Here’s how I’ve spent a lot of time this week: thanking God in my car.
I like time in my car. Mostly because my introvert self can curl up inside my music and crawl inside the worlds in my mind.
The music menu usually consists of musicals (the good ones), music that falls within my self-titled ‘Dawson’s genre’, and/or country. The two recent exceptions have been: (a) when I have a toddler in tow or (b) when a friend releases a new album.
This week my car time has been cannibalized by the latter. I’ve been listening to my buddy Jimmy’s new record and it has me thanking God for two reasons:
God gives His kids different gifts…
Proud is the wrong word because it’s sort of condescending, but I guess I was humbled as I listened to Jimmy’s album this week.
I’m humbled by the gifts God has given him. I’m not talking about his voice, or his music, but other, deeper gifts.
We could not be more different. I’m a doubter and an over-analyzer. He is a faith guy: he believes what God says. He’s not a blind follower, he just has a supernatural gift of faith.
I’m an introvert, often intimidated by people. Jimmy is a crazy extrovert. He welcomes everyone and never meets a stranger.
When I have a problem I strategize, I plan, I plot. Jimmy prays.
In December, after losing our friend, Jimmy and Staci (his wife) called me on the phone and told me they wanted to pray for me. I heard that a lot in December, but Jimmy and Staci meant they were going to pray for me- then and there, over the phone. And they did. I drove down the road, (eyes open at Jimmy’s instruction), tears streaming down my cheeks as we all talked to our Dad together.
If you listen, you can hear the faith bleeding joy into his voice as Jimmy sings that he is God’s child and God is his King. You can hear – as Jimmy sings about the many sons the gospel will bring to glory – his eagerness to welcome people into the family of God. You can hear inside the cry and plea for the Spirit to breathe within us all, Jimmy’s desperate dependence through prayers sung publicly to our Father.
God has gifted my brother Jimmy with talents far deeper than music. Jimmy’s voice is just the means of communicating the great gifts of faith and love and dependence that God has given him.
…And God is using those gifts for the building up of the body.
It’s been a bumpy season for me. And let me translate for those of you who don’t speak christian-ese: the last few months have been pretty bad.
I’m exhausted and the being exhausting thing makes it hard to connect with God. I am hungry for deep truth, for the exhortation of community, for the energy to be desperate in prayer. And God has used Jimmy’s album to give me all that.
Full disclosure: sometimes, I get so hungry to connect with God through song, that I put Christian radio on, but I usually turn it off pretty fast. I don’t really get it. I don’t get why most of it sounds exactly the same and I don’t get why all the lyrics are so fluffy and warm and safe without any reference to the unique complexity of the Christian God or the Christian Gospel.
When I want to connect with God through song, I don’t want to just hear music. I’m hungry to hear the deepest truths of the scriptures woven into worship by the emotional threads that music is designed to pluck.
And guys- that’s what Jimmy McNeal’s album does.
When I turned on the cd this week I heard a friend unpack deep theological evidence for the truth that my Father won’t leave me. I worshipped as Jimmy reminded me that God’s glory is my good and my good is God’s glory. God and I are on the same page with the same goal. I prayed as Jimmy urged me to surrender to our Father.
I’m thankful for a God that gives us community to exhort us – through our car stereos if necessary.
[You can (and should) buy Jimmy's cd here]