Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know -- Lela B. Long

She’s an almost unknown personality, except for the song associated with her name. Perhaps that’s the way Lela B. Long wanted it…to be faceless, almost nameless, in favor of making His name more well-known. “Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know” must have been a statement her family and friends could remember her saying, but we don’t have to rely on any published biography to learn this. She recorded her opinion for us. What opinions do I have that I would want to survive me? Just any pontification probably wouldn’t last, but what makes Lela’s opinion notable is that it strikes a chord with us still today.

There’s not much information on Lela B. Long, other than a record with the words she wrote that suggests the song was written prior to 1925. That would suggest she was an adult who was born in the late 19th or early 20th Century, and went on to eternity prior to the end of the 20th Century. She must have had some affinity with people she knew, including unspoken names she says in verse one had moved her emotionally. But, she makes it clear that those names paled next to ‘Jesus’. Why would His name be so special to Long? Had she been affected by poor health, or events of her time like World War I, which robbed its survivors of friends and loved ones? What life circumstances drew her toward Him? We only know that she wrote three verses and a refrain (see the link below for access to them) to carry her message, though most often we hear only the refrain. She has us say repeatedly throughout the refrain that he’s genuine, as authentic and loveable as one can imagine Him. Isn’t that really the root of love, that this person to whom I cling is not a fake, but true? He’s worth my worship, she declares.

Can I identify with what Lela says? I live in a different time than her, but what’s really different? There are still people around, many of whom move me in different ways, as some evidently did for Lela Long in her life. She must have experienced illness, or other calamities that threatened her faith. War? The war she must have known was once known as the ‘war to end all wars’. Did it really accomplish this? How sweet was its conclusion for those who signed the peace at Versailles (see picture), if they lived to see what happened a generation later? Lies like that are too common. Likewise, health is too fragile for me to become complacent in my comfort. I must find something that won’t go sour. Lela did. It’s still pretty tasty, even decades after she savored it.      

Link to the song’s scant history and the three verses that accompany the chorus-refrain:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sweet Adoration -- Lynn Sutter, Brown Bannister, Dawn Rodgers

The three of them decided that a love song was how they wanted to express what they felt in 1980. What they sensed may have elicited ‘Thank You’, or perhaps the title might have been ‘ Recreation’ to describe the request they make in the song’s third verse. But instead, “Sweet Adoration” was what they called it, as they focused on this basic emotion to describe the admiration they held for the Creator. What life events make someone express feeling like this? Do Brown Bannister, Lynn Sutter, and Dawn Rodgers say something about affection in this song that’s different from the other kinds of love we practice here?

The three of them wrote many songs (see the many links below), including this “Sweet Adoration” in 1980 for Debby Boone’s “With My Song” album. Though sometimes the song’s first verse may be all we hear or see included in a hymnal, that practice may tell only part of the song’s story. We can see the composers felt a deep devotion, according to the opening verse’s words, but verse two may tell us the circumstances that at least one of them was experiencing that spurred this song’s development. Someone, or perhaps Brown, Lynn, and Dawn together could remember times in which each of them had struggled, times when they called out to Him and felt His protection. His presence was more than an oasis to refresh them. In fact, He took them to another place, where heartache and anything terrestrial was a distant memory. God doesn’t just help us get over the hurdles…they don’t exist where He takes us. Even at a young age (Brown Bannister was probably about 29 years old or less in 1980, if he graduated from Abilene Christian U. in the 1973-75 period), people can have struggles that lay them low. What were the ones that made Bannister, Sutter, and Rodgers seek Him out in song, asking Him to transform them (verse 3)?

“Sweet Adoration” tells me that these three writers had discovered an avenue for managing life. Don’t try to pray away whatever’s inevitable here. Instead, seek out what worked for Him when He was here. Becoming like Him, at least as much as is humanly possible, is a method that Bannister, Sutter, and Rodgers evidently thought was an exercise worth pursuing. Why? After all, in one perspective, searching for His great heart could be a frustrating, lifelong quest for something intangible. But, perhaps these composers had also discovered something else here, something about trouble. He waits just on the other side. Could that be why Jesus was so resolute about the trouble that waited for Him one Friday?   

According to these links, all three of the songwriters are credited with the song as it was included on the Debby Boone 1980 album “With My Song”, and Sutter apparently married someone named Adler:

This site indicates that Lynn Sutter is credited with the 1978 album “Everlasting Kind of Love”:

This You Tube site shows a picture of Sutter on the album “It’s a New Day”:

Sutter also composed the 1984 song “Nobody Loves You Like Jesus”:

Sutter composed the 1978 song “I’ve Never Been Loved Like This Before”:

Following site has biographic information on Brown:

This link shows a Dawn Rodgers album “Adoration”:

The following site has a second verse to the song:

This site has a 3rd verse to the song:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Lord Thy God -- Blaine Morris

He must have been studying one of the minor prophets the day he was moved to write this song, don’t you think? Blaine Morris, like so many songwriters who see themselves in God’s shadow, evidently did not make a very effective effort to promote himself, but instead is a signpost. What he saw and he experienced puts the emphasis in the wrong spot when you’re considering the song “The Lord Thy God” that Morris wrote in 1986. His name is practically all we know, similar to the prophet Zephaniah (shown here), with whom he may be identifying with the words he recorded for us to sing.

Blaine Morris apparently wrote many songs, as suggested by a comment someone posted on a YouTube video of Morris’ song “The Lord Thy God” as it’s sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (see link below). He and his wife Junel were traveling musicians and may have recorded some of their songs in a studio in Wenatchee, Washington. The words of his music’s first line were recorded centuries ago by Zephaniah (3:17), who stood in the shadows of others of his time, like Jeremiah around 625 B.C. So, Zephaniah and Blaine may have had similar egos too, in addition to the words they shared. Both were evidently content to remain relatively anonymous, perhaps a conscious decision so that the light shone more directly on the One whom they laud with their words. Why would someone shrink from the light…aren’t all musicians, including the travelling, perhaps struggling songwriter-types, looking for promotion? Maybe something more powerful called out to Blaine Morris. Did he call upon God with this song from a particular circumstance? What caused him to see Him that day? Was it just a bible study passage that moved him?

I have a friend, who when he prays calls upon ‘His Mighty Name’; I believe he's seen Him ‘high and lifted up’, and I think I know why.  You see, my friend is confined to a chair, yet he’s not debilitated. People who’ve seen Him, and experience His power, don’t feel weak. And, the connection to Him is fortified the more I throw at Him the attention that otherwise might come my way. Want to know more of what Blaine Morris was trying to accomplish here? It seems that here, maybe what the song’s story doesn’t say may be part of the message. Maybe when you sing his and Zephaniah’s words, you’ve completed his mission, despite not hearing any of his personal testimony about “The Lord Thy God”. When I meet Blaine someday, I’ll thank him for the lesson, shake his hand, and then return my attention toward Him. I suspect that’s what Blaine’s doin’ today.

Someone, who says he met Blaine and wife Junel Morris in Wenatchee, Washington at a recording studio, posted a message at this YouTube video site:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Great Redeemer -- Francis Foster

Who is the greatest purchaser in history? If you asked one guy named Francis Foster, in 1915 when he wrote “The Great Redeemer”, he’d probably say it was God. This divine being ‘bought’ all of us with something only He could offer as collateral for this transaction. It’s impossible to pin a dollar-sign or any other monetary measure (like the ones in the picture shown here) on this event. It was a one-time buyout, but really it’s still being played out, since all of us who are reading this have yet to finish off our end of the bargain. But, Foster’s words  suggest a way for us to verbalize our feelings about all this…to follow his exhilaration at the deal being offered. 

Francis Foster is a virtual unknown, except for a few facts and the words we can read of his devotion to God.   He wrote a handful of songs, among them many which were published in two Sparkling Jewels collections by Samuel Beazley and James Ruebush. Whether “The Great Redeemer” was in either Sparkling Jewels is not clear, but we can be sure many worshippers at the time considered it a treasure. Another source shows the song was listed in at least 10 publications. We may not know from first- or second-hand testimony what Foster’s motivation was for writing, but his emotions are evident in the song’s words.  He was ebullient, overwhelmed with what God’s atonement for him meant. No more guilt, no burden, just a ‘sunshine’-filled life. Foster must have been like so many who had come to a realization of his condition after some struggle. What was this crucible, this experience that burned into his consciousness what his destiny might have been except for the Great Redeemer?  It wasn’t just a one-time episode for Foster, since he wrote about his devotion in numerous songs. It’ll have to be one among many scores of anonymous or near-anonymous biographies that we’ll hear in eternity. 

 Imagine the encyclopedia that the Omniscient One is keeping up above. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s closer to a library full of biographic sketches that only He and perhaps relatively few others know, but which have been preserved for humanity at large. In our internet, information-saturated age, a story worth hearing but yet remaining unknown is almost unthinkable. How much is that story worth? Do you have a redeemed life-story that has turned you upside down, and inside out? Foster’s words model the response I need to follow: Tell someone, and make it memorable, and inspirational for others. Then, expect to hear some more …go hear Francis Foster tell his in the first-person. I have one too, but you’ll have to go where I’m goin’ to hear it all. It’s not quite finished yet.

The following site shows 14 hymns to Foster’s credit:
Little to nothing is known of the composer, except that some of his songs were published by Beazley and Ruebush in 1912, including 10 shown here. See the following: