On worship

Sunday afternoon provided me an opportunity to do something I love. It is something that allows me to express myself as little else does, something that allows me to be myself in a way that I simply cannot be otherwise – for reasons of personality, genes, raising, or whatever you want to attribute it to. I played the piano.

Piano is my release. You see, I can bang violently on a piano as the volume and intensity of a piece increases. I can vent my anger and frustrations through my fingers as melodic lines soar. And I can do it all with little to no injury to myself, the instrument, or, most importantly, anyone around me. Piano is, for me, a kind of refuge.

And for someone that struggles to find the right words to say more often than most people realize (I can ponder a paragraph for thirty minutes before contributing anything to an argument), the music I produce on a piano, with the aid of the composers who have written down their notes and notations, expresses volumes. A picture is worth a thousand or a hundred thousand words to a photographer (I think of the National Geographic cover with the woman from Afghanistan). Music is that to me.

And I got to play Sunday afternoon. And it was a wonderful time. I sit by myself in a room, and with nothing but ink blots on lines on paper and eighty eight keys to make sense of them with, I commune with God more intimately than I have ever been able to do anywhere else in my life. It is a beautiful thing for me. And it is something that I hope each of you is able to find in something you do.

I love to play the piano, and this was the first time in a long while. Indeed, I have only sat down to play probably five or six times this year. I got out one of my favorite books: a collection of arrangements of praise choruses, three volumes in one, by Mark Hayes. It is a book I have played out of often since discovering it several years ago.

Two songs struck me particularly as I played yesterday. I don’t know how often I have played through these – it is possibly my favorite sequence in the whole collection. But back to back, with an interlude in between them to change the key signature, Mark Hayes has put two songs that stand in harmonic contrast to one another. And I don’t mean that in musical terms. I had not noticed it before when I played, but Someone pointed it out this time.

The first is “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord.” It conjures up for me the image of a powerful king with a lowly citizen coming to his court with a small request. As Tom Cruise’s character when he approaches the emperor of Japan at the end of the Last Samurai. This is the image of God: powerful, mighty, demanding all honor – and deserving more than we can give. This is who we relate to. Someone for whom we must have respect and fear.

Then, after a short sequence of interlude the tie them together, the next song in the book is “You Are My Hiding Place.” The image of shepherd, protector. A daddy tucking in his little girl at the end of a long day of playing house. The thousand acts of unseen and unnoticed kindnesses that happen day in and day out. And this, too, is the image of God. This is who we relate to.

And that just struck me. He whose voice created and then calms the sea, whose command brings life from death. He is also the one who calls the children to himself, who speaks in the whisper, who goes off early in the morning into the mountains by himself to pray. “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord” and “You Are My Hiding Place.” I need them both.

Thank You, Father, for all that you are, all that you do, and all that you are making me to be.

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