- O breathe on me, O Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
- O breathe on me, O Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
- O breathe on me, O Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
- O breathe on me, O Breath of God,
So I shall never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
Of the several good Pentecost hymns out there, Edwin Hatch's "O Breathe on Me, O Breath of God" is one of the most beloved, yet there are many different settings one could use. One of the more popular tunes to use is the Old Irish melody most associated with Henry W. Baker's "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." As it turns out, it is no easy feat finding Hatch's Pentecost lyrics set to the Old Irish melody, until now! Redemptor Press is glad to share with you the following sheet music.
by Brian G. Daigle
I received an email from a friend asking my thoughts on how it is we love God and how it is we know we love God. The initial email voiced a concern about loving the things God gives us vs. loving God for himself. Here is my response:
Thanks for contacting me with your question. I'd be happy to provide some preliminary thoughts.
It appears you posed a number of questions in your initial message:
What does it mean to love God?
What causes me to love God?
How does one love God?
Why does one love God?
While these are four different questions, I think I can condense your inquiry down to a single question: What is a biblical motivation for our loving God? I could have also asked the question "What is a God-honoring motivation for loving God?" My answer will be in two parts: 1) We love God because who he is, and 2) We know who he is because how he reveals himself to us.
We love God because who he is. You touched on this in your message when you said "My own conclusion to this is that we see the loveliness of God within the gifts he gives us..." This is exactly right, and it is supported in every book of Scripture and by experience. The things God gives us (everything) are intended not as ends but as symbols, moments, opportunities, words, revelations, songs, vehicles, or whatever metaphor you'd like, which point us or bring us to God. At the beginning and end of every gift is a giver, and the purpose of every gift is to lead us into greater intimacy with the giver. You give your wife a gift, because you want her to love that gift, but more than that, you want her to love you with greater joy and intimacy because of the gift you gave, when you gave it, and how you gave it. You give your children gifts, not so they would take the gift and ignore you, but so that your fellowship with them would be greater than before you gave the gift. God speaks the world into existence moment by moment, because he is a groom who has called a bride. And that bride is to ultimately delight in the groom, to follow every gift back to the groom's face, the groom's character, the groom's virtue, the groom's intrinsic beauty. If she does not, she is a harlot, who delights in the groom only for his utility to her.
We know who God is because how he reveals himself to us, and so we also love the things he gives us. The interesting thing about the question, and about what many Christians believe, is that we have adopted what some call a "soft dualism." We all but ignore the fact that God created the material world and reveals himself by it. I took a class on the body in graduate school. I can share some of those books with you, but the class was a paradigm changer for me. It caused me to see that having bodies is not just incidental in the Christian view of things; it is essential; it is blessed; it is good and redeeming. It is necessary. This is proven in Christ's Incarnation, throughout his earthly ministry, and in his passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and session. Some have called this "Incarnational Humanism." It's a beautiful concept. And the idea, in summary, is that we love the things of this world, the things of humanity, because Christ came to redeem them, to sanctify them as his own, and because when seen rightly, good gifts bring our hearts and imaginations and souls and bodies to Christ. So, while Christ's kingdom isn't an earthly kingdom, as some of the Jews suspected, it is an earthy kingdom. It is a kingdom, a realm of glory, that is materialistic, in the denotative sense.
To restate what you said in your email, "My own conclusion to this is that we see the loveliness of God within the very gifts he gives us (a sunrise, my wife's embrace, my child's laughter, crickets under a full moon, etc.) and therefore I love Him through these 'declarations of his glory' as the psalmist says." This is quite right, and you should lean into developing this more in how you see things. It is one of the greatest missing doctrines in our contemporary churches. We may call this the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ. I'll save the details, but in short it says that to the Christian, and even often to the natural, unredeemed man, everything is a moment of grace, a moment of God revealing his love to us. Oh, if we could see it. As we follow every gift to his hand, we need not fear that enjoying the gift for the sake of the giver may lead to idolatry. We always risk idolatry, but the antidote to it is precisely this: we love creation because it ultimately brings us to the Creator, who is the source of all beauty and goodness and truth and joy and happiness and delight. John Piper called this kind of thing "Christian hedonism."
I would take one step further, though, and say that it is only by truly loving what God gives us do we prove our love for God. As Christians we are not Platonists or ascetics. We do not set oursleves up in our rooms day in and day out, strip ourselves of all we have, and say we are searching for a pure and formless love for God. To love God is to respect, honor, care for, maintain, beautify, redeem, sanctify, bless, and be obedient with the things he has given us. We saw this in Adam. How did Adam show his unfallen love for God? He physically took care of what God gave him. It is an active love, a material love. Loving our neighbor is the most obvious expression of this, and the most concrete expression of loving our neighbor is being a part of the local church, the local body of Christ. It is the same way with being a father or husband. How do you know your children love you? Because they care for the things you've given them, and they respect your voice. How do you know they respect your voice? You see their atoms rightly handle other atoms. They also show you physical affection. All these are bodily things. The opposite is also true. How do you know your children do not love you? They do with the stuff precisely what you asked them not to do with the stuff (i.e. they disrespect your wife, they punch the walls, they key the car, they use their vocal chords to shame you, they waste the money you gave them, etc.). All love for God is a biblical love for things on this earth, but not all love for the things of this earth is a love for God. That last point is important for you to ponder, based on what you expressed in your email.
A Trinitarian love. The highest form of love, love perfected, is not in how God loves us or in how we love God, but in how God loves himself. There is a love eternally subsisting between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is an ontological love, an essential love, a love of being, and it is ultimately a love based purely on self-giving. The Father loves the Son, not because of the Son's obedience to the Father, but because of the Son's essence, his nature, which is in perfect submission to the Father. Out of the essence of the Son we have that he was begotten of the Father and therefore was perfectly obedient to the Father, obedient even to death on a cross. So notice the play between "the Son loved in himself" and "the Son being revealed to us and manifested in his earthly obedience." Does the Father love the Son in himself? Yes! Does the Father love the Son for his earthly obedience? Yes! This is love perfected, the kind of love we ought to have for God and our neighbor. We love our neighbor because the image of God dwells therein, because God has loved my neighbor, and because God calls me to love my neighbor. But because they are my neighbor, there will be earthly transactions happening between us (time and space and matter), and I ought not to be afraid that the love shared is a bodily and material love, a love of action and humanity, for Christ showed us how this should look, in bodily form. There is much to be said here, but that should suffice for now.
In all this you are right to be careful about what you love and why. The heart is deceitful, and we can think we are loving God when really we love how God makes us feel, what God does for me. One litmus test for this is heaven. I once heard a pastor ask, "If Jesus were not in heaven, would you still want to go there?" It causes us, especially those raised in the south with all kinds of religious lingo, to check our affections, to check the motivations and end of our desires. If I want to go to heaven simply because I'll see and party with all my loved ones, I neither understand heaven nor do I understand love. I am merely appropriating some religious idea for my own benefit.
Regarding little things and our love for God, I write more here and here and here.
To summarize, because we are embodied beings, knowing God is bound up in time and space and matter. That is to say, we cannot separate knowing God from what God gives us. To know what God gives us (our bodies, our children, the natural world, intelligence, art, friendship, etc.) is to know God and how he has chosen to reveal himself to us. We are right to love the things God gives us, because in giving them to us, God gives us himself. And we love them not in themselves, but because they lead us to God. For certainly, there is basis neither in Scripture nor in experience which testifies that we ought to hate the things God has given us, especially if he has given them to us to love. To say it another way, I don't love God because he is useful; I love God because he is God. It just so happens that loving God is also the most beneficial and useful thing to a human.
A complimentary question, by the way, to the one explored here is "Why do I hate sin?" The ultimate answer should be, "I hate my sin--not because it makes me feel bad, though it does, and not because it can get me in trouble with others, though it can, and not because it shrivels my soul and causes others pain, though it does. I hate my sin for all this, but I ultimately hate my sin because it draws me away from the blessed presence of my holy and loving Father, in whom my soul delights." So, why do I love my children? Not because they are enjoyable people, though they are, and not because God commands I do so, though he does, and not because it makes my wife a happier person, though it does, and not because it will likely give my children greater success as humans, though it will, and not because it will be a blessing on their future community, though it will. These are all benefits of loving my children, but the greatest reason I love my children is because it brings me closer to God (and it brings them closer to God), to be obedient with one of the greatest gifts God has given me. When I am faithful with God's gifts, God draws near, and this is the greatest gift, that God gives himself to me. And as he gives himself to me, I want even more to give myself to my children. Oh, blessed cycle.
I so happen to be working on a reading guide to Augustine's Confessions. If you have not read Confessions, you should get together a group of men and go for it. It will answer many of the questions above, and even raise some wonderfully new ones. In short, Augustine spends the majority of his life purposefully walking away from God, the Christian God his mother faithfully followed. Augustine became a renowned rhetoric professor throughout the Roman Empire. Through a series of important moments in his life, his disbelief is first suspended and then ultimately overcome by a great belief in and love for the Triune God. Augustine wrote Confessions later in his life as a Bishop of Hippo, and there are two main themes you can follow in the text: 1) How and why does the soul long to journey to God, who is our home, and 2) What does it mean to love God and why?
Thank you again for reaching out on this, and I hope what I've provided blesses your path ahead.
Christ in All, All in Christ,
by Brian G. Daigle
For many families vacations can be tortuous. They can be expensive. New places and new schedules make for a difficult adjustment. Some fathers really can’t vacate, and so they stay on their phones and answer emails day in and day out, even more absent than normal days at home. Then, every family vacations differently, which can also mean that children see others afforded freedom of which they’ve only dreamed. Children, especially young ones, can be out of their rhythms. Emotions can be heightened because everyone is spending more time with one another, and so you have to really deal with your close neighbor, the one who has been living in your house (and, as it turns out, that dealing is wrought with hidden bitterness and frustrations that were somehow tied to the roof of your car). Add on top of all this the expectation of the adults: because this is vacation, things should be easier, not harder; there should be less parenting, not more; there should be more sleep, not less. Only strong remedies can fix some of these vacation illnesses. Still, others can be cured by a few simple principles, one of them being the ever-present truth that family vacations are much smoother when parents realize they cannot vacate from parenting.
Healthy vacationing begins at home, long before a single bag is packed. A family may leave their physical space, their schedules, and their work, but the family can never leave itself. Therefore, the first rule in healthy vacationing is that a healthy family has to be the one vacating. The second rule is that the healthy family has to plan to continue in its healthiness, even as it vacates. Part of continuing as a healthy family is to remember that as parents, we never vacate from parenting. Parents may vacate from many good things (schedules, work, their house, etc.), and this itself is desirable and good, the purpose of a vacation. But parents cannot vacate from being parents. When our children join us for vacations, we cannot cease being fathers and mothers. Below are three principles to keep in mind when taking your summer vacations, whether spending a few days with grandparents or taking a family vacation to the beach. Each principle is accompanied by phrases my wife and I say or have said to our children, sometimes multiple times a day. They are reminders to us as much as they are reminders to them:
Don’t vacate from your manners. “We didn’t leave our manners at home,” or “Others are sleeping. Inside voices. Inside hands. Inside feet.” If we want our children to be consistent and lovely humans, this means we must be ever-so-purposeful about teaching them virtue and decency, especially when we are out of our family rhythm. Vacations are the times when we can either undermine the parenting we have been doing all year or cause it to bear much fruit, to take even greater root into the soil of our children’s imaginations and expectations. This includes not interrupting others. Continuing to say “Yes, mam.” and “Yes, sir.” Obeying quickly and joyfully. Obeying the first time. There are some things which cease to be the case when we go on vacation; but there are many others which must continue, and on the top of that list is behavior and speech which loves and honors others.
Don’t vacate from disciplining. “Go sit in timeout, please,” or “Please go apologize to your cousin and seek forgiveness.” When we vacate and arrive at our new location—beach condo, family residence, hotel—I make sure to identify the best place for “timeout.” I don’t tell others I do this (before now), and I don’t point it out and nag the children with it. I don’t’ say, “Oooh, looks like dad found your timeout spot! I’ll go ahead and warm it up for ya!” I just quickly look around as we get situated and plan for the moment when we will have to ask Emery or Charlotte to take a moment for a timeout. If we know our children, we know they will continue to be fully human, wherever they are, and I know that I will need to fully be a father, no matter where we are. Lauren and I need to be in a good rhythm of how we discipline, when and where we discipline, especially in public places, and especially according to good and biblical principles, rather than out of our own momentary annoyance. These rhythms and habits of discipline must be set at home, day by day, but they must be enforced and encouraged when we are on vacation. In so doing, the vacation will be smooth and enjoyable for the whole family. If you discipline your children at home for lying or snatching a toy, then that should not change when you go on vacation. If we let those things slide, we undermine ourselves as parents and our child’s impressionable imagination concerning conduct and society. Also, think about how often vacations require us to be in closer quarters with our family and friends. Requiring proper conduct from our children while on vacation is even more a matter of “loving your neighbor.”
I write this on our second day at the beach. On the first day we had to establish the rule for Emery (5) and Charlotte (3) that when they are not playing with the toys, they must put the toys away, in the proper bags and boxes, in the corner of the living room. Not only is this what we require at home, but it is also loving to the rest of the family not to leave all the toys strewn throughout the condo. In the immediate, it would be much easier to let it go, to not deal with it. But it’s the kind of thing that will start to cause physical and emotional clutter throughout the week here, especially if we are vacationing with others who are not used to having small children around. Because we want to love our neighbor, and teach our children to love their neighbor, we need to be considerate and well-disciplined on our vacations. It’s good to allow freedom for the whole family when your family vacates, but it’s good to allow that freedom to stay within healthy boundaries; those boundaries are held together here as they are back at home, through biblical discipline.
Don’t vacate from praising your children. “Well done, Em!” or “Charlotte, I’m so proud you picked up your toys without us asking.” This is similar to the previous point. If during vacations we neglect to discipline our children, we will neglect a good opportunity to love them well and love others well. If we neglect to praise them when they do good, we also neglect a good opportunity to love them well and lover others well. For a child, a familiar compliment in a new space will feel brand new. As parents, we want to see good at-home habits become good every-where habits, but to do so we cannot as parents neglect to recognize our child’s appropriation of those habits when outside the home. That is to say, we cannot cease being parents, either in curbing our children away from vice or spurring them on to virtue. Again, a familiar compliment in a new setting will be loud and clear for a child, especially if the parent points out the surpassed barrier of the new setting. When you arrive at the new location and your helpful child comes to you and asks how they can help, reinforce this in them, that you appreciate their consideration, and that you appreciate they “are even considerate when we are away from home!”
Don’t vacate from your God. “Of course we are going to Church; today is the Lord’s Day,” or “What a treat for us to have family prayer time this evening, especially while we are at the beach.” A vacation is an opportunity to visit somewhere special. There will be plenty of moments to further catechize our children. We should look for those moments. But don’t just look for those moments, plan them, create them. When my family visits the beach, I like to remind my girls, as we take our first dip in the ocean, that “God created every drop (Ps. 89:9), and that it is the Lord who tells the waves where to stop, the Lord who sets the bounds of these mighty waters (Job 38:11), and that the Lord’s beloved will be as numberless as the sands on this seashore, which you, my child, are among (Jer. 33:22), and that the Lord is mightier than these small Gulf waves, far mightier even than this whole ocean (Ps. 93:4).” What we bring on vacation with us says a lot about who we are, what we love, what we think we need. The same is true for what we leave behind. If vacationing has clear similarities to fasting, and it does, then there are prime opportunities to bolster our Christian faith and the faith of our children when we vacation. Bring your Bible. Bring your Book of Common Prayer. Bring your books. Bring good music to sing with your family. Bring your family’s favorite board game to set those childhood memories firm in place. Most especially, bring your Christian faith and bring an imagination for how to especially mature it during your vacation.
At this point the reader may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like much of a vacation. And to that I say, “Maybe not,” at least a vacation from parenting. This is where parents need to, together, have the right expectations. Vacations should mean vacating, but vacations can’t mean neglecting. To ensure the reader that when the Daigles vacate, we indeed want our children to likewise relax and enjoy the change of pace and scenery, there are some home rules we drop or adjust:
Movies in greater abundance. At our home movie days are only Friday and Saturday. When we vacation, we allow every day to be a movie day, without binge watching, which we never think is a good idea. This doesn’t mean they can watch movies whenever they want. It means we allow, as we are doing as I type this, the kids to watch Toy Story while they get ready for their afternoon naps, which, on a Tuesday, doesn’t happen in our home. But we can loosen this up, without being fussy about it. And without any fear of contradiction we can return to our normal habits when we get home, because, well, “We left ‘Movie Day Everyday’ back at the beach, buried in the sand. We will dig it up next summer.”
Looser on snacks. I don’t believe our children have ever had a soda. Perhaps once they had a sip at a baseball game. It’s not because we think sodas are the devil’s nectar. It’s only that sodas are not a regular part of our diet at home, and when we eat at a restaurant, the children drink water or milk. We like it that way. However, when we vacate, we loosen that up a bit. We will allow them to share a soda at dinner, or we will let them get one at the gas station and they can share it. Yes, I know. We are really letting our hair down! Well, as I said earlier, it’s good to allow freedom for the whole family when your family vacates, but it’s good to allow that freedom to stay within healthy boundaries.
Bedtimes are negotiable. Vacations for us often feel like big family sleepovers. Bags are squished together. Beds are close by. We may sleep in later than normal (or not, if beds are close by). We visit more and spend lots of time together. And I mentioned earlier we are more lenient on snacks and movies. This means things get squished right up to bedtime—like walking on the beach or reading or watching a movie or playing games or visiting. And so we let those things spill over into what would otherwise be our children’s normal bedtime. This kind of frayed edge communicates to our children that all things have their place, and that includes letting good things creep out of their place.
There are no off-days for a parent. There are no sick-days. And there are no raises. There is no maternity leave from motherhood, and the legislature will not advocate for a minimum wage for fatherhood. Parenting is one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence, for it is only by divine inspiration all this stuff gets done day in and day out, and that we wake up each morning to do it again. This doesn’t change when we vacation. Our little gifts we’ve been given come with us, and from them we cannot and should not want to vacate. We can parent while on vacation, but we cannot put our parenting on vacation. A vacation is nothing more than yet another stage upon which we can teach our children to be good people, or not. To close, I remind each of us, yet again, of the best quote on parenting:
"[A child's] character is forming under a principle, not of choice, but of nurture. The spirit of the house is breathed into his nature, day by day. The anger and gentleness, the fretfulness and patience - the appetites, passions, and manners - all the variant moods of feeling exhibited around him, pass into him as impressions, and become seeds of character in him; not because the parents will, but because it must be so, whether they will or not. They propagate their own evil in the child, not by design, but under a law of moral infection...The spirit of the house is in the members of the children by nurture, not by teaching, not by any attempt to communicate the same, but because it is the air the children breathe...Understand that it is the family spirit, the organic life of the house, the silent power of a domestic godliness, working as it does, unconsciously and with sovereign effect - this it is which forms your children to God." (Christian Nurture by Horace Bushnell)
by Brian G. Daigle
Our oldest daughter (Emery) is five, and this year she had the opportunity to take dance at a local dance studio, De Frances Academy of Dance. Throughout the year she enjoyed her time, enjoyed her instructor, and experienced the kind of activity and formation I’d want for my young daughter. On a few occasions I picked her up from dance and spoke with her regularly about her practices and her time in the class; I was thankful for her opportunity to be in the class. She benefited from it, in nearly every way.
At the end of the year, the company put on a large production in The River Center Ballroom in downtown Baton Rouge. I suspect they do this every year. I just returned from this production. The various ages performed the pieces they’ve been working on, rotating one group after another on stage to display their work. I had not been to this kind of event since I was a young boy, since one of my older sisters participated in this kind of thing. And I don’t do much thinking about the philosophy or sociology of dance. But it was only a few acts in when an older group of girls came on stage and performed what was one of the most atrocious performances I’ve witnessed. I blushed. I cringed. I wondered if adults were really in support of this kind of thing. No, it was not technically poor, as if their ability to dance was subpar. It was poor ethically, biblically, perhaps even legally. At best it was vulgar and obscene. At best, it was perverted and unholy. I had to wait around until it was time for Emery’s class to perform their Green Eggs and Ham piece, which I enjoyed and saw no concern with. But what I saw in that first unnerving performance quickly became a trend, a theme of the entire production.
As I watched performance after performance, and because I don’t analyze dance performances often, I wanted to quickly gain some kind of understanding of what was going on. I wanted some categories by which I could better assess my concerns. I quickly compiled a series of questions I could ask about each group. I came up with a few parts of each performance to consider:
Performance after performance, I would organize my thoughts into these three categories. All three of these categories, when taken together, boil down to one word: story. What kind of story did the performance tell? Who were the characters, even the singer in the compilation? What was the plot? The setting? The themes? Each dance told a story; the story was what I ultimately wanted to determine. In more than half of the performances of the day, all of which were young ladies over the age of eleven or twelve, the themes in all three of these categories, the story told by every dance, were the same: eroticism, romanticism, or feminism. For anyone who has had their eyes open the past thirty years in America, this is generally what our female culture has become. This should be no surprise to us. What did surprise me was how explicit it all was in the compilation, in the choreography, and in the costumes. During a few moments of some of the performances, I could see no difference between what was happening in front of me and what happens on stage at a strip club. To be sure, there are kinds of dance which are elegant and feminine. There is a kind of dance which is beautiful and lovely. This was not it. A few questions then arose for me, questions I’m still wrestling with. Questions I ask you to join me in considering:
I do not write this because I suspect the myriad of non-Christians or nominal Christians in the ballroom this afternoon will suddenly come to grips with what’s happening with their daughters. I do write this, however, for Christian parents who want to get serious about honoring God with our children, participating in things which promote virtue in our city, and even choosing to forego some things which tell the wrong story to our neighbor and ourselves. We ultimately want the souls of our daughters to dance, so what does this mean about the dancing their bodies do?
I will be in prayer in the coming months about these questions, hoping my family and I can find a good path forward for our daughters in this city. If you have thoughts on the above questions, I look forward to reading them below in the comments.
Brian G. Daigle