Jason Wright: Raise your voice to heaven

Jason Wright

Jason Wright

Years ago while attending church far from home, I arrived earlier than expected and sat down next to an early-bird elderly woman sitting alone. She had a big handshake, a huge smile and we snacked on some friendly chatter before the service started.

When a less commonly known opening hymn began, she shared her hymnal by sliding it in the air between us and energetically starting to sing. But it didn’t take long to realize that she didn’t need the book. Not because she knew the words, but because I suspected she couldn’t read.

With her cracked and craggy voice, she looked up and down from the hymnal to the chorister at the front of the chapel and sang a mishmash of spiritual words and phrases as if her salvation depended on it. But it was not obnoxious or distracting in any way.

It was off-key, off-rhythm and completely out-of-tune.

It was also beautiful, uplifting and memorable.

Even though I haven’t seen her since that Sunday morning years ago, I can picture her next to me singing out with all her heart to a God that she loves and with a voice that is uniquely hers. No, she wasn’t in tune with the organ, but she sure was in tune with the Spirit.

A few weeks ago, once again in a different congregation, I had the opportunity to sit next to a former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Carter Knapp, a Woodstock resident, had two stints with the group before relocating permanently to Virginia and is known as “Golden Tones” by friends and neighbors.

The well-educated and articulate Knapp has such an authoritative, distinctive voice, that if he asked a complete stranger on Main Street to clean his room and finish his homework, both chores would be done by dinner.

I listened to him sing at my side and was genuinely touched by the Spirit. He sang out with all his heart to a God that he loves and with a voice that is uniquely his.

It was in-key, in-rhythm and completely in-tune.

It was also beautiful, uplifting and memorable.

I wondered why, in that moment, sitting next to this man who’d traveled the world and sang countless numbers with the world’s most renowned choir, I was thinking about a woman whose voice I’ve only heard once, but that I could not forget?

Because despite sounding as different as two voices possibly can, both had invited the Spirit into the room and into my heart. These two children of God have taken all the father has given them and used it for good. Despite differing talent levels, there is no pride on his part, and no shame on hers.

Christian leader Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Just do the best you can, but be sure it is your very best.”

I’m certain that for both these singers, this is true.

Obviously no one would propose that my tone-challenged friend should take a coveted seat with the most talented choir on the planet. The suggestion would trigger in her a giggle fit that would last longer than the church service.

No, not everyone sings as if they belong in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but when it comes to raising a voice to heaven, it doesn’t matter.

The sound of your voice is much less important than the fact that you’re singing in the first place.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at feedback@jasonfwright.com or http://www.jasonfwright.com.

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