You know that feeling when you truly understand someone and they truly understand you? You don’t feel lonely or weird, but accepted–understood. It’s as if they can see your whole heart–all the ugly and the good–and they still love you.
That’s what I felt the other day while reading a powerful bit of writing from a dear friend of mine. It filled me with such joy. She understands. I understand. We are kindred spirits.
And then I realized something. I realized that as encouraging as it is to find a kindred spirit–as joyful as it is to relate to someone–what’s even more astounding is that God understands me.
He sees me–every hidden sin, every lingering doubt, every ugly scar, and every beautiful part of my existence. He sees me. He knows me. And still He loves me.
He understands me far better than any other human being, and far better than I’d ever want to. He understands me enough to send His Son to suffer far more than I ever have. He became human. He cried. He served. He was beaten and flogged and died the death of the accursed. And then he rose again so that I could have life too, so that the whole world could have abundant life.
This is what it means to be understood.
This is the greatest love. The love that can only come from a God who sees us, and knows us, and still loves us through and through.
There’s something special about songs of praise that have been sung for a long, long time. You can imagine your ancestors singing them in a warm, crowded church, their voices rising in harmony, and their hands gripping time-worn hymnals.
It’s no wonder that more and more hymns are being incorporated into contemporary worship. It connects us to the past and reminds us that we are praising the same God.
Our God is still faithful and righteous and bountiful in love–wondrous love.
There are certain songs that settle in your heart and stay there for a while, convicting and encouraging you. Jimmy Needham’s song “Clear the Stage” is one of them.
The chorus holds the premise–worship is more than singing. It’s a lifestyle, and it requires complete devotion:
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song
The second verse comes along and draws me in even more:
Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken
Then comes the bridge of the song when Needham sings about a subject I don’t hear often in Christian music:
Any thing I put before my God is an idol
Any thing I want with all my heart is an idol
Any thing I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Any thing that I give all my love is an idol
We might mock the idolatry of ancient days–how men carved the images they worshiped. But idols aren’t just tangible things. Most of the time they’re not so blatant.
An idol can be anything. Even a good thing that we cherish too much.
We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the One who deserves it
Hard words, Jimmy. But I need them. We all do.
What’s a worship song that’s spoken to you lately?
I like music that’s different (like this perfectly unusual love song).
I like artists that are different. Artists that share their music freely. Artists that sing truth. To me, good music means authentic sound and creative lyrics that are also clean and inspiring (i.e. Josh Garrels).
This sweet husband and wife duo don’t just sing love songs. They also sing about cultural problems, such as poverty and slavery, calling others to let go of their “neatly arranged lives” and reach out to a broken world that needs healing. They sing about mortality and faith. They sing about commitment and self-sacrifice. Their message isn’t an easy message, but it’s a message that needs to be sung.
We need good music–music that challenges us to be better people–that disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed.
We need artists like Jenny & Tyler.
We need different.
P.S. Jenny & Tyler stream all their music free on Bandcamp. They also have a free album for download on NoiseTrade (Check it out. It’s awesome).
On my flight home from Israel, I listened to a generous helping of music. During one of my many searches through Delta’s selection of albums, I stumbled across Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave.” It caught me from the start:
You can be amazing You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug You can be the outcast Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love Or you can start speaking up
Words are truly powerful. Forget the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a lie.
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do When they settle ‘neath your skin Kept on the inside and no sunlight Sometimes a shadow wins But I wonder what would happen if you:
Say what you wanna say And let the words fall out Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Bravery. That’s what I needed in my writing endeavors–the bravery to say what I wanted to say, instead of struggling with words and thoughts and phrases and fears. I needed to simply let the words fall out and watch them fill up the blank pages.
But the song wasn’t over yet:
And since your history of silence Won’t do you any good, Did you think it would? Let your words be anything but empty Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Empty words. Those are the worst.
Anybody who has anything to share (which is everyone) has to tap into that bravery of being honest with their words. It takes bravery to let the words fall out–the honest ones, not the empty ones–but it’s worth it.
So my prayer is for bravery.
The will to create comes from the Creator Himself.
And even though I still get scared and my words don’t always fall out easily, He helps me to rise above the fears.
He gives me my brave.
Now it’s your turn. What’s a song that has inspired you?
Let me introduce you to one of my favorite bands right now–Little Chief.
As of yesterday, I’m the happy owner of their latest album, Lion’s Den. (But I’ve been pumped about their music for a little while now.)
Even though it’s summer right now, I feel like the album fits the season of autumn the best. I can imagine listening to it while driving through winding mountain roads–windows down, a cool breeze blowing, and colorful leaves falling from the trees towering above.
It’s down-to-earth music, the kind that could be played with only a guitar and voices around a campfire.
That’s the type of music that I’ve been enjoying the most lately–the simple yet amazing stuff.
So if you’d like, you can check out this indie-folk band too, and tell me what you think.
But I was being prejudiced. Francesca’s style might not be what I prefer, but I know that many people love her music. And even if she is mainstream, a lot of her songs have a good message. So, I’m not bashing her entirely. In fact, my appreciation of her music went up a notch after hearing her song “Write Your Story” while shopping at the mall.
I didn’t recognize it as one of Francesca’s songs at the time, but I could tell that it was a love song written to God. (You just don’t call someone “maker of the stars,” no matter how great they are.)
The chorus caught my ear:
I’m an empty page I’m an open book Write Your story on my heart Come on and make Your mark
Author of my hope Maker of the stars Let me be Your work of art Won’t You write Your story on my heart
As someone who loves to write, the song resonated with me.
The empty page–that is what we are in God’s hands. He washes us of our sins and makes us pure. We are nothing without him.
The open book–that is our lives. We are stories. But we shouldn’t strive to write our stories on our own. We need God to write our stories. We need him to direct our lives.
The work of art–that is what we are in God’s eyes. We are crafted in his image. We are shaped by his hands. A work of art isn’t perfect, but it’s always being perfected.
What greater calling is there than to be God’s work of art? To offer ourselves as empty pages, and let the Author of Hope write His story on our hearts.