It was 11:07 pm and I was just heading out. My arms were piled high with nearly-due library books and the grocery list was stuffed neatly in my pocket. The wind swirled around me, whipping my hair as I clambered into Darryl’s pick-up. The quiet was a relief from all the day’s activity, a space to come away for a while and reclaim pieces after being parceled out and thinned. I love these late-night runs–they give me time to reflect and replenish. My rusty voice chimed in with the music filling the small space as I bounced and turned down the deserted night roads.

Worship music turns me around, lifts my eyes up and stretches out my hands in desire for Him. It’s a bridge for me. A bridge from earth to the very feet of Jesus. It takes my eyes off myself and my small world to Christ and His kingdom.

I’ve been blessed with a rich heritage of traditional psalm-singing, i.e. psalms sung in very traditional organ/stanza style. But there are times I need just a few words of the Word to roll around the crowded spaces in my heart. Perhaps its the smallness of my mind but I crave simple lines that can saturate every part of my heart with truth. It wipes off the mental and emotion-laded board and sets Christ at the center.

I need these pausing points, these selah moments. So many in the Psalm-singing tradition oppose simple worship songs because they say little and use repetition, I’d argue that if they are based on the Word they are a tremendous gift and needful expression. There are times in the intensity of life that the soul is hard and dry and cracked. Beautiful and eloquent songs can roll by so quickly, verses full of meaning, but instead of sinking in and nourishing, the mouth moves and the mind numbly leads. Sometimes you may be so dry, so broken that your soul can only respond to the deep penetration of one line,  a simple glimpse of Jesus. It moistens the dry soil, softens the hard defenses and seeps down into painful crevices. 

Worship music softens the soul, focuses the mind, and warms affections. It prepares the heart for delving into the word of God and receiving more spiritual food, it returns submission to resistant hearts and and focuses distracted earthly hearts on heavenly things.

I can’t count how many times our family would chase away the darkness in our home, the threat of unbelief by belting out, “Blessed by the name of the Lord, blessed be His Name. He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away.” It would renew our submission to God as a family and would soothe salve on open wounds of unanswered prayers. So many have called songs like these superfluous, lacking in content, and mindless. Is Psalm 136 mindless and repetitive with all of its “for His mercy endureth forever”? Of course not, it encourages meditation and softens the heart to ponder the Lord’s mercy. Sometimes it takes repeated words of truth to penetrate and soften this fallen humanity. They sweeten and soften the heart for greater understanding from the Word, they prepare us to see more of Christ.

If these songs were the meat of our spiritual diet it would be lean and lacking. But worship songs can be a great aid to cold hearts, wounded believers, and distracted followers. After a long day of tiring circumstances and dismal test results my heart was lifted into the heavenly choir with Psalm 100: “Shout to the Lord all the ends of the earth, shout and sing His praises, know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and we are His.” A simple refrain sung over and over, reaching into the deep crevices of my heart, erasing unbelief and renewing worship and joy once again from this patched-up soul.

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