Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Give thanks to God

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  –Psalm 107:1*

Recently I’ve been pondering what it means to give thanks to God. The Bible is full of examples of thanksgiving being lifted up to the Lord.  After giving it much thought, I’ve come to several conclusions. First and foremost, thanking God is my way of acknowledging His supreme authority and position in my life.  God gave me life! Everything that is good in my life is a gift from Him.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. –Psalm 69:30

Second, there are multiple ways to give thanks to God.  These include praying; through the written, recorded and spoken work; in song; in giving of one’s time and treasure; and in prayerfully doing good works for others with no motive other than serving God. I write this blog as a thank offering to God. There are many other ways of thanking God that area not listed here. It occurs to me that we can thank God in almost any situation we encounter throughout the day. Continually thanking God can help one remain cognizant of God’s endless presence in his or her life.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  –I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Third, we are to thank God in all circumstances, both the easy times, the difficult ones and those in between.  In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul tells us he has learned to be content whatever his circumstances. This is a tough one. In my lifetime I’ve had some real tragedies. When tragedy strikes, it is particularly difficult to discern any good at the time.  Over the years I’ve learned to pray to God for strength to get me though the difficulties and to give me wisdom to understand.  While it was difficult to discern the good at the time, in retrospect each difficult period of my life was a time of learning and spiritual growth that helped prepare me for God’s eternal kingdom.   

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  –2 Corinthians 9:15

Finally, give thanks to the lord for his grace in offering us salvation through Jesus Christ.

Doxology

I thank you, God, for your grace, the gift of life and my salvation through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the Godly women who helped lead me to the Savior in my childhood. Thank you for loving aunts, uncles, and grandparents who helped raise and care for me after my parents divorced. Thank you for the churches and teachers who helped nurture and train me along the way. Thank you for giving me a godly wife to share my life with. Thank you for my children and grandchildren who bring joy to my life. Thank you for friends and family who have added richness to my life. Thank you for protecting and shielding me during times of trouble. Thank you for the work that enables me to sustain my family. Thank you for this day and all my days to come. Thanks be to God!

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;

Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way,

With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. 

Hymn – Now Thank We All Our God:

*All Bible quotes are NIV.

Bluegrass in my Blood

Pine Mountain Kentucky

Pine Mountain, Kentucky

I was born in the small town of Harlan, deep in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky. Southeastern Kentucky has close ties to parts of western West Virginia, southwestern Virginia; western North Carolina; and eastern Tennessee.  The entire region has a distinct culture that includes its own spoken dialect, cuisine and music. The mountains, culture and good people living there get in your blood and they’re impossible to forget, no matter how long or far one roams.  The regional music, widely known as Bluegrass, traces its roots back to Ireland, Scotland and England.

I find the music particularly enjoyable.  Bluegrass is notable for its combination of stringed instruments—specifically the banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Acoustic guitar and upright bass are common as well.  The music is also notable for many singers who care more about belting out the lyrics than staying in tune.  My affinity for Bluegrass music is something my wife tolerates, but doesn’t quite understand.  I’m particularly fond of the Bluegrass Gospel subgenre.  I grew up hearing it at home, at church and places all around our home.

Gospel Bluegrass tells the story of Jesus Christ as only mountain people can tell it.   If you’re not familiar with this music, it’s only fitting that I introduce you to it with a piece by Bill Monroe, who is commonly recognized as the “Father of Bluegrass.”  Since this is Holy Week, a good place to begin exploring is:

Were you there (when they crucified my Lord), performed by Bill Monroe.  It describes the feelings that many of the onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion must have felt.

https://youtu.be/5EHP5Nj2BdE

Power in the Blood, performed by Dolly Parton.  It’s impossible to discuss Bluegrass music without the name of Dolly Parton coming up.  Dolly is a Tennessee girl whose voice is perfectly suited for the genre.  Her song of redemption discusses the power of Jesus’ blood to wash away our sins. “There’s power in the blood of the Lamb.”

https://youtu.be/B1CV-HtsMvc

I’m ready to go, performed by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Ricky Skaggs, a Kentucky native, is a multi-talented musician with a Bluegrass legacy dating back to the days of Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs.  Skaggs’ group Kentucky Thunder has a powerful, fast-paced style.  The group’s rendition of I’m ready to go is about salvation through Jesus Christ.  I promise it’ll get stuck in our head. “Jesus came in and saved my soul from sin, Hallelujah I’m ready to go.”

 https://youtu.be/pjrJKnVmQwQ

The darkest hour is just before dawn, performed by Emmylou Harris. Alabama native Emmylou Harris has proven herself in a variety of genres, including folk, rock, country and Bluegrass.  She slows down the tempo with a Ralph Stanley salvation song. “Lay down your soul, let Jesus in.”

https://youtu.be/_r0FtxqR9Pc

One can’t listen to Gospel Bluegrass without hearing a song about eternal life in heaven that’s promised to Christ’s believers.  Here are two examples.  The Stanley brothers slow it down with their rendition of Angel Band.   Alison Kraus and Gillian Welch pick it up with I’ll Fly Away.

Angel Band, performed by the Stanley Brothers. “Bear me away on your white wings to my immortal home.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIHFxIQfSxc

I’ll fly away, performed by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch. “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away, to a home on God’s celestial shore.”

https://youtu.be/sdRdqp4N3Jw?list=PL3BDAEBE555FB3CBF

Go Rest High on that Mountain, performed by Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and Alison Krauss. No discussion of Gospel Bluegrass music is complete without Vince Gill’s epic Go Rest High on That Mountain, a song he penned in response to the death of country music singer Keith Whitley. Gill, an Oklahoma boy, is a talented songwriter, singer and guitarist whose work spans Bluegrass, country and rock.  His Bluegrass skills come out in this performance. “Go to heaven a shoutin’ love for the Father and the Son.”

https://youtu.be/NwFiWCUkk4M

So there you go—my guided tour through some of my favorite Bluegrass music that just happens to be Gospel.  If you’re having trouble deciding how to introduce someone to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, just head to YouTube, Spotify or one of your favorite streaming services and play them some Gospel Bluegrass music.  “Hallelujah, I’m ready to go!”

Don’t Worry be Happy

Madonna and Child“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

A few years ago singer-songwriter Bobby McFerrin composed a great little song titled “Don’t worry be happy.” His lyrics advise us:

In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy!

Sounds like some sound advice doesn’t it? However, McFerrin might have better named his tune “Don’t worry be joyful.” Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but there is quite a difference in their meanings—especially for Christians.

Happiness is an emotion that arises from external factors, either objects, circumstances or other people. Many people chase after happiness, often taking incredible risks to capture this elusive prey.  From the beginning of time man has sought happiness through a variety of means—romance, travel, adventure, possessions, work, wealth, fame, power, good looks, drugs, sex and countless others—but all fall short.  As King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, all these are “vanity.”

Chasing after happiness is like chasing a wave at the beach. You might get your hands around it for a moment, but it eventually slips through your fingers because happiness is fleeting.  Attaining lasting happiness is impossible in a fallen world, where decay, sickness and death visit everyone. Even Jesus is, as Isaiah tells us, a “man of sorrows.” Upon his shoulders God placed the burden of the sins of all mankind.

Joy, on the other hand, comes from within. One characteristic of Christian joy is a growing feeling of confidence in God’s promise that He will never forsake us. For mature Christians, finding joy is possible even during the unhappiest times because as our faith grows we come to understand that God will carry us through every time of tribulation. This is illustrated clearly by Paul and Silas, who we see praying and singing hymns to God in Acts 16, only a short time after they have been beaten and unjustly thrown in prison.

Along with Christian joy comes a sense of contentment. St. Paul describes this in Philippians 4:11-13:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (ESV)

As Christians mature and learn to be content in the various situations they find themselves, their worries will begin to dissipate when they place them in God’s hands. The American poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell said, “Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which will never happen.”

Worry is a waste of time that would be more wisely spent devoted to prayer. The next time you find yourself worrying about something, get on your knees and lift those worries up in prayer. Don’t worry, be joyful!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. —Romans 15-13 (ESV)

Click-to-Listen: “Don’t Worry be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.