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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.

Lent – The Call

February 14, 2008 1 comment

When I first heard it, I turned to see who was addressing me, but all eyes were on the singer at the front. The voice seemed too articulate to be a thought passing though my mind. And the words…the words seemed so mundane. God’s call to me didn’t come with trumpets and prophecies of glory and fire. But rather, I heard a still small voice say, “The time is not yet.”

For the past year, I had been considering exchanging my dreams of filmmaking for a life of ministry. Leading a drama team and speaking at various local churches stirred a vision in me to cry out and call a slumbering church to renewal. Our pastor consulted me on seminary plans where I could pursue a life in ministry.

Now those plans began to fade as an understated voice let me know that “the time is not yet.” Somehow I realized that this was a call of renunciation. I was being called to let go of my ideas of ministry, to let go of my passion to a build God’s kingdom, to let go of my plan for the days ahead. The voice was calling me to pilgrimage.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84). As we begin the 40 days of lent, we remember this call to pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is different than an adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien distinguished an adventure from a journey as a “there and back again tale.” We head out on an adventure, we have an exciting time and we might even risk our lives, but at the end of the adventure we return home. But leaving on a journey means never coming home.

While a pilgrimage may seem like a “here and back again tale,” it is really a journey of renunciation with no hope of looking back. Jesus invited his disciples to pilgrimage and suggested “looking back” was not a luxury afforded to disciples.

During lent, we are reminded that the call of faith is a call of renunciation. In one sense, all of us really are “poor wayfaring pilgrims.” The Lord of glory calls us from the future, inviting us to let go and keep letting go and keep letting go. Abraham was called forth to leave behind the world he knew.

The ancient Celts set forth on pilgrimage as peregrini, searching for their “place of resurrection.” The peregrini were not driven by “wanderlust” but rather of sense of obedience. Leaving the homes they loved, they traveled across the British Isles and the European continent, setting up little communities of faith along the way.

In some sense, we still hear that same call of renunciation. We are called to search for our place of resurrection and establish communities of faith as we go. 22 years ago, I heard a quiet, non-dramatic call, “the time is not yet,” and today I still feel the echoes of that call shaking my body and mind.

As we growing older, the act of renunciation often becomes more difficult. We grow comfortable accumulating stuff. From books and clothes and trinkets to ideas and habits and attitudes. Every so often, the voice comes booming forth, “the time is not yet.”

It’s not time to settle yet. It’s not time to sleep yet. It’s not time to die yet. I wrote that last line because at the end of my kidney illness, I assumed the journey was closing and soon I would leave. But the Father gently said, “the time is not yet.”

Our little Spring of Light community started lent with this reminder. The fire in our beloved “Living Room” gave us the opportunity to step forth as pilgrims once again. We won’t return to that building but will step forward into the next world our Father is preparing.

Whether you observe lent or not, I encourage you to listen and follow the gentle prodding of our Father. No matter how young or old, He continues to gently call us forward into the fullness of His kingdom. As we stop to look at all we’ve accomplished or accumulated, he reminds us, “the time is not yet.”

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