Point. Click. Worship.
I’m sitting just behind the last pew, hunched over the Dell laptop, tinkering and adjusting because this is the way the new generation sings their praises: Point. Click. Worship.
I have playlists ready with Chris Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster and Tenth Avenue North, but as the pews fill in, I reconsider. I move the mouse down and to the left, to find the 200-year-old songs in my iTunes library.
On this day, might we hear songs of praise composed in 1905 and 1832 and 1768? I find the m-peg hymns, and with a click, the pianist inside the Dell begins.
With my forefinger, I nudge the master volume two notches higher than I usually do for a church prelude. My heart is thumping praise, and the notes of the cyber-pianist crescendo. Yes, I love TobyMac and Aaron Shust, but my soul also reverberates praise with songs of Katherine Hankey and William Fischer, Charles Wesley and Martin Luther.
For I Love To Tell The Story.
And I cling to The Old Rugged Cross.
And I know the One who breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod, for He is the Mighty Fortress.
And oh, oh, oh! What a Friend We Have in Jesus!
The old farmer is sitting alone, at the end of the empty row, and he lifts his head to the familiar. He turns slowly to catch my eye. I’m already looking his way, and I smile back. On the second verse he rises, using the back of the pew to steady himself. He shuffles down the row, and he finds his way to the back of the church.
I meet him part way, and he’s already mouthing thanks. I shake the hand of a man who’s sung these songs for more than 80 years, right here on this same hallowed ground, and I think, “I ought to be thanking you, sir.”
We talk about how these old hymns carry timeless truths on the treble clef. And how it would be a shame for children to grow up without knowing them. And how these songs have withstood the centuries, bound in books and hearts.
They were the songs of the slave,
and the grieving widow,
and the errant child,
and the soldier in the foxhole,
and the pioneering father,
and the circuit-riding preacher,
and the martyr,
and the missionary,
and the old farmer, four pews back who stood to offer thanks,
and the woman at the Dell computer who whispers “thank you” back.
That’s when he points to the computer, and asks if I’ve got that song he loves to sing the most.
“It starts like this,” he says, and the song rooted in the heart becomes the overflow of his mouth.
I grab a hymnal, and turn to hymn 474, because praise is contagious.
He’s singing now, right there in the middle of the aisle as the ushers hand out the bulletins. His gruff voice wobbles on the quarter notes, and he inches up the scale to the B then back down again.
“Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in his bosom gather;
Nestling bird or star in heaven
Such a refuge ne’er was given.”
I join him on the second verse, my notes an octave higher than his, and we’re worshipping before worship has begun, singing a song that doesn’t match the accompaniment on the speakers. (A worship-filled heart should know no boundaries, should it?)
I’m singing words printed in the hymnal. He’s singing words printed on a heart.
He knows all the words, because he knows all the words.
We finish the second verse, and he launches into the third. A teenage girl stands beside us, along with her mother — as silent witnesses to the worship. (Even in the silence, we can praise.)
And I’m afraid the lump in my throat might just rise up, and I’ll never be able to hit that D with tears so close to the surface. We finish the song, and worship is about to begin. But for us with the songs imprinted on the soul, worship has already begun, hasn’t it? And does it ever really end? Are we worshipping still today, for this day is holy, too?
Twenty-four hours later, I sit here at a screen, with his song playing on YouTube, and my hymnal open to 474.
That old farmer, week after week, follows the words on the screen with the flashing pictures and the driving beats. We Point. Click. Worship. He worships with us. Because he knows that worship is not about a style, or a song, or a beat, or a volume, or a guitar, or a pipe-organ.
Worship is not about a song at all. It’s about a Person.
The old farmer sings the songs I play.
And on this day, I sing his.
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I am always blessed when I come here.
Just a warm slice of joy over here… 🙂
Thanks for the tender moment…
My favorite song…love it!
Beautiful post. My husband likes to say there are two things in church that people can't ever agree on. One is music and the other is how hot and cold it is.
Keith doesn't want two church services – one contemporary and one traditional. Hymns are rich with theology and poetry and contemporary music is emotive and touches our hearts in a different place. At our church we do both, and for the most part, it works.
I think worship should be like breathing, something we do every moment, keeping us connected to the Person we adore most, need most.
I like these words "my soul reverberates praise". The old and the new causing my eyes to raise to heaven and worship.
What a beautiful moment, thanks for sharing.
*sigh* I don't even know what to say, but what a beautiful, beautiful post today!!!
Don and I were just sitting watching a Gaither show yesterday, and they were focusing on the old songs we both grew up hearing. They both sing to my heart…the old and the new.
I like this "Worship is not about a song, but about a Person."
How true. 🙂
Right here: You nudge the volume up two notches higher than usual.
I love my Tomlin and Redman and Agnew. I like 'em loud. But I love hymns at least that much.
And that you would play them louder. I love that.
(Oh, and thanks for driving the extra traffic to my site. I'm now getting visitors coming in on a search for "sioux falls hyvee tent sale." Dropping this in your comment box may just send them back on over here to you…)
My heart is just soaring reading this post AND the one about the medal below it! You are on a roll, big-time!
Love this…..such a blessing!
I used to sing "I Love to Tell the Story" as a child. Your post brought all those wonderful memories flooding through my heart!! Gonna go get my old hymnal now and feast upon those blessed lyrics today!! Thank you sharing….you are a blessing!
Have an abundantly blessed week!!
He is Faithful!!
I just love this Jennifer. It is just the song of my heart!
Worship is indeed a person! Worship is not something we receive, it's what we do!
One of my favorites is "Great is thy faithfulness"… I just love to close my eyes and sing it straight to Him.
You have blessed me today!
Just beautiful, Jennifer! Thank you for your encourging words! I love visiting your blog!
beautiful words. beautiful worshp before the Father. thanks for sharing
Love to worship with music – old and new! Thanks (once again) for a feel-good post Jennifer!
How songs speak to the very core of our being…loved this…"
I'm singing words printed in the hymnal. He's singing words printed on a heart."
Oh Jennifer–those hymns just can't be buried, no matter how old they are. I love praise music, but what sticks in my mind, my heart even after years of not hearing them? The hymns. I know this feeling. Your post left a lump in my throat so I can't sing along either.
OH Jennifer! I just love the way you share Jesus with us…..
"I'm singing words printed in the hymnal. He's singing words printed on a heart."
this was just incredible.
That old farmer and I would get along just fine. I'm always good with a worship song, but nothing will ever replace those old hymns. They bring me closer to the place where I want to be.
Amen! These thoughts and these hymans are near and dear to my heart as well. I shared some similar thoughts in a post called, Put Down That Hymnal. Oh, that we would all have these rich, blessed words ready to spring from our hearts and our lips! On the other hand, my son the musician can't wait to get to heaven and introduce the saints of antiquity to songs of praise sung in hip hop and rap when every square inch of creation will be redeemed!
This rocked my soul.
I breathed in every word and loved what you said about who has sang those old hymns over the years.
I grew up in a church that turned pages in the hymnal on Sunday and I love them.
It is SO true, worship is about a person and I sometimes forget.
ah, jennifer…you bring tears to my eyes. i love this post so very very much.
just recently, God has blessed me to use me in leading worship again (with my Life Group) following a very painful break of about 8yrs from having led worship for years. i have a varied church music background and love the hymns as well as the modern praise music… and just last night, when i was working on songs for tonight's meeting, i pulled out an older book of mine full of old choruses and hymns as well. i strolled through it page by page humming/singing old friends and being reminded of the depth and breadth of the lyrics of the old songs…and i felt as though i were worshipping with believers through the ages of time…
your post just struck that chord again in my heart…
ps. i've always loved the hymn you sang with the older gentleman… 🙂
I'm your 300th follower! 🙂 lovely blog.
nicole visiting from
How wonderful that you saw his heart and he, yours … true worship from the heart.