Posts Tagged ‘Wings’

Devotional Podcast #12: “Did God Give Me the Flu?”

February 6, 2018

Short answer: yes. But listen to (or read the transcript of) this podcast for the long answer.

Devotional Text: Psalm 38:1-3, 8-11

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Tuesday, February 6, and this is Devotional Podcast number 12. I’m still homebound with the flu, which you can probably hear in my voice.

You’re listening to a song from 1979 called “Daytime, Nighttime Suffering,” written and sung by Paul McCartney and performed with his band Wings. This is the B-side of his single “Goodnight Tonight.” By the way, if you asked me to compile a list of favorite McCartney songs, including his work with that other famous group he was in, this would be in my Top Five.

Just by chance—or so it seemed—my devotional reading last Friday—when I was in the throes of influenza—included Psalm 38. Let me read verses 1 to 3 and 8 to 11 now:

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin…
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.

I love that last verse: “My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague.” That’s the truth! The flu feels a lot like a plague, and my cat, Peanut, was my only companion the first couple of days, as I was quarantined to my room. Could there have been a more appropriate scripture to read for when you have the flu?

Well, that depends, you might say. David was attributing his flu-like symptoms to God: God, he said, was punishing him, or disciplining him, because of some particular, unspecified sin or sins. Do I really believe that God would do that today—to me?

To which I say, “Of course I do!” For one thing, God foreknows everything that’s going to happen in the world, including the fact that I would be exposed to the flu virus when George coughed last Monday without covering his mouth. Now, simply being exposed to the virus doesn’t mean I’ll get the flu. Suppose, on that very morning, I prayed that God would keep me healthy through this severe flu season. Then I can assume, when this invading, viral enemy penetrated by immune system and gave me the flu, that God answered my prayer with a resounding “no.” God chose not to keep me safe.

Why did God do that?

After all, Jesus teaches us that prayer changes the world—that our Father is happy to give us what his children pray for—if he can do so in a way that’s consistent with his will. Which means, if he doesn’t give us what we pray for, he must have good reasons—whether we know what they are or not!

I simply can’t comprehend the resistance, especially among my fellow Methodists, to the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” By all means, it’s a cliché, but it’s still true! Read Psalm 139, a powerful psalm about God’s sovereignty, and tell me that everything doesn’t happen for a God-ordained reason! Verses 4-5:

Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.

How can that great promise of Romans 8:28 be true—“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good”—if “all things” doesn’t also include something like the flu? I hate to be a wimp, but the flu is kind of a big deal! How is God using the flu to help me right now? How is he using it for good? So of course he allowed or arranged for me to get the flu for a reason!

In fact, I completely concur with C.S. Lewis, who wrote the following:

I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a “cruel” doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were “punishments.” But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a “punishment,” it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.[1]

That’s exactly right. The Bible teaches repeatedly that God tests us when we suffer. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4. “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12:6-7. There are many similar verses.

When it became clear, Friday morning, that I had the flu, I responded to the bad news in a way that I never have before. Normally, thoughts such as these would cross my mind: “Well, there goes the weekend! There goes my Sunday sermon! There goes my ability to see my son play basketball, or to go running, or to go to that party Saturday night! This is going to put me way behind!” But I didn’t respond that way.

Instead, I said, “Thank you, Father. I know you’ve got some good reasons for giving me this flu. Let it do its good work.” In fact, even just slowing down and being still has been a great blessing.

Over these past few days, for instance, I’ve had some sweet prayer and Bible-reading time. I’ve been reminded of how utterly dependent I am on God for everything I have and am. I’ve been reminded of people in my life who love and care for me. On Sunday morning, I happened to listen to a Keith Green album that I purchased off eBay recently—and God used it to convict me of sin and as a means of worship.

That’s all good! Thank you, Jesus!

So did God give me this flu? Of course he did! Thank God!

1. C.S. Lewis, “Money Trouble” in The C.S. Lewis Bible, NRSV (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 1123.

Is “daytime, nighttime suffering” really all she gets?

May 10, 2013
wings-daytime-nightime-suffering-columbia

The great B-side to the Wings’ hit “Goodnight Tonight.” If you were Paul, wouldn’t you save a song this good for an album?

I’ve done a nice job (if I say so myself) splitting the difference between John’s songs and Paul’s songs in this Beatles-themed sermon series—with the understanding, of course, that the two often collaborated. (Post-breakup, the two argued over “In My Life”: While John said that he wrote both words and music, Paul claimed he wrote the music. At least one musicologist I read detects the styles of both in the vocal melody.)

Even when they didn’t collaborate, however, near-sibling rivalry and pride motivated them to do their best work. Iron sharpens iron. Therefore, in my mind—I have no idea if this is how it happened—John writes his childhood reminiscence, “Strawberry Fields Forever”; Paul hears it and thinks, “I can do better than that!” Then he writes his childhood reminiscence, “Penny Lane.”

This Sunday, however—Mother’s Day—the two featured Beatles songs both represent the work of Paul: “Lady Madonna” and “Your Mother Should Know.” Sorry. John wasn’t much for domesticity back then. His bittersweet “Julia” was written to his deceased mother, but the lyrics are vague. He could be singing about any lost love. John saved his best motherhood song for the devastatingly sad “Mother,” from the Plastic Ono Band album.

But Paul also wrote and recorded his best motherhood song after the Beatles split: “Daytime Nighttime Suffering,” the B-side to his 1979 hit “Goodnight Tonight.” I promise I would have the Vinebranch Band perform this song if it were in keeping with the series theme!

“Daytime Nighttime Suffering” is “Lady Madonna” without a sense of whimsy. Like the Beatles song, McCartney says that motherhood is incredibly difficult—except there is no “music playing in your head” to ease the pain of regret, failure, and distress.

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress,
Daytime, nighttime suffering is all she gets?

Nice reference to “damsels in distress”: McCartney goes on to say that motherhood is “no fairytale anymore.” It’s a strangely pessimistic song, not only for Paul the family-man, but for the exuberant melody and vocal arrangement—surely one of his sunniest and best. Maybe he’s communicating through the music that motherhood isn’t as bad as it seems? There is hope.

What these mothers need, McCartney says, is for people—well, including fathers like himself—to give them all the love and compassion they deserve. The singer asks the “mighty river” of love to flow through him. The river in this case is likely a metaphor for God: pour out your love on these women who suffer for their children. Pour out your love through me—a fitting prayer for any occasion.

This is easily one of my favorite McCartney songs. Wikipedia even tells me it’s one of Paul’s as well. For mothers everywhere, here it is. Enjoy!

Sermon 04-28-13: “The Word Is Love, Part 3”

May 2, 2013
paul_and_linda

Paul and Linda McCartney, circa 1970. Paul’s decision to include Linda—not previously a musician—in his new band Wings was deeply unpopular with both fans and music press. On the other hand, the two never spent a night apart (except for the nine days he spent in a Japanese prison in 1980).

We understand that Christ-like love is self-giving and self-sacrificial when it applies to loving our neighbor “out there”—in the mission field. But when we marry, we now have a neighbor who lives under our roof and sleeps beside us. We have a neighbor who manages the household with us, raises kids with us, and makes a life with us.

So now that we’re married to our neighbor, it suddenly matters a great deal how we feel? It matters what we’re getting out of the relationship? Isn’t this a double-standard?

As I discuss in this sermon on love and marriage, happiness in marriage is important, but there is no path to happiness in any part of life that doesn’t lead us up a mountain called Calvary.

Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:21-33

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

I’m a fan of the public radio show This American Life with Ira Glass. Each week the show features a theme, and they have a series of real-life stories related to the theme. Last Valentine’s Day their theme was “people going to extremes to find and pursue their one true love.” One of the stories featured a 30-year-old man named Kurt.

Kurt had been with his girlfriend for 13 years—they started dating as high school sweethearts. And they had lived together for their entire adult lives so far. But they never tied the knot. And Kurt started to wonder why. “Maybe the reason I haven’t married this person that I’ve been with for 13 years is that she isn’t ‘the one.’ And since we’ve never dated anyone else, maybe we should take some time off—a month or two—and just play the field. See what else is out there first, and then decide whether or not to get married.” So that’s what this couple did. They took a break from each other. And after several months, they decided to break up once and for all. Read the rest of this entry »