Monday, April 15, 2013

"M"usic as prayer

Photo © Diane Weidenbenner
I’ve become more aware of the transformative experiences in my life. Those things that edge me a little closer to the person I want to become. Close friendships contribute to my life. Spending time with family, although not as often as I’d like, strengthens my foundation. Reading the Word, going to church and hearing an inspiring message are encouraging. Swimming with my husband (at least that’s what I call it) allows me to reflect, pray, focus on my breathing and relax, especially when followed by the whirlpool. Music also has the ability to touch my heart and soul. Many times it can lead me to prayer when I’m unable to arrive at it any other way.

If I’m content and joyful, music lifts my spirits. If I’m down in the dumps, music can center me and open my inner camera’s shutter, shedding light on what’s truly important. I can take my focus off of myself and place it on God, on a more important situation or another person more worthy of my time. Listening to music for me is magical and contemplative.

Recently I went in for an MRI and I was nervous because I’m claustrophobic. I once toured a submarine and had to turn around and squeeze by the folks in line behind me to exit the way I came in. Erase “being a submarine operator” from my bucket list. Not going to happen.

I was at the clinic and I began talking with another person in the waiting room about Christian music and, interestingly enough, how much we both liked Keith Green, the late singer/songwriter. I hadn’t thought of him in years so I felt God’s calming presence at work. When my name was called, the gal said, "I'm so glad that we met today." Me too.

When I went in for the MRI, the technician asked me what music I liked. “Do you get WBGL?” I asked, thinking that she probably wouldn’t be familiar with the contemporary Christian radio station. “I can try but it will probably be all static,” she said. She found the radio station and it came in crystal clear. I got through 45 minutes of MRI thumping, singing along with Third Day, Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher and Laura Story while remaining perfectly still. At the end, the technician asked where I went to church. We had a neat discussion about our faith. God turned an icky situation into a moment of grace.

For me, that’s why I enjoy American Idol. It’s encouraging to see how raw talent at the beginning of the competition develops throughout the show. On the women’s solo round this week, Angela Miller sang “You Set Me Free,” a song that she wrote, accompanied with piano and performed flawlessly. The song was well written and the music was beautiful. What a gift she gave to everyone who watched her perform! She did well in other rounds of the competition. However, when she sang her own song that had special meaning to her, she shined and we all felt the warmth. Music can be so powerful!

When I can’t sleep, I pop on my headphones and listen to "10,000 Reasons,” by Matt Redman, “If We’ve Ever Needed You,” by Casting Crowns, “I Still Believe,” by Jeremy Camp, “I Need a Miracle,” by Third Day or “Whom Shall I Fear,” by Chris Tomlin. I’m appreciative when I wake up in the middle of the night to take our puppy potty with a verse running through my head. Especially if I haven’t heard the song in a while. It’s sometimes an easier way to memorize scripture or pray, if songs are built around Psalms or other verses of the Bible.

If you haven’t heard of Keith Green, visit his website. His songs are timeless and oh, so meditative. His wife, Melody, wrote many of his hits. When I was a starving college student, I remember that Keith Green had a statement on his cassette tapes, stating that they could be reproduced and shared with others for no cost or penalty. His philosophy was that it was important to get his message out and the money would come. I fondly remember his “Make My Life a Prayer to You” and “You Are the One” which I learned to pray/play on guitar.

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