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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fanny Crosby tombstone
Fanny Crosby tombstone in Bridgeport Connecticut

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Note: Today's message was primarily written by Brooksyne and is a bit longer than usual.

"Seeing In The Darkness"

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (I Corinthians 13:12).

As most of our long-time readers know, I am an enthusiastic student of the hymns, their backgrounds and authors. This week I had the opportunity to see a dramatic presentation of Fanny Crosby, the famous blind poet/hymn writer, at a Women's Community Bible Study.

Debi Irene Wahl performed the role of Fanny who was born in Putnam County, New York in 1820 and lived to be 94 years old. It was inspiring to hear Fanny (in character) suddenly break into a beautiful rendition of her songs such as "Blessed Assurance", "Near the Cross", and "I Am Thine O Lord",  interweaving their texts throughout her story.  What a faith building experience just to envision a woman blind from six weeks of birth not succumbing to self-pity or bitterness, but letting God use her for His glory.  Over 8,000 hymns later believers all over the world have been touched by this tiny but obedient and gifted woman of God.

Crosby was never bitter about her disability. At the age of eight she wrote these verses about her condition:

"Oh what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don't;
To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot, and I won't."

Fanny CrosbyAnd she didn't!  As an adult she put it like this, "It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."

One time a well-meaning preacher sympathetically remarked, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you." She replied quickly, "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?" "Why?" asked the surprised clergyman. "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!" 

Her poetic mind was truly a gift from God.  She composed poems and hymns entirely in her mind. She was said to work mentally on as many as twelve hymns at once before dictating them the next day.  Can you imagine the expansive computer files in her brain? Keep in mind that hymns in those days typically had six to twelve stanzas.

A brilliant mind and yet Fanny could not see the light of day.  On the other hand her vision expanded far beyond the sunlight of day to the eternal light of heaven. Her hymns commonly have visual words such as "seeing, watching, looking, sight, vision" indicating that Fanny's visual impairment on this side did not blind her view of the other side. In fact she was spiritually transported from this darkened, troubled world as she dictated the words, "visions of rapture  now burst on my sight".

Was this spiritual transport possible because she had memorized so much of the Bible? Fanny set to the task of memorizing the entire Bible. As a child her grandmother assigned a number of chapters per week, sometimes up to 5, and then drilled her line by line until they were inscribed in Fanny’s mind. She had a wonderful memory, probably aided by the fact that she could not see. Once the Scriptures were in, they never left her.

By the time Fanny Crosby was 11 years old, she could quote word for word from memory the Pentateuch, the four Gospels, many Psalms, all of Proverbs, Ruth, and the Song of Solomon. She was the champion in the Bible recitation contests in Ridgefield. The Bible came to be a part of her, and by the time she was 14, some accounts tell us that she knew the entire Bible by heart.

Perhaps her practice of reciting Scriptures in front of others helped her speak many years later before Congress on behalf of the blind where she said, "What cannot be cured must be endured."  That brief thought carries a lifetime weight for those who identify with Fanny's plight (or special calling depending on how one chooses to look at the matter). 

The truth is we all see through a glass darkly on this side, some darker than others.  Most can identify with the saying Fanny heard throughout her childhood, "What cannot be cured must be endured." It's true whether its physical, mental, emotional or otherwise.   Healing is a gift from God; endurance is a lifetime process that comes as we biblically train our spirit and mind.

I pray that Fanny's story inspires us all to be content with the life God has given to us here on earth and graciously accept that which cannot be changed. Let us be grateful for that which God has entrusted to us and use it for His glory.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, You are our Guide through life, giving us grace for every trial as we feed on Your living Bread.  Though our footsteps grow weary and our soul grows thirsty, it is from the Rock before us that Your water flows in abundance.  We find joy and contentment in this life as we eat daily from Your Living Bread and drink from Your springs of living water. Amen.

(Prayer adapted from "All the Way My Savior Leads Me")

Debi Wahl and her motherHere's a photo of Debi Irene Wahl who played Fanny Crosby along with her mother who played Fanny's grandmother and also assisted on the keyboard.  Debi is a gifted actor and outstanding vocalist. You can read about her theatrical ministry at her website here.

Purple malvaFanny's grandmother raised her after her father's death when she was a baby which forced her mother to go to work fulltime at age 21.  Eunice determined that Fanny was not going to be helpless because of her blindness, and set about to be her eyes. With the skill and wisdom of a master teacher, she patiently described the world in detail to Fanny, teaching her about plants, birds, animals and color. She took the time to explain in minute detail these things to Fanny until she could see them in her mind’s eye.  By the time Fanny was four, violets were her favorite flower, and would continue to be so for the rest of her life. 

Sheila Shay
Before the Fanny Crosby presentation a woman named Sheila revealed her heart wrenching story of learning to see through the darkness of her pain. There is so much she does not understand as she sees but a poor reflection over the past twelve years of her life, yet she chooses to walk by faith and not by sight.  I was so impressed with her story that we've included it today so you can read it.  Perhaps it will touch your heart. You might also know someone going through similar circumstances that will benefit from reading Sheila's story.

Several years ago we stopped by Bridgeport Connecticut and I took the photo of Brooksyne alongside Fanny Crosby's tombstone and wrote this message at that time.  In hundreds (perhaps thousands) of accounts Crosby is credited with 8,000 or more poems/hymns.  I'm not sure why the tombstone only credits her with 3,000.  Perhaps a reader could provide the answer.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link (usually a Youtube video) to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

For today's supplemental music we have selected exclusively Fanny Crosby songs in a variety of styles. With few exceptions Fanny Crosby is the most represented hymn writer in hymnals.

"I Am Thine O Lord"  Video  

"Blessed Assurance"  Video  
Audio from the Lifespring Hymnstory podcast. This is one of Fanny Crosby's most beloved hymns. This version has the story as well as a nice version of the hymn.

"To God Be The Glory" Video  
Audio This includes the hymn background and the hymn.  Steve Webb does an outstanding job of preparing these messages.

"Redeemed"  Video  

"He Hideth My Soul"  Video  

"All The Way My Savior Leads Me"  Video

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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