Five Minute (Saturday): Opportunity

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Gentle Reader,

One of these days I’ll get back to composing these pieces on time. This week, I blame the cold/allergies combo that’s wreaking havoc on my body.

Kate says: opportunity.

Go.

Music makes me happy. I enjoy singing (though I don’t claim to be good at this), dancing (don’t claim to be good at that, either), and watching people who can rock out on instruments do their thing. I’d like to learn to play the violin, banjo, or drums; maybe all three, just for the fun of it.

The music we like reveals a lot about us. Melody and harmony help us to express emotions and thoughts we otherwise couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. So because I am severely lacking in wordsmithing ability today (too much Nyquil flowing in my system, I guess), I take the opportunity to share with you some of the songs I return to again and again.

Worship

Amazing Grace

I know. It’s a cliche. This genuinely my favorite hymn. And it doesn’t get better than this version.

Rock of Ages

Another hymn. Fantastic version.

Love Like This

My own singing voice is low and raspy, so I can’t not love Lauren Daigle. Plus this song…it puts words to an emotion I often feel, but cannot describe.

You’re the Only One

Simple. Profound.

Rock

Layla

It’s Clapton shredding the guitar. I am never not here for that.

Please Mister Postman

Asking me to choose a favorite Beatles song is…it’s impossible. But I’ve been very into this early cover lately.

One after 909

A bluesy, honky-tonk song, written during the early Lennon-McCartney years but not recorded until the tempestuous Get Back sessions. They sound like they’re having a good time here.

Jet

McCartney, post-Beatles. Just a fun song.

What is This Category?

Recently I’ve gotten into some indie, folksy stuff. Spotify doesn’t know what to do with me. The algorithms ping around from Metallica playing with the San Francisco Symphony, to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus to psychedelic rock and then to this. I don’t know what to say, other than that I just like it.

Glory

River

Finally, the Introvert’s Anthem

Here

Stop.

Tell me, what kind of music do you like?

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Sketches: The Beatles

Beatles

Gentle Reader,

I’m writing this before I head to the Oregon coast for a vacation/anniversary trip, because I have no doubt that my brain will be mush when I return. That’s the thing with vacations – you need a vacation from them. Takes awhile to settle back into the normal routine, especially when you have a body as finicky as mine. I’m not anticipating sleeping very well while we’re gone, which always leaves me a wreck, but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

So, let’s talk: The Beatles. (Prompt submitted, once again, my my own brain. I watched Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days a Week and have been on a Beatles binge).

There’s nothing I can say in this brief post that hasn’t already been said in the dozens of thick, heavy books that have been written about this legendary British band. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other group that has been as analyzed, scrutinized and emulated as the Fab Four. (The Rolling Stones might come close. Might). John Lennon was a huge jerk but also a genius. Paul McCartney has more edge than people realize. George Harrison was underutilized and underrated during his time with the band. Ringo Starr is a truly great drummer. The four of them together created one of the greatest groups in music history. They opened doors, broke ground, paved the way for others to follow.

Instead of offering up yet another article wondering why Lennon left his wife Cynthia for Yoko Ono (but seriously…why?) or attempting to pinpoint exactly why the band broke up, allow me to share with you some of my favorite Beatles songs:

5. Twist and Shout

This is a cover of a song first made famous by the Isley Brothers. Recorded at the end of the Please Please Me sessions, Lennon, sick with a cold, tears his voice to shreds. It’s awesome.

4. Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Another cover, this one written by Larry Williams. The Beatles made no secret of their love for African-American musicians. This was recorded live at Shea Stadium, where 56,000 fans gathered on a hot summer night in 1965. The fact that the screaming was so loud that the band couldn’t hear themselves, yet they produced this, is amazing.

3. Ticket to Ride

The harmonies. The first, tentative steps toward a psychedelic sound. The sweet lead guitar solo. Yeah, man.

2. In My Life

Was there ever a more nostalgic song? Do any other words really capture the moment when you come to understand that you can’t go home again?

1. Don’t Let Me Down

The rooftop concert. The last time the four would play together live. (They actually recorded Abbey Road after the Let It Be album, though it was released last). In the middle of all the fighting, they look like they’re having fun just playing together. Poignant.

Bonus: Tomorrow Never Knows

This song is weird. I know it’s weird. It’s not theologically accurate in any way. I’m not claiming that it is. I love this song precisely because it’s weird. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find a good YouTube video, so you’ll have to go hunting yourself.

Extra Bonus: Layla

Not a Beatles song. Eric Clapton wrote this for Pattie Boyd, who was married to George Harrison at the time. Eventually Boyd and Harrison divorced. She married Clapton, Harrison was at the wedding and they all remained friends until the end of his life. That’s rock ‘n roll for you.

George Martin, the man who produced all of The Beatles albums, said (and I’m paraphrasing, because it was in a documentary and I’m not sure I can find it again) that their music was simply fun. Even toward the end, when tensions mounted and things got difficult, at the end of the day these four men enjoyed making music together. That comes across in every song. While they aren’t my all-time favorite band (that honor goes to Creedence Clearwater Revival), The Beatles make me happy.

I think we’ve forgotten how to sit back and enjoy art. It all has to be heavy, has to have a message. That is appropriate sometimes, but there’s also space for frothy pop songs and rock that exists only because guitar shredding is cool. It’s okay to do the Macerana or the Floss. It’s okay to jam along with a song you’ve heard a thousand times, fingers flying across your air guitar. It’s okay to smile, even in the midst of all that’s wrong in the world.

Really, you know, you should be glad.

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For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.

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The LORD Your God in Your Midst: the Mighty One (3:16-17)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Gentle Reader,

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

– Zephaniah 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here we are, finally. These beautiful words that have been our focus for 24 weeks.

I have good news: These are true words.

I have bad news: These words are often misunderstood.

What it Means

I realize that I have very nearly beaten you to death with the word “context,” but it never ceases to be important. Many, myself included, have been guilty of using Zephaniah 3:17 in a way its author never intended and its original audience wouldn’t have understood. Consider:

Yahweh dwells among his people. They may rejoice and not be afraid, for they will be protected from any harm. Yahweh will be their God, a warrior of salvation. His people will rest securely in his covenantal love (v. 17). (1)

As well as:

…with exceeding great joy, not to be conceived of, or expressed; as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride: this will be the time of the open marriage of the Lamb with the Jewish church; and there will be strong expressions of joy on this occasion; Christ will rejoice over them to do them good; and there will be such singular instances of his goodness to them as will abundantly show the joy he will have in them… (2)

And:

He is a Mighty One, Who will save [Israel] from the enemy. … He will conceal your transgressions with His love…He will cover your sins with His love. (3)

This isn’t about God singing to you.

I know. Harsh.

We’ve learned so much about context and prophecy and layers. Don’t get upset and walk away now. Of course the metaphor can be extended and you can know that God takes delight in you. We simply must acknowledge that Zephaniah remains a Jewish man writing a Jewish book in a Jewish setting. God doesn’t dismiss non-Jews, but we are not His primary concern in these verses.

Don’t Miss It

How does verse 16 begin? “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem.”To the Holy City. To the people who rightfully dwell there by virtue of having been given the Promised Land. The suffering is over. The centuries of back-and-forth have ended. The promise-keeping God does just that, keeps His promise.

…why is God so joyful? This passage of Zephaniah speaks of a future time when God has ended His judgment upon Israel. All of their enemies have been destroyed, and Israel is entering a time of safety and blessing (verses 8, 15, 19). Zephaniah is speaking of the future millennial kingdom when the Messiah (Jesus) will reign with His people in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 20:1–6). (4)

He rejoices over His people as they rejoice over Him. He pours out His love. Bonds of eternal, unbroken affection are renewed. Restored.

Jeremiah echoes the theme:

“Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence’: Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’”

– 32:36-41 (NKJV)

The entire focus of the Bible is God. Not us. He does what He wants because what He wants is best and right and good. So the fact that He takes some time to enjoy the Jewish believers? It doesn’t diminish we non-Jewish believers in any way. In fact, we should (and I believe we will) celebrate. We, the Bride, will watch as Israel, the Wife, parties with her Husband. For just the briefest of moments, we will stand on the edges and watch the reunion. And then, wonder of wonders, we will be ushered in, invited to take our places as the family of God truly becomes one.

Imagine the singing.

Quiet, You

…God holds them next to His heart like a loving mother holds a baby; He quiets them with His love, and He even sings to them! This image of the “motherhood of God” assures forgiven sinners that God is with them, that He loves them, and they have nothing to fear. (5)

This is something that every Christian can take to the bank: God loves us. He loved us even when we didn’t know Him, when we were blind and stupid and wretched (Romans 5:6). He loves us when we choose to be blind and stupid and wretched even though we know better (Romans 7:15-25). We can race to the throne of grace at any moment (Hebrews 4:16). When we are born again into His family, we can call Him Abba – Daddy (John 1:12-13, Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7).

Does it really matter if the music that Zephaniah writes of was composed for a specific moment in time and for a specific people? The point of the passage is not the song but the love. Our souls can be quiet, assured of His grace. We can hold up trembling hands to Him and know that He will pull us close.

Wait a Minute

So does God not sing over us as a mother does when she rocks her baby to sleep?

Never base your entire theological framework on a question that can’t be answered. Personally, I won’t be shocked if we do find out one day that God sang to each of us, a song that we understood in our spirits but could never fully comprehend. That would be quite like Him. All we can know for sure is that this is not what Zephaniah meant and that we are commanded to sing to God. We don’t need to wonder about whether He’s singing in return – that puts the focus on us and we are very much not the focus.

Reflection

  1. As we drawn near the end of our study, do you understand and embrace the importance of context?
  2. Does it bother you that Zephaniah 3:17 doesn’t mean what most people think it means? Why or why not?
  3. Read Jeremiah 33. Does it excite you to know that you will see the restoration of Israel?
  4. Read Ephesians 2. What verses stand out to you? How do they confirm God’s love?
  5. Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to open your eyes to His love.

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Sources

(1) Asbury Bible Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

(2) John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

(3) Zephaniah 3 Commentary, Rashi

(4) Got Questions (note: not the best resource, but I like how this answer was phrased)

(5) Warren Weirsbe. Be Concerned: Minor Prophets. (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 1996), 160.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

When You Can’t Do Life on Your Own Anymore

Asheritah Ciuciu @onethingalone.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Just a closer walk with Thee.
Grant it Jesus, is my plea.
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be dear Lord, let it be.

– Patsy Cline

Sometimes life is just plain hard.

Crummy, even.

Maybe you’re struggling with chronic illness, as I do. Maybe you’ve changed a thousand diapers in the last hour and you simply cannot handle another. Maybe your boss bit your head off for a mistake that wasn’t yours. Or maybe it was and you already felt terrible about it. Maybe there’s far more month than there is money, more loneliness than company, more sullen looks from teenagers than smiles, more chaos than calm.

Maybe there’s just flat-out “more” and you’re desperate for “less”… .

Just whetting your appetite before the main course.

Head on over to Asheritah’s for the rest. This blogging buddy of mine recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and so invited some of us to share in her space while she gets some needed (and deserved!) rest and recuperation time. I’m privileged to be featured today.

Go check it out, but please stay and read more than my words. Asheritah is a talented author who loves God deeply. You won’t regret allowing her into your world.

Off with you, now.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Monstruo Estuido