Goodness me! I wrote my last post on my birthday, and obviously, the weight of the stuff I wrote about, took it out of me, because apart from the fact the kids are on holiday and I barely have 5 minutes on my own at a time, my “writing muse” had abandoned me for all this time and it is only this morning that I felt a burden to write about something specific again. Thank you to my patient avid readers (you know who you are) for not giving up on me. So much to say, such little opportunity at present to do so.
Most mornings whilst I have my shower, I use that time to get in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. And I find that the best way to do that is by listening to music which I choose depending on the kind of issues I am facing on that particular day. Most days I listen to my worship music play-list, which now has over 200 songs. Many of them are not considered or labelled as worship songs, but I hear God speaking to me through them, and I know that God led me to them, because there was a particular message I needed to hear that day. Every single song in that play-list represents a moment of communion with God when I have heard his still small voice give me a comforting, reassuring or encouraging message in times of doubt, fear or by contrast, the opportunity to simply rejoice in His presence. I have never purposefully or specifically gone out to a shop to buy any of this music. It has always been passed on at a crucial time by a dear friend, a mention on the TV, radio or most times, as I sought through the net for something which had nothing to do with music. I felt God leading me on a particular quest which once I got to the end of, never disappointed me.
This morning, however, having heard about the tragic plane crash in Madrid yesterday, I woke up with a heavy heart and in a sombre mood. I often choose to listen to classical music, because I feel God’s presence so strongly when I do so. I sense his awesomeness, his glory, his brilliance and his capacity to create wonderfully pure and tender sounds which lift the soul in times of desperation, sadness and numbness. This morning I did not wake up with feelings as drastic as that, but in the mundaneness of another day during the school holidays, and with the plane crash at the back of my mind, I needed a stern reminder of who is in control and what life is ultimately all about.
This is the song that captivated my heart and soul this morning, as I stood in the shower thinking of those poor relatives of the victims of the plane crash yesterday. It is a song I have listened to on so many occasions and every time, it brings me to tears, but I have never known why. The song is called “Vissi D’Arte” from the opera Tosca by Puccini. I am aware of how famous this opera is, but I have never seen it on TV or live, and was therefore completely unaware of what this song is about, until 5 minutes ago when I looked up the synopsis and the lyrics on google. A brief summary of this scene is as follows: Baron Scarpia, chief of the secret police, resuming his supper, suggests that Tosca (who is singing) yield herself to him in exchange for her lover’s life. Fighting off his embraces, she protests her fate to God, having dedicated her life to art, love and religious devotion.
Here are the lyrics:
I lived for my art, I lived for love,
I never did harm to a living soul!
With a secret hand I relieved as many misfortunes as I knew of.
Always with true faith
my prayer rose to the holy shrines.
Always with true faith
I gave flowers to the altar.
In the hour of grief
why, why, o Lord,
why do you reward me thus?
I gave jewels for the Madonna’s mantle,
and I gave my song to the stars, to heaven,
which smiled with more beauty.
In the hour of grief
why, why, o Lord,
why do you reward me thus?
May I suggest you watch the video below and close your eyes as you ponder on those lyrics and about what kind of person would express feelings such as these and in such a heart-wrenching manner? What extremes of heartache and agony can bring a person to cry out to God in such vulnerable and desperate way?
As I stood in the bathroom sobbing, not really knowing at this point the reason why, I pondered on how literally “out of this world” music can be, and how over the centuries there have been some magnificent composers as well as singers. People like Mozart, Beethoven and so many more have been regarded from generation to generation as geniuses, and rightly so.
But then I thought that as I mentioned in my last post, in the same way that in ministry sometimes men and women can be venerated so much more than the source of their anointing, in the secular world too, we have a habit of putting men and women on a pedestal, forgetting that it is the God of all creation who blessed them with a particular gift or talent, in this case music. I thought too that if every time we listen to wonderful music or attend a concert, we did not walk away in complete veneration of the singer or composer but gave instead all the credit, praise and glory to the God who created them, the world would be a much more harmonious place.
Men put all their hopes and aspirations in other men, forgetting that it is only by the grace of God that some people come into this world with the most wonderful and incredible talents. We worship the man and his gift, and although we stand in awe of what we know deep inside can only be supernatural artistic creations, we are stubborn and remain proud, refusing to believe that there is a God out there without whom none of the beautiful things in this world would be possible. It is much more comforting and less controversial to think that all success and achievement is down to us alone; that we alone deserve all the glory. Life is so much more simple if we keep it that way.
Why does it always take a tragedy or a hopeless situation to bring us down to our knees in supplication, as we have reached a place where we can see ourselves as we really are: sinful, incomplete, imperfect, proud and 100% dependent upon the mercy and grace of God on our souls and on our lives too? How must the Father’s heart ache as he sees his children running and chasing after His Gifts but rejecting HIM. If you are a parent, you will know exactly what I am talking about. The difference being, our children are that, children, and know no better sometimes, but what is our excuse? How many more blessings does God need to lavish upon us, before we humble ourselves to acknowledge his existence, his goodness, love and mercy? I often wonder how much more piercing rejection from the world can God take, before He finally pronounces his judgement upon this earth?
Now as I reflect on how I felt this morning whilst listening to that song, I know exactly why I cried and remembered pleading with God as Tosca does. I too have been there at a point in my life when I experienced such pain and hurt that I thought I would not be able to face another minute, another second. And yet, it was at that very moment of absolute agony, that God, in his mercy, pulled me back under his wing and restored my life. It was at that point that I realised how we can all lead our lives with such short-sightedness, with such limited perspective. It took an instant of complete brokenness to alert me to the fact that apart from God, I am nothing, I can achieve nothing. Apart from God, when I die, I will amount to nothing. As Tosca spends those moments during that song crying out to God for the unfairness of her predicament, so I had spent most of my life up to that point, complaining and always feeling hard done-by and mistreated, ploughing through the days with only one thing in mind: ME, ME and more of ME.
The tragic disaster at Madrid airport yesterday reminds me once more to live daily with an attitude of gratitude, an attitude of humility, an attitude of sheer joy for another day lived on this earth, an attitude of praise and worship to a Father who does never leave us nor forsake us and always comes to the rescue when we cry out to Him in despair, even if we selfishly blot Him out of our lives for the rest of the time.
I would like to end with a song that to me represents the kind of love, praise and worship that God so longs to receive back from all his children, and how far removed from that we have become. How many different “idols” take that “Holy” place in our lives and in our hearts that ONLY our Heavenly Father deserves? May God continue to have mercy upon our souls, as with each day that goes by, we exclude Him a little more from our lives and so his hurt and sorrow increase. May those of us who have not yet been brought to our knees by some disaster beyond our control, not wait for it to happen before we give Christ the place of honour, praise and devotion He already owns, whether we, mere mortals, recognise it or not.
I can’t leave you tonight without sharing a beautiful moment I just had. I stepped out of my kitchen onto the back garden trying to get some inspiration for a title on this post I just wrote, and as I looked up, the image below is what I saw.