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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Gospel According to my iPod

I love music.

Way back when (and I mean way back, in the early 70s) I even played music, dragging my guitar and my own songs (as well as Cat Stevens's and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s) all around.

I like all kinds of music. I know, that sort of comment usually prompts a rolling of the eyes, and a suspicion that whoever is speaking really doesn’t know all that much about music. But my Ipod has over 14,500 songs, from over 5200 albums, representing over 3800 artists (from ABBA to Zappa, as I like to say), and I can tell you something about each one of them. I have songs in Latin, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Russian and Italian. as well as a lot of jazz and classical, which have no words. I think music is the soundtrack of life, and a world without music would be far less rich.

One of the nice things about portable music players is the ability to shuffle music. In shuffle mode, the player simply plays the songs in random order. For someone with a lot of music, this affords me the chance to hear tracks that I haven’t chosen lately. It’s always a treat to hear something that I haven’t heard in a while.

Occasionally, there is a sublime juxtaposition of two songs which, taken separately, might say one thing but, taken together, say something else altogether. Recently, I heard something like that.

Suzanne Vega, an English major turned pop storyteller, has many interesting songs to her credit, some bright and optimistic, but many dark and mysterious. One that falls in-between is the song Caramel, from her album Nine Objects of Desire.

The song is pretty straightforward. The singer is telling someone that, for reasons unknown, she must refuse a love relationship.

It won't do
to dream of caramel,
to think of cinnamon
and long for you.

It won't do
to stir a deep desire,
to fan a hidden fire
that can never burn true.

I like how the reason for her decision is never revealed. What is it? Race? Religion? Age? Most likely, most people’s thought goes to adultery—either she, the other person or both are married to someone else.

But whatever the story, she has made a decision, although the song’s tone seems to give the listener reason to believe her resolve is perhaps not exactly rock-solid. Nevertheless, she has made a good choice—for now at least—although it was obviously a hard one.

I like Suzanne Vega’s voice. I like the song, too, so it was a treat to hear it. No less a treat was the next song in the shuffle. Lari White is the daughter of a rock-and-roll guitarist and the granddaughter of a Primitive Baptist preacher (which curiously, allowed no musical instruments in church) and she draws deeply upon both men with her gutsy, gospel-choir powered version of There is Power in the Blood from the soundtrack of the movie The Apostle. You know the words:

Would you be free
from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood,
power in the blood;
Would you o'er evil
a victory win?
There's wonderful
power in the blood.

It occurred to me the proximity of these two songs was providential. Every day, we make choices. Some are easy. Some, like the one described by Ms. Vega, are harder. Some seem impossible. It is then that followers of Christ have something extra. The power of the blood. Simply put, it is a power, a gift given of God and within us, that lifts us higher than we can go on our own, and allows us to do, or do without. And to discover that a hard choice can be more than loss, but gain.

It's grace. It's growing. It's being saved all over again every day (not positionally, but practically). And it's part of the real, warty you in this real, rocky world. Grace is not needed in a sinless world.

Here are performances of the two songs. I would encourage you, if you like them, to buy the studio versions.

1 comment:

Wayne S. said...

I am amused by the older white guys sitting on the stage trying not to tap their feet. The setting is obviously a church of some sort.