As a child sitting through Sunday church services, I used to entertain myself by finding the next hymn in the big, heavy songbook. With one particular tune Mom would always smile, lean over and whisper, “That’s great Uncle Luther’s song.”
I’d never met Mom’s great Uncle Luther and wondered who he was. When I was older, a very wise teenager, and this exact scene was repeated I’d roll my eyes and sigh thinking, How many times is Mom going to tell me this? (Sorry Mom.)
Now I’m decades older. Last week at church we sang “There’s Within My Heart A Melody.” I leaned over to my husband and whispered “My great-great Uncle Luther wrote this.”
My husband has heard this before. He smiled, nodded and did not sigh. (Bless his heart.)
In 1910 when Methodist pastor Luther Bridgers was 26 years old, he wrote this song. His heart was probably full of thanksgiving. He delighted in preaching about Jesus Christ. He deeply loved Sallie, his sweet Kentucky wife. Together they had three young sons they dreamed would one day go into the ministry.
In order to preach a revival in another Kentucky town, Bridgers waved goodbye to his family and headed down the road to the train station. It was the last time he saw his loved ones. Two weeks later their house caught fire during the night. Luther’s wife and three little boys did not escape.
After the fire Luther stood among the ashes of his home and his life as others gathered bits of charred bone and placed the pieces in a casket. Luther found a melted piece of a watch he had given Sallie for her last birthday.
He later said, “I couldn’t bear it any longer. I turned away from that scene of desolation and started out to face the world again with an old suitcase and a broken heart.”
In spite of the mighty sorrow he carried and the questions that come with tragedy, Bridgers continued to worship the Lord Jesus. The Gospel he had preached to comfort others became the Gospel that also comforted him. The words to the hymn penned before the fire became even truer,
Trials fall across the way,
See His footprints all the way.”
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Stirred the slumbr’ing chords again.”
|Sitting on my great-grandmother’s lap,
Aunt Aline sits beside us and holds my hand
Luther’s broken heart was later stirred when he met a lovely young woman playing the piano at one of his revival meetings. Her skillful hands danced over the piano keys. She had a tender heart that made her quick to laugh (and just as quick to cry.) She was my great-great-Aunt Aline.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Keeps me singing as I go.”
Uncle Luther and Aunt Aline had more than 30 years together before he died. She lived another 30 years without him. Those later years she was my beloved pen pal.
In her last letter to me she expressed how happy she was that I also loved Jesus. She wrote that letter a week before she died at age 89.
Jesus was the one who kept Uncle Luther and Aunt Aline singing through all life’s ups and downs. They now continue the glorious song in Heaven.
I’m so grateful for their legacy. Grateful I know the Song.
Who keeps your heart singing?