Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Beauty and Power of Song

"Songs are a precious resource for the Christian communicator. Songs can teach. Songs can help us remember a message. Songs can help keep the message accurate, because rhythm and melody, like writing, stabilize a text. Songs can help us party and also can help us cry, and throughout our lifetimes we will need to do plenty of both. Songs can help us witness and help us worship..." - Miriam Adeney, Kingdom Without Borders

As we waited on our picnic blanket for the fireworks show to start, Jayne opened her guitar case and propped her instrument on her knee. Pam and I flipped through paperback praise song books, looking for favorites and ones we knew by heart. We played with harmonies and thought we were enjoying our own private worship service, but after a couple songs, we realized it wasn't quite so private...

"Hey, can you sing that one again? It's one of my favorites and I haven't heard it in a long time." The man reclining on his own blanket behind us explained that he had been a youth pastor once upon a time, and that his youth group sang the song a lot, especially at summer camp. Funny, I remember singing it at summer camp too. So we were happy to sing it again.

A few songs later, an older man was riding by on his bike and slowed down. He started to hum along with us and crept closer. When the song was over, he introduced himself and said, "I'm a believer of Jesus Christ too!" Interesting... we hadn't said a word outside of our songs. We invited him to sit with us and sing (we could really use a bass line). And he did.

A woman nearby commented between songs, "It's amazing that you are singing so many songs from memory! I haven't seen you look at the song book yet." Oh, but you should know how dear these songs are to us...

More people passed by, slowing down to listen or patting their thigh to the rhythm of the songs. I noticed others around us on their picnic blankets, that mom rocking her child to sleep to our tunes, this dad bouncing his kid on his knee to the beat. I didn't observe a single negative response - no one got up and walked away or tried to drown us out or shut us up. And we weren't trying to organize a choir or push an agenda, we just sang out of the joy in our hearts and offered it as a gift of hope and encouragement to those who had ears to hear. I hope it was a blessing to them.

The next night we wanted to do it again, so we toted the picnic blanket and guitar out on the pier at sundown. We sang songs from the songbook until it was too dark to see, and then kept singing a cappella or the old songs Jayne knew how to play by heart... everything from "Amazing Grace" to "Deep and Wide."
Again, people heard as they passed, tapping out the beat, humming along... one man stood at a little distance and gazed at the stars, smiling and listening. He said our music made an otherwise pointless trip worthwhile for him. We saw people on the shore taking pictures of us, and it occurred to us that sound travels well over water, so maybe God was amplifying our songs to the whole beach front!
We sang songs that reminded us of sweet times of fellowship, awesome times in God's presence, sacred times of worship, and all the times we've experienced His faithfulness to us... which are as numerous as the grains of sand on the shoreline. When we ran out of English songs, we sang in Swahili, Mai Mai, French, and Spanish. Each song propelled us into another and for hours - yes, hours - we lifted our voices to the starry heavens, to the natural rhythm of the wind and waves around us...

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