When I was a boy, there didn’t seem to be many ‘contemporary’ Christian music artists cranking out CDs. This may have been because CDs hadn’t yet been invented — in that day, it was 8-track, LP record and that latest in audio technology, tape cassette. Or maybe they just weren’t trying hard enough. At any rate, I remember Amy Grant, DeGarmo and Key, the Imperials and 2nd Chapter of Acts. Later I came across Petra and that new punk kid with the weird name, Michael W. Smith. But for a long time, if you wanted to hear something new in contemporary Christian music, you had to wait 18 months for one of a handful of artists to record a new album. Sometimes it seemed a bit of a long wait — I doubt modern kids with their iPods can imagine the barren nature of the soundscape. We old folks also walked seven miles to school in blinding blizzards, uphill both ways.
Somewhere along the way I acquired a Don Francisco record or two, and was captivated by the first-person Bible stories he told in song. Now, when it seems as though you can’t shake a tree for fear that a Christian musician will fall out of it onto your head, these kind of songs seem to have fallen out of vogue. Ray Boltz (author of Watch the Lamb, my favorite first-person Bible song of all time) has a few under his belt, and Carmen wrote an excellent, amusing song from the perspective of Lazarus. Apart from those songwriters, though, most seem to have neglected this powerful literary device.
One of Francisco’s Bible songs, Gotta Tell Somebody Gotta Tell Somebody retells the story of Jairus, as he appeals to Jesus on behalf of his dying daughter (the gospel of Mark, chapter 5). If you know the story, you may remember that Jairus’ daughter dies while he is still escorting Jesus through the streets back to his house. It still brings a tear to my eye whenever I listen to it, as I imagine Jairus’ desperate faith, hoping against hope that his little girl might be raised from death.
The resurrection of this twelve-year-old girl is one of only nine such miracles in all of scripture, not counting the unspecified number of dead people who were resurrected when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:52). (I reach the count of nine as follows: Jesus, Lazarus, the Zarephath widow’s son, the Shunnamite’s son, the unknown man with cowardly friends in 2 Kings 13:21, Jairus’ daughter, Dorcas/Tabitha, the Nain widow’s son, Eutychus).
Don Francisco — picture borrowed from his website
But I digress. The cool thing about these songs is the way Francisco communicates the emotion that the people in the stories may have felt — the songs really help me to identify with the characters in the Bible stories, and reach my heart rather than just my head. Click the MP3 audio link above to listen to the song.
As soon as I saw the MP3s were available, I rushed out to download a handful of the Bible stories, in particular. I loaded them up on Daniel and Rachel’s MP3 players, and strongly encouraged Joshua to listen to them — I want my kids to feel these stories in the heart the way I did when I was a boy.
Francisco adheres closely to the scriptural account, but adds some believable reaction, as in this line:
And although I tried to steel myself I trembled when he said
“Why bother the Teacher anymore, your little girl is dead.”
… or in the way Jairus’ wife is finally able to cry after her daughter is healed:
She rose and walked across the room and stood there at our sides
My wife knelt down and held her close and at last she really cried
Although having ready access to the written Word of God is a huge advantage that many Christians today enjoy, I think that sometimes we become so familiar with some of the stories that we lose some of the passion and excitement. Francisco’s songs touch my heart and renew my exhilaration with the awesome power of God and how I ought to react to His love.
Recently, Don and Wendy Francisco made the decision (which I applaud) to post MP3 versions of their music for free download, asking only for donations in return. If the music ministers to you, I encourage you to download and donate as your conscience dictates.
Tune in next week for a review of Too Small A Price, a song told from the perspective of a thief crucified next to Jesus.
Project 365 — Day 228