The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Exodus 15:2
Never underestimate the power of music. No matter how plain (or just plain off key!) there is a force that flows just below the surface of the notes. A melody is a lot like one of the stones in David’s sling in the Bible story. Goliath had a serious size advantage over the puny teen-aged David. In spite of Goliath’s awesome armor and weaponry, the power of one smooth stone guided by God’s hand was able to penetrate his defenses. Music can be an armament for good if we ask God to guide it to ears that long to hear from Him.
I discovered the simple power of music from two dear shut-in friends, William and his wife Joaquina. For about two years I visited them every Wednesday afternoon and came to affectionately call them “Mom and Dad”. William began to slowly lose the use of his arms, then his legs and he became confined to his bed and recliner. William loved to hear the hymns especially the lively ones. But William didn’t only listen to music. He found that he could still whistle a tune so one of his pass-times was to whistle to his parakeets whose cage sat in the corner of the living room. Whenever William whistled the parakeets chirped loudly. Near the end of William’s life his family filmed a brief video of his two parakeets hopping on his chest while William whistled a song. In the battle of his life William still used the smallest melody to fight.
For those, who like myself, have chosen to do nursing home ministry, I would encourage you to prioritize music. Music’s purpose is often unrecognized and its value underestimated but in its proper place it has the power to touch the hearts and minds of people as nothing else. Whether you are an accomplished musician or an amateur. Simply share the songs of the church and God’s message will take wings and fly!
Excerpt from Music Matters in Nursing Home Ministry:
Music Matters in Nursing Home Ministry
Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Psalm 149:1-2
Singing is in fact an act of faith. When we open our mouth to sing we both connect back to our first childlike step of faith and strain forward towards our heavenly goal. We cannot see yet what heaven will be but the accompaniment of heaven’s songs can draw us forward. I am reminded of one dear elderly saint who was found passed out on the floor by her sister. The ambulance was called and Florence was taken to the hospital where after several days she regained her strength and returned home. Florence told us that while she was unconscious she began to hear the angels singing and felt them coming closer. She said that the song grew louder and louder but then suddenly it faded and then she opened her eyes and woke up. Since she had grown up in the Polish church I was interested to know if God would have His angels singing in her childhood language or in English. But Florence said it was in neither language rather in some heavenly tongue which was completely different from anything she knew!
I have never forgotten Florence’s angels and their heavenly song. As you lead worship whether in your nursing home ministry or church remember that you are giving people an opportunity to put words to their faith. God has given us songs for an encouragement and a help to our faith. Just as faith without works is dead, faith without words is unborn. What greater catalyst to our confession of faith is there than the words of our worship?
One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. Acts 13:2-3
The next few years will see exciting new opportunities about to open up to people involved in nursing home ministry. The question is will we be ready to go? One Abc news report states that there are 100 projects underway for Alzheimer’s and Dementia communities based on the experimental faux village in Holland. These micro-communities will have barber shops, ice cream parlors and bus stops. The challenge for those of us involved as chaplains, volunteers or regular visitors to traditional nursing homes is who will open the first church in such a setting? If we leave it to the government or the for profit corporations rushing into this lucrative field I think we all know the answer. Today is not too soon. Just as in the day of the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit is calling some of us to prepare for the work to which God has called us to bring not just awakening of memories but awakening of a real message of hope. Now is the time to prepare. Please feel free to enter the conversation. Be blessed this week as you go!
There is already operating such a model city in Holland for Alzheimer’s patients and this one in San Diego is just the first of 100 proposed in the United States. What is your take on this concept? I would love to hear back especially from others who deal regularly with real life situations involving loved ones with Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s. Is this a great new concept or just one more step of separation between us and people who are living with memory challenges?