My eleven year-old daughter, Rachel, has wanted to play the harp for as long as she can remember. When the twins were very little, Amy Shreve, a Nashville-based harpist and songwriter, played at our church, and we purchased her CDs. So Rachel and Paige would often go to bed listening to her harp music, and somewhere between the bedtime stories and dawn’s breaking, Rachel’s dream to play the harp was born.
Recently, Amy and her husband Gary toured through northern California and played at my church. It was a God-breathed service, as they helped lead worship in a very intimate in-the-round venue. After the service, Amy was gracious enough to allow Rachel and Paige the opportunity to sit behind her harp and play it. As Rachel sat at this beautiful concert harp, gently strumming the strings, I could sense a rightness in the moment—her Mona Lisa smile, her wide-eyed wonderment, an internal contentment in her soul, and the beautiful sounds that immersed us. She told me later that she felt an indescribable peace in her heart when she played it.
I think I understood what she meant by that, because I have felt that same feeling at the piano ever since I was a little kid. Playing the harp was a God moment for her.
Harps are tuned to a major scale; the strings are essentially similar to the white keys on a piano. So there are no “wrong” notes. Practically every string you touch sounds good. There is a famous Far Side cartoon, a two-panel Gary Larson masterpiece, which states simply: “Welcome to heaven, here’s your harp” and “Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion.” I can attest that the cartoon is at least half true.
A week later, I found myself driving us down to the only music store in town that rents harps. And we chose a larger starter model for her to begin to play. On the long, quiet drive back, I had a flashback of all the sacrifices my parents made to allow me to play the piano. Thousands of dollars in lessons, recitals in far away places, even the extravagant purchase of my first electric piano in college. Every child needs to find affirmation in something they are genuinely good at, I think. I pray that for my children all the time. I prayed that for Rachel that day.
It was early the next morning. An ethereal sound gently awoke me from heavy slumber. Like the voices of angels. It was Rachel, playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on her new harp.
Welcome to heaven.