Music of the Heart

I am one of the millions who love music. Some people may not care much for music, but I suspect that most are deeply touched on an emotional level by both music and the lyrics that are expressed by music.

By “Music of the Heart,” or “Heart Music,” I mean the music that you most love, with which you most identify, possibly the music of your childhood. It’s like your “heart language.” Nothing else can quite take its place.

One of my early memories from childhood is hearing my mother sing “You Are My Sunshine.” Even more powerful is remembering her standing at the kitchen sink and singing “Is Not This the Land of Beulah?” How that song touched my heart and has been a favorite of mine all my life!

Growing up in church in western North Carolina I remember singing the hymns, and listening to our very good local church choir sing Stamps-Baxter and traditional  choir songs like “I Know He Heard my Prayer,” “Palms of Victory,” “Each Step I Take,” and “Master the Tempest is Raging.”

In fact, my WNC roots exposed me early on to Southern Gospel, which is to this day a “heart music” of mine and always will be. I lived in a part of the country that had “singings” (not concerts!) featuring groups like the Inspirations and the Kingsmen, as well as nationally-known quartets and family groups. I grew up watching the “Gospel Singing Jubilee” on TV on Sunday mornings.

Fast forward just a few years to Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch). I found myself on multiple occasions sitting with a hymnal and reading and meditating on hymns through the book. Deep theology, powerful testimonies, and biblical truth were found there. Plus, I was exposed to songs I’d never heard before. I am grateful to our music leader and choir director, David Randlett, for taking us through the hymnal during a two-year period. Learning songs I’d never heard before greatly enriched my life.

Then in the late 70s we went on to Panama as a missionary where I heard wonderful songs and choruses with Latin music, syncopation, and minor keys: “Si Fui Motivo del Dolor,” “Alabaré,” “Oh Que Amor,” and a thousand more. Most of you who read this will not have heard any of them, and because you don’t speak Spanish will not have been blessed by hearing and singing them.

Petra. One day when my kids were young teens in Panama they had a cassette tape and they said, “Dad, listen to this.” When I heard “Grave Robber,” “Why Should the Father Bother?” and “Road to Zion,” I was blown away and forever captivated. Those powerful lyrics wedded to the music conveyed a tremendous message.

How today’s songs are also songs of my heart! I absolutely delight in “Ten Thousand Reasons.” Can you imagine what it was like to sing that song a few years ago at the Convention? And we sang it nearly every service. And there’s the great, modern hymn, “In Christ Alone.” I don’t think any song has impacted me more powerfully than that one.

By the way, I do feel sorry for people who seem to be frozen in a 1950s time warp. They think all the good songs are those written by Fanny Crosby and Charles Wesley, and that nothing after 1950 is worth anything. I would suggest you read an article by Pastor Rob Morgan that he wrote for the Huffington Post about music. He states in part:

Don’t get me wrong. I love contemporary Christian music, and we sing it at the church I pastor. It’s important to keep our songs fresh and living, for if there’s ever a generation of Christians that doesn’t write its own music, Christianity is dead. Every generation needs to compose its own praise. But the popularity of today’s Praise and Worship music is threatening to do something that hasn’t happened in all of Christian history — sweep away the heritage of hymnody that represents a treasure trove of praise for the church. There’s never been a generation of Christians that sang only its own music while discarding all the songs of prior epochs. This isn’t the time to begin the trend. Interwoven or blended worship is the standard operating procedure of church history. When the New Testament Christians developed the songs we see in the pages of New Testament, I don’t think they stopped singing the psalms of David. When Ambrose created new music for his generation, they didn’t discard hymns from the first and second centuries. When Isaac Watts wrote his newfangled hymns in the early 1700s, the congregations still sang from the psalter too. When Fanny Crosby gave us “Blessed Assurance,” the church didn’t discard “A Mighty Fortress” or “All Hail the Power.” When I was growing up, we sang John W. Peterson’s new songs alongside “Holy, Holy, Holy.” We added the new to the old and enjoyed both together.

I know that not everyone has eclectic tastes in music like I do. After all, there are folks who love Southern Gospel and hate contemporary. And some go only for contemporary and can’t stand Southern Gospel. I love some–much–of both, as well as traditional hymns, Latin American praise and worship, and just about anything else. I find something to love in all genres of music. There was a time when I ordered several CDs or cassettes (I think it was cassettes, since it was many years ago) of The Three Tenors, Henry Mancini, the Phantom of the Opera, Steven Curtis Chapman, Twila Paris, The Cathedrals, and maybe one other; I’ve forgotten. My family laughed when they saw the variety. “Only Dad,” they said.

So here’s what I’d say:

(1) Love the music of your heart. I don’t have to tell you that; you do it naturally, instinctively. Sing the songs you love passionately, reveling in the theology, the emotion, and the inspiration.

(2) Be open to other styles and genres, and let the words–even if you don’t care for the music–edify and bless you. You’ll find yourself appreciating other styles and genres. It’s cool that the old hymn “One Day” has been reworked and a new generation sings “O Glorious Day.” Or that those who love “Amazing Grace” (and who doesn’t?) can also sing “Amazing Grace:  (My Chains Are Gone)?”

(3) Remember how important it is that the church keep writing “new songs,” even while we keep the old ones alive and close to our hearts. Pastor Rob Morgan has written about the need for every generation to write its own music–a “new song”–even while keeping alive the historic songs of the church. May the “Music of the Heart” always be heartfelt as we move from earth to glory, where we will then sing around the throne forever.

Steve Lytle
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Steve Lytle

Steve and his wife Judy have spent the majority of their ministry in Panama with Free Will Baptist International Missions. They recently retired and are hard at work serving the Lord locally. Steve is serving the elder generation of Cofer's Chapel mainly, but is also involved in visiting sick, hospitalized, and shut-ins of any generation at our church. Steve is also heavily involved in the church's Hispanic ministry as teacher and translator.

4 thoughts on “Music of the Heart

  • May 2, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Excellent! The quote from Dr. Morgan is especially convicting.

  • May 2, 2016 at 11:36 am

    I love it!

    Also, a little plug for my church – Cofer’s Chapel – our worship team does a great job of using both new and old songs in our song service.

  • May 2, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I love the both/and approach of this article. There is no need to have a false either/or set up for singing to God in praise and worship.

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