Avis B. Christiansen
With Rhyme and Reason: A Word Portrait of Avis B. Christiansen
Many a lost soul has been won to the Lord by wandering over the cobblestones of memory’s lane and hearing again the sweet hymns of the church. When the roll is finally called up yonder, Avis B. Christiansen will find stars in her crown never dreamed of. As poetess and hymn writer, her inspired words have brought easing of pain to broken hearts and, through the Holy Spirit, helped to work the miracle of salvation in many others.
Mrs. Christiansen has both the rhyme and the reason for expressing in heaven-sent eloquence the love and kindness of the Saviour.
Born into a Christian home where whole-hearted service of Christ was accepted as the natural thing, Avis became a child of the King at an early age. The wonder of salvation in her own life has flowed out in her beautiful verses to draw others close to her Saviour.
Her first poem was written at about the age of ten. She was encouraged by her grandmother, a godly woman who loved the music of the soul as expressed in poetry. While still in her teens, Avis was led of the Lord into a ministry of poetry and hymns that is best described in the lines of one of her own works: “Lost in His love! My soul with its sweetness overflows.” It happened in this fashion:
One Sunday morning in The Moody Church, as she listened to a new song by Harry Dixon Loes, the Lord reminded her that the talent entrusted to her belonged to Him. Her immediate longing to express His love and blessing resulted in two hymns. One of these was quickly set to music by D.B. Towner, then director of music at Moody Bible Institute. It was entitled, “That Is Far Enough for Me.”
This success seemed proof of the Lord’s leading and help. Avis began to write in earnest. Many of these early efforts were set to music and sung by The Moody Church choir.
Realizing her need for deeper spiritual experiences and grounding in the Word of God, she began to study at Moody Evening School. The training she received there kept her from mere sentimentality, and provided genuine spiritual depths from which to draw.
A little later, her path crossed that of Ernest C. Christiansen, now vice-president in charge of investments at MBI, and in 1917 they were married. In spite of fulfilling the many duties of a busy housewife, Mrs. Christiansen has continued to write with unfailing zeal. Among the well-known musicians who have set her words to music are Harry Dixon Loes, George Schuler, Al Smith, Haldor Lillenas and Wendell P. Loveless.
Avis Christiansen’s own testimony is: “I have been able, by His infinite grace, to pour out my soul in hundreds of songs of praise to my blessed Redeemer. He speaks through the commonplace things of life, if we are but listening for His gentle voice.”
This “listening for His gentle voice” is best illustrated in the story of her hymn, “All I need of know of heaven is that Jesus will be there.” One Monday morning, while occupied with removing the week’s accumulated grime from the family’s clothes, a voice over WMBI penetrated the rhythmic sounds of the washing machine. A man said, “You know, there have been lots of things said about heaven…but as for me, all I need to know of heaven is that Jesus will be there!” A God-sent inspiration into a life of consecrated talent, and out of the commonplace there came another heart-lifting song.
Mrs. Christiansen takes no credit for her poems; while accepting the success of her work, she is constantly amazed that her words bear such abundant fruit. Her own wonderment is expressed in the title of one of her poems, “The Wonder of a Guided Life.”
Among her familiar songs are “Precious Hiding Place,” “Precious Melody,” “Lost in His Love,” “Trusting Thee More,” “Youth for Christ,” “Jesus Has Lifted Me,” “Only Glory By and By,” “Only Jesus,” “I Know I’ll See Jesus Some Day,” “Love Found a Way.”
Mrs. Christiansen credits the fact that her songs and poems are doctrinally correct to her earlier training in Moody Evening School. This sound, fundamental background has aided in her success, deepened her devotion, and helped spread the message of her musical words into many foreign tongues. These include Chinese, various European, African and South American languages. By virtue of both rhyme and reason, Avis B. Christiansen is a worthy singer of the praises and glories of Jesus Christ.