Remembering What It’s Like To Worship

There’s a bible verse from the ever popular prophet Joel which I turn to sometimes when I have sorrow over things I had lost. It says:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . . ” Joel 2:25

I have long believed that there is nothing I can lose that God will not return to me with interest. And that when it was returned to me, I would know it more truly and more deeply for having to do without it. Which may or may not actually be true, but I choose to believe it because life is better when I believe it than when I don’t. It helped me let go a little more gracefully, as I knew that I would receive it back in time. Sometimes it was cold comfort, but this verse gave me hope that life would eventually get better when I needed something to remind me.

Over the last month, I’ve started having the oddest sensation of being given back my good memories. It’s as if I’d completely forgotten that I really had been happy once. It wasn’t just something I told myself when I needed to shore up my confidence. I really was very happy once. I really did have a happy family once. I really did have an amazing marriage once. I really did have a good, although never perfect or easy, life once.

It’s like I’m coming out of this place where only the darkness existed and emerging back into the light. I can’t quite trust any of it and none of it makes much difference to my present circumstances, but it’s rather wonderful to be rediscovering the things that made my life good. It’s been like coming home and finding a box full of old pictures that had been lost in a move years ago.

One of the things I had lost was music. I wrote a post a while ago about realizing that I had forgotten how to sing nearly every song I knew a couple of years ago. The only songs I could remember were songs about God that I had learned while doing prison ministry. I would be singing my baby daughter to sleep and all I could remember were the same 4 or 5 songs attached to a time I would just as soon forget. Sometimes I choked on the words.

Eventually my daughter no longer needed to be sung to sleep and I stopped singing altogether. Which is something I’d done before, as you will remember if you have read my first book like a good little Upside Down World minion. 😉 But there’s a reason that shamans will ask the sick and depressed, “when did you stop singing?” Sickness of the heart and a lack of music go hand in hand.

So, for whatever reason, lately I’ve been rediscovering songs that I used to love that I had nearly forgotten. Yesterday, I happened to hear the song Gloria by the Christian duo Watermark and I remembered what it was like to worship. My heart used to sing this song, once upon a time. (My mouth has a harder time.)

A while back, I started a post by saying that one day I want to be able to write a post that’s all “God is great! He healed my wounds and lifted me from the pit!” But I gave up lying a while back. So, this isn’t that post yet. But I finally remember what it is like to be able to do that. And it is so good. Enjoy!

Gloria

I wish I could crash like the waves
Or turn like the autumn leaves
In effort to praise You
I wish I could smell like the forest
The fragrance lifting a mighty chorus
In effort to praise You, in effort to praise You

But I’m such a limited creature
And my words can only paint so many pictures
But somewhere I think I read that I am
Treasured over all creation
So I know that I must try

I wish I could roll like the thunder
To leave the earth below in wonder
In effort to praise You
I wish I could fall like the summer rain
And every drop would sing Your name
In effort to praise You, in effort to praise You

But I’m such a limited creature
And my words can only paint so many pictures
But somewhere I’m sure I read that I am
Treasured over all creation
So I know that I must try, I must try

Gloria, glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
Gloria, glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee

Every breath that I breathe
Every moment in my history
Is an effort to praise You
An effort to praise You

Gloria, glory in the highest
Forever I will hide myself in Thee
Oh, Gloria
Glory in Excelsis Deo
Gloria, Gloria
Gloria
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria

-L & C Nockles

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My Talented Readers: XTSamurai

Here in America, the news we hear from Africa is pretty much always bad. Which tends to lead us to view the continent as hopelessly broken, impoverished and chaotic. The truth is far more complicated and hopeful.

Even the recent news out of Nigeria of over 200 girls being kidnapped from a school by Islamist extremists reveals an unexpected dynamic. Just a decade ago, the Nigerian government and media could have ignored this tragedy as one among many and the families involved would have helplessly watched as their daughters disappeared into never-never land with hardly a peep from the wider world. Today, the story is getting attention and increased pressure is being placed on the Nigerian government to deal with the situation because of everyday Nigerians who took to social media and used their contacts around the world to raise a ruckus, insisting that these girls and their fate not be allowed to fade into one more in a seemingly endless string of tragedies.

I pray and trust that these girls will be rescued. And when they are, it will not be because of their government or outside aid agencies, but because of their fellow country men and women.

Which is the secret hope of Africa which is hiding in plain site: it’s people. I mentioned once before that one of my pet theories is that God has a great work planned for Africa. There is a great, as-yet largely untapped spiritual power residing in the hearts of men and women across the continent. Mark my words, the day is coming when these spiritual warriors will rise up and Africa will astound the world. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Rwanda’s reconcilliation movements are the tip of the iceburg.

But that’s a topic for another day. Today, I want to tell you about the music of one particular man from Nigeria who I have had the absolute privilege to get to know over the last couple of months. His name is John Igbinovia. He and a few of his friends stumbled across my blog earlier this year and reached out to me. We’ve had some wonderful conversations about God, the church and theology, among other things.

Along with working and raising a family, John is a musician and writer. He goes by the stage name XTsamurai which reflects his love of martial arts and the virtues of the Samurai. He says the name can be translated as “a warrior who serves the highest form of Virtue and Truth, with ‘Strength’ and ‘Honour.'”

John is a PK (pastor’s kid) who got his start playing and performing music in the church. After being trained in classical piano, he picked up several other instruments and now rocks the guitar. (I’ve always had a soft spot for a man who can play the guitar.) He claims the influence of musicians ranging from POD, Linkin Park and John Mayer to Bone Thugs & Harmony and Eminem. He describes his music as a “fusion of rock and afro-cuban salsa overlayed with distortion guitars and inspiring lyrics”.

I asked him which video he’d like to share with y’all and he picked his most recent, very fancy video:

I also really like this song by XTsamurai which he performs with Nigerian Gospel Singer/musician extraordinaire Florocka:

I think I’ve embarrassed him repeatedly with my enthusiasm and he’s probably starting to wonder what sort of weirdo-groupie he’s dealing with. But truly, John is one of the most impressive people I’ve encountered. He’s an extraordinarily smart, perceptive, creative man. He has a deep spirituality and a willingness to stand against the currents around him that is just not common in this world. He’s one of those people who makes me excited about what God is doing in the world. I hope you will join me in following and sharing his work.

You can download music and learn more about XTsamurai at xtsamurai.com or on Reverbnation.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Later this week, I’ll share a bit about John’s writing as well as more about the challenges facing the church in Nigeria which I hope you will join me in praying over.

My Talented Readers: Jason Silver

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I spy on y’all. It’s true. If you comment or like things I write or interact with me a lot on facebook, I might go poking around the internet a bit to find out more about you. And then I report my findings to the NSA. OK, I’m totally lying about that last part. I don’t even know how to report things to the NSA.

Mostly, I’m just wondering who the heck is reading what I write. And while I know nothing about at least 98% of my readers, those of you whose names I do know, tend to be an eclectic, interesting and talented bunch. Which, obviously, is what one would expect from people who are discerning enough to appreciate a Christian writer who swears and makes the occasional poop joke.

At any rate, I think it’s well past time that I share some of these interesting people with y’all. Particularly those who are involved in creative pursuits who you might never hear of otherwise.

Today, I want to introduce you to one of the first readers I ever spied on. His name is Jason Silver. Jason writes and sings beautiful music, mainly worship songs. I asked Jason to share his favorite video and a bit about his work:

I grew up as an evangelical, went to Bible college, became a pastor, and worked in churches as a music director and worship leader for 15 years. But somewhere along that journey I felt God directing me to become an Anglican, and to use my gifts to help breathe life into the 150 year old church in my village.
Every week I write a song for our contemporary worship, taking the lectionary readings from the Psalm and putting them to a melody.
I like to share these songs with the church at large, so I’ve started making videos and uploading them to YouTube. I hope that my music can be a blessing to you!
You can find more of Jason’s work on his youtube channel. In addition to songs based on the Psalms, Jason has written a great deal of other inspirational music as well as a CD of beautiful love ballads which can also be found on his youtibe channel. Jason has a Facebook page you should go like so you can keep up with his work. And if you are in the market for Web Application Development work, check out his company Crooked Bush.

Check it out. Pass it around. And stop being so quiet, y’all!

Bloggy Linky Goodness

OK, OK, you got me – I skipped Bloggy Linky Goodness last week. I’m sure there was a perfectly good reason. Which I’d tell you if it was actually important. Or if I had enough brain power left to try to remember what it was. But it’s back! Hooray!

Before I get started, allow me to share one of the weird things I’ve been thinking about. First, the number 40. Remember how it rained for 40 days and 40 nights for Noah? And how the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. And Jesus retreated to the desert for 40 days before starting his ministry. And it takes 40 days to gestate a human baby. Coincidence? I think not.

Now on to Bloggy Linky Goodness: Continue reading