Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Value of Singing as Family

Leslie Basham: Bobbie Wolgemuth encouraged her family to sing in all circumstances. Here's what that looked like in the life of her granddaughter.

Bobbie Wolgemuth: When Abby had her first day of first grade, she told her mom that she was a little bit scared. Missy worked with her with "Take My Life and Let It Be." It was such a wonderful way for Abby to go to first grade the first day, with words that helped her to be confident and to know that the Lord was going to be with her that day.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 8, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did you know that the word "sing" or "singing" is used in the psalms over one hundred times? In fact, thirty-four times in the psalms, we're told to "sing to the Lord." That's a biblical command that we find frequently in the Scripture.

Now, sometimes that singing to the Lord just flows out easily. Things are going great. We're encouraged; we're blessed by our circumstances. It's not hard to sing. But sometimes we have to choose to sing even when our eyes are filled with tears or we find ourselves in circumstances that we would not have chosen.

One of the women who has taught me to sing even when I didn't feel like it was my friend, Bobbie Wolgemuth. As you'll hear over the next couple of days, Bobbie loved to sing. Her whole family loved to sing. She and her husband, Robert, and her two daughters would sing as the little girls were growing up. And now, even as their daughters are grown and have their own children, this is a singing family.

Bobbie continued to sing even as she was diagnosed with cancer and her body was steadily growing weaker. I had the opportunity to visit with Bobbie in her home in Florida during that season. It was just a quick visit as I was on my way to catch a flight back home. But before we left, we sang a hymn together.

After a three-year battle with cancer, Bobbie went home to be with the Lord this past November. We're going to remember her life by revisiting an interview I conducted with her and her family here on Revive Our Hearts. And we'll also hear portions of her memorial service.

Here's what I hope you remember as you listen: No matter what you may be going through, you can do what Bobbie did persistently, perseveringly, and that is to choose to sing to the Lord.

Here's what I've found. When we take our eyes off our circumstances and we focus on Christ, on God, on His character, on His greatness, on His mercy and His love, it changes our whole attitude. The whole world looks different when we see it through eyes of praise.

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. We'll also hear from their daughters, Julie and Missy. And we'll hear from Missy's daughter, Abby, who was a little girl at the time.

Now, did you sing hymns with your children from the time they were very little?

Bobbie: Well, girls, we should let you answer that.

Robert Wolgemuth: Yes, they should answer that question.

Julie Tassey: Absolutely.

Nancy: And do you remember some of those hymns that you sang as little girls?

Julie: Yes. In fact, that's the way we learned to read music was by looking at hymnals and singing hymns. Missy and I learned to hear parts and read music.

Bobbie: But I'd say even when you were tiny, before you could read music or read words, you all would pretty much sing around the house with us.

Missy Schrader: I remember singing "Into My Heart" and thinking, I want Jesus to come live in my heart. I was four years old, and that song spoke to me as a child. I learned what it really meant to have a relationship with Jesus, to have Him come live in my heart.

Abby Schrader: I loved to sing since I was three. It didn't really matter what I was singing, but I just sang all the time. I loved hymns, and I've been singing for a while. I just love to sing anywhere—in the shower, when I'm brushing my teeth, or at dinner.

Missy: What's your favorite hymn, Abby?

Abby: I have a lot of favorite hymns, but one that I really like is "Fairest Lord Jesus," because I always think of how God is so great and that He always does things that are not always what we want, but always what is right for us.

Nancy: I have to tell you, the first time I was with Robert and Bobbie and you, Julie, I think we went to dinner somewhere together. We had just met, and before you all dropped me off at my hotel, or as you were dropping me off, you said, "Let's just sing a hymn."

Bobbie: Whenever we get a chance, whether it's doing dishes in the kitchen or taking a walk—I think the rhythm and the poetry of a hymn is just what it takes to keep God very near to our hearts.

Robert: The car is also a very important place. When our children were small—now they're sitting here as moms—we did a lot of that in the car. This is before you could get a DVD for your car.

Missy and Julie, you do that a lot too, don't you?

Julie: We sing in the car. My minivan can become a sanctuary on wheels, because we're going all over the place, touring around town. If you have a CD of hymns and you're singing your hearts out . . .

My favorite is when my little girls have a favorite hymn or a favorite song, and they say, "Oh, play number four again." They're going to have favorite music, so if you give them good options, you'll sit there and sing and sing and sing.

Then they have great questions about the Lord that they'll ask. I remember when Harper asked me, "What's conquering mean?" because we were singing, "Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son." She said, "What does conquering mean?" So it was a great way to help her learn these truths from these great songs that we're singing.

Bobbie: Do you remember what your favorite was when you all were little? "When We All Get to Heaven." I think you liked it because we had that little rolling part. You were in the back seat, and we'd sort of roll through the miles and through the melody at the same time.

Nancy: I wonder if it doesn't help diffuse some potential arguments or avert some, to be singing together.

Bobbie: I think it does. So you're not saying, "You're on my side!"

Robert: "You're on my side."

Nancy: "When are we going to get there?"

Bobbie: That's right.

Robert: Bobbie, you do a lot of teaching hymns to young children. How young do you think kids can be before they can begin to learn a hymn?

Bobbie: Well, right now I'm teaching three-year-olds. We don't dummy it down for them. I teach them, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

The first thing I teach little children is "Holy, Holy, Holy." The way that children respond and the pictures that you're giving them for their minds, it gives a child a repertoire so that they have something to pull from when they're trying to put ideas on who God is.

I don't like to start with anything too trite. I think "A Mighty Fortress" and "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "Holy, Holy, Holy" are good ones to start with.

I love teaching children hymns because I think little children respond. I believe they hear God's voice through this music.

Missy: I've had the opportunity at my children's school to teach hymns, and the questions I ask as we're doing that, the two questions are: What does this teach me about God? And what does this teach me about myself?

That's the beauty of the hymn, is that it always answers those questions. It teaches you something about the Lord, and it teaches you something about yourself.

Abby: I remember the first time that I ever went to the studio. I was going to sing "Holy, Holy, Holy." It was such a great experience for me, because I just love to sing, and I could actually do it for real once. It just felt so special that I got to sing about God for lots of people to hear.

Nancy: That really is one of the great things about these great, classic hymns is they give you a high view of God.

Think about those words to "Holy, Holy, Holy." In fact, can we just sing a stanza of that?

(family singing)

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee;
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

Nancy: Now, we're talking about some old hymns that, when we were growing up, were familiar to us; but to many in the younger generation today, these are not familiar. They're just old. Many of these hymns you're not hearing sung today in churches or in families.

I think you could look around . . . In fact, I was in a gathering the other night, and the leader said at the end, "Let's just sing a stanza of 'Revive Us Again.'" We began to sing. I looked around the room and realized that many of these people did not know that song. They were not familiar with it.

So there are many new wonderful hymns and choruses being written today. What's the advantage or the value of keeping alive these older, classic hymns? Why bother? Why make a deal about keeping some of these alive?

Missy: I think the hymns are a feast. That's just the way I picture them—just being so rich with truth in doctrine and in learning about who God is.

Robert: And they've been around a long time. "Oh, Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is a thousand years old.

What you wonder is, how many of the current praise choruses, as wonderful as they are, will be around a thousand years from now? There's something important about knowing that something lasted that long.

We're not encouraging people to not sing praise choruses and some of the new songs, but our family would say, "Please don't forget the old ones."

Bobbie: Like Bach and Handel and Beethoven—you never are going to be tired of classics. They're always going to be a valuable tool.

Nancy: I think some people are tired of them, though, who perhaps haven't really experienced the value and the beauty and the wonder of these rich lyrics and texts and think this is just another era; it's not modern; it's not "in."

But there is value, I think, in generations having some shared text and words that have stood the test of time, that our grandparents and great-grandparents sang and that, should the Lord tarry, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will sing as well.

Missy: There's something else, I think, about lingering with God's Word and lingering with a hymn. Some of the technology that is forcing our children to have a frantic lifestyle, even in Bible reading when there are too many pop-ups, or there's too much information coming at a child or at an adult.

I think we need to take a text, whether it's from the Bible or from a hymn, and we need to let it "settle." We need to linger with that text.

A hymn, because it's poetry and because it's rhythm, it is a great way to linger. So in the middle of the night, if you have sung a hymn during the day, often it will come back to you.

Yesterday a friend called and said when she had been going through a terrible loss in her life, she went to a therapist. The therapist, a believer, said, "I want you to choose one hymn, and that hymn will be 'your hymn.' You use that hymn whenever you need it."

So she said, "I chose 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.'" And she said, "At night I came home to an empty house. No one was there. It was dark. I sang 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.' When I ate dinner by myself, I sang 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.' Then when I crawled into bed and there was nobody there, I sang 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.'"

She said, "That hymn became mine. It carried me through all the darkest despair of those years when I was feeling rejected."

She said, "The Lord has given me a new life. I met a wonderful man, and when we were married, we had the entire congregation sing 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.' Only the angels in heaven knew what a glorious treat that was."

Nancy: And that hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," I wonder how many people could tell stories of how God has used those words to minister to them!

In fact, I have a little thing with "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." I don't see the sun rise most mornings. I'll just confess that I see a lot more sunsets than I do sunrises. But when I do see the sun rise, I have a little thing that almost always I will sing "Great is Thy faithfulness; morning by morning, new mercies I see."

Just as a reminder, as I start into my day, God has taken us safely through another night, has brought us into another day, and whatever I'm facing that day, He is enough. He will be faithful.

The things I know (or I think I know) are going to happen in that day, and the things I have no clue are going to come into that day, God is faithful. If everything else changes, God is faithful.

There again, that's a hymn that has stayed with me for years and years. And it is still ministering deeply to my heart and to believers all around the world at difficult seasons of their lives.

Abby: Another reason I love hymns is because hymns are all about God and how good He is. It just tells us how good He is and how un-perfect we are. We can be so humble in hymns and singing; we can just say how good God is.

Nancy: Abby, I love that way of thinking, because our generation is so me-centered. It's all about me; it's about how I feel, what's happening in my life, my circumstances, my problems, my desires, my happiness.

By definition, technically, a hymn is a song that is written to be sung to God. It's not only about Him but in a technical, musical sense, there are hymns that are directed to Him.

It's something that is counter-cultural, to sing these hymns of praise and worship, because our natural instinct is to be inward. But hymns lift our eyes upward, to the Lord.

And you're absolutely right. We do have to humble ourselves to say, "Lord, You are great; we are weak, but You are strong. We are poor, but You are rich." So they help us to humble our hearts and to lift up the Lord, by singing those hymns.

Bobbie: I like that hymns often are prayers. When we don't know what to pray, or we aren't quite sure if this prayer is going to work or if these are the right words to say . . .

When Abby had her first day of first grade, she told her mom that she was a little bit scared. Missy worked with her with "Take My Life and Let It Be."

It was such a wonderful way for Abby to go to first grade the first day, with words that helped her to be confident and to know that the Lord was going to be with her that day.

Nancy: Now, some people would say, "Can a first-grader have any clue what 'consecrated' means?" Do your children, Missy, just understand all these words? How do you use hymns like that with children, when maybe that's not a word they've encountered before?

Missy: Well, it's a perfect vocabulary lesson. Julie was just talking about how if they aren't sure what a word is, then you can talk about it and help them understand that word. Like in "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing," you can talk about what a bulwark is.

Julie: I remember the summer that we learned all of the words to "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Missy and I were school age, and Mom was determined that we were going to learn all the words to this hymn, and we had to talk about what a bulwark is.

I remember the first Sunday we got to church, and they started to play hymn number whatever, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and we stood up, and we were so excited. We didn't even use those hymnals.

We sang every word. We were so excited that we knew every word, and especially when we got to bulwark. We looked over and winked at each other.

Missy: Which is a fortress or a place to hide behind for safety.

Nancy: Which is probably something many of the adults in the congregation didn't know.

Missy: Yes. The one thing I was just thinking about as Mom was talking about using a word or a hymn to encourage. Mom was very in tune with that and encouraging us in whatever we were going through. "Today I'm praying 'How Firm a Foundation' for you. Read through that."

So in my quiet time, I can take a hymnal along with my Bible and read through the beautiful words of "How Firm a Foundation."

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

And as I'm having my quiet time, I can let those words bathe over me, and I can be encouraged and meditate on those words that day.

Abby: It's just amazing. Like when you are having a hard day or something, my mom sometimes gives me hymns to look at and hymns to think about, or Bible verses. Sometimes they just are so amazing, how they can actually help you through hard times.

Nancy: Abby, can you think of a particular hymn that has encouraged you or helped you through a day, maybe recently?

Abby: I'm thinking about "Amazing Grace." How whenever anything happens, God always gives you grace and mercy; He always gives you what you don't deserve, and He always gives you grace.

Nancy: And whether you're eleven or an old lady like I am, we need God's grace every single day. A simple hymn like that, written so long ago, can be just what we need to remind us that God has tailor-made grace for that situation, for that moment for my life, and that His grace is enough.

We've been listening to a conversation with my sweet friend, Bobbie Wolgemuth. We also heard from her husband, Robert, and her daughters, Julie and Missy, as well as her granddaughter, Abby.

Bobbie went home to be with the Lord this past November after a lengthy battle with cancer. And as we listened back to this conversation about singing together as a family, Bobbie didn't know at that time how many years she had left on this earth.

Just a few months ago I watched the live stream of Bobbie's memorial service and I saw her children, her sons-in-law, her grandchildren, her extended family. It was so obvious that the investment that she made in her family, the time they spent focusing on God's goodness and singing the songs of redemption, all of this was a part of her passing on to the next generation the baton of faith.

It's a huge investment that has paid off in magnificent ways in those that she has left behind. In fact, Abby, the little girl that we heard in that interview? Well, she's now a young woman in college. And at Bobbie's memorial service in November, she sang so beautifully of the love of God that Bobbie had been so faithful to teach her as a grandma.

Abby: (singing)

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints' and angels' song.

Nancy: That's Abby Schroeder who caught a passion for the love of Christ and the value of singing about it from her grandmother, Bobbie Wolgemuth. As we've been celebrating Bobbie's life today, I want to wrap up some things that we can learn from her example.

Bobbie spent her life loving the Lord, loving the gospel, loving to sing about it and sharing her faith with others. In her family, a big part of sharing that faith meant singing together. I hope today's program will encourage you to sing and worship the Lord with others.

Most importantly, she spent time with her family, with other people, including countless doctors and nurses who cared for her during her long illness. She always encouraging people to fix their eyes on Jesus. And you can do that whether or not you can carry a tune.

You can do it whether you're married or single. All of us can be investing in the next generation by sharing our faith with them and spending our lives, no matter how short or long they may be, in pointing others to Jesus.

Tomorrow we're going to continue thinking about this idea of how to develop the habit of spending time together as a family by singing about the Lord. Bobbie's daughters, Julie and Missy, will reflect on the value of the investment that their mother made in their lives.

When I heard this tribute from Julie and Missy at their mom's memorial service, I was so moved. You won't want to miss it.

To end our time today, we want to return to Bobbie's memorial service and be reminded of what it means to live a life of loving others. We'll hear first from Bobbie's sister and then from one of her nephews.

Bobbie's sister: I remember in Brentwood she said she saw the children playing outside. So she asked them if they wanted to come over for a teddy bear tea party. They all brought their favorite teddy bears, and she served Teddy Grahams with lemonade. She told them the Bible even told them about "bears." Yes, "Bear one another's burdens."

Yes, Bobbie could turn even a cup of tea into a celebration. She made you feel special. And these last couple of years I would call her to encourage her, and she would end up encouraging me.

Her joy was contagious, her love overflowing, and her peace beyond understanding. She would be the first to tell you these things were not produced by her, but they were a reflection of God's Spirit in her. She glowed with the presence of the Lord.

Bobbie's nephew: I've come to appreciate the depth and the pureness of Aunt Bobbie's love. She loved family. Several years ago, Angie and I watched as Aunt Bobbie spent hours pouring love into our own children. My kids felt loved and you grandchildren were the light of her life. It was rare to have a conversation with Aunt Bobbie that didn't lead back to one of you.

And Robert, this family is blessed by witnessing the way Aunt Bobbie loved you and you loved her back. The two of you showed each of us what unconditional love in a marriage looks like. Robert, my marriage is better because of the way you two loved each other.

Most importantly, she loved Jesus. She lived this out daily—unashamed, unabashed—and what's more, she trusted Him fully. The essence of Aunt Bobbie and what this family will cherish until we again see her face is the depth and the pureness of her love.

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.