A Journey Well-Ended

This is a true story. It’s a story about friendship and saying goodbye, and the songs and meanings that connect us. In this case, it’s “It Is Well With My Soul”. This is from my mom’s blog at PraiseNotes.com. She’s a piano teacher that specializes in teaching students over Skype and she loves the hymns. Enjoy!

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My neighborhood is prone to adventures. I do not mean the stuff of storybooks, of exotic locales, of great deeds and daring, all with happy endings. No, not those kind of adventures, but the kind that a mind-your-own-business, busy-at-work, up-to-my-eyeballs-in-projects person would rather avoid. Adventures like the next door neighbor pounding on the door at two in the morning pleading for help because her boyfriend was threatening her life; an adventure like coming home to the street blocked off, SWAT teams patrolling around our home and neighborhood and the police helicopter circling overhead; an adventure like discovering the gate busted open by policemen chasing a fugitive who decided to make a quick escape through the backyard. Mind you, thanks be to the Lord, this did not all happen in one week, or month, or even year, but nevertheless, they are the kind of adventures that can unnerve and drive one to prayer.

And to prayer I did go. It was a simple prayer, but, believe me, very heartfelt: “Lord, please send me Christian neighbors.” God answered that prayer in an unforgettable way.

It began with a phone call from my former roommate from Bible college. “Kim, I just moved my parents to your city, and I think it might even be in your neighborhood. Where do you live?” I told her my street address. I was shocked to hear her say that she had moved her parents across the street two houses away from my home!

Jane N.

Jane

From that day on, a precious friendship began to grow with my new neighbor, Jane. Over the next short years we enjoyed: “tea time” (that always included prayer); sharing our concerns and hopes; playing the piano; sharing our favorite hymns. Her husband was also a dear friend. There were times I would look out my front window and see Rod working unbidden in our front yard, helping us in our feeble attempts at gardening. Jane and her husband eventually moved out of our neighborhood and relocated to a different state. We continued to stay in contact with one another and maintained a close friendship.

A few years later, I received another phone call; this time it was from Jane. “Hi, Kim, my husband and I flew in this morning, and we are here to visit family and friends to say good-bye. I have pancreatic cancer and the doctors have given me only a few weeks to live. Can I come over in an hour to see you?” As she spoke these words, my heart dropped with sorrow as I contemplated this coming loss. I was also anxious and feeling overwhelmed to see her on such short notice, not knowing what I should say or do when she arrived. I wanted to comfort them, but I was not sure how. When Jane and her husband arrived it was obvious what I needed to do. I asked what hymns were their favorites. As I played my piano, we sang the hymns that had inspired, comforted and taught them so much of the Savior’s love. We then prayed together for the last time. Singing the hymns filled our hearts with gratitude towards God, and we found relief for our suffering souls. When Jane left that day, she said good-bye and said that she would see me in heaven. We hugged and both shed tears as we knew we were ending a journey here on earth.
A few weeks later I played the piano at her memorial service. Though I didn’t know most of the people at her memorial service, we were one in Christ and sang together the hymn “It is Well with my Soul”.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(Refrain)
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

For thousands of years, the saints have passed from the church militant to the church triumphant surrounded by family, friends and pastors, who offer the comfort, first and foremost, of the Word of God, but also of singing the hymns of the faith—those songs that are so infused with poetry and doctrine that they, by the work of the Holy Spirit, give comfort and life, even to a dying soul. May the Lord in his mercy preserve these songs for the generations to come who will one day sing with my dear friend Jane, “It is well with my soul!”

A beginner piano arrangement of “It Is Well” is available in our online store.

 

Please visit Praisenotes.com to learn more about my mom and her music.

3 Songs You Should Drop Everything And Listen To Right Now

Lately, I have had 3 very specific tunes constantly running through my head. It’s been great listening to my mind’s radio recently, because luckily, I love these songs! I highly recommend each of these, so let’s dig in!

The Gospel by Geoff Krieger

This song is sweet, succinct and catchy. A buddy of mine did some of the instruments and production for the song, and it turned out very well.

Why It’s Good: I love this song because the chorus draws some very specific allusions to the Bible that I find very comforting. The chorus says, “And soon, this mortal wave will part for us, then you and I will cross the sea on holy dust. In time, the storms of life will pass us by, and broken hearts will heal when they know the gospel.” The theme of “you and I” is reinforced by the introduction of group vocals, which provides support to the theme and message.  The melody gives a sense of hope and the words tell you that there is hope and eventually, this life will be over and we will go to another place. For Christians, that is a blessed reminder.

Where can I hear it? Visit Geoff’s Soundcloud. You’ll be glad you did. The Gospel – Geoff Krieger

We Found Love by Lindsey Stirling

This song has also been dominating my mind lately. In case you have not yet experienced Lindsey Stirling, go check out her YouTube page. Seriously. She’s absolutely incredible and one of my all-time favorite artists. About a year ago, she covered Rihanna’s “We Found Love” after a trip to Kenya that profoundly affected her. She took a pop song that was pretty mediocre and turned it into something that’s really beautiful.

Why It’s Good: The combination of the African harmonies and drums with the very Western sound of Lindsey’s violin creates a melodious juxtaposition that’s simply sweet. The melody awakens a sense of possibility and adventure, as the vocalist (Alisha Popat) sings about finding love in a whole new place. The original version says, “We found love in a hopeless place.” Lindsey, after her experience in Kenya, changed the lyrics to “We found love in a holy place/ We found love in a whole new place.”

Listen to it on YouTube, or watch it here:

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty

This song is such an encouragement. It’s a modern hymn that is all about trusting Jesus through life’s trials and it’s a wonderful reminder of our beautiful Savior and His work.

Why It’s Good:  “Jesus draw me ever nearer / As I labour through the storm. / You have called me to this passage, / and I’ll follow, though I’m worn.” Just read those words.  That’s why it’s good.

Listen to it here. 

Christian Music: Escapism?

Today, I was perusing Spotify, looking for tasty musical treats to satisfy my melodic palate. I have a playlist labelled “Hymns and Worship”, and I like to include adaptions of old hymns on this list. The old hymns have incredibly rich theological content but for the contemporary music taste, sometimes they need to be livened up a little bit. (Side note before I get into the meat of this post: my mom arranges and updates hymns as part of her musical magic. Check out her website for some great hymns: www.PraiseNotes.com).

As I was on this musical journey earlier today, I ran into a problem. Obviously, when you are searching for new adaptions of old music, you’re bound to find versions that you just don’t care for. I get that; it’s a consequence of looking for something new. My problem occurred when I once again came to the conclusion that much of what “Christian music” has to offer is a watered down mush that has no distinctive qualities. Every song that I came across started the same way. Maybe you’ll recognize it…a somewhat ethereal synth chord echoes out over the barren landscape of the forming song… tremulous guitar notes start pinging away, like rain drops on a tin roof. A rich baritone male voice starts slowly intoning the words (or, if you’re in the mood, a harmonious female alto) at half the intended tempo. It sounds like a nice song, right? Except when it is the intro for almost every. single. Christian. song. ever.

I was looking for hymns because I love the words and some of the traditional melodies are very powerful. Christian music today seems to do it’s best to divorce thought from experience. The words of the hymns are set in a musical atmosphere that takes precedence over what is actually being said. The focal point of the composition is very transcendental, as if the point is to arise out of your body and meet Jesus in some otherwordly place. It would be interesting to see what cultural forces brought us to the place where the most intellectually prosperous religion produces music that’s precise purpose is to drive out all intellectual thought. You see this in many contemporary worship songs, where phrases are repeated over and over again to the point where they become meaningless drivel (“Jesus, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, ad infinitum.”)

The point in bringing this up in regards to the hymns is that many hymns are not meant to be sung as transcendental anthems (Onward Christian Soldiers, anyone?). It would be great if there was some real quality stuff out there, that produced hymns with the words as the central focus, and without a transcendental flavor to them. Maybe there is some recording artist out there who does a really good job with the hymns. I would love to discover them.

I’ll end with this. While it’s not the style of worship music I’m discussing, the approach to the lyrics is similar. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhYuA0Cz8ls

Thoughts?

SDG.