“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster,but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place;he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:16-19).”
Lately, I have had a fascination with the lives of the songwriters and performers of the 1960s and early 1970s. I like to find out what motivated them to write and sing the songs they did.
One of the singers I have become entranced with is Harry Nilsson, and I am in fact working on an article on him, or should I say more like “there is a piece about him sitting on my computer untouched for a long time.” A song he is well known for is “Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me”.
The song is the theme from the movie Midnight Cowboy, a flick popular during the latr 60s and early 70s. Nilsson didn’t write the song, but he won an award for singing it.
The song’s lyrics, as many song’s lyrics have been for me recently, speak to my heart. Here”s the opening stanza:
“Everybody’s talking at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind.”
What got me thinking about this song was a bill. The other night I went to check the mail an , per usual, my correspondence wasn’t of the friendly variety. I owed someone.
This bill sent me to bed depressed. In fact, I was overwhelmed. It is as if the bill had been put in front of me, I had slipped on it, and I had been swept away in a flood of immense proportions.
A lot of my other problems came washing over me as I lay there in my bed. I mentally saw myself as I was overwhelmed, floating and being pushed along in a river of despond.
Where “Everybody’s Talkin'” comes in is that, in the midst of all these woes, everyone has an opinion as to what I should do. Their voices just add to my sense of drowning.
Songs from the 60s and early 70s communicate truth to me sometimes. I have a kindred spirit in this in a Dane named Bent Sorenson.
He says, in his blog discussion of “Eveybody’s Talkin'”:
“I have a lasting fascination with American music from the 1960s. Many of the marquee songs of the era have become short scriptures for a generation of young folks who wanted change (hey Obama, you think you’re so original?) and new values to believe in… “.
In fact, as a university instructor, Dr. Sorenson uses a textbook called “Scriptures for a Generation” by Phillip Beidler. I need to pick that book up because it profiles a many of the musical icons of the 60s period.
What these songs do for me is act as a catalyst to go to the REAL Scriptures. When I did this week, in the midst of my predicament, I was overhwelmed again: this time at the immensity of the living God.
He Himself is overwhelming (Job 9:18). Job experienced the same drowning feeling I did, and named God as the Source.
So did the Psalmist. He wrote,”Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves (Psalm 88:7).”
As I was being swept away in my river of despair the other night, it wasn’t just my circumstances that troubled me. I had a huge sense of another source of the flood: my own sin.
I pictured them being piled in a heap and a match put to them. That’s what I wished for. At the time, however, I was overcome by my inability to live up to God’s requirements (Psalm 38:4).
Thus, this week I have had the same sensation the animals must have experienced in an old margarine commercial from the 1970s. It’s the one in which Mother Nature is reading the story of Goldilocks to them.
When Mother Nature mentions the porridge in the fable, the animals give her a substance and ask her, “Was this was on the porridge, Mother Nature?” She smiles and replies,”Oh, lot’s of my delicious butter!”
The animals tell her that what she is tasting is the margarine made by the company which produced the commercial. They tell her that the margarine is “so delicious, it fooled even YOU, Mother Nature”.
Up until this time, Mother Nature has been smiling and sweet in temperament. However, when the animals tell her she has been duped, she stands up, spreads her arm and produces lightning and thunder.
Mother Nature’s countenance is stern. She say to the animals,”It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”
Nice ole Mother Nature was suddenly someone to be feared. It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.
That’s how I felt about God as I lay in my bed. I had this sense that He was one awesome Dude who didn’t appreciate my attempts to fake Him out with my pseudo-Christianity.
In modern Christendom we tend to emphasize the love and kindness of God. Of course, these are gratefully key aspects of His character.
However, we tend to dismiss His majesty, awesomeness, and wrath aimed at sin. Include me in this dismissiveness.
Not this week. I now see that God is someone not to be trifled with. It’s not nice to fool God (Psalm 18:7-15).
If I am going to have any chance of happiness, or even contentment, in this life, I have to be in good with Him. I have to quit treating the majestic God like some kind of powerful human grandpa I go to when I want some candy.
The Psalmist wrote:
” If the LORD had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away (Psalm 124:1-5).”
I would rather have the omnipotent God on my side than against me. For one, He is powerful enough to deal with the flood caused by my overwhelming trangressions.
The prophet wrote,
“Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:21-22).”
I don’t have be in the torrential river of my sin. I can just stand by and watch God sweep them away because of what Jesus did on the Cross.
In this passage, I don’t believe it is an accident that God mentions the two names of the patriarch known as Jacob and Israel. The former name is an old Hebrew idiom for “deceiver”, while the latter means “he who struggles with God”.
In the well known biblical story, Jacob wrestles with God all night. As morning breaks, God tells Jacob,”Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome (Genesis 32:21, 22).”
God doesn’t want me to be overcome by my woes. He is the Overcomer and has given me the ability to be one as well.
“I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Thru’ the pouring rain,
Going where the weather suits my clothes,
Backing off of the North East wind,
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone” (from Everybody’s Talkin’).