A Song For Mourning Turned to Gladness

“Gone are the Days” by the Gray Havens and Julie Odnoralov

I’ve posted the original version of this song in the past, but I really enjoy this remix as well. The lyrics look back, post-death, to the sufferings of this life and the new reality of sorrow turned to gladness.

It is a fitting song for today, when I get to attend a very special wedding. My mom, widowed twenty eight years, is getting remarried. Her new husband is himself a widower, and one of his daughters one of my classmates and friends from high school in Melanesia. As such, it is a very different kind of wedding, where everyone’s thoughts are not only on the bride and groom, but also on the parents and spouses who have departed and gone to be with Jesus. There has been great loss, but there is also new joy.

He makes all things new. This song, and this wedding, provide me glimpses of how he will do this for all eternity.

A Song on the House of God

Sojourn Music has done it again. This is a song that celebrates what has been called The Great Reversal, how the kingdom of God lifts up those the world despises and brings them full and eternal restoration in God’s presence and house. These things are coming true, imperfectly though truly in this age, but wonderful and complete in the age to come.

Blessed are the ones who will eat the feast in the kingdom of God
Blessed are the blind that will finally see in the kingdom of God
Blessed are the poor, oppressed, and abused
Blessed are the weak, distressed, and accused
When you strike up the band...

“Your House” by Sojourn Music

A Song on Gloryland

We’ll need no sun in gloryland

The moon and stars won’t shine

For Christ himself is light up there

He reigns on love divine

Then weep not friends

I’m going home

Up there we’ll die no more

No coffins will be made up there

No graves on that bright shore

“Gloryland” by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

I like the haunting beauty of this A Cappella bluegrass song. Bluegrass harmony is itself a lovely thing, but notice also the earthiness of the suffering mentioned in this song and how the theology of heaven provides strength to face death. Was there in previous ages of evangelicalism an underdeveloped understanding of salvation? Sure. Forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven were emphasized to the exclusion of the Spirit’s power for true life in this age and the ultimate hope of the new heavens and new earth. But I think we often underestimate how practical this focus on victory over death was for a humanity that simply faced death on a more constant basis.

My grandmother’s line were all Scotch-Irish stock who spent their lives in the mountains and coal mines of West Virginia. All the men were miners. And all died early of black lung. Infant mortality would have been exponentially higher than it is now. I suspect that if we feel any smug superiority to the bluegrass theology of the coal miners, that might also say something about how hard we in the West have tried to isolate ourselves from pain and death.

A Song For Those Made For Endless Summer

I really love this new song by the Gray Havens. “Have you ever missed somewhere that you’ve never been?” Yes… yes I have. Reminds me of this quote of Augustine’s where he muses on the “memory” of Eden that each of us somehow carries.

However, I have to say that while endless summer in North America sounds lovely, an endless summer in our corner of Central Asia – with its 115 F/46 C temps – is not quite as pleasant a prospect. Can I have an endless spring, perhaps? Much better for eternal picnics.

A Song For Pilgrims

“Pilgrim” by John Mark McMillan

I’ve been enjoying this song a lot recently as we’ve once again been a family in transition. Moving cities has highlighted our identity as pilgrims and nomads, those who have no lasting city here, but who seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:14). I also appreciate the tension present in this song, recognizing that there are many things about this world that we do love, “the smell of the grinding sea,” yet we are also compelled to seek another world, an abiding one.

The remix below is also worth checking out. My kids and I have enjoyed bobbing our heads while we listen to it and drive around our Central Asian city.

A Song For Those With Forever In Their Veins

So here we go, like mist and water
That's here and gone
But here we'll stay, on forever
Be back someday
Look all I know
Is I believe it's gonna change at the moment when the trumpets blow
And all I see
All I see I believe is gonna change inside the walls of eternity
So here we go

'Cause forever is in my soul
It's in my veins, I think we know
That the future's gonna be so bright
And when you turn my way
It's gonna fill my eyes
Forever
When you turn my way
Forever is in my soul
It's in my veins and it won't let go

So when I stand at that station
To movin' on
And I find my step, upon the doorway
Where the lights come from
Look all I know
Is I'll be changed in a moment when I
Take that step, when I'm called back home
No end I'll know

'Cause forever is in my soul
It's in my veins, I think we know
That the future's gonna be so bright
And when you turn my way
It's gonna fill my eyes

'Cause forever is in my soul
It's in my veins, I think we know
That the future's gonna be so bright
And when you turn my way
It's gonna fill my eyes
Forever
When you turn my way
Forever is in my soul
It's in my veins and it won't let go
When you turn my way
(Forever)
It's in my veins and it won't let go

“Forever” by the Gray Havens

A Song On A Death Too Weak

Lament and defiance in the same song. For Christians addressing the death of Christ – and our own deaths – this is a good posture. Make sure to listen until the build at 2:52. Powerful stuff.

Go on brothers lay him down
Go on brothers lay him down
Wrap his body with a clean white shroud 
Roll that stone leave him in the ground
Go on brothers lay him down

Go on sisters cry for him
Go on sisters cry for him
But wipe your eyes and dry your skin
The crying will be done in three mornings
Go on sisters cry for him

Hold on children wait and see
Hold on children wait and see
The death that’s come is a death too weak
Can’t take my Jesus can’t take my king
So hold on children wait and see

Oh glory glory won’t you come for me
Glory glory won’t you come for me
I know your slumber is a momentary sleep
I feel you rising up from the deep
Oh glory glory you will come for me

“Jesus is Laid in the Tomb” by Poor Bishop Hooper

A Hundredfold Homes Revisited

This week we’ve been packing up for yet another move. My wife came across this poem I wrote for her a couple years ago, which I had posted at the very beginning of starting this blog. She requested that I post it again. And, seeing that she is a very wise and intuitive woman, I am happy to do so. I hope it can serve as one window into how those of us who embrace semi-nomadic missions lifestyles for the sake of the gospel wrestle with the costs – and hope in the world to come.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30 ESV)

A Hundredfold Homes

We have lived with rich and poor
In places some will not or can’t.
And found there joy, and doors
To life, and friends, and won’t 
Forget the promise, one hundred-fold.
We need it dearly every time 
We move again and say goodbye
And home becomes a house – again.
We do it all for Him.
True, we know the cost is real,
That mingled joy of rootlessness.

But I have heard the king has rooms 
And rooms and rooms and worlds.
Perhaps a place where mountains meet 
The sea, a house with orchards on a hill.
With pen and table, porch and sky
And paper and books, maybe some tea.
A pipe! And fire.   
Yes, room to host and reminisce 
(With friends and of course the King himself)
The glory that we saw 
In our hundred fleeting homes. 

Children born and born again, 
The needy fed, the lost redeemed, 
The straying won, the faithful trained.
A hundred tents of light
Soon dismantled yet again.
For the world was ours, but not quite yet. 
We don’t yet know the fullness of
The joy, although we know the taste.
For each new place a portion sings
And each new move the old refrain:
The promises are coming true
Before our eyes – a hundred-fold!
And new creation, forever home.
Is coming, coming, like the dawn. 

So let us drink and to the full 
The joy of each new set of walls.
For they are fleeting like the fall 
And shine unique, eternal.
Remember the talk of camels and tents? 
And Shelby Park, and Kingston’s rooms 
And Sarkenar or St James Court? 
Yes, more to come, if grace allows
And we shall thank the king for each,
With faith and joy await to see 
The next of our one hundred homes
That really are not ours at all.
The glory – they are forever ours, 
And really are not ours at all. 

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash