Thursday, September 09, 2010

Mercy and Compassion

I remember some years ago watching the news in Australia. It was a short story with an even shorter flash to an image of an orphan in Kazakhstan. The child had radiation sickness. There was a grotesque growth on the child's head. My heart broke instantly and I cried. "Lord, if you would have me do something about this, I will." I had no idea how God would answer this prayer. I still don't. I don't even know how it fits into the bigger picture of what I know God has already called me to.
Where I stand these days, living in Russia again I find myself desiring to be involved in acts of mercy and compassion. I'm not going to go into all the implications of that here, except to say that it still doesn't fit into what we are doing. But I feel that it has to somehow.
I am reminded of a potent Steven Curtis Chapman song. The first verse, chorus and second verse are:

I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl
She was standing in the corner on the other side of the world
And I heard the voice of Jesus gently whisper to my heart
Didn't you say you wanted to find me?
Well here I am, here you are
So, What now?
What will you do now that you found Me?
What now?
What will you do with this treasure you've found?
I know I may not look like what you expected
But if you remember this is right where I said I would be
You've found me
What now?
And I saw the face of Jesus down on Sixteenth Avenue
He was sleeping in an old car, while his mom went looking for food
And I heard the voice of Jesus gently whisper to my soul
Didn't you say you wanted to know me?
Well here I am, and it's getting cold

I have listened to that song many a time, and honestly prayed prayers in response to it. "Lord, what would you have me do?"
More recently a lyric of Bono's has gotten through to me. It is from the epic song "Mercy" which is as yet unreleased (yes, we fans get our hands on unreleased songs), that they have started rehearsing on their 360 tour, and is likely to surface some time soon, to the immense excitement of hard core fans.

The lyric is: Love has got to be with the weak, only then love gets a chance to speak. I have commented before on my blog that Bono uses the word Love as a euphemism for God (i.e 1 John says God is Love). So paraphrased it means something like, God is with the weak, and only in that context is his voice fully and properly heard, only in the context of blessing the weak is God comprehended and understood, only in that context can God be known. It seems Steven and Bono agree, the way to know Jesus is with the weak.

This much I know, I have to do this. My linguistic calling is to the weak and the marginalised. But I think that there is more than that.

I've got the feeling that this chapter of the journey has not yet begun, but I know the Lord is calling me. I want to be obedient. Lord, help me to be obedient.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

European Union (EU) show that they are racist towards nomads (Roma, Gypsies).

I woke up this morning and read the news. Gypsy backlash grows in Europe caught my eye. I was shocked to read that the Roma people are suffering some serious persecution in Europe now. The French (not known for their racial acceptance of others) are destroying Roma shanty towns and expelling them from the country. But these Roma are free to travel where they like in Europe. It appears that Europeans have no tolerance for nomads.
Europeans claim to be the most enlightened culture and society on earth. Yet the French can not tolerate women wearing head covering (mind you covering one's face and head are actually different- and of course every woman should have the freedom to not cover her head). The Germans refuse to grant citizenship to Turkish people who have been living permanently in Germany for generations. A right wing party in Hungary wants to "detain Roma people in camps for life." Racism is alive and well in Europe. Europeans are not racist, so long as people are just like them.
Nomads seem to suffer persecution more than any other people in the world. People simply don't understand their culture. Nor do people understand the early age that Roma people marry at. This by the way is very common practice in many Arab villages.

I guess I should not be shocked. Europeans have only ever shown remorse for racism, but completely lacked in repentance. Many other non European cultures are just as guilty of racism.

Shame on you France, Italy and Hungary.  Perhaps some Europeans will welcome their indigenous nomads and stop persecuting them.

U2 360 Moscow- post show reflections and thoughts on Bono's faith in Jesus

I wrote a review for the U2 show immediately for But for some reason it has taken me a while to get back in to a blogging mood. I think the show had such an impact on me that my head has been in a different space.

There can be no denying that so much of U2's material is focusing on God and the spiritual aspects of life. After the show I was reflecting on much of this and started looking at one of my favorite songs "Yahweh". It's a beautiful song of devotion to the Lord:
Take this soul stranded in some skin and bones, take this soul and make it sing
Take this city, this city should be shining on a hill
Take this city if it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart, take this heart, take this heart and make it break
Yahweh, Yahweh.
Yet some crazy people out there see fit to accuse U2 of writing a blasphemous song and have even gone so far as to accuse Bono of being a Freemason or a Satanist. Not being one to shy from the truth I researched this as much as possible. What follows is a stupid trail of forum threads with people spreading rumours. There is not a single comment from Bono that leads to any such speculation. On the contrary he continues to talk about Jesus and get ever bolder in his faith.

I dare say that the spiritual warfare is coming Bono's way. He is having such an impact of politicians and churches of the western world. Changes are being made. One of the texts flashed across the screen in Moscow at the 360 tour was "400 million saved from Malaria in Africa." But lest people think Bono is just about a social gospel, he is also guilty of sharing the gospel of personal salvation with his friends, other rock stars. Bono has been known to share the book "What's so Amazing about Grace" (by Philip Yancey) with Noel Gallagher of Oasis. He has also been known to share the gospel with Joey Ramone of the Ramones. As Bono said at the Boston Elevation show back in 2001, "Joey turned the song 'In A Little While' into a gospel song on his death bed," with Bono there in person.

It's my opinion that the devil is trying to throw some mud at Bono. If he can't seduce Bono into "sex, drugs and rock and roll" nor stop him from proclaiming Jesus and God's love and fighting stupid poverty to boot, then he will try to paint Bono with the stain of freemasonry. The same thing has actually happened to Billy Graham. Both Bono and Billy Graham have something in common apart from following Jesus, they have spent time in the company of US presidents. But the Freemasons officially deny that Billy Graham is one of them. They do acknowledge when people such as Bob Hawke (former Australian Prime Minister) are.

But Bono won't shy away from a fight with the devil. In their song "Get on your boots" spiritual warfare is in full swing. "Satan loves a bomb scare, but he won't scare you." I marveled at the fact this lyric was quite relevant for Moscow, after their Metro bombing earlier this year. Spiritual warfare happens on both the spiritual and physical planes. The devil likes to attack through literal war and blood through bomb attacks, but we need to fight back in prayer, not with further bombs. Bono understanding this says "I don't want to talk about wars between the nations," I.e "this is not a battle of flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6). "Get on your boots!" that is, it's time to go into battle boys and girls, but not with each other but with the devil, with principalities and powers.

Not having found anything of substance to back up the ridiculous allegations against Bono, I turned back to interviews with him and others about his outspoken faith in Jesus. You can read about Bono's proclamations on other sites. There's a great interview with Bill Hybels on You Tube (in which he does a good job of paraphrasing C.S Lewis' 'Liar, Lunatic or Lord'). There's also a good dialogue going on between Bono and Eugene Peterson, even though the two have not met personally. Eugene Peterson is a real fan of Bono's faith. Eugene Peterson calls Bono a prophet. I tend to agree. That's exactly the same thing a Russian friend of mine said to me the day after the Moscow show.

I'm going to steer clear of a few topics directly. But I will say that Bono said some amazing things for Russia. "We'd like to say a hello to our friend Mikhail Gorbachev who is here tonight. He started a new chapter in this great country's history, that I feel is still beginning in so many ways." Bono is ever the optimist, but this was prophetic for Russia. Followed by "I still haven't found what I'm looking for," I was stunned at the spiritual poignancy. I called out to the Lord and told him this was my prayer for Russia. The Lord replied and told me that the rain that night was his tears for Russia. There was much going on surrounding this show, which you can read about elsewhere. But don't think that Bono did not know what he was doing in getting Yuri Shevchuk on stage to sing with him, and also in singing Bob Marley's "Get up stand up."

The Lord spoke personally to me too through this show. Getting to go to see U2 was such a gift from God. I had decided previously not to make seeing U2 a priority in my life, so as to not make it an idol. I gave up all desire to see them in 2005/06 as we were first making a move to Russia. Seeing them in Russia now was something I would never have dreamed possible, something God made possible. As they were singing "Beautiful Day" God spoke to me clearly. I knew that it was a gift from God that I was seeing U2 in the first place. I had given it up and God gave it back. This was their first show ever in Russia, and it was a special one full of passion and energy. There's a lyric Beautiful Day that says "what you don't have, you don't need it now."  God said to me, "see, I can give you a good gift any time I want to." I have often agonised over the fact that we can't buy a house, that although we save money it will never be enough for a house and it seems silly. But I also know that God is my provider and gives my family everything we need.  God continued to speak to me, "I can give you a house anytime I want to, also, but what you don't have you don't need it now."  I really like that God speaks to me through the music I like.  It's pretty easy with U2 also, considering so much of their work is focused on God and spirituality.

I guess I don't need to give more of a review of the show as I did so on  But I will say that after being at a show, I am a renewed fan. I'm listening to their music non-stop. I'm finding some of their unreleased material on You Tube. U2 have new songs in the pipeline such as Glastonbury and new rock song, North Star (that he wrote with Michael W Smith- what was Bono thinking?) and Every Breaking Wave, plus the instrumental Return of the Stingray Guitar. I am hanging out for their new album, and really hope it will be Songs of Ascent (from the Psalms).  As Bono says, they draw fishes in the sand for those that want to see. These days there seems to be a whole school of fish. For those that don't have ears to hear or eyes to see, some of them just sling mud. But as for me I'm getting on my boots.

Some more shots from the show: