Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Song for the Road

You already know I'm a Beth Moore junkie. With five close friends--made even tighter by our weekly commitment together--I just completed her Psalms of Ascent Bible study. Who knew? The specific Psalms 120-134 were ones the Israelites had memorized, like a "Road Trip" playlist on their community ipod. On repeated treks to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, the men, women and children had those short, catchy, rhyming psalms stuck in their heads as if they were top 40 hits. Take a listen to these renditions by messianic Christian Chuck King.

The Biblical word for road trip is pilgrimage. After updating and unpacking it, I have come to love the ring of that word. I am on a pilgrimage. And so are you! Whether through autism, through marriage, through divorce, through cancer, through illness, or through a chapter in life, we are all on our way to some place else. Heaven, namely. We are never stuck but always moving on toward some thing better.

Songs make the time go faster don't they? On an arduous car ride or a harrowing adventure. Songs do a whole lot more than that. Like the hunch that there is a God, almost all of us know innately that music has a power over our soul. All agree and yet, it remains a spiritual mystery how and why music empowers our communication and binds us to the otherness of heaven. Music assists us in entering the spiritual realm. Singing enables the expression of our soul. Songs release God's power. Jesus sang with the disciples. Song originated with God and accompanied creation. Song can change our perspective. I won't pretend to explain but merely to illustrate.

Colloquially speaking, we say that, "music tames the savage beast" whether we attribute it to Shakespeare in Twelfth Night or William Congreve in The Mourning Bride. I have seen this to be true. Years before his Abilify prescription (which has also served to tame the savage beast), Reid came home from a day to top all days at school. Possibly his worst ever. Honestly, I've repressed the gory details. Suffice it to say that those days often included reports of him under a desk, chewing his shirt to shreds at the collar, hitting a teacher, being restrained by staff members, being dreadfully uncomfortable needing to poop but unable to relax enough at school to do so in their restroom with its buzzing flourescent lights, automatic flushing toilets, not to mention other patrons. It was hellish. Some combination of those had accumulated. By the time I rolled into the carpool line, the teachers could only scoop him into the car. Time to recuperate. Wait, we were due home for piano lessons.

His lessons are pretty similar to the classic variety although he takes from a beloved music therapist of 8 years. Because of her training, who she is and their established rapport, the 30 minute session retains a therapeutic quality. In fact, it often takes on a certain magic. Anyway, I was ready to bail that day, send her home and forfeit the fee. I couldn't see how Reid would ever pull himself together to attend. He collapsed into the house, eyes still red from crying and disheveled from the ravages of his day. After some ineffective cajoling and sympathetic urging to get him to the piano bench from me, Angela simply sat down herself and played something. (If I ever write a book it will have to be fiction since so many relevant details escape me.) I think it was a praise and worship song, maybe something she was dusting off for church that Sunday.

Thus began a slow-motion scene from the movie of our life. Stilled by the music, Reid rose from the crumpled pile on the floor, joined her on the bench and after 20 minutes skittered out to the kitchen a new boy. Music had transformed his day from disaster to joy. His emotional tank was refueled for whatever lay ahead. Dumbstruck and speechless, I stuttered to Angela, "how...did...i didn' that...can't." Angela's response I do recall, "music tames the savage beast." She's humble and accurate. I started scheming a way to have her take up permanent residence. We need a live-in pianist.
Dr. Fryman, the world renown osteopath we were privileged to see, utilizes this pipe dream wish of mine in her San Diego practice. In her 90's and still treating infants, she has mentored nearly every young osteopath worth their salt. Her treatment protocol is incredible albeit elusive. Parents are consulted with but prohibited from accompanying their child in the treatment room. At first, this policy put me off tremendously. Anticipating Reid's first appointment with her I felt as if I was relinquishing him to a demented Oz behind a curtain only to wait in t he field of monkeys. Once I got to know her though, I appreciated the method to her apparent madness. She eliminates the triangulating that can happen with kids with behavioral challenges. In this intentional way, she can treat them more individually and without distraction. The kids quickly learn to trust her calculated, consistent, predictable routine and benefit immensely from each visit. Reid would emerge out of the corridor of her round building practically stunned by an epiphany. So deep was the transformation I could perceive it in his face, stature and dare I say, soul. Osteopathy is a holistic approach.

A large part of Dr. Fryman's effectiveness is her spiritual gifting and faithfulness. Another part is her understanding of music. She employed a concert pianist who accompanied her hands-on osteopathic manipulation with live classical music. She chose music that matched the energy of the child taking "music therapy" to a new level. As the treatment progressed, she would cue the pianist with a new composer or piece that synchronized with the patient and synergized her manual adjustment. I don't think I'm extrapolating to say that she was calling upon the powers of heaven through music to heal. Many miracles quietly occur in that place.

The Listening Program, AIT, Samonas, and many musical permutations are marketed as beneficial for our kids with autism. I am not endorsing any of those, nor one over the other. We have invested in several of them at different times. I am not certain their claims are valid, provable, or worth niggling over. What they do all indicate though is that music influences our brain function.

Can you add a little music to your life today? Open yourself up to be healed, restored, redeemed. Marinade in some sound waves. Steep in a psalm.

This is what the LORD says: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'
Jeremiah 31:6-8

"The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:16-18

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

1 comment:

  1. Woohoo, you're back! We seem to be on the same page as I wrote a post about music earlier this week. I have seen that same calming effect on Rhema that the piano music had on Reid. I used to sing "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" to Rhema when she was still in the womb. Sometimes when she is in the midst of an out-of-this-world tantrum, I will try to keep my wits about me by singing that song. It usually quiets her after a while, and when I stop singing she'll cry as if she wants me to sing again.

    So many ASD people have a unique gift for music, as does your Reid. I marvel at how God does that.