Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

What is it about music?

I looked online to see what other people are thinking and saying about music.  Wow.  There's a ton of commentary.

Some things really spoke to me.

  • Music is mysterious.
  • It's a versatile method of communication.  It's both explicit and structured.
  • Music produces an emotional response while it connects performers to listeners (the tempo and articulation affect everyone the same way).
  • Strangely, it also affects our spirit of individuality:  we all like something different musically; we most often listen to what evokes the emotions we want in any given moment (people in love listen to love songs and sad people listen to country music - ha!).
  • Everyone can both appreciate and criticize music.  We are all experts and also all novices.  
  • Music affects anything that can hear.  Animals appreciate music just like humans do.
  • It is the only universal language.
"If you've lost your faith in love and music, then the end won't be long," says Pete Doherty and a few musicians and songsters.

I think that's Truth.  (Sometime I should really talk about how I define Truth.)

I've always said I pray best when I'm making music.  And when I pray, I want to hear the right kind of music.  And I pray all the time, so... well, do the math.

I also think music is where I hear God talking to me frequently and loudly.

I don't understand why anyone feels like telling me how to play music.  When I play by the Spirit, there is NO END to the comments, compliments, and life-changing stories.  When I play how someone tells me to play, no one says a word.  Don't get me wrong; I don't need the comments or compliments; I am an instrument and a minister.  But shouldn't the Spirit win?


Casting Crowns has a new song:  Jesus, Friend of Sinners.

What a song.
Jesus, Friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name...
... the truth's become so hard to see
YES!  My teen friends who've left high school for college are constantly asking me questions.  Do I have to hate gay people?  Can I be friends with someone who has had an abortion?  The [evangelist church down the street] is so much more fun than the Catholic church.

I understand their questions, and I'm glad they ask me.  I'm glad I often have the answers.

We all do bad, bad things in the name of Jesus.  We do things He would NEVER do.
What if we put down our signs,
Crossed over the lines and
Loved life like you did?
We are "plank-eyed".  Read Matthew 7:3-5.

We are people who judge small faults in others while being completely blind to our own faults - even when they are greater faults.
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts
And open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hears
For what breaks yours.
Please, Jesus.

Break our hearts for what breaks yours.

We need to live lives of mercy.

That doesn't mean we don't need to discern what is Right and what is Wrong.

Knowing and living mercy means we will accept when people choose wrong, and love them anyway.

I think I do.

Still.  My heart is broken for what breaks the heart of the Lord.

God bless,

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Brother's Keeper

I have a new favorite song - well, it's one of many new favorites! - called "Hold Us Together" by Matt Maher.

Truth is, I am always first attracted by the music, not the message (I think this is a Holy Spirit thing).  People who know my style will hear this song and know why I love it.  It's that laid back style of music that almost plays itself; I know how my hands will feel when I play it.  It's also a song that makes me think I can sing, and that's sort of dangerous.

Once the sound attracts me, I start to look for the message, which is not always only about the lyrics but also about the story and the storyteller.  More about that in a future post.

In the case of this song, I was drawn to the line "And I'll be my brother's keeper so the whole world will know that we're not alone." 

Why that line? 

Because EVERY time I turned on my car for two solid weeks that was the line that was playing.  No lie.  Two solid weeks.  Live radio.


Meanwhile I'm hearing a story from a friend that makes my heart ache.  I can't hear or see or know about suffering and remain unaffected.  I had to watch the Boston Marathon Bombings in small batches and not at work because I am so stricken by grief when I see suffering like that.  Multiply that a thousand-fold when it affects friends.  I inhabit my friends' sufferings. 

Add to that the fact that I have tried to be the keeper-of-my-"brothers" in the past and it cost me a friendship I valued.  What I said was right and true, but the friend didn't want to hear the truth or look at me after ignoring my advice and after realizing that everything I said was Truth.  I'm sure I look like shame and guilt, and that was never my intent.  I don't want to lose another friendship I value.

I talked with my therapist about the whole issue.  How could I avoid it?  It was the only thing on my mind for a couple months.

Know what she said?  Other people's choices are not my concern.  It's my job to listen and be a friend.  Support.  Comfort.  Etc.

Yikes.  I've been wrong all this time.

And what's with the song?  

Am I my brother's keeper?  Or am I a friend? 

Are those things mutually exclusive?

Is a coincidence really just a coincidence or is it a message?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lion Within


Facing new opportunities and challenges is something I've always embraced. 


Honestly... shouldn't we all? 

There is no keeping things the way they always were, so we may as well shape how they become.  We can only do that if we are agents of - and open to - change.

I find that I don't mind making changes that force others to change.  In fact, I have quite the reputation for "shaking things up" for the people I employ in various tasks (my jobs, my music groups, my family, my whatever-I-do...). 

But I hesitate when it comes to my own choices, decisions, and undertakings lately. Strangely, I also know exactly why I hesitate and exactly why it's so ridiculous. 

My psyche isn't a surprise to me.

When a surprise offer came my direction, I did my own process of discernment and prayer, asking "God, is THIS what YOU want for me?" The answer seems to be in the affirmative. This IS what God has planned, and I should leap at the opportunity.

But guess what? 

The opportunity has a major hurdle. 

There've been a couple small hurdles.  I had to fill out an application.  Then write a resume.  Both activities are foreign to me.

Still, I completed those tasks as well as I could.  And they seem to have been successfully received.  (Yay!)

The next step?  An interview. 

In interviews, a person is required to sell themselves to the interviewer.

AN interviewer wouldn't be so bad.  One person looking at me.  Me looking back at him or her.  I can do that.

I found out the other day that this interview seems to be about five or seven people looking at me, at my application, at my resume... and me looking back.

Strange odds.

Still.  Inside I hear this little ROAR every time I start to sweat a little over the coming interview.  That little voice of the lion keeps pushing me forward, step by precious step. 


Tomorrow I have an interview (weather-CRAZILY.IN.MID-APRIL-permitting).  If you're the praying type, please pray for me to really hear what God is saying to me. 

Then, pray that the interviewers ask the questions that get the answers so they can tell if I really am a good fit for this position. 

Finally, pray that ALL things WORK for the GOOD of those who LOVE love love the LORD.

Because in the end, they will. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Memoriam

The events of April 10, 1997, remain in my mind and heart at all times.  What the students, families, employees, community, and I experienced informs every decision I make both in my job and personally.  I cannot fathom the depth of grief experienced by others personally affected by the crash, but it must have been - and probably continues to be - profound. 

I've often said there is no value in what happened that day.  The bus crash and ensuing injuries and fatalities are inexplicable and completely unacceptable.  To assert or believe that the crash happened so anyone could "grow" is simply ridiculous. 

I do believe that when we struggle with a tragedy like the bus crash, we have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.  And so, in memory of the victims I have kept in my prayers for the last sixteen years, I offer these thoughts: 
  1. Sometimes bad things happen, and we may never understand why.
  2. Following the rules doesn't result in automatic rewards.
  3. Grieving cannot be rushed and doesn't follow any rules.
  4. Forgetting is impossible.
  5. There is always something to be learned in the aftermath of a tragic event.
  6. Finding a safe place to talk about how it felt to experience a tragedy is part of the healing process.
  7. When it is difficult to find something to say, "I'm sorry" is always acceptable.
  8. When it is difficult to find something to say, "God has His reasons" is always unacceptable. 
  9. Small kindnesses and acts of charity are always appropriate.
  10. It is never acceptable to offer less than our best effort at any given moment for any reason.

Monday, April 8, 2013

RIP Margaret Thatcher


I won't lie.  I think of the Reagan/Thatcher years fondly. 

Today, in honor of the passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher, someone posted this quote on Facebook:
If you set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you will achieve nothing.
There is probably nothing else I needed more than I needed that quote today.