Saturday, October 25, 2008

Watch With Me

I have always loved the works of Carl Bloch--his paintings always have a story to tell. When we were decorating our new home (not new anymore--this was nine years ago) I wanted just the right art work in our entry way. I wanted a certain Bloch painting, "Doubtful Thomas." For obvious reasons.

At the time, Bloch works were not readily available, and so I figured I'd just have to frame an old and, therefore, cool, book plate. I got on the internet and finally found a book of his works that was some 80 years old, but the description was in Danish, so I wasn't exactly sure what the volume was. I decided to buy the book anyway and take my chances.

It turned out to be a treasure--23 folio sized photoengravings of Bloch's works from the King's Praying Chamber in Frederiksborg Castle Chapel. One of them I had never seen before--it was a depiction of Christ in Gethsemane being comforted by an angel, a stunning piece of art. But this old, black and white photoengraving also showed something that is no longer visible today today due to the darkening of the work with age (See full color print here.). Off in the shadows, to the left of the Savior, a disciple is visible, fast asleep. 

Now I mentioned that Bloch always has a story to tell, and this one jumped right out at me. "Which are you," the painting seemed to ask, "the sleeping disciple or the angel, comforting the Savior in his extremity?"

That is the story that "Watch With Me" tells. Knowing that the Savior gave the ultimate gift on our behalf, at the greatest possible price, for the highest of reasons, are we willing to serve Him with our best? Or are we sleeping disciples, easily distracted, half in the shadows?

Diane has created one of her most beautiful musical settings for this song; hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

May Thy Daystar Rise in Me

A couple of years ago, Diane and I decided that we ought to try submitting songs to the 2007 LDS Church Music Contest, and set a goal to do so. We weren't really certain what kinds of materials they were looking for, so we picked a couple songs, one for the Relief Society and the other for the General Music Competition, and submitted them. I also decided to try my hand at writing a hymn text, something I had never done before. Well, to our delight and amazement, each of the songs and the hymn text won awards, and we were invited to attend the two concerts on Temple Square to hear our works performed. (See A Vessel of Light and He Knows His Lambs.)

The text of May Thy Daystar Rise in Me draws from several scriptures that speak of Christ as the Light of the World. The final phrase of each verse, "May thy Daystar rise in me," is taken from 2 Peter 1:19, where the daystar refers to the sun. Peter encourages us to heed the words of the prophets, until one's personal witness and received light are akin to the brightness of the dawning sun, casting away doubts, and penetrating and illuminating all. 

As we seek to reflect the glory of God in our lives--as the sun and stars and other creations do--we show our desire to have the Daystar rise in our hearts.

As we choose light to guide us through this darkened world, light that "darkness cannot comprehend," we also show our desire  to have the Daystar rise in our hearts.

As we keep our eye single to God's glory, we are promised that the light will grow, "brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24). Then indeed, we will have the "more sure word of prophecy," and the Daystar will live in our hearts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

As I Am Loved

Diane and I were asked to write this song for a Stake Visiting Teaching Conference. The song is a duet, one voice representing a sister desperately needing fellowship and comfort, and the other her visiting teacher. I believe that every woman can relate to the expressions of emotion that both parts relate: the feelings of isolation and discouragement and the strong desire to be an instrument in the Lord's hands, to love as we are loved.

The song climaxes in the final chorus were the two separate choruses--prayers, really--weave around each other to exemplify the principle that we need each other: 

"Father, ... look upon me with thine eye"/"Father, make me wise, help me see with thine eyes." 

"Give me strength to bear, the burdens I despair"/"Teach me to watch with care, for burdens I can share." 

"If it be Thy will, make my storms be stilled"/"Help me understand; Make me thy hands."

The point of the song is that we cannot become like Christ unless we are willing to love and serve, and also willing to accept love and service. sometimes the latter is more difficult than the former.

Diane has created a wonderful musical setting for this song; it is complex and somewhat difficult, but well worth the trouble.