Sing Me a Story

Memory Monday

My Paul’s and my childhoods could probably not be more different from each other. I guess my parents’ childhoods probably had some distinct differences, too, but all the same, in comparison to Paul’s and mine, theirs are almost identical. One similarity is the emphasis on hymns. Grandma G wasn’t the only one who sang hymns while doing housework–or maybe she was, but the rest of us sing hymns at other times. Anyway, the point is, hymns. Lots of them.

I have trouble imagining the American youth I work with going for quite this approach . . .

I have trouble imagining the American youth I work with going for quite this approach . . . but it’s a good one.

One Sunday after church, RevCD said, “I saw you singing that whole hymn by memory!” Thing is, I kind of do that a lot, and don’t even think about it. Doesn’t everybody do that? Grandma and Grandpa G used to have us sing hymns and choruses after dinner. We have stories about hymns in my family, like my Pennsylvania Dutch Grandpa M’s family singing “O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness” while working on their dairy farm or something like that. Grandma M, meantime, would tell us the stories behind hymns, and quote them at length in her Christmas cards.

There’s the well-known story of how “Amazing Grace” got written by the ex-slave trader John Newton. There’s the only slightly less-well-known story of Horatio G. Spafford’s family dying at sea, after which horrific losses, he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul.” Then there’s the completely obscure hymn, “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” which I happen to know was written by a French Catholic priest as he tried to introduce some Native Americans to Jesus and the Christmas story.

A Moonlit Winter Landscape, by Remigius van Haanen (1812-1894)

A Moonlit Winter Landscape, by Remigius van Haanen (1812-1894)

The thing about hymns is, half the time they’re stories themselves, and they were written by people with stories, and they reflect the story of God in those peoples’ lives so that people like my grandparents . . . my parents . . . me . . . you, too, if you wanted . . . draw closer to the God whose truth we sing, and to the people who followed Him before us.

Even on old messed up keys, the Master can play some sweet tunes.

Even on old messed up keys, the Master can play some sweet tunes.

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12 thoughts on “Sing Me a Story

  1. So I’ve grown up singing hymns. Dutch ones, mind you. Mrs Missouri and I were looking for a church, and we found one. Our second week as guests, they announce a hymn sing social that night. I went, and I absolutely love it (when I got home, MM told me: you’re almost glowing!). As my parents lived in Michigan for a year, tagging one year old me along, I grew up with some English hymn cassettes and a big, grey hymn book. To my surprise, I recognize at least half the hymns that are sung (three nights so far), reliving a very mixed childhood; because I sing Dutch hymns by heart, but some English ones revoke latent memories. Also, I am gathering quite a group of lovely friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Let’s just say I bring the average wisdom-through-life-experience down by about half :). ‘It is well with my soul’ is one of those latent ones that now is a youtube favorite of mine. I especially love this version, where I also learned about the story: it gives the song so much more weight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8_EfDqF7YI.

  2. Jenn, some of our prayers out here are stories -many of them praising the deities and their respective prowess. While I never really was fond of them, I was hooked to a story my mother would tell sometimes at night just before we went to sleep, and she would sing in between -mostly they were the saddest parts. The experience remains unforgettable.

    • It sounds unforgettable. And yes–I think prayers and stories have a commonality, too. It could be said of the biblical Psalms, for example. People with my specific religious DNA are into “extemporaneous prayers,” but I think the more a prayer offers a personal story to God, the “realer” and more effective it is, whether it was previously written or composed on the spot.

  3. I love hymns. I also grew up singing them. My favorite thing about hymns is that the DO tell story’s. Story’s we can all relate to if we take the time to listen. And through those story’s we find our way closer to God.

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