If getting pulled over and ticketed by the police for “singing while driving” were a thing, I would have lost my license a long time ago.
While I am generally introverted by nature (i.e. social enough around friends and family, but sometimes painfully awkward with strangers), there is something about being in my car with good music playing loudly (and weather permitting, with the windows down and sunroof open) that truly brings out the early-round “American Idol” contestant in me.
I know I can’t carry a tune with a back brace and a wheelbarrow, but I don’t care. And, depending on the song and my mood, there could be head nodding, shoulder dipping and even full-torso shimmying involved.
I suppose it was inevitable that my family would be in charge of karaoke at the carnival our mission team hosted for Ability Ministry’s Riverwood facility in Tennessee.
Riverwood houses around 20 adults with various developmental disabilities, ranging from totally non-verbal to high-functioning. My wife, two daughters and I have been going on trips to Riverwood since 2009. The residents there are our extended family now, and the trip is a highlight of our year.
Our team hosts a carnival for the residents each year, complete with games, prizes, snow cones and a dunking booth.
In 2018, our family hosted a karaoke station with a speaker and two microphones. I also had packed a large, curly, black wig to wear when I was “singing”—the quotations are for my family’s benefit, and for anyone else who has heard me.
It was oddly helpful in easing my embarrassment. And, let’s be honest, it was a chance for me to have a full head of hair.
By popular demand, we brought back the karaoke and the wig for this summer’s trip.
This year though, one of the residents surprised us.
Don is a sweetheart of a guy who brought the house down last year by singing Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” while wearing my wig. For our karaoke encore this year, however, Don produced his own wig, and he and I teamed up for a couple of duets before handing the microphones over.
I’ve been thinking about Don and the “Riverwooders” lately because they all love music too.
They especially love worship music, which we get to see demonstrated during the worship service we have with them each year on Sunday morning. There are a handful of songs they particularly enjoy. “I’ll Fly Away” and “Ten Thousand Reasons (Bless the Lord)” are favorites, and when we sing them, their joy is instantly contagious.
They’ve helped me realize how easily I can take the music during weekend worship services for granted.
The Bible is full of references to the power of hymns, singing and music. Here are just a few:
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (James 5:13).
“And when the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him” (2 Kings 3:15).
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).
Many of David’s Psalms were originally set to music, and there are references to music from Exodus 15, in which Israel sang praises to the Lord for their deliverance from Egypt, to depictions of mass worship in heaven in the Book of Revelation.
The powerful gift of music facilitates communion, both among believers, and more importantly, between believers and our creator God.
Preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards once said, “The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music.”
Yet, I don’t always approach worship music in church the way Don and the other members of my Riverwood family do.
When they sing, they do it like no one is watching. They sing at the top of their lungs. They sing like it might be the last song they get to sing. They sing like they know He’s listening and He’s smiling.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve taken worship music for granted, or maybe even slipped into the habit of style critique instead of joyful abandon. If so, please join me in wearing a funny wig to your next worship service in order to rekindle that joy and passion for worship!
Actually, do not do that. Seriously, please do not.
For those of us who have been saved from our sin by Jesus, we shouldn’t need any extra motivation to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!
I really love the way David put it in Psalm 98:1-2:
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”
Sing! Burst into song, for He is our salvation, and it is our privilege to worship Him!
But leave your wigs at home.
Bill Womack has been a member of Southeast Christian Church for 22 years.