Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Article on Prayer at

My article for this month's edition of myMISSIONfulfilled just went live on the website, and I'm a little more pumped than usual. I'm feeling oh-so-in-need of a vacation today (just 6 days until I'm off to the Caymans!), and yet God is so good to give me work to do that I just love. Seeing my article today was a sweet little reminder from Him that I am a very blessed girl, indeed. I have a job that I love and I even get to write what I love on the side.

My attitude has been a little stinky as I've been waiting out this long, cold New England winter. But God is good to bestow gratitude to my heart on days when I can't muster it up on my own.

You can read the article here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Feast or Fallow

It's beautiful when you latch on to a musician who's also a songwriter, even better when that songwriter's a poet, and better still when she inspires you--or disciples you really--in faith and life. That's Sandra McCracken for me. I'm passionate about her poetry (and the melodies that lift it to song), the way I'm passionate about Lauren Winner's prose.

Today Sandra (who's husband Derek Webb has also influenced my life and theology in big and small ways over the years) launched a preview of her soon-to-be released album In Feast or Fallow. It's a hymns project that follows her 2006 album, The Builder and the Architect. Derek and Sandra have helped to forge the way for the hymn resurgence that's been making moves in the South in recent years. They are a driving force behind the Indelible Grace project, which is recorded through Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University in Nashville. And I feel a special kinship with them because they are members at a sister church of West End Community (my church in Nashville). Frequent opportunities to hear these two play live are some of the things I miss most about living in Nashville--I'm trying to raise some awareness for them here in New England!

As she often so graciously does, Sandra released a rough version of one of the cuts from this record, an old Luther Christmas hymn, via Noisetrade (a site that allows artists to give songs away in exchange for fans' spreading the word to their friends). I plugged that song in my Advent Tunes post back in December, and it has become a favorite carol! Today she's released three more songs on Noisetrade! You can get them by clicking on the widget below and forwarding a message to friends or posting a link on your facebook wall. Genius! You can also access the widget on the left-hand sidebar of wherethecloudsettles.

Sandra talks about the album in an interview with "Patrol" that captures why I love her as an artist and a person. Here's a little snippet, but if you have a few minutes, read the whole thing!

When you released Red Balloon last summer, Paste magazine said: "Three years ago, Sandra McCracken released The Builder And the Architect, a collection of reworked traditional hymns that remains one of the strongest albums in her near-decade-long career. Her latest, Red Balloon, only sounds like a collection of hymns." How do you respond to a statement like that, that can go so many ways?

I thought it was interesting that they mentioned the hymns record. That the writer of the review would mention that and draw the parallel to me is a high honor. The songs I wrote on Red Balloon were full of themes about having our first baby, dealing with a lot of personal situations, and narratives around people I really love. So that songs about everyday could be called spiritual, to me is an indicator that those things are starting to become integrated, that spiritual is becoming everyday life, and everyday life is becoming spiritual. I think that's an important discipline of the journey of faith, that over the years they're becoming less and less separate and more and more holistic.

So there you have it. My long-winded shameless plug for the day. Check this girl out!


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Song in Our Hearts

If I'm being honest, I miss Richmond every day. I miss the people: roommates and sisters and friends and the sweet kids I babysat for and church family. I miss my beautiful brick-clad campus and waking up to a new display of hundreds of freshly planted flowers every few weeks. I miss Libbie and Grove, the boutiques of Carrytown, lunch at Ukrop's, and bars in the Fan. I miss the fratty, collegiate flavor of U of R, and of Richmond in general. I miss the sound of church bells ringing from Boatright Memorial Library every afternoon and evening. I miss Third Pres. I miss my college-girl schedule. And I miss observing Shabbat (or Sabbath) at Tikvat Yisrael, a Messianic synagogue I've often written about here.

So on Saturday, I spent the better part of a (very rare) day off celebrating with a Messianic congregation in West Haven, CT. Although Simchat Yisrael doesn't boast a beautiful old synagogue like Tikvat's on Grove Avenue in Richmond, and although the liturgy was slightly different and the singing in Hebrew less frequent, there was something deliciously familiar about taking time to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

One of the things I love most about Judaism, particularly Messianic Judaism, is the rabbinical way of reading Scripture. The Torah reading for each Shabbat is paired with a Haftarah reading (a selection from the wisdom literature, the Kethuvi'im, or the prophetic Scriptures, the Nevi'im), and in Messianic Judaism, with a portion of the B'rit Chadasha, or "New Covenant" (i.e. the New Testament). Always there are beautiful connections between the three portions of Scripture, but sometimes they are especially poignant. The Jewish way of reading Sabbath Scripture reminds us that this is one Story. And Jewish rabbis are well-versed in drawing connections, in figuring out how this Word God has given to His people fits together. So it is fascinating to hear a Messianic rabbi, a man who has both mastered Jewish tradition and put his trust in Yeshua (Jesus), preach. It is by nature expository, exegetical, and deeply practical.

This week's Torah portion was the "Song of the Sea" from Exodus 15:1-11. Christians will know this passage as the "Song of Moses and Miriam," which praises God for swallowing up the Egyptian armies while allowing the Hebrews to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground. For Jews, it is one of the most familiar liturgies, recited in morning prayers as well as on High Holy days. It is also, as Rabbi Tony Eaton pointed out on Saturday, the only portion of Scripture that is repeated in all three sections of the Tanak (Old Testament): the Torah (law), Kethuvi'im (wisdom), and Nevi'im (prophets). Appropriately, the Haftarah reading for Saturday was Deborah's song from Judges 5:1-9, and the B'rit Chadasha reading was the Song of the Elders found in Revelation 7:9-17.

It's not difficult to notice the similarities between the three passages. Most obviously, all three are songs of deliverance and salvation. Rabbi Eaton talked about how the Song at the Sea has been the song in Israel's heart since God's covenant with Moses at Sinai. Miriam and Moses sing "The LORD is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation" (Exodus 15:2). That word, salvation, is worth noting because as I've mentioned before, in the Hebrew it shares a root with the word Yeshua, Jesus. Deborah's song is along the same lines, even mentioning the covenant at Sinai that marked the exodus Moses and Miriam sang about. And then in the Elders' song, the theme of salvation is seen even more plainly: the great multitude, with representation from every tribe and tongue, waves palm branches and proclaims, "Salvation belongs to our God!" (Revelation 7:10). The palm branches are significant because they remind us of the palm branches waved at Jesus as people cried out Hosanna! ("Save us!") The Jewish form of that exclamation is Hoshia'na! and again, it has the same root as the Hebrew word Yeshua. And so woven throughout each of these passages, we are reminded to rejoice in the salvation that comes from the One true God.

Rabbi Eaton challenged the congregation to let the song in our hearts be that one: the song of Yeshua's salvation. What is the song in your heart today?

"To Christ the Lord let every tongue its noblest tribute bring.
When He's the subject of the song, who can refuse to sing?

...A thousand tongues could not compose a worthy song to bring
But Your love is a melody our hearts can't help but sing."
--18th century hymn-writer, Samuel Stennett