Song after song streamed from my phone to the stereo in the car. With each melody, I found myself transported to the emotional events of early summer. It was the season when I was in a full-court press to move out of my previous house.
There was a sense of dread and urgency to finish the repairs for the sale, and then to vacate the home shared for more than a decade with my husband. The music I played during that time ebbed and flowed with my many different moods.
You see, the music app had generated a playlist highlighting my most-frequently streamed music of 2020. While listening to the songs that had made the cut, it took me on a sentimental review of the past year. Each song put me in the emotional space and time when the tune was played over and over.
Topping the list were “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban and “If I Could Be Where You Are” by Enya. The content of these two songs spoke to the heart that longed to be spending time with my late husband. Instead, the broken heart was enduring the laborious work of sorting items and making minor repairs on a house that would soon belong to someone else.
As I listened, the line between secular and sacred was lowered with each soul-stirring song, and God joined me on my drive. It seems that whatever stage I am in, there is music to fit my mood.
The power of music to speak to my soul, and to the longing in my heart, is extraordinary. Even the secular songs have messages of hope and connection, to which I crave. Instrumental, pop music, oldies, contemporary Christian, and modern country all seem to evoke an emotional response for me.
I have come to realize that there is an incarnation that happens when things of this world (the secular) become sacred because of what the Divine can do. It applies to music as well as other areas and situations. God is not just at church or in scripture or in the sacred writings.
God sends the Holy Spirit into all aspects of day to day life making it divine. For me, God comes alongside wherever I go, whomever I am with, and in whatever I seem to be doing. It should be no surprise that God rides in the car with me, incarnating the music to which I listen.
Music often transports me into an atmosphere of prayer. It is not the typical prayer which folks might think of... where hands are folded and heads are bowed. Where a worship leader speaks a traditional prayer with prescribed responses from the congregation.
It is a less tangible prayer that results in God’s indwelling love in my heart. It is a presence where God speaks profoundly to my very soul. Where God conveys hope, like in the moments while listening to meaningful music.
I want to share a few with you. The song “Brave” by Skillet praises God’s ability to “call me to be brave in [God].” Many times in my life the need for bravery has been essential in order to step forward and manage the difficult situations in which I have been.
The celebratory song by Barry Manilow, “I Made it Through the Rain,” makes my heart sing. It beautifully marks how “I chased my fears away.” There were times when I was desperately trying to get my house ready to sell, and struggled to manage all the tasks that needed doing.
Even when I questioned my own strength, God knew I was strong enough to make it happen and empowered me to do so. I found so many songs that prayerfully emphasized the strength found in my relationship with the Divine.
Still, there were times I wondered if my heart could weather the storm of what selling the house actually meant. It was the ending of the tangible life with my late husband. A life that now exists in the past, and I am tasked with moving forward. Yet the song “I Have a Dream” by Abba seemed to emphasize my ability to move forward into the next chapter of my life. It reminded me to dream with joy about what God has in store for me.
There are other songs in my year in review that really speak to my own inner dialogue. When I am dealing with my own self-worth (even when I put on a strong facade), God reminds me that I am worthy. In the times I tell myself “lies that I won’t measure up,” the song “You Say” by Lauren Dagle stresses that God ALWAYS celebrates “my worth, my identity.” The message of being wonderfully unique, created in God’s image, shines through this song. When my heart truly listens to the message, and not just my ears, I am drawn ever closer to the Divine One.
Only God really knows the deepest places in my soul. Really desires for me to be my best self. That’s the incredible love and power that God possesses. I have found this Amazing Creator has the ability to utilize whatever tools are available to speak to my fragile heart, including the 2020 playlist.
The music on my playlists, while varied and eclectic, have the ability to wash over me in the many different situations I have found myself. And when it did, I discovered the Divine had been with me all along.
So as I look in the rear view mirror at this past year, I see astonishing evidence of God’s presence and love. I don’t know what the road and year ahead look like, but I do know that my Creator goes ahead of me, showing up in unexpected ways and places.
I will continue to seek out joy, and be on the lookout for new opportunities and possibilities. And, when I look back at the playlist of the New Year, I am certain there will be more uplifting and heartfelt songs that will reflect the wondrous life God has in store for me.
With the Divine One in my heart and daily life, I know with great certainty that “All Will Be Well.” This song, by the Gabe Dixon Band, speaks about how things will be well, even with all the promises that get broken and mess ups that happen. It gets its inspiration from Julian of Norwich, (1342-1416), an English mystic who wisely said, “But all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” May it be so.
While God uses music to speak to my heart, God also uses nature. The changing seasons. The ever evolving moon phases. The calm beauty of the Iowa landscape. And so I keep my eyes and heart open for the wonder and joy that exists in creation, even in troubled times.
Friend, where does God blur the lines of the secular to show you the sacred in your midst? How might you pause in your day to notice how the Creator is be speaking to you? Look up into the dark sky and see the wonder that the stars and moon provide in their illumination.
Listen for the bird song that breaks through even the cold, dark, winter days. Hold the hand of someone dear, and appreciate their presence in your life. And, as you look in the rearview mirror at this past year, take time to notice the blessings that were there even when it seemed like hardship piled upon hardship.
Creator God, thank You for permeating the many aspects of my life. Continue to incarnate the things of this world with Your divine love. As the New Year unfolds before me, please be always near, guiding my steps, and showing me how all of creation is a reflection of You and Your abundant love. Amen.
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