Posts Tagged ‘hymns’

March Madness and Music Therapy


March Madness is alive and well at our house. You could take this in a number of ways. For us right now, it’s all about basketball. Woody loves the suspense and drama of the NCAA tournament with all its twists and turns. And often, I do, too.

But there are many kinds of madness. And I suspect that one or two of you reading this may be experiencing a different kind of March madness. Maybe crazy schedules. You find yourselves caught between winter and spring sports, and the carpool schedule has become a tangled, impossible mess. Or never-ending winter. Will this cold and snow never go away? (If you live in Massachusetts, who knows?) Snow days, sick kids, and being housebound are making you crazy—a different kind of madness. Or the biggie: sleep deprivation. Someone is always up during the night. If you’re lucky enough to get the baby sleeping through the night, your 5-year-old is having bad dreams, your 7-year-old is throwing up, or your 3-year-old has a monster under her bed. Maybe all three . . . in the same night. It’s enough to make you crazy. Really truly crazy. The real March madness.

In the middle of all this, I have one small suggestion. Music therapy. I remember times in my mom-life when 15 rare and precious minutes of Mozart (Yes, I’m one of those crazy people who likes almost all kinds of music—even classical—sometimes especially classical) through my headphones got me through those “piranha hours.” (Remember what Max Lucado called those times when “everyone wants a piece of Mom”?) I also remember marching up and down our upstairs hallway singing “The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases . . .” at the top of my lungs. Until I believed it. Some days it was a lot of singing.

I know many of you already live on your music—at least, whenever you can get it. Even though you can access your favorites in many ways these days, sleeping babies, nap times, and kid music choices for carpools do take their toll, no matter how good your headphones are. But still, you know what a mood-changer music can be.

Yes, you already know that music is life-giving. But I want to remind you of two gifts of music that you may not always remember.

First, God uses music to remind us of deep truths about Him that are easy to forget in the midst of March madness. Any kind of madness. In every season of life. In recent months I have been waking up with the words of old hymns floating through my mind. I also have found myself adding music to my quiet times with God. Whether it is old favorites on the piano or Fernando Ortega filling the living room or prayer time with Sandra McCracken’s Psalms. As I pray for the many I know with “troubled bones” (Psalm 6:2-4) or hurting hearts, I begin my prayers with Sandra McCracken’s “Dear Refuge for My Weary Soul” or MercyMe’s “Even If.” Or Shane and Shane’s “Though He Slay Me.” Or “Eye of the Storm”(Ryan Stevenson). Balm for the soul. Not only for others for whom I pray. For me. For you.

Music also is a powerful voice in your children’s ears. Some children receive and remember truths about God far better through music than in any other way. But I believe all children benefit from music. I remember great kid conversations about the fruit of the Spirit because of an album we frequently played called The Music Machine. And I’m sure nearly every one of you can add lots of current examples.


But here’s the other thing: The songs you sing to and with your children will remain with them the rest of their lives. And yours. I know this because I hear our children singing to their children some of the very songs I sung with them. Our grandkids ask for those songs when we put them to bed. Even, in one case, in Swedish! And guess what? Some of these same songs now sing in my heart when I most need to hear them: all the verses of the old Swedish hymn “Children of the Heavenly Father” have new meaning for me in this chapter of life. And words to a song called “Peace” (also from The Music Machine): “Knowing that my Daddy’s home [my caps], God gives me peace.” And “Peace, Peace I think I understand. Peace, Peace is holding Jesus’s hand.” Yes. For me. For my children. For my grandchildren.

So keep singing your way through March—and beyond. A letter one of our kids wrote to me recently included an old Victorian quote that says it best: “. . . the songs sung over the cradle hide themselves away in the nooks and crannies of the tender life, to sing themselves out again in the long years to come.” (J.R Miller, 1880)

Keep singing! 

What Song Shall We Sing This Thanksgiving?

“O sing unto the Lord a new song . . .”  In our family, we’re singing a new song this Thanksgiving. Woody and I have just welcomed into the world our 11th grandchild, Bjorn and Abby their third son. Now we are nineteen!  I’d like to introduce Lars Wheeler Anderson and his very grateful little family:


God gives great gifts, and we are overflowing with gratitude.  It’s easy to sing a song of Thanksgiving just now.

But thanksgiving doesn’t always come so easily.  Especially if we see the giving of thanks as dependent on particular circumstances in our lives. The interesting thing is that God calls us to more: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV) In everything . . .  How in the world do we do that? How in this world do we do that?

At this time in America when our country is election-weary and future-wary and fractured down the middle in so many places, how do we do that? It’s hard for Thanksgiving songs to be heard amidst the chaos. It is, after all, an American holiday. And yes, more than a few people are finding their thanks-giving voices more than a little bit strained.

But the question becomes much more personal for so many people I know and love—and pray for every day. How do we give thanks amidst deep personal loss, terribly sick children, scary financial stresses . . . you know the list goes on and on.  But still, we are called to give thanks.

Maybe sometimes it’s easier to sing it. I always think of Martin Luther’s friend’s advice to Luther amidst struggles with depression: “Let’s sing the Psalms, Martin.  Let’s sing the Psalms.” 

So what song shall we sing this Thanksgiving? I offer you my favorite. A favorite because it is so very real. It reflects the good times of life as well as the bad and the sad. But I love it mostly because it reminds us of the true basis of our gratitude. And above all, the One we should thank every day of our lives. It’s an old Swedish hymn, one we sang at the Fall funerals of both of Woody’s parents. One that sings in my heart often.

See the words below.  If you’d like to hear it, here’s a link.

1. Thanks to God for my Redeemer,

Thanks for all Thou dost provide.

Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,

Thanks for Jesus by my side.

Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,

Thanks for dark and dreary fall.

Thanks for tears by now forgotten,

Thanks for peace within my soul.

2. Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,

Thanks for what Thou dost deny

Thanks for storms that I have weathered,

Thanks for all Thou dost supply.

Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,

Thanks for comfort in despair.

Thanks for grace that none can measure,

Thanks for love beyond compare.

3. Thanks for roses by the wayside,

Thanks for thorns their stems contain.

Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,

Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain.

Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,

Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee.

Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,

Thanks through all eternity.

So there you have it: 24 reasons to give thanks.  In the good times and the bad. In a word: Our Eternal God . . . with His Everlasting arms underneath. Always. Forever.


I’d like to leave you with a picture. It’s a picture that embodies much of my heart this Thanksgiving. It includes so much that I am thanking God for at this time of year. The pilgrims on the table were Woody’s mom’s. They joined our every Thanksgiving celebrated with her. The chairs in the background were my mom’s. I sat in them and admired them each time I visited with her in her little Florida condo; and when she moved to hospice, they were still there . . ., and now here. I love the view out our window. And how I cherish the family God has so graciously given us! Us . . . the ones who once wondered whether we would ever have children!

A thanksgiving challenge for you: Take a picture of things for which you are thankful. Make a list. Sing a song. Maybe sing a new song . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!    

Mama Wings—and His!

It’s funny what you notice when you keep your eyes open.   I mean, really open.  Mine seem to have been opened wider than usual lately.  I think Ann Voskamp’s list (see my earlier blog post on One Thousand Gifts) got me started.   No, my own list is not anywhere near one thousand yet.  I’m sure God’s gifts have numbered way beyond that.  I just haven’t written them all down.  But I’ve gotten a good start.

So here’s one thing I’ve been noticing lately: wings.  First, mama wings.

On a walk last weekend, my husband, Woody, and I encountered an entire family of Canada geese.   Not at all unusual around here given goose overpopulation.  But these two were different—at first it only looked like two.   The mama was sitting on the sidewalk in a very strange position, while the daddy was standing at the edge toward the street at high alert, with beak open, looking ready to honk and attack any potential intruders.

Then we saw them—three tiny goslings almost completely covered under the mama’s outstretched wing. Sheltered. Protected. Safe.  We were so sorry we had no camera to capture that moment.

But we did get another picture: meet the mama I’ve been greeting every morning.  Just outside our front door, a pair of mourning doves has built a nest in the eaves under the porch. The mama dove has been sitting faithfully for what seems like forever on that nest. Every morning I’ve peeked out and checked on her, offering a little encouragement for her seemingly infinite perseverance—you know, “You go, girl!” and things like that.

At first I thought the eggs were just taking forever.  But suddenly one day I saw two little heads peeking out, and they weren’t as tiny as I’d expected them to be.  I think she had been sheltering those babies with her body for quite a while after they were born.  Because it seemed like no time and they were out of the nest, perched on the roof.  And then they were gone!   Faster even than my kids grew up and left for college—those 18 years seemed to go so fast!

These sweet mama birds protecting their babies reminded me of two things:  First, all of you mamas and the myriad ways you protect your babies—and kids way beyond babies.  You shelter them.  You cover them.  You teach them to fly.  And then you actually let them do it!  Wings.  Yes, wings—yours and theirs.

But second, it’s His wings that are ever on my mind these days.  Wings that shelter.  Wings that protect.  Wings that keep us safe no matter how fierce life’s storms swirling around us.

God even gave me a song to remind me of His wings at a time when I needed reminding.  Do any of you know the old hymn, “Under His Wings,” by William Cushing and Ira Sankey?    I could only remember part of the first verse: “Under His wings I am safely abiding, Though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me. He has redeemed me and I am His child.”  And the chorus: “Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever.”

I couldn’t find it in my hymnals, so I looked it up on the internet and sang along as part of this morning’s devotions.  It is based on lots of scripture—Psalm 17:8 and Psalm 91:1, for starters.

So today I’m thanking God for wings.  Mama-goose wings.  Mourning dove wings.  Your wings over your kids.  And even their wings (though scary)!

But most of all, His wings.  Just in case you need encouragement today about wings—your tired wings, your kids’ scary wings, or His protecting wings—try this with me (and the Psalmist): “. . . I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 63:7)

Out of the Mouths – and into the Hearts – of Babes

Recently a friend called my attention to an excellent blog posting called “Doctrine in Diapers” by Amy Julia Becker on Christianity Today’s blog for women called her.meneutics.   It’s worth reading!  In it Becker shares stories of saying (and singing) grace with her children, praying with them, answering (or attempting to answer) their questions, taking them to church, and reading Bible stories with them.   Through it all the whole family—not just the kids—are learning a lot about God.  It sounds a great deal like what we talk about at Mom to Mom as the “Deuteronomy 6 lifestyle.”

It brought back a flood of memories for me.  And as I relived these memories, I realized something.  I am now re-living them in a new and different—and wonderful—way.  I am now seeing new versions lived in the lives of my grandchildren.

There was a time when our kids were young when we would sing “God Is Great and God Is Good” (pretty good theology, I’d say—as Becker observed about some of their songs of grace) before eating.  I’ll never forget the time our family, along with a young teen “Mother’s Helper” from our neighborhood, was grabbing a quick supper in the food court at the mall.  Lars, who was about 2 ½-3 at the time, insisted on singing our grace right there in the middle of the mall.  I thought poor Susan was going to go through the floor.

Recently Lars’ son Bengt was sharing his “wish list” for his 5-yr-old birthday.  “I really like hymns, Nana,” he said,  “so I’d like some CD’s of hymns.  My favorites are ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and ‘Be Thou My Vision.’”  Interesting choices, I thought, for a 5-year-old.  Also some great theology being sung into his life at an early age.

Becker also talked of her children’s prayers for others, and I was reminded of how many years (yes, years) Bjorn prayed for the “hostages in Iran to come home” every night before bed.  Now I sit around the table with Bjorn and his family and hear Soren, almost 4, praying for a missionary family in almost every prayer: “Please be with the boys in the Middle East.” (Names and country can’t be used.)

Becker also references some very interesting blog posts from a New York Times parenting blog.  Some of the conversation generated from those posts, links, and comments reflects the very real angst of parents who, as atheists or agnostics, struggle with how to answer their kids’ questions.  Questions like: “Daddy, if I speak to God, will he listen?”  Or:  “Where do we go when we die?”

Questions kids ask probably deserve another whole posting (or several!)  I know my kids as preschoolers asked me much harder questions than my middle school and high school students ever did when I was a teacher.   But even as we, as Christian parents, grapple with how to answer tough questions about Bible stories and about God at age-appropriate levels,  I am so thankful that we can pass along to our children the things that matter most about God—especially, and above all, His amazing love and care for them.

One of the NYT posts, called “Creating God in Your Parents’ Image” talks about how kids’ images of God are formed not only from things their parents tell them about God, but perhaps even more by how their parents treat them.  (As Becker observes from the NYT posts, “Interestingly, children with absent parents don’t assume that God is absent.  Rather, they often understand God as their surrogate parent.”)

I’m reminded of something else we talk about frequently at Mom to Mom:  “Children remember feelings more than facts.”  Which brings back another memory, which I believe I shared in a long-ago blog post (“What Songs Are You Singing to Your Children?”)  Once when our whole family was here visiting, Erika slipped down to our lower level with her newborn Gabriella to comfort her seemingly inconsolable crying.  As Erika rocked her and sang to her, she heard footsteps tiptoeing down the steps, and there was Bengt, then about 3.  He stopped in his tracks and listened with wonder as Erika sang the old Swedish hymn “Children of the Heavenly Father” (the hymn I sang to all our children when I put them to bed).

“That’s my Daddy’s song,” he said in amazement.  “My Daddy sings that song to me.”

Who knew?  All the ordinary, daily “stuff” we do with our kids (or maybe grandkids)–rocking and singing and loving and struggling with really tough questions—is teaching them more about God than we can ever imagine.  And, as Amy Julia Becker reminds us, teaching us, too.

I’d love to hear from some of you.  What are your kids learning about God from you?  And how?

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