Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

ALMA antennas under the Milky Way

  • Have you ever wondered if God is real?
  • Have you ever wondered if your prayers are heard?
  • Have you ever wondered if your dreams, your hopes, your deepest longings really will come true?
  • Have you ever begged to be spared from a certain suffering, but then you weren’t?
  • Did you ever have moments or days or seasons in your life that were totally beyond your control?

Chances are, if you’re human, you can most likely answer YES to the above questions.

Life can be so beautiful. It’s full of amazing moments: The birth of our children. The day we made eternal promises and said “I do” and “Forever”. The day we accomplished something so amazing, we surprised even ourselves. The day we looked out to the horizon and cried because what we saw was simply beyond words; it was indescribably beautiful. You wanted to just freeze time and stay in this place forever. And that’s always when the first stab of pain hits you. Because you know you simply can’t. Nothing here lasts forever.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. Kind of like Margaret of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”. I had the same prepubescent worries as she did. Will I ever even need a bra? Will I eventually become a woman in every way? Will a boy even like me….ever?  Does God exist or care about me?   Like Margaret, I wondered where is God more likely to hang? A synagogue? A cathedral?  A mountain top? At the beach?

But those thoughts passed, as did those days. As a child, you can’t even see yourself as a grown up, when you don’t have to feel so awkward or get your feelings hurt so much. We were young. We were naive. We didn’t yet know what we do now: Those were the best days.

Life would get more complicated, time would march forward whether we were ready or not, for what was headed our way. We were still at the beginning of our journey. We still had more hurt to go.

Sometimes parents divorced. Sometimes they died.   Friends moved away.   We outlived our favorite pets. First boyfriends or girlfriends finally arrived on the scene. But they quickly departed too, taking the first of many bites to come out of our vulnerable hearts. Sometimes we moved away or our friends did. Some friends died inexplicably young. In less than a decade we transitioned from girls and boys to women and men. By the time we turned our tassel, we realized some truths:

  • Life isn’t always fair.
  • The hard work of our lives isn’t over just because we graduated, it was merely beginning.
  • I’m not sure if I’m ready to be who I’m supposed to be.

We continued to learn more. We worked. We said I do and we had babies—babies who grew from toddlers to little kids to teenagers to adults almost as fast as one of those rotating doors in a hotel lobby.   From band-aids on boo- boos to full blown medical emergencies where lives are on the line, the days passed. From seeing many dreams realized and some crashed—all these things happened too.

We went to countless weddings, family barbecues and gatherings, and funerals. Two thirds of them were fun and full of promise. The other third, the funerals, many of which were beautiful, never got easier. They only got more frequent. That too made our hearts heavy. We knew where this is all headed.

Which brings me to the point we all ponder in life, especially in times of crisis? Are you there God? It’s me. It’s you. It’s all of us as humanity, but it’s each of us individually and we want to know are you there? Are you aware of me, in this moment?

It’s the question people struggle with at their core, until they finally decide to choose. Even if you make no choice as to what or whom you believe in, you have made a choice, if only to stay grounded in ambiguity, unsureness, maybe even anxiety and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong. Believers struggle too. But deep down they know. It’s the essence of faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the being certain of that which we do not see.

Faith is truly a tightrope walk. It’s just like life—trying to find balance and not lose your head, especially when you are way out there, fairly far from the gravity of comfort zone, security, familiarity, easy street.   And yet you know, there is a safety net below. Should you fall, you’ll be caught before hitting bottom. It just doesn’t look like it. Or feel like it. You have to get your head and heart in alignment with a thing called trust.

God is like that. He is real. He is here. He is there. He is everywhere.   He sent his Son Jesus to catch us like a safety net, even when we’re way up(or out) there!

Each of us are so precious to him. He knows when we hurt, or fall, are sick, are weak, or when we lose, or succumb, or waver, or any other weakness as defined by us. But He knows differently; something we often can’t wrap our head around: His love is perfected in our weakness. We just have to be the willing Captain of the vessel called Self that will allow him to travel with us, in us, and pass through us in order to change our destination, and thus destiny by simply saying, not my will, but yours.

Jesus said in this world, we’re going to have some troubles and he was by no means exaggerating! But he also said to take heart, for he has overcome the world.   Every time I hear that, I rejoice a little more inside. I reclaim the parts of my heart that which is unfair or unbearable or unexplainable tries to conquer. The truth gets etched a little deeper each time. Because it frees me:

  • From having to have all the answers.
  • From being responsible for fixing that which I don’t have the power to do.
  • From focusing on why (the unfair/hard/unexplainable) of pain, and instead focus on the who I can trust with all this (God/Jesus).

We are not invisible to God. And although the universe is a fairly big place (science can’t even agree on where/if it ends and how long it’s been around), we are by no means small. We are not insignificant in God’s eyes.

We can look from the most powerful telescope billions of light years away and all we see are dots. But God can look across space and time and see us, every bit of us—our tears and our dreams-and all He can see are stars. We are His star, the crown jewel, the masterpiece of His creation.   Whether we are searching outward as far as our eye can see, or inward, as deep as our heart can bare, our heart beats strongest when we choose to simply be still and know He is there.

 

God is so big, He is real, and is involved in the details of our lives.   Verses (promises) that inspired this story:  Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 13:11 John 16:33, Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 46:10

Books I’d recommend to anyone who is searching:Purpose Driven Life

Search for Significance

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Bono Light IMG_6811 (2)

Let there be light!  That’s what God said when he first created the world.  But did you know, he also said it about us in Ephesians 5:8?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

 So what does this mean?  Does it mean live as if you’re a famous rock star and all the world’s a stage with the spot light on you?  Of course not; you already know this.

If you’re  Christian, you already know  just how dark, how shameful, how sinful you perhaps once were, or currently struggle with, or have the capacity to be.  That’s because our flesh wants what it wantsWe want control.  We want things, people, power or influence.    It’s the underlying motive beneath all our wants that determines whether we are walking as children of the light or darkness.

I snapped this pic of Bono at the 2nd of only three concerts I’ve ever seen him.  He was so close and yet….so far away.   It was taken with an ordinary point and shoot camera at just the right moment, a split second of perfect timing.   It almost seems like heaven’s light is shining down.

 But I know the truth.  Bono is only a man.  Nothing more; nothing less. He has made references before that he doesn’t feel comfortable if fans (strangers to him!) see him as a Messiah.  He’s clearly not.    Yet, he does carry a certain light, or at least seems to be perceived that way by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of U2 fans, and maybe even some people that aren’t even big fans of U2’s music.  

That’s because of his heart.  If you follow news about him then you know what he’s done to shine a light on Africa, and how he’s been instrumental in trying to reduce and eliminate hunger, poverty, political corruption, and the hopelessness these things cause.  You know he’s worked with world leaders in the political arena to bring attention and change to a silent suffering.  He’s used his rock star status to influence and to be a beacon of light—to bring attention to, hope, help, cure, and above all love at a time that clearly God has appointed for him.

He’s not Jesus.  But he gets it when it comes to carrying His light.  Yet it’s not Bono’s responsibility to carry it alone.  He’s a torch bearer.  He once sang, that “I’d join the movement, if I found one I could believe in.”    We live in a dark world in uncertain times.  But in a world of self-indulgent twerkers, endless me-centered  and copy-cat celebrities publicly showcasing their life of flashy material excess and simultaneous emptiness, Bono has been singing for quite some time to the beat of a different tune:

 A higher frequency.  This unmistakable calling of light.  The example of a love in action, not merely words spoken or sung.  He doesn’t just sing to us.  U2’s lyrics challenge us.  (“Am I buggin you?  I don’t mean to bug ya!”)  Kind of like Jesus.    How are you going to step out today knowing what you know of the world’s pockets of suffering?  Will you turn away in apathy?  Or will you reach out in faith  willing to risk  your reputation or security?     Are you brave enough to show goodness, kindness, compassion, or  mercy today to someone you don’t know or is hard to love? 

Truth has a way of showing us which direction we’re going to walk  in life. The incredible light that is ours simply by receiving.  This incredible gift of love that is ours to multiply simply by giving it all away.

So let there be light!  Because you too are loved!

Article Reposted from Following Link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/augustweb-only/bono-0805.html?start=1

The following exchange between Bono and Assayas took place just days after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, an act of terrorism that left 191 dead and more than 1,800 wounded. The two men were discussing how terrorism is often carried out in the name of religion when Bono turned the conversation to Christianity, expressing his preference for God’s grace over “karma,” offering an articulate apologetic for the deity of Christ, and giving a clear presentation of the gospel message.

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows …

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono … We all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved … by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched …

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: …If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Bono That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Assayas.

(Note: While the book includes numerous passages of Bono discussing his Christian faith, it also includes occasional salty language from both parties.)

 

Liz’s Note:  11/19/12 — Hoping to post an original writing soon, but with so much unrest in the world these days, it’s inspiring to know we have an alternative to chaos in our life:  Grace.  May you find yours today!


Step into the confessional booth with me, will you?  I want to tell you a little secret, but shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone.

(Me whispering): I may be the only woman on the planet that will tell you this, but I have NOT read that book everyone is talking about.

It’s true.   Other friends have already informed me it’s ripe with never-in-real-life characters and plot, seasoned with weak writing, full of mental diagrams of how to have pretzel-twisting, mind-blowing, well you know.    The thing is I’m so past that.  I mean really, really long past.  Not as in a thing of the past, but in a girl, I’m so over it kind of way.   I’m past the point in my life, where that would be the Mount Everest not yet scaled, the utter pinnacle of exquisite satisfaction.

Ask anyone who’s been married long enough, or been around the block a few times too many, you will find something in common:  Your appetite changes.  Translation:  You grow up.  You mature.  You want connection not sex.  You want time to be SLOW and not rushed.  You want endurance, not intensity.  You want real not surreal.  You want relationship not temporary satisfaction. 

As I draw nearer to the half-century mark (just thinking fifty years seems surreal to even write) I find what I obsess most over is: hanging on.  Hanging on to love, people, relationships, memories, these are the precious jewels that we accidentally let fall through our hands like sifting sand in our vain attempts to manage our own lives more efficiently.

I’m at that precarious stage of life when I often don’t see my friends for long stretches of time, except sadly, when it’s time to go to another parent’s funeral.   I buy sympathy cards by the box now, instead of on occasion.   Sadder still, is going to the funeral of friends my age.   Recently, I found my high school actually has a Facebook page simply titled Angels beside the name of my school.  Scrolling through it was humbling, as I am keenly aware the time to realize my dreams and the things I want to accomplish may be on the shorter end of the gauge than longer.

Then I thought about it.  Maybe life has never been totally about accomplishing our goals and dreams.  Not that we shouldn’t have them, but maybe it’s so much more.  Maybe it’s about the life and dreams God had planned for us from the day we were born.    Maybe it’s about the kind of person He is molding us in to, and not the profession or ambitions that we define as who we are or wish to become.

If you’re like me, you may feel like life and our over-crammed daily schedule is whizzing by at breakneck speed.  Technology has amplified the affect.  With exponential forms of electronic communication to reach, inform, pester, entertain, beg , or demand us,  it sometimes feels like it’s changed us to that which we were never designed to be:  Too busy to connect.

So I’m working on consolidating my life a bit.  Organize the photos.  Purchase only the essential.  Spend less time on Facebook and more actual Face Time with those I love and am actually friends with.

Above all I pray.  As I get older, maybe it’s the natural order of things, but I find I pray more.  I need to pray more.  I want to pray more.    I actually love to pray more.

Life is so short.  Some dreams come true and others don’t for all of us.    Still, if you’re here—well, then you’ve got a lot to be grateful for.  That’s reason enough to pray.  But if you’re suffering, that’s even more reason, because God wants to use it to make you better, stronger, kinder, smarter, healed and whole, or something else yet defined.    You don’t always get to choose your suffering, only your response to it.

Love those you have left in your left.  Make necessary repairs.    Think of all you have to be thankful for.   And pray.

Pray because our God is awesome!  Pray because He wants to bless you.  Pray because you need Him to reveal something about that which is causing you pain.  Pray because you need to know.  Pray for others.  Pray because once you actually start to count your blessings, you realize it’s not only more than you can count, it’s so much more than you deserve.    Pray because you don’t have to know it all or control it all.  Pray because you are alive and you still can.

Mick Jagger sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” until he publicly claimed he hoped he never had to sing it again.  Apparently the repetition of singing it failed to sustain satisfaction despite the royalties it provided.  Paul Simon reminds us in his clever song there really is at least fifty ways to leave your lover; another testimony that relational satisfaction is often temporal.

My only conclusion?  Fifty Shades is cotton candy compared to The Real Thing.   Fleshly desires or eternal?  Happy for now or satisfied forever?   Pick one.

So we cry out, whisper, or silently say our prayers.  And we wait, oh how we wait–trusting that God has heard us, all the while believing He is good and in control and that He loves us.    We step out in trust blindly walking by faith, knowing we don’t have to know it all, have it all, do it all, or be that which we can’t be.

We may spend periods of our life in solitude, but we are never alone.  We are indeed richly loved.  And that’s a mind-blowing connection and lasting satisfaction, we can joyfully hold on to.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

“Spiritual Surrender” by Christopher Cuseo

      It’s these same themes I keep revisiting in writing and especially in life in general:

  • We don’t really have control; it’s always been an illusion
  • Acceptance is the only way out of darkness
  • There’s no such thing as coincidence

When we know this at our core, life gets easier.  Clarity comes into focus.  You start realizing every prior moment in your life was orchestrated in such a way to bring you to this one.  What will you do with it?   What will you do now?

Most people hit a point in life where they start asking the big questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is it that will make me truly happy?
  • Is this all there is?
  • Will I get the rough relationships smoothed out?
  • Will I obtain the desired relationship I don’t yet have?
  • Will I accomplish my goals professionally?
  • Will I have time to make my dreams come true?
  • Will I accomplish these things before my time runs out?
  • Externally, do I present myself to others the way I view myself?

       More than ever, we now live in a world of disconnect.  We find out about new babies, weddings, funerals, and news of the world and news of those we love by way of social media.  We respond in equal measure with our affirmations of LIKE or by hammering a few words out as a reply.  If we don’t respond, we can always feign ignorance.  We can pretend we didn’t see something we don’t want to know or deal with.  No one else is the wiser.

We disconnect from others, but more so, we like to disconnect from the discomfort of having to answer hard questions about our life.   We become too busy to find the answers.

    But are we living true?  Are we at peace?

There are two possibilities we receive when attempting to answer questions where the answer isn’t yet clearly revealed:

Anxiety or Acceptance

     Anxiety usually involves stewing, ruminating, playing a situation or conversation over and over in your head.  Rewind; play, repeat!   Each time it replays, new details emerge and our anger and our fears become embellished.  Before long we are living in non-truth.    I’m convinced at my core that is where our feelings of unworthy, unlovable, undeserving, unforgiveable, and our inability forgive or move on lie.  Yes, where they LIE.    We are created to live in peace and be at peace, but sometimes we live as if we are the main characters in M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie.

    Acceptance is freedom!  It means giving up control of others or having to know the outcome of things.   Acceptance allows good to come into your life because you are open to it.  You’ll be free to notice beauty, goodness, love, and truth in the smallest of things in life.  You will realize that there are no coincidences, and that even bad moments can be used for good, if you can have proper perspective.  Positivity, wisdom, empathy, and love first start with acceptance of the way things actually are.

      Easy to say, but how do you transition from anxiety to acceptance?

Oh, if only it were easy.  This is life’s great journey.  There are thousands of books in the self-help section.  There are motivational speakers, there’s church and the Bible and other holy books.  There are therapists, psychiatrists, musicians, artists, and friends all who are happy to give you their two cents worth.

How do you usually first respond to challenges?

  • Emotionally–You immediately feel angry, hurt, or a strong need to defend your position.
  • Logically–You need to explain and rationalize and get to the bottom of why or what now.

Well, maybe the answer is spiritual in nature.  Sometimes the big questions do involve our faith—faith in God, faith in ourselves, and above all faith that God is actively involved in our lives and situations.   If we are courageous enough to believe that, than our need to control life and find justification in our feelings and responses diminishes.

We can just live aware of each moment.  We can take a step back and WAIT.  Wait before feeling or speaking or explaining.  We can wait for wisdom to show us the right way to respond.

Bono’s right when he sings “I’m not easy on my knees” in Love and Peace or Else.  In the next line he sings, “Here’s my heart, you can break it.  I need some release, release, release.”   Indeed!  Sometimes God allows things that crack our hard hearts of stone.  Those with tender hearts of glass are even more easily shattered.    The next part is up to us.   It’s our Moment of Surrender.

I hope you will able to surrender that which is hard, or hurtful, or defies explanation.   When we finally can surrender or let go, we are able to find the rhythm of our soul; we can live in peace and live true.   I’m convinced once we are able to surrender; we lose our chains.  Then we can then let God’s love and light in our life, and then live our life as mirrors by reflecting to others all we’ve been blessed with.

   Open your heart to the rhythm of yes.  Surrender.  You too are loved.

At the moment of surrender
I’m falling to my knees
I did not notice the passersby
And they did not notice me
I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of a Dark star
My body’s now begging
Though it’s begging to get back
Begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my consciousness
To the rhythm of yes
To be released from control

“Moment of Surrender” – U2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blqa-3q-b38

(Also worth watching:  U2 – Moment of Surrender live at Rose Bowl on 4/06/2010)

 

 

WAR

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Christianity, U2, War, Wisdom
Tags: , , ,

War

Specialist Darrion Hicks – US Army

Broughton HS – Class of 2009

      I’m really upset about something.  A young man from my daughter’s high school returned home from Afghanistan this week.  Dead.  He came back in a casket.  He graduated two years before my daughter from the same high school with all the joy, promise, and expectation of a future that my daughter carries.  I didn’t know him.  I can’t stop thinking about him.

I admire his bravery and service.  I still believe it is the most courageous and noblest among us that choose to serve in the armed forces.  They serve because first they loved.

Still I’m so upset.  Musicians get it right before the rest of us sometimes.  I’m talking about war:

“War!  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!” shouts Edwin Starr with plenty of passion and soul enough in 1969 in his biggest hit “War” to protest the Vietnam War.

If you’re a U2 fan, it’s almost impossible not to be affected by “Ava Maria” sung by Bono and the great Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.   With artistic liberty and lyrical beauty they added some American lyrics.  But this verse is unmistakable as its truth is quietly sung:

And strength is not without humility
Its weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen who will not have to fight

      I think about this more and more these days.  I’m a fairly conservative person. I’m also Christian in my beliefs.  But you know what?  I don’t like the casualties and destruction of war any more than my liberal, apolitical, independent, Buddhist, New Age, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, or nearly any other “classification” of friends does.  In all my years, I haven’t met someone that says, “Yep, we need more dead people to bring about peace.”

I struggle internally as I try to understand what those in power have people fighting for.  Certainly I understand the need to defend one’s self, family, or territory when attacked.  Every person yearns to be free to choose their destiny and their beliefs in a land they can call their own.   Which provocations do we respond to and how?

It’s true; soldiers who fight on the front lines are never the ones in power that cause it to be so.  Politicians from all sides justify war to keep us safe.   And don’t forget:  War is big business.  No one can deny that war creates jobs and lots of money.   But for who?   At what cost?

Are wars just a land grab?  An unquenchable thirst for power?    Are they ever justified in the name of defense of freedom?     We could argue yes, and maybe no, to all of above—all with different view points.

Those of us who are still free, in our limited understanding, try to make sense of issues regarding politics, history, economics and vote our conscience in our quest to be both safe and free.    All the while, we know, the person we pick can guarantee neither.

Those in bondage of the evils of dictatorship have even more reason to fight for their freedom and security and are equipped even less to do so.  For those that seek to oppress ensure that the innocent and powerless are unable to do so.

Flip on the news on any given night and see entire towns bombed out, with women and children in tattered clothes searching for crumbs, a brick, a blanket, anything at all essential to their survival.    Syria comes to mind these days, and we a world away feel powerless, and we chase the bad images away.  Some of us pray.  Some of us do nothing but forget about it.  Some of us get angry and become activists.  Even our responses can divide us when we don’t agree with the responses of others we know.  Without even being aware, the war seeps in and expands.

 We are at war in the world, because first we are at war within.   As a Christian, I find this verse most sobering indeed:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask GodJames 4:1

    Desire is such a motivating force in our lives.  It propels us forward with our goals.  But when we covet something in such a way that we have to have what does not belong to us or is not intended for us, it will destroy us.   If not yourself, it will destroy that which you covet, if obtained by force.

We spend our lives tripping over ourselves because we can’t get other people to say what we want, do what we want, or be who we want them to be.  If they would just submit to our desire or demands, we could all live in peace we think.  At the very least, understand that we are right!    So we quarrel, then we fight, and taken to extremes– we kill.

The war within has been going on since the dawn of time.  If not harnessed and redirected, it will seep outward until we have a full blown sickness.

I’m not a preacher, but sometimes I’m accused of trying to preach.  If so, I apologize because I’m a lousy example of that which I profess to believe.  But believe it I do.  And strive for it I will.  Because I do believe this:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt: 5:9)

God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. (Prov. 3:34)

     I’m getting older and the small things in life aren’t worth fighting over.  The big things are out of my control anyway and I can’t seem to resolve those through people anyway.    I can only control me—my thoughts, my desires, my actions.  Oh sure, I trip about a dozen times a day, but I’m remembering more than I’m forgetting and for that I’m grateful.

If I could stop war and change the world, believe me I would. I can’t. You can’t either.  We can only fix ourselves.  And with all humility and a touch of humor I humbly beg you—PLEASE DO!

And for U2 fans, a little bit of U2 wisdom here:

Lay down
Lay down your guns
All your daughters of Zion
All your Abraham sons
I don’t know if I can make it
I’m not easy on my knees
Here’s my heart and you can break it
I need some release, release, release

From “Love and Peace or Else” – U2

For Specialist Darrion Hicks and His Family:  

I salute you and thank you for your service. 
May God bless you and your family eternally. 
I cherish freedom and life each day because your courage went before me.  
Rest in peace.

PRESS PLAY:  A SONG TRIBUTE FOR DARION:

Video:  Bono: A Conversation about Christianity

Who do you follow?  Click on Faces on Facebook, blogs, websites, YouTube, people, pets, places, ideas, or ideologies and chances are there’s a LIKE, SHARE, or FOLLOW button attached to it.

I’m a bit of a U2 fan.  OK, maybe too much so sometimes.  It’s just that I really in truly love their music more than ANYTHING else around.  It’s just me, my personal preferences.  Besides the technical genius of the Edge, the backbone and muscle found in Larry and Adam, you’d have to be fairly unaware in life to not know the lead singer and some say heart of the band is—Bono.  Even that’s debatable because most U2 fans know what makes the band endure through the decades is that each member is absolutely vital to the other.  Bono just happens to be the person in front.

A year ago today I met Bono.  I just happened to be in NYC, a place I’ve only been to three times in my life.  He just happened to be at the Letterman Theater outside my hotel on my last day in NYC.  I didn’t know U2 was in town, even more, just outside my hotel across the street a few feet away.   I found out randomly when I overheard another hotel patron telling her friend that they were in town.

I ran across the street and tried to get Letterman tickets.  I waited in line, interviewed, and didn’t get picked.  I left and did some sightseeing with my adult daughter in Battery Park.   We came back, and I went to the theater one more time where Letterman was filming.  Everyone had showed up.  There were no extra tickets; I was told I didn’t need to stay.  I knew Bono and The Edge were inside.  I wanted to meet them; I wanted to meet Bono!

I was beside myself with excitement. I sort of felt like a cross between the swooning moms who fainted over Elvis during my childhood and young teens who camp out and fast for days for a change to meet “The Bieb-ster”.   I ran back to my hotel to change and brush my hair.  I was determined to find a way.  Then I started calming down.  Then I started crying.  What’s wrong with me?

HE’S ONLY A MAN

Suddenly, there was a fire drill only on our floor.  I had to evacuate anyway.  I thought maybe, just maybe I’d go downstairs one last time and see if anything was going on in the back of the theater around the corner.  God?  What are you trying to tell me?

He’s only a man my child.  He’s definitely not Jesus.  He’s Bono, but at the end of the day, he’s still a man.

I quit running.  I started walking instead.  I told God something important:  I know!

So I surrendered.  If it was meant to be—fine.  If not, I could live with that.  Only four days prior, I had driven from this same hotel to see U2 in Philadelphia.  It was my third and best U2 concert of all.  Don’t be greedy with your blessings Liz!

I got there in the nick of time.  I had a blast and made some quick connections with other U2 fans; or as I sometimes say, “I found MY people!”

The backdoors opened.  Out walked the Edge and then Bono.  Then it happened.  I met Bono!  I wasn’t shaking.  I wasn’t falling down. I was able to speak coherently.   He’s just a man.  But for a brief second in time, I saw his eyes and perhaps he saw mine.  I told him to tell Nelson Mandela Happy Birthday.  I found out later, he was on his way to have lunch with him, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I wasn’t inside the theater when they were taping.  I just knew.  Because sometimes our souls just know.  I knew how close they are, and I remembered the audience singing Happy Birthday to Nelson at Bono’s request four days earlier in Philadelphia.

Then he said what I still refer to as just one word:  Yeah!!!!!

Yeah (YES)!   YES is such an affirmative word.  It may sound cliché, but I knew in my heart that day, it was time for me to start saying yes to pursuing some dreams I’ve carried around for a while.  It was as if God was whispering,

Your dreams can be a reality!  Why do you even doubt?

 Not because I met Bono, but because sometimes God just comes down and blesses you with something amazing, that you didn’t deserve, that you wouldn’t have seen coming in your wildest imagination.

At the end of the day, and the whole of my life, I am a U2 fan to the core, especially Bono.  But I actually follow WHO he follows.  I think that’s why I and millions of other fans connect so deeply.   It’s more than even U2’s great music.  It’s their connection to those that suffer in this world and making us not just aware, but challenging us to do.   To start where you are, and to branch out, that is the key.

Yes I’m a fan of U2, so I’ve hit my fill of LIKE buttons and commented volumes.

But I FOLLOW Christ, not perfectly, but absolutely, and that’s something I really want to SHARE.    Christ forgives, redeems, saves, loves, challenges, and changes us IF we let him.  Only God knows what plans He has for you though we’re guaranteed a few things as we go:  tragedy, triumph, love, loss.  So how do we survive it all?

Love.  Pray.  Hope.  Persevere.  Trust.

I’m many things—a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a writer.  I’m a fan of U2.  I’m a follower of Jesus—like my brother Paul, we are ONE in Christ. And that’s reason to REJOICE!

NOTE:  I’ve read these quotes.  They can be found in these books, great reads for U2 fans regarding Bono’s views and struggles in his faith walk.

 

What is it about a beach sunrise that trumps a regular sunrise?  Yesterday morning I had my feet propped up on a deck rail, a warm coffee in my hand, two sweet dogs laying by my side, and watching the ocean on the horizon.

Such sweet relief!   Our souls often feel weathered due to the storms we’re forced to endure. We learn:

Change is the only constant we navigate by

Waves continuously change and crash, but the sea and the mysterious laws that govern it are eternally constant. I sat there vaguely pondering  this, but mostly I was trance like in a state of non-thought.

Then my dear friend of twenty years came out with a plate of delicious fresh garden tomatoes grown with the help of her hands and love for gardening.  We sipped our coffee as we watched the sea.  “Look!” she said.  “Dolphins!”    A pair of dolphins were swimming just past the waves’ breaking  point parallel to the shore line.

I rarely stay at such quiet beaches, so I had yet to see dolphins at sunrise.  I’ve hoped for it on many trips, but never got to see them with my own eyes–until yesterday.

It’s real, I thought.  I never saw dolphins swim at sunrise before, not because they didn’t exist or I wasn’t looking hard enough, but because it wasn’t my time to see.  Prayers are answered in God’s time, not ours.

There is nothing like the ocean that seems to settle our faith and our doubts between the temporary and the eternal  like watching the ocean for an extended period of time.  Our soul is soothed as we watch the ocean free from life’s pressures, distractions, noise, and rampant thoughts that compete for our attention.    Ah, to just watch the ocean with a truly open mind, and without awareness of time passing.

See God has planted the seed of eternity in every man’s heart.  It’s hard not to love the sea whose every breaking wave crashes onto shore, only to return softly back to itself.    From a distance it’s so beautiful.  But if you are standing at the waves’ breaking point, all you hear is loudness and feel its fury.  You certainly feel the power if you attempt to stand there.  Fixing your feet here is impossible.  But a few yards ahead or behind the breaking point, all is calm.

Our lives are exactly like that.  The storms come.   The circumstances come in bulk and threaten to pull us under.  We are standing at the breaking point where it’s loud, and we’re unsteady on our feet.  We see the shore and we see the horizon, but in the midst of the breaking point’s fury, we can’t seem to move further out to sea or return to shore.

Yes, viewing the ocean from the distance of being across the street, I had a wider and quieter view then when lying on the sand only a few feet from where the tide comes in.  I look at the sea from this distance and feel nothing but peace from the top of my head to the tips of my toes still sugared in bits of yesterday’s sand.  All is well with the world—or at least, in this moment, in mine.

Yet I know this same sea has blanketed fury on coastal cities in time past.  It’s destroyed property and taken lives.  Untold thousands have drawn their last breath of air before succumbing to the ocean’s depths.    Boats and ships sink.  Storms come.  People drown.   My worst sea nightmare would be of being stranded in a life boat, dying of thirst, yet wondering if I’d be rescued.

Yesterday I watched dolphins swim across the ocean.  Somewhere else in the world, in this very same sea, somebody else was on a sinking boat fighting to stay alive.  At their moment of peril, did dolphins cease to exist?  While I marveled at the magnificence of dolphins, did I not care for the person struggling in the sea just because I didn’t see them or know of it?

Our circumstances, perspectives, beliefs, and geography separate us, yet we are still united in our humanity.  When one suffers, humanity suffers even when others are not aware.  Thankfully, God sees the big picture of our lives with an ultra-wide angle lens—a perspective we can’t conceive.  It is not constrained by width or depth or time.   God is able to see both these moments, and every moment and every one.

I want to have and maintain peace like I did yesterday morning.  Can we have daily peace, even though there is continual chaos in the world, even in our own lives? If so, how God?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.  James 1:5-8

This is one of the hardest and truest bible verses to me.  We are told that it is our doubts that blow our lives all around, sometimes to bits!  Our circumstances and our emotions toss us in such a way we can’t find True North, we can’t navigate our way home.   We get pulled between other peoples’ words to us and expectations of us and our feelings towards it all.   We don’t find solutions, because we don’t believe we will.

We get tossed by each event that threatens to overtake us, simply because we’re out of control.  We already know that in many circumstances, the control was never ours to possess anyway.    Still we fight the Captain of our soul for command of the wheel.  Sometimes our own mutiny is the real cause of our undoing.

It’s been said that seeing is believing.  But the real truth is believing is seeing. 

Would I have believed in dolphins had I never seen them at sunrise yesterday?  Of course!  I’ve known dozens of people who have already seen them; I’d seen them on TV and pictures.  That’s a no-brainer.  Everyone knows dolphins exist.

But God?  That’s another matter.  It can be hard to either believe God exists or that He actually is good or cares for you or the world that you live in.  How could God care or be good when there are storms such as wars, disease, famine , poverty, injustice,  and cruelty inflicted on living beings that God breathed life into in the first place?  Are those people or creatures less valuable to God then we are?  Of course not!  Then why?

WHY is the question we don’t have the luxury of asking.  When we do, our brain is limited in the answers it provides.  We can’t find rationale for pain or unfairness; our limited explanations don’t satisfy.   That dissatisfaction breeds doubt, and the cycle of being tossed about commences.

WHY is the universal question whose answer is like the sea.  It rises up, and then rolls back out.  We think we almost know sometimes; we think we have our lives figured out.    Then the storms come.

We have to trust in our faith that assures WHO, and not the knowledge that seeks to explain WHY.  Don’t allow waves of doubt to take your truth back to sea.

Man tries to explain his life and events, and the most brilliant, pedigreed people still fail miserably.   Life is a mystery.   The question is can you be at peace and NOT have answers sometimes?

I hope so.  That’s faith—being comfortable in not knowing the outcome or why.   If we can choose to live our lives as mirrors, so that our words and deeds reflect  light and love, rather than a telescope that tries to see and explain time and circumstance—that’s visionIf we can choose to love God and believe he exists, even though life isn’t fair, that’s true freedom.  Doing these things diminishes doubts, until they eventually die.

We don’t get to choose the location, timing, or severity of our storms.  We only can decide on who is in charge of our ship that sails over every breaking wave.  Choose well so that you can navigate safely.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

 

Every breaking wave
On the shore
Tells  the next one there’ll be one more

I don’t know if I’m that strong
I don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I’m that strong
To be somebody
To need someone……….

……..The waves know
We’re on the rocks
Drowning is no sin

You know
That my heart
Is the same place yours has been

(Partial Lyrics—U2 –Every Breaking Wave)

 

 

 

 

I am going to go way out on a limb here, but hope you will stick with me to the end.  I want to ask you something.

How deep do you want to be loved?

      I’m also going to be unashamedly real in my answer.   THIS MUCH!  No, I take that back, even more!  For fans of U2, this song certainly has such a life of its own and certainly connects with people spiritually—yes, men like it too, not just women.   U2 has said its “goal is soul” and this chart-smasher proves it.

Let me talk about something else though.  Sometimes a person just can’t deliver the goods.  Not your mate; not a rock star, not your best friend, not even yourself, no one!    The thing is we are human, and thus limited by our humanity.

In our most giving capacity, we can’t totally be the very thing that someone else needs or wants from us, or more painful, we are capable, but we willingly hold back.  Yet the most painful of all, is even if we love with all of our soul and being, we still fall short, because of this one simple fact:

We can’t sustain it. Time promises this.

     We can’t sustain the intensity because we are constrained by time; the best moments can’t last.  Those perfect moments in life are also the cruelest because they don’t and can’t last, and some of us chase them until the end of our life, trying to recapture or recreate them in all their significance and magnificence, in the way we perceive beauty.  Yes, sometimes we need it like a drug.

Herein lies love’s curse:  I can’t live—with or without you.

       Hear me right.  This goes beyond sex or friendship or passion or reason.  It cuts right to the core of who we truly are.   It’s the deepest part of our soul that can almost seem misunderstood by others. We can’t even form the words that describe our desire for this love, this way to be loved.

Perhaps the closest word is perfect.  We want perfect love delivered perfectly!  No drama, no conditions, no expectation, just pure and perfect love.  This is the dilemma of our lives as we chase what we never had, what we thought we once had, or fight to maintain what we appear to have (if only to us).

Like the song says, “we give ourselves away.”  Indeed.  We give ourselves away as we work and we live and we do—everyday.  The sands in our hourglass fall a little bit faster each day.  Most of us push ourselves constantly past expectations—both of ourselves and others.  Still, it’s not enough.  In our most satisfied moments, we want just a little bit more.

This weekend I watched a mom and her children I’ve known for years bury their dad and husband.  You didn’t have to be their best friend, to grasp the depth of their loss.  The rawness of their fresh pain ripped everyone.  We all want to do something to spare them from this; we can’t.   It’s because on earth, we can’t keep it.   Either way the best love will eventually be stripped from our open arms or our clenched fingers.  That’s why we don’t need to manipulate, control, trick, smother, beg, or insist for another to love us perfectly.    That only insures us they won’t or can’t.

Believe me my heart struggles with this, but my head knows this:  Another human being can’t love you deep enough or long enough.  There has to be more.

There is.  God steps in.  Yes, God–the be all and end all of the perfect love we crave.  This too is hard, because we’re walking and loving not by sight, but by faith.    We’re walking and loving by truth and promises, not by what we feel.  That’s a heavy thought, but a freeing reality that makes our burdens lighter to carry.

Somewhere in the heart of all us, if we’re honest, is the little boy or little girl who just wants to be held, to be pulled in close, and to be looked in the eye so deeply you can see our heart.  We want affirmation that we are good, we are loveable, and that it is seen by someone bigger than us.

U2, both their music and especially their front man Bono, seem to master this “soul-connect” with people by expanding the invisible thread that connects our hearts to one another.  The truest, ok maybe the sanest, of U2 fans know this:   It’s not about Bono or the band or even the amazing music itself, it’s the love that comes from a higher power, and they’re just fellow travelers like us, mere humans, who allow it to pass through via music, lyrics, and most of all— heart.

Every good song, concert, moment, or relationship concludes.  So what’s left?

God’s love is the cure.  It transcends space and time and imperfection on our part.    We just have to get our head and our heart around it sometimes.  May you travel light, find your song to sing, love people, and live well!

 

For me, I take it on faith that perfect love exists because there is a God, He is good, and He loves us.  There are some of my favorite scriptures on love and faith:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrew 11:1

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  Romans 8:24

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ISV)

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:19

 

We go through our days and tasks and relationships  and in each moment, it seems we gravitate towards one of two extremes:

Fear or Faith

      Joyce Meyer, a favorite Christian author of mine, teaches that fear is actually an acronym:

False Evidence Appearing Real

      It’s true.   So often we look at the situations of our lives and size each one up in terms of what might happen or what probably will happen.  It’s so easy to become paralyzed mentally that we are then rendered immobile with our feet.  We are afraid to face the difficult person or situation that lies in front of us.  This plague of doubt and worry of what could happen freezes us in our tracks.  We lie dormant, as if standing still somehow will allow it all to pass over us, or pass by.

It never works.  Sooner or later that difficult confrontation happens anyway.  The hard thing you’ve been avoiding still arrives.  Though you can’t prepare for every possible outcome, there is a better way to deal mentally and spiritually.  That is to face it with faith.

I hope you have it or can find it!  I have not searched for an acronym on faith.  But I have one of my own; it’s this:

Fully Allow It To Happen

      Yes, fully allow “it” to happen.  Whatever “it” is in your life.   It could be the impending death you know is coming in your family.  It could be the relationship you see ending.  It could be the job you know it’s time to give up.  But it could also be the miracles that are just around the corner, awaiting your signal to arrive.  How you ask?  By surrendering!  Surrender having to know the outcome, and instead walking with feet that go and a heart that trusts.  Live your life confidently knowing God is in control, and you don’t have to be.

And when you don’t feel it, pray it anyway.  When those prayers appear to be floating around aimlessly in the atmosphere, then remember this:  They are not.  Your prayers are being heard.  The answer is already there.  Every time you feel like you are going through something alone, you are not.   For there just may be at this very moment, a friend, an angel, a stranger unknown by you, who is praying for you and what you are dealing with.    If not, then I pray you know in the pit of your soul, there is indeed a God, a good and loving God who holds you in the palm of His hand and is working out your situation, ultimately to the good.

God’s confirmation of good and love is everywhere:  Mountains, sky, a baby’s smile, a flower in bloom, a hug, a dog who looks up to you, beautiful music.  God sings and says and shines and pours out so much love on us every day.   I pray you see it, take hold of it, and let it multiply in all you give away.   Find the truth, beauty, and love in your life and follow God’s lead.    Life is so good, so rich; may your faith prove itself and make it so.