One of the blessings of my life is a small music group I’m part of. Marilyn, Eldon and I have a number of humble “gigs” – singing at a senior’s home nearby every few weeks, and singing for and with our house church. Despite the hectic pace of the fall, getting together to practice invariably ends up being the best part of my day. Singing the words of scripture or other prayerful lyrics has a way of slowing me down, touching the heart and restoring balance.
In recent weeks we’ve been preparing a few songs for our annual fall retreat this past weekend out at Falcon Lake. Like trying on new clothes, new songs are fun to check out though perhaps a bit ill fitting at first. We’d practiced a few times and the songs still didn’t feel finished, so last week we met on Wednesday evening to practice one more time.
As always, we tuned up our guitars, got lyrics and music stands ready and began to go over the songs. It was business as usual, but something happened that evening which caught our attention. It was as though the songs truly came together and the lyrics came alive. We had all come together from busy schedules and promised to “only” practice for an hour, but time seemed to melt away as we got caught in the beauty of the songs. “Should we go over them one more time?” one of us asked and we all quickly agreed.
Reflecting on it during the practice, it struck me that there was a third, unseen presence in the room. Besides the music and the three of us, there was definitely a sense that God was with us in my humble living room. The music was deeply relaxing, but more than that, it felt like we were in a sacred place. I noticed that our comments to each other became kinder and laughter came quickly.
Make my mind free from fears, You know I can’t do it on my own.
Ancient Celts and later Christians had a term to describe times and places like this: thin places. Thin places happen when the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we are able to catch glimpses of the divine. They help us become our essential selves. Heaven and earth, a Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter.
The music stayed with me through the rest of the week, both during the day as I worked with my students, and at night if I woke up and couldn’t sleep. Song
lyrics came back to steady my spirit and quell the fears that can take over so quickly. One that stayed with me the most was a line from a song a friend had written years earlier, of God saying to us, “Hush now, peace now, in this moment know now, you belong to Me.” And another lyric by singer Josh Garrels has become my prayer for the new school year, “Make my mind free from fears, You know I can’t do it on my own.”
I wish I had some audio to share with you on the blog. Maybe that’ll happen someday, but for now, I’m glad the songs gave me an experience of God last week, a thin place to remember that I’m not alone in the universe, and that something Greater than me is holding us all steady.