Listening to the Sound of our Mourning

April 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

This week I am grateful for melancholy music. Not for wallowing, but for the cushion it seems to place between my emotions and the cold hard ground.

Music’s ability to aid the feeling and expression of sorrow is amazing. Although ultimately for the worship of God, with the advent of sin, misery and tragedy He allows us to use its great power help us make it through the depths.

In the darkness of my own trials, or when anguished for others like the Tittle family, why would I listen to doleful music when I’m already sad? It’s not for everyone and each of you knows whether or not it helps or hurts. Nor is it for every stage of those emotions. There’s a time and a place. Certainly there are times when any music at all may feel like a mockery to the sufferer of intense grief.

For me, as an avid lover of choral and orchestral music, those are my musical refuge when sadness overwhelms.

Author J.K. Rowling put it this way in one of her books, when after the death of an important character the grieving friends hear a Phoenix singing in the distance, with terrible beauty and an unearthly quality that they felt must be
“their own grief turned magically into song, and it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning.”

To somehow hear my heartache, bound up in a lovely sound, and thereby let go of it teeny tiny bits at a time. The poignancy of certain musical sounds seems to draw the grief out of me like a gentle syringe.

The following pieces are my go-to for such times. Pieces with lyrics that don’t match the specific circumstance of a particular struggle are chosen for the arrangement of the music itself.

  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” — simple string quartet. Full string section versions are gorgeous as well, but the exposed, raw quality of just the four parts better suits its nature, to me.
  • “Agnus Dei” — choral version of the above. Barber chose to set the Agnus Dei text to his haunting melody.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep” — choral.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” — choral. A stunning piece representing King David’s grief upon hearing of Absolom’s death. It’s about 15 minutes long and worth every moment.
  • Joseph MacKenzie’s “Mansions of the Lord” and end credits of the film We Were Soldiers — choir and orchestra.
  • Puccini’s “Crisantemi” — for string orchestra. Written for the funeral procession of a noble.

 

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Courageous Discernment

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the Heaven is for Real film preview, Mr. Burpo tells his young son that some people might be afraid to believe him.

However I fear that multitudes of people will be afraid NOT to believe him, because of genuine belief that “you can’t and shouldn’t just write off someone else’s experience”. Very many kind, sweet, strong and otherwise godly people do and will hold this view.

But on the contrary, we should and must have the courage to discount anything that doesn’t agree with the divinely inspired Words our Creator has already given us. They alone are trustworthy and they are final. Neither myself nor the preachers I quote are out to make our fellow Christians look or feel stupid. Instead we beg them to step back, search the Scriptures, and seek after priceless wisdom.

You may be thinking, “Look, even if we ourselves can’t confirm whether or not the kid’s story is true, why is it so bad to at least consider the possibility? What’s wrong with just acknowledging that maybe God allowed this experience, and let it give people hope?”

Because it feeds the notion that God’s revelation isn’t complete; that we can depend on something outside His Word to give us hope. David Platt says it thus: “Why, why do we buy this stuff when we HAVE the Word of God? Let’s minimize the thoughts of man, magnify, trust, bank our lives and our understanding of the future on the truth of God. On the other hand let’s lay aside our traditions and submit to God’s Word. None of us want to believe something is true about Heaven or Hell just because it’s what we’ve always been taught. There’s too much at stake for that.”

With superhuman intelligence and thousands of years of practice, Satan is extremely good at his primary goal: deceiving people. He is the Father of Lies.  Originally created the chief of all God’s angels, he is cunning. A master of subtlety. He delights most in using lies that sound like truth (hence Catholicism, etcetera). They’re the most effective kind, after all.

In a video clip from a sermon of David Platt’s that is going around Facebook (the same from which the above quote comes), Mr. Platt quotes a man I know from our 17 years of residence in California, preacher and editor Phil Johnson. I wholeheartedly recommend his words for your consideration. (Copied farther below.)

Input from men like this, whose scriptural acumen and faithful perspicacity in their efforts to always be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is exceedingly valuable. God has provided us with gifted expositors of His Word, but they won’t do us any good if we are failing to obey Hebrews 5:12-14 and feed ourselves with the solid food of truth — not just milk! — and exercise ourselves to be discerning.

(All of the following is excerpted from Phil Johnson’s blog post “The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine” which can be found on the Grace To You website http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B121018)

“Only four authors in all the Bible were blessed with visions of heaven and wrote about what they saw: the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, and the apostles Paul and John. Two other biblical figures—Micaiah and Stephen—got glimpses of heaven, but what they saw is merely mentioned, not described (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55). As Pastor MacArthur points out, all of these were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from the dead in the Old or New Testaments ever recorded for us what he or she experienced in heaven. That includes Lazarus, who spent four days in the grave.

Paul was caught up into heaven in an experience so vivid he said he didn’t know whether he went there bodily or not, but he saw things that are unlawful to utter, so he gave no details. He covered the whole incident in just three verses (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

All three biblical writers who saw heaven and described their visions give comparatively sparse details, but they agree perfectly (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1 and 10; Revelation 4-6). They don’t agree with the Burpo-Malarkey version of heaven. Both their intonation and the details they highlight are markedly different. The biblical authors are all fixated on God’s glory, which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness. Notably missing from all the biblical accounts are the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller lists.

Evangelical readers’ discernment skills are at an all-time low, and that is why books like these proliferate. Despite the high profile, high sales figures, and high dollar amounts Christian publishers can milk from a trend such as this, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Christian publishing—or for the future of the evangelical movement.”

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