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Lyrics March 19, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Bible, Music, Philosophical musings.
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My day job is biomechanics, not neurology, so I have a fairly simplistic view of how the brain works. In particular, I am fascinated by but not too clear on how we remember stuff. Some people have photographic memories. At the end of a day they can tell you everyone they encountered and what they were wearing. Others are great at memorizing text, like scripture. We’ve got kids at Awana who can rattle off verse after verse after verse. Not me. I struggle mightily to learn a single verse. Me? I remember song lyrics. Which, I might point out, is the least practical of these three examples! Remembering people and their names – very useful skill, good for politicians and salesmen, lets people know you really care about them. Remembering text and scripture – great for school, profound spiritual utility. Remembering lyrics – um, great for music trivia games?

It’s crazy, though. Set it to music, and I remember it. No music = no memory. I even parlayed this ability into some book learning along the way in school. I can still tell you the names of the four major islands of Japan because I set them to the tune of “My Friend the Witchdoctor.” Don’t ask. I had a satellite radio a while back, but I didn’t keep up the subscription until recently I got a letter saying they’d turned it back on for a short time. So, the last two days I’ve been rocking out to the “80’s on 8”, and freaking out about how I still know all the words to the songs. I was singing along with Men at Work yesterday, but not the ones you’re thinking about the mysterious stranger knocking at my door or the vegemite sandwich. No, I was singing along with “Overkill”!

“I can’t get to sleep / I think about the implications / of diving in too deep / and possibly the complications.”

Who knows those words, 26 years later? I’m a freak, I tell you. I laughed out loud two mornings ago when the all-synth melody of Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night” came on, anticipating my wailing along with the immortal closing words of the chorus,

“Until it ends, there is no end…”

You think?

Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t remember all the words to that song. I think I never actually knew all the words in the first place. Enunciation was never Cyndi’s strongest suit. (Look them up sometime, though. Very poetic, apart from that hokey chorus.)

Imagine me, then saddled with this almost useless ability to learn song lyrics, terrible with names, weak in scripture memory, but delighted this morning to read a verse about my very prowess, lyrics:

“Your statutes are the theme of my song during my earthly life.” Psalm 119:54 (HCSB)

Consider also this paraphrase from The Message:

“I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.”

There is a lyric to this life, and a melody. More lyrics come to my mind (go figure), these by Michael Card:

“Life is a song we must sing with our days / A poem with meaning more than words can say / A painting with colors no rainbow can tell / A lyric that rhymes either Heaven or Hell.”

Life is a song. Can you hear it? If you listen carefully, you’ll notice the rhythmic cadence to the everyday, and the occasional flourish that breaks the pattern. You’ll hear the words. Sometimes it’s a sad song, and sometimes it’s a celebratory romp. If you listen to the Psalmist, those lyrics in the song of life might also be the very statutes of God.

I’m convinced that yes, we live in amazing grace, and yes, we all fall short of the glory of God, but we too often forget that the great secret of abundant life is obedience to God’s statutes and precepts and instructions. I simply must make His rules the lyrics of the song of my life, and then I’ll hear a sweeter melody than I ever imagined.

Maybe there’s something to remembering lyrics after all.

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