Thank God for Harpists.

All rise and open your Bibles to the Old Testament, 2nd Kings, chapter 3.  There you will find the prophet Elisha, a disciple of Elijah.  But I’m not here to talk about that!  No!  I’m more interested in a specific moment of this chapter where Elisha is called forward to deliver a prophecy for the King of Israel. With a fair amount of disdain, Elisha agrees, but first declares “Now bring me a harpist!”  This passage goes on to say that once the harpist began playing, the Spirit of God came down on Elisha as he delivers his prophecy. But I’m not here to talk about Elisha’s prophecy!  No!  I’m here to bear witness to the glorious truth that God loves to put a soundtrack to his stories!  How weak would that prophecy have been without the harpist ushering in the Holy Spirit?  Pretty weak, I say!  The kings in attendance may have even stepped out for a snack mid-prophecy.  But mix in a harpist and it’s Holy Spirit time, baby!  THAT’s an attention getter!  And God obviously knows it!

Okay, I’m slightly tongue in cheek here, but there is clearly a spiritual connection to the use of music in this story.  And I believe that, throughout my life, there is a very real spiritual connection to the way music has impacted and influenced me.

Whether we realize it or not, music is critical and ingrained in so much of our lives.  Why do you think so many movies and tv shows utilize music in the telling of their stories?  Because it makes the story better!  Imagine some of your favorite movies without a soundtrack.  Go ahead!  I’m pretty sure that if you take the swelling soundtrack out of “Rudy” it would just feel like a movie about an annoying pest who just won’t go away. With the soundtrack, you are sitting right in the middle of Notre Dame Stadium chanting “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” with 90.000 other fans (which clearly never happened in real life, but that’s another story).  If I remove the music from the montage sequence of Rocky’s first fight with Apollo,  I am suddenly watching a laborious exercise in blood and sweat and defeat. But insert Bill Conti’s magnificent “Going The Distance“, and I feel like I’m standing next to Rocky, going toe to toe with the Master of Disaster himself. And even in defeat, the composition convinces me that I have just experienced victory.  It’s not that the stories aren’t relevant or relatable without the soundtrack, but somehow the music anchors us more deeply to that story.

My life is like that.  There are poignant and treasured moments of my life that carry with them a connection to some song or piece of music that enhances my memory of that moment.  Again, not that the moments lack personal relevance on their own, but somehow there is a deeper and, I think, spiritual connection that the music creates.

Several years ago, while we were still living in Arizona, a very dear friend and his wife wanted to come and celebrate his 40th birthday with my wife and I by going to Sedona.  These are two of our absolute closest friends and there were so many great moments in that weekend that I still remember with vivid fondness.  We stayed at this random little bed and breakfast just outside of Sedona in a town called Camp Verde.  We knew almost nothing about it other than that it existed.  And I don’t think we were completely sure about that, either.  As we drove through “town” on our way to the this place, we began to be gripped by fear about what we had gotten ourselves into.  Camp Verde isn’t much of a “looker”.  Then, after winding our way seemingly into nowhere, we came upon what turned out to be a perfect and secluded oasis in the desert.  I don’t remember the name of the place now, but we loved our stay and pretty much had the entire compound (as we came to call it) to ourselves.  During meals and our time at the pool, the B&B host would put music on for us, and it was almost always Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams, which had just released.  Now understand, I’m not a huge Jack Johnson fan (which is a subject for another post, because he is one of those artists that I’ve always thought I should like more than I do), but this album just felt right that weekend.  And it’s not the only album our host played, but it’s the one I remember.  And, actually, it’s not really the whole album, but specifically the song “Never Know“.  I remember listening to that entire album several times during our long weekend.  But when I think about those days in my mind, whether it’s our time at the compound or cruising the mean streets of Sedona, I just hear that one song.  And I like it.  I love my memories of that weekend, but with that song in my head it somehow deepens that love.  It’s a spiritual connection, anchoring my emotions and memories to this unexplainable thing music provides in my life that I often attribute to God.  And it gives me an appreciation that, in someway, the memories of that weekend are a tiny snapshot of heaven.

But that’s an easy example.  The memories are good and the song, while not as omnipresent as I remember it, was part of the weekend.  But sometimes I am surprised at the way music weaves itself into more difficult moments, even when it doesn’t make sense or seem appropriate.  But it is.  It’s spiritual.

Another time, I was having a conversation with a friend.  It was not an easy conversation.  In fact, it was really painful and difficult.  As we stood in my driveway talking, the cold and quiet stillness of that winter day was suddenly broken by the sound of music.  And no, it wasn’t Julie Andrews (though that would have been awesome!), but walking down the street was a pair of high school kids from the neighborhood, a young man and a young woman.  The young man was playing a ukulele.  I knew these kids and had seen them many times before, but I had never seen either one of them with a ukulele.   It caused me to pause and listen and wonder.  I wondered why he happened to be there at that moment.  I had lived in this neighborhood for a long time and never saw someone walking down the street playing music.  But there he was, playing a simple and non-specific melody on his instrument, providing an unlikely moment of sunshine on what was an otherwise bleak moment.  I was miserable and angry and just wanted to stay that way.  I wasn’t interested in some spiritual snapshot of heaven right then.  But there it was.

And it has stuck with me.

When I recall that conversation, it is with the memory of these kids and that ukulele.  If that boy stood before me now and played the exact chords he played that day, I couldn’t say for sure that I would recognize the tune.  But I hear the ukulele in my memory.  Sometimes it’s Brother Iz covering “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“, sometimes it’s Eddie Vedder playing “Rise“, but I always hear the ukulele.  And it softens what was otherwise a  rough moment.   Though I knew healing would likely take years, the music built into me a sense of hope for the restoration of my friend.  And that is amazing because, without that darn ukulele, I’m not sure I would have felt that yet.  And I am humbled by the power of music in my life.  And I am sure that the connection is spiritual.  And I thank God for that.

Now, somebody bring me a harpist.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on January 20, 2012.

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