Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Music, Hymns, and Little Ones

I grew up in a pretty musical family. We sang from the time we were born and everyone except me is proficient in more than one musical instrument. I dream of taking piano lessons again one day.

Billy and I enjoy music but we aren't music snobs. Our taste is fairly eclectic. We listen to everything from Christian rock to CCM to classical. Great worship music is our family favorite. No rap, country, or Southern Gospel, although we went through a (very) short Pentecostal music phase (which is totally different from Charismatic music)--I could only handle so much of that!

My kids each have their own in utero genre. Elizabeth was carried to hours of loud Hillsong worship music. I blame her long blonde hair, hyperactivity, and love of dance on this. I guess the Fernando Ortega I also listened to during my pregnancy with her wasn't enough to offset all that high-energy praise. When I was pregnant with Silas I stuck to classical and Michael Card lullabies. No surprise, he was a much calmer baby. Sarah--well, I didn't listen to much music when I was pregnant with her, although she heard the Ocean's 12 soundtrack about a thousand times before birth. She's my easiest child yet, so I guess that was a smart move, although if she starts pining for Amsterdam I'll know we're in trouble.

Lately in school I've been teaching my kids hymns. One thing I've discovered is that children love hymns. They love the measured beat, the predictability, the ease of memorization, the rich words, the soothing tunes. When my sister Leah and I taught a large class of unruly unchurched children, hymns calmed their spirits. They asked for Amazing Grace again and again. The rock-solid theology found in hymns helped carry me through a very painful and confusing time in my Christian walk, so hymns mean a lot to me personally as well.

Elisabeth Elliot inspired me in one of my favorite books, The Shaping of a Christian Family, when she described how her family sang a hymn each morning, progressing systematically through the hymnal. My problem is that when I go through the hymnal, I only know about every tenth song. This incredible loss of hymn-knowledge saddens me, because the words are so amazing and have so much depth. Even sadder is that most people of my generation, and even earlier generations, know even fewer hymns than I. I know Christian people who don't know any hymns at all.

Recently I discovered two great resources, Hymn Site and CyberHymnal. Hymnsite actually has a "jukebox" (a choice of terms both incongruous and amusing) where you can listen to hymns--And Cyberhymnal has an autoplay setting where you can listen also (with information about the hymn and hymnwriter to boot). Or you can just look up the hymn you want to hear. Since I don't read music well enough to figure out a lot of tunes, I'm excited to know about these sites. I look forward to learning many new hymns and teaching them to my little ones. That's something they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives!

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