Thursday, December 11, 2008

Little Wonders

I will freely admit that I do not listen to "Christan music" all the time. You can go ahead and throw stones at my head or quote scripture to me about how I am not meditating on lovely things, and I'm o.k. with that. The sad truth is that I find the vast majority of what passes for contemporary Christian music to be pap ... and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The intent behind most of what fills the dedicated spirit-filled radio waves is good. They are praising God, using their gifts and focusing on blessings. Who doesn't want to hear something that is, as our local Christian station advertises: "Uplifting and Kid-Safe"? The end result, though, is usually agonizingly bad. Syrupy, mushy, and predictable. And I just can't bear it, guys.

When my kids are in the car, I generally stick to books on CD, recorded music or the Christian pop stations. Why? Because even the advertisements you hear on most mainstream stations are enough to make me blush these days. Seriously--once, in a moment of flipping through the dial, I stopped briefly on an ad that degenerated from " Honey! I'm home!" to "Sweetheart! You and ... the NEIGHBOR?!?" I was able to find a new spot on the dial before the innuendo went any further, but c'mon. What could you possibly be selling that needs infidelity to make it seem more useful?

In those rare moments when I'm alone in the car, I like to explore the radio options a little more fully. Back in the day (we'll call it pre-Jo) I was quite the connoisseur of musical genres various and sundry. I'm not above listening to bluegrass, English pop and some mainstream rock all in the same hour. I used to love a live show, too. Having children curbed that little habit through sheer finances, not to mention how silly I felt going to see the Boo Radleys when I was eight months pregnant. These days, I might squeeze in a random show once a year. But for the most part, it's those car rides alone that give me access to new frontiers in music; ie, the things I don't already have stored in my iPod for my own private enjoyment.

Since becoming a Christian, I've discovered something that makes me feel, shall we say, less sheepish about indulging my musical curiosity. Perhaps you've noticed it yourself: a band --a song, even--need not be expressly Christan to speak to my soul. I anticipate as much with a U2 album. Say what you will about Bono and his mouth, the fact is, he's coming from a worldview that is clearly spiritual. His songs are bound to reflect it. But what about other, less obvious, musicians? Can God use them to fill the "uplifting" genre?

If even the rocks can cry out, then I say the rockers can cry out, too. Case in point: this song, which I heard on a mainstream station a couple of weeks back.

I had no idea that the song was linked to a movie when it came on the radio. And clearly, it's an old song to boot. But it was new to me and hey, that's worth a listen. The music hooked me--melodic enough to hold my interest, quiet enough not to disturb the two sleeping boys in the backseat of my Suburban. I let it play, and found myself turning it up bit by bit so that I could hear the words. By the time the chorus came on, I was nodding my head in agreement:

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain

A glance in the rear view mirror revealed Oli, his sleeping head cocked to one side, his outstretched hand settled just on the edge of Manolin's car seat. The tiny tips of Manolin's fingers grasped at his big brother's hand. Little wonders, both of them.

So hard won, these little men. Lives so short, yet so full of pain and need and misery. Yet God led those lives through a maze of His own making to lead them to our home. I felt myself tearing up as the music swelled.

With this verse, I was sobbing:

All of my regret
Will wash away some how
But I can not forget
The way I feel right now

Just before this line, I was feeling the brunt of all that had passed before in my babies' lives. But in that moment, I couldn't hold on to the sadness I felt that my children had suffered. All I could do was revel in the grace that blessed me with their hugs and smiles. It was as if God heard me raking the bottom of my heart, and answered. Little Wonders. Yeah, that sums it up.

So, can God use a secular song, written by an artist who may or may not know Him (I refuse to speculate on other people's salvation), to tell of His glory? I think He can. I certainly felt His presence in that moment just as keenly as I have while standing in a worship service. No overt references to His Name. No heavy-handed layering of scripture. No weak guitar chords. Just music.

Just music ... and Him.


Liz said...

U2's (Bono's) lyrics are very Christian. he is a professing believer and does speak about it often. it floored me to discover this (and how deeply Christ-centered the lyrics usually are) seeing how is very "normal" rock and roll, or at least sold that way.

our church actually occasionaly sings U2 songs :)
and he did a private interview with our "sister church" and we got to see it, all about his feelings on the church's role in the AIDs epidenmic.

anywho, getting off my soapbox, carry on! :)

mary grace said...

I agree wholeheartedly--but I also know that there's a swirling debate amongst Christians about how Bono curses and acts decidedly unChristian at certain moments. And I didn't want to go there. That's why I made a reference to the band ... but steered away from it rather quickly! :-)

Kim M. said...

Hey! Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting!
I will add your blog to my reading list.... I am extremely interested in adoption so I need to see what you have written about it when I have more time.

Thanks again!

EE said...

We do interim foster care. I made a photo video for a precious little guy that we had for almost 5 months that we sent home with his adoptive parents. This was the first song. I cry every time I hear it.
My church sometimes uses secular songs to support the message.

Sherilyn -The Dominee Huisvrouw said...

Thanks for stopping by!
I find that Christian pop is full of fluff as well, or sometimes they even just to covers of secular songs. There's alot of redemptive music out there in the mainstream.

We rarely listen to Christian music anymore. Every now & then we might listen to some "old school" DC Talk, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, but haven't really gotten into more recent musicians.

Right now the kiddos are pretty young, but Asher has started to comment on what he hears on the radio. The other day we were listening to Pink "So What" & Asher piped up "That lady wants to start a fight!" Guess it's time to start weeding out some of the music we listen to!

blessedmomto7 said...

GREAT POST MG-Got me thinking girl. God knows where our hearts are no matter what we listen to.

The White House said...

this is a constant conversation in our marraige. i listen to non-christian music. my husband listens to KCMS non-stop. There is so much more out there that can be inspirational and pointing you towards The Lord. Great post! "Uplifiting and kid friendly" just doesn't do it for me.

Jana said...

I can't put my finger on why, but I've just never liked the "sound" of most Christian music, either. I do like the voice of the lead singer of Third Day, but that's about it for my favorites. I've always just listened to my good ol' contemporary or *gasp* oldie music from my own childhood/young adulthood.

I realize now that I've always paid more attention to the music than the lyrics, as my 14yos is starting to question this song's attitude towards women or that song's double entendre. I say to myself, "but it's got such a great beat!" Oh well, what now?

Luke said...

Fantastic post, Mary Grace!

God can and does speak/work through people (even those who don't know Him). That's completely Biblical. Absolutely.

I've read some really good articles on the idea of being "safe for the whole family" (my local CCM station's mantra). I really like the point that if we are "safe" for the whole family, then we aren't really dealing with life, are we?

Not that we should expose kids to everything, but if we don't ever allow ourselves to experience the issues of this life, we will never be able to minister to those dealing with it. Christ got into the mess, and went places that weren't safe.

As for much of Christian music (especially worship songs):

1. The music is, by and large, lame. I've played on worship bands before, and ACD ACD ACD... is not exactly the chord progression of quality music. But more than that...

2. The lyrics of many modern "worship" songs are just plain horrible. In fact, I find myself refusing to sing some songs in church because of the Buddhist overtones. 'Do these people even read their Bibles?' I find myself wondering.

Ugh. (For the record, I'm not a "hymns only" kind of guy either... there are some really lame hymns out there too.)

Thanks for sharing the song with us. May we all worship God in spirit and truth... a balance that has proven to be rather hard to strike.

Sorry, I got off on a rant there.


Jenny said...

Great post!

I'm a bit of a music snob and detest the 7-11 praise music (seven words repeated eleven times). You guys MUST check out Indelible Grace!

AWESOME stuff. Their theologically sound lyrics are mostly re-worked hymns, and the music is fantastic.

(Just a note - Indelible Grace 1-5 are the professional recordings, but you can get tons of their sheet music, guitar leads, overheads, and even mp3 demos for FREE by clicking on RUF Hymnbook.)


Deanna said...

That's one of my favorite songs!

When I was growing up, the popular thing to do during the annual "revival" meetings was to have "secular music" bonfires. (big eye rolling here) Some bigwig preacher would come in and preach hellfire and brimstone, and half the youth group would get saved ...(again!)... and turn in all their John Denver cassettes. The occasional bad boy would show up with his heavy metal. There would be much rejoicing, especially if someone brought in their "christian rock" records, because we all knew there was no such thing as "christian rock". It was syncopated. Devil music. The women of the church would be sure to chat about the particular people who had come back to the Lord and just exactly how many tapes each once-was-lost soul had burned. They operated on a Need To Know basis, and apparently everybody needed to know. It was all quite spiritual. ;)

As for Bono and his un-christian lifestyle choices, when was the last time you saw a 350 pound televangelist preach about the sin of defiling one's body by overindulging on fried chicken and chocolate cake?


Anonymous said...

I'm late on my reply (of course!) but couldn't not reply that I agree 110 percent. This song was at the end of the movie Meet the Robinson's. Great story line in that movie. Anyhow, thanks for posting the video - I haven't watched in a few months! : )