(For Stefan and Vicki. May your life together be blessed with music from Above, and with the One whose love gives so great a gift.)
A very special couple, whose wedding I will conduct later this month, presented to me a ukulele as an expression of appreciation (of course, they perhaps should have waited until after the ceremony to be sure that a gift is in order!). I had been given a ukulele many years ago that had broken as I began to learn it, and mentioned to the groom in passing that I'd someday like to try the instrument again. Unbeknownst to me, he and his fiancee graciously took my comment as a cue. I was blessed, surprised, and delighted by Stefan and Vicki's kindness, or as I said to them, "You shouldn't have done this! But I'm glad you did!"
I love the prospect of learning a new instrument. Having come to music somewhat behind schedule (in my late 20s), I discovered some wonderful Biblical and life lessons in the adventure and the challenge.
1. Rome wasn't built in a day, or as the Bible declares of itself and our quest to know its truth, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10). While some learn to play instruments more rapidly than others, everyone must learn by a process of time, discipline, and practice (there may be exceptions to this among people with autism, some who seem miraculously gifted to pick up an instrument and immediately play with virtuosity). Step by step provides the way to musical proficiency, as it does in a growing walk with the Lord, loving relationship with people, and just about anything worth being and doing in this life.
2. Music, like so many things in life, involves both the both the technical and the transcendental. Facts must be learned, skills cultivated, and dexterity developed to play any musical instrument. It also helps to learn some music theory, although many musicians play without the deeper understanding of music's heart and soul. At the end of the day, however, much happens in the performance of an instrument that cannot be comprehended or explained. The sum is far greater than its parts, as it were. Indeed, whether in performance or in listening, every honest soul must admit that music touches a place in our hearts far beyond understanding and explanation.
This truth about music speaks to our worship of God, which must be "in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). In His Word, our Lord gave to us facts, principles, and doctrines that can be rationally understood, at least to some degree and measure. "With all thy getting, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7). It remains true, however, that the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ also comprises realities far beyond mere mental and rational inquiry. He "dwells in the light which no man can approach unto" (I Timothy 6:16). God is a Person, three Persons dwelling in One actually. Moreover, He is infinite in His being and understanding. To know Him thus reveals that we can never fully know Him. The greatest and most technically skilled musicians would say the same of their art and craft.
3. Music confirms the existence of God. Space does not permit an explanation of this premise. Allow me simply to suggest, respectfully, that I marvel that anyone who knows and performs music can fail to realize the truth that man could not have created this sublime union of art and craft. Indeed, I am far more puzzled by the existence of atheist and agnostic musicians than I am by the existence of God. The truth of the matter is that music is His sublime creation, constituted in us for the glory of the Lord Jesus, and for the especially beautiful expression of God's goodness revealed unto and within us. Melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, and the "greater sum" of inexplicable wonder and loveliness speak to our hearts of other dimensions, realities, and most of all, of another Heart and Mind.
4. Finally, and this is personal, music speaks of God's working and coordinating all things together for His glory, and our good. As mentioned, I found music - or it found me - far beyond the normal schedule. Indeed, had you told me when I was 27 that the next 28 years would involve playing, performing, and singing in thousands of services and meetings, I would not have believed it. Nor would have I have imagined writing music and songs. Perhaps most of all, I wouldn't have thought that the singing Frances and I previously and privately performed in the car together was a prelude to the countless duets we have enjoyed singing publicly during the last few decades. "Not possible" would have been my response all those years ago to such a notion.
"With God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). The Lord, of course, knew how our ministry would develop over the years (or more literally, how He would develop it). So, I truly believe He led me to Andy's Music Store that day in August, 1985, where the purchase of my first guitar opened a door of life we didn't even know existed. It has been such a benefit to be able to lead music and sing, as well as preach and teach. We don't have to haul around a song leader. No, Frances just hauls me and my guitar around, and the three of us, by the grace of God, can do what we need to do! :) I can't imagine now how it could have been any other way, and the truth of the matter is that it couldn't have. "A man's heart deviseth his way. But the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
A few more thoughts. The very title of this devotional originates with our music, namely, in a song I wrote for Frances on her birthday many years ago. The title, "Orange Moon," became the banner under which we conduct the entirety of our ministry. Certainly, we might well have written and published a devotional that bore another title. But to us, it just wouldn't have been the same. Indeed, when I think of how many notes and even phone calls I have received from you folks over the years after you've seen an orange moon rising in the sky, I bow my head and give thanks. Even more, when I think of our children being away from us in faraway places (places like Iraq, Great Britain, and NYC), it brings tears to my eyes as I remember them saying, "Mom, Dad, I saw an orange moon tonight. And I thought about you."
Finally, I have been given the privilege all these years of singing with my favorite singer. I'll get in trouble with her if I write too much, but suffice it to say that the Lord somehow built into Frances's voice an ethereal reverb that will take you to another place, another wonderful place, if you listen carefully enough. So often when singing with her (and by the way, with Steve and Jack also who have blessed us with their gifts by often performing with us. Thanks, gentlemen), I want to stop and just listen. You do need a melody, I guess, but maybe the greatest joy of God's surprising gift of music to my heart and life is that it has provided so much opportunity to hear His beautiful voice in the beautiful voice of my wife. "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the LORD" (Proverbs 18:22).
Thank you, Stefan and Vicki. I will cherish your gift, and I will learn to play it! And thank You, Lord, our musical God who made such a gift of song, and of singing. How glorious You must be, and how lovely Your heart to have imagined and created so sublime a blessing for Your children.
"I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."