Saturday, October 29, 2011

There’s Something About that Name – Bill and Gloria Gaither

It has five letters. All of them, by themselves, are unexceptional. What’s special about His name, then? Believers and non-believers alike have spoken it. Many people must think it’s a good one, because they have named countless children with this ‘Jesus’ name. Even when praying, lots of believers declare ‘in Jesus name’ to add weight to their conversations with the Father.  On the other hand, much of the world more casually throws His name around, too – an exclamation in a fit of frustration, perhaps. Why? “There’s Something About that Name”, Bill and Gloria Gaither declare, but they’ve left out the word ’special’ that’s implied in their statement. What was ‘special’ for them in 1970? Was it raindrops, of all things (see picture)?

Bill was 34 and Gloria was 28 years old in that year when ‘Jesus’ was on their minds.  ‘Healer’,’ Comforter’, ‘Peace-Giver’ are other names they could have put in their composition in 1970. The Gaithers had gone through a difficult, but yet enlightening chapter, with the loss of grandparents and the onset of their own parenthood and its responsibilities. They observed loved ones on either end of the age spectrum who felt the impact of His name. Their grandparents, though feeble and often mentally confused, still knew His name. And, as Bill’s and Gloria’s children experienced sickness, these composer-parents counted on ‘Jesus’ for wisdom and confidence to ease their anxiety. What they wrote communicates that something peaceful and refreshing came over them, something like what happens in the creation He made for them. Perhaps they felt His presence in the wake of a rainstorm one day, like an invigorating aroma that clears the mind, as their words indicate. Rain washes the pollution out of the atmosphere, and the creation senses the nourishment He provides.  If you’ve ever watched someone’s health falter in old age and the inevitable demise of the human body, you understand what it means to those people, both the dying and the surviving, as they emerge on the other side of that experience. Is it the anticipation of renewal that our grandparents’ can see, when they utter ‘Jesus’? Undoubtedly, it was the same objective these parents had for their sick children – renewal and its strength – when they said ‘Jesus’.      

Keep saying ‘Jesus’, is the message of the song the Gaithers wrote. Seven times, that’s how much they have me say that name in this brief tune. Make it saturate the entire world. And, like moisture that evaporates back into the heavens, it eventually comes back down again, effecting a meteorological cycle we call weather. It cannot be stopped. I observe its repetitious nature, but is it seven or seventy-seven times, (a la Peter’s discussion with Jesus about forgiveness  - Matthew 18:21-22)? How many times has it rained in your life? Keep counting, and keep saying ‘that name’.

“The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J.  and Ardythe Perersen , published by Tyndale House in 2006, is the only source for this song story.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin, Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan

‘Be careful being so bold, Peter.’ That’s how the writers of “I Will Follow” might begin if you talked to them about this song and what it says.  Being confident that Jesus is the one to follow is a good thing, right? But, before you get lost in the song’s power and the synergy you feel singing or listening to this 2010 composition with others, step back. Think. Consider what you are mouthing to Him. After considering all the implications, the word ‘follow’ might seem as daunting as walking in an astronaut’s bootprint on the moon (see the picture). The composers might even sit with you and open up with a story from Mark 8. You could turn there right now…

Would you be prepared to have the Creator-God call you Satan? That’s what Chris Tomlin reminds us happened to Peter, as he tried to tell Jesus that He was wrong, that He could not possibly be right about the approach of the Messiah’s death.  You’re not really ready to follow, unless you fully appreciate the total cost. Not just for one day, but a lifetime. If you want to follow me, you have to be willing to do what I do, even die like me. And there’s also that part about loving and serving people too. And, you cannot get comfortable, because you gotta get up and move, and go anywhere He goes. So, what happens to my agenda? I have none, except His. That’s the blunt message. Pretty raw stuff, if you’re not prepared for it. Tomlin says ‘It’s a huge thing to say’, these words the worshipper vocalizes in the song’s chorus. He emphasizes that over and over again in a video he lets us see as he tells what he thinks about this proposition of being a no-holds-barred disciple.

Tomlin seems to have the humility about the song’s development that he admonishes the song’s listeners to adopt. He says that Jason Ingram and Rueben Morgan were the real masterminds behind the song, and that he jumped into its development in a comparatively small way. Maybe that means Ingram and Morgan were the ones who really initially saw the need to spur their own personal discipleship, their commitment to Him. Tomlin describes this commitment as cross-like for the believer, but also as an honor to carry daily this promise. So, it’s kind of a mixture of being humble to His lifestyle, but also being a risk-taker, a pledge-taker.   Maybe I’m not quite there, I admit at times. But, I can watch others around me, and see what the risky life looks like. Maybe that’s what happened to the twelve. They hung around Him enough, and finally figured out that life was really about giving in to His way of doin’ it. ‘It’s huge’, Tomlin reminds me. But, the payoff will be too. As huge as following someone to the Moon? It might seem as impossible as that, sometimes, but in reality He wants me to follow Him even further. All the way to Heaven.   

The below links take you to some comments by Chris Tomlin about the song’s meaning:

A link to a biography of Jason Ingram:
A link to a biography of Reuben Morgan:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jesus, Name Above All Names – Naida Hearn

..that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10)

Mundane, mingling with the sublime. That might be the best way to describe in five words or less how Naida Hearn composed a song one day in 1974.  It was a warm summer December day for Naida, so you might have figured out by now that she was in the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed from those in the northern hemisphere. It was near Christmas time, when perhaps thoughts of Christ are more prevalent, though there was no chill or snow like I might imagine accompanying that special time of year. “Jesus, Name Above All Names” was on 43-year old Naida Hearn’s mind as she went about her daily chores.

Naida Hearn was doing her family’s laundry that December day in 1974 near Palmerston, New Zealand. Whether it was actually North Palmerston (on the northern island of this southwest Pacific island nation) or the smaller town Palmerston (on the southern island) has not been clear, until now; as it turns out, 20 years later in 1994 someone with a singing group from the United Kingdom visited Palmerston North, and discovered that Naida Hearn lived there. (Thanks to Sharon McKenzie, who replied to the initial blog entry this author made here, giving us the right details! Awesome!) Here’s some of her words that she provides, as she reflected on meeting Naida. We knocked on the door and a little lady answered. We asked if she was Naida Hearn, to which she replied in the affirmative. We told her that we were musicians visiting from England and would very much like to talk to her. She told us her story… (about an unhappy marriage). But, Naida was an inspiration to those around her, and had her bible open on the table ready to lead a bible study among those in her community. She told us about writing her song, standing at the sink and having all the names of Jesus come into her head. She then sat down at her piano and played it with wonderful flourishes. She also shared with us that it wasn't sung correctly! A group of evangelists had taken her song to Europe but had taught it wrongly. She said that she felt that when (she) was singing about our Lord, the melody should never drop, so at the end of the first half of the song in the words 'Glorious Lord', the note on Lord should stay the same note and not go down!  

So, she’d just been thinking about Jesus, and wanted to keep her brain focused on Him as she did the wash…. That’s how Jesus is, as He becomes front and center in a believer’s thoughts, if one opens the mind’s eyes to Him, even in the mudane part of one’s day. Naida used a method that’s common at Christmastime. She pondered the various names of Him, including ‘Emmanuel’ that we often hear in December, and which she repeated in her composition.  Perhaps it was a King James or Wycliffe or Revised Standard Version of Matthew’s virgin birth story that she read, since most other bible translations might have spelled it ‘Immanuel’ in Matthew 1:24. She sang as she worked, and sensed He gave her the song’s first line. So, she kept going, intoning some of the other names she’d found in her bible. She grasped that she had something special after a few moments, and left the wash to plunk out its melody on a piano. Once she had the finishing touches on it, she asked for His OK, and got it.  Then she went back to the laundry.

Is life ordinary, even tedious? ‘Yes’, Naida Hearn might have admitted, along with the rest of us. Maybe that’s the reason she wanted to spice up her average day, that day in 1974. She gives me a model for the way to do that. Even during the Christmas season, the hubbub of the Yuletide might distract me if I’m not careful. I could take for granted something that’s obvious, perhaps like a big hill or similar physical landmark that’s in front of me every day. I admire it the first time I see it, and examine its details, maybe even intimately, but then I begin to ignore it. Is there one in your world that you see daily? He’s like that, but I confess that I often overlook the details of His landscape, the nuances of His various names. I need to start picking out more details of that peak I see every day . 

“The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J.  and Ardythe Perersen , published by Tyndale House in 2006, is one source for this song story. The Petersens indicate that Hearn was born in 1931 and died in 2001. See also this blog entry’s comments for the complete 1st person story shared by 2 readers!

The following is a site giving details of Naida Hearn’s home in New Zealand.,_New_Zealand

The below site suggests that she was born in 1944 and died in 2001.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blessed Jesus – Joey Holder

He lived a short 51 years, but his beliefs were written for all to see in the song “Blessed Jesus” and several others that he composed. Though one could be sad, realizing that he died at a relatively young age, there’s a peace too, knowing that he lived to share His Spirit in music, and helped others worship that way too. Joey Holder, praise and worship leader at Calvary Fellowship Church in Florence, Alabama…that’s how his friends and loved ones remember him. He evidently touched many people, and was involved in producing music for albums for 20-30 years, quite an accomplishment for anyone. But, one suspects that Joey’s goals were not earthly ones, but ones best summed up in the words of the song that he composed in 1987.

Holder was 28 years old when he wrote “Blessed Jesus”, and had already been engaged in music productions for at least the previous five years. Let’s see, that means he began in his early 20’s, singing background vocals for an album Will McFarlane cut called “Right from the Start” in 1982. It wasn’t long before he took on more, for he’s listed as a songwriter, among other roles, on McFarlane’s 1984 album “A Colony of Heaven”. He also apparently wrote songs for Mylon LeFevre’s “Faith, Hope and Love” album in 1992, too. In between those two album efforts was the “Blessed Jesus” song he wrote. One wouldn’t have to read his biography (in his obituary) to assume he was gifted, given what we see of his ability in this one song. The tune’s words tell us he was looking to Him for peace, comfort, and communion. Joey must have been like many of the rest of us who’ve ever lived in their 20’s, with life having some dips, mingled with hopes and dreams propelling one forward. But, his song words suggest he was counting on Him for life’s accomplishments…”as I look to You alone”.  It’s good to know he’d figured this out then, and one can imagine it must have stuck with him and been communicated to others about him for the next couple of decades, given the role he played at the Alabama church.

What would people say about me if my biography concluded today? What would yours sound like? Joey Holder had dozens of people writing remembrances of him at his memorial. Will McFarlane, his partner on their 1982 album, evidently provided some of the music at his friend’s memorial. …think one of them might have been “Blessed Jesus”? That would be a pretty good line in anyone’s biography, one of which his family could be proud. His brother Jesus is perhaps blessing him right now, because of this. Think of it…Joey asked for a blessing in 1987, blessed us with a song, and now he’s blessed by the Blessed One. Kinda great how that works, huh?
This link is an obituary for Joey Holder, who died April 30, 2010 at the age of 51.
This is the Facebook page for the Calvary Fellowship Church in Florence, Alabama where Joey Holder was the worship pastor/minister:

Other songs by Holder include:  “Holy Lord”; “ I Will Sing to the Lord Forever”; “Unto the King (Now Unto the King)”; ”We Are Your Treasure” , according to this site:

He’s listed as the songwriter on two albums by singers Will McFarlane and Mylon LeFevre at this link. He also contributed to two other albums by them. All four albums were produced between 1982 and 2003: