Tag Archives: Beer

Don’t Stop the Music!

For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Nehemiah 12:46 (NIV)

This past week, Wendy and I went to a craft brewhouse in Des Moines. About three times a year they have an event called “Hymns at the Hall.” There was a large gathering of people that night. There were young families with children playing board games. There were older folks (I guess you have to start including me in that demographic). It was a fascinating mix of people who gathered to eat, drink, and sing the old hymns of the faith together.

Along my spiritual journey, I have experienced that music can be the subject of tremendous religious passion for some people. I grew up with hymns accompanied by a pipe organ and traditional choral music. I witnessed the emergence and growth of the “contemporary” music industry. Music within the churches I’ve associated has shifted radically in one generation. Most children today have never seen a hymnal or sung in a church choir in which you had to learn to read music and sing harmony.

So here’s the thing: I have lent my ears to friends who bemoan the changes as watering down and diminishing worship. I have witnessed heated debates over the theological implications of certain songs. My observation is this: music continues to change and evolve as does music’s place in worship. With all of the change, there are three things that are constant:

  • Our general discomfort with change.
  • Music’s ability to stir spirit, emotion, and thought (sometimes it does all three at the same time) in individuals and groups.
  • Worthwhile things that are discarded by culture as “dead and gone” are eventually resurrected to experience new life.

We are nearing the end of Nehemiah’s account of the return of the Hebrew exiles from Persia and the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, the people made a legally binding agreement to rededicate themselves to the law of Moses, the responsibilities of the sacrificial system, and the contributions required to keep Temple worship going. In today’s chapter, Nehemiah calls all of the musicians together from the region and forms two great choirs to march around the top of the wall in worship and dedication.

At the end of the chapter Nehemiah observes:

For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Nehemiah 12:46 (NIV)

In other words, the music of worship and of the Temple had been silenced for many years. It had been silenced at least 70 years since the destruction of the Babylonian siege. It may have been silenced before that. Nehemiah was resurrecting a worthwhile thing of the past and breathing new life into it for the discovery of a new generation. The subtext of the statement feels as if Nehemiah is defending the action and explaining his rationale for those who are grumbling about the change (see my first bullet above).

As my friends and I shared our “Hymns at the Hall” on social media, we had friends and family who seemed to bristle at the idea of singing hymns and drinking beer at the same time. I quietly smiled to myself knowing that hymn writers such as Martin Luther and Charles Wesley often took melodies of well-known songs that were sung in bars and taverns and changed the lyrics. In the days of illiterate and uneducated masses, it was easier if they used tunes that everyone knew (and everyone knew popular bar songs). Ironic that the songs have found their way back home. As I sang I watched people being stirred. You can take the hymns out of the church, but you can’t take God out of the hymns.

In the quiet this morning, Alexa is playing Gregorian Chant and ancient choral music, which is what I prefer in my quiet time with God. Later in the day, I’ll switch to more contemporary worship music as Wendy and I work in the home office. This evening we might switch to Gypsy Jazz, blues, or the music of the Rat Pack as dinner is prepared.

I don’t get too hung up on music. For me, is not a “holy” or “unholy” “either, or” binary thing. Sure, any good thing can be coopted for profane reasons, but it’s easy to turn it off or tell Alexa to skip a song. For me, music is a “both, and” equation.

A note to readers: You are always welcome to share all or part of my chapter-a-day posts if you believe it may be beneficial for others. I only ask that you link to the original post and/or provide attribution for whatever you might use. Thanks for reading!

Life, and All That Jazz

Playing Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The elders no longer sit in the city gates;
    the young men no longer dance and sing.
Joy has left our hearts;
    our dancing has turned to mourning.
Lamentations 5:14-15 (NLT)

I had a great evening with my friend, Kevin, last night. It was guys night, and after wonderful meal out we drank cold beer in the hot evening and smoked cigars while sharing great conversation. One of the things I most appreciate about my friend is that he can not only talk about sports (last night we talked through and decided who we thought the best Chicago Cub of all time at each position on the field…more on that in a minute), but we can also talk about theatre and the stage with equal passion.

Last night I made the comment that I personally don’t enjoy musical theatre as well as non-musical theatre because, well, in everyday real life we don’t break out in song. Kevin pounced on my snooty declaration as if I had just suggested that Carlos Marmol was the best Cubs pitcher of all time. “I think we DO break out in song all the time,” Kevin argued (and I paraphrase). “We think about music, situations bring songs to our heads, and we regularly break out in  song in the shower, in the car, and when I’m talking with my wife!” I hesitated and conceded the point, thinking to myself that I should have clarified: we don’t break out in large scale production numbers.

I get to the end of the prophet Jeremiah’s poem of Lamentation this morning and stumbled on the verse I pasted at the top of this post. How fascinating that after describing scenes of societal breakdown, starvation, cannibalism, torture, and rape the prophet sums it up by saying: our young men no longer break out in singing and dancing, the joy has left our hearts.

For the record, Kevin was right and I stand corrected by the ancient prophet. God forbid that this life should ever become an endless and tragic Long Days Journey Into Night without All That Jazz to keep us breaking out in joyful song.

 

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 20

Many will say they are loyal friends, 
      but who can find one who is truly reliable?
Proverbs 20:6 (NLT)

Who are you gonna call at 2:00 a.m. when the world is crashing down around you and you are at the end of your rope?

That question has been asked at various men’s gatherings I’ve attended over the years. It’s is a worthwhile question every man should answer. As men, we tend to retreat into our man cave, switch on ESPN, fire up the video game, break open a cold one, and zone out. With other guys we talk sports, we talk cars, we talk babes, we play poker, we ride Harley’s, we hunt. But all the man cave manliness can easily distract us from developing relationships and having crucial conversations that get to the important stuff of life.

What does it really mean to be a man? How do I love my wife well? How do I do right by my kids? What do I really do with this whole “God thing?” When you’re not having those conversations with other men, then the shit hits the fan at 2:00 a.m., we need to pick up the phone and cry out for help, but there is nothing but a blank stare and a feeling of panic. I’ve got no one I can call.

Today, I’m thankful that I not only have a guy I can call – I have a list of guys on speed dial. I have a list of guys starting with my family, to my oldest friend, to guys from high school, to guys from college, to guys with whom I’ve walked this journey the past few years. I am so blessed with friends with whom I can live it up in the man cave having a blast being guys, but then I can then pour a cold one, stoke up a stogie, and wade fearlessly into the deep weeds of life.

Those kind of relationships are generally not stumbled upon. They aren’t the pay out of a relational lottery. They are sought after, cultivated, and consciously grown over time. If you live in my area, this is a great place to start the search.

Who are you gonna call?