song writing

My Father's World

This morning I shared with my class “Songwriting for Worship Leaders” the beauty of a nature retreat. The class meets Monday mornings every fall semester, a wonderful time to meet and discuss and write. I introduced them to the formal gardens of Whitehall, the historic mansion a few blocks from campus.[1]  The goal was to find one’s own exquisite place for creating—to have an encounter with God’s beauty in creation that might beget beauty in our work. We walked the winding paths through the formal gardens and woodland garden quietly singing “Doxology” and “This is my Father’s world.” The light was dappled through massive trees, the locust orchestra’s complex polyphony was dazzling. After finding our separate spots to reflect and prayerfully create, we reconvened and shared our writings. In the short time we had, I tried to capture the season, the hour, and the beauty for the senses in a poem. There is a poignancy about fall that is laden with theological truth and emotion. And if you are bereaved or know someone--as I do--who is in his or her “final flight,” this poem is especially for you. As vibrant as this earthly season is, the brightest hour for those in Christ is yet to come.

Brightest Hour

“This is my Father’s world,”
The rocks here and the towering trees proclaim;
Insects in chorus cry aloud in praise
Of their Creator’s name.

September morning sun ascends in fire,
Ignites the canopy of green and stained-glass gold,
And tiny woodland flowers that have no voice
With hidden, simpler radiance rejoice.

Exquisite yellow monarch sailing by
Whose days (does he know?) are nearly gone,
Expends his final flight in beauteous praise;
So may my last hours run.

From unseen limb on high one brown leaf falls,
No hand can stay the sure invader, death.
Creation, even in her brightest hour
Awaits a day, a reign of righteousness,
That will restore, renew, recall
The first and glorious garden God’s hand made.

[1] It’s a fact too little-known in Louisville that the mansion’s gardens and grounds are open to the public from sunup to sundown every day of the year. Don’t allow the glory of the coming weeks to pass without a retreat of your own. Who know, maybe we’ll even see you in the Songwriting class next fall.

Esther Crookshank

Dr. Crookshank is a Professor of Church Music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. She teaches in the areas of hymnology, musicology, applied ethnomusicology, and musical aesthetics. Since 2009 she has also served as director of the Academy of Sacred Music, the seminary’s guest artist and lecture forum.