My Saving Grace

As those that know me, know I love country music. So maybe you’ll enjoy this short story and maybe you won’t.

It was the other night studying in the library I was listening to a newer country singer (Jamey Johnson) that I enjoy because of his at times because of his rebel sound, much like that of the 70’s and 80’s. A good many of times I never at all listen to the lyrics, I am either typing, reading, walking around the library researching with head phones and the music/beat/sound of twang is just there in my ears because I enjoy it. However it was getting late and I sit back listening to the lyrics of a song called “My Saving Grace” and how it hit me personally and that of my own life that God has planned for me in my upbringing.

Now I have no idea of Jamey Johnson’s eternal state with Christ. However if he is not a believer, than it is God’s common grace that allows him (and the many others) to sing of His special grace in the gospel that amazes me time and time again.

However as my mother made me go to church, and the stories of my drunkard father that would come home and abuse my mother, such lyrics as these speak to my own personal life in how God uses a number of situations to bring one to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church.

“Daddy’s bourbon breath was strong as gasoline, An’ it seemed to fuel the rage he had inside. He’d come home just burnin’, Mad an’ drunk an’ mean an’ raisin’ hell on a Saturday night. Momma’d lock us up in her bedroom, He’d be lyin’ in the hallway on our way to Sunday school. They both, in their own way became my savin’ grace. Daddy passed out with his demons: Momma passed the offerin’ plate. An’ she’d cry out to Heaven: “Protect this son of mine,” While Daddy kept the devil off my back, By takin’ up his time.

Momma said: “Nobody’s perfect,” as we walked into Church, To ask the Good Lord to forgive him, again. I still recall that sermon, I hung on every word. That’s when I learned just exactly what a Father really meant. And the Angels and the people gathered round, I was standin’ in that water when that Preacher laid me down.

They both, in their own way became my savin’ grace. Daddy passed out with his demons: Momma passed the offerin’ plate. An’ she’d cry out to Heaven: “Protect this son of mine,” While Daddy kept the devil off my back, By takin’ up his time. An’ Daddy kept the devil off my back… By takin’ up his time.”

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One Comment on “My Saving Grace”

  1. Pastor Roger Newton says:

    Good morning.

    Just thought you’d like to read some reflections I wrote about country music.

    Peace

    I am a retired pastor pushing age 70 (I won’t say from which side). My physical health is declining and I often regret how little I accomplished for the Lord in my ministry, in my family and in my secular work, despite the efforts of the excellent Bible teachers and pastors who mentored me so well.

    But recently a young country singer taught me that a pastor’s carefully prepared Biblical sermons can never strengthen people’s faith or change people’s lives or comfort the mourning as powerfully as the songs and poems of creative musicians can do. The singer is Carrie Underwood and her lesson is on her album Play On.

    People want God to reach out and touch them in a way they can feel as they struggle through life. And, yes, even a preacher, despite his or her theological training and belief in Scriptural truth, wants to experience God that way. Singers and songwriters have more power than a preacher like me to make troubled people feel the touch of God. And so-called “secular” musicians can accomplish more than the explicitly religious artists. Their songs “hit people where they live.” And more people listen to them anyway.

    Carrie demonstrates this power in four songs on Play On. I’ll concentrate on the lyrics and just briefly mention the musical elements. Carrie sings exquisitely and adapts her style to the feeling of each song. Some of the music reminds me of other songs, but that is part of our shared musical heritage. And although the engineers tampered with the dynamics (loudness vs. softness), they could not diminish the power of the four songs.

    The four songs share the album with nine others about life, love, success, failure and their accompanying emotions. Carrie recorded wild videos of a couple of them. But that fact puts the four gems into the setting of real life and adds to their depth and power. The four are:

    –“Temporary Home.” I first heard it as I was preparing my Trinity Sunday sermon. A country music TV channel was on in the background, but Carrie’s video captured my attention. The lyrics were so perfect for my message that I rushed right out and bought the CD. Carrie’s words helped me to talk about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a way that I knew would strike home for people like me.

     “Temporary Home” tells the tragic stories of three people. And in the refrain each of them trusts that his or her situation is just a temporary home. The little boy in the first stanza moves from foster home to foster home and desperately needs someone Father-like to adopt him. The single mother in the second stanza is down and out and desperately needs the guidance of someone Spirit-filled to enable her to care for her little girl. The old man in the hospital bed in the third stanza is about to die. His children are gathered around him like Jesus the Son and, sure enough, he can already see God’s face. I quoted Carrie’s song in my sermon. Afterward several people told me that her words helped them understand how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reach out to hurting, troubled, desperate and sinful people. Someone found a CD player and we listened to Carrie sing as we shared coffee and snacks.

    — “Change.” I chuckle at the play on words between “change” as the 36 cents on the floor of the car and “change” as transformation. In three stanzas the poet expands the scope of change from (1) my immediate experience (I see a homeless woman shivering in the cold and debate whether to give her the 36 cents); to (2) my response to a TV ad asking me to contribute to save the life of a child whom I’ll never see; and finally to (3) my prayer in the dark for the whole huge world that breaks my heart. “Don’t listen to ’em,” Carrie sings in the refrain, “when they say you’re just a fool to believe you can change the world.”

    “Change” reminds me of something a seminary president recently wrote about so-called “postmodern” people who say, “Just don’t tell me what a friend I have in Jesus until I see what a friend I have in you.” Carrie’s song reminds me that a few cents, a few dollars and a few prayers can transform the world in ways I will never see.

    — “Mama’s Song.” This is a love song about two generations of mothers praying for their daughters. The daughters assure their Moms that they have found the answer to their prayers in the men they have chosen. In the first stanza the daughter is probably a teenager. In the second she is a bride, and in the third stanza she has become the praying mother being reassured that her little girl has found the answer to her prayers.

    — “Play On.” Carrie concludes her album with encouragement to keep going through the darkest hours of life because “It’s always worth the sacrifice even when you think you’re wrong.”

    In all four songs prayer is mentioned a few times but God is mentioned by name only by the old man in “Temporary Home.” But He is present in all four songs just as powerfully as He is present in two “secular” books of the Bible which never mention Him: the history of Esther, which tells how the Jewish people “played on” during desperate times of captivity, and the passionate and erotic love poem called Song of Songs, which later Jews considered a symbol of God’s love for His people and which still later Christians considered a symbol of Jesus’ love for His church. Come to think of it, Song of Songs is an ancient forerunner of a wonderful American country love song, isn’t it?

    The postmodern perspective which the seminary president describes is actually very ancient. Even Jesus Himself desperately wanted to feel His Father’s touch as He faced death. “My God, my God,” Jesus cried out like the singer of Psalm 22, “why have you forsaken me?” We are in very good company.

    Roger Newton
    Philadelphia, PA
    rogeranewton@msn.com


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