I’m going to admit right here that the one thing that I get frustrated about at our church is that, often, when they introduce a “new song” in worship, it isn’t new to me. I sang on the praise team at United for years and we sang a lot of stuff right as it came out on the radio. Our leader, Colleen, was great about this. It made it challenging at times, but so much fun.
Worship at United was something that I miss more than everything else. Being in a praise team with Danny, Jay, Thad/Jeff, Becky, Colleen, and Keith was pure magic. Not perfect… never perfect. But magical. When I hear “our” songs on the radio, I cry because I’m not sure I’ll ever experience that again. Not that God doesn’t move in my worship – he does! But if you’ve ever been a part of a group that took your worship experience to a totally new level, you understand what I’m saying.
The whole non-new song happened again this past Sunday – and with a song that I felt was so powerful when I sang it with that team at United. Chris Tomlin’s “Here Am I”. The worship minister at our church introduced it so beautifully, too. He talked about growing up a preacher’s kid and singing the old hymns… how those hymns hold so much meaning.
Here Am I takes all six verses of “Take My Life and Let It Be” and restructures them around one of the most beautiful choruses I’ve ever heard. It says, “Here I am. All of me. Take my life. It’s all for thee.”
The Fairmount praise team led it beautifully, but there is a beautiful backup part in that chorus… an echo of sorts… that I had the honor of singing with my old praise team and that Fairmount didn’t do. Maybe it was because it was a new song for the congregation. Hopefully they’ll add it in in the future, because, besides being beautiful, it helps the chorus build when it is repeated. As I sang along with them (singing that little part softly because I needed it), I began to cry – just like I do when one of those songs comes on the radio. I missed the feeling that I had on my praise team. I am heartbroken that it will never happen again. I am angry at the reasons why that will never happen again. I am heartbroken anew by people who betrayed me, my family, my friendship and my trust. I take these moments of hurt to, once again, turn the whole thing over to God, but obviously I have never left it completely in his care, because I am easily taken right back to that pit. Almost always by worship songs. Is there something ironic about that?
Anyway – I was still moping about that echo part not being sung while sitting in Bible Study on Monday morning. We were wrapping up the study CHASE by Jennie Allen. In our homework the week before we read Psalm 40. Each week we read a different psalm and then answered two columns: “Who are you, God?” and “What do you want for me?” This week, under the second column I wrote “A New Song” – taken directly from Psalm 40. As we sat and discussed what having a new song meant in our lives, I was smacked upside the head by God.
I need to allow God to take those “old songs” and reform them in my heart into “new songs”. I need to stop focusing on what is different and what is lost and try to sing them anew – in PRAISE to him and not just in reflection of my loss.
I’m not sure how easy this will be. I told our minister back when he was preaching a series based on “Favorite Songs” that I find songs in nearly every moment of my day. He challenged me to write about this and I started a year by year list of a “theme song” from each year. It still has a lot of gaps where I keep meaning to go back and look at the pop charts and Christian music charts to see which songs were playing most often those years. Anyway… I go there because it is true. Right this moment I can sing two different songs that deal with singing a new song to the Lord.
Nearly every interaction and every thought in my head connects me to a song from Children’s Church, Music & Drama, Blessed Assurance, an old hymn, a praise song from camp, and so on. I sing in my head all day long… and I need to let God take all those songs that connect me to old feelings of hurt and write them fresh on my heart.
Some songs this may not be possible with… and maybe I don’t want God to soften the blow that they bring. “I Can Only Imagine” brings to mind my grandpa because I sang it at his memorial service. (I also sang “Find Us Faithful”, but you don’t hear that on the radio). “I Will Rise” makes me think of Amanda, my friend who died of cancer leaving behind a loving husband and adoring 3-year-old son. Because I feel like sharing: Easter was shortly after her death and Colleen picked I Will Rise as our song to sing as a special for Easter. The moment I heard it for the first time, it immediately tied me to Amanda because her scripture during her fight was Isaiah 40:29-31. I listened to it over and over, trying to help myself box away my sadness so that I could sing it with the praise team without breaking down on stage. It might have been our Easter special music, but we continued to sing it as a congregation. The chorus of the song says: “I will rise when he calls my name. No more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise on eagle’s wings. Before my God, fall on my knees, and rise. I will rise.” Each time I sing it, it becomes easier, but even now – almost five years later – I cry when I hear it.
I don’t think I want to disconnect Amanda from that song, but Amanda is not a hurtful memory. Losing her was hurtful, but I draw strength from my memory of her.
No, I think God wants me to really give the songs to him that bring negative thoughts and negative memories. Psalm 40 even references the pit that I go back to with those songs:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Oh God, let me have only hymns of PRAISE to you in my mouth and my MIND.
Let me release my old songs and learn them fresh.
Or, Let me find ways to take those songs and worship you anew with them.
There is a reason you are presenting them to me as “new songs” – help me follow YOUR lead.
Give me a NEW SONG!