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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Emails to God – “In the Light” by Charlie Peacock (performed by DC Talk)

I keep trying to find a light
On my own, apart from you
I am the king of excuses
I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do

Chorus
What’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a savior

I wanna be in the Light as you are in the Light
I wanna shine like this stars in the heavens
O, Lord, be my Light, and be my salvation
‘Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light

The diseases of self consumes my blood
It’s a cancer fatal to my soul
Every attempt on my behalf has failed
To bring this sickness under control

Chorus

Bridge
Honesty becomes me
There’s nothing left to lose
All those things that did run me
In your presence are diffused
Pride has no position
The fame that once did cover me
Has been sentenced to this earth

Dear God, the year was 1995. I was 25 years old, naïve and impressionable. Oh, if I had known then what I know now. But, as my grandmother once told my mother, you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. I was working for a Christian music publisher called Word. I was fortunate enough to be the editor of their Christian music record club. I remember the day I received the demo of this CD from the record company so that I would consider featuring it in the club. I loved it. I remember the vice president of the division walking by my desk while I was playing the album, and I told him, “This is the next platinum record in Christian music.” Now, that wasn’t really going out on a limb. It’s a little like saying the Yankees have a shot at the playoffs at the beginning of the baseball season—it was almost a given.

But I remember putting this song, in particular, on a tape and driving down LBJ Freeway in Dallas, where I lived at the time, and giving it the full range of my Mazda 626’s radio’s ability. Promise Keepers was coming to Dallas and I was picking my dad up at the airport. I blasted the song on the way to the airport and then I played it for him as I left the airport. I loved it. I loved the words. I loved the musical style. I loved the humility and the songwriter’s willingness to repent. Repentance is a beautiful thing. (Click here for a link to a youtube version of the song)

So here are some thoughts about “In the Light,” which was written and performed originally by Charlie Peacock and released in 1995 by DC Talk.

Verse 1:
• I really do have excuses for the selfish things I do. They usually revolve around me having been wronged by someone else in some way. I justify them by saying to myself, “Well, I wouldn’t normally do this, but since I am suffering in this way then I deserve to have my way here.” But the truth behind it is that I am simply trying to find a “light” on my own and apart from you.

Verse 2:
• I cannot imagine what it will be like to not have the disease of self in me anymore. I know that there are those who would say that I already have the victory in Jesus and I have all I need. And I understand that, and I am glad that the cancer is being managed, but the truth is, this cancer of self will not completely be purged until I cross over to the other side. Much like my mother-in-law’s cancer was not purged from her until after her death, this cancer of self is simply a part of who I am here.

Chorus:
• Obviously, the first part of the chorus is a play on what Paul said about doing the things he didn’t want to do. But then my favorite part of the whole song is right here: “This only serves to confirm my suspicions—that I’m still a man in need of a savior.”
• Sweet Jesus, I need you to be my light because I have no light on my own. I need you to be my salvation. All I want is to be in your light.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
and the sun does not appear
I will be here
If in the dark, we lose sight of love
Hold my hand, and have no fear
‘Cause I will be here

I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to cryin’
Through the winning, losing and trying
We’ll be together
I will be here

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the future is unclear
I will be here
Just as sure as seasons were made for change
Our lifetimes were made for these years
So I will be here

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we’re older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I will be here
Oh, I will be here

Dear God, this song was played and sung by my wife’s aunt at our wedding twenty years ago tomorrow. My wife chose it to be a part of the ceremony. Funny, but I always heard it as being from me to her. It never occurred to me until this moment that it might have been her message to me from her. Maybe I thought that because it is a man singing it to a woman, but now I feel kind of foolish that I never heard it as her singing it to me.

I just listened to a recording of SCC and his wife talking about the loss of a young daughter in a tragic accident. Listening to their story, I couldn’t imagine the pain they felt. I couldn’t imagine the fear of the future. The divorce rate for couples losing a child is over 80%. They both said that they consciously said to each other right after the loss, “We are not going there. We are not even considering divorce.”

I look at these words now, think about when SCC wrote them, and how naïve they seem in the wake of the pain they have experienced. Did he really mean it? Did he really know what he was committing to?

Father, I think that is part of the beauty of commitment if we take that commitment seriously regardless of the circumstances. Sure, if we knew how hard something would be in advance we might not do it. But we rarely know. I am going through challenges at work right now. I didn’t know how hard it would get when I interviewed for the job almost seven years ago. I didn’t know how hard parenting would be when I agreed to start trying to become a father seventeen years ago. I didn’t know how hard marriage would be when I asked my wife to marry me 21 years ago. But my job needs me, my children need me, and my wife need me. And so as long as I have breath, I will be here.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Chorus:
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone
Give me Jesus

Chorus

And when I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die
Give me Jesus

Chorus

Dear God, I was getting ready for work this morning and this song came on my Pandora app. It struck me as I was listening to it that the chorus makes an interesting statement: “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” Really? Do I mean that? Can others have ALL of this world and just leave me with you? Is that a trade I’m willing to make? (Click Here for a youtube video of “Give Me Jesus”)

I notice that the verses mention three different times in life. First is “in the morning.” That makes sense and is a little more all-encompassing. That can mean good times and bad times. Then the other two verses seem like natural times to want Jesus—when I’m alone and when I come to die.

Father, I want to write one more verse to this song. I’m not sure I really mean it, but I want to mean it.

And when I have it all
When I have it all
You can take it all away
And give me Jesus

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “Don’t Let The Fire Die” by Steven Curtis Chapman

I can still feel the prayers you prayed for me all those years
And I see now more than ever what a difference they have made
And I can still hear your voice spoken from a heart of great concern
Saying, “Keep your eyes on Jesus and love Him more than anything.”
And I’ve watched the wind blow hard against you
And I’ve seen your face get weakened by the pain
And I want you to know that I will be praying for you to hold on

[Chorus]
Don’t let the fire die
The flame has been dimmed by the tears that you’ve cried
But I can still see the spark of his love in your eyes
So don’t let the fire, oh, don’t let the fire die

This heavy weight you carry around of letting yourself and everybody down
Is pouring water on the passion that used to burn so bright
Well, I know you’ve got your reasons for resentment
And I know it’s more than I can understand
So just let me say that I’m going to be praying for you to let it all go

[Bridge]
Now, I’m not praying for the fire to burn the way it did before
Cause I believe the one who started this flame in your heart
He wants to give you more, so don’t let the fire die, don’t let the fire die.

Dear God, when I was on the airplane last Monday to come on this trip, this was one of the first songs that came up on my iPod. I have to admit that I wondered if you didn’t have a message in it for me. Did you have it play intentionally? Were you trying to encourage me?

This is the last day of my vacation, and I have to say that I think you have accomplished some things in me this week. Everything isn’t magically resolved, but you have given me some clarity on different challenges in my life. I don’t know what life will be like when I get home tomorrow, but I know that you will be with me.

So let’s look at this song and see what was going on with SCC when he wrote it. I could have this wrong, but I heard several years ago that this song was written for a relative, maybe even his mother. I think some hard life circumstances had turned her away from her faith. I don’t know what they were, but I can pretty easily see how it can happen.

Verse 1. As the writer of this song, I think about some of the pain that SCC has been through in his life—especially the pain of losing a young daughter just a few years ago. How did the years of prayers prepare him for that? How did watching his relative struggle with her faith prepare him for that? I have a young relative for whom I pray nearly every day, and I know that she does not want people to pray for her. There is some sort of pride issue there that befuddles me a little. But I continue to pray for her because I want your absolute best for her. Will I need her prayers for me one day? Probably. I have been vacationing with my parents this week, and I know there have been times when I needed their prayers. I suppose we would all like to think that we can handle life’s challenges on our own, but the truth is, I cannot handle it. I cannot do it without you. That’s what submitting my life to you is all about.

Verse 2. I think there are times when fatigue and then depression can just take over. Sometimes it is more than we can simply overcome on our own. I don’t know what the pain and sorrow are that SCC was specifically writing about here, but it’s not hard to imagine a life that is beaten down and trying to recover. It could be the loss of a loved one like a parent or child. It could be a damaged or broken marriage. It could be broken relationships with children. Heck, it could simply be the pursuit of self-indulgence. So this is where I sometimes need the prayer of others. One day, I will probably need the prayers of my young relative. I will need them to be the SCC in my life.

Bridge. I like this bridge because it acknowledges that the fire that burned before was not perfect. It had flaws in it. It was perhaps a little naïve. It didn’t respond to everything the way it was supposed to. So it isn’t to be pursued, but it is to be built upon. That’s what we are all called to do—purse the imperfections of our faith and use the solid parts as the foundation for adding to it even more.

Chorus. There have been times in my life when I have just wanted to “let the fire die”. I know a lot of people look at the exterior me and would be surprised to know that, but it’s true. And I would imagine it is true for more people than we know. One of the most encouraging things I ever heard was that Mother Theresa doubted her faith at times and felt like she went the last several decades of her life without hearing your voice or feeling your presence. I’m sure part of that was Satan attacking her. But he refused to let the fire die and she kept her faith in something that she could not see. Some people looked at the revelation of her doubts and struggles as confirmation that Christian faith is not all it’s cracked up to be. I disagree. I found it to be very encouraging.

Father, I know that Satan attacks our unity. Whether it is unity in marriage, with our children/parents, or even among employees at work. So protect my life from Satan’s attacks, please. Please protect my marriage and my relationships with my children. Help me to constantly seek your presence and invite you into all of these relationships. Keep my heart pure and humble. And help me to know how to lead my family in your ways.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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“Mountain of God” by Mac Powell and Brown Bannister (Performed by Third Day)

I thought that I was all alone, broken and afraid
But you were there with me, yes, you were there with me
And I didn’t even know that I had lost my way
But you were there with me, yes, you were there with me
Until you opened up my eyes I never knew
That I couldn’t ever make it without you

[Chorus]
Even though the journey’s long and I know the road is hard
Well the one who’s gone before me, He will help me carry on
And after all that I’ve been through, now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God

And as I travel on the road that you have led me down
You are here with me, yes, you are here with me.
And I have need for nothing more, oh, now that I have found
That you are here with me, yes, you are here with me
I confess from time to time I lose my way
But you are always there to bring me back again

[Bridge]
Sometimes I think of where it is I’ve come from
And the things I’ve left behind
But of all I’ve had, what I possessed
Nothing can quite compare with what’s in front of me
Yeah, what’s in front of me

Dear God, it’s interesting that so many songs in worship to you mention certain themes: Valleys, struggles, wandering from you, mountains, inconsistency of faith, you being there to call me back, etc.

There is no other way to describe my life right now than as it being in a valley. It’s not the deepest valley in the world. To be sure, others are walking through far deeper valleys that me. But this is a valley. Work has struggles. My family has struggles. My marriage has struggles. We haven’t given up, and all is not lost. It’s not like that. But it is very hard to see the road ahead through the struggles of today.

I’ve always liked this song. To be honest, it wasn’t the lyrics that first drew me to this song, but Ashley Cleveland’s background vocals in the second half of the song. It is probably the best use of background vocals I have ever heard. They just make me want to close my eyes and sway my head as I lose myself in the sound. (Take a minute to click this youtube link and listen to the song) But then I stop and study the words and I realize that this is a really special song.

Verse 1:
I have to say that I have been a Christian so long (since I was nine) that I don’t remember a time of being in a valley and not realizing you were there with me. Oh, maybe when my parents were separated when I was seven, but for the most part, I have never felt alone. I can only ever remember one time when I was really mad at you. It was almost exactly seven years ago. I couldn’t find a job and I felt alone. I felt like you had forsaken me. Now, in retrospect, I can see what you were doing despite what things looked like to me at the time. It is that experience of doubting you and then seeing you come through in a rich and dramatic way that gives me faith, even in valleys like the one in which I now find myself.

Verse 2:
Probably the hardest part about the valley I am in right now as a parent and husband is that it requires so many actions of me, including changing habits and patterns in my own character that cause others pain. It’s not just a matter of living by faith and believing that one day things will get better. There is a lot of work for me to do, and I’m not sure how to do it. That is where I need you “here with me.” I need to hear your voice telling me what to do. I need you to speak to me through others. I need you to completely unite my wife and me together. I need you to parent our children through me. I need you to help me to be the leader at work that you need me to be. This isn’t just a matter of walking a path. I am trying to bushwhack through the forest of this valley right now, and I need you here with me.

Bridge:
The hope, I suppose, is that there is a mountain in front of me that, as a result of traversing this valley, will be even higher and greater than the mountains I’ve experienced before. There has been pain in my life recently. My hope is in the fact that you will use it to make me a better man and not let it return void.

Chorus:
Father, it is all about me allowing you to help me. I know you are there for me and are ready to help me. But I have to be ready for this help. So I ask for it. I ask for your help as I try to clear the way the brush that covers my path and move through this valley.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “Speechless” by Taalib Johnson and Kyle Jones (Performed by Steven Curtis Chapman)

Words fall like drops of rain
My lips are like clouds
I say so many things
Trying to figure You out
But as mercy opens my eyes
And my words are stolen away
With this breathtaking view of your grace

[Chorus]

I am speechless, I’m astonished and amazed
I am silenced by your wondrous grace
You have saved me. You have raised me from the grave
I am speechless in your presence now
I’m astounded as I consider how
You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless

So what kind of love can this be
That would trade heaven’s throne for a cross
And to think you still celebrate
Over finding just one who was lost
And to know You rejoice over us
The God of this whole universe
It’s a story that’s too great for words

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
Oh how great is the love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called the sons and the daughters of God

[Choir mixed with Chorus]
We stand in awe of your grace
We stand in awe of your mercy
We stand in awe of your love
We are speechless
We stand in awe of your cross
We stand in awe of your power
We are speechless

Dear God, as I look at the words of this song it makes me think about my theology and its irrelevance. This song basically says it all. (Click Here to see Steven Curtis Chapman perform Speechless live in concert)

Verse 1: I have no idea who the two people are who wrote this song. And I don’t know how they wrote it. I don’t know if they wrote the words and music together or if one did the words and one did the music, but I can imagine two men sitting and talking about this first verse. I can hear the conversation about how we “say” so many things about what we believe. Some of it might be right, but a lot of it is probably wrong. Yet we use the words to feel better about ourselves. We use them to feel smart and to appear smart to others. But then as we really start to experience the depths of your grace all of our intelligence and human righteousness begins to appear as it really is—rubbish.

Verse 2: This verse basically talks about the one part of my theology that is critical. Your love traded heaven’s throne for a cross. That is the part that is not negotiable for me. I told someone one time that I am convinced that 95% of my theology is probably wrong, and I can imagine getting to heaven, having my eyes opened to truth and being in wonder about how much of what I believed was wrong. I believe the 5% that is right is the part about Jesus’s
divinity, death, and resurrection. Everything else is negotiable for me.

Chorus: So where does that leave me? It should leave me speechless, but does it? Do I really appreciate WHO you are and WHAT you did for me and the rest of us? Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am astonished and amazed. Sometimes I am even silenced by your wondrous grace. But too often I take it for granted. Thankfully, I think there is grace for that too.

Choir mixed with Chorus: Sometimes it helps to just be reminded that I should stand in awe of your grace, mercy, love, cross and power. I guess that’s why they record songs like this and why I buy them.

Father, I offer this day to you. I will do my best to focus on you during the quiet times of my day today. I will also do my best to intentionally find some quiet times that will give me some space to give you some appropriate worship and reverence.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “Nothing is Beyond You” by Rich Mullins

Where would I go? Where would I run,
Even if I found the strength to fly?
if I rose on the wings of the dawn
And crashed through the corners of the sky
And if I sailed past the edge of the sea
Even if I made my bed in hell,
Still there You would find me.

[Chorus]
Nothing is beyond You, You stand beyond the reach
Of my vain imaginations, my misguided pieties
The heavens stretch to hold You and deep cries out to deep
Saying that nothing is beyond You
Time cannot contain You, You fill eternity
Sin could never stain You, death has lost its sting
And I cannot explain how You came to love me
Except to say that nothing is beyond You,
Nothing is beyond You

If I shrink back from the light, so I can sink into the dark
If I take cover and I close my eyes, even then You would see my heart
And you’d cut through all of the pain and rage,
The darkness is not dark to you, the night’s as bright as day

Dear God, this is one of those last songs Rich Mullins wrote and recorded before he died, but the recording is something he did as a demo, just sitting in an old church with a piano and a “boom box”. Others like Amy Grant, have recorded since then, but I still prefer Rich’s version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwbVy3Ak3V8

When they released this collection of songs after he died and called it The Jesus Record, this one was my instant favorite. It just kind of addresses that dark, sad place I let myself go to sometimes. There are times when I just want to be alone. I want to be away from everyone and everything, and that includes You. The seductive thing about these times is that they usually start pretty well. After all, a little alone time can be healthy (although I think I am still supposed to “take you with me” to those places. But what ends up happening is that I become self-indulgent. Then I start to feel sorry for myself. My heart gets darker and before I know it I am overwhelmed y everything around me and I have no perspective.

As I typed out the words to this song this morning, the second verse struck me in a new way. Here are the words that really hit me: “so I can sink into the dark.” What is it about sinking into the dark that is so appealing to a human who is in the Light? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s not. But there is something about the quiet hole of sin that is enticing.

Father, my other favorite part of this son is when he says, “Even if I made my bed it hell, still there You would find me.” You are, for whatever reason, always seeking me. Like the Prodigal Son’s father, seeing the son a long way off, you are always looking for me. So thank you for your love. As a father, I can get just a little feel for your love for me. I am sorry where I fail you. I am sorry for when I indulge my slothful, sinful side. I am sorry when I shrink back from the light and seek a little time away from you. The truth is, it is NEVER fulfilling. It is empty and hollow.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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