Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious.
(Psalm 66:1-2, NIV)
For my debut concert, I was four or five years old. There must have been fifty people there; might as well have been five hundred. I walked nervously to the front of little Antioch Methodist Church one Sunday morning, sat down at the piano, and played “Jesus Loves Me” with shaky fingers. Then I played the second stanza – and the nerves began to slip away. So I played the third stanza, and it was still easier. And then I played…
Well, to hear my brothers tell it, Dad had to come down and end my debut in my home church. The moms in the congregation were growing concerned about the pot roast in the oven at home.
Some of my earliest memories are about music. My sister was my first “teacher” as she patiently helped me learn to play simple melodies. Now, for some 70 years, music has been a passion that brings joy and meaning to my life.
Music is the vehicle that leads me into worship. Music preaches messages that challenge me. Music soothes my troubled heart. After a tough day at work, music is therapeutic when I get home, and it’s just me and my piano.
Songs in the Bible? Really?
As a young kid, I was amazed to learn that the Psalms are songs, and it intrigued me to create tunes in my head as I read them. I would have tried to sing them, but it would have been risky to voice my homemade melodies. After all, I did have those two pesky older brothers.
Growing older, I discovered the Bible has a wealth of inspiring songs. For example, Exodus 15:1-2 tells us,
Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said,
I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him” (NASB).
Then there’s the stirring “Song of Mary,” the Magnificat, in Luke 1:47-49:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name (NIV).
It was a great encouragement to me as I learned how much God loves music, too.
Songs in another time
It’s a long way from the New Testament to the 1960s when I graduated high school, just as the first waves of “contemporary” Christian music were cresting. Christian radio stations began playing gifted artists and having an impact on the church and its music.
One of that era’s greatest voices was Larnelle Harris, and his powerful vocals still move my soul. Among his earlier powerful performances was “I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” a duet he sang with Sandi Patty.
“I Miss My Time With You,” one of his later solo songs, always convicts me to examine how much time I’m spending with the Lord these days.
A few months ago, I was excited to discover that he had written Shaped Notes, his autobiography. I could hardly wait to read it. The icing on the cake came when he agreed to do an interview for AFA Journal. I hope the Q&A interview will bless and challenge you as it reveals more about the man whose voice has had Kingdom impact for going on fifty years.