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Anne Steele: A Voice That Still Sounds Today

Anne Steele: A Voice That Still Sounds Today

As cars speed past my home with windows open and music spilling out, I wonder if singers—and more specifically, songwriters—are not among the most influential voices in our culture.

A couple centuries ago—before radio, iTunes, iPods, Pandora, or Spotify—I imagine hymn writers were some of the most influential people of their day. Men, women, and children sang their songs both corporately and as they went about their everyday work.

Anne Steele (1717–1778) was one of these major influencers—the first significant female hymn writer in history and purportedly the most popular Baptist hymn writer in the history of the church.

I was introduced to the late Anne Steele a couple years ago by my hymn-loving husband. In fact, if you ever unearth her three-volume work* in a used bookstore and sell it to me, Trevor and I just might name our first child after you in profound gratitude! (Anne is Trevor’s favorite hymn writer, and this book is a highly coveted treasure.) But I digress . . .

A Humble Heart

Anne never set out to become a successful writer. She wrote for her own personal reflection until her beloved pastor-father began to use her hymns in the church he pastored.

According to John Gadsby:

From early life [Anne] was exceedingly fond of poetry, but was very unwilling for her productions to be submitted to the public eye. When at last she gave her consent, she would not have her own name attached to the volumes, but published them under the signature of Theodosia (“The Gift of God”), and gave all the profits to charity.

Anne’s hymns first appeared in a hymnbook in 1769. Her father wrote in his diary:

Today Nanny sent part of her composition to London to be printed. I entreat a gracious God, who enabled and stirred her up to such a work, to direct in it and bless it for the good of many. I pray God to make it useful, and keep her humble.

Humble she remained. In one letter to her father—whom she affectionately referred to as “honoured father”—Anne wrote:

If while I am sleeping in the silent grave, my thoughts are of any real benefit to the meanest of the servants of my God, be the praise ascribed to the almighty Giver of all grace.

Oh, how they have benefitted Christ’s Body! And not because she was perfect. Anne wrestled with doubts and assurance of salvation. In fact, that’s one of the things I appreciate most about her writing: She’s so candid about a believer’s doubts, pain, fears, and—at times—profound suffering.

Centuries later, it’s apparent that Anne’s hymns have stood the test of time. Kevin Twit, founder of Indelible Grace—an organization that produces old hymns set to new music—writes, “I find her hymns so rich, and yet easily understood even by those living 250 years after her death!”

A Deep Faith

Another thing I appreciate about Anne’s hymns is that they aren’t merely intellectual exercises. As John Sheppard, author of a short memoir about Anne, wrote, “The emotions expressed were ever genuine, and the faith which awaked them was true and operative.”

That is probably due to how much she suffered:

  • Just three years after Anne was born, her mother passed away.
  • She suffered physically, living with chronic recurring malaria, painful stomach issues, and severe teeth pain . . . as well as seriously injuring herself when thrown from a horse at nineteen.
  • When she was twenty-one, her fiancé, Robert, drowned.

And yet those who knew her personally testify that in spite of all this, she . . .

possessed a native cheerfulness, which not even the agonizing pains of her latter days could deprive her of. In every short interval of abated suffering, she would, in a variety of ways, as well as by her enlivening conversation, give pleasure to all around her (Dr. Caleb Evans).

The only explanation is her rich, intimate relationship with God. For a glimpse into her enjoyment of Him, look at just a few of the unique ways she referred to God in her hymns:

  • Thou lovely source of true delight
  • Dear refuge of my weary soul
  • Eternal source of joys divine
  • Great source of boundless power and grace
  • Father of mercies in Thy word
  • Dear center of my best desires

Personally, I wonder if the closeness she experienced with her heavenly Father was related to her relationship with her earthly father, who referred to her in letters as “dear little Nancy, more and more entertaining.”

Anne lived with her father and stepmother until her father passed away. She spent her days writing (144 hymns, forty-eight psalms in verse, and about fifty poems) and helping her father with his pastoral duties. Anne herself died at age sixty-one, after nine painful years confined to her bed. Dr. Evans writes:

She often spoke, not merely with tranquility, but with joy, of her decease. . . . she took the most affectionate leave of weeping friends around her . . . her last words: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

Her tombstone in Broughton churchyard reads:

Silent the lyre, and dumb the tuneful tongue, that sung on earth her great Redeemer’s praise;
But now in heaven she joins the angelic song,
In more harmonious, more exalted lays.

Anne’s hymns live on; may her legacy live on in you and me as well:

  • Are you and I thoughtful and cheerful toward others even as we’re suffering?
  • Are we diligent but humble in stewarding our gifts to bless members of Christ’s Body?
  • Is our hope fixed on that day we will be with God face to face . . . or on the trivial pursuits we experience here and now?
  • Are we honest with God and with others about our doubts and struggles?
  • Do you and I deeply enjoy our glorious God and shower Him with the praise He deserves?

I leave you with two songs by Anne, set to music by Indelible Grace. The first is for those in pain; the second for those with hearts full of praise. Enjoy!

Thou Refuge of My Weary SoulIFrame

Thou Lovely Source of True Delight

IFrameWant to learn more about Anne Steele? Kevin Twit lists several resources at the beginning of this post.

*possibly under her pen name “Theodosia”

(This post was originally featured in a series titled “25 Women Who Impacted the World for Christ” over on ReviveOurHearts.com.) 

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

Have you seen the meme “rustle my jimmies”? It came into use in 2010 and expresses strong emotional angst toward someone else’s post on the Internet. As a blog manager for the past seven years, I’ve observed my share of “jimmy rustling” in the comments section—on this blog and on other blogs. Yes, it appears even Christians get their jimmies rustled from time to time. More

Insider Tips on Speaking

Insider Tips on Speaking

Hey there! If you’re interested in public speaking, here’s an interview Leslie Bennett did with me and Trillia Newbell before we participated in the “Speaking to Transform Lives” panel at the upcoming Revive ’15: Women Teaching Women Pre-Conference.

Selecting Topics

Trillia: I don’t speak on something I haven’t experienced or researched well. It’s that simple. For example, I won’t speak about raising teenagers because my children are young, but I wouldn’t mind being on a panel with older women who could speak to that topic.

Paula: I ask what the purpose of their event is and if there’s a topic they want me to cover. Then I open my Speaking Engagements folder on my computer to see if there’s anything I’ve already written or taught that I can repurpose. No need to reinvent the wheel!

The Role of Prayer

Trillia: I ask the Lord to fill me with His Spirit and give me wisdom as I read His Word—I don’t want to make things up when I speak. I’d like to truthfully speak from His Word. I ask the Lord to help me be self-forgetful so I can serve well without thinking much about myself. I ask that those who hear have ears to hear what He might have for them, and if there’s anything I say that wouldn’t be helpful, that those words would be tossed from their minds.

Paula: It’s impossible to pray enough! The power of prayer is phenomenal. When I recently spoke in Brazil, there were literally thousands of people praying around the world. I’m convinced the fruit that continues to come out of that week is a direct result. I’d recommend setting up a prayer team. I email mine before and after an event to be sure I have prayer covering.

Sharpening Skills

Trillia: Get someone to listen to you who would be willing to tell you hard things. I have a friend and colleague who regularly critiques my talks. It has been the most helpful thing I’ve done in a long time. He’s a trusted scholar, which definitely helps, but he’s also not afraid to tell me the truth. Finally, he not only wants me to do well; he wants those who hear me to be served. It’s a blessing!

Paula: Consider every opportunity to speak as vital practice and preparation. No opportunity is too small: making an announcement, emceeing a wedding reception, or hosting a small group. See if it can be recorded. Then, when you’re done, ask other great communicators to critique you. It’s scary, but invaluable.

The Three Best Tips We’ve Received

Trillia:

1. Critique yourself.
Even as painful as it is, listen to your talks or watch the videos so you can see and hear what you are saying/doing.

2. Be organized.
Have a clear goal for each message. I wrote my messages out word for word at first, but now after a few years, I can do an outline on some talks.

3. Be yourself.
You can’t be anyone else! Don’t try to mimic someone; be you. Don’t try to be an entertainer. If you’re a teacher—teach.

Paula:

1. Channel your nervousness.
I will never forget my college speech professor telling our class that everyone gets nervous right before they speak. The key is to channel that nervousness into . . . energy!

2. Keep your priorities straight.
Don’t ever forfeit time with God for ministry.

3. Take your thoughts captive.
Something I’ve learned is to take the thoughts captive that inevitably come: I’m not ready. I’m not adequate. They have the wrong girl. If God brought this speaking engagement my way, He must think I’m the woman for the job. Praise Him; His strength really is made perfect in our weakness!

Best Practices

Trillia:

  • I read over the talks and pray. I pray a lot. I feel my great need for God while speaking. It’s not like writing where you can edit; once it’s out of your mouth, it’s out there. So I pray. Where words are many, sin is close by. I want to be aware of that.
  • I also try to chat with those I’ll be speaking with (in the crowd). I want to be their friend, if even for that moment. I like to relate with them so that when I’m up there, it’s clear we are in this together.

Paula:

  • I wake up early—even though I never sleep well the night before a speaking engagement—and spend time with God, in spite of the fact that I can barely keep my eyes open.
  • I arrive earlier than I think I need to be there, and I’ve yet to get there too early! There’s always something unexpected to attend to.
  • I like to greet women as they come in and get to know them a bit. (Sometimes I’ll change my examples and illustrations on the spot after I learn about women as they come in.)
  • After I’ve spoken, I thank God. He came through . . . again! Soon after the event, I write my host(ess) a thank-you note and journal about the event. It allows me to process and learn. I also update my prayer team, then try to rest. Easier said than done after all that excitement!

I bet you’ve learned a trick or two from your teaching experiences! What speaking tips can you share?

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10–11).

Insider Tips on Speaking was originally posted on ReviveOurHearts.com. 

Coming Out Christian

 

Coming Out Christian

 

 

This past month Michael Sam came out of the closet. This was a big deal because, if drafted, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

In an ESPN interview, when asked what it was like to tell his teammates, Michael said, “I was kinda scared, even though they already knew, but I was still scared of telling them.”

Our culture views this kind of coming out as incredibly brave but wants to push Christians more and more “into the closet.” That’s why Pastor Trent Griffith challenged us this past Sunday, “I’m asking you to be at least as courageous as Michael Sam. Stop taking the path of least resistance. Come out Christian.”

Just that week I’d come out Christian in front of 120 freshmen at the local public high school. Because Jesus tells us to expect persecution, I wondered if they’d throw their lunches at me or kick me out . . . or both. It felt illegal. But of course it’s not. (At least not yet.)

So during the four-and-a-half hours while I shared writing tips as well as the process of writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, I openly identified myself as a Jesus-follower and spoke freely about Him. Then I offered a copy of Confessions to anyone who wanted one.

To my utter amazement, over eighty students lined up for a book. They didn’t throw anything, and they didn’t kick me out. In fact, the teachers said it was the most inspiring thing that’s happened all year.

 

whole class

 

 

It must’ve been my orange shoes. (Kidding!)

But in all seriousness, I did put on special “shoes” that day. Ephesians 6:15 describes them this way:

And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Let’s break that down. It basically means, “Always be prepared to share the good news of peace with God and total well-being through Him.”

Whether you’re headed to high school or just playing ball with your friend at the park, strap on the “shoes” He’s given you. Isaiah 52:7 says,

How beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

I’m not telling you to cart around a heavy Bible or plaster your car with bumper stickers or leave tracts in the girls’ bathroom. I’m asking you to share the good news of happiness with those who have no true hope. Don’t let the names and labels you might be called keep you from sharing the fact that God has gone to crazy lengths to have a relationship with anyone who will accept His free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus.

After all, this was Jesus’ last instruction to us before He returned to heaven to prepare His home for us:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20).

So how about it? What keeps you from coming out Christian?

The world is trying to shove Christians back in the closet, but I’m calling you out today. Will you join me?

Coming Out Christian” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.