Friday, January 7, 2011

Heaven's breath

You are harvest, You are golden sun
You are cool rain, You are all in one
And in all my deepest thoughts
And in all my battles fought
You are within

You know, coming off the Christmas season the song that is WAY over played?
 You know, the one sung by Amy Grant and several other artists?  It is called Breath of Heaven.   Perhaps it is simply because it has been a while since I have listened to any Christian radio station with any regularity, but I get the feeling most people consider it a rather new song – perhaps a follow-up to the equally overplayed Mary Did You Know.  Now, I like these songs well enough – not trashing the songs…but come on, after the 87th time hearing them in a four week period it gets a little old. 

My question for you?  Listen:

 You are crimson, you are midnight blue
You have called me to discover You
You have warmed my heart of stone
You have borne my pain alone
Speak to me now, speak to me now, speak to me now

Can you hear it?  This is the real Breath of Heaven.  This is the one I first heard as a lonely teenager when I needed something real to hold on to almost 15 years ago.  These are the words that go through my head when I need to remind myself that God is here in the middle of pain.  I admit I get teary listening to them because they represent to me joy, peace and laughter in the middle of confusion and anger. 

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am longing to be with You there
And with every fading fear
There is healing in my tears
Now I belong, now I belong, now I am strong

Generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of Christian music.  I know my share of it, mostly the DC Talk and Jars of Clay from my teenage hood.  But since then I admit I’ve lost track.  I listen to the “Christian Station” now and then and it just bothers me.  Ok, perhaps I need to get over it.  I have had so many people tell me that by filling my day with spiritually uplifting music I can keep God at the focus and yada yada yada.  Ok – now I really sound terrible!  Perhaps it is the rebellious spirit coming out in me.  But I ask, why is God only in “Christian” music?  I dare anyone to listen to Les Miserables and not see God.  Alright – I’ll go one further and say I dare anyone to listen to music produced by a true musician who is truly in love with music – someone who has it pouring out of their soul, Christian or no and not tell me it is a truly spiritual experience.
 Look at the lyrics above.  Not once is God or Jesus mentioned.  Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with God or Jesus being mentioned in a song.  I would say that there are probably lots of R&B songs that mention God and Jesus all the time – so I am going to venture to say that the lyrics don’t always matter.  Don’t always, I said always, sometimes they do – don’t get all fluffy with me yet. 
 So what is it about music that moves us?  Why is it spiritual regardless of religion? 
 While they were in college my parents did a project together that explored that.  Can you listen to music and interpret the emotion the composer was trying to communicate without the aid or words?  I believe for the most part (and correct me if I am wrong) that the answer was yes…but why?  How? 
 People ask me what kind of music I like.  Well, to be perfectly honest as long as it is MUSIC there is always something I can find that I love.  My children get to hear it all, really.  Well, we don’t listen to country much…but aside from that I think between my husband and I we have just about every genre covered.  However, I will admit that “Christian” music is rarely played in my house.  I think I have trouble defining music by only the religion of the artist – not to mention there is perhaps less actual artists in that genre.  Perhaps I am just naive?  You tell me.
 There are three very specific kinds of “Christian” music I like.  And I admit often worship music does not fit into one of these categories…yes, I don’t always like worship songs.  Of course some of that probably stems from my considering it a very one sided thing to assume that worship can only take place in a church while singing…but that is a post for another day.  I also understand that this is just me – other people will worship in their way. 

The first kind of “Christian” music that moves me is that which has no words.  Perhaps I should be connecting this to snippets of the actual music…but think of the most beautiful piece of music you have ever heard.  For all of us it will be different – this is the one that when it comes on you want to turn it up, close your eyes, block out the world and let it entirely consume you.  For me this is often classical piano music, probably because that is what I listened to as my dad played it while going to sleep as a child for many years.  It speaks peace to me.  The great thing is that I can claim it as Christian music regardless of the religion of the person who wrote it, because it is entirely up to interpretation. 

The second kind I like is scripture and story set to music.  Now, this is a little harder to explain…and this is where the confusion of Worship songs comes in.  For my worship songs I like to do just that…I want a song that is saying “God you are AMAZING” I don’t want a song that is quoting David in the psalms.  True, there is a time and a place, but for me “I cry out for you to heal me” is not really worshiping, it is praying.  Now, I am well aware that this point is arguable – but for the moment just humor me.  My best example of biblically based songs is an artist named Michael Card.  He is an older Christian artist.  Not contemporary at all, and coincidentally a classical pianist – probably another reason I loved his music.  Now, I would say 90% of his songs are simple stories from the Bible.  Let me see if I can find an example…

God Will Provide A Lamb lyrics
Michael Card
Genesis 22:1-14 & Hebrews 11:17-19

Three days journey to the sacred place
A boy and a man with a sorrowful face
Tortured yet faithful to God's command
To take the life of son with his own hands

God will provide a Lamb
To be offered up in your place
A sacrifice so spotless and clean
To take all your sin away
Here's wood and fire, where's the sacrifice
A questioning voice and the innocent eyes
Is the son of laughter who you waited for
To die like a lamb to please the Lord

A gleaming knife, an accepted choice
A rush of wind and an angel's voice
A ram in the thicket caught by his horns
And a new age of trusting the Lord is born
For God has provided a Lamb
He was offered up in your place
What Abraham was asked to do he has done
He's offered his only son
What Abraham was asked to do he has done
He's offered his only son

See how there is even a scripture reference?  The melody is simple, beautiful.  This song is about the lyrics. 

Completely unrelated I have always wondered if Isaac suffered any psychological trauma at almost being butchered by his father.  We just read this story this morning in our Children’s Bible and it talked about how relaxed and trusting Isaac was.  Now to my memory, The Bible does not actually mention his state of mind at that time – and I can imagine that if he is old enough to ask where the sacrifice is he is old enough to understand what his Father is about to do.  As a college project I actually re-wrote that store once from the child’s point of view.  I love thinking of Bible Stories from other viewpoints.

Related to scripture songs, I also love in your face, no holds barred God needs to get your attention songs.  I like the directness.  This is why James is my favorite book of the Bible. 

 My third love in “Christian” music is like the above Chris Eaton song – oh, yes that is who wrote “Breath of Heaven” not Amy Grant.  It is not a “God loves you, God loves me” type song.  Perhaps that is really the kind I am trying to avoid, anything with a generic message or a cliché catch phrase. Less then stellar melody or elementary musicians makes me gag.  Unfortunately so many songs fit the above-mentioned category in my mind and I simply don’t have the patience to sift through them.  I don’t care if God is mentioned, you still know.  I don’t care if it has the “right” words.  All I care about is that when I hear it, I am moved.  Listen:

Don't let the past keep holding you back
Don't lose the dream in which you believe
For I want to do, deep within you, something new
When you're dry as a desert, you can drink from me
water rich and free
When you need some forgiveness
I will show you mercy and light a fire
That will burn a brand new road
It will show you where to go
Don't let the past keep holding you back
Don't lose the dream in which you believe
For I want to do, deep within you, something new

That isn’t the whole song – but I want to scream these lyrics at some of those I love.  Don’t lose the dream.  Don’t, please.  There is more.  And I am not talking about let’s all hold hands and sing Hallelujah.  I am talking about God’s breath coming down from heaven and healing.  Makes me think of Aslan.  You can rest on this breath and it will take you exactly where you need to be.

Breath of heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness for You are holy
Breath of heaven


  1. I am copying that last verse into my own blog. This is what I want, what I need and hope for. And I agree with your assessment of "Christian" music. Not a fan.

  2. I knew the moment I started reading this post that Michael Card would find his way into the mix, and somehow I knew you would chose "God will Provide a Lamb".


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