Archive for November, 2009

If you want to spend eight worthwhile minutes today when you take a break from baking those pumpkin pies or changing the sheets on the guest bed so Aunt Tillie will have a place to sleep when she comes for this Thanksgiving weekend, why not spend it listening to Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia?

I heard that tone poem on the radio as I returned home from taking Zach to “See You at the Pole Extended” (a group of kids that decided, after this year’s See You at the Pole prayer event in September, to meet every Wednesday morning for prayer–pretty cool, eh?) this morning around 7AM.  The music, which came to symbolize the Finnish national spirit, is said to have been written at least in part to protest the Russian oppression of the press in Finland at the time of the writing.

If you’ve spent very much time in a church in your life, you will recognize part of the melody as that to which we sing the hymn “Be Still My Soul”.  Also, “We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and Our Defender” is very appropriately set to Sibelius’ music.  But, the part of the composition to which we match those words is only part of the story.

The work begins with a growl.  We can hear the deep brass rumble of oppression, imagine the emotions roiling within the hearts of the composer’s countrymen as they find themselves increasingly under the heel of Russia.  But, gradually, into the growl is interjected a determination.  I can picture those people rising, one by one, stepping forward and locking arms to face the foe in solidarity with their neighbors who are suffering the same push, push, push to a place in which their spirits cannot bear to live.

The music moves us forward as we sense victory against the foe.  The musical climax of that part of the work ushers in the clear yet unquestionably strong woodwind and string tones of a prayer, what we recognize when we hear the title Finlandia.  The piece wraps up with sure shouts of celebration that don’t forget gratitude as the final few notes include a couple of notes we would clearly recognize as an “amen”.

I couldn’t help but think, as I sat listening to my “driveway music” (and Michael was probably wondering what was taking me so long to come into the house from the car), about Psalm 73.  Good old Asaph starts out by declaring God’s goodness to those who are pure in heart, but quickly moves into a bemoaning of the prosperity of the wicked.  One can almost literally hear the crescendo in his voice as he contrasts their “fate” with his, feeling that “in vain have I kept my heart pure” and that the only result of that has been daily punishment from a God who is unaware of what is going on.

Then–the part of this Psalm I love and can SO relate to:  “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”–I always see this next word in all caps–“TILL I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood…”  Isn’t that just the way it is?  Or could be, if we would make that same turn in the midst of our ravings about all of life’s injustices and oppressions and negatives we didn’t ask for but got anyway because we live in a world where sin is a reality?

If you take the eight minutes to listen to Sibelius’ parallels to Asaph’s longings expressed, I wonder if there is any way to read Psalm 73 concurrently and make it come out just right with the right music for the right expression of heart?  I do know that the ends will match perfectly–Sibelius’ firm “Amen” with Asaph’s “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”


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Immortal Until

Ever thought of yourself as immortal?

New thought–or a new way of putting an old thought–came to my attention in today’s family devotional reading from God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms by Ben Patterson.   Psalm 57:2 finds David declaring,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Patterson urges his readers, having meditated on that verse, to state it as a declaration of belief:  “I believe in…’God who will fulfill his purpose for me.'”

Then he says this:  “God has a purpose for you, and as someone has said, you are immortal until it is fulfilled…”

Wow!  Very cool thought!  If I really took that seriously, can you imagine how much worry I would immediately dump at the side of the road?  Can you imagine how much you would?  “What do I have to lose?” would be come my mantra and I would truly understand Jesus’ words about “losing my life” for His sake…really–there IS nothing to lose, because on my knotty side of my life’s tapestry I see the black threads as loss.  On the side where the masterpiece is revealed, God sees the beauty and gain as the big picture unfolds.

I hope I don’t forget this idea for awhile–or forever.

Now…off to immortality…

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A Little Bit Every Day

I have been woefully lean on words this fall.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t speak them.  In fact, that may be the problem.  Is it possible to be all “spoken out”?

Possible or not, I think I need to write a little bit every day.

So, tonight I will list things I saw today that I’ve never seen before:

  • The eyes of a student looking like a real person with a real life–instead of surly and put out–when he was telling me about his car not working and about how he was able to fix it
  • The workout room in the Student Life Center at Ivy Tech’s North Campus (I wasn’t in it–but Ellen and I were working out in our own way by speedily walking the halls of the building after we finished our Tuesday lunch together, and we walked past it…again…and again…and…)
  • Someone’s green (should it have been any other color?) Ivy Tech water bottle on the table in the staff workroom
  • An episode of “The Office”
  • A student who always looks deadly serious cracked a joke in class and laughed…and made me laugh
  • A grilled cheese sandwich that I prepared that didn’t even come close to burning
  • An appeal letter for financial support specifically for the Weekday Religious Education program in which I used to teach
  • A colleague’s new haircut
  • Me wearing a new pink sweater
  • A schedule for my job for next semester–same classes, different days
  • A Facebook birth announcement from particular friends who have a new grandson–congrats, Jeff and Nancy!

That’s enough…the clock says 10:40 PM and the teenager son says, “Can you and dad be done with showers in the bathroom by 5:45 in the morning so we (said son and house guest friend Josiah) can be up and at school by 7AM for prayer at the pole?”  That’s an offer I can’t refuse, so…Good night!

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