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Jan's Blog

Conversations Journal Post

The Soul of Music (as published in Conversations Journal)

I don’t know about you, but I often fast forward through CDs and ipod songs, until I come to rest on my favorite lyrics.  Impatient, maybe, but the truth is, I’m mining for treasure.  Music has shaped my soul.  Major themes; perfect harmonies sustained (sus).   Minor chords; which, at times, seemed like they would not resolve… until they came to rest (R).  It would not be too strong to say that, in those times, music held the dissonance of my life. 
 
A vinyl record soundtrack in the corner of my bedroom when I was five years old brought the scratchy lyrics “I surmiseyou’ve never seen your eyes, they’re the only thing your eyes can’t see.  You’d see them I suppose, with the pupils in your nose, now that sounds logical to me.”  This little ditty made me giggle with my sister in our bunk beds.  The same was true for You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd by Roger Williams.  Oddities like that awakened the comic in this little heart.  Later on, Dan Fogelberg’s Netherlands provided a lovely background to peaceful drives through Jemez mountain wildflowers.  The harmonies wove themselves in, with delight.
 
Fast forward to the minor-themed edge of a chaulky, high-desert cliff on a hot Summer afternoon in New Mexico.  A heavy cloud of despair, the ‘loneliness birds’ as told by Peekay in The Power of One, had come to rest in my heart.   I came very close to driving my little car over the edge into Los Alamos Canyon.  Midst a powerful depression, there was no logic to the fact that my dad bought me the little car two days before, in celebration of my high school graduation.  In that moment, all I experienced was pain, and I wanted the pain to stop.  Evil was waiting, opportunistic.  A song from the radio gently penetrated the demonic fugue. It was Matthew Ward’s other- wordly voice singing “like Summer Snow, you were an unexpected sight.  A blazing Sun, you came shining in the night.  I never could have known…that you’d be coming Home.” The beauty pierced me, allowing healing tears to flow.  I decided to live, literally for the God behind the beauty of a song like that.
 
Fast forward to a young twenty two year-old woman, critically ill on a crooked little cot cramped into the corner of a little hovel filled with love in the Philippines.   I had contracted the strain of Dengue Fever which debilitates and often takes lives.  The smell of dried fish and eggs were in the air, providing a familiar atmosphere to my delirium.  My temperature had spiked to 105 degrees (F) and there was already the odd rumbling of the ‘broken bone disease’ rash. In the hazy fog of fever, I saw Pastor Dalisay and his children creep into the room, then felt them gently lay their hands on me to pray.  I saw the children leave, but Pastor Dalisay remained in the corner of the room.  I slept.  I awakened hours later to find him, still standing there, quietly singing ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow.’  He kept a major key vigil for me through that minor key night.  Now, if even a hint of that song hits my ears, my soul soars to the heights of healing and the depth of suffering which is in all of our lives, if we’re honest.
 
Nkhosi Sikelela Afrika drifts through my mind as I fast forward and envision the hazy, rolling hills of Swaziland, as I returned there following a sobering, naïve jaunt to visit a Zulu friend in the Apartheid Era township of Soweto.
 
Fast forward a decade to Summer evenings on the family porch of my friend, Brent Curtis, before his sudden death.  Trembling aspen danced in a sweet Colorado breeze (a song itself) as we debriefed some of the rending stories of people we were privileged to walk with in our shared counseling practice.   The words from David Wilcox’s Show the Way gave us the Larger Story to live in:
 
In this scene set in shadows like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us,
But its Love who wrote the play
For in this darkness Love will show the way.
 
Midst the body-strewn, stench of death, Asian Tsunami zone, I took in the vacant eyes of children who held to trees as the wave washed away their parents and homes. Coldplay’s Don’t Panic (“We live in a beautiful world”) somehow drowned out the silence of disbelief.  The Spin Doctors’ Little Miss Can’t be Wrong is, well…a humorous call back to me to once again partake in the Lord’s Supper after being a prideful, know-it-all of a wife.  Equally, I need A Mighty Fortress is Our God as a re-alignment into strength. Gabriel’s Oboe, the haunting song crafted by a Guarani Indian child in the movie The Mission, carried Steve and I through our courtship and into our wedding.  And performed by Yo-Yo Ma, it sent chills unto heaven.
 
And it is heaven, after all, to which all this points.  There we’ll sing a new song, and sing about a New Song:  ‘Jesus, You are worthy…with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ (Rev 5).  The full music in us, there, will confirm what partial music, here, always helped us suspect: this New Song saves our life, brings us to rest, wipes our tears, and carries us up into the crescendo of being loved.  If that resolution seems too much, that’s okay.  I’m guessing The Blues will be there, too, just to mix things up a bit, keeping us hungry for more.
 
 
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