Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the Lord is God – he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation. (Psalm 100, NIV)
Music has always been a part of my life. I remember listening to my father practice for his part playing the baritone horn in the Moravian Band at Old Salem. My mind can still hear my grandmother’s pure alto in the family sing-alongs at Christmas as a perfect complement to my granddaddy’s robust bass. My mother was the church pianist for years flying across the keys with fingers that never missed a note.
I remember being robed in a freshly ironed, stark white gown. I was only four, but I felt all grown up with huge bell sleeves and a bright red bow tied at the neck. With age I graduated from that New Hope Methodist children’s choir, but I never moved beyond the music.
Recently I received a message from a couple of old friends. I don’t think we have spoken in person in nearly 40 years, but it seemed as if life had remained perfectly still. After all that time, we picked up right where we left off as teenagers. The purpose of their contact was to ask me if I remembered the words to a song we sang as young girls. Together we reminisced about a mountain road trip when the three of us sat in the private world of our back seat and sang for hours as my friends’ mothers chatted happily from the front. After we stopped to eat, we quickly returned to singing. We viewed the mountains and valleys from overlooks, and then moved back to the music. Even soaring down the alpine slide that day couldn’t stop the harmony of our lives and our voices.
As we typed back and forth on that visiting night, my friends recorded their voices singing one of our old travelling songs. After sharing it with me, they asked me to do the same. I complied. Before I knew it, we were smiling at one another on FaceTime and talking together as if the three of us had never been apart. We reminisced about our church youth group, caught up on a few of the old gang, and remembered all the old songs from our younger days. From hymns like “Fill My Cup, Lord” to fun favorites such as “Sweet Violets,” we covered everything we could pull from the cobwebs of our minds.
At one point, I was asked about being a pastor in the middle of a pandemic. Was I preaching live or was I recording my messages? I answered truthfully. Going live on social media terrifies me for some reason. Only a few seconds passed before my friend’s words popped up on the screen: “God does not give us a spirit of fear.” After 40 years, my heart is still pushed to faithfulness by the gift of my friends.
“Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy!” Psalm 100 is a happy hymn instructing me to express my gladness in song. No wonder I love the psalms – even without knowing the tunes, the lyrics speak to my heart and carry me cheerfully along my lifetime mountains and valleys. Filled with the words of David, my spirit soars in the harmonies of life, and I thank God for the music that blesses me – music that delights my heart and loads me up on boldness and courage.
I went back today and replayed my two friends singing the songs of our youth. Their voices were as smooth as back in the 1970s, and I smiled remembering the music we shared. I think those moments throughout my life have provided an undeniable and unforgettable foundational strength. Joy is at the center of devotion to God because we are God’s sheep and belong together in the family of Love forever.