpetua – a Dramatic Poem,” published in 1841. It tells the story of a young mother who suffered a martyr’s death at Carthage, A. D. 203, for her faith in Christ. There is but little doubt that her own moral earnestness and intense feelings are set forth in the character of Vivia. The poem is often eloquent, but as a drama not well constructed, and it has taken no permanent place in literature. “The Royal Progress,” a long poem in ballad meter, has met a like fate. Mrs. Adams’s high ideals and ambitions led her to undertake tasks beyond her powers. Though ambitious to lead in the moral uplifting of the stage, even the ordinary routine of an actress’s life was beyond her physical powers. And so her attempt to revive the poetical drama was quite as far beyond her intellectual powers. She had, however, a real gift for lyrical poetry. By her lyrics she retains a modest place in literature, and is chiefly remembered as the author of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Mrs. Adams is described by her friend, Mrs. Bridell Fox, as ”“tall and singularly beautiful, with noble and “regular features; in manner gay and impulsive, her conversation witty and sparkling.” The portrait here given is a facsimile of a slight sketch believed to have been made by Miss Margaret Gillies in 1834. Mrs. Adams seems to have made a deep impression upon the minds of those who knew her. They speak enthusiastically of her personal charm, and of her purity and high- mindedness. In his “Blue-Stocking Revels,” the poet Leigh Hunt also pays tribute to her as “Mrs. Adams, rare mistress of thought and of tears.”

Both of the sisters died while still in early life, and within less than two years of each other. Eliza died of consumption in December, 1846, and Sarah on August 14th, 1848; the death of the younger sister was probably hastened by the cares and anxiety occasioned by the long illness of the elder. At the funerals of both, hymns by Mrs. Adams were sung to music composed for them by her sister. One cannot avoid a feeling of regret that some foretaste of her usefulness and fame did not come to brighten the failing days of the author of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”


After the death of Mr. Flower, his daughters removed to Upper Clapton, a suburb of London, and there connected themselves with the religious society to which the gifted William Johnson Fox ministered, in South Place Chapel, Finsbury. Mr. Fox occupied an independent ecclesiastical position, though generally classed as a Unitarian. For the use of the congregation he prepared a collection of Hymns and Anthems, published in 1840 and 1841, in two parts. At his request Mrs. Adams wrote for the book thirteen original hymns and some translations. One of the hymns was “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and it first appeared in the second part of the book. Like most of Mrs. Adams’s hymns it was set to music by her sister, and was often heard in the services of South Place Chapel.

“How she composed her hymns,” says Mrs. Bridell Fox, “can hardly be stated. She certainly never had any idea of composing them. They were the spontaneous expression of some strong impulse of feeling of the moment; she was essentially a creature of impulse. Her translations would, of course, be an exception; also, perhaps, when she was writing words for music already in use in the chapel.”

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” was not long in finding its way across the ocean. While Mr. Fox was compiling his hymn book for his London congregation, an American clergyman, somewhat like him in his religious views, the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, was organizing a new congregation in Boston as the Church of the Disciples. (It is the church described as the Church of the Galileans in Dr. Holmes’s Professor at the Breakfast Table.) Mr. Clarke printed a new hymn book for it in 1844, including a number of hymns from Mr. Fox’s book, a copy of which had been given him by his friend Mr. Bakewell of Pittsburgh. Among these was “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and in 1846 Mr. Longfellow put the hymn into his Book of Hymns. It was some time, however, before it made its way into the orthodox Congregational churches. Henry Ward Beecher, who was never afraid of novelty, included it in the Plymouth Collection in 1855. But what started the hymn on its free course in America was the tune “Bethany,” which Lowell Mason wrote for it and published in 1856. And when the hymn, set to this taking tune, appeared in 1859 in the wonderfully successful Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book of the professors at Andover Seminary, its general use became assured. By 1866 it had found its way into the authorized hymnal of the Presbyterian Church.


(1) Although so popular with congregations, this hymn has had rather hard treatment at the hands of editors of hymn books. In a number of cases the editor has inserted a new stanza, composed by himself. Bishop How rewrote the entire hymn for the 1864 edition of his Psalms and Hymns. The object of these changes was to introduce the name and work of Christ, “to make the hymn more distinctly Christian.” Is there a real lack in the hymn, needing to be supplied in some such way? Or is it likely that the Unitarian origin of the hymn suggested the need of change?

(2) The text of the hymn has also suffered much from alteration, and is very rarely printed as Mrs. Adams wrote it. In the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal, for instance, “the wanderer ” of verse two becomes “a wanderer,” and the following line reads, “Weary and lone.” The “Bethel,” of verse four, becomes “altars.” Is not the Bible story on which the hymn is based completely hidden by these changes? In The Hymnal only one word differs from what Mrs. Adams wrote. In the fifth line she wrote “would be” instead of “shall be.” The editor thought “would be” better, because less boastful and self-confident, but he feared to make confusion by changing what everybody sings from memory. The editor of the new Presbyterian hymnal for Scotland was braver, and prints Mrs. Adams’s text, here, as in every other particular.

(3) Perhaps no hymn is sung more thoughtlessly than this, What is the meaning of “E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me”? Write out the leading thought of the hymn in plain prose. Is it not singular that a hymn expressing desire to draw nearer to God by the way of suffering should be so often declared their favorite hymn by persons apparently the most self-indulgent?

(4) The literary merits of the hymn are much debated. One may admit certain faults. Indeed, he owes it to himself to recognize that “stony griefs” is a bad metaphor, and that, if a verse is to be omitted in singing, the last verse is not ill-adapted to such a purpose. But notice, on the other hand, the perfect “singableness” of the hymn. And singableness is the first merit of a lyric. Note, also – who has not noted? – the haunting beauty of the refrain, and the happy introduction of the lonely figure of Jacob. Is it not fair to say that, even from a literary point of view, the merits of the hymn outweigh its defects?

Twenty and Nine Years – The Anchor Holds Still

Anchor Holding The Longer

For twenty and Nine Year, the Lord has done me nothing but Good. It is my spiritual birthday and the Lord has indeed been good to me. “We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:18b, 19a).

Contemplate this thought-provoking quote, “In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm.” Faith is put to the test and best demonstrated during the deepest trials of life.

How thankful we should be for the blessed anchor of hope we have in Jesus!  This anchor is “firm and secure.”

Without trials and tests of life, we would have no experiences to evaluate, learn, and understand the magnitude of God’s faithfulness and promises.  We all face challenges that press us to our very limits.  This is where the ‘rubber meets the road’!  Our faith is tested to to the limits!  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:7).  This is where we believe in Him no matter what,  and having done all we can…we stand.  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:8).  Where lies the answer?  Who is our anchor?  It is Jesus Christ….The Rock of Ages!  He is my anchor!   My answer lies in Him!  This Anchor holds against all storms of life!

I have journeyed through the long dark night since that August 14th day of 1986. Out on the open sea, by faith alone, Sight unknown; and yet his eyes have been watching me.

Yet the anchor holds, though the ships been battered. The anchor holds, though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas and yet still, the  anchor holds in spite of the storm.

The road I have traveled has sometimes been steep, through wild jagged places of life. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard that the stones cut my soul like a knife. But the staff of my Shepherd has always reached out for me and lifted me to cool pastures green. With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds, there have often rested by the clear healing stream.

All I can say now is, but now more than ever I cherish the cross. More than ever I sit at His feet. All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true, And He is so precious to me.

I remember the day when I was born again, indeed my soul was singing glory hallelujah. I do not know where and how to start telling my story. However, the experience was amazing, life changing. I really was not that kind of a bad boy that used to be bad. I was one of those good boys that went to church. I used to sing in the choir and I even got baptized at 12, but all along I did not know Christ.

When I got to secondary school, I was chosen as a Scripture Union Leader because everyone thought I was a Christian, but one day on 14th August 1986 the evening after a sermon at a Youth Camp, I could not pretend anymore. I knew something was wrong in my heart, I knew exactly what to do because I had led many others to Christ even when I had not done the same. That night, alone at Choma Secondary School, I confessed my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

The next day I told my teachers Mr Hamoonga Choongo and Rachel Melhorn Phiri that I had become a Christian and they asked me what I meant. All my friends did not believe what I was saying but that was the case. It is possible to live like a Christian when you are not and many live that way.

It was that day I understood that God had created me to love and worship Him. But, because of my sinful heart, I worshiped other things rather than Him. Though I had an outward appearance of a “spiritual” person, I knew my heart was sinful and unchanged. I understood that my sin separated me from a Holy God and that there was nothing I could do to take away my own sin. I understood that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, was buried in a tomb, and resurrected on the third day, showing His power and victory over sin, death and the grave. That is the day I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, repenting of my sin and, by faith, trusting in Jesus as the only Lord and Saviour. This is the day I was “born again,” as Jesus told Nicodemus we must be if we want to receive eternal life. It was at this point that my life changed, where “old things passed away” and “all things became new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

God created us for life, to live our lives for His glory through worshiping and obeying Him. Our first birthday makes this possible. But, without a second birthday, a spiritual birthday, being “born again,” we will never live out the purpose for which God created us. In fact, as a result, we will die twice – experiencing physical death at the end of our physical life, and spiritual death, separation from the presence of God forever. Well did someone once say, “If we are born once, we will die twice. But, if we are born twice, we will only die once.” For those with two birthdays, eternal life begins at the point of trusting Christ. Physical death only ends our earthly existence but ushers us immediately into the presence of the One who gave His life for us so that we might live. As Paul reminds us, for those who are in Christ – those who have surrendered their lives to Him in repentance and faith – “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

Now the longer that I serve Him the sweeter he grows. The more that I love Him, more love He bestows. Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows, and the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.