IMG_2016I listen to the mournful, lonely, chords of the guitar as the music drifts through the closed-door of the bedroom that attempts to shut both the music and the fourteen-year-old musician away from the realities of the world.  There are no words – at least none that I can hear – but while the tune is unique to this gifted, young, musician, I recognize and identify with this soft, lonely melody. It resonates through my heart and echoes of past heartaches. This whispering tune reminds me of the songs and the music I listened to during seasons of grief.  Music often tells a story or offers encouragement and while the words could sometimes bring comfort, it wasn’t just the words of the songs that touched my soul, it was also the melodies. Sometimes it was really just the melody and not words at all that connected with my heart. My heart yearned for gentle music…I craved lonely music that ached with me and didn’t necessarily try to offer encouragement – although some songs did.

During one of those seasons of grief, a friend shared Ann Voskamp’s blog, aholyexperience.com  and I found myself drawn to it, but it wasn’t just her honest, heartfelt words of encouragement, I was also touched by the music that played as I read them. I found classical music was like a balm and I bought the soundtrack for Anne of Green Gables and listened to it over and over, while songs like Rich Mullins’ Step by Step and Matt Redman’s Heart of Worship helped my broken heart find healing and comfort in praise.

As I listened, suddenly the music stopped, the door opened, and the young musician emerged. “How’s the song writing coming?” I asked.

He shrugs, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s coming I guess.”  Then he stops and adds, “Aunt Sheila, it’s so much easier to write pretend stuff.”

I knew he was referring to the song lyrics he had shared with me the week before. They could have been the words to any typical country song…words about love and life experiences which he knew nothing about. I had read the lyrics and tried to comment without condemnation that might betray the trust it took to share his song with me. I knew he had spent his summer grieving the loss of his mother and at night when all was quiet and loneliness overwhelming he had listened to country music…music which his Dad would not have approved. I also realized that for this young music lover, music had not really been a means of healing but rather a means of escape.

I did not want to take music away or to restrict and punish him for bad choices, but I wanted… and still want… to help him make good choices and to help him see that this God-given gift can be a source of healing and comfort and not just a means of escape. So I suggested he write a song either for or about his mother who recently died of cancer.

And I pray my reply to his comment encouraged him, “Luke, sometimes people can write pretend stories and songs that are really good…stories and songs that touch our hearts, encourage us, and make us strive to do or be better…but I think that all really good fiction has a root in reality. All really good art, whether it is music, books, or paintings, must first touch the heart of the artist before it ever moves the heart of an audience. To do that you must write or sing about what you know…the experiences God has given you.

As he headed back to his room, I thought about the music that impacted my life in times of grief and the words of Matt Redman’s song Heart of Worship came to mind.

“When the music fades and all is stripped away, and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart.”

As I thought about the words of that song, I realized it’s not really about the music or whether it helps us or touches someone else, it’s about worship. The talents we’re given are not really ours at all, but they are given us to be offered back. Like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the talents belonged to the Lord to begin with and when he returned they were offered back to him. Our talents are our offering. While they may benefit us and others around us and our good use of them may increase their worth, they are not for our glory, they are His… for his glory…they are our offering of worship and devotion. But whether we offer them back in the midst of sweet peace or deep pain, it always seems that what we give for His glory, in His grace He uses it for our benefit.

IMG_3132I didn’t have the opportunity to share these thoughts with my nephew that night and school, band, and football have filled the days in-between, but it was a good reminder to me as I struggle to make time to write in midst of a busy life. It is the struggle that makes this my offering…this struggle to use this talent that tugs at my heart and often consumes my thoughts. And when days are long and busy, when the music fades, and the words cease to flow, when I feel I have nothing to offer, I pray my heart will still worship as I offer back all that I’ve been given.