Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rest Unto Your Souls

I’ve had trouble sleeping for years. Even when I’m exhausted it can take me upwards of an hour to finally slip away into rest. Other times, I don’t sleep at all because my mind is anxious or my body can’t hold still and relax. A great deal of that has to do with having Tourette Syndrome, and the rest is probably from the obsessive compulsive disorder that couples it. Even as a baby, though, my mother says I was the worst sleeper of all her four boys, and that I have been ever since.

"The Road to Bethlehem" by Joseph Brickey
Copyright © 2010 Joseph Brickey
Like my mother, when nighttime comes and I crawl into bed, my mind so often races as I retrace my day’s events unnecessarily or mentally prepare for or plan the events of the day to come. Finding a comfortable, healthy balance between sleeping too little and sleeping too much (when I am finally able) has been perhaps the most difficult trial of the past five or more years, even more so than my disorders and my same-sex attraction.

I’ve had to come up with several tactics for combating my nervous mind and body, and when one doesn’t work, I keep trying others until my eyelids start to feel heavy and I know I’m passing into a dream world. My most usual and effective plan of attack for insomnia is to recite memorized texts, consisting mainly of scriptures, hymn texts, and the sacred, familiar ordinances of the holy temple. I do it as a way to focus my mind on something else until the repetitions and strain of my active jaw finally wills me to be silent and slide out of consciousness.

"Jesus as a Youth in the Carpenter's Shop" 
by Del Parson
Copyright © 2002 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
I will start at the beginning of the Bible and quote every scripture aloud that I know by heart, from Old Testament to New Testament, then going on to the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and the Doctrine and Covenants. If I’m still awake then, I jump to the always-verbatim prayers that Latter-day Saints offer in the blessing of the bread and water of the sacrament, through which we remember and worship the Lord Jesus Christ; then I go on to the saving ordinances of the House of the Lord, which I have long had memorized, beginning with baptism for the dead, then confirmation to receive the Holy Ghost, then on through proper sequence, ending with the sealing ceremony, which binds husbands and wives and their families together for all time and eternity.

"John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus" 
by Harry Anderson
Copyright © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
If none of these things works in putting me out of it, my last resort (if I don’t end up starting over at the beginning with the scriptures again) is to quietly sing or recite my favorite hymns. There are many hymns that I have memorized—both words and tunes. But as for the rest of my favorites, I only have their melodies committed to memory. In the case of those, I will usually remember a few lines from perhaps the first verse of the hymn, and for the rest I will simply make something up that fits the rhyming pattern.

Earlier this year, and for many months, I would often come back to one particular hymn tune that I really liked—“My Redeemer Lives,” with words written by Gordon B. Hinckley, the fifteenth Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). This particular hymn’s tune is shorter than most, and only has three verses; but the melody is soaring and triumphant, like the regal fanfare that might be played for a noble and royal ruler. How fitting it is, then, that the text of the hymn provides worship in words to the Ruler of all things in heaven and earth, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Jesus Healing the Blind Man"
by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890)
The first, powerful verse of this hymn would always stick in my mind:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God;
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.

The trouble was that I didn’t know the rest of the verses (short as they are) by heart. So as I typically do, I started forming words in my mind that matched the established rhyming scheme, and fit in with the theme of the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Night after sleepless night, this hymn was the first to enter my head, and many times I successfully fell asleep humming the tune and wracking my brain still for a few more lines that fit with it. 

Soon I had a few verses that I had created myself and memorized, and I always sung them to myself when I sang that hymn. I didn’t even care what the real lyrics were, I liked mine more! So one day I sat down at my computer and typed out the verses that I had written myself, just for fun. But I felt that they were too good to leave alone by themselves, and determined to add more verses until I had a finished, new hymn text of my own.

by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890)
I tried several times over the coming months to force some of the original creativity that had given birth to those random lines, but as it so often happens with me, I cannot force a creative flame from the ashes of past inspiration; and I never know when the ashes might stir into embers and suddenly catch fire, like they finally did in September. 

I intentionally sat at my computer with a desire to write something—anything. I get this craving a lot. I opened files for several unfinished pieces and skimmed their familiar words, but didn’t feel any warmth from them. Then I opened the file titled “Unfinished Hymn Text” and read through the verses I had churned out so far—some solid, others needing a little tweaking. Just then my mind was enlightened, and the words began to flow. Not only that, but I discovered my own theme for the text, which mirrored key events from the life of the Savior, from His miraculous birth, to His fateful death and glorious resurrection.

Within minutes I had adjusted a few verses, and written several new ones, and arranged them chronologically with Jesus’ miraculous life. I had eight verses total, which seemed like enough at first; but my obsessive-compulsive side whispered that I would be much more mentally satisfied with ten verses when, after all, I loved to count most things in intervals of five. Not only that, but I realized that I needed to highlight a couple more events from the ministry of Jesus, and two verses would be just enough to do so.

"Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)"
by Antonio Ciseri (1821 - 1891)
I was surprised how quickly the additional two verses came, and the text was finished! I changed a few words over the next week or so, as I shared the poem with a few friends and tested the flow of the rhyming pattern. But the changes were minor ones, and I was very proud to have a new poem under my belt; even though I love to write, I don’t write rhyming poems very often, and it’s always a pleasure to finish one.

However, as I hummed through the poem all the way using the tune of “My Redeemer Lives” as I had intended, I found that the contemplative, reverent theme of the text I wrote no longer matched the energy of the tune. I needed something calmer, sweeter. Even though that hymn tune was my inspiration for the text, I knew I would need to pick a different tune to put with my completed words to better complement it. 

"The Crucifixion" 
by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890)
That was as simple as looking up the tune meter in the back of my hymnal, and comparing it to others with the same meter; I listened to a few familiar melodies until I settled on the one that best matched a serene and grateful reflection on the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ—Know This, That Every Soul Is Free.”

With everything falling into place, I still didn’t have the most important part of the poem—a title. It was still listed in my files as “Unfinished Hymn Text.” In my mind I kept coming back to “King of Kings,” a title for Jesus Christ that I use in the poem. I had almost decided that that would be the title, until I remembered that there was already a hymn in the LDS hymnal with a similar name: “Come, O Though King of Kings.” My title needed to be decidedly different, so I changed my mind.

As I shared the poem with a few others, I had an epiphany one day shortly after making some punctuation changes to the text. I have recently been reading the Book of Mormon, and a common scripture from that volume came to me suddenly one day. The verse from the Second Book of Nephi reads as follows:

"The Resurrection"
by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890)
          “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

It was perfect. “We Talk of Christ.” It fit so comfortably at the head of my poem, and matched just what I had written the text about in the first place—the life and ministry of the Savior Jesus Christ. It is my new favorite poem that I’ve ever written, and my second hymn text. The first one I wrote is discussed in my post “Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole,” which I was inspired to write about my rocky, but triumphant journey of faith in the Latter-day Saint Church.

I realize that this poem is likely too long to ever really be sung. But with music as my inspiration to write the words, I had to keep music incorporated into the feel of the piece. Really, it’s just one way that I enjoy expressing my faith in God and His beloved and Only Begotten Son; and it’s a way for me to share that testimony with others.

When I think of the parallels between the poem I wrote and how that it came to be—from restless nights of prayers and wishes that I could simply rest—I came to discover that my text was a reminder that my true peace and comfort, my real rest, comes by and through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and through His Father and mine; through faith and action on their precepts and saving ordinances, and through enduring to whatever end, even unto death, as the Lord did. 

I hope you and enjoy my poem, and that it helps you reflect and ponder upon the life of our Master and Redeemer Jesus Christ, and how you can become closer to Him.

We Talk of Christ

Sung to the tune of
“Know This, That Every Soul Is Free”


While all the world was hushed and still,
A babe was born as Mary’s Son;
Divinely chosen to fulfill
His Father’s plan, God’s will be done.

A simple boy, a Nazarene,
No beauty that we should desire;
A sinless man, perfect and clean,
Baptized by water and by fire.

His miracles did never cease;
He healed the lame, the sick, the blind.
While in His yoke He offers peace—
Take up your cross and be refined.

Within a grove of olive trees,
The blood of Jesus stained the ground;
“Remove this cup,” His only plea,
Then suffered He without a sound.

He held His tongue ‘mid scoffs and scorn,
Beneath the whip He did not yield;
The Son of Man was crowned with thorns,
Condemned to die, and none appealed.

The Cross of Calvary He bore,
His flesh was pierced for all mankind;
That sinners should not suffer more,
If their Redeemer they will find.

In Jesus’ death one hope remained:
His promise, “I shall rise again.”
Immortal life to clean and stained—
The resurrection of all men.

The morning came—how bright the day!
Behold the empty garden tomb!
The chains of death do not hold sway,
The pow’r of Christ doth all consume.

The Son of God, the risen Lord
Ascendeth to His throne above!
Salvation doth His life afford,
The sweet gift of His perfect love.

When Jesus Christ shall come again
To reign on earth as King of kings,
An age of peace shall there begin,
And praises to His name we’ll sing.


- Wade A. Walker -
September 20, 2013


** NOTE: I share my writing on this site trusting that visitors are scrupulous enough not to plagiarize. If you'd like to share this poem or other content with others, please share the URL to the entire blog post. Please DO NOT copy and paste any text for personal use without written permission. As the original writer of the content herein, I’d like the credit for these pieces to remain mine. **

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