A Search for Peace

It is my privilege to work as the choral department accompanist for the local high school.  The head of the department has chosen the theme “A Search for Peace” for the fall concert.  As a part of the concert, the entire department – four choirs in total – will perform a massed choir number titled “Inscription of Hope.”  The lyrics come from a poem that was etched on a wall in Germany by Jews who were hiding to escape the Nazis.  The lyrics are powerful –

I believe in the sun Even when it is not shining

And I believe in love

Even when there’s no one there

And I believe in GOD

Even when HE is silent

I believe through every trial

There is always a way….

      But sometimes

In this suffering

And hopeless despair

My heart cries for shelter

To know someone’s there

But a voice rises

Within me


“Hold on my child

I’ll give you strength

I’ll give you hope

Just stay a little while”

May there someday be sunshine

May there someday be happiness

May there someday be love

May there someday

Be peace…

Z. Randall Stroope wrote the song and it is beautiful in its simplicity.  The choral director’s inspiration for the concert theme was the current state of our world and what has been referred to as “The Summer of Terror”.  He asked me to research the details regarding terrorist-type attacks – those motivated by extremist views – and give a synopsis of some of what has happened.  As I began researching, I had to turn off my brain and simply look at facts, details, and numbers.  To allow myself to think about what I was reading was just too much.  As my day winds down, the details of what I read have come back to me and I won’t allow myself to emotionally detach this time.  The truth is hideous but turning a blind eye will do nothing.

From the first of June through the end of August, there were at least 568 incidents in 59 countries around the world.  These incidents resulted in a total of at least 4,652 deaths and even more injuries.  The good news – and yes, there was good news – were the number of “lone wolf” incidents where no one was killed.  An individual with extremist beliefs acting alone would attack another individual, couple, or small group because of something that offended the attackers  religious sensibilities – mixed race couples, homosexuality, women who were not covering their faces, etc.  In many of those instances the attacker was fought off by either their intended victim or law enforcement officials and no one was killed.

But some of the stories brought tears to my eyes and made me sick to my stomach –

A suicide bomber that investigators believe was between 12-14 years of age attacks a Kurdish wedding celebration, killing 54 and injuring 66.

Two different hotels where car bombings were followed by gunmen entering the building and taking hostages.  Between these two attacks, 31 people were killed and 80 injured.

52 fisherman executed by Boko Haram.

Coordinated bomb attacks in a market in Baghdad, Iraq, left 342 dead and injured 246.

Most of us heard of the attack at an Orlando night club (49 killed, 53 injured) and the attack in Nice, France (86 killed, 303 injured).

And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

The world is a much scarier place than I remember it being when I was a child.  In the name of “faith”, individuals or groups in 59 countries on every continent have committed heinous acts of violence.  In some cases they were hoping to intimidate others into joining the violent cause.  In other cases the motivation came from ethnic conflict.  The difference in cause doesn’t change the facts.

4,652 dead.  Most in the name of religion.

Now, more than ever, those who claim to be followers of Jesus MUST embrace the lesson that Jesus tried to convey to a teacher of the law.  When the teacher asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus didn’t stop with just the greatest.  He gave the man the top two –

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ there is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

My heart still hurts and I’ve shed a few tears after processing the information I read today.  So much hatred, so much violence and the vast majority of it in the name of “religion” or “faith”.  It’s time that those who claim the name of Christ focus on what Jesus himself called the two greatest commandments and start loving those around us.  ALL of those around us.  It’s the only hope we have.


Rather proud of the fact that I am still in the thick of the Reading Challenge I took on for the year.  I finished my “book from the library” by starting a series I’ve wanted to read.

“Forbidden” is the first book in a series called “The Mortals” and is written by two of my favorite authors – Ted Dekker (my absolute favorite author ever) and Tosca Lee.  It takes place 400+ years after the human race nearly destroys itself.  In an effort to bring the Chaos under control, alchemists developed a treatment they called “Legion”.  It was really more of a disease than a cure – it removed EVERY emotion except fear.  It was fear that those in power used to bring everyone under control.

Dekker is a man of deep faith and his writing always reflects that.  I’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak publicly and even got an autograph and my picture taken with him!  (Just keep scrolling and you’ll see it!)  One of the things I love about all of his books is the fact that each one is so much more than just a good story.  Yes, the writing is fabulous, the characters engaging, the storyline captivating . . . but the stories always make me think.  They push me to examine my own faith walk a little more deeply.  It’s rare to find an author that engages the imagination as well as prompting meaningful self-evaluation.

While the rest of the books in the series don’t really conform to ANY of the categories on my reading challenge list, I do intend to finish the series.

Actually . . . there WAS a sequel written called “The Keeper”.  So if I read that as well, the two books would count as “a book and it’s sequel” and I could check out book two as my “book from the library.”  Hmmmmmm.IMG_20131105_202156_425.jpg

Necessary Change

I’ve been away for quite some time because explaining where I am in my own personal growth is challenging at present.  I am finding my personal paradigms blown to bits with new ones being rebuilt that look nothing like what I used to think faith was and how it worked.  This passage – from Ted Dekker’s newest publication, “Waking Up:  How I Found My Faith by Losing It” – slapped me right in the face with an intense level of personal conviction.  I have so failed letting love define me and that has to change.  Read and do with this what you will; it’s just the latest step in a new way of looking at faith and how it affects my daily behavior.

“If there is one elephant in the room among most of us who call ourselves Christian, it is that what we think and say we believe and what we actually experience are all too often two, radically different realities.  Ironically, we ourselves are often the last to see this disparity.
We think and say we believe in Jesus, but we are anxious for tomorrow and cringe with fear in the face of the storm.  We think and say we love our neighbor and our enemy, but we court jealousy of those who have what we want, and we secretly despise those who lash out against us.
We are Christians from different denominations with various emphases in doctrine, yet in our daily lives we seem to be the same, often stumbling in darkness and feeling lost and condemning ouselves and those around us.
The evidence of our lives does not match our rhetoric.
Paul’s teaching was utterly clear:  The primary evidence show by those who know the Father is this:  love.  Jesus was just as clear:  Not just any love, but an extravagant expression of love that is kind to those who are cruel to us, not only those who show us love in return.  
As Paul wrote, a love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record or wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  These are the evidences of true love which flows from those who know the Father and his limitless love for them.
But it seems that we show all manner of evidence but the one that matters most.  We call ourselves Christian but we are not known for the kind of love Jesus said would mark his followers.  Have we lost the tune?  Are singing the wrong song?
We show the evidence of profound words to others, speaking truth in the tongues of men and angels, but we rise up in anger at our brother and are therefore as guilty as any murderer, as Jesus said.
We show the evidence of informed doctrine and all knowledge, having studied the Scriptures, and yet we do not love the lowest person as Christ, so our knowledge is worthless.
We may give all of our possessions to the poor and surrender our bodies to be burned and have faith to move mountains and heal disease, calling Him Lord, yet these profit us nothing if love does not rule our hearts.
We call ourselves born again, baptized in water and the Spirit.  We are diligent in taking communion, singing in choirs, serving the church, paying tithes, reading the Scriptures, fasting when called to humble ourselves, gathering in Bible studies, attending conferences, going on missions, voting for the right bills, and rehearsing our doctrine.
And yet rivers of love, joy and peace do not flow from us like living waters, and so, as Paul said, all of these profit us nothing.
Can you relate?
What matters isn’t our stated belief and doctrine but how we live and what we experience in the story of our lives, as Jesus, John, James, and Paul all make so abundantly clear.  It’s our actual experience and expression of life that shows us and the world what we truly believe and to waht extent we truly love, not what we say we believe or who we say we love.  If we say we have faith, but the working of our life don’t reflect that faith, that faith is either asleep or dead.  
This brings us back to the elephant in the room, easily seen by all.  We are not being who we say we are.  And if what we say we believe and what we experience in life are in conflict, we end up in misery.  One of the two must eventually yield.”