Enduring Words

We have just come back from a lovely holiday in France. It was a holiday booked for 2020, and this year it finally happened. Some of you might know the place, it’s Le Pas Opton, a holiday centre run by Spring Harvest Holidays. As it was a holiday in term time, there were no groups and clubs for the kids, but there were morning devotions. I went along to most of them, as well as the evening ones

The music is always interesting. You see, I grew up Psalms-only in the Netherlands, using the Geneva Psalter, translated from French in 1773. The Genevan psalms came out well before that and were translated by a Dutch pastor. He did a good job, and some churches, especially in the south of the Netherlands, still use his metrical version. It’s not the easiest to sing, especially if you don’t stick to singing syllables.

So, one of the synods actually asked for good metrical versions to be written, and they received entries from poetry societies, pastors and people who had written some of the psalms. They had to stay with the original Genevan tunes, but the words had to flow, be reasonably accurate (the Dutch psalms aren’t as accurate as the Scottish Psalter, for example), and be edifying. That was in 1773, and I know most of the tunes and words to several verses of each psalm.

When I moved to England, I learned to love hymns. I was familiar with some of the tunes but soon learned more. In our church, we still sing the traditional hymns, using solid hymnbooks. It’s hard to say which hymn is my favourite, as that depends on far too many things: time of day, amount of coffee, kids’ mood...

At Le Pas Opton, we sang a few of the older hymns, but mostly modern songs. I hardly recognised any of them although they aren’t hard to sing. I missed learning a solid tune though, as it helps me to remember the words.

I took a picture of the psalter, and I keep promising myself to take better pictures...

One day, we went to visit a small museum, all about the Huguenots, the French Protestants who were persecuted for so long. In the museum, I spotted a psalm book, in French, looking very old. The tune I knew, but my French tends to run out after “Je m’appell Maressa,” so I can’t say anything about that. I found it strangely moving to see that old book, with the beautiful tunes, learning how those psalms helped people during some horrendous times.

Did the people writing those poems know the impact, comfort and joy their words would give other Christians for hundreds of years, in many languages? That’s the thing that struck me. We simply don’t know how our words will be used. We can’t tell the impact our words might have, not just at a book launch or the tenth anniversary of our books being published, but hundreds of years later!

So there we are, enjoy the writing, be blessed by it and trust God with the outcome and the journey of your words!

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. Because of her interest in writing, Maressa is part of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing, an anthology encouraging people to write.

Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published in December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out in December 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in the Elabi Chronicles, and was released in 2021, followed by stand-alone novel Burrowed, released in 2022. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website, www.vicarioushome.com, Amazon or local bookshops.

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