My two-year-old niece, SHA, crawled on the off-white sofa and snuggled next to me. She placed a stuffed lamb in my lap and tickled my chin with her Pebbles Flintstone ponytail. It was not this preacher-lady's typical Sunday morning. My two congregations were 1900 miles away, and SHA was not singing from the United Methodist hymnal. I was an auntie on vacation, and that meant one thing: I lived in the world of SHA's vivid imagination. The morning began with SHA fixing me a "picnic lunch" of watermelon and cherry pie. A plastic cheetah had interrupted that picnic. We had to escape the cheetah by reading a book about a bird looking for its mother. Then, sitting side by side in our Sunday dresses, she was telling me the latest escapades of the stuffed lamb in my lap. We sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and "I've Been Working on the Railroad," when I caught a glimpse of the clock. Was it only 10AM? I felt like I'd done a day's work already. I was relieved when she sighed and said, "Auntie Rev, YOU sing!"
She's got a ticket to ride She's got a ticket to ri-i-ide She's got a ticket to ride And she don't care!
I have no idea why this particular Beatles' song popped into my head at that moment, but it did. So, I sang it. I pumped my head and hands in the air for dramatic effect, my eyes closed. When I finished this impromptu solo, I opened my eyes to see SHA's clear-blue eyes staring at me, her eyebrows bunched, and her mouth concernedly crooked. She was staring at me as if I'd lost my mind. And she was silent. The silence scared me more than the crooked smile.
I guessed that I'd overdone my auntie-antics until she finally spoke.
She cocked her head to the side. "Auntie Rev, that's not a real song."
Huh? She's two, I thought. How does she know what's real or unreal?
"It's not?" I asked.
She shook her head, "no," the ponytail bobbing like a sprinkler.
"Then what's a real song?"
The corners of her pink lips turned upward into a grin. Her mouth opened, her arms extended out. She paused. This is one dramatic kid, I thought to myself. She's got me on the edge of the couch to learn her meaning of a real song!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity with her mouth wide open, she began to sing:
"A - B - C - D - E - F - G"
I let out a laugh so sudden and loud that she quit singing and looked scared.
"Oh no, sweet girl, please keep singing! I love your real song"
She resumed with more vigor and sat up on her knees: "H- I - J- K-...."
I joined her for the rest of the song, our "call to worship" for this Sunday together.
The next day, I related this story to my friend, Keith, who said, "I would argue with SHA that 'Ticket to Ride' is real. But I guess when you think about it, if you don't know the ABC song, you probably can't write any other music."
Well said. Without the ABCs, there are neither any words nor chords. Throughout the Scriptures, God frequently calls us back to the basics of life. Obeying the law. Loving each other. Walking in wisdom. Shunning evil. Salvation by grace through Christ Jesus our Lord. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. These are only some of the basics that we need first to embrace in order to grow in relationship with God. As the Church, we must not forget the core tenets of Scripture on which we must work together for God's kingdom.
In SHA's observation, I also hear a call to creativity. While I was singing someone else's song, she was reviewing the basics of writing her own song. She didn't need any other songs because she could write her own. Why do so many of us lose that childlike freedom to create something "real"-- something original? Why do we settle for copying one another?
On that Sunday afternoon, while SHA and her parents were taking naps, I drove to a local store and purchased a sketchbook and colored pencils. I then traveled to a pier overlooking the Pacific Ocean and began to draw--something I hadn't done since junior high school. I listened not to the Beatles but allowed the ocean's tide to be my soundtrack. I did not write a song, but I did welcome the sermon my niece had "preached" to me that morning. Be real. Be creative. Reconnect with the basic creativity of a child--and sing, write, draw, or dance your heart out to the "real" music of God's kingdom.
all good things to each of you, Pastor Darian
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.