Friday, May 07, 2010

How can I keep from singing?

God has a way of working dot-to-dot of our lives. For the last almost two years, I’ve been searching for a continuing education program specific to the ministry situation here at First Lutheran Church. I knew it had to be something I could do from Jamestown, it had to require a minimal amount of travel, it needed to engage my heart and mind and it had to apply to and assist me in the work I do on a daily basis. In February, my husband came across a book called, “The God bearing life.” by: Kenda Creasy Dean. In this book he learned about a Certificate program specific to current trends in youth and family ministry that fit all the requirements I’d hoped to find.

Upon learning about the program, I discovered that the first retreat and intensive training week was to be held the last week of April 2010. In order for me to go to this training, many arrangements had to be made. Housing had to be secured for the week, my family had to work out the details of their lives with their mom absent for six days, and my work details had to be worked out. Financial resources, which this group and many others contributed to, had to be asked for and collected. There would be progress one day, and the next it seemed I would encounter another difficulty. At first the training was full and I was placed on the waiting list, but in the next few days a space opened. I called to book my room, but the on campus housing was full – so then I was looking for a roommate to reduce the costs of the hotel nearby. About a week later, a roommate was found; and the contributions continued to come in bit by bit.

There was a great deal of work and prayer involved in getting to this training, that ironically held the theme name of , “HOPE”, so I kept hoping and carrying on in effort and prayer. Even in the setbacks that occurred, I had a feeling and the encouragement from many saying, “Don’t worry, it’s seems like God is bringing all the details together piece by piece.” Thankfully, I’m here to tell you today that God did indeed work out the details and made it possible for me to have the distinct honor to attend continuing education at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. I will be continuing to work towards this certificate for the next two years and will be implementing what I learn as I learn it here in this church and the surrounding community of Jamestown that I call home. In John 14, Jesus gives his disciples some words of blessing and comfort that apply to all of to this day.

“26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14: 16-18

In this scripture, Jesus is getting ready to leave the company of his disciples, promises them the presence of the Holy Spirit and leaves them a blessing of his peace. While this passage of scripture is beautiful and personally one of my favorite ones, can you put your place in the shoes of the disciples here? Everything that the disciples have ever known about life and ministry is about to undergo a paradigm shift in the wake of Jesus’ arrest and the forthcoming events. There is tension in living the Christian life that requires more dependency on God than we are sometimes comfortable with.

My example of finding and becoming connected to the Princeton Certificate Program is only a small example of a place and means by which I need to greater depend on God. When I think of the practical, spiritual and economic needs in the world around me; my hopes for Princeton are comparatively small – but God still was working to connect my small dot- to - dot. In this whole experience though, I feel that I began to greater understand God’s love and care for me. Day by day, God is helping to expand my perspective on the dot-to-dots of my life.

Each evening at the Princeton training, there was a worship service held. The music and messages were inspiring and on the fourth night the worship was based on the scripture in Luke 1 where Mary is visited by an angel who tells her she will be the mother of Christ. Mary’s response to the angel is “How can this be?”.

Throughout the worship service, I was reminded of all the times I had asked God that same question. How can it be that this is something I have to deal with? How can it be that I’m struggling in this way? How can it be the You want me to do this and I don’t feel qualified to do it. How can this be when I don’t have the resources I need to accomplish this goal? How can it be?????

Even though God got me to Princeton, there were places in my life that evening that I still was asking God –‘How can it be?' or more correctly, ‘How can I be the person you are calling me to be?’

As I sat with that question, a soloist began to sing these words…”My life goes on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation, I catch a sweet though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm what to that Rock I’m clinging. Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

The words of the next verse I already knew. Year ago, almost 18 years to be exact I was introduced to the song “How can I keep from singing” when working at a music store in a mall. I was newly married and had recently become pregnant with my daughter. The song played all the time in the store, and my manager knew how much I loved it that she gave me the cassette and the Enya poster for the album. I took the poster home and inked the lyrics of the song with a calligraphy pen on the poster and framed it. To this day, I still have the poster but because it was yellowed with age I took the second verse lyric and painted around the living room of my home.

These are the words that are painted there to this day:
“Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing. It finds and echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”

As a young woman expecting her first child, I took great comfort in those words just as I do today. As I think of all the times God has connected the dots and led me to the next step on the journey I am overwhelmed with gratitude, hope and peace. And then like Mary in Luke 1 and like the disciples in John 14 I can come to a place of peace knowing God is with me and helping to connect the big and small dots of my life and bringing me to a place where I can say, …“ I am the Lords servant. May it be to me according to your word. “

I still have questions that I’d love some clear burning bush answers too, but I find that God more often speaks in a whisper, in a devotional reading time or like in this case a song. It is God way to weave these kinds of connective moments into our lives to remind us that the Holy Spirit is always with us and I’m thankful to God for them.

May you be aware of the song and voice of God in your life, especially in those days and times you ask God, “How can this be?” Know that the peace and presence of God’s spirit is always with you and encouraging all of us to keep on singing.

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

1 comment:

Mel said...

Because of this, I'll never hear the song the same again.

That's a good thing.