During the first few years in Ukraine we were busy surviving. New culture, language, processes, friends, all the natural rhythms of a Texas life were dumped into the blender of assimilation. It was messy, confusing, but eventually by God’s grace we gained our bearings.
Deb has always loved to have music playing in the house. It’s one of the things that has always attracted me to her – she loves to engage God in worship through music. She’s not particularly musical (nicest way of putting it), but she, like all of us that have been touched deeply by God’s love, music helps us ‘react’. Music is fascinating like that isn’t it? It’s as though the fabric of our soul has some sort of rythmic dna, we engage the unseen elements of our person through this wonder of music.
Ever try watching a suspenseful scene in a movie without the music? Suddenly it’s just random moving pictures… the emotion is gone, the fear, or excitement vanishes in an instant. “Movies’ should really be called, “Soundies” I think. Music can calm, excite, create atmosphere. If we really understood the power of music, I think we’d be more principled in what we allow ‘in’.
I heard it said many years ago, “There’s no such things as an evil chord.” Music itself isn’t moral. It’s what we attach to it that can have positive or negative effect – Music is like a train, and we need to value the cargo inside.
We can enjoy the beauty of music as believers, but it’s not something that only impacts those of faith. If anything, religion tends to cookie cutter music, rendering it unauthentic and uninspiring. Religion can go to the opposite extreme, believing that only the content or lyrics are important, destroying the wonder of creative expression and the emotion excellent music can produce.
It’s universal, we all are wired for this emotional engagement music brings.. every culture throughout history has reflected this. Whether it’s our little Claire with her wobbly sway, or the grandparents being taken back to the days of youth, music is not age specific either. Music is simply a wonder to me.
I’ve never taken music lessons, but I can play a few instruments decently from years of practice, and practice and (poor Deb). It was a fairly big part of my life before Ukraine – from playing in church, going to concerts, and digesting CD’s (tapes, go 80s!). During our first few years here, I ‘died’ to music. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision, or if life was just too overwhelming and it was sacrificed on the altar of survival. Life became very arduous, dry and if I heard someone playing in church, or at home, I simply wanted it to stop. It wasn’t important, it was frivolous noise.
In 2014, after a long dry spell, God broke into my life through times of corporate and small group worship. A refreshing wind, a fresh spring of God’s grace. His reality moved into the deepest parts of my soul once again – on the wings of inspiring and original music. Things began to take place that would reshape our purpose and driving vision here through the Lighthouse Cafe as a result of this season, thought the outsider may not realize it. God was re-awakening both Deb and I to the power of His Spirit, in ways we had almost forgotten could exist.
I began playing piano again, almost daily. It’s as if musical rooms in my heart were being opened, cleaned out and I was finding secret new rooms inside those rooms. As I would play, I would talk to God, and my soul was being refreshed. I would read the Psalms and they became melodies, dirges, and victorious anthems instead of tired letters on a page.
Step by step, through initiating creative opportunities for students to learn instruments in our town, I began to realize that music not only was playing a revitalizing role in my own heart, but was a universal lure to draw people together, especially young people.
There are not only kids coming and learning guitar/drums every day at the Cafe now, but they are borrowing each others guitars (there are very few available) each evening in the dorms and practicing with fervency. These kids have awakened a passion for something really cool, expression, originality, beauty – all of which are reflections of the God who made us all.
In closing, I believe God is going to awaken more and more young people to His love. He will do this through the natural relationships built and for many, as we enjoy music together. The Gospel is great news because it’s real, we live it, we feel it. It’s attractive when Jesus is alive in us and old stale souls are stirred up. Music somehow, particularly when God is involved, destroys barriers and opens caverns in the heart for the work of the Holy Spirit.
He will also do this through times of worship as we lead these young people into a real, spirit led engagement with their Creator. The real power of music is what ‘message’ can be attached and carried with it deep into the soul. The freedom that the gospel brings can be carried creatively on the wings of spirit-led music.
When someone asks me ‘what kind of music do you like,” the answer is really, “whatever helps me focus and connect with Jesus Christ and all that He’s done for me.” This is why we have started a studio here, and are looking to branch out into new territories through creative arts.
I believe 2017 will be a really cool season of bringing hope into hopelessness – Jesus is the One who leads us to the pastures of life and the refreshing streaming brooks.
Deb and I are off to Chernigiv tomorrow, a city close to the border of Belarus. We are meeting up with some dear friends and gifted musician/leaders to spend time praying about this next year. We are meeting by faith, no agenda besides to pray and believe God for direction – we want to be more effective fishers of this generation.
Together we believe God is going to continue awakening this next generation and we need to posture our hearts to listen and receive. Would you pray for and with us this weekend?
I feel God is going to speak to us, I’m going with a lot of anticipation as though He’s pulling us into His work, we’re just to make ourselves available. I personally think it will involve worship events, creative workshops, weekends, and youth across the FSU. That’s what I have in my heart, whether that becomes a series of ‘Passion’ type events in 2017 or some sort of version of that, I have no idea – but these guys are amazingly gifted, and willing to serve and we must step out in faith.
I wanted to give a bit of a picture of why we are moving in creative areas the past couple of years, and perhaps why God is blessing us with such amazingly gifted teams and connections. I believe God is weighing us down with His joyful easy burden – to long to see people open their eyes, see the crucified Jesus, the beautify of God’s sacrifice arousing a deaf world through all kinds of creative expression.
May we lift up a sound that awakens the dead to life!
Bruce & Deb