Believe In Me

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Believe In Me

John 14:1: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

I don’t know if, like me, you have found moments of worship in unexpected times and places. The Bible is filled with accounts of God appearing in unlikely times and places—the burning bush to Moses, Jacob’s ladder, Elijah’s vision of a “wheel within a wheel” and God in the Temple, the visions of Daniel, Stephen, Paul on the road to Damascus, and John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth.” Such moments happen with us as well, and I think most often with songs.
Throughout history, song writers have written secular lyrics which may be interpreted with a religious meaning and have used popular tunes for sacred words. J. S. Bach did this, knowing that his congregation would sing more confidently if they were familiar with the music, most of which were drinking songs. I should add here that bars and taverns in Germany were family-friendly places, where neighbors are and drank and enjoyed each other’s company. This trend has continued up until the present day, with hymn writers fitting religious texts to tunes such as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the traditional Irish melody “London Derry Air,” the English folk tune “Forest Green,” the traditional English melody, “O Waly, Waly” and “Morning Has Broken,” and a Scottish Gaelic melody named “Bunessan.”
And there are, of course, contemporary examples of secular songs which have religious meanings. We used to listen to a program on WMAL which came on before church on Sunday mornings called “Sound and Sense,” with Father John Gainey, who talked about religious meanings of popular songs. More recently, songs such as “Lean on Me,” “Spirit in the Sky,” “On the Wings of the Angels,” “Believe,” “You Raise Me Up” ( which was originally a religious song which many listeners heard as having a secular meaning), and “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
Recently I was listening to Pandora in the car and heard as if for the first time Dan Fogelberg’s “Believe in Me.” Ostensibly sung to a love interest, it nonetheless may be interpreted as God speaking to his beloved—and that’s us!
Here are the lyrics so you can follow along with the song:

If I could ever say it right
And reach your hostage heart
Despite the doubts you harbor
Then you might
Come to believe in me.

The life I lead is not the kind
That gives a woman peace of mind
I only hope someday you’ll find
That you can believe in me.

Those other loves that
Came before
Mean nothing to me anymore
But you can never be quite sure
And will not believe in me.

Too many hearts have been broken
Failing to trust what they feel
But trust isn’t something
That’s spoken
And love’s never wrong
When it’s real.

If I could only do one thing
Then I would try to write and sing
A song that ends your questioning
And makes you believe in me.
Oh, you can believe in me.

This song speaks of God singing to us, and I believe God does that, much as we sing to a baby while we rock her. Indeed we are held in the everlasting arms of the one who has the whole world in his hands. All glory and praise to God for his everlasting provision and care for us, the children of the one eternal God!

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Neither Hot nor Cold

Fire and Ice
 
Revelation 3:16: And so, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

I don’t know how many groups you are a part of. The average for present day Americans is six different what are called “affinity groups.” Such a group is made of persons who share an interest activity, such as golfing or alligator wrestling. I counted up the groups I am a part of and came up with ten, which probably means I am overactive and need to relax some more.

Two groups I belong to are the choir and Evensong Bells. One of the interesting things about these groups is that they both have people who have, shall we say, temperature regulation issues. Given the same environment for a rehearsal room, one person may experience the room as blazing hot, while another sitting beside him or her will attest that it is surely too cold. In bells, we are often treated to the sight of one player fanning herself to cool off while the player next to her is piling on sweatshirts and heavy winter coats. This fascinating phenomenon takes place without fail at every rehearsal. I don’t know the cause or the remedy: I’m just having a good time watching it happen.

It’s no secret that this winter has been a hard one, with cold temperatures and enough snow to make us heartily sick of it. We have experienced closings, delays, outages and inconvenience, but as I heard someone say, we’ll be wishing for cooler conditions in July when parking lots are approximately the temperature of the sun. It seems that we as human beings long for what we don’t have at the moment, and then want something else entirely when we have that. I think that’s called yearning and it’s part of what keeps us moving forward.

In Revelation, John wrote about a congregation of his time with temperature regulation issues. He characterized the church at Laodicea as being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. The implication is that it is better to be hostile to the Gospel than indifferent to it. God has no use for those who don’t make a choice. The same principle applies to human relationships: I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference. So it is as well with believers.

So, whether you are as hot-natured as a volcano or as cold as an icicle, I congratulate you. You have chosen where you stand, and that’s much better than being neither one nor the other. Other passages speak of keeping our “first love” that we had for Christ, for being on fire with the Gospel so that our heat and warmth touch others. And may this be so for each of us. Amen.

 

In A Castle Dark with Chains Upon Our Feet

Count Prison Scene

I don’t know if you have ever thought what it would be like to be chained in a deep, dark prison for years. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it seems throughout history and literature that being is prison provides a kind of passage to a greater qualities of spirituality and leadership. Although sacrificing years of life and freedom seems a high price for self-improvement, nonetheless, it’s an experience some of the most admirable human beings have paid. Think of those who spent at least some time in a cell: Daniel, Jesus, Paul, Joan of Arc, Chaucer, Martin Luther, Cervantes, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, John Brown, Papillion, Oscar Wilde, Sacco and Venzetti, the Rosenbergs, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Alexander Solzhynitsyn, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, as well as numerous other missionaries, ministers, activists, political figures and artists. It’s almost enough to make anyone want to go out and be arrested for something just so they could build some character. Fortunately, there are other easier ways to do that.

I was thinking about this situation as I was also thinking about the way I usually can think of (and sing) a song for almost every situation. If I’m walking down a street, I find myself singing “On the Street Where You Live.” Climbing stairs, I might break into a chorus of “Climb Every Mountain.” Driving into West Virginia, I invariably start singing “Almost heaven…” Or, driving by a B & B, “Y. M. C. A.” is my song (and that of a number of people). I’m sure you get the idea.

It occurred to me that I am basically entertaining myself with these songs drawn from about 63 years of sampling music of all sorts. I’m told that the earliest song I was enthralled with was Eddie Arnold’s “Cattle Call.” You might chorus of this one. It went, “Whoo whoo whoo de do whoo, Whoo, whoo, whoop di di di di do, Whoo whoo, whoo whoo de do, Singin’ his cattle song.” No wonder the cattle did what the guy who was singing this song wanted  them to. They were sure they would all be driven over an escarpment if they didn’t. Anyhow, I loved to sing the chorus of “Cattle Call” when I was four. I’m sure I was unbearably cute. I was at times, like the first hundred times I ran through the chorus. And there have been many songs through the years that I love to sing along with on the radio. I still like to do this, although if we’re driving somewhere and I’m having a good time singing along with the Fifth Dimension, after about twenty seconds of this feel-good experience Becky usually asks, “Who sings this song?”

I say, “The Fifth Dimension.”

“Well, why don’t we let them sing it then?”

Ouch. But this does not discourage me.

The spiritual point of all this is that the Lord has given each of us a song to sing, a song of life, a song of grace, a song of hope, and a song of salvation. And we are told to sing it and sing it well under the best of circumstances and also during the worst of times. So, if I were chained in a dank, dark dungeon, I could entertain myself by singing the thousands of songs that live in my head. Most of us don’t find ourselves chained to a wall, but we do find ourselves chained by events or circumstance or disease or addiction. The Good News is that the Lord has given us a song, and we can sing it freely and openly. Praise God for the music that lightens our days!