FamilyLife Today®

Hymns for a Child’s Heart, Part 2

with Bobbie Wolgemuth, Joni Eareckson Tada | November 5, 2010
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The great hymns we sing lift our soul and teach us about our Lord.
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  • The great hymns we sing lift our soul and teach us about our Lord. On today's broadcast, Joni and Friends founder, Joni Eareckson Tada, and singer Bobbie Wolgemuth, tell parents why it's important for children to learn the classic Christian hymns.

The great hymns we sing lift our soul and teach us about our Lord.

Hymns for a Child’s Heart, Part 2

With Bobbie Wolgemuth, Joni Earec...more
November 05, 2010
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Joni: I will never forget when I was a little girl—and back in the '50s this was—we were taking a trip in my mom and dad's old Buick Roadmaster.  We were heading out old Route 40; and we went to Colorado Springs, Colorado.  That old Buick chugged all the way to the top of Pike's Peak. 

My sisters and I, the four of us, piled out of the car.  We quickly ran to the edge of the crest of the mountain and looked out over the most awesome, soul-inspiring, beautiful sight on top of Pike's Peak.  You're looking out over the Colorado plains and the patchwork quilt of fields. 

My father and mother, with the wind whipping their hair, burst out into singing this song.  There was a reason why they did because this particular hymn was composed by a woman who, indeed, was inspired by that same sight.  Standing on top of Pike's Peak, she then wrote America the Beautiful.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  Maybe you have sung about purple mountains and fruited plains and never realized you were actually singing a hymn of praise to the One who created them.  We’ll talk about that today. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  I have a pet peeve; and I know that in talking about this, I'm going to make some choir directors unhappy with me. 

Dennis:  You know, anytime you mention music, you're going to offend somebody.

Bob: [laughter]  That's true.

Dennis:  We all have our tastes about what we like about hymns in the church and what type of music.…

Bob: Here is my pet peeve—oftentimes verse 3 is built off of verse 2.  If you don't sing verse 2, verse 3 doesn't make any sense.  That's especially the case with A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.  If you take any verses out of that, you've just—I’ll walk out of your church service.  I'm telling you right now, okay?  I'm leaving church if we do verses 1, 3, and 4.…

Dennis:  This is a core conviction for you.

Bob: This is a core conviction; and I am so glad that the book we're going to talk about today includes all the verses of the hymns and doesn't leave out any of them.

Dennis:  It does.

Bob: I feel good.

Dennis:  I'm glad.  I'd hate to run our guests out the door because they left a verse out.  We've never done that in over a decade of ministry.

Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth join us.  Bobbie, Joni, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Bobbie:  Good to be here.

Joni: Good to be here.

Dennis:  The book they've written is called Hymns for a Kid's Heart. They have written a book that not only gives us the hymns, but also tells us the story behind the hymns.

Now, I wanted to ask you, Bobbie, what is your favorite story in here and hymn that is accompanied because I want you to read...

Bobbie:  You can't really ask Joni and me either our favorite hymn or our favorite hymn story because it's sort of like saying which child is your favorite of all the kids you know.  We love them all.

I would have to say the story behind Take My Life and Let It Be, the story of a little girl named Frances Havergal who started singing and playing the piano when she was eight years old.  This story, I think, can inspire so many young people because she had such a gregarious and bright personality.  We tried to really bring that out that this little girl was so much fun to be around, but she had a special treasure in her heart.  So we built it up and say, "I wonder what the secret treasure she had is?"

The treasure was she prayed for people.  Whoever she was around, she prayed for them.  We tell the story of how she went on a vacation and prayed for everyone.  They all got a blessing before she left, and they were all happier before she left the vacation.

We challenged these little kids who are listening to this story and looking at this beautiful art to, "Oh, wow!  I can do that at school.  I can pray for people quietly inside my head."  I think that might be one of my favorites.

Joni: And little wonder that Frances Havergal ended up writing that beautiful hymn, Take My Life and Let it Be, [sings] “consecrated Lord to Thee.  Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise, let them flow in ceaseless praise."

Joni: I think I memorized that one as a little girl.  How about you?

Bobbie:  I did, too.

Dennis:  But you only sang one verse.  [laughter]

Bobbie:  We have lots of verses, and that is interesting about teaching all the verses.  If you ever memorize a poem, you wouldn't consider leaving out a stanza; but that's true, we do often leave out a hymn verse.  So we put them all in here. 

Bob: And the truth is that you can find that some of these hymns would actually go on 18, 20 verses...

Bobbie:  Yes.

Bob:  And our modern hymnals have condensed them down to four or five verses sometimes.  I love the richness.  That is why learning the whole hymn, singing the whole hymn, is something that I have a core conviction about.

[laughter]   And next Sunday, if he says 1, 2, and 4, I don't know if I'll be able to sit there.

Dennis:  I have to confess, although I've been a part of singing and skipping many verses, it has never occurred to me that by leaving out verse 2, I may have really left out a sequence of prose or of theology that was intended to be built upon. 

Bobbie:  Well, with A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, one of the verses ends talking about "the prince of darkness grim," and it says "one little word will fell him."  Well, if you don't sing the next verse, you don't find out what that word is!

Bob: [laughter]  That's right.  Or if you skip that verse and go from verse 2 to "that word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth," you don't know what word they were talking about.

Joni: Well, you guys are hitting the nail on the head here.  This is why, with each hymn, each of the 12 hymns, we've given Mom and Dad plenty of opportunity to reinforce the importance of each stanza of these verses—not only with a hymn story, as we talked about, but, of course, with a contemporary vignette that puts the hymn in a current context. 

Then we provide a Scripture memory verse and a prayer for the child to pray somehow related to the thoughts in the hymn.  Then there is the actual text of the music.  We give you about five or six pages there of insight and understanding about this hymn.  That child can go away; and when he or she memorizes the hymn, she has the whole picture of what the author was trying to say.

Bobbie:  We wanted to make this so easy for the musical encourager to encourage a child.  I also want to say I don't have kids at home anymore that are my own, but I have adopted neighborhood children.  They come and ring my doorbell and say, "Is Miss Bobbie there?"  I invite them in for tea parties with Teddy Grahams.  All of their mothers know that I love hymns.  I have told them if they come to my house and want to sing, they get to sing hymns.

To see these children light up with America the Beautiful.  There is no mother in my neighborhood that would object to that.  Encouraging a child by just singing with them—just holding them in your lap and singing to them, or playing—let them sit next to you on the piano.  That's been the fun of being a musical encourager to, not just to my own children and my own grandchildren, but to children in my life that I really want to have this.

Bob: Most people don't think of America the Beautiful as a hymn, and that's because they haven’t sung the second , third, and fourth verses of America the Beautiful....

Joni & Bobbie:  [laughter]  That’s right!

Bob:  When you get into those other verses, it really is about God's providence for our country.  Isn't it?

Joni: I will never forget when I was a little girl—and back in the '50s this was—we were taking a trip in my mom and dad's old Buick Roadmaster.  We were heading out old Route 40; and we went to Colorado Springs, Colorado.  That old Buick chugged all the way to the top of Pike's Peak. 

My sisters and I, the four of us, piled out of the car.  We quickly ran to the edge of the crest of the mountain and looked out over the most awesome, soul-inspiring, beautiful sight on top of Pike's Peak.  You're looking out over the Colorado plains and the patchwork quilt of fields. 

My father and mother, with the wind whipping their hair, burst out into singing this song.  There was a reason why they did because this particular hymn was composed by a woman who, indeed, was inspired by that same sight.  Standing on top of Pike's Peak, she then wrote America the Beautiful.

Bobbie:  Really, the patriotic songs—so many of them are prayers for our country.  In this case, Katharine Bates said, "America, America, God mend thine every flaw.  Confirm thy soul in self-control."   I mean, those are great words—and for us to pray for our country.

Joni: Right now I think our country needs that; right?

Dennis:  Don't leave out verses 3 and 4.

Bobbie:  That's right.  I'm not going to leave them out.

Dennis:  Go ahead and read them.

Bobbie:  "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,

     Who, more than self, their country loved

     And mercy more than life.

     America, America, may God thy gold refine

     'Til all success be nobleness

     And every gain divine."

That is great stuff.

Joni: When you stop and just consider, think upon, and meditate on what each line means—that is some powerful prayer for our nation.

Bob: You include a CD in the book.  I want our listeners to hear the last verse of America the Beautiful—about the alabaster cities.  Let's just play that off the CD here.

[Children's choir sings America the Beautiful]

 "O beautiful for patriots’ dream
            That sees beyond the years
            Thine alabaster cities gleam
            Undimmed by human tears!
            America! America!
           God shed His grace on thee
            And crown thy good with brotherhood
            From sea to shining sea!"

Bob: You know, this hymn—and it really is—it's a hymn—is, as you said, it is something that our kids need to learn.  It is something that our nation needs to remember.  It is one of those ways that—I mean, you can still sing this in elementary school, you know?  [laughter]

Joni: That's right; that's right.  We forget how many wonderful hymns there are that celebrate our country, our founding fathers, our Constitution, and the principles on which this nation was built.  These hymns—in fact, even Eternal Father Strong to Save—what a beautiful hymn that is. 

Every time I sing that hymn, Bobbie, I always think of when I was a little girl visiting the Naval Academy.  I grew up in Maryland.  My father enjoyed going there because he was a Merchant Marine and had a great love for sailing and for the Chesapeake Bay. 

Once, when I was a little girl, we went into the Naval Academy for some sort of celebration.  I can't remember what it was, but I will never forget those midshipmen singing this particular hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save.  It was beautiful.

Bob: Can you sing it for us?  A lot of our listeners probably aren't familiar with this hymn.

Joni & Bobbie: [sing] "Eternal Father strong to save,

                                 Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,

                                 Who bids the mighty ocean deep

                                 It's own appointed limits keep.

                                 O hear us when we cry to thee,

                                 For those in peril on the sea."

Joni: I will never forget when during the Iraq War—when on CNN and MSNBC—we saw those huge aircraft carriers heading out to sea from San Diego—looking at those images of those ships sailing toward the Persian Gulf.  I can imagine many men and women aboard the ships of the Armed Forces were probably singing that beautiful hymn.  What a hymn to instill within the hearts of our children as we strive to help them understand the roots—the foundations—upon which this country was built.

Bobbie:  And with this hymn, they are really praying for those in peril on the sea.  This is one of the hymns—after watching the news like you did, Joni—I would get so sad that I didn't know what to do with all this emotion.  I would go and sit at the piano every night before I went to bed during the whole war.  I prayed this at my piano because I'm just saying, "Lord, here is when we cry to Thee."  We are asking God to bless and protect our loved ones overseas.

Bob: We are remembering before we do that it is His arm that binds the restless wave.  It is He who tells the ocean, "This far and no farther."  He is the sovereign God.  We can come to Him and say, "Lord, hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea."

Dennis:  And what we are singing about and Who we are singing about—the accuracy, the doctrine, and the theology that is represented there.  We touched on this yesterday, Joni, but I know this is important to you.  Families really need to be concerned about the theology of the songs that they sing because they anchor our souls on either the right object of our faith or a weaker object.

Joni: These songs take children past the surface of doctrine.  We get down into the fundamentals of:  Who is God?  Who is Jesus Christ?  What about heaven?  What about hell?  The doctrine of sin and repentance.  What about saving faith?  All of these hymns—Bobbie and I  were careful to pick hymns which we were convinced showcased some of the most powerful and fundamental doctrines of God's Word.

Dennis:  One of the things that occurred when we adopted our daughter, Deborah is—we were in New York City when we received the phone call she was going to become our daughter.  We prayed about it as we went to bed and asked God to confirm His way.  The next morning, we felt absolutely certain that she was to become a part of our family.

That morning, as we arose from the bed, the radio next to the bed had been set by someone on a Christian station.  It came on, without us having set it, to a song—O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.  That song became Deborah's song as a little girl growing up.  I think it is very wise for us as parents to attach to each of our children a song that has some symbolism—some spiritual meaning—that anchors their soul in the truth of a great hymn.

The reason is:  We don't know what may befall our children.  How many of us, as adults, have sung a hymn for maybe the 534th time; and finally, because of the circumstances we are living today, the words finally made sense.  They finally sunk into our soul and our hearts welled up in praise to God and thanked Him that God does rule—that God can be trusted.  He is a worthy object of our faith.

Joni: That's right.  This is why we are so grateful that the CD is in the back of the book because Mom and Dad can slip this in.  Listening to these songs over and over again—the words get ingrained into your heart.  At times, when you need it, as you said, Dennis, the Lord will bring it all back to memory just as He brought back those words of those beautiful rich old hymns when I was in the hospital floundering, looking for words to put around my heartbreak.  I didn't know what to say, but God brought back those memorized lines.

It is a joy to memorize these hymns.  This CD and, of course, the book, too, will help folks do it.

Bob:  You have broken the book down into four basic areas—four different themes and picked three hymns to support each theme. 

Bobbie:  It was very difficult to just choose just 12. 

Joni:  Oh, boy!  Was it!

Bob:  That is why Volume 2 and Volume 3 will be coming out, right?

Bobbie:  That is right.  We have so much fun.  Joni will call me on the phone; and she'll say, "Okay, what's our hymn?"  She is in California; I am in Orlando, Florida.  We sing across the telephone wires.  Today, we had an experience—we were walking into a big bathroom with a great echo …

Joni: It was one of those cavernous kinds of restrooms where …

Bobbie:  At a convention center.

Joni: Yes.  You can sing, and it echoes off the walls.  We just went right into the restroom, and we were singing …

Joni & Bobbie:  [They sing] "Onward Christian soldiers...”  There were some women in the ladies room that just started singing with us.  They just got big smiles on their faces.  I said, "That was a new experience."

Joni: Actually, the cleaning lady was in there in her uniform with a mop.

Bobbie:  She was just moving around with that mop.

Joni: That's right.

Dennis:  I'm just picturing what would happen in a men's restroom if Bob and I walked into a men's restroom singing.  [laughter]

Joni: I don't know.  You could give it a try.  You never know!

Bob: We'll give that a whirl here.  [laughter]

Dennis:  The point that we are making, though, is that the great hymns lift the soul.  They lift the heart.

Joni: Yes.

Dennis:  We need to be in our families depositing the experience of these hymns in our children's lives.  I think that means that we, as parents, need to take responsibility, whether we can sing or not.

Bob: We may have to learn a few hymns along the way ourselves.  Right?

Dennis:  Just make sure you do not leave out any verses or the choir director, Bob, will come and jerk your chain.

Bob: Before we're done here, I want to see if our guests would—one of the hymns that is in this book is the 23rd Psalm put to music—from the old Scottish Psalter.

Dennis:  I had not heard this before.

Bob: I'll tell you what—if you leave out any of the verses of this one, you're in real trouble.  I mean, this is the 23rd Psalm!  We are going to ask them to wrap things up before we are done here today by singing the entire 23rd Psalm for us.

Joni: Listen, let me tell you—every time I go out on a trip—the friends, the girlfriends who travel with me—we will all say, "Okay, friends, the Lord Jesus is going on ahead.  He's our Great Shepherd.  We are a couple of lambs in tow."  We often sing this song on the way to the airport.  It is a beautiful one.

Bob: Before you sing it, let me let our listeners know how they can get a copy of the book, Hymns for Kid's Heart.  You also have Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart.   We have both of those in our FamilyLife TodayResource Center.  

You can go to our website for more information about these books.  These are great because they have piano music for the songs.  They have guitar chords.  They have a CD.  It is a great opportunity for the whole family to join your voices together and sing some hymns.

Again, go online at for more information about both Hymns for a Kid’s Heart and Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart.  You can order from us online or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY (1-800-358-6329).  That is 1-800-F as in “Family,” L as in “Life,” and then the word TODAY.

I should just say here—I know many of our listeners have been praying for you, Joni, as you have endured a season of some significant pain—but now, also, a recent diagnosis of breast cancer and going through chemotherapy.  Our prayers continue with you.  We are asking God to strengthen you and sustain you.  We just so appreciate the way you model for us how to persevere on a very difficult path.  I just wanted to update everybody on that. 

Quickly, I wanted to let our listeners know that with Thanksgiving coming up, we are thankful for you—those of you who pray for us and who help support this ministry financially.  In fact, if you are able to make a donation this week to help support FamilyLife Today, we would like to send you, as a thank-you gift, the audio version of Barbara Rainey’s book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember

This is a dramatic reading of the story of the first Thanksgiving.  It is great to listen to as you travel over the holidays—off to see the family—or just to listen to around the home.  The audio is our thank-you gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation this month. 

Donate online at  If you do that, type the word “THANKSGIVING” in the key code box on the online donation form so that we can send you the CD; or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make your donation by phone.  Just ask for the Thanksgiving CD.  Again, we are happy to send it out to you.  We so much appreciate your partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today and your financial support of this program.  It means a lot to us. 

We are going to wrap things up today by listening to the 23rd Psalm sung by our guests:  Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Tada.  I trust you are going to sing all verses of this hymn, right?

Dennis:  Pardon me, Bob, we are not going to be able to because of the amount of time.  However,...

Bob: We can't do the whole Psalm?

Dennis:  We can't do it, Bob, I'm sorry.  [laughter]

Bob: We're submitting this under protest.  I'm going to ask the judges to review.

Dennis:  But I'm going to ask Joni and Bobbie, if they would, to sing the Scottish hymn, The Lord is My Shepherd.

Joni & Bobbie: 

          "The Lord’s my Shepherd; I'll not want,

 He makes me down to lie

 In pastures green He leadeth me

 The quiet waters by."

Joni:  "The Lord’s my Shepherd; I'll not want,

 He makes me down to lie

 In pastures green He leadeth me

 The quiet waters by."

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.   Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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Copyright 2010 © FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Episodes in this Series

Spiritual Development Day 1
Hymns for a Child’s Heart, Part 1
with Bobbie Wolgemuth, Joni Eareckson Tada November 4, 2010
The great hymns of our faith bring inspiration, joy and sometimes comfort to our lives.
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