Singing, Because I’m in a Win-Win Situation

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Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rides upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.   Psalm 68:4

Sometimes, I just don’t automatically feel like singing, or praising, or rejoicing.  If I am going to be honest about it, that’s the honest truth, Lord.  Sometimes, I feel like just going somewhere by myself and crying out to You.  And sometimes I just feel like going to sleep because then You let my mind be quiet for a while.  I suppose, sometimes I just get tired and heavy laden and I just want rest.  But I don’t just want rest; I want rest in You.

But I’m learning that if I only get alone and cry, or run away and sleep, that the “perfect” rest will evade me.  Because both of those choices alone run me into the danger of meditating on the  wrong thing even though I’m running to You.  I’m in the danger of zone of pity.  And I may just wind up having a pity party for myself and making You listen.  And that is so far from Your desire.

I ought to run to You and cry out.  I ought to seek my rest in You.  But I also absolutely must not forsake or forget that both of those need to be balanced out with singing unto You, praising You, and rejoicing before You.  Because if I run to You with my tears and run to You for rest,  where am I showing the hope of Your intervention.  What if I wept all day?  Who would see hope?  What if I felt like sleeping the whole day away to avoid the hard stuff?  Who would see hope?  But what if I obeyed, and burst forth in the midst of the hard stuff, in the midst of a heart full of hurt and pain and sorrow, in the midst of life and feeling worn down, and I sang, and praised, and rejoiced?  What then?

In the midst of it all, I am to sing unto God.  I know we’ve talked about this before, the importance of singing.  But I need us to talk about it again.  Because the truth and how I handle it is more important than my feelings.  If this word, “shiyr”, is so important to my spiritual well-being, then I better not only understand it, but I better obey and embrace it.  In the Hebrew, singing was connected with worship.  “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing ‘eats’ you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.”  (Skip Moen)  Yes, sometimes I need to be divinely transported from the feelings of my own heart or mind and transported back to You.  That’s what singing does.

So, I could just cry, or I could run away in sleep, or I can choose to sing.  I wonder which exhibits greater faith, greater trust, greater love?  “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.”(Siah Safre Kodesh)  It’s not that I won’t cry, it’s not that I won’t be silent, because there is a time for every season, a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to speak and a time to be silent.  But the test comes when I can choose to see You above myself.  Anyone can cry and anyone can run silently, but only someone who can really “see” You can praise You by singing in the midst of it all.

What if, after Paul and Silas had been beaten wrongly and thrown in prison, they had just decided to cry and sleep it off until the new day came?  Would the prisoners and jailors have seen You, God, show up?  But instead, they chose to look at You and when we look at You, how can we help but sing Your praises?  So instead of wallowing in self-pity or bitterness or what-if’s, they chose to pray and sing.  They celebrated You in song.  And the prisoners heard.  And You heard.  And that made a difference.   It made a difference in their life.  It made a difference in the lives of the prisoners.  And it made a difference in the life of the jailor and his family.  Because You are the Difference.  And singing is acknowledging You in my life.  Singing lights up the world around me.  Singing Your song lights up not only me, but the world around me.

I want to look back at those three levels of sorrow again.  The man on the lowest level cries.  He hurts.  He calls out.  I think of David and Elijah.  Both men of God fled.  They cried out to You.  They also went to that silent place, hiding in the cave.  Who else was there to really hear?  Who was really getting to see the light of the glory of God shine in them to it’s fullest.  Not that it wasn’t dully shining, but was it shining to the fullest?  Did they ever come to the point of seeing that all the threats around them were inconsequential when compared to You?  “Your flight from your enemies is an expression of your lack of trust in the One you serve.  Unless He tells you to hide, there is nothing to hide from.  The fact that you have covered yourself with the dark simply means that you aren’t available to be the light He intended.”  (Skip Moen)  Did David and Elijah remain hermits in their caves?  Or did they wake up out of their darkness and run back into the light? Yes, there is a time for self-examination but it’s ultimate goal is to come out acting upon what we learn.

Do you know how David acted?  He didn’t run out and defeat all his enemies.  He didn’t run out and finish off Saul.  Look at the Psalms.  Psalm after Psalm, song after song, David glorified You, Lord.  David sang forth his confidence in You.  He sang forth the light of Your faithfulness.  “When surrounded by apparent overwhelming evil, praise is the weapon of choice.  To honor God is to defeat the enemy.” (Skip Moen)  I sing (shiyr) and make melody (zamar) not because it removes all this hard stuff, but because You,God are God and You are using me for Your glory.  In the midst of the trash, You have a divine purpose for me and You are fulfilling it.  I sing because I believe.

See, I don’t just sing, and I don’t just sing about what I want or the stuff going on, or how it’s going to be so wonderful soon.  I ‘m singing praises to Your name.  I’m extolling JAH, the Ever Existent One.  I’m rejoicing before You.  I’m taking my eyes of the trash and putting them on the Beautiful One.  I’m remembering Who You are and forgetting about the power of the trash.  I’m remembering Your honor, authority, and character.   And I’m reminding myself how much it outshines everything around me.  I’m mounding You up, “salal”.  I’m piling You higher and higher until I finally see You for who You really are, above everything that surrounds me.  I’m exalting You.  I can’t exalt You unless I know You, unless I know You intimately.

I’m singing praises to the One I know by name, JAH, my Lord, my Savior, my Everything.  And how can I help but rejoice before You?  How can I help but jump up and down for joy the more and more I think about You, the more and more I know You and experience You and believe in Your Truth.  You bring Your words back to my mind and I leap for joy at Your promises.  I leap for joy at Your deliverance.  I leap for joy at the shear presence of You.  I leap for joy in the love.  I leap for joy in Your acceptance of me.  I leap for joy that You have made me clean.  I leap for joy that You give me the power to carry on.  I leap for joy that in You I am an overcomer and I have victory!  I leap for joy that I can come before You!  Yes, no matter where I am or what mood I am in, I can stand, or sit, or lay, or even shower in the presence of my God.  Yes, I have to mention that one, because that is my favorite place to sing to You, Lord. (Well, right along with true corporate worship!)  Because if I must cry, You wash away the tears with the water as You cleanse and refresh me.  And You always put a song in my heart.  And sometimes it’s a song I’ve never sung before.  Sometimes it’s just a song about You.  I may never sing that song again, but that’s OK, because it was for You, that moment, straight from my heart.  And I suppose, at that moment, it was a gift from You to me, reminding me of Who You are.

Lord, I need a tremendous amount of help in honoring You in this area of singing.  Because I need to carry this attitude over into all the day, and not just my shower.  Instead of snapping at someone when I’m under stress, I need to have a heart of singing and praise.  What if today, I started practicing singing continually?  I mean, not always out loud, but in my heart and mind too?  What if I turned the things that caused me stress into song instead, songs honoring You.  How would my attitude change?

But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. ” (Isaiah 65:18)  Lord, I just need to keep my eyes continually on You.  I need to constantly remember, forever, that You are creating in me, the child of God that You desire me to be.  You are my creator just as You created Jerusalem to be something for You to rejoice over and a people to fill You with joy.  And in being rejoiced over and bringing You joy,  it ought to fill my joy full and lead me to reciprocate that rejoicing back to You.  Help me to remember, I’m living in a win-win situation here because I’m in.  And being in You deserves eternal singing, praising, and rejoicing.

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Consumed in a Song

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“Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.”  1 Chronicles 16:23

Singing.  That’s the word that You, Lord, layed on my heart today.  Why sing?  What’s so important about singing?  If singing wasn’t important, then why is the word “sing” used in 102 verses in Scripture?  As a matter of fact, the very first verse that uses the word sing is Exodus 15:1.  The Israelites had just been delivered out of 200 years of pain and slavery and miraculously crossed the Red Sea and watched God defeat Pharoah’s army before their very eyes.  “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spoke saying, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea… ‘”  And I’m thinking that singing is not just a suggestion but that singing is a necessity in my spiritual walk with You, Lord.

Now, I can’t help but look back and find out if the Hebrew idea of singing was just like ours or if there might have been something else to it.  And I found some things that don’t suprise me one little bit.  The Hebrew word for sing is “shiyr.”  And in most instances it has to do with worship.  Sometimes, in Hebrew, you can look at the letters and the original pictograph formed by those letters in a word, and even that pictograph tells you something about the word.  Skip Moen shares that picture, “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing “eats” you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.”  Hmm.  Let me think about that.  Singing=praying.  I need to hold that thought.  But let’s keep going.

Why did I even begin on this search this morning?  Because I wanted to see when You, Lord, thought people should sing and why we should sing.  Because what about those times when I am so filled with pain that I don’t even have words?  How can I sing then?  But what if those are the times I need most to sing?  What if that is the time I need most to worship You with someone else who has the words that I can’t find?  What if that’s the time I most need to be reminded that You triumph gloriously and I need to confirm that with my own mouth, with my heart, and with my emotions?

The Siach Safre Kodesh which is “stories of wisdom, biographies of famous rabbis, and Torah discourses”  shared this thought, “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.”  And Abraham Heschel, an American rabbi and leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th century, in Between God and Man believed “true prayer is a song.”  My question is, how many times have I thought of singing in terms of sorrow and pain?  But that seems to be where the Hebrew roots of singing came from.

And I’m thinking that makes sense.  Think of all the spirituals that arose out of slavery in America.  Was it their good circumstances that birthed those songs?  Or was it something deeper?  Were those songs a prayer, a cry out to God, that lifted one another up?

If I go back to 2 Chronicles 20 I find the true story of Jehoshaphat.  And the Moabites and Ammonites and others were raising up against Israel.  And all the people of Israel came before You and cried out to You.  And You told them to not be afraid because You were going to take care of it and they would triumph in You.  And before they received the outcome, before the victory, here’s what they did.  Jehoshaphat appointed singers to the Lord!  You know what their job was?  To praise the beauty of His holiness as they went out before the army.  And as they went they would continually say, “Praise the LORD; for His mercy endures for ever.”  And God used their singing.  It was beautiful worship.  In their lack of strength, in their pain and distress, they stopped thinking about all that.  They put their minds and hearts and worship in Him.  And this is what happened.  “And when they began to sing and to praise” the Lord set ambushments against their enemies.  Notice that.  It wasn’t after they sang and praised.  It was when they began.  Maybe singing in the midst of pain is a sign of faith and worship.

I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas.  There they were sharing the Gospel and now their clothes are being torn off of them and they are being beaten and whipped.  And it wasn’t just a little.  Many stripes were laid on them and they were thrown in a nasty, smelly, dank prison and their feet fastened in stocks.  How is that for pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  But what did they do?  Did they remain bound by the pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  Or did they take that pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache and lift it to the Lord in song?  In the midst of the pain, while the wounds were raw, they prayed and sang praises unto God, unto You, Lord.  And what happened?  The prisoners heard.  And You acted just like with Jehoshaphat.  You sent a sudden earthquake and released them from their chains and were glorified before the prisoners and before the jailor.

What if I don’t sing?  Let that not even be a thought.  I must.  Because it’s not my song.  It’s Your song, Lord, and it’s the song You have placed in me and it must come forth.  As Psalm 40:3 says, You have put a new song in my mouth, even praise to You, my God: and as many hear they shall see and fear, and shall trust in You.  It matters if I sing to You and for You, or if I don’t.

There are times when all I can do is fall at Your feet without words because I hurt that much.  But You are bigger than the pain in me.  In every believer You have placed Your song and Your Holy Spirit will help me sing that song.  He will give me the words.  He will bring them back to mind.  And as I am faithful to sing what He gives me, I will experience the presence and filling of the Comfortor.  And when I can’t express it because the pain is so deep and the words won’t come and all I can do is cry or when even the tears won’t come, maybe then I need to run to others who have found the song and let that minister to me.  Maybe, as I listen to the words You gave them, I might just find myself being transported to You, and I might just find myself singing with them.  And maybe that won’t equal all the words I feel.   But walking in faith comes one step at a time, or, one song at a time.

I suppose I have to ask myself, does the pain hurt more than I miss that closeness with You?  I think we’ve all been there.  We’ve all experienced pain.  Some of us had to learn the value of singing in the Lord.  For some of us, singing just is part of who we are.  And some of us, well, we haven’t learned the value of singing yet.  But I want to learn to not wait for the good days to come.  I want to sing in expectation.  And I want to sing not because my circumstances are good but because I know the goodness of You, God, even in the midst of tragedy.  It’s not easy.  Walking in faith isn’t easy.  But it’s worth every hardship and every tragedy.  I want my focus to remain on You no matter what so I will be influenced by You and so that influence will make a difference in those around me.

Pain and loss hurt.  They hurt terribly.  And it’s a part of life that doesn’t necessarily go away.  I just have to learn how to fit it into Your picture, into Your plan.  And surrendering it to You doesn’t take the memory away, but it puts everything in perspective, and it brings healing.  Paul and Silas didn’t stop hurting when they sang.  But they rose above the pain in the midst of the pain.  They lifted themselves up to You and let You carry them in song.  I want to follow their example because there are things in this life I just can’t handle on my own.  I need You as much as they needed You.  And I don’t want to let pain defeat me, because I am more than a conqueror in You.

Skip Moen shared some more of prayer and song.  He said, “The reason prayer is transformed into song is because words fail me. My hurt runs too deep. My trauma is too strong. I can’t say what I can’t do, and what I can’t do is find a way out. So, I learn to sing praises to my King and my song “eats” up what would destroy or consume me and gives me peace…I know what it means to hurt right down to my soul.”  So, the question is, will I allow You to consume my pain?  Scripture says that You are a consuming fire.  Do You just consume sin?  Or do You consume anything that wants to keep me from You?  Lord, I want nothing more than to be consumed in and by You.

I suppose I always thought that was a reference to You burning things up, Lord.  But there is this other part of consuming that has to do with eating, with ingesting.  This word, “akal” is also used in Ezekiel 3:1 where You tell Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what you find, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.”  You didn’t say take a bite.  You said eat this whole scroll.  Taste if fully.  Then go do what it says.  But let’s keep going.  What did Ezekiel do?  “So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.”  Maybe that’s what happens when I choose to sing in the midst of pain and suffering.  Maybe singing isn’t a suggestion but an imperative.  Maybe I must sing.  Maybe I must sing, Lord, so that I can taste and experience Your sweetness in my mouth.  Maybe I must sing so that You can fill my stomach and my body with Your sweetness.

Lord, no matter how deep the pain, give me a song.  And let me not hold that song in my heart.  Let me sing, even if the words squeak when they come out because I cry as I sing.  Let me sing, even if I fall to my knees and don’t know what to say.  Give me a song.  Even if it’s someone else’s song.  Just give me a song from You because You never stop singing.  Even the angels before Your throne continually sing praises to You.  Who am I to not sing?  Don’t let me lose that beautiful flavor of You.  And don’t let me neglect to share that beautiful flavor of You with those who would hear my singing.  Because maybe my song will give them words to sing, and lift them above their pain and sorrow.  Lord, just give the songs we need to sing.  And sing with us.  I can’t wait to see what You do.