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***** A coloring page, additional copywork, background information, devotionals and other activities that focus on the themes of this hymn are available through the 2022 Spring hymn guide.
Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in his bosom gather.
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.Carolina Sandell (1855)
You may want to break out the tissues for this hymn, dear friends. If there ever was a lullaby a child should fall asleep to, this is it. There is no room for haphazard boughs breaking or cradles falling in this sweet song of the beautiful preserving care and personal love that the Father has for his children. How is it possible that in all the hymn singing I’ve experienced in my 42 years of life, that this one has just now finally crossed my path? It’s one of the most beautiful expressions of trust in our mighty Protector I’ve ever heard, and I’m just so thankful to learn it alongside you all.
THE HYMN WRITER
Carolina Sandell (1832-1903) was born in Fröderyd, Sweden in 1832, the daughter of Lutheran pastor, Jonas Sandell. She was very attached to her papa, who affectionately called her “Lina.” Lina suffered as a small child from illness that often kept her bedridden. However, there were benefits from her physical weakness. Instead of doing rigorous work around the home with her mother, little Lina was able to spend much of her time in her father’s study. She even learned to read and write by the age of four or five, and received an education in languages, science, and geography, uncommon for girls at that time. Lina read extensively and learned to read and write in Swedish, Norwegian, French, German, and English. Her own gift for writing poetry manifested itself when she was still a small child. Many believe that Lina wrote one of her most well known hymns, ‘Tryggare kan ingen vara’ (Children of the Heav’nly Father) at the age of 17, while sitting in the large ash tree outside the family’s home. From the beautiful lines of her poem, it is safe to assume that it was from this tree that she watched birds in their nests, listening to their songs, waiting to see the twinkling stars make their evening appearance in the heavens. At this tender age, she already knew what it meant to suffer, yet her words clearly show us that her confidence was stayed upon her Protector and Defender, who never forsakes his beloved children.
In addition to her physical hardships, more testing and difficulty was on the horizon for Lina. In the summer of 1858, while on a steamboat with her dear papa, he fell overboard and drowned, right before Lina’s eyes. The next spring, her sister Charlotta died of tuberculosis, leaving her three children behind, the youngest only a newborn. The following year, Lina’s mother, Fredrica, died as well. In the wake of the anguish of losing so many loved ones, Lina wrote in her diary in 1860,
“But every time the Lord thus pulls up a planting, in whose shadow we have lied down, it is as if the view is at once expanded. We stand there so lonely in the open field without these visible supports to lean on; but at the same time the invisible home has become so much more real… Let me never seek any other support than yours. All other supports are unreliable and they fail when you want to rely on them. But you are steadfast.”
While Lina greatly desired to continue on as she described to a friend: “one of the ‘Lord’s free people’ – a little bird chirping about Jesus out here in the woods” (Brügge), she finally gave her hand in marriage to the persistent Carl Oscar Berg. More sorrows followed both Lina and Carl in 1868, when their only daughter was still-born. Even after the loss of her own child, Lina’s heart and care for children remained steadfast. She cared for her nieces and nephews in her own home, and wrote many songs with the perspective and language of children in mind. Lina also wrote several missionary biographies and children’s publications that were used throughout Scandinavia. Lina’s hymn, “Children of the Heav’nly Father” is still sung faithfully today for funerals and baptisms, especially in churches of Scandinavian descent.
Historians don’t seem to agree on just how many hymns Lina wrote. Most seem to land somewhere between 600 and 2,000 hymns, including “Blott en dag” (Day by Day), causing her to be known as the Fanny Crosby of Sweden. Much of her success and popularity was due to Oscar Ahnfelt, who set many of her verses to music, playing his 10-string guitar and singing her hymns throughout Scandinavia. Americans were first exposed to Lina’s songs in 1850, when the Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind, sponsored by PT Barnum (founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus), toured the United States. Jenny Lind was known worldwide as the “Swedish Nightingale,” and often sang the music of Lina Sandell and Oscar Ahnfelt.
Carolina Sandell-Berg died at the age of 70 in 1903. Her tombstone is inscribed with her own verse: “Tryggare kan ingen vara” (No one could be safer). Lina’s story is simple. Though poor in spirit and laden with many troubles and losses, she still trusted in the sovereignty of her good Master. Her life and her lines serve as a beautiful reminder to us of the way God cares for his sons and daughters.
HOW WE DO HYMN OF THE MONTH
If you are new to this community, welcome! It is a great time to join in and make family worship a priority if you haven’t already. You may or may not be familiar with this hymn. Either way, we invite you to spend this month meditating on its truths.
To get you started, we’ve provided free printable lyrics, music and copywork — all found here!
You can find fresh versions of the hymn on our YouTube channel that you and your family can sing along with. There are loads of fresh versions of our favorite hymns on our hymn of the month playlist.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
When we began singing hymns with our littles about 11 years ago, we kept it simple… We prayed and sang one hymn together every night at bedtime for a whole month. At the end of that month, our toddler knew just about every verse of the hymn and was even able to join us in singing it at church! Everyone’s family rhythm is different, so we welcome you to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn (following your daily time in the Scriptures and in prayer) whether it is first thing in the morning, or around the dinner table or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. We would so love to know how learning this hymn is going for you! If you have a moment, let us know how it’s going by posting either a video or a photo on Instagram. Just tag it with #happyhymnody! As always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your heart with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out! God bless you all this month as you worship and follow Jesus together as a family!
With so much love,
Bjorlin, D. History of Hymns: “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Discipleship Ministries: The United Methodist Church. Retrieved October 12,2021: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-children-of-the-heavenly-father-bjorlin
Brügge, A. The Inspiration is Called God. The History of Nordic Women’s Literature. Retrieved October 13, 2021: https://nordicwomensliterature.net/2011/07/14/the-inspiration-is-called-god/
Brügge, A. Carolina (Lina) Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg. Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon. Retrieved October 13, 2021: https://skbl.se/en/article/LinaSandellBerg
Children of the Heavenly Father. Hymn Studies Blog. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from: https://hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/quotchildren-of-the-heavenly-fatherquot/
Duncan, J. L., Thomas, D, Wymond, B. Radio Series: Hymns of the Faith: “Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment.” First Presbyterian Church, Jackson Mississippi. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from: https://fpcjackson.org/resource-library/radio-lectures/hymns-of-the-faith-day-by-day-and-with-each-passing-moment/
Harling, P. Lina Sandell. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from: https://web.archive.org/web/20160304065725/http://www.augustanaheritage.org/Harling%20Sandell%20Lecture.pdf
Polman, B. “Carolina Sandell.” Hymnary.org. Retrieved October 12, 2021: https://hymnary.org/person/Sandell_Carolina
One Comment Add yours
Thank you for introducing us to this beautiful song and story. You’re write-ups on the authors are so wonderful and we feel like we really get to know the author after reading your biographies. Thank you April for this this beautiful work!
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