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All That Was Lost

By Michael Card

Why are you crying?

Who are you looking for?

This is a graveyard.

Were you expecting more?

 

You feel abandoned,

Like every hope has died,

The death of all your dreams –

This is the price of life:

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

There stands the Stranger

There on the flowering slope.

The Servant waits for you

In a garden of hope.

 

Do you perceive now?

And have your eyes been cleared?

Have they been opened?

Have they been washed by tears?

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

So run and tell all

Those who have longed to hear:

The wait is over;

The risen Savior’s here.

 

Jesus asked the question a few times.  “Who are you looking for?”  Or “What do you want?”  Even though He already knew, He asked because He wanted us to know why we were seeking.  And isn’t that exciting, that God sent angels to people at the tomb who weren’t seeking YHWH for that which they wanted?  He doesn’t always wait for us to come to Him; praise His mercy!

 

Who am I looking for?  I take a moment to remember what has awakened this longing in me that drives me to my tired knees, crying again, playing this song on repeat in my car’s stereo.  I don’t think we’d really cry unless we had hope.  Hope knows pain doesn’t have to be, doesn’t have to endure; but it is here anyway, and how do we reconcile the goodness of God with that pain?  I know it: I am looking for Jesus because there is no one else who has the words of life; no one else worthy of putting my hope in.  And I’m looking for Him because I have tasted of Him, but I am so aware that I just don’t understand what He’s up to.  I wish I knew Him better.

 

As I meditate on the lyrics, I change my mind about “this is the price of life.”  Does it mean there will be sadness in all of life so much as it means this tomb is the price of making us spiritually alive?  Jesus had to die.  We shouldn’t despair when God is accomplishing His purposes.  Our Hope had to die (and rise again) to give us life.  Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, it isn’t until it dies that it brings forth abundant and multiplying life.  Redemption wasn’t free.

 

Jesus purchased me for freedom.  I’m swimming in what it means to be redeemed to be free, but still to be His even in my liberty.  In the very least, it feels good to be claimed, to be bought at a price.  It reminds me of Hosea, who bought his wife back from self-imposed slavery.  He set her free.  Andrew Peterson’s song, Hosea, describes the scene when Israel saw that her abandoned wilderness was turned into a valley, a garden of hope.

 

He will find all that was lost.  Even though our old hopes have died, they were not in vain.  Whatever is sown will be reaped.  YHWH is Redeemer, who restores the years the locusts have eaten.  He keeps my every tear in a bottle – not one is unnoticed by Him.  In Him even lesser hopes are resurrected, but in His hands, His ways, His glory.

 

Having lived life in hope, having built expectations of our own about who God is and what He will do, the God after the death, after the resurrection, can be a Stranger to us.  I don’t understand Him.  I am surprised, maybe even hurt, by His ways.  But the grief, the letting go of my own hopes, has emptied me to meet this Stranger on His ground.  And His ground is flowering and good.

 

I am flattened that Jesus waits for me.  He is the Servant, delighting to serve and to give and to lay down His own life for my sake.  He wants me to know Him and experience His love.  In fact, this is the best love story ever.

 

The tears over my lost agenda, my way, my understanding, have given way to humility.  My God draws near to the humble – really, really near.  My eyes are opened to see Him as He is, to receive from Him His own good gifts.  Hope is resurrected into something that is not about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

The chorus makes me rejoice for my Savior.  Titus 2:14 says that He has “redeemed us from every lawless deed and purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  He is the widow who celebrates finding her lost coin.  The desire of His heart is realized when He redeems us for Himself.

 

In the Gospels the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection hurried to tell others.  They’d been waiting for atonement and freedom their whole lives. Israelhad been waiting for Immanuel.  When Jesus was born, Anna hurried to tell those she knew who were looking for Messiah’s coming.  After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting the duration of the Sabbath, unable to work themselves, a picture of their complete dependence on God’s ability to cleanse them and make them alive.

 

For someone who has hungered and hoped and longed and persevered, are there any more refreshing words than “The wait is over”?

 

Over” doesn’t mean that life is over.  Consummation only begins the marriage.  Christians are the living Bride of the Living Christ.  Our life is hopeful.  It has to do with bearing fruit.  I am called to walk under the assurance of the Resurrection.  Faith and hope are limited only by the revelation of the all-good, all-mighty, death-conquering God.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was looking for a CD to listen to last night, a sermon that, ironically, encourages Christians to turn the world upside down with the plan, “We’re going to go out there and DIE.”  He speaks from Galatians of dying to self.  But the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church (another reminder given me this week, from a Facebook friend).  On my way to finding that CD, I found another one.  This one is by Andrew Peterson who has been one of my new favorite artists the past 7 or 8 months.  Mom bought it for me for my birthday in December, and through circumstances didn’t give it to me until February, when I listened to it once or twice and wasn’t that interested.  The title?  “Resurrection Letters, Volume II”  I took that as a sign, and am listening to it at work today.

Actually, I am eager to share more, so I’ll tell you.  I lost the CD, in my room, while preparing for work this morning.  I looked all over for it.  Where could I have set it down?  Desk? No.  Bed? No.  Stack of jackets?  No.  Dresser?  No.  Where did it go?  I sat down to pull on my boots and decided to ask God to help me find it.  I got about as far as “Lord,” when I looked up and, blending in among boxes and shelves and cubbies on the second tier of my dresser right at eye level, was the CD.  “Thanks.”

Next, I got to work, put in the CD, and it wouldn’t play.  Well, it was playing, but I couldn’t hear it.  Our speakers at work have been fading for a while, and I haven’t even tried to play a CD in some time.  But some system sounds were working in the past month, at least on and off, so I figured I would try.  When it wasn’t producing sound, I was really disappointed.  This CD is something I need to hear, today.  So I started troubleshooting.  It turns out that the only problem was a loose cord connecting the speaker to the CPU.

So I’m listening to the Andrew Peterson CD at work, the Michael Card CD in my car.  Pondering resurrection and hope.  And crying out for the Spirit to move, mightily, in my life.  Use me to turn this world upside down.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Michael Card has a new album out, all from the Gospel of Luke.  The subtitle is “A World Turned Upside Down” and the corresponding book is “Gospel of Amazement.”  The two songs I like the best are “What Sort of Song?” and “A Breath of a Prayer.”  Another song, “Pain and Persistence of Doubt,” accuses the characters in the gospel, and those who hear the song, of clinging to doubt and rejecting hope.  Quoting the angels at the tomb, Michael Card sings: “Why search for the living here among the dead; can’t you see that He’s simply not here?”  I want to defend myself, defend them.  Jesus was dead.  Crucified.  Dead seems pretty hopeless.  And you’re condemning us for not hoping?  Hope is one thing when we’re wishing, when something is going wrong, when someone is just sick.  But shall we believe delusions and run and tell everyone and pray for things that are impossible?

Hope hurts.  Resurrection is only amazing because death is real.  When you hope for another outcome, especially after death already

is

the

outcome,

you’re setting yourself up for painful disappointment.  Who can be blamed for accepting reality?  Building a life on what happened before instead of on what might happen, on cryptic words and promises?

In Jesus’ case, it didn’t matter that no one was hoping for His resurrection.  He had it taken care of, and would raise Himself from the dead because He had promised it;  because His resurrection proved He had conquered sin and death.  When Jesus raised Lazarus, and the few other people during His earthly ministry, He surprised believers with His choice to wait, to not grieve, to touch and command the dead.  None of the outcomes were dependent on human faith.  Whether the family or disciples hoped or not, Jesus was going to act.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend was telling me about a book the other day.  She said that in the first page not only had the author stated his thesis; he had also persuaded her of its truth.  The following hundred fifty pages were spent reiterating the point and adding evidence with which to convict the audience of the need for the final third of his book, advice for applying the concept.  My friend has always been more interested in writing that was more practical than philosophical, and essentially agreed with the premise of this book before she began to read it.  So she sloughed through the repetitive, unnecessary chapters getting quite bored and wondering if the book was worth her time. 

And today, while I pondered her conversational book review, I realized something.  When I read, I cannot wait to share what I have learned with someone else.  I want to discuss the statements, to criticize them or exult in them, to take every piece of information from the book and draw conclusions from it.  I am rather bored by a book that is a list of how-to steps, because inevitably my situation is omitted, and I chafe under the restrictions of specifics.  As a little girl playing with legos, I always altered the instructions that came with the little car kits.  During a lecture, I much prefer taking my own notes to filling in blanks.  When I read, I am not merely receiving what the author intended; I am springboarding from there to further conclusions, adding the information to everything else I know and experience, in order to richly apply the new ideas. 

Not only am I blending each new piece of media with the others of my experience; I am contributing to the community knowledge and awareness.  Were I to read the book my friend was describing, I would not only be gaining information useful for my life, but also things that I could transfer to my friends, some of whom might benefit from all those tedious persuasion points.  I could write about the subject here (except I already have, when I read reviews of the same book by other bloggers – sharing their knowledge with their community).  Think about reviews and quotes, the work of one man in reading an entire volume in order to bring you a concise summary and sample. 

Have you an idea of the impact on your world when you read a book or watch a movie or listen to a song – or even have an experience?  We are, when living in community, all something like the feared and almost unstoppable Borg of Star Trek invention.  Our understanding is assimilated into a collective.  Except in our case, instead of our brains being hacked and joined to an impersonal super-computer, we are a collective by reason of our relationships: our compassion for others, and wisdom in choosing when to share and what.  Communication is key. 

Imagine a person who was reading, thinking, watching, and living – but who never communicated any of what he learned.  Though his experiences would shape him and his decisions and so impact the people around him, how much more could they all benefit if he was using his time not selfishly, but for what it could offer neighbors, family, and friends?  What I do not have time to read, watch, or do might be in the realm of the experiences of my acquaintance, who could give me the relevant parts or the most interesting parts. 

Worse than someone who will not communicate is a passive member of the community.  All he does is absorb media, blinking at a screen, fiddling with a video game, settling for mediocrity in all of his pursuits, never aspiring to innovation or improvement.  Such a person is not contributing to the community, is wasting his potential, while benefiting like a parasite from the efforts of others.  Even if he is a hermit, excluding himself from the community, by residing in the vicinity of communities (even in a macro situation like the large geography of a state or country) he will be the recipient of at least a few good things brought about by the selfless enterprise of others.  A country is strong when the people are united.  It will be profitable, creative, defensive, and resilient. 

So, too, is a church that is united.  God did not place His children as individual hermits to meditate on Him and reach full potential of godliness, testimony, or understanding.  He placed us as a people, in an organism called the church, made up of many members that the world may see our love in community, proclaiming not that God is near them, nor that God is in them, but that God is truly among them.  It is almost redundant to say that church is community.  But it is counterintuitive to today’s citizen.  He is taught to think of church as an institution, a collection of programs and “services,” which the religious attend and in which they ritually participate. 

The Bible teaches that the people redeemed by Christ’s grace are to walk in the Spirit, to live by faith, praying without ceasing.  We are saved individually, each bearing God’s image, each a man for whom Jesus gave His Life.  But that salvation and faith and Spirit pours into the collective when the “members” gather.  Then that which a person has read, learned, or experienced should be brought forward and discussed: questioned, projected, contrasted, added to the knowledge and circumstances of others, and then applied.  What esteem we should have for those with whom we fellowship, embracing their words whether encouraging or correcting, for we are all benefiting from the voice of God on many ears! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I once heard a refutation of the idea that music isn’t important; only lyrics are.  A pianist sat on his bench and told us to close our eyes, picturing Cinderella in her ball gown.  He played a gentle waltz while he kept describing her meeting the prince, taking his hand, and beginning to dance.  But while he talked, the music changed into the eerie, dark whine of a scary movie soundtrack.  Then all of a sudden, the music went choppy and light, high little notes running like ballerina steps across my imagination, erasing all attempts to keep Cinderella there in my mind’s eye.  Like a dream where rationality leaves you to the whim of memory’s slideshow on random, shaped into a story, the music carried me beyond any intention of feeling or thought. 

When discussing the pro’s and con’s of speaking in tongues, Paul offered this interesting illustration:  “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”  Sounds matter.  We interpret sounds.  For the music to have any purpose, it has to do something to us. 

And music does affect us.  There is soothing music, rousing music, happy music, sad music, romantic music, even angry music.  The music and its effects are amoral.  There is nothing good or evil about a certain tune.  However, there are several ways to affect the morality of a song.  Most obvious is adding lyrics with a moral content.  If a tune is associated with a certain immoral practice or belief, its impact on people familiar with it cannot be edifying.  Also, if the volume or other special effects cause physical pain (headaches, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing), that music is immoral.  Finally, when a style of music is brought into an inappropriate circumstance, it can be wrong.  Take Cinderella.  To play the full moon music while she is dancing is not helpful.  Or the situation could be worse.  Times exist for everything under heaven, including anger, but when one has no right to be angry, listening to angry music encourages a mood of violence rather than forgiveness or peace. 

To believe that music is powerless, that a song is ok as long as its lyrics are not wicked, is dangerous.  I have known unsuspecting young people who begin to listen to a style of music that is heavy and dark, depressed and angry.  They do not expect to be affected by the music, but gradually they settle into a mood that mirrors their music, until the music is the creator and true expression of their identity.  I invite you to imagine what happens when a teenager becomes constantly depressed and angry.  Relationships are ruined.  Schoolwork fails.  They are tempted into further association with the dark and the violent. 

Why the obsession with loud music?  I don’t necessarily mean the music so loud and disorderly that the cacophony directs the listener to insanity.  I’m talking about simple volume.  God calls us to be sober, to do everything heartily.  Passive entertainment, I contend, is not godly.  I believe we should interact with our music, not have it attack us.  If ears are in pain, why not turn it down?  And whether there is pain at individual notes, if the over all tension of the music gives headaches, why endure such torment?  When the bass is so strong that it seems to have gotten way beyond modesty and penetrated your skin, pounding against your organs, why pursue that style of music?  Is it that we have become numb, our relational experience leaving us unable to feel without stimulation – even painful stimulation? 

Music can be employed to direct moods.  David played his harp for Saul and cured his fits of temper.  A romantic dinner is that much more romantic if the violins play sweetly in the background.  Carnivals play fast, fun music to heighten the sense of wonder.  Who doesn’t appreciate a good movie soundtrack? 

One common use of music is in “worship,” the part of a traditional church service in which praises, testimonials, or encouragements are offered in the form of songs.  Worship is in vogue right now, the subject of dozens of books, conferences, and contemporary Christian music CD’s.  Churches are trying hard to create worship experiences.  Bands practice during the week and present their “worship” concerts complete with strobe lights, smoke, bass guitars, drums, and exciting videos with the words scrolling across for the audience to sing along.    Some churches light candles.  All this to get people in the mood to worship.  A more energetic band will get the audience to jump up and down and to clap its praise.  The contemplative environment with little altars for worshiping through pottery-making or painting or eating crackers and drinking juice, lit by soft scented candles is more likely to evoke tears.  Either way the people walk away with an experience, feeling that they have been through something important that touched their heart. 

Is that what worship should look like?  Is that even worship?  What is the purpose of worship, and what styles of music and other arts are aligned with those objectives?  What about worship together?  Isn’t the point to be with each other, rather than isolated by volume and darkness?  When creating an “environment conducive to worship,” should churches manipulate people into energies and emotions not already inspired by meeting, knowing, and walking with Almighty God?  If we as people are not willing to lift up our voices in thanksgiving and praise, lament and victory to our God – without being drowned out by the drums and the pervading bass – are we not merely flattering God? 

How dangerous is it to do worship our way, in a way we enjoy and in which we are gifted?  What if those ways detract from the purposes on which worship is built?  Is the focus on God or on the band or on the audience?  I have heard worship described as therapy.  Should we participate for healing and comfort, for strengthening?  What sorts?  We know that offering worship their own way caused the death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron the priest.  Did God give any sort of specific instruction, example, or definition which we might be profaning through our creative expressions?  Should we sing in church?  Are those melodies to be directed as praises, or as encouragement to those around us? 

I am concerned at how many gifted musicians use the gathering of Christians to springboard into a musical career.  If the band is supposed to be leading worship – an endeavor doubtful in its biblical foundations already – what are they doing with microphones and amps that power over the congregation’s voices?  Why sell CD’s and t-shirts boasting the band’s name?  Is this about people bringing the sacrifice of praise, or about people having a good time and enjoying a concert?  Can bad or inappropriate music prevent an atmosphere conducive to worship? 

The Psalms direct the whole earth to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  How can we reject anyone’s joyful offering?  Is everything we “enjoy” joyful?  Perhaps the screaming and growling sometimes passed off as singing is fun for those doing it.  So might be roller coaster rides or even the thrill of stealing candy at the grocery store register, but those things are not considered to be worship. 

Music is powerful.  God is mighty.  Worship is meaningful.  God is worthy. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What would you say is the definition of Christian music? 
 
Now break that down.  What is the definition of Christian? 
 
What is the definition of music? 
 
Do you see why the last two questions are important? 
 
Does “Christian music” functionally (in real life) have anything to do with Christianity or music? 
 
What place does Christian music have in your life?  What place should it have?  How can it be good?  How can it be bad? 
 
Can secular music target the same points? 
 
What does Christian music have to do with worship? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 
 
PS: I was talking with some friends tonight, and one said she doesn’t like worship bands.  I said I don’t like worship bands, or choirs, or worship leaders.  Good friends that they are, they let me qualify: I actually like quite a lot of worship leaders (can’t help it; they’re usually creative talented people passionate about God and seeing Him glorified); I just don’t like the position of worship leader/worship pastor.  Case in point for the rest of this post. 

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I want to write about things that mean a lot to me: ideas that keep me going or inspire me.  But some things are too close, too dear, for words. 
 
Today I wanted to write stories, but when I tried to form sentences I realized all I want to do is practice.  Don’t write; do.  And I want to do coy debates and romance and being a wife to an incredibly faith-filled man.  As that is clearly not God’s plan for my day, I had to ask what to do with this surge of inspiration.  I’m emotional today, and I need a vent for all this rapture. 
 
So on my way home from work I looked at the sky (stubbornly trying to rationalize how I could be grateful the sun wasn’t down while still hating Daylight Savings Time).  I want to own this day.  A photo wouldn’t capture it, and a painter would have to be a master to get even one glimpse of this day right.  The sun lit the dark blue clouds in the east, intensifying their color and varnishing them with a glorious haze.  Between the clouds and me were trees, still bare from the cold of winter, every twig illuminated separately.  Where the light didn’t reach, the shadow asserted itself with depth and variance and character.  The little whiter clouds nearer the zenith blew in and out of formation, constantly contrasting with the colors and shapes around them.  Praise God who created shape and color! 
 
And it was all a gift to me.  Songs I have not sung in months came to mind, and I sang of my Savior coming for me.  “Hear the roaring at the rim of the world… Behold He’s coming with the clouds.”  The clouds and glimmering landscape captured my eye and imagination, as though cracking the door open on the edge of the world.  I sang of who my Savior is, what He did on earth, and of His passion.  And then I dreamed again of when He will come back.  “I saw the holy city… and now our God will dwell with them.” 
 
And this is all about waiting, and love, and faithfulness, and longing, and worship, and beauty, and glory.  I want to write how I feel at those times, and what I know, and the million connections being made between the things I know about my God… but I can’t.  For now the topics that mean the most, that are most gifts of God, must stay that.  I pray that someday He will call me to share them, and bless me with the words I don’t have today. 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
PS: Michael Card’s Unveiled Hope album is a soundtrack to Revelation, and a soaring symphony to the King on His White Horse coming back for me. 

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