Those of you who have been following my blog since the beginning may remember the post ‘Farewell Mon Ami” I wrote about attend the memorial service for my friend Frank Touchet a few months ago. One of the things that struck me the most that day, and brought back a flood of memories, was the music. The traditional gospel hymns that were sung were so uplifting to me. They also made me think of my Momma.
If you are not a regular, you may be surprised to find out what one of the most contentious issue in Evangelical churches is today. No, it’s not about right to life, the accuracy of the Scriptures, or the role of the Holy Spirit. It is not about gay marriage, civil rights, or stewardship. It’s not even whether we should be winning souls on the other side of the world or in our own neighborhoods. No it is not any of those things. It is about music. Or the lack thereof, depending on which side of the issue you are on.
Most of us, who are may age or so, grew up on church singing the old hymns and worship songs that had been around seemingly forever; They were familiar, comforting and everyone knew both the words and the tune. Most of us could sing our hearts out for a whole worship service and never have to look at the words in the hymn book, unless they decided to sing the third verse. However, over the years there has been a distinct trend to move away from the ‘traditional’ songs to something dubbed ‘contemporary’. Contemporary apparently means choruses and short songs, set to a melody most people don’t know, with the words flashed up on a screen over the stage. It also means that when they do sing an old hymn, it is set to a different tune or arrangement, so that most of us not only don’t know the music, but the order the words go in.
I get. I really do. The idea is to reach a younger crowd, many of whom did not grow up in church and are not necessarily tied to the traditional hymns. Using music with a newer sound reaches out to them. And I also understand that the worship leaders and musicians like doing something new and different. I get it. I really do. But that does not mean that I like it.
I have always been a congregational singer. I have never been shy about singing loudly and enthusiastically. I may not be that great of a singer, but the Bible says make a ‘joyful’ noise to the Lord. It never says you have to sound good doing it. . But lately I find myself standing silently, unable (and perhaps unwilling) to join in on a chorus I have never heard before.
Well, there was none of that in the Jennings Church of Christ that Saturday when we honored Frank. The music was good ole fashioned congregation singing, just like I was used to all my life. (Well, not exactly; since it was a Church of Christ, there was no piano or other accompaniment, but it did not matter.) We started out with that old standard “Amazing Grace”. Even though I was 3 hours from Watson and in the church of a different denomination, I felt like i was home.
We sang a few more. “When We All Get to Heaven’ has always been one of my personal favorites. I think I awed my friends sitting next to me that I could sing all the songs without even opening the hymn book, but I did. These were my songs. Songs I had heard all my life, not only in church, but all the time in my Momma’s house, just about every day.
Momma had a beautiful voice and loved to sing. But, she never had any formal training and would not even think about being in the church choir, much less singing a solo or anything like that. We could never convince her that she really could sing and was self conscious singing in front of other people. But oh my, did she love to sing at home. I have many memories over the years of her doing laundry or cleaning house and singing at the top of her voice old standards like “Holy, Holy, Holy” , “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”, “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus”, “I Surrender All” and many others. She sang what was in her heart. Even though she would never believe it, it was wonderful. A few years ago, after Momma passed away, I found an old George Jones song. The title was “When Momma Sang, The Angels Stopped to Listen”. Nothing could have been closer to the truth.
As I sat there that Saturday morning, my thoughts drifted back to the old days and Momma. I thought about how much she would have liked the choice of music that day. Then we stood up to sing again and this time it was “Blessed Assurance”. I sang with tears in my eyes. That was one of Momma’s favorites. And as I listened to the words, I realized that the song fit my Momma in so many ways.
The hymn was written in 1873 by Fannie Crosby and has been a Christian standard ever since. The lyrics as based on an interpretation of Hebrews 10:22, which begins ” “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” . If you knew my Momma, you know she had a true heart and if anybody ever had full assurance of faith, it was her.
The first verse goes like this:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
If you knew Margaret, one thing was for sure, she had no doubt that Jesus was hers. And she would tell you pretty quick that she was born of the spirit and washed in the blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.
Well, I told you she would spend all day singing and praising. Sometimes it was by singing that very song. Yep, every time I hear that it makes me think of Momma
Perfect submission, all is at rest!
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
No matter what was going on or how bad things seemed to the rest of us, Momma had the assurance that everything was going to be okay. She was definitely happy and blest in her Savior. She was also filled with goodness and lost in His love. Everyday. It was the way she lived her life. And it put a song in her heart. Fortunately, I was blessed to be part of a very exclusive audience. And, I have no doubt that she is still singing, as the song says, “Praising my Savior all the day long!”