Keep On Singing
|Keep On Singing
Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. They find out that the new baby is going to be a girl, and day after day, night after night, Michael sings to his sister in Mommy’s tummy.
The pregnancy progresses normally for Karen, an active member of the Panther Creek United Methodist Church in Morristown, Tennessee. Then the labor pains come. Every five minutes… every minute. But complications arise during delivery. After hours of labor a C-section is required. Finally, Michael’s little sister is born. But she is in serious condition. With siren howling in the night, the ambulance rushes the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee.
The days inch by. The little girl gets worse. The pediatric specialist tells the parents, “There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst.” Karen and her husband contact a local cemetery about a burial plot. They have fixed up a special room in their home for the new baby — now they plan a funeral.
Michael, keeps begging his parents to let him see his sister, “I want to sing to her,” he says.
Week two: Still in intensive care. It looks as if a funeral will come before the week is over. Michael keeps nagging about singing to his sister, but kids are never allowed in Intensive Care. But Karen makes up her mind. She will take Michael whether they like it or not. If he doesn’t see his sister now, he may never see her alive.
She dresses him in an oversized scrub suit and marches him into ICU. He looks like a walking laundry basket, but the head nurse recognizes him as a child and bellows, “Get that kid out of here now! No children are allowed in ICU.” The mother rises up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glares steel-eyed into the head nurse’s face, her lips a firm line. “He is not leaving until he sings to his sister!”
Karen tows Michael to his sister’s bedside. He gazes at the tiny infant losing the battle to live. And he begins to sing. In the pure hearted voice of a 3-year-old, Michael sings:
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray…”
“You never know, dear, how much I love you, Please don’t take my sunshine away…”
“The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms…”
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don’t, take my sunshine away.”
A few weeks later, Michael’s little sister was baptized at the Panther Creek Church. If you were planning that service, what song would you select? Who would you have sing it? Would you ask the congregation to sing along?
I talked to Tennessee Pastor G. Steve Sallee, who first shared the story with Leonard Sweet, who published an abbreviated version of it in Homiletics. Pastor Sallee said that when Sweet told the story at the Lake Junaluska conference center, a woman jumped up from the congregation, ran to the podium, and interrupted the sermon. “It’s true,” the woman cried out. “And those were my grandchildren. And I want to praise God for the miracle of love.” The shekinah (the presence of God in the world) of heaven fell. The order of service was destroyed. The whole congregation was hugging, weeping, and praising God as they sang together “You Are My Sunshine.”
The Holy Spirit turned that old love song from the Charleston flappers era into a hymn of praise too deep for words.
In this sad world, people all around us lie dying from depression, from criticism, from failure, from sin. If you have a song, won’t you please sing it.
In your community there are people who are in despair, people who just can’t find the wherewithal to try again. If you have a song won’t you please sing it?
In your church, in your family, there are people for whom hope is as dim as a flashlight left on all night. Don’t you know someone who hasn’t been serenaded with a love song in 20 years? If all you have is an old love song from the ’20s, if that’s all in the world you have, won’t you please sing it?
The Bible says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21,NIV). So, if you have a song, won’t you sing it? The Bible says, “The tongue of the just is as choice silver” (Proverbs 10:20). So if you have a song, won’t you please sing, it? “But I don’t have much of a voice,” you say. Well, I don’t mean that you have to literally, blurt out an old love song like “You Are My Sunshine” or “Love Me Tender.” Your God-given song may be a yard mowed, showing up at the nursing home with a bunch of wildflowers, baking a batch of brownies, or sending a check so a college student can come home for Christmas. Your best tune, the best life-giving music you will ever make, may sound like a long overdue apology, a generous helping of forgiveness, a $100 bill given to a stranger, volunteer work at the Salvation Army, or a Christmas card to one who was sure you had forgotten him or her long ago.
If you have a song, won’t you please sing it? If all you can do is hum, whistle, or belt out an, old love song from the flappers generation, maybe, just maybe, God can transform it into a hymn clothed in the shekinah of His love.