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Singing Your Song

May 6, 2010 1 comment

The drive to school took about 45 minutes in our VW bug. I’d lay in the back seat, singing goofy little songs.

I still make up goofy little songs.

I believe we were made to sing. In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that each of us is a living, breathing song.

We don’t tell our heart to beat in rhythm. It simply beats. As we join the constant pulse of our hearts, we clap, dance, jump, and sing. Step outside and we might discover a tree, a sun, and even a breeze reminding us to sing (and maybe skip).

At times in life, I’ve lost the song. Too busy trying to be grown-up and look grown-up and respected as a genuine, successful grown-up, I’d forget to sing. Sometimes I’d be too serious, too important, too spiritual, too busy or too depressed to sing.

All sorts of odd folks and experiences help me to remember, help me to hear, help me to start singing again. Sometimes the laughter of birds startled it forth. A walk around the neighborhood, a funny little story, a Psalm of David. And of course, my wife has always been able to stir up a song in my heart.

One of the most profound stirrings of song in my heart came when I began baptizing my imagination in the stories and poems of Celtic Christians. With hearts and pens tuned to the rhythms of the psalmist, the Celtic poets sang the praises of God as they meditated upon His Word, as they beheld His good gifts in the trees, birds, books and people around them.

They praised their friends, their leaders and their loved ones. Yet as one 13th century Irish poet proclaimed,

To praise man is to praise
the One who made him,
and man’s earthly possessions
add to God’s mighty praise.

All metre and mystery
Touch on the Lord at last,
The tide thunders ashore
In praise of the High King.

Their words and hearts were tuned to sing of the great High King Jesus. Even as they sang, they invited the world around them to join in the song:

Glorious Lord, I give you greeting!
Let the church and the chancel praise you,
Let the chancel and the church praise you,
Let the plain and the hill-side praise you,
Let the world’s three well-springs praise you.
Two above wind and one above land,
Let the dark and the daylight praise you.
Abraham, founder of the faith, praise you:
Let the life everlasting praise you,
Let the birds and the honeybees praise you,
Let the shorn stems and the shoots praise you.
Both Aaron and Moses praised you:
Let the male and the female praise you,
Let the seven days and the stars praise you,
Let the air and the ether praise you,
Let the books and the letters praise you,
Let the fish in the swift streams praise you,
Let the thoughts and the actions praise you,
Let the sand-grains and the earth-clods praise you,
Let all the good that’s performed praise you.
And I shall praise you, Lord of glory:
Glorious Lord, I give you greeting!

The more I’ve read, the more I discover a people immersed in prayers and songs. They had prayers for waking up, prayers for sweeping the house, prayers for making the bed, prayers for milking the cows and even prayers for talking a walk.

My walk this day with God,
My walk this day with Christ,
My walk this day with Spirit.
Ho! Ho! Ho! The three-fold all-kindly.

A certain playfulness spills over in many Celtic prayers. In this playfulness a dance with the Creator. God is not away on some far off planet. He is present. Ever present. Fully present. I need to be reminded of a Savior who near, not far:

May Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ to my right, Christ to my left, Christ where I lie down, Christ where I sit, Christ where I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye which looks on me, Christ in every ear which hears me.

As I listen to the steady cadence of these prayers, these songs, I hear the music in my ever beating heart.

We live in a world with many images but little vision, many sounds but few true words, many jokes but little deep joy. There is suffering all around us and often within us. There are troubles in life we cannot explain. Our dreams and hopes do sometimes whither and fade.

But our heart keeps beating.

We may take a cue from the old pumper and tap a toe, whistle a ditty, make up a song, and then make up another song. We might actually discover music that the good Lord put inside us that we never even realized was there.

As we sing and rejoice in His goodness, we might be surprised how music, like oxygen, rejuvenates, refreshes, and tunes us to the sweet Lord Jesus who ever prays (and sings) over us.

Mei Yao Ch’en on Spring, Death and Beauty

March 1, 2010 1 comment

(Photo used with permission, "Potential" by jspad)

When I sit down to read, I like to begin with poetry as a means of opening my hears to hear more clearly. Poetry slows my pace, stirs my heart and helps me to focus in the moment. Lately, I’ve been reading Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Chinese.

Mei Yao Ch’en (1002-1060) writes beautiful poems of loss and death. Mei Yao Ch’en gives voice to real sorrow while still voicing creation’s praise. He captures the wonder and terror of the world in a single moment. Even in death, he is overcome by the unstoppable force of life all around, and must give voice to the glory.

1,000 years later, I am overcome with the life that continues to burst from his heart.

On the Death of a New Born Child

The flowers in bud on the trees
Are pure like this dead child.
The East wind will not let them last.
It will blow them into blossom,
And at last into the earth.
It is the same with this beautiful life
Which was so dear to me.
While his mother is weeping tears of blood,
Her breasts are filling with milk.

Mei Yao Ch’en

(If interested, you can also read some of Rexroth’s translations online.)

In Praise of Pasture

July 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Notes on “To a Scrap of Pasture Pushing Itself Between the Slates of Pavement”

Bobi Jones sings a song a praise “To a Scrap of Pasture Pushing Itself Between the Slates of Pavement.” As he looks out upon the square in the middle of town, he sees a blade of grass growing up through the pavement. He hears God singing through this pasture, and revealing in image His wisdom in parables, His holy presence, His birth and death and resurrection.

Though we pave over the earth, His song cannot be stopped, and “His lightning will tongue-lash freely from the earth.” In this small blade, Jones sees a “deluge” and an “eloquent greenery” that “narrates His life and speaks in parables on all sides.”

Jones calls us to look with him,
“When we look, there are angels near the stage
And the mist at the back, its head in feathers.”

These words call to my mind the image of Isaiah’s encounter with the holiness of God in the temple. Isaiah sees the Lord “high and lifted up” and the “train of His robe filling the temple.” Around the throne he sees angels, covered in winged and hiding their face and feet before the holiness of God.

In the middle of a town square filled with people moving to and fro, God reveals His holy power and glory in a single blade of grass. This blade of grass becomes a “thin place” where the glory of God is revealed, shouting aloud the wisdom of God. But the simple pass by and miss the awesome display of God’s wonder.

The song that is sung is the song of the Word made Flesh. For in the blade of grass, Jones sees a mystery. He “watch(es) Him being born there.” This blade of grass speaks to Jones of the nativity and the irrepressible life of Christ, but the image of pasture also speaks of grain that is formed into bread.

As Jesus proclaimed, “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains a single grain.” Jones sees this grain springing up in bread that feeds the people of God with the bread of heaven, the Lord’s Supper. Jones writes,
An herb whose flesh’s heap of crops we taste
In the tasting it turns to wormwood like each scrap that grows
But I know beneath my ribs the coming of the hour’s astonishment.

The supper is bitter for in partaking of His body broken for us, we are entering into the communion of death. Jones writes that the bread is literally beneath his ribs being digested. In the meal of death, we partake of life anew.

The bread of heaven nourishes. Even as our body draws nourishment from the physical bread, our whole person draws life from the bread of Christ. In His death, we know life. For in His death, we can participate in the great mystery of life after death.

Each day we rise, we taste the sweetness of death in Christ and the hope of life after death. His irrepressible life is at work in us. So no matter what happens in our world. The fools of the world can try to extinguish God’s word and life and power from the earth, but they cannot, for it springs afresh in us, in a little blade of grass bursting through the pavement, and in all creation.

He’s performing. The foolish civilization of today can
Kill Him and bury Him deep. The inherent will frolic through the soil.
In the hand of the grassblade the creation trembles,
And it sows eternity itself: tender is the land.

Thank You C.S. Lewis

May 24, 2008 1 comment

I just finished The Last Battle, and my heart was stirred afresh by the cries, “Further Up and Further In!” My fourth grade teacher introduced our class to C.S. Lewis by reading portions from the Chronicles of Narnia each day in class. Then I read the books myself, and it was the first time as a youth that I had any longing for the kingdom of God. I didn’t know what I was longing for until I was older, but Lewis’s words awoke this yearning that only grew as I grew older.

Recently I listened to all the audio books again (and realized that I think I somehow skipped the Silver Chair as a youth). After all these years the stories still worked their magic. I felt foolish driving down the road blubbering at various transcendent points in the tales.

So thank you C.S. Lewis for you gift of another world. You helped to train my eyes to see glimpses of the kingdom around me and my ears to hears echoes of a new creation song.

Thank You Notes – G.K. Chesterton

May 9, 2008 1 comment

G.K. Chesterton’s writings helped restore my eyes to the wonder of this world and the marvel of God’s goodness revealed in this creation. His chapter, “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy stands as one of my all time favorite chapters in a book. In Chesterton I disocvered the grace of God working in the imagination to awaken faith.

The gift of Chesterton is the gift of “eyes to see.” Our busy schedules, personal trials, and distracted imaginations can blind us to the wonder of God. Whether telling the story of Thomas Aquinas, revealing Jesus as the “Everlasting Man” or writing poems about an upside down world, Chesterton consistently shouts and sings out as the merry jester that penetrates my heart with delight in the goodness of God.

As his warm love and laughter stirred in my mind and heart, I found my clouded vision finally opening every so slightly to the marvel of creation, the wonder of life, the miracle of love that God pours out continually upon his people. Thank you G.K.

You’re words have been medicine for my soul.

Read all Thank You Notes.

The Christmas Spirit

December 21, 2006 1 comment

I posted some more advent stuff over at Floydville this week. Here’s an excerpt from the latest:

Each year, I hear at least one person say, “Are you in the Christmas spirit?” Or another might say, “I just don’t feel like Christmas this year.” Year after year the refrain rolls on. I’m not always sure what the “Christmas spirit” is or feels like. But I think it has something to do with the anticipation and wonder experienced by many children.

Of course, most children live in a state of wonder from moment to moment. They might spend hours playing with their Christmas toys or they might spend hours playing with the boxes that held the Christmas toys.

Unfortunately most adults live in a world divorced from wonder, so naturally the Christmas spirit might seem elusive. Just as the anticipation of the tooth fairy, the hopes of finding a leprechaun, or the delight of a refrigerator box might also seem elusive.

Read the rest

Web 2.0 Advent Calendar

December 11, 2006 Leave a comment

Celebrate advent and learn more about new web technologies at the same time. Check out hte Web 2.0 Advent Calendar. And while you’re at it, why not spend a little time with an Advent Calendar about Advent.

Also check out these advent calendars:

An Episcopal Diocese of Washington Advent calendar with interesting art, meditatins, and opportunities to help the needy.

Electric December offers a mutli-media advent calendar with dreams for improving our world.

Find out a little Christmas history at the New York Carver’s Advent Calendar.

Beliefnet offers an Advent calendar with meditations and interesting links.

Categories: Advent, Wonder Tags: ,

Limits of Time and Space

November 15, 2006 1 comment

I put up a new reflection on Floydville. Here’s an excerpt if anyone is interested:

Despite my best efforts, nothing happened. I ran. I jumped. I even flapped
my arms. Nothing. No matter how hard I tried, I failed. After dreaming again
and again and again that I could fly, I almost convinced myself it was
possible. Sitting in church, I’d visualize myself hovering above the room,
encircling the congregation and soaring up into the sky. Then the sermon
would end, and I would realize that I was the one preaching!

A couple weeks ago while sitting in a large hall at a business conference in
Chicago, I gazed up at the ornate ceiling. The old sense of flying returned.
Ah, this looked like the perfect room to let my imagination soar. Suddenly
my mind flashed with light and I discovered this profound insight: I cannot
fly.

No matter how hard I wish, no matter how hard I flap my arms, this body is
not going to start floating. Catching my breath from this overwhelming
illumination, I wondered where does this desire to fly come from? While
there are many reasons why other people and myself dream of flying, one
reason stands out in the moment: the desire to fly can sometimes be a desire
to escape the limits of the material world.

The gift of this physical world comes with a variety of limitations. We
cannot stare at the sun. We cannot breathe underwater. We cannot walk
through walls. We cannot fly. By virtue of affirming the realness of the
world around me, I must accept the limits of this same wondrous world.
Limitations play an essential part in the game of life.

Read more.

Categories: Wonder Tags: , ,
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