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Words: Herbert Buffum (b. Nov. 13, 1879; d. Oct. 9, 1939)
Music: Herbert Buffum
Note: Herbert Buffum was born in Lafayette, Illinois. He began a preaching career at the early age of seventeen, serving with the Volunteers of America. That faith-based group, founded in 1896, is an offshoot of the Salvation Army, providing not only spiritual help, but affordable housing and other social services in the United States. It was also at the age of seventeen that Buffum was inspired to write his first gospel song, while sweeping up in a mission hall.
Mr. Buffum eventually served as a pastor, and then as a traveling evangelist. But it was as a musician that he made a special impact. He published around a thousand gospel songs, and he’s reported to have written thousands more that went unpublished. Like a number of other writers of sacred songs who also ministered publicly (such as Robert Harkness and Ira Stanphill), Buffum would ask those gathered for a meeting to suggest a theme, then he would write words and music for a song, on the spot.
Most of us likely have traveled in an airplane–some perhaps many times. We’ve sat there, buckled in, and felt that increasing pressure pushing us back in our seats, as the plane heads down the runway with increasing speed. And maybe, if we’re not too nervous, we’ve watched out the window as the ground suddenly dropped away. We’re in the air! And soon, the clouds, instead of being over our heads, are beneath us. Amazing!
Air travel hasn’t really been around for that long. Experiments with kites and balloons had been done for centuries, but heavier-than-air ships powered through the skies, not that long. It seems to have been the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, who made the first true airplane flight in North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
That’s just over a century ago, during which time we’ve not only made air travel a common thing, but powered rocket propelled vehicles to the moon and beyond. Small, flimsy bi-planes, with open cockpits, were used in the First World War. But it wasn’t until the early 1920’s that planes became reliable enough, and large enough, to begin commercial flights carrying passengers.
Seeing planes in the sky was still a novel sight in 1924, when Herb Buffum watched one humming along overhead on a clear day in Kansas City. As he watched that plane soaring above, he seemed to hear a voice in the engine’s sound, a voice that said, “Herbert Buffum, you’re going higher someday!” And that thought inspired him to write a song about heaven.
We usually think of God’s heaven as being up above us. But skeptics will mockingly ask, “Up from where?” After all, up from one side of the globe is in a totally different direction from a spot on the other side. Perhaps it’s up above the Israel, since it’s from there the Lord Jesus ascended back into heaven (Lk. 24:51). But it’s a detail God has not seen fit to explain to us.
What we do know is that the Apostle John ascended up into heaven to receive his prophetic revelations, and what immediately struck him on his arrival was that the throne of God is there (Rev. 4:1-2). We also know that the Lord Jesus is there, preparing a home for those who believe on Him, and that He’ll come back one day to take us there (Jn. 14:2-3).
Believers who die in the meantime are taken to be with Him individually. For Paul, “to be absent from the body” meant he would be “present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). And “to depart and be with Christ” was to him, “far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). For Herbert Buffum that wonderful graduation into the heavenly kingdom came on October 9, 1939.
It was then he experienced the fulfilment of his song, I’m Going Higher Some Day, a song that’s become a favourite of Southern Gospel singing groups. (Note: The fourth line of the refrain, “Going where none ever sicken or die,” is sometimes changed to, “To be with Jesus forever on high.”)
1) Often I’ve watched the clouds up in the sky.
Always I’ve heard they were many miles high;
Then as they sailed out of sight far away
I said “I’m going far higher some day.”
I’m going higher, yes, higher some day,
I’m going higher to stay;
Over the clouds and beyond the blue sky,
Going where none ever sicken or die.
Loved ones I’ll meet in that “sweet by and by;”
I’m going higher some day.
4) Soon will the Saviour from heaven appear,
Coming in clouds for His children so dear.
Friend, are you ready–with me can you say,
“I’m going higher, yes, higher some day.
1) What differences have you observed between memorial services for non-Christians and for Christians?
2) What is your favourite gospel song about heaven?