Sunday, July 14, 2013

Songs for Sunday - "Heavenly Sunlight"

Today we got to sing "Heavenly Sunight" as part of our worship together at Tallowood.

As part of my research today I came across several interesting and compelling sources of information about the lyrisit and composer of this wonderful song. 

According to the blog
The lyrisist for "Heavenly Sunlight" was a Methodist minister who served 50 years in as a pastor as part of the New Jersey Methodist Conference.  The melody was brought to him by George Harrison Cook. 

According to the website called

"A gospel song on the theme of sunlight was written in 1899 by Henry jeffreys Zelley (1859-1942), Pastor Zeley faithfully served the Lord, during a ministry over fifty years long.  He was considered an exceptional Bible scholar, and his spare time was spent writing poetry. 

On one occassion a man named George Harrison Cook brought the pastor a tune, asking if the latter could write some appropriate words for it.  Cook was involved in a lifelong ministry of music, singing, playing, composing, and training other musicians.  It was not the only collaborations of Zelley and Cook, but the one produced 'Heavenly Sunlight'.  A scolar he may have been, but the simple truth of Henry Zelley's hymn is writhin the grasp of all. 

In 1942 Charles E. Fuller, who founded the Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio broadcast in 1925, adapted the song's refrain for use on its own.  'Heavenly Sunshine' became a widely popular little chorus four decades after the hymn was written." 

Did you notice that this song was the natural outcome of service in progress?  This pastor was walking in Sunlight as he ministered to others over his lifetime!  I love the testimony of service his life brings to these lyrics!

The blog called Heirlooms Reunited is really unique and a great resource of original source information.  I have linked to a post that contains photographs of the March 1947 issue of The Choir Herald which contains brief biographical information about Rev. Henry J. Zelley, D.D. and a transcript of the pertaining paragraphs. 

According to the song Heavenly Sunlight was first published in the 1903 hymnal called Songs of Praise and Salvation.  Now a part of the public domain, the lyrics of the hymn as as follows:

Verse 1:
Walking in sunlight, all of my journey;
Over the mountains, thro' the deep vale;
Jesus has said "I'll never forsake thee;"
Promise divine that never can fail.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Hallelujah! I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine. 

Verse 2
Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Saviour and Guide;
He is the light, in Him is no darkness,
Ever Im walking, close to His side.

Verse 3:
In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises, gladly I'm walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.

This morning as the opening introduction was played, I realized  that it has literally been years since I've had the chance to sing this song.  I was so blessed to get to sing it today.  As soon as the first notes were played, my mind was immediately flooded with memories of the 4-5 years that my daddy, Bob McSpadden served our little church by leading the music on Sunday mornings.  I have vivid memories not just of the time that he spent leading the songs, but also the time he spent each week, choosing the hymns.  Apparently, "Heavenly Sunlight" was one of the hymns from the 1976 Baptist Hymnal that was on the short list of "Bob's Top 10" favorite hymns to sing because we sang it ALOT! 

My dad has a simply tuneful and uncomplicated voice.  His voice is pleasant to listen to, and like everyone else, he gets better at singing the more he practices.    However, beyond his breif membership in his father's barbershop chorus that he participated in as a young man,  he doesn't have any formal musical training beyond what he learned in high school band playing the baritone.  As a baritone player he is more comfortable reading the bass clef and since at the time I was enrolled in piano lessons, he would occassionally ask me to help him figure out how a melody went which as it turned out was about all the help I could give him. 

 His time as song leader didn't last forever and there have been other avenues of service that have been a better fit for his personality and expertise.   However, God used his service as song leader during those years to teach me about faithfulness.  Week in and week out, as weeks turned to months and months to years, He served faithfully and remained steadfast.  He met the need as long as it existed.  

I've noticed that sometimes there are times in life when we get to serve the Lord according to our gifts and areas of expertise, when our training and knowledge seem especially well placed to face any eventuality.  We walk confidently into a situation as we see God's hand moving to provide at every turn.  Sometimes God even gives us and those around us the eyes to see what He is doing and someone might say as Mordecai says to Ruth about her place as queen, in Ruth 4:14, " .....And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"   Ironicaly, we are sometimes blind to HOW we were equipped and prepared until we get to view a situation in the past.  As often as not we are asked to walk with a posture of obedience despite our lack of training or skill.  It's times like these when our feeble offering of willing service gives God the opportunity to be glorified in ways that we miss out on when we only serve where we are experts.   God uses ever experience great and small, both formal and informal to equip us for the days we live and HE has a perfect plan!   Therefore we can offer ALL of ourselves as living sacrifices to him. 

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.  " Romans 12:1

The overarching theme of the hymn "Heavenly Sunlight" seems to me to be that we get to walk in fellowship with the Lord for all of our days. What better provision for however we are called to serve than this?

Here is a video of this song being sung - I love it!


Holly Higbee-Jansen said...

Hello Bonnie coming to you from the Ultimate Blog Post. Beautiful. Thank you!

K'Lee Banks said...

Hi! Stopping by from the UBC and Facebook!

Thanks for a beautiful post. It's amazing the things we can learn sometimes when we least expect it!

I find it fascinating to learn the history behind songs, stories, expressions, and even words!

grammargirl93 said...

Ah,the Gaithers! Classic! Thanks for putting this song and its history in my heart today!