Monday, June 16, 2008

Still Singing

This past Sunday was the first Father’s Day in nine years I didn’t break down during the Sunday morning service.

I’ve heard time heals all wounds, and having experienced real grief, I know there is truth to the saying. Every Father’s Day since Dad died has hurt just the tiniest bit less.

This past Sunday morning I found myself waking up happy with memories of Dad dancing in my head. Not Dad actually dancing - although that WOULD have made me smile.

I thought it would just be another Father’s Day. I’d grit my teeth during the emotional parts of the service and NOT FALL APART. Then, after church, we’d go home, and that would be that.

However, something so amazing – so wonderful – so uniquely of God – happened. I found myself re-evaluating just exactly how fully God knows and loves me.

To understand what happened, you have to understand a little bit about my dad.

Dad loved to sing. He didn’t have a musical background or any training, but he loved to sing. And he had the voice for it.

Of course, I, as his daughter, didn’t think so. After all, Dad didn’t sing like a regular person. He’d open his mouth and this operatic tenor would just spring forth with the utmost authority.

He wasn’t Michael W. Smith singing Friends Are Friends Forever (enjoying its heyday during my teen years), but he could do a mean, Met-worthy beat down on The Old Rugged Cross.

Nothing is more embarrassing as a teen than to have your Dad blast hymns like Pavarotti in your small church.

Or so I thought. Until…

Pastor asked him to lead the congregational singing.

“Well, better up there than standing next to me,” I thought at the time.

Dad took his new responsibility to heart with the same dedication, prayer, and humor he brought to his whole life.

I remember him – who had never touched a piano before – pounding out hymns on an old, out-of-tune electronic keyboard and practicing the director motions. He’d wave his arms in the air, directing an imaginary choir, while Mom and I would exchange glances over his head.

“At least he’s getting exercise,” Mom would say.

He began researching hymns and would give a little “Hymn History Lesson,” before some of the old favorites. We’d all heard the story of It is Well, but learning about the humble beginning of Silent Night brought tears to my eyes.

Dad also brought excitement and childlike joy to his new post. Many times he’d remark from the pulpit, “If we weren’t Baptists, we’d be clapping and shouting Hallelujah right now!”

His genuine thrill for worship brought smiles to even the oldest dyed-in-the-old-wool conservative Baptist among us.

Of course, since Dad wasn’t a trained musician, he did make mistakes. Big ones.

My personal favorite was when he tried to lead the congregation in the second verse…of a chorus. I still recall that confident voice saying, “Now, on the second…” And the brief pause before we all re-sang the chorus, so Dad didn’t have to belt it out all by himself.

Because my father was humble, he admitted his mistake that evening, and proceeded to do it again, much to the congregation’s delight. From then on, we sang most choruses twice on Dad’s loud, “Now, on the second…”

Dad’s other big mistake was having a favorite song…and making us all sing it…often. In fact, Dad made his favorite song the ending song after almost every evening service.

After Dad died, our good friend Tim (who IS a trained and talented musician) came up to us and said, “Man, I loved Bob! His voice, his direction, his enthusiasm…but MAN did he sing that song ALL the time.”

We laughed because it was true. Everyone knows when a song leader has a favorite song, it becomes a repeat entrée.

So, imagine my surprise this past Sunday when God led our Pastor (who never met my father) to close the service with Be Strong in the LordDad’s oft-repeated favorite song!

I sang every verse as loud as I could. Lifting my voice as high as I could, in hopes Dad would enjoy his favorite song once more.

I found myself smiling, in shock and awe, that God would bless me this way – this so very-specific-to-me way. God, my heavenly Father, gave me a Father’s Day gift I will always remember.

He also brought to mind my earthly father now standing in the great heavenly choir and still singing.

Still singing joyfully, “Now, on the second!”


Juliet said...

On June 1, of this year..your father's birthday, I attended Memorial Baptist in the evening to hear Uncle Darryl speak. What a blessing and surprise to have them sing: Be Strong in the Lord. (They also didn't know the story of Dad loving this song.)

I didn't know it at the time until Aunt Linda told me that both Aunt Jan and Uncle Darryl looked my way because they knew it was one of Dad's favorites.

I thought it was a great way to end your Dad's birhtday.

Perhaps that song is really for you and me... Dad wanted us to BE STRONG IN THE LORD

Charity said...

This Sunday at church we sang oone of mom's favorite songs: "I come to the Garden" Maybe your Dad and my Mom were singing along with grandpa. Maybe they were a trio! (or a quartet) the only part they were missing was a soprano. I wonder who could've sang soprano. Can you imagine?

Alice said...

OK, crying now. That is awesome!

I often marvel at how God is in the seemingly littlest details.

Robin Hayes said...

I am totally teared up too - that was a really touching post, Ann-Marie!!!

Anonymous said...

As I read this post, Liana looked over my shoulder an commented "I like that bunny rabbit" about each rabbit that showed up as I scrolled down. Then "who is that girl" and I said, that's Ann-Marie, my friend. Then, "Why did you put her picture here?" And I told her that I didn't, she did. Well, she likes you and "all those bunny rabbits".
And this is s very nice post too.

The Beard Bunch said...

It is good to see that you can remember your father, with tears just because you are so very thankful. God does like blessing us; it is good that you noticed that blessing!

Anouk said...

What a great post - I'm glad you have so many great memories of your father. I'm also glad for our loving heavenly Father who loves to bless us in those little detailed ways. Thanks for sharing!

a joyful nusiance said...

What a great post! And what an amazing gift God gave you!

Heidi said...

I noticed you were singing loud, since I was standing in front of you.
This is a great post. Thanks for sharing it.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

I'm sorry I'm reading this so late. That's what I get for taking blogger breaks.
Ann-Marie, that is so awesome. Isn't God just amazing?!?! I love those stand-in-awe moments, when it seems that He has just reached down and hugged us.