This Lent devotional was shared with me by a dear friend of mine and my family. He dedicated his life to encouraging and mentoring and influencing young people by living through example. He did this by teaching music, and many life lessons. I am grateful for his influence on my children. I am also grateful I call him “friend”.
This week, March 18th, our special music will be “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Stephen Foster, performed by the Heritage Ensemble. This song was composed 150 years ago and came to reflect the plight of many Americans throughout the eastern United States during times of desperation and survival. Stephen Foster was the first ‘father of American Music”, born and educated in Pennsylvania and only traveled to South once in his life but many of his songs came to embody all Americans and indeed “Hard Times” was incorporated into a compilation of “Songs from the Civil War”. The chorus of the song poignantly expose the pain of a family:
‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary;
Hard Times, Hard Times, come again no more:
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard Times, come again no more.
Still today we feel this pain in many ways; personal illness, grief, depression, family illness or discord of any type, loss – of job, of a loved one, attempting to live through these difficult economic times as we continue to support our family. Many times we forget to look to God for help, and as the chorus states, ‘Hard Times, please go away and come no more’.
As we go through the sometimes mundane exercise of our daily lives we should strive to focus on what others need; we are studying “Who are our neighbors?” on Wednesday nights and as each speaker comes and explains their program and how badly people in our own community need our help we have an opportunity to give away; our time, our talent, our energy and our love.
Eugene Peterson, a wonderful, prolific Christian writer, explains from the book of Luke that gifts of any type, when sincerely and freely given, will bless the recipient but also will bless the giver (ourselves), as Jesus has promised. God has promised us better times, through his grace freely given and thoroughly undeserved, if only we ask. Our commitment to God, to our church fellowship and to our community (our neighbors), is to believe God’s promise of better times and give our gifts, our hospitality and our blessings away with a whole and happy heart. The challenge for me is to look outward and focus on what others need, not myself.
It will bless those who receive and it will bless us – as God has promised!
* You can follow David’s blog here: Life…According to Harry.