Jesus Loves Me – A Hymn Study

 

Many Christians around the world teach their children to sing Jesus Loves Me. This song is number 190 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. What a wonderful hymn for any age. This famous hymn is worth learning more in depth.

Anna Bartlett Warner and her older sister, Susan, became writers. They wrote books and poems while living on Constitution Island in the State of New York. They were across the river from West Point, and the cadets would come across the river for Bible studies with Anna and Susan at the Warner’s house.

One of the novels Anna wrote included a song. That song from the novel was given music by William Bradbury, who wrote many songs for children. That song, of course, is Jesus Loves Me. Bradbury added the refrain. Throughout the years the hymn has had different verses written, and it has been translated into many different languages.

The Mysteries
As I was researching the hymn, I came across some mysteries. Maybe you would like to see if you can figure them out. Sometimes facts are wrong in books and on websites. It takes time to search them out and see what information is actually correct.

One mystery was the year Anna was born. I found it cited as 1820, 1824, and 1827. That is a lot of years. The one tricky thing is that Anna’s mother’s name was also Anna, so it could get confusing when doing research. I checked on the website for Constitution Island, which has wonderful information about her family and pictures and videos. I also found a picture of her gravestone. Which source do you think is correct and why?

Another mystery is the name for the house Anna lived in. The Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal says they called it “Good Crag.” I have found old pictures which refer to it as “Wood Crag,” and I have found other sources which say it was called “Good Craig.” I haven’t concluded anything on that yet, so maybe you would like to see if you can figure it out.

There are a few more; however, I’ll leave those for now. This hymn has plenty of learning opportunities, so here are some suggested activities.

Language Arts
Can you find the rhyming words in each stanza?

Rhyming patterns: The rhyming words mark the end of a phrase called a line. The first line ends in the word “know.” Assign that line a capital “A.” The next line ends with the word “so.” That rhymes with the first line so it is assigned a capital “A” as well. The third line ends in the word “belong.” That doesn’t rhyme with “know” or “so.” Then that line gets assigned a capital “B.” The last line ends with the word “strong.” That rhymes with “belong,” so give it a capital “B” also. We can say the rhymes scheme for the first stanza is AABB. See if that same pattern is followed for all three stanzas.

Writing: Could you write a new stanza for this song using the AABB rhyming pattern?

Music: Pentatonic Scale
This song was very popular in China. Missionaries loved to teach it wherever they went. One reason it was popular in China is that the tune is pentatonic. If you have a piano or keyboard, play the black keys only. That is pentatonic, which means a five-note scale — only five pitches compared to a major scale which has seven notes. Many songs in China use the pentatonic scale. See if you can figure out how to play Jesus Loves Me using only the black keys on the piano. In the hymnal, the harmony parts are not pentatonic. The cool thing about the pentatonic scale is that all five notes sound good together. See if you can improvise some harmony using only the black keys.

History/Social Studies
Anna and Susan were authors. Was that common for women during that time in history? Were there any other famous women authors during that time?

What is West Point? Can you discover any famous Americans who are associated with West Point?

Geography 

Find Constitution Island and West Point on a map. How far did the cadets have to row a boat to go study the Bible at the Warner’s home?

Foreign Language
Sing the song in another language or using sign language.

Bible
Study the words of the song. What do those words mean? There are a lot of words that are symbolic and can be a bit tricky for very young children. Can you find Bible verses that tell you that Jesus loves you?

~

This post is republished from an earlier date on the SDA Homeschool Families blog and was written by Lois Barger-Meythaler.

What About Music Lessons?

008In a blog post last year, I told how I tested music educational theories on my boys. This brought up the question about Dr. Moore’s philosophy of “better late than early.” Dr. Moore very clearly speaks against the Suzuki Method of Music Education, primarily because it is designed for starting at a very young age. I wonder if Dr. Moore could have seen how a well-trained Suzuki teacher focuses on the heart and character of the child, whether he would have been a bit more flexible on his evaluation of the method.

In my post-graduate studies, I studied music education from prenatal through senior adult. How do I balance the training I have about early childhood music education and Dr. Moore’s philosophy? Music should be a part of a child’s early childhood, from having a parent singing a lullaby to songs in Sabbath School teaching them that Jesus loves them. Giving a young child opportunities to hear a wide variety of music from around the world in different tonalities and rhythmic meters forms a foundation which they will build on no matter what age they begin formal music learning experiences.

When the Suzuki Method first came to the United States, the method came under heavy criticism. It took a while to adequately train teachers and adapt the method in the United States. For instance, one of the criticisms was that the method did not teach the students to read music. The explanation was that in Japan, all children learned to read music in school, so the private teachers never had to teach music reading. Once this was realized, the teachers in the U.S. began incorporating music reading and the problem was fixed. Also, as more teachers received more training, the reputation for the method improved.

Will formal lessons at a very young age cause the child to get burned out and want to quit music lessons as Dr. Moore indicates? Most people who have quit lessons, no matter what method, did so due to a bad experience during a recital or power struggle with the teacher or parent. I’ve talked with Suzuki trained teachers, as well as parents and students using the Suzuki method, to find out what their experiences have been. I’ve heard of the occasional Suzuki method student who stopped taking lessons, but in each case that I have heard about, the student continued with another instrument.

For example, my oldest son started piano lessons at age three with a Suzuki Method teacher. After a few lessons, his teacher recommended that he wait another year or two. When he started again at the age of five, he did very well. Later, due to reasons other than the teacher or the method, he quit taking piano. He began learning trombone and has done very well. He is now 17 years old and takes trombone lessons. He received top scores in an evaluation by our homeschool co-op’s band director this year.

My other son was three when he asked if he could play cello, but I decided to wait until he was five. He has had two teachers, one just beginning her Suzuki teacher training, and his current teacher who is one of the best Suzuki teachers for cello in our area. As he got older, I watched to see if Dr. Moore’s prediction of burn-out would happen. I began to see less enthusiasm and more frustration around the age Dr. Moore predicts that burnout happens. His teacher informed me this happens with most of her students around that age, no matter how early they began taking lessons, and indicates they are ready to have less parent involvement during lessons and practice time. She wisely had been telling him occasionally that someday she would determine he was ready to come to his lessons without his mom, and that he would be responsible for what he practiced at home without a parent supervising his practice time. When I let her know of his increased resistance to practicing, and that he was saying he wanted to quit playing cello, she took a couple weeks to evaluate him and decided it was time. She has an official “fire your parent” tradition that makes the transition very fun for the student. His increased responsibility and independence improved his attitude immediately.

Recently I talked with my boys about what they remember about starting lessons so young and how they felt about it. They both remember having lots of fun. They both still don’t love to practice, but they enjoy the results of practicing. Yes, even my cellist who was so frustrated about a year ago, now doesn’t even acknowledge that he ever talked about wanting to quit.

For formal music lessons, first find the best teacher you can afford. Ask to observe them teaching lessons. Ask for references, especially if you don’t know someone already in their studio. If they use the Suzuki Method, ask what levels they are certified for teaching, and if they have group lessons and encourage their students to participate in Suzuki Institutes. Make sure they know your expectations for your child. For instance, my son’s trombone teacher asked what my expectations were before I could tell him. He earned bonus points from me in my evaluation of him for that. If you choose to wait until your child is older, they will probably do just fine.

No matter the age your child starts lessons, they will be successful if you keep the experience fun yet challenging. If you feel nervous for them when they are performing, realize that you need to relax. Making mistakes in a recital or concert is part of the learning process for a young musician. Keeping the expectations at the right level gives them the best chance for success. Just like in the rest of homeschooling, keeping the expectations at the appropriate level and the learning engaging creates a much better environment for success.

Unfortunately, I have observed very young music students put under huge amounts of pressure to perform. The demand for perfection was pressed on them from adults, not from the child’s own joy and enthusiasm for the music. In those instances, I have cringed, knowing that the heart of the child is not the concern, but the pride of the adult in the child’s achievement.

As homeschool parents, we feel the pressure to have our children excel academically to prove we are doing our job well. However, when we focus on their heart and character, strive to make learning fun, and love them unconditionally, they may achieve far beyond our expectations.

A Personal Testimony: Singing and Beyond

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This photo was taken three years ago at Central Filipino Church at Glendale, CA. I’m with my favorite person I love to sing with — my wonderful and loving husband!

Singing is so much a part of our homeschool activities. We sing during our daily worships, when we are happy, when we want to easily memorized a passage, and when we want to minister to others, among other things. It is a worthy tool we can use anytime.

I remember there is a video that has gone viral online that features a family with the littlest young boy singing a beautiful Christian hymn at the church’s pulpit. The boy could be somewhere between two and three years old, and he is totally singing his heart out with his parents. It’s a beautiful thing to watch such a tiny boy and a joyful parents singing and praising the Lord together. So inspiring! How could such a young boy express so much of what he feels? I was beyond impressed! Of course, the parents are obviously one of the greatest influences of his good start.

A Short Story

Where I grew up, singing was nearly next to eating in importance. Everywhere, there were people who could hum a tune or belt one out with a beautiful voice. It was a prime pastime that people enjoyed. I was the exception. I was told in my early years that I had the tendency to go out of tune, and my voice was hoarse after a few songs because I didn’t learn the proper way of breathing until college years. I also had to learn to express, because my face looked blank. Fortunately, I still found myself a part of a children’s choir from elementary through high school: I had potential, but was one of the shy ones.

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This was early in my elementary years when I was asked to sing a duet with a classmate. It was fun to remember participating in school activities three decades ago.

My singing endeavor took a sharp turn when I joined Celestial Echoes, and then our university’s official choir, The AUP Ambassadors — now known as The Philippine Meistersingers. It is one of the highly acclaimed choirs in the Philippines today. It was in this group during my time where I found the love of my life, whom I am blessed to be with today. What an amazing gift for me! He has a beautiful tenor voice and was one of the soloists during our time in the group. Could you believe he couldn’t sing a note before joining the group? He is now very vocal in sharing his beautiful testimony of how His love for God helped him sing beautifully. Because of this choir, we were both able to go to places like the General Conference Session in Toronto, Canada, and were blessed to be a part of a three-month Goodwill Concert Tour in East and West Coast of the USA back in 2000.

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This is a photo of one of the choirs I joined when I was younger, The AUP Ambassadors, during a Gala Concert Tour in 2000. I am wearing the Korean costume in the middle of the group. It was fun singing a varied repertoire of songs!

 

Singing helps us in many ways. Here are some of them:

  • Improved Socialization. Singing taught me to overcome my shyness by being able to sing with a group for a long time. It gave me the chance to get out and talk with people  from different walks of life, expanding my horizons. We were able to meet wonderful people and learn how beautiful and truly interesting the world God has made.
  • Building Connections. Because we sing, we meet people with similar passion as well. While in Bangkok, we had a chance to be invited and represent Thailand in Xiamen, China, for the World Choir Games. It was such a memorable trip being with Thai people and seeing choirs from all over the world. We also made friends when we have the chance to render songs at church or any events.
  • Musical Development and Education. I learned to see the connections and apply the theory that I learned from books to life. The sense of appreciation for the higher aspects of music, performance, and musical and heart-felt expression has grown within me.
  • Musical Expression. I learned how to sing by understanding the songs and conveying what they said. When our group sang at the General Conference, we were reminded to sing with expression as we were singing to the glory of God. I couldn’t believe when the choir director and our friends told me, after we got done, how the cameraman had focused on me for so long. Truly, God has worked wonders with me!
  • Character Training. Looking back at that little girl from the beginning of the story, I wonder how I ever got the chance to have all those beautiful experiences. Yes, the Lord is not finished with me, and He continues to work with me today. My parents instilled in me the heart of willingness to serve God and a teachable spirit. Our amazing choir director accepted us because those were the qualities he was seeking in a member. The Lord has given me dose of confidence, and the ability to look past myself. I worked hard listening to myself, and to others, and prayed a lot to help me do my best for Him.
  • Service and Witnessing. Through singing, we are able to bring God to others, heal wounded souls, brighten someone’s day, lift up the weary and burdened. We join choirs, visit nursing homes and sick people, and even make our little ones calm down or learn about Jesus by singing a song. My husband encourages me to sing duets with him and even sing solos, which would have seemed impossible when I was younger. My heart is full when I hear people say they were blessed hearing our songs. I am more blessed. The Lord is to be praised! 

I’m sharing all these beautiful memories because I want to encourage our homeschooling families to know how our love for God can make us sing! God truly makes a difference in our lives. We can teach our kids the same. I love this article about 7 Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters. We can be just an ordinary person, with an ordinary voice, but with God’s confidence in our hearts, our voices and presentation will be completely different. Our songs will have meaning. They can lift ourselves and others to Christ.

In our church we encourage many who would say, “I can’t sing!” or, “I don’t have a voice to sing!” not to avoid anything singing-related. I have realized that what’s important is our attitude and our purpose. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God will give us the ability when we make ourselves available for Him? It is also an encouragement to know that God honors our efforts and our willingness to do our part for Him. Yes, He can work with us. He will equip us. Just like Moses, God sent Aaron to be his helper, and God is willing to do it with us, too. He will use us if we make ourselves available for Him.

We have been praying Luke 10:2 since we read Pastor Derek Morris’ book, The Radical Prayer: “Lord of the harvest, I earnestly beg You to throw out laborers into Your harvest, and You have my permission to begin with me.” The Lord has opened many wonderful opportunities through this prayer. Singing is one of the most wonderful instrument we can use today. It is readily available within us.

Close your eyes and think about songs that lift your spirits high. May this verse inspire you to sing today. It’s a fantastic day to sing and make our voices be heard. Sing while you walk, while you play with your children!

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” Psalm 100:1-2.

 

Music in the Family

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I had the most refreshing observation yesterday in church.  As the congregation was singing “It Is Well With My Soul”, I glanced across the aisle at our pastor’s young children.  They were holding hymn books, but I couldn’t help noticing that they were not reading the words.  They were singing with all their hearts, but not needing to refer to the page for any of the verses.  Impressed with this observation, I  watched them singing at our vespers service later. Again, they were singing all verses without the use of the words.  For all of their lives, those children will have the benefit of having a collection of hymns recorded in their memory. As I thought more about it, I couldn’t help feeling what a blessing it would be to all Christian families to take up a habit of memorizing hymns.  Here are some ideas:

  • If you don’t already own a hymn book, buy one.  Preferably, get one that is the same as the one your church uses.  Or maybe you could even borrow one from the church. If someone in your family plays piano or some other instrument, use that to accompany your singing and to help learn the melodies if you don’t already know them.
  • If no one in your family can accompany the hymns, choose common ones that have melodies you already know by heart and teach those to your children without accompaniment.
  • While the melodies of hymns are beautiful and have an emotional and spiritual benefit to the listener, the most valuable part of the hymn is the words.  So, if your family does not particularly care for the melodies (although I’d strongly encourage developing a taste for them), you can still learn the words as poems.  In fact, many times we learn hymns by rote and never really hear the words.  Try just reading the hymns as poems and see for yourself how precious the messages are.
  • Buy a book that gives the history of hymn writers and hymns or do a search on the Internet and share the information at family time.  There are some amazing stories behind the hymns.  Some suggestions of songs to research might be It Is Well With My Soul or O, Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go.  Hymn writers who might be interesting to learn about could be Fannie Crosby or Philip Bliss.

So many parents wish after their children are grown, that they had invested more time and energy into family music.  Don’t wait.  It doesn’t require a lot of money for music lessons to enjoy music as a family.  And putting the great old hymns in the minds of your children is a gift that will definitely keep on giving!

The Father of English Hymnody

033What do the following hymns have in common?

Alas, and did my Savior Bleed (aka At the Cross)
Am I a Soldier of the Cross?
Come, Ye that Love the Lord (aka Marching to Zion)
Jesus Shall Reign Where ‘er the Sun
Joy to the World
When I survey the Wondrous Cross

Each of those hymns has been published in over 1200 to 1600 hymnals and each hymn came from the pen of the same hymn writer. Isaac Watts is known as the Father of English Hymnody. Having written over 800 hymns and metrical psalms, the “test of time” for over 300 years has eliminated many. Amazingly, our current hymnal, The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, uses 24 of his texts, the most of any single author.

Isaac Watts was born in 1674 to a family of devout protestants in Southampton England. A bit of historical perspective finds that England is in a process of restoration after a civil war in which religious views were fought over. An outbreak of the plague, in 1665-66 had nearly wiped out the population of London as well as Southampton. And on the heels of that, London had experienced the Great Fire in 1666. The Puritans had been associated with Oliver Cromwell during the civil war and were now despised. They had given up hope of reforming the Anglican Church and were starting to splinter into a number of denominations.

As young Isaac was growing up in a family persecuted for their religious beliefs, and called “Nonconformists” or “Dissenters” since they did not conform to the reestablished Anglican Church. Isaac Watts’ father, also named Isaac, was imprisoned for his religious beliefs several times. His father had a huge impact on the young Isaac. Watts Sr. was careful to teach his children to love God, and that the Bible was the most important book to study.

Education was highly valued in his family. His ability to rhyme verses began when he was quite young. One of the stories told is that young Isaac’s father grew tired of hearing everything said in metrical rhyme and had forbidden his son to rhyme any more. When Isaac forgot his father started to whip him for disobedience when he cried,

O father, do some pity take,
And I will no more verses make.

Another story is told that his mother had found some handwritten poems and doubted her young son could have written them as he claimed. She asked him to write a poem as she watched. He sat down and wrote an acrostic poem of his own name with a depth of theological understanding which convinced his mother of his talent.

Isaac Watts wrote his first metrical psalm after he was complaining about the poor quality of the psalmody they had sung at church. His father challenged him to write something better rather than complain. Isaac wrote it that afternoon and his father took a copy to the church for the evening service. Depending on the source, this happened when he was 15, 16, 18 or 20 years old.

His family’s heritage of standing strong for their beliefs is shown as Isaac Watts gained recognition as a scholar. He turned down full scholarships to elite schools in England, where he would have had to conform to Anglican theology. He did attend excellent protestant schools. He mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French. He wrote numerous books on various subjects throughout his life and preached many sermons.

Isaac Watts wrote the traditional metrical psalms or psalmody that the churches at that time believed to be the only appropriate use of song to be sung in church. However, he began writing verses which reflected doctrine and other passages of scripture which are called hymns. His congregation accepted these and soon other congregations began to use them also. Prior to this most hymns were written in Latin, which Protestants rejected. This is how he earned the title of The Father of English Hymnody.

Note: This post was originally given as an oral presentation by the author. Sources cited upon request.