My visits as a pastoral care worker, offering prayers through liturgy and music to nursing homes especially in their high care area are always fraught with mixed emotions. I am cautioned that these residents could go for hours or even days without responding.
There is a part of me that doubts, when I see the participants, frail and beaten by the battles of life, just waiting to go, their eyes fixed on “nothingness” that whatever I have prepared for them will not bear much fruit.
Yet many times I have been proven wrong. As soon as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, One Day at a Time and other much-loved hymns are heard, heads lift, eyes widen or blink, and tears flow down some cheeks.
One time, a frail gentleman, paralysed in a shell chair, grabbed my hand and held it tightly. I shed some of my own tears that day. Another, who was reticent and hostile, belted the song, over and over, in his splendid baritone, hushed later by some residents, annoyed by his “noise” and gave me a blessed wink and a thumbs up!
Studies on dementia reveal that music helps people in all stages connect with fond memories, and is proving to be good medicine – melodies can be remembered long after names, faces and words are forgotten.
We sometimes forget the power of music – awakening that part of the brain, evoking responses, reconnecting with loved ones, improving focus, increasing in happiness and decreasing in fatigue, lifting that haze, the veil that perhaps separates us from what we want to forget and what we want to remember.
The Clay Centre for Young Healthy Minds writes that music is the best studied of art therapies, and helps to lower anxiety, depression, trauma, psychosis and stress. Music helps and heals.
READ MORE: State of the heart
Bishop Brewer’s sermon on 4 October 2015 shares some distinct purposes of music in our lives. He says that music teaches us the Gospel, connects us to God in unique ways, allows us to express our love to God with our whole being and if used for worship, fulfills God’s command. He further states that music that honours God will cause our hearts to sing. And when our hearts sing, worship happens. We’re transformed on the inside.
I have found this to be true. I belong to a prayer group where praise and worship frames our services when we gather every Friday. For 23 years now, we have shared music together, bringing us deeper fellowship with God.
Much of my personal transformation has been made through praise and worship when the Holy Spirit teaches me more truths about myself and the need for inner change. I have shed many tears of joy for my victories through God’s grace and sorrow for my sins while singing for the Lord. When I am down and out, music brings me comfort; when I battle with afflictions, it gives me the strength and the faith to carry on; when I am joyful, music makes me dance and share my hope with others; when the devil tempts me, praise and worship stop his tricks.
If you want to go deeper, read the article written by John Michael Talbot in the Music of God. He says, “God is perfect spiritual music. Many of the world’s major religions say that God created the universe through music. But the music they speak of is no mere earthly song. It is profoundly spiritual, and mystical. The mystics say that in the supernatural state, you can see sound and hear colour. This was our original mode, and will be again in Eternity. This harmonious music is part of God’s very being. God is a perfect harmony of transcendent self-sufficiency and self-diffusive goodness and selfless love. This awesome balance and peaceful harmony is perfectly manifested in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is perfect logic, but beyond the grasp of logic alone.” Another music writer indicates that harmony is ordained by God; the base of harmony is a triad, which is a three-some notes that are in perfect unity with one another.
We might not have had much music in 2020 because of COVID-19. Many of us have lost our rhythm in life, overcome by uncertainties, our lives torn by discordant notes of loss and doubts. But we are all encouraged that in 2021, we should be reclaiming what we have lost and re-discover the hope, trust and faith that God ordained us to be – creation of harmony, peace and joy.
READ MORE: Lord, teach me to pray
We might have been side-tracked by the coronavirus pandemic, but let us be reminded once again of Revelation 5:8-9: “Now when He (Jesus) had taken the scroll, the four living creatures (angelic beings) and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus), each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song.”
Let us sing our old songs again, or create a new one and continue to make music for the Lord, for when we get to heaven, there will be singing there. If we let go of our discordant false self, driven by noise and fear, and seek God instead, in the peaceful melody of trust and glad tidings of gratitude, we will hear Him speak to us again.
(For comments or feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org)