Friday, March 31, 2017

"The Grace of Song"

"The Grace of Song"                                        
   Mrs. Johnson cannot hold a conversation.  She seems completely oblivious to her surroundings, and likely lives in another time and another place of life.  The healthcare workers who help her must maintain keen alertness at all times.  Mrs. Johnson can still walk, and will often arise from her chair for journeys that might result in a fall that would greatly jeopardize her well being.

    She can, however, still sing.  Boy, can she sing!  Mrs. Johnson still somehow knows the hymns, and when she joins us in "At the Cross" or "In the Garden", I have to maintain concentration in order to keep playing and singing.  She possesses a professional quality voice, which I have so often affirmed that the activities director at the retirement community where Mrs. Johnson lives often places her in a chair not far from where I stand.  I want to hear the woman sing!  I recall the first time I heard her, when I literally hushed my own voice so I could listen.  I am not exaggerating.   Mrs. Johnson could still add her vocalization to any musical venue with the assurance of enhancing the performance.  Again, however, she can't hold a conversation.

   This also reminds me of an experience several years ago when we filled in at another retirement community.  During the hymn time, I asked if anyone had a particular song they'd like to hear or sing.  "Old Rugged Cross!" immediately chimed in a gentleman.  "Certainly Sir," I responded, and proceeded to lead a rendition of the great old hymn.  I happened to notice some surprised looks on the faces of a few aides who sat in the service with us.  I asked one of them about this after the service.  The aide shook her head and responded, "We've never heard him say a word before today!  We didn't even know he could talk!"

   I do not pretend to understand this.  Some try to explain it in natural terms of brain function, and I'm sure this applies to some degree.  However, I think it speaks (or sings!) of something far more, far deeper, far truer, and far more wonderful.  I don't have to tell you that music is sublime.  Few realities more speak to the Lord's amazing capacity for both art and engineering.  Melody, harmony, song, singing, and playing require technical abilities that must be learned to some degree, based on established methods, modes, and principles.  However, music also heralds the existence of a beauty that far transcends understanding and application.  How often the sum becomes greater than the parts when a gifted singer or player performs.  Or when many human hearts, hands, and voices unite to create symphonies of sound.  Only God could have made music.  Few more absurd notions exist than the proposal that humanity somehow stumbled upon the capacity to synchronize sounds into such mathematical precision and wondrous beauty.  Yes, God made music.  So, perhaps I do understand how Mrs. Johnson or the gentleman mentioned can enjoy the grace of song long after the loss of mental capacity and verbal communication.

   I also happen to live with (and sing with!) the greatest harmony singer in the world.  Frances's voice is ethereal, and remains the only vocal instrument I have ever heard that comes with built in reverb.  I frequently want to stop and listen to her while we're singing, but I suppose harmony does require a bit of melody.  In any case, I would suggest that of the loveliness in the world that speaks (sings!) of our wondrous Lord, none more confirm to us His wisdom and beauty than music.  The Artist and the Engineer gave to us this gift, and like Mrs. Johnson, the gentleman, and Frances, let us avail ourselves of this most wonderful way to requite such generosity, such grace of song.

"Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord."
(Psalm 68:32)
"Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD."
(Psalm 150:3-6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

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