Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
I'm collecting songs, music that helps me see heaven. Music that makes my whole heart sing out praise.
I play the songs in the car, on the way to see friends, or before seven 11-year olds pile onto the worn leather seats of my car. I play them at the kitchen sink, scrub brush in hand. I play them through earbuds on my phone when I walk the neighborhood with our dog.
In my last newsletter I talked about music and how it affects my writing: "I listen to music when I write, especially, often, when I am listening for God. I sometimes hear the words the singer is singing—but not often. It can be a jumping off place, the music. But the music is not what I am listening for, if that makes sense."
The music may be what I'm listening to, but it's not Who I'm listening for.
In this life—in these scattered moments of beauty and strife and hard and soft places—I need tools, sometimes, to help pull me to the heart of God. He is here, I know, but I can forget that. The problem, of course, is that while it is so easy for me to forget about God, I seem, somehow, to never forget about me. And the amazing thing about some music—music about and to God—is that it helps me forget myself. It helps my whole self—heart and soul and mind—recognize it's ache for God.
The songs themselves aren't the worship, I think. Not unless we are letting those notes and those words and those voices help us imagine heaven, that place we long to go. We are drawn to heaven, to God. We ache for it, for Him, a beauty of which we get glimpses; yet a beauty we have yet to fully see.
We ache for God, and we can live not even realizing it. It's not that we tire, aching for Him; rather, we tire of our pride and our very selves getting in the way of seeking Him. We tire, in this harried, self-obsessed life, when we fail to recognize it is God we're aching for.
For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, MSG).
The most beautiful songs, to me, the ones that make me catch my breath and help me see God, are the ones that remind me of my vulnerability, my fragility, my weakness, and the strength and beauty and awesomeness of the abounding, never-ending love of God.
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And then there are the songs of sisters. The stories God's daughters' tell? The ones they share of how they see God, how they experience his presence? Those songs are the sweetest songs of all.
My friend says when she is with God she is on a beach, collecting shells, the ocean roaring in front of her, God walking close to her side. Another friend says with God she is swinging, her legs pumping hard, her arms pulling against the cords of rope holding her up. Jesus is pushing her, His hands firm on her back as she lets her head tilt to heaven and she flies.
Another friend hears God each night, as she tucks herself into bed. She sees herself sitting on a rock, on a mountain top, the view wide and long and stunning. God talks to her there, his words the last things she hears each night as she lays her head to sleep.
I collect these stories, and they become my songs, too. When sisters share how they hear and see and yearn for God, I imagine heaven. I can hear that music playing loud and long, angels leaning close, the melody of daughters saying yes to their King.
If music is a tool to see God, then anything can be a tool to experience God, can't it?
How do you do it? How do you seek God? How do you love to listen for Him?
He is all around now, isn't He? He is with you as you surrender fear and approach the unopened bills on the kitchen counter. He is with you as you listen to those dreaded results from the doctor. He is with you as you bear the silence of home when everyone's gone and you don't know what to do now. Who am I, God? Help me through this. What is for me now?
Can you hear the songs?
When I hear the songs—the voices lifted high—and I see, in my heart, the sisters and brothers circled, hands raised, singing, unending, with exuberance and joy, I hear the song my heart needs most. It is worshipping God that kills all fear, depletion, anxiety, and loneliness. There is a song heaven sings, and it is a song I am learning to see: We are daughters meant to stand.
We have horses, steeds, on which to ride. Up into mountains and through caverns. Through forest and rivers and paths of rock and brush. We are called to ride and there is beauty all around. There is music playing all around.
There is no crying in heaven. But we hear it here, on earth. We hear it. And He hears it, but He hears rejoicing in Heaven, too.
May we together, here on earth, sing to heaven, the place whose music we need to hear with our whole hearts?
We pause here and are gathered. We pause here, and we see your face. Me pause here, and we stay. We want to stay here, with You.
We, your daughters and your sons. Carry us and help us push on. How You love it when we say your name, in love. How You love it when we tell You we see You. How You love it when we declare how good You are.
Yes, You are good. Yes, You are amazing. Yes, You are complete and your love is blanketing the heavens and the earth and the waters in between.
You are the King who never deserts us. You are the King of a Kingdom coming, the whole earth groaning under the weight of the burden of knowing we are not yet fully ourselves. We want to be fully ourselves, with You.
Wake us up, this day, Father. Wake us up to love and to majesty. Wake us up to glory and the things we can't yet fully see. Help us to see beyond what is before us. Repair the muscles that ache from effort and with pain, restore the bodies not sleeping well, comfort the minds burdened with worry and fear. Let us see You, God, in the place more real than here.
You are here. You are in this. You are in this place. You are beyond what we can see, but not beyond. You are here. There is more here than we can see, and we want it. We want to taste it. We want to eat your word, devour You.
Raise us up to a new place, our hearts open to change, open to being stretched, our imagination focused on a place where there are no walls.
And in this place, where there are no walls, we lift up the suffering, we lift up the dying, we lift up the trapped, we lift up the daughters and the sons being tortured and enslaved. God, let us see You and put our feet down, sinking deep into this ground, fighting for justice with our lives, these hearts of ours beating not just in theory, for the lost, the daughters and the sons crying in lonely streets.
Restore this world God. We march with You. We take up our swords and our shields and we bear what needs to be borne and we speak the words of hope and truth and let that lead us, our food.
Let us worship You in spirit and in truth. Let our worship take us deeper still.
Deeper still . . . Let us go deeper into the dark places to shine, so brightly, your light.
Lord, come. We hear Your beating heart against our skin.
There it is. Listen. The song.
I'd love to hear your story, your music in the song.
This post was originally published at jenniferjcamp.com