With multiple deadlines and tasks looming, Gloria Gaither was still able to take a few moments to speak with me regarding the message within The Gaither Homecoming Bible.
MN- With so many Bibles on the market, what makes the Gaither Homecoming Bible unique?
GG-Parents today are concerned that their children (including adult children) find that the Bible applies to their real lives, every day. The contributions of the Homecoming Artists reflect in very personal stories how the Word of God speaks to them in the daily of their lives. Many of these contributors are young families who, though they have a very public life as singers and recording artists, also work to keep their marriages and families in tact and do it on the road on week-ends and also maintain homes during the first part of the week. This Bible is not a theological commentary; it is a practical interfacing of life with the Word. We find, too, that parents of all ages (including grandparents) are concerned that their children may not be learning the great common literature of the faith, including the great content-hymns and gospel songs that have rescued generations of believers when life hands them a hard blow or when they need words to express their personal history with God. This Bible uniquely includes at the site of the text that inspired them, many of these great songs and the stories behind them. The middle generation, particularly, will want to give this treasure of music literature to their children and their families, and also find it a great way to honor and thank older parents who taught them these songs and a love for the Bible.
MN- There are 20 original poems included in the Bible that were written by you. Do you have a favorite and can you tell our readers the story behind this particular poem?
GG-I think my favorite would be "The White Stone," a poem that is a written from the point of view of Mary Magdalene fusing the symbol of the stone rolled away from the grave of the Lord so white with light that Mary couldn't look at it with the symbol found in Revelation 2:17 of the white stone that will ultimately reveal our true identity given us by God himself.
MN- Readers will love that some of the Gaither friends have contributed by writing articles based on personal experience. Do you believe this will connect the reader with these artists on a whole new level besides just a musical one?
GG-Yes, all too often it seems that audiences view performers and communicators as somehow distant from them and the everyday struggles and simple joys and accomplishments of life. Sometimes up-front people themselves begin to believe their own press releases. But there is nothing like the Word of God to reduce or elevate us to our true selves and make level the ground at the foot of the cross. Bill and I travel with these artists and on most days we all know that we are just dust with the wonder of having had the breath of God breathed into us. I think when readers see what these artists have written, they will know that they are amazingly transparent (as I know them to be), hungry for God, and open to growth on a daily basis.
MN- Writing is your life; I mean, whether penning songs or articles, devotionals or poems, you have a diverse gift of communication. At what point did you realize that you had been gifted with writing that connected with others, and at what point did you realize that you loved to write?
GG-I grew up in a home filled with ideas. My mother was a painter, a poet, a writer, and a speaker. My father was a pastor with a hunger to connect the dots in Bible and then to connect those discoveries to practical living. I began writing before high school, wrote my own speeches (oratory) for speech contests, and wrote poetry for my own pleasure and, sometimes, catharsis. In college I wrote academic papers on philosophy, literature, sociology, etc., which I loved doing, but also wrote for the pure joy of playing with words. In graduate school I became enamored with the works of John Steinbeck and began writing professional papers for Steinbeck publications and for presentation at Steinbeck conferences. But always I wrote--in journals, for gifts, for fun. When I met Bill and fell in love, I found he was writing some songs. I began giving him suggestions on his lyrics, but gradually, we sort of worked our way into a system that worked for us: we both got ideas from our lives and surroundings, then he would come up with a musical setting that seemed to fit that idea. Once that was done, I usually wrote the verses and finished whatever holes were left in the chorus (or theme refrain). I love writing both songs and books for children, maybe because I am still one myself. I love writing deep philosophical or theological pieces that, as Bill says, get the idea "on the bottom shelf" where ideas have to interface with the road of life. I guess there is no genre of writing I don't enjoy, though I have never written long fiction. I hope to try that, too, one day.
MN- Throughout The Gaither Homecoming Bible you write on the love of music, and in one passage, specifically on the difference between a gospel song and a hymn. The article states, ‘In general, we could think of hymns as those songs of praise and worship we send up to God identifying for all to hear His attributes and thanking Him for His amazing intervention in our world and in our lives.... The other kind of song that we need to sing together is the gospel song....these songs are horizontal, by that I mean that they are the word of our testimony.’ Why is it important to sing both types of song as opposed to just one style?
GG- Suffice it to say that if I read the Word of God correctly, our worship of God should be a balance of vertical (songs, devotion, prayer) that expresses our awareness of who God is and the attributes of his character as well as an awareness of who we are (and are not). This includes confession, thanksgiving and honesty about what we need that only God can provide. The second part of worship is a personal testimony to each other of how we know who God is, how we came to have a relationship with him, and, because of that relationship, how, then, should we live. If our praise is just words and we leave those around us still hungry, without shelter, without clothes, without love and compassion then our "praise" is worthless. So in our music, we need a even balance between hymns and songs of praise (the vertical part of our experience and history with God) and gospel songs (songs of personal testimony and commitment to make a difference with our faith in our world.
MN- The story behind the writing of John Newton's Amazing Grace is common knowledge. What song of yours would you like people to be singing 100 years from now?
GG-Only the people who find our songs true in their own personal experience over time and across changing fads of style can choose the songs that will be sung 100 years from now. I hope a song like "Because He Lives" might be one of them, because the resurrection (both in history and in our own lives) is so central to our faith. A living God who chose to come and walk with us here on this earth and give us an eternal perspective in the "regular" of our days is the tenet of our faith that changes our lives and how we live them.
MN- I love the fact that you and Bill (Gaither) have not only invested in artists, but generally speaking, in people themselves. We need more of that in a world that seems to be tearing apart at the seams. What are some ways we can connect with others through day to day interactions?
GG-We have a wise friend who says she asks God when she meets people to show her what He had in mind for them from the beginning of time and then to give her the wisdom and grace to act toward them as if that had already been accomplished. I love that. I think the "us--them" mentality is the farthest thing from how Jesus would have us think. If we could only see what God had in mind for others and for ourselves, then partner with God to help in every way we can to make that a reality, the world would be a different place.
MN- If you could sum up your purpose in getting the Gaither Homecoming Bible in the hands of readers in one sentence, what would it be?
GG-The Word of God is a living thing, not a club to enforce our point of view, but a living, breathing, trans-formative thing to give us life as it was intended to be lived; if we just ingest it, over time, we will be different and see others differently. Our purpose is to love people into actually letting the tire of their lives meet the pavement of God's Word.
Author Bio-Bill & Gloria Gaither’s new project that is being published by Thomas Nelson releases Oct. 9, 2012. This wonderful couple met in college, married, started their music career, had babies, and are still going strong with their marriage and career. The Gaither Homecoming Bible is a legacy project for the beloved couple, who have had a tremendous impact on people around the world through multiple media projects. Throughout their career, the Gaithers have successfully accomplished the following: Sold over 20-million video and audio units worldwide, 15 different TV networks carry Gaither programming reaching over 334-million household, Billboard magazine says, “Bill Gaither has done for Gospel music what MTV did rock.”, Bill Gaither has won 6 Grammys and 41 Gospel Music Awards with 127 videos certified by RIAA….9 multi-platinum, 56 platinum, 62, gold.
You can order your copy of The Gaither Homecoming Bible on their website.
Other interviews featured in October issue of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine: Wallace Henley, Don Furr, and Tracy Krauss.
About Mary Nichelson: http://www.marysworld411.com/
This interview is courtesy of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine.