Music of all time periods has great value to those living in their day. Tucked in my mom’s vinyl collection are the hits of the 50s, back when lyrics spoke volumes and narratives told stories and crooners connected with the experiences of contemporary culture. My friends wax poetic about the music of the 70s, back when bands used real instruments and harmony depended on the skill of the singers.
There are songs on retro channels and throwback days from that decade that I recognize—some trigger nostalgia for certain times and places. But my music in those high school years came from Christian artists of the time, those emerging from the Jesus Movement, creating cutting-edge mixes with powerful words of faith that made every song a worship experience. Second to none: The Imperials. The quartet’s inspiring messages were touchstones to the faith I walked, desiring to fill every space of my mind with words that uplifted and challenged and soothed and empowered.
My friends had their own favorites, and all of us chose the right tapes for the right occasions as we traveled together. When I drove, the Imperials sang. The 8-track player sat just beneath the radio in my 1971 Plymouth Scamp. My dad helped install the custom sound system my sophomore year of high school, and I relished the freedom of listening to any music I wanted as I rolled to school, to basketball practice, to church. The box of tapes clattered beside me, and if I tired of one tape, I popped it out and inserted another by touch, never moving my eyes from the road.
Music is a good gift from above, and of course, scripture bears that out. I take Paul’s words to heart as he commands: “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). Somehow, my brain remembers words set to music, so when I’m in need of comfort or wisdom, strength or assurance, I find myself singing songs of the spirit that recount the grace and mercy of my God. On recent summer mornings, I wake to the Imperials streaming through Kathy’s computer.
We were high school sweethearts and the Imperials serenaded our dating life, and those songs have special connections to both of us. In her quiet moments, she listens to the touchstones that uplift her spirit—so many lyrics are lifted from the Word of the Lord. The combination of vibrant music and powerful words sets a good tone for the beginning of her days, and especially in trying times, her choices of specific Imperials songs are telling.
Often, quotes from these songs find their way into the notes she tucks into my lunch bag. She starts the notes with excerpts from scripture, and sometimes she inserts snippets of poetry. She loves words, and I know as I read her notes that they have been carefully wrought, even if they are on scraps of paper she recycles from her teaching world. She begins most days reading and writing, and it is a treat to share her thoughts and musings, always underpinned with encouragement and love, during my lunch break, far from her and yet so close in spirit.
This morning, Kathy shared Colossians 3:16: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” She also referenced the Imperials’ “Whenever I Speak His Name.” The last verse reads, “Whom shall I fear with God on my side? You see, Jesus and me, we are a majority. And no matter how big the mountain, it’ll have to leave.”
There are treasures untold in scripture— beautiful gleanings from God’s word that gifted artists make into songs. All can provide touchstones during the day to remind us who we are and whose we are. I believe words have power, and you and I can choose the words we listen to just as we can choose the words we voice. To God be all glory.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children