My last post about grief and a comforting song, reminded me of this gospel favorite. Written in the 1970s by Terry Smith, a full-time school teacher, “Far Side Banks of Jordan” became his most famous song. Johnny Cash did the first cut in 1975 and many other artists have recorded it since. This love song turned gospel number is a world-wide favorite, especially among the bluegrass community. My husband loves it and plays it often, ever since we heard it performed at a musical about Johnny Cash.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
A good Christian friend of mine is dying; in fact, by the time you read this post, he may be gone. This is harder for me than it is for him, because while he will soon be in the presence of God, I am will be left behind to grieve his loss. I will miss his friendship, his support, his passion for Bible study and his sense of humor. Fortunately for Christians, we do not grieve as the world does. This life is not the end, and everyone who is part of the family of God can look forward to meeting one another again. And so, the hymn, “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” has been running through my mind.
It was written In 1880 by Dr.Jeremiah Rankin, Pastor of First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. Dr. Rankin was was looking for a farewell hymn to close the service. Not finding one that satisfied him, he decided to write his own. Taking a dictionary from his book shelf, he looked up the words “farewell” and “goodbye” to see what ideas might create the image he was searching for. He found that one definition for “goodbye” was “God be with you”– and the seed that created this touching Christian hymn was planted.
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
This verse was my devotional verse for this morning, and it made me immediately think of a song written by Leslie Norman Garrett, This is the Day. Born in 1943 on the island of Matamata, New Zealand, Leslie graduated from Faith Bible School, and is currently a minister at the Christian Family Center in Maddington, Australia. He lectures at Hebron Bible College and has traveled widely, speaking at conventions and churches.
“This Is the Day” originally appeared in Mr. Garrett’s collection, Scripture in Song (1967). Since that time a number of stanzas have been added through oral tradition, including “This is the day when he rose again” and “This is the day that the Spirit comes.” The tune is Garrett’s arrangement of a Fiji folk tune.
The direct quotation of Psalm 118:24 places this praise song in good company with many other hymns and Christian pieces. Wouldn’t we be happier if we woke up and sang it every morning?
My devotional reading this morning included these verses from Psalm 147:
“He heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of stars, He gives to all of them their names.
This Psalm of praise reminded me of God’s power — in our lives and in the world. God is the One we can turn to and trust because He is truly in control of everything. Then the Keith Green song, You Are the One for Me, came to my mind. Keith had a Jewish background and was raised in a Christian Scientist home. He experimented with Eastern religions, but eventually came to know that Jesus Christ was the One for him. He’s the One for you, too. He’s the ruler of your life and the ruler of the world.
My husband I recently watched a documentary about the life of Charley Pride, I’m Just Me. In it Mr. Pride reminisced about his decision to make a new gospel record. He discussed this at home with his wife, who decided to phone Dolly Parton to see if she wanted help. Dolly was delighted and suggested that they work together on one of her songs. The outcome was Charley and Dolly recording a duet: a version of ‘God’s Coloring Book.’ It’s the first song on Charley’s record from 2006, titled ‘Pride and Joy: A Gospel Music Collection’ Meditate on this wonderful song as you experience the beauty of Spring today.
Martha Butler does not consider herself a composer, yet she wrote the popular worship song, Alleluia, He is Coming. Here’s how it happened.
When asked about what inspired the hymn, Martha said, “I had been reading the Bible as part of a devotional lesson. The passage was “Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). She was mystified as to why the church had selected such a mundane statement to be an inspirational message and asked God to speak to her. Later that day, she said, “as the verse kept running through my mind, I wrote some phrases in a process I refer to as an exercise in imagination.”
Martha recalled, “I felt this feeling of anticipation that the crowd must have felt while waiting for Jesus to arrive and preach. As I prepared to attend a Saturday evening worship service, this feeling of expectation grew.” She remembers that at the service she could hear the words and melody and a voice telling her to stand up and sing. “Shyness and the remembered words of my mother that I ‘could not carry a tune in a bucket’ prevented me from following the directions of the voice,” Martha laughingly declared. “I realized later that I have perfect pitch and it was really my mother who could not carry a tune!”
Martha told her husband and two dearest friends of this event and her hesitation to sing. Encouraged by their support, Martha, along with her friends, sang this beautiful new melody at the next Saturday evening worship and “we were amazed that by the second chorus, the entire congregation was singing.”
I love this song which we sing on Via de Cristo weekends, and I thought it would be appropriate to share right before Easter.
I found this hymn recently, and since it goes with our monthly theme, I decided to share it this morning. It’s based on John 13:34:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”