Sweet, Sweet Spirit – written in 1962

SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT                                                                written in 1962

The Story

An African-American girl growing up in a small town in Missouri, Doris Akers (1923-1995) started playing the piano when she was 5 years old… and wrote her first song when she was 10. She has won many awards for her singing, songwriting and choir directing – especially her work leading the Sky Pilot Choir, but she never had any formal music training. She said she learned her trade the best way – by practical experience.

It was through a personal experience that this song was born. She was leading a pre-service prayer meeting with the Sky Pilot Choir one Sunday morning, but said to her singers, “You are not ready to go in.” She didn’t believe they had prayed enough! They were accustomed to spending time with her in prayer before the service, asking God to bless their songs. So they were praying… when she sensed something special was happening. She described it like this: “The Holy Spirit came down on me and my choir in a sweet gentle sense of powerful presence. I could see Him displayed on the choir members’ warm expressions! I didn’t know how the prayer meeting could conclude and wondered whether I could end word to the waiting pastor and congregation in the church sanctuary.” But, finally she had to tell the choir it was time to go. It was hard to break up the prayer time because there was a sweet, sweet Spirit in that place.

Doris wrote this song from that experience. “Sweet, sweet Spirit” immediately became a favorite hymn of churches; for many congregations, it became a staple during the greeting time in worship. Because it is easily memorized, the song is often played and sung as parishioners shake hands and embrace others gathered for worship.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – ask the Holy Spirit to make the place you’re in right now a sweet place to be.

There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,

and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;
there are sweet expressions on each face,

and I know they feel the presence of the Lord. (Chorus)

Chorus
Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove,

stay right here with us, filling us with Your love.
And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise;
without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived, when we shall leave this place.

There are blessings you cannot receive

till you know Him in His fullness and believe;
you’re the one to profit when you say,

“I am going to walk with Jesus all the way.” (Chorus)

 

If you say He saved you from your sin,

now you’re weak, you’re bound and cannot enter in,
you can make it right if you will yield,
you’ll enjoy the Holy Spirit that we feel. (Chorus)

Heaven Came Down – written in 1961

HEAVEN CAME DOWN                                                                   written in 1961

The Story

            In the world of gospel music, John W. Peterson (1921-2006) wore many hats. He had written more than 1,000 gospel songs and tunes; he had composed about 30 cantatas, which have sold nearly 10 million copies; he had edited and compiled many hymnals; and he had served as president of the Singspiration music company (which, in the 1970s, was THE most popular music publisher).

In the summer of 1961, he led the singing at the Montrose Bible Conference in Montrose, Pennsylvania. When he invited people in the audience to give personal testimonies, an elderly gentleman stood to his feet. John described it like this: “As he spoke, his face glowed, especially when told of that night when he came to Jesus Christ.  The way he expressed it was: ‘Heaven came down and glory filled my soul’.”

Those words grabbed John, so he jotted them down. What a great theme for a song! Later that week, he wrote this song, both words and music.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – think back to the occasion of your salvation.

O, what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget;
after I’d wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.
O, what a tender, compassionate friend, He met the need of my heart;
shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart.

CHORUS
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
when at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
my sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine,
justified fully thru Calvary’s love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came,
took of the offer, of grace He did proffer, He saved me, O praise His dear name! (CHORUS)

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure after the passing of time;
I have a future in Heaven for sure there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day, when at the cross I believed;
riches eternal and blessings supernal, from His precious hand I received. (CHORUS)

Hymns of the 1960s

HYMNS of the 1960s

At the beginning of the 1960s, many Americans believed they were standing at the dawn of a golden age.  On January 20, 1961, the handsome and charismatic John F. Kennedy became president of the United States.  His confidence that, as one historian put it, “the government possessed big answers to big problems” seemed to set the tone for the rest of the decade.  But, that golden age never materialized.  On the contrary, by the end of the 1960s it seemed that the nation was falling apart.

“The Sixties”, as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling; and in others pejoratively to denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order.

The 1960s was also associated with a large increase in crime and urban unrest of all types.  Between 1960 and 1969, reported incidences of violent crime per 100,000 people in the U.S. nearly doubled and have yet to return to the levels of the early 1960s. Large riots broke out in many cities like ChicagoDetroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, New JerseyOakland, California and Washington, D.C.  By the end of the decade, politicians like George Wallace and Richard Nixon campaigned on restoring law and order to a nation troubled with the new unrest.

The most prominent American TV series of the 1960s include: The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-71), The Red Skelton Show (1951-71), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-66), The Danny Thomas Show (1953-74), Lassie (1954-73), The Tonight Show (1954-present), Gunsmoke (1955-75), The Twilight Zone (1959-64), Bonanza (1959-73), and The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68).

Men’s mainstream hairstyles ranged from the pompadour, the crew cut, the flattop hairstyle, the tapered hairstyle, and short, parted hair in the early part of the decade, to longer parted hairstyles with sideburns towards the latter half of the decade.

Women’s mainstream hairstyles ranged from beehive hairdos, the bird’s nest hairstyle, and the chignon hairstyle in the early part of the decade, to very short styles popularized by Twiggy and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby towards the latter half of the decade.

African-American hairstyles for men and women included the afro.

1960

France detonated its first atomic bomb.

The Valdivia earthquake, also known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, is to date the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rating 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale.  It caused localized tsunamis that severely battered the Chilean coast, with waves up to 82 ft.  The main tsunami raced across the Pacific Ocean and devastated Hilo, Hawaii.

The U.S. presidential election was a very close campaign.  What swayed the vote toward Kennedy over Nixon was a series of four debates; they were the first presidential debates held on television.  Until those debates, Nixon was winning, but more people liked the way Kennedy looked on TV.  Kennedy won a close election.

The decade began with a recession from 1960–61; at that time, unemployment was considered high (7%).  In his campaign, John F. Kennedy promised to “get America moving again.”  His goal was economic growth of 4-6% per year and unemployment below 4%; to do this, he instituted a 7% tax credit for businesses that invest in new plants and equipment.  By the end of the decade, median family income had risen from $8,540 in 1963 to $10,770 by 1969.

The female birth-control contraceptive, the pill, was released in the U.S. after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

The first working laser was demonstrated in by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories.

The more prominent films in 1960 were Psycho, Spartacus, and The Magnificent Seven.

The more popular TV shows that debuted in 1960 were The Flintstones (1960-66), a favorite show that received 40 million views an episode with an average of 3 views a day; My Three Sons (1960-65).

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

1961

Substantial (approximately 700) American advisory forces first arrive in Vietnam.  By mid-1962, the number of U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam had risen from 900 to 12,000.  By the time of U.S. President John F. Kennedy‘s death there were 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam, up from Eisenhower’s 900 advisors to cope with rising guerrilla activity in Vietnam.

President John F. Kennedy promised some more aggressive confrontation with the Soviet Union; he also established the Peace Corps.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

A second wave of feminism in the U.S. and around the world gained momentum in the early 1960s.  While the first wave of the early 20th century was centered on gaining voting rights and overturning inequalities, the second wave was focused on changing cultural and social norms and de facto inequalities associated with women.  At the time, a woman’s place was generally seen as being in the home, and they were excluded from many jobs and professions.  Commercials often portrayed a woman as being helpless if her car broke down.  In the US, a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women found discrimination against women in the workplace and every other aspect of life, a revelation which launched two decades of prominent women-centered legal reforms (resulting in the the Equal Pay Act of 1963Title IX, etc.) which broke down the last remaining legal barriers to women’s personal freedom and professional success.  Feminists took to the streets, marching and protesting, writing books and debating to change social and political views that limited women.

The Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union dominated the 1960s. The Soviets sent the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into outer space during the Vostok 1 mission (April), but, by the middle of the decade, the U.S. took the lead.  In May 1961, President Kennedy set for the U.S. the goal of a manned spacecraft landing on the Moon by the end of the decade.

Unimate, the first industrial robot, was introduced.

The popular TV shows introduced in 1961 were The Wonderful World of Disney (1961-81); The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66).

Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 and Roald Dahl wrote James and the Giant Peach.

1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a near-military confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. After an American Naval (quarantine) blockade of Cuba, the Soviet Union – under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev – agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba in exchange for the US removing its missiles from Turkey.

The first transatlantic satellite broadcast, via the Telstar satellite, was transmitted.

The first computer video game, Spacewar!, was invented.

The more popular TV shows that debuted in 1962 were The Andy Williams Show (1962-71); The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71); The Lucy Show (1962-68); McHale’s Navy (1962-66); and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1962-65).

Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange.

1963

Civil rights becomes a central issue, as the Birmingham campaign and the Birmingham riot lead to President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address, Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, and the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX by Lee Harvey Oswald during a public motorcade… and the nation mourned.  He was replaced by his Vice President, Lyndon Johnson.  For the next half-century, conspiracy theorists concocted numerous alternative explanations to the official report that a lone gunman killed Kennedy.

A popular film in 1963 was The Pink Panther.

Popular TV shows introduced in 1963 were The Fugitive (1963-67) and The Outer Limits (1963-65).

Pierre Boulle wrote Planet of the Apes; Maurice Sendak wrote Where the Wild Things Are.

The bikini came into fashion in 1963 after being featured in the film Beach Party.

1964

China detonated its first atomic bomb.

The Good Friday earthquake, the most powerful earthquake recorded in the US and North America, struck Alaska and killed 143 people.

Hurricane Betsy caused severe damage to the U.S. Gulf Coast, especially in the state of Louisiana.

President Johnson pressed for civil rights legislation.  The Civil Rights Acts was signed into law; this landmark piece of legislation in the U.S. outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment.  The first black riots erupted in major cities.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was reelected over Conservative spokesman Senator Barry Goldwater by a wide landslide; Liberals gained full control of Congress.

As the 1960s began, American cars showed a rapid rejection of 1950s styling excess, and would remain relatively clean and boxy for the entire decade.  The horsepower race reached its climax in the late 1960s, with muscle cars sold by most makes.  The compact Ford Mustang, launched in 1964, was one of the decade’s greatest successes.  The “Big Three” American automakers enjoyed their highest ever sales and profitability in the 1960s, but the demise of Studebaker in 1966 left American Motors Corporation as the last significant independent.  The decade would see the car market split into different size classes for the first time, and model lineups now included compact and mid-sized cars in addition to full-sized ones.

Some of the technological advances of 1964 were the development of the 8-track tape, the introduction of the Compact Cassette, the marketing of the first successful minicomputer, the creation of the programming language BASIC, and the introduction of the world’s first supercomputer, the CDC 6600.

Popular films in 1964 were Mary Poppins and Fistful of Dollars.

Popular TV shows that were introduced in 1964 were Bewitched (1964-72); Peyton Place (1964-69); Gilligan’s Island (1964-67); and The Munsters  (1964-66).

Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Shel Silverstein wrote The Giving Tree.

The Beatles exerted an enormous influence on young men’s fashions and hairstyles in the 1960s, which included most notably the mop-top haircut, the Beatle boots and the Nehru jacket.

1965

The National Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Johnson, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States.

Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam in New York City.

In the second half of the decade, young people began to revolt against the conservative norms of the time (in stark contrast to the 1950s), as well as remove themselves from mainstream liberalism, in particular the high level of materialism which was so common during the era.  This created a “counterculture” that sparked a social revolution throughout much of the Western world.  It began in the U.S. as a reaction against the conservatism and social conformity of the 1950s, and the US government’s extensive military intervention in Vietnam.  The youth involved in the popular social aspects of the movement became known as hippies.  These groups created a movement toward liberation in society, including the sexual revolution, questioning authority and government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women and minorities.  The Underground Press, a widespread, eclectic collection of newspapers served as a unifying medium for the counterculture.  The movement was also marked by the first widespread, socially accepted drug use (including LSD and marijuana) and psychedelic music.

The war in Vietnam would eventually lead to a commitment of over half a million American troops, resulting in over 58,500 American deaths and producing a large-scale antiwar movement in the United States.  As late as the end of 1965, few Americans protested the American involvement in Vietnam, but as the war dragged on and the body count continued to climb, civil unrest escalated.  Students became a powerful and disruptive force and university campuses sparked a national debate over the war.  As the movement’s ideals spread beyond college campuses, doubts about the war also began to appear within the administration itself.  A mass movement began rising in opposition to the Vietnam War, ending in the massive Moratorium protests in 1969, as well as the movement of resistance to conscription (“the Draft”) for the war.

The antiwar movement was initially based on the older 1950s Peace movement, heavily influenced by the American Communist Party, but by the mid-1960s it outgrew this and became a broad-based mass movement centered in universities and churches: often being expressed in a protest called a “sit-in“.  Other terms that became common-place in the U.S. included “the Draft“, “draft dodger“, “conscientious objector“, and “Vietnam vet“.  Voter age-limits were challenged by the phrase: “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”

AstroTurf was introduced.

Popular films in 1965 were Doctor Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More, and the highest-grossing film of the decade, The Sound of Music.

Popular TV shows that were introduced in 1965 were The Dean Martin Show (1965-74) and I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70).

Frank Herbert wrote Dune.

1966

After 1966, with the draft in place, more than 500,000 troops were sent to Vietnam by the Johnson administration and college attendance soared.

By 1966, the feminist movement was beginning to grow in size and power as women’s groups spread across the country.  The National Organization for Women was founded.

A popular film in 1966 was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Popular TV shows that were introduced in 1966 were Mission: Impossible (1966-73); Star Trek (1966-69); and Batman (1966-68).

Walt Disney, the founder of the Walt Disney Co. died in 1966, from a major tumor in his left lung.

1967

The deaths of astronauts Gus GrissomEdward Higgins White, and Roger B. Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire, put a temporary hold on the U.S. space program, but afterward progress was steady, with the Apollo 8 crew (Frank BormanJim Lovell,William Anders) being the first manned mission to orbit another celestial body (the moon) during Christmas of 1968.

The Six Days War was a war between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.  As a result of this war, Israel would be recognized as an independent nation in 1968.

Though the first half of the decade had low inflation, by 1966 Kennedy’s tax credit had reduced unemployment to 3.7% and inflation remained below 2%.  With the economy booming, Johnson began his “Great Society”… which expanded social programs.  By the end of the decade under Nixon, the combined inflation and unemployment rate (known as the misery index) had exploded to nearly 10% with inflation at 6.2% and unemployment at 3.5%.  By 1975, the misery index would be almost 20%.

The first heart transplant operation was successfully conducted by Prof. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa.

Japanese cars began to gain acceptance in the Western market, and popular economy models such as the Toyota CorollaDatsun 510, and the first popular Japanese sports car, the Datsun 240Z, were released in the mid- to late-1960s.

The first Automatic Teller Machine was opened in London.

The counterculture movement dominated the second half of the 1960s, its most famous moments being the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, and the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York in 1969.  Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, were widely used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally throughout the late 1960s.  There was a growing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, and many attempts were made to found communes, which varied from supporting free love to religious puritanism.

Popular films in 1967 were Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Jungle Book.

The TV show, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-69) became controversial by challenging the foundations of America’s corporate and governmental controls; making fun of world leaders, and questioning U.S. involvement in and escalation of the Vietnam War.

The hippie movement late in the decade also had a strong influence on clothing styles, including bell-bottom jeanstie-dye and batik fabrics, as well as paisley prints.

Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt which became one of the most popular rages in the late 1960s.

1968

Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.

Robert F. Kennedy, a U.S. Senator (and brother to John F. Kennedy), was  assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles, after taking California in the presidential national primaries.

Women’s Liberation” became a household term as, for the first time, the new women’s movement eclipsed the Civil Rights Movement when New York Radical Women, led by Robin Morganprotested the annual Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The movement, led by Gloria Steinham, continued throughout the next decades.

The public was introduced to a demonstration of the computer mousevideo conferencingteleconferencingemail, and hypertext.

Richard M. Nixon was elected president, defeating Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in November.  When Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, he promised “peace with honor” to end the Vietnam War .

Popular films in 1968 were Planet of the Apes, Rosemary’s Baby, and Once Upon a Time in the West.

A popular TV show that debuted in 1968 was Laugh-In (1968-73).

1969

Hurricane Camille hit the U.S. Gulf Coast at Category 5 Status.  To date it is the strongest hurricane ever recorded at landfall.

Apollo 11, the first human spaceflight, landed on the Moon.  It carried mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and the Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin.  Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a speech given before a joint session of Congress in 1961: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

Popular films in 1969 were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and The Wild Bunch.

Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather; Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five; Maya Angelou wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

————————————————————————–

But what about the music of the 1960s?  Some consider the 1960s to be the best decade of music ever!

Popular music entered an era of “all hits”, as numerous artists released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm “singles” (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made.  Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record.  The taste of the American listeners expanded from the folksingerdoo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s to the Motown soundfolk rock and the British Invasion led by The Beatles.  The rise of the counterculture movement, particularly among the youth, created a market for rock, soul, pop, reggae, and blues music.

Elvis Presley returned to civilian life in the U.S. after two years away in the U.S. Army, and resumed his musical career by recording “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in 1960.

The Motown Record Corporation was founded in 1960.

The Beatles arrived in America in 1964, spearheading the British Invasion.

The Grateful Dead was formed in 1965 (originally The Warlocks), giving birth to acid rock.

The Beach Boys introduced the world to the “beach sound”.

Johnny Cash released At Folsom Prison in 1968

————————————————————————–

For many years acceptable church music consisted primarily of Catholic monks singing Gregorian Chant Latin hymns.  The 16th century Reformation resulted in the formation of the Protestant Church and in a new kind of church music — Hymns that were written to be sung by the common people of the church congregation, in a language they could understand.  Over the next 200-plus years, this new type of music was developed until it resulted in the very hymns that many Protestant Christians (and some Catholics) still sing today.

It would be many years after the Reformation that the Catholic Church would add this type of hymn to their tradition.  In the 19th century, the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act opened the door for hymns other than the Latin Gregorian Chants to be written and sung.  In order to make this change while still staying true to their unique Catholic worship style, an entirely new group of hymns came to life… Gospel Music hymns.  This style of music became popular during the great revival camp meeting days of such evangelists as Dwight D. Moody.

In the early 20th century the Pentecostal movement determined to bridge the gap between Christians of different races.  One result of this resolve was that black Gospel hymns and musicians began to gain popularity with white Believers.

The Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s introduced new ideas about church propriety and fresh new hymns and praise songs to the Church.

As the style of Christian writing began to turn more toward praise songs and choruses that suited the younger generations and the Jesus movement, you can see an obvious shift; there were fewer hymns written that we still sing today.  But, maybe your favorite church song was written in the 1960s…

1961…           Heaven Came Down

1962…           Sweet, Sweet Spirit

1963…           Thou Art Worthy; He Touched Me; Without Him

1964…           He’s Everything to Me; Beyond the Sunset

1967…           This Is the Day

1969…           Pass It On

Fill My Cup, Lord

FILL MY CUP, LORD                                                                       written in 1959

The Story

Most people think most hymns were written by someone who was going through a mountain-top experience, enjoying personal fellowship with God, or feeling blessed by God. But most hymns were written by someone as a result of a tragedy or trial they were going through. The writing of this hymn would probably not fit into either of those categories…

Richard Blanchard (1925-2004) born in China to missionary parents. He grew up to be the minister of a large Methodist church in Florida… large enough to have a TV ministry and all that comes with it. It seemed Richard was always busy… too busy.

In the midst of everything else he had to do, he was asked by a young couple to officiate their wedding. He agreed to do so if they would come in for pre-marital counseling. They met with him for their first session… but didn’t show up on time for their second session. Richard was irritated. He told his secretary, “I’ll wait for 30 more minutes and then I’m leaving.” He thought they were upsetting his entire schedule for the day.

He left his office and went into a Sunday school classroom. There he sat down at a piano and began to play. And, much to his amazement, God seemed to give him this song.

Blanchard later said, “When I was not in the mood to be used by God, God was in a mood to use me.”

So, in the course of a normal day… nothing that felt blessed and nothing that was tragic… a song was born. What might God be able to do in you or through you in the course of your normal day? A day much like today?

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – pray it as a prayer, asking God to do in You those things you cannot do on your own.

Like the woman at the well I was seeking for things that could not satisfy;
and then I heard my Savior speaking: “Draw from My well that never shall run dry”.

CHORUS
Fill my cup Lord; I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

There are millions in this world who are craving the pleasures earthly things afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure that I find in Jesus Christ my Lord. (Chorus)

So, my brother, if the things this world gave you leave hungers that won’t pass away,
my blessed Lord will come and save you, if you kneel to Him and humbly pray: (Chorus)

His Name Is Wonderful – written in 1959

HIS NAME IS WONDERFUL                                                          written in 1959

The Story

Audrey Mieir (1916-1996) began writing hymns when she was 16 years old. She learned to play the piano… then became a choir director. By the time she was 30 years old, she had founded the Mieir Choir Clinic in Hollywood.

This song was inspired by her church’s annual Christmas program. The Christmas program at Bethel Union Church in Duarte, California, was probably not much different than one you might see in other churches… or in other years. A teenaged girl played the part of Mary, small children were supposed to be angels, and the organist played Christmas carols in the background. But, there was something a little different in this Christmas program… it seemed to be unusually good! When it was over, the pastor stood before the church and shouted, “His name is wonderful! His name is wonderful! His name is wonderful!”

Audrey thought, Those words would make a great worship song. So, she jotted them down on a blank page in the back of her Bible. And, that afternoon she wrote this song.  That night she sang it for the adults in her church… never dreaming this song would become famous in just a couple of years.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – testify of God’s attributes by reading it out loud.

His name is wonderful! His name is wonderful!
His name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord!
He is the mighty King, Master of everything;
His name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord.
He’s the Great Shepherd… The Rock of all ages… Almighty God is He.
Bow down before Him, love and adore Him;
His name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord.

Ten Thousand Angels

TEN THOUSAND ANGELS                                                            written in 1958

The Story

Ray Overholt (1905-1989) was making it big in show business. At age 36, he had his own TV show and had been on Kate Smith’s nationally broadcast program. Now he was moving into the nightclub circuit.

But something was missing… and he knew it. He told his wife he was going to clean up his act. Things were going to change. He decided to read his Bible, which is always a good place to start. He began to read about the crucifixion of Christ. He would later say, “I read the part where Jesus told Peter He could have asked His Father and He would send 12 legions of angels”. Ray hadn’t heard that before.

Ray had written secular songs, but he thought a good title for a religious song would be, “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels”. But, if he were going to write a song about Jesus, he needed to know more about Him. So, he did a little research. And, while playing in a nightclub in Battle Creek, Michigan, he began writing this song.

News got around about this nightclub singer who had written a spiritual song… and a small church invited him to sing it. After his solo, he sat down and listened to the sermon that followed. He later said, “It gripped my heart. I knew I needed Christ, so I knelt there and accepted as my Savior, the One whom I had been singing and writing about.”

His music has been recorded by at least 100 artists, including Kate Smith, Loretta Lynn and Janie Fricke. But, in 1958, Overholt hung up his cowboy hat when a conversion to Christianity redirected his life and mission.

His most successful songs include this song, which sold 1 million copies by the 1970s, and “Hallelujah Square,” nominated for three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards in consecutive years.

In 1989, at the age of 84, Ray Overholt was “all dressed up” on a Sunday to make the trip from his Battle Creek home to Grand Rapids, where he was scheduled to perform a concert at the Faith Reformed Church.  And that’s where they found him when he died.

You’ve probably heard this song sung as a solo more often than sung as a hymn, but its original purpose was intended to be as the gospel story sung by a congregation as a whole.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – thank God once again for the sacrifice of Christ… who died on a cross for our sins when He could have stopped it at any time.

They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed;
they led Him through the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Savior so pure and free from sin;
they said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”

Chorus:
He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels, but He died alone (alone), for you and me.

Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns;
they laughed and said, “Behold the King.”
They struck Him and they cursed Him and mocked His holy name.
All alone He suffered everything. (Chorus)

When they nailed Him to the cross, His mother stood nearby;
He said, “Woman, behold thy son!”
He cried, “I thirst for water,” but they gave Him none to drink.
Then the sinful work of man was done. (Chorus)

To the howling mob He yielded; He did not for mercy cry.
The cross of shame He took alone.
And when He cried, “It’s finished,” He gave Himself to die;
salvation’s wondrous plan was done. (Chorus)

Until Then – written in 1958

UNTIL THEN                                                                                                 written in 1958

The Story

Stuart Hamblen (1908-1989) started as an entertainer when he was radio’s first singing cowboy. For more than 2 decades, his radio programs kept him on top of the West Coast pop charts.

Though he was the son of a traveling Methodist preacher… and the husband of a devout Christian wife, Stuart was boisterous. His world was filled with drinking, cheating, and lying. But, his wife didn’t give up on him. She kept praying that her husband would be saved.

At a Billy Graham crusade, Stuart was saved… and he began to write songs that glorify God. Billy Graham preached Hamblen’s funeral in 1989.

As a growing Christian, Stuart realized he didn’t have the answers to all of life’s questions: Why is there suffering? Why is there so much evil? Why isn’t life easier for a Christian? But Stuart was also content to leave such questions with God. Someday we will understand, but until then…

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – make a list of the things in your life you need to trust God with.

My heart can sing when I pause to remember

a heartache here is but a stepping stone

along a trail that’s winding always upward;

this troubled world is not my final home.

CHORUS:

But, until then, my heart will go on singing;

until then with joy I’ll carry on

until the day my eyes behold the city…

until the day God calls me home.

 

The things of earth will dim and lose their value

if we recall they’re borrowed for a while;

and things of earth that cause the heart to tremble,

remembered there will only bring a smile. (Chorus)

 

This weary world, with all its toil and struggle,

may take its toll of misery and strife.

The soul of man is like a waiting falcon;

when it’s released, it’s destined for the skies. (Chorus)

Surely Goodness and Mercy – written in 1958

SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY                                            written in 1958

The Story

Alfred B. Smith (1916-2001), a music publisher and songwriter, received a letter from a descendant of Philip Bliss, a 19th-century gospel composer. The letter told Al the story of how Philip Bliss learned the 23rd Psalm before he could read or write. Bliss’ teacher’s name was Miss Murphy, and little Philip learned the Psalm this way: “Surely, good Miss Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life”. Sometimes, the inspiration for a gospel song comes from strange places!

At the time Al received that letter, he was associated with composer John W. Peterson in one of the largest gospel-music companies of the mid-20th century. One day, Peterson was improvising at his piano as Al came into the room. “For no particular reason I can remember,” Peterson says, “we started to develop a new song”.

They thought about a new approach to Psalm 23. Al was apparently thinking of “Good Miss Murphy”, and John’s mind went back to his days in the air force during World War 2… when he often gave thanks to the Good Shepherd for taking care of His sheep. So, this song was born… emphasizing God’s goodness and mercy as well as God’s guidance through cold nights and lonesome valleys.

It’s such a fun song to sing!

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – pray it as your own personal testimony.

A pilgrim was I, and a wandering, in the cold night of sin I did roam,
when Jesus the kind Shepherd found me, and now I am on my way home.

Chorus:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days, all the days of my life;
surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days, all the days of my life.

He restoreth my soul when I’m weary; He giveth me strength day by day;
He leads me beside the still waters; He guards me each step of the way. (Chorus)

When I walk through the dark lonesome valley, my Savior will walk with me there;
and safely His great hand will lead me to the mansions He’s gone to prepare. (Chorus)

Ending:
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
and I shall feast at the table spread for me;
surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days, all the days of my life.

The Savior Is Waiting – written in 1958

THE SAVIOR IS WAITING                                                                          written in 1958

The Story

The composer, Ralph Carmichael (1927 – ), is the son of a Pentecostal minister who allowed his son to play the violin and listen to the radio. As a teenager, he played violin with the San Jose Civic Symphony. At 17 he enrolled at Southern California Bible College, now Vanguard University, to become a preacher like his father, grandfather, 3 uncles and 5 cousins.

He started a campus men’s quartet, ensembles and mixed groups of all kinds, blending jazz and classical music techniques with gospel songs and hymns. His musical “experiments” proved instantly controversial. His bands were unwelcome at many churches, and he was not allowed to store the baritone saxophone on campus because of its worldly associations with big band music.

After college, reaction to his band was mixed from the Christian community. One church made them hide the drums behind a curtain; a pastor in Oakland stopped the band mid-song because the music sounded too worldly. But, after a performance at a men’s fellowship in Pasadena, Ralph’s band was invited to audition for television. This program drew so much hate mail from Christians that the station asked for more shows!

In 1951, Ralph was invited to score a film for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; in all, he wrote the musical score for 20 of their films. For BGEA, he made the funky urban soundtrack for the 1970 film The Cross and the Switchblade.

By the late 1950s, secular producers had taken notice of Carmichael’s radio and film work. He was invited to assist the composer at the television sitcom I Love Lucy and was soon arranging music for that show as well as Bonanza and The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show and for singers Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Rosemary Clooney. He scored the movie The Blob. But, when he arranged and composed music for a Bing Crosby Christmas special television program, his denomination strongly suggested he not apply for renewal of his ordination.

When it came to writing his autobiography, he decided the best title would be his testimony, so he called it, “He’s Everthing To Me”. He is considered a pioneer of contemporary Christian music and the “father of Christian rock”.

This song, “The Savior Is Waiting”, is one of Ralph’s earlier songs. It was written when his pastor asked him for a hymn to be used at evangelistic services.

My oldest and favorite memory of this hymn was it being sung during the invitation… almost every night… at Camp Formosa Church Camp when I was a teenager.  When this hymn is sung, you can almost picture the Savior waiting for you to come to Him.

The Song

Read this hymn, and – today – ask yourself if you’re still keeping the Savior waiting.

The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,

why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart;
what is your answer to Him?

Chorus:
Time after time He has waited before,
and now He is waiting again
to see if you are willing to open the door;
Oh, how He wants to come in.

If you’ll take one step toward the Savior, my friend,
you’ll find His arms open wide.
Receive Him, and all of your darkness will end;

within your heart He’ll abide. (Chorus)

The Circuit-Riding Preacher – written in 1958

THE CIRCUIT-RIDING PREACHER                                             written in 1958

The Story

“Circuit riders” was a name given to clergy in the earliest years of the United States who were assigned to travel around specific geographic territories to minister to settlers and organize congregations.

In sparsely populated areas of the U.S., it has always been common for clergy in many denominations to serve more than one congregation at a time, a form of church organization sometimes called a “preaching circuit“. A “circuit” was a geographic area that encompassed two or more local churches.

Tim Spencer (1908-1974), once a member of the singing men, Sons of the Pioneers, write this biography about circuit-riding preachers.

I remember learning and singing this song while in children’s choir at Hope Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Michigan. In fact, I was given a verse to sing as a solo for the church… and was the first time I remember singing in front of people. I always enjoyed cowboy stories, movies, and books… and this song really stuck with me.

The Song

Read this hymn, and – today – thank God for the Pastor He has given to you.

The circuit-riding preacher used to ride across the land
with a rifle on his saddle and a Bible in his hand;
he told the prairie people all about the promised land
as he went riding singing down the trail…

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
The circuit-riding preacher traveled thru the mire and mud,

told about the fiery furnace and of Noah and the flood;
he preached the way to Heaven was by water and the blood,
as he went riding singing down the trail…

There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the lamb.

There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.

 

The circuit-riding preacher slept in flee-infested barns;

even then he felt the comfort of the everlasting arms,
that gave him strength to travel on to churches, homes and farms
as he went riding, singing down the trail…
His rifle may be rusted as it hangs upon the wall
and his Bible old and dusty may be never read at all,
but until the resurrection when we hear the trumpet call
his truth will ride along!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!  Glory, glory hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!  His truth is marching on!