musings on worship and christian living


Reflections: My Life and the Songs that Healed
May 4, 2009, 2:59 am
Filed under: Life, Worship

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” – Proverbs 27:19

My final words from high school.  Quoted eloquently under my senior picture which turned out OK despite a frustrating bad hair day.  Of course… looking back, I think every day was a bad hair day in the mid 90’s.  

It’s amazing what happens over the years, how we are changed and shaped by life’s events, by choices we make and by experiences forced upon us both good and bad.  I’m sitting in my new temporary home and the location has caused many hours of reflection, on what is and what has been, where I’m going and where I’ve been.

If you read the previous post on my blog than you know Jonathan’s story.  What’s not included in that post is that I lived with and worked closely in ministry with Jon for over 3 years.  I’m writing this from his house where I once rented a room and am now living again, a house that was later shared by he and his wife Samantha and then left vacant in the wake of tragedy.  This house carries with it many memories for me and has brought me to a place of reflection on the past few years.

I’d love to tell you that my life in that time has been one of extreme joy and blessing.  Although I know God has been with me through each moment the bottom line is that life, MY life, was not supposed to be this way.  I understand in the global scheme of things I am tremendously blessed and I should find tremendous joy in that.  The reality though is that I had expectations for my life, and expectation is often a joy killer.  

I think my expectations were reasonable.  By 31 I was supposed to be married to an amazing woman who, like me, had honored God and retained their purity.  (She was also supposed to love Jesus, have an angelic voice, think I was cute and not strongly desire the company of cats, because I am allergic.)  I was supposed to have kids, be working a steady job, own a house and a few cool vintage 4×4’s (and a sweet guitar collection).  

Instead, as I approach birthday #31 I’m sitting in a friends house and am as broke as a college student after buying textbooks, I am still single and am beginning to think I’m the only virgin left on the planet, (is this a run on sentence?) I work part time at a bookstore and beg and harass people to let me play music for them hoping to somehow eek out a living doing what God has called me to and I’m selling my cool 4×4 to support my music habit.  (What kind of idiot to I have to be to pursue a career that costs money instead of making money anyway?)  

If I am honest, 30 for me really was the death of joy.  Every expectation I had of what life should be was dead, and what I could see before me was bleak at best.  To add to the death of joy I had a string of tragedies that still give me anxiety issues when answering the phone.  Within the course of a year one of my students lost his mom in a hiking accident, my best friend lost his wife in a car accident and my niece was diagnosed with leukemia.  When I lost my job in September I was beaten down and out of hope.  

It wasn’t until recently that I say God working in the last few years of my life, breaking down what I wanted so (hopefully) he can replace it with what He knows I need.  I was reading 1 Kings 19, and that iconic passage where Elijah hears God in a “gentle whisper”.  If you are unaware of the context of that verse, Elijah was pretty much beaten up and left all alone, something I was really connecting with.  Although Elijah was dejected and defeated God gave him hope, peace and a promise of a future.  From that passage I wrote these words:

You said You’re not in the wind but in a whisper
So I’ll be still and listen close to hear Your heart
I just need a word of peace a place of refuge
To know in this breath that You alone are God

The Word and those lyrics challenged me listen closely for that quiet voice, and what God showed me was that even through my lowest He had been speaking and healing me through the lyrics I wrote and melodies I composed.  Thankfully God walks with us through each step, be it dark or beautiful.  Although I don’t know what’s coming I have a hope that I’ll at least play a part in something great; the story of God working in a broken world.  Though I am not a poet I hope the words of these songs and the stories that birthed them touch and heal your heart as well.  I know this post is really long, so feel free to chip away at it.  I’ll keep the next one shorter.  

____________________________

Trevor Pahn was a senior in my high school ministry.  His parents were hiking and his mother fell 230 feet.  I had never met Melissa, but her legacy was clearly seen in her son Trevor who was (and is) one of the most tender hearted, loving people you will ever meet.  Trevor’s phone call was the worst I have received, and the emotion and brokenness of that moment is a pain I won’t forget.  Here are some of the words I wrote in response:

Help Me Carry On
©2007 Nathan Arnold Music

Another life has come and gone
Another lost who knew to show what redemption really means
Why do we lose the noble young
While the wicked rages on bringing madness to our peace

In a broken, fallen world
There is a hope that keeps us climbing towards the sky and pressing on
Into the face of the unknown
He will help us carry on
Help me carry on
Jesus help me carry on

On April 15, 2008 my best friend lost his wife in a tragic car accident.  Samantha was one of the most grace filled women I have ever met.  Her dad once said that Samantha had a special light to her, and he was right.  There are people that shine brightly when everything around them is dark.  Samantha shown brightly even in the light.  In fact, she is still shining today.  

Sam’s Song (Lighting Up Heaven)
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

Sweet angel of mercy, sweet angel of peace
Rain that falls to you early we can barely believe
Words fight to define the measure of your heart
Words fail to describe how precious you were
Oh sweet angel of mercy
Sweet angel of peace

But as we cry these tears we know you’re lighting up heaven
Though there’s no reason to find for those left behind
We know you’re lighting up heaven

Sweet angel of mercy, our angel of light
Christ shown so clearly through you illuminating night
Words fight to define the measure of your life
Words cannot describe the brilliance of your light
Oh sweet angel of mercy, sweet angel of peace

Echoes still remain
Of life lived for the King

The next earth shattering news was that my 4 year old niece Audrey had been diagnosed with leukemia.  I remember the agony of the moment, and literally crying out to God to fix it.  I have never prayed with such ferocity or intensity as I have for her, wishing in every moment that she could be spared this experience.  In the end all I had left was just to cling to God, to believe that no matter how much I loved her He loved her more.

Hold On To Love
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

Just heard the news today
Doctor spoke and tore the world away
Words expressed are incomplete
Silence falls and still I weep

I search for words that will bring peace
After cancer shattered fields of infant dreams
But all that lingers, all that stays
The only words that still remain are

Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love
Hold on

Such indiscriminate disease
Unaware of how it preys upon the weak
“She’s four years old” I cry in vain
Every tear a wish to steal away her pain and I just

Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love

In the darkness I can hear Him speak
He whispers softly to my need
“What was broken in her won’t remain
My blood was given in its place so-

“Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love
Hold on”

In September 2008 my interim time as worship and youth pastor at my church ended.  I had hoped to stay on as the worship pastor but was told after interviews that they wanted to go another direction.  After months of applying for jobs (0ver 150) with no luck and completely frustrated with where life had taken me I wrote a song, my lament.

If This is My life
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

This is not where I wanted to be
Hand out for charity
Head on the ground
Rain pouring down
This is not where I wanted to be

But it’s the life that I get so I’ll live it
Though it’s not where I thought I would be
Through the pain and the rain I’ll try harder to see
The man that You want me to be

If this is my life

This is not where I thought I would be
Forgiven yet not living free
Heart in my hand I can’t understand
This is not where I thought I would be

But it’s the life that I get so I’ll live it
Thought it’s not where I thought I would be
Through the pain and the rain I try harder to see
The man that You want me to be
If this is my life

And my head overflows with things I don’t know
And my heart sometimes won’t believe
That forgiveness resides and hope still abides
In a love that chases me

In November of 2008 I wrote what has quickly become my favorite worship song I have written.  The song was really written as a reminder to me to trust in the Lord, and seek only Jesus Christ, for it is by Him alone we are saved.  This song is embodies my resurrected hope and joy and is constant reminder of where I need to turn.  It’s interesting that the most simply of songs lyrically seems to speak the loudest.  

Hope To Deliver
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

There is one name, one Hope to Deliver
Savior, my Strength, my Redeemer
Bright and Morning Star
Desire of this heart

His name is Jesus
We praise the name of Jesus
Mighty in power
Strong to deliver
His name is Jesus

By no other name we are saved
By no other name shall we lift our praise
By no other name we are saved
But the name of Jesus

Though there are many songs in between, all carrying their own story and all on my heart to share the ones here are the signposts for me that speak to where I’ve been and where I’m going.  They are altars of remembrance and thanksgiving, of pain, healing and hope.  May they be used by God in any way he sees fit.  

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