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Rhythms of Love

August 6, 2010 5 comments

Photo by Filhi bahthi photography via Creative Commons

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, reading, thinking…sitting. Music is n the background. “Celebrate Good Times” begins to play. And suddenly the celebration breaks into my world, my reading, thinking, sitting. My head starts nodding. Soon my shoulders join in. The sounds that were outside me seem to be reverberating from inside me, and my body is moving to the rhythm. Looking around I notice other people responding, moving, smiling. We exchange glances. In a room of strangers, the rhythm visibly connects us for few brief moments.

I’ve had experiences like this in stores, parks, churches and living rooms. The rhythm breaks in upon us and suddenly the room, the people are connected and moving to an unseen current. Music fascinates me, moves me, breaks in upon me. It comes from outside me through a speaker, a guitar, a drum, a singer. But soon it is inside me at the same time. My body, my mind, my emotions all respond, all echo back the rhythm. Somehow I’m connected, caught up in the rhythm.

And oddly, it lingers inside long after the music has stopped playing. The sounds, the words, the feel continues to resound within me. Though I speak about myself, I believe I’m describing an experience that is real for most of us. One moment we’re sitting alone and the next moment we’re caught up in an ocean of sounds that moves us, fills us, connects us.

Not all songs move us in the same ways. Hearing different songs can stir different feelings and different thoughts. For some strange reason, I used to force myself to listen to all sorts of music as some kind of imagined training. In college, I’d sit in the music lounge for hours soaking in all sorts of sounds. I’d join Columbia House Music Club again and again and again. I also joined the “Classical Heritage Society” and the “Jazz Heritage Society.” I’d listen to music I loved and oddly enough music I hated.

I remember picking up John Coltrane’s “Sun Ship” as yet another attempt at my musical education. I never figured it out. There were a few shining moments, but most of the time, I was immersed in chaos. I couldn’t hear one dominant rhythm. Instead, I felt caught up in a swirl of chaos. The music was disorienting.

It made me think of being caught up in the currents of a raucous ocean. Once my dad and I decided to “catch some big waves” by swimming at Myrtle Beach in the middle of an electrical storm. My mom was screaming and pacing up and down the shore while my dad and I were laughing and waving. It was fun but also disorienting. The currents above and below the surface pulled, pushed and turned us all around. When we finally decided to get out of the water, we had a hard time. The undercurrent resisted our every step.

I can only imagine the stress, confusion and disorientation of being caught in a storm at sea. With no land in sight, with no instruments of orientation, it’s easy to see how one could be truly lost of sea. I understand that pilots can experience a similar disorientation in the air. Without reference to his instruments, a pilot may literally not know which way is up. It is now believed that John F. Kennedy Jr.’s lethal crash into the sea in 1999 was a result of spatial disorientation. He thought he was flying up and flew straight into the water.

The currents of air and water and sound waves can propel us forward but also disorient us. We could be going forward; we could be going backward. We may lose our sense of direction.

We are immersed in a world of currents and rhythms. From the beating of our own heart to the fury of storm winds to the pounding of rain, we live in all kinds of rhythms and forces that impact us both inwardly and outwardly. There are also rhythms or currents of ideas, emotions, memories, and symbols that move through culture. The force of these rhythms are just as powerful as the physical force of ocean currents that move above and below the surface.

We cannot step outside of the rhythms of our world. We are all born at a time and place. We are born immersed in families and towns and eras with specific rhythms and struggles and currents. If I am born into a world where slavery is the norm, it will be very difficult for me to resist or act or think outside this force. If I am born into a land at war, I may have no memory of peace and find it difficult to even understand peace. If I am born into a family where divorce is the norm, I may repeat the pattern in my own life or never even marry.

Like the watery chaos of Psalm 46, all of us know the chaos of a world of conflicting ideas and emotions, of undercurrents that impact our dreams and our actions. The music of Scripture breaks into this world of competing currents with a strange alien rhythm. Sometimes when people first read the Bible, it might seem a bit disorienting. It should be. In fact, if it’s never disorienting we may not be paying close enough attention. The Word of the Lord breaks into our world as a challenge to the false rhythms of idolatry and oppression that reverberate on our planet.

In ancient Egypt, we discover the Hebrews trapped in a world of enslavement, oppression, and manipulation. The Word of the Lord breaks into this world as an alien rhythm, challenging the power structures and the whole conception of reality. After leading these nameless, powerless slaves into freedom, the LORD calls these people, His people and He gives them His rhythms that are rooted in love to God and love to man.

In Psalm 1, we hear a song inviting us to meditate or groan aloud these rhythms of love and worship and respect and honor. These rhythms directly challenge the constant rhythms in the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers. The world of the wicked, sinners and scoffers is built in resistance to the love of God and is rooted in self-preservation. It always leads to oppression and devastation. As the Psalmist sings, he reminds us that currents of the wicked produce a crop of chaff, of nothingness.

Like the disappearing world in “The Neverending Story,” the Psalmist realizes the end result of wickedness. Not some kind of naughty pleasure, but rather to destruction of all relationships, of all meaning, of all hope, of all beauty. The end result is absurd nothingness that blows away in the wind. There is only one sound powerful enough to withstand the gale force of oppression and emptiness: it is Torah, the Law of the Lord. The Psalmist proclaims that those who dwell, live, abide in this Law of Love will bear fruit in all seasons.

Yet even as I’m caught up the wondrous promise of the Psalmist, I am aware of my own duplicity. There are times when I speak words of love and life and encouragement. There are times when the rhythms of love seem to resonate in my every fibre. And yet, I know the fruit of selfishness. I hear James speaking directly to me when he cries out, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” I am not the man who lives in Torah day and night. I am the man who aspires to live in Torah but knows the way of hatred and anger and mockery all too well.

Isaiah says that the Lord looks for one true man, but found no one.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there
was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him. (Is 59:15-16)

He enters into our watery grave of idolatry. He entered into the alien rhythms of all world in complete resistance to love, a world that cannot build without breaking, cannot speak without cursing, cannot embrace with killing. Jesus, the Son of God, comes as the one true man. He steps into this world of complete disorientation where no one knows how to step forward and everyone stumbles in the dark. He comes as the true light. In His light, in His path, in His words, we behold the true and genuine rhythms of love. He is the God-Man from Psalms 1 who dwells and lives and acts in Holy Love. He enfleshes Torah, he embodies truth, He reveals the Father. He reveals Love between the Son and the Father. In His Life, His Death and His Resurrection He sets in motion reverberations of life that continue resounding and will eventually stop every false rhythm–even death.

So we turn to Him. We behold Him. We cry out to Him, “Lord have mercy.” It is then that we realize, He has embraced us and His song is beating in our heart. Yes, we are still learning His song, but we are no longer adrift in a sea of chaos. The music of the heavens is pulsing through us. Ours heads, our hands and our feet are beginning to dance.

Jeremy Begbie suggests that music itself is not hope but it is a dynamic of hope because it is sweeping us forward. In Christ, we are caught up in a true dynamic of hope. We are joined together in a song of love the will not fail but will overcome every false rhythm and conquer every lying word.

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.

I’m poor, naked and helpless

July 5, 2007 1 comment

Listening to Sinead O’Connor‘s song “Something Beautiful” helped remind me why I am Christian. While I love to read and think and engage spirited discussions on the nature of faith and personhood and our postmodern milieu, I readily confess that I’m really poor, naked and helpless. Faith in Jesus has come to me as a gift in my own desperate weakness.

Sinead captures the voice of the aching soul encircled in God’s love,

I couldn’t thank you in ten thousand years
If I cried ten thousand rivers of tears
Ah but you know the soul and you know what makes it gold
You who give life through blood

Then she confesses her desperation in language that highlights for me my own faltering steps that stumble even when moving toward the love of Christ:

Oh I wanna make something
So lovely for you
‘Cus I promised that’s what I’d do for you
With the bible I stole
I know you forgave my soul
Because such was my need on a chronic Christmas Eve

The idea of encountering the loving grace of God through a “stolen bible” pictures the wonder of redeeming love for me. All of us are thieves seeking to steal the gift our sweet Savior so graciously offers in his broken body and shed blood.

Rickie Lee Jones and The Words of Jesus

March 24, 2007 4 comments

rickylee.jpegBrowsing emusic this morning I discovered a new album from Ricky Lee Jones called The Sermon on Exposition Blvd. Since the word sermon caught my attention, I stumbled on over to read more about it. Turns out she really has released an album exploring themes inspired by Jesus. What I’ve listened so far, sounds pretty cool. Of course, you have to like her unique voice.

What stirred her to release this album? Apparently, Lee Cantelon wrote The Words, a books that brings the words of Jesus into a setting where contemporary readers from within and outside the Christian tradition can encounter the words in a fresh way. This led to a larger project involving writers, theologians, scholars and more bringing these words to cultures around the world in various languages. While Lee’s work has received a welcome audience outside the Christian tradition, it has also received the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, the official authorization of a theological text by the Roman Catholic Church.

Lee wanted to gather a few artists to record the Words. Ricky ended up getting involved (read more about that story here), and she ended up recording an album.

365 Days of Weird, Cool and Strangely Hypnotic MP3s

March 2, 2007 Leave a comment

This site has been up for 4 years, but its new to me. If you like to listen to unusual music and more, check out the 365 Days MP3 calendar.

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Never Say Never – Music Downloads with no restrictions

January 23, 2007 Leave a comment

NYT reports that the stone wall is coming down. After years of vowing never to allow music downloads with no copying restrictions, the major record labels are finally waking up to the digital age. Looks like there will be some major developments during the next few months and over the next couple years.

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Discover Musical Soul Mates

December 8, 2006 Leave a comment

Uplay me promises to track your listening preferences and connect you with other people who listen to the same music. Could be interesting, could be freaky.

MP3 Search Engine

December 8, 2006 Leave a comment

Spent a little time this morning tracking some of the new Web 2.0 sites, and I put a few posts of the one that sound interesting to me. First, MP3 Realm, a music search engine. You can search audio files and lyrics, create playlists, download files, save searches and more. It could be interesting. While it’s a different princicple than Pandora, ultimately the playlist stirs me to comparison. I think it would be interesting to mash the search capabilities with the music  genome concept of Pandora.

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AARP Rocks the House

November 27, 2006 Leave a comment

Move over Bill Graham, looks like latest greatest concert promoter could be the AARP! Apparantly the teen set are not the biggest market of music consumers. Instead, the RIAA suggests that the 45 and older group in the biggest, most reliable music consumer sgement. According to the NYT, “Last year fans 45 and older accounted for 25.5 percent of sales, while older teenagers (a group more prone to music piracy) represented less than 12 percent.”

Watching the growing graying trend in music appreciation, AARP promoted a Tony Bennet tour and may begin a whole series of promotions and other iniatives to target this group for potential AARP members.

This may have some interesting implications for other developments online including the future of online social networks. I still expect a hybrid to develop of online/offline networking groups that relate to the older groups. We’ll see.

Amateur – Lasse Gjertsen

November 13, 2006 1 comment

This little sampling duet is cool!

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