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"Then Sings My Soul..."

‘How Great Thou Art’ must surely be one of the best-known and most loved traditional hymns. Originally written in Swedish, the song was translated into English by missionary Stuart K Hine and popularised in the late 1940s and 50s – partly through the Billy Graham crusades of that era.

It’s a hymn that expresses the joy of recognising the power and majesty of God, whether through an appreciation of the natural world, an awareness of Christ’s sacrifice for us, or an acceptance of the promise of salvation.

It doesn’t hurt that the music itself is so joyous to sing. It’s one of those hymns that crosses the line between a worship song and a performance piece. There are many celebrity recordings, including Elvis, Carrie Underwood and Russell Watson.

But it’s also one that the average congregation can really enjoy – and I have to confess that there have been many occasions when I’ve been on my own in the car, and it just seems to have been the perfect way to mark the moment – any moment – when my soul has wanted to sing.

I guess we all know how that feels. That experience of being filled with an almost overwhelming sense of joy and wonder?

For the hymn writer, it was sparked by the elemental force of a thunderstorm, by the beauty of forest glades and streams, by the sound of birdsong, by mountain-top views…These might be the moments that take your breath away, the moments that make your soul sing in praise of God’s greatness and a sudden awareness of our own small place in the beauty of creation.

Perhaps our summer travels might give us new experiences, new sights and sound to make our soul sing. I will always remember walking amongst the giant redwoods and gazing into the astonishing blue water of Crater Lake in the Pacific North West; I will never forget watching the sunset off the west coast of Scotland while all the colours around me changed and faded into the night; I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see amazing landscapes and wonderful wildlife.

But if we open ourselves to be aware of the presence of God in our everyday lives, there are many more ‘mundane’ occasions which might make our souls sing: the first daffodil in spring, the stars on a clear night, the sound of children playing, the smell of Sunday dinner cooking, the opportunity to sit back and relax after hard work…

Of course, human experience includes periods of sadness and pain. At these times, our souls might cry out in lamentation rather than singing in praise. But perhaps we would benefit from being more aware of the joy and beauty God brings to all our lives. So, what makes your soul sing?

‘Fill us each morning with your constant love, so that we may sing and be glad all our life.’
Psalm 90 v14


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