The power of story and song - memories of Negro History Week
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
This time of the year reminds me of our celebrations of Negro History Week when I was a little girl. It was a time of storytelling. A storyteller would visit our school and tell stories about everyday people or about people who are now famous. At the end of the story, the storyteller would lead us in singing a Negro spiritual. That week was also special because of Valentine's Day. After the storyteller told us her stories, we could write something about one of them that we liked best and then share that at our class's Valentine party.
I always liked the parts when God delivered the person from danger or when a problem was solved in a special way. Stories were also told that week at our Baptist church. A deacon would tell a story that showed God's love for His children. And at the end of his story we would all sing together.
The common thread I remember that ran through the stories was that each person found that they had to let go of their own will or their own plan in order to be freed. Sometimes the person in trouble would just be still and listen. The storyteller would literally stop and be very still to illustrate the character's stillness. And deliverance always came.
I loved hearing how God was the hero. I could imagine the person raising their opened arms, looking up, and saying, "Thank you, Lord. You are my hero." I loved to sing the beautiful songs that praised God for the strength, guidance, and protection that were provided.
I wake up in the morning and say to myself, "I thank you, Lord, for all the blessings I have received this day." Acknowledging the good that will be with me sets the tone for my day. Being aware of this good strengthens me.
I learned firsthand the importance of praising God. For years I would wake up feeling sick to my stomach. I tried several methods to free myself from this daily suffering. One morning when I woke up, not only did I feel sick, but I also was late. It was inventory day at the museum store where I worked, and it was important to be there on time. As I lay there groaning, I saw that the room was filled with sunlight. I thought "Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful light." Saying that was a natural response to something beautiful. All of a sudden I didn't feel sick anymore. I just hopped up and got dressed, feeling happy and light. These words of a little tune kept coming to me: "Lord, I won't be troubled by this no more. You didn't send this trouble and it can't trouble me no more." I kept this with me all day. And I didn't wake up sick anymore.
There are examples in the Bible of individuals praising God before they are freed from their troubles. One famous story is about Paul and Silas (see Acts 16:19-40). They were cast into prison and were chained tight. The Bible reports that they prayed and sang praises to God into the night. When I read their story I feel that they were, in a sense, already freed before the chains fell from their feet and the prison door opened.
Problems can really pile up. Looking for a way out can lead people to do things they would not normally do. And often this doesn't solve or remove the problem. Instead, it can add dishonesty, grief, or disappointment. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, "Will-power is but a product of belief, and this belief commits depredations on harmony" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 490). She also wrote, "Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free" (pg. 225). Instead of looking for a quick fix or Band-Aid solution, try mentally singing praises to God to find deliverance.
Just as the people in those stories I heard let go of their troubles and turned to and trusted God, we each can find strength, protection, and health through praising God every day.
In the morning, wake up and praise God for all the good that you will receive.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints
of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalms 30:4, 5