Sunday, November 3, 2013

Songs of the Church

http://www.lisanotes.com/

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.


26 comments:

  1. Dear Lisa
    Your daddy reminds me so much of Paul who, even though he was free from any religious rules, gave up his freedom willingly to win people for Jesus. And you are such a great example of one whom your daddy has taught the the much needed gift to be discerning! He must have been a remarkable man!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such sweet words, Mia. Thank you. My father was quite remarkable. He taught us kids to read the Word for ourselves and make up our own minds about what God was saying. I was blessed by that freedom.

      Delete
  2. Lisa, this is one of your best articles. Spoke to me in so many ways. We have all been raised on the rules of our religion until we aren't sure which are just rules past down and which are God-inspired. My Baptist rearing--Is it really a worship service if there aren't 3 hymns, an offertory before the sermon and invitation afterwards? God forbid we change it up.How are we turning off the next generation by our strict acts of worship and yet not compromise holiness? I guess we all struggle with this. Your statement---"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."---This is my heart and my prayer. Thank you for this article. I have passed it on to others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That means a lot to me, Brenda, especially since you knew Daddy personally. It is a challenge to not become so accustomed to our traditions that we end up thinking they're law. (Maybe that's what the next generation is for: they remind us they're not law! ha)

      Delete
  3. You have been blessed to have such a wise Daddy. I love the line, "It was less about us and our rule-keeping, and more about God and his grace-giving. That gave us something to sing about." Perhaps this needs to be prominently posted in our churches today! :-) Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It might be a good wake-up call for some of our churches (and I include myself in that) to be reminded week after week that it's not about rules but about grace. It's still a revolutionary concept that I can hardly grasp, but I thank God it's true!

      Delete
  4. Lisa...this post brought me to tears...

    This weekend, my father went home to Jesus. Some of my most treasured memories are of all of us standing around the old upright piano in our little living room, singing hymns while Mama played.

    To this day, whenever we all get together, at some point we're going to wind up singing hymns.

    Singing, praying, praising, and reading the Bible...these were and are our family activities...the things we do as a family...

    And I am so thankful for them!

    Thank you, for sharing, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know you're going to miss having your father here, Joe. I'm so sorry for your loss, and so fresh too. It's been three years since Daddy died but it still seems like yesterday (when it seems real at all). You and I have both been blessed to have such a godly heritage to draw upon. I know you're grateful as am I.

      Delete
  5. My dad died about 6 years ago, Lisa. He was a preacher and loved God so much. He also loved music but couldn't carry a tune in a bucket! ha! But I do remember how singing the hymns near the end of his life was so important and encouraging to him. How much more would it be for a man who made music such an integral part of his family and his worship? I'm so glad your family ushered him into heaven with a song in his heart and on all of your lips!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like to think that Daddy knew what was going on that weekend of singing, even though he couldn't join in with us. Music was definitely important to him. I always thought it a little out of character for him because he was a VERY logical engineer. :) But God touches us all in a variety of ways and I'm glad music was a way we could share together. And I'm glad that you could share in that way with your dad in his final days too. It's a universal language, yes? Makes for sweet memories.

      Delete
  6. What a beautiful inheritance! - yes, the book - but so much more how he taught you to live praise and faith! Thank you for sharing your sweet, sweet story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the songbook is the inheritance I touch with my hands, but I'm thankful for the intangible one that continues to touch my heart. As I was growing up I don't think I had a clue how important those kinds of things would be later on....

      Delete
  7. We blend in to not offend those who believe differently, but then we understand that especially in the old testament there were many instruments to praise and worship God. What a heavenly send off your family gave to your father to sign the old hymns at his bedside as he prepared to meet Jesus. I can hear the chorus in heaven as he joined the choir perhaps with harps and maybe a guitar and some drums too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like to think of him in heaven doing just that, Hazel. He was one of the few in his immediate family that didn't play multiple instruments so maybe now he's making up for lost time.

      Delete
  8. Oh, Lisa! What a beautiful legacy of faith your dad built into each of you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lyli. I feel very blessed to have had the father I did. I know so many without that blessing and it can make trusting God the Father especially difficult for them.

      Delete
  9. What a blessing to have had such a wise dad. Thankful for all the saints gone before us and hopeful for quite a reunion at Jesus' feet. Blessings to you, Lisa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mari-Anna. I don't even have an imagination big enough for that! Yes, it will be quite a reunion with those we've loved and meeting those we've even yet to know.

      Delete
  10. Lisa what and amazing and touching story about your father's life. It is so great that you have fond memories of the songs you sung at home. I hope my children remember me in a similar way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure your children will have many wonderful memories of you and your love for the Lord, Caleb--including the time you've all spent in Ukraine already and still to come. You'll probably be surprised someday by the things they will remember.

      Delete
  11. I thought of my own dad as I read this. When he passed one thing that brought me much comfort was in having his Bible. Seeing the passages he highlighted, knowing he is with God now. It was also a blessing to find some of my old letters to him tucked in the pages of his Bible.

    Thank you for taking me down memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How affirming to find some of your letters to your dad in his Bible! Proof even after the grave that he loved you. I also have one of my dad's Bibles and I love flipping through to see what he highlighted as important and notes he scribbled in the margin in his handwriting. That may be something that future generations won't have, now that so many of us use digital Bibles...

      Delete
  12. Oh Lisa this is a beautiful God honoring post. Such blessings to have those memories instilled at a young age. I don't have those kind of memories but am instilling them in our children and grandchildren. You daddy was a Psalm 1 man. This post encourages me to continue to walk before the Lord for the sake of our children and grand children. And besides why would I want to walk other wise...you my wise blog friend are a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful that new traditions in your family started with you, Betty. The generations to come (and those now!) are and will be blessed because of it. Thanks for sharing this encouragement.

      Delete
  13. Wow, Lisa...What a beautiful post honoring God and your father's loving and faith-filled legacy to you...Thank you for sharing this gift, a piece of your story with us...Blessings to you as you continue your father's tradition of humble worship :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your words, Dolly. I do want to honor my dad; he lived such a life of integrity in front of me and my siblings. It's still hard to believe he's no longer here in the flesh with us, but his spirit lives on strong and for that I am grateful.

      Delete