Now I Know My ABC’s

I grew up in a singing family. We were a perfect quartet. My father was a Barbershop Chorus baritone, my Mom sang alto, my sister (who has perfect pitch) handled the tenor notes, and I am a soprano. While other families counted cows and played license plate games on long trips, we sang. I must say that our four-part harmony on “I Love to Go A’Wandering” was pretty on point.

And yes, this was long before kids had screens and earphones to entertain them. It’s a shame that families don’t sing together much anymore.

Have you ever stopped to consider how much you have learned through songs? From learning your ABC’s to memorizing the continents and state capitols, songs play an important part in our education. And it is through singing that we understand much of our faith. Whether you are a traditional hymn singer or love to sway with contemporary praise music, you are being taught things about God every time you experience sacred music.

Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, many of which are in the United Methodist hymnal. While brother John toiled away explaining theology in the form of sermons, Charles expressed his theology in poetic words, notes, crescendos, and harmonies.

Take a look at this verse from his hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling:”

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

This teaches us many things. We learn that God’s love excels over any other kind of love. We learn that love was sent from heaven. We ask for this love to be fixed in us. We discover that Jesus, the Joy of Heaven, is all compassion and unbounded love. We invite the Lord to bring salvation to our trembling hearts. That is a LOT of good theology, and it’s only the first verse!

Our passage today comes from Colossians. In these two short verses, Paul lifted up the value of singing our faith as a way of learning God’s word:

Colossians 3:16-17 (Common English Bible)

16 The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.

As we seek to know God better, we shouldn’t overlook the wisdom that comes from the psalms, hymns, and praise music. There is a difference between head-learning and heart-learning. While it is a worthwhile endeavor to master the names, places, and timelines of scripture, it is just as important to feel and experience the movement of the spirit through its lyrical passages as well. God seeks not only to inform us through the word, but also to transform us. True wisdom is heart-deep.

The invitation is to sing or listen to a praise song, hymn, piece of classical music, or just hum “Jesus Loves Me” as you go about a simple task today. Let us explore how music can bring the word of Christ to live richly in our spirits.

And may we do everything we have learned in the name of Jesus, thanking God for all of our blessings.

Sing a Song by Wende Pritchard

Connections

The logic of a four-year-old is astounding. Connor and I sat on the floor and created four animals out of mega blocks. We made a moose, a dog, an alligator, and a giraffe. Then Connor realized that our animals were likely to go running amuck, so we needed to build a fence. We sorted out all the short four-peg blocks for the bottom row, and then started to build a second layer. I handed him a single-peg block to begin the top layer and he said, “Nana, we need one with two or three so we can connect the bottom row and the animals can’t get out. Otherwise they can kick through it.” He picked up a three-peg block and placed it across two of the bottom row blocks, connecting them.

Yup. Confounded and corrected by a four-year-old.

I was reminded of the simple lesson that “together, we can do more.” I belong to a denomination that is highly connectional, and that is our greatest strength…and our most vulnerable aspect. A global connection is a heavy and weighty thing. When we think and dream together, it is powerful. When our differences are too big to overcome, the connection starts to break.

That is the macro-lesson, and I don’t have any answers for it. But taken in the micro, this logic of a four-year-old can reap many applications. Marriages are strengthened when both parties ensure the connection is strong by putting the needs of the other first. Families are happier when the connections are real, uninterrupted, intentional, and focused. Work teams function better when roles and responsibilities are interconnected and people work together toward a common goal.

I spent time with a large group of friends at a restaurant recently and realized at the end of the meal that I had not exchanged any words with one of them, other than our initial greeting. I was regretting this until my husband, who sat directly across from him, remarked that he was playing games on his phone the entire evening. Suffice it to say that it is hard to connect with someone when he or she is already connected to something else.

But to take it even smaller, think about your connection to your Maker. From the moment of your conception you were connected, even if you didn’t realize it.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

God knit us together in our mother’s womb. The choice of brown or blue eyes, black or blond hair, vanilla or chocolate skin, is all part of his artistry. He is our first and most intimate connection, and like Connor’s animal fence, his connection with us acts as a safety barrier if we just follow his direction:

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

It is all too easy to disconnect today. That thing in your pocket that “connects” you to the world disconnects you from the people right across the table from you. Real connection is what we were built for from the very beginning.

When we lose our connection with each other, we lose our humanity. When we lose our connection with God, we lose all that is holy.

Where is God calling you to connect today? Do you need to reach out to someone who is being ignored (or ignoring you) and have a real conversation? Do you need to stop the crazy of your life and reconnect with God? Are you so busy doing for others that you need to connect with your own soul?

We aren’t meant to do this life solo. God longs to be fully engaged in our daily everything and creates community for us to build one another up and be his people. Let him come in with his mega blocks and provide a safe space. Together, with God and each another, we CAN do more.

Connor’s Animal Fence