Friday, November 16, 2007

Sing Him a Song of Gladness

"Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!"--Knowles Shaw
Last night I pulled out a hymn book because I wanted to look up some Thanksgiving hymns. Those old Thanksgiving and harvest hymns bring back to mind some of the paintings you see once in a while of beautiful farm scenes, and people "bringing in the sheaves." I love it! And I hate it--not the songs, not the memories and images, but my ignorance. I can't read music. But I read the words, and the tunes come back to me, some of them, haltingly because they are too little a part of these days and I haven't learned them well. Still, considering how short a history I have in the faith (well, I'm getting old and it's getting longer), I know a lot of songs that sing His praises. Hallelujah!
I was looking in the hymnbook from the start this morning. Of all the first songs, I knew the majority of them. Sometimes humming too many tunes is like smelling too many perfumes--your senses get muddled and you can't remember how this latest one starts. A little persistence and it comes back. They bring rich memories with them. Though the first church we attended didn't teach much in the way of Bible, the one thing these songs bring back is how many hymns they sang--all in a little white church with a steeple in Mukilteo. That building has been converted to a house now; the church itself has moved to a new building that doesn't have that beautiful traditional feel. So it is truly a memory, one of those that is no longer a reality. It was my first exposure to hymns in any expansive way. Still, even an unbeliever gets some exposure...
As I looked through this book, I noticed one song that I had on a Cat Stevens record growing up: Morning Has Broken. I don't think he sang it from any faith but just because he liked it. There were some from old movies, one with Judy Garland in it--Meet Me In St. Louis--the song was God, Who Made the Earth and Heaven; the other was Bing Crosby singing, Faith of our Fathers. Then Wonderful Words of Life reminded me of my time in Bible Study Fellowship, where we heard hymns I have never heard sung elsewhere. These songs work similarly to one of those electronic probes that a doctor might use on a brain to elicit a nerve response--they bring up thoughts and scenes long forgotten! And even though Christian history in my life is only 18 years, I have already have a long heritage, millenia old, from "my" people, "my" family who God has given me, including the likes of brother Martin Luther and sister Fanny Crosby who wrote their passion for God down to be shared in song with future generations.
How wonderful it is to be now on the side of faith, to have rich treasure troves of song books that show the history of others who have been impassioned to write about their love for God and His for them--how wonderful that they've been written down, even the tunes that I can't read, so they are never lost. We have much to sing about! In contrast to the unbeliever--what might they sing of any eternal love, hope, gladness, about how they were made, or any of it? The only atheist hymnbooks would be songs about sin, and though they sing heartily, nay, lustily, the beauty of it is just not the same. I've always intended to put a huge long list of Christian songs inside a cupboard door or on our fridge so I could just glance at it and suddenly have a song that's been silent too long going through my head.
And so we should sing--continually, gladly, thankfully, with all our hearts. I hope that this Thanksgiving you might make it part of your celebration of God and all His goodness, to sing Him a song of gladness.

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