Even Me

The other day, as I was walking through an alley from the office to the hospital, this song came up through me. I heard it in the way we used to sing it in the Soul Children. I was having trouble that morning, pressed against myself in some painful ways. I tried to pray. I needed to try since I was going to pray with and for others.

My prayers didn’t work and I took deep breath as I walked and smelled garbage and donuts and saw the hospital where I was suppose to bring grace to others. I remembered a concert where we sang this song; we sang it during my audition for the choir all those years ago. It felt in those moments like the first song I learned with a real choir.

The prayerful words stayed with me as I walked to the hospital and were my meditation as I was reaching for the One who felt too distant for what I was facing. I hope this song takes on meaning for you. Though she has back up, Yolanda Adams is her own choir with this rendition. I’m so thankful that she’s put this prayer and music to voice.

 

Advent Post #18

“My soul glorifies…” (Luke 1:46)

There is a load of material in this passage, Luke 1:46-56. A lot worth thinking through. Even more worth, simply, accepting and trying to live.

What stands out to me as I sit to write is the way these words lift up the simple human tendency to exalt some thing, to raise above oneself some deity, to worship and glorify some lord. I think Mary’s words are everybody’s words. Even if we don’t call our deity “God,” even if we’d never use the word “soul” in a sentence to describe anything other than music, we raise and exalt and glorify things.

It is often a subtle behavior, this lifting. But it is there. It’s in our schedules, in the company we keep or refuse to keep. This raising is in my own proclivity to draw and turn inward for strength when my best help comes from someone else.

Mary’s words are a kind corrective. She is not harsh here. After all, she’s singing. Her poetic lyrics themselves lift and inspire. “My soul glorifies.”

When I was a child, I sang with the Soul Children of Chicago. We would gather each week on Saturday mornings to rehearse. We’d study and, after warming up our vocal chords, practice our parts. We’d hear the band and combine with them to make music. We would sing. After a while, I’d come to expect my Saturdays to have a sound. Singing and Saturday went together. When I thought of the day, I’d think in musical terms. Singing was normal, natural.

Wednesdays became like Saturdays. During the summers and from the fall season and through the winter, we’d have the second rehearsal date and it would feel like we were filling our days and weeks with music. After a three-hour session on a Saturday morning, Wednesday night came quickly. Getting ready for a trip, practicing for a performance or a recording or a concert, my mind was given to music. My soul was too.

Those rehearsals and all those performances shaped me and my life. With all those other Soul Children, my soul was influenced, shaped, and made. I was made into a singer.

Come back to Mary’s words in her song. All those days she spent with Elizabeth impacted her. There was Mary with her kinswoman, being made into a mother. She watched this other mother through the last days of her gestation while awaiting the fulfillment of whatever God was doing. And Mary’s soul was influenced, shaped, and made. And in her words, her soul glorified.

Like the music we naturally made when we practiced first alto and second tenor, giving glory was what Mary naturally did. It wasn’t effortless. Any singer or poet or writer will tell you of the countless days behind a phrase, the long experiences underneath a line or flat or sharp. There was effort but there was also nature.

I wonder what my week would be like if I accepted that as fact. This is what my soul naturally does. Without toil, without increasing skill, without rigorous instruction or preparation or particular stress. There’s no sweat involved anymore, but nature. At this point, after these days, I commonly do this. I glorify.

So who will get my glory? Who will benefit or receive what I commonly do? What God will be for me a “Savior”? These feel like the pressing, relevant questions of the season.

Soul Stories

This is the trailer for an upcoming movie from the organization I grew up in.  The Soul Children of Chicago celebrates 30 years of work, ministry, music, and life transformation.  I’m excited that the SCC continues to do the basics of what we learned when I was in it, while, at the same time, going further, doing more.  I hope you like the trailer.