Adoration by Mike Adkins

I woke up with this beautiful, anointed song running in my spirit. Such a wonderful way to wake up in the morning!

Lyrics:

Praise, we praise, praise, praise
Praise to the One who sent us His Son
Praise, praise, praise, praise
In one accord, we praise you, O Lord.

There is no other name above you
Blessed be your name
God of Jacob, Shepherd of Israel
Holy unto your name, Holy unto your name.

Praise, praise, praise, we praise
Praise to the One who sent us His Son
Praise, praise, praise, praise
In one accord, we praise you, O Lord.

Glory and Honor and Power
Unto the Lord our God
God of Abraham, faithful and true
Holy, holy are you, Holy, holy are you.

Son of righteousness and
The Lamb who was slain
You’re the lily of the valley
You’re my bright and morning star

You’re the beginning and the end
You’re the everlasting Father
You’re the God, the God of all glory
You’re my healer and the king of kings

My deliverer and my friend
You’re the sweet rose of Sharon
You’re all love, you’re all power
You’re merciful and you’re mighty

You’re the redeemer of all mankind
You’re the lion, the lion of Judah
You’re the ruler of this whole universe
You’re the most high, Messiah
You’re the soon coming king

Holy, holy is your name
Holy, holy is your name

(singing in the spirit)

Holy, holy is your name
Holy, holy is your name

 

Play it by ear

Or how I learned to play the piano by ear – I didn’t.

My daddy’s oldest sister, Aunt Myrtle, sponsored my piano lessons as a little girl. She had been a pianist for silent movies in the early 1900’s and loved any and all types of music. I dearly loved to hear her play, especially sitting close to watch her nimble fingers. Runs up and down the keyboard, crashing chords or delicate trills, it was all thrilling to me!

Myrtle still played for her own family, friends, and her own enjoyment too. Occasionally she accompanied someone who sang a classical-type solo at church, especially near Easter or Christmas time.

Mrs.WescottOh, how I wanted to play like Myrtle! And so, Myrtie Berry Wescott, a classical piano teacher, was chosen to instruct me. During the regular school year I would go to her house twice a week after school where for fifteen minutes per lesson she drilled me in music theory, scales, finger exercises, proper hand position, and practice, practice, practice!

I can still see her baton at the ready, threatening (but never actually rapping) the knuckles when your hands were being lazy, i.e. not properly lifted, fingers curled to strike – not mash – the keys.

Ms. Wescott was a stickler for playing music exactly it as written. She didn’t like her students playing anything she hadn’t approved… which meant no hymns, no sheet music, no “silly little ditties” such as Chopsticks, Three Blind Mice, or She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes.

In her studio, only classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Chopin were used for memory work, especially end-of-year recital pieces. Difficulty increased, of course, as the years went on. Imagine playing 13 notes per measure with the right hand, to 12 notes per measure with the left hand. One of the Russian composers, my mind has kindly and lovingly blanked out that name and that piece – but I did learn to play it to her satisfaction, when I was about 15.

Well, while classical piano study was school-year work, summers were wonderfully filled with big band music, movie sound tracks, Hits of the 50’s etc., folk music, hymns and choruses, books and sheet music purchased by my parents as rewards for good work for my violinist brother and me.

I learned a great deal studying with Ms. Wescott. But what I didn’t learn was how to transpose keys. Whoever heard of changing the key on a Beethoven piece? Unnecessary! Unthought of! Unallowed.

Well, my lessons with her were completed when I was 16. After a few summer months of organ keyboard instruction sponsored by my church, I began playing the organ for Sunday services. (They had an excellent pianist but a fine organ with nobody to play it, until I came along.)

All went well for quite a while, until I joined Christian Assembly Church in the 1970’s and began playing the organ for services there.

The choir leader would sometimes say, “This hymn is pitched too high, let’s lower it a couple of steps.” I just looked at him in dismay – I had no idea how to do that. But the pianist did, so she would play and I would just sit there, feeling like a dummy.

After a few times like that I was disheartened. I loved playing. I loved the hymns, the gospel songs, the Easter and Christmas cantatas, all the praise and worship music. If it was written on paper, I could play it. If it wasn’t, I couldn’t.

It really bothered me. If I knew about the change of key in advance, I could write out the notes and practice at home and then things would go fine. But those occasions were rare. My heart almost grieved, not being able to play everything they needed. Should I resign as church organist and let them find someone who could do it? I was debating with myself.

One night I prayed about it – and woke up the next morning able to play by ear, in any key. (Only Christian music, oddly enough; anything else I still have to memorize as always.) It was amazing.

Not long afterward, a gospel quartet came for a special service one Sunday night. All their songs were lively and upbeat pieces they had written and as none of them played instruments, they sang with accompaniment tapes.

Then the pastor asked them to sing something slower, softer, more worshipful while people came forward for a time of prayer. Unfortunately none of their tapes contained that kind of music. One of them looked over at me and said, if we begin, can you just follow along? My heart pounded but I said, I’ll try.

And I did. Every song, even though none were familiar; they were all original pieces they themselves had composed. They sang and I played for over 30 minutes. No-one but me knew what a miracle that was, but it was.

Transposing choir numbers was no longer a problem. I just heard the melody and harmony in my head, found the key they needed and played.

Since that day I have played the piano in many places, sometimes with written music but more often without. Sometimes song leaders rotated from tenor to bass (Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship), or from soprano to alto (Women’s Aglow). I found that I could follow the leader in whatever key they needed. Our own church where I have played piano for many years uses chord charts, because the other musicians don’t read music. No problem.

So, whenever people ask me how I learned to play by ear, I just smile and say, I didn’t. Let me tell you about a miracle – did you know the Holy Spirit can play the piano?

 

It’s time for urgent worship

Praise and worship are not the same thing.

Praise is telling God how you feel about him and what he’s done for you, how wonderful he is and how grateful you are, all wrapped up in a song somebody else wrote.

Worship is deeper, more intimate, more personal. It’s like singing a love song to the object of your adoration. Of course, you’re still using a song somebody else wrote.

And when you’re through praising God and worshiping, you give money to the church, hear a sermon from the preacher, request prayer if you need it, then go home.

That’s what I thought for years, until I researched original language for myself.

The English word worship comes from the old root word “worth-ship.” How much someone is worth, in respect, honor, position, wealth.

The New Testament Greek word carries a similar idea, but is used of a servant’s attitude towards his master – not exclaiming how great he thinks his master is, but being in submission, reverent, waiting for the master’s instructions.

The servant doesn’t inform the master of his own plans for the day. He doesn’t have any plans of his own. He doesn’t do anything until his master tells him what to do.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well something about the future. He said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Just physically singing in a church service is not what he meant.

I still worship with songs other people wrote, but sometimes it’s not songs at all, it’s paragraphs, sentences or phrases, sometimes just feelings. Whatever it is, it’s not complete unless followed by listening for the Master’s instructions.

Recently the Holy Spirit said to me, it’s time for urgent worship.

What does that mean, I asked? What is it, and why is it time?

True worship begins with focused attention, he said. Not contaminated with distractions like other people singing. Not drowned out by the static of worry over what is going on in your life, your own thoughts.

True worship is hard, I had to acknowledge. I wasn’t very good at it. Trying to concentrate doesn’t wipe out all the distractions. My elbows hurt. My fingers seem stiff. Time for Tylenol?

I find my mind wandering, thinking about the people I love and their troubles. Concerned about the state of the world.

Worship too easily transitions over to praying for something. Praying is not bad in itself, but it’s not focusing on the worth-ship of God and listening to his voice, his instructions.

Without the critical element of true worship, I may not hear his instructions instantly or clearly enough to respond with confidence when he needs me to.

I was worried that I just can’t do it, no matter how hard I try. Then he reminded me of how I learned to play the piano, how I learned to type: practice.

Practice urgent worship. Focus on the Master and he will strip away all your unnecessary distractions. Don’t worry that you’re not perfect, just practice.

Okay, I said.

But why? I wasn’t sure if he would tell me, but he did.

Because a day is coming when he will speak a critical word. We must be able to recognize his voice and respond, perhaps in an instant.

Urgent worship will prepare his people to hear him clearly, when that day comes.

Magnify the Lord… how

Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me…”

How? How can you make the Lord bigger than he already is? That question popped into my head the other day for some reason, when I was thinking about the little chorus based on that verse.

The creator of the universe and everything in it, and everything outside of it – how big is he?

Not very big in some minds. Not big enough to care about little things. Like a parking space. A cell phone signal. A sale on groceries.

Or caring enough about the bigger things. Like a job. Or a heart attack. Dishonest banker. Crooked politician.

God doesn’t need magnifying in his person, he needs magnifying in our thinking.

He is big enough to design the most beautiful artwork in the galaxies, in a starfish, in a baby’s smile, and caring enough to listen to any believer’s prayer. I believe that, but some folks don’t.

We need to magnify his grace, his mercy, his compassion, his power, his patience, to the world.

It would be good to magnify him in the hearts and minds of his own people, too, who sometimes think he’s not paying attention to our hurts and lacks.

Today is a good day to start.