Adele, Bob Dylan, and the Love of God

I gave my wife a new CD for Christmas…I know…who actually gives physical discs you can then use to play music as Christmas gifts anymore. But, that’s not really the point here. The point is I gave her a CD of Adele: Live at The Royal Albert Hall. It’s a great CD by an amazing singer.

It’s always refreshing to hear someone with such amazing talent who is not the cookie cutter image that you see in many female singers today.  She is average height and weight.  She doesn’t attach prosthetic parts to her body and she isn’t really big into showing her underwear….she just has an amazing voice. 

So, my wife had her CD playing upstairs in the kitchen while we wash dishes (don’t say it, yes WE wash dishes).  On the CD of this concert, Adele begins singing a song entitled, “Make you Feel My Love”. I learned the song was written by, Bob Dylan, and first released by, Billy Joel. Now, I know it’s a kind of love song, probably written from one person to the another to express just how he feels about her. But as I’m loading the dishwasher, and listening to her presentation, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit with a reminder of God’s love for us. Here are some of the lyrics to the song:

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no – one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I’d go hungry
I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling
Down the avenue
Know there’s nothing
That I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

Now read the words of Scripture:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.

20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15: 20

Listening to a Bob Dylan song sung by Adele, I was blown away by the relentless love of God. This God, who in Jesus Christ, has pursued us to the ends of the earth and beyond. A God who paces on the porch watching for the return of His children. A God for whom there is nothing He has not done to show us His love.  And here’s the thing….nothing separates us from this Love…nothing. Paul was convinced of it…but you and I…we’re not always so sure.  We don’t know how to respond to this love. It burns hot and we turn away to follow after things we understand – earning acceptance and living conditionally with other people.

Allowed to go unchecked in our lives, this love will crush our pride and arrogance, reveal our sinfulness and rebellion, and brings us to repentance and surrender. We will crawl back as slaves only to be reunited as children of the most High.

I want so much to open my life to the fire of God’s love — allowing this love to burn away all that exists of  sin and selfishness and this endless desire to please others. To allow this love to overflow in the way that I interact with my family, with my co-workers, with the people who are hardest to love and the ones who will not or can not love me in return.

I know….it’s just a love song.

But thanks for the reminder Adele….and Bob.

Why I’m going to visit Occupy Richmond

I am not a political writer or commentator and I don’t consider myself a particularly “political” person (whatever that means). I do try to follow what is happening on the political scene and discern as best I can where the truth is to be found in the 24/7 news cycle that has mesmerized North America.

But I’ve lost the taste for simply toeing a party line because as a “good Christian” (same quotes as political person) that is the line to which I must conform. I can no longer separate myself from another person, because of political affiliation or sexual orientation or beliefs that differ from my own.  This is our natural tendency, to classify, to qualify other people, to find a category in to which they fit and apply the labels. Sometimes we create these classifications, and sometimes we simply take what the guy (or gal) on the radio or tv says and plagiarise their opinions.

What bothers me most when I do that to a group of people is rarely do I actually know someone within that group. At times the church is good at staying clustered within the castle of similar ideas and beliefs, all the while zeroing in on another group to attack — lobbing words like grenades and expelling anyone who does not run to the wall with weapons in hand.

This is not the way of Jesus….and so this cannot be my way either.

There has been a lot on the news about the “Occupy” movement. I am not an “occupy” person, though I do agree that there is much in our government and financial institutions that is broken and must be spoken against by its citizens. I also strongly denounce any of the violence and destruction that has been attributed to certain occupy gatherings — this is not the answer for real and lasting reform.

But I plan to visit the occupy movement in Richmond this week.  I want to do this for a number of reasons. First, because I have formed opinions and categories for a group of people without knowing a single name, or speaking face to face. I imagine there is much that I will disagree with when it comes to Occupy. And yet, I also imagine there is much I will find in common.  I also plan to visit because if I were being honest I have objectified this group of people and arranged them neatly into a category I have been given, without really knowing what they are about or any of the people actually involved.

This way of living is always easier….but again it feels cheap and disassociated with the way of Jesus. A way that always engaged, entertained, and even shared a party with “those people”. Jesus had this Spirit-led way of living with others in which he held truth in one hand and love in the other as he embraced the labeled but faceless people of his day.

And so I plan to visit Occupy Richmond with no agenda other than to meet people, shake some hands, introduce myself, and actually see for myself what they are all about. I hope to report back here as clearly as I can, highlighting the ideas I share in common with the movement as well as the way in which our paths diverge.

As I write this I cannot help but think about other “groups” of people I have already passed judgement on from a distance….probably more than I want to admit to you here.

I love Mary: Joseph’s side of the story

Below is a monologue written from Joseph’s perspective.

I love Mary.

For the last year my plans have centered on only one thing…to marry her, to take her home…to OUR home, and raise a family together. Do you know what it is like to plan for a life and a world that doesn’t exist yet? A life so full of hope and expectation? I would fall asleep at night in the dream of that new world.

But…. Then Mary said she had something…something she needed to tell me. She was shaking as she sat across from me. Through the tears she struggled to explain something that cannot be explained, to excuse something that was inexcusable. Mary claimed there was this angel, this promise, and now…this…. baby.

I stumbled to find any words, but what could I say? My whole life I struggled to live honorably, according to the Law of Moses. I knew the expectations in our community, and I also knew the leaders who watched over it. I loved Mary, I wanted to take her home, I wanted to raise our family together. But now…what? What do I do now Lord? If she is lying how can I ever trust her? And if she is telling the truth, then, Lord, why? Why have you chosen us to walk this path? A path where I now become the Father to a boy who will look nothing like me, and yet call me his Abba?

So I decided to approach the necessary people…quietly…and put an end to the plans I had made for our life together.

And then…just a few days ago, there was this…. this dream. It was after evening prayers. Exhausted I fell in to bed. As I slept I had this dream that I was standing on a hill overlooking the Holy City. I could see the temple towering over the surrounding houses, casting shadows all the way to the city gate. I talked to no one, but I knew something was wrong. The wind was warm on my skin as I began to hear the chants and screams of the crowd as they snaked through the winding roads of the city.

Outside the gate, Roman soldiers raised a new group of criminals to be crucified. Suddenly the sun hid its face and darkness surrounded me. I heard screams of people running out of the temple as the earth shook beneath my feet. I fell to the ground in fear and with a sorrow I did not fully understand. Yet In that same moment I was enveloped in a brilliant light. I struggled to stand to my feet once again. What I experienced next is difficult to describe. It was as if all that I had known of hardship and pain and death and oppression – this old world itself seemed to melt away into the light and love of God and His new world. Instinctively I raised my hands in the air and began to laugh uncontrollably. It felt as though I had been freed from chains I could not see but had been holding me down.

As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I felt a small hand grab my own. I turned around to see Mary standing there, and instantly we were back in Nazareth. That’s when I saw the angel. Her mouth did not move, but I heard her say: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because he will save His people from their sins.”

And so…. I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how we are going to explain this to our families. And I do not know why the Lord of all creation chose such a simple couple from a humble town to raise the son of God and usher in this new world.

I only know that a new world IS coming and it is so much more than any I had previously dreamed about.

And I know this….

I love Mary.

So I will take her home…. to OUR home…and together…. we will raise a family.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 
 In you I trust, O my God. 
Do not let me be put to shame.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, 
 For you are God my Savior, 
and my hope is in you all day long.