By Hymn Stories
Author and Composer --Helen H. Lemmel, 1864-1961
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
The Scriptures abound in teachings concerning the importance of living our lives with a focused attention on Christ-seeking only those values that have eternal worth. Consider several of these familiar verses:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: For I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:22
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3
"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" has become a familiar hymn, that has been widely used in Christian circles to challenge believers musically, with the necessity of making Christ the paramount priority in their lives, and then living each day with eternity's values in view. The author and composer of this hymn, Helen H. Lemmel, relates that one day, in 1918, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled "Focused." The pamphlet contained these words: "So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness. "
These words made a deep impression upon Helen Lemmel. She could not dismiss them from her mind. She recalls this experience following the reading of that tract:
"Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit."
The hymn was first published, in 1918, in the form of a pamphlet in London, England. Four years later, it was included in a collection titled, Glad Songs, a book containing sixty-seven songs by Mrs. Lemmel. This hymn became especially popular that same year at the Keswick Bible Conference in northern England, where it was first introduced. It first appeared in the United States, in 1924, in a song collection called, Gospel Truth in Song, published by Harry Clarke in Chicago, Illinois. Since that time, the song has been included in most evangelical hymnals and has been translated into many languages around the world.
Helen Howarth Lemmel was born on November 14, 1864, in Wardle, England. She was the daughter of a Wesleyan Methodist pastor, and she came to this country with her family at the age of twelve. Helen lived briefly in Mississippi before settling in Wisconsin. Soon she developed a reputation as a brilliant singer, even studying private voice in Germany for four years. She traveled widely throughout the midwest during the early 1900's, giving concerts in many churches. Later, Mrs. Lemmel taught voice at the Moody Bible Institute and then at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. In 1961, Helen Lemmel settled in Seattle, Washington, where she remained active with Christian activities, as a member of the Ballard Baptist Church of that city, during the last days of her life.
In addition to being known as a brilliant singer and musician, Mrs. Lemmel was also widely recognized as a woman with remarkable literary ability. She wrote more than 500 hymns and poems. Mrs. Lemmel also authored a very successful book for children entitled, Story of the Bible and composed many children's musical pieces. She remained active for God in her musical and literary pursuits, until her home-going at the age of ninety-seven.
How easy it becomes even for those of us who profess to be faithful followers of Christ to get caught up in the "things of earth," so that our heavenly vision and values become blurred and dull. This often happens even when we are active in our Christian activities, we become so involved in merely doing things for God that we miss the real blessing of enjoying the personal fellowship of Christ Himself in our daily lives.
"I've seen the face of Jesus... He smiled in love on me;
It filled my heart with rapture, my soul with ecstasy.
The scars of deepest anguish ... were lost in glory bright;
I've seen the face of Jesus ... it was a wondrous sight!
Oh, glorious face of beauty, Oh gentle touch of care;
If here it is so blessed, what will it be up there?"