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Devotion: God is in the Goosebumps

This devotion was shared by NLC alto Sarah Koepp prior to the All Saints Concert on November 1, 2014. 

I have been thinking about one of our themes for the year, “God is in the goose bumps.”  In other words, what really goes into the intersection between music and life’s holy moments? I’m in a profession where I’ve been blessed to experience many of life’s holy moments.  In fact, a chaplain at the hospital and I often have this discussion together.  He’s putting together a pilot project to make chaplain students more comfortable with singing and he’s asked me to help just sing through hymns as part of a large group.  

Music and these holy moments are definitely intertwined.  There’s a poem I once heard about being a nurse and I only remember the last two lines: To greet the baby’s first cry and hold hands at the last goodbye.  It is these kind of holy moments that inspire sacred music. And it is sacred music that is often used to mark these sacred times. 

I shared a devotional with you on this exact date, in this exact space, exactly 5 years ago.  It was Cullen’s baptism day – November 1 - and the anniversary of my own baptism.  So Nov 1 has special meaning and I’ve been reminiscing about that beginning in Cullen’s preemie life with this anniversary of being with you again on the exact date.  I’m going to borrow a car analogy as David would do which seems strange for me.  But you know how it is when you start thinking about buying a certain kind of car and then you see that car everywhere you look?  Well, I started thinking about that holy time in my life of holding sweet Cullen in the NICU and started seeing article after article about singing to your pre-term infant!  The author of one particular article reports on a study where singing to NICU babies has shown to improve their heart functioning! Little did I know when I sat rocking and singing softly to my baby in the NICU that I was impacting his little heart.  God is in the goose bumps.  And just this week I saw an article being circulated about an obstetrician who sings to his little patients the moment they are born.  God is in the goose bumps.

So it was song that greeted the baby’s first cry. Now it is time for the last goodbye.  When Joshua was in Montana recently presenting at a conference, he had such a startling dream that he woke up and wrote the entire dream down.  He dreamed of his Grandpa who died about 16 years ago.  His grandpa was sitting in the house, with the TV on, that he and Joshua’s grandma had shared.  He was reading and waiting.  The door was open and Grandpa was all ready for something. Joshua said he felt so at home, yet he knew he wasn’t supposed to go in.  There are angels hov’ring round.  There are angels hov’ring round. There are angels hov’ring all around.

Just about 4 days later, we got a call.  Joshua’s grandma—our grandma—would make it only another few days.  She was alert, comfortable and knew what was happening.  I say she was my grandma too since this is the grandma who married my grandpa after their spouses had passed. Joshua and I met at our 80 year old grandparents’ wedding. So the three of us have always had an extra special little connection.  When we talked to her on the day she passed, she wanted to be sure to tell us she had gotten Braden a birthday card but wouldn’t be able to send it.  So as our family waited that day for news and thought about her constantly, I kept humming that verse (hum it with me).  Before I knew it, Joshua started humming it with me throughout the day.  Then I would be working on the computer and hear Braden singing the verse.  And then Cullen, as he was playing, started humming it.  As we know, it’s a catchy little earworm! After awhile, we were all taking turns humming or singing this verse throughout the day as Grandma transitioned from this world to the next.  God was in the goose bumps as music and a holy moment intersected.  And then it hit me.  What is the next verse to that song?

I am on my journey home.  I am on my journey home.  I am on my journey home.  Joshua’s dream!  Joshua had dreamed of Grandma journeying home.  Grandpa had prepared the house, turned the TV on, and was waiting.  I don’t know why he came to Joshua, Joshua hasn’t dreamed of his Grandpa in years.  But it was so clear that a message was being sent about angels hovering round and the time of journeying home.  God is in the goose bumps. 

What are your goose bump moments?  I know you have them.  Just as you have yours, so does our audience.  What are their goose bump moments?  Let us sing this music tonight so that we make that come alive for them.  Will it be singing Stars imagining the dome of heaven like they’ve never seen it before? Will it be singing Hope and Quietly Wait and thinking about life and death transitions from this world to the next of important people in their life?  Will it be during Pilgrim’s Hymn and all that song means for so many people? Whatever it is, let us never forget God is in the goose bumps and we are allowed the privilege to be a part of this experience tonight. 

Let us pray – oh Sacred One, allow the music to flow through our souls and into the souls of those we can and cannot see tonight.  Allow our voices to be the vessel for goose bump moments where music and life’s holy moments intersect.  Amen.