Let’s All Sing

If you’ve ever visited Disneyland or Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, I bet those three words caused an image to pop into your head, accompanied by the rest of the stanza, “ . . . like the birdies do, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet.”[1]  You may even be humming the tune sung by the inhabitants of the Enchanted Tiki Room, where “the birds sing words and the flowers croon”. [2]

The cheerful ditty has come to my mind repeatedly the past couple of months because of a mockingbird who’s taken up residence in my crape myrtle. The canopy of the majestic tree reaches across much of the front of my house and above the roofline, shading the windows of my bedroom and providing a proper perch for the mockingbird to serenade me. I often hear it singing soon after I awake, prompting me to think, “That bird sure sounds happy!” And then, “I can rejoice and be exceeding glad too because God has allowed me to wake up to another day.” (Psalm 118:24)

But sometimes we burrow under the covers instead, our enthusiasm stifled by the demands and uncertainties looming in the hours ahead. There have been plenty of the latter the past 3 months, right? Even so, Scripture is full of assurances:

  • God’s mercies never fail. They are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
  • Jesus acknowledged we’d have troubles in this world, but went on to say, “Take heart. I’ve overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
  • If God cares for the birds who sing so sweetly, He’ll surely take care of us, His beloved children. (Matthew 10:29-31)

As I’ve navigated the challenges of the past weeks, I’ve been comforted by these and other promises in the form of lyrics from beloved hymns. Before long, I’m whistling the tune and then singing complete verses aloud. Great is Thy Faithfulness, It is Well with my Soul, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Be Thou My Vision, and our family anthem, Amazing Grace.  Such is the power of music to encourage and edify.

And to connect.

Musical Ties

My mom grew up attending a tiny Presbyterian church in rural North Carolina. Some 8 decades later, when the first few strains of a hymn familiar since childhood emanate from the piano at our current church, she smiles, leans over, and whispers, “That’s a Gulf song!” I nod and return her smile as we fondly recall the white wooden structure and the loved ones buried in its cemetery, links in our heritage of faith.

When my now-adult daughters were little, my husband Ray and I used Amazing Grace as a lullaby. Though their dad died when they were in elementary school, leaving them with few memories of their godly father, they clearly remember him singing them to sleep with that classic hymn.

img_3559When my grandchildren were born, I continued the tradition their grandfather and I began with their mother, soothing them to sleep with Amazing Grace, planting seeds of faith from their earliest days. Six-year-old granddaughter Lyla is prone to humming as she works on a craft project or tackles one of her small household chores. I believe it’s an overflow of her happy heart. Occasionally she’ll sigh, “I’ve got this song stuck in my head!”

Frequently the song on replay is a hymn. Because she and her siblings are being brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

How wonderful to have God’s Word sewn into our hearts with threads of music, binding us to Him and to generations of fellow believers!

Let All Creation Sing

Hearing the shouts of praise and adoration as Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, the Pharisees, indignant and no doubt jealous, said, “’Teacher rebuke your disciples.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)

The psalmist shares similar sentiments: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 96:1-4)

Indeed creation does praise the Creator in myriad ways. Yet we who’ve been the recipients of God’s great love and mercy are best-equipped to articulate all He’s done for us. So let us sing with joyful abandon like the mockingbird outside my window, proclaiming His goodness and faithfulness, as we rejoice in the gift of each new day.

 

[1] “Let’s All Sing Like The Birdies Sing” was written in 1932 by a team of songwriters lead by English composer Tolchard Evans.

[2] Songwriters: Richard M. Sherman / Robert B. Sherman, “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Thrashing about

I suppose I should preface this post by saying I don’t consider myself to be particularly punny – that’s the province of my daughter, Jessie, who inherited her dad’s sense of humor – but this title, well, I couldn’t resist . . .

Since the weather’s been more seasonably cold, I’ve added suet to the feast I set out for my bird friends. IMG_0377 (2)Brown thrashers are among those who want to partake of the high-calorie goodness. To say they have trouble steadying themselves on the suet basket would be a significant understatement. Inevitably, when one lands on the suet, it starts to wobble. This in turn causes the bird to flap frantically which results in the basket spinning around, bringing about another flurry of desperate flapping. It’s a rather comical sight, but also somewhat sad because the thrasher’s behavior keeps him from the nourishment he’s seeking .

Compare this to the behavior of the stately woodpecker who frequents the suet. Every bit as big as the thrasher, he has no trouble positioning himself on the basket and consuming the nutritious treat. Even if the suet shifts slightly, even if he has to hang from the bottom of the basket when the suet’s almost gone, there’s no anxious flapping of wings or shifting about. The woodpecker remains calm, focused on the sustenance before him.

Just as I recognize I’m not exceptionally adept with puns, I’ll also readily admit I don’t know very much about birds. No doubt a knowledgeable ornithologist could explain the behavior I’ve described. But, as often happens when I’m working in my beloved sphere of horticulture, I see a spiritual analogy. The birds’ behavior reminds me of Peter’s attempt to walk on water, recounted in Matthew 14:25-31:

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (NIV Bible, emphasis mine)

As long as Peter kept his gaze firmly fixed on Jesus he was able to walk on the water. But when he shifted his focus to the storm, he was quickly overwhelmed by his situation.

Too often, when I’m confronted with changing circumstances or buffeted by winds of uncertainty, I become flustered. Like the thrasher, I begin to flail about, thwarting any possibility of finding the stability I seek. And before I know it, I’ve lost sight of the One who is my sure foundation. The One who never changes. The One who still speaks to his followers, saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

As I reflect on the disparate behavior of the woodpecker and the thrasher, may I be reminded to rest in the promises of the One who calms the storms.