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Theology

Songs That We Sing

By | Higher Education, Music, Oxford Adventures, Theology | One Comment

“These are the songs that we sing, to make the day better.” – Matt Costa, “Songs We Sing”

Saturday morning I woke up late (like, three hours after I had been planning on getting up) and groggily pulled myself out of bed, still wrapped up by terrible dreams, still worrying about work I hadn’t finished, and conversations that had said too much or not enough the day before. A depressing heap of dirty laundry sat at the foot of my bed, a heap composed of every piece of clothing I’d brought across the Atlantic except for one formal dress, a few scarves, and two sweaters. Those were still marginally “clean.” I needed to buy laundry soap (and to buy groceries for the week while I was out: bread, eggs, milk, bananas…), to respond to that professor’s emailed question, to catch up on emails from friends that I had somehow still not gotten to answering…. I sat blearily on my bed, and some voice in my mind began to sing a little ditty that I had made up a few days before as I biked up the steep Headington Hill, coming home after a long day of studying and lectures. The lyrics go like this:

[Verse 1a]

It is dark

And it is cold

And my fingers

Are trying to hold

Onto

These frozen handlebars

 I rummaged through the laundry pile for something that was clean-ish, mumbling vaguely-coherent morning prayers, and glanced at the stack of books that I had to read, at least one of which is already overdue (I’ve only been here two weeks; how have I already managed to forget to renew a book?). So, like a mature adult, I didn’t do anything and scrolled through Facebook and Instagram. Then I didn’t read my Bible and shuffled downstairs to find something for breakfast, still hearing the now-familiar tune in my head:

[Verse 1b]

It is dark

And it is cold

Oh, why was I so bold

As to think

This was a good idea?

This was clearly not a good idea.

Breakfast is a good thing (scrambled eggs, muesli in yogurt, hot coffee mixed with hot chocolate powder). There are friendly people, conversations, dishes, and laughter, and I somehow manage to partly engage and still partly remain in my own unhappy head, singing my unhappy song:

[Chorus Part A]

But I’m here now, aren’t I?

I’m afraid, and I’m alone.

I’m here now, aren’t I?

Singing about my woes.

Though I could stay and linger with my cup of coffee-cocoa and talk with people, I don’t. I carry my isolated self to my third-floor room and, still lacking the energy to read Scripture or pray properly, I plug headphones in and listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a program titled, “A God of Surprises.” The fifty-minute conversation ranges across Tutu’s spiritual influences, the Truth and Reconciliation Council, forgiveness, apartheid, racism, and overall, a God who is in the business of putting things right. Near the end of the interview, there’s this exchange:

Ms. Tippet: …I think people might look at you and the life you’ve lived and also, you know, the bad things that continue to happen in South Africa and all the rest of the world, and say, “This guy says this is a moral universe?” And there’s this line you’ve just echoed, you’ve written so many times, “God is in charge,” and they might also say, “How can he say that?” I mean, tell me, you’ve been saying God is in charge for a long time, for decades. And so what do you mean when you say that and what that means to you, has that changed? Has that evolved? 

Archbishop Tutu: Well, I mean, you must add that I’ve sometimes said to God, “It would be nice for you to make it slightly more obvious that you’re in charge.” [laughter]

When the program ended, I pull out my headphones, take the stack of books in my arms, and head to the “typing room” (computer lab). As I thud down the stairs, I finally finish the second-half of the chorus, the final two lines that had been resisting my attempts to make them fit the way I wanted them to:

[Chorus Part B]

I’m here now, aren’t I?

So what am I to do?

But keep pedalling

And crying out to you.

Because that’s all I really know to do: to bring myself to God and say, in a very basic way, “I’m unhappy. Please help.” And perhaps the strangest, deepest mystery of faith is that my prayers have been answered. Not in clear-as-sunlight ways. But in, choose-to-have-eyes-of-faith ways. When I suddenly understand the significance of Handel’s switch from opera to oratorio. When a connection is made and an acquaintance feels like a friend. Being invited into an unplanned dance-party in the kitchen after lonely hours studying. A warm radiator to lean against after a cold bike ride. Someone asking, “How are you?” The opportunity to ask another, “How are you?” The strength to get out of bed in the morning. Seeing a friend via Facetime. Hearing a song I know.

Tiny answers to tiny prayers that give me the energy to keep pedalling (and, when the way gets very steep, the humility to step off my bike and push it the rest of the way up.) It’s not much, but it’s enough. The point of today is not to accomplish a lot of things but to echo Tutu and every other biblical prophet and say, “God is in charge.” And then, to prove my belief by doing what I’ve been given to do: essays and groceries and people and emails and paying my overdue fine. And I am comforted in that.

Biking to the Wycliffe Library, about a fifteen minute ride down a hill, over speed bumps, across a field, and on the bike path, I composed and sang Verse 2:

Today the sun is shining bright

Sending sad thoughts

Into flight

Like pigeons,

Startled by my bike.

 

So I’ll raise my head up high

And drink in that blue, gorgeous sky

And praise God

for his tender mercies

For truly, they are

tender mercies

 

[Chorus]

Because I’m here now, aren’t I?

Not afraid and not alone

I’m here now, aren’t I?

And grace is what I’m shown.

 

And I’m here, now asking,

What am I to do?

But keep pedalling

And singing praise to you.

~Jewel

Jewel is Senior, majoring in General Music.  Jewel is spending the semester studying music and literature at the University of Oxford in England.  She is an accomplished cellist and is very involved with the Chamber Orchestra at JBU.

 

Franky Ross

By | Leadership, Music, Theology, Worship Arts | No Comments

I’m thoroughly convinced that everyone should know Franky Ross. One might say that he is a cog, for lack of a better term. Now, I’m not trying to denigrate the name or status of Franky by calling him a cog. In fact, I’m applauding him for it.

What is a cog? Well, Webster defines it as “a subordinate but integral person or part.” In a world and culture swollen with folks determined–nay, resigned–to be the only person noticed in a crowd, the only person at the forefront, or the only person entitled to anything at all, cogs are hard to come by. But without the people backstage opening the curtain, how can the show go on?

So, Franky Ross. What makes this guy cool? Franky is a behind-the-scenes man to the core, in all the best possible ways. Although I’ve never seen him speak publicly, he was the life-blood of the First Baptist Church of Locust Grove. Every Saturday evening he would drive up to the church, set the air conditioning to a comfortable temperature, make sure the sanctuary was cleaned up, and deal with any of the various loose ends that might have needed mending. No one asked him. Not many knew he did it. He was always the first to church on Sunday morning, and always the last to leave in the afternoon. The man was a saint.

Now, someone might wonder why Franky’s acts of service are important. I would have to agree that the acts themselves aren’t very important, nor are they unique to Christianity. The key difference between Mr. Ross and the other cogs of the world is this: while he toiled away at the unglamorous jobs, he was worshipping the Almighty God. As Harold Best explains in his book, Unceasing Worship, it was Franky’s “worship as witness.” Although he wasn’t pastoring a flock or digging a well in Africa, Franky Ross was witnessing and serving the Body of Christ through his worship in the mundane. He was worshipping Christ while setting a thermostat. He was worshipping The Lord while setting up chairs. And he was content.

How then, can we worship God in the mundane? Rather than complain and whine about our homework, practice, and recital attendance (Music Majors, listen up!), should we not choose to praise the name of God in all situations? Should we not radiate joy as we practice and work and perform?

I was fashioned after a God who is excellent in all he does.  And that God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for me that I might, by faith and grace, receive eternal life.  This is reason enough to be thankful, finding contentment and opportunities to worship in all things.

I want to be like Franky Ross.

~Connor

Connor is a sophomore, majoring in Worship Arts.  Connor sings in the Cathedral Choir and plays the bass guitar in a Chapel Band.