Chicago Songs

When life takes the wind out of your sails, go to Chicago.

Chicago subway tile


That’s what I did. In 1997, I was 26 and newlywed when my husband and I moved to the Windy City. My mother had died less than a year before. I was awash in grief, living 13 hours away from home, cloistered in a 35th-floor apartment, spending much of my time alone. Imagine a low-budget production of Lost in Translation set in America without Bill Murray.

I paced the streets. Trudged up and down Michigan Avenue, walking and waiting for something, anything, to strike me. Hit me. Wrestle me back to life.

Moody Church entrance

The Moody Church

One Sunday not long after we’d moved, my husband and I ventured into the historic Dwight L. Moody Memorial Church at Clark and LaSalle. That day I heard Dr. Erwin Lutzer talk about grief and heaven and what was to come when we died. He was preaching the sermon series that inspired the book One Minute After You Die.

Coincidence? I think not. This. This was where I needed to be. For our remaining 18 months in Chicago, we treasured our time at that church listening to that preacher. And we learned songs I hadn’t sung before.

A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;

Yes, I know. It’s a textbook hymn of the faith written by Martin Luther. The churches where I was raised sang praise songs. Fine, scriptural praise songs. To my detriment, Luther and his brave, abiding words had been kicked to the curb.

Not in Chicago. There we sang Martin Luther and Charles Wesley, Walter Chalmers Smith, Samuel Trevor Francis, and Horatio Spafford. And we began to learn how to stand. When you’ve done all you can do, when there’s nothing left, when no one seems able to help—to stand. It’s a lesson I’m still learning today.

Our Helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

Barack Obama was in Chicago the same time I lived there. We must have walked the same streets, felt the same icy wind blow across Lake Michigan. I wonder, did we eat in the same restaurants? Unknowingly, did our paths cross at the Harold Washington Library stop in the Loop? What different experiences we must have had in the City of Big Shoulders. How much has changed since then.

Fast forward to this week. The status updates on my Facebook feed tell the tale. So many people are hurting from the results of this past Tuesday’s election. They’re afraid. Disappointed. Confused. Awash in grief. Unable to understand the bent of the electorate and the heart of the President.

Did God forget the unborn Tuesday? Does He no longer care about them or their parents? Did He change His mind about stealing? Is taking something that belongs to someone else now fair and just in His eyes? Perhaps He is disappointed with His flock. In anger, has He disowned American believers struggling in a culture that careens toward destruction?

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also—

There were calls to move to the middle. Move to the right. Establish a third party. Ban evangelicals. And then there was this from a pastor friend:

“Whether the election results leave you euphoric or stricken, let’s remember that whoever holds political power in America, the Lord holds sovereign power everywhere. He says, ‘By me kings reign and rulers decree what is just.’ Again, ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it wherever he pleases.’ (Prov. 8:15, 21:1)”

Hancock building in clouds

Hancock building

Today the wind rushes across the Kansas prairie as powerfully as it whips through the concrete canyons of Chicago. It caresses the waters of Savannah just like it rocks the waves off Santa Barbara. It flies over the hill country of Texas with the same intensity it batters the ravaged and bustling streets of New York. We cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going. But God knows.

This is a time to stand. Actively trust God and rest in Him. Examine ourselves, confess sin, and be restored. Return to the certainty of the Word that does not change with political pressure.

March fearlessly into the future of America, knowing that come judgment or prosperity, God Himself has ordained it. He will not desert His own.

The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever!

Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will be able to stand in that sinful day. When it is all over, you will still be standing. Ephesians 6:12-13 NLV

 What helps you to stand?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Filed under America, faith, life

16 Responses to Chicago Songs

  1. Aimee,
    This is stunningly written. A beautiful treatise to have faith in the process even if the path does not lead where we individually believe it should. While we might not agree on whether this path will bring us to a better place, we can always agree that faith and hope and charity are the better nature of our spirits. Thank you for your ongoing wisdom, empathy, and graciousness.

    • Aimee

      Likewise, Lisen. It is an honor to write with you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get the tissues…

  2. I love this! And yes, I’m Lutheran, and I can tell you, those hymns are more than old, dusty songs. Those hymns have lifted me from grief, and despair, and have been sung with joy during my “up” times too; my wedding, baptisms of our children, dedications of new church buildings. These hymns hum in my soul daily. And they comfort me now, in these uncertain times when we know one thing is certain!

    • Aimee

      I agree, Pam. The great hymns of the faith are so rich and transcendent in Biblical doctrine. They reinforce the assurance of Scripture I desperately need to keep at top of mind!

  3. Rhonda

    Beautiful words. Loved reading it!

  4. Aimee, I’m going to quote the paragraph that stuck me:

    “The status updates on my Facebook feed tell the tale. So many people are hurting from the results of this past Tuesday’s election. They’re afraid. Disappointed. Confused. Awash in grief. Unable to understand the bent of the electorate and the heart of the President.”

    It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that I feel much at odds anymore with much of what I hear from the “religious right”. And yet, in the aftermath of this election, and the frustration I feel at a lot of my Facebook stream, I tend to forget that everyone has feelings, sometimes very strong feelings. Even though I may not agree with them, they are very genuine, very much from deep within the heart. And I should learn a bit more of the compassion I promote… Point taken


    • Aimee

      Darin, I’ve always known you to be gracious and considerate of people’s feelings, even when you disagree with them. It’s helped me to remember what you mentioned–that people have genuine feelings. They arrive at their beliefs for good reasons. That’s where I think civil dialogue becomes imperative. If we share our stories and our reasons, we may be able to find a solution no one thought of yet for an issue. At the very least, we humanize those we consider the opposition.

      It’s funny you picked out that paragraph. I wasn’t planning to write this. When I took the dog out this morning for a walk, I thought about people’s responses to the election. How they reflected fear and despair. That inspired me to write today.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  5. Anissa

    Aimee, Your words are so eloquent and so well written. To answer your question, “Where do you stand?” About 13 years ago I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, so I literally stood on my Bible. I felt like all ground was sinking sand, so I put the Word of God under my feet and prayed like I’ve never prayed before. I know that sounds completely crazy to stand on your Bible, but I was making a stand and proving to Satan that the battle I was in really was already won by someone much stronger than him. I so enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the wonderful work.

    • Aimee

      Anissa, I love that you did that and I love that you shared it here. This faith is not invisible. It’s not fairy dust and spirits and ghosts we can’t see. It’s real. Literal. Powerful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. What an inspiring and powerful post!!! I just keep saying to myself, “In God We Trust”…His reigns. He is Sovereign over everything. His will be done…

  7. I’m speechless! Incredible! You spoke what’s on my heart!

  8. Pingback: A Midsummer Blogging Update | everyday epistle by Aimee Whetstine