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Saturday, January 08, 2011

redeeming those gift cards

i was working on a talk which seemed to turn scripturally on the word redeemed.

that's when the voices started.

southern gospel quartet voices, each carrying its own old-time harmony to new levels of sentimentality.


(wait for it)

his child, and forever, i am

i had to make the voices stop and the only way to do it was to arrange the classic Fanny Crosby song differently. Hymn #382 in the hymnal got 2 or 3 passes before i hastily hit 'record' on my laptop.

the first recorded version was probably performed better, but the sound quality was terrible because the microphone hadn't been set properly. the second one ended up on youtube.

peace at last.

still, the words continue to reassert themselves:

Redeemed- how I love to proclaim it
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed by his infinite mercy
His child, and forever, I am...

all this proclamation seems to be a bit lost in today’s context. i mean, apart from Christmastime when we hold our heads high and boldly sing of the ‘reason for the season’ do we do a whole lot of proclaiming these days? and yet, there is a sense that failing to proclaim God’s work in our lives is like keeping a gift card in the drawer... the gift giver didn’t pay to establish the value of a piece of plastic so that it could sit in the drawer unused.

the gift card is a token, representing the price paid by another... when produced and redeemed by the recipient, the gift card is exchanged for goods and services at no charge to the bearer. it represents an intended gift not yet received in fullness. on its own or in a drawer with a bunch of others, it is merely a piece of plastic, but redeemed it brings the realization of the intended gift.

perhaps our lives are tokens, representing the price paid by Christ... not only to truly establish our value, but also to bring to realization God’s intended gift: complete and uninhibited relationship for all with the creator of the universe. Jesus has given us life and has paid the price for our freedom- the freedom offered to us all to be used of him by being selflessly given to people in need of that which we’ve already received.

huddled together, though, the freedom to be used is forfeit.

redeemed as his child.
redeemed forever- with no expiry date.
redeemed to be used now.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Somebody left a note on my facebook page this morning about how they still feel John Lennon's love today.

At the time I read it, I had remarks to make which i kept to myself. After all, most things I've read or viewed do not portray John as a particularly loving guy...

(these weren't simply McCartney-sanctioned communiques either)

But then I started listening to my Lennon records in an effort to somehow commemorate the 30-year anniversary of his murder, remembering how I felt as a sixteen year-old, working a grill shift at McDonald's when I heard the news. Beginning with the most recent album I had (
John Lennon Collection), I proceeded chronologically backwards in my listening. Next was, of course, 'Double Fantasy', the intended comeback and yet final studio album, credited to 'John Lennon and Yoko Ono'.

That's always bugged me. Yoko always bugged me. Forget 'breaking up the Beatles' and all that. From the time John Lennon met Yoko Ono in 1968, she was inescapable for any Lennon fan. Double Fantasy was supposed to be this great Lennon event, but we all saw the credit and the cover art and knew that it wasn't going to be the record we had hoped it would be. I mean, Avant garde is cool and everything, but why did her avant garde stuff, complete with vocal panting and grunting and optional singing, set to silly 50's rock standard forms have to be strategically placed inescapably between Lennon classics like (Just Like)Starting Over, Watching The Wheels and Woman?

The answer?

Many wedding liturgies contain a question of intent that is worded this way:

"Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?"

Forsaking all others.
ALL others

Yep. Lennon forsook the Beatles, the critics, the fans, the right wingers, the left wingers, the punters, the sycophants... even the little people like me who felt we had rights to what his art should sound like and what songs should be included on an album he had created. All for a girl.

Paul (the apostle, not the Beatle) wrote that "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."

And whereas John Lennon may not have been a particularly loving guy to many, he certainly seemed to be loving towards Yoko and their 5 year old son, Sean. Just listen to 'Double Fantasy' from beginning to end. The sound of Love is unmistakeable.

What is Love without object and expression anyway?

I guess I can still feel the love too- just needed to figure out how to enter its presence.


so long, johnny. sorry you were stolen from us the way you were.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

number 27

Life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we'd all been ready
Children died, the days grew cold- a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind- the Son has come and you've been left behind.

A man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head- he's gone
I wish we'd all be ready
Two men walking up a hill- one disappears and one's left standing still
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind- the Son has come and you've been left behind.

Life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we'd all been ready
Children died, the days grew cold- a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind- how could you have been so blind?
The Father spoke, the demons dined, the Son has come and you've been left behind.

Sadly, there were no cameras running during Larry Norman's epic 1979 tour. It was my first rock concert ever, and my first road trip with no 'adults' present. My life was never the same after that.
After playing the hits with an all-star band consisting of other Solid Rock Records feature artists -Tom Howard was on keys and Alex MacDougall of Daniel Amos was on drums- 'the Hairy Mormon' (as my friends and I had jokingly dubbed him) launched into an ultra heavy version of 'number 27' from our youth group's worship music duo-tang: I Wish We'd All Been Ready. At the end of the song, while the band riffed and rumbled underneath, the singer assaulted the audience by shouting the big question of the song over the din: WHY?
Scared the hell out of me.
The clip below is fairly tame by comparison, but affords us a glimpse of the kind of singing/preaching that established Larry Norman as a founding father of the fledgling genre that would become Jesus Music and would give a whole new generation of musical believers hope of moving beyond the old-time gospel expressions that were the only legitimate musical forms prior to the early 1970's.

Guys like Larry, Randy Stonehill, Barry McGuire, Randy Matthews, Phil Keaggy and others were all on that cutting edge that separated what had already been done from what could be done. They were responding to Jesus' words by writing songs and playing them wherever they could with an urgency that was infectious. Lives were changed, not because these musicians were perfect or because their message was, as I shared in my talk, a terrifying endtimes message of Christ's immanent return. Lives were changed because the Holy Spirit was using these guys and their music to get people's attention in ways that were relevant to the day, effectively challenging the indifference of man to the things of God with a holy dissonance that demanded decision-making. Christian Kids shared these records with their 'non-Christian' friends and talked about the lyrics, discussing what they might mean and, more importantly, what their message might imply.
I know of at least one other kid who was drawn slowly, but purposefully towards that gospel light simply through sitting around listening to records and talking. Eventually, when a moment of decision presented itself at a concert, my friend was ready to move into it. Even though years have passed and we don't see each other anymore, there is this great satisfaction in my heart that somehow, just by sharing my love for Jesus and my love for music with a friend simultaneously, God was able to move. On that day of days, whenever and however it comes to pass, I will look over to see a man with whom I grew up, with whom I walked up many a hill, standing in paradise wearing, perhaps, the same look of bewilderment that is upon my own face.
We are who we are for God's glory, to be used of him to bring the world to an understanding of his love and of the possibilities that lie within reach of realization for those who accept it, having pushed past the indifference that is too often the human condition. In what ways are we, today, walking on the cutting edge that separates that which has already been done from that which could be?

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

nothing to kill or die for

i had the opportunity to do some community service

as part of a remembrance day observance in a local school, i got to accompany a choir of charming 11 year olds as they sang of the utopia that they will hopefully build for themselves (as it doesn't look like they're going to inherit it from those of us who have come before them.)

imagine there's no heaven
it's easy if you try
no hell below us
above us only sky
imagine all the people living for today

imagine there's no countries
it isn't hard to do
nothing to kill or die for
and no religion too
imagine all the people living life in peace

you may say i'm a dreamer
but i'm not the only one
i hope one day you'll join us
and the world will be as one

imagine all possessions
i wonder if you can
no need for greed or hunger
a brotherhood of man
imagine all the people sharing all the world

you may say i'm a dreamer
but i'm not the only one
i hope one day you'll join us
and the world will live as one

interesting how some things get diluted as they are shared from person to person; generation to generation. it's a huge game of 'telephone'.

a friend was recently telling me of how her husband and son attended a paul mccartney show, and bought a t-shirt. the son wore the shirt to school and began to receive flak from another kid in the class over it... this other kid was wearing a lennon shirt.

it kinda figures that the lennon kid would give the mccartney kid a hard time. the conflict was legendary and whereas mccartney was probably more controlling, lennon was definitely more confrontational. for a guy whose most memorable statements were about peace, he sure did have a way of getting in people's faces about it. the fact that many of his disciples would get it all wrong seems about right.

kinda like Jesus

Christ was a confrontational contrarian whose way is carved out fairly clearly in his manifesto as a pushback against all that was wrong with organized religion circa 30 a.d... but as often happens, his message and his methods became confused over time, moving from a spiritually transformative underground justice movement that served as such a threat to the empire that involvement in it was seen as treason and punishable by death, to the state-sanctioned religion of the empire in less than 300 years... and an empire of its own in less than 500 years more.

a progressive or regressive legacy?

What if the religion generally associated with Jesus neither expects nor trains its adherents to actually live in the way of Jesus?
(brian d mclaren)

to live that manifesto- there's the challenge.

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Monday, November 01, 2010


clear or clever?
pick one

in most cases communication can't be both

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

justice monster

recently i was introduced by my son to a really interesting TV show called 'dexter.' after viewing a couple episodes rented from the local blockbuster, i was kinda hooked.

the show is not what one would expect, given the title. this is a superhero show for a new millennium, telling the story of a serial killer named dexter morgan who does forensic work for miami PD, always on the scene but too close to the action to be that cool about it- something's a bit off. in a rather wild spin on clark kent's work in the newsroom, peter parker's photography or bruce wayne's direct line to the police, dexter works for the police in order to know where he can serve humanity. see, in order to satisfy his bloodlustful urges and still somehow be able to sleep at night, dexter morgan only kills other serial killers.

the obvious hypocrisy aside, this is an attempt at redemption. the guy recognizes that being a sociopathological murder machine is clearly antisocial, and struggles to understand himself and his secrets before he makes that one mistake that will ultimately lead to their exposure. dexter races against time and circumstance, making breakthrough after pyschological breakthrough, moving evermore towards becoming human, all the while taking what he feels is the moral high road and restricting his murderous appetites to those who 'deserve to die' (IE: those who prey upon the innocent, rather than the guilty.)

but what about us? this is a fictional character that we as a culture have created for our own entertainment, yet it is one who looks suspiciously like ourselves. we have this understanding of right and wrong and are able to discern between the two most of the time- at least in our actions. under the surface, however, we sometimes judge people unreasonably and subject them to harsh scrutiny, violence and humiliations galore within our heart of hearts. occasionally, we even share these negative perspectives with others, and in so doing, pollute them with the same toxins that are burning holes into our own ability to love and offer grace, help and support.

could it be that we create characters like dexter morgan as projections of what we wish we were cold enough to be for real sometimes? have we taken the whole superhero thing to startling new vigilantic heights, nobilizing sociopathy by creating a new type of superhero- a justice monster that needs no help in taking out the trash?

as we vicariously commit murder after murder, allowing ourselves to be entertained by the darkness that requires carnal satisfaction in the name of justice, Jesus' words in his famous sermon on the mount pose a challenge to us:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

in this small portion of Jesus' greatest oration, he acknowledges that murder is the ultimate outcome of something more subtle but nonetheless antisocial- the ability that human beings have to measure and evaluate each other, finding others lacking in worth. it is at the centre of our greatest crimes against one another and against God. perhaps if we could just stop deeming others 'unworthy' of blessing, favour, love, life and dignity (often because they fail where we fail) and see their inherent value, we wouldn't need to work out our issues by creating stories where killing others, rather than acting justly, even heroically on behalf of those in moral need is the solution.

i wonder what we'd watch on TV then...
or if we'd even have the time or interest to bother with it?

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

mine is in the mail

it might be preachy, or even condescending but it was something I thought to be pretty self-evident. Seems I was wrong. So I'm heart broken and 30 dollars lighter

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