Just Another Hymnal

Well, the book sale was wonderful, but mostly a bust. I didn’t find a single book on my list! I did find some goodies, though. And in spite of the fact that I already have several different hymnals, I couldn’t resist the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal in the Music section! She was calling to me, “Sarah! Sarah! Take me home with you!” I’m not embarrassed by my choice. You cannot, as a rule, have too much music.

I was working through the hymnal last night and found several hymns I was unfamiliar with, several that were older than most of the hymns I know. Look at this one:

O gladsome Light, O grace
of God the Father’s face,
the eternal splendor wearing;
celestial, holy, blest,
our Savior Jesus Christ,
joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day falleth quite,
we see the evening light,
our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
thee, his incarnate Son,
and Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
all praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
thee, therefore, O Most High,
the world doth glorify,
and shall exalt for ever.

This song is from the 3rd century and its author is unknown. It is beautiful. I was astounded that a hymn of the Church could have survived so long. Most of the hymns we sing today are only a few hundred years old–and even those seem ancient to us! But here is a song the Church was singing in the 3rd century, and it blew my mind. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the bigness of history and of the Church.

It can be so easy to forget that the Church is more vast than right here and right now; that there really is “a cloud of witnesses.” The notion that somehow we are able to sing the same worship and praise that Christians sang in the 3rd century just overwhelmed me with a sense of both my smallness in the scheme of things and also my being surrounded by so many Believers.

It also made me wonder what songs we would add to our hymnals as history unfolds. There has been this incredible transition in some churches, moving away from “hymns” and preferring something more “modern.” But aren’t most hymns “modern” to their time? So what songs would we add to “O For A Thousand Tongues” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Doxology”? What songs of adoration will be remembered from the Church today?

Any thoughts?

Pax Domini.


The Waiting

Aaaaaaaah, The Waiting!

So I was driving home, and SmileFM played an old song from The Waiting. It happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time. You can go and listen to it on The Waiting’s myspace page if you want. It’s presently the second song on the list: Hands in the Air. By all means, listen to the others, too! But. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to this song without crying. I’m such a baby.

And oh! I was flooded with memories! The Waiting was, if I remember correctly, at Sonshine Festival the first year that I went. They weren’t at the main stage, but were at the second or third stage along with MXPX and…oh…Sozo, maybe? I cried at Sozo, just so you know, but that’s an entirely different story, and it involves water and instruments. So.Good times.

Anyway, I don’t think Toge and I even intended to see The Waiting perform. I could be wrong. One of us (I won’t say which one of us) had a slight crush on one of the guys from Sozo, and I think we were waiting to see them. Togs–did you know of The Waiting prior to this? At any rate, I was not familiar with them until this concert. I thought they were remotely cool when they did the 500 Miles song, but Todd Olsen settled the matter for me when he played his guitar…behind his back.

That’s right…behind his back. It was the funniest, weirdest, most personable thing I had ever seen from a “musician.” It was a life-changing thought for me–that music could be both soul-searching and fun. And there it was. I was hooked.

I saw The Waiting several years later when I was volunteering at FireUP. In fact, I was as high as the sky that weekend because I had the lucky job of working at their table! WOOHOO! I have a picture somewhere that Toge took of me at their table. Hm…mental note: find the picture.

Anyway, Brad Olsen released a solo album last year, as I understand it. I had no idea. Sorry, Brad. But I will buy it. And I will love it, I’m sure.

But behold–greatness of all greatnesses–The Waiting…has a new album coming out this year! AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

This is me, going fangirlish.

See Jenn? It can happen.

I’m so happy.

Today is such a good day!

Almost Christmastime

One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs was Almost Christmastime, sung by David Meece. I first heard it on the little white cassette tape that mom bought for us one year. At my former blog, I shared the story of a couple Christmases ago when my mom bought me a copy of this CD. I mention the song today only because I haven’t listened to the CD yet this Christmas. I listened to it some months ago when I was still looking forward to the season, but now that the season is upon us, I haven’t listened to it. I will remedy this today.

Still, with or without the song, it is “almost Christmastime!” I am excited. I’ve been busy preparing for the day, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

I have finally finished felting my oven mitts and trivets. They are spread out to dry on the kitchen table and the coffee table. The trivets are drying very well, but the oven mitts are taking longer. I sure hope they are dry by Thursday! I have to admit, I love the way these have turned out. Even the colors I wasn’t terribly taken with have felted into a nice variegation. I just love how they’ve turned out. I am biased because I love red, but I do think Jesse & Sara’s turned out the best!

I still have to make three journals–for Clayton, for Daniel, and for Joy Forever (Joel & Erin’s baby). I am hoping to work on these today and get them finished. My only dilemma is that the tables are covered with oven mitts!

I’ve been baking, too, which is always fun. I still have pretzels to dip, which I’ve been putting off because of my lack of table space. But I’m hoping to make a dent on that today, as well.

I wanted to write a short little poem to put in the front of each of the kids’ journals. I’m not thrilled with what I’ve come up with, but I think it will do. I didn’t want it to be too heavy or too light, because it needed to be age-appropriate for kids ranging literally from not-born-yet to going-to-college-next-fall. If you have any ideas or think I could do better, let me know. Here’s what I’ve got–short and sweet:

Whatever your dreams,

whatever your fears,

when you are happy

and when you cry tears,

Your life is a gift

and in every season,

the Lord works together

all things for a reason.

So whatever life brings–

whether smile or frown–

remember each moment

and write it all down.

Okay. I’m off to…I don’t know. But I’m off!

Pax Christi!


God & Science

I don’t usually speak of science. When I do, I am outrageously aware of how unlearned I sound (and am). Don’t get me wrong, I have always been fascinated by the world around me; but I have never been a science buff. I don’t think I took science seriously until my freshman year of college, when I was forced to take Anatomy & Physiology with a Lab–which, ironically, I did very well in. But everything prior to that was so difficult for me. I often felt as if my teachers and my books were trying to teach me in Latin. Every once in awhile, something clicked for me, but mostly, I struggled through my science classes. I am not being overly dramatic or self-degrading by telling you…you know that old zinger? “I never get into a battle of wits with an unarmed man!” Well, I’m the unarmed man. Er, woman.

For that reason, I don’t usually challenge Atheists when they speak of science. It’s not that I blindly accept all they might say about evolution, the age of the earth, etc, but that I know my limitations. I am ill-equipped to debate this topic. Now, if you want to debate soteriology, okay! But science? Nuh-uh.

I don’t even usually think science, to be honest with you. There is something about my brain that just doesn’t connect with science, I think. Perhaps I have a child’s mind. I was recently writing at my desk, and as I paused to think a moment, my gaze was drawn to the candle burning gently there beside me. I watched and I wondered. I know there’s a very good explanation for fire, and I know it’s basic science, folks; but really–to me, it’s still just magic. For that reason, I just can’t argue about science and God. And as much as I want to believe they are not exclusive of each other, I admit that I usually just disregard science because it doesn’t speak my language.

But in the dark hours of this morning, as I stood on the back deck, bundled in my blanket and watching the Leonid Meteor Shower, I caught myself thinking two very distinct thoughts.

My first thought: How can anyone deny the science that has taught men to predict meteor showers like this?

My second thought: How can anyone deny God, deny the design and order of the world around us that has allowed men to learn the science to predict meteor showers?

Big questions in my heart and mind last night. But as I stood there shivering in the cold, watching with amazement as stars went shooting across the sky, I had to just stop thinking about it so much. So I sang–quietly, as it was 4am, and I didn’t want to disturb my neighbors–

Sometimes the night was beautiful

Sometimes the sky was so far away

Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close

You could touch it but your heart would break

Sometimes the morning came too soon

Sometimes the day could be so hot

There was so much work left to do

But so much You’d already done

Oh God, You are my God

And I will ever praise You

Oh God, You are my God

And I will ever praise You

I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways

And step by step You’ll lead me

And I will follow You all of my days

Some things never change. I hope you enjoyed the shower this morning, and that you were filled with the wonder and awe of it all.

Pax Christi.


A Psalm

Oh, my God, my loving Father
Oh, my Rock and my Salvation
Oh, my Strength and Fortress
I will wait for You

Lift these hands, I’ll give You my heart
Lift my eyes to see all You are
Lift my soul to know You, Lord
I will wait for You

(C)2008 Sarah Moore

I wrote this in 2008 after reading Psalm 59. I was so enraptured by the tone of the psalm that I wanted to write a short worship chorus that dealt with the idea of waiting for God, or “watching” for Him, as the Psalmist says. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular, just a simple “I’m waiting” kind of song. I had forgotten about it, to be honest. I stumbled upon it tonight, as I tend to do with songs–they sit in a pile of song guts until some random moment when I pull it out and try to make sense of it. This one didn’t need attention, in my opinion, but I found after singing through it several times that I have a couple of beefs. I was hoping someone might shoot a thought in my direction regarding these two cows.

1. The first line. I’m not happy with “my loving Father” as a phrase for this verse. The first draft of the song used, “I wait for You” in its place–but it is one syllable short. I need a five-syllable phrase here. Any thoughts?

2. I’m not SURE, but I THINK maybe there should be a one-line refrain after each verse. My inkling is to repeat the line, “I will wait for You,” but I’m not sure. Another option might be, “I will sing of Your love.” I don’t have a melody for this one-line refrain yet, so there’s not really any parameter as to how it should flow, necessarily. I’d like something, obviously, that jives with the ideas in Psalm 59.

So…anybody feeling daring enough to offer suggestions? :)

Pax Christi.

The Importance of CCM

I confess.

For the past several years, I have distanced myself from Contemporary Christian Music. It’s odd, isn’t it, since I have always loved CCM? Yes. Well, when I left the Church in 2001, I struggled because I had questions the Church couldn’t (or wouldn’t) seem to answer; I was further frustrated when I would listen to Christian Radio and hear Jesus-is-my-boyfriend type songs which did nothing to address the real-life issues I was facing. Even when I came back to the Church, I did not come back to CCM. At that point, I began reading and singing through hymnals and finding the doctrine and answers I had been looking for all along. Not all of the answers, mind you!–but enough that I felt compelled to keep seeking.

Since that time, I just haven’t been too interested in CCM. Even the bands and artists I once loved seemed to be sucked into this empty, pop, I-heart-Jesus-yes-I-do kind of sound. When I listened to the radio, I felt like I was listening to commercial jingles. The songs were trying to sell me a product, rather than teach or minister anything to the Body of Christ.

But I confess.

This is not a fair assessment of CCM in its entirety. I have been listening to radio a lot lately, and what I’ve found are several artists that seem to have something valid to say to the world and to the Church. For years, I have been content to listen to my old cassette tapes and the artists I knew and loved; but suddenly I find myself loving some “new” artists and/or songs.

But whether good or bad, the importance of CCM cannot be understated. I think sometimes we shrug at the notion of music and how it impacts our lives. We assume that music exists solely for the purpose of entertaining us. And I hope music does entertain you sometimes. But far deeper than this, music speaks truths to our souls. Music resonates within us something we usually struggle to articulate. How many times have you been in a difficult situation in life and you turned to music for comfort or encouragement? How many times have you been stressed out and a song has helped you to calm down and put your anxieties where they belong?

And how many of us can quote more songs than we can quote scripture verses?

Our theology, our doctrine, our very perspective of who God is, is shaped somehow by the things we cram into our brains. For a Christian, this is CCM. So when CCM is shallow and empty, so is the Church. When CCM is oblivious to the concerns of the world, so is the Church. When CCM is focused on worship, so is the Church.

And CCM artists have to be careful in that measure. I remember hearing someone quote a popular CCM song and attributing it to the Bible once. We are a society in danger of being theologically illiterate. And if I’m right, and the vast number of Christians in America are getting their doctrinal views from CCM rather than from a pastor or from scripture itself, then CCM artists have a heavy task before them and an enormous responsibility to produce something of substance.

Thankfully, I think far more CCM artists are doing exactly that. I still won’t call myself a fan of CCM, but I have become a fan once again of some artists who use their music to convey some true message to the Church.

What do you think?

Pax Christi.


Where’s Your Heart, Part III

So we come to it.

We’ve been talking about our passions and goals in life and what it takes to see them accomplished. I promised that I would contemplate the matter and return with some honest truths about my heart. This entire week has been one of revelation for me, leading up to a point of utter, frustratable clarity last night.

As I lay in bed last night, I thought of the image of a puzzle. When I put together a puzzle, I begin with the end pieces. I end up with a rectangular frame with nothing in the middle, and a mountain of puzzle guts somewhere outside of that frame. It occurred to me that this is how my life, my goals, and my desires have been – a framework with a mound of confusion that doesn’t look like it will ever make a complete picture. That moment can be both thrilling and infuriating. Putting the first piece inside the frame is always the hardest moment of puzzling, I think. The puzzle of my life is far from complete, I’m sure; but it seemed to me last night that I was finally beginning to see the details of the picture. Suddenly, things I have carried for years without any clear idea of why I was carrying them began to make sense. I think I said “wow” more times last night than I’ve ever said in the course of my entire life up until that point.

So where is my heart?

If my life is a puzzle, then the sky is music. It is the part of the picture that is the most difficult to make sense of because each piece can look exactly like the previous piece and yet be so completely different. It is the backdrop to everything else in the puzzle. Music will always be my passion. I will always play my guitar and my piano; I will always write music. It will always be healing for my soul. What else it may become, I am unsure. I do know, as I said in the first of the Where’s Your Heart blogs, that I am compelled to pursue “the theology of music,” which I still have no idea what it is or how to pursue it. But as I’ve said from the beginning, I’m not sure whether this is a musical pursuit, an academic pursuit, a theological pursuit. I think it’s just a personal pursuit that will expand over the course of my life.

Writing is also a passion of mine and someday I want to publish a book. What book? Good question. I never knew that I enjoyed writing so much. I find myself wanting to write memoir, fiction, poetry, prose, you-name-it. And what could make more sense than me loving to write? Have you seen my journal collection? Someone remind me to take a photo and show you my journals.

Music and writing are personal loves that I will never stop pursuing. They are passions that no one else need recognize in my life. I am content. I write and make music because I am compelled to do so, not because I want to make a living at it. I would go crazy without these two things in my life.

But as far as making a difference in the world, my heart is with people who are broken. My heart has always been there. Many of you know this already. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to make sense of it. I knew right out of high school that I wanted to become a Social Worker. What I didn’t know was how much it would take out of me, and how much I would need to have my own life on track in order to help others. I haven’t been very vocal about this aspect of the story, but when I dropped out of college in 2001, I had already changed my major to English. I was so exhausted with the idea of dealing with other peoples’ problems because I hadn’t even begun to address my own; so I did the only thing I knew to do – I changed my major. Now, as much as I love reading and writing, I loathed those classes. I can’t quite tell you why. Perhaps it was because I knew that I was avoiding what I really felt I should be doing (Social Work). Needless to say, when the financial problems became unavoidable, I gladly dropped out of college. I was so desperate for space to breathe and think and figure things out. I, of course, had no intention of taking so much time away from school. I fell into some destructive habits, and before I knew it I had forgotten why I even wanted to be in school.

But I remember now. My heart is with people – which is hilarious, actually, since I am about the least people-ish-person I know! I am not outgoing or comfortable with people I don’t know, and I am often awkward around people I do know! I pretty much keep to myself, which is therapeutic in its own way. I digress! My point here is that I love people.

I was out with Shana last night, which was such a treat! I haven’t seen her in ages. She has grown up so well. I found myself thinking over and over how proud I was of her. But as we spoke about a particular situation regarding a third friend of ours, I began to sink into an ocean of both compassion and anger. Oh, I wasn’t angry at any one individual, but more at the situation, at the foolish choices they were making, at the desire to drown problems in alcohol and other destructive behaviors, at the lack of resources available to them, and at the sense of despair that I knew certain persons must be drowning in. It was that sense of indignation that kept me awake all night wondering who in the world would possibly step up and help these individuals. And the frustration of knowing that you cannot force someone to receive “help,” but that they must choose for themselves that they want something different than what their life has become.

But the thing that broke me most of all was the knowledge that there are children involved – young children, who will grow up confused about who their actual parents are, unable to cope with stress in healthy ways, afraid to function in relationships, incapable of keeping a job, unsure how to battle their own demons. And so the cycle will continue. On and on.

My grandfather’s choices crippled my father.

My father’s choices crippled me.

Who will my choices cripple? For this reason alone, I thank God every day that I am not a mother. Does a parent have any chance of not passing down the same devastation to her children if she refuses to look at the devastation that was handed to her? If she refuses to deal with the hurts and fears and abuse of her childhood? I am doubtful. I know that some adults get beyond it without too much trouble. I am thankful for those individuals! But I am skeptical as to whether these things don’t somehow affect the relationship of the parent and her children. I’m not just speaking of mistakes, because we all make those. I guess I’m speaking more to dysfunction and abuse, manipulation, neglect. Somehow these things have grown cyclical in our culture. Can we survive such a cycle?

So that is where my heart is. When people are ready to break the cycles of abuse and destruction in their lives, I want to be the one that says, “Yes!!! You can do this! Come on! I’ll be here for you!” I’m not sure yet what kind of career I might want. My desires in this regard are vast. But I will begin with going back to school and finishing my degree in Social Work.

So I will sing. And I will write. And I will write about the theology of music. And I will go back to school.

This is a good start, I think!

Pax Christi.