The Singing Revolution

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth” Isaiah 42:10 and Psalm 96:1
A couple of days ago the following devotion showed up in Our Daily Bread titled, The Singing Revolution,” by Bill Crowder, Vice President of ministry content at ODB Ministries. It makes for a good “follow-up” post to my last blog post on this blog titled, Singing in the Rain.” Here is what he wrote:

The Singing Revolution

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Psalm 42:1–5

What does it take to ignite a revolution? Guns? Bombs? Guerrilla warfare? In late-1980s Estonia, it took songs. After the people had lived under the burden of Soviet occupation for decades, a movement began with the singing of a series of patriotic songs. These songs birthed the “Singing Revolution,” which played a key role in restoring Estonian independence in 1991. [Information on the Singing Revolution is available at this link].

“This was a non-violent revolution that overthrew a very violent occupation,” says a website describing the movement. “But singing had always been a major unifying force for Estonians while they endured fifty years of Soviet rule.”

Music can also play a significant part in helping us through our own hard times. I wonder if that’s why we so readily identify with the psalms. It was in a dark night of the soul that the psalmist sang, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). It was in a season of deep disillusionment that Asaph, the worship leader, reminded himself, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (73:1).

In our own challenging times, may we join the psalmists with a singing revolution for our hearts. Such a revolution overwhelms the personal tyranny of despair and confusion with faith-fueled confidence in God’s great love and faithfulness. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on October 9, 2019, titled, 3 Spiritual Benefits of Singing in Church, by Daniel Darling, Vice President of Communications at ERLC, he writes:

Singing in Church Matters

When I was a kid, singing hymns was not an option. The Baptist church we attended had hymns so thoroughly woven into our common life together. From the age of five, I was required to attend adult church services, clad in suit and tie, three times a week. And every service began with at least three, sometimes four hymns. And on Sunday nights, half the service consisted of people picking their favorite hymns.  As a child, you really don’t understand what’s happening when you are singing hymns. I mean sure, you understand “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But others are hard to get your head around. What’s an Ebenezer, for instance? 

But in my adulthood I’ve come to treasure, so deeply, the way our singing together burrowed God’s truth into the deepest recesses of my heart. And now, those words I sang as a seven-year old on a hot summer night in Chicago or around campfires in northern Minnesota or in Vacation Bible school now speak to me, every day. In fact, I can hardly finish singing a hymn without my lips quivering and my heart full of emotion. When I hear “Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain, free to all a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s Mountain,” I’m transporting to that dining hall at camp where I first committed my life to Christ. When I’m struggling to see God’s goodness in a difficult season, Fanny Crosby’s words, “Summer, winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness, to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.” When I’m enduring a trial, I always go back to the lyric, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds, within the vale.” 

Our singing matters, which is why the Bible is full of rich examples and powerful instruction to the people of God to not only recite and read and study God’s truth but to sing it, over and over again, to each other. The Old Testament contains a rich treasure of hymns in the Psalms and in the New Testament, contains the hymns we read in Colossians and Philippians, contained in letters written by Paul to the church while both church and he were under duress and the great hymns of praise in Revelation, a vision of that great eternal worship in the New Jerusalem. 

Singing, then, is not an accessory to our worship every week. Singing is not filler in a service. Congregational singing is essential to our life with Christ. To the Ephesians, Paul urged them, based on their identity as the new and redeemed people of God, to “sing to yourselves songs, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). There are really three important spiritual benefits to congregational singing. 

1. Congregational singing teaches our hearts. 

Humans are created in such a way that repetition and rhythms help cement ideas in our minds. This is why certain song lyrics bring you back to moments in your life or can stir the soul so powerfully. This is why hard facts are often set to music. Educators use song to teach math and science and history. And so it is with our singing. You don’t always have to feel good when you are singing congregationally. Sometimes life is so hard you can barely mouth the words. But something is happening when you sing rich truths about God. It burrows these truths deep into your soul so they can be retrieved when the Spirit knows you need them. God has done this for me so often in the last several years, when I’ve encountered difficult and trying seasons or seasons of doubt and discouragement A lyric, a line, a hymn just brings back the heart prone to wander. 

2. Congregational singing helps us disciple others. 

When we sing we are not just singing to ourselves, but we are joining with our new family, the body of Christ, to each and declare to others the truth. And we are declaring to the world what we believe so strongly. Our singing is a witness. This is why our music shouldn’t be so watered down that it is immediately understandable to those who don’t know Christ. There should be a kind of gospel language that is both different and appealing to those God is pursuing through the Spirit of God. I’ve attended college football games with friends and have watched the unique rituals each school engages in as part of this shared communal bond. As an outsider, their rituals are foreign to me and yet I’m not offended. I’m intrigued. Similarly when I’m at Wrigley Field with tens of thousands of Cub fans, singing “Go, Cubs, Go” after a thrilling win, I get goose bumps. There is something human about it all. And so much for our corporate worship practices. This is why I’m often brought to tears singing a familiar hymn in church. We share something. When we sing about this glorious gospel, we are teaching ourselves, we are teaching our fellow believers and we are witnessing to outsiders.

3. Congregational singing offers praise and worship to the Lord. 

“Singing with your hearts to the Lord,” Paul urges. We are offering back praise to the One who is worthy. In the new covenant, we don’t bring animals to the altar, but we bring ourselves as a sacrifice of praise, rejoicing in our reconciliation to God through Christ. This is why it is imperative for us to always sing in church, regardless of our voice sounds or if it makes us uncomfortable to sing with others. God is not interested in the quality of our voices. Some of us are extraordinarily gifted, gifted enough to be on stage leading with excellence. But most people in the congregation are not great singers, but their heartfelt worship comes to God as a sweet and special music, the sounds of his children abandoning themselves in praise to him. So, next time you are in church, don’t stand there and stare. Sing, praise, let God move in you. The one who gave himself for us is worth embracing the awkwardness of worship. 

When you do this—faithfully attending church and singing with brothers and sisters in Christ over a lifetime—you will see how much God uses this to sanctify your heart and draw you into intimacy with him. You will experience a grace greater than your sin.  (Quote source here.)\

And as if that’s not enough reason to sing, singing also has many physical benefits. In an article published on May 19, 2016, titled, 6 Reasons to Sing Your Heart Out for Health,” by Emily Lockhart, a personal trainer and contributor on ActiveBeat.com, she writes:

Do you sing your heart out whenever a favorite song comes on the radio? Or do you reserve belting out a ditty to the shower or confines of your car? According to Chorus America, a U.S. advocacy, research, and leadership group that promotes signing in choruses, singing has some little known harmonious health benefits. So let’s “do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do” over these six singing health perks…

1. Singing Soothes Asthma Symptoms

If you sing, really sing, from your belly, you’re already well aware that singing is a lot easier if you breathe properly. Well, a 2014 review published by the National Institutes of Health touts the many benefits of music therapy, particularly for asthma patients.

The NIH study reveals that the slower, purposeful breaths taken while belting out a tune helps to lessen the symptoms of mild asthma and improve overall lung function.

2. Sing for Better Heart Health

Some might say you put your whole heart into karaoke night, however, it turns out that singing actually has rocking (in a good way) affects on your cardiovascular health. Much akin to yoga, a Swedish study found that singing improves heart function essentially by forcing us to take larger, slower, more purposeful breaths.

The 2013 study, published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, found that choral singers had slower respiration, which in turn improved their heart rate variability (HRV) and had a biologically soothing effect on overall heart function.

3. Sing to Snore Less

Do your nightly snores, sputters, and sleep apnea have the dog (and your spouse) howling for respite? Luckily, you may find some sleepy solace (for you, your spouse, and the family pet) if you take up singing.

According to a 2008 snoring study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine those who sing, snore far less. The study monitored the snoring of a group of choral singers and compared them to non-song birds. The study concluded that singers had stronger airway muscles, which drastically reduced the music in the tune of zzzzzzzzzzzz (aka: sawing logs) during sleep.

4. Sing a Tune to Boost Immunity

Even though we are not Disney princesses who sing to cure all of our troubles. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, in real life, research published in the journal, eCancer Medical Science, claims that singing can improve immune function and the body’s ability to lower stress and fight off disease.

The UK study took samples of saliva samples from cancer patients and detected increased cytokines (immune system molecules) and decreased cortisol (stress hormone) in patients who’d recently sang a tune or two. The researchers consider this positive preliminary proof that singing can strengthen immunity.

5. The Bond of Song

Personally speaking, I have to really like someone in order to break into song in front of them. However, a study published by the Royal Society of Open Science claims that singing creates tight social bonds between individuals.

Study researchers claim it’s all thanks to the “ice breaker effect”, a bond that was common among new-established singing choir and band members. The findings note that in new-formed non singing groups (i.e., book clubs, writing clubs, and quilting clubs, etc.) the bonds were not as strong.

6. Singing in Praise of Positivity

You might believe you need a pretty high opinion of yourself to sing in front of a group of people. However, this National Institutes of Health study from 2004 claims that the more you sing, the more improved your positivity and self image will become.

The study monitored a group of amateur choral singers and found that the very act of singing reduced cortisol (stress hormone) while improving overall mood and emotional states (by measuring S-IgA) levels in saliva samples. Overall, the singers enjoyed positive boosts to their emotional and immune health. (Quote source here.)

So sing your heart out with great zeal and enthusiasm! I’ll end this post with the verse at the top of this post from Isaiah 46:10 and Psalm 96:1Sing to the Lord a new song…

His praise . . .

From the ends . . .

Of the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” sung by Judy Collins and choir:

YouTube Video: “How Great Thou Art” sung by Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Singing in the Rain

“Singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain. What a glorious feelin’, I’m happy again.”Gene Kelly in the musical film, “Singing in the Rain” (1952).
I thought the above painting was such a cool painting when I came across it while doing a Google search this afternoon that I just had to find a reason to include it in a blog post. It turns out that today is the perfect day as it is definitely raining outside during our current stay-at-home order in the city where I live concerning the coronavirus pandemic that is going on right now around the world and here in America.

Here are the words to the first verse in the song Singing in the Rain:

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singing,
Singing in the rain
(Lyrics at this link)

You can find Gene Kelly singing this song in the YouTube video at the end of this blog post (or you can click here to go it now, too). Tell me if that doesn’t put a smile on your face while watching and listening to it.

While there isn’t anything any of us can do to make this time during the coronavirus pandemic go faster and to get it over with, we can keep a check on our attitude to keep it going in the right direction during this time (and after, too). In fact, my previous blog post on this blog was written about a week before the pandemic really took hold here in America, and it is titled, The Right Attitude.” You can check it out at this link.  Also, yesterday I published a new blog post on my regular blog titled, The Power of Silence,” that might lend a hand in helping us get through this pandemic. too. Click here to read that blog post.

The following article was published on Crosswalk.com a decade ago on April 15, 2010, and it is titled, Alter Your Attitude to Change Your Circumstances.” Granted, this coronavirus pandemic is nothing we can alter on our own other then by following the social distancing guidelines and “stay-at-home” orders established while we are going through it, but we can still keep our attitude in check during this time. The authors of the article mentioned above are Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors and authors of “Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life.” Here is what they have to say about altering our attitudes:

How long does it take for your attitude to plummet into the “zone of negativity”? Just a few seconds of looking at news headlines or listening to TV news sound bites is all it takes for most of us to feel a new tsunami of fear, discouragement, and even depression wash over us. And if that’s not enough, the pessimism and worry of people around us is contagious, threatening to infect us to the depths of our being.

The fact is that there are lots of things going on in our world that can tempt us to develop a negative attitude about life. If you are looking for work or seeking to make a career change, however, negativity (or as Zig Ziglar aptly describes it, “stinkin’ thinking”) can sabotage your efforts!  When you get caught up in negative thinking, you lose. Not only do you lose momentum and energy, but you also can lose your ability to think creatively, make positive connections with other people, and demonstrate faith and trust in God.  Negative thinking is a “calling blocker” because it hinders us in living the life God calls us to live.

Confronting Our Stinkin’ Thinking

We are living in some of the toughest economic times many of us have encountered, and each of us is challenged with how we will respond. John Homer Miller said, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” One of the keys to living your calling–that is, doing the things God is calling you to do with your life–is learning that you are in control of your attitude.

Each of us has conditioned ourselves to think in particular ways. Our thought patterns have become so ingrained and habitual, however, that we don’t “feel” like we are making choices in how we react to life experiences-but we are. If you want to fulfill your God-sized calling, you will need to master your attitude. Charles Swindoll has important words for each of us to heed:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill… The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. You are in charge of your attitude.

Attitude Affects Outcomes            

Joan (not her real name) was working with a career counselor, and really wanted to make a career change. She was researching the field of meeting planning as a possible job option. Her next step in investigating the field was to conduct some “informational interviews” with people who worked as meeting planners, asking them questions about their jobs and the career field in general. When her career coach asked how her assignment had gone, she said, “I can’t find anyone to talk to. No one is willing to meet with me. I’ve tried doing this before and I didn’t get anywhere then, either. This just isn’t going to work.” Some gentle probing uncovered the fact that she had become discouraged after not hearing back from the first two people she called. She then had decided that the task was impossible and had chosen to give up.

Interestingly, the career counselor’s next client was exploring the same field. Kathy, however, had a very different experience with her informational interviewing assignment. “It wasn’t easy because everyone is pretty busy in this type of work. But I kept at it. I knew there had to be a way to find some people to talk to. I had to ask about eight people I knew before I finally found someone who had a good lead. His cousin, John, works at a convention center. He was willing to talk with me, and then he gave me the names of some of the meeting planners he has worked with. So now I’ve met with five different people!” Her positive perspective enabled her to accomplish her goal.

The Power of Self-Talk

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Joan and Kathy bring Henry Ford’s words to life. Joan thought she couldn’t complete the task, and she didn’t; Kathy thought she could, and she did. They both were right about the outcome. Each of the women shaped their attitudes–and their eventual results–by the messages they told themselves as they were in the midst of the experience. During all of our waking hours, we have a continuous stream of “self-talk” going on in our minds. It happens automatically, and we are usually not even aware that we are doing it.

Our self-talk interprets our experiences, which in turn shapes our attitudes. Joan’s self-talk had been a litany of “I won’t be able to find anyone to talk to…no one wants to meet with me…this didn’t work before and it won’t work now…I’ll never be able to do this.” No wonder she gave up! From the perspective she had created with her self-talk, it would be a waste of time and energy to continue on with an impossible task.

Kathy, on the other hand, was optimistic that she would succeed. The messages she mentally reinforced were things like “I know this is challenging, so I’ll just have to keep at it…I need to be resourceful to connect with people…it will be great to talk to people in the field…I can do this.” Her self-talk created a positive “frame” through which she viewed her experiences. The first seven people she talked to had no helpful leads for her. Instead of interpreting this to mean, “I’ll never find anyone to talk to,” she framed it as “I’ll have to work harder to find contacts.”

Reframing Your Experiences

Taking charge of your attitude often means that you have to “re-frame” experiences. Reframing is changing the way you look at an experience. Joan viewed her experiences through the frame of “It will never work, so there’s no point in trying.” Had she instead been seeing the unreturned phone calls through a frame of “I may have to work at this awhile before I succeed,” she would have called back or contacted additional people. A negative frame on our experiences and life will hold us back, while a positive frame will motivate us to keep going until we accomplish our goals.

A positive frame on life doesn’t “just happen,” however. We have to create it intentionally on a daily basis. Developing a positive, optimistic attitude is challenging. We have to work at monitoring and changing our self-talk, and may have to re-frame how we see ourselves as well our perceptions of past, present and future events in our lives. We do have the power to change our lives by changing our thinking.

Each of us is the most limiting factor in our own lives. We will only attempt what we believe is possible. What we do in our lives-or don’t do-is a reflection not only of our self-image but also of our faith in God. Shallow faith produces limited results; deep faith produces miracles. No matter what has happened in the past or what weaknesses we may have, God is greater. Neither our past nor our present hampers God. The opinions and perspective of the other people in our lives do not affect or limit God. He can transform and empower you to accomplish everything he calls you to do.

Calling Catalysts for Taking Charge of Your Attitude

More than anything else, your attitude–how you think–will impact how far you go in discovering and living your calling. Our book, Live Your Calling, contains several “calling catalyst” strategies to help you enlarge your faith, change your thinking and live your calling. Here are two of them:

Exchange limiting “self-talk” and “frames” for motivating messages and positive views on life. We choose how we think and see the world. The Apostle Paul illustrates this truth when he exhorts us to choose to rejoice always; to pray with thanksgiving rather than choose to be anxious; and to choose to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:4-9). Ultimately, the power to think positively comes from having faith in the One with whom all things are possible (Phil. 4:13).

Intentionally work on changing any “limited thinking” habits you have developed. They won’t change by themselves. To get rid of a bad habit, you have to replace it with a good habit. For example:

    • Ask yourself “How CAN I…?” instead of thinking “I CAN’T…”
    • Ask “In what ways CAN I make this work?” instead of “It will NEVER work.”
    • Respond with “Let’s figure out how I/we CAN make this happen! instead of “Yes, BUT (here are all the reasons I can’t do this thing).”  

Trying to think this way may feel very foreign to you, especially if you have well-developed negative thinking habits. You can make major progress just by taking sports psychologist Bob Rotella‘s advice: “If you don’t want to get into positive thinking, that’s OK. Just eliminate all the negative thoughts from your mind, and whatever’s left will be fine!”

Choosing to see the positive in ourselves and in the life situations we encounter comes down to a matter of faith. For Christians, our optimism is founded on trusting that God is in control, and regardless of how bleak or hopeless circumstances seem to be, He is using them for our good and His glory. (Quote source here.)

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help us get through this unique time we are all going through right now, and it doesn’t hurt to keep on “singing in the rain,” too… I’ll end this post with these words of comfort from Jesus found in Matthew 28:20 (NLT)–And be sure of this…

I am with you always . . .

Even to the end . . .

Of the age . . . .

YouTube Video: “Singing in the Rain” sung by Gene Kelly (1952):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here