What songs have you memorized? For as long as I can remember, I have been collecting songs in my heart. My sister Lynn gets credit for planting this seed in me. She was 11 years my elder and used to sing me to sleep when I was just a little girl. Her inspirations included folk artists such as Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joni Mitchell. When she came home for visits, she would teach my sister Hope and me new songs she had learned — both the melodies and the harmonies. The sweet loving feelings of being sung to like this set an absolute goal in my mind. I would memorize songs and I would sing my children to sleep. Now, I sing songs to my grandson. It calms him from fretful wakefulness into deep, sound slumber. So, the seed Lynn planted, in addition to blessing my husband, has benefitted my sons’ and grandson’s lives as well. Singing can start a legacy.
Over the years, I’ve realized what a rich blessing it is to have so many songs stored in my heart. I have a 2-3 hour repertoire of memorized songs. Anybody that goes on a road trip with me gets forewarned. I will sing through the night as I drive. Singing is actually a terrific way to stay awake when you are getting sleepy on the road. I think singing memorized songs is more beneficial in this aspect than singing along with the radio. There’s something about the pumping oxygen through your lungs and making your brain work to remember all the lyrics that energizes you. Also, when you are driving an “older model vehicle” in which both the radio and the air conditioner no longer work and you can’t hear your phone/i-pod because leaving the windows down puts you in a wind tunnel, singing gives you a good alternative to pass the miles away — just sayin’. Singing has its practical applications.
A good many of the songs in my heart are hymns and songs of praise. This, I learned, adds an entirely new dimension to the benefits. I have walked through a decades-long battle against depression, have had years of deep frustration, experienced times of great turmoil, and am given to holding bitterness in my heart. Singing songs of worship to my God and King literally lifts me out of the quagmire. Worshipful singing changes a broken or distressed heart.
There are times when I am so downcast I cannot lift my heart to sing. It was a time such as this that God revealed the power of worship songs to me. He nudged me to just sing (more of a somewhat melodious mumble) the first few words of a song I knew and loved. With those first few words out, my voice strengthened. Determinedly, I sang the next line … and the next. Within minutes, I was singing with my heart and not just my tongue. I think that was my first revelation of how powerfully this act could take control over despondency, anger and bitterness. Even when facing odious household chores, I’ve found singing from my heart keeps me in the right frame of mind and prevents me from developing bitterness or self-pity. Singing sets your heart in the right place.
Another time I remember, I was visiting my aged mother, tending to some tasks she needed doing while she sorted through things at her chair. I had a song in my heart and I just started singing as I worked. I glanced up to check on my mom after a bit and saw the sweetest smile on her face. It wasn’t until I heard my own children making music that I understood how much that blesses a mother’s heart. Singing can be a blessing to others.
This summer, we experienced a delightful time with old friends who apparently have learned similar lessons and carry their own store of songs in their hearts. It was our third and final night at the campfire and somehow, over the weekend, I had become the campfire entertainment director. The first night I had challenged the kids with naming our 50 states, and later the adults with naming capitals. The second night we had a try at telling continuous stories. On the third night, when 10-year-old Maddie asked, “Mrs. Franklin, what are we going to do tonight?”, I was running out of ideas, so I suggested we sing songs. Sarah, a young woman with a lovely voice and the confidence to lead, began to sing songs that we’d all sung together over the years in church. She had built up her repertoire because she had learned that singing old hymns was the best way to calm her agitated grandmother who is living with them and suffers from Alzheimer’s. (It should be noted that Grandma much prefers the peppier hymns. ) For over two hours, we sang and harmonized from an oft-shared treasure trove of memorized worship songs. When half-asleep, young Caleb was taken into bed, he turned back and muttered sleepily, “But keep singing, OK?” Later, after we’d finished singing a heart-warming rendition of COME THY FOUNT, Maddie called out from the camper next to us, “Sing that one again!” It is a sweet, memory. I hope to recreate it with campfires in our yard. Singing builds community.
In the last few hours before my dear sister Lynn passed away, we had gathered around her bed and sung her both songs of worship (celebrating our shared faith) as well as the songs she had taught my sister Hope and I. It was such a beautiful experience that the family gathered around my dad’s bed on his last night here on earth and did the same. Sadly, my mom’s death came suddenly when she was home alone. We didn’t get to sing her off. Thankfully though, my sister Hope had called me over to Mom’s one night because she was acting very strange and agitated, and Hope was afraid she was dying. There were several times like this in my mom’s last year, so it wasn’t an automatic, “Get the family over here,” kind of thing. Hope and I tucked Mom into bed, prayed with her and listened to her “If I die tonight…” instructions. After that we looked at each other and mouthed, “Should we sing?” We decided, last night or not, it would soothe our mother if we sang to her. We started with the “Lynn songs” and moved into songs of worship and hope. I am so grateful we had that time of lulling my mom to sleep weeks before the Lord brought her home. Singing is a great way to say goodbye.
What songs are stored in your heart?