Writing that Sings
“Let my writing sing to You, Lord.” I am inspired to pray this prayer because the psalms are full of singing. “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord.” (Ps. 95:1). “Sing to the Lord a new song.” (Ps. 96:1) “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Ps 40:3).
Singing, like writing, is holistic communication. It involves melody, lilt, and rhythm. It is poetry and expression and carries powerful passion. Its words are full of story or ballad. Music is an international language, and like any language, it has its cadences and tones. It engages the full human being—emotions, understanding, will. Songs have long life. They survive in our memory when other things fade. So we pray earnestly that God will season our writing with melody and lilt and power.
To sing well is serious business. To produce it takes quality music and lyrics, teaching and coaching, lessons and practice, perseverance, and learning audience reaction. Doesn’t this sound like writing? We pray that we will work at the craft of writing and do our part to make our writing sing.
In his last months of life, my father taught my daughters a song.
Fare thee well, for I must leave you.
Do not let this parting grieve you.
For the time has come for you and me to say good-by.
Adieu, adieu, kind friends, adieu, adieu, adieu.
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
I will hang my heart on a weeping willow tree.
And may the world fare well with thee, fare well with thee.
Aimee and Emily sang it with all their 10- and 12-year-old hearts. I sang along, too, with tears in my eyes. My daughters were young and death was not in their scope. They never thought the words were anything but rhythmic, lilting, good fun—tongue twisters, nearly.
Yet the words prepared them for the day my father died. In the brutal winter when we all sat at his gravesite, in sub-freezing weather, while Marines stood at the interment of an Iwo Jima veteran, a trumpet blasted out, “Day is done.” Yes, indeed, well and truly done!
And guess what? At the funeral, Roger and I, Aimee and Emily stood up among the people who came to celebrate—and sang Dad’s song. It was as if Dad stood with us and helped bind us together when we needed it most. All that melody, rhythm, and energy flowed around us as we kept company with each other and cried our eyes out.
Singing was my father’s life-blood. His mother trained him in voice lessons. He sang in his college chorus and in churches and choirs as long as I can remember. He was a Barbershop Quartet man, all-in! There was no more fitting tribute than to sing at his funeral.
In fifth grade, the church choir elected me to do a solo. The sight of the full church seized me and the words and music clutched in my throat. Instead of singing, I croaked out, “The King of love my Shepherd is, His goodness faileth never.” Too bad for me that I had classmates in the audience who never let me forget that silly crack in my voice. They thought it was hilarious—to me their laughter was devastating. Too bad for me that I never wanted to sing publicly again.
But I do still sing. And I sang to my unborn babies. I sang to my young girls as long as they would let me. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, momma’s gonna buy you a mocking-bird…” My daughters tell me that the melody of my voice still touches their hearts, especially when I talk to babies. Something so very primordial in them is touched by my voice; it carries a world of connection and meaning and thrill and love and passion.
Emmi once assured me, in all the dignity of her four-year-old self, “God doesn’t have His feelings hurt when you sing to Him. It’s ’portant. Sing after me.” She proceeded to make up a praise song which I had to echo. How did she know that even God takes comfort in song? Truly, let our writing sing!
I cannot finish without praying for you:
Father, may my friends’ writing sing to You.
May the melody of their words last long after people stop reading them.
Give their writing rhythm, lilt, and depth. May their songs ravish the hearts of many.
In Jesus’ name.