Last night I saw on Twitter that George Beverly Shea had passed away. In the 20th century church music world, Mr. Shea is the equivalent of Elvis to rock and roll.
When I heard of Mr. Shea’s passing, I did what everyone does these days….I clicked over to Facebook to see if there were any good news links posted by my friends. I wanted to read about this 104 year old man that was now singing in heaven.
I realized that it is likely that most of my friends on Facebook would lean more towards followers of articles on Chris Tomlin than George Beverly Shea.
So, I tapped over to trusty Mr. Google and found an inspiring article to read and learned that George Beverly Shea had earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2011…wow…didn’t know that.
Reading the article brought back memories from my childhood of watching Billy Graham crusades on TV and seeing George Beverly Shea lead stadiums full of people in singing “How Great Thou Art.”
I wanted to hear that famous voice sing a great hymn of my childhood. I tapped over to YouTube and started playing a video I found of Mr. Shea singing at a crusade.
From the recliner, Joe burst into laughter….inappropriate I know.
No, Joe wasn’t laughing for the same reason that some people of our generation might laugh at the musical style of George Beverly Shea.
Mr. Shea is the polar opposite of this generation’s hipster, skinny jeans, tight t-shirt wearing worship leaders that you find at many contemporary churches. (just to cover my bases…I love me many a skinny jeans wearing worship leaders…and suit and tie wearing worship leaders)
Joe was laughing because the song George Beverly Shea was singing on the video was “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Then, I remembered and joined in his laughing.
One of Joe’s favorite childhood memories is sitting in the pew of his church listening to a lady from his church sing the song “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” However, the lady had a beautifully trained vibrato voice and to a child sometimes the words were a little difficult to understand.
As this lady sang, eight year old Joe would hear these words, “I’d Rather Have Cheese Sauce, than silver or gold…..I’d Rather Have Cheese Sauce than riches untold”.
As I watched Mr. Shea singing this famous hymn to which he composed the music, I couldn’t help but wish that I had shared this story with him. I wish I knew a loved one of his who would be able to smile today because of the precious and hilarious memory that Joe has of his song.
I woke up this morning thinking about George Beverly Shea’s song. (and perhaps thinking that I really want to have some cheese sauce for lunch)
As I was praying this morning my mind was flooded with my own childhood memories of sitting in the church pew listening to people singing the beautiful hymns of old.
Last week I went to the funeral of a man who is in some of those childhood memories from church. He was the father of two of my dearest childhood friends.
My friends’ dad had one of the most powerful and beautiful voices that I have ever heard. I can close my eyes and picture him holding the microphone and singing those beautiful hymns.
Last week at the graveside ceremony, I stood behind my friends sitting in front of their Daddy’s casket draped with an American flag for his service to our country. My eyes were fixated on my friend’s one year old daughter wiggling in her momma’s arms, and I was overcome with a sense of the beauty of the grace of God and the redemption of Christ.
You see, my friends’ Daddy made some choices in life that negatively impacted them. Because of those choices my friends spent a large portion of their childhood being raised by a single mom picking up the pieces of the mistakes their dad had made.
Their story is not mine to tell.
But as I stood watching them cry over the passing of their daddy, I saw a picture of the gospel. As I listened to my friends stand around their Daddy’s casket and sing “It is Well with My Soul,” I was reminded of the purpose of the life of our Savior, to redeem a lost and dying world.
I saw my friends clinging to the love they had for the man that their Daddy had become in his last years of life and not to the mistakes of his past.
No doubt, this is a life lesson that my friend will be able to pass down to her own one year old daughter. You see, my friend adopted her daughter last year from a mother who was not going to be able to provide for the child that she was carrying in her womb. I am sure there will be many mother/daughter conversations about grace and redemption.
On that cool spring morning, I was humbled by the grace and redemption being lived out in the lives of my friends.
This morning as I drank my coffee and read my Bible, I couldn’t help but think that the worship choir in heaven just hit the jackpot this past week with George Beverly Shea and my friends’ Daddy joining them.
Thank you Mr. Shea for your testimony in song that is the truth of my heart
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
Now….is it lunch time? I am dying for some chips and cheese sauce.
You’re welcome. Now you will never be able to eat cheese sauce without singing that song and smiling.