For over 65 years, Christians have sung the songs of Avis B. Christiansen, who was 86 on October 11. Her texts, translated into many languages, have been set to music by many of this century’s leading hymn composers. Largely unknown to a younger generation, she lives quietly in Chicago, remembered by those who recognize her as one of God’s great gifts to twentieth-century gospel hymnody.
Avis (as in Travis) Burgeson was born in Chicago, the younger of two sisters, to parents who constantly practiced the Lord’s presence. The single greatest spiritual influence on her was her maternal grandmother. Bertha Andersen frequently recited devotional poetry to Avis, and encouraged her little granddaughter’s poetic interest. “Even as a child, I liked to make things rhyme,” says Avis.
Henry Gross, her Presbyterian pastor, was the next important influence. Her conversion, at 12, was a moment when “the light dawned so beautifully.” She also attended the Moody Tabernacle, where, under the ministry of Paul Rader she dedicated her life to Christ. After this, she says, her poems came spontaneously.
Upon high school graduation in 1915, she joined Moody, There she heard Harry Dixon Loes, a Moody Bible Institute student, and his sister, sing a song Harry had written, “All Things in Jesus I Find.” Listening, she became convinced her poetic gift was a trust from God and belonged to him. She immediately wrote “Let Go and Let God”—a favorite Rader slogan—and “That Is Far Enough for Me,” her response to Psalm 103:12. She sent them to Daniel B. Towner, head of MBI’s music department, who set them to music and published them in Tabernacle Echoes. “That was all I needed,” says Avis. “I felt, ‘This is for me.’ ” Rader held year-round meetings, Sunday through ...1
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