The Sound of Joy & Gladness

Duck #116

“I can literally feel the Holy Spirit right now…” 

Those were the words my roommate, Emily,  said to me last night as we relaxed in her bed, watching a video of Cynthia Erivo sing “I’m Here” from The Color Purple on The Late Show. As Cynthia lets the notes leave her body, she shares a part of herself. To hear (and watch) this performance feels like a true gift. As my roommate and I lay horizontal in her bed, smiles crept across our faces and breath returned to our lungs. I looked over to Emily and said, “Isn’t she amazing? Wasn’t that so good?!” She simply nodded, nearly having tears in her eyes. I crawled off the bed, knelt down and with eyes closed said “Ugh! I just…I will say this over and over again until he returns, but I’m just so thankful that God created music. He didn’t have to. It’s for our joy! And the fact that Zephaniah says that he sings over us?! I can’t. I really can’t.”

If you’ve ever hung out with me in person while music was playing, then you’ve heard me say similar sentiments before. You’ve seen my body contort or simply go limp because of particular notes and lyrics in songs. You’ve heard me scream over an unexpected harmony. You’ve seen me immediately get up and dance because the bridge of a song is just so catchy. You’ve seen close my eyes and lip sync the mess out of “Big Girl’s Don’t Cry (Personal).” I can’t help it.

There is something about the experience of listening to music that is truly euphoric. In the same way that poetic diction enhances a story, the notes on the bass and treble clef scales enhance the way we see the world. Music has a way of taking an ordinary sunny day and making it feel like it’s the best day you’ve lived so far. It also has a way of making a break-up feel like you’re drowning in the flood while your ex is sailing away on The Ark. How can it do both?! Maybe even in the same day! Music changes the way we watch movies, get through the work day, recover from trauma, study for finals, pick out an outfit, take a road trip…

As Christians, I think music also changes the way we understand the person and character of Jesus. Psalm 51:8 says this, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” To give some context, this verse comes in the middle of David’s lamenting and repenting after having been exposed in raping Bathsheba. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do after having been exposed in my sin is to beg God for my broken bones to make noise. But he’s a God who will always woo us back. As his children, there’s a melody that’s just for us.

In re-reading verse 8 this week I was struck with the auditory language–hear and rejoice. I started thinking, what exactly does joy and gladness sound like? If broken bones could literally rejoice, what would they scream? I’m no theologian, but I’d like to believe that joy and gladness sound a lot like singing and rejoicing bones sound symphonic. I imagine the harmony of salvation and forgiveness is like that one time Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson sang together on Soul Train.

How kind is it of the Lord to let music be a means to point us back to him. He could call us to himself or back to himself in so many other ways, ways that are far less enjoyable. But God! Throughout Scripture the Lord calls his people to sing together, to shout, to dance, to play the harp, to blow the horn, to beat the drum, to praise the name of Jesus for all that he’s done.  The King gets all the glory and we get drenched in joy.

Gosh. I’m so thankful for music. I’m thankful for the ways it allows me to know Jesus better. I’m thankful for the ways it’s fostered beautiful relationships with friends (and strangers!). I’m thankful that it lets me feel seen. I’m thankful it consistently moves me to tears. I’m thankful that sometimes it communicates what “just words” can’t. I’m thankful that with music,”the LORD [my] God…will rejoice over [me] with gladness…he will exult over [me] with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

[Dear Jesus,
Ugh. You’re so kind.]
<3Amen

Dancing & Writing

Post Grad Duck #24

I’m a writer. There’s nothing particularly ornate or peculiar about this fact–it’s just a fact. As such, I think there is a stigma I place on myself that screams, “You must have something interesting to say…ALWAYS.” Some of the most beautiful words and stories I’ve read have been by people that I believe have something interesting to say. Richard Wright’s heart-wrenching yet oddly exciting story “Native Son,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s narrative of the relationship between an alcoholic Father and his daughter in “Babylon Revisted,” Mathew Dicks’ clever tale of a young boy with autism in “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” or  Robert Browning’s haunting verses in one of my favorite poems “Porphyria’s Lover.” When I read what these writers had to say I was filled with wonder, awe and inspiration; but then I was also met with a pang of worry because I feared that I might not be able to write something as moving or as powerful as the greats before me. The sad fact is that I’m right, I might not ever write something as moving or as powerful as the greats before me; but we live in a world of hope and possibilities, so one day, I just might.

Okay, cool. One day, I might have an idea and I might write it down and it might turn into the next Great American Novel. But with all of this potentiality and rhythm of the unknown, I would be foolish to ignore reality. Indeed, there is a possibility for these things to happen, but its likelihood is not very high. Not because I’m not good enough, not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I’m not the only writer out there– “there” being this nebulous world of writers in big cities and small towns across America.

However, reality shouldn’t stop me. When I was in high school a friend of mine gave me a notebook that said, “If you wish to be a writer, write.” What a beautiful gift. What an encouragement. But like I said at the beginning of this post, I continually seem to put this pressure on myself of needing to always have something important to say. Well, I don’t think I always have something important to say, so I’m going to drop that word–important. Actually I’m going to drop two more as well–always and need. The result, “I have something to say.” Yes, I quite like that. It’s a sentence I can agree with that excludes all of this unnecessary pressure that seems to whisper, “everything will result in entropy.”

So, yes, I have something to say. I think we all do, really. But what is it that keeps us so often silent? What is it that tells us that our words are subpar or that our ideas are irrelevant? And what if they are irrelevant? Irrelevant in comparison to the relevant words we read every day? Who’s setting the standard of relevancy anyway? I digress, I could ask these types of rhetorical questions all day, but that wouldn’t get me very far. So here’s the thing.  I most often have something to say after I’ve done something or experienced something. I think that’s just how it goes. (I can hear some of my English professors from undergrad cringing at my painfully elemental verbiage–“thing” and “it”–oh well.)

Well, earlier today I wanted to write something and I knew that I had something to say, but I wasn’t sure how to get it out of me. I wasn’t expecting it to be on the level of the greats, but I still wanted to speak, so I danced. Yup, I started to play some music, turned the volume all the way up and danced around my living room. I did this because some of the moments that I feel most relaxed and happy have been in the middle of an unscheduled dance party. I danced around this sun-filled room, in front of a giant window, wearing a cheetah print onezie. I danced and did my best not to pay attention to my roommate’s cats scurrying around the floor, or the cars passing in front of my house outside. I danced and tried to lose my breath in the music. I danced and let my limbs fly about me making shapes and curves in the air. I danced and pretended I was on a stage performing in front of thousands. I danced and forgot where I was. When I finished, I let my breathe return and sat down to write…

What do I have to say? Well, among everything you’ve read so far, this: I think that Cristina Yang was right when she said, “dancing makes you brave.” There’s something about getting lost amid the music and moving to the notes you hear that makes you feel like you’re invincible. And sometimes I think we need to feel invincible for a little bit. We need to feel like whatever we set our minds to do, we can actually do.

So for me, as a writer, I’ve come to believe that dancing and writing go hand in hand. And if writing isn’t your thing, I bet that if you allowed yourself to let go and dance, you’d agree that dancing goes hand in hand with your thing, too.

I dare ya…dance! 😛

hello, sweet Home

Post Grad Duck #8

I started typing this blog post and made it to the second paragraph, but then realized I didn’t want to write about that subject anymore. So I deleted it and now here we are…

Last week, I was in Atlanta for the second time this summer. I was there because I had to attend the second training session for my new job as an RUF intern. It was a good week and a reunion of sorts. It was filled with really good moments, and I love when trips allow for those. It’s not the week as a whole that seems to be what’s most enjoyable, but rather the random moments that have been strung together to make up a week; they’re knitted together with lots of laughter and maybe even a few tears. But this post isn’t about my week or even several of its moments, per se. No, it’s about one night during the week. Thursday night. That was the night that some fellow interns and I went to go see The Oh Hellos in concert. The bar was crowded, the gang was a motley crew, and the music…the music was starkly captivating. I say this because I don’t know how else to do so.
If you’ve been to a few concerts, I’m sure you know what it’s like to witness a really good show. One where the band is in sync, the instruments are tight, the harmonies are perfectly blended, the audience is attentive, and everything in the atmosphere is so tangible that you can’t help but laugh. That’s how this concert was, for me at least. As soon as The Oh Hellos came out to greet their fans with some of their beloved songs, the stage lit up–both literally and figuratively.

IMG_8705_2

Their energy was contagious. Their movements were entertaining. Their voices were enchanting. I remember several times during the concert when I stopped singing along. I halted my swaying to the music, and chose to look around the crowded room. It wasn’t long before I realized how widely I was smiling. Shortly after did I realize that my vocal chords were releasing a cacophonous and joyous sound that got lost in the echo of the other fans’ euphoria. I was lost in the moment…

But then I had a thought. A pesky little thing. While I usually welcome most thoughts (because of how frequent they come) I wasn’t too fond of this one. It was: “I don’t want this to be over.” And just like that, I snapped back to reality. I realized that the moment of the concert was going to end and that the nirvana was going to wear off. Once this happens, there are 2 things to do: 1) Dismiss the thought with a slight scoff  2) Let the weight of your realization sink in, allotting room for more thoughts to ensue. Naturally, I chose the latter. It was then that I became keenly aware of everything around me. I became aware of the moment. It’s the same awareness that comes when you’re dreaming and then all of sudden realize that you’re dreaming. You’re paralyzed because you want to continue this dream cycle (unless you’re having a nightmare, of course), but know that as soon as you try to move you’re going to wake up.

So I resolved to look forward. Ahead of me was the band. Ahead of me were musicians wrapped up in the same moment as I, but unaware of its ending. Why? Because they were participating in the moment, they weren’t observing it as I was. They were involved, utilizing all they were to create something beautiful. And it really was beautiful.

Then, I had another thought. I thought about Heaven. I thought about how beautiful it will be to one day participate in such glory and perfection. I thought about how Heaven will probably feel a lot like the moment I observed at the concert, but it won’t ever be interrupted. I thought about how amazing it will be to be surrounded be numerous people singing and clapping and laughing and praising Jesus together. I thought about how it’s okay to hold onto the hope for such moments. I thought about going Home.

Here’s to hoping.
Here’s to participating.
Here’s to Home.

[Jesus, thank You for sweet moments.]
❤ Amen

Midnight Nutella

Duck #31
It’s roughly 12am, I’m alone in my room, I’m eating Nutella out of the container (by the spoonful), and I need to process some things. My body is aching for me to go to sleep, but my mind has other plans. If you know me, or have read any of my other posts, you know that I think a lot. It’s a beautifully messy thing. 
I’m currently working a job that leaves little time for personal thought. In essence, I am going, going, going from about 7:45am to 11pm. There are breaks in between, but during those breaks I am usually doing something that is more or less mind numbing because the rest of my day is so thought intensive. I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I’ve found that my mind lately is combatting its usual ability to ignore personal thought and is trying to breech the surface of my brain with an onslaught of endless questions, scenarios, and situations of the like. 

WHY?!

Nothing is really going “wrong” in my life right now.
I don’t really have anything that I can truly complain about. 
Overall, things are going well. 
But my brain won’t calm down. My thoughts will start at point A and make a circular shape toward point B, but they never actually reach point B. This continues for a while and along the way my thoughts will pick up other thoughts, so this semi-circle gets bigger and longer each time. However, the circle is never completed…

**side note: Nutella & Sam Smith radio at 12am is a beautiful thing. Y’all should check that out some time.**

I’m content. Sort of. It’s weird. I’ve felt like the entirety of my past year of college has been one ‘big problem” after the next. It was easy to pick out life lessons and process certain things because my “issues” were so obvious. Right now, they’re more subtle–well, at least that’s what I’ve come to realize. To the naked eye, it looks like I’ve got all my ducks in a row 😉 (unless you’re one of the few that can see straight past my facade). 

But who am I trying to fool? Why am I trying to fool anyone?

I recently read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, at the recommendation of a good friend. **PSA: If you haven’t read this book, READ IT!** I don’t want to give anything away because the book is one that not only needs to be read, but experienced while it is read. However, there is one particular scene between two characters that got me thinking. 
Essentially, Character 1 knows something that Character 2 doesn’t. Character 1 knows that Character 2 needs to get to this particular point. The way to get there is through self exposure. Character 2 needs to be vulnerable, she needs to “put herself out there,” but she is afraid.

She says, “But they’ll see me.”
Character 2 responds by saying, “What does it matter if they do?”

What does it matter if people see me? What does it matter if people recognize that I’m not perfect? What does it matter if not everyone knows my name? What does it matter if people observe that I make mistakes? What does it matter if people see my flaws, my scars, my fears, my doubts? What does it matter? 

I’m not concerned with what people think of me. I’m afraid of what people thinking of me. I’m concerned with the weather, I’m not afraid of it. Opinions have too often crippled me with darts of shame and lies; neither the rain, nor the sun has ever done that. 

And how foolish it is of me to run around the cross instead of running to the foot of the cross. Even this post, as marvelous as it is that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to verbally process, is mud in comparison to the refreshing water that is a conversation with Jesus. Why am I even typing? What is the end goal?

GAH! asdlfuaghsdlfkashjdf…..

[Jesus, I’m not even entirely sure what to pray. But I need You more and more everyday. Help me.]
<3Amen

“If I ever get …

“If I ever get around to living, it’s gonna be just like I dreamed.” -John Mayer Honestly, I don’t even know fully where to start this post. I have so many thoughts, so I’ll try to organize this them. Duck #8 goes out to the John Mayer concert I went to last night. Yes, John […]

Lost in the Sound

Whaddup Duck #7?

What if life was like a musical? There’s two reactions to this question. 
1) That would be AWESOME! 

2) That would be the WORST.

Fair. To each his own.

When I first started writing this blog post, a few minutes ago at this point, I was definitely in group 1. I love musicals and always have. However, now that I think about it, I’m not sure if it would be all that awesome. Yes, there’s pros and cons to each side of the story, so let’s look at those shall we?

Pros of musicals:
The music
The drama
Being able to sing about your problems versus dealing with them
The ability that everyone has to sing
The fact that singing is more acceptable than talking
The usual happy ending
Singing in a room full of people, but them not being able to hear you…

I could go on, but I think this is enough for now.

Cons of musicals:
Too much music
Too much drama
The fact that people sing about their problems instead of dealing with them
The usual happy ending (falsified representation of reality)
The fact that singing is more acceptable than talking

Catching my drift?

It can go either way. What’s good about musicals can also be bad. 
So where’s all of this stemming from? Well, you know those moments in life where you’re going through something that takes time to solve. When patience/prayer is the best route to take in hopes of reaching the destination of resolution? Yeah, I’m having one of those moments. 

It’s confusing. It’s weird. I want it fixed, but I can’t do anything about it. Truthfully, I want to sing about it. If it were socially acceptable, I would monologue and then dramatically sing my feelings knowing that by the end of the perfomance whatever problem I had would be resolved. But life doesn’t work that way. 
I mean, think about it…how crazy would it be if the method to solving problems was to sing about it? That’s ridiculous! (Kinda cool, but still ridiculous) Now, don’t get me wrong, singing is great, I love it. Musicals are great, I love them. But me wishing my life was a musical so I could sing about my problems is…selfish, naive, foolish? I don’t really know. 

And even though I know that singing about my problems won’t solve anything, something about listening to music and letting the beautiful melody and vivid harmony drown out my thoughts, even for a few moments, is…nice. It doesn’t fix anything, but it helps, even for a short while. 

I’m sitting here in the library and my mind is running in at least 5 different directions as fast as possible. But what am I doing? Listening to music. Demi Lovato, to be exact. It’s not even that the songs I’m listening to even relate to my life at all, but something about her voice and the music, and not being able to hear anything else other than what’s coming out of my ear buds and the pitter patter of my fingers over the keyboard is calming. Music and singing has the effect of washing over people and making them feel a certain way, usually whatever emotion they want to feel (there’s a song for every emotion, I’m convinced).

The only problem with getting lost in in the music is that thinking about the issue that stressed you out in the first place gets left alone and avoided. Sometimes that’s exactly what needs to happen, but sometimes it’s the opposite.

But for now, I choose to sing along. And if that’s not what I need to do, then I’ll exit stage left and figure out what to do from there.

[Lord, help…] ❤