music, sweet music
There are many, many transcendent, beautiful moments I’ve experienced in worship over the years; one of my most favorite happened just last Sunday when were abundantly blessed to have Christian hip hop artist Matthew Shephard (@aloudmouthforJesus on social media). If you missed it, you can give a listen here, starting at about 15:50. https://www.facebook.com/100064570577230/videos/730818898790086 The song he gifted us with was AMAZING!
He also shared that he and his wife started a nonprofit called “Cure the Music;” its purpose is to raise awareness of the impact music has on our souls; their desire is to create God-centered, praise-filled music that reaches and speaks life to an audience whose ordinary choices have lyrics that do not.
Music has a unique ability to sink in, affect our thoughts and become a part of who we are. It is why we sing our faith.
I recently read a compelling quote from Bono (of U2 fame): “’Music is Worship; whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, . . . whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire . . . the smoke goes upwards . . . to God or something you replace God with . . . usually yourself.’”*
Ouch. A few songs came off of my running playlist after I read that.
I think we instinctively know the power music has; it can influence our mood or reflect it. It gives voice to the way we feel. Lyrics are important, and for that reason we need to be cognizant of what they are really saying and help our children discern that as well. But I also want to suggest that music can be an important bridge-builder, if we let it, not only between cultures but also between generations.
Somewhere between my first child and my third child I learned that freaking out isn’t a necessarily helpful parenting technique and that rarely does a single moment (or song choice) define a kid for life, so my response to Child 1’s questionable music choice differed greatly from my response to Child 3’s questionable music choice. “THAT SONG IS ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE FOR YOU!!!” became “What is it you like about this song?” If I impart any words of wisdom to you today, may it be that response two is much more helpful to parent-child relationships. Where response to Child 1 completely shuts down conversation, response to Child 3 allows an exchange of ideas, opinions and feelings. Child 3 and I still talk music.
My kids have so enriched my love of music by sharing with me the diversity of the genres and artists they love. Songs by Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson, Dishwalla, John Mayer, AJR, Dan + Shay, The Weeknd and the artist formerly known as Kanye West have made their way onto my playlists only through their recommendations. I otherwise never would have known how the lyrics or melodies or rhythms of those artists help me feel joy, just like my dad wouldn’t have enjoyed the lovely voice of Linda Ronstadt without my recommendation to him all those years ago. Just like my love for Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago and Nathaniel Ratliffe & the Night Sweats (https://open.spotify.com/track/6YfEvtwpQwGAWZBWzNmoIw?si=7189c0927836480c ) was fed by his love of Big Band music.
God seems to love music. God created the person who created the first musical instruments (Genesis 4:21). God ordained David the psalm-writing, stringed-instrument-playing, song-singing musician to be Israel’s most beloved King. God’s Son is said to be our Singing Savior (Hebrews 2:12). I think it gives God great pleasure when every voice and every instrument and every rhythm that He’s gifted is used in a way that speaks life into the world; maybe that’s why we have so many genres to listen to.
And maybe…maybe when we open ourselves to hearing each other’s music, appreciating it because it speaks life to someone even if we can’t personally hear why, we are not only brought closer together, but also given a more brilliant impression of who God is, in a kaleidoscopic sort of way. God is so much bigger than one person or one movement or one time period can define, and He is working in and through it all; when we reach across the divides of culture and time and position, we get to glimpse something about God that we didn’t see before. And when we do, I think maybe that makes God’s heart sing.
*Quoted by Reggie Kidd in his book With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, p. 24.