Heartbeat – (The Fray)
The heart of the matter…the central element to the issue…but what was it exactly? I remember standing alone in the cold that night on Market Street and wondering if my next decision was going to have any impact at all. I had a choice to make…and I knew nobody was going to be around to witness it but I also knew whatever choice I did make would never leave my memory… “I” would see it forever. I was struggling with why I even had to make a choice…but I ended up discovering something that night, and it was something more than just a feeling, I actually discovered the “heart of it all.” I was put in a situation that I often hear people debate and a lot of people will probably tell me that I made the wrong decision…all I know is that it was a long walk back to my apartment building in downtown Wilmington, DE…but I had never felt more sure about anything than I did that night…
I have always had a better long-term memory…I often tell people I can remember the day I was born and nobody ever believes me! And strangely my brother swears he remembers the day he was born too! We both eerily describe similar stories and I think the only difference is the color of the lights in the room…But one memory I know for sure is of my mom rocking me to sleep in a wooden chair in my room when I was really little. I remember she would always sing “Jesus Loves Me” over and over and then pray for angels to keep me safe…and I have always believed in angels…This was one of those nights where I was reminded of this memory…and my belief in angels.
One night a couple years ago in Wilmington, DE, I remember leaving the bar at the World Cafe Live after watching a great late night blues band. The bar and my apartment building were both located on the same street but separated by the many downtown blocks…In a 2014 Newsweek article written by a writer, editor, and New York Times best selling author, the city of Wilmington was described as “one of the most dangerous small cities in America.” The author dubbed Delaware’s largest city “Murder Town USA.” With a population of about 71,000, Wilmington holds a per-capita murder rate more than twice that of Philadelphia, PA stemming from poverty, drug trade, gun violence, and educational problems. In the year I lived there, there was a total of 27 homicides and 133 shootings. The ABC network is now even planning to release a new drama series about the city named “Murder Town” starring Jada Pinkett Smith…Once known as the DuPont “Chemical Capital of the World,” the beautiful city of Wilmington is now sadly going to be portrayed by the media as city that takes away life…but let me tell you how this city did just the opposite. It didn’t take my life, this city gave me life…
The homeless in Wilmington often roam the downtown streets at all times of the day and night so it’s not unusual to have an encounter with a complete stranger. I actually pretty much recognized them all after living downtown for just a short period of time. They learn local faces quickly and will seek you out all the time especially if you are willing to help them. I was by myself on this night and starting my long walk back to my building. I always tried to be really careful, especially being this late at night. Well after about two blocks up, around the corner I hear this voice calling out to me… “Hey sir can you help me? Please?” For some reason, and I guess because it took me by surprise, I remember reaching for my knife (I always carry one, it’s kind of like how some people feel weird without a watch, well I feel weird without a knife). But I see his face next and it’s a man I have never seen on the streets before and he just keeps approaching me asking me for help…well I knew all I had on me from the show was 5 dollars in my wallet…but I had no idea who this man was and in a few seconds I had to decide what to do next. I can remember him looking at me as I had my hand on my pocket where my knife was and he just kept saying, “hey hey that’s ok hey that’s ok man I just need some help man, just need some help, i’m just waitin’ on some help…”
What do we do in a situation like this? Are we the ones waiting on help? What’s the heart of the matter? What’s the heart of your matter? What if a complete stranger needs our help? Could it be an angel? A drug addict? What makes us stop and question whether or not we should help somebody? Do we act with the quick thoughts in our head or can we follow our heartbeat? Why do we have to stop and think about the opinions and the way others say we should help a complete stranger when God tells us exactly how?
“I’m tryin’ to put it all back together, I’ve got a story and I’m tryin’ to tell it right. I’ve got the kerosene and the desire, I’m trying to start a flame in the heart of the night…Oh I feel your heartbeat. And oh, you’re comin’ around, comin’ around, comin’ around. If you can love somebody, love them all the same. You gotta love somebody, love them all the same.”
The Fray began with frontman Isaac Slade creating a high school jam session with his best friend Joe King. While not labeled as a Christian band, the group’s faith appears to remain central in their lives and their music. Isaac has always felt his calling to lead the Christian life as a musician…he grew up leading worship at his church in Denver, Colorado and now he leads his multiple award winning band The Fray around the world. When asked why he chose not to be labeled as a Christian band, Slade says, “If you’re a painter, then paint, but you don’t have to have Jesus in every picture. Paint well, and if you paint well enough, they might ask you why you do that.” Many people hear this song and see the video of “Heartbeat” and immediately think it’s maybe another song about a love relationship but it was actually inspired from a time while traveling through Africa and a chance meeting Slade had with a woman from a group in Kigali, Rwanda. She told Slade all about her escaping death from genocide…The two held hands in a group and Slade was so moved by their interaction and her story that in an interview he reveals, “I felt so connected to her…I couldn’t tell if it was her pulse or mine.”
A man walks up to Jesus on the road in Luke 9:57-58: 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Everytime I read that verse I usually like to read it twice to really understand it…but Jesus is telling this man that if he wants to truly follow Him then he won’t have a home. He will lose everything to follow Him. Think of it kind of like leaving a “comfort zone.” These have been defined as a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control and experiences low anxiety and stress. If we want to truly serve God and love others we have to leave our comfort zones…I found out that night that the answer to this debate or the “heart of the matter” in helping strangers in these situations really in fact lies in our hearts. We have to create what I call “homeless hearts.” We have to change our hearts! I couldn’t help feeling my heartbeat that night on Market…I felt a spiritual connection…I ended up having a conversation and I gave that man my 5 dollars…it wasn’t a lot but it was all I had to give. People would always tell me “the homeless just buy drugs with your money.” It’s always been hard for me to agree with that…but don’t misunderstand me. I know there are some people who know how to run a good game to get drug money but I also know some who just need love in any form possible…so what I am saying is we need to have hearts for both of these people. If Jesus was standing on these streets He would not keep walking, He would surely help them…so why can’t we? Sometimes I feel we walk around in life like it’s a public playground only looking after what’s “ours” (and I am guilty of this for sure)…but imagine if we walked around or walked outside of our homes tomorrow morning and found someone in need on our doorstep…begging for help. How much faster would we help them?
Like Isaac Slade from the Fray, I was so inspired that night that after I got home to my building I sat down and immediately wrote a new song called “Waiting On An Angel.” I play it now at all my acoustic shows. My stranger never gave me his name and I honestly never saw him again after that night…It was a big choice I had to make. We all have these choices. God gives us choices. You can debate the issues in life all you want…but sometimes debating won’t get you anywhere. I am trying to let God become the heart of it all. And I believe God is at the heart of it all! The city of Wilmington may be called Murder Town by the ABC network but I refuse to call it by that name. I love that city, it’s a home to me and it didn’t take my life, it gave me a new one. I call it Angel Town USA. I truly believe there are angels in that city…it saved my life, it’s a part of me, it taught me how to love others again, how to love myself again, how to leave my comfort zone, and how to let go of my controlled heart and create a “homeless heart.”
This heart challenge could be easy for you…or it could be the hardest one yet…Create a homeless heart and leave behind any hesitations or comforts keeping you from loving a stranger. Help somebody today…help the homeless, or just open a door for someone, let someone cut you in a line at a store, talk to a stranger…why not? And if you can’t talk then just show a big smile…
Slade screams out in the end of the song “You gotta love somebody, love them all the same…your heartbeat…I can feel your heartbeat.” Can that be true for our lives too? If we love one person can we just love everyone the same? Angel Town USA reached out its hand to me to help change my life…and I took it. God is reaching out His hand to you, wanting to give you a new heart, a homeless heart…and the best part about it? It’s free…you have a free choice to make, and maybe nobody is around to witness this choice but you are around and you should take it…
Was it an angel I met that night on Market Street? Maybe…or maybe not. Was that woman an angel that Isaac Slade met in Africa? I don’t know…The verse at the bottom tells it all…The truth is only God knows…I do know we both felt strong enough about the experience to write powerful songs about them. But I don’t stay up at night anymore wondering about that man because I want my heart to beat for everyone…I want my heart to be wild and free from the heart of my past and I want it to be controlled by real love. I want my mind to follow the pulse and put my body in the action of true hospitality toward strangers. People are important! You should be smiling right now because you can make a difference! People are out there all around us hurting…they may be closer than you think…waiting on some help…waiting on angels…waiting on someone to show them love. It starts with your heart…change your heart and you can change a heartbeat = LOVE. Nothing is impossible…
2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Watch, listen, and share what happens when you decide to live the next 10 days in love.
(Listen below to Heartbeat by The Fray)
[To my Wilmington families and friends: To the beautiful city of Wilmington, DE. I love everyone that took me into their home…the wonderful people of the city, and the constant hospitality, I will forever love and be grateful for you! I made friends for life…you will never leave my memory…you are my family…thank you!]
(Feature post photo by Christian Spies)
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