A Song in the Night: Hearing God’s Voice Through Music

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You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept. (Isaiah 30:29 Amp)

Years ago my Mom gave me a plaque with the meaning of my name and this verse printed underneath. I think names are important and I’m grateful that my parents chose “Song of Grace” as mine. I think the verse was also prophetic as I have learned to pay attention to songs in the night.

The first time I realized God could use this way of communicating was after I prayed asking for wisdom. Someone wanted me to support them by taking up their cause. To be honest, taking up a cause without knowing all sides of the story has landed me in more troublesome murky water than just about any other action. I cared about this person and her desperation, but something didn’t feel right. For two days I asked, “Lord, what should I do?” For two days I had no further information and nothing to indicate a direction. I just had an annoying song stuck in my head. Specifically one line of a song.

This song was from a list of approved selections for early grades Royal Conservatory voice exams. I’m pretty sure you would never hear it pumped through the speakers in the mall or playing on a top ten radio station anywhere. I taught it to young singers as an exercise in musical story-telling, but I hadn’t thought of it in ages. It told the sad tale of a boy named Gilbert who mistook a strange lump in the bog for a rock. The very strange green lump was actually an alligator. The story did not end well for Gilbert.

While my husband and I were driving in the country I starting singing the line out loud in the car. “If you should spot an alligator sleeping, let it be.”

“I don’t know why this silly song is stuck in my head. I keep hearing it,” I said to him. At that moment I heard, “So pay attention,” in my spirit.

Then it struck me. I had been repeatedly asking a question and repeatedly getting an answer, but I didn’t hear it because I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t paying attention because I wasn’t expecting to hear. I took the risk of saying no to involvement in the situation – which turned out to be dramatically more complicated than I had been led to believe. What I had received via that song was a word of wisdom.

music books ch IMG_8288I have music in my head all the time. My life has been about music and even after retirement, I can’t bear to part with music books that fill shelves and bins in my house. At this very moment, I can “hear” the background music of a humorous Youtube video I just watched. Obviously, this carries no profound meaning. Singers can tell you how music they are trying to memorize disrupts sleep when it plays over and over as they toss and turn. That’s not what I’m talking about, nor are the kids’ songs you play in the car so often you don’t have to hit any button to start them up.

The songs I’m talking about often come out of nowhere, songs I haven’t heard since the seventies, songs my mother used to sing, songs from hymnbooks now boxed and stored in the shed behind the church building. Sometimes I hear songs I swear I’ve never heard before and sometimes I know I have heard these insistent songs before, perhaps even recently, but they are in a language I am not familiar with and I have to do an internet search for a translation. Sometimes one line from a song I am familiar with will repeat in my dreams like the ground bass in Pachelbel’s Canon. It underscores an entire night’s sleep.

God speaks in many creative ways. Because he is the creator of creativity he awakens creativity he placed in us. When our eyes and ears are opened we perceive his communication via his people in art, music, poetry, calligraphy, photography, dance, gardening, decorating, clothing design, food preparation, architecture and many other ways. Not all people hear the same way. Concrete practical thinkers need direct black and white communication with pre-connected dots. Artsy types float in metaphor. God smiles at your unique make-up.

Sometimes artists don’t even realize they are conduits. They don’t know why they used that word, or painted that colour, or added that variation. It just felt right.

For some time now I’ve had a song playing in that insistent way that I can’t shut off. I don’t recall hearing it anywhere recently. Certain lines kept playing on repeat, especially at night.

Love. Love will keep us together.
When those guys start hanging around talking me down
Hear with your heart and you won’t hear a sound.

Just stop! Stop!
‘Cause I really love you. Better stop! Stop!
I’ll be thinking of you
Look in my heart and let love keep us together – whatever.

I wondered why this song. Then I found out. I thought I was finished with a year of treatments and surgery dealing with health issues, but I’ve just received more discouraging news. More to investigate. More treatment modalities to explore.

I began to let my imagination be distracted by the voices of dismal forebodings clamouring in the back of my brain, those carriers of worry, shame and despair that taunt with, “Did God really say…? Where is he now? Does he really love you or has he abandoned you in the dark with pain that will only get worse? Where are your ‘God is good’ stories now?”

I don’t think Neil Sedaka had this interpretation in mind when he wrote the song, nor did the Captain and Tenille (or the guy with five ukeleles) intend it to carry a message of hope, but God used it.

ive got thisHe says, “Stop! Stop letting your thoughts run away with you. Take those thoughts captive and counter them with who I really am. I want to show you an aspect of myself you can only see in the middle of these circumstances. Stop it, because I really do love you. Look in my heart and let my love for you keep us together, whatever happens, wherever this part of the journey leads. I’ve got this.”

The next day lines from another song started playing in my head. A Stevie Wonder song:

For once, unafraid, I can go where life leads me
Somehow I know I’ll be strong.
For once I can say, ‘This is mine! You can’t take it!
As long as I know I have love I can make it!’”

He’s got this. Therefore, I’ve got this.

Sunday night I heard another song in an orchestral arrangement. I knew it was a Stuart Townend composition but I couldn’t recall a single word. It took me all morning to find it because all I had was the tune and how do you google a tune? But I did find it. It’s about hope. And for some reason one of the first photos in the Youtube version I clicked on was one of mine! I don’t mind my work being used this way (although it is polite to ask). When I saw it I exclaimed, “What? Are you kidding me? This is mine!”

 

 

And in my heart, where I was listening and paying attention, God said, “Yes. Hope. This is yours.”

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Am I Hearing You Right?

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While there are birds, birds to fly…

I heard that Mother Teresa said “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

I’m no Mother Teresa, and I already know that God will give me things I can’t handle. I also know that he gives me things that He can handle if I learn to do only what He asks and let Him do the heavy lifting. (“Will You Be My Alligator” link here.) But sometimes I wonder…

I didn’t feel like driving to Alberta again yesterday when I have so much to do at home. But the Lover of my soul knew I needed a break, so I ended up going. I spent the time in the car talking to God, pouring out my feelings to Jesus, and sitting quietly with Holy Spirit. I have evidence of transformation in my life because I have much more peace than I used to when my list of concerns to pray about gets longer and longer. But still I wonder if I could have done things differently (or sooner), if I said something I ought not to have said (or failed to say), if I am following the right path or if I have missed some crucial heavenly download somewhere. Am I doing this right?

Change is messy, I know, but it looks like I may have to exchange my rubber boots for hip waders soon. I cried out, “Lord! I really need to hear your voice about now! Just talk to me! What should I do?!” (I may have raised my voice.)

I was listening to music on my phone as I drove. (Gotta love a car with a USB port.) Road conditions demanded my attention so I left it on shuffle. The songs played in random order. Most of the music on my phone is a peaceful worshipful style aimed at reducing stress in city traffic. My other more eclectic collections are on a road trip sticks or CDs.

A song came on just as I asked my question. I tell you the truth. I do not recall ever hearing this song before or downloading on my phone. It was in a large, but inexpensive collection of classic jazz tunes I bought a few months ago, but I had only listened to a few familiar favourite songs on it.

This is what I heard: Trust in Me.

I think I have a new favourite.

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“While there’s a moon, a moon up high…”

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As Song

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I wouldn’t have done it that way. It looked like a disaster. Facts and figures and previous experience all added up to a negative number.

Then I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the night. “This one is like a Chinese finger puzzle. The more you fight and try to free yourself from circumstances, the tighter they will get.

I trusted him. He took me through a tough, tough time and answered in a miraculous way mere logic could never duplicate.

Resting in God when everything around me says, “you need to do something!!” brings back memories of growing up in a house with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who seldom agreed and who all gave me different instructions. No matter what I did someone would be mad. Which voice did I choose to listen to?

Now here I am again. So many angry voices. So many urgent opinions. So much distracting pain. So many dire consequences marching across the screen of unsanctified imagination.

Oh God, what should I do? What should I do?

Remember the source of your strength. Remember my promise to never leave you. Be thankful. Rest.

The Eternal is the source of my strength and the shield that guards me.
When I learn to rest and truly trust Him,
He sends His help. This is why my heart is singing!
I open my mouth to praise Him, and thankfulness rises as song.

(Psalm 28:7 The Voice)

 

 

Trickle Down Word

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“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

    You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”

(Isaiah 55:8-12 NLT)

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Where You’ve Not Been Before

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I hate feeling incompetent. I enjoy being asked questions when I know the answer. Memories of first day on the job stress when I knew less than the customers or the students still get shoved back in the closet as soon as they make a peep.

As much as I enjoy new things and find routine stifling there are times when I enjoy feeling like I know what I’m doing and that I can handle this. I can coast. I can offer free advice. Dare I say it? Sometimes, in my Walter Mitty-type imagination I picture the Networks calling to ask me to come into the studio as their talking head expert of the day.

Mid dream sequence the music screeches to a stop. God asks me to follow him.

“Where?” I ask.

“You’ll see.”

“But I finally know what I’m doing here. I have a system.”

“I know. Let’s do something else now.”

I wish I was faster at saying yes. I’m learning that growth only comes as I depend on God and quit relying on what worked before. I have a bad habit of not noticing that change lies ahead until I run into a dead-end or get kicked out of the nest. Sometimes asking God for guidance and yet not moving until the yank of a bridle twists my neck or a stick pokes my butt and the guidance is no longer subtle is not the most comfortable way.

Part of the problem is still my fear of making a mistake, of being wrong, of having to backtrack, or worse, make an apology. But grace gives us latitude to learn. Somewhere deep down I am still fighting the notion that I have to earn this grace with a perfect performance. That’s when failure becomes freedom. His love is not conditional. I never knew how much God loved me until I offered him my incompetence as an ego-sacrificing form of praise.

He says his eyes will be our guide. We can respond more quickly when our eyes are focused on his face. If we are more focused on our work and personal improvement projects than on where he is looking we will miss it.

Stay close. Listen. Watch. Trust.

This is going to be good.

I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you,
Instructing and guiding you
Along the pathway for your life.
I will advise you along the way,
And lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
So don’t make it difficult, don’t be stubborn
When I take you where you’ve not been before.
Don’t make me tug you and pull you along.
Just come with me!”

(Psalm 32:8 – 9 TPT)

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