In reflecting on the media coverage Senator Kennedy’s death received, I was reminded about the premature death of a young musician some 12 years ago. Let me add this. To a degree, I understand the difference in the two from a quantity standpoint. One was an extremely well known United States senator who lived his life in the public eye. The other was a relatively obscure singer/songwriter of whom the majority of Americans knew very little. This individual was Rich Mullins and it so happened that died tragically on my birthday in 1997 in an automobile accident.
I remember seeing a small newspaper article the next day announcing his death and thinking how few would notice or realize the extent of the loss. In some ways to me, his loss has been mitigated by the prolific nature of his songwriting. Not being really qualified to evaluate anyone’s singing ability, I still thought that his greater gift lay in his words rather than his singing.
He wrote over 100 songs and was said to have written a page of prose every day. Some of the songs like “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” are a bit more traditional while others seem to be telling the story of a gifted , spiritual man, but a man who did not claim to have all the answers. There are words like this when speaking of his relationship to God. ” The climb can be so steep I may falter in my step, but never beyond your reach.” Simple but profoundly moving. I have many times found myself singing along(although I cannot really sing) with tears in my eyes. He was a great supporterof Compassion International and worked with the Navajo Indian Nation in Window Rock, AZ where his spent his last two years. He was a guy who co-wrote songs with someone identified only as Beaker. Quirky seems too plain a description of such a man.
He was not the norm even in the world of Christian music. My wife has in recent days began to introduce his music to our two young grandchildren. Although he never had children or was married, I believe it is something to which he might have smiled in aproval.
I can think of no better close than the title of one of his albums- “A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band.”
We all have favorite songs that we tend to enjoy more than others. Sometimes, it makes sense based on the artist or style or lyrics or melody or whatever. I will ask my wife from time to time why a certain song by a certain artist tends to be so meaningful. I suppose it is actually a rhetorical question but since I respect her musical opinion, I continue to ask. Invariably, her answer is something like, there is no answer. Having wandered around that topic for a while, I will say that the song referenced in my title is one of those “magical” songs for me.
I was introduced to the song at a wonderful pentecostal church in Salisbury,NC, named Rowan Christian Assembly. Since that time some eight or nine years ago, it has been a song with few equals. I have rejoiced to hear it sung and to join in with others as they have sung it. During those times, I have laughed, I have cried, I have been so overcome with joy that I could hardly describe it.
It was composed by Australian singer, songwriter Darlene Zschech about 11 years ago. The song was birthed at a discouraging time her life and has since come to be a song sung by literally millions every week. All this is great although I doubt she wrote it with those results in mind.It is based largely on Psalm 92-96 which are worth a read in themselves.
But somehow, when I hear it it’s mine. I hope someday to be able to express my thanks to the artist for her inspired work. If you have never heard the song, visit ITunes or buy it. I trust it can become meaningful for you as well.
My Jesus,My Saviour
Lord, There is none like you
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of your mighty love
Just a sample of some wonderful praise lyrics.
Shalom and Amen
At church today , the sermon was on ” Politically Incorrect Worship ” and an interesting message it was . I have learned over time that a ” good ” sermon isnt always one that I totally agree with or that makes me feel good . Today’s sermon hit the mark on both counts .
My wife was unable to attend today so she asked for a summary or synopsis or whatever when I got home . About 15 minutes later, I finished . To her credit , she didnt complain about the length of my summary . I dont want to rehash the entire sermon per se but rather make some comments about how it affected me and some of the thoughts it generated . However , you can hear the sermon in its entirety if you wish . Go to newcommunitychurch.net sometime tomorrow and have a listen.
Over the years, due to moving etc we have attended probably 40 or more churches , some as actively involved , others as inquiring guests , others due to church responsibilities . Naturally , there are various ways /styles that worship is carried out . The music styles vary widely, due to skill levels, worship leader’s methods or proclivities etc . While music is not the end all , it does set the stage for good or bad . We have been in churches with wonderfully talented, traditional music programs, talented ” contemporary ” music programs , good ole Southern gospel etc . We have been drawn to a church by its music and ” turned off ” a church by its music . Must a church have good or exceptional music to have effective worship ; probably not but neither do I think falling back on Psalm 100: 1 is a valid excuse . Darlene Zschech is well known as a worship at her church in Sydney ,Australia as well as a singer and songwriter . I once read an interview in which she was asked about her role as worship leader . Two things stood out :
- She had 20 minutes , generally , available for worship music
- She told the interviewer that was ok, that she and the music were not the main show
That to me says that music had the appropriate but not the focal place in the service .Great attitude on her part and a good example .
I hadnt intended to devote the entire post to music related issues, so I will attempt to continue tomorrow .
Here is an unlikely musical combination for you . James Taylor, Petula Clark, and the Seekers . For most people under age 30 or perhaps age 40 at least two of the above artists are unknown . But all three of them have given me spiritual food for thought recently . A word of explanation. All of the above are favorites of mine and have a place in my Itunes library . I listened to them years ago and retained my enjoyment of their music . I believe that only Mr Taylor still records today . The other two date back th the 1960’s and The Seekers were enjoyed by my largely nonmusical dad . Musically , you could say they are folk or pop in style . Anyway,give a thought to these lyrics . Petula Clark sang ” The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener ” talking about having a desire to be someone you are not and that the other person always seems to have it better than you . Message of the song , ” just be thankful for what you”ve got ” and that isnt bad theology . The Seekers actually sang overtly religious songs from time to time although ” When the Good Apples Fall ” wasnt one of them . The song speaks of a rich heiress whose father thinks money can solve anything . She reaches the painful conclusion that money cannot buy happiness- again, a good premise to remember . Finally ole James Taylor whose quirky song ” Fire and Rain ” has all sorts of thoughts floating around . What I take away in this context is the following; ” look down upon me Jesus, you’ve got to help me make a stand- just gotta see me through another day . I’m not so sure that he intended to communicate a Christian message but nevertheless it isnt too bad to depend on Jesus. So , pay attention to the words of your music ( doesnt always have to be Christian or religious ) and see what they say to you .
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