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Music

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20

There’s no consensus in archeology as to when humans first started creating music.  One theory is that it must correlate with the creation of language.  When you think about it that makes sense – we go about our days humming, whistling, or like my dry cleaner, putting our conversations to some mysterious tune.  Scientists have found ancient flutes dating back around 300,000 BC.

What scientists will never answer is why do we have this thing called music and from where does it originate? From a Christian point of view, we know that God gifted us with so many human-specific attributes (although birds do have lovely songs!) such as the creation of music.  The first known “hymn” detailed in the Bible dates from somewhere around 1500 BC.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  Exodus 15:1-2

That praise song to the Lord goes on for 16 more verses!  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a recording of the exiles singing this?   As I write this, I’m listening to a beautiful Spotify playlist called “relaxing piano Christian.” What continues to amaze me is that year after year, decade after decade, and century after century this beautiful gift of music finds new ways to stir our hearts and minds.  I thank God for the notes He has placed out in the universe for us to sing, to play and to hum.  And I look forward with anticipation for each new song’s foray into His mysterious ways.

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His Grand Orchestra

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

The other morning my husband and I were out for an early morning walk.  The clouds were building to the east and I commented that I hoped it would rain.  You see, living in Southern California we don’t see a lot of rain.  And I love the rain.  I love the sound of it hitting the pavement, especially when it wakes me in the middle of the night.  We get up just to watch it rain.  I even love the sound of the water hitting under my car as I drive down the road.  There are so few times when the rain becomes a long, monotonous affair where I live that I never get tired of it.  At my daughter’s house in Missouri, I could sit for hours watching and listening to the thunderous rain come down!  

The sound of rain is just one instrument in God’s beautiful orchestra.  The music of His creation is so glorious!  And that’s what I praise today.  

I’ve been praying the last few days for God’s direction for these last few days of praise.  And on my way to have lunch with my parents – which typically is a difficult visit – my playlist of Christian music came on.  A fun and almost silly song began playing which put me in just the right frame of mind for my impending encounter with my parents.  And I praised God for His music.  And then I praised God for putting this entire line of thought in my head!

When I think of all the beautiful instruments in God’s orchestra what also comes to mind are the voices of some of my closest friends.  Their laughter and warmth.  Their sarcasm and wit.  I told one of them, in preparation for her day at a school office, that no matter what is thrown her way I know the office will be blessed with hearing her joyous giggle.

During the stresses of the last year and a half I started doing a sort of mediation technique to help me rest in God’s peace.  When I’m at our local park with my dog I sit down on the grass and do a centering countdown.   It goes like this:

  1. What 10 different things do I see?
  2. What 9 different things do I hear?
  3. What 8 different trees can I find?
  4. What 7 different smells can I smell?
  5. And so on..

It’s amazing just sitting and listening to the music of God’s creation.  The breeze rustling in the trees.   Birds chirping. Children laughing.  Moms talking on their phones.  Cars driving by.  Airplanes overhead.  Bees buzzing.  My dog panting.   So many sounds, some of which are exactly the same as at the time of creation others unique to this very time and place.

And of course, there’s what we traditionally call “music.”  I marvel that since the beginning of time we humans have been creating new types of music and songs.  When you look at a music book there seems to be a limit to what can be created.   There’s only a certain number of notes to use, right?  And yet day after day,  year after year someone creates a new song or even a new sound!  How else can this happen than by some glorious design by a being who loves music and who loves the sounds of the earth?

Praise God for music that speaks to us when we need it most.  Praise God for the sound of crashing waves.  Praise God for thunder and chickens squawking and the crunching of gravel under my feet.  Praise God for his magnificent orchestra of life!


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Hemmed In

You hem me in behind and before, and 
you lay your hand upon me. 
Psalm 139:5

My BSGs were talking the other day about sensing God’s presence.  More specifically about the times we felt God was far away from us.  So often when we are experiencing difficult trials we think “where is God?”  But I’ve come to realize in my faith journey that the real question is the one God asks, “Will you come back to me and rest in my love?”

God surrounds us each and every day.  In our verse today it’s expressed as “hemming us in.”  For some that might seem restricting.  But to me it evokes the concept of wrapping a baby tightly in a swaddling cloth.  We do it so the baby feels the warmth and safety once felt while inside the womb.  And that’s what God wants for us. 

I will not leave you comfortless: I will 
come to you. 
John 14:18

Those are Jesus’ words.  He sent us the Holy Spirit to always be in us.  We don’t need to go looking for it.  We don’t need to beg for it to descend upon us.  God indwells.  So, what is truly required of us when we experience difficult times is to rest in what is already available to us.

“It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you!”

Upper Room, Surrounded (Fight My Battles)

When I think about the times I felt distanced from God I also think back to when the Israelites were out in the desert.  They could actually see God’s spirit hovering over their camp day and night.  And yet, they asked, “Where is God?”  I don’t have the benefit of seeing a cloud follow me around day and night.  And, I don’t have the physical Jesus to sit down with at dinner to share my problems.  So, I give myself a bit of grace when I forget He is always with me. 

When I rest and tap into the strength and love and goodness of the Holy Spirit I find that promised peace.  It most likely won’t change the circumstances of the trial I’m experiencing.  But knowing He is with me, with His hand laid upon me, gives me the strength to continue.

My friend Betsy is an avid, extreme hiker.  Last year, at 70 years old, she set off to tackle the John Muir Trail solo.  She came to a particularly difficult portion and her body starting giving her troubles.  She has dreamed of this trip for years – and attempted it a few times.  She became distraught that she couldn’t go on.  With her, in case of emergency, was her Iphone.  She made the decision to use it to listen to some Christian music in the midst of this struggle.  As she reached the crest of the difficult portion, filled with the music of the Holy Spirit, her mind was transformed.  She had plugged back in to her closeness with God.  

Betsy wasn’t able to complete her goal.  But she gained so much more.  A confirmation that God never leaves us.  We just need to rest in that “hemmed in” space He provides.

Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to pray when we feel separated from God:

Lord, I thank you that I am not a spiritual orphan in this world.  You did not abandon me or leave me to figure out everything on my own.  You sent the Holy Spirit to me to be my Teacher and Guide.  So right now, I open my heart wide to the Holy Spirit, so He can be the Helper You sent Him to be in my life.  I give You thanks for sending this divine Helper and I ask You to teach me how to lean upon Him more and more in the course of my life.  I pray this in Jesus’ name!