This week, George Beverly Shea, Gospel Music legend and longtime musical companion of Dr. Billy Graham at his many revival meetings around the world, celebrated his 103rd birthday!
A native of Canada, Shea, who now lives in Montreat, N.C., not far from that whipper-snapper Graham (who turned 93 just recently), is still going strong.
“Karlene and I rejoice in the Lord’s overwhelming grace to give me 103 years of life!” Shea gushed on Monday (his actual birthday) according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website.
In honor of Shea's birthday, the BGEA posted an excerpt from an interview he gave several years ago. Here's a little bit of wisdom from a man who has walked with God for more than a century:
Q: What are some of the life lessons you've learned about trusting Christ?
A: My father used to tell my brothers, Whitney and Alton, and me, “There will be many times when you don’t feel connected. The Lord is with you. Just look up—keep that vertical relationship. Practice His presence in your life.”
I’ve had moments, even when working for Mr. Graham, where I’ve felt as if I weren’t effective enough, and I’ve known discourage
ment. But I go to the Lord, and He extends His grace. On many occasions I go to the piano and play an old favorite. God always encourages through His Spirit and renews our strength.
I have learned to look up, and He’s there. He loves us. He has given me more than I deserve.
I’m so grateful for my dear spouse, Karlene, and for my late wife, Erma, who went to be with the Lord many years ago. I’m thankful too for my children and grandchildren.
There are many wonderful stories of this life journey. One is of a gentleman who came to the Harringay meetings in London. He had been brought by his neighbor. He came thinking that he would just sit and make fun of everything.
When I got up to sing, he was talking out loud and probably criticizing as he heard me singing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” But when I got to the line, “He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands,” the man slumped in his seat, probably thinking of his little one, who was ill at home. During Mr. Graham’s invitation, the man stood, came forward and gave his heart to the Lord Jesus.
According to the Guinness Book of Records Shea holds the world record for singing in person to the most people ever, with an estimated cumulative live audience of 220 million people. And last year, Shea received a special merit award at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards (he's holding his Grammy in the photo above left, and greeting Dame Julie Andrews during the awards ceremony above right. Photos via Getty Images.)
Here's "Bev" in 1969, 12 years after he introduced the hymn to American audiences at New York City's Madison Square Garden, singing "How Great Thou Art":
And more than 40 years later, here's America's favorite Gospel great once again singing about God's greatness on Bill Gaither's show last year, at age 102:
Happy Birthday Bev! May this new year be full of surprise blessings and joy for you and your family.
Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. Follow Cathleen on Twitter @GodGrrl.