Saturday, March 28, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Great is thy Faithfulness

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness."
- Lamentations 3:22-23

A lot of hymns are born following a traumatic experience by the writer. Horatio Spafford, for instance, wrote the words to "It Is Well with My Soul" after the tragic death of his children in a shipwreck. But, some hymns merely spring up in the midst of the daily routine. Such is the case in the writing of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," one of the greatest hymns of the 20th century.

Thomas O. Chisholm was born in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. He was teaching school by the age of 16 and then became editor of the local newspaper. Beginning in 1903, he was a Methodist minister, but only for a short time as his health began to decline.

In 1923, Chisolm sent a collection of his poems William Runyan, a musician with Moody Bible Institute, who also worked for a hymnal publishing company. He was immediately taken in by the depth of meaning and lyrical beauty of the words found in "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," which Chisolm had written in 1893. He prayed his tune might carry over its message in a worthy way, and it certainly did. Yet, it was slow to catch on in churches until Billy Graham began to include it in his crusades. Click on the link provided to you in this story to listen to a beautiful arrangement of this 'Hymn of Hope' by the Victor Voices in Billy Graham's Crusade Favorites, directed by Cliff Barrows (1966).

"Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

Summer and winter
and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars
in their courses above
Join with all nature
in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
mercy and love

Pardon for sin
and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence
to cheer and to guide
Strength for today
and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
with ten thousand beside"

Tiffany Jothen of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association wrote that Chisholm could have easily given up and lived a life of discouragement throughout his years of poor health, but he didn't. This song is a testimony to the way God carried him through hard times, just like He does for us. She said, "It’s a reminder that we aren’t forgotten. That God is consistent. That He provides 'strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.'”

A special thanks to Regina Scott for letting me use her beautiful photograph.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Talking Chicken

This is a story about a talking chicken that once lived in the Clear Fork community of Clinton County, Kentucky. Myrtle Lewis' hen would not lay an egg unless she could lay it inside Mrs. Lewis' home. Myrtle tried locking her up in the henhouse, but it didn't work. A fellow walking to the store one day passed in front of the Lewis home and noticed the hen standing beside the door, seemingly anxious to get inside. When Mrs. Lewis appeared, the hen went up to her, took ahold of her dress, pulled on it and let go. Twice more the hen did this until Myrtle gave in. Reaching down, she picked the hen up and placed her in the nest, which was to say - just inside the door. Soon, this wonderful talking hen would be raising some nice little children.

Hymns of Hope: How Great Thou Art

Carl Boberg of Sweden wrote the poem "O Store Gud" (O Great God) in 1885 with nine verses. The inspiration for it came when a storm appeared as he was walking home from church. While the church bells rang out, the storm subsided to a peaceful calm, as quickly as it had appeared. The poem was matched to an old Swedish folk tune and first sung in church in 1888, in 3/4 time. A Swedish songbook published it in 4/4 time in 1894, and it has been sung this way ever since.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, My God how great Thou art

On several occasions throughout the years this hymn has been voted the #1 hymn in America.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Kenny Rogers Left His Mark On Country Music

"Kenny Rogers' songs endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world," read the statement announcing the singers' death Friday night at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, where he died from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by family.

He was one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with hits like "Lucille," "The Gambler" and "Lady." He scored several hits, including eight #1 records with duet partners like Dolly Parton, Dottie West, Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton. He was particularly fond of singing the harmony part on the duets. In 2013, he told interviewer Dan Rather that harmonies had fascinated him ever since he first heard his older sister, Geraldine, singing them in church. He said, “I’d never heard harmony before." When he asked her what she was doing, she replied "it's called harmony, where you don’t sing the melody, but you sing something that sounds good with the melody," to which Kenny replied "Oh, I’d like to do that."

I played his songs on the radio quite often. His distinctive, husky voice was filled with warmth and sincerity and it attracted you to him. He showed us what he had at the very beginning of his long stretch of hits when he sang, "You've painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair," the opening line of the 1967 hit, "Ruby," by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

Even though his songs crossed music genres many times, he always wanted to be thought of as a country music singer. “You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better, or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison and I chose that way because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon at what they did. So I found something that I could do that didn’t invite comparison to them." And, he did it very well. A CMA spokesperson tweeted that Rogers forever left a mark on Country Music's history.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Songs for Social Distancing & Other Sad Affairs

Lonely songs can be a source of comfort when you are sad or depressed because it triggers positive memories that can help to lift our mood. A 2016 study suggested that perhaps we feel better about ourselves if we focus on someone who's doing worse than we are. On the other hand, it might make one feel worse. I hope the latter is not true in this case, as I present you with a top 10 list of my favorite songs that are about being alone or isolated. Maybe, it will help you during this unprecedented time of social distancing. *Disclaimer: I am old school.

10. "One" (1969) - Three Dog Night. "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It's the loneliest number since the number one." Written by Harry Nilsson. He wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the "beep, beep, beep" tone while writing the song. The busy signal became the opening notes of the song.

9. "Eleanor Rigby" - The Beatles (1966). She died and nobody really noticed! "Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came." "All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?"

8. "Lonely People" - America (1974). This song was written by Dan Peek as an optimistic response to the line in "Eleanor Rigby" that I mentioned above. He said "Lonely People" is a message of hope. "This is for all the lonely people thinking that life has passed them by, Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup and ride that highway in the sky." He said "It's possible to drink from another's well of experience and be refreshed."

7. "Hard Times (Who Knows Better Than I?)” - Ray Charles. He sings the song with a kind of distracted dejection about the problems in life. Originally recorded in the 1950's, the song was released in 1961 after he’d left Atlantic Records for ABC Records and worldwide superstardom. "My mother told me 'fore she passed away, Said son when I'm gone don't forget to pray 'cause there'll be hard times, Lord those hard times, Who knows better than I?

6. "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971) - Bill Withers. Stephen Stills is playing guitar on the recording. Instead of lyrics for the third verse, Withers repeats the phrase "I know" twenty-six times. He was a factory worker making toilet seats for 747's when he wrote the song.

5. "The Sound of Silence" (1964) - Simon & Garfunkel. A demo of the song led to the duo signing with Columbia Records. Written by Paul Simon. Art Garfunkel summed up the song's meaning as "the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other." "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again."

4. "Are You Lonesome Tonight” - Elvis Presley (1960). My favorite Elvis version is the live one where he forgets the lines in the recitation. On April 4, 1960, Elvis recorded two takes and then, dissatisfied with what he heard, requested the song be ditched. When producer Steve Sholes refused, Presley tried it once more. That third take became the master for the single. RCA executives thought the song did not fit Elvis' style. In 1992, it was certified double platinum.

3. “All by Myself” - Eric Carmen (1975). Carmen said "There's not nearly as much fuel in being happy as there is in being miserable. Being miserable is a great catalyst for songwriting.” An interesting twist on being alone and miserable.

2. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (1949) - Hank Williams. Elvis introduced it by saying, "I'd like to sing a song that's probably the saddest song I've ever heard." Hank sang it with unshakable conviction. I've never heard a robin weep, but imagining it makes me sad.

1. "Alone Again (Naturally)” - Gilbert O’Sullivan (1972). From the singer contemplating suicide after being left at the altar by his deserting bride to telling about the death of his parents. He ends up saying, "We may as well go home, as I did on my own. Alone again, naturally." It sold 2 million copies and spent 6 weeks at the top.

Hymns of Hope: Great is thy Faithfulness

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Th...