Singing in the New Year

Photo by ghawalepratik / pixabay.com

One day at the very end of 2016, my family and I drove from Philadelphia, PA to Norfolk, VA to have lunch and spend a few precious hours with some of our dearest friends, who live now in the Midwest. Nearly six hundred miles for a meal and too little facetime with two people we love dearly and their beautiful, funny children. On the drive back, as my husband and son slept in the car, a song from my youth came up in the iPod rotation: Across These Fields (Reprise).

I hesitate to share just this song, since the whole album (Lament) was written to be heard from start to finish. But with the request to please pause, buy the album (or pull it out of your classic 90s Christian rock archives), listen to it, and then come back…I give you the lyrics, written by Glenn Kaiser:

Across these fields
Where daylight travels
I want to yield
Despite this veil of tears
When will You
When will You be returning
I cast my lot
Beyond the fear

Across these fields
I take my pleasure
Force of Your will
No matter what may come
Through the mist
I found the treasure
Worth my life
Kingdom soon to come

Face to face
No more alone
I shall know
As I am known
With You
I am alive
Lord, with You
I am satisfied

Across these fields
Beyond the stars
Above this pale, endless universe of ours
Where dreams were born
All mysteries unfold
Where love is a Person to behold

As I crawl, beaten, bruised, and kind of depressed into 2017, these words are scraping away the gunk that has accumulated and hardened on my spirit, clearing the way for the Holy Spirit to permeate and rejuvenate.

Whether or not I succeed or fail; whether or not I feel joy or sorrow; whether or not I embrace or reject the fact, I am known, alive, and satisfied.

I am saved by the love of Jesus, the God who stepped into a battered and violent world, showed us what love Personified looked like in action, died, and then conquered death, rising from the grave with holes in his hands, side, and forehead.

I am saved by the love of Jesus, the God who stepped into a battered and violent world, showed us what love Personified looked like in action, died, and then conquered death, rising from the grave with holes in his hands, side, and forehead.

It seems the least I can do is drag myself with some small joy into each new day and try my best to personify love to someone who needs it. Some days, that might mean driving ten hours to be sure friends know how important they are. Other days, it might mean honestly engaging the people on our social media page who seem to drop by just to snipe at us. Maybe it’s taking a meal to someone in need, being late for a meeting with my boss in order to help someone without power, or reserving judgement of people who drive more expensive cars than I do.

For sure it will mean taking the time to see people as beloved children of God, made in God’s image. For sure it will mean looking for and listening to the whole of creation worshiping their Creator and finding ways to join my voice to theirs. For sure I will fail, but the only thing I can promise at the dawn of this new calendar year is that I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as the mysteries, sorrows, and joys of 2017 unfold. Jesus, our only hope for surviving the long, cold winter, and hard times both now and to come.

For further listening:

Letter to the Free: “The caged birds sings for freedom to ring / Black bodies being lost in the American dream.”

Revolution: “‘Cause there’ll come a day / When all of us will show, we won’t be afraid / Although we’re crashing, we won’t burn / Let the Revolution begin.”

Land of the Free: “How can we call our home, the land of the free / Until we’ve unbound the praying hands / Of each innocent woman and man.”

Love: “Between the spaces of our words / There is a love that flows like water to the roots of Edens trees / Growing truth from every branch.”

Hamba Nathi: “Come walk with us, the journey is long.”

Ubi Caritas: “Where charity and love are, God is there.”

Without Love: “What difference does it make if our faith moves mountains / If we give our money and die like martyrs.”

Be Thou My Vision: “Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word / I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.”

Canticle of the Turning: “The world is about to turn…On earth, as it is in heaven.”

Sarah Withrow King is the Deputy Director of the Sider Center, the co-director of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology (Wipf & Stock) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan, 2016).

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A Prayer for Today

Attributed to Saint Patrick

Christ, as a light
Illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
Overshadow me.

Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me;
On my left and my right.