Thinking Out Loud

July 1, 2016

The Music That God Likes

Today’s guest post is from Ruth Wilkinson who may or may not be related.


It was hot. I was tired.

I was spending the summer working in the kitchen of my favorite camp, supervising and cooking. And when you’re doing work you believe in, with people you like, it’s easy to run to 16 hour days.

I’d finally hung up my ladle, made a cup of tea, and sought out a quiet, dark and relatively cool spot to relax before going to bed.

The porch. Concrete floor and walls. Old wooden pews against the wall. An unimpeded view of the moon on the lake. Behind me, a window, open to the ‘lounge’, which was busy with other staff playing games, chatting, making music. And me in the shadows outside, listening.

Under the window indoors there was a piano. If not for the wall, I’d have been leaning against it.

Two people came to the piano and sat down. His camp name was Rocky, one of the senior summer staff, full of character and wit.

Her camp name was Joy.

If you met her, you’d know that it could never be anything else. She’s one of those people who carry light with them into the room. A 100 watt smile, always ready. Hugs, encouragement, hope.

She was also about 80% deaf. A hearing aid in each ear. Her parents, as some do, had decided not to have her taught sign language. They wanted her to grow and live in the world of the hearing. So her interaction with the people around her was through lip reading and her own slurred, exaggerated speech.

But Rocky and Joy had decided that it was time for her to learn to play the piano. ‘Cause camp is like that. Behind me, out of sight, he sat down at the high end of the keyboard, and she at the low end. I doubted they knew I was there.

He hit a C chord and sang “Je – sus..” and showed her where the C note was. She hit it. Bom.

He played a G chord, sang “loves me…” and showed her where the G note was. Bom.

A minor. “This I….” G is one up from A. Bom.

C. “Know…” Back to the first one again. Bom.

F chord. “For the…” Which one’s F? Yeah, that’s right! Bom.

And on they went, all the way through 2 verses and 2 choruses, patient with each other.

C chord. “So….” Bom.

They laughed and high fived each other. He was called away.

I thought, “Well, that was nice. I’m glad I heard that.” Sipped my tea, looked at the moon, rested my head against the wall and thought about grace.

But she stayed at the piano. Playing notes, combinations of notes, what she thought might be chords.

I thought, “Oh, dear.”

She began to play more loudly, more confidently. Crashing and tinkling.

I sighed.

She started to sing. The singing of the deaf. Loud. No tone, no melody. No rhythm or any relation to what her hands were playing. Right out the window, over my head.

I groaned.

She sang, “Jeeeeeeee – sus! (crash) Jeeeeee – sus! (bom) I love you Jesus! (crash) I love you God! (bom) Thank you for saving meeeeee! (tinkle) OH, GOD, I LOVE YOUUUUUUUU! (crunch) YOU ARE BEAUTIFUUUUUUUL! (kabom) YOU CREATED THE UNIVERRRRRSE! (CRASH BOM)”

I thought, “God, I’m tired. I just wanted some peace and quiet. Is that so much to ask? How much longer is she going to keep making this NOISE?!”

I’m not exactly sure how to describe the next sensation I experienced. The closest I can come is when you’re a kid at the grocery store with your granny, and you say something rude to the guy behind the counter and she slaps you across the back of the head.

SMACK!

And in that moment, I heard that voice that you hear with every nerve and fiber of your body. Whispering.

“She’s not singing for you. And you have no idea what she sounds like from here.”

 

~Ruth Wilkinson


Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

October 4, 2014

Who Says Youth Groups Won’t Sing?

…and How Running The Internet Rabbit Trails Led Me to New Discoveries

…and The Theology of Acapella Worship

Rural Hill Church Camp

So it all started on Monday night when I was wrapping up the link list. A visit to The Christian Chronicle, a news page of the Churches of Christ revealed that they had started a new feature, Voices Only Wednesday on September 17th. Kicking it off was what appeared to be an eight-minute camp music video from Rural Hill Church of Christ. It reminded me of a couple of Young Life Clubs I attended at another high school many years ago.

There’s a moment in this video near the end (about 6:18) where they go into a James Cleveland song, Get Right Church. (You want to play this loud.) There’s a lot going on in this song. A lot of fun. A lot of energy. A lot of passion. But also a lot of musical complexity. Who says you can’t get youth groups to sing? They call this part of the facility The Singing Porch (see photo above). I’ll bet a lot of audio memories are made there. (You really want to click the link, okay?)

I fired off the link to people I know who work with choirs, with camps, and with youth groups. But found myself wanting to look a little closer. So I checked out the Facebook page for the church. Many more videos from summer camp were waiting. But by this point, I wanted to learn more. 

The church website is visitor-friendly. Remarkably so. On the About Us page there is a notation:

We  do not use instruments in worship. We simply use our voices and our hearts. If  you have never experienced this type of worship, you may be surprised at how  heartfelt and uplifting it can be! We sing a mixture of traditional and  contemporary songs – reflective of the diverse age range and preferences in our  congregation.

So that’s where the kids get this. This musical paradigm is caught at an early age. It’s part of the worship style they’ve grown up with. Yes, there’s Power Point and microphones, but no keyboards, no drums, no guitars.

Days later I checked out the denomination’s description at Wikipedia and learned more:

The Churches of Christ generally combine the lack of any historical evidence that the early church used musical instruments in worship and the belief that there is no scriptural support for using instruments in the church’s worship service to decide that instruments should not be used today in worship. Churches of Christ have historically practiced a cappella music in worship services.

The use of musical instruments in worship was a divisive topic within the Stone-Campbell Movement from its earliest years, when some adherents opposed the practice on scriptural grounds, while others may have relied on a cappella simply because they lacked access to musical instruments. Alexander Campbell opposed the use of instruments in worship. As early as 1855, some Restoration Movement churches were using organs or pianos, ultimately leading the Churches of Christ to separate from the groups that condoned instrumental music.

(See the link for footnotes.)

Finally I went to YouTube in search of more songs. You can search under Church of Christ acapella, or Church of Christ singing. I used Church of Christ music and ended up listening to a 30-minute teaching from Mountain Creek Church of Christ on why they don’t use ‘mechanical instruments.’ The pastor takes a very easy-going approach on this, and while I would disagree with his hermeneutics, or even the logic by which the conclusion is reached, there’s no denying his hardline conviction. I just don’t think you should take a minority reading of a passage and then argue it quiet so dogmatically.

As an aside, several years ago I met with the lay-leader of a small congregation in our neighborhood, that I knew used only the King James Version. I asked him if there was a theological underpinning for this, and he quickly cut in and said, “No it’s a preference and only a preference. Our people can read anything they want, and many do.” That was refreshing. Rather than preach about the doctrine of acapella music, I would love it if this person simply talked about the rich musical heritage of the capital ‘C’ church — Christianity is a singing faith — and said the acapella thing is just a preference, just the way they do things.

Bottom line? I didn’t find anything on YouTube that grabbed me the way Get Right Church did that first day, but if I were ever in Antioch, Tennessee, I would definitely want to experience what Rural Hill offers first-hand. It would beat spending the Sunday at just another generic megachurch. And I wouldn’t let the reasons they may have for their music stop me from enjoying the rest of the worship service, especially when the music would be the reason I was there at all!


Photo: Ironically, the video from which this was taken (click the image to link) has background music which included a full instrumental background.

 

October 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Music That God Likes

Filed under: personal, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:17 am

Today’s guest post is from Ruth Wilkinson who may or may not be related.


It was hot. I was tired.

I was spending the summer working in the kitchen of my favourite camp, supervising and cooking. And when you’re doing work you believe in, with people you like, it’s easy to run to 16 hour days.

I’d finally hung up my ladle, made a cup of tea, and sought out a quiet, dark and relatively cool spot to relax before going to bed.

The porch. Concrete floor and walls. Old wooden pews against the wall. An unimpeded view of the moon on the lake. Behind me, a window, open to the ‘lounge’, which was busy with other staff playing games, chatting, making music. And me in the shadows outside, listening.

Under the window indoors there was a piano. If not for the wall, I’d have been leaning against it.

Two people came to the piano and sat down. His camp name was Rocky, one of the senior summer staff, full of character and wit.

Her camp name was Joy.

If you met her, you’d know that it could never be anything else. She’s one of those people who carry light with them into the room. A 100 watt smile, always ready. Hugs, encouragement, hope.

She was also about 80% deaf. A hearing aid in each ear. Her parents, as some do, had decided not to have her taught sign language. They wanted her to grow and live in the world of the hearing. So her interaction with the people around her was through lip reading and her own slurred, exaggerated speech.

But Rocky and Joy had decided that it was time for her to learn to play the piano. ‘Cause camp is like that. Behind me, out of sight, he sat down at the high end of the keyboard, and she at the low end. I doubted they knew I was there.

He hit a C chord and sang “Je – sus..” and showed her where the C note was. She hit it. Bom.

He played a G chord, sang “loves me…” and showed her where the G note was. Bom.

A minor. “This I….” G is one up from A. Bom.

C. “Know…” Back to the first one again. Bom.

F chord. “For the…” Which one’s F? Yeah, that’s right! Bom.

And on they went, all the way through 2 verses and 2 choruses, patient with each other.

C chord. “So….” Bom.

They laughed and high fived each other. He was called away.

I thought, “Well, that was nice. I’m glad I heard that.” Sipped my tea, looked at the moon, rested my head against the wall and thought about grace.

But she stayed at the piano. Playing notes, combinations of notes, what she thought might be chords.

I thought, “Oh, dear.”

She began to play more loudly, more confidently. Crashing and tinkling.

I sighed.

She started to sing. The singing of the deaf. Loud. No tone, no melody. No rhythm or any relation to what her hands were playing. Right out the window, over my head.

I groaned.

She sang, “Jeeeeeeee – sus! (crash) Jeeeeee – sus! (bom) I love you Jesus! (crash) I love you God! (bom) Thank you for saving meeeeee! (tinkle) OH, GOD, I LOVE YOUUUUUUUU! (crunch) YOU ARE BEAUTIFUUUUUUUL! (kabom) YOU CREATED THE UNIVERRRRRSE! (CRASH BOM)”

I thought, “God, I’m tired. I just wanted some peace and quiet. Is that so much to ask? How much longer is she going to keep making this NOISE?!”

I’m not exactly sure how to describe the next sensation I experienced. The closest I can come is when you’re a kid at the grocery store with your granny, and you say something rude to the guy behind the counter and she slaps you across the back of the head.

SMACK!

And in that moment, I heard that voice that you hear with every nerve and fibre of your body. Whispering.

“She’s not singing for you. And you have no idea what she sounds like from here.”

~Ruth Wilkinson


— Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.–

June 28, 2011

Support Your Church’s Students Doing Summer Missions

I wish I could go into detail here, but unfortunately, I can’t.  Maybe some day, but not now.  But this is what is burning in my heart to publish today…

All I want to say is this:  If God has blessed you financially and you have young people in your church who are doing a summer missions project, then find a way to offer them encouragement. 

  • If you church doesn’t “commend” summer students with prayer, then pull the student of your choice aside and offer to pray for them.  AND:
  • If your church does do a blanket financial donation, then slip the kid an extra $5 or a $10 bill and say, “This is for some need that may arise when you’re in the middle of the project.”  Or, “This is for you to spend on something for yourself that you would have bought if you had stayed home working at a regular summer job.”
  • If you church doesn’t do financial support for the student(s) then offer to make a more significant contribution to their airfare or field expenses through the mission agency involved.
  • If that isn’t possible, offer to purchase something that the student needs for the following school year.  This way you know exactly where your money went.

Your financial support, prayer support, overall interest and sincere encouragement would mean so much; and students are very aware when the older generation in the church isn’t aware or supportive of what they’re trying to do.  Which can be somewhat bewildering.  You don’t have to be a “youth culture” church to show that you value the young people in your congregation.

By doing this, you are investing in the lives of future Christian leaders, and are also breaking down the inter-generational walls that exist like a plague in so many churches.  The money may not get spent in exactly the way it might have if you gave to a traditional missions project.  But the encouragement factor will be 100% effective in the spiritual formation of a young person.

June 15, 2010

Send This Boy To Summer Camp

A few days ago I mentioned that we were in a “fund raising” mode for our oldest son, Chris, 19.   He’s going to be — for the third year in a row — spending ten weeks working at Camp Iawah, an interdenominational camp in Ontario, Canada.  Much of his work will be centered around the kitchen, where this will be this be the seventh in a growing resumé of culinary accomplishments.  (This year he is also going to be doing some technical assistance in ‘Prime Time,’ the daily chapel program for campers.) He returns to second year electrical engineering in the fall, with fairly high tuition, textbook and residential expenses.

The work week is about 50-hours; it’s a six-day week with a single day off.   The base pay amounts to $3/hour.   (If this were some other camps we’re aware of, they would pay him just about anything to get good kitchen help!)    With previous commitments from people, we’re hoping today to raise an additional $3,000.   (I figure if Jon Acuff can raise $60,000 in a day, this ought to be a no-brainer, even for a smaller blog like ours.)

If you’re interested, go to this page, and click on the second last link (in blue) that says download CISS donor form.   You’d be designating your donation to Chris Wilkinson.   You must use the form for this to credit his summer staff account.

American readers of Thinking Out Loud who want to contribute to this may use a credit card (you will be billed in Canadian dollars which means potentially your donation will go farther) while Canadian donors will receive a valid income tax receipt and may use credit card or cheques.  (We still spell it the British way up here!)  You must complete and mail or fax the form to the camp, and if you’re giving by cheque, do not write Chris’ name on the cheque itself, just on the form.   (A quick e-mail letting us know what you’re doing or considering would help, too; so that we can keep in touch over the summer with what your donations are accomplishing.   E-mail: epistle[at]ymail.com )

In the event his donations reach the pay limit, any overage will go toward other staff members facing a similar need; many of who don’t have parents with an international blog readership.

Thanks for considering this opportunity to make an investment in many young lives through Camp Iawah.

May 29, 2009

Summer Missionary Without a Net (Network)

Camp Iawah Banner

~~ Camp Iawah – http://www.iawah.com – Kingston, Ontario, Canada ~~

So…we’re trying to help our oldest son raise some money for a summer work opportunity at a Christian camp.   They’ve promised him a base rate which is about a third of the minimum wage here, though he will also get room and board.   Given that he’ll be working in the kitchen and now has four kinds of food services experience, I was hoping they’d offer him a bit more than they did.   If he wants more — and he’s starting university in the fall — he has to raise the support himself.  That’s how mission organizations do things.

So armed with an e-mail contact list that contains over 1,000 names, I started to focus on the two or three hundred people that I know personally enough to ask, and made an interesting discovery:  Most of them are also involved — or have someone in their family circle involved — in some kind of mission activity, also.   An added challenge is that despite his exhaustive Bible knowledge, computer skills, and fluency in a second language, some people don’t see the kitchen as frontline ministry position.

Some well-meaning person once told me that if the friends I have can’t help me out, I should get new friends.   Seriously.   But it’s true that many people we know are ‘tapped-out’ financially with a variety of church and civic concerns constantly knocking at the door and asking for help.     Still, I also know that a number of people we know aren’t tithing to their local church right now because they don’t have a local church.   So given that I had nothing to lose, I sent off about 60 e-mails at the start of the week.   At first, replies were few, and we were only at about 20% of the maximum fundraising permitted.   But as the week went by, we were feeling more optimistic.

How about you?   Do you have discretionary funds available for special projects, or is your philanthropy relatively locked in?   I know that in future, when I’m asked to help out people — especially young people — in a similar situation, I’ll be looking at it rather differently.   And what about the many who are in-between churches and have been for many months or years now?   To whatever extent the “tithe” concept extends into the New Covenant era, do they still have a responsibility to give; and if so where should they direct those funds?  For those in that situation, these are actually hard questions.

We’ll keep you posted on how it goes, but I can tell you right now, we’re not well networked and we’re not gifted fundraisers.   But when you’re passionate about a ministry, like we are about this camp, and when it’s your own son on whose behalf you’re appealing, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

As to the advice I received:  We like the friends we have and we’re not getting new ones just so we can ‘use’ them.   I’d rather hang out in a social circle where everyone has mission opportunities that they are excited about than have friends who are materially rich but lack ministry passion.

If you live in Canada and want to help out and receive a receipt for your donation, contact us at the address in the lowest box on the sidebar at right.   If you’re the one-in-a-million person who is looking for a major project to which to direct your giving, I don’t know anything — outside of some third-world projects — better than this particular interdenominational camp organization.  Write us at the same address and I’ll tell you more!

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