Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Soundtrack of My Life

I am not a huge music person. My children can tell stories of going on long rides in the car, four, six, even twelve hour drives when I will either not turn on any music at all or I will listen repeatedly to the same CD or playlist for hours at a time. The music I listen to most of all is hymns, the old hymns of the church.

Among my favorite hymns are:
To God be the Glory
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.
It is well with my soul.
When we all get to heaven.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.
Victory in Jesus.
When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.
Amazing Grace.
I love to tell the story.
I know whom I have believed.

There is a handful of contemporary songs that I return to often.
My hope is in the Lord.
I have a hope.
He is here.
Through the Fire.
We will remember.
We've come this far by faith.
Jesus, what a beautiful name.
Holy Ground.
When I don't know what to do.
Hear me calling, Great Redeemer.

My list of favorite musicians and groups is as mixed and colorful as my extended family.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Donnie McClurkin
Lynda Randle
Hezekiah Walker
James Cleveland
The Talleys
Bill Gaither
Tommy Walker
Juanita Bynam
Yolanda Adams
The Imperials
The Crabb Family

The soundtrack of my life takes me back to my childhood church, Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. I am transported back to the Wednesday night services when we would sing a couple of hymns before praying for thirty to forty-five minutes. Even then, I cried when I prayed.

I am reminded of Vacation Bible School - two weeks during the summer months during which we marched (literally) into the church singing "Onward Christian Soldiers," carrying our Bibles, and imagining ourselves as soldiers for God in "this sin-sick world." I remember the flannel boards and flannel figures that the teachers used to explain the stories of Scripture to us. I remember wanting to sit in the front row every time, so that I wouldn't be distracted by my restless and sweaty classmates.

I remember that my "piano lessons" consisted of my father pointing to middle C on our upright piano, showing me middle C on the treble and bass clef of the hymn book and leaving me to figure out the rest of it on my own. Other than a few months of fiddling around with the old John Thompson Modern Course for the Piano book, the only music I ever learned to play was hymns. Songs with four flats were my favorites.

I remember having to hunt and peck out a few hymns during Sunday and Wednesday evening services on the rare occasion that no other piano players were present. I remember being honored to play even though I made repeated mistakes and regularly lost my place on the page. I would tell them to keep on singing and I would catch up when I figured out where they were.

I remember sitting up in the choir loft with the two daughters of our senior pastor when they practiced playing the organ for Sunday services. I remember that neither of them seemed nearly as excited to be up there as I was. They were up there because they had to be there. I was up there because I loved the music and wanted to be near the source of that magnificent sound.

I remember listening to my father and my two oldest brothers singing in men's quartets at church. I remember my father playing the guitar and singing duets with my mother at church. I remember one of my brothers playing the piano and my father singing solos at church. I remember sitting nearby and listening to them when they practiced at home. I remember wishing I was old enough, gifted enough, and brave enough to sing solos at church.

I remember listening to Southern gospel music and classics hymns with my father on the many records he kept stacked in our living room. I remember listening to those albums even when he wasn't at home. I remember playing them so loudly that our upstairs neighbors would come down and complain about the volume. I remember hoping they wouldn't mention my loud music to my parents.

I remember occasionally attending evening services at Brooklyn Tabernacle during the years when my brother and his wife sang in that legendary choir. I remember wishing my parents would choose to attend that church - I wanted to listen to them sing every Sunday.

Aside from those musical experiences, I have been to several James Taylor concerts - as well as performances by Bruce Hornsby, Huey Lewis, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. I own several Billy Joel CDs along with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Kenny Rogers, John Legend, Erykah Badu, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, India Arie, Sarah McLachlan, and Bette Midler. Quite the eclectic mix of artists, I know. They have each brought smiles, wiggles, toe taps, and knowing nods to me and through me when I hear them.

But the soundtrack of my life is the soundtrack of my faith.
The soundtrack of my life consists of the hymns and songs of my faith.
The soundtrack of my life reminds me of who and what matters most to me, what motivates me, what defines my life.
The soundtrack of my faith is the soundtrack of my life.

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