As someone who’s spent a lot of time performing and contemplating church music, I know how hard it can be to keep your passion for it intact. That’s why speaking with Keith and Kristyn Getty was truly refreshing. Not only do they have a great love for leading worship, they also are intentional about creating music that helps the church sing well together.
This Q&A with the talented husband and wife duo is featured in the September 2014 issue of In Touch magazine. If you’d like to receive your own copy of this magazine free of charge each month, please visit this page and give us your name and address. There are some great articles and series in future issues, and I’d love for you to be as blessed by reading them as we have been putting them together!
According to their research, “as the members sang in unison, their pulses began to speed up and slow down at the same rate.” The reason for this is fairly obvious. Directors will indicate where choir members should breathe as well as how quickly and loudly we should be, and when we do these things in unison, our hearts begin beating at relatively similar rates.
But that’s not the most interesting part.
They also found that “the more structured the work [is], the more the singers’ heart rates increased or decreased together. Slow chants, for example, produced the most synchrony. The researchers also found that choral singing had the overall effect of slowing the heart rate.”
I’ve been a musician (both instrumental and vocal) for a large portion of my life, and I can tell you that I’ve experienced this phenomenon first hand. When everyone is locked in on the conductor, fully focused on making a performance as perfect as it can be, and attentive to details like diction, phrasing, and dynamics, the feeling borders on rapturous.
I feel connected to something larger than myself both physically and emotionally in these moments. I’ve often told people that it’s like catching a wave. As the music develops, it carries me with it from crest to trough as the measures roll blissfully past. There are some pieces I’ve sung (especially in churches built with good natural acoustics) where the last note hangs in the air like a poignant memory. And as we listen to it fade away, I can look around and tell my fellow performers experienced the same thing I did. It’s all silent smiles and faces blushed and beaming. For the briefest of moments, we are transported somewhere else, and I can’t help but think that it’s something approaching heaven.
Something similar to it happens in 2 Kings 3, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom all approach the prophet Elisha to inquire of the Lord. He tells them, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” The next verse has long fascinated me. It reads, “Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” By listening to music, he is connected to the divine and is given a prophesy by almighty God Himself.
When we worship God with music, I believe we open ourselves up the same way Elisha did. When we are focused on giving Him the praise that is His due, I think we receive something as well, something we define as a “synchrony” though the term hardly does the sensation justice. I believe we are decanting something of the divine, and the joy we feel is just a heady taste of what awaits us in glory.
In Ezekiel 11:19-20, God speaks through His prophet who says, “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” As Christians, we have been granted a “heart of flesh” that is sensitive to the still, small voice God uses when He speaks to His children. And worship is one way we can feel the beating of that “one heart,” the one perfectly aligned with His will, and know without doubt who He is and who we are in Him.
In case you’re in the mood to hear something beautiful, I leave you with one of my all-time favorite groups, the Soweto Gospel Choir, singing “Hosanna.”
What do you think about music? Is it something larger than us, something that gives us meaning….or are you of the mind that we give meaning to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Because of Tom Hanks’ inspired performance as Jimmy Dugan, we all know without a doubt that there is “No crying in baseball!” However, that same statement can be made about every aspect of my life. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate…no wait, detest…crying. I don’t know what to do around people who are weeping, and I would pretty much rather eat sixteen tons of Lutefisk than sob in front of another living, breathing person.
It’s not vanity. Granted, I don’t relish the idea of wiping snot from my nose with the back of my hand or blowing it out into a tissue offered up by a friend or loved one, but it’s not the Lake Lachrymose aspect of it that bothers me.
No. It’s something more deeply rooted in me than that. I don’t think I’m comfortable with deep emotions period. I’ve never been the type to jump up and down with glee, to cover my mouth with my hands like a winning beauty queen, or to pump my fist in the air a la John Bender at the end of The Breakfast Club (though I do adore that film!)
Maybe I’m secretly Vulcan. Maybe, for me, emotions are something that I feel compromises my ability to think logically or rationally. However, seeing as how I do things that are highly illogical, even for a human, and that, when it comes to mathematics or any of the “hard sciences,” I am about as likely to succeed as a gerbil would be at explaining String Theory. Nope, no pointy ears or awesome split fingered gestures for me.
I have always had, however, a passion for knowledge. Some of the happiest days of my adult life have been spent deep in “The Stacks,” the endless rows of journals usually on the bottom floors of libraries. With iPod (and before them CD player…yowza, I’m old!) in my back pocket, a pencil stuck through my ponytail, and a list of topics to research, I would happily search through archives— pulling volumes from shelves, reading countless pages in my search for the right quotes and evidence to back up my own theories about literature, and generally feasting on all the wisdom before me. I’d only emerge when I was either done copying and filing away the pages I was taking with me or when I was about to faint from hunger. I actually fell asleep standing up, well leaning against a wall, one night during a particuarly tricky search for information pertaining to Christine de Pizan. I never slept better.
It’s also why I look up words like antediluvian, know the stories behind phrases like “A Good Rule of Thumb,” and generally rock at trivia as long as it doesn’t involve Seinfeld, Friends, hockey, or Reality TV. I love the thrill that comes when someone mentions something they think is esoteric in the extreme, and I can say, “Why, yes, I actually did know that Benjamin Franklin wore a fur hat in Paris! However, did you know he did so because he wanted to conform to the Parisian’s concept of ‘the natural man’ and that ladies fell in love with him and styled their hair to match that aforementioned article of clothing?”
That’s why I’ve been enjoying reading about Solomon as much as or even more so than his father, David. David was the “man after God’s own heart” and who was willing to express himself through dance and vivid displays of emotion. His anointed son, however, is more well known for his wisdom than anything else, but that wisdom did not come from his own diligent searching or study. Instead, he was granted it by God. He asked:
Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? — (1 Kings 3:9)
Solomon’s request pleased God because he asked neither for wealth nor long life. He didn’t ask for the destruction of his enemies or make a self-serving request, he was granted all those things in addition to his wisdom. Because of this, he is able to build a temple for the ark, provide peace and prosperity for his people and for his neighbors, and manage Israel well. In chapter four of the same book, after Solomon’s administrative staff is listed and the prosperity he provided are listed, the author states:
And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore — (1 Kings 4:29).
What, what, what!? When did “largeness of heart” enter into it? Since when is Solomon known for his kindness in addition to his other cerebral accolades? And you’ll notice that it doesn’t just say that he was kind or that he was generous and patient with the people. No, no. He had a heart that was like “sand on the seashore,” a simile that pretty much tells me his heart’s capacity was infinite.
It stands to reason, then, that he wanted to weep with joy when the mother of the disputed child was willing to allow it to be taken by another woman, to put the baby’s needs before her own. But, even more importantly, He took great joy from the house of the Lord he was constructing and rejoiced when the Shekinah Glory was made manifest. This is simply because our greatest love should be our love for God, and all other love comes out of that great well. As it is written in the Gospel of John (4:15-21):
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Can I love as God instructs me to without being able to work comfortably with emotions? Can I ever exercise perfect wisdom without them? They are unreliable things, which is one of the reasons I often eschew them in favor of rational thinking and planning, but they are so gosh-darned human. They are what we use for the matrix of all the relationships we build, and without a love for God and a love for our fellow men, all our acts of service will truly ring hollow.
I came across an interesting post akin to the topic yesterday titled “Perverted Love,” and in it, the blogger states that Christian service, if it’s done because you love people but not the Creator, music but not the Concert Master, or the vista without the Architect, you’re utterly lost and without focus. He’s absolutely correct! We can love because God first loved us, and we must always express our adoration directly to Him in all things rather than only loving (worshiping) the people or things He’s created. Serving cannot be a purely physical thing, and worshiping God cannot be totally cerebral either. It’s to be done with the whole self–mind, spirit, and heart. So, yes, I still have some work to do when it comes to love and how I express it towards my Heavenly Father and those wonderful things and people He’s placed in my life. I’ve asked Him for it, to enlarge my faith and my sensitivity towards others no matter how uncomfortable it may make me.
I know I’m going to bite my lip a lot, clear my throat often, and pretend to have something in my eye on more than one occasion. I have a feeling my eyeliner and mascara’s days are numbered. However, if a little awkwardness and a smudge or two are all that is required of me to grow closer to God and to be conformed to the image of Jesus, I’m ready for it.
That being said, I refuse to cry over chick flicks, ASPCA advertisements, or anything other vapid plea designed using only pathos-driven appeals. In that regard, my heart will remain like the Grinch’s originally was—two sizes too small.