Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart
“The world’s just spinning a little too fast,
If things don’t slow down soon, we might not last.
So just for a moment, let’s be still.
They’re tearing down, so we can rebuild.
And all of this time is just circles in my mind.
So just for a moment, let’s be still.”
Before the world seemed to rock on its axis as this pandemic spread, the last time I heard this song was at the sort of gathering that we’re not allowed to have right now – live at the Festival at Sandpoint in that beautiful outdoor venue by the lake. I remember the band sharing the story of this song. They had been touring and recording at a breakneck speed until they realized the importance of taking a break, pausing, and having a moment to reflect and collect themselves.
So often the changes we most desperately need to make are forced on us, whether a heart attack finally inspires dietary adjustments or a divorce brings clear-eyed honesty about anger problems. As a culture we’ve known for a long time that we need to slow down. Hearing Let’s Be Still during a time when stillness has been forced upon us has been inspiring – through this terrifying situation, our world may emerge strangely refreshed and refocused.
I Will Trust My Savior Jesus by CityAlight
“I will trust my Savior, Jesus
When my darkest doubts befall
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all
I will trust my Savior, Jesus
Trust Him when my strength is small
For I know the shield of Jesus
Is the safest place of all”
I, and many Christians, have come face to face with an uncomfortable discovery in the past few weeks – that our “trust” in Jesus has often been mere lip service, and in one of the first major global difficulties of our lifetimes we have had bouts of doubt. This song has helped me to tether myself to the goodness of my Redeemer and Lord.
Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson
“The storm is coming but I don’t mind.
People are dying, I close my blinds.
All that I know is I’m breathing now.
I want to change the world, instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me.
But all that I know is I’m breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing.”
One of the most disorienting aspects of this current crisis is that (for the overwhelming majority of us) the most helpful contribution we can offer is to literally do nothing. Go nowhere, see no one, touch nothing. I’m not sure what Ingrid had in mind when she wrote this song, but it seems to powerfully capture the tension so many feel of doing nothing, of wondering how extreme to take these measures, all while trying to stay calm and “keep breathing,” especially in light of the fact that COVID-19 specifically targets the lungs.
Wine Glass by Leddra Chapman
I’ll put everything into you,
And I’ll put everything into you.
I love the way you always laugh at me,
When you love the way I dance so awkwardly,
I watch you, and I want you, all the time.
And I love the way you hold your wine glass too.
Among the many effects of this has been the way that it puts a magnifying glass on whatever your home situation is like – if you live by yourself, you likely feel VERY alone. If you are in a contentious relationship or dislike your children, those realities are inescapable now. Those who are close with Natalie and I are aware that we don’t have the most swoony or romantic relationship. We love one another deeply and with fierce loyalty, but there’s not a lot of flirtatious giggling J Having social schedules wiped clean and having way more time together at home has opened my eyes to all the little things that make Natalie unique, and I’m more aware than I’ve been in awhile of just how blessed I am to have her.
Valley Song by Jars of Clay
“When death, like a gypsy, comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens, I will still seek your face
But I fear You aren’t listening because there are no words
Just the stillness and the hunger, for a faith that assures
I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy
While we wait for rescue with our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands to cover the fatal cut
Though the pain is an ocean tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters, and higher mountains have come down
I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy”
The words of this song are an honest plea of desperation, anchored by resolute faith. And if that doesn’t accurately convey Christians’ experience right now, I’m not sure what does. Sure looking forward to a swim in those “rivers of joy” right about now!
One More Light by Linkin Park
Should’ve stayed. Were there signs I ignored?
Can I help you not to hurt anymore?
We saw brilliance when the world was asleep
There are things we can have, but can’t keep
The reminders pull the floor from your feet
In the kitchen, one more chair than you need
And you’re angry, and you should be, it’s not fair
Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it, isn’t there
If they say,
“Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?”
Well I do…
Our little church family is coming up on a year since we lost a longtime member to suicide, and it still hurts. One of the realities that concerns me most about all of this is that people whose mental health was already hanging on by a thread and who may have already been drawn toward harmful isolation could be pushed to the brink of suicide. There has already been a massive influx of calls to crisis hotlines, and only time will reveal just how devastating this has all been and how many suicides are tied to this pandemic.
Blooming Heather (Wild Mountain Thyme) by Kate Rusby
“Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
And we’ll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?”
We’re all holding out hope that our summer will bear some resemblance of normalcy, when “we’ll all go together” pretty much anywhere – it will be marvelous. Kate Rusby sings of the wonder and beauty of simple, common, outdoor blessings that we’ve all long taken for granted. I’m eagerly looking forward to this summer, and hoping to notice far more blessings than I used to.
Doxology by Beautiful Eulogy
“O God full of glory and grace
Open in me a fountain of faithful praise
Let it flow from the depths of my heart like great lakes
Let my soul be the sweetness that spreads its fragrance
Save me from the love of the world that you created
More than the God whose beautiful hands made it
Bring me from pride and consecrate me
Make me feel the weight of my sin, sorrow and safety
Let me sing with the saints of your great salvation
And join in the songs of all creation
Let the winds obey, the oceans wave, the mountains cave
Let every star you placed display grace
Let my speech do the same as the skies proclaim
Let everything that has life and breath bless your name
Let the earth be the stage where all creation aims
To heaven in endless praises and adoration
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
I’ve been reminded that these days, weeks, and months are a part of my life. Though the circumstances are unique and largely unprecedented, it is in the eternal decree of God that I live these days – so I desire to be found faithful in them. Everything about this is above my pay grade. I don’t pretend to have the answers for the best way forward that preserves life, protects the economy, upholds liberty, and promotes justice. Every solution for one of these categories presents a new problem in one of the others. But I CAN live my life to praise and glorify the triune God of my salvation.
Old Friends by Ben Rector
“I can still find Wiley’s house
Riding on my bike with eyes closed
I could name every girl that he took out
And from my memory, dial his house phone
Can you take me back when we were just kids
Who weren’t scared of getting older?
‘Cause no one knows you like they know you
And no one probably ever will
You can grow up, make new ones
But truth is there’s nothing like old friends
‘Cause you can’t make old friends”
Major milestones in life have a way of bringing out the nostalgia in all of us. Graduations and weddings have us getting in touch with some of the folks we haven’t seen in awhile. And COVID-19 has certainly done that for me. I’ve thought of, prayed for, and reached out to friends and family I haven’t talked to in quite some time. And I’m simply more aware of how fortunate I’ve been to know each of them.
Scare Away the Dark by Passenger
Well, we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters
We want something more not just nasty and bitter
We want something real not just hashtags and Twitter
It’s the meaning of life and it’s streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views
We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters
But we’re all slowly dying in front of flipping computers
So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Oh, love without fear in your heart
Can you feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark
Rewind a couple of months to when the only person in our friend groups who knew about COVID-19 was the guy who ALWAYS thinks the end of the world is coming. What was our culture like? Not pleasant. It was quite poisonous, in fact. We’d all become quite accustomed to shouting past each other and assuming the worst of one another at all times. Political differences became hills to die on and diverging views about social justice were things to split denominations over. My prayer is that we’ll come out of this dark time a bit more human, and a bit more humane. Let’s “all light up and scare away the dark.”
Who Am I by Casting Crowns
“Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?
Not because of who I am, but because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are
I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind
Still you hear me when I’m calling, Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
And you’ve told me who I am. I am yours”
One of the most astounding realities of life for a follower of Christ is that God hears our prayers. We’re small, He’s great. We’re insignificant, He’s the standard by which significance is measured. We’re wicked, He’s holy. We’re temporary, He’s eternal. We’re weak, He’s strong. And yet, in spite of all of that, He hears our prayers. In the mystery of the gospel, He is covenantally bound to us in eternal love. Nothing could bring more peace in a situation like this.
Conversations with my Wife by Jon Bellion
“I dreamt I slept on a sidewalk, but you still laid with me
I dreamt I fell in a lion’s den, and you still came for me
I dreamt I lost all of my faith, and you still prayed for me
Who the f— cares about these plaques on my wall?
You’re still the only thing I’ve done right
Will you love me when my phone turns off?
I don’t want to be some digital Jesus
No more followers, we’ll both get lost
When it’s me and you inside real life”
An interesting decision that every pastor has needed to make through the midst of this crisis is whether to continue on with his prior preaching plan or to cater his messages more to fit the need. Every preacher has to prayerfully make their own decisions on this, and there’s no right or wrong answer. I decided to continue teaching through Ecclesiastes. For those who aren’t familiar, Solomon’s main point is that “Everything is vapor.” Wisdom, pleasure, love, wealth, accomplishment, education, sex, architecture… it is ALL vapor. Life itself is a quickly passing vapor. Along these lines, I’ve found Jon Bellion’s music to be refreshingly honest. He’s not a Christian and uses profanity, but there’s a keen awareness that no one ultimately cares about his accolades or the “plaques on my wall.” He needs someone who will love him unconditionally, in the midst of his darkest failures and when no one on social media cares anymore. He KNOWS he cannot be a “digital Jesus.” I’m taking these words to heart while praying for Jon to be found by the real Jesus.
* Note: this one has repeated profanity, so you’ll want to skip it if that offends you.
The Call by Regina Spektor
“It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder, ‘til it was a battle cry
I’ll come back when you call me, no need to say goodbye
Just because everything’s changing doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before
All you can do is try to know who your friends are as you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light
You’ll come back when it’s over, no need to say goodbye”
As strange as it is to say, this pandemic is restoring a sense of normalcy to our culture. While our jobs and routines and physical well-being is more uncertain than perhaps ever before, we’re rediscovering the truth that we aren’t enemies. We’re rallying around unsung heroes in hospitals and grocery store checkout lines. We’re caring for the elderly again. Seeing camaraderie and partnership spread even faster than the virus has been a huge glimmer of hope for me. If you haven’t seen it, I’d suggest watching the news less and spending less time on social media, while spending a bit more face timing with your mom or college roommate.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes by Owl City
“He loves his workshop and rock ‘n roll
He’s got a hot rod and a heart of gold
And you could say he’s a man of few words, but he talks a lot with them
And even though I’m a little taller, I still look up to him
He built me a house in the arms of a tree
He taught me to drive and to fight and to dream
When he looks in my eyes I hope he can see that
My dad’s a hero to me
Rust ridden fenders and doors full of dings
Somehow he can fix about anything
I didn’t think he knew how to cry ‘til our dog died that year
He doesn’t always say I love you, but I can hear him loud and clear”
This is the first major challenge that has come along since I became a father. And I cannot imagine having a better role model or example for how to move forward than my own dad. He’s calm, he’s steady, he’s dependable, he’s strong, and he trusts God without reservation. I’m trying to lead my family in all of those same ways (some big work boots to fill).
Before the Throne of God Above by Kristyn Getty
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God”
The foundation for every Christian’s hope in this situation (or any other) is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our salvation. He has taken the punishment for my sin upon Himself. He has died the death I deserved and rendered the sting of death impotent through His resurrection. My guilt is washed away, and my fear along with it. I find security, comfort, and peace in times when I’m desperately aware of my need for them in the truth that Christ saves sinners, of whom I am the foremost.