Finding the music you love

Songs of the 70’s hold a special passion for me, perhaps because it’s when I came into adulthood.  Put a swoony love song next to some old fashioned rock-n-roll and I had music to cover the range of emotions of a young adult woman coming into bloom.  Then my taste got lost.  What happened?

It almost doesn’t matter.  I lived a bit of a double life for about a decade after graduating high school:  college student/working professional by day and party girl with friends on the weekends.  The latter covered everything with a disco beat anyways as my personal life unraveled.  Then I got saved.  What happened next left me lost on the radio dial.  Which songs was I supposed to listen to now?

The answer to that question took another half of a lifetime to answer.  Amy Grant was the artist for my first Christian CD followed by Russ Taff and others.  Christmas recordings were easy to select since well, the popular and Christian music are really o.k. no matter where or who you are with most of the time.  Then I started working out.  The worship or pop hits with clean lyrics just didn’t get me moving.  What to listen to  was a question I struggled to resolved as I flipped between my old and my new music discs.

This year I started listening to the noon radio news program for the American Center for Law and Justice.  The host often plays classic rock played and recorded from his namesake, the Jay Sekulow Band.  I love it!  Suddenly my dilemma has now been solved!  I know many believers in Jesus Christ stop listening to secular music when it compromises their thinking and I agree:  we must use discernment to not recite lyrics that dishonor God, His Word, and His creation.  And guess what?  There is quite a bit of toe-tapping, electric guitar music out there that does just that while simply expressing the topics of life in song.  In addition, these days Christian music has come into it’s own with better production, sound, lyrics, and vocal styles to keep me interested.  I’ll end with two examples in just a moment.

So when ya just gotta move to a tune that gets ya going, do a theme check and PLAY IT LOUD SISTA!  Our dog might hide out in the back bathroom until the bass stops rattling the windows or my husband rescues her to send her outside for a run in the yard.  Tuff beans, pup.  Chasing a tennis ball just doesn’t do anything for me like it does for you!  I need my music.

Anyone else know what I mean?  JJ

Stand Up, Finish, and Win!

Recently a gal came into my life who has a major vocal talent.  I love the full alto robustness of her singing voice and the special emphasis she can put just about anywhere in a song to make a verse, an ending phrase come alive.  Very few musicians can go way beyond the sheet music and take you with them every note of the way . . . as if you are sharing in all of the emotion and beauty pouring out of the Creator’s expression manifest before you.  I love moments like this.  I love listening to her sing.  Her music gives me goose bumps now and always has done so.

I had the privilege of performing and competing in the top choir at my high school for all of my three years there.  Our teacher, Mr. Herr, was an accomplished tenor and pianist who occasionally shared his talent with us when singing the male solos; this included part of Handel’s Messiah one particular Christmas.  Before the concert he took a bus load of us teenagers to an old Catholic cathedral in downtown Detroit to sing the choral sections of the work from the balcony as the giant pipe organ accompanied us at full volume.  I will never forget that sound!  Our voices lifted high as if to touch the vaulted ceilings painted with Biblical scenes that I would not really understand for another decade.  My tender frame shook with the majesty, the magnificence of the moment when all the harmonies blended together in perfection.  The entire church swelled with the sound of music.  What a great experience to carry us through our concert at school shortly thereafter.  Well done Mr. Herr!

A fellow choir student told me early in my senior year that the only reason that I made the Chorale was my ability to sight-read written music.  The comment was a slam for sure.  So my talent wasn’t good enough but somehow my ability to read music made up the difference?  I didn’t understand but still was crushed.  Regardless, I made every early morning rehearsal, class session, and concert throughout the school year.  My mom sewed my blue maxi skirt and plaid outfit herself that all of the girls had to have made for the concerts.  And she did make it to the concerts, thankfully.  She made a point of telling me, however, that I could do better if I would just open my mouth more when I was singing.  Geez.  It’s a wonder I made it through my senior year of Chorale after all of that nonsense.

My interest in singing changed as I went off to college with my 3/4-sized classical guitar alongside me.  My experience got me two “easy  A’s” in beginner piano and guitar classes for creative arts requirements but little else.  Playing popular songs and sing-a-longs diminished from gatherings at the beach with girlfriends (who didn’t mind when the music always seemed to bring the guys around with a harmonica or their curiosity!) to sing-a-longs with groups of patients at various psychiatric hospitals in which I worked as an occupational therapist years later.  Within a decade I had practically stopped everything altogether and my skills, even my voice, eroded.  More recently the serious illness I have been battling has changed my breath volume and vocal cords such that my voice crackles when singing worship songs “in church.”  Although I will still crank the stereo and give it a go occasionally when the Barbara Streisand CD just happens to get turned up really loudly when my hubby is away!  No, no, ain’t gonna rain on my pa–rade!

So I do have a bit of an ear for quality and musicianship which brings me to the point of this discussion:  when a person DOES have a major talent I believe it is a gift from the Lord to be shared openly for His glory.  It really bugs me that my new friend has received “pukey” comments from non-talented, envious people around her.  I hope she can let them go.  We come to faith in Christ and are given spiritual gifts to be used for the Lord’s glory, often showcasing talents or even growing abilities already present in the life of the believer.  Whether we use our giftedness directly in ministry or just to inspire others as unto the Lord, I believe that we are to let that goodness shine!

Matthew 5:14-16New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Especially today for all of us who have a creative ability that stands out from the crowd, my prayer would be that we would stand up, finish the performance out in front of the spaces we are given and win glory for the One Who has entrusted it to our care.  Delight in-and-develop our talent, have fun with it, and don’t let the pukeys, the naysayers get us down.  Going forth with boldness and confidence may just bring each of us the desires of our hearts which is a good thingy, eh?  The Lord may have placed those dreams there, waiting for us to take the next steps He will lead us to and through.  Oh how He loves us so . . . which reminds me of a song . . .

Let us bring our praise where praise is due

Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

psalm 34, psalm 34:4, praise, worship, raise our hands, the Lord, our God, our Savior, He reigns

Obedience

Obedience is one of those words like “discipline.”  Not popular either one of them, yet both separate the whining cry babies from the mature adults amongst us.  For believers in Jesus Christ, obedience matures our faith and transforms us into the image of Christ (a work never completed during our lifetimes).  In our humanity our flesh tugs at us to rebel or be tempted in directions other than the leading of the Holy Spirit.  But by focusing on His incredible gift of grace, studying His holy Word, and submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit we will end in a better place for sure.  I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of others.  His will is best.  His timing is best.  Why?  Because He loves us and because He is God!

These thoughts came to me after reading an interview of Ravi Zacharias in the RZIM Summer 2015 newsletter and listening to a message by Pastor Paul Mowery of Harvest Fellowship in Leo, Indiana.  At the close of his message on Romans 11, Pastor Paul encourages us to “be about worship,” praising His great name for having mercy on us as recipients of the Lord’s grace.  We are not to dwell on what each of us may have done that draws attention to ourselves.  We are to be about Him: worshipping our Father God.

Lately I am struggling with these themes.  Many of my posts here have tried to pull something meaningful out of the challenges of a wretched illness.  As the days wear on with the setbacks of late, I have found myself literally screaming out my anger at God with the wails that accompany the convulsive seizures.  “Why do you hate me?”  Oh yeah, it’s bad.  Even my beloved Steve who has been at my side during a fair amount of this hell admits his anger at God.  And we are convinced that this is an o.k. thing to do.  It is not an o.k. place to stay, however.  And it is certainly not an acceptable attitude to act upon.

You simply cannot be angry at someone whom you do not love dearly.  Such is our dilemma.  We both love the Lord, Jesus Christ, and are humbled, grateful for His mercies in each of our lives.  We have so much goodness between us!  We are grateful for so much!  And in our humanity we are broken and don’t like the brokenness.  Way down deep we are hurting and it is this hurt that fuels the anger.  Admitting this will be the way out, the way back to fellowship, the discipline that will bring obedience, the song of worship yet to come . . .

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness, (Hebrews 3)

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Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.  (Hebrews 3)

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being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1)

Today with the faith of a mustard seed (that I understand is rich in nutrients of which I am needing anyways!) I will choose to honor and worship the Lord, my King.  He has built this frame in which I dwell and within it dwells the Holy Spirit.  Broken or not, it is the vessel from which I will praise His name all of my days.  I lay my angst on His mighty throne of grace, with great expectation of His promise to redeem it for His glory.

obedience, endurance, waiting on the Lord, discipline, redemption, redeeming grace, redeem

May He be glorified in all.  My Jesus.  My all in all.  Worthy of our praise.  Worthy is this Lamb of God!  JJ