This is one of my FAVORITE scenes from the animated movie Sing!
My earliest memories of church revolve around music.
– My mother’s alto voice on one side of me while dad sang bass in the other ear.
– My mom’s finger tracking the verses of hymns she knew by heart just so my eyes could follow along and learn how to read a hymnal by myself. Once I got the lyrics figured out, her finger would track her voice part until I understood how the notation worked.
– Watching adult choir practices as a child (and I wasn’t even in school yet).
– The high school – or maybe they were in college? – kids at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, performing “He Lived the Good Life” in the “old” sanctuary.
– The powerful stories in cantatas like “The Apostle” or “Fabric of Freedom”. My parents were not only a part of these performances at church; they also bought the albums so we could listen at home. As a child, I didn’t fully understand the finer details involved in the stories but their impact and power were easily felt!
On the flip side, my earliest memories of music involved expressions of faith, both from the singer and the listener.
– “Because He Lives” always made my mother tear up. It still does.
– Our record player got plenty of use and our home was frequently filled with faith-based music – Andrea Crouch and the Disciples, The Gaither Trio, The Goodman Family, the Imperials, the Peterson Sisters and more.
– I remember one Sunday, when I was in elementary school, my grandmother closed her eyes during the “special music” portion of the service. She had the most contented smile on her face and I asked her later why she had closed her eyes while someone was singing. I’ll never forget her answer – “I was just enjoying the way that the lyrics touched my heart.”
One of my favorite memories of being in a church is sitting in the sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church (the new sanctuary this time, with the beautiful rose window in the balcony that made the platform look so colorful when the sun hit it just right!) and watching the adult choir rehearse. There was child care provided for those in the choir who needed it. But I begged my mom to let me sit in and listen. I’m ever so grateful that she did.
What struck me the most was that they didn’t just sing through each song once and call it good. They went back and corrected mistakes. Choir members asked questions or wanted to review certain challenging sections. As a child – who had started piano lessons at the age of 4 1/2 – I knew even then, when I was too young to articulate it, that they were striving to be well-prepared. It was important to them that they give the very best performance they were capable of. Their performance was an expression of their relationship with their Savior. Nothing but their personal best would do.
This heritage combined with my own experiences playing piano, playing in the band, and singing in various choirs has led to one simple reality – the most authentic expression of my faith is found in music that is done to the very best of my ability. With a legacy like mine, would you expect anything else?
Over the last several years (since 1991 to be exact!) my sisters and I have given our parents nine grandchildren. Between three of the households (including my parents) we have hosted about the same number of exchange students with two more joining the family for the 2016/2017 school year. In my own experience, my work as a choral director, band staff member, and theatrical director has provided me with several honorary kids who call me mom. And there is one lesson that has become crystal clear to me over the years – every child/teen needs to know that there is someone in this world who is absolutely crazy about them. Preferably more than one someone.
My sisters and I have discussed – and even occasionally explored – the idea of foster parenting or adopting. I’ve met a number of students over the years who came from homes where mom and dad were too bogged down in their own “stuff” to be there for their kids so these young men and women were starving for someone to notice them, challenge them, push them to be better. I’ve discovered this world is full of kids who just need an adult to care enough to call them up to be the best possible version of themselves!
Right about the time my sister, Becki, found out she was pregnant with her first, I wrote this song. Yes, it was mostly for my biological children. But it was also for all of those I’ve sort of “adopted” over the years who needed to know that someone cared and was taking them before the throne on a regular basis. It means that the prayer list for “my kids” is getting pretty long but I’m okay with that!
The inspiration for the chorus of the song came from the Old Testament story of Hannah. She wanted to have a son but had remained barren for years. During a trip to the temple with her husband, she begged God for a son and promised to give the boy back to God. God heard her prayer and answered it with a resounding yes. After she had weaned the boy – most scholars figure he was about 3 or 4 – Hannah took him back to the temple and left him there in the care of the high priest.
“For this child I have prayed,
I have knelt before the Father,
Placing all my hope and trust in him
I set my heart on things above.
And now I know he heard my cry
For I have seen his answer
In this precious life before me
A priceless gift of love.”
I Samuel 1:27-28
“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
This arrangement by Straight No Chaser is probably the best one I’ve heard.
If you’ve read some of my other stories, you know that I rarely (almost never) sit down and say, “Today, I will write a song.” The song “In Your Eyes” is an exception. My sister commented that she thought it would be great if I wrote an original song for the wedding she hoped she would soon be planning. I was still struggling with the idea that I was writing faith-based songs. A love song?! That was a whole new territory I wasn’t sure I wanted to delve into.
Then I got the “brilliant” idea to write a song for my husband. The year was 2001. We were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he was working for UPS at the time. A promotion took him to Columbus, Ohio, for a couple weeks of training. He got to come home the weekend between but he was in Columbus Monday through Friday for two consecutive weeks. This trip just happened to occur right around Valentine’s Day so I decided the song would be his gift.
Once it was written, I realized I had inadvertently fulfilled my sister’s request with one condition – it was really “Jim’s song” so he had to say yes. I knew he would – he and I met when said sister was only 8 years old so he really thinks of her more as a sister than a sister-in-law – but I wanted him to know that the song was intended originally for him and I wouldn’t be tossing it out to brides on a whim.
It’s first audience was just him, in the front room of our home. That might have been one of the most nerve-wracking performances of my life! But thankfully he loved the song and two years later, when my baby sister got married, I shared that song as a part of their wedding. It’s been performed a couple of other times since then for special couples. But it will always be “his song”.
“In your eyes there is joy and there is laughter
A hope for happily ever after
And love’s unending song.”
Song of Solomon 8:6
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.[b]
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it[c] would be utterly scorned.
December is one of my two favorite months of the year. The other is October. . . but I digress.
I love Christmas music. I mean I would listen to it all year if people weren’t so prone to being cranky about it. But December means all restrictions are off and I can blast Christmas music to my heart’s content!
So I thought I’d take a few minutes to share with you some of my most favorite songs as well as the reasons why. Lyrics can be every bit as thought-provoking as a good book, a powerful sermon, or a deep philosophical discussion.
This first song wasn’t a favorite when I was younger. Frankly, I found it annoying for a time. Somewhere during middle school I was able to get past the “nonsense lyrics” and really hear what was being said and my opinion was radically changed. Let me show you what I mean –
That’s fit to give our king
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my best for him
Me and my drum
Christmas is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. I think I’ve even started to like it more than my own birthday! I love the decorations, the music, the gift-buying, the television specials . . . I love the whole crazy, busy, chaotic experience!
But I do have one small frustration – Christmas Eve Services. I didn’t grow up going to them even though I was a Pastor’s kid. Dad felt that Christmas Eve was for family so he never held one and if we were ever members of a church that held them, we never went. For much of my married life, we’ve been in churches that did, indeed, ask members to come out on Christmas Eve for a service. I’m still not a big fan of such things but I think a large part of it is due to the fact that every Christmas Eve service I’ve ever been in feels like a funeral. But we’re celebrating a birth, right?!
I guess you could say that “Fear Not” is the type of music I’d program into a Christmas Eve service if I was ever given free reign! A birth – especially the birth of the Messiah! – is a happy occasion, a reason to celebrate. No long faces or somber expressions at a baby shower! The story of the cross started in that little stable in Bethlehem, true. But I believe that all of heaven was excited that the process had begun and that God’s relationship with man was about to radically change forever.
”Fear not, I bring to you great
A message of hope to every
Man and woman girl and boy.
For unto you this day,
Over in King David’s town,
A Savior, Christ the Lord, is born
Heaven’s gift of love come down.”
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good new of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”