Prone to Wander


Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord helped us to this very point.” (1 Samuel 7:12, Common English Bible)

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit, Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit, Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall lose me I cannot proclaim it well.

4. O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

5. O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry, Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless day.

Though there was a lot I didn’t know about this hymn, it has been one of my favorites for many years. There is a particular line in the third verse in most of our hymnals (fourth verse above) that really speaks to me but more on that in a minute.

Though I had sung this hymn many times in my life, I never really knew what an Ebenezer was. I didn’t even know it was based on our verse for today, 1 Samuel 7:12. It was a rock, a monument if you will. English translations of Scripture translate the stone as “Ebenezer” meaning, “Stone of help.” Samuel, in placing the stone says, “The Lord has helped us to this point.”

Isn’t that true for all of us? In what John Wesley would call Prevenient Grace, grace that comes to us before we ever know there is a God, the grace of God calling us and wooing us into a relationship. It is the beginning of a life in grace, a life that has helped us to get to the very point where we now live.

Another thing I didn’t know for most of the time I have sung this hymn is in Robert Robinson’s original version (penned when he was 22 in 1757) there were five verses to the hymn instead of the three in the United Methodist and Cokesbury hymnals as well as most other modern hymnals. Truth to tell, I didn’t know about these additional verses until I started researching for today’s blog post. Also of note, when we read through the original version of the hymn (above), after the first verse, they all read differently than the versions we are familiar with today.

Still, my favorite line of this great hymn comes in the last verse (actually verse 4 in the original version above), “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;” how easy it is for me to wander away from God. I do it each time I sin. I wander from God when I do not put in the effort to maintain our relationship. I wander from God in so many ways in my life.

That is the bad news. The good news comes in the very last line, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” And that God will do. Holding us close as we live out life in this world in preparation for life in the Kingdom to come.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Grace and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

One thought on “Prone to Wander

  1. Keith, that is one of my favorites too. Did not know those new (to me) verses either. It teaches us well that even when we are being less than we are called to be, our hearts are “sealed” to Hod for eternity. Thanks

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