Song of the Day: Sandra McCracken

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We sing this song in my church often. The text is profoundly beautiful to me, and that Sandra was able to rescue it, along with many other hymns, from the flotsam heaved overboard in the American church’s mad voyage to Praise and Worship Land, is a great gift to the Kingdom. It must be said, many fine songs are still being written for use in corporate worship, classified as Praise and Worship songs because of their simplicity over the perceived archaism of Hymns.

But however emotional the repetitive praise choruses may be (and repetition, like liturgy, can be a good thing), we should take care to pay attention to the wisdom of our forbears, those who crafted songs without computers, usually unconstrained by the typical three or four guitar chords or three or four same rhyming words we always tend to use, influenced by poets like Shakespeare and Tennyson and not writers of three-minute pop songs. And that’s not to mention the theological depth of many (but not all) hymns.

I don’t need to remind you that words have power. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. It is words that God employed to create the galaxies, and it is in the words of Scripture that he tells us so. Words elevate us; they separate mankind from the beasts of the earth. It is words that make a covenant, and words that overflow from the heart.

So read these words by John Stocker written two hundred years ago, this expression of humble thanksgiving to God for his great mercy, and be glad that Sandra used her fine sense of melody to undergird this text and make its ancient message feel as new as the morning.

THY MERCY, MY GOD
Words by John Stocker
Music by Sandra McCracken

1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


18 Comments

  1. Josh Kennedy

    Mmmmm. This is a great song to sit back, close your eyes to, and meditate on our Savior. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Deb L

    “…the flotsam heaved overboard in the American church’s mad voyage to Praise and Worship Land…”

    Perfectly articulated.

  3. Michael Berger

    Sandra,

    Thanks for the post, great arrangement. I love your take on the depth of the lyrical content of the “oldies”. We are often so concerned about the new thing we do not take advantage of the work done through the Lord in the past. Truth is truth, no matter when it was written. Where can I download a copy of your recording. Thank You.

  4. Nate

    I would just like to say that “The Builder and the Architect” is just a great album. It really edifies.One of just a few cds I took on a month-and-a-half trip to Costa Rica – which was a very hard trip for me – I listened to it time and again. The truths it contains never grow old.

  5. Jacob Tilton

    I love this song. I heard it first on the Caedmon’s Call record and it has been a favorite ever since.

    I often think (like the rest of you probably do) “Where are the hymnwriters of today?” I know about Keith Getty and Stuart Townend but other than that who is doing this kind of thing now? Or, is that a useless question? Could I just as well be asking where are the Shakespeare’s of today? Is it too much to expect this kind of thing to come out of today’s “three-minute pop song” culture?

    Just wondering this morning…

  6. austin

    I’d gladly admit that this song is one that never gets old to me. There is something about the arrangement, Sandra’s voice and the depth (yet simplicity) of the lyrics. One of my all-time favorites. There is something about the entire “Indelible Grace” series (http://www.igracemusic.com/) that hits all the right chords in my heart.

  7. Janna

    So good to see Sandra here. **Warning** Minor rant: The ladies are a bit underrepresented here in the RR, writers as well as musicians. Now that I got that off my chest, Sandra is wonderful! I just want to sit and have coffee with all these women/wives/moms who manage to find time to make their crafts priority; then they turn around and hand over the beautiful results to regular old gals like me. KUDOS — let’s hear it for the . . . girls!

  8. Adam T

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments on contemporary worship, especially about much lacking the depth of their predecessors. I feel as if contemporary worship should have less “I”s and “Us”s and more reflection of the greatness of the Lord. Its for this reason that I’m attracted to the work of these artists featured on the Rabbit Room. The depth of their music goes far beyond what we are normally accustomed to.
    I remember sitting with my brother in the car, listening to this song being sung by caedmon’s call. He told me about how Sandra revisited hymns and gave new melodies to them. I thought that it was exactly what we need and its great to hear her sing it this time.
    Thanks for sharing, Proprietor.

  9. Tony Heringer

    Barliman…I loved this song when I heard Derek sing it on “In the Company Of Angels”.

    I concur on hymns. The depth is awesome. Our church utilizes a great mixture of these gems in its services. In fact, one of our guys, Aaron Shust, falls into the category of a guy trying to be a modern day hymnist.

    However, for Janna, we also have Laura Story in our midst. Here’s a link to her site and one of my favorite modern hymns (“Indescribable”)
    http://www.laurastorymusic.com/

    I vote we feature her next on song of the day to honor Janna’s request for equal time. A very good request indeed lass.

    As for the hymn train of thought…We’ve had a tradition for the past 10 years at Christmas. We go out caroling. If you sing the traditional carols like “Joy To The World”, you get some great opportunities to share Christ in a way that most folks will welcome. If you haven’t done this before, gather together your friends and neighbors during the Christmas time and have a caroling party! 🙂

  10. Tammy Smith

    Living in the realities of a community broken-hearted and families torn apart by selfishness, exacerbated by teen venom and heartache…
    Today’s post dared my heart to crack with hope.

    Thanks.

  11. Nate

    Sovereign Grace Ministries has some hymn-ish worship material. A lot of it is redone Puritan song and poetry. A good example is the song “Grace Umeasured” – really good song.

  12. Cynthia

    As far as modern hymnwriters go, I am falling more and more in love with things that are coming out of the Iona community in Scotland (if they’re not writing, they’re gathering). Much of what they do is set to folk melodies, which makes it far more accessible than some of the late 20th century stuff we saw. Also, if you get a chance, check out the poetry of Shirley Erena Murray, a New Zealand hymnwriter, who has some stunning images. But, quite frankly, I consider many of the people on this website to be modern day hymnists with excellent theological perspectives. But thanks especially for sharing this particular example of words that have been made new again.

  13. Josh

    I always thought AP’s “Serve Him” qualified as a modern hymn. As do Gullahorn’s “You Never Let Me Down”, John Foreman’s “Your Love is Strong”, Derek Webb/Aaron Tate’s “Take to the World”, Sandra McCracken’s “Awake my Soul”, etc… Also Andrew Peterson has a sort of undiscovered gem on Appendix A called Doxology that is a great hymn-like song. Good stuff is out there, just gotta look for it…

  14. Melissa

    My brother and my best friend sang this song at my wedding, but it was based on the version that CC did on In the Company of Angels. I wish I had heard this version first, because I love the relaxed feel of it and the different chords that she uses (i.e. resolving to a deceptive cadence at the end of the first verse instead of to the tonic). The use of the banjo, harmonies at the end, and piano are nice touches as well. Beautiful song!

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