You’re My Home

It was like Billy Joel was haunting me from New Jersey this past week. Everywhere I went there was a Billy Joel song playing – once while sitting at a piano I was asked to play “Piano Man” because of course I was, I always am. Which even for a Billy Joel fan like myself is a very particular kind of hell. But nobody wants to be surprised with Billy Joel, that’s cruel. A pleasant Billy Joel listening experience is one you’ve chosen for yourself and not one that has been forced upon you while you sit waiting for your beer or otherwise. Like every good pop-music artist Billy Joel wrote songs – he’s mostly stopped writing pop music since his 1993 album River of Dreams – that stick in your head like a brain parasite eating away at the gray matter. But today I’ve chosen to listen to Billy Joel.

Though preferring albums like Streetlife Serenade, Glass Houses, or The Nylon Curtain today I’ve been listening to Joel’s sophomore album Piano Man. Why not? And there’s this tune “You’re My Home” that’s been playing on repeat in consideration of yesterday’s service.

The song opens:

When you look into my eyes and see the crazy gypsy in my soul it always comes as surprise. When I feel my withered roots begin to grow… well I never had a place that I could call my very own but that’s alright, my love, ’cause you’re my home.

First off, let’s all agree that “crazy gypsy in my soul” is just great. Now, let us get on to the point. The idea isn’t anything fresh, lover as home, considering the first love poem ever written (This is now bone of my bone / and flesh of my flesh) was followed with the admonishment that this is why a man leaves his home and is united with his wife – to form a new home. Wherever I go on God’s green earth if Alyssa is with me there I’m home.

This past weekend we sang two songs that were essentially different Psalms set to music. Mackenzie introduced an Audrey Assad tune called “Lead Me On” based on Psalm 23 which we then followed by singing Matt Redman’s 1995 classic “Better is One Day” paraphrased from Psalm 84.

I’m not going to say that the theme of our singing was necessarily home but, yeah, it was.

Psalm 23 and 84 feel related in their reading, like they’re cousins. Both, from different vantage points, speak of the comfort of the House of the Lord and they follow a similar form. Psalm 23, maybe the most beloved liteary achievement in history, talks of being actively led to the House of the Lord. Psalm 84 about the blessing in having already been led to His dwelling place.

With our impending move back to my hometown I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be home. In some sense I’m plagued with nostalgia – an ailment Alyssa knows all too well that I suffer from. I look forward to writing poems and reading novels at Café Domani on Highland Ave just east of the Fox River, spending lazy Sunday afternoon with cousins watching our kids play in the park, taking Alyssa out to all of my favorite places, spending warm summer evenings with old friends around the fire out in the country. I’ve mentioned before that I’m hobbit, yeah?

Last month an article from PBS popped up in my FaceBook newsfeed: “Can You Really Move Back To Your Hometown?” If I believed God spoke through obtuse signs and internet algorithms I’d think it timely. But, I don’t. I prefer the Spirit’s methods of leading through His word, the counsel of Godly people, and wisdom found only through prayer and listening for when I make big decisions. Anyways, in the article Larry Jacobson, a retirement navigator with Buoy Coaching in San Francisco, is quoted:

Nostalgia is one big reason [why people move back to their hometown]. It’s like a comfort food. For people who left when they’re young, it may be a strong draw to recapture something. I have a client whose eyes almost glass over when he talks about the tiny town he grew up in in Connecticut.

Home is where we’re safe, protected, and provided for. Where we’re brought in from the cold and warmed by the fire. Where our “wounds get dressed” as Josh Garrels sings on his most recent album. Home is where we’re healed. Where we’re named and known.

But still we’re restless. There’s a longing for home we all experience. We desire to “recapture something” as quoted earlier. Fantasy author Lev Grossman in a 2011 blog post titled “What Is Fantasy About?” writes:

We can lay claim to a certain amount of longing.

Longing for what exactly? A different kind of world. A world that makes more sense – not logical sense, but psychological sense. We’re surrounded by objects that we don’t understand. Like iPods — they’re typical. They’re gorgeous, but they’re also really alienating. You can’t open them. You can’t hack them. You don’t even really know how they work, or how they’re made, or who made them. Their form is abstractly beautiful, but it has nothing to do with their function. We really like them, but it’s somehow not a liking that makes us feel especially good.

The worlds that fantasy depicts are very different from that. They tend to be rural and low-tech. The people in a fantasy world tend to be connected to it — they understand it, they belong in it. People in Narnia don’t long for some other world (except when they long for Aslan’s Land, which I always found unsettling). They’re in sync with it. (iPods and Macs kind of mock us, don’t they, the way they’re always sync-ing with each other but never with us.)

This longing for a world to which we’re connected – and not connected Zuckerberg-style, but really connected, like a dryad with its tree – surfaces in a lot of places these days, not just in fantasy.

We’re longing for a different kind of world. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come,” the author of Hebrews writes. In his Confessions Augustine asserts, paraphrased, that “You, O Lord, have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”

And thus we’ve found our way back to Billy Joel. The final verse of “You’re My Home” concludes that if I travel all my life and I never get to stop and settle down [as] long as I have you by my side there’s a roof above and good walls all around. Our restless, crazy gypsy souls are wandering around looking for a city that is yet to come where our withered roots can begin to grow. In our travels we’re led through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the desert Valley of Grief to the table prepared before our enemies in the courts of the LORD.

Where we wander we long for a home that is not a place but a Person. And in Him, we’re safe, protected, and provided for. We’re brought in from the cold and warmed by the fire. Our wounds are dressed and we’re healed. We’re named and known.

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 84.10-12

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The Heavens. August 11, 2013. Rich, Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.
We sang this weekend the following songs:
  • God is Great by Hillsong
  • Lead Me On by Audrey Assad
  • Better is One Day by Matt Redman
  • Lord I Need You by Matt Maher
  • This I Believe by Hillsong

Per usual – here’s a playlist with Sunday’s songs with some of the tunes mentioned in this post and more because why not? Go buy them:

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You’re My Home

Worship Review 8.16.15 – Galatians One and The Story of Everything

Sunday was quite the day! Alongside leading worship at Inland Hills I also had the pleasure of preaching at our College/Young Adult Ministry – Elevate. Normally after worship I like to write a review on a theme from the morning, and (this has happened only once, but will happen at least twice more this year – maybe more) after preaching I like to give a few extra resources that coincide with the message. This week I’ll do both, and it’ll be all over the map.

1. At NSIH we sang:

  • “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin
  • “Man of Sorrows” by David Potter
  • “Forgiven Forever” by Glenn Packiam
  • “The Mighty Hand of God” by Citizens & Saints
  • …and we were going to sing but didn’t, “Glory is Yours” by Elevation Worship.

All but one of these tunes were written by artists that serve in the local church, and the one that wasn’t is writing songs that will be remembered in history alongside Charles Wesely, Isaac Watts, The Gaithers, and more. So, attached is a Spotify playlist but please, please, please purchase these songs and albums so they’ll all continue making great music.

2. After I finishing my study of a particular scripture for preaching I make a playlist that serves as background music and inspiration while I write out my manuscript. For this past Sunday I created a playlist with several songs based on Psalm 23 and a tune for every single pop culture reference I wrote into the manuscript and there were a lot considering that I was talking about everything. It is one of the most fun and the weirdest playlists I’ve ever made. Enjoy!

3. At NSIH we began our sermon series on the book of Galatians which just so happens to be one of my all time favorite books of the Bible. Or, at least it is this year. In the spring, when kings go to war, I had the serendipitous pleasure of studying Galatians (which is great because in a few weeks I’m preaching) and in my study I read Martin Luther’s Commentary on Glatatians. Which had a huge influence on me, check out my post “The Glorious “And Yet!” of God” to see how. Luther’s Commentary is surprisingly accessable considering it was written in 15th Century Germany by a theological titan. Anyways, I found an abridged version by a Lutheran Middle School ministry from Michigan named RJ Grunewald that is available as a free PDF, a $2.99 Kindle e-Book, or a print edition for $14.99.

4. Speaking of abridged versions, earlier this week I wrote an abridged version of my sermon and posted it to the blog. I think it is well worth the read if you’ve not already read it, “The Story of Everything.” Unfortunately, the full sermon was not recorded so I can’t share that. If your appetite is whetted or your curiosity piqued feel free to email me at: tommy.welty@gmail.com and I’ll happily email you the PDF of my manuscript and you can take the approximately 36 minutes it would take to read that. Or, you could read the abridged blog.

5. So, it probably comes as no surprise but I’m particularly interested in writing. My studying creative writing greatly influenced the sermon at Elevate and there’s a handful of books that have meant a lot to me at different times as a writer. None of these are Christian books, or, even remotely Christian, but each is worth reading if you’re curious about the process.

6. Towards the end of my sermon, about the last ten minutes or so, I attempted to teach the entirety of the Bible’s narrative. I did alright, but in that short of time it is really actually impossible to do – so it was mostly just super general themes and events. I missed a lot. I missed most things, but “A+” for effort. Anyways, I stumbled upon this great resource Monday morning after preaching, “The Bible Project.” After checking it out I could not more fully recommend it. They are creating animated videos as overviews to each book of the Bible and different systemic themes of the scriptures. Here’s their intro to “Leviticus” and to “Holiness.”

7. My birthday was this past weekend and my mom flew out to celebrate and to hear me preach, which was wonderful. I read a poem by poet Wendell Berry Sunday night. Here’s another of his from the Poetry Foundation, where you can read many other poems by Wendell Berry and a great magnitude of other poets.

This poem delightfully captures the maternal grace and love of God. I see Alyssa loving Atticus like this, and know that my mom has loved me like this, and all the more that Christ has loved us like this:

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8. Two summers ago I made the attempt to read the book of Psalms each month, I read the psalter three times totally that summer and a few times since. It’s an incredible emotional and spiritual experience. I would encourage everybody to take a few months to reading and rereading the Psalms. The best method in my opinion is in months that have 30 days read five psalms everyday, excluding Psalm 119 because of it’s length. And I’d suggest not reading them in order, though that works too, but rather reading them scattershot so that you can capture the breadth of the book and capture themes. The best way to do this would be on day one reading Psalm 1, Psalm 31, Psalm 61, Psalm 91, Psalm 121; and Day Two – Psalm 2, Psalm 32, Psalm 62, Psalm 92, Psalm 121; etc. So, whichever calendar day you’re on read that Psalm and then add 30 for the next, then 30 more… and so on. Then on the months with 31 days read only Psalm 119 on the 31st.

9. Really, everbody should read Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians:

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

I mean… Come on, what’s holding you back?

10. When a sheep had left the flock three times a shepherd would break its legs so that it couldn’t leave, and then carry the sheep the rest of the way. After being broken the location of the bone’s fracture would heal and never break again in the same spot. After a sheep had had its leg broken and been carried through the healing process with it’s ear so close to the shepherd’s mouth it would never leave the safe comfort of the shepherd’s voice.

Before the cross became the preeminate image of Christianity this image was, or a variation on it:

good-shepherd-2

Christ is carrying us in our brokeness, healing us and leaving the fracture stronger than it was before. As we read the Psalms, pray, study scripture like Galatians, worship in song, take communion, celebrate God’s Spirit is whispering in our ears, revealing Christ to us:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Worship Review 8.16.15 – Galatians One and The Story of Everything