BEDTIME STORIES PART THREE

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Like I (Joel) stated in the previous two blogs in this series, I have sung to Jonah at bedtime since day one of his life. I decided that I wanted to share the music that I sing to my son on a regular basis. If you missed the previous two they are linked below.

Music is special, isn’t it? It has a way of sneaking past the walls and barriers we place surrounding our hearts – it creeps into the deeper parts of our souls and does its work there. It seems that melodies and lyrics speak to these lost and forgotten places in a way that nothing else could ever come close. Music has been a big part of our journey over the past four years or so. There have been many songs that have put into words what we have not been able to say ourselves. Singing has been a way for us to express our deep feelings and desires to God about our circumstances – to purely communicate our pain to him when simple words just won’t do. So it is not a big shock that the songs I have sung to Jonah since he was a tiny baby (the “tiny” part lasted about a day) have begun to take on new meaning. They have spoken to me in brand new ways. God does that doesn’t He? He takes something familiar and simple and turns it on its head – blowing our minds.

This particular song is a little more specific in its meaning. It is written by Andrew Peterson. It is written to little boys and to the little boys found deep in each man. It speaks of adventure and triumph but also struggles in life. If you know Jonah this song describes him to the letter. He is your typical live-life-at-full-throttle kind of boy.  It is a great song but I am only going to share parts of it. If you would like to hear the full song I have posted it here. I am going to focus on the pre-chorus, chorus, and one of the bridges as they seem to applicable to most of us. I think it describes what following Jesus is truly like.

The pre-chorus goes like this:

Feel the beat of a distant thunder…It’s the sound of an ancient song…this is the kingdom calling…come now and tread the dawn…

There is a deep sound and rhythm that has been present since the beginning of time. It is the sound of the Trinity calling us back home. As soon as the relationship was broken through original sin – God has been ever calling and pursuing us. This ancient song has to filter through a broken world and broken hearts so it doesn’t always come through crystal clear. But we get glimpses, don’t we? Sometimes it comes in so clearly forcing our eyes wide open and we see the kingdom in its full and intended glory. This of course leaves us wanting more. It is truly what gives us our hope – really one of the only hopes we have – that the kingdom is coming. God is calling us to join him there. It doesn’t start when we die. It starts now. The kingdom comes to earth through our hearts engaged with the Father. When we tread with him we can join in this ancient song – calling others who have strayed too far. It is that sweet melody that brings us home.

Now for the chorus:

Come to the Father, come to the deeper well, drink of its waters. Come and live a tale to tell.

The pages are turning now, this is abundant life. The joy in the journey is enough to make a grown man cry with a little boy heart alive.

This song is calling us to the Father – the deeper well. We can drink all day and not run out of water. His waters are  everlastingly deep and when we fully immerse in him we find a full life. This then becomes our tale to tell. It is truly the only thing we really have; our story to tell. I am understanding that more and more clearly. The gift I have to give the world – really the only one I have to give – is my life, my story, my tale to tell. God is writing the story and it is a real page turner. I am not sure how it is going to turn out. But the story is a full one. It is rich and deep. There is so much there to digest, to take in. I am not sure I am even getting half of what is really there. Oh and there is joy in this story such joy – I don’t mean happiness; happiness is fleeting, but joy, true joy which overflows from my heart. It pours out on those that are hearing and experiencing my story, enriching their own stories as they enrich mine.  

I would love to skip the last part of the chorus but it is no use. This “grown man” has cried, boy have I cried. But most of the tears really aren’t from sorrow but from surrender and peace; from love and joy; from deep in my heart where the little boy lives walled off from all others. You see he is full of wounds – wounds that have not fully healed. He is afraid to come out – afraid to live. Innocence has been lost. His heart is broken all to pieces. But this is not the end of the tale. A great Hero has come – Jesus came to restore ALL things to himself. He came to restore that little boy, to awaken him from his slumber so that he can live again. Allowing this Hero to free him from captivity and allowing Jesus to bind up his broken heart is the only true gift I can give the world – the gift of my presence fully alive, fully restored.

And finally the bridge:

Take a ride on the mighty Lion. Take a hold of his golden mane. This is the love of Jesus. So good but He is not tame.

What would that be like? Riding a lion… Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I can’t say that following Jesus is not the same. If we take a hold of him he will lead us on quite a journey. Ultimately the journey will be good, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a wild ride. You will have to hang on pretty tight. But you can trust this Lion. He knows exactly where to take you.

Come to the Father. Come to the deeper well. Drink of his waters. Come and live a tale to tell. The pages are turning now. This is abundant life. The joy in the journey is enough to make this grown man cry with a little boy heart alive.

Ever the road goes on and on. Ever the road goes on and on and on…

What kind of tale are you going to live? What is your story to share with the world?

 

 

To the others.

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I’m surrounded by beautiful mothers.  There’s my own mother, and mother-in-law, both of whom bless me over and over and over with their support and love.  There’s many wonderful mothers in my family, including my sister, Gina, who is an intentional, silly, creative and engaging mother.   And a whole bunch of women in my cohort titled “We’re all just doing the very best job we can do to raise our kiddos.”  I am blessed by their honesty and humor. (I’m blessed even more when they help me process the fact that Jonah almost electrocuted himself a week ago. Oh yes he did…)  Yes, there are many beautiful, strong, intelligent mothers in my world and I adore them so very much. I honor them.

However:

This entry is not for them.

This entry is for the women, who, like me, skipped church this morning…because you know that your heart is just tender today.  And because the LAST place you want to be is in a room full of people who are talking about how “blessed” they are to be mothers- because they have one of the things you-want-but-can’t have.  Or for those that did go to church…and wept in the back.

Believe me, I am fully aware that even as my fingers move over the keys to type this entry, I can hear my son near me playing with legos.  That’s what makes this secondary infertility thing so weird…it’s this strange combination of guilt and gratitude.  (You’re so extremely thankful for the child you have and you feel guilty for wanting more.)

Yes, this entry is for me, and for others like me who fall into this weird category of infertility.  But it’s ALSO for the women who can’t get pregnant at all. For the women who have lost babies before they were born.  Or after.  Who’s families are incomplete.  It’s for the women who had babies and gave them up for adoption to be raised by others.  For the women who are doing beautiful work of fostering.  It’s for the single moms. It’s for dads, raising their kids alone- who are both mom and dad. For the women who choose not to have kids. It’s for the women who are single, and who don’t want to be.

I honor YOU today too, because I see you.  And I know that you, too, are trying to do the very best you can.  And I think you should be honored for it.  Let’s all keep up this good work.  Let’s keep doing the best we can every day.  You- you’re doing a good job.  And I’m proud of you.

BEDTIME SONGS – PART TWO

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This is the second in the series of posts about some of the songs that I sing our son Jonah at bedtime and how the lyrics are connecting to my heart in a way that they have not done before. There is a new depth to these lyrics due to the path of pain that we have been on. Like I stated in the first post in this series, most of these come from my favorite artist Andrew Peterson. However, for this post I would like to talk through a song from John Mark McMillian that has had a powerful influence in my life this past year or so. The song is titled “How He Loves Us” and is sung on the radio by several artists including David Crowder but was written by McMillian. By far my favorite version is the one that includes an extra verse from McMillian. It can be found here. McMillian is fast becoming one of my five favorite artists. His raw and honest style is so moving to me. I feel as though he tells it like it is. He doesn’t pretty it up but lays out the mess for all to see.

This song is no different. The first verse goes like this:

He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree. Bending beneath the weight of is wind and mercy. When all of the sudden I am unaware of this afflictions eclisped by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.

I think we often forget this first line. He is jealous for me. Our God so deeply desires our attention and focus that He is jealous of all other things that can take his place. He so wants our love and attention that He is willing to risk our happiness. Sometimes his love can be so intense that it can feel like a hurricane. We can be come overwhelmed by it. Bent over but not broken. Jesus is willing to allow for pain to come in to our lives which disrupts our happiness but exposes our deep need for him. Once we are finally attentive to the weight of his glory those afflictions are eclipsed – not necessarily taken away but removed from our direct experience. The moon just went through an eclipse last month. The moon was not gone, it was where it always is but we were less aware of it, it was removed from our direct view. It is then that we see his full beauty – what a beauty it is and in that we experience the full affection He has for us. Something he wants to reveal to us each day. In fact, it has now become part of my practice to ask for its revelation. I have begun to include in my morning prayers: “Lord please reveal your affection for me in a way that I can see it”.

Chorus: Oh how he loves us so. Oh how he loves us, how he loves us all.

Verse 2: And we are his portion and he is our prize. Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eye. If is grace is an ocean we’re all sinking. And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest and I don’t have time to maintain these regrets. When I think about the way….

He is our prize. We forget that. We have been awarded with the presence of Jesus not because of who we are or what we have done but simply because we are his portion. We belong to him. We are drawn to our redemption. We don’t choose it, we are drawn to it. We forget this as well. We try to force redemption and grace on people. This is not the way it works. The Holy Spirit draws us to him by is deep and unending, graceful ocean. We drown in his grace. He gives so much grace to us that we are drowning in it. And we need to. I need to drown daily in his ocean of grace.

I really like the part with heaven meeting earth with a sloppy wet kiss. Some versions have changed this. I am not sure why. I think that God’s affection is direct and somewhat messy at times. I think that even at times the affection we feel from Jesus can be overwhelming and uncomfortable making our hearts turn violently inside of our chests. This can pour over us in a way that we really can’t hold onto regret. We try and we try to grasp it tightly because we think it is a part of us and defines us. However, when we fully immerse in the water of his unending acceptance and everlasting flowing stream of his love we can’t help but let them go realizing that his acceptance and love is what is true. It is what should define us.

Chorus 2:  He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us. Yes, he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us.

Take the leap. Drown in is grace. Allow for the regrets to be released. Allow the hurricane of his love and affection bend you low. Allow your afflictions to be covered by his beautiful and pure glory. 

Bedtime Songs – Part One

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Ever since Jonah was a few-day-old baby, I (Joel) have made it a regular occurrence to sing to him as a part of his bedtime routine. It is something that he has come to expect and it is something that brings him comfort when he is upset. Right from the beginning I did not choose to sing the traditional lullabies to him but chose about four or five songs that I enjoyed singing – most of them coming from my favorite musician, Andrew Peterson. Andrew Peterson is a folksy artist who has a narrative style in his songs. I enjoy the lyrics and soothing melodies. The songs are so real; they speak of truths in a way that cuts right to the core. I think Jonah mostly enjoys the story aspect of his songs as well as the familiarity of their words. The songs I choose to sing are not necessarily all nice and fuzzy. They instead speak of the troubles one experiences in life. They speak of hardship and pain but also speak of a great adventure that Jesus wants to lead us on and of the great redemption that comes from giving your life over to him. I wanted Jonah to know at a young age the realities of life but the hope that we can have when we align our lives to the Author of our stories. When we surrender the pen and allow Him to write.

Over the course of this past year, I have been listening to the lyrics a little closer as I sing them. The words have taken on new and deeper meaning. I am amazed by the depth of truth that I am finding in these words and phrases – truth I was not able to discern over the past six years of singing them to my son. There is a new power to the words as I have to really decide if I am going to stand firm on what they say. These lyrics have never been more real to me. They speak of a reality that I thought I knew my whole life. Now am I realizing that I was only looking at a small piece of this reality. I am starting to see more of the whole picture. This picture is quite beautiful; but as more and more of the picture is clearly revealed to me, it is also unnerving and unsettling. It is not what I thought it would be. But there is a deep peace in my soul to see the whole picture. This peace is not comfortable, it is actually more disruptive. Even if the whole picture disrupts my life, it is a holy disruption. And I am finding that holy disruptions are the purest thing we can experience in order to get to what things are really supposed to be like.

For the next few blogs I write, I would like to share with you some of the song lyrics of the various bedtime songs that I sing to Jonah. I am hoping to be able to share the new clarity I have received about the truth they tell. This clarity has come as a result of allowing their lyrics to penetrate my heart into the places that were long forgotten or purposely sealed off.  I am hoping that maybe, just maybe, the lyrics might get a hold of you too. That they might disrupt you a bit. That they might penetrate your heart.

The first song is the one that I sing to Jonah most often. It is a song that Andrew Peterson sings but was written by Mary Chapin Carpenter. It is called “Why walk when you can fly”. (Additionally, we chose this song as the music for his dedication/baptism)

It starts like this:

“In this world there’s a whole lota trouble, baby. In this world there’s a whole lota pain. In this world there’s a whole lota trouble but a whole lot of ground to gain.”

Do you hear the truth in those words? In the Bible, Jesus tells us “in this world you will have trouble”. Sometimes I want to say that that is a big understatement. I mean, no kidding that we will have trouble! We will have wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, push-you-to-the-cliff-of-despair, make-you-question-everything-you-believe-in kind of trouble.  With that trouble comes so much pain. In says in the Bible, Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted.” With that statement he defines us. We are the brokenhearted – every one of us. We have all had our hearts broken.

“Why take when it could be given, why watch as the world goes by, it’s a long enough life to be living, why walk when you could fly…”

Jesus comes to bind up the brokenhearted. He didn’t come to take; he came to give, to give his very life. All we have to do is receive it.

The second verse goes like this:

“In this world there’s a whole lota sorrows, in this world there’s a whole lota shame. In this world there’s a whole lota sorrows but a whole lota ground to gain.”

By now you are probably wondering why in the heck I would sing this sad song to my son to put him to sleep. Here is the thing. This world is full of sorrows. My son’s heart may be mostly intact right now but it will be broken. He will experience sorrow. We try to protect our kids from this, heck we try to protect ourselves from experiencing sorrow, but it is no use – it will come. The truly sad thing is that often it is connected to our shame. Shame is deeply connected to our wounds. Wounds from the trouble, the pain, the sorrow, our mistakes, from those that should have loved us… We feel that there must be something wrong with us. If this weren’t true then we would experience trouble, pain, sorrow, wounds, rejection, neglect, abandonment, the list goes on.

“Why spend your whole life wishing, wanting, and wondering why? It’s a hard enough life to be living why walk when you can fly.?

We wait around for something to change. We wish and wish for things to be different. We want things to be ok. Then when things don’t change – when things are not different and are more of the same – when things are not ok. We wonder why? We return to shame. There must be something wrong with me or things would be different. The truth is that reality is what makes you broken. It is what is wrong. You were made for a different existence. You were made for so much more. You were made to fly in a world that tries to force you to walk. You were made to soar in a world where flying seems strange. You were made to spread your wings in a world bent on keeping you in a cage.  

The last verse goes like this:

“In this world there’s a whole lota of golden, in this world there’s a whole lota plain. In this world you’ve a soul for a compass and a heart for a pair of wings. There’s a star on the far horizon rising bright in an azure sky. For the rest of time you are living, why walk when you can fly? High… High….”

We see glimpses don’t we? We get little peeks at what life is intended to be. Sometimes we even witness someone flying in a world bent on walking. But our hearts are broken; our wings damaged; our compass not true and trustworthy. Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted. Sounds like you and me, doesn’t it? Jesus came to fix your wings. He came to reorient your compass. He came to teach you how to fly. The question is – are you going to let him? Are you going to give him access to your heart, to penetrate the place long forgotten or walled off and sealed never to be opened again? Are you going to let your wings be fixed and your compass made true? If you do, then for the rest of your life you can fly. You can soar. You were made to fly. If that is true, if that is really true – then there really is only one more question to ask. Why are you still walking?