Thursday, February 25, 2016

A song for crying

I'm sad.  I've been sad a lot this week.  Heavy, heart-breaking sadness.  I've cried more in the past four days than I have in a long while.  Here's why:

  • Sunday morning I woke to the news of a random, horrific crime in my lovely hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Eight people had been shot and 6 of them were dead. Senseless, sudden, horrific loss.  
  • I'm in a FaceBook group that chose this week to share some of their painful stories of past tragedies. I'm humbled by their courage and tenacity, but saddened by the many different wounds that scar our lives: disease, betrayal, natural disasters, death. 
  • I played piano for a funeral.  It was a celebration of a life well-lived, but also a reminder of the brevity of life and the pain of loss.
  • A friend has suddenly been thrown into a life and death struggle with a mysterious illness.  
  • My kids have been hurt.  I weep when they weep. 

Along with tears of sorrow, this song of lament and hope has been my walking music through the grief.  The slow, tearful tune was made famous by Whitney Houston, and the text is based on Psalm 116:1-2. Verse two is not on the recording here, but it gives me hope.

Listen.  Weep.  Be comforted.

I love the Lord, he heard my cry and pitied every groan.
Long as I live and troubles rise, I'll hasten to his throne.

I love the Lord, he heard my cry and chased my grief away.
O let my heart no more despair while I have breath to pray. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Confession:   Telling the truth about our sinful thoughts, words and deeds in the context of God's unyielding holiness and inexaustible mercy. 

Confessing can be embarrassing and hard.  But we've found ways to soften the blow.  
It's often easier to confess my sins in a group--standing in the safety of the congregation all saying together, "forgive us for what we have done and for what we have left undone."  It covers all the bases, but we don't get too explicit about it.

I also don't mind talking just to God in private prayer about my personal and particular sins.  After all, God already knows me so well that nothing is a surprise to him. 

Then along come public worship songs (and some well-phrased prayers) that expose detailed sins that are current and common to individuals and congregations.  Life-styles, choices, actions, apathy, words and silence that testify against us.  

And they are true. 
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?     Ps. 130:3
Yet, we sing them.  Aloud! Together and alone because  
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
  and that’s why you’re worshiped.    Ps. 130:4

This song awakened in me the reality of my own sins and my participation in the communal brokenness around me.  Singing it with the congregation during the celebration of communion alerted me to the context of God's amazing grace and forgiveness.  

Lead Us Back is written by Bobby Gilles and Brooks Ritter and found on the album Before the Throne from Sojourners Community Church. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Walking Music for the Lenten Journey

I tried not to be insulted, but how dumb do they think I am?
It was just days into the New Year and I knew full well that starting an exercise program was a good idea.  I also already knew that walking was good exercise.  Then the teenage actor looked into the camera lens and, with all sincerity, announced a genius strategy to make exercise more enjoyable:  listen to music while walking!  Seriously?!  He smiled as if he and his little ipod just invented the latest and greatest fad.  Nope, that credit goes to my generation.  We called it a “Walkman!”

Last Wednesday night, I was reminded of that exercise public service announcement as we took our first steps on the Lenten journey.  The songs provided a beautiful sound track to walk through worship.  With tender tone and thoughtful lyrics, they inspired me to be faithful in the disciplined journey through the Lenten season.

This year, I’ll share my walking music with you for the Lenten Journey.  Listen in and share how these songs inspire you to focus on intimacy with God the Father, Son and Spirit as we walk toward the cross and empty tomb. 

This first song puts me in a posture of humble learning:  "Holy Spirit, living breath of God, breathe new life into my willing soul."  Make me ready and willing to be changed and moved, "lead us on the road of sacrifice."

written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Lenten walking is a good idea.  Listening to good music can make our journey more meaningful.  Tell me how this song helps those first few steps of the walk.