Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know -- Lela B. Long

She’s an almost unknown personality, except for the song associated with her name. Perhaps that’s the way Lela B. Long wanted it…to be faceless, almost nameless, in favor of making His name more well-known. “Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know” must have been a statement her family and friends could remember her saying, but we don’t have to rely on any published biography to learn this. She recorded her opinion for us. What opinions do I have that I would want to survive me? Just any pontification probably wouldn’t last, but what makes Lela’s opinion notable is that it strikes a chord with us still today.

There’s not much information on Lela B. Long, other than a record with the words she wrote that suggests the song was written prior to 1925. That would suggest she was an adult who was born in the late 19th or early 20th Century, and went on to eternity prior to the end of the 20th Century. She must have had some affinity with people she knew, including unspoken names she says in verse one had moved her emotionally. But, she makes it clear that those names paled next to ‘Jesus’. Why would His name be so special to Long? Had she been affected by poor health, or events of her time like World War I, which robbed its survivors of friends and loved ones? What life circumstances drew her toward Him? We only know that she wrote three verses and a refrain (see the link below for access to them) to carry her message, though most often we hear only the refrain. She has us say repeatedly throughout the refrain that he’s genuine, as authentic and loveable as one can imagine Him. Isn’t that really the root of love, that this person to whom I cling is not a fake, but true? He’s worth my worship, she declares.

Can I identify with what Lela says? I live in a different time than her, but what’s really different? There are still people around, many of whom move me in different ways, as some evidently did for Lela Long in her life. She must have experienced illness, or other calamities that threatened her faith. War? The war she must have known was once known as the ‘war to end all wars’. Did it really accomplish this? How sweet was its conclusion for those who signed the peace at Versailles (see picture), if they lived to see what happened a generation later? Lies like that are too common. Likewise, health is too fragile for me to become complacent in my comfort. I must find something that won’t go sour. Lela did. It’s still pretty tasty, even decades after she savored it.      

Link to the song’s scant history and the three verses that accompany the chorus-refrain:

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