For those of you who don’t know, I go to the Church of Christ where our singing is all acapella. Voices blended in harmony is a beautiful sound, especially when giving praise to God. On Sundays, church songs flow through my head and out my mouth. I mostly know the old southern gospel songs that I’ve sung since the first time I went to church. They’re familiar comforts I keep close.
Some of my earliest memories are of singing in church in Bryan, Texas. I must have been three or four years old. The song I remember from then was about some lady named Lambeyon. Strange name I know, but she was so fair and bright. It wasn’t until I learned to read that I discovered the song was NOT about some beautiful lady, but about the Land Beyond, so fair and bright. I still think about her when we sing that song.
One of my favorite songs is What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Near the end of the song, I sang about finding a soul-ist in His arms. I mean, if there’s anyone who’s a specialist in souls, wouldn’t it be Jesus? Maybe it was the southern drawl or my ears heard what they wanted to hear, but the word is actually solace as in thou wilt find a solace there. I suppose the meaning could go either way, but one really should sing the correct words when in a crowd. At home, I’m sticking with soul-ist. Some days I need a soul specialist to know what my inner self is feeling.
There are lots of stories about the funny ways we hear the words to church songs. My brother used to belt out the song In the Morning of George while the rest of us were calling it the Morning of Joy. Or singing about Here’s the Mice in Me instead of Here Am I Send Me. Everyone probably has stories about how song lyrics sounded back when we were children. Feel free to share them. I love to laugh at that kind of humor.
I wasn’t born with a pretty singing voice, but I love to sing. Often when I’m driving alone, I’m singing church songs in my car. After sixty years, I know quite a few old-time church songs by heart. If I don’t like what the radio is playing, I provide my own music, mostly church songs. Singing without looking at a hymnal is much more spiritual than singing while staring at notes and words. We learn songs off the radio by heart; there’s no reason we can’t learn church songs by heart. It’s easier to concentrate and the sound and words come from the heart. Nothing stands between us and the Creator to whom we give musical praise.
I love learning new songs of worship, but the old ones are special too. If you see me singing in church and I have my eyes closed, it’s an old song I know the words to and it’s coming from deep inside me. I’m not trying to be a show-off; it’s just how I sing with the spirit and the understanding (I Cor. 14:15). Sometimes I have tears in my eyes because of the song, but don’t mind me. It’s probably one of my favorites that I love to sing or has deep meaning for me (e.g., It Is Well With My Soul, Never Grow Old, On Zion’s Glorious Summit). Try singing the songs you know well with your eyes shut. Visualize or feel the essence of the words, if only during the chorus. See how it feels. I hope you’ll find it brings more substance to the songs. “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding.” (Psalms 47:7)