6:00 a.m. The deck is shady and cool. The coffee is hot. The neighborhood is quiet except for my cardinal friend singing at the top of his tiny lungs. He is never satisfied to be in the lower part of the tree. No, only the very top of the 40-foot evergreen for him. Every morning. He is proud and beautiful and facing the sunrise as if to say, "Good morning, God. You did it again!"
I love listening to the birds, especially their early morning chatter, trying to figure out if there is a pattern to their song. And as I tune in (pun intended) to this friend I shall call Chirp, I am struck by the fact that... not only does he have multiple patterns, but at least three - maybe four - different songs! He never worries if he is on key or as good as those around him. Doesn't ever wonder if he even has a song on a particular day. He just sings.
I want that... not the treetop experience as I have a fear of heights, but his confidence... the singing and the 'being' simply because that's what God designed him to do and be.
As a writer, my creative juices run rampant sometimes... they always have. As a child, alone with my imagination and a tablet (long before the days of TV, video games, and instant everything), I would draw pictures and write stories of the bird families. They could be as simple or as elaborate as I needed them to be on a given day. But they were always singing. Not certain, but that may have been the beginning of my love of music.
Music has always been a significant part of my family's life... like air, natural and necessary. When my four girls were younger and trying to memorize something, we would put it to music. Some things had already been thought of... like Scripture verses and naming the 50 states, but we often created our own method of learning tables in math or dates of Civil War battles. We sang in the car; we sang when we were horseback riding; we sang when we were working in the yard or cleaning and cooking on Saturday for a big Sunday dinner. We just sang... hymns, country music, show tunes. The girls learned to harmonize at a very young age and felt the joy of that close-chord harmony that stirs the heart to its very core. We always felt that the notes were hugging each other in mid-air. The family joke was that my oldest could even harmonize with the vacuum. (It's true, folks. It's true.)
As they grew up, married, and moved away, we were still singing. The radio was always on, or the favorite CD was blaring while we went about our days. We shared a love of the same artists, and it was comforting to know we were on the same wavelength even across the miles.
And then one of us lost her song... to the ravages of cancer. And what a song she had! Strong... clear... permeating... close to the Source.
Who of us can forget her admonition that weekend of our mini reunion? We moved her big comfy chair into the kitchen where she could be part of the action. We were cooking and singing and she stopped us and tearfully said, "Girls, I need you to promise me something... that you will sing and keep on singing... whether or not you think your voice is good enough... or anything enough. You won't realize how much you miss it until it’s gone. I can only sing inside my head these days, and I am sad that God took back the gift He had given me. Still, He knows best and He is still good." We promised.
But we lost our song as well... grief had stolen it. We could no longer listen to a particular artist or genre because it had been 'ours' and now one of us was missing. If we listened at all, it could only be to 'safe' music, maybe light jazz with no words. Anything else was too painful... the grief too raw. How can there be a world without the voice that was uniquely hers? Questions that have no answers this side of heaven; and on the other side it won't matter. What matters is that there will be great rejoicing at this fivesome’s heavenly reunion!
One of my favorite gospel songs is “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul” as sung by Matt Redman...
“The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning, it's time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul... worship His holy name... sing like never before, oh my soul, I'll worship His holy name.
And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come... still my soul will sing your praise unending… ten thousand years and then forever more.”
Flipping channels on the radio a few days ago, I heard that song and, amidst a flood of tears, I renewed my promise to our girly... that I would sing, through depths of pain and heights of joy... for her and for God and for any others who care to listen in... but mostly to refresh and renew my own spirit in order to let Jesus shine through the cracks of my brokenness. That's what she did. I can do no less.
I have always known that God's timing is perfect. But it is also very creative. You can imagine my joy in learning that her sisters had renewed their promise the same day! How she must be smiling down on us to know that the song we lost has been returned and we will indeed be singing "ten thousand years and then forever more."
Psalm 28:7 -- “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts and I am helped. My heart exults and with my song I give thanks to him."