Archive for the ‘U2’ Category

WAR

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

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Can a commercial structure be massive in size, modern in its use of technology, and harmonious with the people that inhabit it or come in contact with it?  Frank Lloyd Wright coined the idea of such a structure in his book The Natural House in 1954 as seeing the whole of life, not just serving it and “not cherishing any preconceived form fixing upon us either past, present or future, but instead exalting the simple laws of common sense or of super-sense if you prefer determining form by way of the nature of materials.”

Architect and planner David Pearson proposed a list of rules towards the design of organic architecture. These rules are known as the Gaia Charter for organic architecture and design (Pearson, David (2001). The Breaking Wave: New Organic Architecture (Stroud: Gaia), p. 72)  It reads:

“Let the design:

  • Be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse.
  • Unfold, like an organism, from the seed within.
  • Exist in the “continuous present” and “begin again and again”.
  • Follow the flows and be flexible and adaptable.
  • Satisfy social, physical, and spiritual needs.
  • “Grow out of the site” and be unique.
  • Celebrate the spirit of youth, play and surprise.
  • Express the rhythm of music and the power of dance

U2 360 – Barcelona  Photocredit:  U2station.com

A little bit of Wiki research explains this concept perfectly, but if you were lucky enough to see U2 360 in tour between 2009 and 2011, then you actually have now experienced an “organically constructed” concert.  The technological genius of the engineers and the design team is truly an engineering marvel.  You, one of 60,000 or 80,000 or more people can have a seat anywhere in a U2 360 concert, and yet you feel the entire concert is constructed specifically for you in this space and time.

Once the stadium lights switch off and “The Claw” commences concert ignition with light and sound, you know you are about to be transported into something like you’ve never seen or heard before.  Almost holographically, the band members quickly appear one by one, adding sound and volume as each one enters.  Then with perfect acoustic clarity, the music starts.

Immediately, the crowd is plugged in and singing, taking millions of frames per second of video.  It’s going live via satellite all over the world as they play live.  No cameras allowed?  Pffftttt!    Until smartphones are banned, the pics and vids keep clicking. It’s a genius marketing strategy, but it’s also brilliant because each person experiences and records and shares the event in a way that is meaningful for them.  Some people want to remember it digitally, others are content just to experience it and remember it only in their mind.  Most do a little of both; each way leaves people content.

For me, a U2 concert meets every criteria of the Gaia Charter, with perhaps the biggest stretch being “inspired by nature.”  But a claw is certainly part of nature, even if a spaceship is not.    It started with the Edge sketching a design on a cocktail napkin and that’s organic enough for me!  Our dreams and how we bring them about it about the most organic thing about us, this ability to create something “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) from what resides solely within us.

Just as U2’s music seems to know no limits in the diversity of direction they take musically, it has now been equally complimented by their design of structure during this tour.  In my humble opinion, it is unmatched by any other band in touring history.  The sheer engineering process of this band, whether it is the individual component or group construction of their songs, or the design process and creation of their concert environment, U2 pushes the envelope of risk and reward to its outer limits.

Watching the setup, the tasks the vast stage crew perform right before the show, and then the immediate and rapid tear down that begins seconds after the final encore, you realize you are watching a perfect and intricately choreographed team that prepared and rehearsed for months.  Much like the band itself!  Merging an ever increasing complex technology with their sound so that it blends in with nature is the true gift of the experience!

You are under an open sky in a giant stadium and you quickly become acutely aware that you are connected not to devices, but to the diversity of all of Earth’s people. If you weren’t aware of people and their plight and redemption in other continents, you are now.  If you didn’t know the person beside you, you probably do now.  You see light of every color, wavelength and degree of brilliance.  You hear a depth of undistorted sound and clarity unknown to you before now; it makes you want to crawl into it!  Their music is becoming part of who you are. 

  U2 does more than just entertain us, they challenge us to rethink, maybe even change part of our individual and collective consciousness to be more aware of our surroundings.  We’re all at a different place in our life.  Possibly for some, it’s just a really good show, and for that I’m sure Team U2 is very grateful.  For me, and many like me, it’s more;  and for that we leave grateful.  We don’t feel as if we just consumed something, but that for a slice of time, we were all part of something bigger than ourself.

It’s obvious the sweat equity, heart and soul that goes into U2’s creative process.  For me and many others, it satisfies the social, physical, and spiritual needs we carry to connect with people, God, and our universe.  That’s the undeniable magic that often happens between U2 and their fans.

Bono has said he’s not convinced music will change the world.  I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree, but I know this—it’s a good place to start if you wish to find joy and peace within, light it, and then take it out into the world.  I hope you do.

For a fascinating look at the design and construction process of U2 360 this is a great video to watch:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAIvvx9MFBs&feature=related

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

On July 4th I published my post (Out of Control) Freak.   I woke up that day, wrote, and got on with my day making plans for July 4th with friends and family.  It seemed like another day, with the added bonus of being off work in the middle of the week.   I didn’t know the world was crumbling, changing form only a few feet from my home.

In the middle of the afternoon, the hundred degree heat sat thick and heavy on the ground. The sky grew black.  An explosion of thunder crashed as if a bomb went off.  Severe lightening and a pounding rain assaulted the heat.  Though it was ominous outside, I felt safe and secure in the comfort of my little world at home, near the half of family that was here and I prayed for my half that wasn’t here.

It appeared as if all was ok in my world, save for the barrage of fire trucks, police, and ambulances that began to flood our neighborhood.  I was busy writing and didn’t know only a block away, a fellow neighbor’s home was burning to the ground.   They were on vacation as their house perished in flames and smoke.  I also didn’t know that just over my fence, my neighbor of seventeen years got the dreaded phone call we beg God to spare us from:

I’m sorry; there’s been an accident.    Your husband was killed.

       Struck was the word used.   Yet he died as he lived; he was in the middle of doing something he loved.  He went for an afternoon ride on his bike before they were to leave for the beach.  What happens in a single hour?

  • A man who’s pedaled thousands of miles is struck by a truck in the middle of his ride.
  • Gawkers flood our street and follow plumes of smoke to see what is happening.
  • Pyrotechnicians are busy fusing fireworks on a platform while preparing for possible rain.
  • A neighbor rings my doorbell.  My writing time is interrupted.
  • Why isn’t my daughter back from work yet?
  • My friend is finishing packing bags and coolers when the telephone rings.
  • I want to finish my tasks so I can enjoy fireworks in a few hours.
  • Paramedics desperately try to save a man who was hit while riding his bike.
  • Thunder explodes.  Lightening crashes.  Then the rain comes.
  • It’s just another day.  It never is. 

Control of our lives is always an illusion.  I grieve for the moments I’ve lost due to anger, resentment, or frustration where I didn’t have control.   I wish I could take back moments I made the wrong choice or said words I shouldn’t have.  I wish I could freeze time and stay in the moments that were beautiful:  The moment you hold your new baby for the first time, the moments when you intensely loved and were loved, the sweet moment your child hugs your neck and jumps up on you.   We can’t; we’re out of control.

In life, sadly we get no do-overs.  We don’t get to remake yesterday; we only create today.  I found out by watching the evening news, something I rarely do anymore.  I felt sick, but prayed for courage and walked over in the rain to see my neighbor yesterday.   We shared quite a few conversations over the years.  We watched as new babies were born, and chatted when the kids played at the pool.  For years I smiled when I would wash dishes at my sink and watch her three rambunctious boys play with their dog and their dad outside my window.

Now there’s a good family I’d think.  They lived, and they worked, and they loved.  They loved Jesus, had cook outs, threw the Frisbee to the dog, and made plans for their future.  But they didn’t make this one.

In a few hours, I’ll be sitting in a church, most likely crying with hundreds of other friends and family members I do not know.  I’m sad and stunned by the loss of a great neighbor.   I can’t even begin to comprehend their loss of a father and husband who was cherished.

I only know this:  They are not alone.   When I went to visit yesterday, the house was full.  Full of comforting friends, grieving grandmothers, crawling babies, church ladies making food, and a sad dog wondering why all the people but no papa.  I walked in, and my newly widowed neighbor was laughing.  Laughing!  She was briefly in a happy moment as she was showing pictures to relatives.  This made me cry.  I knew when she turned around, there I’d be, another face with tears that kept repeating and confirming: It’s real.  It happened.  He’s gone.  I’m so sorry.

Hugs and tears were exchanged.  My feeble words were compensated for by God’s loving grace.  I was astounded by this mom’s great faith, for these dark hours where she stands and greets people warmly, clasps their hands and repeatedly says, “thank you.”  I reel at the unfairness of life.  I want to take this from her and spare her loving sons.  I can’t.  I have zero control.  They are going to walk through this anyway.

This is the moment we live our faith.  How do we respond when we go through what we didn’t ask for and once we are made aware of what someone else is going through?   I don’t know exactly; I know I can only start with this:  I pray.  I ask for wisdom, grace, comfort, and time to give these things.  I thank God for time we share with family, friends, neighbors, even when it’s brief.   I beg God for mercy and ask for all needs to be met.  I ask for this family to be surrounded by lots and lots of love, especially the long days ahead.

Every moment is indeed a gift; it really is a present.  I pray today that you can unwrap the love and then give it away.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:1-2

Though our grief is devastating, God’s grace truly is amazing.

 

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.

     Wild Child!   Such a fitting nickname for me, and so many of my friends—that is if we were still stuck in the 1980s.  Ah yes, the carefree 1980s when life was a continuous party, with intermittent breaks reserved for school and part time jobs.  Oh wait, that’s right, we brought the party with us then, so school really was a place of “higher education” and retail and fast food jobs could be experienced as “funemployment”.

Bonfires, boys, beer cans, secrets, laughter, dreams, and things with a funny smell were passed haphazardly amongst friends–we dreamers who were grappling with an idea of what we wanted, but still couldn’t quite name.    Though we were young, clearly we had left childhood, yet still had no clue what it meant to grow up—yet.

Who doesn’t remember the boy or girl at the party who was the center of attention, you know, the one who everyone said, “Man, he (she) is TOTALLY

Out of Control!

      Why that was a badge of honor!  It meant you were superior at taking risks, yet skilled enough to stop with smoke coming off your heels, before diving off a cliff completely.

Fast forward the VHS tape of our lives about twenty five years.  Out of control takes on a different meaning.  Translation:  I’m losing it! 

It means you still don’t quite have it together yet.  You grew up.  You became responsible.  You make lists of things to do, schedules for work, family, and activities.  You call people back, as well as reply by email, text, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which we missed out on in the 1980s.  You either faced someone in person or phone, or avoided them, plain and simple.  Now there’s no excuse for avoidance—we can be stalked by phones (of the land, cell, or smart variety) computer, and quite possibly GPS.

Back in the 80’s we lived, and dreamed about working—a little.  Now we’re “on” 24/7 and are most likely on speed dial with our boss, our clients, our spouses, our kids, our friends, and extended family.  Now we work a lot, and dream about what we would be doing if we were actually living.  You know what I mean, that thing we’d be doing, when we weren’t being so frustratingly responsible.

Hear me correctly.  Responsibility is good; no, it’s great!  We all can think of the self-chosen few who didn’t take responsibility seriously and missed the boat in terms of careers, family, or being independent.   It’s just that with all the responsibility that continuously weighs on us, who doesn’t dream from time to time of just letting go for a while.

Somewhere around forty plus, you realize you’re at the mid-way point.  You question yourself.  Am I successful (enough)?  Did my family/life turn out the way I hoped, more or less?  Should I have become more?  Should I have worked less?  Am I where I am supposed to be?

Maybe you grew up and made good choices and tried to do everything right.  Still:

Life happened.

People still died.  The divorce happened anyway.  You got let go, after all those years.  You had to downsize from your dream home.  Someone you loved abandoned you.  Your child rebelled anyway.  You were told your child has autism.  You didn’t think your spouse would get cancer so young.  Or maybe, you became a smashing success, but somehow the happiness you thought was attached to it, eluded you anyway.

Here’s the deal:  It was always about control.  In our rebellious youth we acted as if we didn’t need it, and by the very act of pretending and avoiding it; we proved we were already mastering deception–the very foundation of control.

Yes, we post our notes, and fill our calendars, and answer our email, all the while, we kid ourselves thinking we know what tomorrow brings.    Yet we know we’re just one phone call away from devastation, or a kiss away from an unforeseen good-bye, and sometimes the miracle moments too, the ones you never saw coming that leave you breathless.  Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that in our heart we make our plans, but God always directs our steps.

We crave control, and try to order our lives in such a way that we appear to have it.  But if you’re like me, God will occasionally interrupt your bliss and hand you a six-pack of situations.  Pop!  ZZZZZZZ!  Start chugging baby.  Before you have time to accept the harshness of the first bitter swallow, BLAM!  Have another one baby!  And another!   Go ahead; drink your fill!  There’s more where this came from!

    I’m not calling God a party-crasher.  I’m just saying– none of us get to stay at the party of endless fun!  We all get called to come home.  Funny thing is, when we surrender our need for all of it, all this control, and can truly turn to someone higher than ourselves, we can finally rejoice in letting go of what we never really had.

We’re out of control though.  It happens.  IT HAPPENED!  Out of control.  OUT OF CONTROL!!

We got spirit, we got soul!  We got some big ideas; we’re out of control!!

— Bono at Glastonbury 360  6/24/2011

Suspended Reality

Posted: June 30, 2012 in Adventure, Faith, Joy, Skydiving, U2
Tags: , , , ,

 Suspended Reality

Suggested Listening: “Beautiful Day” – U2  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vncOE5JICc 

      Go!  And out you jump!  Can you even imagine what that first five seconds feels like when you take the plunge out of an airplane—willingly?  Oh sure, back on earth the decision may have felt totally sane when you were contemplating another item to cross off your bucket list.

Now you’re here.   No time to back out.  You may have traces of fear or you may be totally consumed with it.  No matter.  Your name is called. You and your more than capable instructor, who is attached in tandem to you, stand at the open door and prepare to take the leap.  This leap of faith; you own it!

     You’re OUT!     Wooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!  Your heart is pumping so hard; it feels like it might explode!  The earth is so beautiful from out here.  Sure you’ve flown before, but you were never part of the atmosphere like this.  You’re falling at speeds over 100 mph and cherishing every second of it!   Your mind is a movie camera as it tries to memorize your descent at multiple frames per second.     You redefine status in the Mile High Club; don’t you?!

Your mind is in a state of suspended reality.  You forget that down below babies are being born, wars are being fought, marriages are taking place, people are at desks working, or they’re driving vehicles, or riding on subways, or carrying water while walking  dirt paths, and a trillion other events simultaneously.   How could you?  You are here now.  The earth is silent, save the loud wind that pulls your face back–a temporary face lift.

Your falling, safely, at speeds over 100 mph.  You are at One with your partner that is attached to you and you are at peace with who you are and the world in which you inhabit down below.  This is the moment that you knew you were destined to meet up with.  Your fear left once you saw how beautiful it all was! 

You trust.  You are braver than most people who only tread the earth.  You know family and friends back on earth love you; oh sure they do!  You were always a risk-taker; but never without calculation.  The risk that you took is completely eclipsed by the grand reward which God gave you today:

Life!  It is Magnificent!  This Beautiful Day!

     Your trust in the instructor is required and is repaid a million times over the moment your parachute is pulled.   Like a flower that shoots up, you’re  temporarily pulled back and begin falling slower now, as you return to the gravity you’ve always known.

The moment your feet touch ground, you already know you’ve changed.  You did it!  You carry a new appreciation in your heart.  These pictures that suspend you in time and space will make your heart sing every time you remember.  When you feel the most alive; you truly live.

For Chelsea—So proud of you, my beautiful niece who always walks in a spirit of joy, courage, and faith, knowing that life always turns out for the best!  You are indeed your mother’s daughter!

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,

“why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:31 (NIV)

 

Sunset in Raleigh 6/26/12

 

 Sometimes we get lost because it’s so easy.  We skip from one distraction to the next and in so doing we lose sight of The Big Picture of our life.  We are without compass and have lost our sense of direction.  We rarely have a moment of quiet or peace.  All we really want is to find our way home. 

I can remember when I was a very young child being lost in the woods.  Or at least I felt like I was lost.  I was at the total mercy of my father to return me safely to civilization, my known world.  He did, thankfully.   By middle school I participated in Girl Scouts and enjoyed my first camping trips without parents.

I learned to use a compass by day, but at night we hunkered down in our tents or shelters.  We never once explored the deep dark woods at night.  However, when  I was trying to fall asleep outside under a full moon with crickets chirping all around, and strange movements that could be detected close by, I was more than a little tempted to explore on my own, though my better judgment always kicked in.  We were young girls after all, alone yet together, with den leaders who also were young women–just a slightly more grown up version of ourselves.

It seems I was have always been hungry for adventure, and generally one to travel with relatively little fear “for a woman” some might say.  But I didn’t know then, what I do now.

 Sometime between childhood and adulthood, I learned I had better always be able to find “True North”.    Even “True North” is of limited use, if you are not sure of your arrival destination.

Today we are literally surrounded by a 24/7 onslaught of endless digital media, our old friends the TV and radio, and of course advertising everywhere you turn!  We go out shopping and we sometimes can’t even clarify our own thinking, save for the monitors at the end of every aisle subliminally reprogramming our decision making process over which products to consume.  Go online; it’s way worse!

Our daily travels and errands are constantly bombarded with noise, images, music, sound effects, giant paper billboards, and flashing neon and enormous LED displays that have fourteen different crawls scrolling across.   Times Square makes the Zoo TV Tour look like it was little more than a stationary backdrop.   We get to and from our intended destinations, but we miss 99% of the journey.

We are direction-less wanderersWe’re always in motion, but seem clueless as to where we are actually going.    We are in this space and time but for an infitesimally small fraction of eternity.

U2 was ahead of its time twenty years ago, because their tour foreshadowed the continuous wallpaper advertising and multi-media distractions that we’ve since incorporated as daily routine.  For a concert, it was amazing entertainment!  Now, we seem to live in a state of constant distraction with random or no focus, and no sense of where home (where our heart truly resides).  It’s just too much!

How many of us leave the house with one or more TVs just on?  Perhaps you fall asleep to the lull of “comfort noise”– the conversations of people both real and fictional characters, none of whom know or care for you and vice versa.  We interact with faces on screens more than faces on people!  We’ve silenced our inner voice by a bombardment of noise and lights, and wonder why do we feel so alone?

It’s time to leave it behind!  We need to get back to simple.  We need to leave our cubicles and get engaged in the beautiful day that is all around you.  Unplug from the pod and hear the earth as it actually speaks to you.  Feel the variations of the ground beneath your feet.    If you’re in the city, I hope you can carve out a regular time to visit somewhere that has tall trees, an absence of concrete, and vast amounts of silence.

Once thoroughly embedded in a night forest, begin traveling my friend.  (Bring a buddy of course, safety first!)  Look up!  Look around!  Do you know where you are?  Can you find True North?

It’s easy.  You’re looking for the North Star.  Her real name is Polaris, she’s also known as the Pole Star or Lode Star.  She’s not the brightest star in the sky, but she is bright.  Here’s how to find her:

  • Find the big dipper.
  • Look at the two stars (top and bottom) farthest away from the dipper’s ladle.
  • The one on the bottom furthest from the Big Dipper’s handle is called Merak–which for some reason makes me think of meerkats!  Whatever!
  • The one on the top furthest from the handle is called Dubhe –go ahead, call it doobie if you’re so inclined!
  • Anyway—while looking at Dubhe, in your mind draw a line that starts at Merak, continues on to Dubhe,  and in the same direction look until you see the top of the handle of the Little Dipper.
  • The very top star of the Little Dipper is Polaris.  Congratulations, you’ve found the North Star!

It’s easier to find Polaris by starting with the identifying the Big Dipper first since the Little Dipper isn’t always easily recognizable in the night sky.

Hopefully, now you know how to find your way home geographically.  But what about your heart?  Where is home?  Who or where is your North Star?  I hope you find it.   You already know this:  In life, there are plenty of black holes, most of them super massive!    At the “event horizon” of a black hole, is the point of no return; it’s where the pull of gravity will irrevocably take you down.  You can’t escape, even if you are traveling faster than the speed of light.   You’re sucked in, stretched thin, and shredded to pieces.   Sound like anyone you know?

So find True North.  May this be your moment of surrender.  You may think I’m not easy on my knees.   Look up—do you see what I see?   North Star.   And may your heart sing A New Song (40) as you journey home.

‘Cause there’s only one light that can guide you
Guide you home, home

Say it, say it, say it, say it
I can’t wait any longer
I can’t wait any longer for your love

“North Star” – U2

Suggested Listening:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuUsn3Ck9bU

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