I was reading aloud a wonderful little story to my son in the ‘car-line’ waiting to pickup his sister from school. ‘Desperaux’,to be exact written by Kate Dicamillo. And this story unfolded with wonder and exciting drama, then in the middle of it all were the words,“The story is life.”
And that’s where I stopped reading for awhile…because it is true – The story is life!
There are so many stories…stories inspire, stories move us, stories help us breathe again, stories give us hope!
And the fact being, in my story, I was a huge mess, and one day, The Story was told me and it ‘waked-up’ everything that was paralyzed and hope-less in me, and ‘shook-up’ a lot that needed to go, and turned me from ‘death to… I totally understand these words: “The story is life!
But today, I read a story and ‘the story is L-I-F-E’.
It’s about Thomas Olivers. His name is in the hymn book. I don’t really know many hymns, and I certainly don’t know Thomas Olivers, but today, I read his story. Born around 1725 in Tregyon, Wales, Thomas was orphaned when he was 4 years old. It is told that ‘he studied the craft of shoemaking, but he learned the art of sinning better, “the worst boy known in Tregynon for thirty years.” (Then Sings My Soul, Robert J. Morgan).
Thomas was thrown out of town when he was eighteen years old, left to wander the streets of Bristol, England, where an evangelist was preaching, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2). In 1730, this occurred in open squares, and on this day, George Whitefield was preaching!
It is quoted as Thomas Olivers remembers that day, “When that sermon began, I was one of the most abandoned and profligate young men living;…”(Then Sings my Soul, Robert J. Morgan). But God’s word was being read: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan!… Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1,2).
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
Thomas Olivers continues and says, “…before the sermon ended, I was a new creature.”(Then Sings my soul, Robert J. Morgan). Yes, this man, Thomas Olivers was wasteful and riotous and abandoned and hope-less, BUT the story is told, even by his own mouth:”…before the sermon ended, I was a new creature.”
The world of Thomas Olivers was changed. On that same evening, Thomas heard a hymn that was sung, that moved him so much that he approached the singer to acquire the music. It was a doxology of thirteen stanzas sung in Jewish synagogues!
Thomas Olivers took the old song from the Hebrew and rewrote it for the Christian, thus even included in John Wesley’s Pocket Hymnbook. He became an evangelist and a passsionate Christian worker. And His hymn is in our hymnals today: The God of Abraham Praise, by Thomas Olivers with a Traditional Hebrew melody:
“The God of Abraham praise, Who reigns enthroned above, The Ancient of eternal days And God of love. Jehovah, great I AM, By earth and heav’n confessed: We bow and bless the sacred name Forever blest.”
The story is life. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comers from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8. “The whole triumphant host Give thanks to God on high; “Hail, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!” They ever cry. Hail, Abr’ham’s God and mine! With heav’n our songs we raise: All might and majesty are Thine And endless praise.” (Vs. 4, The God of Abraham Praise, Thomas Olivers!, exclamation point, mine!)