The Unofficial Israel Tour::The House of Caiphas

Jesus most likely spent his last night in this hole under the house of Caiphas, the high priest. Reading Psalm 88, it’s hard not to see it as a prophecy about Jesus’ experience. That night, as the psalm says, darkness was his only friend.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 6

The Lord is merciful.

He is full of unfailing love.

The Lord hears our cries and hears our prayers.

He takes away our sins.

This is a prayer experience for Lent based on Psalm 6.

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.

Spoken Word Psalm 42

This spoken word psalm came out of the staff prayer retreat a few weeks ago.  We had been praying out of the bible and then took an hour for personal reflection.  I realized that I had been overly anxious about the news headlines and my son’s lack of sleep had expanded that fear.  It was coloring the way I saw the world.  During our prayer time, someone had read a piece of Psalm 42 so I went there and rewrote it to help me process my fear and anxiety.  Maybe you have experienced something like that.  Maybe this psalm will help you ask the same question and come to the same answer:  Why does my stomach churn with anxiety within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will again praise Him, my Savior and my God.

As my son screams for streams of

milk in his 3AM bottle,

So my soul cries for you, God.

My soul thirsts for Jesus,

the living God.

Where can I go to meet

with him?

 

My fears have been my junk-food

day and night.

While headlines fill my news-feed

and seed my mind with questions…

“Where is your God?”

These things I will remember 

as I pour out my soul:

How I used to go with your people

leading the vocals and band with

the children of God

with shouts of joy and 

thanks among the

ranks of His people.

 

Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

 

But seriously, my stomach churns

and my soul still burns.

Therefore, I will remember you

from the hills of PA

to the chemo for 5 hours a day.

Deep calls to deep,

in the roar of headwaters,

all your waves and hurricanes

have swept over me.

But by day the Lord gives his love,

and at night he sings his lullaby over me.

So now, I pray to the God of my life.

So I say to God,

my Rock in the storm,

“Why does it feel I’ve been still-born?

Why must I deal with cancer and death

and a world that crushes thoughts and breath?

My bones ache, my stomach still churns

as the screen taunts me

all day long,

“Where is your God?”

 

Why?  Why are you down, my soul?

Why does my stomach churn with anxiety

within me?

Put your hope in God

for I will again praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

DAVID: musical update

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The last three Wednesday nights have been filled with workshops for DAVID with the amazing actors of the Emmanuel Theatre Co. here at the church.  I’ve presented the first 30 minutes of the piece and gotten amazing feedback that is still shaping this one-man-musical.  I’ve also been in the studio with a couple musicians laying down tracks to develop the sound of the various songs in the show.

All that to say that we are getting closer to being ready for the first preview performance a week from today on March 10th at the Philmore-on-Broadway for the all-for-One Productions fundraiser.  As I go through this creative process, some decisions are calculated, some are prompted by feedback and some are based purely on instinct.  However, each time I dig into this story I learn more about David and his God.  Here are three thoughts…

  1.  The spirit of God is powerful.  It empowered David for most of his life.  When it left Saul, he was consumed by fear, hate and dark moods that took control of him.  The spirit of God, or the absence of him, is powerful.
  2. The psalms have incredible emotional depth.  David cries out for help.  He cries out in pain and suffering.  He cries out for God to right wrongs.  He also sings and dances to the point that some people think he is in danger of losing his reputation.  Too many times, we are uncomfortable with dark or intense emotions.  David, however, was not one of those people.
  3. David was a man of faith and trust.  You might say that David was a man after God’s own heart!  No matter the situation or emotion, David always comes back to a faith in this God he loves.

Lastly, here is the third song of the show…each one has a different musical flavor so this is just a taste.  I create the individual loops using my voice and a Looping Station.  Enjoy!

Adoption Psalm 126

It was about this time last year that we were meeting with a birth mom and hoping we would have a baby in our home for Christmas.  As I think you know, that didn’t happen.

And here we are a year later.

It’s easy to wonder what God has planned for us, but instead I’m trying to actively thank God for this time of waiting.  One way I can do that is in prayer.

“Thank you Lord, for making us wait for this baby.  We want the right baby for us.  And we will wait on You, Lord…”

But until that happens, I can also rewrite psalms to help insert myself into God’s story.  In the same way the psalmists waited for the Lord, I will wait.  In the same way Christians have waited for millennia, I will wait.  So here is my Adoption Psalm 126…until our baby comes home…

When the Lord first brought us a baby,
    it was like living in a dream.
Our mouths bubbled with laughter,
    and we couldn’t stop singing.
All of the email (pre-Facebook) notes said,
    “God has done great things for you.”
The Lord had done great things for us,
    and we were filled with joy.

Bring us another baby now, Lord,
    like you did over a decade ago.
We who have cried tears
    will sing with songs of joy.
We who have been weeping,
    carrying nothing but memories in our arms,
will return with lullabies of love,
    carrying newborns in them.

New Song: Glorious

I’ve been thinking about heaven.

Heaven is a place where God reigns; a place where pain and sadness is a bad dream and God’s glory is so bright that there is no need for the sun.  No need for the sun!  The glory of God will be so bright and yet we will see him fully.

16456041272_6b357e1c2d_kThinking about Heaven, I realize that few things in my life are truly glorious.  I might use the adjective to describe a sunset, newly fallen snow or a delicious breakfast (like the over-easy eggs this morning), but none of that compares to God’s fully manifest glory in heaven.

And glory is a funny word, isn’t it?  We throw that word around in Christian circles with other church-y words like “fellowship”, but do we know what glory means let alone God’s glory?

Glory emanates from God himself in the same way light emanates from the sun or heat from a flame.

Glory means having and deserving fame, or honor.  God already has and yet deserves more fame and honor.

Glory also means being marked by great beauty or impressive brightness.

Our God is glorious for all these reasons so we are going to learn a new song focusing on God’s glory…it starts simply…

Chorus
Glorious, shout it out and
Glorious, make it louder
Jesus, we shout Your name
Jesus, You make our praise
Glorious, You are glorious

This is a call to worship God.  I love the fact that we are calling each other to worship God and give him more glory…as David writes

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen. (Psalm 72:18)

Verse 1 comes from the psalms too.  “The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.” (146:10)

My God You reign forever and ever
How great Your name
Your love remains forever and ever
You stay the same

The Pre-Chorus continues the theme of calling each other to worship the Lord in a loud voice and with singing!

Shout it out shout it out, if you know He’s good
Sing it out sing it out, for the Lord is good
Shout it out loud, “You are glorious”

But how do we truly experience God’s glory?  Jesus.  Jesus is the way we see and truly experience God’s glory.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

We added Verse 2 to helps us understand this verse from Hebrews 1:3…

He took our shame and sin forever
He rose again
We claim His name and life forever
Jesus, who came

After singing that, we truly understand the song’s bridge that Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory” and he is glorified in heaven, “marked by impressive beauty and brightness”.

Bridge
Shine, Jesus, You shine for all the world to see
You are glorious

As we sing, may the whole earth be full of His glory as it is in heaven…

  •  Definition of “glorious” from Merriam Webster online:  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/

My New Psalm Fav.

CH3Is it strange to have a current fav psalm?  Maybe, maybe not.  Anyway, Psalm 19 is my current favorite psalm.  I thought I’d share a few of the reasons why…first, I think the way David put it together is incredibly artistic and it shares some basic theology.  But anyway…

It starts the creation and David makes it sound like it’s a real person that speaks.  Creation is also the example here of God’s creation doing what it’s supposed to do…give God glory!  Everyone sees it.  Everyone hears it.  Not only that, you can’t hide from it.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

And then…WHAT?!?!?  It seems like David takes a left turn.  But hang with him.  He is going to talk about the law of the Lord that helps us know the way of God.  The WORD is another piece of the glory of God…

 The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

David continues, but starts to use some creation language and bring it back to the beginning…for example, gold and honey.  Not only that, just like the sun described in the first section, the law of the Lord helps us see clearly.

They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

And in this last section, David says that he wants to be like the creation.  In the same way that the creation, brings glory to God, may our words and thoughts please God.  Let our lives declare the glory of God.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Amen.

New Song: All the Earth

One morning this week, I was running again in Foster Park.  The sun had already risen.  As a I came around a corner of the trail, the sun was glinting off of a pond and momentarily turned the whole world to gold.  It was beauty.  It was a reflection of God’s glory and I remembered who had made this day.  I remembered who held this whole world and my life in his hands.  I was suddenly praising God…

…and it’s not the first time that’s happened.  Last summer, I was in Scotland and saw God’s glory blazing from every hill and ruined church…

Sam1Sam 2

Now, as spring transitions into summer, we are learning a new song that calls all creation, believers and heaven to praise the Lord.  It comes from Psalm 113,

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised. (vs. 1-3)

Verse 1:

From the rising of the sun

To the ending of the day

One name alone be praised

Every nation tribe and tongue

All creation lifting up

Your name alone we raise

We move onto the chorus which condenses the great praise of creation found in Psalm 148.  It calls the highest heavens, the earth, the deepest oceans, the sky and it’s elements, mountains, trees, animals and all humanity to PRAISE THE LORD!

Chorus:

Praise the Lord all the earth, All the earth

Bless His name, only one name, now and always

And then we move onto the gospel story.  Jesus came and saved us…

Verse 2:

Jesus You have rescued us

You are good and You are just

One name alone be praised

From the heights and from the depths

In every heart with every breath

Your name alone we raise

After we call the whole creation to worship God and retell the salvation story of Jesus coming to rescue us, the song takes us to heaven.  There also is a hint of this in the first verse with the reference of “…every nation, tribe and tongue…”  That comes from Revelation 7 and connects with the bridge where we worship the “only King who reigns forever”!

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’

-Revelation 7:9-10

Bridge: 

Every sky is filled with wonder

All creation lifting higher

The only King who reigns forever

Who is like our God, Who is like our God?