Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Remembering a Mother's Songs

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Missy Schrader and Julie Tassey, two sisters who now have their own children, will always remember the times their mom sang to them before bed.

Missy Schrader: Mom used music to introduce us to Jesus. Even though Julie and I had our own rooms, we often had "slumber parties." Mom would sit at our bed, she would scratch our backs, and she would sing to us. We called it "sing and scratch."

And in those sweet bedtime times, she taught us how much Jesus loves us, and how we were His precious treasures, His precious jewels. She'd sing [Julie Tassey and Missy both sing],

When He cometh, when He cometh to make up His jewels;
All His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own:
Like the stars of the morning His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 9, 2015.

Nancy: Yesterday, we heard a portion of an interview that I recorded several years ago with my friend Bobbie Wolgemuth. Some time after this interview aired on Revive Our Hearts, Bobbie was diagnosed with cancer. Over the next three years, I watched her continue to point people to Jesus.

I watched Bobbie constantly expressing joy and gratitude, even when she was going through endless months of chemo treatments, suffering, losing her hair. She just had this buoyant spirit that was so fixed on Christ, so grounded on the truths of His Word, even as she was suffering physically.

In the midst of it all, she continued doing something she been doing all her life, and that was singing to the Lord. Bobbie's example encourages all of us to sing to the Lord, no matter what our circumstances may be. Her example also demonstrates the value of investing in the next generation—passing along not just the hymns and songs of our faith, but having a life that exemplifies the truths behind those hymns.

Now, let's listen to the interview I recorded with the Wolgemuth family several years ago. Along with Bobbie we'll hear from her husband Robert . . .

I want to talk a little bit about how hymns can minister to us at times of particular need or pain or loss, because we all go through those. We kind of touched on this. Robert, I'm thinking of the story I've heard about as your dad was dying—on his way to heaven—the hymns were a big part of that process, at that time. 

Robert Wolgemuth: Well, my mother says that she sang my dad to heaven. They sang a lot together. My dad's voice would have been similar to your dad's voice, Nancy . . . Art DeMoss. In fact, they were friends way back then. My dad had a voice that wasn't worth anything musically, but he loved to sing.

He'd sing in the shower. We could hear when my dad was taking a shower, just from his voice penetrating through the house. We'd look at each other and smile. He loved Jesus just like Art DeMoss did. We've heard stories of this often—you have, too—about families who stand around the bed of their dying family member and sing hymns. One day we'll know, really, what that's about. When we get to the other side and the Lord shows us, in our own lives, how important that was.

So yes, she sang him into glory. When we're together as a family, my mother tells the story about that song that she sang to Dad.

Bobbie Wolgemuth: She sang [she sings],

Come home, come home;
Ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling, "O Samuel, come home."

She would put his name in it. She said, "He needed to be released." She said, "Samuel, you can go . . . it's okay." And so she held his hand and sang him into heaven.

I said, "Mom, how did you pick which songs to sing?" because she was with him several days. She said, "I sang most of every day, bits and pieces. I went through the alphabet, so, A: 'Amazing Grace,' B: 'Be Still My Soul,' C: 'Come Thou Fount.'"

I don't know what she did for "Q" and "Z." I'm sure she had "We're Marching to Zion," probably. I know that it gave her great comfort. It's so interesting how a hymn is a gift. When our girls were little, we often took them to nursing homes or to neighbors who were shut in; or sometimes, just as an act of celebration.

If someone came over, we'd say, "Okay, Missy and Julie have a song for you." We'd call it a "dance for Grandma," but it was an opportunity for a child to give something to an adult. It built a child's self-esteem. It definitely encourages the adult. Again, a song often is a gift.

Nancy: And the Lord gives those to us at particular times of need. I was thinking this morning through the Scripture of the use of songs and hymns. And that scene came to mind about when Paul and Silas were in Philippi. They had been thrown into this Roman jail for their faith. They'd been cruelly beaten and mistreated.

The passage says, "About midnight they were in [that] cell, praying and singing hymns to God." And that always kind of takes my breath away. I can't imagine myself in that same situation. But I've seen myself in lots of situations that are not to my liking or that I think are painful, and it's not my natural instinct, probably, to pray and sing hymns to God. But it was their reflex reaction in the midst of that crisis to pray and sing hymns to God.

It strikes me that if you're praying and singing hymns, you can't be whining. You can't do both at the same time. I tend to be a little bit of a whiner—sometimes a lot of a whiner—but they replaced that. Paul said it's an evidence of being filled with the Spirit.

You quoted that passage, Missy, from Colossians: When we're filled with the Spirit, we will be singing and speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Robert: One of the things that Bobbie has unpacked over the last years is how often in the Old Testament singing was part of battle.

Nancy: Yes! Jehoshaphat . . .

Robert: . . . and Jericho . . .

Bobbie: I think, when you're going into battle (and that's why we take "A Mighty Fortress" and "How Firm a Foundation" into battle with us), I'm fixing my mind on Christ, and there is no room for fear. I say, "Lord, I am listening for Your voice. I want Your will today."

When we are paralyzed by fear, the best thing to do (and I'm sure Paul and Silas in jail did this) . . . When you have all that fear coming at you, the best way to combat it is to take a song and sing it loudly. We protest, I think, with our voices.

Nancy: Many women write to us here at Revive Our Hearts who struggle with depression, and chronic debilitating depression in some cases. I've often said to women over the years, two of the greatest antidotes to depression are memorizing and quoting Scripture and singing to the Lord.

I will often ask women, "Are you quoting Scripture, and are you singing to the Lord?" And I have done this myself at times when my eyes were so teary that my voice was quivering and I could hardly get the words out, and only the Lord could have known what the melody was . . . but singing, "Leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms." And I will sometimes open my hymnal and just sing and sing and sing until God settles the turbulence.

I think there is something about saying, "You know, regardless of how I feel, regardless of the waves that are threatening around me, I will lift my eyes up, though they may be filled with tears, and I will say, 'Lord, You are a firm foundation. You are worthy of being praised.'" And there is something that will settle my heart and my spirit when I do that.

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Nancy: We've been listening to a conversation that I recorded with my sweet friend, Bobbie Wolgemuth, who went home to be with the Lord this past November. I was able to watch a live stream of Bobbie's memorial service that month, and I remember being so moved as her two daughters, Julie and Missy, stood up together during that service and gave a precious tribute to their mom.

It was an opportunity to remember how important hymns and music were to this family. But even more important, their tribute was a powerful picture of what it means to invest in the next generation for the sake of the gospel. Here are Julie and Missy at Bobbie Wolgemuth's memorial service last November. They shared how, even before they were born, their mom loved to sing. 

Missy: Because she loved to sing and because she was gifted in it, it seemed natural that she could be a gospel-singing star. But then she found out that I was coming, and three years later that Julie was coming (thank you Mom and Dad), and she decided to embrace her new unexpected calling as "Mommy." She mothered us with music.

We became her audience, and we were captivated by her love for us. She sang:

Two eyes that shine so bright, two lips that kiss good-night,
Two arms that hold me tight, that little girl of mine.
No one will ever know how much your coming has meant.
To me you're everything . . . you're something heaven has sent.
You're all the world to me, you climb upon my knee;
To me you'll always be that little girl of mine.

Julie Tassey: We were also captivated by her love for our dad. She loved him so well! When you love someone you sing about them, you sing to them, you sing for them. Dad would walk in the door from work and Mom would stop whatever she was doing. She'd put it down, and she'd run over to him, and she'd wrap her arms around him. She'd sing:

Oh, my man, I love him so, you'll never know!
All my life was just despair until he was there. 

Mom used music to introduce us to Jesus. Even though Julie and I had our own rooms, we often had "slumber parties." Mom would sit at our bed. She would scratch our backs, and she would sing to us. We called it "sing and scratch."

And in those sweet bedtime times, she taught us how much Jesus loves us, and how we were His precious treasures, His precious jewels. She'd sing:  

When He cometh, when He cometh to take up His jewels;
All His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own:
Like the stars of the morning His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty—bright gems for His crown.

We also sang in the car. We would take road trips and headphones were forbidden. They were items under the ban—there was none of this. So, on long road trips we would sing. Mom and Dad had this entire portfolio of songs that they knew.

They would sing the Hashtag Chorus, and they would sing, "He Owns the Cattle on a Thousand Hills." Missy and I would think, We have to get in on this! They're having way too much fun We've got to get in on this. So we would take hymnals in the car.

We not only learned how to read music, but we learned how to hear harmony. There were four of us, so Mom had soprano; Dad took bass; Missy got alto because she came first, and so I am a tenor. We would sing four-part harmony. I know it sounds really nerdy, but it was really fun! We loved it!

We were learning music, we were learning how to hear harmony, we were having a lot of fun, but we were also learning to really bury these truths in our hearts, and the songs are still there.

Missy: We did not go to summer camp. Mom didn't want to be away from us for a week, so we stayed home and we learned hymns. Do you know what a bulwark is? Yes, we do, because when we were learning the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," we learned that God is our safe place. He is our refuge; He is our fortress. 

[Both ladies sing]: "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing," and when we came to church on Sunday and that song would be on the bulletin, we wouldn't have to use our hymnals. We knew all four verses. We'd wink at each other. 

Julie: And we were having fun!

Missy: Speaking of fun. . .

Julie: Music wasn't just instructional; it was fun! Mom was not great at driving. There are a couple of things she wasn't great at: driving, cooking [laughter], and keeping secrets. She was not a vault. So when it was time for Christmas, Mom would go shopping early to get some things for Christmas, but she could not wait for December 25.

She turned her inability to keep secrets into fun. During the month of December, we would wake up to the tune of "O Come, Let Us Adore Him" being sung, but it had new words, and they were [both ladies sing], "Oh, what is in my basket, oh what is in my basket, oh what is in my basket? It's Christmas joy for you!" And it would be an early Christmas present that Mom couldn't wait to give us.

Our kids love, "Oh what is in my basket?"

When I was pregnant with Harper, I got a box from Mom, and it was in December. It was something cute for the nursery, and it said, "Oh, what is in my basket? I know what's in yours!" [laughter]

Missy: When we had children, Nanny continued this sweet treat of teaching hymns to our children. She taught them, as I know she taught lots of your children. [Both ladies sing]: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning our songs shall rise to Thee . . ."

Julie: In 2012 God gave Mom a new song to sing. Psalm 40:3 says, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in God." The new song, the mission, was to continue to live of life of continual praise—with cancer.

Mom allowed God to use this as a gift by blessing others. In a way like never before, Mom shined Jesus, taking a cue from those cute little birds. She trusted her Savior and sang praise with joy and a contagious love for Jesus. That love drew people in. People wanted to know her Jesus. They were captivated by this new song.

She boldly walked into other people's lives and entered their world. She would be in the clinic and would see other patients, and she'd walk over and say, "Tell me your story." It was amazing to watch; it was amazing to watch the dross be consumed and the gold to be refined. As she chose joy every day, she chose to be more and more like Jesus and to sing this beautiful song—the gospel. The truth of the gospel was her strength.

She would say, "I'm okay! I already died! The life I'm living is the life in Christ. I'm not afraid of death." Her hope was in the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. When we would sing "How Firm a Foundation," this was our favorite verse to sing together:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow.
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

Missy: Philippians 2:12 and 13 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be pure and blameless and shine like stars." Remember how Julie and I messed up her dream of being a gospel singing star? Well, when the Lord gave Mom this new song to sing, she became the most incredible gospel singing star. She sang the gospel everywhere she went—in her home, in her neighborhood, in the clinic, at the pharmacy, in her Bible study. She sang the gospel wherever she went—without complaining.

She ministered with a smile. She sang for God's glory. She forgot about herself, and she blessed others.

Nancy: Well, we've been listening to Julie Tassey and Missy Schrader remembering their mom, Bobbie Wolgemuth. I remember thinking, as I watched this very special memorial service and listened to this tribute from Bobbie's daughters, "I want this description to be true of my life."

Now, I'm no great singer. Bobbie had a great voice, as do the rest of her family members. I can't emulate that, but I do want to emulate Bobbie when it comes to doing everything without grumbling or complaining, choosing to sing to the Lord and to keep my eyes on Him, even when going through deep waters.

I don't know what situation you may be facing today that has caused your eyes to be filled with tears (even as these daughters were at their mom's memorial service), but I hope that Bobbie's example will encourage you to take your eyes off your circumstances and fix them on Christ.

Choose to give Him thanks, even when He's writing the script differently than you would for your life, and when you can't understand what in the world He's doing. Choose to worship Him and recognize that your life is in His good, wise, capable hands. I also want to encourage you to take a moment and ask, "Am I spending my life investing in others?" as Bobbie did in the years the Lord gave her here on earth. "Am I making every day count for eternity?"

We don't know how many days, how many years, the Lord will give us, but I know as I watched Bobbie's life unfold, as I watched her come to the end of her life, my own heart was challenged to make every day count for the Lord and for eternity.

What will others say at my memorial service, at yours? What will they remember? What will be the take-away of our lives?

  • Will they remember that we loved Jesus well? 
  • Will they remember that we loved other people well and that we pointed them to Jesus? 
  • Will they remember that our lives were joyful ones, keeping in view the hope that is ours through Christ?

Oh Lord, how I thank You for the example of this life of this woman, Bobbie Wolgemuth, how she and Robert throughout this whole ordeal were so steadfast in keeping their eyes fixed on you. I remember reading the updates that Robert would send week-after-week, month-after-month, as the reports came and went of doctors and chemo treatments. 

Then as it became clear that there was nothing more that could be done. But how I watched them celebrating You, celebrating life in You. I watched them sharing the gospel with every person they possibly could. I watched them investing those last weeks and days in their children and their grandchildren. I watched them live well and then watched Bobbie die well.

Of course, now we know that she is not in the land of the dying anymore, she's in the land of the living—celebrating for all of eternity the life that is hers through Christ.

So, Lord, Your Word says it's better to be in the house of mourning (the house of grieving, of a funeral) than it is to be all the time in the house of partying and gladness, because, Lord, it's at times of weeping and loss that we can see eternal principles. We evaluate how we're living our lives and whether we're really ready to face You in eternity. 

So, Lord, I pray that you will do a fresh work of grace in my life and in each listener, and may the testimony of Bobbie Wolgemuth—her faithfulness to You, her faithfulness to her family, her love for You and others—oh, Lord, may some of that spill over in our lives and make a difference.

Someday may others be sharing—the next generation, children, grandchildren, friends, and co-workers—may they be able to look back on our lives and reflect that we pointed them to Jesus, all the way to the finish line. And for all of this, Lord, we give you thanks in Jesus' name, amen.

You know, all of us are called to serve in ministry in one way or another. On Monday we'll take a look at God's Word and be challenged to make sure that we're serving and leading others for the right reasons and with the right priorities. Please be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.