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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lessons from Ireland

Life has been a whirlwind tour lately.

Went to Ireland at the end of January. Spent the first part in the Belfast area and the rest of the time in Dublin. I went with David and Randy from Westwinds to “Worship Belfast 2006.” Met up with my buddy Michael from California in Chicago and met Dave's friend, (and our new friend) Tim there as well. The five of us flew out of Chicago together.

Chris Tomlin, Robin Mark, Matt Redman, Brian Houston, Eoghan Heaslip and Johnny Parks were musicians for the conference and the complementary worship concert. The conference promoted its sold-out concert at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast as the apex of the week. I enjoyed seeing the newspaper the day of the concert. There were three photos featured on the front page—Chris Tomlin, Chris Martin (Coldplay), and Noel Gallagher (Oasis). According to the paper, the photos represented the only artists who have ever sold-out the arena. Go figure.

Here are my Top Ten events of the week:

1. First, there was the $240 round-trip ticket out of Chicago.
2. Then, meeting up with my best friend.
3. There was the private tour of the Avalon guitar factory.
4. Randy got yelled at by a drunken Irish madman on a city bus—I think the rant went something like, “You #$@%!@###! You’re as bald as a billiard ball! We don’t want you here! Quit calling me Dr. Doolittle! Put your camera away! You @#$$%!!!!” Yeah, good times.
5. The tour of the Guinness storehouse.
6. The train ride down the coast and the walk to Bono’s house with Michael. Seeing Bono’s gates. Waving at Bono’s security camera. Walking away without seeing Bono.(Bono's house below left--the big white one)
7. Walking five miles with Michael to visit Mount Temple school where U2 met one another and decided to form a band.
8. Visiting Powerscourt Gardens (with the fountain)where scenes from The Count of Monte Cristo and Braveheart were shot.
9. Talking with locals in the pub every night and learning about life in Ireland.
10. Walking around the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

I could tell stories for days. However, my greatest takeaway was not related to the late nights,sightseeing, Randy losing his wallet—twice, the awesome food and drink or the fact that we talked in Irish accents the entire time. My lesson was a history lesson and a new understanding.

I have listened to and loved the songs of U2 since I was a teenager—they have always talked about their homeland and the struggles between Northern Ireland and The Republic. I remember when Sinead O’Connor ripped up the picture of the Pope on SNL in protest of “The Troubles.” I have heard the worship songs of Robin Mark when he talks about revival and God healing their land. But, I neverunderstood the pain in their words until I visited the land and soaked in a bit of their history.

I am not an expert by any means when it comes to history or geography. Those are the Jeopardy categories I always fail in. But, when I walked the streets of Belfast and saw pictures on the sides of buildings with ski-masked men holding AK-47’s, when I prayed and lit candles in a Catholic church that was surrounded by tall fences to detract would-be assailants from running their vehicles into the church, when I visited grave markers from children who caught stray bullets from a sniper’s gun, when I realized that less than a decade ago there were tanks running down the streets of Northern Ireland, I had a new appreciation for the music. I had a new appreciation for the plight.

It also gave me a renewed vision for indigenous worship music—worship songs written out of our own faith communities. When I saw over 7000 people waving flags and singing these words from Robin Marks’ song it began to make sense:

“Does a cry ring out from a broken nation? From a people who have been brought low
Was pride in our hearts, did we grieve Your Spirit? Have we blocked the ancient wells that flowed?
Here is our covenant prayer—Who call upon Your name
We humble ourselves before You—We humble ourselves
Come heal this land
Do the tears of One who gave all things for us—Do they fall from Heaven still because of us?
For we have tasted grace and we have known Your mercy but, we have not shown this grace to men
Here is our covenant prayer—Who call upon Your name
We humble ourselves before You—We humble ourselves
May this land we love be a place of safety—Be a light for all the nations of this earth
May Your streams of love, may they flow here freely—Here where every stranger finds a home
Here is our covenant prayer—Who call upon Your name
We humble ourselves before You—We humble ourselves”
Come Heal This Land. Copyright © 2001 Integrity's Hosanna! Music.

This experience was a good reminder for me. As a worship leader, I think worship music selections on a weekend should be no different than the message—they are for a time and place. They speak in to our people’s experience with God and reflect a heart cry. They should be an honest expression of worship that flows out of obedience to God in the midst of our current situation. Just because 1000 other churches are singing the worship-song-flavor-of-the-week doesn’t mean it is the song WE should be singing. Or, maybe that song is the perfect song for us and the other 1000 churches. I just want to remember to ask the question.


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