Have you ever watched a TV news story showing a candlelight vigil of mourners after a tragic loss? Often the group is filmed singing "Amazing Grace." I always wonder, "Why that song?" It doesn’t seem to fit the circumstance, and there are other hymns that seem more appropriate. Perhaps the global familiarity of that song brings unity and comfort in the middle of such sadness. I wonder if the people in the news clip sing it with understanding.
And then I stop in the middle of that judgmental thought. Although I sing "Amazing Grace" (and other familiar hymns) regularly from a pew, do the words just pass from my brain through my lips, or is there a vital detour through my heart, so that I sing with understanding?
It reminds me of the time Alma asked this question, “And now behold, I say unto you brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can you feel so now?” (Alma 5:26). It’s almost as if he was asking the people to go back to where God’s amazing grace was indeed, amazing to their hearts.
Last year, a vendor with whom my employer does business sent a clever Christmas card. The front of the card featured a picture of the happy group of workers who service us throughout the year. The inside had a “hand-written” letter written in the form of the popular word game “Mad Libs” where certain key words are left blank with instructions to fill in adjectives, nouns, verbs, exclamations and so on. The card invited recipients to fill in the blanks and Tweet it back to the sender for prizes awarded to the most creative entries.
That got me thinking.
I could apply the same technique to a hymn such as Amazing Grace. Not to be silly or random like a typical Mad Libs game, but deliberate in the substitutions to help me personalize a song’s message. Let’s call this exercise “Glad Libs.”
I’ll start with — what word could be substituted for amazing? Awesome? Unfathomable? I hear my kids using unusual words to describe things they love such as “sweet” or “sick.” I’ll admit, it took me a while to realize “sick” was a good thing to the younger crowd, but since I can’t bring myself to describe God’s grace as “sick,” I’ll use “epic.” Don’t worry about rhyming. Just use the most vibrant words you can think of (thesaurus welcomed) and boom, you own it! Here’s the rest of my example:
EPIC grace, how SOOTHING the sound
That saved a BRAT like me!
I once was DISTRAUGHT but now I’m CALM .
Was SELF-ABSORBED but now I LIVE FOR HIM .
Have fun “Glad Libbing” your favorite hymn and sing with new understanding!
And for the history buff, click here to learn the truly amazing history of John Newton’s hymn, "Amazing Grace."