If you know me, you know that I like to sing. I’ll sing when nobody’s listening. I’ll sing when 12 people are listening. I’ll sing when 612 are listening. Give me half a chance, and I will sing.
I’ve sung all of my life. It was not unusual for our family to sing together at home. (I know. Too often, families today can hardly imagine ever being at home. And singing at home? “Are you kidding? Did you grow up on Mars?”)
We really did. Not the Mars part. The singing part.
I also sang at church. I sang at school. At various times, I sang with groups of, as I recall, 4, 25, 35, 100 or so. A quartet. A school ensemble group. A church singing group. A school choir. And so on.
I’ve done some recording. Four of my own albums and a couple or three with other folks.
But I’d sing in the shower, in the back yard, and on a desert island. I’ve never known singing to hurt anything, and it helps almost everything. You don’t have to be good at it for it to be good for you.
“God’s joy is too deep not to sing!” I’ve used that as a kind of motto on cards, stationery, etc., and I think it is deeply true.
I don’t sing as a modern “artiste” whose songs are a way of expressing disgust, despair, and decrying relentless pain in a world devoid of meaning. I don’t believe that this world or my life are devoid of meaning. “Victimhood” and singing, when combined, are off-key.
I don’t feel the need to scald my vocal cords with “explicit lyrics.” If I couldn’t do better than sing songs where I wallow in angst and nihilism and try to drag others in with me, I hope I’d just be mute, and thus do everyone a favor.
If I’m singing, it will be something I find beautiful, something I find filled with hope, something I find pointing to the Source of joy, whether it’s a hymn, a song just for fun, a sentimental old love song, or so many others.
I know there’s very much a place for some sad songs that help us deal with suffering and pain. If you doubt that, just look at the Psalms. But you’ll also notice that even the psalms written in the blackest despair and not disguising anger at what seems a very unjust situation, well, they almost always end with hope. As well they might. The One who splashed the stars across the sky and, you might say, “sang the stars” into existence, is One in whom hope is always available, even in darkness.
I’ve sung for lots of different types of groups. Churches, clubs, special programs, weddings, funerals, etc. Mostly I sing gospel sorts of songs.
But a few years ago, much to my surprise, my song repertoire enlarged to include some of the great old “American Songbook” songs. You know, the “For Sentimental Reasons” sort of songs so beautifully written by folks like Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers (and many others) and sung so well by Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett (and so many others).
I love singing those old jazz tunes. They’ve lived for generations, and I want to do my part to help keep them alive. It seems clear to me that all songs, all music, of whatever style, if it’s beautiful and lifts our souls is all God’s blessing to us and for us and to be enjoyed in the right way in the right times and places.
I’ve never cared much for the term “Christian music” as a genre. I know why the term is handy, but music doesn’t have to have overtly religious words to be well done and a blessing.
So I was singing for a sweet group of about 20 folks at an assisted living home recently. This time around, I was singing mostly the “For Sentimental Reasons” songs. I’d driven about 150 miles, round trip, to sing for those folks. I’d not get a dollar a mile for the “honorarium,” though a couple of folks bought albums. But I felt like a rich man when I’d sung the final note.
Why? Because I got to see some smiles, watch some eyes light up. The joy God gives me in singing became the joy my hearers that day lovingly received.
Early in my concert, an elderly man and woman quietly got up from their chairs and began to dance. I loved that! Then, at the end of the concert, a sweet little lady came up to me and said, through tears, “Thank you for giving me my husband back for just a little while.” Better than a big check, I’d say. If I gave her a gift, she gave me a larger one.
In just a few days, I’ll sing basically the same concert for a sold-out crowd (not primarily because of me, I assure you) far larger and for around ten times the honorarium. (I don’t do many programs that lucrative, but things even out, my “habit” still pays for itself, and I’m thankful!) But whatever size the crowd and whether or not any honorarium at all is involved, it’s hard to put a price on joy.
For me, yes, “God’s joy is too deep not to sing!”
What about you? Oh, it may not be singing. But what fills you with joy, gives you the sense that “this” is what you were created to do?
Maybe it’s just (just!?) being an encourager with the right words at the right moment. Maybe it’s any of a jillion talents or gifts or abilities. Whatever it is, it’s a joy to you and others, and it’s given to you to share. Given by the Source of joy.
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent