The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 122: Make a New Soundtrack
Hi friends. In this time in our culture, there is so much noise vying for our attention. TV and other media, social media, podcasts, and much more. It can take us a beat to realize that all of that noise is actually impacting us, and mostly not for the good. Today I’d like to share a few stories of how I changed the soundtrack of my life this week in the hope that it will encourage all of us to be a bit more choosy about the sounds and the voices that we let in, because as I used to say to my kids when they were young, we are the gatekeepers of our minds. What we let in will change us for better or worse, so choose wisely.
I was in the car on my way to teach a music class one day this week when I could feel my chest sort of tighten and my breath become a bit more shallow. Physically, I was okay, but I realized that it was the news podcast I had been playing on my ride that was making me decidedly anxious. This show isn’t one of those hysterical shows, it’s not based in fear, but the look forward that they were providing on a particular issue was bleak, and honestly a bit scary to me. I realized that this show was putting my thoughts into the future and not the present. Recognizing this is something I’m working on, and thankfully in this situation, I was able to see it and make a shift, leading to a spiritual practice that I have come to love.
“Play ‘liked’ songs on Spotify” I said to Siri through my car’s radio, but first I asked God to pick the playlist for me. What I actually said, out loud, alone in my car, was, “God, I am feeling overwhelmed. Would you sing to me something that might help?” And you know what, friend? He did.
When you ask God (and Siri, I guess) to randomly play the songs that you have ‘liked’ on Spotify, you might be surprised at the encouragement and the clarity you’ll receive through a lyric or instrumentation. In my case, four songs later, as I pulled into the Children’s Museum to teach my class, I felt decidedly lighter, more optimistic, and more grounded in the hope that God has me, even in these unsettled times. I’ll share those particular songs with you in the show notes, but my songs are really not important. It’s your songs that God will use to soothe or restore your tired and worried heart. Because He will do that, you know. God is always trying to find a way in to walk with His beloved kids, and when we invite Him in, even into something as silly-sounding as a playlist, I believe He’ll walk right through the speaker for us.
Later that day, I was feeling a sort of generalized anxiety as I was putting my lunch together. You might notice this common theme, friend. Anxiety is nothing new for me. But this time, it was not based on any event, just really the way my mind and body work sometimes, but this time, instead of saying the general prayer that I say before meals or in the middle of the day, I decided to shift my soundtrack and inform my spirit by singing.
Now, friend, I sing. I sing at church. I sing at work as a music teacher with little ones. I have sung my whole life and many times, I’ve heard people say that they, in contrast to me I guess, can’t sing. And oh friend, this is just not true. Everyone can sing. They say that singing is praying twice, and I guess that’s so, but also there is a way in which the Holy Spirit exists in our singing that I’ve never found anywhere else. When we sing, in either praise or lament, I believe that God is in that channel, making our heart known to God, and also healing and restoring and clarifying us. In fact, Psalm 22 says that “God inhabits the praises of His people.” I have experienced this so many times, and it is not because of the way my voice sounds, but it is a true, supernatural way that God lives within singing. As strange as this practice might sound to those who don’t have a regular habit of singing as I do, I wonder what might happen if we just tried to sing one prayer this week.
This week I was in two classroom settings where music made a real difference and where I could feel God change the atmosphere of the room.
In one, the staff were discussing one of their coworkers who had a beautiful voice but was shy about it using it. This paraprofessional sang at church but wouldn’t really sing in the classroom. When I offered to add harmony to whatever song she wanted to try, I was delighted that she said yes, and friend, when I tell you that those children who had been wiggly and a little bit noisy suddenly sat still and listened intensely…when I tell you that you could hear a pin drop and that you could almost see our two souls connecting when we sang…well, you just can’t convince me that God wasn’t making Himself known or more visible within that channel of singing.
On another day in a different school, the class was really struggling. Like, really having a hard day. And if you’ve never worked in a preschool classroom that’s having a hard day, it would be impossible for me to explain it to you, so ’ll just say teachers are amazing. There was little I could really accomplish on that day in the short length of time that I had with this group, but when I played a particular piece of instrumental music, there was one dear little boy who stopped, looked up, and said, “How beautiful!” That music had made a way for peace to resonate in that room, even in some small way, and I believe that that peace made a home in him.
Anyway, on the day I decided against my rote prayer and decided for singing instead before lunch, it wasn’t the first time. I do this sometimes when my overactive mind is tired, or when I get stuck in the grooves of intercessory prayer, somehow thinking that my list of intentions is ‘making’ the God of the universe act. If you were born and raised Catholic, you might have some idea of what I mean by that. But when we sing, we reorient our gaze away from ourselves, our intentions, and our plans, and simply look at the face of our very good God, as we sing to God in a way that allows communion between our Maker and His beloved: that’s you and me.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with links to lots of recommended songs and other resources for you, but as we close, I would like to leave you with that song I sang at my kitchen island before lunch that day. I pray the words of this song will sink in for you as you intentionally make a new, maybe holier, more expansive, and helpful soundtrack for your own life. After all, we all get to choose what fills our ears, so let our song be a way for God to reveal Himself to us, and to bring the healing and peace that we most need in our day.
Here’s a song for us today, friend. I pray it blesses you, and that you have a good week ahead. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing:
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Whose kingdom calls all to the love which endures.
So from the beginning the fight we were winning:
You, Lord, were at our side; all glory be yours!
We all do extol you, our leader triumphant,
And pray that you still our defender will be.
Let your congregation escape tribulation:
Your name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
This week we take a look at the many things that daily fill our ears, and intentionally choose sounds that will help us commune with God who is always seeking to walk with us.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. The songs I heard after I asked God to pick my playlist from random ‘liked’ songs on Spotify:
We’ve Got This Hope, by Ellie Holcomb
Blessed Always, Donna De Lory
My Lighthouse, by Rend Collective
Pieces, by Amanda Cook
2. The best version of the song I share with you at the end of today’s episode: We Gather Together, arr. S. Paulus