When I go up on the mountain
I will hear You call my name
And all 1950s horror cannot possible explain
for I am a man of unclean lips
and with these hands I’ve done evil
I am evil! I am evil!
But you comfort me the same:
“All will be well
and all will be well
and all manner of thing will be well, will be well.”
When I get up there in Anchorage
I look around the space
It is cold, and it is lonely
and I want to hide my face
but I turn my gaze to heaven
and say, “God I know you’re up there.
I am yours now, I am living
I will never go away.”
And all will be well
And all will be well
And all manner of thing will be well, will be well
I just finished watching The Book of Eli for the first time. It is a powerful film, although definitely not a film for everyone. Sometimes putting the Gospel out there gets a bit messy, and in Eli‘s case the mess is a body count and language. But the Gospel shines through in a dramatic way despite the trappings. The theology is incomplete, but they blatantly and obviously address Christianity in a meaningful and important way.
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Faith isn’t able to be taken for granted in Eli’s world. He lives by it or dies without it. There is no in-between possible for him. He has dedicated his life to his God-given goal; to give up would to be to concede his life’s purpose. He might as well lay down and die. But for the sake of the goal God has given him, he refuses to go down.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
I found myself wishing that I would be led like Eli; that I would have a purpose so direct that I can’t swerve to the left or the right. As soon as I thought it, I laughed at myself. Of course I have a directed purpose like Eli. God has a purpose for each of us; I was taught this over and over in Sunday school. The daily grind tries to rob me of my certainty of purpose. That’s why I need to take every thought captive to the knowledge of Christ, in the sun and in the dark.
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light
It is easy to forget among the hustle and bustle of life that we do not sustain ourselves. We eat, work out and try to stay fit, but we do not say whether or not we breathe. It is purely God’s design and hand on each person that they are living, Christian or no. When we are unconscious, who says we wake up? Not ourselves. With this dependency firmly in mind, my path seems firmer; if God set me in this day, he must have had a purpose for me here, today. Otherwise, he would have taken me home. I may not slash and shoot my way through enemies tomorrow, but I am set with a purpose, enabled by the breath of God, made in his image, to do good works which he prepared in advance for us to do. Our bodies as lamps, he is the light inside us. That light is what allows us vision.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
He burst onto the scene with a massive debut at age thirty, gaining an enormous public following (critical acclaim was, as it would always be in his career, sorely lacking).
People jumped on the bandwagon, amazed at every new thing he put out. Whether it was a live show or some words he released, people ate it up. Everyone told all their friends, even when Jesus tried to remain under the radar.
They didn’t see the eternity of time spent planning. They didn’t see the thirty years spent waiting for the right place at the right time. I’m sure that Jesus didn’t feel like an overnight success by the time he finally started his ministry. There had been a lot of work that went into that.
Lots of prayers. Lots of long, boring days. Lots of frustration at seeing others do big things while he made things out of wood and waited for the right time. You know, the stuff that overnight success is made of.
No, people eating miraculous fish did not see those years. They were firmly on the hype machine; they found the next big thing. And when it disappointed them, it was out before you could Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
My heart was once owned by legalism. When I became a Christian, grace was born in my mind, replacing legalism. In the years since, grace has been drilling down from my brain to my heart.
At ten a.m. today, grace made it to my heart.
See, my legalism still makes it hard to breathe sometimes. When I want xx really bad, I try to act as good as I possibly can, in hopes that God will smile upon my efforts and give me xx. There are all sorts of mental gymnastics to convince myself that it’s not legalism, but it is. It’s all I know how to do.
And when I want something so bad, so horribly bad that it feels that I’m not even whole without what once was and hopefully will yet be, I try even harder.
And the subsequent failure is that much more disappointing. It feels as if I have pushed that which I desire so much farther away than it would have been if I had just not failed. come on. stop failing. just freakin’ stop.
I was distressing over my latest failure at convincing God to grant me any form of intimacy (friend/romantic/emotional/spiritual/physical/other) and obsessing over slights actual and perceived when “Graceland” by The Tallest Man on Earth came on my headphones.
It’s the title track from the legendary Paul Simon’s best album, but The Tallest Man on Earth tops the original with just a guitar and a voice. It haunts. It calls. It yearns. And the refrain: “I’m going to Graceland.”
There are raging debates over what Graceland is supposed to be. Some literalists say it has to do with a literal journey to Elvis’s home. Others say Graceland is South Africa, or a state of mind (either positive or negative, but never neutral), or heaven. And the last one caught my thoughts.
Is Heaven Graceland? Why would it be? What is grace, that Heaven would be the land of it?
My theological core ticked off “Unmerited favor” as the definition of grace. But the tugging wouldn’t quit. What grace? And so my emotional self said to my theological self (for they are as yet still divided), “you know, getting stuff you don’t deserve. You don’t deserve anything, you know.”
And my theological self, so cunning, said, “Yes, I know I deserve nothing, oh wretched wretch as I. You must work hard with me to atone for this.”
And, much to my wonder and amazement, my emotional self responded with a phrase that I can only attribute to the holy and inerrant work of the Holy Spirit:
“No. Grace means you are as likely to receive the blessings today as you are any other day. Your acts have nothing to do with when and how God dispenses blessings.”
I almost fell out of my chair. And at that moment, that’s when grace broke through.
“I’m going to Graceland.”
There are some who say that Graceland is merely a fill word, like “yellow” in Coldplay’s “Yellow.” And while they may or may not be right in their assessment of the song’s lyric, the word to me is exactly that. I felt a filling of soul that I haven’t felt in years except when I have purposely retreated into the safety of my camp. I felt as much euphoria as you can while still doing a desk job (I am of the opinion that true euphoria demands wild dancing).
My sinfulness or lack thereof does not impact the goodness of the Lord God. It could very well be a day where I feel I have sinned repetitively and miserably that I meet my wife. My book could sell on a day that I feel unsalvageable. We don’t affect how God thinks about us, how he loves us, how he blesses us or how he cherishes us. Nothing bad that we do diminishes any of his love, devotion, affection and blessings. Nothing. Period.
I’m going to Graceland.
It’s hard to explain the transforming emotion that came with my discovery of grace. None of my words can do it justice. I wanted to cry. Music sounded sweeter (I will definitely never listen to “Graceland” the same way again). “Amazing Grace” makes infinitely more sense. I question why every female in the world isn’t named Grace. Grace is beautiful.
It is the entirety of the Christian message, and I’d been missing it. I saw the depravity. I saw the need for a savior. But I hadn’t understood the concept that makes a peace that surpasses all understanding. For in grace is peace.
The Lord our God owns everything
This includes heavy metal and guitars
And we may not worship him by screaming
But that doesn’t mean they can’t; they are.
Impending Doom is a Christian metal band; that symbol in the back is called a repentagram. The members are totally serious about their music, which they view as worship. It is incredibly encouraging to see men so involved in explaining worship: using the gifts and talents God has given for his glory. They love metal and are very good at metal; they use metal to worship. They come up against flack from religious establishment and non-religious establishment; yet they press on. They know whom they worship, and they don’t swerve. May I be so bold.