This week, Lisa Burgess is guest-posting here. Lisa is a writer who blogs at www.lisanotes.com. If you’re looking for a good dose of encouragement and grace, Lisa notes is the perfect place for you.
We had a hunch he was dying. He was losing too many pounds, coughing too often, and actually calling a doctor.
That wasn’t like Daddy.
He’d always been the strong one, the one who never got sick, the one taking care of Mama in these dark days of her Alzheimer’s.
He’d also been the one who’d taught Bible classes and sat in elders’ meetings and led singing on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights in our little country Church of Christ.
But he was also the one who taught us to sing church songs around the piano in our living room.
Instruments and the name of Jesus were a forbidden mix in our religion. We had no pianos, guitars, or organs in our church building. Daddy didn’t fight against the prohibition. But he didn’t agree with it either.
He used to pluck out tunes on our piano at home on Saturday afternoons to new songs he wanted to learn to sing on Sunday. I felt honored (and admittedly a little shaky) when he’d ask me as a young girl to also help play the notes.
But the greatest fun came when his brother Bobby sat down at the keys on Saturday nights and we’d pass out hymnals to share and we’d sing four-part harmony around the piano for hours. It was praise at its purest.
What Daddy was teaching me—without using words—was that worshiping at home was as important as worshiping at church. And that to hear the music down deep, it was okay to loosen up a little.
It was less about us and our rule-keeping, and more about God and his grace-giving. That gave us something to sing about.
Otherwise, we’d spend our lives like many we saw, trying to be good enough instead of crediting God for being loving enough. That brand of religion never settled quite right with me.
Or with Daddy. Sure, he taught us to obey (when he snapped his fingers from the front pew, all four of us kids immediately sat straighter wherever we were in the church building), but he also taught us to question the rules. To see if they were from God or were from man. And to not sacrifice our freedoms unnecessarily on the altar of tradition.
So when this ex-Marine refused chemotherapy when he found out cancer had too big a head start on him, we knew he felt safe where he was heading.
And when cancer got too noisy, we sat around Daddy’s bed his last weekend here and sang hymns to drown it out, songs Daddy taught us to sing but could no longer sing with us.
We didn’t have a piano in his bedroom that Friday night, but I know Daddy wouldn’t have minded if we had. God either. God knows there are many ways we need to tell him thanks. Sometimes with lips. Sometimes with deeds. And sometimes with fingers on keys and strings.
God is worth praising every way we know how.
After Daddy’s funeral, we discussed what each of us wanted of his. Me? I wanted his leather-bound “Songs of the Church,” the songbook he led singing with for so many years. It rests on the family piano now in my living room.
It reminds me to let go of being a proud rule-keeper and instead be a humble God-worshiper. Because ultimately that’s what God is seeking. Exactly like my daddy taught me.