I am only going to post one time this week, mainly because this past week has been a whirlwind and I am still trying to catch-up with everything. My family spent the weekend in Michigan singing with college friends, more on that to come. Monday was my birthday and thank you to all those who took the time to wish me a happy birthday. I always feel guilty on my birthday for not responding to daily Facebook alerts I receive telling me whose birthday it is today. Also, My sister and her five boys came to visit this week during their spring break. I haven’t seen my sister since 2013 and I haven’t ever spent quality time with my nephews, so we are having a good time. So, I’ll post one and get back to having fun with the kids.
This weekend, like every time I sing, I feel connected to God. I know some of you don’t sing or can’t sing, but think about that one thing you can rely on to connect. For me, it is singing. I connect to God, to people, and I remember my story through the songs that bring back memories and the people with whom I have shared those memories. As a chorus member, we would close every concert with the same song. So, for four years I sang the same song as a member of the Rochester College chorus. You would think I would be tired of that song, but quite the opposite. You see, when I am singing “Go Ye Now in Peace” I am in the midst of the people I love. I am a part of the whole of that song, and I can never get through the first line without welling up inside…and crying like a baby. Here are the lyrics to the song:
Go ye now in peace and know that the love of God will guide you.
Feel his presence here beside you, showing you the way.
In your time of trouble when hurt and despair are there to grieve you,
Know that the Lord will never leave you, He will bring you courage.
Know that the God who sent His Son to die that you might live,
Will never leave you lost and alone in His beloved world.
Go ye now in peace.
Go ye now in peace.
Go ye now in peace.
The song is by Joyce Elaine Eilers, and so I want to give her the proper credit. When I sing this song now, there are some friends missing because they are no longer with us in the journey of life. I have a friend who suffered the loss on her father at the hands of violence…and it was unfair to that family to have to go through that. I have another friend who lost his sister and we still don’t know all the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Not that knowing would make her absence hurt less. Life rolls on, kids are born. Some of us have more kids than expected, some have lost babies and suffered miscarriages, some have had some surprises. Life tends to throw the kitchen sink at us at times. I think that is why I’m glad to cry through this song when I depart this wonderful people. I won’t be there, but God will. I won’t know the words to say, but God knows how to speak to the heart. I will leave feeling awkward and leave many things unsaid, but God put His everything on the table for us. And through the ups and downs of life, God never leaves us lost and alone in His beloved world.
Therefore, you may want to search for this song on the internet and listen to it a few times this week. Yo may want to read the lyrics and remind yourself of the Lord’s presence. I will once again get lost in the busyness of life and wait for the next time I am surrounded by folks I love with everything I am, and I get to cry through another attempt at singing this song. And the thing is…this happens to me in worship all of the time. It happens at GracePointe, when I’m visiting White Station, and even on Sunday morning at Rochester (By the way—Adam Hill just flat out can preach…) Worship slows down life, and allows me to connect to God and His people I love. What a great weekend worshipping and remembering…I hope you worship, remember, and connect!
The other night I attended my daughters holiday music concert. She sang in the second grade chorus, but there were other groups including strings, band, and fifth grade chorus and choir. You know, if I’m candid with you I have to say that I have attended better concerts. Some of the performance was lackluster; notes were missed, entrances were shaky, and then there were young musicians playing stringed instruments…need I say more.
Yet, it is hard to compare unequal things even though we do it often. These kids were prepared to give it their best. They practiced and took instruments home. They learn hand motions and sign language to go along with their songs. And they were so joyful and proud of their efforts. What I liked was at the end of the concert, everyone stood up and gave the children a standing ovation. I joined in that, proud of my daughter and the kids who had put in the time and effort to do their best.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we think we are being applauded for our performance when we are actually being applauded for our effort. I realize that if I live for the applause of God, I am sure not hoping he compares me to others that are better than I am. If I could supply him with a list of persons who I think might make good comparisons, then we could perhaps go down this path. (Like trying to establish the price of the house you’re buying by looking at the worst prices in the neighborhood!)
God, please don’t compare to Jesus, or the martyrs, or some of the saints who have sacrificed so much to follow you! But what I want to assert is that God’s applause isn’t beckoned by perfection of performance, if that was the case then he would not recognize our achievements at all. You see, even the greatest achievements of the church and God’s people are still imperfect outcomes done by an imperfect people. I do believe God recognizes effort, however, and that is why God is so pleased and happy with us. When we give God “with all of our,” then he is proud of us. The Bible says to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. We need to practice and take the performance of this verse seriously, because Jesus prioritized it as the number one command. But even when our performance is dissonant and the wrong notes are played, it is the effort that God sees and it is the effort that God applauds.
There is little doubt that music moves people. There is something about the combination of lyric and rhythm, pitch and sound that connects to our innermost thoughts and feelings. Here are some thoughts about the effect of music:
“Music can change the world because it can change people.”
“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”
― Martin Luther
“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.”
― Colbie Caillat
I don’t really want to the question the idea of music’s power, but I want us to think about what it is that our music is persuading us of…or moving us towards. Let me explain. As we think about what we fill our hearts and minds with on a weekly and daily basis, what does our music applaud? Does the music we most often listen to speak highly of sex? How about sexual acts? How about sexual acts in the club with random hook-ups? How about the power of love? How about the pride of our nation? How about the life of luxury? How about the life of leisure? How about the city life? How about the country life? How about escaping your life? How about the violent life? How about the peaceful life? How about money? How about being unique and different? How about being angry? And the list goes and goes…
Does the music you listen to affect the way you engage the world—there is little doubt that it does…so, from a minister’s perspective let me say that our worship through music sets us on a particular trajectory, or in a particular frame of mind and heart. Now, I’m not trying to argue that love is evil or that we shouldn’t have some level of national pride…but I am trying to assert that music does have power and that power must be acknowledged and accepted…and perhaps even cautioned against!
The power of music is why it is an important part of our worship of God. And while you might be a hip hop, country, rap, alternative, pop, or classical fan; I hope and pray we are all listening to songs that praise God. David sings this in Psalm 59:
16 But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
a place of safety when I am in distress.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.
May the songs of our God always be in our hearts, in our minds, and upon our lips! And may the songs of other, lesser things diminish in comparison to our great God. In the words of a contemporary song:
How great is our God!
Sing with me,
How great is our God!
And all will see,
How great, how great is our God!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.