Thursday, June 23, 2022

Love Song

 

Love Song is not only the name of one of the very first Christian rock bands, but it is also the title of their first album AND the first song on that album. With this month being the 50th anniversary of its release, it is high time this album gets the Truth Is track-by-track treatment.

Love Song Album Cover

The group broke the trail for all the Jesus musicians and Contemporary Christian Music artists that would follow. The song set the standard for artistry and evangelism that the group always kept at the center of their focus.

Lend an ear to a love song
Oooh a love song
Let it take you, let it start

What can you hear in a love song?
If you can feel it
Then you’re feelin’ from the heart

All the emotions, true feelings of life
is what music of love is about
If you are listening with peace in your heart
and no doubt

So listen now to a love song
If you can hear it
We will never be apart
(Chuck Girard - Jesse Johnston)

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Truth is...Take this song on its own, and you could be excused for thinking this is just another romantic attempt at getting a song on Top 40 radio. (In fact, my Beloved and I sang it to each other as part of our wedding vows!) But in the context of the whole album and the band's whole career, it's easy to see that Jesus is the love song they want everyone to hear.



Thursday, June 16, 2022

Joy or Cynicism. You Choose.

 

Whether you're basically happy or generally discontented may very well be a matter of choice.


Allow me, please, a pair of paragraphs from The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen:

I don't have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand. This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies. I am tempted to be so impressed by the obvious sadness of the human condition that I no longer claim the joy manifesting itself in many small but very real ways. The reward of choosing joy is joy itself. Living among people with mental disabilities has convinced me of that. There is so much rejection, pain, and woundedness among us, but once you choose to claim the joy hidden in the midst of all suffering, life becomes celebration. Joy never denies the sadness, but transforms it to a fertile soil for more joy.

For me it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental. They sneer at enthusiasm, ridicule spiritual fervor, and despise charismatic behavior. They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by "escapist emotions." But in belittling God's joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness.

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Truth is...I hope you consider this a call to "choose you this day" what lens to view the world through. As for me and my house, I'm on Jesus' side when he said "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"  - John 15:11 (NLT)


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Jesus as the Prodigal Son

 

I'm almost finished reading Henri J. M. Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son, which is an extended meditation on Rembrandt's painting by that name and the parable that it's based on.


For the following quote to make more sense, it might be good to remind yourself that the original meaning of prodigal wasn't "wandering wastrel," but more along the lines of "extravagantly generous."

I am touching here the mystery that Jesus himself became the prodigal son for our sake. He left the house of his heavenly Father, came to a foreign country, gave away all that he had, and returned through his cross to his Father's home. All of this he did, not as a rebellious son, but as the obedient son, sent out to bring home all the lost children of God. Jesus, who told the story to those who criticized him for associating with sinners, himself lived the long and painful journey that he describes.

When I began to reflect on the parable and Rembrandt's portrayal of it, I never thought of the exhausted young man with the face of a newborn baby as Jesus. But now, after so many hours of intimate contemplation, I feel blessed by this vision. Isn't the broken young man kneeling before his father the "lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world"? Isn't he the innocent one who became sin for us? Isn't he the one who didn't "cling to his equality with God," but "became as human beings are"? Isn't he the sinless Son of God who cried out on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus is the prodigal son of the prodigal Father who gave away everything the Father had entrusted to him so that I could become like him and return with him to his Father's home.

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Truth is..."See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)


Thursday, June 2, 2022

I Get It...We Don't Like Change

 

No matter how reasonable, some changes will apparently never take place.


From Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared M. Diamond:

This book, like probably every other typed document you have ever read, was typed with a QWERTY keyboard, named for the left-most six letters in its upper row. Unbelievable as it may now sound, that keyboard layout was designed in 1873 as a feat of anti-engineering. It employs a whole series of perverse tricks designed to force typists to type as slowly as possible, such as scatter­ing the commonest letters over all keyboard rows and concentrating them on the left side (where right-handed people have to use their weaker hand). The reason behind all of those seemingly counterproductive features is that the typewriters of 1873 jammed if adjacent keys were struck in quick suc­cession, so that manufacturers had to slow down typists. When improve­ments in typewriters eliminated the problem of jamming, trials in 1932 with an efficiently laid-out keyboard showed that it would let us double our typing speed and reduce our typing effort by 95 percent. But QWERTY keyboards were solidly entrenched by then. The vested interests of hundreds of millions of QWERTY typists, typing teachers, typewriter and computer salespeople, and manufacturers have crushed all moves toward keyboard efficiency for over [140] years.

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Truth is...I admit that this probably relates to part of the reason it is highly unlikely I will ever change my stance on the veracity of Jesus, but I hope that any non-believers who may read these words will recognize the same in themselves.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Scabulous

 

John Koenig's The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has given the world a word that deserves acceptance and celebration.

scabulous  -  adj. proud of a certain scar on your body, which is like an autograph signed to you by a world grateful for your continued willingness to play with her, even if it hurts. (From scab + fabulous)

Paul must have been feeling a little bit scabulous when he wrote in Second Corinthians 12:9, "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."


It makes me think of Steven Curtis Chapman's song, "Remember Your Chains":

Remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone



Truth is...Like Jacob's limp from having wrestled with God, what some people would call a weakness or a flaw, others can appreciate as a reminder of a life lived with bravery and strength.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

So Much Life!

 

2022.05.14  -  Saturday, 8:42 AM  -  Pacem in Terris Hermitage & Retreat Center, Isanti, MN

Sitting on the screened-in deck, I hear a woodpecker tapping away. There he is! Directly in front of me, about 30 yards to the east, intermittently hammering its beak into a  -  what?  - a birch tree?

A squirrel bounces from a pile of leaves to a fallen limb. A cardinal flies off on a mission. A smaller bird flits from tree to tree. A dragonfly finds its way back to the shore of the lake.

And the sounds!

In addition to the tapping of the woodpecker, there is a symphony of chirps, tweets, whistles, honks, and quacks. The leaves are rustling, both on the ground and in the trees.

A strong breeze wakes up and swoops through the woods as if to say, "Here you go, gang! Something fresh for your morning!"

So much life!

And this is just in the two or three acres I can physically see. There's a whole world of this going on "out there."

It's like birds. I'm aware of a fairly limited list of bird species. Let's see...eagles, hawks, condors, vultures, woodpeckers, robins, sparrows, cardinals, bluejays, hummingbirds, crows, and owls. Twelve kinds of birds. That's pretty varied. But wait. What about ducks, geese, pelicans, penguins, peacocks, ostriches, emus, falcons, finches, and pheasants?

What about the fact that there are over 11,000 different kinds of birds?

So much life!

And don't get me started on insects or bacteria. That's a whole other miniature universe.

So much life!

And humans account for such an invisibly small slice of the pie.

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Truth is...Psalm 8:4: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?


Thursday, May 12, 2022

On Indecision

 

From Ulysses S. Grant by Brooks D. Simpson.


"That winter James Rusling, a colonel in the quartermaster's department, caught his first look at the hero of Chattanooga [Grant] and was disappointed. Here was no shiny general with brass buttons, sash and sword, but a rather common-looking man, just like 'a country storekeeper or a western farmer.' The general was 'evidently intent on everything but show.' But when it came to giving orders, Grant came alive, his 'clear and penetrating eye' and set jaw suggesting that he could 'dare great things, and hold on mightily, and toil terribly' in pursuit of his objective. He might be a man of few words, but 'he knew exactly what he wanted, and why and when he wanted it.' Nearly every night the general could be found using the telegraph to keep tabs on his command (and the enemy), as he pondered the next move.

"Once, the colonel approached Grant with a requisition order authorizing large expenditures. Briefly reviewing the report, the general gave his approval, catching the colonel by surprise. Might the general want to ponder the matter a little longer? Was he sure he was right? Grant looked up. 'No, I am not,' he responded; 'but in war, anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong, we shall soon find it out and can do the other thing. But not to decide wastes both time and money, and may ruin everything.'"

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Truth is...There really are only three options: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.