MWM: Sweetness and sunshine

This title of this post may assuage some readers who are put off by periodic critiques or other-than-positive commentary!

Yesterday morning, two songs made their presence felt where we were . . . and in my heart.  I think I experienced a little sweetness and sunshine, but maybe not quite like you’d think.

I.  I Love You, Lord (words and music by Laurie KIein)

On my top-10 list of so-called contemporary worship songs, this one, along with a few others, was highlighted here.  Its message and music are simple, pure.  Actually, there were some very tart (even bitter) sounds created yesterday, in terms of air compression and sound waves:  pitches 75 cents off, 2 or 3 beats skipped there, another beat here, lack of resolution of suspensions to communicate the “sweet sound” we were supposed to be creating for the Lord’s ear.

I was getting a drink, safely outside the “sanctuary,” keeping myself from the annoyance of a prior song, and then I heard this song begin.  I dragged myself in, tried to forget what had gone before, and sang.  I forced myself to mean what I was saying.  This, for me, was a “sacrifice of worship,” and I trust others were doing the same.  The end result, I believe, was that the worship will have been sweetness.  “May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

II.  Tempted and Tried (words by W.B. Stevens)

This is a song I was trained — mostly by facial expression and contra-enthusiasm, not by verbal instruction, I think — not  to sing.  (There are quite a few songs like that, even in the better hymnals.  I grew up with an assembly repertoire of double or triple that of most people, but there were still a couple hundred songs in our hymnal that we never would have considered using.  A few of these were downright pitiful, and “Tempted and Tried” was one I was led to believe was unworthy of a Christian’s expression.  I still think it is a good deal less worthwhile than scores of others.)

Yet “Tempted and Tried” expresses some reality, and does seem to have faith at its core.  Below, the  “then” comments are the  way I once thought of these words, followed by the “now.”  Please share a few expressions with me. . . .

“I’m oft made to wonder why it should be thus . . . .”

Then:  Why would I indulge myself in such negative thinking?  Not a good thing for a soul.
Now:  You know what? I gotta admit that I think that way sometimes, so, why, like some Psalmists, wouldn’t I go ahead & give voice to the thought in a song?  I should probably be real.

(Unchecked,)  . . . others . . . live in the wrong.”

Then:   Yeah, yeah, but it isn’t so bad.
Now:  Well, now that I observe it more, it is pretty discouraging.  How can these people do that?  And do it again?  How can they look themselves in the mirror (and some of them even call themselves “Christians”)?  What gives when rotten attitudes and behaviors seem to go unchecked in relationships?

“Farther along we’ll . . . understand why. . . .”

Then:  It should probably be “further,” since this is not physical distance, yet the “road” is the background metaphorical image for living, so I guess I can go with “farther.”  But this seems a trite expression for the progression of Christian thought.
Now:  I simply cannot understand what is going on sometimes.  Why this, why that?  Why, when I do this or think this, and “they” think or do this or that, do things turn out this way?  Things just don’t make sense sometimes.  Not here, not now.

“‘Faithful till death,’ said our loving Master.
A few more days to labor and wait.
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing. . . .”

Then:  [Overlooked these words, being too distracted by the previous words.]
Now:  This is one pretty good depiction of Christian living, actually, and it’s a shame I’d not allowed myself to sing it heartily for years.  If I will but concentrate on being faithful to my Master, the junk I experience on life’s road can fade somewhat, even now.  Not completely, mind you — see above comment on “oft made to wonder.”

(The writer of “Trust and Obey” also had it wrong, incidentally, if we’re literal with these words:  “Not a shadow can rise , not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away.”  That bit I learned from my mom is still with me — and now, with more depth of comprehensnion, since I’ve fallen under more shadows in the passing years.)

Pondering the two songs end-to-end, I’d say that there was some sweetness in the words “sweet, sweet sound.”  As I told my soul to say to God, “I love You,” and “May it be a sweet sound,” I think it happened.

And the “sunshine”?  Well, I still don’t care for a lot of the expressions in “Tempted and Tried.”  “Cheer up, my brother; live in the sunshine” just doesn’t do it for me.  (That’s about as maddening as some do-gooder telling you to “relax” when you’re justifiably upset.)  But the idea of current-era injustice and the reality of feeling discouraged because things just don’t make sense in our daily, weekly trials?  Yes, I accept them as real, and I will probably sing about them again.  The general sentiment of the song resonates much more in me after two or three more decades have passed, and in an odd turn, the shadows become a little more like sunshine because I know God sees and understands.

==> Have you changed your mind about any songs since you were younger?  What do you sing or not sing now?

==> What experiences have you had recently with a high-impact song in a Christian gathering?

 ~ ~ ~

[This is an installment in the Monday Worship Music series.  Find other, related posts through this link.]

One thought on “MWM: Sweetness and sunshine

  1. Alex 01/28/2014 / 10:06 am

    I once lead “Tempted and Tried” in an evening worship service when Andy III was preaching in Olyphant, AR. To say that I was chided for my selection is an understatement. I thought perhaps that by using a different tempo or downplaying the Scotch-snappiness of the writing that it might lose its twangy, overly saccharine quality, but alas, I could not unmake what was made.

    In the aftermath of that selection, I recall having similar thoughts on this song as the ones you have expressed. Despite its unfortunate setting and colloquialisms, the text contains expressions of sincere longing and eternal focus. In fact, on the rare occasion that I am in a service where “Tempted and Tried” is led, I now appreciate it more than I would have otherwise; because its musical setting is so tragic, it somehow helps me focus on the intent of the text’s authorship. Instead of the heavy eye roll it might have once conjured, the song triggers in me an instinct to look beyond its failings and see the truths it is attempting to express: the reality of injustice, the question of suffering, the glory of eternity, et c.

    Would that I could have that instinct in many other songs that cause me to immediately zone out. One of my new goals in worship is to sift through each song for the gem within. Even if the vocal writing is poor, the text is clumsy, and the execution is flawed, there is nearly always some encouragement to be found within a song, or perhaps in spite of it. “Tempted and Tried” is a musical example of human failing becoming God’s asset in my life and I hope that I can draw out similar insights from other songs that once I could only disdain.


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