A Song for Sunday–We Are

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We Are–James Tealy, Hillary McBride, Chuck Butler, Ed Cash

Every secret, every shame
Every fear, every pain
Live inside the dark
But that’s not who we are
We are children of the day

So wake up, sleeper, lift your head
We were meant for more than this
Fight the shadows, conquer death
Make the most of the time we have left

Today felt like one of “those” days, for no good reason. On the surface, all was well. I got to sleep in. My husband made breakfast for the family. We got to spend time together as we did a few things around the house and the yard. But in spite of how smoothly the day was going, I was a bit anxious and edgy, although I couldn’t say exactly why.

Since I am now the music director for the evening Mass every Sunday, I grabbed my phone and listened to “We Are” on YouTube while tackling the laundry and a few other chores. This was the new song for tonight. I know myself well enough to know that sometimes, the anxiety just needs to be pushed aside, so I worked away at the song and hoped that it would go well–not just for my sake, but for the people I would be leading.

Once we arrived at the church, I was finally able to calm my mind and settle into the prayerful atmosphere. As I listened to the readings, and as I led the music, I felt that wonderful, familiar peace come over me. In spite of all the worries that had been hanging over me all day–worries that I couldn’t quite identify, but still couldn’t chase away–I felt calm. As I played and sang, I felt like I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. I can’t say I always know that I am doing what God intends for me, but when I do, there’s nothing like it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We are the light of the world
We are the city on a hill
We are the light of the world
We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine

Whatever your light for the world is, don’t hide it. Push aside the uncertainty, the doubts, the obstacles that might be in your way. Let your light shine, because that’s how God’s work gets done. However small each of us might be, we can all make a difference in our own way, a way that no one else can quite duplicate.

And with all the challenges out there–watch the evening news for a few minutes, on the off chance that you don’t know what I mean–it would seem that the world really needs more light right now.

We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine

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A Song for Sunday–The River

The River — Jordan Feliz

I know a place where we can go
To lay the troubles down eating your soul
I know a place where mercy flows
Take the stains make you whiter than snow
Like a tide, it is rising up deep inside
A current that moves and makes it come alive
Living water that brings the dead to life, oh-oh-oh-oh

Plenty of songs go right by me when I have the radio on. If I were asked 10 minutes later what I’d just heard, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Every once in a while, though, something grabs my attention, and in those cases, Shazam is my favourite tool. It identifies songs for me, and then saves them so I can look them up later.

This is one of those songs. It didn’t just go by, it struck me as authentic, worth a careful listen, because I could hear something genuine in his singing. Curious, I checked out Jordan Feliz’s official site. This comes straight from his About page:

Some years from now, the name Jordan Feliz might be the obvious answer to a trivia question that goes something like this:

 

What artist launched his career as a hard-touring heavy metal singer, then switched gears to become a church worship leader, before finally signing a Nashville record deal and making his mark as a songwriter and soulful R&B-groove-pop artist?

Well, if the question comes up some day, you’ll already know the answer: Jordan Feliz.

So that’s where the authenticity comes from: he’s lived it. Switching gears like that means redefining yourself, first of all within yourself, then to the people around you. This takes courage, conviction, perseverance. This takes faith. I don’t know the details of Jordan’s story, and what made him do a U-turn. What matters is that he did it, and through his music, he is sharing his story and acting a witness for others.

The most inspiring U-turn in the Bible is arguably the story of St. Paul. He is one of my favourite saints, just because of the sheer nerve I believe it would have required to change direction as he did. He was one of the fiercest persecutors of the new Christians, actively tracking down believers in order to have them arrested and imprisoned. (Summary here, Bible passage here). His powerful encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus led him to change his entire life. He became an apostle himself, bringing the gospel to the gentiles. In the process, the former persecutor became persecuted himself. He was a very powerful and effective witness for God because of the change he lived out in his own life.

It’s obvious that God chose St. Paul for a special mission, but what about us? We can all be witnesses to our faith, and it doesn’t have to be in spectacular ways. The way we live our lives every day can be powerful, because

There is only one type of person God has used powerfully throughout history: He does incredible things with the people who make themselves available to him; it is the prerequisite for mission.

— Matthew Kelly, Beautiful Mercy

If we think we aren’t good enough in some way, if we worry about what others might think or say, or if we listen to any number of possible excuses, fear can hold us back. Maybe a U-turn is needed in your life–I’ve been through a couple of my own–and you wonder if you have the courage to embrace it. That’s where prayer comes in. Instead of listening to the fear, we can choose to be hopeful. We can think about what we are able to do, rather than what we think we can’t do. We can choose to be open to God’s lead, instead of relying only on ourselves. When we make ourselves available, incredible things happen!

We’re going down to the river
Down to the river, down to the river to pray
Let’s get washed by the water
Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

A Song for Sunday–Beyond Me

Beyond Me — Toby Mac

Oh, this song was timely for me when it came on the radio a few days ago. Some of my goals really do seem too big some days, and it was another of those days. So often, I feel like can’t keep up to the everyday stuff that needs to get done, let alone invest time and energy in what I really want to do.

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond

But every one of us has something to contribute, something that no one else can bring to the world. If I remember to rely on God, the one who gave me my own mix of talents and opportunities, I can take another step in the direction I’m supposed to go.

concert on the commons 2015 2You take me to the place where I know I need You
 Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown

What’s your dream? What have you been contemplating, but maybe afraid to attempt? Do you talk yourself out of it, telling yourself that it’s too much to take on, or maybe even silly? (I do, more often than I would like to admit!!) The world would be a much better place if everyone put their dreams into action, even if only a little bit at a time.

“The challenge life presents to each of us is to become truly ourselves–not the self we have imagined or fantasized about, not the self that our friends want us to be, not the self our ego would have us be, but the self God has ordained us to be from before we were in our mother’s womb.” —Matthew Kelly

Photo courtesy of my friend Lois. Yes, we look a bit like bugs with our sunglasses on, but we were thankful for the beautiful summer weather and the happy crowd of listeners. 🙂

A Song for Sunday–Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful–Steven Curtis Chapman

Today is one of those days when I could be upset at myself because I dropped the ball on something. It’s not anything major, just another case where I can say I’m out of the running for Parent of the Year, again. If I couldn’t laugh these things off, I would have a big pile of remembered mistakes to drag around with me.

Easy enough with the small stuff, but what about the big things? Oh, there have been some of those, too. It brings to mind a quote a friend shared on Facebook recently, although I’m not sure who to attribute it to:

I never met a strong person who had an easy life.

So, yes, there have been some things that definitely helped me to become a stronger person, whether I believe that I asked for those things to come into my life or not. God has helped me pick myself up more than once, helped me move on and reassemble the broken pieces in a new way, even when all I could see at the time was a mess.God helps us to deal with unimaginable situations, and leads us through to the other side even when we don’t know how to get there, or what it’s going to look like when we get there. We just realize, eventually, that we got there, and the mess is behind us. Yes, life gets messy, but it doesn’t mean we’re stuck there forever.

I see you sitting over there with your head in your hands
And the mess life’s made of your best laid plans
You really want to shake your fist
But you don’t know who to blame
Well you can blame yourself or the man upstairs
Or the guy on the screen who says he cares
But all the shame and the blame won’t change a thing
What’s done is done
But grace has just begun

And God’s says
I’m gonna turn it into something different
I’m gonna turn it into something good
I’m gonna take all the broken pieces
And make something beautiful like only I could
So put it all in the hands of the Father
Give it up, give it all over to
The only one who can turn it into
Something beautiful
Something really beautiful

I don’t know when the next challenge is going to come my way, but I know that something will. The unpredictability of such things is almost predictable:

The journey of the soul is difficult. Life is difficult. It is those who imagine that life is easy or should be easy who end up the unhappiest. It is the friction of life, the ebb and flow of the unexpected, that all work together to help us fulfill our essential purpose and destiny. – Matthew Kelly

So, I know more challenges will come my way. My life, or parts of it, might feel like a giant mess. But, just like before, I know God will get me through it, and turn the mess into something beautiful. Again.

 

A Song for Sunday–Living the Dream

Living the Dream–Downhere

This song comes across as a little tongue-in-cheek, but maybe that’s just because of where I’m at livin’ my own dreams. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out exactly which parts of our everyday existence are helping us to live our dreams. Responsibilities can feel like burdens or distractions from what we really want to be doing, and sometimes a crisis really throws us off course for a while… or at least, that’s the tendency, to think we’re being drawn away from the path we should be on. But what if right here, in the middle of the mess, is exactly where we’re supposed to be?

Usually, I’m trying to live my dreams by squeezing little bits of time into the cracks between working at my job, driving the kids to where they need to go, getting the household chores done (or at least trying to). But then there are moments when I realize that all of those everyday things aren’t just distractions, they aren’t just things in my way.

As for me, I’m singing a new song.
I’m not gonna dwell inside
Some alternate reality

I feel free
I’m making the best of it
I’m seeing with eyes that find the heart and soul of true beauty

Lately, I’ve taken to calling certain irritations “problems of privilege”. Sure, doing housework isn’t necessarily my idea of fun, but these jobs are tied to a blessing–I have a family. My property taxes are going up? I that “problem” because I have a house. The car needs to go to the shop? I try to remind myself to be thankful that I have a car. I’m exhausted by week’s end, yet again? I have so many things to keep me busy because of the people in my life. How could I not be thankful for them?

Everyday, love makes the promise
That we can be great
If we wanted and
We are living the dream.

Highs and lows we’ll take on together,
Choosing joy whatever the weather, and
We are living the dream,
Living the dream,
Living the dream.

This is the dream.

This song is a good reminder that the dream is not off in some distant “someday”, but right here, around us today, if we just look at things a little differently. Even in the tough times, and I’ve had a few, God’s blessings surround us, if we just try to open our eyes see them.

A Song for Sunday–I’m Free

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I’m Free–Tim Neufeld (feat. the Glory Boys)

Sometimes Christians are accused of being too serious, too sombre. This foot-stompin’ tune most definitely is not! It is just overflowing with positive energy, and I love it. It takes the familiar message of Amazing Grace and rocks it with a down-home feel. Reading the lyrics here does not do it justice–give it a listen if you have a minute. I dare you not to enjoy it!

My burden fell with a sound like thunder
The hour I first believed
My chains were gone and the fear no longer
Had a hold on me. 

A Song for Sunday–My Lighthouse

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My Lighthouse — Rend Collective

I love this upbeat, rousing song with shades of Great Big Sea. I like to keep my phone handy, so I can tag songs that catch my ear–thank you, Shazam! I’ve had a few ups and downs in the last while–who hasn’t?–and it was great just to feel good and positive as I listened.

I’ll admit, the challenges in my life aren’t as big as they have been at times. A couple of examples… the clothes dryer broke down recently, and we had to wait for five days for service. In a house of six people, that’s a long time. In the big picture, though, I know it’s not that big of a deal. There are people who don’t have the things they need, so I should hardly complain that my family’s laundry piled up for a few days. I was also sick for the better part of the last week, and missed three and a half days of work. For one who is rarely ill, that was a long time to spend at home, feeling bored and frustrated, just wanting to get back at it. At the same time, I can’t help but think about the friends I know, of my own age, who are facing much more serious illnesses.

I know that I am not any more special than anyone else. Just because my challenges are relatively minor right now, it doesn’t mean I’m immune to problems. I know it’s a matter of when, not if, a giant storm is going to hit my life. And once I get through that one, at some point, there will be another. Am I going to be prepared? Am I going to be able to get through it?

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise,
You will carry me safe to shore

I know how I got through the previous challenges. Friends and family were there to support me, love me, and tell me that I could recover from the situation. And most of all, faith in a God who loves, forgives, and stays constant has been the foundation. I’ve rebuilt myself, from what felt like the ground up, not once but twice. If life tries to crush me again, I’ll be able to tell myself that I got through it before, and I can do it again.

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea