A Heart Full of Thanks

My heart is overwhelmingly full of memories today…from fresh, new memories like cuddling with Mackenzie in my arms while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, eating Mamaw’s lemon and/or chocolate pies (which my sister has thankfully mastered), making dressing with Nana (that’s Turkey, Sage and Ham Dressing, mind you), hunting with Bapaw and eating Thanksgiving at the kettle in Junction, snowy Chicago mornings with Meghan & her family, Thanksgiving with a view of the bog in Hilton Head with Mackenzie’s Great Grandma Ginny, my parents coaxing me that the puréed onions and celery wouldn’t ruin the dressing (and I made them this morning, Derald and Lesa)…memories of dear friends like Brent who’ve made the world a little brighter by their “Jesus Light…” and friends in places like Atlanta and new friends in Coppell with our Riverside family.

I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that on this 2015 Thanksgiving day, never has the Psalmist’s worshipful refrain in Psalm 118, the very refrain of the People of Israel been as true to me as it is today.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.”  (Psalm 118)

I’m mindful of one of my favorite hymns today…with wonderful verses to express just how deep and broad our thanksgiving is.

Folliot S. Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher (Tune: Dix) have penned it so well (and it was even used in the 1994 Academy Award winning film, Little Women)

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Refrain

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,*
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

Refrain

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.

Refrain

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Refrain

For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.

Refrain

For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.

Refrain

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

Refrain

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

Refrain

May we all be grateful to this degree…and beyond today!
Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours!

Music’s Power to Evoke Hope & Peace

Today is one of those days where so many in the brotherhood of humanity are looking to lean into something…something that will offer a glimmer of hope and a vision of a day when peace will abide.  Music has, time and time again over the course of history, spoken into such situations…and today is no different.  In the wake of such a terrible tragedy as we’re seeing unfold in the events in Paris, France over the last 24 hours, I am reminded of a piece I did with my choir in Atlanta during my first year there.

1910504 (1)The origins of this poem are found in the origins of war…inscribed on a World War II Concentration camp wall, attributed to a  child, composer Z. Randall Stroope  has sewn together the fragments from what was written on a wall in 1943 in Cologne, Germany.  Today, I’m leaning into these words…a piece called “Inscription of Hope.”

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there

And I believe in God
even when He is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me saying
‘hold on my child’

I’ll give you hope
I’ll give you strength
Just stay a little while
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining

And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God
even when He is silent

I believe through any trial
There is always a way

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace.”

We long for the day when no person will ever again have to scrawl out a message of hope on hell’s dark wall – but instead, from a place of realized hope and bright sunshine.

Psalm 34:14, 18
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it..The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

PAX…

The Power of Song (#1)

Time after time, day after day, we experience music’s power in our lives.  Sunday after Sunday, music has that same type of power.  But how often do we claim it’s power (and the source of that power)?  How often have we become desensitized to music’s power?

I love this statement from The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada​

We believe that the holy act of singing together:
heals brokenness…
shapes faith…
transforms lives…
renews peace.

Any of you have an instance where you’ve experienced, first-hand, the power of song like this statement describes?  Would love for you to leave a comment and tell that story here!

We Are A Moment…We Are A Vapor…

As I prepared to lead worship this morning, I found myself thinking about my dear friend, Brent who is now with our heavenly father.  For almost 9 years, I had close interaction with B every Sunday morning (and Sunday night as we co-led Small Groups)…for many of those Sundays, he was my slide man…needless to say, we were very, very close.  The hymn that has him on my mind is one he embodied, and more than that, he embodied the truth it is fashioned out of.

This morning, we planned to sing Lynn DeShazo’s & Gary Sadler’s wonderful modern hymn Be Unto Your Name.  If indeed worship on earth is preparation for our eternal worship around the throne, than these words should help us anticipate what is to come and what we’re supposed to be living for…and I believe worship very much helps us accomplish bringing about “life on earth as it is in heaven…”

The writers craft their lyric based on these words from James 4
13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, 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. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

12191019_10208177895031693_2796738148264634593_nIf we trust in God, then we should have no problem following these meaningful verses with the very powerful chorus that follows.  May these lyrics continually transform us…and B?

It makes me long for heaven a lot more with each passing day.

Verse 1: We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages, God before time
We are a vapor, You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high

Verse 2: We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, mighty to save
You are the love song we’ll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name

Chorus: Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name

Back to the Heart of Worship…

Worship music is ever-in-transition.  Always has been, always will be.
We often talk of those “old” hymns that have been incredibly formative in our religious upbringing or discipleship journeys.  For every church-going believer (and even some not-yet-believers), there is probably some hymn which has been meaningful at some point in their lives.  We punctuate our lives with them…weddings, funerals, with lots of “routine” Sundays in between.

But, if you’re like me, there was a point when you were “Exposed” (makes it sound like some contagious illness or airborne disease, doesn’t it?) to something new…something fresh, something different than the “hymns” you sang in church or heard in church in days gone by.

downloadAs I listened to the new Passion record a few weeks ago, I was taken aback when, after I had put it on shuffle for a while, a simple chorus of Matt Redman’s older tune “Heart of Worship” came on in the midst of a sea of new (some of it really nice) worship music.
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship…
Where it’s all about you, all about you, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it.
                                                When it’s all about you, all about you, Jesus.”

Even though I’ve known it for years and went through a phase at ACU where I was leading it quite often in our Wednesday night service at So. Hills, it’s simplicity struck me as so powerful…and even though it was not the song I most poignantly remember as a “game changer” in my view of  what worship music looked, sounded and “felt” like, it sent me back to a litany of times and places where some “new songs” really took me to a deeper level.  I’ll probably be flooded with a list of memories and songs after I hit publish…and I may come back to that at a later date…

The simplicity of the sound, the form, the lyric…all just reminded me of what’s so important about what we communicate in the songs we sing in worship.  I think what was at the core of an entire movement of new worship music, and to some degree, still remains at the core, was a desire of worship writers to go back to what was of “first importance,” to borrow Paul’s words.  As a dear friend & brother of mine often says we must “keep the main thing, the main thing,” in the realm of what worship is most about.  And for many of these writers?  That’s exactly what they were and are doing.  Going back to what is primary, foundational… and that is the fact that worship isn’t about us.  And I don’t know about you, but I constantly need to be reminded, especially in worship, that it’s not about me.  May we all go back to the heart of worship.