When Songs Heal

Once a month we go to Burns Nursing Home.   We walk down the hall smiling at nurses and patients.  It’s clean and cheery and the air is filled with the smells of lunch cooking.

Yesterday, the second Tuesday of the month, we were there.   We walked into the community room with its bright yellow walls and pastoral paintings.   Twenty-two were already there.  Four ready to sing and eighteen ready to join us.

Eighteen people with weathered skin and withered hands …

joined us for this hour to praise.

Nursing Home Ministry

We picked up the old blue hymnals, filled with many songs that even this pastor’s daughter doesn’t know.    And we sang.  Six of us from our church in the “choir” and eighteen of heaven’s sweetest saints began.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound …”

I watched them – men and women alike – as their eyes moistened and the words choked.   Grace, amazing grace … “Though many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come …”  Oh the dangers, toils, and snares those bodies and minds have endured.   Some with bowed heads, some with raised hands, all with the hope of  “we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.”

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one …”

Looking across that room, knowing some of their stories, knowing the loneliness and isolation old age can bring, I watched them sing.   The old hymn of thanks, of naming gifts … they’d been counting the unending gifts long before many of us  were even born.    Numbering one by one the grace-gifts of lives worn with age but lived with courage.

“Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away …”

Smiles spread  across wrinkled faces.  Eyes that had been closed now opened.   Hope … the song reminded them (us!) of that sweet hope we have in Christ.   These trials, these troubles, this life is fleeting.   But He brings life everlasting.   The promise of “when the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away” and my eyes wet with awe for in that place, that yellow community room of a small local nursing home, the Presence of the Lord was real, tangible.

Those wrinkled, worn, and weary bodies were looking beyond …

rejoicing in the promise of new flesh, perfect flesh.

Those tired, torn, and troubled hearts were looking up …

reflecting on the assurance of eternal peace, perfect peace.

I didn’t know I’d gone into that place sick … infirm from the busy-ness, the chaos, the discontent.   But we sang – they sang – of grace and gratitude and going.  And I found healing.   Healing from weariness and restlessness and wondering.

And, as is so often true, I went to be a blessing but instead I received one.

“Yes, we’ll gather at the river … that flows from the throne of God.”

One day, we’ll all be singing the songs of grace and gratitude … and no one will be in wheelchairs or need an oxygen tank or be unable to see.   We’ll sing and healing will be perfect.

Nursing Home Ministry

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

Where have you found healing lately?

linking to life unmasked – because i need my soul laid bare in order to truly live

and to write it, girl – because words are powerful and i must use them well

{images: © Royalty-Free/Corbis via Microsoft Clip Art }

Read the Psalms this summer with Scripture Dig!


  1. I have been claiming John 14:27….Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. I love that verse!

    • Cyndi, sometimes I could just curl up inside John’s gospel! So much comfort in those words. Thank you for sharing with me.

  2. I used to go down to the Alzheimer’s Day Care and play the piano and sing with the clients for an hour once a week. There were those who weren’t able to carry on a logical conversation, but who knew every word to Precious Memories and What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Sweet Hour of Prayer. It was always humbling to be in the presence of such praise.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote about this ministry. I’ve been thinking about our conversation about the elderly and I love this glimpse into what you do.

    Healing? It’s been in books about God for me, and in a deepening relationship with my husband. I think God is showing me what I don’t need around me, and what I do.

    • Joy, it is joy to be able to serve as He leads, isn’t it?
      I love that you are finding healing in deepening your relationship with your husband … what an encouraging word!

  4. Beautiful! My mother worked at a nursing home while I was growing up, and I loved the hymn sings. They taught me a lot about tradition and its importance.

    I have found healing in music as well, but I think it is because I found so much wounding there. A little bit of the “hair of the dog” I think. But truly, time spent making music is ridiculously important to me. It is nourishment to my soul and a balm to my heart.
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    • Music is balm, isn’t it? I am growing a new love for the Psalms … the aching songs of loss and fear and loneliness as well as the powerful anthems of God’s might and power and refuge. So much in music to draw us into Him.

      Thank you for stopping by today.

  5. Your words touched my heart and brought back so many sweet memories. You see, I used to work in a nursing home and witnessed first-hand the joy shared by the elderly and volunteers alike as they sang praises to the Lord. More recently I was a Hospice volunteer and was blessed to see how talking about and listening to old hymns brought such peace to one of my patients. “Amazing Grace” was her favorite song and every time I hear it I think of the cherished moments that we were able to share.

    When you spoke about how you had found healing too, it reminded of this verse … “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing to others” (Genesis 12:2).

    • Oh Donna … I pray for those sweet workers at the nursing home (and hospice) who minister day in and day out to the residents. I know it must be exhausting.

      That is a great verse. Thank you for sharing.

  6. healing has been in tweets with my friend Eryn (Mama Hall) each day as we go Word hunting and share scripture. I so enjoy seeing what God puts on her heart to share with me !!

  7. Stopping by via Write it, Girl (even though I’ve read this post already) 🙂
    Oh how I’ve love this post. . . I’ve played piano at a nursing home for years. Since I was a highschooler. And believe me, it blesses me more than it does them. I love to savor long the sweet sound of praise in that room where nothing else matters. What a blessing and true reflection of what worship is all about. It’s been a salve for my soul for a long time. . . .
    thank you for ministering to me today!

  8. oh, those are some of my favorite hymns. i have been singing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”… because every day I need the reminder.

    what is healing my heart lately? God’s whisper in my heart, “I see you..”

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