Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grace inside a Sound

I have a habit of relating song lyrics to books, movies, prayer requests, television, events at work, and life experiences. Most of the time, the lyrics make a silly connection to whatever occupies my brain. Every once in a while, I feel more inspired. The week the new U2 CD came out I was reading the book of Luke. When I heard these lyrics:

These days are better than that

Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn

Every day I have to find the courage

To walk out into the street

With arms out, got a love you can’t defeat

Neither down or out

There’s nothing you have that I need

I can breathe, Breathe now

I couldn’t stop thinking about the lines below from Luke. These lines are from a section titled “Lambs in a Wolf Pack” where Jesus sends 70 (or 72) men out carrying nothing but a few toiletries and the simple charge to knock on doors and say “Peace” to whoever answers. I am quoting from The Message translation with highlights for emphasis below:

“When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s Kingdom is right on your doorstep!’ When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say ‘The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we’re giving it back. Did you have any idea that God’s Kingdom was right on your doorstep?’ Sodom will have it better on Judgment Day than the town that rejects you.”

LUKE 10: 8-12

“The one who listens to you, listens to me. The one who rejects you, rejects me. And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me.” The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!” Jesus said, “I know, I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightening out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you- that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”

LUKE 10: 16-20

For me, the lyrics above from Breathe bring extra depth and life to the story above from Luke. When I abide in God’s truth, I find grace. And if I share God’s truth and I’m rejected, I have the peace, strength and courage of God’s Kingdom to say, “There’s nothing you have that I need, I’m neither down or out, I have a love you can’t defeat, so I can breathe.”

“I’ve found grace inside a sound, I found grace, it’s all that I found, and I can breathe.” –U2, Track 10, No Line on the Horizon, Breathe

Friday, March 20, 2009

In the Zone

While hanging with my brother the other day, he mentioned a memory from when we lived in New Orleans. We lived in New Orleans for the first five years of my life, so he didn’t think I’d remember the event he described. I didn’t, but said that I did have vivid memories from New Orleans. He figured riding my bike with a cast on my leg was one, and he was right. This made me think about how important music was to me and one of my earliest memories of the impact music has had on my life. I just shared this particular memory in a FaceBook note tag craze titled “15 albums that impacted my life.” However, here I will segue into songs that I connect with deeply and put me in what I call THE ZONE.

Briefly, when I was 4, the boy across the street intentionally rode his bike over my legs, breaking my right leg. This put me in some sort of shock and I stopped talking. I was pretty much a zombie for most of the day. Several hours after we returned from the hospital, I was still unresponsive. So my mom put on the soundtrack to Oliver! Almost immediately I came out of my trance and started connecting with my family. Throughout the years, I noticed there were certain songs that would put me in The Zone where I felt a special deep connection that seemed beyond words of description. I could say the lyrics mean something special, but sometimes the lyrics don’t make that much sense apart from the music. Most recently the song that puts me in The Zone is “Moment of Surrender” on U2’s new CD. Below I’ve listed a few more songs that take me into The Zone. I have written about some of these in other blog posts.

*Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys
*Harvest Moon or Old Man – Neil Young
*Go on Through- Afro Celt Sound System
*Paradise or Idaho- The BoDeans
*Northern Star- Ollabelle
*Much Farther to Go – Rosie Thomas
*All at Sea or My Yard – Jamie Cullum (or his cover of High and Dry)
*In the Sun – Joseph Arthur
*Girl in the War, Wolves, or Temptation of Adam- Josh Ritter
*North Dakota – Lyle Lovett
*Mercy Street – Peter Gabriel
*Day of Reckoning – Robbie Robertson (or his original of Broken Arrow)
*Fragile, Dead Man’s Rope, or Mad About You – Sting
*This is the Day – The The (most recently used in an M&M’s ad, what the heck?)
*Beauty of a Dream- Thomas Dolby
*Protected- Tim Finn
*All I Want is You, One, When I look at the World, or An Cat Dubh – U2

Most people can relate to that “In the Zone” feeling. Surrendering to The Zone submerges me in feeling completely comfortable with truth, consumed by grace, and intimately loved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Intimacy of Redemption

Last week the intimacy of redemption caught me off guard. I had only met the people I was with that night an hour before. There is no possible way I could have known how they would act as profound vehicles of God’s deep love and knowledge of me. They still don’t know. They didn’t notice the tears of gratitude trickling throughout the evening. While these new friends shared bits of their past to illustrate answers to simple questions posed, I felt Jesus surrounding me. The Jesus who knew how many men the woman at the well had been with when he told her he was the permanent remedy to her thirst for love. The Jesus who knew the hidden pains of the people who were about to throw stones at the woman caught in adultery. The Jesus who knows me intimately and redeems childhood pains both experienced and witnessed I thought were long buried. The next day I cried the tears I had tucked away when I withdrew from love gone astray. And then I sent an email to a couple of friends. Here’s an excerpt:

I don't know if I've ever told you about my brother and the troubles he's been in over the years. I can't really explain the deep & intimate healing I'm experiencing. This is healing only God could possibly know I needed. This is a depth of God's love I didn't even know I was missing. For some reason beyond my current comprehension, He is using these people to show me a tangible redemption that is somehow healing the pain I witnessed and experienced as a child growing up in the shadow of my brother. Pain so old I had totally dismissed it and swept it under the rug.

The movie “Bella” demonstrates the intimacy of redemption beautifully. Jose and Nina spend a day together, simply being together with no agenda. Their day together is prompted by a simple offer made by Jose to talk about an unplanned pregnancy troubling Nina. It’s really a typical day in NYC. I’ve had NYC days like that, but not for those reasons. I love those days when going with the flow reveals incredibly juicy fruits. In “Bella” Jose is struggling with flashbacks of a tragic event that changed his life. The movie is journey that shows the grace of a family’s love and how to accept hardships and truly count them as joy. Mostly, “Bella” shows how simple acts of love and friendship can provide deep unprecedented healing for all involved.

The perfection of God’s truth and grace will redeem all pain. Yes, even that one…the one we try to control by hiding it away. As I have been pondering the intimacy of redemption this week, these lyrics have played repeatedly in my head,

“At the moment of surrender, a vision over visibility…” –U2

The best thing about the intimacy of God’s redemption is that it requires nothing of us but a willingness to live in surrender to His Will.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Saved from Sex Slavery

Some friends recently returned from a week in Mumbai. They went to share God’s love with girls who were recently rescued from forced prostitution. Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders (some international and non-governmental organizations place the number far higher), and the trade is growing. (U.S. Department of State. 2004. Trafficking in Persons Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State.) Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year, 70 percent are female and 50 percent are children. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. (Ibid.)

These girls in Mumbai had either been sold by their families into prostitution or kidnapped into the sex trade. Before meeting the girls they were there to serve, the team (about 40 people from my church community) was taken through the red light district in taxis. Some of the comments after the red light district tour included, “We were just 8 feet away from a girl being raped,” and “the eyes of the girls were blank-no life.”

My friend, Jamie, posted a note on FaceBook to sum up her experience. Here are a few excerpts:

Trash is everywhere. In the streets, on top of shanty roofs, in the streams, lakes and every square inch were a person isn't already occupying space. Slums are EVERYWHERE. It is strange - I wasn't as shocked at the poverty as I thought I would be (maybe I've been desensitized by Save the Children commercials)...despite the despair that was all around, there was such an incredible amount of SURVIVAL that it was actually rather hopeful. The belief of one GOD might not be saturating Mumbai, but HE is defiantly taking care of those people (in a way that we might not consider care - but it's life).”

These girls haven't seen or been in contact with their families in years. The only soul on the Earth that they know loves them are the nuns who take care of them. For us to come all the way from the United States for just 3 days to play and love and create with them was such a huge sign of affection - from strangers! I cannot imagine how that made them feel, but I know it made me feel on fire!”

Some of the girls had been given permission by the nuns to come and help paint the murals which were going on the walls of their bedrooms. Many of these girls had never held a paintbrush in their life. Being creative is not something you take the time for when you're worried about surviving. Art is so therapeutic and can do wonders for rehabilitation from traumatic events. One of my friends on the mural team said that after one of the girls had finished painting a section of the wall (color by number style) she stepped back and gasped while saying, "I cannot believe I DID THIS!". It brings tears to my eyes as I think about it! They were creating something beautiful for the first time in their life. Being told what to do and how to do it for 16 years of ones life and then finally seeing yourself create freely - amazing. God's hand was on EVERYTHING and EVERYONE in that house.”

Our final act of love was washing the girls’ feet. While our teams were getting the buckets of water ready outside, the nuns reminded the girls of the story in the Bible (only one of the girls in the house was a Christian - the rest were Muslim and Hindu), where the prostitute washed Jesus' feet and then he washed hers as an act of love and respect. Washing their feet was probably one of the most humbling and emotional experiences of my life. I could not believe all that God had in store for us with these girls. While running water over their small, dark feet, I felt like I was washing away all their loneliness, worries, and fear. I wanted to make it all better for them and through that act, I believe that God was moving through me and comforting the hearts of those amazingly tough girls. There was not a dry in sight. Everyone was audibly bawling. It was hard seeing the girls break down emotionally like that - I couldn't help but imagine how many times they must have broken down like that after being raped or after being rescued and so afraid and alone, or any given night when they have no idea what their future holds. Except this time, they were crying not because they were sad or scared, but because they were stunned that complete strangers could show them so much love in just few short days. After we finished washing their feet - they surprised us by asking if they could wash our feet. I am literally crying as I write this - reliving this experience is almost as emotional as going through it.”

Yes, God’s love is GREAT- truly beyond comprehension. And the way God used this team in Mumbai- worked in them and through them- to demonstrate His love to these girls who knew nothing of love for too long is inspiring. Not surprisingly, U2 has lyrics that sum this up nicely. From Window in the Skies:

Oh, can't you see what love has done
To every broken heart
Oh, can't you see what love has done
For every heart that cries
Oh, can't you see what love has done
Love left a window in the skies
Oh, can't you see what love has done
And to love I rhapsodize

In Mumbai, my friends witnessed extraordinary examples of God's Truth and Grace. And they saw an awesome demonstration of what LOVE has done.