What’s On My MP3?   4 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is “What’s your favorite song? Provide background information.”

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I have a lot of songs I like and some are my “favorite” for short periods of time. Currently, I can get jiggy with Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up.” The white-lightning reference aside, it describes the sort of casual fun Alaskans have … just exchange the cornfield for a bonfire. The main reason, though, is I like songs with that sort of beat. In a year, I probably won’t even remember that I liked it, and because I don’t listen to country music very often, I won’t remember Luke Bryant exists.

Image result for image of amazing graceIn a similar style, Christian group Superchick’s “Pure” has been a favorite for a long time. Here are the lyrics so you understand what I like about it, but really, you have to hear them together to truly understand the attraction. I heard the song the first time after a really rough day at work and that song on the radio at lunch kept me from calling in sick for the afternoon and possibly resigning my job. It still has that effect on me.

But this post is about our FAVORITE song and why. I actually have two songs that I would want sung at my memorial service. Yeah, when you hit your mid-50s, you start thinking about stuff like that … even though my mother’s family routinely lives into their 80s and 90s.

The runner-up for “Favorite” (but would still be at my memorial service) is “Because He Lives” by the Gaithers. I actually heard Bill and Gloria Gaither sing it in a Baptist student conference in the 1980s. It was a pretty intimate setting, only a few hundred people. Gloria explained that they’d written what is now the 2nd verse for the birth of their first child, never expecting anyone to ask for it again, but so many people loved it that they had to write the other two verses and the refrain to go with it. It’s that refrain – “because He lives, I can face tomorrow … all fear is gone ….” that speaks to me. I remember the flip side of that and so it is very poignant for me.

Image result for image of amazing graceBut my all-time Favorite Song is “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. I suspect every Baptist in the world would name John Newton’s song as their favorite if they were pressed because the overwhelming message is redemption available to anyone.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.John Newton started his career as an English sailor at a young age. He was impressed into the Royal Navy at 18. After the captain had him flogged and humiliated, he transformed to a slave ship bound for West Africa, but he didn’t get along with the crew so was left in West Africa with a slave trader named Amos Clowe, who gave him to his wife, an African tribal princess. She abused Newton as if he were any other slave. He was 23 when rescued and returned to England. On the voyage for home, the ship near foundered and Newton, terrified, called out to God. The cargo shifted, blocking the hole in the hull and the ship made it to port.

Newton marked that experience as the beginning of his conversion to evangelical Christianity. He later described it as a mult-stage process. He began to read the Bible and other religious literature. It marked a huge change in his life style, though he continued to work the slave trade. That’s hard for us to take today, but in Newton’s era, slavery was considered normal. He was bothered by how slaves were treated, but he didn’t immediately come to the conclusion that the slave trade itself was wrong until many years later. He expressed his struggle with that in his later writings.

Image result for image of amazing graceHe suffered a stroke at 29 that caused him to leave the seafaring trade. A year later, he took a job as a tax collection in Liverpool, and began to spend his spare time studying Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. Around 1757, he began to apply to various Christian groups for ordination.  He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764, but he remained friendly with evangelicals as well. His preaching was quite popular, and this was how William Wilberforce came to know him.

In 1788, 34 years after he retired from the slave trade, Newton published a pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade” in which he described the horrific conditions of the slave ships. He sent copies to every MP. He and Wilberforce allied to abolish the African slave trade.

Image result for image of amazing graceEvery saint has a past and every sinner has a future and that portal between sinner to saint was exemplified by Newton’s life and expressed in his song. I’ve lived the journey myself, which is probably why it speaks to me so deeply. Newton’s “stages of conversion” reminds me greatly of my once-in-a-lifetime salvation experience, followed by years-later bending my will to God, followed by periodic stages of growth. It wasn’t that he was not a Christian in those years between, but that God had a lot of work to do with him.

I chose the Celtic version of the original song because I just love how it sounds, but it’s a song that’s been redone more than just about any other and multiple verses added to the original verses over the years. I’ve heard great rock, jazz, bluegrass, and hip hop versions. I’ve even heard gypsy and South African versions. Chris Tomlin did a version that proclaims “Amazing Grace: My Chains Are Gone“. I can’t really pinpoint a version that would be my favorite, though I really love hearing the original song, posted below, sung a capella by a solo baritone.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

 Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
’tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Read more: Gospel – Amazing Grace Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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4 responses to “What’s On My MP3?

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  1. Amazing Grace is a beautiful song and sends goose bumps down my arms every time I hear it.

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  2. Joan Baez sang a beautiful version of Amazing Grace as I recall. I must admit I haven’t heard of the other songs you mention, but will check them out.

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  3. I don’t think I’ve heard the Baez version, but Patti’s right – goose bumps.

    The best part about Amazing Grace is that, at least the original version, is written right about where anybody can sing it. You don’t have any high or really low notes or runs or complicated rhythms. But if there’s a singer who can really do it justice (or a group of scratch singers who can cover each other’s inadequacies) … wow, it’s a powerful song. You feel it on a nervous system level.

    It’s an old favorite around the bonfires here and it’s my go-to song when I’m hiking through bear country. Nobody really wants me singing it in the choir.

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  4. I almost chose this one to add to my list, but decided my list was too long. 🙂 I have some fond memories centered around this song.

    Liked by 1 person

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