Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 58

When I was little my Mom decided to teach us a hymn a week. Growing up in Mexico, and going to church in Spanish we had plenty of hymns and songs in Spanish, but not as many in English. So Mom set about teaching my brother and me hymns. (By this time the girls were away in high school, I believe) I remember not really enjoying it. Sure, we did it because Mom made us, but I don’t remember liking it. This hymn learning didn’t last for years and years, that I recall, but it must have worked, because I have a whole memory bank of hymns and songs ready to be sung as needed.

In our family there was never a time where singing was inappropriate. Sad? Let’s sing. Grateful for safety and God’s protection? Let’s sing. Happy? Let’s sing. Scared and worried about the future? You guessed it.

There was never a moment when Dad’s guitar was too far away. He would strum a few chords and we would all sing. As a child I loved singing. Loved getting up in front of churches, loved singing in the back of the car on long trips, loved singing together as a family. We all learned our parts, giving a nice two, three or four part harmony, depending on how many kids were home at the time. Dad would sing whatever part was needed as he accompanied us on various instruments.

As I got older, and turned into a teenager, I was embarrassed by this constant singing, the fact that we couldn’t just be normal and not sing. Dad would warble in and out of different parts, depending on what was weak and needed help, and I would chafe inwardly, why can’t he just stick to the tenor? Why does he have to help me out with alto? I know my part! Ugh, this is so embarrassing! But a bad attitude never got me out of singing. I still had to “Smile and sing out!” no matter what I thought of the matter.

I grew out of that ugly stage and singing with my family was good again. I loved how Dad and Mom knew every hymn ever written, it seemed. Mom would be our audience, she did not like singing in public, and we would sing out. As we got older, usually Dad would be standing off to the side or in the back of a church while we sang. Looking at him you could see his eyes tear up and his belly begin to shake as he wept over a particular hymn. Certain ones always made him cry.

I’ve begun teaching my children a hymn a week. The girls happily sing along, the boys are still little, but they do their best. We are also learning little praise songs with the boys to go with their letter of the week. Some days the kids chafe at all this hymn learning and I am tempted to give up. Fine, if you don’t want to sing, you don’t have to. But I felt that way as a child and my parents made us keep singing. And now I am so grateful. Grateful that there is an appropriate song in my head for every emotion I might be feeling.

Yesterday I was signing the boys up for Sunday School at our parish office. The girls were sitting at a table, they boys were bouncing of the walls, when Mikey looked at the secretary and said, you know? I know a God song. And in unison, I kid you not, in unison, all four kids stood up and began singing “Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing our God cannot do…” It was strange and wonderful and brought tears to my eyes. It is not a hymn, but they are on their way. I think of Ice cream Grandpa, maybe starting the belly shake as he tears up over his grand kids beginning to learn the same old hymns he loved so well.

It is prayer. We have liturgy of the hours and endless amounts of prayers we are able to read aloud when words fail us, but we also have the poetry and prayer of song. When we don’t know what to say, just maybe there is something we can sing. I hope to give that to my kids. I hope they will leave this house with a memory bank full of songs and hymns.

Yesterday was the 11Th anniversary of my Dad’s death. On Saturday it is his birthday. We miss him. I wish he could be here to kiss and hug his grand kids and to play his guitar and to sing along with them. He wasn’t big on poetry – maybe some limericks – but he was big on singing. We sang the following hymn at his funeral, my sisters, brother and I. It was his funeral, but in my head I could hear him saying, “Smile and sing out!” So we did.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas O. Chisholm

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, they compassions they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided-
great is thy faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to they great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided-
great is thy faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is they faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided-
great is thy faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Advertisements