Some on the Corner’s list have heard us speak and know that when we are at the smaller conferences, we introduce the family by singing. We felt that was appropriate because each evening we close our family Bible time with a hymn. We have greatly enjoyed our singing together.
Christopher has played the piano since he was eight and is now giving Jesse, Mary, and Anna piano lessons. His love for hymns and skill at playing them has been a great encouragement to our family, motivating the younger children to want to learn from him. Frequently, when Christopher visits our church attendees who are in the hospital, he will play the piano in the sitting area. This is a source of joy and comfort to those he is visiting.
Last fall my mother found a violin in a thrift store that had some minor damage to it. She is skillful with her hands and soon had made a few small repairs to it, yielding a playable instrument. She had heard about Anna’s desire to play the violin and gave it to her. Since then, Anna has worked hard teaching herself to play the violin.
Years ago, when we lived in Washington State, Nathan purchased an old guitar from someone at church, and it has been gathering dust since Nathan graduated to a nicer guitar. Occasionally, Jesse and Mary would ask if they could get Nathan’s old guitar out and play it. They would have a great time strumming away “melodies” that they composed on the fly.
In the summer of 2004, Sarah and Teri visited some friends of the family. Several times during the visit, the family broke out their instruments and played them. They sang hymns and had a blessed time. Even the young children in the home had instruments that they were learning to play.
Last fall two of our children began asking if they could purchase acoustic guitars. I suppose all the above factors were a part, but by this time, learning to play the guitar was firmly on their hearts. One day when Teri and I were on our walk together, I shared with her that I was praying about getting three guitars, two for the children and one for myself. I mentioned how I had always wanted to learn to play a guitar, but had never done so. When Nathan started to play his guitar, I had tried to learn with him, but with my short fat fingers, I had given up in despair. However, now it was on my heart again, and I was feeling committed to learning how to play the guitar.
Teri surprised me with her reply. She said she had always desired to learn to play the guitar as well, and if I got one, she wanted one too. It was funny to hear her say those words because after thirty years of marriage, I had no idea she would like to learn to play a guitar. I believe I know her quite well and don’t expect many surprises – but I was wrong, she surprised me.
After getting the Lord’s direction, we leapt right in and purchased a number of instruments. Since then there have been some adjustments, and the children have settled into their instruments of preference. Starting with the youngest and working upwards, Mary, age 8, plays the mountain dulcimer, guitar, and tin whistle. Jesse, age 10, plays the hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, bowed psaltery, and guitar. Anna, age 12, plays the fiddle, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery, and mandolin. John, age 14, plays the banjo and guitar. Joseph, age 15, plays the mandolin. Sarah plays the banjo. Christopher plays the upright bass and guitar. Finally, Teri and I play guitars. Whew!
So why write about this in a Dad’s Corner? I have a number of things I can share about our new interest in instruments that might encourage you and strengthen your family.
First, we believe that Luke 1:17 is critical to raising children who have their hearts turned toward their parents. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” When my heart is turned toward my children, I will spend edifying time with them, and their hearts will be turned toward us.
Following dinner, the rest of our evening is spent together in the most blessed and special time of the day. Every night, we begin by having our family Bible time. After that, we play our instruments and sing hymns. Not only is the time edifying, but we enjoy it greatly.
Compare how our evenings are spent to the family who spends their time in individual pursuits, out at an activity, or worse, sitting in front of a TV. The TV is “the world” condensed down into several cubic feet. To “feed” on what the TV spews out is spiritual poison for Christians. Friends, if you have a TV in your home, may I encourage you to put it out for the trash? You will be blessed if you do. If TV is taking even a minute of your time, I implore you to get rid of it. After you have the television out of your life for a month, you will look back and see how it was corrupting your spirit and stealing your time. I know those are strong words, but I challenge you to see if what I’m saying is true.
Next, I have heard through the years that if you want to teach your children teamwork, let them play sports. I have come to disagree with that statement. Instead of our children receiving all the negatives sports have to offer – bad influences, injuries, appetites for wasting time, and more – our family is learning to cooperate and each to defer to the other as they seek to produce harmony and balanced music. (For more information on sports, we suggest you listen to our CD, Sports-Friend or Foe?.)
Playing music to be a blessing to others has given the children additional purpose in their days. When they have some discretionary time, they are likely to spend it practicing on their instruments instead of wasting it. I love to walk past the living room seeing Jesse and Mary practicing their dulcimers together, or seeing all of the younger children working on a hymn they will play for the elderly on Sunday at church.
One thing we have avoided is dependence on someone else to teach the children. I’ve known many families who taxi their children all around to music lessons. In addition to disrupting the day, it can be extremely expensive. We tried an instructor for a few weeks and cycled several children together through the lesson, but soon found that books and DVDs were more beneficial. We can use these resources at times that fit our schedule, and the materials are there for later review.
Instead of purchasing character-quality curricula, we have found the music time provides ample opportunity to work on character. For example, when the children work together practicing hymns, they need to submit to one another. Each one usually has a suggestion on how best to play the arrangement, and it is a wonderful exercise in submission for them to work through it with proper spirits.
Some might think that it would be expensive if one chooses to go down the musical road. Certainly, it can be, but there are many ways to make it affordable. As I mentioned, Anna’s violin came from a thrift store. A family we know got their son’s guitar at a garage sale. It is not uncommon for people to have instruments gathering dust that they would be happy to give away or sell inexpensively to someone who will use them. Two of the children have recorders, and Mary also has a tin whistle, which are very inexpensive instruments. Also, musical instruments make great gifts for the children instead of toys that quickly wear out. Grandparents might be pleased to know of something worthwhile to give as a present, or at least money toward the instrument. Often children will have money saved that could be used on a lifetime investment such as a musical instrument. If God puts family musical instruments on your heart, pray and ask Him to provide them. It is exciting to see how the Lord answers prayers, and your children will be encouraged in their faith.
Another hindrance to some might be that the parents don’t have a musical background or knowledge of music theory. That is exactly how I would describe myself. I was a grade-school trombone flunky. We have found that there are books and videos available that can take someone who knows nothing musically and have him playing hymns very quickly. If I remember right, I believe we were playing our first hymn within a week. It was rewarding and such a blessing. Don’t let lack of musical knowledge stop you. Most importantly, if the Lord Jesus is leading you, go for it.
May I encourage you to seek the Lord in how He might direct your family into joint pursuits – activities that may be done as a family? Our family music time has a significant impact on my time and what I can accomplish in the evenings, but I don’t regret this investment for a minute. I love pouring out my heart and time into my family. If there are unprofitable things that are taking your time, please remove them from your life. Then substitute in something that is edifying and good for your family. The benefits you will receive will be a blessing for eternity.