Gotta Play for My Brain

Psalm 150

150 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary! Praise God in his fortress, the sky! Praise God in his mighty acts! Praise God as suits his incredible greatness! Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn! Praise God with lute and lyre! Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipe! Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals! Let every living thing praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:1-6)

It is no secret, I love playing the guitar. Though almost all I play and write is Christian in nature, my guitar, at least in some ways, it is my diversion from my work as a pastor. I love my work. It is not easy work. I never expected that it would be. For most of us, our jobs are hard and we need a diversion, something that at least gives our minds a change of pace. For me, that is my guitars, and a few other things.

I read an article earlier from Inc. magazine written by John Rampton. Rampton talks about how playing a musical instrument does things like relieve stress. Rampton argues that playing a musical instrument actually increases gray matter. These benefits seem to benefit most the younger one starts but these benefits are beneficial for anyone. I never knew I was growing my brain when I picked up one of my guitars.

Here are some of the ways Rampton says playing a musical instrument does for your brain:

  • Strengthens bonds with others.
  • Strengthens memory and reading skills.
  • Playing music makes you happy.
  • Musicians can process multiple things at once.
  • Music increases blood flow in your brain.
  • Music helps the brain recover.
  • Music reduces stress and depression.
  • Musical training strengthens the brain’s executive function.

When I read Scriptures like Psalm 150 tells me God loves music at least as much as most of us. Rampton says in the article that these things become evident when looking at brain scans. So God gave us a way to increase our mental abilities and at the same time bring God joy.

I am not about to say my guitar playing has really increased my cognitive abilities but I know I am created in the image and likeness of God. God, at least it seems to me, loves music and so do I. Even if my gray matter doesn’t grow at all, I will find enjoyment from my music. It is even more of a blessing to know, what I do might bring a bit of joy to my God and King.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission given for the noncommercial use of this post.


We Are the Music (Psalm 6)

We Are the Music (Psalm 6)

Psalm 6

For the music leader. On stringed instruments. According to the eighth. A psalm of David.

6 Please, Lord,
    don’t punish me when you are angry;
    don’t discipline me when you are furious.
Have mercy on me, Lord,
    because I’m frail.
Heal me, Lord,
    because my bones are shaking in terror!
My whole body is completely terrified!
        But you, Lord! How long will this last?
Come back to me, Lord! Deliver me!
    Save me for the sake of your faithful love!
No one is going to praise you
    when they are dead.
Who gives you thanks
    from the grave?

I’m worn out from groaning.
    Every night, I drench my bed with tears;
    I soak my couch all the way through.
My vision fails because of my grief;
    it’s weak because of all my distress.
Get away from me, all you evildoers,
    because the Lord has heard me crying!
The Lord has listened to my request.
    The Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed
    and completely terrified;
    they will be defeated
    and ashamed instantly (Psalm 6:1-10, Common English Bible)

Earlier I was looking at a piece of music the Lufkin Community Band will play at their “Spring Spectacular” concert in April. Cindy and I both play in the band. Cindy plays the flute and I make noise as a percussion player. The title of the music piece is “Television Milestones.”

I was looking specifically above the first staff, looking there you will see things like “Allegro,” Andante,” Brightly,” and several others. Those words have something to do the tempo, the speed of the music. Allegro means fast, lively, cheerful, and joyful. A music note, usually a quarter note follows that term and then a number follows that say, 120. That 120 is the number of beats per minute the song should follow. You might see things like rit, that means retard or slow down. It is a part of tempo as well.

There are other symbols besides the notes themselves. You can see them often and are throughout the piece. You might see things like p or f. These are called dynamics and has something to do with how soft or how loud the band should play. The p means piano and it has nothing to do with an actual piano. It means soft. The f means forte and it is loud. Both of these can be a singe letter like p or they can be in several letters, up to 4, ffff. The symbol from math for greater than or less than, ><, these mean to gradually get softer or louder. Dynamics add power and meaning to the music.

One other thing the piece of music says above the staff is the instrument that the composer wants to play that particular part. As I type I have the music for “Salute to Television” sitting in my lap right now. In the top left corner it says, “MALLET PERCUSSION (Xylophone).” The composer doesn’t want Cindy to play this part on her flute. Instead, ignoring the far more talented, the composer wants someone like me to make noise that means nothing to the music. Well, that is what I did at rehearsal earlier this week.

Much like the music of today, the music of old has instructions on how the song should be played. These instructions, considered by many Biblical scholars are usually considered to be a later addition to the text. I am talking specifically about the writing (in bold at the top) that says, “For the music leader. On stringed instruments. According to the eighth. A psalm of David.” This psalm has instructions telling the conductor or music leader how the psalmist, in this case David, wants the music played. The composer today is usually listed on the music as well.

The instructions say to play the piece on stringed instruments. This was probably a harp and/or lyre, an early guitar or something that resembled a ukulele. There are other possibilities as well. For those who think guitars in worship are a relatively new thing, they are not. Stringed instruments were the most common and things. The piano and organ didn’t come into existence until between 1698-1700, and the 3rd century BC respectively.

So, some kind of eight stringed instrument was to be the primary instrument. That is backed up with the term, “According to the Eighth. Some scholars believe that to be a reinforcement of the eight stringed instrument. Others think it is some kind of musical instruction and the purpose disappeared with time.

This particular psalm does not have the instruction seen in the text of many psalms. The word Selah is seen often throughout the entire book. The general consensus is that Selah’s meaning is lost in time.

So, what is the purpose of all this? We are God’s music. And, just as there are many genres of music, some of us might sound more country, or rock-n-roll, Gospel, or Big Band. Maybe you are more classical or even something a bit different like say, Gregorian chants. Whatever our genre may be (please note, I said genre, not songs. There is music out there leaving no doubt it does not come from God) God gave us all a song to sing. God placed a melody in our hearts. I don’t mean that literally but to put it in a more literal way, perhaps your song is cooking or church maintenance. Maybe you have a heart to visit people in the hospital or prepare gifts for the military far from home. Whatever it is, the song is yours. Exactly how you sing it, is up to you.

We are God’s piece of music and the instructions are written in the Bible. Unlike the piece of music, which is not capable of conducting as well, God gives us the instruction and then we are to go out and follow them. When God brings us all together and we follow those instructions, we produce a beautiful song of our lives to share with each other and with the world

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

In search of the genuine,

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved