Popped strings, and other favorites tunes.

guitarAs a past worship leader, I appreciate, at least in a small degree, the importance and effort that goes into putting song sets together for the congregation.  In the case of contemporary music, there’s rhythm and flow to be considered, as well as your team’s availability for that week, and hopefully prayerful discernment. 

Of course, then I would break a guitar string in them middle of it all, and God shows His sense of humor…Not only does the string almost hit you in the face, but it throws the rest of the instrument out of tune, and naturally it can’t happen during practice, oh no, but during the set, in front of the congregation.

So then there’s life, well planned, even prayerfully so, and then…

…BOOOIIIINNNGGG!  (And usually not in private, right?)

Kinda sounds like this worship leader from a long time ago.  His name was Heman, an ancestor of Ezra, so he’s got an impressive Hebrew pedigree. The note at the beginning of his song reads as follows:

“A song to be sung to the tune ‘The Suffering of Affliction.’”

(…because that would certainly be a go-to for a Sunday morning.)

“O Lord, God of my salvation,
    I cry out to you by day.
    I come to you at night.”

Starts out okay, but kinda plays on that “out of tune instrument” from then on.

“For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.
I am as good as dead,
    like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
    and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
    cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
    into the darkest depths.”

ETC, etc, etc…. Then he says this.

“Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
    Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
    Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?”

Now, c’mon, how can he talk about God forgetting him (and worse) in one breath, and in the other speak of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness, His wonderful deeds and His righteousness??

Something tells me this is more about Heman reminding himself of God’s goodness, than reminding God to take care of him. Obviously, somewhere in his past, Heman has an intimate history with the Deity of his ancestors, as well as a working knowledge of God’s unchanging character leading up to this personal crisis.  He’s hurting, but not hopeless.  He’s frustrated, but in still fanning the flames of faith.

I find it most informative, and incredibly encouraging, that God has included Heman’s depressing little song of woe in the eternal Word of the Ages, alongside “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, and “those who live in the shelter of the Most High”, and “I will lift my eyes to the hills”.  It allows me to be real with my Father Who art in Heaven, even though His name be hallowed. 

He’s got big enough shoulders to cry on.

But then, there is plenty of reason to dry the tears also.  Because, as Heman’s song shows by its very poetic construction, God’s “unfailing love, faithfulness, wonderful deeds, and righteousness” are in there, smack-dab in the middle of my mucky life situations (“grave, destruction, darkness and forgetfulness”)!

Like Heman’s predecessor and fellow hymn-writer (King David) penned, “yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me…” (Emphasis mine.)

And that’s something to smile about.

late-stage-1431752_1920

Psalm 88:1,3-6,11-12 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Run, run, run-away

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280The Israelite judge, Jephthah, is generally known for the weird story about his daughter, poor kid.

But I think we generally miss the importance of this guy’s backstory and how God may have used it to his (and His) advantage.

Back in those days, having sons was pretty well tantamount to status (as opposed to having daughters; now where they thought the baby boys came from, gets me…)  And although even our secular Western culture has fairly well done away with that mindset, they (and us) still deal with the “world’s oldest profession”. 

So while Jephthah’s dad, Gilead, had several socially legitimate sons, little Jephthah was not one of them, and was treated accordingly. 

“…and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. ‘You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, ‘for you are the son of a prostitute.’  So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.”

Because, back then, with those kinds of credentials, that’s about all the following you’re going to get.  I can only imagine what hardship he must have suffered going from the house of his father (probably bullied while he was growing up anyway, but at least provided for) to ousted into the “real world”, possibly as a teenager.  Homeless.  Despised.  Without family or connections.  Or money.

As usual, the plot thickens—

“At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel.  When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob.  The elders said, ‘Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!’ But Jephthah said to them, ‘Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?’”

Run off the farm, rather than living in the lap of luxury, Jephthah has been hardened by life’s boot camp, and is now evidently the one most suited for rescuing those same brothers with soft, un-callused hands. 

And rescue he does, like the rushing in of the cavalry. 

The point is this.  People do us injustices.  We have to suffer the consequences of others’ stupidity, prejudices, unkindness, or just low-down thoughtlessness.  I’m bullied, kicked out of the club, whether physically or emotionally.  Bereft.  Alone.  (At least it feels that way.)

But God has other plans, and this is just part of the Divine Boot Camp.  Plans for rescue, not vengeance, for redemption, and restoration, and it may be for the very ones who turned me out.  

man-2257145_1920Jephthah’s hands and muscles may have become just as soft as his brothers had he stay in his dad’s house all that time.  Instead, he became the hero.

Which is God’s training for all of us, to be heroes in one way or another. 

Judges 11:2-7 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The capstone of nine months

IMG_20150103_172451138As I begin this post, our youngest daughter is in the birthing process with their first child.  She called last night around 1:30AM (their time) to say that the dam had broken, but were home from the hospital with the injunction to “try and get some sleep”.

Yeah, right.  A separate human being is trying to push her way into the world through your body, and you’re supposed to “get some sleep”. 

Last report is that the contractions are getting more regular.  Of course, their bags are packed, and my son-in-law has been the one “nesting” by changing all the lights in their small apartment so that they can be turned on and off by a phone app, by rotating the tires on the car, etc…we love him.

And yet, even though he will experience everything he can as our own baby girl goes through this process, no one can really Continue reading “The capstone of nine months”