Yesterday, Cheri and her sister went up to Grafton to visit their mother. Usually that’s a trip Cheri and I take, so it became a rare Saturday that I spent mostly alone. I fiddled around with a number of things, as I intended to spend most of the day wonderfully idle. It’s not that Cheri always has a list of things to be done around the house… it’s just that she always has a list of things … so, as the afternoon rolled along, I decided to open up one of our unassembled jigsaw puzzles, and – not putting it together – I dumped the pieces on to the table, and started turning them over, detaching ones that were stuck together, and sorting the end/border pieces from the normal pieces. I figured Cheri and I could start putting it together this afternoon, as we waited for the Super Bowl.
So, one of the things I enjoy doing while I’m using my brain for non-verbal things is to play music. When we work on crossword puzzles on Sunday morning, we listen to the old America’s Top 40 countdown on the radio. While I was working on the jigsaw puzzle, however, I turned on the Pandora on my phone, selected the style of music I wanted to hear, and then used Bluetooth and zapped it over to a small speaker I have sitting on the counter. By the way, with that description, I have now told you pretty much the extent of my technical knowledge…
So, I turned on the “Chicago” channel, and listened and sorted as it played not only the band Chicago, but songs from other performers who are sort of like Chicago. It’s a nice mix. Sometimes I listen to The Canadian Tenors, or disco hits from the 70s, or even Neil Sedaka, but yesterday it was Chicago. As I turned over piece after piece of the 1000-piece puzzle, the songs rolled on by. Then, out of the blue, Pandora played a song recorded by the Monkees, and released in 1967, called “Mary, Mary.” It was a popular song and all, and since we had all the Monkees records, we listened to the entire repertoire for hours.
However, I hadn’t heard that song, I am sure for over 50 years. Wow – now that I put that in print, I feel pretty old… the strange, and nearly eerie thing that happened, however, was that as I heard the first few chords, I began singing along with the song, word for word. Every word, every nuance of the song – it was as if I had been singing it regularly for a half century, when I know I hadn’t heard it even once in all those years. I have to say I amazed myself. It wasn’t because what I did was so brilliant or anything like that – although, of course, if you want to think that, who am I to tell you no? – it was that somehow, my mind, upon hearing the first few notes of the song, quickly was able to pull it up and give me the pleasure of singing along. Now, it wasn’t a particular favorite song, or one I would even select out of a list – but there it was, being sung almost exactly as it was recorded, by my own voice and mind.
I wouldn’t even being to guess the number of songs and other musical numbers that I would recognize, and be able to sing along just like “Mary, Mary.” With over 60 years of singing along to records, cassettes, CDs, and other magical ways to record music, I wouldn’t doubt it would total into the tens of thousands of songs. I sang in choirs in church since I was 7, and in high school choirs, and even in college, I was in six different university groups, from concert choirs, to chamber chorales, to jazz choirs, and men’s groups. The same went for being part of the Seminary Singers in seminary. When I served the local church, I knew a good 80% of the hymns in the hymnal. Plus, I irritate my family by singing all the time at home, or in the car, or wherever or whenever I can. I have to get the lecture every time before we go to a concert, that “I’m not the performer, and we and everyone around us paid good money to listen to someone other than me sing…” So I mouth the words, or sing quietly…
My amazement comes not about my ability, but I’m really amazed at what God created us to do and be as humans. Just what is hidden in these brains of ours? How does it process, not only song, but other facts and trivia and stories, and other important things in less than a blink of an eye – even things that have been stored away in the dusty and cobwebbed corners of our minds? I remember when I would lead worship at different nursing homes, and many residents were wheeled into the room looking almost like a shell of a human being – no expression on their face, no movement of their body – they made no response when I would say hello, or shake their hand, and touch their shoulder. They were existing, but not much more.
Until – I would set up the tape player, and start to play, “In the Garden,” or “How Great Thou Art” or “Amazing Grace.” Within moments of the first notes of the song being played, the room would be filled with nearly-ancient, wobbly voices singing at the top of their lungs, sometimes, as automatically, their own brains opened up to the music, and men and women who had not said a word, probably all day, and perhaps all week, breathed and sang with feeling and memories, matched only with the other moment when we would all recite the Lord’s Prayer together. Woven so deeply into their lives, these words and songs came alive and brought the residents along too, at least for a while, as they enjoyed both the memory and the present of sounds that were important for their lives.
If daily, or more often, we forget to stand in awe of God’s creation in our very lives, or we forget, as it reads in Psalm 8, “Who are humans, that You are mindful of them? You have made them a little lower than the angels, and crowned with honor…”
And put a song in our hearts. And joy in our day, when we intend to recognize just what God always does for us. Let that be your best task today.
Saying for the day: Long before Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus, the sycamore tree was planted to meet his need. I’m not sure that today I need to say really anything more, except to ask you the question: What in this world has already been prepared for your future?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.