Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stress & Writing

There's the kind of stress that feeds writing...and the kind of stress that stifles it. I seem to be in a season of the latter - a season where even when I have time to write, my mind is full of noise & nothingness rather than melodies & lyrics. Even bad lyrics can lead somewhere...but no lyrics?

Ah well, back to work...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Terrible God, That Reign’st On High

Sojourn's sermon today focuses on God's holiness, specifically as it is portrayed in Isaiah 6:1-8. That being the case, this, the final hymn of "Hymn Week", seemed a fitting choice for today.

TERRIBLE GOD, THAT REIGN’ST ON HIGH
by Isaac Watts

Terrible God, that reign’st on high,
How awful is Thy thund’ring hand!
Thy fiery bolts, how fierce they fly!
Nor can all earth or hell withstand.

This the old rebel angels knew,
And Satan fell beneath Thy frown;
Thine arrows struck the traitor through,
And weighty vengeance sunk him down.

This Sodom felt, and feels it still,
And roars beneath th’eternal load:
“With endless burnings who can dwell?
Or bear the fury of a God?”

Tremble ye sinners, and submit,
Throw down your arms before His throne;
Bend your heads low beneath His feet,
Or His strong hand shall crush you down.

And ye, bless’d saints, that love Him too,
With rev’rence bow before His Name;
Thus all His heav’nly servants do:
God is a bright and burning flame.

I Would, But Cannot Sing

This song reminds me of Paul's lament in Romans 7. I appreciate the way it brings those truths to bear on our worship - that we cannot sing, or pray, or repent, or even believe without God's intervention.

I WOULD, BUT CANNOT SING
by John Newton

I would, but cannot sing,
Guilt has untuned my voice;
The serpent sin’s envenomed sting
Has poisoned all my joys.

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would, but cannot, pray;
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
Till Jesus make it soft.

I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have pow’r to move
A soul so base as mine.

I would, but cannot rest
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
Yet murmur at it still!

Oh could I but believe!
Then all would easy be;
I would, but cannot, Lord relieve,
My help must come from Thee!

But if indeed I would,
Though I can nothing do,
Yet the desire is something good,
For which my praise is due.

By nature prone to ill,
Till Thine appointed hour
I was as destitute of will,
As now I am of pow’r.

Wilt Thou not crown, at length,
The work Thou hast begun?
And with a will, afford me strength
In all Thy ways to run.

O How I Love Thy Holy Law!

This summer several women from Sojourn walked through a study of the doctrine of the word of God using Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (read stories from women who participated here).

The hymn below would have been *perfect* for the week we discussed the doctrine of the necessity of Scripture.

Each week I selected songs for us to sing from our Sojourn "songbook" (the songs we use in our Sunday services), songs that related to the topic we discussed. I did not find many songs that discussed and celebrated the Word of God. We wound up singing We Are Listening almost every other week. (You can listen to We Are Listening and donwload the chord chart here.)

The church needs more songs that celebrate and teach us about the Word of God - whether we write new ones like Jeremy Quillo did, or reintroduce our congregations to hymns like the one below.

O HOW I LOVE THY HOLY LAW
by Isaac Watts

O how I love Thy holy law!
’Tis daily my delight;
And thence my meditations draw
Divine advice by night.

My waking eyes prevent the day
To meditate Thy Word;
My soul with longing melts away
To hear Thy Gospel, Lord.

How doth Thy Word my heart engage!
How well employ my tongue!
And in my tiresome pilgrimage,
Yields me a heav’nly song.

Am I a stranger or at home,
’Tis my perpetual feast;
Not honey dropping from the comb
So much allures the taste.

No treasures so enrich the mind;
Nor shall Thy Word be sold
For loads of silver well refined,
Nor heaps of choicest gold.

When nature sinks, and spirits droop,
Thy promises of grace
Are pillars to support my hope,
And there I write Thy praise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My God! How Perfect are Thy Ways!

The hymn below speaks of how our own sin corrupts everything we try to offer God in worship and reminds us that Christ is our rightousness, the redeemer even of our worship.

This song reminds me of Lead Us Back, by Sojourn's Bobby Gilles and Brooks Ritter. (You can listen to Lead Us Back and download the chord chart for it here.) Lead Us Back is a song of corporate repentance - repentance from worshipping comfort, from favortism, and from legalism.

The songs speak of different sins, but both lead the singer to confess and repent specific sins, rather than settling for some nebulous "I'm sorry God, I sinned again" or jumping straight to "Thank you for forgiving me" without ever mourning our sin.

MY GOD! HOW PERFECT ARE THY WAYS!
by William Cowper

My God! how perfect are Thy ways!
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And slides into my prayer.

When I would speak what Thou hast done
To save me from my sin;
I cannot make Thy mercies known
But self-applause creeps in.

Divine desire, that holy flame
Thy grace creates in me;
Alas! impatience is its name,
When it returns to Thee.

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts,
How does it overflow?
While self upon the surface floats
Still bubbling from below.

Let others in the gaudy dress
Of fancied merit shine;
The Lord shall be my righteousness
The Lord for ever mine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

O Lord, Look Down From Heaven

Our modern choruses seem to revolve around a small handful of themes, but the old hymns discuss a broad variety of issues. Take the hymn below for example. When was the last time your church sang about the threat of heresy and false teachers?

O LORD, LOOK DOWN FROM HEAVEN
by Martin Luther

O Lord, look down from Heaven, behold
And let Thy pity waken:
How few are we within Thy fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on every hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o’ertaken.

With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error’s maze astounded.

May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: “Now, where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master.”

Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending.”

As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God’s Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.

I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow

Day 2 of "Hymn Week" brings us this hymn by John Newton. I don't think I've ever sung a song in church that so clearly talks about this particular, common (I think), frustration.

I ASKED THE LORD THAT I MIGHT GROW
by John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Long Have I Sat Beneath the Sound

As I mentioned last week, I recently spent time on cyberhymnal trolling for hymn texts. I thought I'd share a few more with you.

This hymn is a beautiful prayer lamenting how far short we fall - how little we are moved, how often apathetic - and asking God to work in us, to make His Word effectual.

LONG HAVE I SAT BENEATH THE SOUND
by Isaac Watts

Long have I sat beneath the sound
Of Thy salvation, Lord;
But still how weak my faith is found,
And knowledge of Thy Word!

Oft I frequent Thy holy place
And hear almost in vain;
How small a portion of Thy grace
My memory can retain!

My dear Almighty, and my God,
How little art Thou known
By all the judgments of Thy rod,
And blessings of Thy throne!

How cold and feeble is my love!
How negligent my fear!
How low my hope of joys above!
How few affections there!

Great God! Thy sovereign power impart
To give Thy Word success;
Write Thy salvation in my heart,
And make me learn Thy grace.

Show my forgetful feet the way
That leads to joys on high;
There knowledge grows without decay,
And love shall never die.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crickets in the key of C

It's Saturday. I was tempted to write another long and serious blog post, but it's Saturday. Besides, when I started this thing I intended to write short posts - who reads those long posts all the way through anyway? So, today, I bring you: random facts about crickets.

I seem to have an innate need to research random facts and to know things in all their minutiae, so when someone told me recently "if you get enough crickets together they chirp in the key of C", I had to know more. Since he didn't seem to know if it was just the single note 'C' (and if so, which 'C'?) or which 'C' scale (major, minor, pentatonic? I mean, to really indicate "the key of C" wouldn't they have to be chirping 8 different tones?)...I decided to google-up on the matter.

I didn't find anything about crickets chirping in the key of C, but I did read that different species have different characteristic pitches and that you can, apparently, estimate the temperature based on the species of cricket and the number of chirps per minute (since crickets chirp more or less based on the temperature): calculate the temperature using crickets.

I also read that the snowy tree cricket (sometimes called the temperature cricket, which my wiki-research suggests is the cricket I'm most likely to hear around here) chirps around 2.7kHZ, which is somewhere between the E and F 3 octaves above middle C:
The call of the snowy tree cricket
Translating HZ to Pitch

So, Happy Saturday, now you too know entirely too much about cricket chirps.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On a lighter note

Two things you need to know to fully appreciate this post:
1 - Sojourn has been working for a few years now on a project to take Isaac Watts hymns as inspiration/source material to write new songs for the church. (You can find out about part 1 of the project on Sojourn Music)
2 - As I mentioned yesterday, Sojourn will be talking about the Song of Solomon this week.

I was trolling cyberhymnal for hymn texts and I ran across this, Isaac Watt's take on Song of Solomon:

WE ARE A GARDEN WALLED AROUND

We are a garden walled around,
Chosen and made peculiar ground;
A little spot enclosed by grace
Out of the world’s wide wilderness.

Like trees of myrrh and spice we stand,
Planted by God the Father’s hand;
And all His springs in Zion flow,
To make the young plantation grow.

Awake, O, heav’nly wind! and come,
Blow on this garden of perfume;
Spirit divine! descend and breathe
A gracious gale on plants beneath.

Make our best spices flow abroad,
To entertain our Savior God
And faith, and love, and joy appear,
And every grace be active here.

Let my Belovèd come and taste
His pleasant fruits at His own feast:
“I come, My spouse, I come!” He cries,
With love and pleasure in His eyes.

Our Lord into His garden comes,
Well pleased to smell our poor perfumes,
And calls us to a feast divine,
Sweeter than honey, milk, or wine.

“Eat of the tree of life, My friends,
The blessings that My Father sends;
Your taste shall all My dainties prove,
And drink abundance of My love.”

Jesus, we will frequent Thy board,
And sing the bounties of our Lord;
But the rich food on which we live
Demands more praise than tongues can give.


I appreciate the view of the Song of Solomon as a parable of God's love for us (though, given the graphic nature of the Song of Solomon, I confess that interpretation weirds me out a bit), but my inner middle-schooler would be decidedly distracted if we decided to sing this Watt's hymn Sunday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Patient Lover Be

I was rehearsing with Jamie Barnes last night for a show we're doing tonight (shameless plug: Skull Alley, 7PM, $5). We had been talking about the task of writing liturgy for this coming Sunday - the sermon will be on the Song of Solomon. We were running through "Patient lover be" and I mentioned that maybe he could use that song as the call to worship. (If you aren't familiar with the song you can download it here ) He didn't see the connection, saying he'd never thought of that song as being particularly "sexy". In my mind, "sexy" isn't the whole message of the Song of Solomon.

The refrain "Patient lover be" reminds me of the "refrain" of the Song of Solomon: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." This phrase is repeated 3 times in the 8 chapters of the Song of Solomon.

As a single gal, a huge part of my experience of the Song of Solomon is simply this: Patience.

In a book that describes so many things I cannot currently enjoy (taking the Song of Solomon as a love story and not a parable of God's love), I am sorely tempted to become angry - angry that God provides these good gifts and then doesn't share them with all of us equally. I long to be loved with the tenderness and devotion and persistance of the lover in Solomon. I long to be in a relationship where I can enjoy those "delights" the Song of Solomon describes (and yes, I hold fast to the belief that God has designed sex to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage). But that is not what God has for me, at least not right now, and I have no promise that He has those things in store for me.

So this book becomes a reminder that I must be patient.

A couple years ago I was spending the afternoon in a local park reading. I was listening to "Patient lover be", thinking about a guy I had a crush on, and daydreaming about the possibilities. The words of the song slowly began to register:

Don't love me until you see the whites of my eyes
They're so cloudy and red, it may take a while

Lie and wait. Anticipate.
Lie and wait. Anticipate.

Patient lover be.

I must be patient. I have a desire, a longing to experience these good gifts of God, but now is not the time. If I were dating someone this would take on a decided intensity. It is hard to love someone and to be loved - or at least it seems that way to me. There are many struggles in human relationships. And it is hard to be with someone you desire and say "No, be patient" to those desires.

And of course thinking about these things uncovers the idolatry in my heart - the idols of a physical relationship and of "belonging" to someone.

Sometimes I want these things so badly I can almost taste them. And I know this struggle doesn't end with marriage. Marriage does not equal contentment and fulfillment. That "perfect someone" isn't really "perfect" and I know from the testimony of married friends that you can still find yourself struggling with those same idols.

It's not that these aren't good things - the physical relationship & the "belonging" of marriage - but they are not God. They are not meant to be ultimately satisfying.

And so I must be patient. Whether I am single or in a relationship, I must be patient. I must be patient as I wait for these good gifts (if God chooses to give them to me) and struggle with the idolatry of my heart. And I must be patient as I wait for the day when I will no longer need to struggle, when I will be free from this sinful nature:

Romans 8:22-25
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Maranatha - Come Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Inaugural Blog

Phew! I've just spent the last I'd-rather-not-say-how-many hours playing with gif files and looking up hex codes and editing html & finally! I have a red blog :}.

This is my latest attempt at blogging. We'll see if it sticks.