Both hymnals are dark burgundy, the edges of the pages yellowed from wear. They sit in my oldest kids’ rooms. One, I could swear, is the exact hymnal I grew up holding heavy in my hands as we called out numbers and pages and lifted our voices on long Sunday evenings. It has a thin, gold cross on the cover next to the words, "Baptist Hymnal."
In the evening dim, I lose myself flipping through their pages, looking for old favorites to share with my children. I want to pass on to them the melodies that carried my faith as a child and as they lay in bed, my voice follows familiar notes, sliding into them like a needle following a record’s grooves.
Singing these songs in the dark with my children, I see them in a new light; I hear what I didn’t hear as a child or maybe heard and forgot. There’s a lot about “the blood” – a theme I’d rather avoid at bedtime and some language that I know won’t make sense. Sin and the cross, two elements of the gospel often skirted with young children, appear on every page.
So also does the love and mercy of God, as well as a deep and profound awareness of nature as a source of both solace and revelation.
Returning to these songs is like finding a long-forgotten, but cherished, string of pearls tucked in the back of a drawer. Turning the pages, I finger the words, stringing them together into a necklace of faith.
Doing dishes together in the kitchen I hear my daughter humming - a hymn - and I'm grateful to know that she's starting a new strand of favorites, gathering old beads of notes and words.
(The picture above shows a painting I'm working on using the words of one of my new old favorite hymns.)