As a songwriter I usually boil things down to three or four minutes. But some things take a little longer to say. Just ask Bob Dylan. Time is valuable. So I’ll get to the chorus of this non-song as quick as I can and you can read the extra verses if you like.
In this odd quarantine reset, I am rereading George Orwell’s classic, 1984, written in 1949. If you’ve never read it, our current times make a fresh backdrop.
In one defining scene, Syme, a language expert, speaks to Winston, the main character. They both work at the Ministry of Truth where all propaganda is produced in a tightly engineered language called “Newspeak.” See if his words strike you as extremely relevant for our times, 71 years after Orwell wrote them.
(NOTE: Quoting and exploring how these few words from 1949 might resonate in 2020, may touch a nerve with some. Not my intent but a lot of nerves are touchy these days. If this nonmusical musing based on literature gets “filtered” wouldn’t that be irony and prove Orwell’s point? So maybe share this quickly, so I don’t have to turn it into musical satire ; )
Syme says, “Don’t you know the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”
He claims this will ultimately prevent “thought-crime” which is “merely a question of…reality control.” (Section 1, chapter 5)
Wow. “narrow the range of thought” for the purpose of “reality control” Sounds sinister, huh? The stuff of fiction. Like the Capitol of Panem in The Hunger Games or Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. But fiction can certainly mirror reality.
The thought came: What or Who in our current world attempts to control reality by narrowing the range of thought? You may have your own open-minded, wide-ranging thoughts.
And here’s the chorus, which in songwriting usually contains the “hook.”
TWO of These Things Are NOT Like the Others.
Multiple choice. Substitute the following for “Newspeak”
The whole aim of _______________ is to narrow the range of thought, i.e.,” reality control.
Syme sums up by telling Winston that complete adherence to the Orthodoxy of Big Brother, the iron-fisted power in charge, will ultimately mean: “not thinking – not needing to think.”
Hmm, what do you think of that? Not needing to think. Is such a thing even a remote prospect in the land of the free-thinkers? Or is this a very real possibility for those who leave thinking to others?
(In case any tension is building up in you at this point, cue James Brown – Livin in America as a blood pressure release valve and reminder of what great grooves the land of the free has created.)
In Orwell’s future vision there is no First Amendment. In fact, the free speech the First Amendment protects has been criminalized. There is no freedom of speech. Or thought. (or groove) There is Newspeak, a lexicon designed to narrow the range of thought. Speak and think Newspeak or risk being “vaporized.”
In 2020 those not aligned with centrally created, commandeering group-think are not executed, at least not in the U.S. However, the 20th century is strewn with millions of bodies of those who opposed various bad Big Brothers and their group think. In 1949 Orwell had just lived through much of that and was watching versions of it expand around the globe, including his own country, England.
Currently, in the U.S., the reality is, nonsubscribers to stronger central control and other progressive views are marginalized, censored, shouted down, ridiculed, slandered, demonized, boycotted, bullied in the media, universities and public places, deviously investigated, unjustly indicted and sometimes physically attacked for their divergent views. Honest, civil debate is stifled and shutdown. Truth is muzzled. And muddied.
Friction and division are a daily diet. (Hey, that sounds like a Dylan line… Protests rage against a counter riot…Courts make law so the people defy it…OK, let’s write that song later.)
Need some good news? All this friction and division at least mean Orwell’s vision has not come to pass in our country. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are holding back Big Brother (or Big Sister). So far. Odds are, the current Newspeak coalition may forever rail – but will they ever prevail?
We can do more than hope not. We can keep the faith. Live the Truth. Pray. Love our neighbors and adversaries. Try to really see and hear each other through the smoke and noise of contention. Turn the other cheek – at least twice. We can think for ourselves. Uphold our Constitution. Vote and still bear arms (many millions slaughtered in ideological purges could do neither).
Is it naïve to think that in the arena of ideas - independent, untamable thinkers, might at least gain the respect of some who march in step to the monolith of group-think? – or as Orwell described the Party line, “all thinking the same thoughts, shouting the same slogans…all with the same face.”
Is it naïve to think at least some who closely monitor the trip wires of intolerance would tolerate thinking like this? And respond thoughtfully, respectfully? Open to the possibility that opposing views can find civilized solutions? Short of burning down cities? And civil war?
Sad to say, yes, that’s likely naïve. We are witnessing what history has proven, that the ultimate argument of all bully movements and ideologies is force. And the worst of them cannot be stopped by reason, rule of law or kindness.
In Orwell’s vision, thinking and speaking like this would get someone vaporized. Today it might just get filtered by the guardians of community standards, unfriended by the chronically offended, berated with the mangy verbal mascot of the intolerant, the F word. Made invisible. Silenced. Digitally vaporized.
But, here’s the beauty and wily goodness of Divine power. The most steely, ardent adversary can become the most passionate ally. Just watch the movies, JoJo Rabbit, The Mission and The Best of Enemies. Look at the life of the apostle Paul.
Likewise, ideas like freedom are difficult, ultimately impossible, to silence. Rewatch Brave Heart. Reread our own Declaration of Independence. Look at the life of Nelson Mandela. Read playwright Vaclav Havel’s first inaugural address upon becoming the president of a free Czech Republic after spending years imprisoned by a very bad Big Brother. Or contemplate the resurrection of Jesus.
Is it naïve to think the Truth can still set people free? And keep them free? I don’t think so.
( Cue Neil Diamond – They’re Comin to America )
And now, perhaps to your relief, I’ll go back to songwriting.
Imagine Fiction Creating Friction
The gem cannot be polished without friction – Confucius
Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imagine a vast, well-orchestrated movement, lavishly funded and daily pushed forward by thought-bullying academia, high-jacked science and clandestine as well as high-profile elements of government.
Imagine that movement propelled via dark arts and a complicit media that restricts and manipulates content to reshape the entire narrative and culture of a nation, and, in fact, has designs on transforming the whole world.
Imagine certain kinds of speech and ideas fiercely monitored, deemed unacceptable, archaic and dangerous.
Imagine dissenters, especially those professing faith in God, marginalized, vilified and considered a threat to the expanding new order.
Imagine those who take positions contrary to the movement losing their jobs and reputations, prosecuted in the court of public opinion and courts of law, some even jailed.
Imagine their businesses and families targeted by vicious, verbal attacks and public harassment led by paid mob leaders and encouraged by professional politicians and celebrities cheerleading the nasty and deadly mayhem.
Imagine “free” speech costing careers and lives, splintering friendships, communities and races, inciting death threats and actual physical violence against those who speak and support an opposing view.
Imagine such a world.
Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about current events? Before some of you label, marginalize or unfriend me, imagine this scenario as the driving engine of a novel published in 1946. The author described it as a “modern fairy tale for adults.” From his vantage point in England at the end of WWII, having witnessed the carnage of worldwide madness at the hands of brutal, tyrannical forces, the author called the nefarious movement in his fictional story - the “Progressive Element.” His term. In 1946. One of the main characters even ponders what the world will look like in sixty years if the movement is left unchecked.
Here we are seventy-three years since its publication. I suspect the author would never have considered himself a seer like Nostradamus or a prophet like Isaiah, but in this case, does his art take on a prophetic voice? Put on your independent thinking cap, if you still have one, and think it out for yourself.
Or heck, maybe it’s just a story.
If you like stories where the power of fiction creates friction in a power struggle between opposing world views, I highly recommend C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. It’s the third and final book in his Space Trilogy, preceded by Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, I first read all three in the late 70s. Just read the well-worn box set again a third time. (Even discovered a bookmark in the second one, a lovely note on a postcard from an old flame, dated 1981.)
If the epic clash of ideas were not enough, Lewis weaves into That Hideous Strength the strained relationship of a young, but already disenchanted married couple, Mark and Jane. They are being further torn apart by the centrifugal pull of the light and dark sides of the larger cultural struggle. Through the main character, Ransom, Lewis imparts timeless wisdom about the dynamic of what creates or breaks intimacy between two souls.
In case you don’t get to this story as soon as you should, here’s a nugget: Jane has fallen out of love with her husband, not faulting him, but thinking their marriage was a mistake. Ransom tells her, “...you do not fail in obedience through a lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.” Jane assumed equality to be the foundation of a relationship, especially a marriage relationship, “I thought love meant equality and free companionship,” she tells Ransom.
“You were mistaken,” he tells her. “Equality is not the deepest thing…Those who are enjoying, or suffering something together are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not…It’s not your fault. No one has ever told you that obedience – humility – is an erotic necessity.”
And all this, from a middle-aged bachelor professor just a few years ahead of Lewis’ own surprising mid-life romance and joyful marriage.
Wow. Obedience? Humility? Deeper and more essential to love than equality? Would that sell today? Or cause friction? Does it rub against our cries for individuality and inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness? And shed light on both? This very human element woven into the larger story is just another reason I urge you to read this remarkable book.
Consider adding all three books immediately to your reading list. Each one can stand on its own, but as a series they reflect the magnitude of Lewis’ oceanic insight and literary genius. As you read, imagine someone turning them into movies with today’s brilliance in special effects. The space travel, other worlds and fantastic aliens would come alive - as would the dire and heroic conflict and romantic struggle set in the middle of it all. I think you will not find it hard to picture one movie from each book, the plot and characters connecting across all three, like filmmakers did so well with the same author’s allegories, The Chronicles of Narnia. Imagine, in our current clash of world views, the courage that would take and the controversy it could spark, perhaps creating some good friction.
But don’t wait for the movies, enjoy C.S. Lewis’ grand saga in print, in the theatre of your own imagination. See if it rings a familiar bell or two in your non-fiction world, and find out what becomes of Mark and Jane.
The author’s voice may not be as prescient as Nostradamus or Isaiah (or is it?), but for some readers, either fully engaged in the cultural battle or hanging uncertain in the breach, Lewis’ story may play the role of Nathan, who wrecked King David with a story of tyranny, pride, injustice and blindness…and helped cure him of all four.
Or heck, maybe it’s just a story.
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818
“The smoldering ash heap of history is piled high with the bones of Godless nations,
their autocrat narcissists, artist propagandists, invertebrate sycophants and the masses
who revered or defied them.” - Max M. Golden
How will historians view the election of November 8, 2016? As the beginning of the end of America? The beginning of its rebirth? Or a brief but failed resurgence amid the inexorable fall of an empire?
How will other nations view November 8, 2016? The taming and maturing of a super-power? The dimming of a city set on a hill? Or the rekindling of a shining dream among nations?
How will evangelical Christians view it? Just another day that darkness roared and pounced and underestimated the light? Or simply the same field ripe for harvest where souls still need a Savior more than a hero?
How will you view this election day? As a victory of the spirit of humankind punch drunk on liberty and “enlightenment”? A triumph of Social Darwinism emancipating the masses from the shackles of the founding father’s “Creator” who endowed liberty? More of the same tenacious encroachment on freedom from a real world “Capitol” a la Hunger Games? Or a welcome reset, tenuous at best, until the the next election cycle?
How will God view America on November 8, 2016? Probably the same as He does on November 7, 9 and every day of the year:
“He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.” Job 12:23
“He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him.”
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.” Psalm 33:12
“The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.” Psalm 9:15, 17
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
2 Chronicle &:14”
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
“Those who trade the truth for alibis will dine on sand at the banquet of the damned.”
Max M. Golden
Here is yet another way to view this election choice through all the noise.
Nations only drift if people drift. Election time is always a litmus test for truth and drift. It presents a good opportunity for self examination. Am I part of the drift? A militant drifter? A passive, silent go-with-the-flow drifter? Or am I standing amid the rising tide, willing to take the pressure, prejudice and even persecution?
Will my vote promote drift? Or resist it and restore something lost by drifting? Beyond my vote and this election cycle, does my life promote drift? Or resist it and restore something essential?
In these “modern", “progressive” times, is drift inevitable because all things, including truth, are movable? If there is no center, nothing truly sacred and immovable to drift away from, then resistance is as futile and meaningless as the drift. And we are all destined to dine on sand and sing along to - who else? The Drifters:
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there's always magic in the air
But when you're walkin' down that street
And you ain't had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere
Using only their own words, let’s play FIND THE DISSONANCE.. (No, not DJT or HRC’s words.)
“Without the right to and reverence for life, Liberty becomes tyranny, even decimation, and the pursuit of happiness rings hollow in the halls of history and hell.” Max M. Golden
“All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class, and if morality is to mean anything at all to us, we must regard all the changes which tend toward the uplift and survival of the human race as moral.”
“The most interesting incident of my life was some years ago when I was sitting beside a dying child's bed, watching the pulse and waiting for the crisis. It was about two o'clock in the morning. I started to take the pulse of the child and as I did so, I saw two bodies of the child - one slightly above the other exactly in the same position and an exact replica - except that it was not flesh but a substance more like cob-webs the color of smoke. I stood back and beheld this extraordinary phenomena and watched the upper body move majestically away in a horizontal position across the room and through the closed steel door. The physical body remained and was still breathing. Consciousness was never regained and an hour after, the little girl ceased to breathe.”
Birth control means: “the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks— those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.”
“…the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
“A farmer would rather produce a thousand thoroughbreds than a million runts. How are we to breed a race of human thoroughbreds unless we follow the same plan? We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds.”
founder of Planned Parenthood.
“…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 King David
“…they knew God but did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thought and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. Thinking themselves wise, their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Apostle Paul Romans 1:21,22
MIRACLE ALERT: Matthew was our first hurricane. A doozy. Wyatt turned 17 on the day the storm hit. Memorable present. We decided to evacuate. Loaded up pictures, videos, paintings, guitars, guns, computers, our little dog Lucy Loo Hoo and Sawyer’s 5’ stuffed bear. Headed 35 miles inland to Kellie’s parents, unsure, like so many, what we would come back to.
Wyatt and I drove back Saturday to find our acre of 25+ trees smothered in fallen branches, some huge. But NOT A SHINGLE MISSING or even ruffled! No broken windows! No flooding! Not one tree down! A giant limb barely missed the new AC unit. The pool lanai completely in tact. Not one puncture or tear! By contrast, less than a mile down the road an airport hanger was destroyed.
Praise Carl Sagan's brute physics and capricious chance? Hardly.
According to my sailor friend Ed, NSB was spared by an act of God through physics. At low tide Saturday morning surge was 3 feet, equal to high tide, poised to wreak havoc pushed by 100 mph winds from the sea. BUT, the eye of Matthew turned/remained farther off shore than expected. Hmm. Plus, right before high tide, its position switched the wind direction. Hmm. The northeasterly billows became trailing winds from the west. Hmm. This pushed back the surge and massive waves to spare many in our town the level of devastation north of us through the Carolinas. Hmm.
Miracle? Purely physics? Luck? Hmm. Certainly a choreography of land, sky and sea...directed by? allowed by? (Some might feel…unleashed by?)
Of course, this begs the question. Was all the damage, destruction and even death elsewhere divine choreography? God's intended or permissive will? Permissive, certainly. All I know is sometimes the Lord calms the wind and the wave and sometimes he lets it rumble, humble and even crumble us. I have experienced all of the above and continue to believe: Life is hard, but God is good.
A majority of “we the people” clearly think the two leading presidential candidates are less than stellar. This speaks volumes about the shape America is in. But here we are. Are you torn like I am?
It seems this election cycle comes down to a choice between Caricature or Conniver in Chief.
To support Caricature in Chief presents extreme dissonance. He actually said he’s “never needed to ask for forgiveness.” I thought only Jesus could make that claim. Caricature broadcasts an echo chamber of clichés and slogans amplified by bravado, oblivious to the absence of substance. How did bluster without details ever build all those buildings and businesses? Apparently one needs to be very cautious and lawyered up when doing business with him. Granted, every story has at least two sides and, to be sure, somehow in the business world he gets things done.
However, do swagger and imperiousness honor the Oval office and serve the people? We’ve had a taste of both recently and America is struggling even more - racially, economically, in foreign relations and morally.
Does Trump remind anyone else of a genetic mashup of Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy and Looney Tunes’ Yosemite Sam?
On the other side, supporting Conniver in Chief rings with grinding disharmony, requiring a suspension of reason, wisdom and common sense. Madam Conniver is kindred to Community Organizer in Chief who proclaimed "You can keep your doctor and your coverage.” Can anyone who perpetually foxtrots around the truth with such ease and tenacity ever be trusted?
How thick must Conniver’s skin be to stand in front of grieving families and lie to their faces about the death of their loved ones knowing she disregarded their urgent calls for additional security measures for months? And abandoned them in the heat of battle? All for the sake of avoiding any odor of blame and maintaining the perception of credibility during and election cycle. Irony amplified by actual spilling of life blood becomes infamy.
Conniver also has her own echo chamber of clichés and slogans hammered by the Democrats for 50 years including the “righteous” battle cry, “the rich need to pay their fair share.” IRS fact: top 10% of earners (making over $150K, which is not rich) pay 71% of the taxes while earning only 43% of the income. Nearly 47% of Americans pay very little and often no federal income tax. Fair for crusaders like Conniver translates to “free” as in “free-loaders.” The same policies of tax and “invest” have have not worked. So, why think they will this time? Because Conniver will be in charge?
(FYI: In 2015 the Clintons “donated” 96% of their charitable giving, $1 million dollars to their favorite charity, The Clinton Foundation, Vice Chair, Chelsea Clinton.)
And then there’s the epic intrigue of her private (spelled: clandestine) server and email. Subpoenaed then deleted. Her co-conniver and political enforcer Bill meets with chief law enforcer on the threshold of FBI revelations and voila! A shocking (orchestrated?) failure to bring charges. Meanwhile her minions slouch behind the fifth amendment and gift basket of FBI immunities (free avoid jail cards). Amid all her effort to hide so much Conniver claims to be “the most transparent” figure in public life. Huh? (Cue the fingernails on chalkboard.)
All in all, if anyone can navigate around Hillary’s decades-long record of dishonesty and untrustworthiness and check the box by her name in November, remind me to be very cautious about going into business together or you having my back in a pinch.
Clearly both of these humans have drunk from the ample cup of hubris along the way. Haven’t we all had a sip – or two - at least?
Fortunately, our own hubris doesn’t land most of us in the glaring national spotlight, or put any of us beyond the reach of God’s redeeming hand, including connivers and caricatures. The heart of the matter is this: as a nation and as individuals, we need a spiritual reset and renewal…a revival. Transformation of a nation or community begins with transformed hearts and souls.
However, if revival delays past November 8, this much seems clear: “we the people” need more than another cagey, career politician or a swashbuckling billionaire. We know what we get with the first. Politician has become synonymous with perception manager at the least and at worst – a very practiced and polished liar. The second option might work great in a movie but will a Tony Stark wannabe make our country great, or more greatly distressed?
We need a leader.
Herein lies more dissonance: neither candidate appears to be a wholly admirable leader except to those who benefit directly from their momentum and largesse (spelled: cash). But both are highly effective pied pipers with great production staffs who back light him in smoke to classic rock and roll or extoll her in the mellifluous tones of an iconic actor who so winsomely played God.
We mortals simply have to settle for natural sunlight without a Morgan Freeman narration transforming our mundane daily lives into noble stories of overcoming Thoreau’s quiet desperation, while the media masters of the masses live luxuriously on our dime and adulation. Does all this tension and drama leave anyone else hungry for an alternate ending to the story?
Imagine this far-fetched scenario: What if Hillary did what is difficult for all of us, just came clean? Shot straight. Imagine her coming clean whatever the consequences. Picture her saying, “Regrettably, I have knowingly misled the American people about a number of things. And even lied to myself about the truth for the sake of appearances. I’m ready to face the consequences whatever they are.” Coming clean might cost her the Oval office – or not. But she could actually finish well, be revered by most instead of reviled by many. Wouldn’t that give her grandchildren a truly shining legacy? What's that thing Jesus said about gaining the whole world (a limitless fortune and presidential library) but losing your soul?
There are connivers aplenty in the Bible and in history. (Jacob whose name meant “deceiver” for example) Some were humbled and some resisted to the bitter end.
As for Donald, what if he stepped out from behind the bluster, the hairspray and makeup, laid down the verbal chainsaw, unplugged from the IV of bravado and raised the bar on substance. Imagine him saying publicly “I have hurt a lot of people with this big mouth and ego and I have asked God for forgiveness and I’m asking you as well.” And what if he did that privately to individual targets of that hurt? Imagine if he followed up with financial reparations to anyone he short-sheeted in business. Like Zacheus, repaying 4X the damage inflicted. Character could eclipse caricature.
Now THAT would be newsworthy. After all, people rally to character, humility, authenticity and honesty. But apparently we the “sheeple”, as someone has called us, also form chanting lines (and violent riots) behind well-funded, pied pipers of slogans, rhetoric and grandiose promises of security, prosperity and free stuff dispensed from the greedy hands and tax-swollen teats of the gargantuan government sow. (Oooh, sorry for stamping that image in your head. Maybe I should have back-lit it in smoke and hired Morgan Freeman to deliver the lines?)
God and history have dealt decisively with dishonest and arrogant rulers and nations. They are not beyond his influence. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1) But clearly, the Supreme Judge, wise dispenser of justice, mercy and free will gives us a lot of latitude to connive or come clean, choose caricature over character.
I plan to vote this November 8 with a less than enthusiastic heart, still secure that God, not any pied piper, masterful production staff, iconic actor or sheeple’s “champion” is ultimately in charge of history, nations, truth, justice and the redemption offered to the conniver and caricature in us all.
Maybe I’ll just console myself by writing in a true-blue, proven leader who combines the wisdom, values and goodness of Andy Griffith with the energy and innovation of Phineas Flynn. When I find such a candidate, I’ll let you know.
The Hokey Pokey – Is That What It’s All About?
I want to make a promise. As a worship leader I promise never to lead “The Hokey Pokey.” Not because it’s not catchy, widely familiar and can create joy and unity with snappy choreography, but because the Hokey Pokey stands in direct contrast to worship as a lifestyle described in Romans 12:1,2.
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your holy and acceptable act of worship,
and do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
I hear the voice of Jerry Seinfeld in this next paragraph.
As the classic children’s song goes, you put your hand in and then out. You put your foot in, then out. Your head in and out. Finally, you put your WHOLE SELF in - then out again. How NONcommittal is THAT? And then you “turn yourself around” in a full circle having gone NOwhere! Is that REALLY what it’s ALL ABOUT?
That’s about as existentially depressing as it gets!
Following Christ in a lifestyle of worship is about being ALL IN. Not sometimes in. Sometimes out. Becoming a follower of Christ is about turning 180 from self to Jesus, not once but daily, always moving with His help toward His likeness. There is nothing hokey or pokey about following Christ. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
In a culture addicted to the pursuit of self, especially personal happiness, that 180 turn is a real struggle. I should know. I grew up living its anthems: “It’s Your Thing Do What You Want to Do”; “Love the One You’re With”; “Nah Nah Nah Nah live for today and don’t worry bout tomorrow”; “Hey! You! Get off of my cloud! Don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd on my cloud, baby.” My parents had a different anthem but same theme, “I Did It My Way”. The generation after mine even got militant about selfishness with “You Gotta Fight for your Right to Parrtaay.”
The current of self-empowerment, self determination, believing in YOUR self, YOUR dreams, YOUR rights has only gotten stronger. Swimming against it takes more than being half-hearted.
Honestly, don’t we all wrestle with this? Can we be hot and cold? Have fickle, fear-driven, faithless, duplicitous (spelled: hypocritical), go-with-the-flow episodes? Of course. That’s why even true believers sing “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” (from the hymn “Come Thou Fount”)
There is a reason we don’t sing (though it might be more honest): SOME to Jesus I surrender / SOME to Him I freely give / I will SOMETIMES love and trust Him / In His presence SOMETIMES live. I surrender SOME. I surrender SOME…
Christ has shown us by his life and death that He is All IN for us – day and night, for the long haul. “I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) So we sing “You are true even in my wandering” (from the song Forever Reign) and “Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide” (from the timeless hymn, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”)
First and foremost, it all rides on being IN Him, in fact, IN-timate with Him. So we sing songs like this from
2 Corinthians 3:18 and continue to look to Him for the transforming power to live and love and move and breathe…IN Him.
With unveiled faces we behold Your glory
Drawn to the image we are changing into
With unveiled faced from glory to glory
Make and remake us, Lord, like you
Make and remake us, Lord, like you
© 2016 Skin Horse, Inc ASCAP by billy Sprague
Let me ask believers (including me) this: R.U.N? All in? 24/7? Are we IN from here and now to our last breath? Are we living a hokey pokey faith? Sometimes in? Sometimes out? Still trying to turn our self around? Getting nowhere?
If you are not a believer (yet), and have never surrendered ALL at all, maybe you need to get face to face with this the core question: Are you IN Christ? I don’t mean just convinced by creation that God made the world. Have you been convicted that you fall short of His glory and holiness and best for you? And then been captured by His great mercy and converted by belief IN Him? Convinced and convicted fall short of captured and converted.
Conversion takes belief. Ultimately, that’s what it boils down to. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Believing is how you get IN. “To those who believed in His name he gave the power to become children of God.” John 1:12
The mercy, hope and assurance in Jesus are just three reasons why believers still sing the most well-known song in the world; and why its beauty and power even resonates with the masses of unconvinced, unconvicted, and as yet uncaptured and unconverted souls. And why wouldn’t they? After all, a previously unbelieving heart, who became convinced, convicted, captured and converted wrote this anthem that spans generations and centuries.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
So. R.U.N? Are you IN the One in whom “ALL things hold together?” (Colossians 1:15) Jesus is INclusive. INvites all. To be all in. INcluding you. And me (amazingly) and a former cruel slave trader, John Newton, composer of Amazing Grace.
When it’s all said and done; when doing your thing, living for today turns into a string of empty yesterdays and uncertain tomorrows; when it gets painfully lonesome on your existential cloud and you’ve done it your way till all the fight in you is partied out; you're spinning in circles around the sun but going nowhere - when the music fades, lights dim, and all our days are done…being found IN Him…IN the love that chose the cross – for you and me - that’s what it’s all about.
My new life begins today.
September 19, 2016
Why today? Why not? It’s my mother’s birthday. She is 86. Born 1930. Happy birthday, dear mother.
That’s a good road marker but not the reason my new life begins today. As I woke up this morning
an enormous longing rose from a long-smoldering unquiet in my soul, broke the surface and the silence.
It didn’t scream. It calmly whispered: My new life begins today.
My spirit stretched, reached, opened to a hunger. For more. To throw off the smothering fog of Thoreau’s
“quiet discontent.” To be more. To see more and reflect more of God’s glory poured daily into this life
I told my drowsy wife. “That sounds good,” she mumbled. I told both my sons. They were amused. I texted
it to my daughter in her new life at college. My new life begins today.
And it’s already begun. I had two song ideas before I got out of the shower. I have FIVE books begun
that need finishing. I have a song three weeks old for my daughter that I still need to sing to her. It’s about
getting a grip on time passing. In my new life I don’t have time for that kind of irony. I have a Broadway
musical in the works with some inspiring friends. I need to connect and reconnect with others. I even
had a new book idea today called, “My New Life Begins Today.”
So. That’s it. Just thought I’d let you know. My new life begins today.