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Thoughts from a Musician's Heart

Roaring Wind and Consuming Fire by Dr. Paul Kenyon

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were visiting family in Southern California and happened to find ourselves away from home on Pentecost Sunday. We wandered into a church that was new to us, but we were welcomed warmly, and we were moved by the beauty of the morning’s liturgy as it unfolded. The central reading for the day was the 2nd chapter of Acts that describes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believers. When the reader came to the 4th verse, she was joined by other voices reading along but in other languages, more than I could discern or count. It was surprising! It was loud! And it was joyful. My immediate impulse was to laugh and think that I hadn’t seen this coming. Also, I let my imagination run a bit to think that on that first day of Pentecost this dramatic scene had to be even more astonishing to those first followers, as they heard the roar of a rushing wind and saw tongues of fire. What would it have been like to see and hear the moving of the Spirit in this way with your own eyes? It must have been truly “Awesome.” 

For the past several months I have been thinking about God’s promise to be with us and that we are never alone. Just this morning I read in Joshua 1:9 where God speaks to Joshua about his new role taking over for Moses who has just died, saying: “...Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The same God who gave us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost had already promised to be present with the wandering tribes that had received his covenant centuries before. While the details of individual stories change across the scriptural record, it remains clear that God promises his presence wherever his children might sojourn. As David wrote in Psalm 139:7 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” 

One wonderful but also terrifying aspect of this truth is that we cannot pick and choose when God will be present or not in our lives. I am a pianist, and I have been playing and teaching and running various musical entities for several decades. God has blessed me with cool work that I really enjoy. However, as a musician I find that it is very hard for me to embrace the notion that God is on the piano bench with me (like all the time). Most days I really enjoy practicing, teaching, performing, and then there are those dozens of details needing attention to keep everything working. I know in my heart that all of this is his gift and that it is only by his daily provision can I even breathe, let alone play Mozart. Whether it is the result of being male, stubborn, fallen or all the above, I like to keep control of things that are deeply important to me. So, I often live in a deeply conflicted way. I know the truth of God’s promise that he is always with me, but I also recognize that I have an ingrained self-sufficiency that rules my musical life more than I ever like to admit.

And then Pentecost happens. The bush burns. The wind rushes and fire falls. Or more often, he enters my studio in a precious moment of stillness. Only a moment ago I was fussing about a trill fingering or the climax of a phrase, and then suddenly, he is here. It is no longer a question of getting things right, seeking applause or winning the approval those I want to impress. Instead, it becomes a matter of yielding my petty crown and giving Him the glory due his name. 

I do believe that God knows all about all the details of my musical life: Should I commit to one more accompanying gig this month? What repertoire should I program on that recital date in November? Or even, is that painful twinge I just felt in my neck a sign of a looming injury that might be something more serious? Deep down I know that my Lord sincerely cares about all these things. He grieves when I do and rejoices with me, too. However, I also know that he loves me far too much to let the piano become my idol. When we come to Jesus with faltering steps and a melting heart, we can be assured that he will welcome us into a life that is very, very good. And yet we must also know that our life is now yielded to the one known to send rushing winds and tongues of fire. Remember this is the one whom C. S. Lewis assures us “is not safe, but he is good.” May the Spirit, our Paraclete, ignite his holy fire within you today and give you the grace to serve him with fierce gladness wherever He sends you.


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