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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
"In my opinion you are either in or you are out," said Joanne Cash. That short statement sums up her new album Joanne Cash - Gospel, the way she lives her life and the legacy of the Cash family.
She paused to ask me if I saw the movie Walk the Line that portrayed the early part of her brother Johnny Cash's career and the love story between him and June Carter. "In that movie there was a song that was played during Johnny's early life in Memphis and it was played at Sam Phillips recording studio. The name of the song was "I Was There When It Happened" (track 9). Continuing she said, "That song is about living in the reality of Jesus and I sing it a lot."
Talking about the song lead her into a deeper disclosure concerning her own faith, "We ought to know in our hearts, you, me and everybody else whether or not we have accepted Christ. I want to (ask the question) do you know and if you don't know you can know. I can look back to the day when I received Christ. Not only did I receive Him but also He changed my life. It is a beautiful thing and I am happy to be free in Jesus and living the Christian life."
Turning to the songs on this record Cash said, "A lot of the songs on this CD tell the story of the future and about meeting me in heaven. "When He Comes," "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and "Into The Blue." Our past is forever gone. I know that when we ask for forgiveness it is all under the blood and the best is yet to come. That is what I am trying portray with this CD that people need to know (the Lord) and need to get ready to meet the Lord."
"Why Not Tonight" is a song from this album that reaches all the way back to the Cash family's roots in the little town of Dyess Arkansas located less than an hour from Memphis. "It is an old standard that we used to sing in the cotton fields when I was walking up and down the cotton rows. We would sing it as I picked cotton. Singing these kinds of songs would bring a smile (to my face). They uplifted you and it was wonderful."
The singer said with the songs that she has selected for this album, she is just trying to let (people) know that the Christians experience is real and that you can have Christ in your heart.
Cash recalled her childhood days, "My momma used to take me down to what we called Road 14 Pentecostal Church. They called everybody brother and sister. They would say to my momma, 'Sister Cash would you come up and lead the testimony service?' She would stand up there and ask, 'Has anyone got a good word about the Lord doing something for you today?'
"I remember looking up at
her (momma) and thinking not only was she tall in stature, five foot nine
inches, but tall spiritually. She was the first one to tell me that Jesus
loves me and that He is my savior. That is where the song "Why Not Tonight?"
comes from. She would say, 'Why don't you come tonight? Why do you want
to put it off? Why not tonight?' She got that from the verses in the song.
That in itself is the preciousness of the song," Cash said.
"I know that with some songs you really have to look hard to find the message in them. There is just a straight, simple message in gospel music that I want to portray. I want to live for Christ and live the way His Word says we need to live. We all make mistakes, not a single one of us doesn't make a mistake but that is why we have a wonderful Lord to go to." she said.
Knowing that the year 2003 was a particularly difficult one for the Cash family as several members of the family passed away, I wondered if recording the song "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was bittersweet. Cash says that the song took on even greater significance for her, "In 2003 we had to say goodbye to four family members in six months and it was the hardest year my life. In the month of April, our sister Louise passed away from an illness then in the month of May June (Carter) passed away. In September, Johnny passed away and in October, June's youngest daughter Rosie (not to be confused with Roseanne) passed away. It was a horrible year for us."
Cash said, "It is difficult to say goodbye to our loved ones here on earth but our blessed hope is that we will see them again. I don't believe the circle will be broken. I believe we will be together. I know Johnny was ready, because we talked about it many, many times. I know I will see my family again in heaven because they were ready to meet the Lord."
In one of those unexplained things that occur in God's kingdom the author of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" was June Carter's great-uncle A.P. Carter, whose brother Ezra later married Maybelle Carter, June's mother.
Joanne Cash, while continuing to reflect upon the song "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" said, "The prayer for all of our families is that we all will be gathered in heaven together. That is what the Bible promises if we live for Christ."
"Softly and Tenderly" (track
14) and "Lower Lights" (track 11) were the last two songs that I recorded
with Johnny in his own studio Cash Cabin. It is right across from his house
in a wooded area. We walked over from the house, sat down and recorded
them. Our engineer on those two songs was my nephew, Johnny's son John
Carter Cash who now owns and runs the studio," she said.
In 1990, Cash and Yates retired from their traveling ministry but not from ministering to others. Inspired by a cowboy church that they had once attended in Calgary, Alberta Canada, the two of them began a similar work with six people in Nashville. The humble beginning took place in a Holiday Inn. "Today we have transferred to the six hundred seat auditorium at the Texas Troubadour Theater (Nashville). We have between four and six hundred people on Sunday morning. We call it Nashville Cowboy Church ( www.nashvillecowboychurch.com)."
These are not two city slickers gone country. You are already aware of Cash's background but her hubby Harry grew up on a west Texas ranch. He preaches in a cowboy hat, western clothes and cowboy boots. The services have a live band, including many of the fine musicians that appear on her album. The service is broadcast internationally on shortwave radio and on XM satellite radio.
Joanne Cash during the course
of this interview talked about her faith simply and clearly. She talked
about the unconditional love of Christ and the gift of eternal life that
is offered to each of us no matter who we are, regardless of our past or
our present circumstances. The best part is the gift is free and unconditional.
If you are reading these words and do not have the assurance that Christ
lives in your heart today do not let this opportunity pass you by.
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.