Wednesday, March 2, 2022

I’d been considering a series of posts on “This Is My Father’s World” for over a year because I love its inspiring imagery and comforting message. Then I heard another hymn that sent my song blogs in a  different direction. Recently, however, two events occurred that convinced me the time had come to give attention to this hymn, for it is as relevant today—if not more so—than when the poet penned the words in the 1890s.

The first event was subtle. Sunday before last, our choir sang “This Is My Father’s World” as the offertory hymn. Although the words were familiar to me, the melody was not. I have to admit that as taken as I am with the song’s words, I’ve never been a fan of the original tune. Its simplicity seems underserving of the lyrics’ grandeur. This disconnect made more sense to me when I learned the melody was that of an English folk song and not composed specifically for this hymn. 

When our choir sang the new version of the hymn, I listened with pleasant surprise and reverent awe. Composer Lee Dengler paired Babcock’s exquisite words with a melody worthy of their message. The union of the two allowed me to catch a gleam from what Richard Rohr calls, “A liminal space. A holy place.”

Inspired by our choir’s performance, I researched the song’s history and learned it was originally a poem, written by Maltbie D. Babcock and published posthumously in 1901. Babcock, a Presbyterian minister in upstate New York, had a habit of taking morning walks to the top of a hill that overlooked Lake Ontario. Before these excursions, he would often say, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.”

There is so much emotion and wisdom packed in that single phrase. The imagery and adoration infused within the lines that resulted from those walks give testament to both Babcock’s poetic skill and his Godly devotion. 

Far from being subtle, the second event that prompted this post was an Earth-shaking one—Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Along with the rest of the world, I wait with anxiety to see the consequences this atrocity. As I do so, lines from this song play over and over in my unsettled mind: “That though the wrong seems oft so strong/God is the Ruler yet.”

This isn’t a frivolous dismissal of a serious problem. A discussion with my husband brought me to the conclusion there are no easy solutions to this frightening, tangled web of politics and power. Indeed, the wisest and perhaps the only course of action is for the world to pray for guidance that can lead to peace, all the while remembering that, despite the actions of a despotic dictator, “God reigns...”!

With this in mind, I have an assignment for you. So many of Babcock’s phrases resonate with me as I take in the wonder and beauty of nature. Over the years, I’ve collected evidence of God’s masterful hand at work in his world through photographs. I often scroll through them on my phone to lift my spirits and remind me God is in control. I’m going to share a few of my photos and one borrowed one at the end of this post. I ask you to please comment on Facebook by sharing one (or more) pictures that you think perfectly reflects words or phrases from this song. To help you in this task, here are the stanzas:

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—

His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let earth be glad!

To further inspire you, I’ve linked to a performance of the song. The video quality isn’t the best, but it is one of only two I could find of Dengler’s version. If you prefer the traditional melody, there are many choices. Whichever you prefer, may you find peaceful assurance in the words.

 Of rocks 

 and trees

of skies and seas-- 


    The morning light,




    the lily white,

    He shines in all that's fair            

In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass,