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Monday, May 3, 2010

my soul's sincere desire

Let me begin by saying I have been avoiding this post; it will be difficult to write this without expressing a few tears; both of sadness and joy.

About three months ago I asked my roommate what his favorite hymn was. I like to arrange medleys for the piano and I needed a fresh idea; after all there are only so many hymns. After a long moment of thought, he told me his favorite hymn was Secret Prayer; it's on my top 100. Quickly I ran through the hymnbook and thought of songs that would capture the essence of the power of prayer and communal with God, our Father. I had know idea what I was about to get myself into.

I am a storyteller; so I like to study lyrics and really feel the power of the melody of the song I am playing. Then I rip it apart and try to make it more emotional and dramatic to remove the "hymn" sound and add what I call the movie soundtrack moment. When I play the piano, no one sings, so I need to pull in the emotion of the words into the music itself. The process that I use is a gift from God because I don't read music, I just hear emotions and melody combined and play it on the piano. It's hardy ever perfect; but then it can't be, that's not the purpose, it's supposed to be raw and unrefined.

Anyway, so the story with Secret Prayer is about someone who may not be the most faithful person, but is struggling constantly to keep God on his/her mind. Each day this person finds a moment to ponder life and his/her relationships to God, family, friends and neighbors. Even though the song says that this person kneels in secret prayer, the truth is that the person rarely finds or takes a moment to do so, but takes the time to reflect, ponder and prayer in his/her mind, heart and soul; little prayers of hope, encouragement, safety, comfort, joy and peace.

I found a way to play Secret Prayer with a little bit more intensity that would draw out the moments that this person is reflecting or pondering and how powerful that is for them in that moment. After I found a suitable version, I added the hymn O My Father to symbolize the actual words the person is thinking or praying to themselves. I have always loved the last verse I suppose because I often utter them in my prayers.

"When I leave this frail existence, when I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you, in your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I've completed all you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation, let me come and dwell with you."

When they are finished with their thoughts, they still feel fear and doubt about any possible resolution to their pain and grief or troubles and so next, I added Where Can I Turn For Peace. The entire hymn really captures both the pain the person is feeling with the fear and doubt on their shoulders and the realization that God will see them through.

"Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When, with a wounded heart, anger, or malice
I draw myself apart searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows?
Where, when I languish?
Where, in my need to know?
Where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately.
Reaches my reaching.
In my Gethsemane, Savior, and friend.
Gentle, the peace He finds
For my beseeching.
Constant He is, and kind.
Love without end."

At the end of this hymn the person realize that they are in God's hand and He will guide and comfort then through this journey of life. They don't want the spirit to leave and certainly the feeling of grace and peace, so I added a medley of Abide with Me and Abide with Me 'Tis Eventide as the end of the entire medley. My favorite verse of Abide With Me really illustrates the pleading with the spirit and the Lord to stay nearby.

"I need thy presence ev'ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!"

I practiced and practiced to make it all sound sincere, dramatic, thought-provoking and raw. I found myself playing the medley whenever I came home from school or work. Everytime I played the medley I would break down and cry. Sometimes it was from an overwhelming feeling of comfort and peace from the spirit and other times it was from deep sorrow and sadness. This medley has become my personal song.

One Sunday afternoon I came home after church and started playing this medley, suddenly my eyes glanced at the other page of the simplified accompaniments hymnbook and saw a verse of another hymn that struck me deep within my heart. I was caught up with emotion and cried my eyes out.

"Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice, returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice, and cry, "Behold he prays!"

I looked at other verses:

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of hidden fire, that trembles in the breast."

"Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye, when none but God is near."

These verses encapsulate the story I was trying to tell with my medley of hymns. Prayer isn't always about getting on one's knees and bowing our heads. Some of my longest prayers on my knees have been selfish and unnecessary; however, some of my most powerful prayers have been simple thoughts, a verse of a hymn, a scripture, a moment of pondering, among others. We are judged more by what is in our hearts, than by what is uttered from our lips.

Today I sat down to play some music while a storm outside raged on. I started to play part of my medley and it struck me again. This time it was a reminder to write this experience down.

There is a power in music, lyrics, feelings, reflections and ponderings. Never underestimate the power of an unuttered prayer; let your heart pray more than your lips. My soul's sincere desire is to love God and express that love through music and to others around me through service, love and friendship.

"When sailing on life's stormy sea, 'mid billows of despair,
'Tis solace to my soul to know God hears my secret prayer.

When thorns are strewn along my path, and foes my feet ensnare,
My Savior to my aid will come, if sought in secret prayer.

May my heart be turned to pray, pray in secret day by day,
That this boon to mortals giv'n, may unite my soul to heav'n."

You have been caught Jey Walking!


Horizon said...

What a beautiful post. I know what you mean when you said you were making the music sound like a soundtrack instead of hymn-like. Sometimes music of the soul is so much more fluid than a hymn can offer.

You described the music wonderfully and I could almost hear it as I read. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

jey, you're wonderful.