Love Well, Die Well

mary at the cross

It was an anonymous poem, originally written in Latin sometime during the Middle Ages.  Many years later it was translated into German, and later into English.  The tune associated with this poem was originally used as a love song, attributed to Hans Leo Hassler in 1601.  J. S. Bach harmonized the song in its present form in 1729.  This poem and tune combination eventually found its way into English hymnals entitled, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”  taken from the first line of the first stanza. While the hymn as we know it has only three verses, the original poem consists of eleven stanzas.

Because the third and last stanza found in our hymnals has always moved me deeply, I have memorized it and have incorporated it into my prayer life.  However, this powerful prayer becomes even more significant when it is considered in its context with the rest of the original poem.  While I have memorized only the second stanza below, what follows is the last seven stanzas of the original poem.


My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.

I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;

Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!


What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love to Thee.


My shepherd, now receive me, my Guardian, own me Thine.

Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.

Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;

Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.


Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;

O Savior, do not chide me!  When breaks Thy loving heart.

When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,

Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.


The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,

When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.

O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,

Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.


My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door,

Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!

When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,

But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!


Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfolds Thee, who dieth thus dies well.

A Tale of Two Students

c172 takeoff window

I was a young flight instructor and Vic was a retired engineer.  Not surprisingly, he was far more intelligent than my average student and a joy to work with.  He breezed through the ground school instruction.  And, he picked up the basic flight skills quickly enough.

As the time for his first solo flight approached, I began to throw a few problematic scenarios into his lessons to ensure that in the unlikely event of an unexpected crisis, he would be able to handle it safely.  While his knowledge of what to do in an emergency improved, his flying skills began to deteriorate.  In the interest of preparing him for the unlikely, he began struggling with the routine.  I finally came to the conclusion that his learning curve would never start climbing again until he proved to himself he could fly solo, safely.

We scheduled an instructional flight that was intended to finish with his first three solo takeoffs and landings while I watched from the side of the runway.  While he was not outstanding on that particular day, his skills were satisfactory.  I prepared to exit the airplane so he could complete his first solo flight.  He begged me not to get out until we had practiced some more!  However, my assurances that he was ready to solo finally prevailed.

I gave him my standard pep talk, “Just keep doing what you’ve been doing and you will be fine.”  He gave me a look bordering on panic as I opened my door and climbed out, but I smiled back and waved him off.

A pilot’s first solo flight is a big deal, for both the student and the instructor!  Thankfully I had soloed a number of students already (and everyone had survived) and I was (fairly) confident that Vic would rise to the occasion and earn his student pilot’s license with relative ease.

Everything looked normal for the first part of his first solo takeoff roll.  But without warning he swerved to the left and almost hit a runway light before correcting his mistake and becoming airborne!  He had never done anything like that before and I couldn’t imagine what had caused it!  Vic didn’t like surprises and neither did I, especially when I was on the ground and he was alone in the airplane for the very first time!

I watched him fly around the landing pattern, willing him to calm down, and praying for a miracle!  God answered my (our?) prayers as his landing was rough, but safe.  Obviously shaken, he chose not to do two more solo takeoffs and landings, as per a normal first solo flight.  What had happened?  He forgot to close his window before takeoff, so he closed it during his takeoff roll!

To my knowledge Vic never flew again; and I never soloed a student pilot again, until I saw how he responded when I popped his window open during a takeoff roll!

What’s It Worth?

Jesus writing in the dirt 

              When you think of Jesus, what picture comes to your mind?  Around Christmastime, you may see Him as a baby lying in a manger.  If it’s Easter season, you will probably picture Him suffering on a cross.  But what about the rest of the year?

              When you think of Jesus, you might picture Him as a serious Bible scholar refuting the religious hypocrites of the day.  Or it could be a portrait of Him blessing the children who were drawn to Him because of His obvious interest in them. 

              When you think of Jesus, you may see Him touching an unclean man with leprosy and forever taking away his dreaded disease.  Or you might picture Him making mud with His saliva and rubbing it on a blind man’s eyes that are about to see for the first time!

              When you think of Jesus, you may see Him feeding a multitude of many thousands with nothing more than a few pieces of bread and a couple of small fish.  Or you could picture Him calming a storm, walking on water, and even allowing Peter to do the same!

              When you think of Jesus, you may see Him cursing a fig tree, or cleansing the temple of its corruption.  Or you might see Him calling up to a short tax collector who has climbed a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Him.

              When you think of Jesus, you might picture Him healing Peter’s mother-in-law, paying his taxes or washing his feet.  Or you could see Him forgiving the sin of a woman caught in adultery, or replacing the ear of an enemy servant that a zealous disciple had foolishly cut off.

              When you think of Jesus, you could see Him casting out demons and sending them to the abyss.  Or you might picture Him bringing a widow’s dead son, or a ruler’s dead daughter, or a beloved dead friend back to life!  

              When you think of Jesus, all these pictures of Him have worth.  However, these pictures are black and white and not color; they are poorly focused and not sharp; they are low resolution and not high definition.  The best pictures of Jesus are the ones that predate, or follow His extremely short stay here on earth! 

              We do ourselves a significant disservice when we allow our portrait of Jesus to be framed by His brief earthly pilgrimage.  Those pictures are outdated.  Yes, He was God then, but His glory was mostly invisible to the masses.  They saw His humanity but were generally blind to His divinity.  I fear we see Jesus the same way; to our own undoing.

              Have you seen word pictures of Jesus as He is today?  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a focused, high definition, color picture of Jesus, in all of His present majesty and glory, is worth at least a million!  More appropriately, an accurate picture of Jesus is worth our life, our all and our best! 

This Extraordinary Work


Christianity was waning in the late 1700’s.  The growing prosperity of the American frontier was making it easy for settlers to rely on themselves and to forget God.  Thankfully, God hadn’t forgotten them!

It all started when God stirred the heart of Barton Warren Stone, pastor of Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church in northern Kentucky.  He decided to invite local pastors and congregations to participate in their annual “Sacramental Communion” event, a weekend of preaching, fellowship and worship.  Once Christians from neighboring states heard about this meeting, many people from southern Ohio and northern Tennessee also gathered there.

On the first day of the event, Friday, August 6, 1801, as thousands of Christians began to pour into this rural community amidst a downpour of rain, the Cane Ridge Revival was born.

In preparation for Sunday’s communion service, Friday and Saturday was meant to be observed with solemnity, prayer and fasting.  Yet soon large numbers of people came under conviction and began to weep, faint, and shriek as God began to revive His people.

Using wagons, fallen trees, or tree stumps as platforms, many preachers, at multiple locations within the camp would passionately speak for God to those in attendance.  It was said that people of all ages and denominations, male and female, rich and poor, whites and blacks, those for the meetings and those against them, would fall to the ground as God’s presence, and the conviction for their sin overwhelmed them.

Colonel Robert Patterson, a well-known statesman of Kentucky, described the revival this way.  “In order to give you a more just conception of it, suppose so large a congregation assembled in the woods, ministers preaching day and night; the camp illuminated with candles, on trees, at wagons, and at the tent; persons falling down, and carried out of the crowd, by those next to them, and taken to some convenient place, where prayer is made for them, some Psalm or Hymn, suitable for the occasion, sung.  If they speak, what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting – many are struck under such exhortations…Now suppose 20 of these groups around; some rejoicing, and great solemnity on every countenance, and you will form some imperfect idea of the extraordinary work!”

Up to twenty-five thousand people eventually attended the Cane Ridge Revival.  It continued on for many days and came to be considered the largest and most influential meeting of our nation’s Second Great Awakening.  It was estimated that as many as three thousand souls were converted in that meeting.  Accordingly, some observers came to call it “America’s Pentecost.”

Camp meetings like the Cane Ridge Revival continued on for several years.  By 1811 it was estimated that as many as one-third of all Americans attended at least one such revival meeting!

Two-hundred and some years later, Christianity is waning once again.  Most people in America are relying on themselves and have turned their backs on God.  Has God turned His back on us?  Another Great Awakening is long overdue!