Heart Music

Every now and then, a song I haven’t heard in decades comes on the radio. Almost automatically, I find myself singing along with every word. How is this possible, when most of the time, I can’t tell you what I had for dinner the night before?

More than a hundred years ago, my grandfather was an orchestra leader on a showboat on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. He fell in love and married the lead singer, who became my grandmother. When my parents, aunts, and uncles got together, they loved nothing more than to sing around the piano. Singing together was how they expressed their love for each other.

Twenty years ago, I attended an Air Force Band concert in San Antonio where the band performed for the Texas Bandmasters Association. Since they were playing for music professionals, teachers and conductors, the band premiered an original work called “Dreamcatcher.” It was well-performed and well-received.

But when the chorus joined the band in “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” the place erupted. Those Texas music professionals had played or heard that song a thousand times, but there they were, on their feet, cheering, laughing, and crying. 

It was their heart music, played like they’d never heard before.

Music has that kind of power.

God gave us music as the means to express the deepest longings of our hearts. And when we experience sacred music, especially sacred music done well, we get the sense that there is a reality beyond this world that we were created for.

Handling Rejection

Jesus gave his followers an expansive mission: Go to every people group, make disciples, and bring them into the church.

In a preview of this worldwide mission, Jesus sent out his disciples to the people of Israel. For the first time, the twelve were called apostles, or “sent ones.” It was the first time they’d be going out without him, so he gave them detailed instructions. He was sure they would encounter rejection, so he told them how to handle that too. When people are receptive to you, bless them, and peace will rest on them. If they’re not receptive, go to someone who is.

And your peace will come back to you.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? We say things like “Bless you” or “Peace to you,” but when we say those things on his behalf, we’re doing more than being polite.  When we speak the good news of Jesus Christ, we actually convey peace. Peace literally rests on those willing to receive it.

And if our message is rejected, that peace comes right back to us.

What’s even more amazing is that Jesus says this is “your” peace, not just his.

We’ve been imbued with supernatural power.

Jesus was rejected all the time, so there’s no reason to expect we’ll be treated any better. And so, Jesus has let us know it’s OK, move on.

He’s chosen us to bring in his kingdom.

Offhand remark

Back when I was a young staff officer in the Pentagon, there was a saying that, “A general’s offhand remark often turns into a captain’s weekend project.” More than once, I experienced something like that, and I wished the project only lasted for a weekend. 

The Bible has a story that sounds, at first reading, a lot like that. King David was leading the Israelite army in battle, and he made an offhand remark: “Oh that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” Three of David’s best soldiers overheard. On their own, they fought through enemy lines, got some water from that well, and brought it back to David.

What would David do?

Would he drink the water? That’s what his men intended.

Would he let them drink first? That’s what a good commander would do?

Would he reprimand them for risking their lives, and maybe even the entire operation, for such a foolish stunt?

None of the above. David poured out the water as an offering to God.

I used to think this was a story about David. I would try to imagine what type of commander would inspire such loyalty among his men.

But this isn’t about David. It’s about David’s God. As great a king as David was, David was there to point us to the true and best King, Jesus Christ, who fought through enemy lines, and then poured himself out as an offering for us.

The things you remember

Forty-nine years ago I was at Basic Cadet Training (BCT or “beast”) at the Air Force Academy. One of the most memorable experiences was the Confidence Course, where you and your classmates together scaled walls, walked across high ropes, and surmounted obstacles. The most memorable obstacle was a wooden tower about 35 feet tall with 5 floors. You had to go up the tower as a group and back down again, with no ropes or ladders. Your classmates had to lift you up so you could grab the edge of the floor above. Hanging by your hands, you swung back and forth until someone above grabbed your legs and pulled you onto the platform. You reversed the process going down.

The obstacle is still there. (No nets in my day!)

I’m terrified of heights. I only made it through because my classmates wouldn’t let me fail. I’ve forgotten thousands of hours of academics, but I will never forget the Confidence Course. And that tower.

Perhaps the most visible and vibrant ministry of our church is Ligonier Camp and Conference Center, 105 years old and going strong. It’s one of the great Christian camps anywhere. This is the Sunday where we commission the summer camp staff, and where we’re led in worship by Executive Director Patrick Myers and his amazing team.

Ligonier is an adventure camp which gives kids an experience of the good news of Jesus Christ. 

It’s good to hear bible stories and sing camp songs. It’s something else entirely to leave your comfort zone and go beyond what you thought you could do, all while being mentored and cheered on by Christians who want you to be the best you can be.

Kids are safe at Ligonier; way safer than my “beast” experience of 1970. But they will never forget scaling walls or crossing high ropes.

And many will experience a bit of what it’s like to have Jesus take them where they could never go on their own.