Confessions of a 36-year-old concertgoer

My husband and I went to a concert last night. It was one that he’d been looking forward to for a while, an artist he’s long followed but never seen in person. I, on the other hand, had heard a couple of his songs a couple of times and had no idea what to expect.

As we walked into the concert and I saw the gathering crowd, my husband offered me this in preparation:

I rarely go into new situations unprepared. This night was an exception. And proof that I’m older on the inside than my age would suggest.

Here are my confessions from the concert.hand stamp

My hand stamp was supposed to be music notes, but it slipped when the girl pressed it into my skin. The rest of the night I was thinking about a certain Doctor. That’s normal, right?

We don’t get out much. So when a complete stranger, a college student, even, turns to us from the row in front of where we’re sitting, points at my husband and says, “Quick question, where do you work?” I’m a little freaked out. For the record, yes, my husband is the bow-tie guy from Chick-fil-a.

I had no idea what the artist looked like. I couldn’t have picked him out of a crowd. So when six dudes took the stage after the opening act, he literally could have been any one of them. And because I had no idea what to expect from this experience, I feel a little like the apostle John writing the book of Revelation, trying to describe something unfamiliar in familiar terms. So, if you’ve never heard of John Mark McMillan and don’t know what to think about his music or the concert, just remember this equation:

Duck Dynasty (beards) + Mumford and Sons (banjos, lots of guitars) + bass + louder = concert.

As soon as it started, everyone stood up. I audibly groaned at the prospect of standing for an entire concert, proving that I am, indeed, an 86-year-old trapped in a 36-year-old body. Certain concerts should have an over-30 section, toward the back where the precious little hearing we have left can be preserved and we can sit and enjoy the music and not feel pressured to stand and sway and jump. I felt slightly less out of place than a nun at a Katy Perry concert, and I now have an idea what chaperoning a high school dance might feel like.

My aunt Dina would have loved this!

So, why would an introvert pay to spend an evening in a tent full of people with loud music and expressive acts of worship?

One word: love.

I love my husband, and I would spend a date night with him watching WWE wrestling if it got me out of the house and away from the kids for a night.

And actually, I was moved at the end of the concert when the artist played the one song everyone–even me!–knows. Because musician artists have something that writer artists will never have: the joy of seeing people enjoy and connect with your work. He wrote a song that people sing in churches and last night, a tent full of people was singing along. As a writer, I’m a bit jealous. I write words and people read them but I don’t see them engaging with it. I don’t see how it affects them. And the few times other people have read my words out loud in front of others I’ve quickly left the room out of sheer embarrassment.

So, I understand a bit of the artist’s heart.

And one last confession: I composed most of this blog post in my head during the concert. I am a writer through-and-through. So, if you ever see me staring off into space or with a blank look on my face, it’s possible I’m writing. And that makes every part of life fair game.



My soul speaks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was overwhelmed. With anxiety about the future and some decisions my husband and I will face in the coming months. With sadness for the tragedy in Connecticut. With a grief I couldn’t put a finger on. Sometimes, life just feels heavy.

So I did something I don’t do often enough. I dusted off my guitar — an acoustic that’s older than I am; I “inherited” it from an uncle I never met — and thumbed through my song books and strummed and sang until my fingertips, throat and shoulder hurt.

I’m no musician. I can’t read music. I’m not sure what notes are supposed to sound like. With the help of a friend, I learned how to play some basic chords, and I’ve added a few since then. All I know is: sometimes I don’t have any words to soothe the ache and I just have to sing. To make music. To communicate in a language I don’t really understand. And even that doesn’t fully describe what happens to me with music.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, here are some others’ words about music:

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  –Berthold Auerbach

I love this. Music is cleansing and soul-lifting. Along those same thoughts:

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.  –Oliver Wendell Holmes

I used to sing to my kids when they were babies. I’d sing my way through the day with them: while changing diapers and getting them dressed and changing more diapers and cooking and rocking them to sleep and bathing them and getting them ready for bed. I don’t know when I stopped doing that, but I know that hard things are sometimes easier when I’m singing my way through them.

He who sings scares away his woes.  –Cervantes

And this:

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done

I need to rediscover poets. Poetry, like music, is a soul-language.

Music is an outburst of the soul.  –Frederick Delius

I think that’s why I’m drawn to the Psalms. Poetry, music, sorrow, joy. We lose something in the expression of the words because we so rarely sing the Psalms. And yet they touch on deep emotions and the heights of elation. When I read the Psalms, I feel like someone understands. I read these words this weekend, from Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.

This particular verse always speaks to me when life is troubling. When I don’t feel like blessing or praising or singing. I think the psalmist David understood that we won’t always feel like honoring God or praising Him, but that sometimes we would need to pep-talk our souls until the feelings caught up the words. Sometimes when I’m singing, I don’t feel the words, but I sing them anyway. Sometimes I can’t sing and have to just let the music and the words and the sound of others singing wash over me.

Maybe music and singing and psalms don’t affect you in the same way. What soothes your soul when your world, the world at large, is troubled? How do you express what you feel when you don’t have the words?

Saturday smiles: Hold on to hope edition

I had a rough day today. Stress is in plentiful supply and today, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

It’s hard to smile through those times, but hope is not gone.

I read the following in the first of Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: “And the thing before us is to wait in this old cottage without giving up hope. Even if hope is just a low ember at night, in the morning you can still start a fire.”

There is always hope. Tomorrow is another day.

And these words, a portion of 2 Chronicles 20:12, that have been ringing in my mind: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

September brings with it a whole lot of challenges. Even in those challenges, we have hope. God, the unchanging, unresting, even now works for our good.

And when the future seems hopeless, as it seemed to me today, it’s good to remind your soul of what’s true, even if you don’t feel it.

Why I think all songs in church should have hand motions

We just finished a week of VBS at our church. Yes, I’m exhausted. Yes, the kids aren’t back on a normal sleep schedule. Yes, I’m still singing the songs. (“It’s gonna be a cool, cool summer ….”) Yes, it’s worth it.

The kids performed one of the songs in church yesterday, complete with hand motions and dancing. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite parts of VBS: the music and the motions.

It’s so much fun to see adults and kids dancing and doing hand motions along with the songs all week at VBS. There’s a freedom I feel in praising God through song during VBS, and with kids in general, that I don’t always feel when everyone gathers on Sundays. Sundays, it seems to me, are serious and I’m to be serious about worship. I refrain from (or at least tone down) the joy I feel from the music. Dancing in my kitchen to uplifting songs — I don’t think twice about it. Dancing in church to uplifting songs — I’m afraid I would horrify someone.

I recently re-read the story of David dancing before the Lord. After being confronted about his behavior by his wife, he says this:

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

When I read this passage, I always think of this song.

David had great joy before the Lord. He had reason to celebrate. And he didn’t care what it looked like to anyone else. Beth Moore says of this passage in her book A Heart Like His: “Completely abandoned worship is often misunderstood.” Oh, how I fear being misunderstood. Sometimes I just want to dance because God has been so good!

It’s so easy … well, easier, anyway … when kids’ songs or camp songs are involved. Everyone thinks it’s cute or sweet and people often join in.

Maybe we need hand motions for EVERY worship song.

I even found one to get us started with the previous song I mentioned.

I know this is mostly a personal and insecurity issue. I’m not sure how to overcome it except to let God continue to change me and draw me out of the “what will people think?” shell.

Anyone else have this problem? How “undignified” are you willing to be in church? How do you praise God with complete abandonment? And how do you react to those who misunderstand your actions?

Just for fun, I’ve gotta end with this. When in doubt, laugh it out.