I'm reloading music this morning. It's been more than 5 years since I started saving a lot of it, it's been transferred thru three different computers, a half dozen operating systems, and the quality is pale compared to a fresh scan. I've been tempted dozens of times to sell the CDs to the used book place, after all it's on my computer already... right? Well, it seems that it takes a few years to hear the degradation in what at first was a brilliant transformation that changed how I experienced and cherished the music.
As you might expect, quite a bit of it is worship music. I am trying to reduce the total digital bulk of what I keep, so I'm listening to at least some of it to remember what it was about the songs that I wanted in the first place. Christian worship music really exploded in the 80s and 90s, choruses took over Sunday morning services, so much so there is an adult generation attempting to win the world that barely knows the doctrines that once were taught thru the singing of hymns - and I do mean every verse of every hymn in every service. (You had to be there.)
Yesterday I began with a Kent Henry CD that I first had on cassette tape, The Secret Place. I began with Psalm 149 , the scriptures sung are the simplicity of Christ and the very breath of God exhaled in your own voice. There's nothing like it. I let it play on thru You Are My God and on to Turn My Heart. I can remember several road trips to conventions and prayer meetings where I rolled down the road for thousands of miles and hours of worship and dedication in my heart to the Lord, earnestly singing "turn my heart, oh Lord, like rivers of water. Turn my heart, oh Lord, by your hand - til my whole life flows in the river of your Spirit, and my name brings honor to the Lamb. Lord, I surrender to your work in me. I rest my life within your loving hands."
Lord, I surrender to your work in me.
I rest my life within your loving hands.
I can almost see the mile markers slipping by on the highway as I prayed those words in song, my face drenched in tears, hitting rewind on the cassette player searching for my favorite places in the songs. I had no idea what I was asking for, as that is always the way with Him. We ask Him to save us, but we are the walking dead asking to be raised to life as sons of the Creator of the Universe - how could we know?
Well, nostalgia isn't really my point today as I load the songs up again, this time having experienced the work of His hands, having had the little streams of my life channeled into new paths He cut, the old turns dammed up and closed off beyond my power to overwhelm and flow into again. As I accepted the ways he offered me to live in, the waters of His own deep bubbled up to keep my own mists flowing in the dry places - but those are just words until you know it for yourself.
Now I sit today sifting the music, revivals, and changes the churches have accepted in the last 20 years, and in some cases now question. I feel like I'm blessed to live in an age where we can go thru entire revolutions in doctrine in a generation that used to take four or five centuries to process. It isn't that the truth in the scriptures ever change, but we as people who want more of God's life in us certainly do ever seek newer, or maybe just faster, ways to experience his plans.
Hurry up, God! We want to know, we want to see, heal us, change us, teach us, touch this world with your very own Life! So many people are hurting, So Many - don't let it go on like this! Quickly, Lord - come QUICK!
If you would come, Lazarus won't die...
So now I'm up to Revival at Brownsville, Hosanna! Music's recording of the best worship from a revival and a movement that flamed up so bright - and fizzled in the divisions of power and money and control. There used to be a time when I was looking for the revival, no - THE revival, or THE movement, that wouldn't have a noxious worm of whatever kind creep in and rot half the thing in acrimony and soul killing, selfish sin.
I used to be hopeful and expectant that somehow that was the path for God's glory - if we could just keep ourselves together long enough for Him to move, Big Things could happen. I know that is how "church" is sold from the church leadership, and while God's holiness remains constant, ours never does rise higher than what can be crafted to the Facebook standard - you know, 50 words and an Instagram showing how we are living the good life and do you wanna join my group? New memes weekly plus a moderated page where no one ever cusses.
Well, my own ongoing failures in perfection are not taking me out of God, but they are certainly separating me from the glory and praise that is His alone. I thought it was my job to be glorious, but it's really just my job to be earthy and alive. He isn't separating from me at any level, but as my own earthiness continues to remain I begin to get the sense that I'm becoming a fertile earth - rich with the detritus of old and new failures, yet turned and alive with new plantings, giving up what I am for the chance to create something new and beautiful.
You know the phrase "the planting of the Lord" doesn't mean just the tree, it means the acreage and all that's in it. Go talk to a farmer or a gardener and maybe you'll cut yourself some slack. What they want more than anything else is living soil, full of aging bullshit and last year's leavings, chopped and turned, sustaining whatever the husbandman is trying to grow. The last thing he needs is earth so "clean" it has nothing in it a worm would even want, barren, and left to dust.
Perhaps I can look at church organizations in a different way now, since they and I seem to have a worm addled quality that tends to persist. There's a very great deal of good He can do in them and thru them, and I do recommend them at all times, but they are more like compost heaps than rose bowers. You need to be in one to kill off the weeds in you, but don't be surprised when a stench comes up.
It also helps to remember that the denomination or the movement is just the framework that keeps the heat up and the garden organized. Cultivation is not a natural event, farming is a deliberate concentration and multiplication of growth, and you would never think that fresh loaf of bread from the oven started out where it did - but it did, and it begins again that way every time.
So with that in mind, I still treasure every song on Revival at Brownsville. Begin at the first and listen and worship all the way thru it, it's just that good. The worship is pure and true, no matter what happened to the church it sprouted in. And it is the same with us, if we'll let it come up out of us as well.