Music has been such an intricate part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I express my fondness for all kinds of music in this poem:
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
For he has done marvelous things;
His right hand and his holy arm
have gained Him the victory.
My mobile mind recalls all the witty
Songs I’ve heard since I first began to talk,
Every childhood rhyme and infant ditty,
Such silly nonsense sounds of jabberwock.
I remember in my boppin doo-wop days
When I was no more than a high school lad,
I dug the D.J.’s sound that seldom stays–
Oldies but goodies, old and good, so bad.
Some of my songs I sang before I knew
Any of the reasons to cherish them,
Of simple black people, humble and who
Drank in renewed strength from their vintage hymn.
Then came chansons d’amour, delights to learn,
Filled with delicate words I wished I’d penned,
Lightly descend like dew upon a fern,
Lovely lyrics to share with special friend.
Each kind of music seems to mirror me,
Express all of my innermost hopes and joys,
Reflect my soulful melancholody
Ennobled by the rich chords’ counterpoise.
All is a song, a noted writer said,
And I too sing my song and hold no strife.
Instead of a just a dirge drummed for the dead,
I sing a mighty melody of life.
The painting “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” by George Inness graphically depicts how overwhelming this valley appears to be.
Some of my earliest childhood musical memories are associated with my being a part of Carter Chapel C.M.E. (Christian Methodist Episcopal) Church, located in mid-town Gary, Indiana. I was fortunate in that my church as well as the school that I attended from the 4th grade through high school were within walking distance from our home. I recall being a part of the Junior Choir which sang on numerous occasions throughout the area, particularly in local churches associated with our denomination.
This morning I happened to think of one of the songs that the Junior Choir sang in mid-1950s, a moving musical composition inspired by a verse from the 23rd Psalm, “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace.” Here is a rendition sung by the men of the Buncombe Street United Methodist Chancel Choir under the direction of Rosemary Hughes. The arrangement is by Appling with accompanying photographs of various valleys across the nation and beyond.
As I listened to the music and reflected upon the lyrics, I happened to think of another poem inspired, in part, by one the teachings from a series of messages on the gates mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah, specifically the “Valley Gate”
This Lonesome Valley
Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.
You have to walk this lonesome valley.
You have to walk it by yourself;
O, nobody else can walk it for you,
You have to walk it by yourself.
Valley places are always places of testing. . .
It’s in the valley places that your character is tested.
Apostle Eric L. Warren
Though there is no place where God’s presence does not dwell,
There is this lonesome valley we all must cross alone.
The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
And as a pilgrim, I too go through this barren land.
Propelled by goodness and mercy as my rearguards,
I am led by the hand of God into a wasteland,
Where I must stand on my own and confront my fears,
As I pass through the valley of the shadow of death,
The dark place where no companion can go with me.
Unsure of all that lies ahead, I hesitate,
But I must follow the Spirit’s call into the unknown:
The narrow way–to walk by faith and not by sight.
Though my path may be unclear, this I know for sure:
If God brought me to it, He will bring me through it.
This particular poem also opens with lyrics from another similar kind of song related to a valley, the spiritual “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” performed by the renowned operatic bass, Jerome Hines.
In a commentary from The ministry of Shattered Men, the author speaks of both mountain top experiences as well as those taking place in the valleys:
We often call those times when we feel great, “mountain top experiences.” We love those times. Most of us never want to come down from the mountain. We would stay up there forever if we could. Well my friend, please realize it is the valleys we go through that make the mountain top so wonderful. For if it were not for these valleys, we would not appreciate the mountain tops.