Saturday, June 14, 2014

Seeing God in Creation

Watchword for the Week of June 15, 2014:

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9

 I’m at church camp this week, somewhere where it is very easy to notice God’s majesty. In the height of the skyscraper pine tree, in the breadth of the beryl lake, in the flash of a Baltimore Oriole flying past the cabin window, Creation cant’ help but stand out. To stare out at a meadow white with clover or a sky powdered with clouds is to spend a moment in God’s presence—a moment I far too often skip during a “regular” week. I breathe in uncharacteristically cool June air, and I feel blessed.

But the magnificence of Creation is not at all limited to the natural landscape. The peoplescape is also a wonder: middle school kids shining with the light of life (if you can catch them in an unselfconscious instant), confident older teens mentoring the younger ones, and caring grown-ups leading, cooking, nursing, teaching, playing, praying and nurturing, all while giving up vacation days for the chance to do so. Who knew that some of God’s finest handiwork would be dressed in t-shirts and flip-flops?

All week, some of us have been keeping an eye on a particular camper. M is precious and fragile, like a figurine of colored glass or an orchid. M has autism, and though she interacts quite well with her peers, it is apparent that she slips into herself at times, oblivious to her surroundings. This happens when music plays. M’s body becomes one with the music, and she’ll solitarily respond by raising her hands skyward, or spinning in a circle. With willowy arms, her movements are graceful, an impromptu ballet. She sings, boldly allowing the melody to overtake her. She projects her song heavenward, communing with God, unaware that she is inspiring everyone around her. Observing M is like watching a prayer. Being moved by her is like offering one.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Soundtrack of the Soul

Watchword for the Week of June 8, 2014:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service,
but the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12: 4,5

I’m listening to Pandora Radio right now. I have it tuned to an ambient/classical background music sort of channel. In case you’re unfamiliar with Pandora (or other similar services), it is a way to listen to highly customizable music choices through the internet. If you have a taste for East Coast Hip Hop interspersed with dashes of 70’s Rock and Orchestral Metal, or if you’re in the mood for a mix of Motown plus Michael W. Smith’s Greatest Hits along with a splash of Broadway Show Tunes, this is a cheap way for you to develop your perfect playlist.  In fact, Pandora goes by the slogan: “It’s a new kind of radio—stations that only play music you like.” With Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, Serius XM and all the others, there is really no reason in this world to ever again have to listen to a song you don’t adore. Just press “skip.”

I applaud that there are so many varieties of music easily accessible these days. If I want to find a fiery Brazilian samba or a haunting Andean folk melody, a wild Zydeco tune or the national anthem of Fiji, it’s all available to be discovered. But it’s also all available to be avoided.

I sometimes lament that we seem to be lacking a common soundtrack for our times. For those of us hovering around the half century mark, who among us didn’t listen to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem every week? Sure, it meant we might have had to endure a Fleetwood Mac song while waiting for an Abba song to play (or visa versa), or we may have been exposed to one of those country crossover hits while knowing we wanted to hear Styx (or visa versa).  But didn’t that, in some ways, bind us together generationally? Didn’t that, unbeknown to us at the time, encourage us to appreciate something outside of our own tastes and interests? Didn’t that, in a subtle way, shape a smidgeon of patience within us?

Our world offers us a smorgasbord of choices in most arenas, and through technology, we also have quite a lot of control. However, I rather fear that the trade-off for all of those plentiful choices and all of that control is isolation. Instead of being united under the broad category of “music,” we’re left alone and lonely with only our ear buds to share in the refrain.

Unity has been on my mind a lot lately, especially unity as it pertains to The Moravian Church. In my understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower in the Moravian tradition, unity is a pretty big deal. Relationships—with Jesus and with one another—are what we live for. It’s what we call fellowship, and fellowship is one of the wondrous ways we express the Gospel message. Fellowship is our expression of LOVE.  To keep up our fellowship, though, requires that we be generous with one another in our differences, and that we seek to remember what we hold in common, or rather, who we hold in common. To keep up our fellowship, we need to whip off the headphones that trap us in discordance and prevent us from hearing the graceful chorus of God’s Spirit.