Sunday, July 7, 2013

Songs for Sunday - Just a Closer Walk With Thee

The composer of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" is unknown but the song is believed to have its origin in the African American gospel tradition.  It is often used as part of funeral parades in New Orleans and has been recorded by many famous musical performers including Elvis.  In case you are unfamiliar with this song, here are the lyrics. 
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
I am weak, but Thou art strong,
Jesus, keep me from all wrong,
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more,
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom's shore, to Thy shore.
Today we got to sing "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" as part of a series of songs all about walking in relationship to Christ.  It was a precious time of worship and then our pastor preached a wonderful word from 1 Samuel.  One of the points that our pastor made during his sermon was about the importance of speaking the gospel (good news) into the lives of others. I was immediately reminded of how blessed I have been by all of the people in my life who so faithfully speak grace and truth into my life through the word of God and through prayer on my behalf. As I reflected on ways that I could be more intentional about doing the same for others, the life of a dear friend was brought to mind.  I wanted to share a few of my memories of her because I think that she is such a clear example of how we can speak the gospel into the lives of others throughout our ordinary daily lives. 

My friend Dorothy Leech was old, she was perpetually single, she was funny and she was human.  However, I remember her as perhaps the first person at church (besides my parents)  to speak the truth of the gospel into my life.  Dorothy was our neighbor from around 1978-1981 when we lived on Burleson in McCamey.  Anytime I was at Dorothy's house, she would let me "read" a card out of the little maroon plastic scripture box on her kitchen table that she called her "daily bread".  On the top in fancy cursive script it had this scripture reference that she would read to me if I asked her to.  "...It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4  .  
Not only did my mom and I spend a lot of time at Dorothy's house drinking tea, laughing and enjoying each others company,  but Dorothy kept the nursery on Sundays and taught a mid-week preschool class at church.    I can honestly say that I first started to love going to church because I knew I would get to see Ms. Dorothy!  She loved me and I loved her. Every Sunday Dorothy used to greet me at the nursery and say, "Come in this House!"
I always wondered why she would call that old faded yellow nursery a house considering that it had a huge tree painted on the wall, so when I would ask her why, she would laugh and say, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1
Time in the nursery was filled with 2nd hand toys, stale saltine crackers, and room temperature tap water that we drank out of little Tupperware cups all covered with a thin glaze of Lysol.   In the midst of the cranky sleepy children and dirty diapers,  Dorothy would sit in her rocker and sing  every hymn that floated scratchily over the intercom into the nursery.  The nicest thing I can say about her singing is that it was enthusiastic.   Being a child who not only loved to sing but who was always curious I asked her why she didn't try to sing better.  She told me that she was making a "joyful noise unto the Lord." Psalm 98:4 .  I'm sure that I mentioned her singing to her more than once because I also remember her saying, "People look at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7b.  

After the congregational singing was over, Dorothy would turn the intercom off, sit down in her rocker and sing all the songs that she knew that weren't a part of the order of worship for that day. One of her favorites was "Just a Closer Walk With Thee". All these years later I can still hear her sing it.  It is clear to me that a closer walk with Jesus was exactly the desire of her heart because she had so effectively hidden the word of the Lord in her heart that she was able answer all of my precocious childish questions with the wisdom of scripture.  She did exactly as Paul instructed when he wrote, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15.  
I wonder if Paul was thinking about those who teach children when he wrote this passage?  Although Dorothy was only a part of my life for six or seven years, her words of truth have spoken powerfully to me throughout my life.  In 1983 I came to a personal faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Lord and Savior.    It was not too long after that when Dorothy passed away  and yet, so many of her words still bear fruit in my life because so many of her words to me contained the life giving good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As it turns out, I spend the majority of my time teaching children.   So often I'll be greeting a new class that has arrived at music and I'll hear myself say words that just seem to fall into my mouth when it's time to welcome children into my class.  I'll find myself saying,  "Come in this House!" to my students and  every time it happens, I smile, thank God for Dorothy and pray.

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:10-12


Elaine Livingstone said...

wow what a beautiful insight into what sounds like a wonderful old lady. The impact she had on your life at such a tender young age has stayed with you to this day, you must miss her an awful lot when you look back, I am sure you are inspiring others in the same way yourself now.

Mama Beer said...

Interesting insights in what the song is about. Thanks for sharing!


I too was at the same service this morning and as I sang and thought of the words in the songs, I had time to ask myself how my walk with the LORD was. Am I walking the walk? I also thought of those who have gone before me that showed me how to walk with the LORD. I remember my grandmother, "MAW," who sang as she did her daily tasks. She and Dorothy could have run a close race on who was the worst singer. I remember how awful her voice was, but, oh how sweet the song was that came out of her mouth. It is one my fondest memories now
and I know she meant every word. I also knew MS. Dorothy, such a lovely lady. She could have a whole room of people rolling in laughter and tears with her stories. And yes, she sang, awfully. But that did not keep her from singing to the LORD. I remember she and I were working with a group of young ones and one prayed the LORD would heal her voice.( so sincerely) After the prayer, Ms. Dorothy sincerely thanked the child for praying for her.