JD

Summer is often a time of celebrating family. I’m basking in the afterglow of my recent family reunion. For 41 years, the Johnson Family Reunion (JFR) has taken place in a different city, in July. Even during the summer of 2020, with its pandemic pauses and shutdowns, our family gathered, on screen, to virtually bid a final farewell to our beloved Aunt Ruth, one of the matriarchs and founders of the JFR. We all marveled that "by chance" we had chosen what would have been the JFR weekend for our tribute to Ruth's incredible 92 years on Earth.

This year my heart overflowed with love and appreciation to see the smiling faces of generations of my relatives, for the first time in two years. We ate, laughed, swam, cruised the ocean, took scores of pictures and even had an ‘80s dinner-dance / fashion show with live, professional entertainment by my cousin Luther H. Johnson III. (He looks, sings and plays the guitar like the legendary late performer Prince). I saw the beauty of family resemblance in the faces of children, teens and adults of all ages, and was truly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful family.

To honor our father, the late Rev. William E. Johnson, my brother (his namesake) gave the sermon at the worship service on Sunday morning. My cousin Diannah and I sang a duet of “How Great Thou Art,” which was a favorite of both our mothers. Afterwards, we all said a lingering, heartfelt goodbye.

The chosen song had also been a signature song of soloist George Beverly Shea during the Billy Graham crusades. I had the privilege of seeing him perform it when I sang in the choir, and served as a counsellor supervisor for Buffalo’s Billy Graham crusades back in the 80s. The story behind this beautiful song can be found at: https://americansongwriter.com/behind-the-song-carl-boberg-how-great-thou-art, “Found in Translation: The Improbable Origin of 'How Great Thou Art'.”  The lyrics are below.

I encourage you to thank God for family this summer and savor each moment that you have together.

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How Great Thou Art

Oh Lord, my God


When I, in awesome wonder


Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder


Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee


How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee


How great Thou art, how great Thou art

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander


And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,


When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur


And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art ...

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing


Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in


That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing


He bled and died to take away my sin

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art ...

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation


And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart


Then I shall bow, in humble adoration


And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee


How great Thou art, how great Thou art

— By Carl Boberg, 1885, English translation by Stuart K. Hine, 1949. YouTube video performance by Carrie Underwood at https://youtu.be/Yf6C0L_7-CA.

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Jackie Davis is an experienced inspirational vocalist, musician and music instructor. Her column is published every other Friday in the Union-Sun & Journal.

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