A Prayer Experience from Psalm 142

I wrote an arrangement of Psalm 142 for my one man musical, DAVID.  The line, “When my spirit grows faint within me / It is you who knows my way” grabbed me. As we continue this season of Lent, I thought this was a good psalm to share.  I recorded it in the desert room of the Botanical Gardens because David wrote it while hiding in a desert cave on the run from Saul.

Worship is Lament AND Praise

6 years ago, we lost my son. Since then, we’ve been on a journey through lament (expressing our pain to God), mercy, healing, joy and praise. I think this is the process God wants for all of us. As Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Also, here is a copy of the “Psalm 142 Spoken Word”:

Psalm 142 Spoken Word

Lord, I am crying aloud to you.

Lord, I am lifting my voice

Because I have no choice,

but to cry for mercy.

I am pouring out my heart,

I am pouring out my trouble,

Amidst the rubble

of confusion and complaint.

Now when my spirit is faint inside of me.

It is you who watches my way

Even when evil tries to lay

A snare for my feet.

There is no friend beside me;

Lord, look and see,
no one is concerned for me.
I have no safety for my soul;

It feels like no one cares for my life.

Lord, I am crying out to you.

Lord, you guard my heart

And I know this is all apart

Of living in your loving life.

So listen to my heart’s cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from fears that feed

On my soul, for they are too strong.

Set me free from my prison of pain,
that I may praise your holy name.

that the righteous who came

to comfort me, will praise You…

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness, Jesus,

…to me.

If worship is about ‘ascribing worth’, then it’s easy to see where worship goes wrong. Adam and Eve think what they’ll gain from the fruit is of greater worth than what they have with God…

As sinless image bearers, Adam and Eve were part of creation’s perpetual testimony to the worthiness – the goodness, glory, brilliance and beauty – of God’s handiwork. As soon as they sinned, the broke rank with that testimony, choosing to exalt and serve their own glory.

-Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace

Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…

THEN THE SAYING THAT IS WRITTEN WILL COME TRUE:                        “DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.”

“WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY?
WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?”

As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.

DAVID Preview Video!

I have had numerous questions about available video for the DAVID show.  

So, we are going to release a short 11 min teaser from the weekend so you can get a taste of it and invite others to the show in.  (CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFO)

Until then, I hope you enjoy this preview video from DAVID!

Performance February 16-18 and 23-25 with all-for-One Productions at the PPG ArtsLab Black Box Theater
300 E Main Street, Fort Wayne, IN.  Ticket info Here!

Worship&…Wilderness

Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else. He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

Troy has an in-operable cancer in his esophagus and doesn’t know how much time he has.  And what time he does have left, he wants to live for Christ.

Yes.  Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

Worship isn’t just what we do on the weekend when we sing and listen to a sermon.  Remember when I wrote that our whole lives should be worship to the Lord?  Here is the reality of worship in the wilderness:   our lives DO reveal our worship, but many times it’s the worship of idols.  As the singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan, wrote,

“It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”

We serve our work…grasping for status and money.

We serve the idea of “love”…with someone who “completes me”.

We serve our kids…hoping they prove our parenthood.

And while those things are good gifts from God, they make terrible idols.  They promise the world and give you nothing in return.

So this Advent season, I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

So I am listening for another song.  It’s the song of God that he sings over his children.  It’s a song I long to sing…a song I’m waiting to sing…

…but that’s for next week.

Worship itself is a re-presentation of Christ. . . . Consequently, when we worship, the conflict between good and evil that we experience in our everyday lives is confronted and resolved.  We leave worship once again with the personal assurance that the battle is won—Satan has been, is now being, and will be defeated. Because we are confident in Christ’s victory, we experience a great release from the burden of our sin and we become filled with joy and peace.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Spoken-word Psalm 6

I was in the hospital again this week with a friend.  He’s home now and is going to be ok.  I met with another friend over lunch who is struggling with what is happening in his life right now.  Both were struggling so I thought there might be others out there too.

Here is a psalm that I re-wrote for you when you’re tired, hurting, sick or just emotionally worn out.  It was originally written by David because he struggled with the same kinds of things…and he wrote this to God…for himself…for you…

Lord,

don’t hammer me in your anger
    or whoop me in your wrath.
Please have some mercy, Lord, for

I.

am.

tired.

    Heal me, Lord, for my stomach’s on fire.
My soul is delving deep in darkness
    And my heart is a liar.

Turn, Lord, so I can see you;
    save me because of your animating love.
The numb no longer know your name.
    Who praises you while staring at the TV screen?

(Remote control:  click, click, click…)

And here I am worn out from…everything

All night, I sit like a vegetable with arms
    and mumble many mono-syllables.
My eyes grow heavy and hurt;
    and then my nose

starts

to

run.  (snort)

Get behind me, sarcasm,
    (And yeah!, the Lord has seen my selfishness and…that sarcasm too.)
The Lord has heard me “hello?” for help;
    the Lord accepts my pathetic prayer.

All my insecurity will be overwhelmed with holy dreams and sleep;
    as my will repents and prays,

“…the Lord my soul to keep”.

Prayer by Dana Gioia

I discovered this poem and it touched me deeply.  I don’t know the situation or the circumstances that birthed these words, but I resonate with them.  The joining of grief, art, faith, lament, hope…

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper travelling the wires.

Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,

in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore

and the harsh falcon its flightless young.