Memory Book

Some time ago as I sat in church waiting for the morning service to begin I began to page through the Psalter. Not looking for anything specific I began with the first number and went through it page by page. As I went along I realized very quickly that for many of the songs I could immediately determine the tune in my head and knew many of the words without even looking. I remember as a young boy one of my teachers saying that when we were older we would know many of the songs in the Psalter. In fact, she told us there were many elderly saints who knew them all by heart. Well, I could hardly imagine that this could be possible. I had a difficult time imagining having to learn one single song in its entirety much less the entire Psalter. I was pretty sure she was just trying to give us some motivation to learn the particular song we were working on and it wasn’t really working for me. Eventually though, I learned that song and many, many others.

It wasn’t long before I realized that as I went along I was reliving a number of memories. In fact, many of the songs I turned to held very specific memories while others were a bit more general. All in all however, it seemed to me that rather than simply paging through the Psalter, I was paging through my own personal memory book. These seem to be the rage lately and I must admit they are very nice. Many women and girls even attend parties that center around the making of these books. If you have never seen one, they are similar to a photo album except a little more detailed and decked out with fancy borders, poems, and other writing. Although the memory book I held in my hands didn’t have the visual frills that one of these memory books might have, the memories it evoked were and are very precious. Allow me to share some of them with you.

#1 – One of the very first songs I learned as a boy in school. I recall the teacher explaining how we were like trees planted by the riverside, nourished and taken care of by God.

#7 – Another of the early songs I learned. Each time we sang it I would picture a hallway with large pocket watches that didn’t work floating by. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the watches spoken of in the song were not those that told time.

#27 – I remember the Sunday school kids singing this song at the dedication of the new church building in Holland a few years ago. I was struck very deeply by the last verse, “The lines are fallen unto me in places large and fair; a goodly heritage is mine, marked out with gracious care.” I was a member of Holland PRC all my life until about 2 years ago when we transferred to Faith PRC. The saints there will always hold a special place in my heart.

#29 – There are times in this life when it seems that I simply can’t wait to go home as I am sure is the case with all children of God. It may be after a particularly difficult day or week or maybe even an especially moving sermon. Whatever the case, this song often comes to mind and brings great comfort when that longing embraces my heart.

#53 – Which of us didn’t learn the words to this song as children and yet not fully understand and come to love them deeply until we had grown older? What incredible comfort there is in knowing and confessing that the Lord is our Shepherd.

#55 – I chose this song for a song service in Holland some years ago specifically because a number of saints there were going through difficulties. I recall having a difficult time reading the first line of the first verse (“The Lord my Shepherd holds me within His tender care, and with His flock He folds me, No want shall find me there.”) because I so hoped that God would use those words to bring comfort to all who needed it.

#114 – As a boy I sang this song many times not having any idea what a hart was. In fact, I assumed it was another way of spelling heart. Suffice it to say that the song made much more sense once I figured out that a hart was a deer.

#128 – I can’t count the number of times I sang this song for programs and chapels in celebration of Reformation Day. Not until I learned about Martin Luther however did the song truly come alive.

#140 – When I was young a loved one had fallen into sin and though I was too young to understand the circumstances I vividly recall singing this song to myself as I wept, desiring only that they would confess their sin and be forgiven. As I grew older I realized that this must be the petition I raise for myself as well. God be merciful to me!

#163 – Although this song itself is not “The Song of Simeon” it is the tune. Each time I hear it I can’t help but picture an old man cradling the Savior in his arms. I dare say those arms had never felt such strength as then.

#169 – Once again, I can’t recall the number of times this song was sung for programs and chapels in celebration of Thanksgiving. When I hear it I never fail to picture a large cornucopia filled with fruit as this was one of our art projects in my early years in school.

#203 – I remember this being the first song I was able to differentiate the various parts and more specifically the tenor part. I was so thrilled!

#213 – I don’t recall specifically why he had to leave although I believe he had forgotten to take a certain medication, but Rev. Heys had us sing every verse of this song one time in church so that he could do whatever it was he had forgotten to do. I don’t recall if he was back before we were finished or not.

#227 – Professor Gritters preached a sermon on this Psalm (84) at Grandma Veldman’s funeral. I recall he placed special emphasis on her opening her eyes in heaven after her weary night on earth and exclaiming, “How lovely Thy tabernacles are!” Given the difficult way in which the Lord led her in the last years of her life and knowing Grandma, it would not surprise me if this had been the case.

#251 – Although I didn’t take more than a year of piano lessons, through much work I taught myself to play this song. Mind you I wouldn’t be able to do it today but there was a time when I could.

#266 – This is the very first song I can remember learning in school and oh how I loved to sing it.

#278 – I am still unable to sing more than a few lines of this song without my voice breaking and tears welling in my eyes. As our family waited in the nursery at Southwest PRC for the funeral for my nephew Dan to begin we decided that rather than sit in silence we should sing some songs. This was one of them. I recall my niece grasping my left hand as I clung to my wife’s shoulder with my right hand. It was such a difficult song to sing at the time but oh how it brought comfort to the wounded and battered souls gathered in that small room.

#283 – Fitting it is I suppose that this song be next on the list. In January of 2007 we gathered as family to celebrate the 40th anniversary of my wife’s parents. As this was one of the songs sung at their wedding we also sang it on this night. About a month later we sang it once again at my father-in-law’s funeral. Another song I have a very difficult time singing but what a wonderful testimony to God’s grace and mercy. “Good is the Lord and full of kind compassion, most slow to anger, plenteous in love; rich is His grace to all that humbly seek Him, boundless and endless as the heav’ns above.”

#333 – The first song I can recall learning for Sunday School. I was quite sure that if we sang it every week I would be tired of it by the end of the year. We did and I was. And yet now I love it.

#345 – Psalm 121 was the favorite Bible passage of my Grandpa Bylsma. He was called home when I was in 3rd grade and his was the first funeral I can really remember. My teacher was Mr. Quenga and every morning we had a period of time that we would sing a number of songs chosen by children in the class. The day after the funeral I chose this song. Somehow Mr. Quenga knew the significance of this Psalm and made mention of it to the class. I remember not being able to sing much of the song but I hummed along with the class. I was a bit afraid that Mr. Quenga might be angry with me for not singing but honestly I think I was more afraid of the class seeing me cry.

#383 – I believe we sang this song at the open house that Holland PRC held for Rev. Heys when he retired from the ministry. If I recall correctly it was one of his favorite Psalter numbers. How often we need to be reminded of the beautiful words found in this song, “My life in all its perfect plan was ordered ere my days began.”

#391 – For any who have witnessed the dawn of a new day while in the midst of the creation this song has very real meaning. I happen to be a hunter and many mornings I have sat in my tree stand and thought of this song as the sun began to rise and the forest came to life. What a beautiful prayer with which to begin each day, confessing our reliance on our heavenly Father and our confidence in his good will for us.

#434 – Last but certainly not least we have the rendition of the Lord’s Prayer written by Rev. Heys. I recall that many years ago Professor Hanko preached in Holland PRC and though I can’t say for sure (I am not known for my amazing memory) I believe his sermon had to do with the young in the church and what would happen to the church once the older members were gone. Whether or not that was the sermon he preached I vividly recall him choosing this song for the last number and being so moved by the singing of it that he requested we sing it again. I was a bit surprised by the request but was so glad for it too because it sounded wonderful.

Yes, there are many other memories that I found in this book as I paged through it but I suppose that is enough for now. As I conclude I am struck with a feeling of incredible thankfulness to God for the Psalter that we have. It is amazing to me that so many of the songs, as I have illustrated, can bring both tears of sorrow as well as tears of joy at the same time. That we can weep in our sorrow and at the same time be lifted up by the grace and mercy of God is simply wonderful.

So take a few minutes sometime and page through your memory book. Read the words in the various songs and be reminded of God’s grace to you and his covenant faithfulness. And if you are so inclined, share those memories with others. But above all, give thanks and praise to God for them. He alone is worthy.