The Power of a Song

With a title like this, I have no option but to start the post off with a song:

Ever had a song put you into a trance before?  Me either, but this happened to a friend of mine.  Or so he says:

He was a sophomore in High School at the time, driving with his girlfriend.  He was behind the wheel and stopped at a red light.  He was listening to the radio and the 80’s tune Gyspy came on (by Fleetwood Mac).  My friend says he’d never heard Gypsy before, but apparently the melodious music made an impact, placing him into a trance.

Next thing he remembers, his girlfriend was shaking his arm and calling out at him to snap out of it.  He told me at first he could only hear her voice faintly, as if from down a long tunnel, then it became more and more distinct until he was conscious again.  He realized there were car horns blaring from behind and the light was red again because he had sat mesmerized through an entire green light, staring vacantly out the window.

Wierd.  By his own admission, nothing like this had happened before or since. 

Even if music doesn’t usually hypnotize us, it still has power.  If story is, “Data with a soul,” perhaps music is, "A soul with data."

Every time I hear movie soundtracks I want to become a movie director.  In my minds eye I get visions of what dramatic scenes the sweeping music would work great with. Like this one:


My friend Keith is always giving me CD’s, he’s a music aficionado.  He gave me one recently labeled, "Music with Immediate Impact,"  consisting of climactic theme songs from various movies.  It did have impact, making me feel like I could jump over tall buildings in a single bound.  Unfortunately, our emotions can be deceiving – often not having much correspondence with reality.  I can barely jump high enough to reach a basketball goal.

But moving on…. several Sundays ago I had the privilege of hearing two concerts in one day.  The first was from Mike, a college friend I caught up with whom I hadn’t seen in six years.  Apparently, these days Mike is into guitars.  He demonstrated how his amplifiers can shake his house.  Impressive.  I covered my ears.  Then I asked him to give me a concert, and the ensuing fancy picking made me quite envious.  From Pink Floyd to Jimmi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin, the only song I recognized was an old Johnny Cash tune, Folsom River Blues (oddly enough).  His music made my emotions swing from joyful to melancholy.

Then that evening I went to hear the Calvary Baptist a Cappella choir.  I know several folks in that choir, including (incidentally) my younger brother Joe.  Quite the contrast from what I’d heard earlier.  From over-charged electric guitars to pure voices without even microphones.  This service was worshipful, majestic, uplifting.  The lyrics were sharp and distinct, the dynamics lofty and intentional.  The all-male renditions nearly spooky in their tight harmonies.  My thoughts were lifted to God and my emotions were calmed and refreshed.  All was well.  I even started feeling sleepy.

So, here’s my point in all this: The power of music is that it can affect the emotions of a soul. 

Ever notice how music can only affect the living, not the dead?  Cranking up the stereo in a car won’t get the car excited, just the driver.

Speaking of cars, today a co-worker showed me pictures of a friends’ antique vehicle that was in perfect condition, like brand new.  I figured it must have been restored, but no, apparently it had just been kept in a garage for 40 years! 

The thought immediately struck me, "I wonder what I’d look like if they locked me in a garage for 40 years?"  Like new?  Probably not.  But poor car, all its’ friends are probably dead now…

Maybe I should quit writing, this is getting zany.

The Power of a Story (plus, 10 things we fear)

Everyone likes stories. I think. 

"Researcher story-teller" Brene Brown defined story as, "data with a soul."

A more stodgy definition is, "An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious." (source)

For an example of a brief, well-told story, you might enjoy this short piece about a conversation between two ladies Donald Miller overheard at a restaurant.  I enjoyed it.

In fact, this story really touched me – and challenged me.  It raised questions: Why am I not always honest in my relationships?  Why do I have this tendency to always want to, "smooth things over" instead of speaking plain truth? 

Sure, I understand there is a balance between truth and love, but when I catch myself talking ill about someone behind their back, it’s probably time I be talking directly with the offending party.

Does my reluctance in being straight-forward in delicate situations come from a fear of hurting others?  Or a fear that I’ll get an angry response?  Or a fear they’ll even reject me completely if I speak the truth?  Probably all the above. 

What’s amazing is that this short story Miller told raised all these questions within me, and affected me at a core level.  That is the power of story.

As an aside, regarding fear, I heard this quote recently, "Sin is nearly always born out of fear, and codified in pride." 

Here are some things we can fear:

  1. We fear that God won’t work all things together for good, so manipulate circumstances to help God out.
  2. We fear that God won’t lead (or will lead where we don’t want), so take the wheel instead.
  3. We fear that God won’t meet our deepest needs, so look for quick substitutes to meet our own needs. 
  4. We fear that God does not exist, so live as if this world is all there is.
  5. We fear that God does exist, and that we’re in big trouble.
  6. We fear death, so hedge our lives with safety nets. 
  7. We fear life, so drug ourselves with entertainment’s amnesia.
  8. We fear losing our stuff, so insure everything. 
  9. We fear intimacy, so build walls around our hearts.
  10. We fear fear, but don’t know how to stop.

I shouldn’t say, "we."  I should say, "I."   I fear, I fear, I fear.  *sigh*

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7, KJV)

But this bunny trail on fear has got me far afield of my original topic: the power of story!  (Focus Nick, Focus)

Jesus taught mainly through stories.  Why?  Because a story sticks. 

Which do you think makes more impact:

  1. being told, "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself," or
  2. being told the poignant story of The Good Samaritan? 

I think the latter.  The theme in that story is absolutely relevant today, the ramifications of “who is my neighbor” something I even now struggle with and often think about.

So, what exactly is the Power of a Story?  Perhaps this quote sheds some light:

A message prepared in a mind, reaches a mind.
A message prepared in a heart, reaches a heart.
But a message prepared in a life, reaches a life.

The power of story is that it is a message from a life that can reach a life.

The Power of Serenity


Last week I visited Botanica Gardens.  It’s my favorite local destination here in Wichita and I’ve been many times.  In fact, think I’m on my third annual membership.  The best time of year to visit is Spring.  Right now, in fact, as the tulips are currently in bloom and breathtaking. 

If you visit, I recommend getting a membership.  It’s not that much, and if you don’t, the whole time you’ll be thinking, "I paid $7 for this?!"   But if you do, each time you’ll smile and say, "Each visit makes this cheaper."  And it does, mathematically.

benchI like to stroll around, then find a cozy place to sit and read my Bible or another book.  Unfortunately, what their benches gain in rustic ambience they lose in ergonomic comfort. 

Speaking of simple pursuits, observing people at Botanica can also be instructive. 

One quickly spots those who are out to "conquer" the gardens.  Which is not hard to achieve, it’s not a large place.  A determined soul can march out every winding path within 10 minutes.  But the Gardens aren’t meant to be conquered, they’re meant to be savored.  I notice these type of people usually talk loud.

Then there are those who take a zillion pictures of everything with their cameras.  I believe they are attempting to capture the beauty inside their SD cards – packaging the "present" so they can relive it later.  Yet in the stressful process of attempting to nab that elusively perfect shot, they (perhaps) achieve the exact opposite of what the Gardens provide: serenity.

I’ve been to Botanica several times when wedding bells were tolling.  Once I even recognized who was getting married!  Which brings me to the most prevalent class of Botanica visitors: lovebirds strolling the Gardens hand in hand…. they don’t talk loud, and I ignore them.

Then there are the volunteers.  And the older folks.  Often the same.  Though the latter are also oft found reclining in white plastic chairs, contentedly swapping tales long forgotten. 

I have a favorite spot at Botanicabench_by_pond.  The other night I spent time there, leaning up against a tree in the shade, absorbing the bright pastels of blooming flora, hearing the song of a happily chirping bird above, and smelling the pungent aromas of budding plants mixed with cedar mulch. 

Soaking in the scene, I idly wondered, "What makes something beautiful, intrinsically?" 

My gaze fell on a bed of blossoming tulips, the top of their pink leaves tinged with flecks of gold, and was struck at their delicacy.  Was there something to that….? is beauty somehow tied to delicateness?

tulipThen my eyes shifted to the silent brook, it’s glass-like surface symmetrically reflecting the stately oaks above.  What about that?  Is beauty also tied to symmetry?  The flowers were symmetrical too. 

Abruptly, a small insect dropped into the stream with impudence, causing ripples to fan out, distorting the image.  Then a whisper of a breeze arrived, causing a miniature cats-paw to etch itself across the water; also gently mussing my hair. 

All semblance of trees in the stream were now gone.  Ahh, the reflection was delicate too.  Even a small waterbug or gentle wind could break its spell.  Beauty must somehow be tied to delicacy - then I pause, what about the Rocky Mountains?  Aren’t they beautiful?  I ponder this and decide the Rockies aren’t beautiful, they’re majestic.  That, or my theory is bunk.  So much for soliloquy.

Seeing the tulips made me think beauty must also be tied to uniqueness, because no tulip was exactly alike.  Similar to sunsets.  I saw a brilliant one in Florida several weeks ago from Mallory Square, a waterfront area on the tip of the Keys.  In their own way, sunsets are delicate, voicing brilliance but a few moments before continuing their never-ending travel Westward. 

Now, it must be pointed out just because something is delicate, symmetrical, and unique doesn’t make it beautiful, per se. My set of teeth retainers have those three qualities, but aren’t much to write poetry on. Nevertheless, something beautiful will probably have at least those.

Perhaps the starry-eyed lovebirds I see strolling about provide another example. Each couple represents the beautiful side to relationships we all desire: a harmony of two souls. Each couple is unique, yet each guy-girl match is held by a thin thread of mutual attraction that must be symmetrically balanced.

Anyways, I think the power of Serenity is that it can refresh a soul. 

And if you made it through all this, I hope it refreshed you too, sort of as if you were there in the Gardens as well.  That was my goal.

The Power of a Sentence

So We Only Use 2% Of Our Brain’s Capacity?

My brain never really stops.  I used to think everyone was like this, and perhaps they are, but I’m not totally sure anymore. Please help me put this issue to rest by answering the poll to the left.

Even at night my brain clacks away.  Sometimes in the mornings I’m wiped due to the subconscious having propelled me through a slew of exhausting dreams. 

Most of the ideas flitting through my cranial cage aren’t profound enough to be worth thoughting, or writing down.  Few are even original.  They’re mainly re-conglomerations of various content I’ve been consuming.  Content that includes not only books, media, and articles, but also social interactions with people and observations from life. 

But here are a few recent ones… free food for thought. 

Just How Much Do You Remember?

structureI heard recently (forget where) a guy say that books didn’t impact him, but sentences did.  Guess he was right, because that sentence stuck with me, though nothing else he said did. Not even his name, so he could get the credit.

If it’s just sentences that impact us, why don’t we publish quotes instead of books? 

I think the reason is because we need the filler content for context.  Like in public speaking, the point of the introduction should be to prime the audience to get mentally phsyched and emotionally synched to the mood and style of the orator.  Then, when it’s time for the message, they’re ready to be hit over the head. 

Then again, sometimes all we need is the quote.  Here are a few unrelated sentences I’ve read recently that made me think:

  • "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees… filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man…" Mark
  • "The people God can use are different than the people the church can use."  (Miller)
  • "The church in America is led by scholars…  The first disciples were not [scholars], they were fishermen, tax collectors and at least one was a Zealot. We don’t know the occupation of the others, but Jesus did not charge educators with the great commission, he chose laborers." (Miller)
  • "If You’re Stuck, Ask Questions" (Barnes)
  • "Christian evangelists will often talk about the ’God hole’ – the place in your heart that only God can fill.  The ‘God hole’ is actually a lot bigger than you may realize.  God’s Word says that He… wants to be your All in All” Snyder
  • "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…" Peter
  • "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Paul
  • “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life…" John

I’m curious, are there any sentences you’ve heard recently that were meaningful and stuck?