Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Make A Joyful Noise

When I was a little girl, I always sang in the choir at church. One of my first church memories is singing “Go, Tell It On The Mountain” at a Methodist church in my hometown. For some reason I had a solo, and I think that was mainly because I wasn’t shy and wouldn’t cry if forced to perform in front of a large-ish group of people. (By the way, I'm still not shy and still don't mind being in front of large-ish groups of people, but at this stage of life solos require, you know, talent, something that's in short supply with me.)

As I got older, I continued to sing in children’s choir. Every Sunday afternoon, from the time I was 8 until I was 13 or so, Miss Kitty Morris would sit at the piano and lead us through songs like “Ten Thousand Angels” and “Pass It On.” All these years later, I don’t think there’s a single Sunday when I don’t think about Miss Kitty. She served us so sweetly and selflessly, and it’s because of her that I know all the verses to “Amazing Grace,” “Blessed Assurance,” and so many other wonderful old hymns.

By the time I got to high school, I wasn’t so much interested in hymns, though I did wear out a couple of cassettes of Amy Grant: The Collection. I spent the next fifteen years or so wrapped up in “my” music – Blues Traveler, Shawn Colvin, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Hootie and The Blowfish (and I still LOVE ME SOME HOOTIE, by the way).

But once I hit my 30’s, something happened. Maybe it was hormones, maybe it was pending motherhood, maybe it was just where I was spiritually – but I could not listen those old hymns without going into the ‘bout-near-ugly cry. I’ll never forget one particular Sunday when I was about six months pregnant with Alex, and we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” in church. There was something so sweet about feeling Alex kick as I sang words I’d known since childhood, and I cried so hard that a lady who was sitting near us took pity on me and passed me some Kleenex. Don’t get me wrong - I do love contemporary music, but the Holy Spirit stirs something deep in my soul through the words of the old hymns, through the words that have been sung by generation after generation of believers.

About a year and a half ago, after an almost-20 year hiatus, I decided that I wanted to sing in a choir again. At our church you have to audition to be in the “oh-they-can-really-sing” group, but there’s another group called Celebration Choir that sings about once a month – no audition required. My neighbor E. and I decided that we’d go together, and I’m pretty sure that David thought I'd lost my mind just a little bit when I told him I was joining. He knows my singing “limitations” better than anyone since he has to stand next to me every week in church, but he encouraged me, thought I would enjoy it, and then worried, I’m sure, that I would bring untold shame and degradation to our family with my off-key song stylings.

I wish I had the ability to explain why, but going to choir that night was like going home. For all intents and purposes, I was 8 years old again – singing along with Miss Kitty in the choir room at my hometown church. We sang some newer songs at "choir practice," but we also sang “Oh, Happy Day” and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.” And if you ever have the chance to sing either of those songs with about 150 people, I highly recommend it. It probably won’t change your life, but it’ll flat-out bless your heart.

Tonight, at 7:00, our Celebration Choir starts up again. For two blessed hours I’ll sing to my heart’s content and probably get in "trouble" a time or two for cutting up too much with the other altos. I’ll hit lots of wrong notes, sing in places where I’m supposed to be quiet, and pretty much make a mess of everything we work on – at least the first time through.

But I’ll make a joyful noise – though it may not be joyful to human ears – and I’ll treasure every single second of it. And when we sing an oldie but goodie – something like “Jesus Paid It All” or “Holy Holy Holy” – I’ll sing through tears, no doubt about it.

I think Miss Kitty would be proud.


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