Not Resolution, but Revelation

Simply put, what we need for today, every day, this time of year, every time of year:

We don’t need a New Year’s Resolution … what we need is a New Revelation … of Who Jesus Is, what He has done for us, and what He continues to do for us …

A New Revelation of Who Jesus Is, What He Is, and what we are “In Him.” And, how we need Him … every moment, of every day, of every year …

My old formula is still true:
Pray More
Study More
= Be More (Like Jesus)

Jesus still holds the future … Jesus still holds my future … Jesus still holds your future.
Let us also not forget, perhaps even more importantly … Jesus still holds the present.

I wanted to share with you something that would tell the story of Jesus, past, present, and future, and, most importantly, our part in it. So, I turned to Modern-Day Psalms, to hear the story of Jesus, and my part, your part, our part, in that story.

Every day, I pray that I would see others the way that Jesus does … and, that I would see myself … the way Jesus does … it seems He’s had His eye on us … for ever …

Please enjoy “He Saw All the Way to Me,” with an edited version of the introduction from the book:

He Saw All the Way to Me

This is an example of what Christian writing is, and should do. It tells the story of Jesus. Why and how He came, what happened to Him, and why it matters to me, and to you. Jesus is at the center; in fact, He is what the whole story, the gospel, is about … How he came to earth to save me … and you. And, as God always seems to be saying, “You’ve heard the gospel … You know it’s true … Now, what are you going to do about it?”

He Saw All the Way to Me

He came not from Bethlehem
He came from before time began
The infant Jesus just barely opened His eyes
And all eternity came into view
Enriched by a baby’s cries
As the baby’s eyes opened
And peered past the hay and the straw
It wasn’t just the shadows
Dancing off the walls that He saw
There, in the manger, He could see
From Nazareth, to Galilee
To Jerusalem, to Calvary
He could see … even then …
He could see … all the way … to me

Inside that feed trough, a manger
God Himself lay curled
His mother, Mary
May have rocked the cradle
But, inside, were the hands
That made, and ruled, the world

“I must be about my Father’s business”
He would, even as a youth, say
By age twelve, He was teaching the teachers
And showing the way
That family business that He spoke of
Wasn’t carpentry
That business that He spoke of
Was you, and me

He was now thirty years old
A man without food or rest
That’s when Satan took notice
And put Him to the test
Satan took Jesus all the way up
To the highest mountain peak
And said, “It’s all yours
If you’ll just fall at my feet”
When Jesus looked down
All the world He could see
When Jesus looked down
He could see
He could see … all the way … to me

His vision was clear
It never grew dim
And, He knew that one day
I’d be looking up to Him
It was the first time that Jesus
Ever looked down on anyone
He saw me believing
Believing in God’s only son

He would call several dozen
Only one dozen would stay
And, because of those twelve
We are here today

But, they took Him, and they killed Him
For political gain
He was nailed to a cross
After much torture and pain
It would make no difference how much
His followers screamed and cried
God’s plan for salvation, through the perfect Lamb
Would not be denied

His beaten, bruised body
Was held aloft for all to see
And, somehow, through the blood and the nails
Jesus still held His grip on eternity
Before He gave up the ghost, He opened His eyes
For one more “look and see”
He looked down past the soldiers
And, from the cross, He could see
He could see … all the way … to me

It had been three days since Jesus had died
When the angels appeared at the Lamb’s tomb side
Jesus, the Savior, was rising from the dead
It was all happening just like He said

With the stone rolled away
Jesus stepped out from the grave
Not just with power over death
But, with power to save
As Jesus took that first step
Having solved death’s mystery
He looked out from the tomb
And He could see
He could see … all the way … to me

His disciples were around Him
As He told them he had to leave
Even though He had just blessed them
Their souls began to grieve
Then, all at once, He began to rise
His feet leaving the ground

Jesus ascended toward Heaven
As they stood, gasping, all around
But, just before He disappeared into a cloud
Jesus took a moment to look down
From His vantage point, high in the sky
So far above hill and tree
He enjoyed the view
As Jesus could see
He could see … all the way … to me

Jesus came from glory
Starting in swaddling clothes
I may not understand it
But that is the way He chose
Please understand that we could not go to where He was
So, he had to come to where we were

Now, I look back, and consider just why
Jesus would keep looking at me
From the manger to the sky
There is only one reason
That He kept looking at me, and at you
And that is to see what me
And you, would do
There is but one reason
That He keeps looking at you
And that is to see
If you’ll make the right choice, too

Modern-Day Psalms


Past, Present, and Future: “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Holidays. The Season.
The Past.
The Present.
The Future.

Of all the blessings of The Season,” perhaps there is none so great as just taking the opportunity to reflect, to look back at how blessed we have been, how blessed we are, and how, with God’s continued favor, we can look ahead to even more blessing on our lives.

I had planned to share this poem with you before Christmas, but it didn’t work out that way, and, perhaps, it is meant for “such a time as this.” We have all heard the poem, or at least parts of it, even if we have only heard its adapted Christmas Carol version, beginning with, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day …”

The words of the original poem really struck me, and then, after I read about how the poem came to be, with what Mr. Longfellow was personally going through, it added a new level of respect and admiration for the poem, and the man who wrote it. I deeply enjoy being inspired by the stories of people who have overcome great odds, who have persevered during the toughest of times. I intend to share a biographical piece on Longfellow soon, to give more detail on the events of his life.

During all the “Happy” during this Season, please … please … let us not forget those who are facing this time with great sadness and despair. Especially for those who have lost loved ones, this is not the happiest time of year … but, the saddest. For those who are struggling with grief, for those who can’t be with their loved ones (Military Families, for example), this is the toughest of times.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was going through all of these emotions on Christmas morning, 1863, the day which he wrote “Christmas Bells.” Keep in mind that this was 1863. The battle of Gettysburg was only 6 months ago. Christmas during the Civil War was a quiet and solemn time. As soldiers went into winter camp, the nation looked back on a year of bloodshed and forward to a new year with hopes that the conflict would end. The Civil War period was one of the saddest in Longfellow’s life. In July of 1861, his wife Frances (Fannie) had died in a tragic home accident. In March of 1863, Longfellow’s 17-year-old son, Charles, ran away to join the Union army. In June, Charles contracted typhoid fever and malaria, and his father brought him home to recover. He returned to the army in August, missing the Battle of Gettysburg. In November, he was badly wounded during the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia. So, it was while facing the possibility of another loss that Longfellow wrote “Christmas Bells.”

On Christmas morning in 1863, while sitting at his desk at the Craigie House in Cambridge, MA, Longfellow was inspired to write a poem as he listened to the church bells pealing. Their constancy and joyous ringing inspired him to write, in spite of his sadness. The poem gracefully captures Longfellow’s anger about the war, and his sense of hopelessness, but also expresses his faith that, in the end, good will can prevail.

“Christmas Bells” was first published in February of 1865, in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields. It was not until 1872 that the poem is known to have been set to music, by English organist, John Baptiste Calkin. John Caulkin was a famous English composer who set the lyrics to a gentle, melodic tune which is reminiscent of bells ringing. The carol is entitled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” You’ll note that, for the Christmas carol, the two verses specifically referencing the war were removed. It has become a favorite Christmas carol both in England and the United States.

So, in reading the lyrics, what struck me the most, and I mean really cried out, was, “Boy … things haven’t changed much, they?” War, hatred, a feeling of national despair … yet, through all this … I can still hear the voice of “… a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men …”

Christmas Bells
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Holiday Video For You: “A Wish to be a Christmas Tree”

I was looking for a “new” (to me) Christmas story to share with my students at school, and I found this one, which I’d like to share with you, and your family.
I know that many of our friends love a great story, and this one qualifies. I know that many of our friends have children of their own, and are always “on the lookout” for a story that teaches morals, values, and self-worth …

The story is “A Wish to be a Christmas Tree,” and I feel that you will be touched by the message here, as well. The artwork is absolutely stunning, the entire work is done in rhyme, and its message is timeless.
I also love the fact that the book is a husband and wife collaboration, or, maybe that should be a wife and husband collaboration. The text is written by Colleen Monroe, a talented and gifted writer, and the illustrations are done by her husband, wildlife artist Michael Monroe. They live in Michigan, where they own and operate an artist’s studio.

The story reminds us all of how important each of us are … even though we may not think so. It reminds us of the impact each of us has on those around us … That we may not be a successful “this” or a successful “that,” but that in no way diminishes our importance to the world around us. How our actions, everyday, affect those around us … we may not notice the influence we have on others … but “the others” notice it … That it is not just at a certain time of year we are important to others, but the importance of being appreciated for what we do … all year long.

So, this season, be blessed, and enjoy the story, and message, of:
“A Wish to be a Christmas Tree,” by Colleen and Michael Monroe:


Shared Email Classic: A Christmas Letter Received From Jesus

Dearest Friend,

Hello dear friend! Well, as you know, it’s time for my birthday again. Last year, they had a real big party for me and it seems like they will do it again this year. After all, they’ve been shopping and preparing for it for months now, and there have been announcements and advertisements almost every day about how soon it’s coming! They really do go overboard about it, but it’s nice to know that at least on one day of the year, some people are thinking about me a little.

You know, it’s been many years now since they first started celebrating my birthday. Back then, they seemed to realize and appreciate how much fun it is for the little children. Just the same, it seems that most folks are missing the point of it all.

Like last year, for example:
When my birthday came around, they threw a big party, but can you believe it? I wasn’t even invited! Imagine!
The guest of honor, and they forgot all about me! Here, they had begun preparing for the festivities two months in advance, but when the big day came, I was left out in the cold! Well, it happened so many times in recent years, I wasn’t even surprised. Even though I wasn’t invited, I thought I’d just quietly slip in anyway. So, I came in and stood off to the side.

Everyone was drinking, laughing, and having a grand time, when all of a sudden, in came this fat fellow in a bright red suit, wearing a phony white beard and shouting, “Ho Ho Ho!” He looked like he had more than enough to drink, but he somehow managed to weave his way around the floor while everyone cheered. When he collapsed into a big armchair, all the little children went running over to him excitedly yelling, “Santa! Santa!” I mean, you’d have thought he was the guest of honor and the whole holiday was in his honor!

Then he began telling them the most ridiculous stories you’ve ever heard! That he lived at the North Pole with a crew of dwarfs and that every year on my birthday he rides in his sleigh pulled by a bunch of flying reindeer, delivering presents to children all over the world! I mean there wasn’t a word of truth in anything he said! Imagine telling such poor, little, impressionable kids such far-fetched fables!

Finally, I just had to leave. I walked out of the door, and it was hardly surprising that no one even noticed that I had gone. As I walked down the street afterward, I felt about as lonely and forlorn as a stray dog! I could hardly remember the last time I’d felt that low. Maybe you don’t think I cry … That little manger you had put up in the corner of your living room was really touching! It’s sweet of people to commemorate my birthday like that.

But, did you know that nowadays, in some countries, the authorities won’t even allow manger scenes to be placed in the parks, streets, or public places anymore! Not to mention their schools! And I’m not talking about Communist countries! I’m talking about the USA. Imagine! What could be more innocent than a manger scene to remind people of my birthday? And, yet they ban it!
They’ve actually passed laws against it and made it illegal! What’s this world coming to?

Another thing that amazes me is how, on my birthday, instead of giving me presents, most people give gifts to each other! And, to top it all off, it’s usually all kinds of stuff they don’t even need! Let me ask you, wouldn’t you find it odd, if, when your birthday came along, all your friends decided to celebrate it by giving each other presents and never gave you a thing?

Someone once told me, “Well, it’s because you’re not around like other people are, so how can we give you a present?” You know my answer to that one: Then give gifts of food and clothing to the poor, help those who need it. Go visit the lonely! I said, “Listen, any gift you give to your needy fellowmen, I’ll count as if you gave it to me personally!” (See Matthew 25:34-40)

Well, sad to say, things are getting worse each year. You can just imagine my shock a few years ago when I began seeing them taking my name out of my birthday greeting, and replacing it with an X. What an insult! Think of it! Xmas! What if I wrote you a birthday card and said, “Happy Birthday X!” You’d probably never talk to me again!

It reminds me of what happened recently to a friend of mine, a sweet elderly fellow. He’s from the poorer side of town, and he’s been trying unsuccessfully for years to join the church. But, it was a very exclusive church for the proper kind of folks, and they just did not think he was good enough to be a member. I found him one day sitting by the church steps with his head on his hands bowed, and I asked him what was wrong. He told me about it. I put my arm around his shoulder and told him I knew just how he felt. I’ve been wanting to enter that same church for twenty years and they’ve never let me in either!

Well, there’s an end even to my patience. So, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Now this is something I’ve been planning on doing for quite some time, but the way things are going, I think I’m planning of holding my own party! How about that? It’s going to be the biggest, most fantastic feast you could possibly imagine! It might not happen this year. But I’m sending out the invitations now anyway, because I know you’ll want to come. Some really famous old timers and celebrities are going to be there, and I’ll reserve your seat of honor right with them! (Mat. 8:11)

So, hold onto your hat, because when everything is ready, I’m going to spring it as a big surprise! And a lot of people are going to be left out in the cold because they didn’t answer my invitation. Let me know right away if you’d like to come, and I’ll reserve you a place and write your name in large golden letters in my great big Guest Book!
Much love,



Inspired By Friendship: The “Basketball” Commercial

I must admit I do spend more time thinking about family and friends during this time of year.
Of all the blessings on earth which God bestows upon us, these two must be at the top of the list.

Recently, we shared the commercial which honored Veterans, entitled “The Empty Chair.”
While I was researching that video/commercial, I discovered this one:
From the same company, yes, Guinness. I explained my feelings about sharing that video when I posted it, but I was not prepared to find another commercial with such a huge impact and message … from the same company. Yes, maybe I wish that Pepsi and Coke (or Cream Soda or Birch Beer) would make commercials like this, but, the fact that it was a beer commercial never really sank in, just as in the other “Veterans Salute” commercial. It reminds of a time when I was watching a movie with a Pastor, and, when the movie was over, I commented how I did not like the bad language in the movie. The Pastor told me that he had not even noticed the language. It wasn’t that he was exposed to so much bad language that he didn’t notice … it was that he was so wrapped up in the message and story in the movie … So, I guess that’s the same way about this commercial.

I discovered that the commercial first aired well over a year ago, but I never saw it.
I’ve always been a fan of wheelchair basketball, though I’ve never seen it in person.
This commercial hit me immediately, but I was unprepared for the way it ended. Totally. It was like one of those twist endings at the end of a movie that you never saw coming. This was exactly the same way. I was stunned.

It really made me think of the value of friendship. And, I mean true friendship. Those very few, trusted people who know everything about you … and, still like you.
The definition of “friendship” is this: “”The relationship between friends; kindness or help given to someone.” Sorry … I just can’t think of a better visual display I’ve seen, which personifies the meaning of true friendship, than what I saw at the end of this commercial.

I think of how important friends are. I have used the example often, and will use it again here:
Remember how the book of Job ends:
“And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). That tells me pretty much enough how important friends are to us … and, how important we are to them.

Many times we have heard preachers mention the verse which begins, “Iron sharpeneth iron,” which is from Proverbs 27:17. But, how often do we hear the way that verse ends?
“… so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

So, to honor true friends, everywhere, here is the commercial:



Thoughts on Snow: Part 2

Recently, we offered some thoughts about snow … in particular, we tried to answer the question of why snow is so white. As a final “thought” on that, we learned that how a snowflake “appears” depends upon light. And, except for rare occasions, “no two snowflakes are alike.” I did think that, in God’s creation, no two people are alike … we are all different. We are all “people,” with the same basic make-up, but no two are exactly alike. Just like with snowflakes, each one is different. That is amazing, and proves, yet again, just how amazing God really is. And, intelligent. It did not escape me, that, even in a snowflake, how it “appears” depends upon light. Just like us! How we “appear” to others depends-totally and absolutely-upon how we reflect His light. We have written much about how just a little light makes so large of a difference to surroundings … Just like snow … to appear white … we must expose ourselves to the Light …

I must admit that I have spent much time recently thinking about snow. After a great, long Autumn, well, Winter finally arrived. And, everywhere I’ve ever lived, it’s always the same. No matter when it comes … no matter how many Winters we’ve been through … we are always “surprised” when it arrives. We never seem to be ready for it … even when God gives us many, many extra days of nice weather to prepare. Again, we always capitalize “Winter,” out of respect. So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about snow. Maybe it’s been because of all these hours I’ve spent dealing with it. One day this week (I don’t really remember which day, as they all seem to look alike, with snow every day …), I was up at 5:30, and when I was out on the front porch at 5:45, I could hear snow-blowers going in the neighborhood. I joined them at 6:05 … this is AM, by the way … I was up and ready to go … after all, I hadn’t snowblown the driveway since … since … well, 9:00PM the night before …

Last night (Thursday), I got home from school, and immediately changed into the “snow plow” outfit, which means “layers,” and pulled on my new -40 boots … and, promptly went up on the roof to shovel snow and ice … then, I shoveled the snow from “my side” of the driveway (the spruce trees which had been holding the wet snow for the past couple of days released their bounty sometime that day), as there were 3 or 4 new inches of snow … even though we hadn’t really gotten any new snow to speak of, that day … then, I shoveled the end of the driveway, where it piles up (like a huge speed bump), from when the city snow plow goes by … If you don’t remove this long row of snow, after it freezes it really does become like a concrete speed bump …

Good thing we don’t have snow predicted for today, except for the “less than one inch” we’ll have in the forecast for the next 3 or 4 months … seemingly, every day. By the way, just so you’ll know that our weather forecasters are just like yours … when I got home from school today, I finished shoveling the rest of the snow from the front porch … no problem … I just went back out, and had to shovel again, what has fallen in the last hour or so … it’s coming down pretty good now, and we have already gotten much more than the “less than one inch” …

So, yes, I guess I have thought about “snow” a lot
the last few days …

Hey! Look! The calendar! Winter “officially” arrives a week from Sunday. I was working in a classroom today, and one of the ladies was putting on her snow boots, getting ready for recess duty. It was a fine pair of boots, rubber soles, insulated … I gave her this encouragement:
“Hey! Just think! Another 5 months and you won’t even need those!!!”

The hardest part is still the Spring … yes, the Spring. And, that’s because we have access to the national weather forecast … and, are able to see what the weather is like in the rest of the country …

As a motivational writer, I thought it was time to consider “the benefits of snow.” I really did a Google Search on subjects like “what are the benefits of snow,” and things like “is snow really a good fertilizer?” There really are benefits to snow. Plus, let’s never forget that God is fully capable to bless you … in any kind of weather … And, like a lot of things … to receive the benefits of anything, to realize the blessings included, it sometimes just depends upon our attitude …

Man!!! It is STILL coming down out there!!!!
Whoops! Sorry!

How glad I am to have heat (it was -15 just last Sunday night and our pipes froze), shelter, running water (and hot water) … I am surrounded by blessing … And-really-to have windows to look out of, and to be able to see, period …
To have warm clothing, to have so much … Sorry … had to look back outside again … I just went back out to the front deck, and there is twice as much snow as there was when I shoveled just under an hour ago … I check the weather forecast, and, while there is the standard “20% chance of precipitation,” there is no accumulation mentioned … however, I do see that we have a 60% chance of “snow showers” tomorrow, Saturday. While I am on the front deck, shoveling, I hear the neighbors come out from across the street … from their language … they seem just as surprised as I am that their truck is covered in snow … I won’t repeat what they said, but, I could tell they were surprised …

Did I mention that there really are “benefits” to snow? Well, apparently, there are:
One major benefit of a good snow cover is that snow functions as an excellent insulator of the soil. Without snow, very cold temperatures can freeze the soil deeper and deeper. This could lead to damage of root systems of trees and shrubs. The insulation effect of snow also helps protect perennials, bulbs, ground covers, and strawberry plantings from alternating freezing and thawing cycles. Without snow, milder temperatures mixed with the sun, could warm the soil surface, leading to damage from soil heaving, which can break roots and dry out plant parts. Snow also helps conserve soil moisture over the winter.

On days when the snow melts, it provides needed water. Lakes, rivers, streams and ponds benefit from snow by having their water supplies increased. When drought plagues an area, snowy winters can change the course of dry seasons. The entire ecosystem is maintained when water supplies are sufficient.

Snow is such a good insulator that some animals dig snow caves in which to hibernate. New snow is composed of a high percentage of air trapped among the accumulated snow crystals. Since the air can barely move, heat transfer is greatly reduced. Fresh, uncompacted snow typically is 90 to 95 percent trapped air. Many animals take advantage of snow’s insulating qualities, and burrow into the snow to hibernate through the winter.

Guess what? Snow reduces the insect pest population. Many damaging insects are unable to survive snow and cold.

I’ve always heard that it was good when it snowed because snow is called a “poor man’s fertilizer.” Is this true?
Aside from water, nitrogen is the only element that snow puts back into the Earth. However, lightning and rain actually emit a greater proportion of nitrogen than snow. What makes snow good for the soil is that it feeds nitrogen into the soil at a slower and more even rate (through melting) than a thunderstorm, which delivers precipitation at a more rapid rate.

So, what do you say now? Gotta love that snow!
But, I think, most importantly, we must learn to “be content in whatever state we are in.”
And, in whatever weather we are in.

To close (as I probably need to go back out and shovel), every area of the United States has its own particular weather issues … and, I know, many of those weather issues are much, much worse than snow … Period. More dangerous, and more costly. I will be completely honest: If I had to choose between some of the weather I’ve experienced, and what I see going on now throughout parts of the country … I think I’d pick the snow. We know when it’s coming (within reason), and we know when it is leaving (within reason). Regardless of where you are, and that includes here and there … God has placed you there … for a particular reason … Be grateful for where He has placed you, and go about “doing the business for which you were placed.”

And, that means, you must be ready, yes, in any season, and “in any kind of weather.”
God won’t place you where He can’t protect you.
God won’t place you where He won’t protect you.
God won’t place you where He can’t bless you.
God won’t place you where he won’t bless you.
And …
God won’t place you where you can’t bless others…
Regardless of … and, let’s face it …sometimes, because of … the weather.

Blessings to you, and your family,

Richard. Vincent. Rose.
Modern-Day Psalms



Email Classics: “I Said A Prayer For You Today”

I Said A Prayer For You Today

I said a prayer for you today
And I know God must have heard
I felt the answer in my heart
Although He spoke no word.

I didn’t ask for wealth or fame
(I knew you wouldn’t mind)
I asked him to send treasures
Of a far more lasting kind!

I asked that He’d be near you
At the start of each new day
To grant you health and blessings
And friends to share your way.

I asked for happiness for you
In all things great and small,
But it was for His loving care
I prayed the most of all.


From Thanksgiving 1861-Today: “The Vacant Chair”

Recently, to honor our Veterans, we shared the commercial entitled “The Empty Chair.”
I mentioned that there was a famous song from the Civil War which had the same name, and I would try to find the words for you. The classic Civil War poem and song was actually called “The Vacant Chair.” Here’s some information about the poem, and the song, which would eventually follow.

“The Vacant Chair” is a sentimental favorite from the Civil War, and it became not just popular, but immensely popular in both the North and the South, although there were different lyrics used by Union and Confederate troops. The message continues to be universal, focusing on the terrible losses of war at the most private and intimate level-the family gathered around the dinner table. In this particular case, the family was gathered around the Thanksgiving table, in November, 1861 … included at the table was a “vacant chair.”

“The Vacant Chair” was written to commemorate the death of John William Grout (1843–1861), a Union soldier from Worcester, Massachusetts, and an 1859 graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover. Mr. Grout, known as “Willie,” was a very popular local son, who served with the Union’s 15th Massachusetts as a Second Lieutenant, and was killed at age eighteen at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, in October, 1861. Lt. Grout’s body was recovered from the Potomac River on November 5, 1861, after being washed 35 miles back to Washington, D.C. His remains were identified by the name written on his clothing. “The Battle of Ball’s Bluff” was a devastating battle for the families of the Worcester area. There were almost 500 killed, wounded or captured from the 15th Massachusetts regiment.

“The Vacant Chair” was written by Henry S. Washburn. Mr. Washburn was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on June 10, 1813, He spent his boyhood at Kingston, Massachusetts, and was educated at Worcester and Brown University. Later, he was a manufacturer at Worcester and Boston. Beginning in 1875, he was the President of the Union Mutual Life Insurance Co.,
and was very active in public affairs, where he held many prominent posts. He also wrote many hymns and songs, perhaps the most known hymn being “Let Every Heart Rejoice and Sing,” which was considered a “National Hymn.”

The melody for the poem “The Vacant Chair” was written in 1862 by George F. Root (1820-1895), who was a famous composer, and also known for other Civil War songs such as “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Just Before the Battle Mother,” and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!”

Here now are the words to “The Vacant Chair.” Please keep in mind that many of the words were changed over the years, but this is as close to the original as I could find. The poem first appeared in the Worcester Spy around Thanksgiving 1861:

The Vacant Chair
We shall meet but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye.
But a golden cord is severed.
And our hopes in ruin lie.

We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.

At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the story,
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear our banner,
Thro’ the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country’s honor
In the strength of manhood’s might.

True they tell us wreaths of glory,
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o’er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today o’ early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.
Henry S. Washburn

I found this from the Massachusetts Historical Society:
Mass Historical Society-Words to The Vacant ChairI wanted to include a video of the song being performed, as well.
There were many I found, some dating back to the early 1900’s.
However, I’ve shared this one, from more recent time, featuring Kathy Mattea.
Please enjoy … and think about … “The Vacant Chair”