A Song I Can Sing

Music has always been my go to touchstone with God. Sometimes when the requisite reading of scripture doesn’t serve up the desired comfort/blessing/encouragement or (insert the current felt need here), worship music can usually connect with my spirit and bring a satisfactory satiation of that longing for contact with God.

That’s why the following experience rocked me in a way that caused me to evaluate my dependence on a song to make me feel good; to meet my needs.

It is so hard to face the fact that it’s not about me. It never has been but I act like it is. But can I go through the withdrawals and dependencies on a predictable formula for relationship with God without the hard work of investing time and honoring Him just because He is worthy. It is all about Him.


 

Church was nearly over. The pastor handed me songbook and asked me to find one to sing before dismissing the meeting. I opened the hymnal and proceeded to look for an appropriate closing song.

As I leafed through the pages I noticed that none of them were familiar to me. I didn’t know any of them! There were lots of songs. Many were old, old obscure hymns extolling the virtues of the faith. Some were deep theological truths set to music.

Others seemed to concentrate on the beauties of nature; how the robin’s song echoes the glories of God and creation shows His handiwork. But I couldn’t sing any of them because I didn’t know them.

By this time the pastor had slid onto the piano bench to accompany the singing. I turned to him. “I don’t know any of these songs; I can’t sing them,” I said.

“Oh, I know lots of songs from that book. There are some good ones,” he said.

“But I can’t sing them because I don’t know them,” I insisted. I looked again, but it was no use. Nothing was familiar;

I had no song that I could sing.

I woke up. A song that I knew well had been in my mind and heart for about a week. I found it on YouTube and played it.

Tears came quickly. This, this was a song I could sing. “To Him Who Sits on the Throne and Unto the Lamb, Be Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power Forever!”

My ability to find a song in life has usually been a process but never lost for long. With the ups and downs of typical spiritual struggles and victories, there have been those high, joyous experiences with God of emotional exuberance.

There have been times of wrestling with self and the dark night of the soul. In time though, the sun would break through and a song would lift me out of seeming despair.

Now here, at the ending of the service; perhaps a metaphor of the late summer of my life, I found myself unable to find a song. Except that the only song I can sing is one extolling His praises.

It is not one found in a codified hymnal disconnected from the realities of life. Not a song about God but a song to God.

It turns the attention away from me and the facts of what I know, or don’t know, and in spite of that gives praise to Him Who sits on the Throne.

Heart-Burn

You’ve heard that story of Moses . . . you know, the guy whose mom put him in a small basket-boat and floated him down the river when she couldn’t protect him anymore. Long story that ensued but many years later he winds up watching a herd of sheep on the back side of a desert (not sure if the front side was any more attractive).

Anyway, he is strolling along wondering when he will ever get a job promotion when he sees a bush up ahead on fire. He walks over to take a look. Probably the most excitement he’s had in weeks. As he approaches he hears a voice calling out his name. Now this is really unusual, to understate the event, and Moses realizes he is being confronted by the voice of God.

Lots of things to observe here and the story gets pretty bizarre. But I want to stop and ask a wierd question. Have you ever been around God? Ever hear him talk to you? How about a strong Presence that you thought and felt must be what God would feel like.

Most of us who have been around churches and spiritual people have at one time or another had an encounter with God or at least an experience of inner awakening. Do you remember?

Did His Spirit move you; change your pre-conceived notion of the existence or of your relationship with the King of the Universe?

What did He sound like? What did He feel like? How did YOU feel? Did the experience make you DO anything or act any particular way? Does an encounter like that cause or invoke an anticipation within to let it happen again? Was it a scary event?

There have been a few times in my life when I clearly felt His presence that caused a life course change. That is, I knew that I wanted to feel that way again, I wanted to live so I would not be a stranger to that presence.

Yes, I know “God is always with us.” What I want to call attention to is that moment when all other stuff of importance loses color in the warm brilliance of Shalom love. Your demeanor softens, a peaceful boldness comes over and around you. Your heart swells with anticipation as you welcome the largeness of a Presence your spirit longs for–but maybe didn’t know it was missing.

Some friends of Jesus felt this shortly after losing his physical presence in death to despicable murder. They were grieving the loss as they walked together and tried to recall how things used to be.

A fellow traveler joined with them and listened to their sad story. As he shared clips of OT scripture with them, they felt better, even encouraged. They liked what this stranger told them; how they felt with him around. He was so affirming and their spirits were lifted. “Say, won’t you stay for dinner,” one of them suggested.

The stranger agreed and as they laid back on their pillows to eat he broke the bread into pieces and shared it with them. Then the lightning struck! Their hearts swelled, like yours has done. His Presence was expressed in a warm and gentle aura that lingered as He disappeared.

They looked at each other and instantly knew they had been set up for a God moment, a visit from the King. I think this had to be the “ahh-ha” moment of the century.

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭32‬ NLT)

Immediately they jumped up and ran the seven miles back to Jerusalem to find the rest of their posse.

Now, do you remember a moment or two like that? Do you still long for more moments like that or have you forgotten how they can jumpstart your faith? I know we don’t live in those moments very often or very long but we can live FOR those times.

Yes, God is always with us. We do live by faith when we can’t see or feel His Presence. But deep within us is a fire that needs to breathe the oxygen of His Spirit.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah had decided he was through trying to speak for God. No one listened anymore, no one cared about God’s laws, the poor or moral values. Greed consumed the culture. They were religious but not godly. He was just done! Sound like a familiar environment?

“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭20‬:‭9‬ NLT)

They don’t know it but our communities are ripe for a visit from God. The Kingdom wants to move into your and my neighborhood. And I would guess you are ready for another visit, too. You can participate in a ground swell of His Kingdom coming by hosting His Presence. Amazing Grace will result as culture changes to welcome Him.

Here is a clip from AND: Gathered and Scattered.

“People long for these experiences where their hearts will burn again. Start by inviting them into some experiences they haven’t had before (or for a very long time). The experiences don’t have to be hard or push them too far; rather, just enough to have them say or think to themselves, ‘That was pretty cool; I think I saw God show up.'”

Maybe you won’t see a bush burn like Moses but his entire nation was moved because of his encounter with God.

If God showed up and gave one of us, or several of us heartburn maybe our nation . . .

Bringing in the “trash”ed

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  -Frederich Buechner

I want you to recall with me that moment or hour where the world stopped. You know when I mean. There was a divine appointment waiting and the faithful Spirit nudged you. At first there was hesitation. What? Really? Serious? But that’s the job of “The Ministry.” Your ego blushed with the thought of embarrassment. Was that kick in the seat really necessary, or even legitimate? Yeah, you needed it. After all, this idea taking shape in your consciousness is way outside the proverbial box. You needed to call someone and meet with them because they needed you.

The phone call was less than satisfying–at least it seemed so. Yes, you could come by but you sensed apprehension at the other end; or maybe a low grade fear. Then panic surfaced in you. “Oh why did I do that?”

In a tentative move forward you approached them. As you gently probed to assess the reception potential your spirit seemed to affirm your boldness. As you talked, you gained a holy confidence and you sensed inner agreement coupled with joy that you just might have heard right.

I have experienced this a few times. On one occasion I called my friend who had just been trashed by the church. I didn’t know details about what had happened but for some reason, I felt he was vulnerable and might even be tempted to abandon his faith. His faithfulness to the system was total, unquestioned loyalty but the system had yielded a final rejection that left him metaphorically swimming in dark, smelly . . . uh, mud. As I drove to his place of business, I second and third guessed this crazy impulse.

He was understandably wary at first. You need to understand that the system we both knew well didn’t condone questions about the system or its decisions. All authority rested with and was wielded by the leaders.

We talked. I encouraged him. Then he and his wife visited my church with me. In time, God lifted him up out of that dark place through a community of love and corporate worship. I still remember looking over at him, his face wet with tears as God washed away pain and rejection. The last time I saw him he reminded me of that day when despair and disappointment lost the battle against Spirit driven love and compassion.

So, you’ve had a moment like that, haven’t you? What did it do to you and for you?

There is a deep, deep hunger in our communities. Oh, it is masked by overt consumerism, leisure, constant business, and entertainment and negative activities like addictions. Anything to keep the mind occupied and avoid facing the empty-ness. Can you hear the deafening quiet of disillusioned, unfulfilled existences?

There is a place where time seems to stop. Where your true calling meets a need pointed out to you by the ever faithful Spirit. I am convinced I pass by these needs every day but I am oblivious or otherwise (read self-focused) occupied.

The Main Street on which the Kingdom of God travels is love. I think love is inert and incomplete when alone or has no object of affection. Love is ordained to be (big, misunderstood word coming) sanctified (perfectly complete or whole) when unconditionally lavished on another. I know from my own flawed existence that it is difficult, if not impossible, to love self-less-ly without Holy Spirit because my nature screams for primary care and feeding.

You might have guessed, I believe we are ALL “The Ministry.” By definition a minister is a servant. Love is the motivation for Spirit-led service. If love is “out of character” for you then get it into your character, then you won’t be a character but carry-er of Shalom, the evidence and presence of the Kingdom of God.