Category Archives: January 2018: Music and singing

Confirmation Songs

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Confirmation is a special day for most Lutherans;  the day when, as an adult (or someone close to adulthood) you reconfirm the baptismal promises made for you by others.  When our daughters were confirmed, they had to write and read a speech to the congregation on the topic, “what my faith means to me.”  They also got to choose a Bible verse and a song.  Since my daughter, Kate, is one of our authors, I thought I’d share her confirmation song — we’ll see if she remembers it, and maybe will post about why she chose it.  It’s called “On Eagle’s Wings” and is based on Psalm 91. Maybe some other authors would like to share their confirmation song, if they chose one or one that was chosen for them.

 

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Joy Returning with a Smile

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In 2004 I served on my first Via de Cristo coed team. I had been a pilgrim in 2001, then served on women’s teams after that (my first being led by Joan Culler!), but this was my first coed team. Due to some unexpected problems, the team had been formed late. I had not met the rector (head of the team) before, but he was looking for a female who would serve on the music team and I was willing to give it a try.

The rector, a man named Andy Foor, instantly became a dear friend (Andy is like that). I remember so clearly that whenever we were leading the singing, Andy would step into the aisle between the tables and walk toward the music team, and he would smile – and when Andy smiles, so does everyone around him. I started smiling as I sang – with a joy that goes beyond ordinary smiling – and I continued smiling when singing praise music for a long time afterward.

The reason this is significant is that I was one of the music team at today’s Ultreya (a reunion gathering of the Via de Cristo community – ours are held every other month). And the reason that is significant is that it’s the first time I’ve led music since my surgery last summer (almost the first time I’ve held a guitar). Leading music takes a lot of energy, and I have to steward my energy carefully as I continue to recover.

Still, I thought I’d try it for this short period of time (actually, I thought I wouldn’t risk it, but God said, “Why not try?”). We sang only a few songs, but the room was full of unity and joy. As I heard the words, as I looked at the faces of old friends and new, I started to smile again and felt that joy in my heart – the joy of the presence of the Lord.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. (Psalm 68 4)

Kids Today

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Anyone that has teenagers or younger kids probably knows that phones (as it were) are a big part of life. Back in my day . . . our phones were just that, phones. And they weren’t very portable. In fact a lot of them still mounted to the wall. And then there were those that sat on the counter. Still you were limited to the distance of the cord.

But I acquiesce, now its different. There is a world of information at your fingertips. Some good, some bad. Lately I’ve noticed a good trend, a musical one. Many of the games are based on a music. And the music that plays is largely classical. As they tap on the screen in time with the tune they’re immersed in wordless melodies. I think its a wonderful way to re-introduce our next generation to something besides glamour based hip hop. (Not that I haven’t indulged myself on  occasion.) But there is study after study that shows how classical music in particular, has various benefits to our human brains.

Do I know the science of it? Absolutely not. But I know that when I listen to music, something happens. There’s always at least an emotional reaction, and often if it hits home, I get literal chills. Y’all know what I mean right? Everybody has felt it. Everybody has that one song. That has to be God given.

And we may never know why exactly, but God seems to have given us this beautiful gift not solely for entertainment, but in part at least to inspire, and heal. In fact music is so important to God, He created Psalms. A large collection of music mostly written by a beloved warrior king. (I’d love to be able to go back in time to hear how they were originally meant to be heard.)

So while kids today have it pretty good, and technology is scary, God will always want to share His wonders with His children. And that’s pretty cool.

The Song of Simeon

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The Song of Simeon, or Nunc Dimmitis (dismissal or departure)  is can be found in Luke 2:29-32.  It is a  joyful canticle (hymn appearing in the Bible) sung by Simeon when he recognized Jesus as the Savior, the one for whom he has been waiting.  Most assume Simeon was an old man, but we really don’t know; the Bible doesn’t tell us that.  We just know that he was righteous and devout and the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;

For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

I’ve always loved this passage.  Lutherans sing or recite it after communion, to remind ourselves that like Simeon, we are now also waiting for the Lord’s return.  It speaks of faith and salvation and brings a sense of peace.

Blessings

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Michele challenged us a while back to blog about a song that really spoke to our hearts.  I know, I’m just now getting around to this, but I do have many songs that speak to me in so many different ways.  But one song stands out from the rest, “Blessings” by Laura Story.

All of us have times when we wonder if God’s left us.  Life takes a nasty turn and we feel that the Lord has turned his back. When I first heard this song I was struggling to trust the Lord in my situation.  My husband was disabled from a brain tumor and his health was getting worse.  I was still supporting my son and his family, which included two autistic sons.  Sometimes the tension around the house would be thick since my husband and son didn’t always get along and other various things that happen when you mesh two families together.  It was during this time that I first heard the song “Blessings”.  The words struck my heart and found a home there.

After I had heard the song several times I looked up Laura Story and found out that her husband had also had a brain tumor and that was the situation that brought this song about.  That had to be a God thing; her husband had a brain tumor, too?

Here is a quote from Laura Story regarding “Blessings”:

The song shows that we still have more questions than answers. But there’s a decision that I find God is asking us to make. Are we going to judge God based on our circumstances, or are we going to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God?

Our circumstances have magnified the blessing of marriage. As high school sweethearts, we faced the strong chance that our long-awaited marriage bond might last just two years. Once you’ve rallied through a life-threatening illness together, the rest of it is like a surprise; every day is a new gift that might not have been there. It’s not as big a deal now if he leaves his socks on the floor.

The words of James 1:2–“Consider it a great joy … whenever you experience various trials”–ring especially true and duly influence the joyful, wisdom-loving tone throughout “Blessings.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. It hasn’t been easy. Everyone wants to be a mature and equipped follower, but would I have signed up had I known what it would take? God has grown us up, deepened our faith, our awareness of our great need for Him as a Savior, daily. We knew it before, but we didn’t see it.

I hope you are as blessed by this song as I continue to be.  Here are the lyrics:

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

Chorus:
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

 

A Favorite Psalm

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“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my heart pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  Where can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:1-2

This is one of my personal favorites.  The beautiful imagery speaks of a desire to know God that is equivalent to thirst.  The deer’s search for water is central to its’ very existence, and our lives depend upon God in the same way.  My study Bible (the Life Application Bible, NIV version) calls Psalm 42 and “antidepressant.”  I agree, it’s a wonderful way to lift up your spirit;  and yes, there is a musical version:

Martin Luther Quote on the Psalms #2

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“The Psalter is the book of all saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake …”

Martin Luther

Martin Luther, Church, Pray

 

Martin Luther and the Book of Psalms

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“Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving?  There you look into the hearts of all saints, as into fair and pleasant gardens, yes as into heaven itself.  There you see what fine and pleasant flowers of the heart spring up from all sorts of fair and happy thoughts toward God, because of His blessings.”

Martin Luther

The Book of Psalms was the songbook of the Israelites.  Many churches still chant or sing the Psalms today. A multitude of  hymns and Christian songs are based on a particular psalm. Luther called this book “the Bible in miniature” and took particular comfort in reading the Psalms. His most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress, is a paraphrase of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble

Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake  in the heart of the sea;

though the waters roar and foam though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

What’s your favorite Psalm?  Is it used in worship or a song that you love?  I’m hoping our authors and readers will weigh in on this.

The Case for Christ – Book Review

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I just finished reading the book “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel and I felt I should mention this book to others.  I love reading articles and books that confirm the Bible in history, and Lee Strobel’s book fits that description perfectly.

A movie has been made from this book and I have to tell you that I haven’t seen the movie, yet.  I’m more a book person and will read the book, if available, before I see the movie.  I’m always asked how the movie compared to the book and usually I have to say that there is always more details in the book.

Now, this book is wonderful for anyone who is wanting to include historic facts to their evangelism.  Lee Strobel, who was once an atheist, goes on a quest to prove Jesus didn’t exist.  His wife came home one day and told him she was now a Christian and he had to prove how wrong she was.   Lee, who is a well known investigative reporter, starts interviewing the experts from all over the country, bringing all the questions and doubts that he and others have raised.  At the end of each chapter there is a list of questions for deliberation or for group study.  Lee gives a full list of citations and a topical index at the end for further study.

The book is in three parts: Examining the Record, Analyzing Jesus and Researching the Resurrection.  In each part is the transcripts of his conversations with each expert.  It’s not what I would call an easy read.  While you are reading you need to pay attention to what is being said.  However, the book flows and pulls you into Lee’s quest up to the part where he makes his own decision to follow Christ.

For any skeptics that are reading this I would encourage you to pick up the book or, at least, see the movie.  For the Christians reading this, I would encourage you to read the book so that you can add some of the references to expand your knowledge of Biblical history.

“Ancient Words” a song by Michael W. Smith kept playing in my head once I got about halfway through this book.  Here are the lyrics and a link to hear the song.

“Ancient Words”
Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh, let the ancient words impart

Words of Life, words of Hope, Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam, Ancient words will guide us home

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our Faith, Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice, Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh let the ancient words impart

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Here is a youtube video of the  song.  I apologize if there are ads; you can’t get away from them these days: