The Power of a Song

We have a print in our home that someone gave us a long time ago. It is a wonderful thought about music and concludes with this statement;

Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of the heart.

Martin Luther

In the lobby here at Duke Medical Center sits a piano. Patients, staff and guests are encouraged to sit and share their talent with those who are passing by. There are several places to sit all around for those who might want to stop and listen a while. So, with it being Sunday, and not getting the opportunity to participate in corporate worship anywhere, I decided to head down and play some hymns for a while. Even if it was just for me, but in hopes someone else might be interested as well.

When I first arrived, there was nobody there. I mean the lobby was empty! I first thought, “What’s the point, if there isn’t anyone around.”. Then I heard “a voice” quietly speak, saying, “Just start, whoever needs to hear will be here.”. So, I began.

When I started playing, I could see out of the corner of my eye, a lady had quietly taken her place in a chair to my right. After a few moments I noticed she was crying. I kept playing and after a little more time, I noticed a couple of others who had joined her.

I looked up at a break and she said, “Keep playing, you have a gift.”. So I played for 10 more minutes and stopped to head back up to my room. Kind of thought the nurse might be looking for me!

Upon exiting, I stopped and spoke with her. She began to tell me how much she appreciated the music, etc. and I asked her why she was here and shared my story too. She told me her 26 year old daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and at this point, the doctor’s aren’t trying to find a cure, just trying to make her feel as comfortable as possible. She is receiving chemo, but the prognosis isn’t good at this point.

We prayed together and she said, “It has been so great to be able to connect with people while being at Duke and walking through this with her daughter.”

After leaving her, I started thinking about how music can be such a bond between us as humans. How it can affect us on SO many levels all at once. How music has such magnificent “connecting powers.”. That it can draw two strangers together so they can help “bear one another’s burdens” in a time of crisis. What we think is a simple act, God can use to do a thousand things!

I am not a preacher, but I also thought about the fact that isn’t it incredible that God can take music and turn it into a sermon that someone needed to hear.

A Not So Subtle Reminder

On July 5 of this year, just two days after my four-year transplant anniversary I had a bronchoscopy.  About a week later came the news of the fact that I was in rejection, again.  While it has been two years since my last bought of rejection just hearing the words, “You’re in rejection,” was a not so subtle reminder of the fact that my life really is fragile.  I know this all too well this side of transplant, but during the “in-between times” it’s easy to start feeling invincible, or at least think you are.

I had another treatment to try to break this rejection cycle about a month ago, but a bronchoscopy just four days ago revealed that the rejection was still present.  So, off to Duke I’ll go for a week-long heavy-duty infusion that hopefully accomplish the task of breaking the rejection cycle.  I’ll be admitted for a five-day stay at Duke Medical Center starting Wednesday, August 22.  Looking forward to the yummy hospital food and soft cozy beds!

It’s probably not a bad thing that every once in a while I’m reminded of just how precious this gift of life is and that there are NO guarantees, especially this side of eternity.  It helps me refocus on priorities and really helps me think about the fact that I really need to be more purposed in the way I live this “new” life I’ve been given.

A couple of poignant Scriptures:

James 4:14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  (NIV)

Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  (NIV)

The Creative Gift of Creating

I’ve been thinking today, as I work on a new project, about how we, as creative-types, are so wonderfully blessed to be able to create art from nothing.  Nothing, in the sense that we start with a blank canvas (e.g. a piece of manuscript paper, blank Finale template, empty DAW session, etc.) and then output a totally original piece of art.  Perhaps, an expression of who we are, but I think better stated, an expression of who God is.

Give me a little bit to explain my thought process.

Genesis 1:1-2 says,  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (ESV)

Let’s break this down and see how it applies to my point.

In the beginning.  All art has a beginning.  Whether it’s a thought or a concept, a germ of inspiration, or whatever, it all has to start at the beginning.  Like the song says, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

God created.  How cool is it that the the fourth and fifth words of Scripture say “God created!”  Right from the start we see that God is a creative God, and we, as creative artists, get to plug into that every day!  Wow!

The earth was without form and void.  Did you know that the second part of the definition of form in the dictionary is:

• arrangement and style in literary or musical composition

That’s exactly what we do when we create, we have to come up with a form for our work.  It’s not limited just to music, all art has a form, guidelines, structure.  Sure, you can expand and create within those guidelines but when you take it all apart, there is form.

Void.  The dictionary defines void as “completely empty.”  Again, blank paper, a lump of clay, an unshaped piece of stone, a blank canvas, empty Finale-template…you get the idea.  We start with nothing when we set out to create.  It can be kind of scary, but isn’t it awesome to know God started out the same way when He created everything we know now?

Darkness was over the face of the deep.  This word picture in my mind is an immense view of nothingness, and while we might not start out with utter darkness, many times those of us who create have the same feeling of not being able to see.  It can be overwhelming and yes, we often times feel like we’re drowning in the deep pit of creativity!  That’s why I’m thankful for the next part!

The Spirit of God was hovering.  Okay, another BIG wow!  As we begin to work God is with us every step of the way as we create!  His Spirit covers us, or hovers over us!  So, bring on the deep, bring on the darkness, bring on the void and lack of form. As creative beings, we have the Ultimate Creator’s Spirit with us as we do what we were created to do! We were created to create by the Creator!

We should never take for granted this gift of creating we’ve been given since the beginning of the earth. This thought should catapult is into realms of creativity we’ve never even dreamed of!  For me, this thought has most definitely inspired me, even in the midst of this project!

Something Old, Something New

The worship style debate, or as it is called by some, the worship wars, still rages on even in the 21 century.  It is just another one of those ugly marks on the church.  It does nothing but divide, alienate and isolate.  It pits church staff against church staff, church members against church members and church members against church staff.  It has led to the firing of staff, the exiting of members and even the dividing of a church congregation.  Sounds amazingly hard to believe, and I can’t think of any other topic in the church that has more opinions thrown at it than perhaps what color the carpet in the new sanctuary should be!

While I personally have a hard time getting my head around the whole worship style debate, I have been trying to come up with a nugget of thought, a kernel of an idea or some kind of philosophical statement I could rally around that would help me make sense of it all.  I needed something that if asked, I could float out there as my kind of “talking point” concerning this whole issue.

After a recent in-depth conversation with a dear friend of mine, I think I have at least started on the path of coming up with something that helps me.  It’s probably not anything earth-shattering but for me, it at least helps me bring some peace and possibly offer a solution, if that’s possible, to those still struggling with their own thoughts.  So, here it goes:

If you toss out contemporary music and hold fast to hymns, you’re forgetting future generations.

If you toss out hymns and only cling to contemporary choruses, you’re missing the wisdom of previous generations.

Bottom line, it’s really NOT about style AT ALL, it’s about THE MESSAGE and the heart of the worshipper.

So, let’s bring in something old, because it has the merit of being tested through the ages and is often replete with wisdom and wonder!

And let’s add something new, because there is a generation out there that needs to be shaped for the future, and if you want to reach them, speak their language!