Sarah Hart recalled that her grandfather was a lovely man with a servant’s heart who always turned strangers into friends. But one day, during the last few years of his life, they were talking on the phone and she realized he sounded out of sorts.
“Are you grumpy, Grandpa?” Sarah asked him.
He acknowledged that he had gotten a little crotchety lately and that he’d even yelled at somebody that day. Sarah told him, “That’s so not like you.”
The message registered, so a few days later, Grandpa called her back to say he had found a solution to his problem. Using the old style printer paper that still had holes on the side, he made himself a banner that read, “Be Nice” and hung it over the door so it was the last thing he saw before he left the house. It proved to be a reminder that worked, and the phrase “Be nice” even became a family mantra for the Harts.
So when Sarah was working on songs for her latest album, entitled “And Lovely It Is,” she turned the words “Be Nice” into a song – not just because of her grandfather, though.
During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, Sarah told me, “I wrote it right before the 2016 presidential election when everybody was being so mean to each other, and I just couldn’t take it. Songwriters are lovers, not fighters, but our weapons are the pen and the melody. So my weapon was to write a song about the fact that we should work on our civility, our kindness.”
Though Sarah is a Grammy-nominated Christian music mainstay, “And Lovely It Is” is outwardly more secular, inspired by her love of her daughters Rose and Evelyn, husband Kevin, and other family members and friends. Implicitly, however, the light of the divine is reflected on the album’s songs in various ways.
Sarah notes, “I’m very much of the school that the Lord is in all things…And we as believers, if we have that in our hearts…then our hearts can’t help but radiate it.”
For instance, Sarah dedicates the song “Do No Harm” to her daughter Rose “who makes courage and kindness look effortless.” The lyrics include:
Baby, this world is on fire
But don’t you give it any fuel.
Be water to the flames,
Dear, with your sweet song.
Only love can douse the anger and the hurt
Draw the seed of hope out of the ash and dirt.
Oh, my darling, do no harm.
It’s evident from that song and others that not only do Sarah’s daughters admire her, but that she looks up to them. “Rose had a rough few years in high school,” Sarah explained, “and she came out the other side with great joy and great beauty….I always tell people that our children are not just children. They are prophets. They’re prophets standing in our midst, ready to teach us all the time…Rose has taught me a lot about bravery, kindness, and loving others.”
The track “Someday” is dedicated to both Rose and Evelyn, and its message can apply to anyone’s children. After a rough week at school, one of her girls sat down with Sarah, started sobbing, and asked, “Mom, how long before I figure life out?”
Sarah sat there thinking, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have it figured out!”
But the girl wanted a number, so Sarah responded, “Maybe I was 35 when I felt like I started to get a picture [of life].”
The girl screamed, “35??!! I’m not going to make it!”
Sarah explained, “So [the song “Someday”] came out of the knowledge that our young people have a hard time seeing beyond the day. It’s just something that comes along with being a teenager. Your world is that moment, your world is that day. It’s difficult for you to look ahead to the future and see that God has a very long plan and purpose for your life. So I wanted to write a song to let my kids know, ‘You will see, you will understand…that God has you and your life in the palm of His hand. It will be made evident to you…And I will be the first one cheering you on when you finally get to that moment when you recognize how important and vital you are to the work of the Lord in the kingdom of God.'”
Some songs, of course, are meant to simply inspire joy in the listener, as is the case with the track “C’est La Vie.” Joy doesn’t always get the attention it deserves when it comes to living a fully Christian life, but Sarah hopes to change that. She said, “[Christian] music doesn’t have to just be sackcloth and ashes and seriousness. [Music] is a beautiful gift that God gave us, and sometimes it’s intended for fun.”
In order to tap into this spirit of joy, Sarah made one major change in her life: she stopped watching the news on TV or listening to it on the radio because they “have a tendency to report on nothing but the negative.” To stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, she will read some stories, but she refuses to go back to being a full-fledged consumer of all media.
Sarah said, “It’s amazing the effect that [a news fast] has had on my spirit. I think there’s something that happens in the way that you look at other human beings when you’re not constantly hearing every day about how bad human beings can be, when you’re not constantly being filled up with all the bad things humanity can do. Instead, [you’re] looking at people and trying to see the face of God in that person and just be one-to-one communicating with people and loving people in the world. That has really changed me. So I highly recommend it. Don’t listen to the news. If you need to know something, read it. But listen to good things instead. Like ‘Christopher Closeup.'”
(To listen to my full interview with Sarah Hart, click on the podcast link):