Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easter and Beyond

Time is still flying! Easter comes and goes. The solemnity of the event – the days of Holy Week and the attention and sharp focus on the reality that Christ really did live, really did walk the earth as a human while still wholly Divine, that He was brutalized and still offered no resistance – is real but passes quickly.

We watched the film “The Passion of the Christ” days before Easter. I was going to play a guitar instrumental version of the old hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” during the service at church and planned to pull together some short video clips from the movie to show. I’d forgotten the graphic depiction of the punishment meant for me - inflicted upon Him. Before this movie came out, I met Jim Caviezel who played the part of Jesus. He showed me an early trailer from the movie on his MacBook. I was speechless. The consensus among those who made the movie, it was said, was that the real punishment was far worse than they could ever show on a movie screen.

And I ask “How could that be possible?”

It’s no wonder that we came up with the Easter Bunny. All soft and cute. So far removed from the blood and reality of innocent sacrifice that makes little, if any, logical sense to those who’ve never tasted. Easier to eat chocolate filled with marshmallow cream than to humble oneself and accept the Sacrifice – to take of His flesh and blood to wash away my sin and guilt.

Our church was packed on Easter for all the services. There were overflow rooms with video feeds to accommodate the latecomers – groggy from parties the night before – overwhelmed with cocoa hangovers. I hear the comments every year from the regulars that point out the masses that only show up on Christmas and Easter. And I think, “Hey, better then than never.” And you never know which particular Christmas or Easter their hearts will be especially open and ready to know the Truth – to feast on the bounty of Christ. We can hope, can’t we?

I was backstage (for lack of a better term) waiting to sing an old song that was on my third album. Songwriter Phil McHugh wrote “Love Found A Way” back in the early 80s. I heard it at a songwriter showcase that year at Gospel Music Week. It was a chance for writers to play unrecorded songs for a small audience of artists and record execs. When I heard the song, I leaned forward to a friend and cast my vote to cut it myself. I hadn’t thought of it until the week before Easter and decided it would be perfect. Different from other Easter Sundays where I had lots for which to be responsible, lots to do, this Easter, I simply sang one song in three services. I waited each time and simply thanked God that I had this opportunity to use what He has given me. There is peace in gratitude.

Speaking of Gospel Music Week, I was there last week for a couple of days. Mostly to present a Milestone Award to Sandi Patty for her thirty years in Gospel music. I arrived on Wednesday before the Dove Awards the next day. To say that GMA Week was different from years past would be an understatement.

In years past – and I’ve been going to GMA Week, off and on, for 29 years myself – the convention center would be buzzing, navigating the lobby at the Renaissance Hotel downtown Nashville would be a challenge, having a meaningful conversation uninterrupted – impossible, seeing lots and lots of old friends and coveys of new bands and new artists decked out in the coolest clothes with questionable hair would be very entertaining. Questionable hair?? Who am I to question anyone’s hair?? Have you seen some of those old albums? Don’t know what I was thinking.

This year, the lobby of the hotel was quiet, few radio stations sent teams to interview artists, few record companies put on lavish lunches and showcases of their lead horse artists. I don’t know if it’s the economy, or just what has nailed down the lid on this institution called GMA Week but there’s change in the air.

The business of music has radically changed. The way people listen, the way people buy has changed forever. There was a seminar held last week that was called “The Death of the CD.” Maybe these drastic changes are forcing everyone to re-evaluate how they do business – radio, sales, marketing – ministry.

But I’ll tell you, while we have to grow (change) or die, there are always those who will forge ahead, utilizing the tools before us in this new century, bent on telling the Story, focused on singing the Word. My feeling is that when we’re faithful to the call, God will take care of the details. We still have to pay attention to the work and to the details, but God looks at the heart and the motives and blesses and grants favor as He wishes. The Apostle said “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on . . .” So I press on.

The Dove Awards were fun. Saw lots of old friends and made some new ones. There were lots of smiles and some tears. Life has broadsided some families, taken children, brought trial and heartache. But people can be incredibly resilient and strong in the middle of it all. While it’s hard to sing and praise Him through trouble, He is faithful anyway.

In years past, when the award show ended, artists, fans, record company folks would scatter all around Nashville. Some would end up in restaurants rented for the night for private celebrations. Others wound up in decorated hotel ballrooms with catered feasts and live bands. One year at the Word festivities, there was even a dance floor which mildly shook and disturbed my Baptist sensibilities just a little. I’ve since recovered and reformed. My feet have been seen tapping every once in a while.

After the show ended this year, it seemed like everyone just went their own way. Some loaded on buses and took off for the next night’s concert destination. Others that call Nashville home, simply went home to sleeping children, happy to be in their own beds for another night.

All is well.

Well, maybe not. But it will be. God is in ultimate control. He seats kings and rulers. He breathes life into us, warms us with the sun, waters the earth as He sees fit. Supplies our need if not always our want. This fragile planet full of fragile mortals is in His hand.

I’m learning to love Him, not so much for what He has done, but for who He is.

Love to you all.



Sandi said...

I am moved and touched by your words. I am thankful to have been one of the many that has followed your ministry for years. "He gives and takes away, Blessed be the Name of the LORD." Blessings to you and yours.

In His Joy~
Sandi Floria

John Ng said...

Dude, that song Love finds A Way happens to be one of my favorties from that vintage. Another one is Born in Zion. I remember the mullet look that was on the Home Free CD- a classic look for a classic CD. Hope you are well and know that you are loved.

lorio said...

"My spiritual life has some of those elements too. I know God is God and I am not. I know He is in control even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when I don’t get it or don’t understand it. But man, I sure breathe easier when I do get it a little or when I do see it."

This really hit home for me. I am in the process of closing our family owned (husband and I) Christian Book Store after 35 years in business.(Yes, I did start as a mere child since I am only 47 and have been here for 32 of those years) Not only has the music business changed but the whole Christian retail industry.
Change is so difficult at times but I feel like I have had my share of adjusting over these past 5 years.We adopted a beautiful Guatemalan princess in 2004, my husband passed away in 2005, my sister in 2006, and my sons best friend was murdered in late 2007. Now I start the process of closing up this business/ministry that I have loved for 32 years. And, yes we did sell lots of your music and were fortunate to see you in concert several times. Your autograph on a napkin in a Chick Filet in High Point, NC was the highlight of my son Adam's night.(not sure what year that was since he is now 23)
Anyway, thanks for the very meaningful blog entries. There were some things that I needed to be reminded of in this and the following entry.
Thanks for the many years of great music!!

Lori Oakley (NC)