Even a Sparrow Matters

It’s Friday and time for a post about another old gospel song.

I have shared several now and hope you have enjoyed them.

This week’s song is one of my husband’s favorites.  He has often performed this song in church services and at “gospel sings.”

The song starts with a question:

Why should I feel discouraged?  Why should the shadows come?  

The song quickly gives the answer:

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

This thought is based on the scripture in Matthew 10:29-30

“Two sparrows sell for a farthing, don’t they? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Never be afraid, then—you are far more valuable than sparrows.”

While this song was made famous by two different African-American singers,  Ethel Waters and Mahalia Jackson, it was written by a Canadian lady living in Elmira, New York.

In her own words:

“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We developed a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle – true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh 20 years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair.  Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day, while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The song ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”

Ethel Waters was born to a teenager who had been raped.  Although she was raised by her grandmother, she took the last name of her father.  She demonstrated her musical talents while very young, singing at the age of five at church.  On her 15th birthday she won an amateur night and began performing in vaudeville in 1917.

In 1953 she sang this song in the movie “Member of the Wedding” and brought the song to the attention of the world.  She loved the song “His Eye is On the Sparrow” and in her later years she often sang it for the Billy Graham crusades.

Mahalia Jackson made the song even more popular when she sang it at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958.  The song became associated with the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr said Mahalia did not just sing the song, it was her life story.

Mahalia spoke of the song and its meaning to her:

“When our savior came, now he didn’t come down here just to tell people to believe on him, he healed the sick and he healed the blind, he raised the dead. He did things for people. So salvation and the Word of God can do things for you. It can open doors for you. And I know it can, Studs. Look what it done for me. And my people have–we’re coming along, but my God, we’ve come along so slow till we chokin’.”

For my husband and I, the song has always been a comfort.  No matter what the circumstances of life, we can sing and find joy in the knowledge that God truly loves us and is aware of all we face each day.

 

My First Solo Performance

Continuing my posts on the old gospel songs we used to sing, today I remember the first song I ever performed in public.

As a young girl I took piano lessons and when my father, who was a minister, had speaking engagements he often would have me play and sing something before he spoke.  Although I was shy, I think this experience gave me confidence in appearing before an audience that helped me later as I became a speaker for women’s events and a pastor’s wife.

Just how good my voice and piano playing was remains open to question, but with my red hair in banana curls, I was a hit.

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The first song I learned to play was an old song born in the slave fields of  the southern states.  Although the original author of the spiritual is unknown, it is acknowledged that the song arose from the oral tradition of songs passed from person to person and generation to generation among the plantations of the South.

Imagine being a slave and totally at the mercy of the slave owner.  What kind of life could it be when you were forced to work from dawn to sunset?  When you could be beaten or sold to another slave owner without a chance to even say goodbye to your family?   No promise of freedom – how easy it would be to despair of life.

But somewhere in that life of sorrow and pain many slaves found hope in God.  In spite of their circumstances they clung to the belief that God was in control and they found courage in that belief.

They sang:

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

The song was first published in 1927 in the hymnal Spirituals Triumphant, Old and New.  Later it was introduced in the USA and became popular with the folk song crowd in the 30’s and 40’s.

Laurie London, a young British singer, released the song in 1957.  It quickly became #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Since then many artists have made recordings of the song, but perhaps one of the most famous (and my favorite)  is Mahalia Jackson’s version.

The verses have changed depending on who was singing the song but this verse was not in my version of the song.  ♥

He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the sinner man in His hands
He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

As I grew up and became more proficient in my music, I left that song behind.  But recently as I have played for the residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, I have added it back to my selection of songs.

While they sit and listen to the songs I play – when I play this one I am guaranteed that many will join in with me and smiles will be in abundance.

Since I began singing this song again, I added my own verse for the senior citizens.

He’s got all us old folks in His hands
He’s got all us old folks in His hands
He’s got all us old folks  in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Psalms 19:1

“Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens.  Isaiah 48:13

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

Check out the other gospel songs I have written about here:

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

The last two weeks I have shared stories of old hymns and gospel songs of the past.

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

Today I share the song that I call “my” hymn.

When my husband and I made our wedding plans over 35 years ago, we wrote our own vows and selected the songs for our ceremony.

Looking at the different hymns the words of one seemed to leap off the pages and directly into my heart.

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

The previous few years had been tough.  My husband had died in an accident and I had struggled trying to be both mother and father to my two girls.  Struggling to make financial ends met without my husband’s salary.  Struggling to handle the lonely nights I spent after putting my daughters to bed with no one to talk to, no one to share concerns, no one to laugh with.

On this day as I rejoiced that I had been able to find love again and someone to share life with, I found the words of this hymn so appropriate.  Although the years had been difficult, God had provided all I needed.  Somehow – sometimes in amazing ways – my financial worries had been met.  In the lonely nights God had given me peace.  Now He had brought a great man into my life, not only to be a husband to me, but a father to my daughters.

We had this beautiful hymn sung just before we took our vows.  Over the years of our marriage, we have found the message of this song continues to be true.  We have experienced sorrow – death of three grandchildren and our oldest son.  We have dealt with painful moments – my husband’s heart attack and my battle with cancer.  But in all these circumstances God has given us strength and peace.

Written by Thomas Obediah Chisholm in 1923, the author based his song on scripture found in the book of Lamentations.  Those words said:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words during a time of great disaster for the nation of Judah.   The nation had been invaded by the great Babylonian empire.  There was great pain, suffering and destruction.  Jeremiah wrote this great statement of faith that God is faithful and even in difficult times, He is with us.

Chisholm was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. Becoming a Christian at age 27, he became a Methodist minister.  When ill health forced him to give up the ministry he became an insurance broker.

Although no longer an active minister, he retained his love of God and wrote hundreds of poems about his faith.  Although he was never successful in financial matters and suffered ill health, he also, like Jeremiah, found God’s grace was sufficient.

He said:  “God has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”

In 1954 George Beverly Shea introduced this hymn at evangelistic meetings held by Billy Graham in Britain.  The song immediately became popular and has been a staple of hymnbooks every since.

 

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Throughout our ministry my husband and I have always conducted services at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Twice a month I now do a music recital at a nursing home.  One of the most requested songs we get from the “old folks” is always the song “In the Garden.”  It has also been one of the most requested songs for funerals we have conducted.

As this older generation passes away, I think this song will soon be forgotten.  I can’t imagine the younger crowd playing this song with the guitars and drums so popular now.  In fact, I have to laugh as I think what kind of music will be played for the boomers when we reach nursing home age.  Certainly the music will go from “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”  Hopefully we hear some Motown and Beach Boys too.

But I digress….Back to the Song “In the Garden.”

Although I have played this song for years I must confess I often wonder what garden the writer had in mind when he wrote this song and who was the person speaking these words.

Since I started this series on the history behind old gospel songs, I did some research and discovered that the author clearly had a particular garden and a particular person in mind when he wrote this song.

In his own words:

“One day in April 1912….I drew my Bible toward me and it opened at my favorite book and chapter, John chapter twenty….It was though I was in a trance, as I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, “Rabboni”….As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head, bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came unto the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and ran away….Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing there, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched, and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni”.

I’m not sure why the older generation loved this song so much.  Perhaps just the thought of walking with Jesus in a quiet restful garden was reassuring to those who lived through the  depression and World War II.  The thought of a loved one walking peacefully with Jesus after death was no doubt also a comfort.

There is a joke about this song I heard some years ago.

A little boy came home from church and had this conversation with his mother:

Boy:  Mom, in church today I learned what God’s name is.

Mother:  And what is his name?

Boy:  Andy

Mother:  Andy….who told you that?

Boy:  We sang a song “Andy walks with me and Andy talks with me.”

If you know the song, you understand the joke.

If you do not know the song, here it is.  Hope you enjoy both the old gospel song and the joke also.

 

Five Things I Like About Myself

Recently I began following another blogger whose posts I have enjoyed.  Her post that caught my eye was listing five things she liked about herself.  Check it out here:

http://cyranny.com/2020/01/15/5-more-things-i-like-about-myself/

The whole point is that we are quick to find things about our self we do not like, things we want to change, things that make us feel less than satisfied about who we are.

Why do we never look at our self in a positive light?  So she encouraged her followers to take a look and see the good qualities they possess.

Here goes my list:

Five Things I Like About Myself

 

  1. I am a good musician and use my talent to help others.  Since age ten I have been playing the piano.  Over the years I have played for worship in church, played for weddings and funerals and written and performed Christmas programs.  For the last 35 years I have been a volunteer at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities providing musical programs for the residents.
  2. I am a good cook.  While I have never mastered the skill of making cookies, my pies and cakes are always welcome at a pot luck.  My husband will testify that my meals are not only delicious but usually healthy.  (Although I do probably cook too much pasta.)
  3. I am adventurous always taking the road not well traveled.  When my husband suggested we do a two-year commitment teaching in a Bible college in the Philippines, I said “why not.”  Sold everything we had and headed off on an adventure.  In our 70’s when our youngest daughter took a position as pastor in a new state and moved with her family and my husband suggested we sell and move too, I said “why not.”  On our road trips we always get off the interstate and follow the local roads just to see where they go.  Our trips are always more interesting than following the well-marked roads.
  4. I am a positive person.  While I have had my times of depression and discouragement, basically I see the glass half-full rather than half-empty.  Life to me is a blessing from God to be enjoyed even when difficulty comes because my faith tells me that He will never leave me.
  5. I love to teach the Bible.  Teaching Bible classes both in church, in homes and in the Philippines, my students tell me that I make the Word of God simple to understand and show them how it applies to the “here and now.”

So there – I challenge you to take a positive look and share five things you like about yourself.  Then share them with me and/or on Cyranny’s blog.  We’d love to know you better.

Check out her website at https://cyranny.com/ for more great articles.

 

 

 

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

A new songbook called Olney Hymns was published in 1779 and one of the songs in the book became perhaps the best loved and well known hymn that is today known by another name.

Guess what song it is!

This song was part of a section in the hymn book that contained songs based on passages of the Bible.  The passage that was listed with this song was 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.

 “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.”

The tune we use to sing this song was not the tune used then.  Today two of his stanzas are no longer used and there have been two added by two different writers.

Guess what song it is!

It is believed that this hymn was written to go along with the writer’s sermon which he preached for the New Year service January 1, 1773.  His sermon notes for that day fit with the scripture that was placed alongside the hymn in the Olney Humns book.

His sermon notes included this thought:

grace

Guess what song it is!

This verse which was part of the original hymn is not usually found in hymnbooks in the USA today.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When the movie Amazing Grace about the life of British abolitionist William Wilberforce was made, popular contemporary Christian musician Chris Tomlin was asked to write an additional verse.  He was reluctant to add to this well loved hymn but when researching he discovered that someone had already added a verse years ago.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing His praise
Than when we first begun.

I have sung this hymn for years not knowing that this verse was not part of the original hymn.

Guess what song it is!

Tomlin added a beautiful addition to the song.

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns,
Unending love, amazing grace.

In his research, Tomlin found another verse that was part of the original hymn but had been left out for years in our USA hymnals.  He added it back into the song and like many others I thought this verse was one Tomlin had added.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Bet you have guessed what song it is!

Yes – somewhere along the way Faith’s Review and Expectations became Amazing Grace.  Writer John Newton had been the captain of a slave ship.  After receiving Jesus Christ as Savior he became an Anglican priest.  Although he was slow to take a stand against slavery he did become a strong voice speaking out about the evil of the slave trade.  His tract, ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade‘, described the horrors of the slave trade and his own role in it.  He called it “a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

He encouraged William Wilberforce and others to fight against the slave trade.  As he began to lose his age and age some suggested he should retire but he told them, “I cannot stop.  What?  Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

The act to abolish the slave trade finally was passed in February 1807.  By that time Newton was nearly blind and nearing the end of his life.  It is said that he “rejoiced to hear the wondrous news.”

The Story Behind the Song (It is No Secret)

Music is magic.

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand….Stevie Wonder

Music is the emotional life of most people….Leonard Cohen

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain….Bob Marley

I see the power of music every month as I play for the residents of a nursing home in my town.   Eyes that look so dull without emotion suddenly light up as they recognize a song from their childhood.  Bodies that were slumped in their chairs suddenly sit up as a song brings back memories of days gone by.  Faces that were so sad looking suddenly light up with a big smile as I play a song that was once their favorite.  Voices that were silent began to sing along as music works its magic.

As I research songs from the past to play each week it has been interesting to see the stories behind the songs.  Each Friday for a few weeks I thought I would share of these stories behind the songs that I have discovered.  Hope you enjoy.

This week’s story is about the writer of an old gospel song – It is No Secret.

The writer, Stuart Hamblen was a songwriter, cowboy singer and appeared in motion pictures with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne.  My parents loved Roy Roger and Dale Evans, his wife, and was a big fan of these movies.

His songs were recorded by many artists including Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  Perhaps his best known song was This Old House that was recorded by Rosemary Clooney and was Song of the Year in 1954.

Part of the Hollywood scene, Hamblen’s wife tried to get him to attend the Billy Graham crusade held in Los Angeles in 1949.  At first he refused but then asked to meet personally with Graham.  During his conversation with Graham, he committed his life to Jesus Christ.

Shortly thereafter in a visit with his friend, John Wayne, he was asked about the change in his life.  He replied, “It’s no secret what God can do in a man’s life.”  Encouraged by John Wayne to write a song about that beautiful thought, Hamblen went home and began thinking about it.

When he heard the hall clock chime out the midnight hour, he was inspired with the words of the first verse.

“The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through”

Hamblen went on to complete the song which has been sung throughout all the small churches in town after town.

If you have not heard the song – or if you just would like to hear it again – here’s Elvis Presley’s version.

And on a personal note:  I truly have found

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.