What kind of noise are you making?

It was such an exciting, heady time.  I was 17, and by some inexplicable happenstance, had been chosen to be a part of The Rosedale Chorale.  It was the 1970-71 school year at Rosedale Bible Institute, and what a wonderful time we had! 

I say inexplicable because I do not have all that great a voice.  Even our director, John O. Yoder, had admitted one time that I had pretty much gotten into Chorale on the basis of experience, more so than talent, but it didn’t really make a difference.  Once you were in, you were in, and I wasn’t about to leave of my own free will.  So.  I stayed.

We did the usual routine of Chorale Tour and made the customary record.  We gals all had red dresses of the double knit variety—and those things wore like iron.  Night after night, program after program, we persevered, and it was the kind of thing that forever memories are made of.

Then our director got the bright idea that we should come back to the recording studio, Heralds of Hope, and record another session of music that would be useful for his father, J. Otis Yoder’s, weekly radio program.  It suited most of us to do that, and back we went when school was out for the year.

We were good!  (I’m certain of it!)   John was a good director, but there was a lot of talent, clear voices, deep voices, with that tight, glorious harmony and the wonderful, old, timeless hymns of the church sung in classic, pure arrangements that are just so traditional Mennonite.  (It makes my heart ache to remember that sound!)

I said before that I don’t have that great a voice.  It wasn’t all that great back then, and it has deteriorated over the years.  It has gotten “reedy” and mostly lets me down on anything over the “Middle C” mark.  Gone are the days when I could sing for hours, and even longer gone are any illusions of grandeur.  Exposure to truly great voices has played a part in that, as well as something that happened during one of the final days of the recording session.

I was feeling unusually optimistic that particular morning.  I was singing with all my heart and soul and voice, and putting lots of expression into my efforts.  To be honest, I thought I was doing pretty well, sounding good.  But then:

Brother John spent a little time over on our side of the chorale, listening to us wondrous sopranos with interest.  I thought he was paying unusually close attention, and I redoubled my efforts.  Just singin’ my heart out.

Imagine my surprise when he paused beside me between songs and looked kindly at me.  “Be a little careful,” he said softly, “of the noise you are making this morning.”


I toned it down kinda’ gradual like.  I didn’t want to admit that I was making “noise” and I for sure hoped that no one heard what he had said to me.  Oh, yes.  And my feelings were hurt, my confidence shaken.

 But I’ve thought about that incident many, many times in the years since then.  Sometimes when I think I am really doing really good as a Christian, sometimes when it seems to me that what I’m doing is noteworthy or impressive or laudable, that my song is soaring, sweet and notably above the others, I remember those quiet words:  “Be careful of the noise you are making,” and I am set back on my proverbial heels.  What sounds so wonderful to our ears just might be “noise” in the ears of our Heavenly Father, as well as the rest of the world.

What this world needs is a song of hope and comfort and peace and JESUS, not some self-righteous noise coming from a prideful heart.   That kind of noise can ruin the sound of the whole chorus – the music of the mighty chorus of the Church of Jesus Christ.  How often we are just making noise?

I don’t know about you, but I’m resolving once again to be a little more careful of the noise I’m making.


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10 responses to “What kind of noise are you making?

  1. Oh wow, interesting story and how graciously you received this comment from him. Using it for good even now oh so many years ago. My opinion is I love to hear anyone singing from their heart with or without a well trained maybe even a well trained pretentious sounding voice. Making a joyful “noise” unto the Lord can be done in many ways can’t it. Nice entry BEG.

  2. Excellent! As for me, my singing voice has stayed the same. I haven’t been able to carry a tune since I was a young girl. 🙂 I know because one morning (before I was twelve) I was in church sitting next to my cousin when she said, “If you would stop singing, I could carry a tune.” 🙂 It’s also why I got speaking parts in school musicals instead of being part of any singing group. 

  3. I loved this!Also can relate to it.   My voice may or may not be OK,  I’ve even been asked to come up and sing at a coffee house –  and invited back other times, but since I can’t hear my voice as others do, I can’t honestly assess its quality.   I really enjoy singing in a choir!   However, there have been times, I’m sure, when I had thought I was doing a great job for the Lord (not necessarily in singing) when what I was doing did not contribute all that much, or was detrimental to the whole.   Thanks!

  4. I laughed out loud more than once as I read this, even when I read Doris’s comment! Those made-of-iron double knit dresses – how many of those miraculous things I made! I didn’t even know John was at Rosedale. He was at LMH and taught my personal evangelism class when I was a senior (class of ’69), then pastored at a number of churches in our home area over the years all of my adult life. So I guess he was at Rosedale in between there. I was reminded of a boy I had in my middle school chorus one year. He was SO LOUD and SO OFF, I seriously did not know what to do. Right before the Christmas program I took him aside and told him that he has such a good strong voice that it’s not blending in with everyone else’s softer voices, so could he try to sing just a bit softer? He was so flattered by my recognition of his good, strong voice that he readily toned it down! Whew!!And what a good lesson from that experience you had!

  5. I had somewhat the same sort of experience with the RBI chorale, only our director at the time was Lloyd Kauffman. He also is an excellent director. I was encouraged by him to try out and was amazed that I “made” it. We were practicing a particular number one day and I did feel like I was having a hard time hitting one particular note correctly, when he stopped us and had us stand in groups of all parts and he listened to us as we sang and was able to pick me out very easily. He fluttered his hand at me to raise the note a bit, as I was flatting it. I remedied it, but lost my courage to sing that note again for fear of singing it wrong and sound bad for everybody else.  I figured that the other 2nd. sopranos could carry that note for me and I wouldn’t be missed. 🙂 I really like the analogy you made with this sort of thing with what kind of noise we are making in the body of Christ. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this way.

  6. Singing has been a lifelong love for me, especially singing for my Lord.  When I was younger, I think I was pretty good for an uneducated voice.  My sister and I were asked to sing at church and at weddings, and I was praised by my choir teacher. But, I was never passionate enough to push toward anything professional – and I don’t even know if I was good enough.  Nowadays, I mostly sing with my family – I am blessed with a hubby, children, and in-law children with beautiful voices – and I feel I sound better singing in a group, although sweet folks at church still want me to sing solo occasionally.  I think they love me more than my singing!”What this world needs is a song of hope and comfort and peace and JESUS, not some self-righteous noise coming from a prideful heart.” This really spoke to me, and I pray that the Lord will work on me in this area, that I will not be a hindrence to the spreading of the gospel.  God bless you, Mary Ann.  

  7. I have always loved to sing, but I can tell my voice is aging. Always have a song in my heart or head if not on my lips. I love the last couple paragraphs. Sooo true. I’ll just make that resolution along with you, if you don’t mind.

  8. I really appreciated the analogy you made of the noise our Father must hear — so often from me, I fear.  I, too, miss the beautiful harmony of voices that used to be such a part of our worship.  When I do occasionally get into a group that still knows how to sing without the aid of instruments I feel like I’m getting a little taste of heaven!  It’s not so much the use of instruments that hinders my appreciation, it’s the fact that the instruments tend to overpower the vocals.

  9. I think we all had those moments in choirs………good word of analogy!!!  Oh for the voice of my earlier years!  I will be observant of my mouth noise…….hopefully the melody of my heart is honoring as well.

  10. What a nice analogy!  Yes, we must all be careful the noise we make.

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