Keep Your Hymnal

Erik Cooper —  July 28, 2010 — 4 Comments

Every two years my in-laws plan a huge family vacation. Their unmatched generosity, combined with my mother-inlaws 400,000 frequent flier miles (she travels for a living) made it possible for 11 of us to fly to Los Angeles last week for a summer getaway.

Two and half years ago my wife and I made that same cross-country flight.

Just the two of us.

In the spring of 2008, Mandy and I spent a few days at a marriage conference just north of LA, and the rest of the week exploring Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Burbank, and just enjoying one another. We ate at trendy restaurants, drove up the picturesque hills to the Griffith Observatory, even saw a taping of the Tonight Show. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

In fact, we brought those very memories with us on the plane last week (they’re one of the few things the airlines hasn’t figured out how to charge you to carry on). And for the first few days, I think we subconsciously tried to relive them. (Let’s hit that same restaurant. Do you remember that little shop? We have to go here!)

Only problem? This adventure was completely different. We stayed in Anaheim. Our kids were with us. We were a party of 11. Nothing but a few tourist stops and that circus otherwise known as Los Angeles International Airport looked anywhere near the same.

I began to realize how much of my life is spent simply trying to recreate meaningful past experiences. To regain a feeling. Recapture an emotion. Relive a memory.

It never works.

I was embodying the spirit of that old church lady that’s only willing to sing songs from the hymnal (yeah, I went there).

That’s the danger of event-driven living. We spend so much energy trying to reclaim past moments that we miss out on the new ones waiting to be created, even in the seemingly ordinary moments of everyday life. We’re oblivious to the now. Facing backwards. The future happens to us, rather than being painted with vibrant and anticipatory colors.

LA was great (thanks Dave & Candy). Both times. And this most recent visit solidified my commitment to spend my days creating new memories, not simply longing to relive past ones.

4 responses to Keep Your Hymnal

  1. Dude, GREAT post and a great analogy for us to remember. I love that line above, “We spend so much energy trying to reclaim past moments that we miss out on the new ones waiting to be created.” Boy, isn’t that the truth.

    Loved this post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. People who are “only willing to sing songs from the hymnal” are only doing so because they are “trying to recreate meaningful past experiences”. What do you base that on?

    I know the hymnal and its use or lack there of is not the focus of your post, but I have to ask:

    Is it possible that some christians encourage music from the hymnal because the hymnal contains music which has withstood the test of time, connects the saints from generation to generation, and is full of deep biblical truths. Most music that makes it into a hymnal has been scrutinized doctrinally and biblically by theological scholars. By contrast, most praise songs make it into a church service because they sound “cool” or cause someone to have a “spiritual” liver shiver.

    Why is it that contemporary Christians think praise songs are superior to anything that has come before. Could it be that the current idolatry of contemporary music in the church is the outgrowth of our typical American Narcissism.

    Am I against new music in church? Absolutely not, but I am concerned that never before in the history of the church have we been so separated from any prior generations as we are today in how we “worship”.

    I encourage you to read “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal” by T. David Gordon

    • Hey Randy…thanks for the post. Seriously. I feel your passion on the issue, and I respect it.

      But I do think we all have to admit our attachment to any type of music is emotional, cultural, or an issue of personal preference…not one of theology. That’s why the world still stops every time I hear Phil Collins.

      That said, I do hope you didn’t miss the real point of the post, which is all about realizing how much I’ve missed creating in the moment while trying to relive past experiences, not about music styles.

      But I do appreciate the challenge (for the record, we still do some hymns regularly at our church). And I just may check out that book. Thanks.

      Take care…

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