Sunday, April 05, 2015

Writing for Future Generations by Pamela Mytroen

We never know how our words may impact future generations. That was certainly the case with Elizabeth Clephane, born as the youngest daughter to a lawman in Scotland in 1830. Her life was marked by sorrow and disappointment with her father dying when she was a young child, followed by her own failing health. She passed away at the age of thirty-nine.

Though she lived in poverty as the daughter of a widow, Elizabeth determined to make the most of her life. Outside of clergy, most people did not read the bible, but Elizabeth hungered to read anything she could find, as she was often laid up in bed. She became a student of God’s Word, but more than head knowledge, Christ transformed her life.

Elizabeth was nicknamed “Sunbeam” because of the love of Jesus that compelled her to take food and clothing to the poor in her village. People often said that her touch felt like Jesus Himself had reached out His hand to them. Though she rarely had enough to eat, she shared what she had with others. She spent time with all who were in despair, comforting mothers who had lost children, and holding the hands of the elderly facing death.  

As her health failed she became bedridden. One afternoon she wrote a poem that has become a beacon for many, and a much requested song at Easter: “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”. She tucked it away with seven other poems that she had written as an expression of her faith. She died shortly after, content in the shadow of that cross.

Her family did nothing with the poems at first, but eventually turned them over to the Presbyterian Church where they were published in a magazine, Family Treasury. Several years passed before a composer, Frederick Charles Maker, wrote a melody for this poem. It became popular immediately.

This impoverished servant is an example to us, not only in her powerful words, but in the way she wrote them. She penned the words not for fame, but purely as an act of worship to her Lord. 

We may desire to see our manuscripts and stories rise from obscurity and become treasured as hers have been, but our first priority is worship. As we allow our words to flow out of our love for Jesus, they will have meaning first to us and our Lord, and then if He chooses, they will take root in the lives of our readers.
Pam Mytroen

Take a moment to read the meaningful message in her poem:

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,

My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
by Elizabeeth Clephane


David Kitz said...

We have no idea of the impact or the durability of our written words. Thanks for this reminder, Pamela.

Susan Harris said...

Well said, "our first priority is worship".

Peter Black said...

Thanks Pam. You are so correct regarding the potential for our words to affect lives in the future. And a comment picking up on your other key thought: I'm sure that our 'best work' (especially as writers) arises out of our worship and our walk with God.
Thank you for including this form of the poem, since a couple of the verses aren't included in some hymnals. ~~+~~

fudge4ever said...

Hi David, Susan, and Peter. Thanks for stopping by! Yes I love those two extra stanzas as well, Peter!

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

That hymn has been a staple in the Lutheran hymn books. Wide reaching, for sure. Thanks for sharing the story, Pam.

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