Brokenness for Cohesion

I don’t know how people do grad school, or really anything, without God or a relationship with Him. A few weeks ago, things got really busy and while I’m normally very good about reading even the littlest bit of the Bible a day, I let that fall by the wayside. I realized that I was becoming more concerned with my needs and with whether I was getting credit for having done something, and just generally caring about school to a greater degree than I typically do. I didn’t notice anything was going on until my friend pointed out that I seemed “a little frazzled.” I grew up in the church, but I’m still reminded from time to time of what a mess I definitely am when I’m not putting my trust in my Savior and living like the truth of the good news is what motivates my life. I’m so glad to have a God who is making me new.

I’d like to share with you all a few songs that have helped me refocus. These are the songs that get stuck in my head and remind me, as John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all.” As Colossians 1 continues, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” I love how this passage points out how worthy God is of the glory we’re called to give Him. He created everything and He is holding it all together. He is holding me together. It’s surprising how unwilling I sometimes am to sacrifice brokenness for being held together.

“Mercy, Mercy” by Hillsong United is a great song for singing my heart out in those times.

“Mercy, mercy, bring me to my knees

as the morning calls to light the dark in me…

Now I find my life in Yours;

My eyes on Your name…

Awake my soul to the hope You hold;

Your grace is all I need.”

 

I also love “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli. This was my “over and over” song right after that little rough patch. Oh, to spend more time marveling at all that God is.

“When I fix my eyes on all that You are

then every doubt I feel deep in my heart

grow strangely dim”

 

And if you want to get pumped up in a Mumford and Sons/The Lumineers way (or just in general), the spirited prayer/jam session “Build Your Kingdom Here” by Rend Collective Experiment has some great calls to action:

“Increase in us, we pray…

You made us for much more than this

Awake the kingdom seed in us

Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

 

But really, can you imagine a jam session with these people? How happy and sore would you be after this?! They even post their chords on their website like they’re just asking you to sing along.

Even above and beyond RCE, there is some amazing and uniquely genred Christian music today. I love that part of worship is taking the time to sing these songs to God and to one another, and hopefully to use them to encourage us to worship God with all of the other aspects of lives.

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The Cycle of Crowns

I spend a lot of time driving, and have enjoyed road trips with friends since I first found out what a delight they were on annual trips to retreats and other activities with my youth group. As we got older, the vehicle of choice changed from busses and giant vans to cars, which allowed for smaller groups and wonderful bonding! One of my favorite things to do on road trips is play a game previously titled “The iPod Game,” and more recently conned, “So You Think You’re a Hipster,” or more affectionately, “SYTYAH.”

The premise of this game is that we play songs that we know that we assume are not very well known to the others in the car. (Basically, you get points for every person in the car who does not know the song that you chose to play.) This game has introduced me to some really great bands and artists and motivates me all the more to find new artists and share them with others. At some point my friends and I started ruining our chances at winning the game and just shared new artists with one another. My friend Emily, for instance, told me about a British band this summer and I have not been able to stop listening to them.

What’s particularly engaging about this band is that while I’m fairly certain they are not a Christian group, they make a lot of solid observations about the world around them. Their songs are far less about love and loss than about just noting the human condition and one such song actually worked its way into my devotional time. (Isn’t it wonderful how God uses us for good even when we’re ignoring His existence?!)

I’m currently reading through Genesis, which I actually think in some ways is more challenging to my faith than Revelation is (that may be a later post). Because of this additional level of thought and meditation, I’ve been going through passages more slowly and referring to commentaries more. In any case, I’ve been poking my way through the story of Jacob’s dysfunctional family and I arrived at the following genealogy:

“These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, the name of his city being Dinhabah. Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, reigned in his place, the name of his city being Avith. Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates reigned in his place. Shaul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his place. Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his place, the name of his city being Pau; his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.” 

 

– Genesis 36:31-39

It all seems very unexciting unless you were Jobab’s best friend and got really excited when his name came up, but that seems unlikely for those of us who were born thousands of years later. The reason this seemingly mundane passage resonated with me was because it brought to mind lyrics from Bastille’s “Daniel in the Den.” “And you thought the lions were bad, well, they tried to kill my brothers,” lead singer Dan Smith begins, “and for every king that died, oh, they will crown another.”

For every king that died, they will crown another. We don’t get to hear the stories of all of the kings described here, but we see elsewhere in the Old Testament that getting a new king could be a really amazing thing or a really horrible thing for Israel. Sometimes a really horrible king would die, and they’d crown another with joy. As was the case with my treasured psalmist Asaph, “they crowned another” king during his time as worship leader and the new king was not nearly as godly as his predecessor. I love Asaph’s psalms because they are his crying out in the midst of this unfortunate change. But in either event, the crowning of a new king is significant and literally life-changing, but also very temporary. As “Daniel in the Den” echoed through my head, I wondered what would happen if the cycle broke.

What would happen if they didn’t crown another king?

What would happen if every king didn’t die?

What would happen if a king succumb to death and was so good, just, and set apart that there was no better option?

Then I was pretty thankful that that is just the case.

Revelation 5 always blows me away because it is such a blatant reminder that the situation posed in that last question is a very real one. In the situation described there, everyone is literally in tears because they can’t find anyone to open the scroll with seven seals. They searched the earth and literally no one was worthy or able. But then, the author writes, “one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Then an awesome (in the most literal sense of the word) amount of singing ensues as they all worship the King who defeated death. I’d like to take a minute to backtrack and point out that all that the Lamb has done at this point is literally to take the scroll. He just has it in His hands. He hasn’t opened it, He hasn’t read it; He took it.

This tells me two main things: 1.) The Lamb who was slain is dead no longer, and 2.) He is a powerful, perfect, worthy King to be trusted.

I serve a God who is surely alive, and I have no desire to crown another.

When the Sun Rises

Grad school has brought many a good thing into my life, but it has been a fairly significant change, the most significant parts of which have been living several hundred miles away from the people that I have spent most of my life loving most dearly and not having the time and/or money to visit them as often as I would like. I had the joy of visiting some of my friends from undergrad while at the campus ministry that I was a part of and was reminded that spending time with them and planning and attending ministry events was once, basically, my world (alongside school and lab work, of course). And now my world is something very different, but also very wonderful, and it can’t help but encompass my love for that undergrad/homeland world.

In any case, visiting that previous world and the people in it that I love so very much requires either a plane trip (taking lots of money) or a long drive (taking lots of time). Driving that far creates a few options. You can A) Leave in the afternoon or evening and arrive in the very early morning, which isn’t for me, B) Leave in the late morning and arrive in the late evening, which I sometimes do, or C) Leave in the very early morning and arrive in the afternoon, which I gave its first try for my spring break trip home.

I was so beyond excited that I managed to get myself to sleep around 9:30 p.m. and wake up, alert and excited, at 4 a.m. This is an unprecedented time for cheerful alertness for me, even taking camp into consideration! If I left really early, though, I would be able to surprise my sister when she got out of school, visit my mom at work, and visit the campus ministry that I still love so dearly, and I would be in one of my favorite places in the world all the sooner!

The reason that such early rising is so unusual for me is because my daily routine is fairly strongly connected to sunlight, which I think is a very natural thing. I enjoy waking up to sunshine and other things and people that are awake. I wound up eating dinner at 9 p.m. a few times right after Daylight Savings because I just didn’t realize how late it was until the sun finally went away. I love the daylight. It is probably because of this that, an hour and a half into my drive, I started yelling, out loud, “IS THE SUN EVER GOING TO RISE?!”

Was this a little melodramatic? Perhaps. But some small part of me felt legitimately concerned about the fact that I had already been on my journey for what seemed like a long time and the sun hadn’t bothered to show up. Sure, there were artificial lights here and there, and maybe a few lingering stars, and I knew I wasn’t completely in the Twilight Zone since there were some other drivers on the road, but it was getting a little discouraging. And a larger part of me knew that at some point, the sun was going to show up. Fact: The sun rises each day.

Sure enough, some time a little after 7:00 a.m., the sun peeked over the horizon, with light beginning to spread everywhere a little before it even did so, and I obviously was moved to song:

The sands of time are sinking

The dawn of heaven breaks

The summer morn I’ve sighed for

The fair, sweet morn awakes

Dark, dark, had been the midnight

But dayspring is at hand

And then it all comes together-

And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land!

It makes a lot of sense why the Bible is constantly using night and day as metaphors. Night, and life in this terribly broken world, can seem to extend on forever. The sun hadn’t disappeared forever- it still existed, and I just couldn’t see it but for its reflection in the moon. Fact: God is still there and still working, and in the right amount of time, He is returning. The trial of this delay is that we have to live with knowledge of this fact. If I had just assumed the sun was never going to rise and the stores were never going to open, I would have had to make do with breakfast from a convenience store instead of waiting more patiently for the delicious one I bought when different establishments opened with the sunrise. I might have overindulged in caffeine as a day of driving in darkness might make one rather sleepy. Bu I lived and drove differently, because I knew the sun was coming.

C.S. Lewis did a lot of things well, and one of them is to expound on this idea of living in the darkness. In his book “The Silver Chair,” the second-to-last in the Chronicles of Narnia series, two children and a marshwiggle named Puddleglum find themselves in an underground land. The land had no sun, but it did have a kind of creepy lady who was essentially trying to make the little crew forget that the there was another world at all. Perhaps the “sun” they talked about was just their imagination’s rendering of the lamp in the room. Perhaps they had dreamed everything from this “upper world” they spoke of. Thankfully, Puddleglum managed to keep his head and give this little speech:

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things — trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

As 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness… But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

Our very being as people is that we are made for the light, and our being as Christians seeks that out and embraces it. It changes everything about us. We go from constantly stumbling in darkness to living more fully, more knowledgeably in the light that we will one day live in entirely fully and with total knowledge. And in that eternal life that is the gift of God through the perfect sacrifice of His Son, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light, the nations walk, and the kinds of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day- and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:23-27).

I forget sometimes that in the long run, everything I am is about the light, and the day, or more plainly, about Christ and my salvation in Him. I can taste it now. I know that He is coming back to make all things new, and that even now He is working in my life and lives of others. I can see it. And I pray that my daily life shows that I believe in a sunrise and reflects the light even in darkness.

Snippets for a Busy Week

It’s been a crazy week, so it’s one of those where I’m just barely sliding into home plate as far as getting these posts out before midnight! However, in the midst of this craziness, I have found a good deal of peace, comfort, and strength in several hymns that have danced across my mind and been hummed on the way to class or in the car. Colossians 3:16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” I especially need to remember this during my busy weeks when I am wondering how to fit everything in my schedule, and upon realizing that “fitting everything” is not an option, while prioritizing is mandatory. I’ve been praying this week that God would keep my faith and purpose in Him as an integral part of each day.

Though it will make for a short post, I’d like to share some of them with you (further commentary may appear in later posts!). For each song, I included a little excerpt that I’ve found particularly profound or moving. Sometimes seeing the words isolated from the melody helps me to think about them a little more. For example, consider the absolute magnitude described in the “The Love of God” excerpt. I’m so blessed by these songs that remind me of the continuing grace and love of such a beautiful Savior.

 

The Love of God

http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/28

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure, the saints’ and angels’ song!

 

Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons) by Matt Redman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,

Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul;

Worship His holy name.

Sing like never before, O my soul;

I’ll worship Your holy name.

 

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

http://www.igracemusic.com/hymnbook/hymns/o10.html

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Love of every love the best!

’Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;

And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

 

Forgiven by Sanctus Real

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F9z54g30Eo

When I don’t fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere;

When I don’t measure up to much in this life,

Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ.

And I’m forgiven; I’m forgiven.

And I don’t have to carry the weight of who I’ve been

‘Cause I’m forgiven.

 

Do you have any songs or hymns that consistently remind you of truths of the gospel or that are close to your heart? I’d love to hear them- feel free to comment below!

Jammin’

Note: I did back-to-back posts this week because I know that I won’t have time to do a post during this upcoming week.  So this is really the post for March 24, 2011.  Don’t miss yesterday’s post below this one! =)

I’m going to deviate from my usual format a bit to offer something of a commentary.

So.  I’ve spent more than 15 minutes on Facebook/the Internet this week, so Rebecca Black has hijacked my mental playlist.  Also, it’s Friday.  I’m surprised no one is running around campus blasting the song from a boombox on their shoulder.

 

For those who haven’t heard, Rebecca Black is one of several girls who have had the opportunity to record a song and film a music video through a group called Ark Music Factory.  It’s an interesting operation, from what I can tell.  Most of the songs I’ve seen feature a girl of around 12 or 13, singing about something of importance to her.  A rapper appears for a brief time to… rap.

 

While this would seem exciting, poor RB has been met with a lot of criticism.  Her song “Friday” has been called the worst song or video ever (though many others have).  I joined in the laughter, but then I thought about it.

 

What makes what she’s saying about choosing between the front and back seat of a car any less important than one singer telling us that she brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels?  Why is counting in English and Spanish several times throughout a song (“one, two, three, four; uno, dos, tres, cuatro!”) more valuable than her recap of the order the days of the week?  Why is it dumb for the rap to detail changing lanes with a school bus in front of you but okay for other songs to thoroughly describe how a girl is dancing in the club?

 

To be fair, I’m not saying that this song and video are golden.  There’s not a whole lot of variety in the melody, and I’m not sure what 13-year-olds have such vibrant Friday-night parties, but it’s innocent, and Rebecca straight up tells us that she is having “fun, fun, fun, fun.”  Plus, the YouTube hits and iTunes sales are rolling in, so maybe the joke is on us.

I probably also feel this way because I can kind of see things from Rebecca’s point of view. If someone had told me, when I was thirteen, that they would not only let me record a song in a real studio, and not just into tape recorder hanging upside down from a music stand with my headphones unnecessarily draped over one ear, I would have been ecstatic.  Making a music video instead of singing dramatically in front of the mirror with a hairbrush or flashlight until someone complained would also be pretty excitement-inducing.  But because I’m me, and not an Ark Music Factory girl, I just got really creative, as you can see.

In all honesty, my songs wouldn’t have been that much better.  Somewhere at my parents’ house, there is a purple folder stuffed to bursting with songs that I’ve written.  I know for certain that one of them is about dealing with the consequences of accidentally spending too much money at the movie theater and feeling completely irresponsible and angry with myself.  There’s a couple from 8th grade and senior year of high school about transition and saying goodbye.  Most are terribly dramatic, but I’m not kidding when I say music is a big part of my life.  Writing things down into rhyme and occasionally singing them was one of my favorite ways to work through things.  It’s always fun when I come across some old lyrics and can still remember the melody. =)  One such song is “Attitude Adjustment,” which I wrote in frustration after having procrastinated about burning my iTunes account onto some CDs during a computer transition. Yeah.  I’ve no room to judge.

Here’s a sample:

“I try to rationale that when

I have time I’ll do it again

But that upsets me more

I should have done it long ago

Irritation you should never know

Needs to walk out the door


I suppose I’m exaggerating

But when my plan is ruined, it’s just so frustrating

I find myself crying poor me

I find that I’m feeling bad for everybody

I wonder where my optimistic mood went

I need an attitude adjustment

I need an attitude adjustment


I get quite angry, I’ve learned.

When CDs aren’t properly burned.

When I’m told to do something I’ve done.

When I don’t like the ideas of someone.

The mood just lingers, I fear.

I end up snapping at anyone near.

Lord change my attitude, I pray

Lord keep me joyful every day……

I was really exaggerating

‘Cause when my plan is ruined it’s just so frustrating

I find myself crying poor me

I find that I’m feeling bad for everybody

I wonder where my optimistic mood went

I need an attitude adjustment

Lord send my joy back to me

Help me to live for Your glory

That’s not too easily done

When I’m angry with everyone

Help me find where my optimistic mood went

I need an attitude adjustment!”


=) Anyway, for those on spring break, I hope you have a wonderful one!

Sing a Quiet Song of Praise

“Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;

I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortal men, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;

on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the Maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and everything in them-

the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”


“Hallelujah” is on my mind tonight. I often come to this Psalm, 146, at times like this because the lyrics to the worship song “Hallelujah, praise Jehovah” come from it.

My current iPod wallpaper is a photo of me with some friends the summer before I started college.  Hallelujah, God has brought me this far.

I was daydreaming about what I would get as a tattoo if I ever got one.  I decided that it would be the words “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres; love never fails.”  I’ve known a love like this through Christ who died and rose again for me- hallelujah!

My daddy used to sing me different songs before bed, and one of them started with words similar to those in the Psalm.  I have an incredible support system; hallelujah!

The simple word is easily associated with a choir joyfully repeating it again, and again, but tonight I’m just sitting at my desk, feeling peaceful in comparison to the crazy that I can hear outside my window.

Even though this Psalm doesn’t actually use the word “hallelujah,” at least in my translation, it reminds me of the great hope that Christ offers and of all of the reasons that I have to praise.

I’m thinking, “hallelujah, to the Lord of heaven and earth.”

It’s the moments like this that I need to remember when I’m frustrated because I’m running late- again… When I realize a few weeks from now that maybe I’m in over my head… When I’m hyperventilating because I’m worried that this application or this test is going to make or break my life… When I’m jealous… When I’m hurting.

It’s my prayer that I’ll remember that my heart has just cause to be singing “hallelujah, hallelujah.”

The Lord Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

Somehow this year absolutely flew by and now I’m sitting looking at it in retrospect.

For as much as I enjoy reflecting and considering what I’ve learned from the past, I’m learning more and more to look forward to the future.  2011 is going to hold some big changes for me and those close to me.  As I said last year around this time, I don’t know exactly what’s coming throughout the year, but I know that God is in control of whatever it is.

That brings me to my New Year’s Resolution.  I typically don’t make resolutions, but rather try to resolve to do something whenever I first realize that it needs doing.  I don’t think we need to wait for a new start.  But this “new start” of a year is timed quite perfectly for my 2011 Resolution: “TO NOT FEAR, but rather TO TRUST GOD.”

I’m also planning on exercising more and working hard at school, but “the resolution” eclipses my other plans.  Trusting God over embracing fear has been a big theme in my life lately, and I suppose that it is indeed something that I have resolved to do.  I’ve decided and I’m willing and ready to work for it.  I’m in this to win this! (As always, this inspiration here comes from Philippians 3.)

What do you need to do in your spiritual life?  I’m planning on praying more about areas on my life on which God wants me to set my mind and heart to work.  And like I said, we don’t only have to do this once a year!

I love the hymn “Amazing Grace,” particularly the last verse, but the two verses below have been very poignant and moving to me lately:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

According to a couple of books about early evangelism and the song itself, “Amazing Grace” was first used in a congregational meeting on January 1, 1773.  (I just learned this today!)  I like to kick of my new year with a song (surprising, right?) and I think this year, this will be my song.

Welcome, 2011!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store.