Before I get on an airplane, I need one item in my carry-on bag (other than boarding pass and photo ID, of course).
An album of music.
In a world increasingly driven by "streaming" music services, I still like to sit down with an album and listen to the whole thing with the lyrics in front of me. I like to ponder why the artist chose to place these songs in this particular order. Perhaps this old-fashioned love for purchasing an album goes back to my teenage years. A highlight of the month was to take my allowance to the local music store and buy a cassette tape or CD. Usually I chose albums based on songs I'd heard on the radio. Each album held a lot of mystery. I'd know a few songs, but in buying the whole record I took a risk. What if the only good songs were the ones that had been on the radio? But how great would it be if the songs I didn't know were even better than the ones I recognized?
There is no better time to listen than up in the air, with the smartphone in "airplane mode." Headphones in. Seatbelt securely fastened. No control over the time.
As I prepared to board a flight last week, I previewed multiple albums on iTunes. I had a list of artists I'd heard on my favorite Sirius/XM radio station, "The Loft" and searched their albums. One was a singer/songwriter/producer new to me but far from new to the music world: Maia Sharp. I downloaded the album and digital booklet. Soon after take-off I was lost in "The Dash Between the Dates."
Everybody’s got a number • Mine is 1971 • Before there’s another • There’s a groove of doing to be done • Is it a scratch on the surface • Or deep enough to catch some rain • I’m nervous there’ll be no glory train • Shuttling up to pearly gates • And it’s what you do • With the dash between the dates
Two years ago I officiated at a funeral where the family asked me to read a poem called, "The Dash," by Linda Ellis. The message was similar to Sharp's song: make the most of that dash between your beginning and your ending. The song goes one step further in its gospel for the living: a plea to slow down, not to dash too quickly from one date to the next:
Slow it up, my darlin’ • Lay your brake foot down • You’re so afraid to fall behind • That you’re gonna look back from the end of the line • Where the other number waits • And see a beautiful girl just running • A dash between the dates
I love to preach about slowing down, paying attention, savoring each moment, observing sabbath. Practicing that message is not always as easy. Life feels like a race from one event to another, one obligation to another, one date to another. We look back and can't believe how much time has passed.
According to Scripture, Jesus' ministry lasted for only three years. He was crucified at 33 years old--a very short dash by human standards. Even though he was on the move constantly, especially according to the gospel of Mark, he took his time with people. He told a long story about two sons and their father. He listened to a mother describe her child's illness. He looked into the blind eyes of the homeless man on the roadside.
The eternal life that Jesus gives to those who believe in him is a dash that never ends. As he took the time to hear the music and read the lyrics of people's lives, may we as his disciples slow down to do the same. May we not become so caught up in the goal of reaching heaven that we don't see heaven here on earth: in the albums of each other's lives, created with order and beauty.
So lay your brake foot down. Don't be afraid to fall behind. Run the race at a holy pace. Fly high with the giver of the dash between the dates.
all good things to each of you,
"The Dash Between The Dates" is written by Maia Sharp. Crooked Crown Music. Copyright 2015. Hear the whole song in this YouTube video.