When I was a young minister (53 years ago) I had big ideas about what I wanted to do. In fact I carry a picture in my wallet of when I was 12. Standing in the main entrance of the church building, my Bible safely tucked under my arm, I felt ready then to go out and save the world.
Moses, when he was forty struggled with his mission, and in an effort to settle a dispute between one of his own and an Egyptian, he killed the man (Exodus 2:13). He was born a Hebrew, raised in Pharaoh’s house, and now he flees Egypt and spends 40 years in exile. In Midian, he served a man by the name of Jethro, and later married one of his daughters, Zipporah (Exodus 2:16-22).
God called him at age 80 to do a job he felt called to at 40. Funny how forty years helps us understand ourselves in relation to life. You know the end of the story how he led the children of Israel (Jacob) out of Egyptian bondage and to the edge of the promise land. What he could not do at 40 he did at 80.
“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, do not wait to shed your light afar. To the many duties ever near you now be true, BRIGHTEN THE CORNER WHERE YOU ARE.”
This is a symphony of the commonplace, a song whose themes and variations are the common household duties. This lilting gospel hymn of good advice was born in deep frustration. Most good gospel hymns have a story behind them.
Mrs. Ina Duley Ogdon, who would have been satisfied to have had an audience of thousands on the Chautauqua circuits, actually reached many millions more because the denial of her great ambition opened the door into a far wider field. Her well-planned and prepared career was abandoned because of tragedy and desperate necessity. Her cherished ambition was defeated by the invalidism (stroke) of her father. Mrs. Ogdon, who had hoped to reach the multitudes of the famous Chautauqua circuits of the northern states, had to compromise with an audience of one in the seclusion of her own home.
The disappointment and difficulty of reconciling herself to the loss of a great ambition added to the duties which accompany the care of her invalid father. Together they seemed almost unbearable. All of her efforts to prepare and all of her carefully laid plans were for naught.
The transition from bitter resentment to quiet acceptance was rapid (cream always comes to the top, and the incoming tide raises all boats). While waiting on her father one day she began to sing a new song that came into her mind. “Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, do not wait to shed your light afar.” Gradually, bit by bit, she emerged into a state of glad and enthusiastic delight. Her faithful performance of simple duties put a song in her heart that was destined to be sung by millions.
“To the many duties ever near you, now be true” brought forth thoughts of washing dishes, sweeping, dusting and the commonplace ignoble works. As she formed the second verse and you’ll hear her write about her ‘daddy’. “Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear, let not narrow self your way debar: Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer, brighten the corner where you are”.
The third verse speaks of the humble heart that adversity often brings.” Here for all your talent surely you may find a need, here reflect the bright and morning star: even from your humble hand the bread of life may feed, brighten the corner where you are”.
This wonderful homespun lilting lyric, with its good advice, shows again how God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. Now, years have past and more than 25 million reproductions of “Brighten The Corner” have been made in hymn books, radio transcriptions, phonograph records, and moving pictures – all doing a thing that could not have been accomplished in any other way. Fame sneaks up on some unaware.
Greater than any earthy dreams was this fulfillment through desperate pain and disappointment. Look the song up in your hymnbook and sing again the song of millions that have filled their broken dreams with rays of sunshine.
To a young aspiring minister the question is very simple. If you can speak to thousands, can you speak to one? If you can serve thousands, can you serve one? If you can write for ten thousand, can you write for one? Where does this idea come from that to be great it must be big, awesome, and gigantic?
“When Jesus came to Capernaum, and being in the house, he asked them, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way”. And they held their peace (5th amendment crowd); for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest (in the coming kingdom). He sat down, and called the twelve, and said unto them, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:33-35). The world says, “Discover yourself”, but that only reveals our sin and weakness. Then the world says, “destroy yourself”, but that holds no lasting solution either. Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him DENY himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Ina Duley, you have done it well!!