Sunday, December 24, 2017

We Cannot Find Our Way


This forgotten carol of the Three Kings has always been a favorite of mine. Yes, I'm sure that there are times in my life when I've personally felt lost and needed help in finding my way through the fog and twilight of life's troubles. And I have found that help by way of the Heavenly guidance of my Savior, the bright Star of Bethlehem. But I think my love for this song has more to do with the gradual crescendo of the chorus, "I cannot find my way... we cannot find our way... we're not alone... three kings found the Lord, and so can we..." This crescendo reminds me that I am not the only one who is looking Heavenward toward that bright star. And there are many other wise men and women who are journeying alongside me as we follow that star wherever it leads us. And then I love how that gradually growing chorus culminates in the unified, collective shout of prayer, "Lord, help us find the way back home!" This reminds me that we all know exactly who that guiding star represents.

On this most sacred night on the eve of our Savior's birth, I share my personal testimony that Jesus Christ, the Holy Babe, the Son of God, and the Lord of All can and will be the Star of Bethlehem who will help us find our way through the twisting and winding paths of life. His light shines bright today, and it will shine eternally. I pray that you will feel the warmth and brightness of that light in your hearts and in your lives. And I pray that you will embrace and welcome that light into your lives, not just on this night of nights but all throughout the coming year and throughout your entire life as you look to the Star and follow it's Heavenly glow back to our Heavenly Home.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

*******
Somewhere beneath the glitter that comes this time of winter 
In many souls there is a cry.
They may not clearly say it, but in their hearts they pray it, 
And you can see it in their eyes.

'I cannot find my way, I cannot find my way, I cannot find my way at all. 
There are so many voices, so many different choices, I cannot find my way at all.' 

There were three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem. 
They came from afar to praise and honor Him. 
His light which beckoned them to see The Lord of Man 
It calls to you, It calls to me. 

'We cannot find our way, we cannot find our way, we cannot find our way at all. 
There are so many voices, so many different choices, we cannot find our way at all.' 

We're not alone; we have a star, and it shines today. 
The love that He gave teaches how and shows the way. 
That light, it's clear to see if we have faith and believe. 
Three kings found the Lord, and so can we. 

And if you've lost your way, that light burns bright today, 
and it will shine eternally 
Three kings found the Lord, and so can we .

'Lord help us find the way, we need to find the way, 
Lord help us find the way back home' 
Three kings found the Lord, and so can we.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Was Not His Father, He Was Mine


When I was a teenager, I have a memory of my neighbor, Will Terris, singing this Forgotten Carol in church, perhaps even on multiple occasions. Brother Terris has the most rich, deep, and beautiful voice that sounds so very much like that voice in the album track itself. Whenever I listen to this carol, I can almost travel back in time and imagine Brother Terris singing this song. But, despite the beauty that I was able to recognize as a young man in the melody and in Brother Terris' presentation, the message of Joseph the Carpenter's carol was largely lost on me until I became a father myself not so many years ago.

As a father, I finally had some inkling what Joseph may have meant when he sings about his fears and insecurities as a dad who was charged to raise the Son of God. Now, as wonderful as my four beautiful children are, none of them carry the title Son of God or Daughter of God (with a capital S or capital D) the way that Jesus Christ rightly carries that title. However, my most basic beliefs and faith help me to know that they are without a doubt sons and daughters of God (with lower case s's and d's). And, when I stop to think about it, my charge to raise them and care for them in a way that would please their Heavenly Father who has entrusted me with their safe keeping, nurturing, and instruction in light and knowledge should be no less daunting and inspiring of insecurities of my own than that charge entrusted to Joseph, the earthly father of our Savior.

I found some footage from a Mormon Messages video that really highlights some of that insecurity and fear that Joseph most assuredly would have felt. But I love so very much that moment when he gets to hold his divine son tightly both in a lowly stable while Mary is sleeping and on the road in a loving embrace. I know that Jesus would have adored his father and respected and honored him. And that makes me feel so much respect and love for my own father. And I only hope that I can somehow earn the trust and respect of my own children as I strive to fulfill that sacred charge with which I have been entrusted with dignity and in a way that would please my Father in Heaven.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

*******

He was working late one evening with the wood he knew so well
When she thought she recognized him, though at first she couldn't tell.
As she humbly begged his pardon, a strange sadness swelled inside
When she asked, "Aren't you the father of that man they crucified?"
Then the carpenter repeated what he's said so many times.
He said, "I as not His father, He was mine."

Then he humbly went on working with those worn and calloused hands.
Though she did not ask more questions, he knew she didn't understand.
So he asked if she would help him, and he saw her answer in a glance.
She did all the chores he asked her; she was so grateful for the chance.
Then they talked for hours of Jesus and how he knew He was divine.
He said "I was not His father, He was mine.

"For how could one so foolish and so flawed
Ever hope to raise the Son of God?"

Then he spoke of the misgivings that he had had a thousand times
And how Jesus found the tender moments to let him know he'd done just fine.
And then the carpenter recited the greatest truths he'd ever learned
And testified they all came form Jesus, and then her heart within her burned.

They embraced as she departed, and Joseph told her one more time,
"Tell them I was not His father; tell them He was mine.
No, I was not His father, He was mine."

Friday, December 22, 2017

Handel's Dream

With my symphony orchestra this year, we had the chance to perform a Bach Christmas cantata with a very talented choir. And as beautiful as the piece was, I initially struggled to get into that musical work for several reasons. First, the piece was sung in German. That immediately chalks Bach's cantata up there in my book along with all of those foreign language operas that I can't understand and relate to, no matter how much translation or contextual explanation accompanies the production. Second, although the cantata is rife with Christmas messages, the piece seemed to jump around in its narrative without following what to me seemed like a story progression. The choir begins with a joyous chorus about the glorious day, then queue the angel, invite Mary and Joseph out to sing a duet of gratitude, cut away for a barn dance with spiked eggnog and mistletoe, get serious again by having King David come and declare that Christ is the fruit of his loins and the promised lion of Jesse, and then finish out with another joyous chorus about jabbing Satan in the rump with a big poker. The whole piece is very appropriate and fitting for the holiday. It just doesn't seem to connect with me in a narrative way, especially given the language barrier where I have to have someone describe to me what is being about. Did I feel uplifted by the beautiful music? Sure. Did I feel inspired? The jury may still be out on that one.
I contrast Bach's Christmas offering with that of his contemporary Handel. They lived just 40 miles apart from each other and must have crossed paths on many occasions. I have had the opportunity to play Handel's Messiah most years. Some years, it may be with a group that begins rehearsals back in September and works really hard to make its December performance a gift to the Christ child that is as close to perfect as possible to emulate the perfection of that holy child. Other years like this year, I've showed up on the day of the performance to play with a pick-up orchestra that hands out music a few weeks beforehand but only spends an hour or two before the performance running through the music as a group. Whatever the quality of the resulting music may be, I have performed The Messiah enough times that I have learned to appreciate the narrative progression of the musical work as it follows the story of Christ through repetitious scripture. In some ways, the constant repetition of scripture could make The Messiah as hard to relate to and "understand" as Bach's cantata. But the main thing that The Messiah has for me over Bach's Christmas work is familiarity. Everyone knows some of the most famous choruses. And there is nothing quite like hearing a choir belting out those choruses with full power and majesty. I love it.

I share these thoughts about Handel and Bach because today's Forgotten Carol is a something of a tribute to George Frideric Handel. I can't say that I feel quite as inspired by the angel/Handel character as I do by the fictional innkeeper or the fictional shepherd boy who slept through the angelic visitation. With these other characters, I feel compelled to look at myself and ask myself how I might have reacted in their shoes and what lessons their experiences might have for me. With the angel, I don't get that same drive to search my soul for Christmas meaning. 

However, I do find myself wondering where I may have been as an angel or a spirit myself when Heaven was shouting for joy during the wondrous birth, during our Savior's triumph over death, and during other key events holding significance for all mankind. Was I a part of some Heavenly choir? Was I having a party with you? Or was I quietly excusing myself to some private cloud for a moment of quiet contemplation and gratitude-filled prayer? I'd like to think that I was keenly aware of what was transpiring and that I was marking the occasion in some way with a celebration fitting of the event. 

But whether or not I was auditioning for a place in an angelic choir or orchestra, I love the way that Michael McLean's song declares that the tone deaf little angel who didn't make callbacks for his audition did have a voice that would be heard. That angel boy's "voice" would be heard through the musical voices of countless others. The song of his heart would find voice through the testimonies of people like me who each year sing or play Hallelujah!, Joy to the World, and Glory to God! But not everyone is a musician or a master of composition. I think about those who don't have an ounce of musical talent. How are their voices going to be heard? And then I think about those brothers and sisters of mine who I've observed from a distance who silently let their voices rise up in exultation through their expressions of testimony and belief, their Christlike acts of service and love, and their humble examples of goodness and faith. 

Each and everyone of us has a voice. And as the Grand Chorus master says, "You have so much to give, and your time will come. You have a different voice... [a] voice that will echo through time." Thankfully, there are those with angelic, beautiful voices who I'm sure heralded the birth with majesty worthy of that wondrous event; and, thankfully, there are many Handel's out in the world who can translate their musical genius into beautiful masterpieces I can enjoy. For the rest of us, we can let our voices ring out in other ways. Regardless of what the nature of your voice is, I hope you'll join me in singing with the angels and heralding our brother's birth once more this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

*******
In my dream, he told me, I was a very young angel in a very heavenly place, when a trumpet was sounded and an announcement was made. All the angels in heaven were invited to audition for the choir that would announce the Holy Birth. There was an excitement and a sense of anticipation that, well, it nearly caused my little angel heart almost to burst.

When my moment arrived, I stood before the Musical Tribunal, and I sang, and I sang, and I sang! And no one snickered, or laughed at me, because this was heaven. But I knew almost immediately that I would not be invited to join the heavenly choir for one simple and rather obvious reason: I couldn't sing. I could feel it; I could feel that music, but I couldn't get that feeling to come into my voice. Well, the Grand Chorusmaster, he smiled and nodded to his chief assistant to show me out.

"This isn't fair!" I pleaded. "If you could hear what's in my heart, you'd let me sing!" And I raced back in to beg the Chorusmaster to give me one more chance. And as I did, music filled that heavenly room. And I recognized it, because it was the music coming from my very own innocent, tender heart.

Hallelujah, Lord of all
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Be our guide every day
King and Lord of All
Give us the strength to see
how best to follow Thee
Hallelujah Lord of all
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

When all the heavenly singing had stopped, my friend told me that, in his dream, all the other angels stood motionless and amazed when they heard the sound. He said, and when my carol to my King was over, the Grand Chorusmaster himself stood, and said, "Oh little one, you have so much to give, and your time will come. Your time will come."

"Ohh... then I can't sing with the choir?" I wanted him to change his mind, but he just shook his head.

"You have a different voice," he said, "but it will be heard. Centuries from now, it will be heard. More orchestras and choirs than you can possibly imagine will be giving the music of your heart a voice that will echo through time."

Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
He is God, Praise His name
The King and Lord of All
Wonderful! Counselor! 
The mighty God! The Everlasting Father! 
The Prince of Peace!
The Everlasting Father!
The Prince of Peace!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

You Were Not There in Bethlehem


For years, the Shepherd boy's Forgotten Carol has been my favorite. I find something truly inspiring in the boy's humble testimony, "Yes, I did believe them, though I'd not seen a thing. I did not go to Bethlehem or hear the angels sing. But there was something magic in the air that made me feel as if I'd been there." And of course, there is the boy's stirring invitation, "Do you thing you'll join us, though you've not seen a thing? If you feel the spirit in the air, then just like me you'll know that He was here!"

This boy's story is so relatable to me because I am surrounded by many wonderful brothers and sisters of mine who share their testimonies of our elder brother and how they know of His truthfulness and His divinity. And without hard physical evidence or proof of the truthfulness of the Nativity story, I am compelled to trust and to yield to that magic and that spirit in the air that can help me feel as if I'd been there. I pray that you can feel that magic in the air this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

*******

The flock was more than peaceful; the night was dark and deep.
The stillness wrapped around me; I drifted off to sleep.
And when my friends awoke me; oh, what a tale they had to tell!

They said the angels told them about a newborn King.
They had a star to guide them; they heard the heavens sing.
They said that, when they found Him, they knew they'd never be the same.

Somehow I did believe them, though everything I knew


Said I should not believe them; this story can't be true!
But there was something magic in the air that made me feel as if I'd been there.

I asked a thousand questions; their answers startled me.
The more I heard, the more I thought I knew this could not be.
And then the struggle started, my head was wrestling with my heart.

Why would a God from Heaven come to the world this way?
Why in a lowly stable would the Messiah lay?
I shook my head and asked them to tell the story one more time.

And yes I did believe them, though I'd not seen a thing.
I did not go to Bethlehem or hear the angels sing.
But there was something magic in the air that made me feel as if I'd been there.

I knew that, as the world moves on through time,
There would be more stories just like mine
About the souls who've chosen to believe in something that they never got to see.

So do you think you'll join us, though you've not seen a thing?
You were not there in Bethlehem to hear the angels sing.
But, if you feel the spirit in the air, then just like me you'll know

That He was here, He was here,
The King of kings and Lord of lords was here!
He was here, he was here
And He will come again, for He was here!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Homeless


Of all of Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols, this is one that I've always enjoyed but struggled to relate to. I'm not sure if that is because I have not interacted much with the homeless, because I see them all the time on the street corners, or because the other Forgotten Carols relate to a specific character or group of people, whether fictional or not, out of the Christmas story and this one does not.

When I found this beautiful short film about a homeless man from HKZ Productions, I finally had something visual and visceral to latch on to when I hear this song and think about my elder brother as the Son of Man who had not where to lay his head and yet is making possible an eternal and heavenly home for each and every one of us.

This Christmas season, if you relate with this homeless man or his newly acquired homeless friend, I pray that you will feel the love and peace that comes this time of year when we celebrate the birth of one who also found himself without the comfort and stability of a regular home. If you relate more with those who those who shied away from this homeless brother or even gave him wide berth, I hope that you can recognize those around you who are looking for acceptance and for a helping hand this season. May you find that love where in there is a home for each and every one of us.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

**********
Homeless, Homeless
Like the Christ child was
Homeless, Homeless
But there is hope because
He came down to earth to lead us
He vowed He'd never leave us
Homeless, Homeless
For in His love there is a home

Oh so Homeless, Homeless
Was His humble birth
He was Homeless, Homeless
And still He changed the earth
Nothing kept His heart from giving
Most of His life was living
Homeless, Homeless
He showed it's how we live,
Not where

When His homeless days on earth were done
He went home to where we all came from
And He went to prepare
A mansion for us there
He gave His whole life to lead us
And I know He'll never leave us
Homeless, Homeless
For in His love there is a home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Let Him In!


Last spring, I had an amazing experience creating a series of videos showcasing one of my all-time favorite Easter-themed musical works, Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. Recently watching these as a part of my Christmas seasonal celebration, I felt inspired to do something similar with another musical favorite, this one Christmas-themed.

Just like last spring, when I shared one Lamb of God video each day in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, I thought I'd again share one of these videos each day in this last week before Christmas day.

Michael McLean's forgotten carols have been a Christmas tradition in our family for years. These beautiful carols are not about kindly gift-giving saints, animals indigenous to the north, wintry weather, or even those individuals whose experiences with the infant Christ child or even the adult Messiah are well known and often on our lips. Rather, these carols revolve around some individuals who we often forget to think about and whose experiences with Christ don't get a lot of thought but whose experiences are rich with meaning for us if we give them our attention.
Whether or not Mary and Joseph were turned away from a single inn, multiple inns, or no inns at all, and whether Mary delivered her infant babe in a barn, a courtyard feeding area, or a hillside cave, I find the the stirring message of this likely fictional character in the Nativity story compelling and inspiring and one that makes me want to open up the door to my humble home to invite in my Savior this Christmas season as we celebrate His wondrous birth and life and as we strive to be a little more generous and inviting and willing to open our doors to family, friends and strangers alike.
May your homes be warm, laden with bounteous blessings from our Father in Heaven, and filled with the spirit of love, peace, and joy during this holiday season and throughout the year.
Merry Christmas and God Bless!

**********


I am a man forgotten, no one recalls my name.
Thousands of years will fail to fully erase my shame.
But I turned a profit nicely the day that I turned the couple away...
I turned them away...

I didn't sleep that evening, though I'd sold out my place.
Somehow I felt uneasy, something about her face.
Why did I wish that I'd let them stay?
I don't think they could have paid... Or could they have paid?

Restless, I left my bedroom. I walked the streets all night.
Lost in the world I lived in, found by a heavenly light.
Staring at one bright star in the sky, I heard a baby cry.

And I knew where that cry had come from,
cause I'd told them where they could go.
But I didn't think I could face them, and so I walked slowly home.
Missing my chance to share in their joy, I never saw the boy.

He never would condemn me. I did that all on my own.
He offered His forgiveness; and ever since then, I've known
He lets us choose each hour of each day
If we'll let Him in to stay.

Let Him in! Let Him in!
Let the peace on earth begin!
Let Him in! Let Him in!
Let the hope and joy begin.

And whether it be in your world today,
Or a crowded Bethlehem Inn,
Find a way! Make Him room! Let Him In!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sometime We'll Understand


This is a re-posting of what I originally wrote and published last month. The experience I had at rehearsal that I describe here is what led me to create my second Lamb of God video, this one about Thomas. And when I had such a positive and uplifting experience in creating this video, I couldn't stop creating videos until I had done almost every song in Lamb of God. I even had to go back and republish my original Peter video in a higher resolution and with fonts and a style consistent with each of the other videos I'd made.

I am re-posting this now as a culminating conclusion to the series of videos I've been sharing over the past week. Each video and song has touched me in different ways. But I think that Thomas' sweet song, Sometime We'll Understand, is a fitting conclusion to my week-long thoughts on the Savior and on Easter. There have been many times in my life where I have sought meaning or understanding in some event or trial in my life. And I haven't always found what I've been looking for. I am eternally grateful for my Elder Brother's sacrifice for me. And I don't fully understand how it was possible or why He saw fit to save me. I can't fully comprehend His love. I seek to find meaning in the struggles I am faced with at times. There is so much that I'd like to understand. I yearn to one day be able to look back on everything I've experienced and endured and to know of a certainty that all these things were for my good. But, as Thomas shares from his own experience, not now, but in the coming years--it may not be when we demand--we'll read the meaning of our tears, and then sometime we'll understand.

As much as I'd like to know and understand so many things, I am glad that there are some things that I don't need to understand. Like the prophet Nephi said, "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." I love those words. I love them because I, too, know that God loves me. And that should be enough. Yes, I may still pray to one day have a loftier perspective on those things that may have troubled me in my life. But for now, I can be satisfied with the knowledge that great and miraculous things were done for me by my big brother. And if He could love me that much, then I can also find greater love for myself and more contentment with my lack of knowledge of the meaning of all things.

If I were able to share one thing with you in the aftermath of yet another wonderful Easter season, it would be that I know that God also loves you greatly. I know that healing comes through the Atonement of Christ our Savior. I know that, even if you were the only child of God to require the sacrifices Jesus made on the Cross and in the Garden, our brother would have still endured what he endured just for you. These are the things I know, and this is my testimony. And, though this faith and understanding of mine may indeed be simple, I can feel content in knowing that it is enough.

**********

(March 5, 2017) This week marks the sixth year that I've been blessed to participate with a group called Witness Music during the Easter season in performing Rob Gardner's masterful sacred work called Lamb of God, which musically tells the story of the Savior's last week through the eyes of those people who knew Him best. 
Sadly for me as a tax accountant, the Easter season falls in sync with tax season, and  80+ hours a week are an ordinary affair. Despite the little time I'm able to stay away from the office, I am thrilled to spend 3-4 hours each week rehearsing with this group and finding healing recharge in this incredible music.

In the early years of performing this work, it was easy to feel touched by and to relate to many of the traditional characters like Mary the Mother, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Pontias Pilate, and Peter. However, I struggled with Thomas. And I'm not quite sure why. 

I've thought long and hard about this, but the song that Thomas sings just never quite hit me the way I wanted in seeking a closer connection to him and his story. Sure, I can relate to Thomas. My fears and doubts in life are many. And even though I am not blessed as was Thomas to see and then believe, I can indeed be blessed as I have not seen and yet believe. There is a powerful gospel principle of faith and belief at work in the Thomas story. In fact, this principle is one I focused on exclusively in another posting called The Faith of an Engineer. And though I did not refer to Thomas' story in that posting, I did share Michael McLean's Forgotten Carol about the shepherd boy who slept through the angelic visit in the night and did not go with his friends to see the Christ child in the manger. This boy was told a fantastical story about the coming to earth of the Messiah the first time, while Thomas is told a fantastical story about the coming to earth of the Messiah a second time. 

For as much as this shepherd boy's song each Christmas opens the flood gates of the Spirit and truly makes me feel inspired to be one of those of whom Christ said, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," this song of Thomas in Lamb of God still just didn't quite do it for me. The best rationale for this that I could come up with is that, by the time I've exerted so much of myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to traverse the musical journey from the raising of Lazarus from the dead to Gethsamane and then on through the Betrayal and Crucifixion to the joyous Easter Sunday morning at the Tomb, I am generally spent. It has been a thrilling ride. And I am so overcome and joyous that the good side has triumphed over evil. But I hardly have any energy left to keep my spiritual, emotional, and mental focus on the aftermath of that glorious victory.

I liken this feeling to the sentiment I heard from many critics of the movie version of Tolkien's The Return of the King. Many were complaining about how the ending simply dragged on, that there were half a dozen different "endings" to the movie. As a self-admitted Lord of the Rings fanatic, I was all too happy to experience every extra minute that Peter Jackson allowed me in Middle Earth. And every extra minute in the winding down of that epic story was glorious and beautiful to me. However, I can easily understand how other movie-goers who fall lower on the fanatic scale than I might feel that the movie dragged on through those ending scenes. I don't believe that I was on a higher "spiritual" plane where I could better appreciate those scenes. I simply believe that to the average viewer, the final battle is over. The ring has been destroyed. Good has conquered evil. Jesus Christ has conquered both sin and death. I believe that it is all too easy to move on to the next movie, the next conflict, or the next encounter between good and evil without feeling obliged to worry about the happily-ever-afters (or the not-so-happily-ever-afters) that continue on with the characters we watch in these movies after the main story has been told. 

Whether or not this accurately represents how those critics viewed the cinematic conclusion to Tolkien's tale, I am pretty confident that this accurately reflects how I personally used to feel about the final musical numbers in Lamb of God after Mary Magdalene's beautiful song of joy at the Tomb. Everything else seemed to be aftermath, whose significance and spiritual teachings were partially lost on me. Don't get me wrong. Those closing numbers of Lamb of God after Easter morning are incredibly beautiful and moving. But I can honestly say that part of me had shut down each time we performed this work so that I wasn't as prone to be taught and moved by the Spirit during those ending scenes.

These ending scenes begin with Christ first appearing to the other disciples, and the choir voices a stirring and beautiful hymn of gratitude called Jesus, My Savior. This wonderful scene where the disciples had confirmed to them the reality of Christ's resurrection from the dead, where previously they had to rely on their faith in Mary Magdalene's account, climaxes with these words of gratitude:

Ten thousand gifts could I employ
To show my praise, my thanks, my joy!
All of my life, yea, all of my days
Still not enough to sing Thy praise!

In that moment, I am reminded of a heavenly host of angels heralding the birth of Jesus and I can only imagine tens of thousands of angels, including you and me, singing Hosanna and Gloria in pure gratitude and praise of Him who would save us all. It is hard for me not to feel stirred as I hear that glorious chorus. Then we hear the narrator telling us about Thomas who, like Michael McLean's shepherd boy, missed the action and struggled to come to grips with what he was told by those who were there.

After Thomas is able to feel the wounds in Jesus' hands and side and reverently exclaims, "My Lord, and my God!" Thomas goes on to sing a song called Sometime We'll Understand. Now, as wonderful and profound as this song might seem to other Lamb of God "fanatics" who are able to better appreciate and relate to Thomas' song of introspection after his notorious doubts were forever inscribed into history, this song just didn't seem to resonate with me the way I hoped. Again, I blame it on the Lord-of-the-Rings-multiple-endings idea where I had simply mentally and emotionally subconsciously decided that it had been a thrilling ride, that I had experienced my spiritual high, and that I was ready to move on with my changed-for-the-better life. 

This all changed one year. In one of our final rehearsals before the performances, my mind was wandering. I don't recall what I was thinking about. It could have been the upcoming excitement of March Madness. It could have been the dusty mess of rosin dust that had gotten under my violin's finger board. More likely, I wasn't thinking about anything at all and was just playing on autopilot. I happened to glance at the brother who was singing for Thomas out of the corner of my eye. What I saw immediately sent shivers down my body and brought the Spirit crashing over me in waves. What I saw was a single tear running down his cheek. I froze. I lowered my violin and sat transfixed as I watched him finish his song. 

Not now, but in the coming years, it may not be when we demand,
We'll read the meaning of our tears, and there, sometime, we'll understand.

Why what we long for most of all eludes our open, pleading hand;
Why ever silence meets our call, somewhere, sometime, we'll understand.

Sometime, we'll fall on bended knee, and feel there, graven on His hand,
Sometime with tearless eyes we'll see what, here, we could not understand.

So trust in God through all thy days; Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise; Sometime, sometime we'll understand.

This brother of mine had a beautiful and flawless voice. The emotion in his voice was not forced. His gestures while he sang were simple and subtle. In all ways, he was a model and a star performer who immediately sucked me into his character. But there was that single tear. And as I watched this brother, I could clearly see that there were dozens of tears being held back so that he could stay true to the role he was exuding to portray as a stand in for my other brother Thomas. I was truly taken aback. How could he be having such a different experience with the message of this song, however beautiful the words and melody, in stark contrast to that I was previously having. In that moment, the message and the spirit of that song didn't suddenly dawn on me. I was no closer to having my own personal breakthrough that would transform the "multiple endings" of Lamb of God into something so much more meaningful to me. But I left rehearsal that evening with a commitment in my heart that the next time I accompanied this brother in his song, the song would indeed have greater meaning to me.

Over the coming days, I spent some time in the scriptures studying Thomas' short story. I spent some time on my knees. I read, and reread, and reread again the lyrics of Thomas' song. I don't know if I'll ever be able to internalize and truly feel the emotion that the composer intended to create for Thomas in the same way that this brother felt and feels to this day after acting as proxy for this disciple of the Savior. But ever since that rehearsal, I personally feel changed. I feel like I am now truly a Lamb of God "fanatic" who can truly appreciate every minute of those "multiple endings." To me, the aftermath and the ever-afters of Thomas, of Mary and Martha, and of Peter and John mean as much to me as the penultimate action scenes themselves. Every year, one song stands out from the rest to be my "favorite" for the Lamb of God season. More than once has Thomas' song of sometime understanding claimed that favorite designation.

Sitting at our final rehearsal tonight, I found that a single tear was running down my own cheek as we ran through Thomas' number. This year, a different brother was singing the role of Thomas than that brother whose musical testimony had changed my perspective on this song. But I happened to see this Thomas from several years ago sitting in the background watching on. And I watched him closely, or as closely as I could while trying to keep playing my instrument, as he was focused so intently on the brother singing. I could tell that he was remembering singing this song himself and that he forever would share a close bond with the disciple Thomas. When he lost it and buried his face in his hands, being overcome with emotion, I voyeuristically felt like I was peeking in on a private moment between our 2016 Thomas, this former Thomas, and the Thomas of old. And as out of place as I should have felt in spying such an intimate moment, I too felt like I was sharing in that connection for a moment in my own way.

Last year, I was especially touched by Peter's songs and Peter's story, and I decided to put those songs with some footage of Christ and Peter from the LDS Bible Videos. I was very pleased with the resulting video as I felt that some of the visuals helped to capture the spirit of Lamb of God that much more strongly for me. There's something incredible in hearing Peter's agonizing song as I watch the footage of Christ being led to see Pilate as Peter watches on from the shadows remoursefully intoning, "What have I done? Denied Him? What have I done? So now am I no different from the men who take Thy bread then turn again? And when Thou lookest for a friend, Thou findest none, for I have fled! Oh God! What have I done?"

As I got home tonight, knowing that I had a busy 80+ hour workweek ahead of me with many sleep-deprived nights, I felt compelled to sit down at the computer and to again put video footage from the Bible Videos to Rob Gardner's beautiful songs, this time telling the Thomas story and showcasing his beautiful song. I know that there are many days when my own understanding is so shallow in some ways and that there will come a day when I will be able to look back with tearless eyes and see what, here, I could not understand. But for now, I glory in that understanding that I have been blessed with. And I glory in the Spirit of God that gives me hope and reassurance as I make my way through life. If you haven't yet been able to experience Lamb of God, I hope you take the opportunity to do so someday. This music truly has power to change lives. From experience, I can declare that it has changed mine.

May you have a wonderful Easter season as you remember the life and the fulfilled mission of our elder brother. 

God Bless!