Song of the South: More Than Conquerors

Happy Easter y’all!

I hope you all have had a good Easter — had a beautiful Easter sunrise service at the church I am serving, followed by quality family time.   I hope later in the week to share my sermons from our sunrise and normal Easter services at Hanks Chapel, but I thought I would celebrate Easter with you all by sharing one of my favorite folk/Americana songs which celebrates the essential truth of Easter: that love is stronger than death and despair, and in God’s love we can be fearless in life, remembering however we might feel in the moment, through God we can be more than conquerors.

The song and lyrics, by “Man in the Ring”, are shared below.  Remember, friends, whatever you face, through Christ and God’s grace, by God’s resurrection power, you and I can be more than conquerors.

In God’s peace,

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

Well I drove all night til I saw the city light but in the east I was not found

and my sun burned down
so I headed up north
where the snow fell long and short
in the quiet I heard a howl
and that cold wind knocked me down
we are more than conquerors
headed out into this world
bound by chains and broken down
but his love is all around
bought a ticket on the cold fire train
down south where it never rains
and all my patience
all my trust
all my dreams turned to dust
we are more than conquerors
headed out into this world
bound by chains and broken down
but his love is all around
So i guess ill fly out west
put this new love to a test
now well go where my soul leads
Bring it there to your defeat
we are more than conquerors
headed out into this world
freed from chains and strengthened now
cause his love is all around
we are more than conquerors
headed out into this world
freed from chains and strengthened now
cause his love is all around
freed from chains and stregthened now
cause his love is all around
end.

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Song of the South: Author of Our Days

The past few days and weeks have been times of big change for me.

This past year brought changes in my professional life — becoming more settled in my career as a chaplain, opportunities to serve in the church in ways that were new and renewing to me, stretching me and strengthening my faith.

This past year I experienced new relationships with friends, changes in relationships with family, one long-term relationship, and a call to a richer connection within my own spiritual life to the center around which my life is called to flow, which for me is the Triune God of the Christian faith — Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.

Yet I also have experienced losses — some friends moved away, my mother passed after my family supporting her through a painful bout with cancer, recently I had some relationships significant to me end suddenly with pain and others change in ways that I don’t yet understand fully.

I got a year closer to 40, which for me has brought haunting questions about my own mortality, what it means to be entering my forties single, without a family, and all the messages society has given me about success.

Even new doors that have opened to me in my work as chaplain and pastor, as a servant leader in my denomination, as an active member of my community, can leave me a bit shaken.

With so many changes, what holds?

While meditating on these thoughts, and while processing the big feelings each produced, I chanced upon the following beautiful song.  This song is based on one of my favorite prayers of Scripture, Psalm 139, and like the Psalm it is based on, it reminds me that though I might fear with all the positive and painful changes of this past year that things cannot hold, yet they can.  For what makes my life hold, what grounds my identity, is not just myself.  It is that same Triune God — Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit — in whom I, you, and all things live, move, and have their being.   That God is experienced in my life as the presence of love and the breath of life which, when I breathe it in fully, liberates me from the messages of distraction and destruction, launching me into a full life, fully present and engaged, open to joy and wonder.  This loving presence is what birthed us each into the world; it is our true whom where we all shall return; for in God we find our dwelling place through all generations (Psalm 90 & 91).

I share this song in hopes that, if you are shaking from change in your life, its words may also help you find center, remembering who you and whose you are, and helping you to trust that it is not all up to you, but it all can hold for it is held in the hands of the loving God who made the worlds, sustains all life, and in whom all will be made well ultimately through Christ.

May it bless you as it blessed me!

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

 

G C G
If I rise on the wings of the dawn
G C G
If I fly out across the sea
Em C
If I run ‘till I can run no more
G
Even then you will find me

If I sink to the deepest place
If I seek to in the darkness hide
If I lie even to myself
Still your hand will guide me

C G D G
For you hem me in before and behind
C G D
You the author of my days
C G Em
so I come before you arms stretched out
C D G
And I give you all my praise

Search me and know my heart
Test me and know my anxious thoughts
Lead me in your righteous way
So that I am with you . . . when I awake

Song of the South: Life Weaver

Psalm 139 depicts the Holy Spirit as one who is always with us, who weaves us together, knitting us together in our mother’s wombs and knitting together our lives.

The following poem explores this theme.  I hope this blesses you!

Micah

Life Weaver

seamstress 2

I see her, needle and thread in hand,

knitting away her fear and sorrow

for the little one laying before her,

knitting away the losses that lie

at the root of each fear

with more precision than I,

knees and hands caked in dirt,

ever can pull up my weeds by their roots

in my own garden,

yet also knitting hopes and dreams,

as if each new strand

creates a brighter future

for this child of love.

And perhaps it does.

 

They say our intention, when deeply held

in meditation,

in prayer,

in concentration,

has some quantum power

to shape our world.

The story is that water,

placed under microscope,

differs.

When people speak in anger

tightly held in focus over it,

the lens shows such water

will have a chaos, a fury, a lack of order

which water under the same lens

frozen instead as words of peace, joy, and compassion

are spoken over as the heart’s true focus.

 

I am no quantum mechanic.

I lack the toolkit to tinker with fate,

let alone determine if such claims are true.

Or do I?

For this young woman seems certain,

her eyes tightening and hands furious at work,

certain that the only tools she needs

to shape the web of life,

these quantum threads of fate,

for this littlest of ones, are

her needles, her thread, and her heart afire with love.

 

Who can say she is wrong?

I have upon my mantle

a worn yet welcome scarf

woven by such a woman,

a weaver not young but threadworn,

battered by her years.

When I touch it, my fingers come alive.

I can almost feel some unseen flame dance,

setting my whole soul to tingling.

 

Is this not why mother

baked cakes with care

to give to the mourning we knew,

that they may be nourished

not just by some crumb of bread

but by the taste of human kindness?

Is this not why the preacher raises bread and cup,

muttering ancient words,

why each sacred eve words of kaddish are spoken

by chosen people before meal,

why Sufis spin,

and some pilgrims bow five times

toward the East upon their mats?

 

In truth, is this not also why,

taking pen in hand,

I too weave my strands of stories,

each word a gem,

hoping to craft my own worry beads

upon which I can join

my muttered prayers

or, better yet, weave

some ornate blanket

to warm not just myself

but others against life’s winter chill?

Song of the South: Heart Song

As we focus on the Spirit and Pride, I feel this poem I wrote last year is an appropriate picture of the Spirit’s worth to embrace our lives afresh.

Micah

 

Heart Song

mistRising like all enveloping cloud,

morning mist which both conceals color, distance, and faces
while revealing shape and feeling,
even of tiny pebbles that are but pin pricks on the soles of my feet,
embraces me in cool dampness.

I cannot see the dimly lit dropoff but a few feet away
that mountainside beyond which lies unspeakable beauty
made visible by simple stroke of sun’s golden fingertips
yet now shrouded by silky threads of fog which
shelter us like those many pinioned swings the Psalm sang of falling over us.

mist 2

And yet, though unseen,
such looming depth seems more visible
a pull like gravity
both promising and threatening like the hoot of the screech owl heard in the evening
screech owlto which my own wild man wakes up,
a call which that part of me still pumping
the blood of hunter gatherer tribesmen
through my veins
on hearing longs to walk
the green trail
hear the rustle of leaves
sing the song of the creeks
join in the heart song of growing things
yet alarming like the distant call of the train upon the mountain
which shatters sleep in an instant
a moment in which that high pitched wail,
growing ever louder, seems to call out my name.

And perhaps it does.
Perhaps I do hear some long black train, the one old songs name.
long black trainPerhaps such beauty does remind me
that it swooped down for her – unexpected, unbidden.
Such shock lies on the horizon of my mind, always present.

God knows I hear that train song each day,
as my palm graces the back of a strong woman,
fierce in pride and independence
now wasted to skeleton,
days from cancer taking her
yet still afire with poise, grace, and beauty.

God knows I hear that wail, loud and shrill,
as I hold the hand of a man tough as nails,
face grizzled by years
seeing the light of your coming in his eyes
like sunrise reflected on the dancing blue green of the Eno’s winding waters
and see his face break into childlike grin at the sound of his name upon your voice.

Perhaps so
and yet
deer in woodsbeneath it all in the thick mist
gathered around me like grandma’s blanket
thick and comforting
I hear the song
sung by the call of birds
the rustle of deer almost hidden in the trees
the cry of the katydid
the whistle of a morning pot of tea
and the quiet coo of newborn child

Though I will always hear your call,
oh long black train,
it is to this song I will not fail to move,
my body a wave on its passing river
my heartbeat a note in its melody.