Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Valley of Vision

One of my very dear friends gave me a CD for my last birthday, which I was very glad to receive, both as a fan of Christian music and a Puritan scholar(!) The CD is Valley of Vision or "Songs for worship inspired by the classic book of Puritan prayers".

The CD is published by Sovereign Grace Ministries, and inspired by the book The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, published in 1975 by that great preserver of Reformed and Puritan writings, The Banner of Truth Trust. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones was involved in the creation of this trust, a piece of trivia which will no doubt fascinate you, given how often his name seems to be appearing in this blog.)

I spent 5 years studying the Puritan experience of enjoyment of God for my PhD, and my life and ministry have been all the richer for it. I learnt so much from the Puritans' deep and thoughtful appreciation of God's grace, their absolute commitment to serve God with every fibre of their being, their compassionate and experienced teaching on suffering, and their passionate search for communion with God.

Andrew, Thomas and I were bopping away to "Let your kingdom come" yesterday while eating our tuna& sauce/tuna&rice/tuna sandwich (notice a certain seafood inspired theme here?) when it struck me: isn't it great that prayers which were prayed by God's faithful people 300 years ago can now be heard and sung by us!

The songs are perfect for devotional listening and personal encouragement, and some are suitable to sing in a church context (at least I think so, I'm no expert, so check it out, you musos.)

I have been particularly encouraged by the song "In the valley". I read a friend's Christmas letter yesterday, about her husband's struggle with cancer, and was amazed by how God has grown her in love, patience and wisdom through the terrible experiences they have gone through this year. This song celebrates how brightly God's glory and joy shine in times of suffering:

In the valley

Verse 1
When You lead me to the valley
of vision
I can see You in the heights
And though my humbling wouldn't
be my decision
It's how Your glory shines so bright
So let me learn that
the cross precedes the crown
To be low is to be high
That the valley's
where You make me more like Christ

Let me find Your
grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your
joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You're near with every
In the valley

Verse 2
In the daytime there are
stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I
go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that
my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley's where
Your power is revealed
Wonderful, isn't it? Now there's an idea for one of those last minute Christmas gifts!


Anonymous said...

Isn't it a wonderful song! I love that one too and I often end up weeping as I listen to it. Luv Em

bec said...

Hi Jean

That is indeed a wonderful song - sometimes reduces me to tears, but in a good way! It is so encouraging to know that others have struggled and yet persevered and still experience God's love in spite of it all.

(oh, it's Rebecca Jee from AFES - Heather Reid put me onto your blog in case you're wondering how I got here!)

simone said...

I too love the cd and that song particularly. I used the prayer book for a while then went off it. While praying the prayers I sometimes felt like I was trying to get God to forgive me because of how thoroughly I was confessing my sins. I also got distracted by the beautiful language ("wow, I wish I had come up with that line!")

Any thoughts on this? I know (almost) nothing about the puritans.

Nice blog. Look forward to reading more. Simone Richardson.

Jean Williams said...

Welcome to the blog, Bec and Simone!

I wish I had something more meaningful to say, Simone, but I haven't read the book of Puritan prayers - I might get hold of it and have a read, and then respond to you again.

Thorough self-examination and confession of sin was certainly a hallmark of the Puritans. But it didn't stop there. They had an incredibly passionate enjoyment of God's love ( the "Lover of my soul" as it says in one of the songs) but it was based firmly on their awareness of sin and grace.

Are you a person who tends to think too much about their sin, like me, or someone who thinks too little? This might account for your reaction either way! But I haven't read the poems so I don't really know. I may well have the same reaction as you!! I'll tell you if & when I read them.