Dying is a topic most us would rather avoid, but Jesus didn’t shy away from the subject. In fact, he focused on it – maybe because He came to die for us.
I guess I would probably be a bit fixated on the subject if I knew that was the fate that awaited me…. Wait a minute…. that is the fate that awaits me!
Well, maybe it was different for Jesus because it wasn’t just the fate that awaited him; it was among the primary purposes for which he became a man. Though he existed in the form of God, He didn’t hold on to His superior position. He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born a man. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Simply put – Jesus came to die – for us.
As Jesus neared the time when He would be betrayed into the hands of the tribunal that would seal His death warrant, He said:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”” (John 12:27-28)
For Jesus, death wasn’t inevitable. He chose to die. This does make him different than us: He chose to become one of us and die for us. And because He chose it, could it have been any different for Him?
Skip James was born and grew up in Mississippi where his father was a bootlegger who found Jesus and became a preacher. Life was tough for a young black man in rural Mississippi at the turn of the century. Young Skip knew it well as a worker on road crews and levees in his 20’s. He no doubt drew from his experience as inspiration for one of his most famous songs, Hard Time Killing Floor.
Skip James’s musical prowess was developed early and was likely honed in his father’s church. His talent was recognized by Paramount which paid for him to travel to Grafton, WI in 1931 to record his songs, including Hard Time Killing Floor. Skip drew his inspiration and style from various sources, from blues to spirituals, bending genres with original and cover compositions, but the latent emotion and authenticity in his music was the substance of his own life.
Hard Time Killing Floor may have been inspired by the slaughterhouses that employed many black men at the time, though it isn’t clear whether Skip James ever worked in one. A blues song by nature, one might imagine a modern day psalmist pouring his heart out to God, expressing the emotional anguish of the drudgery of life under the sun. Inherent in the plaintive heart of the blues, though, is a sorrowful note of hope, a certain resigned peace and satisfaction in the singing of which hope rises above the pain.
Skip’s promising musical career never got off the ground. The Depression smothered the wind under his wings, causing Skip James to turn his attention to directing the choir in his father’s church. He was ordained into the ministry of both the Baptist and Methodist churches at this time. His musical career was quashed before it even started, and not much would likely have survived about Skip James, the musician, if it wasn’t for the blues and folk music revival of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Stairway to Heaven is, perhaps, my favorite song of all time. I was a big Led Zeppelin fan growing up. A case can be made that Stairway to Heaven is the greatest rock song of all time. It has all the elements of a great song. It has great melody. It has thoughtful, poetic lyrics. It rises and builds from a delicately unforgettable introduction to a crescendo of orchestration that matches the sweep of the lyrics with one of the most iconic guitar solos ever performed.
I am not one of those people who listen to music first for the lyrics. I hear the music first. I may never really learn the lyrics. Sometimes, I can’t even remember the song title. So, as I listened to the song recently, some 45 years or so after I first heard it, I realized that the song is about inspiration and hope. I hadn’t really thought about it much before. I just liked the song.
Like many rock songs, Stairway to Heaven was written with the seemingly eternal exuberance of youth and youthful energy. Though I am much older now, it, still resonates. It’s still sits in the pocket for me. It’s still a song of hope, ultimately, but I now have a different perspective.
Blind Willie Johnson had a profound influence on the world of music. Born in 1887, the son of a Texas sharecropper, his father got him a cigar box guitar at the age of 5. The guitar became his lifelong companion. He was blind by the age of 7. Reports differ on the cause. Perhaps, it’s true that his step-mother splashed water with lye in it on his face in a moment of anger. Whatever the cause, Blind Willie Johnson sang Gospel-infused blues, a craft he honed as a street musician and preacher.
Like many black musicians of his day, he didn’t ever make much money, but his legacy lives on in his music.
sounding like a brass musical instrument; harsh and loud.
tastelessly showy or loud in appearance or manner.
When a brass section plays along in harmony with a band, it can be a magical, musical experience. Those bold, brassy tones blending together in tight harmonies, complimenting the melodies and, sometimes, doing the solo thing – at the right time of course – are beauty in sound.
Everything is beautiful in its place, and its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Musicians will affirm that “chemistry” is important in a musical group. Each person must be attuned to the other and to the whole and, at the same time, be focused on his or her own contribution. This is multitasking at its finest! When the chemistry is there, it is a wonder to behold. When it isn’t, it just falls flat.
This may not be what you thought it was. The song, Isaac, by Bear’s Den is the subject. It is about the story of Isaac, tangentially. But that really isn’t the point so much, as far as I understand it.
Isaac is a tender, haunting song, a thoughtful piece, but not a biblical exposition. Still, it is one of my favorite songs (currently), and I think it is worth breaking down a little bit. Continue reading “Isaac”→
“Terminal” is the beginning and the end of a new project by Jon Foreman, one of my favorite musical artists. (See “The Wonderlands”, (http://www.jonforeman.com) and the video posted online by Relevant Magazine produced at the Guitar Center.)
Jon Foreman, like Bono, repeats the theme in his music that these lives that we live are short compared to the expanse of time. We “die a little every day”. Our lives are terminal.
We all think about it from time to time, though most of us would rather not dwell on it. Yet, there it is: in the back of our minds, nagging. It never quite goes away. Though we try to drown out the beating drum of time marching on, the incessant cadence continues on, always under the surface of our consciousness.