Category Archives: Music – January 2018

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)

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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

 

A New Song– Earth and All Stars

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“O Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”  Psalm 98:1

As I was lying in bed the other night, unable to fall asleep (don’t worry, my doctor says it’s just age-related) this song kept running through my mind.  The theme comes from Psalm 98, and I find it uplifting and somewhat humorous.  The lyrics were written by a Lutheran minister, Herbert Brokering for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf’s College (Minnesota — the land of Lutherans!).  For me, they express the joyful experience of seeing God and praising Him in everything around us — he made it all!  Here’s what Brokering had to say about his composition”

“I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which emerge in community.  So there are references to building, nature, learning, family, war festivity.  Seasons, emotions, death and resurrection, bread, wine, wind, son, spirit … have made great impressions on my imagination.”

If you don’t know this hymn, I’ve attached the link below.

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.

Music as a Dynamic

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In one of Michele’s previous posts, she asked about the songs that “move” us.  It’s a fact, music can move us into a different place mentally.  Calm music soothes;  boisterous music ramps us up;  patriotic or spiritual music inspires and uplifts.  Music affects our mood and our spirit, and singing together gives a sense of unity.

 

On a Via de Cristo weekend, music is used consciously, as a dynamic, to move the retreat weekend along.  Thursday evening, people don’t know one another and many are a little nervous.  What’s going to happen?  Why did I agree to do this?  The musicians select light, well known songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” or “Rise and Shine” so that people can easily participate and feel comfortable.

As the weekend progresses, the speakers choose songs that mirror the theme of their talk.  The weekend becomes more intensely spiritual and so do the songs.  Songs like “As the Deer,” “Abba, Father” and “Just As I Am” become part of the repertoire.

By Saturday night, the group is feeling excited and at ease with one another.  A community has been created.  It’s time for joyous, upbeat music like “Shake a Friend’s Hand” and “Dancing Heart.”  These songs involve participants in a physical way, encouraging moving around, and even touching one another.

“De Colores” is the theme song of the weekend.  It’s sung over and over on the way to meals.  This Spanish folk song rejoices in God’s creation and reflects the inner joy of the retreatants as they bask in the presence of God’s love.  I’m including it here at the end, and hope others who have been on a weekend (some of our authors are even weekend musicians) will share the songs that have become meaningful to them through Via de Cristo.

 

Amazing Grace — The Musical

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Recently my husband and I went to Washington D.C. to celebrate our anniversary (46 years!) by visiting the Museum of the Bible.  While there we also attended a performance of Amazing Grace at the World Stage Theater (also located at the museum).  It’s the story of John Newton, a slave trader who converted and wrote the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace.  I’m not sure how historically accurate the play is (the program stated some characters presented were fictional), but I plan to read Newton’s autobiography, Out of the Depths, as soon as I can get it from the library.  That may be another post.  Certainly there were talented actors and singers, amusing moments and great staging.  If you go, you’ll enjoy the show.  However, one review I read called the music “competent, but not inspiring.”  I would have to agree.  Not one song in the entire musical came close to the song it was all about, the one that was sung by cast and audience together at the very end. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  Here it is: