My Favourite Hymns
A True Story
on May 17, 2020
As I have written before on this blog, I have always loved hymns ever since my days at Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education. There were nights during my time in Starehe when I would become so moved by a hymn that I would enter into my dormitory while singing it aloud without fearing what others would say.
When I left Starehe in April 2007, I joined a welcoming and wonderful choir of All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi. I got to learn numerous hymns while serving in the church where I interacted with choristers who were even more passionate about singing hymns than I was. Being part of the choir deepened my love for hymns. And I am sure my love for hymns has contributed to the moulding of the honest and moral person that I am today.
Today, I have compiled a list of my favourite hymns - the ones I enjoy listening to again and again because of their beautiful melodies and inspiring lyrics. For me, a hymn becomes a favourite of mine if after hearing it for the first time, I want to search it on Youtube and download it for listening in my leisure time. Sometimes, I can love a hymn so much that I find myself singing it aloud while walking, showering or doing some chores in the house.
Without further ado, here's a list of my favourite hymns so far:
- Father Hear the Prayers We Offer: I first learnt this hymn at All Saints' Cathedral during a choir practice on a lovely Saturday afternoon in 2007. So much did I come to like the hymn that I sang it to my family during a get-together on 2012 Christmas Day. The hymn beseeches God to bestow us with strength so that we may lead our lives courageously; to be our strength in times of weakness; to be our guide in our wanderings; and to always be with us in our endeavours. This is surely a great hymn, simple though it is.
- The Star-spangled Banner: This is the national anthem of the United States. (And yes, it is a hymn for it mentions God and has rhyming lines.) I once played the anthem on my piano keyboard to my younger brother Symo who teased me that I was such an unpatriotic citizen for me to love the anthem of another country. Not only do I love the anthem because of its tuneful melody but also because of its lyrics that inspire me to trust in God and to be courageous. And courage is an honourable virtue to possess in this world that is full of sin, lies, bullying and exploitation.
- And Can It Be?: I cannot recall exactly when I first heard this marvellous hymn. All I remember is that I came to like it so much that I sang it to a fellow lady-chorister at All Saints' Cathedral some time in 2012 or 2013. The chorister corrected me that I was getting the hymn's first line all wrong - something I later confirmed was true. To tell it all, the hymn has helped me gain an interest in my Saviour Jesus Christ.
- 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus: I first heard this simple but lovely hymn in my home church here in Kiserian. This hymn inspires me to trust in Jesus and all He says in the Bible, especially His parables and His Sermon on the Mount. One Sunday morning in 2015, we happened to sing the hymn in a service of my home church. Because I was in buoyant moods that morning, I sang the hymn so loudly and enthusiastically that the preacher of the service recognized my voice. During her sermon, the preacher cajoled me to join the choir.
- Forty Years On: This is one of the two school songs of Starehe Boys' Centre, my Alma Mater. I had the privilege of accompanying it on the piano during the school's 2006 Founders' Day, so I know it very well. Over the years, I came to like it so much that I memorized its lyrics which enlighten us that "God gives us duty for us to discharge it,/ Problems to face, struggle with and overcome,/ Service to render and glory to cover,/ Twenty and thirty and forty years on."
- My Faith Looks Up to Thee: This is another hymn I first heard in my home church here in Kiserian. When my mother heard me play it on my piano keyboard sometime in 2014 or 2015, she sang its first verse from memory. That surprised me because my mother isn't that much educated and it has been many years since she left the school where she learnt the hymn. It seems I inherited my sharp memory and my love for hymns from Mum. Anyway, I like the hymn because of the way it asks God to free us from the guilt that plagues us as we journey through this crazy adventure called life.
- Who is on the Lord's Side?: I cannot recollect when I first heard this phenomenal hymn. But I do recall that when I heard it being sung by my home church choir sometime in 2013, it sounded very familiar to my ears. Later on, I was pleased to find it in a hymnal that my friend Michael Njeru lent me. It's now one of my favourites. I especially like the way it exhorts us to be "right, loyal, noble, true and bold".
- Have You Been to Jesus?: I first heard this wonderful hymn in August 2007 at All Saints' Cathedral during the church's mission month. Its melody is sublime; its lyrics, moving. The hymn has attracted me to the gospel of Jesus Christ and it probably explains why I am constantly evaluating my life to get rid of the sins and poor judgements I have exhibited in the past.
- I Want to Walk With Jesus: I first learnt this hymn sometime in 2010 at All Saints' Cathedral during a choir practice that was being led by my friend Ruth Wangire. Imagine Ruth asked me to accompany the hymn on the piano during that choir practice without me having ever heard it before. I was totally clueless as I tried to guide the choir on how the hymn should be sang. But after that choir session, the hymn became one of my favourites. I have long since learnt how to play it on the piano. And I came to love it so much that I sang it to my home church congregation sometime in 2015. The hymn encourages me to walk with Jesus in my day-to-day living.
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn that is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.
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A True Story
on May 10, 2020
Yippee! It's Mother's Day today. As I begin to write this story, I am not in the elated moods I like being in when I am penning a great tale. I however couldn't let this day pass without me saying something about my mother who has always been there for me.
My mother is not an educated woman. She only has high school education and she sometimes struggles to communicate with her grandchildren who talk English. But if being educated means being responsible, she is an educated woman.
When I was a boy and well into my adulthood, I used to observe her wake up every morning, attend to duties on our farm, wash clothes for my father and then head to my hometown of Kiserian to open her grocery shop. It is from that shop that she earned some money that helped put food on our table and clothes on our backs.
During weekends and school holidays when my siblings and I were growing up, Mum always ensured we had some work to do at home before she left home for Kiserian to open her shop. She assigned us such work as fetching firewood, grazing cattle and tilling our farm.
I vividly recall one morning in 1997 when Mum left us some chores to do at home, she unexpectedly came back after about half an hour and found us exchanging stories instead of working. Infuriated, she yelled at me and my younger brother Symo for neglecting the chores she had assigned us that day. I don't know why she spared my senior siblings from her rebukes but I could tell they too were embarrassed by the way they melted away from the scene immediately.
Yes, Mum could sometimes be tough. I shall always remember one incidence when her toughness saved me. Back in the mid '90s, I was allocated the duty of taking milk in the evening to the home of a distant neighbour called Mrs. Mathenge. While carrying out that duty, there emerged a boy who began to bully me when I was on my way to Mrs. Mathenge's home. The boy would sometimes extort money from me as part of his bullying nature.
One evening as I headed to Mrs. Mathenge's home to take milk as usual, the boy threw a stone at me. The stone hit me on my head and I began to bleed. When Mum came home that evening, I informed her what had happened. Looking perturbed, she marshalled several men in my family and had us go to the boy's home.
We found the boy and his mother in their small ramshackle house which was as dark as a tomb for lack of electrical lighting. As soon as we arrived, Mum began to express her anger for me having been stoned by the boy. The boy's mother sided with Mum and she too began to rebuke her son. Those rebukes worked because after that evening, the boy never bullied me again. Mum's toughness had saved me.
Sometime in 1999, something unfortunate happened to my mother: she was diagnosed with heart disease that required surgery. Because the surgery was too expensive for my modest family, a fundraiser was organized during which my family raised enough money for a heart surgery that took place sometime in the year 2000.
That time my mother was in hospital undergoing heart surgery, a schoolmate of mine called James Koigi apprised me that he had seen my mother being fed in pipes. Well, I can't recollect ever getting scared by what Koigi told me. I must have been absorbed in my quest to excel in school and in my adolescent fantasies of going out with girls.
As it turned out, Mum's heart surgery in 2000 was successful - something I am now grateful for because she later on that year negotiated to have me transferred to Kunoni Educational Centre, an upscale private primary school where I was honed to ace the national primary school exams known as KCPE. If Mum hadn't taken me to Kunoni, I would never have made it to Starehe Boys' Centre - a prestigious institution where I had my high school as well as college education. Oh, how grateful I am that Mum survived her heart surgery!
Sometime in 2013, Mum was again taken ill - this time for suffering a stroke. She was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital on a wing of the hospital known as High Dependency Unit (HDU). Though the name of that wing sounds deathly, Mum was discharged from the hospital after several weeks. Because she had lost the use of her left limbs in the stroke attack, she had no choice but to close her grocery shop in Kiserian and rest at home where she has been since then. To this day, she is yet to recover fully.
Of late, Mum's health problems have been increasing. Last year, she developed diabetes which I think is as a result of eating too much and exercising too little. Then several weeks ago, she fell down and dislocated one of her pelvic bones. For that reason, she has not been doing any form of physical exercise. She has to be lifted up and carried in a wheelchair everytime she has to move.
Given my Mum's health problems, I sometimes worry that she might not live to see me walk down the aisle with my princess charming as it is my dream. But I am now turning over the matter to God and just appreciate that Mum is still alive as I write this story. Happy Mother's Day!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on appreciating mothers, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Honouring Parents". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.