Tag Archives: Songs

Patterns

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Hear the voice of my supplication,
    as I cry to you for help

Psalm 28:2 (NRSVCE)

Back in the days before iPods, iPhones, and digital streaming, the only way one got music in a car was the radio. Since I spent a lot of time in rental cars for my job, I got used to spending the first part of any journey scanning “the dial” for the available stations and programming the stations I wanted to keep into the car’s radio.

One of the things I noticed as a young man scanning the airwaves was that it generally took me less than a second to identify the kind of music any station typically played as I quickly made my way across the dial:

“Classical, Classical, Classic Rock, Country, Country, Pop, Country, Pop, Christian, Rock…”

There is a certain sound, pattern, cadence, and frequency to different types and styles of music.

As I read the psalm this morning, the thing that struck me was how similar it is to the previous few psalms. That’s because it is. David had patterns that he repeatedly used as he penned his songs. We do the same thing. Symphonies typically follow a pattern of four movements. Your basic popular song is typically structured verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, verse, chorus.

Those who compiled the anthology of song lyrics we call Psalms put the section we are reading through together with similarly structured songs. It is a simple, repeated pattern: They all start with a praise and plea for God to listen followed by a complaint and/or petition, and end with a proclamation of faith and assurance that God has or will hear and answer.

In the quiet this morning, this got me thinking about patterns. Almost everything in life falls into certain patterns. Almost everything in life has patterns. Good patterns can provide a sense of health, security, and surety to life. Bad patterns of thought and behavior result in destructive and unhealthy consequences in my life and relationships. That’s rather obvious. What’s not so obvious is that some patterns that were good and necessary for a time can actually become unhealthy for me without me really recognizing or realizing it.

Along my life journey, I’ve come to observe that spiritual progress always involves the breaking of old patterns and establishing new ones. A faith journey always requires that I leave behind something that is tangibly known and comfortable in order to pursue something that is not clearly evident and is only hoped for.

“You have heard it said,” Jesus would say to his followers before adding, “but I say…” In other words, there was an established pattern that Jesus was calling His followers to change. He called for old, established patterns to pass away so that new patterns could emerge. The word repentance is rooted in the word picture of changing direction. Whenever Jesus told someone “Follow me” it was always a call to leave things behind to pursue things to which He was leading.

What started out as good, even healthy, patterns can lead to stagnation. Stagnation leads to settling. Settling leads to spiritual atrophy. Spiritual atrophy leads to decay. Decay leads to death. That’s what Jesus was getting at when he told the religious people of His day:

“You’re hopeless… Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

-Jesus, Matt 23:27-28 (MSG)

In the quiet this morning, I find myself meditating on my own patterns of thought, behavior, relationship, and spirit. The truth is that almost every pain-point I experience on life’s journey can be traced back to unhealthy patterns. Growth, progress, and maturity necessitate the breaking of unhealthy patterns and the establishment of healthier ones, even those patterns that were once good for me but have actually become unhealthy.

David’s song this morning felt familiar to the point of me being kind of bored with it after reading psalms with the same pattern every morning this week. C’est la vie. It happens. Having journeyed through the Psalms many times, I am mindful that when we get to Psalm 40 David writes that he is singing “a new song.” God called David “a man after my own heart.” Even he could get stuck in certain patterns that he had to break in order to move on where God wanted to lead him.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Top Five Sinatra Tunes

In celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, it’s Sinatra week on this wayfarer’s blog. For Top Five Tuesday (posted one day late), here are my Top Five favorite Sinatra tunes:

  1. The Way You Look Tonight
  2. Too Marvelous for Words
  3. That’s Life
  4. The Best is Yet to Come
  5. Come Fly With Me

How about you?

Top-Five Friday: Songs I Can’t Stand

change the channelA couple of weeks ago Wendy and I were driving home from Des Moines and the song Knights in White Satin came on the radio. Within a split second I’d changed the channel.

Okay,” Wendy exclaimed in a bit of a shock at the speed with which I’d freed myself from that horrible noise, “I guess we’re not listening to that song.”

No. No we were not. And, it prompted a conversation about the songs that are like fingernails on a chalkboard to you; the songs that come on the radio and you can’t get to the Tune button fast enough to change the channel.

So, for “Top Five Friday” here are my Top Five songs I can’t stand:

  1. Tears of a Clown. John Wayne Gacy. I’m just sayin’.
  2. Whiter Shade of Pale. Haunting, drug induced weirdness. [gag]
  3. Knights in White Satin. Again.
  4. Wildfire. My sister, and every radio station, played this insipid horse song non-stop back in 1975. Thank God it’s founds its way to the musical scrap heap.
  5. Philadelphia Freedom. Does SiriusXM have a contractual obligation to play an Elton John song continuously across their channel line-up? I swear I can’t surf the channels without running into multiple Elton John songs playing at all times. Ironically, this song is also from 1975. I guess I was going through a nine-year-old phase.

There you go. Now, it’s your turn. What songs make you want to hurl?

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 25

Better Off Dead
Better Off Dead (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart 
      is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather 
      or pouring vinegar in a wound.
Proverbs 25:20 (NLT) 

I grew up with John Cusack‘s teen angst comedy Better Off Dead. It was a cult classic back in the day. The film is about the travails of Cusack’s character, Lane, whose girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the Ski team. Lane goes into a deep depression and the results are extremely comical.

There’s one great scene that flashed in my head this morning when I read the proverb above from today’s chapter. The day after getting dumped, Lane gets in his parent’s station wagon to drive to school. Of course, on the radio he immediately hears Neil Sedaka singing the chipper tune Breaking Up is Hard to Do. He switches the station again and again, but every song is a frustratingly inappropriate reminder of getting dumped. The scene cuts to an exterior shot of the car as Lane chucks the car’s radio, which has clearly been ripped from the dashboard, out the window.

Comedies tickle our funny bone by creating situations to which we can all relate. No one wants to hear Neal Sedaka’s eternally cheery voice, with doo-wop girls behind him, reminding you that you just got dumped. You want to hear a Lead Belly or B.B. King wailing out the blues. You want to hear a good angry thrashing song to scream out your pain and frustration.

To King Solomon’s point, a friend is someone who is going to empathize with you in your time of need. When you’re walking through a deep, dark valley in life, a friend will recognize where you are and will join you there so they can be your companion as you make your way out of it.

Today, I’m thankful for great friends who knew not to play cheerful songs when my heart was heavy. I hope I have, and will be, an empathetic friend to my companions in their own times of need.