O Joy?


There is this strange idea in some strands of Christianity that we will never have problems or have “bad things happen” if we are truly Jesus-loving people. As if.

From the first fig leaf, humanity has seen and known pain, discouragement and doubt. But that’s not what sells, is it?

The kiddie Bible my kids had growing up reinforced this. All the characters (who were remarkably Caucasian looking… which is another essay…) were all smiling and content. There were a few pictures of the Israelites frowning about manna burgers, I guess. And maybe a few tears at the tombs of Lazarus and Jesus, but the Christian faith was, for the most part, this “in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right-happy-all-the-time” religion. (That song still makes me shudder. And bonus points to you if you don’t know it. If I just gave you an ear worm, I’m sorry!)

I’m not suggesting we teach children “life sucks and then you die” either (just to be clear). But there needs to be a balance. Enough of a balance that when the hard times come, there is a reserve of faith that says, “I will get through this… with the help of God and God’s people.”

We live in disturbing times. Frustrating times. Fear-mongering times. Hate speech fills the airwaves.

This should not surprise us. It is as much a part of our Christian lives as walking in joy and seeing glory! A full-rounded faith does celebrate, but it also mourns. We are called to  embracing pain. Accepting change. Finding hope in the unknown. Making sense out of nonsense.

When I was thinking about the world’s events over the last few months, the old hymn by Robert Matheson came to mind. How often do I remember that God is made real in our lives is many ways?

A Love that will not let me go…
A Light that follows my way…
A Joy that seeks me through pain…
The cross that lifts up my head…
(Full lyrics here.)

Yes, it’s a schmaltzy old hymn. But the thread of faith through the verses brings me some comfort and courage. Perhaps you, as well.

O Joy? Yes. Joy. One frustrated, tired, hoping, yearning step at a time. There’s joy.

From my journal recently:

I’d like to know why, God.
I really would.
I could go through the whole alphabet of whys…
And I can say trite words and cheap phrases
to make myself feel better…
But that’s not how faith works.

And every time I think I might understand
A little more
Another piece of insight into Your world,
Some tsunami of stupid knocks me flat.
And here I am
Asking why.

So there’s doubts.
O God, so many doubts.
And there’s pain.
I’m tired of pain.
But then… There’s beauty and grace and love
And laughter and hope and joy,
so much joy!!
And the Spirit winging me upward
for just a glimpse
for just a taste of Glory.

And it’s enough.
It’s enough to say one more day,
I love you.
Thank you.
Let’s do this thing called “life”
one more day.


Sept 2017

Thank you for making me practice…


My piano.

I sat down at her piano and started to play…

Joy to the world, the Lord is come… O come, O come, Emmanuel… The first noel the angels did say… What Child is this who laid to rest…

She sat in her wheelchair and listened, eyes bright and focused. She hummed a little, tapped her foot. Her caregiver looked over at me and nodded with happiness.

“More?” I asked her.

“Oh yes… please! And can you sing?”

I started playing some more…

“O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining!
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.”

My fingers fumbled a little. Blame it on bifocals, or a lack of practice, I didn’t always get the key signature right. “Oops! Sorry! 5 flats!” I said. “That should be D flat!”

It brought back memories of my dad hollering correcting notes from the other room. His perfect pitch was annoying at times. How many hours did I practice? More than I wanted to, for certain.

But that day in her living room, watching her smile with such contentment, I said a silent thank you to my parents for making me practice all those years ago.

Friday Five: Hymn Sing

MaryBeth from RevGals offers the following prompt for today:

You know how sometimes you just want to have a hymn sing? Well, today is that day.

Share with the group five favorite hymns or praise songs or songs that bring you close to the Spirit (that’s a pretty wide net!) and why they are special to you.

Bonus if you can share Youtube videos or audio files of one or two or more.

Ahhh…. I love the way God takes music and gets my attention, or as a former director used to say to us, “SNAP TO!” Maybe some of these will help you “snap to” the Spirit this morning…

1. Andrew Peterson’s Planting Trees. It’s a reminder to me that much of what we do by the power of the Spirit is in the arena of digging holes, spreading roots and caring for the parts of our lives that are above and below ground. It’s a metaphor that works for me on many levels, so much so that I created a video for it:

2. A more “classical feel” is in this piece by Karl Jenkins. It is the “Benedictus” from  “The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace). Again, a video that I created (for my co-workers at NIH) – but with the words of a blessing by John O’Donohue. May the music and the blessing touch your hearts and remind you that your work in this world is life-giving!

3. Julie Miller’s Broken Things

4. John Ritter’s arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth

5. A prof of mine, David Edwards, wrote a contemporary Christian song titled You are Water to my Soul. Part of the lyrics are:

You are water to my soul,
gift of life to me.
You are all I ever need —
Heaven’s healing stream.
Clouds pour out your rain,
washing ev’ry stain.
You are Water to my soul,
gift of life to me…

NaBloPoMo Day 7 – Music that gives me energy

Today’s prompt:

What is your favorite song that gives you energy?

Is this a trick question? 🙂 Because it depends on the day, my mood and the task at hand!

If I’m writing or researching, it would be something like the Brandenburg concertos or perhaps some Vivaldi.

If it’s things like cooking or baking, it can be the whimsy of the moment.

If it’s cleaning or chores I dislike, I tend towards old favorites on my “classic rock” or ‘Disney” Pandora channels.

And as I start a day of the most DE-ENERGIZING task of the year, putting away Christmas, my playlist started with this song, which seemed very fitting for New Year’s!

Where you go I go
What you say I say
What you pray I pray

Jesus only did, What he saw you do
He would only say, What he heard you speak
He would only move, When he felt you lead
Following your heart, Following your spirit

How could I expect to walk without you
When every move that Jesus made was in surrender
I would not begin to live without you
For you alone are worthy you are always good

You are always good
You are always good
Always good
Always good

Though the world seems to forget
We will not forget
Who you are and what you’ve done for us

You are my God

All about Kim Walker: http://www.musictory.com/music/Kim+Walker