The Gift of “Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI” – Fathering Songs, Mothering Hymns, Carrying the Fire

In the moments of life’s greatest heights and life’s lowest depths, the hymns serve to center us upon the person of Jesus Christ.  For generation upon generation of faithful believers, the comfort and solace of the deep theological mysteries of the Gospel have drawn many brokenhearted to an ever deepening relationship amidst the pain and sorrow of life.  Hymns, historically, have served as the vehicle connecting the affections to the many ponderings of the mind.  For this Father’s Day, Indelible Grace is offering their 2010 Nashville Indelible Grace Hymnsing for free – all by Grace.

However, last summer, I was privileged to serve Belmont University’s Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) Pastor Kevin Twit, and founder of Indelible Grace, during the recording of Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI.  Serving in that capacity for the better part of nearly 2o years, Kevin has pastored and “fathered in the faith” some of Nashville’s most talented singer-song writers, Sandra McCracken, Matthew Perryman Jones, Andy Osenga, Jeremy Casella, and Matthew Smith, just to name a few.  The list is long and Kevin fingerprints can be seen far and wide in Nashville’s song writing and musician circles.

Since the IG albums played such a crucial role in my own sanctification and growth in Grace, this summer I packed up the essentials and put myself at Kevin’s feet from June through August as a summer RUF intern.  It was a blessing to behold.

I was introduced to Indelible Grace shortly after becoming a Christian in Del Rio, TX.  After listening to Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul from the initial Indelible Grace album, I did everything in my power to understand the power and theology behind the hymns.  Over the years, the search led me to the college ministry of Kevin Twit at Belmont, an amazing group of friends in Nashville, and put me on a path for Seminary where I am currently developing Biblical Counseling Through Song at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX.  I agree with Jeremy Casella poignant words on the hymns:

These hymns do not water down reality.  We do ourselves, our communities, our families, and the world a disservice when we don’t sit in reality.  The Gospel is all about reality.  What these hymns have taught me are to sit in reality with the Gospel…I have literally sat in Church services, singing these hymns, and feeling my sanity restored.  I think it’s important to do resetting these old texts because they are so rich.  Kevin always talks about how they are “Theology on fire”.  When I first heard that, I remember thinking that was kind of an odd phrase, but as time went on and I really sat in these lyrics, I think He is right…They serve to reorient our heart to the Gospel.

Jeremy Casella – Belmont RUF Grad and Indelible Grace contributor,
Roots and Wings: The Story of Indelible Grace

It was the poignancy of Sandra McCracken’s singing of Anne Steele‘s Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul that first drew me to the depths of Reformed Theology.  I did not begin with sound theology and then stumble into Indelible Grace.  In fact, the very opposite was true.  Within a few months of the Holy Spirit invading my heart, the art of Indelible Grace found me through the gift of a friend.  In reality, if I remember correctly, it was even a burned copy of the material which was initially out of order.

In my interaction with the deep affectionate lyric of Indelible Grace’s re-tuned hymns, it was the Spirit’s response to the deep truth of the hymns which led me to the deep waters of Reformed Theology.  The very reason that I am in seminary at Redeemer Seminary, a Reformed seminary in Dallas, is because of the role Kevin and Sandra played in restoring the hymns in exquisite, affectionate detail.  The beginnings of Biblical Counseling Through Song occured when I poped that burned Indelible Grace material into my car CD player.  My devotional life was forever changed.

Through these hymns, Christ had affected Kevin, Sandra, and the rest of the IG contributors and, in response to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, they were doing their best to shepherd the generational wealth of the hymns to faceless future and emerging generations in the Church.  I am merely one of those initial unknown faces that will be, Lord willing, seen around Jesus’s banqueting table in Heaven when we all get to worship Him in song face-to-face.

On the first full day of my 2012 summer internship on June 2, 2012, Kevin proved himself to be a “father in the faith” by guiding me through one of my life’s darkest nights.

This is my story during the rest of my summer RUF internship in Nashville.  It is a story of how Kevin’s former students (now some of Nashville’s deepest singer-songwriters) ministered to me amidst the pain, and the intimate chronicling of the work of God in giving to me, and to us, Joy Beyond the Sorrow.

Warren and Church - Dunmore

Dunmore Cemetery Front

Dunmore Cemetery Sign

Thomas Michael Murphy, Sr was dead: To begin with.  There is no doubt about that.

Thomas M. Murphy Tombstone

This is a story from Nashville, Tennessee to Dunmore, Pennsylvania and back again.  It is a story of the death of a father, the redemption of grief, and finding others along the path who, in bearing that shared burden, pointed our way to Christ, revealing the deep comfort of the Body of Christ amidst the misery.  It is the story of how a spiritual father in the faith drew near during a time of crisis and ministered by his very presence.  It is the story of the fruit of the death and grieving process of one of Kevin’s former student’s father that led to worship that night.   I pray that you are blessed to find friends such as these to trod together this vale of sorrows.  On this Father’s Day, and beyond, may you find Joy Beyond the Sorrow

“I have found that the very feeling which has seemed  to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people.  It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.  This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.”

- Carl Rogers

Sadness, or duende, needs space to breathe. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.  All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them.

- Matthew Perryman Jones, “Land of the Living” Noisetrade Interview

Calling upon the deep wisdom of Henri Nouwen, “It does indeed seem that the Christian leader is, first of all, the artist who can bind together many people by the courageous act of giving expression to his or her own most personal concerns.”  Kevin Twit is that kind of man.  An unfathomable wealth of information and wisdom gained together over faithful decades of ministry with college students at Belmont University in Nashville, Kevin, the “God Father” of the retuned hymn movement, has poured out his life for the good, and deepening, of the Church.

On the first full day of my summer internship with Kevin at Belmont Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), my Dad, Thomas Michael Murphy, Sr departed this earth and entered into Eternity.  The day of his passing, June 2nd, 2012, was a tough day.  The whole purpose of my internship was to sit at the feet of Kevin as he, and the contributing artists, crafted Indelible Grace’s sixth album, Joy Beyond the Sorrow.  The album hadn’t been named at that point, but it would prove to be a well chosen title.  For me, the summer of 2012 was a summer for grasping at finding Joy beyond the Sorrow of losing a Father.

“The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic, and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.”

Matthew Perryman Jones, “Land of the Living” Noisetrade Interview

This blog post is devoted to three people – Our Father in Heaven, My Father in the Grave, and my Spiritual Father in the Faith, Reverend Kevin Twit – RUF Minister at Belmont University. It unpacks the deepened relationship I now have with all through the 2012 Summer recording of Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI.  It’s my best attempt to honor all three as they have shepherded me into all Truth.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

- Romans 5:1-5, ESV

“…Ministry can indeed be a witness to the living truth that the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated a new creation.”

- Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man!”  Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.  “I am the – Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

- Charles Dickens, Ghost of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol

CarolPresentGhost

I hope the opening line above was not lost on you.  In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Charles began his masterpiece with a dramatic statement of fact, “Marley was dead: To begin with”.  Death is real and knocking upon our doors – now on the doors of our heart, but soon on the door we may only pass once.  That door, the physical death of our worldly bodies of flesh, is coming – there is no doubt about that.

Marley'sDead

In the popular Dickens tale, many think that A Christmas Carol is primarily unpacking the sentiments of the Christmas holiday.  He was actually, within the context of its writing, more concerned in the idea of Fathering and how the children of England, at the time, were being fathered amongst the broad economic growth spurt of the Industrial Revolution.  To a wealth drunk generation concerned with the increase of capitol at the expense of the nation’s progeny, he was beckoning for reform.

DickensDeepThought

Inspired by the British parliamentary report of February 1843, Second Report of the Children’s Employment Commission, Dickens planned in May 1843 to publish an inexpensive political pamphlet tentatively titled, “An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child” to expose the effects of the Industrial Revolution upon poor children.  He, at first, had planned to write polemically, but the magnitude of the lives in the balance needed a more grand battle plan.

Second Report Children's Employment

Charles_Dickens-A_Christmas_Carol-Title_page-First_edition_1843

Where a polemic might have sufficed, Charles didn’t want the future of a generation of English boys and girls to be beholden to the intellectual curiosity of the elite.  He was after the heart of the Commonwealth.  Dickens changed his mind, deferring the pamphlet’s production until the end of the year. He wrote to Dr. Southwood Smith, one of eighty-four commissioners responsible for the Second Report, about his change in plans: “Thou will certainly feel that a Sledge hammer has come down with twenty times the force – twenty thousand times the force – I could exert by following out my first idea.” The pamphlet would become A Christmas Carol.

ghostofchristmasfuture scroogeGravestone

RepentantScrooge

Dickens used A Christmas Carol to stoke the fires of not only the intellect, but the heart affections and the will, of the English children’s caretakers.  He was reminding the Fathers of England of their own mortality and their responsibility to the following generations.  Likewise, Kevin Twit, in the  development of the Indelible Grace hymn movement with his Belmont RUF students over the course of the last twenty years or so, is after the heart of the Church, especially the Fathers.  Both Dickens and Twit are after our hearts in the Jewish sense – our inner man – our cognitions (our minds), our religious affections (our emotions), and our volitions (our will).

At the same time, Dickens both loved and, inappropriately, demonized his father – the unredeemed Scrooge, a cold, recluded miser, and the redeemed Scrooge, a benevolent, sociable man whose generosity and goodwill toward all men were a characterization that he acknowledged were based upon his tumultuous relationship with his father.

Scrooge at Work      08-The Distance

While Dickens’ humiliating childhood experiences are not directly described in A Christmas Carol, his conflicting feelings for his father as a result of those experiences are principally responsible for the dual personality of Ebenezer Scrooge.  The Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison, became known around the world in the 19th century through the writing of Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824 for a debt to a baker. In 1824, Charles was forced to take lodgings nearby, pawn his collection of books, leave school, and accept employment in a blacking factory.

Dickens developed nervous fits. When his father was released at the end of a three-month stint, young Dickens was forced to continue working in the factory, which only grieved and humiliated him further. He despaired of ever recovering his former happy life.  He was left despising his Father.  In like manner, I identify very deeply with Dicken’s journey from bitterness and anger to compassion towards his father.  For Charles, a Christmas Carol was not only reconciling the Fathers of England back to their children, but himself back to his own father.  Joy Beyond the Sorrow did the same for me last summer.

You see, my own Father experienced severe trauma in his own childhood and found solace within the prison of alcoholism.  I won’t go into the specifics now, but shall leave for another post for another day.  His alcoholism was a prison solidified with bars of shame and guilt from his experiences.  Dealing with the pain apart from Christ, alcohol was his escape. Last summer, in like manner, walking through the recording of Joy Beyond the Sorrow was my own “Christmas Carol experience” in which the anger and bitterness towards my own father was melted into compassion and unrequited love – a love that is expanding beyond the grave.  Putting myself in his shoes, apart from the Grace of Christ, I would have done the same.  That insight has been life changing.

As far as cultural movements, in the middle 19th century, a nostalgic interest in pre-Cromwell Christmas traditions swept Victorian England following the publications of Davies Gilbert‘s Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1822), William Sandys‘s Selection of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833), and Thomas K. Hervey‘s The Book of Christmas (1837).  Hervey’s study of Christmas customs attributed their passing to regrettable social change and the urbanization of England.

Dickens was latching unto the “Zeitgeist” of the period and used the medium of Christmas to work through a piece to reconcile England to a more robust defense of its children, while at the same time personally reconciling himself back to his father.  For me this summer, helping Kevin was reconciling me back to my Father.  What the re-emergence of singing Christmas carols had done for Dickens in the 19th century, the retuned hymns of the Indelible Grace movement have done for me.  Let me explain.

01-Gave Me Art

You see, from birth, my Dad had given me a healthy sense of art.  The singular seagull flying into the distant sunset in the background of the above was my first experience with the visual arts.

02-Fashion

He gave me some pretty sweet fashion stylings.

03-Yankees

And he introduced me to my beloved Yankees and taught me the simple manly responsibilities of mowing the lawn for the family.

04-Teddy Bears

There were times of deep affection as a child, but they waned over time.  As I matured into a young adult, there was a seemingly inability to connect at a deep, loving Father-Son level.

05-Christmas

He gave me Christmases.

06-Easter

And Easters.  Well, Christmas and Easter were the only days he darkened the doors of the Catholic church where we grew up.  In retrospect, there were good reasons for that, but to a child, there were no absolute moorings to tie my boat upon.  I was adrift in a sea to find my own way spiritually.

07-Scouts

The practicality of scouting was imparted.  We built soapbox derby cars and went camping together at Boy Scout summer camps.

10-Seeking His Face

But the one area he lacked as a father, the most important in hindsight, of seeking the Lord’s face was never imparted.  You see, from the picture above, it is ingrained in us to seek out our father’s face.  I don’t remember this day, but my heart, in reaching out for my Dad’s face, might have been groping for the deeper face of the Father behind it all.

My Dad’s purpose was to image God.  He didn’t and I was angry.  I was a very angry child, seemingly well adjusted, but deeply angry at the world, while trying to be perfect in the eyes of others.  Behind it all, I wanted to be loved.  I wanted joy.  I wanted to please my father.  Yet, all I felt was sorrow – an inescapable longing for the transcendent.  I looked in many places, most of which were seemingly very healthy – academics, sports, social engagements, girl friends, and self service.  Yet, nothing seemed to satisfy.  Yet, through my own Dad’s imperfections, my desire for the One, True Fatherhood of God was only magnified.  It was a hidden Grace tucked into the suffering.

I knew something was deeply amiss, but, apart from Christ, I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Like any good Pharisee prior to my conversion in 2004, I was left with kluging a relationship together from the culture’s idea of who Jesus is and from my sparse liberalized, Catholic catechism training.  I knew Jesus had died, but did not fully realize that he had to die because of me.  I thought I was good and that God smiled upon me regardless of my actual relationship with his Son – Jesus.  I was lost, deeply lost, and groping for a Father.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 in Nashville.  Day 2, first full day, of my internship with Kevin.

On that same night my Dad passed away, I gave Kevin a call to let him know that I needed to return home to Pennsylvania, as the oldest of three siblings, to eulogize and bury my father.

It was in those moments that Kevin stepped in to be God’s appointed “father in the faith” that night and for the rest of the summer.  He asked me if I wanted to be alone or to join in a social event.  I really didn’t want to be alone.

Screen shot 2013-06-15 at 4.56.29 AM

In response, Kevin invited me to Matthew Perryman Jones’s “Land of the Living” CD release at the Exit/In.  You see, the Land of the Living album had been, in large part, MPJ’s response to his own father’s passing.

On that night, God had sovereignly arranged to use Kevin Twit as the instrument of His Grace in order to have me worship alongside his former student that was taking solace in the passing of his own Father.  Unbeknownst to Kevin, he was connecting me to Matthew, so that Matthew could minister to me, ushering me through one of the most difficult nights of my life.  Stones in the River Bed, The Angels Were Singing, Waking Up the Deadand Land of the Living from the album were my anthems that summer.  Land of the Living helped me walk through the grief and make sense of the suffering of laying a Father in the grave.  The Lord used Kevin, Matthew, and Sandra that night – my heart melted as Matthew and Sandra performed The Angels Were Singing.  This was the video from that night someone else had shot.

Few albums are polished gems, crafted to last the ages.  It seems Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI might be one of those albums which our children will gift to their children.  This summer, God’s Grace granted generations to gift the Church with this gem.  Throughout the summer, Kevin unselfishly poured himself out for the sake of his students, and, by tagging along for the ride – serving where I was able, I was deeply blessed.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

- Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV

After returning from my early departure for my Dad’s funeral, my first day tagging along with Kevin in the studio was with Katy Bowser and her daughter, Story.  I wrote of Katy’s singing and slight lyric changing on “I Am Jesus’s, Little Lamb” during one of her takes early this year.  It was one of those moments that I thought needed chronicling as I sat in amazement of a mother singing over her daughter.  It was a slight lyric change from “me” to “you”.

Katy, Story, and Cason

It is not uncommon for the Indelible Grace recording studio to be a meeting place for the generations and to feel like a mini family reunion.  By all means, it was.  This album, like the preceding five Indelible Grace albums, is an amalgamation of a few generations of Belmont students binding themselves in service together to serve the greater cause of “retuning” the hymns, communicating the riches of Christ to the hearts of an emerging generation.

As one example, spurred on by the work of the Jesus Storybook Bible  by Sally Lloyd-Jones, the Rain for Roots mothers, Sandra McCracken, Flo Paris, Katy Bowser, and Ellie Holcomb are leading the charge in writing hymns of the Big Story for our little ones.  Now, every bedtime story and morning devotional can not only whisper, but sing, His name.  There are many other Belmont grads which are on similar paths listed as resources below – the depth of the list is just too much to cover here.  The recent emergence of the newest Slugs and Bugs: Sing the Bible – Vol 1 and the Story Warren are two additional outworkings happening in Nashville by some of Kevin’s former students.  Once again, not directly from Kevin himself, but his contribution to the discipleship of some of the contributors is clearly seen.

Led and produced by Belmont Campus Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) Pastor Kevin Twit, the Indelible Grace contributing artists are not only carrying the fire of these hymns to our generation, but, stacking the kindling and fanning the embers of the generation who sit at their feet.  As fathers and mothers of their own little ones, they are pouring into their own children’s catechesis by fathering songs and mothering hymns of the character, nature, and Glory of God.  Last year, I captured how Katy Bowser Hutson recorded I Am Jesus’s Little Lamb with her daughter Story.  It was a Rain for Roots tune that had made its way on to the Indelible Grace VI album.  Her slight lyric change from “me” to “you” with Story in her arms was the first time I saw God moving in even the nuances of “in the moment” lyric improvisation, but it wasn’t the last time I caught the Holy Spirit at work in even the minor details.  It, literally, gave me the chills.  Duende

Kevin and Former Students

With these cherished Belmont alumni as His instruments, God is working a spiritual revolution of how the hymns pass the faith to the next generation of Christ followers.  It is nothing new.  It is simply the re-emergence of the old with renewed fervency.  It is the old, old road which is best remembered and trodden, no matter how thick the overgrowth.

As I researched the recording schedule of that week I had missed, Matthew Smith was recording Let Me Find Thee, which Kevin sent out in a Kickstarter update during that week.  It’s a song that is loaded with duende.  It was a song that met me in my grief, at just the right time, and allowed me to identify with Christ as my wounded healer – bearing the grief along with me as I trod through those dark days.

Let Me Find Thee
Lyrics – Joachim Neander
Music – Matthew S. Smith

1. Behold me here, in grief draw near, Pleading at Thy throne oh King. 
To Thee each tear, each trembling fear, Jesus Son of Man I bring. 
Let me find Thee, Let me find Thee. 
Let me find Thee, Lord of mercy King of grace. 

2. Look down in love, and from above, With Thy Spirit satisfy. 
Thou hast sought me, Thou hast bought me, And thy purchase Lord am I. 
Let me find Thee, Let me find Thee. 
Let me find Thee, Here on earth and then on high. 

3. Hear the broken, scarcely spoken, Longings of my heart to thee 
All the crying, all the sighing, Of Thy child accepted be. 
Let me find Thee, Let me find Thee. 
Let me find Thee, Wounded healer, suffering Lord.

However, I was also present during Andy Osenga’s takes on “For the Bread Which You Have Broken” by Louis Benson.  During his vocal recording session, he, like Katy, was making a slight lyric change as well from “Father’s board” to “Father’s hand”.

01-Kevin

Andy and Kevin chatted about it and decided to stick with Benson’s lyric choice of “board”.  In that moment I snapped a picture on my iPhone as three generations of Belmont folks (Kevin Twit, Jordan Gudmestad, and Andy Osenga) were working together to bring “For the Bread…” to our ears.

02-Kevin and Kids

The picture is of Andy inside of the sound booth singing under a picture of his and his daughter’s, Sadie, feet taken by a family friend.  I thought it amazing that a Dad was recording for future generations to come, including his daughter Sadie, of the Grace provided by Christ in the Lord’s supper.  Andy was a father singing of the Glory of being seated at our “Father’s board”.

03-Culture of Pouring Out1

For the Bread Which You Have Broken
Lyrics – Louis Benson (alt Kevin Twit)
Music – Kevin Twit

1. For the bread which you have broken
For the wine which you have poured,
For the words, which you have spoken,
Now we, give you thanks O’ Lord

2. By this pledge that you do love us,
By your gift of peace restored,
By your call to heaven before us,
Sanctify out lives O’ Lord.

3. With our sainted ones in glory,
Seated at our Father’s board,
May the Church that waits now for Thee
Keep love’s tie unbroken, Lord.

4. In your service Lord defend us,
In our hearts keep watch and ward;
In the world where’r you send us
May your kingdom come O’ Lord.

It was in that moment that I saw the depth of “For the Bread…” as the deep truths unfolded in my heart.  This communion hymn was marrying the Lord’s supper, as a form of Grace in our Sanctification, to our own suffering with Christ’s as we endure our sojourn in this veil of tears (Colossians 1:24-29).  The “board” was referring to the Supper and to the Suffering of Christ.

05-Inside the Booth

With the lyric selection of “Father’s board“, Benson in the form of a double entendre was showing the dual nature of the Lord’s supper.  It is a meal which binds us to one another by feasting on the body and blood of our dear Savior at table, but also ushers us as a community into the riches of sharing in Christ’s afflictions on the cross.  The Father’s board is a table.  The Father’s board is also a cross.  The table is to be shared “as often as we eat and drink” of the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:23-26) and our own crosses to be taken up and carried “daily” (Luke 9:23-24).  The Father’s board is a unified sharing – of His supper and of His suffering.

Now, this is really good Theology.  The form of the hymn allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal this deep mystery.  Where polemic might work well enough, poetry set to song, in the form of the hymn, has the power to elevate our worship to duende.

At the same time, I saw how the deep, deep love of one Father, Kevin, was imparted to one of his students, Andy Osenga.  You really can’t escape Andy’s recording studio space without seeing his deep love for his children, even on his guitar pedals.  Every time a pedal change is required, Andy looks down to see the below on his pedals.  You can tell Andy is a great dad, not only by what he surrounds himself in his studio with, but in his lastest album, “Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut“.  Although the concept album is too much to get into in this post, needless to say, it’s an album on the ups and downs of marriage, quite literally to Space, that even the most non-sensitive of Fathers can appreciate.  Heck, it was shot in Andy’s own life-size spaceship made by a bunch of friends in our Rabbit Room community.

04-PouringOut2

This summer I was glad to be a part of the Joy Beyond the Sorrow  album.  I am a more mature believer for dwelling with the fathers and mothers, the sisters and brothers, the students and pastors, the parents and children which make up the Indelible Grace community.

This is merely one story from this summer of one man’s sorrow overcome by Joy in the midst of deep suffering.  I am sure that there are many others.  May God grant you your own Joy beyond the Sorrow during whatever season you find yourself.

If I could gift three albums to my own Dad this Father’s Day, it would be Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI, The Land of the Living, and Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut.  If your Dad loves music, this is a trifecta that will last the ages.  They are three recently released albums that are bound to be generational classics.  Since I can’t this year, might you honor my Dad, Kevin, and God as Father by gifting to your Dad?

It’s still not too late.

On the eve of this Father’s Day, I commend the purchase of Joy Beyond the Sorrow, at least.  No matter the season of suffering you are in right now; whether walking through current suffering, about to walk through suffering, or walking out of a season of suffering, this album can help give an eternal perspective, acting as an instrument in your healing.  Our Fathers need to hear this album, while they can.  We, as children, need to hear this album.  We, as prospective future Fathers, need to hear this album.  One thing for sure – Fathers must guide their families through the tumultuous seas of suffering.  The question is – “Will our Fathers, Husbands, and Sons be ready?”

Joy Beyond the Sorrow Cover

Some of the Indelible Grace artists:

Brian Moss - http://www.prayerbookproject.com/
Chris Miner - http://www.igracemusic.com/hymnbook/authors/christopher_miner.html
Derek Webb - http://www.derekwebb.com/home
Ellie Holcomb - http://drewholcomb.com/
Emily DeLoach - https://www.facebook.com/emilydeloach
Flo Paris - https://www.facebook.com/floparismusic
Jeremy Casella - http://www.jeremycasella.com/
Katy Bowser - http://noisetrade.com/katybowser/katy-bowser-all-of-my-friends
Kevin Twit - http://belmont.ruf.org/
Matthew Perryman Jones - http://www.mpjmusic.com/
Matthew Smith - http://matthewsmith.us/
Morgan Bennett - http://indeliblegrace.bandcamp.com/track/hast-thou-heard-him-seen-him-known-him
Rain for Roots - http://rainforroots.com/
Sandra McCracken - http://www.sandramccracken.com/

 
Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20, Fighting in the ‘Most High’ Battlespace

 

“So we find ourselves caught in a messed up world.  The problem is with man himself and man’s soul.  We haven’t learned how to be Just and Honest and Kind and True and Loving.  That is the basis of our problem.  The real problem is that through scientific genius we have made the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we have failed to make it a brotherhood”

- Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul’s Letter to American Christians (Video / Text)

‘Know your enemy, know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.’

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Jewish Messiah - Serving Enemies in Prayer

Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20 Noisetrade Playlist

The Lyrics – Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20

It has been exactly one month since two radicalized Muslim Chechnyan-American teenagers,  26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and, his brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attacked Bostonians at one of their most sacred events – the Boston Marathon.  In the wake of these radical Isalmic terrorist attacks, Bostonians and Americans alike have renewed the conversation over how best to wage the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).  In the long marathon of the GWOT, we are not fighting as we should.  Like a shadow boxer in the night, we are beating our hands against the wind.

The truth is that we know neither ourselves, nor our enemy, because in order to know both we must intimately know God – YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We must know the glory of Jesus as the Son of God, the heir and co-ruler with the Father.  We must be led by the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, into all Truth as we renew our minds by meditating on God through the Holy Scriptures.  We do not know the compassion that God has for the whole human race in the sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, nor do we think often on His command for us to love Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-6), to love our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37), and to love our enemy (Matthew 5:43-48).

As Martin Luther King, Jr. points out above, our scientific genius has outpaced our moral and spiritual genius.  We have not given ourselves over to the leading of the Holy Spirit in loving the whole of the human race.  We look upon the other, our fellow human brothers, with disdain and with malice.  Quoting from Thomas Merton, “No man is an island unto himself”.  We are all inextricably connected to one another.  Globalization has turned the globe into a neighborhood, but not a brotherhood.

In the midst of being sinned against, the pain is real.  In the weeks, months, and years following, the grief of the war torn families is real. Justice is the cry on every human heart.  However, as a Christian response to being attacked and sinned against deeply, we must grapple with the following questions:

1) How do we best respond to those that wish us harm?
2) Is it possible to love those that wish us harm?
3) From what strength are we able to love those that wish us harm?
4) How do we fight in a battlespace, a higher spiritual plane, where victory is guaranteed?
5) In the wake of public and personal attacks and afflictions, what is the role of Mercy?

I do not seek to offer glib answers to these vexing questions, but my goal is to provide a resource allowing our minds to slip the surly bonds of earth and climb to the lofty throne of Grace, where Christ sits exalted upon His throne forever and forever.  What I offer is not a lack of fighting, but fighting with love – that forgiveness and reconciliation to Christ may abound.  Godly Love (agape) does not presuppose the lack of conflict, but the conviction to resolve conflict, no matter the personal cost. 

This Biblical Counseling Through Song compilation playlist was created in order for the Body of Christ to meditate richly upon our high calling to not only love God and our neighbors, but to love our enemies as well. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us and beckons us to follow Him – to pray for those who persecute us and those that have sinned against us. This is a wholly unnatural thing to do. It is impossible apart from the rich indwelling Spirit and the Grace of God.

  Jewish Messiah - Serving Enemies in Prayer

This is a call to meditate and pray according to the ancient Biblical Scriptures. We hope this contemplative prayer playlist creates a space in which the Holy Spirit might bring into fruition in our lives the high calling of Jesus to pray for, and love, our enemies.

We at Biblical Counseling Through Song merely wish to be the connective tissue within the Body of Christ between the artists that are allowing us to richly dwell within the Scriptures and the rest of our Body.  You can download below from Noisetrade through the July 7th, 2013.

Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20 Noisetrade Playlist

The Lyrics – Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20

This playlist serves to unpack some of the mystery of the Mercy of the Gospel and cast our eyes upon the Redeemer who sheds His Mercy upon us.

The “Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20” playlist was originally developed for a Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) “Summit on Islam” conference at First Presbyterian in Orlando this past January. We re-released in April after the Boston Terror attacks.  Essentially the outline is:

1) God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46)
2) He told us to love Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
3) Love our Neighbor (Mark 12:18-34, Luke 10:25-37)
4) Love our Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
5) It’s impossible, apart from His Grace (Psalm 121, Ephesians 6:10-20)

      

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and that light.               

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong…

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record,
One death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word;   
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”

- James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis, 1844

I am a 2003 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, whose prideful aspirations of piloting were humbled by God into becoming a minister and counselor of the Word of God.  In revealing Himself, God brought me low.  We all live life “Coram Deo”, before the face of God, whether we realize it or not.  The Truth is that we need to lower ourselves before His ever mindful gaze.

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

“Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

     

Sun Tzu was pointing towards that fact that the supreme art of war calls for a close embrace of our enemy.  We must see the world from their perspective, not ours, and enter into their suffering and offer Christ as the balm to war.  Jesus is that Golden Bridge.

To wage the GWOT merely within the battlespaces of Land, Sea, Air, Space, and Cyberspace, is to miss the critical battlespace upon which this battle is being waged – the human heart.  The heart, in a Jewish sense, is the inner man and the seat of our cognitions, affections, and volitions.  This Higher battlespace of the heart is that of the Spiritual, or Metaphysical.  Within this sphere of warfare, prayer of the Word of God is our only offensive weapon.  Contemplation of the Scriptures, the Word of God, is the link between the battlespace of Cyberspace (information, philosophy, academia, the media, the arts, etc…) and the Spiritual.  It is within this realm of warfare where we are failing to call upon God to war on our behalf.

I am a warrior at heart.  I am merely calling us, the Church, to war by other, loftier, means.  In effect, Jesus has replaced Sun Tzu as my ultimate teacher in the art of warfare.  God has transformed my heart from focusing on the study of “The Art of War” to the “The War of Art”.



Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love

If we are to win the GWOT, we must humble ourselves to know and love our enemies well.  We offer this musical resource to exegete the Scriptures and see Jesus’s deep call to be ministers of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) and ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) amidst the hatred, commissioning each believer to be a peace maker until He returns.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God is our Refuge…the God of Jacob is our Fortress!

In the wake of the recent Boston Terror attacks, we can be left with a foreboding sense of helplessness in our world against enemies and spiritual forces, which are far beyond our control. This is true. We are not in control of this world. If we are honest, we are not even in control of our own lives. However, unknown terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, are not the only agents which can bring an overwhelming sense of fear into our lives.  In the brokeness of our fallen world, fear and terror is a dwelling place for far too many.  On others days, while in the pit of despair, it might just be taking our next few breaths to get through the day which might instill just as much fear.

When we peer into the mirror of the Scriptures, we see our great insufficiency and God’s great sufficiency in protecting ourselves from our enemies.  Let Psalm 46 be our guide:

Psalm 46, ESV 

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 

Selah

The God of Jacob – The way to love, the way to fight…

In the wake of personal abuse or suffering from the sin of another, no matter the type, it is easy to feel the abuser is the real enemy.  As the Church, we are to comfort the broken hearted and serve those that have been radically sinned against.  It is our calling.

The power from which we are love and engage those which wish us harm is the power of God’s Grace – from the foundation of an ever growing relationship with God Himself.

In our war with radical Islamic terrorism, we are offering the peoples and cultures from which it springs Western, secular democracy to replace Islam.  We are offering them “a way to live”, when they are crying out for “a reason to live”.  They are simply enslaved and in service to a false God.  The jihadic verses from the Koran make that plain.

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Koran, Sura 9:29)

O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about [Pickthal and others: "who are near to you"], and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (Koran, Sura 9:123)

Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah, – He will never let their deeds be lost.
(Koran, Sura 47:4)

In light of these jihadic passages, we can hear the voice of Jesus say:

Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are only perfect in our weakness.  It is acknowledging our perfect weakness, that we embrace Jesus as our perfect strength.  In preaching on this passage in his sermon “Loving Your Enemies” in 1957, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. unpacks the great call of the church to obedience to the call from Jesus.  It is the great call from Him to set the captives free.


“Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.”

As a means of the assurance of salvation, the Koran calls believers to violently lay down their lives to combat the unbeliever for the sake of Allah, whereas the Holy Scriptures’s assurance of salvation for the Christian in Jesus Christ frees us to non-violently lay down our lives for the sake of our enemies.

If Jesus’s battle cry from the cross was “It is finished“, it should be our battle cry.  In the end, Love wins.  He has already won.  We are merely following in His regiment, collecting the spoils of war – the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who do not yet know they are our brothers and sisters in Him.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

- Martin Luther King, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm, Sweden, 1964

Love – A Higher Form of Fighting 

Love does not presuppose the lack of conflict, but the deep conviction to resolve conflict, no matter the personal cost or sacrifice.  Love is saying to the other that a reconciled relationship to you is of greater worth to me than life.  We must see Jesus sitting on the tree on that far distant hill for His enemies, including ourselves.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Loving Our Enemies” sermon:



“The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros;agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen…

…There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”…

…As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that…

…And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.

Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.”

- Martin Luther King Jr., Loving Our Enemies, 1957

The contributing artists have graciously given this material by Grace. All is free. We expect nothing in return. However, any tips garnered will be donated to the Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross. Like any other Noisetrade download, your contact information submitted will be shared with those same artists. The sharing is meant to strengthen the bonds of fellowship amongst us.  I pray that you might find this resource helpful in our high calling to love our enemies by voicing the call to them to enter into the Kingdom of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This is no silver bullet, but it is an invitation to pray contemplatively. It is an invitation to think upon these deep Truths richly and to walk gently with Christ. It is our sincere hope that in our prayer, many are called to serve the victims of these terror attacks, those responsible for the attacks, and others who wish the innocent harm in our public and personal lives. Will you join us in prayer?

Will you “with silent, lifting mind trod the high untrespasssed sanctity of space, put out your hands and touch the face of God” in contemplative prayer? 

May His lovingkindness (hesed) be a balm to heal the weary, wounded, and war torn…

 
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Mother a Hymn, Mother an Album – The Blood and the Breathe: Songs That Tell the Story of Redemption

Mother’s Day is today, Sunday, May 12th.  If this brings a sinking feeling to your stomach, take solace, we’ve all been there (or will be there).  Fear not!

There is redemption for your forgetfulness.  Remember, your mother’s nurture and care was given to you so that you could see the comfort from God through the people of God.  Moms are a picture of the solace we gain from our spiritual brothers and sisters in the faith as we walk together through this veil of sorrow.  May I offer you an album, recorded by a mother, for the people of the new Jerusalem – the Church?

May I introduce you to “The Blood and the Breathe: Songs that Tell the Story of Redemption” by Caroline Cobb?

You can send her the free Noisetrade sampler download today, purchase the preorder in her name today, and she’ll have it in her hands in June.

The Blood and the Breathe Promo Video

“You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.”
- Cyprian of Carthage

“I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith…so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26).”
- John Calvin, Institutes 4.1.1

“…the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”
- Galatians 4:26

Nearly two years ago, you might recall that Caroline Cobb continued her song writing journey by challenging herself to write a song for every book of the Bible.  Last year, Caroline launched her Kickstarter to record the first Scripture to Music Collective album. For some of the backstory, you can read about the project below.

Mother a Cold, Mother a Hymn – 20120512

Now, the birth pains have given way to the child.  In short, ”The Blood and the Breathe: Songs that Tell the Story of Redemption” is an epoch changing album.  It highlights the deep richness of love that comes uniquely from the songwriting pen of a mother.  The songs are affectionate, deep, and theologically rich.  You can truly sense the deep life of care and nurture springing forth, from which these songs were crafted.  Nobody can communicate God’s love for us like a mother can.  Mothers love when no one else wants to – from this crucible of care, Caroline writes.

If I may offer a starting point, you can get a free The Blood and the Breathe Sampler Noisetrade download.  A good intro to Caroline’s and Sean Carter’s careful song craftsmanship  is “Passover Song“.  They met at an Art House Dallas songwriting feedback session, completing the song in final form after their initial meeting at Art House Dallas.

Passover Song –  Caroline Cobb, featuring Sean Carter

There’s a promise,
In our veins,
But it’s faded by all these years in chains.

Send a prophet,
Send the plagues,
That by sunrise,
We will no more be slaves.

Take the lamb,
Take the blood,
And paint in on our doorways.
At night,
Death will come,
But pass us by.

This is all our hope and peace

In the morning,
We will rise,
Taste the freedom,
We thought we’d never find.

We will dance now,
In the streets.
Once held captive,
Now we shall live as kings.
Lift your head,
Your voice,
And sing of your salvation,
Of the Blood of the Lamb,
That gave us life.

Now, by this, we’ll overcome,
Now, by this, we’ll reach our home.

There’s a poison,
In our veins,
And it leads to death,
We can not escape. 

Send a ransom,
Perfect Son.
Remedy the curse,
By His precious blood.

And the Lamb,
That will come,
His cross will be our doorway,
And the red,
of His Blood,

It will make us white.

And daughters and sons,
Will rejoice in resurrection
And death,
Swallowed up,

In endless life.

Glory, Glory
This I see.
All my praise,
For this I bring,
Not of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

You can sample and pre-order “The Blood and the Breathe: Songs that Tell the Story of Redemption” below:

The Blood and the Breathe Noisetrade Sampler

The Blood and the Breathe Preorder

Even if you have taken care of your mother already this Mother’s Day, well done. Remember, she gave you birth – another gift couldn’t hurt.  I’m praying for you to support Caroline today and send the Noisetrade download to your Mom as a down payment. Preorders for “The Blood and the Breathe” will be delivered in June.

Your Father could use a copy as well.  Father’s Day is June 16th!

 
Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

Comforting the Broken Hearted, Serving Our Enemies in Prayer – Our First Meditative Playlist Release

In the wake of the recent Boston Terror attacks, we can be left with a foreboding sense of helplessness in our world against enemies and spiritual forces, which are far beyond our control. This is true. We are not in control of this world. If we are honest, we are not even in control of our own lives.  However, unknown terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, are not the only agents which can bring an overwhelming sense of fear into our lives.  In the brokeness of our fallen world, fear and terror is a dwelling place for far too many.

On others days, while in the pit of despair, it might just be taking our next few breaths to get through the day which might instill just as much fear.  In the wake of personal abuse or suffering from the sin of another, no matter the type, it is easy to feel the abuser is the real enemy.  As the Church, we are to comfort the broken hearted and serve those that have been radically sinned against.  It is our calling.

However, we are also called to the ministry of reconciliation – to be the hands and feet of Christ, beckoning for the the abused and the abuser to be reconciled to Christ.  As we bathe in the imparted righteousness and healing which Christ has given in Himself at the Cross, forgiveness of one’s enemy or abuser allows for the power reversal that occurs in the attack or initial sin to be reversed once again.  Forgiving those that have been the agent of grief in ours lives is one of the most transformative aspects of our imaging Christ in a deeply flawed and broken world.  We have been forgiven greatly, in order to forgive.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21, ESV

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is a highly sensitive topic and is not offered glibly.  In the midst of being sinned against, the pain is real.  In the weeks, months, and years following, the grief is real. Justice is the cry on every human heart.  But, in the wake of public and personal attacks, tragedies, and afflictions, what is the role of Mercy?

This playlist serves to unpack some of the mystery of the Mercy of the Gospel and cast our eyes upon the Redeemer who sheds His Mercy upon us.

This Biblical Counseling Through Song compilation playlist was created in order for the Body of Christ to meditate richly upon our high calling to not only love God and our neighbors, but to love our enemies as well. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us and beckons us to follow Him – to pray for those who persecute us or those that have sinned against us. This is a wholly unnatural thing to do. It is impossible apart from the rich indwelling Spirit and the Grace of God.  This is a call to meditate and pray according to the ancient Biblical Scriptures. We hope this contemplative prayer playlist creates a space in which the Holy Spirit might bring into fruition in our lives the high calling of Jesus to pray for, and love, our enemies.

We at Biblical Counseling Through Song merely wish to be the connective tissue within the Body of Christ between the artists that are allowing us to richly dwell within the Scriptures and the rest of our Body.  You can download below from Noisetrade through the July 7th, 2013.

Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20 Noisetrade Playlist

The Lyrics – Serving Our Enemies in Prayer: Psalm 46 – Ephesians 6:10-20

The contributing artists have graciously given this material by Grace. All is free. We expect nothing in return. However, any tips garnered will be donated to the Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross. Like any other Noisetrade download, your contact information submitted will be shared with those same artists. The sharing is meant to strengthen the bonds of fellowship amongst us.

This is no silver bullet, but it is an invitation to pray contemplatively. It is an invitation to think upon these deep Truths richly and to walk gently with Christ. It is our sincere hope that in our prayer, many are called to serve the victims of these terror attacks, those responsible for the attacks, and others who wish the innocent harm in our public and personal lives. Will you join us in prayer?

May His lovingkindness be a balm to heal the weary, wounded, and war torn…

Psalm 46, ESV

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah

 
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A Legacy of Prayer: The Next 60 Years – 10/01/2012

In Contemplation – “Over the Trinity”
Praying Over the Trinity – Dallas on Facebook
10-01-2012

Colossians 1:24-27, ESV

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Psalm 46:1-3, ESV

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah

As the storms raged across the landscape of Dallas on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning, the rain brought forth much activity under the Bridge.  God’s creatures are awakened by the rain.  Fish breathe easier as the water is oxgenated and the turtles use the strengthened current to move about easier in their shells which the current carries them along.  Analogies of life in Christ as we are baptized in the Holy Spirit at conversion abound.

However, once enlightened by the Holy Spirit, times of suffering quicken Christian hearts to our deep need of the Lord and His Grace to bear it.  Through our suffering, the Word of God is made fully known (Colossians 1:25), as God meets each suffering with more than enough Grace to bear it.  As we stare into the abyss which seems to be without end, hope is found in Christ’s abiding presence amidst the darkness.  Christ’s abiding in us is our glory to share with a suffering world (v.27).

Psalm 46:4-7, ESV

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah

As the drops fell this weekend, the level of the Trinity River kept rising and rising, as the current of the river became evermore powerful.  The same is true during the times of suffering as the Lord carries us through (Colossians 1:24-29).  Our sense of the Holy Spirit’s comforting work is made ever more apparent in our lives as suffering increases.

Trinity River - Saturday - 09/29/2012

It looked most dark before the sun rose that day – kind of like when Mary visited the tomb to find the Gardener and the empty tomb.  She came in, with tears.  She left, rejoicing.

Trinity River - Sunday Morning - 09/30/2012

As suffering envelops our life and we fill our bed with tears at night, the Holy Spirit flows through us like the current in the river.  We need only submit to His control of our lives, driving us deeper into the heart of God.  Suffering offers us “Be still and know that I am God” moments where our usual self sustained defenses are overwhelmed, under onslaught by our enemy and his minions.

Psalm 46:8-11, ESV

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

Selah

But did you know that the context of Psalm 46 commands to “Be still and know” is amidst ancient Near Eastern Warfare?  As a means of building a bridge to a conventional understanding, Ancient Near Eastern warfare was much closer to that of “Braveheart” than the detached modern warfare of drones and strikes from half way across the world.  Ancient Near Eastern warfare was hand-to-hand brutal combat of sliced off ears (John 18:26) and falling on swords (1 Chronicles 10:4), rather than admitting defeat.

Battle of Stirling – Braveheart

Essentially, if you remained still on this battlefield, you were dead.  So what does God mean?

Suffering and times of spiritual warfare drive us to hide in God, beckoning out to Him to be our fortress.  It is the same context as Psalm 71.  In Psalm 71:2, the Psalmist hides in God, but actively prays to Him in the hiding position (“incline your ear to me, and save me!).  It seems as if God wants us to run to Him for a conversation, just like any Father wants to talk with his children – where we do more listening than talking.

Psalm 71:1-3, ESV

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

This Sunday, at the Village Church – Northway in Dallas, it was our 60th Anniversary of the start of Northway Baptist Church, which the Village merged with in 2009.  Over the years the Lord has worked mightily in the life of Northway in starting several other large churches in the metroplex.  For the sake of brevity, it is God who receives the Glory, not Northway, not the Village, not any human being or collection of human beings, but God alone.  Their was no room for pride that morning.  We were simply thanking God for His faithfulness to a bunch of broken souls at the corner of Walnut Hill and Hedgeway Dr over the years.  It was Him who led his people to that very corner.

One of our covenant members who recently went home to be with the Lord, Mildred Salmon, at the age of 93 was there to see it all.  See was one of the faithful that prayed for the community and remained.  She was part of a remnant.

However, over the years, the means by which the Lord has used Northway and the Village was a deep life of Prayer.  In recent years, we have strayed a bit from this devotion to Prayer as we have grown in numbers, but the Lord is bringing us back.   Our congregation has a steadfast group of prayer warriors praying during the services and a sweetness of community developing at Elder Led Prayer each month.  The pump is primed and is ready for the wellspring to erupt.

God is after a constant life of Prayer before the Father for a daily dependence on Him, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month to month, year to year, decade to decade, and Generation to Generation.

“Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;”

We are to live with the affectionate understanding that we live all of life “Coram Deo” (Before the Face of God) continually.  All is sacred, none is secular.  According to Genesis 1, there is not a secular molecule in the universe, rather all is God’s inspired Revelation from his very mouth.  He made us and all that is seen and unseen.  We can not escape His gaze, nor His grip.  That fact either causes terror or fear (reverence).  Lord, will you grow us in our fear  and reverence of You?

In former days, it was said that the job of a Puritan Pastor was twofold.  He was to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and prepare them to die well (spiritually, first, and, then, physically).  The requirement of Christian Death as a relevant topic for most sermons was mostly out of need, however was borne out of the Church’s solid, God exalting Theology.

The problem is us.  We want our own Kingdom to come, rather than the Lord’s.  Death is the means of laying down our Kingdom, embracing the Cross to enter and proclaim His Kingdom.  Without our clinging to our cross by the power of Christ clinging to His Cross, there is no Gospel.  Without death, Resurrection is actually a terrifying prospect.

Following the Village Elders lead, the next Generation is now the target of our prayers.  We have felt burdened to pray for our children and our children’s children.  It is the prayer of the Fathers for the sons.  May we give our children a legacy of God-fearing Prayer to the Father of Lights.  He is carrying us along by the power of the Holy Spirit.  May we submit to His current.  It is the same burden rising within the Rain for Roots movement in Nashville, the Jesus Storybook Bible, and the rising desire to parent the next generation within the Indelible Grace movement.

Will we open our eyes for our need of Prayer?  For the sake of our children?  Will we teach them to Pray?

Light broke through this morning.  God gave insight.

Light Breaking Over Dallas - 10/01/2012

The Lord has solidified in my heart the context of the outworking of Biblical Counseling Through Song.  They will be meditative soundtracks for daily Sunrise Prayer Walks with the Lord as we teach and counsel the next generation with Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Colossians 3:16). May He raise up a generation that bends their knee in His Throneroom in continual adoration and praise as we live our lives before a broken and waiting world.

Like King David, we, as broken hearted souls (Psalm 51:15-17), must suffer with the hope of Christ.  Our call is to lead transgressors back to our Lord (Psalm 51:13).  As the Lord draws together a “Fellowship of the Broken and Bereaved” (thank you Amy Courts) and “Servants of the Secret Fire” (thank you Andy Peterson), He uses our own stumbling and our God given scars to magnify His goodness and Grace.  Andrew Peterson sheds light on how we are part of this fellowship in “Shine Your Light on Me” on his “Light for the Lost Boy” album:

And the servants of the secret fire
Were gathered there
The embers of the ages
Like a living prayer
And all at once I saw the shadows flee
Shine your light on me, on me
Be a light unto my path
And a lamp unto my feet 

This morning the Lord brought together an old group of friends from Denton together from the various Village campuses (Dallas, Denton, and the new beta Fort Worth campus).  It was sweet to pray alongside these steady Prayer warriors.

In my life, they have been “Servants of the Secret Fire“, carrying the fire for me at time when I was too weak to pray, and vice-versa.  They were the brothers and sisters at my side, singing my song when the song in me had died.  A chord of three strands is hard to break, but what about four?

James, Jen, Jackie, and Tom

We are ambassadors of the King.  Are we calling on the King to help us in our discipling of the nations often or attempting to accomplish in our own strength and planning?

As the storms raced across the Metroplex, they crossed over Trinity Groves.  Two prayer necklace tags remained on the Trinity Groves trees:

The first was a request that our Prayer Walks in Trinity Groves and over the Trinity on the Continental Bridge would be supported by the neighborhood and the Trinity Groves developers.  The second was for the rise of missionaries from TX to be sent to other states and to the nations (to the uttermost).

Prayer Card Remaining - "Lord would you draw the Nations to yourself"

Prayer Card Remaining - Flip Side - "Lord, send us from TX and the U.S. to the uttermost"

Lord, point taken.  We are to pray for the nations and where you have us planted.  Help us in our unbelief!

The Request to my Village Church brethren – Would we pray for the city by praying for our communities, in our communities where the Lord has us planted?  Here’s a call for prayer walking in our neighborhoods.  Come on down to Trinity Groves to learn and then stay in our neighborhoods.

Praying Over the Trinity – Facebook Group

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Praying-over-the-Trinity-Dallas/349584201794165?ref=ts&fref=ts

Jesus, help me to make the soundtrack for our meditations.  I am dependent on you to complete the work.  It’s for Your Glory alone and our Joy!

The Requests - Blown From the Trees (Prayed Over by Northway Prayer Team)

 P.S. – Anyone for getting baptized in the Trinity River?

Possible Baptismal Waters - Trinity River

 

 
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Thoughts “Over the Trinity” – 09/28/2012 – Spiritual Bulimia

In Contemplation – “Over the Trinity”
Praying Over the Trinity – Dallas on Facebook
09-28-2012

It’s going to rain soon. There is a sunrise sweetness when morning skies are soaked with “yet to be cried” sky tears. Before the storm, the unseen drops reflect and refract within the red spectrum – the color shed at the Cross.

A storm is coming.

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning

Sailor's Warning...

Red Sky Science - http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/weather-sailor.html

From the red light refracting in the clouds this morrow, pretty sure it’s going to rain.
Contemplation for the day:

What to do with sorrow in the morrow?

Physically, God’s sign never to destroy humanity once again – the rainbow – is light refracting through prismatic drops of water in the air.  He Architected  His world that way.  For the suffering, what is the sign that God will not destroy us in our suffering?

The rainbow.

Elements of the God of Light’s character refract in our tears, making Him “fully known” to a spectating world. (Col 1:24-27).  Those that have suffered get this. It is their Joy.  Those that are suffering can rest in the fact Joy is coming. Maybe not yet, but God pours Grace on those who suffer. Joy is coming!  Those that have yet to suffer. Please listen:

Suffering is coming for you. You can’t escape it when it comes.

By Grace, we get to see the elements of His character refracted through our tears as He carries us through our suffering.  The Apostle John tells us the fiery angel from Revelation 10, who told him to “eat the scroll”, was donned with the beauty of a rainbow over his head.  A reminder of God’s character?

Apparently…

A reminder of God’s mercy through His Son’s suffering?
Amen.

The splendor of fiery Angels?
Surely!

Rev 10:9-11, ESV

9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.  11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

There is a reason for the bitterness.  It’s, evidently, not good for the Word to remain bottled up within our stomachs like spiritual gluttons, but given to others in various forms…(Col 1:28-29)  Sometimes: In tears.  Occasionally: Sweat from our pores.  Primarily: Regurgitated by a “chewing of the cud” of our meditations on the Maker of Light – how He has been poured into us His Spirit.

As any bulimic or glutton knows, it feels good to throw up sometimes.  In fact, it’s addictive.  May we only be Spiritually bulimic – to the Glory of God. It is our Joy.  I write this with great love for a dear sister in the faith in mind.

Rev 10:1, ESV

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

Fiery angels, birds, and turtles know, and actively participate in the glory of God.  Do we?

Today's Prayer - 09/28/2012

In the morning, do we “eat the scroll”?

His Word – Honey to the taste?
His Word – Bitter in the practical application as we see our own depravity?
His Word – Is sweetened only once again in the telling of others of the Suffering, Resurrection, and Return of our King.

Can’t Help Myself (based upon Psalm 121)
by  Sandra McCracken, from “In Feast or Fallow

I confess the things, I am afraid of
Thorns and danger just around the bend
I pray for tongues of fire and bands of angels
To come and circle ‘round me like a fence

Chorus: 
I lift my eyes to the hills,
where comes my help?
I lift my hands, empty hands
I can’t help myself, can’t help myself
No, I can’t help myself

My enemies surround me like an army
Within without the battles raging on
I pray the spirit would be strong and mighty
For courage through the night until the dawn

Chorus

Oh trust the lord, my soul and all that is in me
Oh trust the light to show my darkest parts
With wounds of truth and love, a friend who has known me
A fool would keep his secrets in his heart

Chorus

Psalm 121, ESV
A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel;
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Time to pray, hear and listen to His Word.  His Sabbath is here! It is here now…Do you know that His rest is here (upon and among us) by Grace?

Praying for sweeping Grace over Dallas, Nashville, and Dunmore…

- Selah

 
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Honoring Major David Gray in Prayer: 90 Days of Service, Day 74

“Vocation is where our greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need
- Frederick Buechner, Theologian

World’s greatest need – Jesus.  Our greatest Joy – Prayer for His Return.

According to Paul, the calling of every Christian is to live a dependent life of prayer, warring continually from a stance of prayerful rest in the presence of our God as He abides in us (Ephesians 6:17-20).  A life fully devoted to prayer is supposed to be normative for us.  However, my prayer life was far from this (and I continue to struggle daily with dying to self).  So, this summer on the morning of Day 2 of my Nashville adventure, I prayed for God to grow my prayer life.

Like a child, I sure didn’t know what I was asking from My Father.  He was planning on taking a father, ending his long suffering, to give another father, a spiritual father in the faith that taught me how to be a Christian Dad.  This requires some explanation.

Yes, he answered quite clearly.  Just not the way I had foreseen.  One of the most engaging hymnwriters of the 18th century, John Newton (of “Amazing Grace”), a former slave trading “wretch”, weighs in on how suffering (spiritually and physically) grows our prayer life from stagnation to a vibrant overflowing relationship with Him:

“I Asked the Lord”
(Indelible Grace feat. Emily DeLoach, Lyrics – John Newton)

1. 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

 2. 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

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

 4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

 5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

 6. 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”

 7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

This summer has been a difficult one.  It has been a season overshadowed with a call by God to much suffering amidst the tinge of death, only to be overcome by the all mighty depths and bottomless soundings of His Grace at each step of the voyage.  As the Spirit guided me through this summer of suffering,  my sense of His continual abiding presence overwhelmed my heart.

Like the Indelible Grace VI album I had the privilege to sit through, it’s been a season where God has moved me “From Sorrow to Joy” – opening my heart up to an ever present prayerful conversation with Jesus.  My calling, and the calling of every Christian brother and sister, is to a robust, and ever increasingly dependent, life of unceasing prayer and meditation within the Throneroom of our Father.  To give us a more contemporary picture, think of JohnJohn as he had the ear of his Father.  Men trembled into the Kennedy Oval Office, while JohnJohn tottered in and under the desk.

The mystery of Colossians 1:24-27, that our suffering (v.24) would be the means by which God makes his Word “fully known” (v.25) has come alive in my heart.  The mystery, hidden for ages and generations (v.26), of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” has been experienced, meditated upon deeply, and to be shared with His Bride.  This blog and daily prayer walks with Him are the fruit of His teaching and guidance. Read on:

It was a summer bookended by Death.  On Day 2  of my Nashville internship, my Dad passed away.  That same night, my internship sponsor, Kevin Twit, invited me to a CD release party for Matthew Perryman Jones (MPJ).

By God’s providence, the album was “The Land of the Living” where MPJ was working through the grief of his own father’s death.  Most days, my early morning prayer walks with the Lord were a warm blanket as I sought the Lord amidst the pain – “Land of the Living” was a soundtrack for my weeping from morning to morning.

“The Angels Were Singing”
Matthew Perryman Jones

Talking to stone,
Listening to birds
With no more to say,
I kissed my fingers
And touched the red dirt

Wandering away
Through the moon-colored field
My heart was a weight
Of rage and sorrow
That longed to be healed

Then I started running
To feel more alive;
To wake up my senses
That slowly had died

And I wondered if angels
Were singing that night

Nothing’s the same
The colors aren’t bright
Since I kissed your face
And slowly whispered
My last goodbye

Thinking of Jesus
At Lazarus’s side
That heavenly sadness,
The shadows of light

His eyes saw the city
Where all is made right

And I heard that angels
Were singing that night

The angels were singing
As we sat and cried
Each tear was a chorus;
A sacred reprise

And I finally was grieving
That long goodbye

And I heard the angels
…Singing that night

On the 74th day of service in Nashville, the closing bookend was the death of a man by an insider suicide attack by a Afghani Security Forces member in Afghanistan.  I was a pilot in transition and He was an Air Traffic Controller in transition.  We swam together in the morning.  I did laps, he did exercises for underwater breath holding.  I was a fairly new Christian and he was part of my new found family in the faith.  One Providential morning, I helped to save him from a near drowning at Laughlin AFB while I was still in the Air Force.  His name is Major W. David Gray.

But, on the day of his near drowning, our prayers poolside were simple, but massive, “God, help us.  Save David, his work is not complete here”.

Family of fallen Ft. Carson Major Finds Hope through Tears – The Gazette
Fallen Major praised as ‘epitome’ of True ALO - Air Force Times

The Lord was faithful to save David’s life that day in the pool, allowing him to live another seven years while having two more children, Garrett and Ava, with his wife Heather.  It was the beginning of my growing prayer life as a young believer.  David was a marked man after that.  We had a deep, unspoken connection when we saw each other.  We both knew what it was like to stare into the abyss of our near deaths, to find hope that only Christ can offer.  It is the hope of Psalm 13.  Prayer answered.

Pastor Frank Thomas – Psalm 13
**Foward to either minute 24:00 or 30:00…Be prepared to cry…** 

After the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Cliff Wilson and family sat down with me and some other friends for dinner.  During the course of the conversation, Cliff said, “You can call me Dad…”.  It took my breathe away.

Back in Del Rio, Cliff had taken me under his wing, allowing me to understand what an active Christian family looks like from the inside out during the most difficult moments of my life when all of my life was being redefined.  Cliff was there for the agonizing shift from Pilot to Pastor.  Cliff, with his wife Christy and two daughters, would round up as many as they could fit into their home on Fridays or Saturdays.  If you “Googled” the definition or example of an ever present disciple maker, Cliff Wilson’s picture should appear.  I have never met a man so willing to serve others for Christ.  Now, this man, was calling himself, Dad.  I really didn’t know what to say.

A few days later, I was preparing to write another blog post and had looked at the timeline of my Dad’s funeral.  The recording schedule for that week had some neat observations which require another post when Indelible Grace VI: From Sorrow to Joy is released.  But, the most interesting, was the first day of my Father’s wake in June was Cliff’s birthday.  I was amazed.   God, you are Author of Authors.  Prayer answered…

At the funeral, during Chaplain Ken Fischer’s graveside Eulogy, he explained that one of David’s last prayers home to Heather contained Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am Lord, send me…”.  Heart broke, tears flowed, Two Star Generals were saluting children as flags were given to Nyah, Garrett, and Ava.  The mighty were bending their knee to God – a slice of Heaven here on Earth for a moment.  Prayer answered…

But as the Honor Guard fired their 21 Gun salute and his Special Forces troops punched their insignia into his coffin, I prayed for what I could do.  Surely, the memorial of a man of David’s worth should not end today.  The brokenness of our world flooded onto me in the way that only moments of death can do.  I offered prayer graveside, but it was pretty incoherent – mutterings only those that the Holy Spirit understands.  As I walked away amidst the sea of white tombstones, each with their own stories, I asked, “Lord, what would you have me do?”  As the troops whooped and hollered for their fallen comrade by the grave, the “limit expression” from Psalm 13 rang in my ears, “How long O’ Lord, how long?”. With a good friend’s song in mind, how long until “The Reckoning”?

The Reckoning
by Andrew Peterson, from “Counting Stars” 

I can see the storm descending on the hill tonight
Tall trees are bending to your will tonight
‘O, Let the mighty bow down
At the thundering sound of your voice 

I can hear the howling wind and feel the rain tonight
Every drop a prophet in your name tonight
‘O, and the song that they sing
It is washing me clean,
but How long, how long, how long
Until this curtain is lifted?

How long, how long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning? 

And I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight
You see the teardrops as they roll tonight
Down the faces of the saints
Who grow weary and faint in your fields 

And the wicked roam the cities and the streets tonight
But when the God of love and thunder speaks tonight
‘O, I believe You will come
Your justice be done,
But how long, how long, how long
Until this curtain is lifted?

How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?
‘O, the Reckoning… 

You are holiness and grace
You are fury and rest
You are anger and love
You curse and you bless
You are mighty and weak
You are silence and song
You are plain as the day,
But you have hidden your face–
For how long? How long? 

I am standing in the stillness of the Reckoning
The storm is past and rest is beckoning

Mighty God, how I fear you

How I long to be near you, O Lord 
How long, how long, how long until this burden is lifted?
How long, how long, how long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?

And I know, I know, I know
that I don’t know what I’m asking

How long?
But I long to look you full in the face

I am ready for the reckoning

Will we honor David’s prayer by echoing his request to the Father of Lights?  Are we ready for the Reckoning?

In my grief over David’s death, I refuse to be a victim.  David willingly laid down his life – for his family, for his country, for our God.  He wasn’t a victim.  He was a solider.

Will we join the fight in prayer?  Call this an Alamo moment, if you will…

“Remember David Gray – Here I am Lord, send me…!”

In deeper conversation with Cliff, what I didn’t know at the time was that “The Gathering” prayer chain , the contemporary service that I started attending after being saved, had been organized by Heather and David.  The same prayer chain that prayed for Him, spanning the entire globe, passed from one Air Force member to another was started by his wife.  The prayer life of the Grays launched my prayer life into a Kickstart, poolside and beyond.  Like the Trinity Bridge in Dallas, the strands of our lives are being pulled together into a beautiful tapestry.

Like bridges spanning the disparate parts of a city, Air Force Christian prayer chains cross all boundaries of geography.  Crossing boundaries is the essence of Air Power, since it is the battlespace one step above both Land and Sea.

The same if true of our Prayer lives, which supercede the battlespace of Air and Space, reaching to the metaphysical battlespace where we must engage our enemies, not on a flesh and blood level, but in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-13).  The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is inherently a war of “Cyberspace”, engulfing the realm of the metaphysical and abstract.  We can not offer secular Western democracy to replace fundamental Islam.  Democracy is a way to live, not a reason for living.  Allah is a reason for living, but living for YHWH is the only Master who will not crush us beyond Recovery.

I am tired of us not waging war in “Cyberspace” well.  It is the battlespace of academia, ideology, and one where prayer opens us to the vista of the heavenly places of struggle and dominion.  Yet, we pray in the trail of the robes of a victorious Returning King who has won the battle with, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

As a means of memorializing David’s sacrifice and to point the Church in the direction of how we are to fight the GWOT, I have started Sunrise Prayer Walking on bridges connecting key areas of the cities where the Lord places me.  This summer it was in Nashville on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge.  As I have moved back to Dallas for the semester, I am praying on the Continental Bridge next to the Margaret Hunt Trinity River Bridge – praying to the Trinity by “Praying Over the Trinity“.

Praying Over the Trinity – Facebook Page

The idea for the Prayer walk was an amalgamation of a Prayer Tree experienced at a three day Messianic Jewish Music Festival in Asheville, NC called AMF2012.  Essentially, it consists of making a prayer necklace of ribbon with a prayer request card attached that is placed in an area (on tree branches outside) where others can pray at their own discretion. At AMF, the Prayer Tree was setup by a lake.  We took the request and walked the lake.  If the Lord burdened, we kept the request.  If not, we replaced on the tree.

 

Prayer Requests Turned Over and Over in the Wind – Video

In Dallas, there is an area that is an emerging Art District called Trinity Groves, on the West Side of the new Trinity River Bridge.  Prayer requests are made, left in the trees, awaiting members of the Body of Christ to pray for them.  It’s a “leave a prayer”, “take a prayer” system helping the Bride to call out to the Father for our healing, through the Son, by the Spirit’s power.

If this is confusing, it might be on paper and in electronic ink, but in the flesh it’s beautiful.  This is an open invitation to come down to the river to pray.  Having seen “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” two years before getting saved, we sang “Down in the River To Pray” at my baptism by immersion.  It was a foreshadowing for today.

So, may the invitation be short and simple.  ”Church, come pray.”

Jesus’s disciples asked, “Lord teach us to pray…” (Luke 11).  He answered.  May we answer him in prayer and contemplative meditation.

Combining with the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept I have been developing at Redeemer Seminary, the days of the week are covered by each playlist in the concept’s Sanctification series.  Like any Prayer warrior knows, the call of Psalm 46 of “Be still and know…” is in the context of warfare.  God wants us to stand and watch as He wins our battles for us.  We need only ask, watch and listen.

Day 1 – Sunday – On Fear of the Lord
Day 2 – Monday – On Prayer
Day 3 – Tuesday – On Confession
Day 4 – Wednesday – On Godly Sorrow
Day 5 – Thursday – On Repetance
Day 6 – Friday – On Reconciliation
Day 7 – Saturday – On Resting in (Abiding in) Christ

I’ll close this post with a song by David’s artistic namesake, David Gray – the singer.  At the rise of the Son in our lives, the world begins to disappear.  It’s a good song and a good prayer to pray at the sunrise (Malachi 4:2).  David Gray (the artist) meant the song to convey the sunset, but it’s beautiful to listen to at sunrise when we realize that when the Son Rises next, the world shall disappear and another “without tears” shall emerge.

Jesus has flipped the world on its head – where Two Star Generals salute little girls and widows, where the mighty are brought low, and the valleys lifted high.  It is a world where the Cross is the kiss of Justice and Love.  May we spend our time in the Shadow of His Cross as we bear our own, living in Resurrection power, whispering to our Father in Heaven.

Until that day, let’s pray together.  Stop trying to live by your own power.

You are weak, He is strong.

Park at the intersection of Pastor and Singleton, Dallas, TX and come pray…

Disappearing World
by David Gray, from “Life in Slow Motion

Slowly the truth is loading
I’m weighted down with love
Snow lying deep and even
Strung out and dreaming of

Night falling on the city
Quite something to behold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world

 We’re threading hope like fire
Down through the desperate blood
Down through the trailing wire
Into the leafless wood

 Night falling on the city
Quite something to behold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world
This disappearing world

 I’ll be sticking right there with it
I’ll be by your side
Sailing like a silver bullet
Hit ‘em ‘tween the eyes
Through the smoke and rising water
Cross the great divide
Baby till it all feels right

 Night falling on the city
Sparkling red and gold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world
This disappearing world
This disappearing world
This disappearing world

For Heather – A Tribute with the Help of Downton Abbey
…Seems like the album “Life in Slow Motion” was written for you…

World’s greatest need – Jesus.  Our greatest Joy – Prayer for His Return.

David answered the call, will you?

…Selah…

 
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Artistic Scranton Prayer – 90 Days of Service, Day 18

Because we all suffer, all Christians (in fact, all humans) are creative artists (whether we embrace that role or not).  The whole created order is watching in waitful anticipation as our lives fill in the details of the Grand Narrative as the Gospel becomes “fully known” (Colossians 1:24-26).

Colossians 1:24-26, ESV 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

Worship on the Shore in Dunmore, PA

As I was driving back to Nashville from Scranton, PA on Sunday, 10 June, I was overwhelmed with the work of the Lord in eight short, but crazy days.  The recent sermon by Tommy Nelson, “The Davidic Art of Walking”, has been a blessing to see how the Lord is with us in the midst of our suffering, as we must walk by faith and not by sight.  Tommy makes a point of showing how David made an art of walking through suffering at the hands of the Lord’s anointed, King Saul.

The Davidic Art of Walking – Tommy Nelson, Denton Bible Church

http://dbcmedia.org/sermons/the-davidic-art-of-walking-by-faith/

In the sermon, Tommy gets to the heart of Christian suffering and the artwork (workmanship) of our lives produced in those times.  The Greek root for “art” comes from the concept of revealing the Glory of God in His craftmanship in the midst of our suffering.  The context of the concept of “art” actually has roots in warfare – as the Greek god of war (Ares).   In the Iliad, the word ares is used as a common noun synonymous with “battle”.  Art is warfare carried out by other (non-violent) means.

The content of our art is key to fighting our spiritual battles well.  Hence, the Biblical Counseling Through Song emphasis on exegeting the Scriptures with Biblical song (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs). Tommy’s full analogy starts at minute 24:55-27:50.  As Christians, we fight by remembering.  Remembering, through prayerful meditation and contemplation, the faithfulness, mercy, love, grace, compassion, long suffering, (fill in the attribute) of God.

Tommy goes on to say:

“You see that is what an artist is.  Ares is the Greek God of war, Ares.  And He supposedly was the greatest.  So the term Ares, or art, – artist – is someone who does something with exceeding craft, even though nobody may see it or nobody may buy it…He does it because of a commitment to his art and his craft.  That is what a Christian is.  We are artists.  And it doesn’t matter what happens to us.  We do it because of the excellence of God.  Amen?”

In Ephesians 2:10, we are given the title of the Lord’s workmanship or poiema.  The Greek for workmanship is poiema (ποίημα).  We get the English word “poem” from the same root.  In essence, we have been crafted as works of art by God in order to reveal the beauty, grace, goodness, and wisdom of God in the midst of our suffering.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

As I got home to Scranton, I was asked to give a Eulogy for my Dad in a Roman Catholic funeral service.  There is much to write about in this occasion, but it is far too soon and too sensitive a subject to give great detail.  I see tremendous opportunity for service in Scranton and building bridges between the Roman Catholic Church back home and the Reformed Protestant tradition.

I think the Lord is raising me up to help bring reconciliation within the Roman Catholic church back home (details to follow much later this summer).  I need to speak with those in leadership back home with the Catholic church before moving forward.

On Tuesday, June 5th, the night I was preparing to write the Eulogy, the Lord impressed upon me my need to pray beforehand.  I called upon Aaron McNany, a recent family friend and founder of Capouse House (an intercessory prayer ministry in Scranton).  Long story short, many local Scranton area prayer team leaders were in attendance, along with a Messianic Jewish Worship leader from a nearby town.  The prayer was sweet.  My friend James Anderson from Fort Worth even showed upon in Dunmore to stay for the week of the funeral.  Answered prayer all around.

With that week in the rear view, my heart is set on moving forward in pursuing a church plant.  The goal is to bring a Reformed, Christocentric preaching of the Gospel to Northeastern Pennsylvania with an emphasis on the congregational outworking of the Gospel through the Biblical Counseling of one another (training the laity in how to counsel one another) and the creative outworking of the Gospel in the midst of suffering through the creative arts.

Essentially, equipping the Church for the work of Biblical Counseling and using all of the creative arts to bring the Gospel to the forefront of our lives.  It starts with the understanding that all of life is sacred and that each created human being has been created as God’s workmanship (poetry) to create in whatever context that they have been formed by His knitting hands (Psalm 139:19).

The work of Artists and Biblical Counselors is actually quite similar.  In fact, Biblical Counseling is an Art in itself.  We, as Biblical Counselors, not only exegete the Scriptures, but we must exegete the person before us, and then marry the stories of the Gospel with the life of the one making the Gospel “fully known”.  It is a sacred task.

For both Artists and Counselors, our job is to embrace our suffering (Luke 9:23).  Sit with it.  Wrestle with the Lord.  Meditate on His character, nature, and work.  And then sit in waitful anticipatory silence for the words to pen, the music to write, or the words to bring forth into another person’s life as the Spirit guides.  To do either, apart from the Holy Spirit, is destructive to ourselves and the lives of those that come into contact with our Art.

My outworking of the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept based upon Colossians 3:16 is the basis for connecting my Seminary education at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX with my summer internship in Nashville, TN, and with an eventual church plant in the Scranton/Dunmore area of Pennsylvania.  For the Postmodern, the Gospel must be seen within the context of Story.  We are a storied culture and our ears are tuned to hearing the Gospel in story form – the way that God has given his Word.  When the story of God’s Scriptures are set to song, the Scriptures are set on fire.

During the weekend of June 27th – July 1st, a Prayer Team is headed home with me.  We’ll be praying over the donation of the below church building and the Lord’s blessing of a church plant in Scranton, PA.  Turns out the owner of the building lives in Euless, TX, the very same Texas town where the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) is based.  ABC is the organization that I am pursuing to publish the manuscript of the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept.  The President of ABC, Dr. Jeremy Lelek, was my academic overseer in the independent study that birthed the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept.  This would be a great building to not only be a church plant location, but also an “Art House Scranton”.

The narrative written by God that we are caught up in is breathtaking.  I am just attempting to play my part well, dependent on Him for each breath.  I fail deeply, most of the time.

Possible Location for a Future Scranton Church Plant

Broad Side of Possible Future Scranton Church Plant

This week in Nashville I’ll be focusing solely on finishing the manuscript.  Please pray for the Lord’s anointing on my writing time and for the Gospel to sweep through Scranton, PA.

The below pictures are the stages of a daily Prayer Walk in the woods of Dunmore, PA by a reservoir fed by the Roaring Brook.  I often think how this walk might be used for a baptism Sunday.  There is significance to the name of the Roaring Brook with Psalm 22, but that is another post for another day.  The stages of the prayer walk are essentially set in a way as a remembrance of some crucial elements of our Salvation: Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.  It is sort of the Shire of my youth where we used to hang out as kids – fishing and making fires.

Stage 1 – Remembering Regeneration
In this stage, we walk past a growing organic debris dump site to remember that what we have been saved from in our lives.  The pile of methane exhausting material brings to mind mental images of Gehenna (the burning trash piles of Jerusalem that Jesus used to make analogies to hell)…

Remembering what we are saved from...

Stage 2 – The Bridge: Jesus – Our Justification
In crossing the Bridge, we thank Jesus for justifying us before the Father, closing the gap between God and man, carrying us from the land of the Dead to the Land of the Living…We cross back over the bridge, realizing that our job is to guide others to, and over, the bridge in our discipleship as the Spirit indwells and provides power to do so…

Knowing Jesus as Jacob's Ladder - Crossing from the Land of Dead to the Land of the Living

Crossing the Bridge Together in Community

Stage 3 – Baptism – Entering the Covenant
The below spot is a great location to do full water immersion “Living” water baptisms…

Baptism Pool in Living Water

Bridge in the Background

Stage 4 – Sanctification
Instead of pulling new baptized believers out of the water, why not let them float down this stream as a means of understanding their coming Sanctification.  Congregants could pray streamside as the new believers inner tube down this section of the Roaring Brook…

Remaining in the Baptismal Waters of the Spirit

Stage 5 – Crossing the Jordan, Reaching the Far Shore of Glory
Where the Roaring Brook empties into the reservoir, their is a perfect spot for a Church grill out.  It is the favorite spot for Dunmore teenagers to party.  In essence, by having a church meeting there for a baptism Sunday, it would be redeeming a portion of the woods that only has led to debauchery in the past…

Firepit - Perfect Place for a Baptism Sunday Grill Out

Perspective on the Far Shore of Glory

Desiring the Kingdom

Stage 6 – Apart from Christ
At the far end of the reservoir, the waterline dramatically drops off into a multiple story waterfall into the bottom section of the Roaring Brook below, symbolizing a death apart from Christ…

Apart from Christ, Man Stands on a Precipice with Nothing But God's Grace Holding Him Back

Stage 7 – Turning Towards Home: The Long Walk With the Lord
The final stage is a long overgrown path that reminds me of the long dwelling with the Lord that awaits us in Heaven, to be brought back to a place where walks with the Lord in the cool of the day are restored.

Walking in the Cool of the Day at Home with the Lord

The Lord is with us…He is going before us!


 
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Hymns, Generation to Generation – 90 Days of Service, Day 14

Indelible Grace VI Progress

After returning to Nashville from home in Scranton, I had the great privilege of being able to sit through some of the recording sessions for the Indelible Grace VI album.  One of the moments with a Belmont Alum, Katy Bowser, and her daughter, Story, kind of gave me chills down my spine to see the work of the Lord between the generations of Belmont RUF students.   Katy recorded a few passes with her daughter story in her arms of the third verse of “I am Jesus Little Lamb”.  It was a sacred pastoral moment where the Grace of God was palpably present – given from one sister in Christ to others.

Psalm 79:19 (ESV)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever,
from generation to generation,
we will recount your praise.

You see, right after getting saved, my friend Joel from Del Rio, TX handed me a copy of Indelible Grace’s first album.  Katy, through her singing of “O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” in her stylistically Celtic sounding voice, was able to minister the Love of Christ to me in the midst of some very deep brokenness.    It was a sacred pastoral moment where the Grace of God was palpably present – given from one brother in Christ to another.

O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus - Listen on Youtube
by Samuel Trevor Francis, Featuring Katy Bowser

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Into that context, I was recalling all of the Grace of God that allowed me to start putting together the concept of Biblical Counseling Through Song.  In no small measure, the work of Katy, and the rest of the Belmont RUF family through the Indelible Grace projects, was some of the driving motivation for seeking to counsel the Word of God into broken men and women using the medium of music.

Now, I was present as she was able to reach back and pour into the next generation of Belmont students and into her own daughter.   It was during the recording of the third verse of “I Am Jesus Little Lamb” on the upcoming Indelible Grace VI album that kind of took my breath away.

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyric Sheet

I Am Jesus Little Lamb
by Christopher Miner

I am Jesus little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need,
And well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my staff and stay.
When I hunger,
Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

In recent months, Katy, Sandra McCracken, Ellie Holcomb, and Flo Paris have started a project called, “Rain for Roots: Big Stories for Little Ones” – hymns for children and families.  Being a “studio Mom”, Katy brought her daughter, Story, along, who was playing in the studio.  Story accompanied Katy into the isolation booth to record some of her passes.  Katy recorded the third verse with Story in her arms.  After her session, I shot a few pictures from her perspective.

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyrics - From Story's Perspective in Katy's Arms

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyrics - From Katy's Perspective with Story in Her Arms

The recording process is quite tedious.  Sometimes the same part of a verse is labored over for hours upon hours in order to get the right affectionate context for the song.  As Cason Cooley and Kevin Twit, IG VI’s producer, was editing, the last four lines hung in the air as Story and one of Kevin Twit’s RUF students, Jordan, were playing on the chalk board wall.  Katy recorded the below with Story in her arms.

One Belmont Generation Ministering to Another - Jordan and Story

And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

As Cason and Kevin edited, I caught a slight lyric change on one of the passes.  A slight lyric change, but a God given moment of Grace.  I’m not sure if even Katy knew she changed the lyric.

And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold you to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

And, I thought, my God, here is the recorded presence of a Mom singing over her young daughter for her salvation, all the while knowing while she rests in her mother’s arms, that this time is fleeting – her life will soon come to an end – that to rest in the arms of the Savior is a much safer place to rest.  A sacred moment between Mother and Daughter, while the angels and a few brothers in Christ listened in.  Katy’s name means pure and, well, Story means story.  So, we had the Gospel being poured from Mother “Pure” to her Daughter “Story”.  Grace poured out from our Savior through a Mother to her Daughter – a sacred moment indeed.  The Gospel is just that – “Pure Story”.  A Story so Pure and majestic that it is shockingly Beautiful.

(In fact, all of our moments are sacred, but God lifts the veil to give an Eternal perspective sometimes…).

After Story started to snag the pop filter (the fuzzy disk in front of recording microphones), she came outside to play with Jordan, handing him a piece of chalk, while her Mother sang over us all – one Belmont RUF generation pouring into another (and I’m not sure who was ministering to who in this moment).  I was just a bit overwhelmed at the depth of the Love of Jesus at that moment – O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!

Story and Jordan - Sharing Chalk and the Gospel

Borrowing some words from the saints, specifically, Samuel and Katy:

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!”

So, I humbly ask your support of two projects:

1) Indelible Grace VI Album, Kickstarter ends in 48 hours (Wednesday, 20 June 2012 @ 6pm)

2) Rain for Roots Album, praying that the Lord grows the work of these women!

After seeing the love of Katy for her daughter Story this past week, I’m still confident that Mothers do make the best hymn authors (and singers).

This summer I’m pouring out my life in service and prayer for Nashville, Dallas, and Scranton, PA.  Praying that the Lord helps to bring many Gospel driven artists to the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept.  This was such a sweet example of the riches that Christ has given to His Church by His Grace.  Thanks for allowing me to share His works through His people with you.

May His continued Grace and Peace fall upon us!

 
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Eulogizing a Father, Sheath\Unsheathing Swords in the Valley – 90 Days of Service, Day 8

Christians suffer with hope (Romans 5:3-5).

Our suffering allows us to share in the sufferings of Christ and make the Word of God fully known (Colossians 1:24-26).

Resurrection of a suffering servant, and eventually all of the LORD’s suffering servants, is the distinctive reality that sets us, the Redeemed, apart from every other faith.  The Resurrection is our hope.

However, Resurrection, like the Word of God itself, is one of those double edges swords.  The Promise of the Scriptures is that all will be raised from the grave and brought to a day of Judgement (1 Corinthians 15).  At the time of death, this can either be a very comforting, or a very terrifying, thing.  Homilies and Eulogies are the battlegrounds where the tension of that objective reality must be dealt with in God exalting ways.  That time is not for the dead, but for the living. Let me explain…

I grew up in a very broken home growing up.  Dad used alcohol to escape deep suffering and Mom suffered with deep depression as a result of trying to “keep it all together”.  We are family well equipped in the suffering of this world.  As soon as I could leave home, I did.  Failure was the driving fear and success was the idol of choice.  What appeared to be greener pastures, ultimately led to a graphic suicide attempt when the idol of a shiny pair of pilot wings lost their luster in the wake of deep exisential suffering.

In the midst of deep, deep, deep suffering, the LORD pulled me away from myself while in hospital recovery, gave me a new heart through circumsion by the Holy Spirit, and set my feet upon the Rock of Jesus Christ.  God saved me in the midst of suffering so that I could be an instrument of His Grace in the midst of deep suffering, serving Him in the guise of a Biblical Counselor.  He has fashioned me for that purpose.  It is clear.

What wasn’t clear was how I was going to eulogize my Dad on Friday, 08 June 2012, within the assemblied congregation of a Mother, Brother, Sister, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Drinking Buddies, and supervising Clergy within the Roman Catholic Church of my biological birth.  Fear of failure and the pride associated with ministry of the Word were gripping at my heart to find a tie off.

To be honest, until the preceding Tuesday, I was really terrified of how to proceed.  You see, on the one hand, I am planning on returning home to Scranton/Dunmore, PA to church plant in a few years.  Brutal facts and insensitive honesty would shipwreck my future ministry.  On the other hand, I will one day be raised before a Sovereign Judge of the Universe to give an account of why I choose the words I used.  In that day, Christ’s atoning sacrifice will be my only plea, however I wanted God to get Glory from the death of my Father.  I wanted to see Redemption of the unsaved unfold beneath my gaze over the assembled congregation of the saints.

When fear strikes the human heart, our response should be prayer.  I can’t always say that has been the case, but the Lord was good to prepare me with previous suffering in order to see my need to rely on Him in this circumstance and not myself.  It really is true that the Lord pours forth Hope and Grace in our suffering (Romans 5:3-5).

So, on Tuesday night, I headed to the Capouse House for prayer at 6:00pm.  Capouse House is a recent prayer ministry started by Aaron McNany back home in Scranton, PA.  Aaron was also the man of God that I met over Christmas 2011 that the Lord brought into my path to help disciple my sister, April, and her recently converted boyfriend, Andy.  I was desperate for direction from the Lord in how to proceed and I needed to be surrounded by the prayers of the saints.

The community that I found at Capouse House overwhelmed me.  You see, this evening, unbeknowst to me prior to arriving, the Lord had brought together prayer ministry leaders from the surrounding area to pray over the direction of prayer for Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA).  Literally, the Lord provided me with some of the most dedicated prayer warriors in NEPA.  Prayer answered.

It was a sweet time of prayer.  When I say sweet, picture honey on the lips or the most succulent strawberry that you have tasted.  It was prayer dominated by the Word.  We were praying, singing, and meditating upon His Word in ways that I have little often found in Dallas.  In fact, the leader of the prayer driven worship during our time was Joshua Manarchuck, a Messianic Jewish prayer leader from a nearby town, that turns out is world reknowned.  We made our requests.  We asked the Spirit for Scranton and Dunmore.  We are waiting expectantly.

Meanwhile, I had to write a Eulogy.  I started to pack my bag and, lo and behold, my phone rang from one of my best friends in Fort Worth, TX.  I answered.  Quote, “Tom, I am driving through a town called…hmm, let me see here…Dunmore and just passed a tank…”

I nearly jumped through the roof of the Capouse House.  My best friend James Anderson had flown into Scranton, rented a car, and was headed my way to support me during this trying week.  Oh, the Grace that the Lord gave me this week.  Thank you Jesus!

James came over to Capouse House, which is literally two blocks away from a possible future church plant, and he met the other prayer team members.  We went out to one of our favorite pizza places in “The Pizza Capital of the World” in Old Forge, PA.  We talked, we prayed, and I rejoiced.  God was sweet to overwhelm me.  When I say overwhelm, I mean think of Jonah sinking to the depths tangled up in the forest of seaweed below, but in a good way.  We headed home, I got the soundest sleep I had in a while.  I woke at 3:30 to head back to the Capouse House and the Eulogy was written in literally an hour and a half.  The Spirit provided the text and my fingers couldn’t type fast enough.

The next morning, I made an appointment to run it by the supervising priest, Father Doris, to make sure it was both honoring to my Father and not damaging to the Catholic Church.  I won’t go into the details here, but the Lord was sweet during this time.  This is a story worth a blog post of its own.  Father Doris offered his direct feedback and helped me to tighten the narrative.  Like my Father who I was eulogizing, Father Doris has a poetic heart and skilled in his craft.  It’s the Irish coursing through our veins.

Some of the cuts were deep, but the Lord proved Sovereign and in control of all things.  The following day, the day of my Father’s wake on Thursday, my mother called at 7:30 with trembling in her voice.  She was scared and I offered prayer and meditation over Psalm 91 using the Biblical Counseling Through Song technique that I am developing.  Of deeply spiritual significance, the last time I spoke with my Dad in person was our praying of Psalm 91 during a very terrifying spiritual attack.  It was the last time that I spoken face to face with my Dad.  The Lord was proving that He was with me.  Prayer answered.

I made the corrections and sent the draft off for publishing – we made some handouts so that those in attendance could follow along.

The morning of the funeral had come.  James and I headed off into the woods near my Grandmother’s (Nana’s) house by a local reservoir in Dunmore for a prayer walk.  This particular walk has much significance, but again, this is a post for another time and day.  James and I asked the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit for the hearts of my family and those in attendance.  We waited expectantly for His fruit.

James – Early Morning Bridge Prayer in the Woods

Life Long Friends – Praying On a Bridge

It was time to head to the funeral home for the start of my long Last Goodbye.  Our family came once again into the presence of the opened coffin.  We paid our last respects in person.  Mom kissed Dad’s lips and sweeped her hand through his hair for the last time.    Most cried.  His best friend from high school, who also is a former Funeral Director and father of Dad’s current Funeral Director, that recently was stricken with a stroke impairing his vocal communication kissed and caressed my Dad in his last, long goodbye.  Although he could not speak his final words to my Dad, the loving embrace was a tribute to a fallen friend.  I was overwhelmed.

It was time for my last, long goodbye.  I had two gifts to leave in my Dad’s coffin – my Academy Basic Cadet Training Bible that I had received in Jack’s Valley and a graduation saber that I gifted him at Graduation.  The Bible laid under the crucifix attached in his coffin.  In my final salute, the saber sat sheathed at my side.

Academy Bible – Psalm 28.7

Academy Saber

Academy Saber Dedication Plaque

I asked the Funeral Director, Katie, to clear the coffin.  I took five steps back.  It was time for a Psalm 23 unsheathing of the sword to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The unspoken verbal command, “Present, Arms”.  I lifted the blade out of the scabbard, arm 90 degrees parallel to the floor.  Sword raised to the sky at a perfect 45 degrees.  Base of the sword placed at the base up the chin.  I prayed over Dad’s body for a quickened coming for the Resurrection as the sword pointed upward towards Heaven.  ”In Jesus Name” groaned through tears which only the Spirit understood.  The unspoken verbal command, “Order, Arms”.  Sword quick and neatly, in reverse fashion, returned to its resting place.  The sword laid at the side of my Dad in the coffin.

My Salute For Dad Looked Something Like This – But Much Sharper
Hopefully, My Next Saber Salute – For My Wedding 

You see, the Lord gave me that Cadet Bible in Jack’s Valley in Colorado Springs, CO, but I never unsheathed it from its scabbard until the Lord broke me in Pilot Training in Texas.  He broke my heart following a suicide attempt and drew me into the Family of God, to rest with Him in His Kingdom.  The sword was given at graduation, unsheathed, and presented to my Dad as a token graduation gift.

A sheathing and unsheathing was occurring in my final salute now.  The sword of violence, given as a token, was laid to rest at my Father’s side.  His suffering in this world over.  The Sword of the Spirit was unsheathed and breathed to Our Father in the heat of a raging spiritual war in the heart of my Father’s son.  My prayers uttered.  I set my eyes towards the Eulogy.

I was also a pall bearer, which gave me time to think about the weight of Glory awaiting us in Heaven as we bore the weight of the earthly remains of my Father.  It was a burden good to share with six other men in our family.  We brought my Father to the altar.  I sat next to Mom and followed the order of service.  A reading from the Old Testament, “Shepherd Me Oh God” sung, a reading from the New Testament, a homily by Father Doris, and then communion.  The procession of the saints strewn towards the altar to receive the Body of Christ.  The final wafer given to the last straggling saint, “Body of Christ, broken for you and for all”, response “Amen”.  Father Doris sits and calls me to the podium for the Eulogy.

To be honest, I knew I was speaking the Eulogy, but it was that weird sensation that the Lord was speaking through me.  Those that preach the Word know what I mean.  The words spoken:

How do you know my Father?  Do you know him as Tom?  Or Tommy?  Maybe, Murph?,  As a Husband? As Dad? As a Brother?, As a Friend?  As an Uncle?  As a Neighbor?  Or his Co-Worker.  How do you know our Father?

When I think of my Dad.  My best thoughts remember Him as a poet.  A man who best expressed his love for us in words of poetry and song.  Reflecting on my birth, He penned,

I kiss your head as you lay sleeping,
and softly smile as I watch you creeping.
These baby years are fleeing by,
and as they leave they’ll see me cry.

As a tiny baby you were all mine.
with your satin skin and eyes sublime –
Funny faces, little coos,
crying anytime you choose.

Gone too quickly are the nights,
when Mama rocks you,
holds you tight;
Chases big bad wolfs away,
pats your tiny hands in play.

Birthday Number One is here!

It chased away Tommy’s first year.
I watched you step and guided your hands.
As we wave bye-bye to Babyland.

Happy Birthday!
Love, Mom and Dad…

At Chris’s first birthday, he wrote,

So, today is your birthday,
You made it to One.
You came into this world,
My number Two Son.

Your pride for your father,
a joy for your Mom.
But most of all,
you’re a companion to Tom!

Friends you will be for all time,
to care, to share for each other in times,
of gladness and sadness of your lives.
Bonded by blood, but more importantly,
by Love.

But today is your birthday,
and let me explain.
It was truly a very special day.

It was August 13th,
a bright sunny day.
Just five short days,
before my birthday.

It was late at night,
Calm, and still,
until I heard you,
Screaming loud and at will.

The waiting is over,
you finally arrived.
7 ½ pounds, 20 inches,
in size.

And as I looked down,
I could clearly see.
We have another boy,
in the family.

As I looked in the mirror,
I realized:
“I am Father of Two”
what a pleasant surprise.

And as your first year,
comes to a close.
There is only one wish,
we like to impose.

Happy Birthday Chris,
Old Boy!
And hope the years that follow,
Brings you much Joy!

And for April, he poemed,

October 20th was never a big deal.
That was before our precious April appeared.
She fills our lives with such laughter and joy,
And feelings of love, only a family could enjoy.

Let me tell you what’s it like today,
For the Murphy family on this special day.

There’s Tommy and Chris,
always on guard.
There to help her and keep her,
from life’s little harms.

They’re always there to play,
and to teach her new things.
A special love,
only big brothers can bring.

Then there’s mother,
what can I say.
She’s so happy and proud,
to have her little girl today.
She just loves to care,
for her little queen for a day.

Dad is next,
that’s me of course.
Give me a moment to gather my thoughts.
Having two sons is wonderful enough,
a daughter is God smiling upon us.

She has eyes of an angel,
and lashes to match.
When she smiles and looks at you,
You can’t help but laugh.

With her perky smile and gestures so dear,
they make you realize,
life is a precious thing to bear.

So, today is your first birthday,
a very special one indeed,
And I thank God every night,
that you are here.

So from all the people that love you,
we all want to say,
Happy Birthday April!
For you are one Today!

As you can see, my Dad expressed the depth of his love for us in his poetry.  Perhaps you know Him as Dad, or Husband, or Brother.  Perhaps you knew Him in brokenness and suffering, but the words of his poetry give us insight into his love for us which He struggled in expressing in other ways.  You see, at death, our ideas of who a man was is not a matter of concern.  What matters is God’s understanding of Dad.  We look at appearances, but He knows the heart.  For our own comfort, we must cling to His Grace, His nature, and the power of His Resurrection.  We must take our eyes from a father to Our Father.

Now to conclude the Eulogy, or Good Word, I have prepared.  We look to God, Our Father, and the poetry of His Son, the Word of God who became one of us, as revealed in the Scriptures.  Did you hear the words that Bella just sang in Shepherd Me O’ God?

“Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.”

The Poetry the Father gives us in His Son is that God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but live with Him forever.  God wants to meet us in our brokenness and give us His Life.   The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken spirit and contrite heart He will not despise.  He sings words of Poetry and Song over us in His Scriptures, calling us to enter into His Love, for all time.  Let the miracle of God’s Beauty and Love overwhelm and remain with you.  May He be our true Eulogy.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

I continue to wait for the Lord to sweep through Scranton and Dunmore.  He confirmed time and time again this week that He is with us, is going before us, and loves the people of Scranton and Dunmore.  I was encouraged and overwhelmed by the response of those back home in Dunmore.  My Dad was deeply loved by many people.  I was humbled.  In a town of 16,000 people, I had never met most of them.  The Lord used my Dad to love them well – those that I had never come into contact with.  My Dad was a pretty complicated man, but that is another post for another time.

For now, I wait for Redemption to pour down from Heaven.  Spirit, circumcise the hearts of your people and let the Beauty of Christ be made known…Jesus, Hallelujah (“Save us ‘now’ “)!  Please come quickly!

Father God, turn your Face towards us and give us peace…

Standing on the Shore – Praying…

 
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