Like many of you, I believe that God speaks to people in countless ways. In specific and needed ways He knows how to penetrate our hearts, minds, and souls. For my entire life God has used music to speak to me. Certainly, He has also used Scripture, prayer, books, people, mountains, and numerous other ways. But music has been the constant since as long as I can remember.
Almost two years ago I was reacquainted with the singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken. Growing up listening to Christian music and being a fan of Derek Webb (her now ex-husband), I knew of her. But I never listened to her music. I am not entirely sure why, but I think I might have a hunch.
City Church began to incorporate her songs more and more into worship the past several years. I was on the worship team when we first started singing "God’s Highway." We also sang "We Will Feast in the House of Zion" and "Steadfast," among others. All I liked, but none especially spoke to me in a soul crying out kind of a way.
On June 26, 2016 (the day after my birthday) I learned my mom was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer in her bones. A terminal diagnosis. My world was rocked. She was my mentor, my best friend, my confidant, my mom. On December 19, 2017 my mom left this world and is now basking in the glory of our Lord and Savior.
Up until this time I have faced very little trial. Sure, I have lost beloved grandparents and experienced heartbreak in relationships, but never any real suffering. And, I think that is precisely why I liked Sandra McCracken as an artist, but never gave her much thought or appreciated the depth of her songwriting.
Sandra has known suffering and real pain. You can feel her struggle and hope in the Lord pour out into every word and every note of every song.
Last summer I began to listen to her album God’s Highway on repeat. Then I added her album Psalms to the list. And most recently, Songs from the Valley. I found that my heart and voice had so much pain and heartache to express but I didn’t know how. My grief was overwhelming, and my soul was crying out, but no words could form. And then "Psalm 131" would come on and I’d hear "be still my soul" and I would find peace. Her songs became my cries and my prayers. The Lord drew me in through each one of her songs. I would just lay in my bed in silence letting the Lord wash over me as her music played through each song and each prayer.
I have a specific story for each song and how the Lord used it to speak to me. Like when the first song that randomly played the morning my mom passed was "We Will Feast in the House of Zion." It was also the song that played for my Sister-In-Law that morning. Or how after one of my biggest cries, the next morning at work when I was still feeling heavy with grief, "Song for Rachel" came on with the lyrics "Rachel, dry your tears, your hope it will rise."
I now joke that Sandra McCracken is my spirit animal. But she does speak my soul. It took terrible loss for me to see the beauty and depth of her work. But I’m thankful. She has been a gift to me and the Lord has used her music to speak His truth, His promise, His hope, and His comfort.
When I can’t speak, when I’m so overwhelmed and can’t find the words but know I must speak to the Lord, I can pray her songs and I know the Lord hears my cries and my prayers, and He uses the same song to speak right back to me.
And, this is why music may just be my favorite thing the Lord has given us. I can only imagine the music my mother is hearing as she feasts in Zion. As Sandra sings…
We hope you'll join us to see Sandra McCracken perform live at Grace Covenant on May 3rd at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Visit Eventbrite to purchase your tickets.