DayBreaks for 01/06/14 – How “Precious Lord” Was Born
I grew up singing the great old hymns of the faith. Don’t get me wrong, I love the contemporary songs and hymns today, so I don’t have an ax to grind one way or another, but there are great thoughts and meaning to many of the old hymns. One of the things that has always fascinated me is how some of the songs came to be written. Today I’m sharing one such story with you that I think will be meaningful to anyone who has faced adversity and struggle in life.
Tommy Dorsey (not the famous Tommy Dorsey of the Big Band era, though this Tommy Dorsey also had played jazz) wrote “Precious Lord” during a very difficult time in his own life:
“Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago ‘s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis . I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.
“However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.
“I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay, but eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.
“The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope….
“Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.
“People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”
“When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis.
“Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.
“From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.
“I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place: ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’
“The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.
“And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.”
May you find His courage to sustain you no matter what you are facing today or in the coming weeks, months or years. “When we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and we are most open to His restoring power.” Let His restoring power flood over your soul!
PRAYER: Lord, we all face struggles and hardship and uncertainties. At times it feels as if we will die from the struggle and we feel alone. Help us to learn that our feelings are not a reliable guide at this time (or at nearly any time), but that Your promises are and Your Presence is assured to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2014 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
To subscribe to DayBreaks, use this link: https://daybreaksdevotions.wordpress.com and click on the Subscribe button at the right of the page. If you wish to unsubscribe, at the bottom of each email you receive about DayBreaks, you should find an “Unsubscribe” ink at the bottom of the email.
NOTE: Galen is a missionary with Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) and raises his own support. DayBreaks is free – and will remain so – but if you wish to help Galen in his ministry work, you can donate on his behalf. Donations (one-time or recurring) may be made by going to this link: http://www.medicalambassadors.org/donate.html. Look down the left side of the page until you find the SUPPORT MISSIONARIES section then click on “Galen Dalrymple” and you’ll be taken to PayPal where you can make your donation. If you prefer to donate via check, you may do so by writing your check payable to Medical Ambassadors International and put S090 in the “memo” field. Mail the check to Medical Ambassadors International, P.O. Box 1302, Salida, CA 95368. All donations are tax deductible as MAI is a 501.c.3 organization certified with both the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and Guidestar.