The song runs through my brain. As I repeat the words a familiar feeling washes over me and I’m taken back to a time before.
Before he turned into the man I didn’t recognize, my father was my favorite person. I inherited his love for music and listening to him play the piano was one of my favorite things. My earliest memories took place in the little barn where I spent most of my life. I can still remember my father’s hands fly over the keys never missing a beat. I can see the smile of the pastor’s son as he played those drums with all he had. The sound of the sax and trumpets that blended so effortlessly. I loved band practice more than anything. My love for the music started next to my father but it was cemented in the walls of the place I would call home but eventually leave.
I was seven years old when they allowed me to attend my first conference. I knew the rules: Sit and stay in your seat. Listen to your big sister. Take notes when the ministers talk. I knew my behavior would determine my ability to come again so I took it all very serious. And then the music started. I cannot explain what those first notes on the piano did to my soul but from that day forward my favorite part of service was the band music.
I moved to Portland in 1991. The commitment I made at 12 years old led me away from my family of origin toward my adopted family. My sister Julie played the saxophone in the band. Through her I learned the importance of music in leading people to worship and I learned to love the band songs she played. Although I desired to learn an instrument, so I could “join the band”, I never managed to force myself to learn.
Some of the songs were quick and often played without lyrics. It didn’t matter. The music was enough to bring the spirit down and the “Cornerstone Shuffle” would commence. But it was those songs of worship, often played in flats and minors, that spoke so deeply to my soul.
One of my favorite songs was “O For a Thousand Tongues”. I’ve searched and I cannot find anything close to the way Portland played this song. We had a pretty dynamic band with a variety of instruments. Some days they would play together in such harmony it was like listening to a heavenly chorus. They would play just instruments in the beginning which was usually enough to bring me to tears. But then the piano player would give a nod and Randy would stand in front of the microphone….again, no words to describe the feeling.
O for a thousand tongues to sing Praises unto Thee
O for a thousand hands to raise In honor to the King
Written by Shirley Ceasar
My love for music has been for a single reason: to express adoration and worship for the one who makes my soul alive. To lift my voice in worship, with my brothers and sisters, was one the greatest experiences. I just didn’t sing those words, I worshiped with my whole being. I knew that when I left, I would leave the music behind. I just didn’t realize how much I’d miss it.
My friend posted a link with a band song this week. I was overwhelmed by the feelings and the memories. I found myself listening over and over to songs we would sing during the last few years I was there. Songs that would bring my only moments of sanity. Songs that would spread a balm of Gilead over the assembly’s bleeding souls. Songs that would remind us, despite the toxicity spewing from the pulpit, that we belonged not to the man but to God. Songs that would bring the heart of the Father to his children desperately needing the power that came through those simple melodies. Yes, it may not have been studio worthy, but the music, it was played from the depths of our souls. It was better than anything you hear on the radio.
Alleluia and praises fill my soul. Hallelujahs I will bestow.
I will sing to the Lord, lifting my hands. Alleluia to the Lamb.
Written by: I don’t know who wrote this as I don’t have the sheet music. If you know please contact me.
I woke up with this song today. Like the 30-something years of my life the music brought me to tears. And I laid on the ground and sobbed. 38 years ago, in the front row of the little barn where I learned to love band music, I learned to sing and speak in another tongue in worship. But when I left 10 years ago, I quit speaking the prayer language that was my constant comfort. I just could not pray today. And although I feel sorrow I hear Abba whisper, “It will come back.” But I know that means me working through some painful memories and reconciling things I cannot change, letting it go and moving on.
So tonight, as I listen to the words that are rooted deep in my heart, I seek his face and I pray. O’ for a thousand tongues to sing and a thousand hands to raise to the one worthy of all the praise this little voice can give.