Ken Medema on music,travel,life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Reflection on Inauguration Day

Like so many many millions of people, I was swept up yesterday by the movement, the moment, the magic of what is going on in this country. I thought of many friends around the world who must be listening with relief, hope, and amazement as we watched little signs that things are perhaps changing in America. After being glued to the television for several hours, I decided to take a break and hear some music.

I am very much attached to a public radio program called PipeDreams. It is two hours of organ music with a new theme each week. Yesterday, it was a live program from Southern Adventist University with much playing and singing. In the middle of this program, there was a set of musical variations on a psalm tune that I remember from my youth. We sang Psalm 42 to this tune but in this program the choir sang verses from Isaiah between the organ variations.
"Comfort Comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace," thus saith our God,
"Comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning in their sorrows now"

Because the tune was one that I knew and loved and associated with loving people in my past, because those words of comfort have always been immensely important, because I heard comfort and peace being spoken to the people on television, I totally lost it. There I was standing in front of my computer listening to those verses again and again crying like a silly boy, amazed at how things come together to teach, remind, bless, and encourage.

I'm so glad that for that one moment I was awake and listening. Goodness I long for the Church I love so dearly to experience the kind of revival that calls her back to her essentials.

"Love one another, love your neighbor as yourself,
Love your enemies, show mercy, love justice, walk humbly,
Abide in me and I in you,
I have called you friends, for you know what I am doing,
Go and preach the gospel to every nation."

As I remember the words spoken by Jesus and his early followers, words I memorized as a child, I realize that in these words there is the power to change and renew the Church if we will but listen and dare to imagine that our God is able to do a new thing, in these days.

I want to believe that the Church can find a way beyond all it's theological bickering, worship wars, whining, complaining, and egotism to a place of humble daring to be the loving presence of Christ in the world. I know this has been said a million times before by much finer and more elegant mouths than mine, but not until it is said and believed by all the people can the Church really become what it can be and longs to be.

Well, I haven't sung a concert for a month now and I sing again this next Sunday. Goodness, I wonder if I'll have anything to sing about?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


after hearing the Lincoln Memorial Concert

Like millions of others, I simply had to hear the Lincoln Memorial concert this past Sunday. I knew I would enjoy the show and would love the music, but I didn't expect the rest of what happened and is still happening.

I have had a strong sense of revival and reconnection to my calling. When I see what a powerful thing music is in helping us to be reminded of our dreams, yearnings, and goals for ourselves, I realize that I often think much too little of what I myself am called to do. Just as those artists were given the opportunity, not only to celebrate a moment in history but also to call the people to a vision of America, which can so easily be forgotten in the rush of every day business; so I believe I am called to do something similar in the religious community or, in fact, anywhere I happen to be working. In my deepest heart, I believe that music has the power to touch us and bring us to a new awareness of our "bound-togetherness" in the human community. I find myself obsessing now about what I am to do to seek to create a musical environment where people who come to my party can discover again some dreams, a connection to their religious heritage and a renewed sense of compassion and passion for life.

What will all this mean next week when I start singing again, I'm not quite sure but I know that there is a mission here and I am asking to be grasped by it and to understand what it is so that people who let me sing for them will be awakened---- even just a little.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Reflections on seeing the film Australia

He is a child of mixed parentage aboriginal and white. He and his mother live on a cattle station now run by the wife of the British gentleman who purchased the station and has been recently killed. The young boy's mother is lost in a terrible accident and when he is cared for and almost adopted by the lady of the property he says to her, "I sang to you to me".

That was when I first cried my eyes out. Oh- that the songs we sing could bring people to a good place, Oh- that we could sing each other to health and caring, Oh- that we could sing each other to healing and comfort.

At another point in the story the young child is about to be taken by his grandfather on a "walk-about". We are not told, but we understand that the walk-about is that which confirms his place in the community and moves him on toward manhood. Lady Ashley is most reluctant to let him go but she is reminded by her friend and ranch manager ,"If he doesn't go on the walk-about, he has no country, he has no story, no dream, he is nobody". That was the next place where I started weeping. Don't we all want to be connected to a story? Perhaps it is our ethnic story. I talk about my Dutch ancestors with great pride sometimes. Perhaps we want to be connected to a religious story; I am a Christian and tied to the great movement of the community of Christ through the ages. Perhaps we want to be connected to the American story. In any case the need for a story, and dream, a place to locate ourselves is so strong in us humans that we will sometimes travel around the world to find our story.

By the time we had singing and story, I had become a basket case. The rest of the movie had enough inspiration and good news for many many days. Please find a way to see it if you can. I have set my goal for the year because of this movie. I want to sing people to a better place. I want to help people sing each other to a better place. I want to find ways to encourage people to know and appreciate their story, their tradition, and to let it be a place to spawn new dreams and possibilities.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When the Choir Sings

Reflections on a most amazing weekend

During the Christmas holiday, I had a chance to see many of the new movies that filled theaters in our town. It was amazing to me that so many of them used choral singing in the sound track. There is something that happens in us when we hear the human voice and particularly when we hear a group of voices singing.

I felt an explosion of that a few months ago on a weekend in Hurst, Texas. It was a choir weekend. The adult choir at the First Methodist Church of Hurst would sing that weekend- both in the worship services and also in the afternoon concert. The weekend began with a delightful dinner on Friday night. Rehearsals were to take place during much of Saturday. What I heard and experienced was absolutely first rate in what happened in the adult choir. From the first notes of the rehearsal, I knew this was an unusual group. The blend, the musicality, the care with details, the passion for the music, all these were exceptional enough that I had a hard time not crying.

In the midst of rehearsing we took time to tell stories and let me sing our stories into music. The stories were taken from the lives of the singers and were so full of love, hope, learning, wonder, growing, and community that we all had tears in our eyes for much of the time. After the rehearsal was over, people said things like, "I have not, in a long time, felt so full of life, so close to the Spirit, so full of faith". The Sunday that followed was a continuation of what started on Saturday. The music, both in the worship services and the concert, was amazing. I can't remember when I heard a choir sing with such strength and gentleness, such passion and purpose. I knew again, after that weekend, that there is power to turn the heart when the choir sings. I know that a recording is never as good as being there, but I want anybody who wishes to hear this choir. Soon you will see an item on our website called Hurst choir highlights. If you wish you can download some of these songs and then tell me what you think. Thank you so much First Methodist Church, thank you Greg Schapley, thank you choir for a weekend of reviving and renewing for me and a renewed appreciation of the power in the choir.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hope Stories in a New Year

Alright. . .so here's what I'm looking for; stories, it's all about stories.

You know that I am a story teller and that my sense of my vocation has as much to do with telling stories as making music. You saw the posts about what people did with the 10 dollars we put in their hands last year. This time, I'm looking for stories in response to these crazy times in which we live. Lots of people have simply become discouraged, given in to depression, or tried to just hang on to the remnants of their former lifestyle. Other people have been very creative as to how they would or are dealing with the economic down turn in their own changing financial situation.

It's those creative stories that I want to hear.
Have families decided to move in together?
Have people found ways to share appliances and other resources?
Has your church found a way to say yes to increased ministry while saying no to more spending?
Would you say that their are changes for you which bring you back to a life more simple then before?
Have you found ways to make transportation less expensive and more communal?
Are there way in which less has become more?

I find myself thinking a lot about the years when my family lived with several other families in a big house and shared all our resources. I almost wish I could do that again and who knows-- it just might happen.

At any rate I want stories. I think that in the next year or so there need to be a lot of new songs written about these hope stories. I want to commit myself to writing some of these songs and I want the stories to come from friends along the way. If there is a story please send it to and I thank you in advance for being a part of what might become exciting new songs!