I knew it could be special! I’ve heard some of Andrea Bocelli’s songs before. A voice, and seemingly a heart, that turns heads whenever one hears almost any note he sings.
My wife had seen a message on line announcing that Bocelli would be bringing a free concert to the world from Milan Italy at noon our time, live streamed to the world via YouTube. And it happened just like that!
Two and one half million viewers watched it live. During the next forty-eight hours, more than thirty-three million people had watched it. Amazing!
I’ll comment on it later, with the English translations of the songs sung in Italian, but you can watch it here now, and experience it for yourself.
The music, the back story, the architecture , the videography, the choreography, the history, the understated nature of this world-wide communication and prayer to the Almighty will speak to your heart in ways words cannot. Just enjoy it for now, and listen with your heart, to something deeply spiritual, and very special. Music for hope.
“… even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, … but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you ….” I Peter 1
“Prophets of Grace” is a concept and calling that has been ringing in my ears for a couple months now, since Honduras 2020. My eyes just fell on this phrase in Peter, “prophets who prophesied of the grace….”
I was trying to articulate to a good friend at a Tacos-4-Life lunch yesterday, in our COVID-19-plague and fear-struck world, that I feel I’ve just discovered GRACE for the first time! It’s so new, fresh, big — pervasive in the Word and in my thoughts and experience now. I wonder how I could have missed its centrality and importance in God’s plan and Word all these years?
He kindly and gently replied, “I think we will never understand it all. We are always learning about grace.”
Well I can accept that, but it’s still amazes me….
“Grace Attack” is a funny way to convey that God sometimes comes in ways to help and be gracious to us that looks more like an attack! But the outcome is good and the test will in time show its benefit, usually getting us out of a rut and on a better path. So whether God caused the virus or allowed it, the only two options I can think of since He’s so powerful and working in His creation every day, the outcome will be good.
Couple that with how good, loving, kind, magnanimous really — I’ll sum those attributes and call them “gracious” — God is, and we know we can and should “trust” Him completely in this world-wide crisis.
If you really know Him, you trust Him. You believe His plan for you is better than even your plan for you. And you will have the same response in all this that Eli, the ancient Israeli judge had on a day when he received some very bad news from a young prophet, “Let the Lord do what seems good to Him.” [I Samuel 3:1-18.]
Stay in Community as you Journey — Start Now
A men’s friendship group I started recently called the 2020 Book Club, meets in our home the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. To start our discussion and interaction we read a book in the interim and then share our notes or insights.
We often interject a book of the Bible in the mix and are now reading I & II Peter. I just started and look what I’ve already stumbled across! Coincidence? Providence? Synchronicity?
I invite you to put on GRACE glasses with me, and look for the word and concept as you read Scripture. I think you’ll be shocked and pleased — amazed at what you begin to see. And you may become a “Prophet of Grace!”
You should start a men’s (or women’s) group! And let grace start flowing through you! And your friends. :):) Godspeed. Your group will prove inspiring, empowering, life giving. He will see to it.
The following is from C. S. Lewis. It was written in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age. In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
I have a precious Christian sister who lives in Virginia with her husband. They are some of our best friends. As she shared her concerns and fears about the present pandemic in the early days, I found it disturbing that a believer of deep faith could be so fearful about the developing circumstances, and she wasn’t alone as my wife told me about Instagram posts from other friends. So I reached out to her with the previous C.S. Lewis quote. That started a personal sharing by text that I share below — two friends pondering the events unfolding in our country and world. This will also serve as a chapter change of sorts of my comments on the pandemic of COVID-19 or the pandemic of fear. The mule is out of the barn so to speak, so I intend to focus future posts about how Christians might deal with the crisis in keeping with their faith in God and Christ Jesus the Lord, and not whether or not the threat is real.
My friend responded: I totally agree with CS Lewis, however the reality is we can do everything possible to not panic and keep a level head. The ripple effect will be tremendous economically and we may have to reboot to a new normal. Our son in law that is a Dr. is very sick at this moment and their family is home quarantined. He was actually tested for the virus yesterday but will not know for 5 days what the results are. The fast track results are only for individuals that are in respiratory distress. He wasn’t yesterday. Today is a different story. His mucus levels are rising and they are doing everything to try to keep them down. Courtney as you know is a nurse. She is trying to take care of him and work from home trying to keep dialysis clinics open with staff dropping like flies all the while she is trying to manage a rowdy energetic 4 year old that has no understanding of any of this. So she is in the trenches. Until now I didn’t quite understand the pandemonium. But having her in that position is making it more clear. If I leave the earth with this virus, all the while having taken precautions then that is how it was meant to be.
Love you guys and pray you and your family stay well.
I’m sorry for Courtney and all the millions of mom’s working and now with kids at home… there is rather suddenly a lot of suffering and sacrifice our nation is enduring with the prospect of it getting worse before it gets better. My conviction is (did you read my blogs on this?) that the fear and panic it is causing and going to cause is doing more damage than the disease could or would. Only time will tell. Praying you can find more peace. Love you guys! Abiding…DB
My friend replied:
I really do have peace about it because it truly is in God’s hands. The helplessness feeling I have is further proof that it not ours to control and it will be what it will be. I think we will see many miracles come out of this but not without suffering. I was telling someone weeks ago that our younger generations have not experienced anything to mold them like generations past. (Especially the greatest generation that lived through World Wars and the Great Depression) I was telling someone that something would happen to really identify what is important and what is not. Our spoiled Millennials that we created are about to find out what life is all about. So I definitely believe in silver linings and that all things will be to the glory of God.
Yes! You’re on to something there for sure. Only our God is able enough and good enough to oversee something like this. May He have mercy and abundantly supply Grace. Amen thanks:):)
Amen!! I’d love the games and being with you guys. And I know you would share! You’re Two of the most generous people I’ve ever known (can be spelled Gracious) :):) Love you and value your friendship very much… even from afar! :):) Shalom
Got this from one of my best friends (back to college days :)) who recently retired as CEO of a large hospital in NWA about how Drs. Are seeing the crisis, and I loved his last comment. We should all feel this way. *** Talked to couple of physicians yesterday p.m.. here’s another perspective: They have both full resolve and are somewhat disheartened! On one hand, social separation strategy is aimed at getting us to warmer weather with people outside in the hopes the virus dissipates and goes away in 4-6 weeks. Thus, saving lives potentially. They think of little else beyond that it seems – economics, jobs, etc. in my experience this is typical doctor thinking. They are disheartened by level of cynicism about this feeling if it works people will say -“they over did for nothing”. And if it doesn’t work that “ they weren’t prepared”. I can understand some of that. They blame media by in large for distortion of reality – as I do – and the populous for falling for it. Interesting and thought I’d share. There are some warriors in healthcare, not all, and I love them for what they do.
I totally agree with his comment on doing too little or not enough. There is no way to win on this one.
From the medical side! Yes … probably but from the American leadership side and the populace?? They could have and should have shown more wisdom and faith vs fear, and guts to act on that…. We are more responsible than the medical community for what this has become… they are just doing what they’re charged and trained to do. Maybe the sad fact I don’t want to believe is that our nation has become so secular humanist and non God-fearing or God-trusting … that they’re just acting like you’d expect them to act? Again… God is mercifully showing us ourselves, and what we are without Him. Gratefully He is full of Mercy, Compassion, and Gracious beyond our understanding, and He hears our prayer. Amen
We should thank him for letting this happen and showing us these things… As in the old saying “If you find yourself in a deep pit, first stop digging.” And maybe pray like Eli when he got some bad news, “Let the LORD do what seems best to Him.” Amen אמן
As the truth about the Coronavirus continues to be researched and debated in the privacy of homes, in the media, and on social media, I’m grateful for some of the best things my friends sent me yesterday. To provide different perspectives, and some big picture truth.
To be honest I’ve been a wee bit angry at our leaders, media, and people for letting fear of this flu virus escalate into panic that has very likely caused unnecessary damage to us all far exceeding anything the virus could have done. And I’m perplexed about all the fear and concern with so little evidence of the danger?
But alas, the possible small crisis has taken on a personality of its own and become a crisis, with little sign of abating until it runs its course. Still I’d like to stand against the storm in some small way and pray others will too. Pray may be the key word. There is One with power to act, and He hears prayer. In fact it’s His idea.
That said, yesterday I received a blog link through an email from my good friend and spiritual mentor for decades. Because I know his spiritual sensitivity, heart, and wisdom, I knew I should give credence to everything he said, and was feeling. So I did. It changed my attitude and helped me get on with the reality of the thing, and remembering people are important, and people serving people. And to be obedient and faithful in natural things, like the presidential directive, was practical and important.
It didn’t take away the truth from anything I was seeing or feeling, but it changed my focus to a trajectory in a healthier direction. Thank you Charles.
The next best thing I got was from a beautiful, sweet spiritual sister who had been very angry about what was happening too. We shared thoughts and she shared something from C.S Lewis someone sent her that deserves a blog all by itself without comment. Thank you Patty.
I share it here:
The following from C. S. Lewis. It was written in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
I thought it worth while to share a little humor about the coronavirus before writing more or moving on to ponder a bit about how we got here, thoughts on how to behave while we are here, and lessons hopefully learned and being learned by us during this time.
Although it’s no light or laughing matter and will no doubt get to be more so, humor has a way of arresting our brains and spirits and gets us to thinking in different paths — more healthy ones. It offers a little respite from anxiety and restores hope in mysterious ways. I’m smiling even thinking about it.
A few Scriptures come to mind as I think about it. The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the future.” And we’re told in Proverbs 17 that, “A merry heart does good like medicine.” And in Philippians 4 we’re instructed focus on good things, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things.” Thus, we allow our minds out of a fear or worry loop, and then we can think more clearly and better enjoy the moment and live in the moment.
Take a breath and a break with me and just think of the funny things your friends have said and sent you since this whole corona thing began. I think you will find it healing and enjoyable.
Feel free to share some of them with me if you like, and keep sharing them with your friends and those you love. It can only help! Keep smiling!!
Besides, we have to be able to laugh at ourselves, right?!
“The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Word of God transforms us as we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, pray it, sing it, share it, and fellowship with the One Who wrote it. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are strengthened, and our behavior is changed; not by external force, but by internal transformation.”
I borrow that from the beginning remarks of Charles Simpson’s excellent pastoral letter this month. You can read the whole of it here. I’ve been in a spiritual wilderness of late, experiencing both the isolation, cleansing, and terrible beauty, reorienting as it is; and I’ve been in the Word experiencing it’s beauty, cleansing and reorientation.
Against the mostly hidden enemy of our souls, there is no substitute nor defense like the Word. Indeed Christ used the Word of God His Father, the the King of the Universe, when attacked in the wilderness by Satan.
Words from Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, come to mind: “…one little Word shall fell him.”
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth; Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
So we see the Word can silence our enemy and put him to flight — very important indeed, and the order of things in our earth journey in the seen and unseen realms.
But I’m thinking in this early morning moment by the fire of the “transformation and the renewing or our minds” power of the Word. It’s beautiful. It’s holy. It’s relational. It’s mystical. It’s joyful. It’s reorienting. It’s life and light really. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful to experience.
Our Catholic brothers have a saying, “Don’t read the Word, let the Word read you.” Indeed.
I have a very, very high view of Scripture. Yet once I felt the Lord impress me, “I didn’t give the Word for you to serve it; but for it to serve you.”That’s at once humbling, and important to know, if it is true. It’s an important distinction, even if both are true at the same time.
Jesus in His wilderness experience quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” We need food every day, in the natural and in the spiritual.
And we need to practice good hygiene every day to stay healthy. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus “washes us with water through the word.”
We need healthy relationships each day to thrive. Our Father meets us when we read and meditate on His Word, to illumine us, love us, and just be with us, like a friend.
Please excuse me. It’s time to wash up, and have breakfast, with a Friend.
This morning in our FYV Fellowship Matthew study, the location of this spot came up. I sent the following email to the leaders of the group in response and thought you might be interested as well. I hadn’t listened to Gene Little’s words in awhile, but they are timely perhaps and true. I invite you to listen with ears that hear, and see what you hear? For yourself? Blessings **********************************************
Good to be with you this morning.
I would not be clear on where the Valley of Jehoshaphat was myself except for a personal trip I took to Israel in 2017, when my lodging host in Jerusalem in a serendipitous fashion offered to take me to some of his favorite off-the-beaten-path places. Here’s what happened as he handed me his phone when arriving at the rim of the valley at Teqoa, and said “Record what I’m about to say.” I did, and that was that! Take one, take only, on the spur of the moment, without warning, then off to see Herodium, and his favorite, lesser-visited, Jerusalem sites. :):) After getting home I added the introductory music, photos, title and sent it back to him. Since that’s a hobby of mine. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/8_FgqGDbpdE
“For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” Joel 3:1-2
Many think this prophecy about the Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same location as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:20). After looking into it, I think they are a few miles separated geographically, but maybe not that different spiritually. His blessings as you ponder… or study further… and His grace to you and yours.
After trading emails back and forth with Alan, a men’s Bible study leader, and doing more research the following came to light.
I never knew their was a reference of the Kidron Valley also being called the “the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” That’s where the confusion or debate comes from I would guess. This started in the 300’s A.D.? The ancient Jewish sources say there was no valley by that name. Wikipedia may have it as close as anyone, with their three insights or possibilities.
 The judgment we discussed will likely be in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate and the Mt of Olives, which Joel called “The Valley of Jehoshaphat” for some reason. Perhaps symbolically? As the LORD vanquished Jehoshaphat’s attackers in his day. Certainly that’s what Joel heard the Spirit say to write. Maybe it was known as such to people in his day, and has been lost in antiquity? There is after all, much mystery in the Word… seemingly on purpose at times! As well as, much revealed!
 Jehoshaphat witnessed the LORD’s promised deliverance in his day near Teqoa… about 10 miles south.
The Word is always understood better in community with illumination by the same Spirit Who breathed it. 🙂 Grace be with you all.
“Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
This verse hit me with unusual force this morning. The beautiful prose strikes one softly, but also hard and true. After one considers its beauty and message for just a few seconds — and its peace with its mystery — the question arises…
What’s the there for?
I’ve studied Isaiah the past two years, so I know. King Ahaz of Judah is being threatened and terrorized by threats of conquest by two dark kingdoms working together to war against him and remove him from office.
The LORD sends His prophet, Isaiah, with a message to the king and the people whose “hearts shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” The LORD’s message is, “The enemy’s plan will not stand nor shall it come to pass.”
He also adds, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”
“Ask a sign for yourself. Make it hard,” says the LORD to the king.
“I will not ask, nor test the LORD,” says the king back to the Lord’s prophet.
It sounds pious and wise, but it’s full of disobedience, disbelief, and really “testing” the LORD, Who instructed him to ask for a sign.
The prophet responds with, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will birth a son — Immanuel.”
Don’t doubt it! Believe that the LORD Himself will rise up against your enemies, and you will be spared. You will stand.
There is a coming sign recorded in the ancient texts around 700 B.C.. There was a son born to a virgin around 2-3 B.C., and we now recon time by His appearing and work.
He lives… with us … within us.
Isaiah 6 sets the stage for all believers — seeing the LORD, high and lifted up.
Maybe in a year or years when a godly king is gone, the government is in turmoil, and you’re learning not to trust in man, or even yourself anymore.
But “God in us — God with us — Immanuel.”
“The holy seed is in it’s stump, “says the LORD to His prophet at the end of Isaiah 6.
Isaiah 6 sets the stage. Isaiah 7 gives the promise of help, deliverance, and power. Immanuel. Isaiah 8 shows the outcome of the scenario.
We don’t have 2000 years of church history — but 50 years repeated 40 times. Not 4000 years of Jewish history — but 50 years repeated 80 times.
God’s judgment comes upon the culture swiftly — so much so it will catch them unaware and add to the terror and tenor of the recompense, which will appear merciless, but it was chosen by them. They forgot God to serve themselves and their idols, and thus fell into the traps and clutches of the enemy.
Yet to those of the house of faith He writes? (Isaiah 8:16)
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”
And the disciples respond, “I will wait for the LORD Who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.”
“Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, Who dwells on Mount Zion.”
“Immanuel” appearing first in Isaiah 7:14 and three times in Scriptures is a beautiful Name, a beautiful thought, and a beautiful reality. “God, the Mighty One, is with us.”
Of course this isn’t to be my final Hallelujah, as far as I know; but my final thoughts after a week of reflection, study, and mediation on the poem and melody of Leonard Cohen entitled simply and profoundly, Hallelujah.
Of note to me, the song is going round and round in my head in this Christmas season 2019. I’m not sure why? But it gives me joy, peace, pause, and wonder.
I’ll share with you the best article I’ve found about the song, a 2015 Newsweek article by Zach Schonfeld. It’s insightful though written primarily about the song’s musical attributes and its popularity, from a secular point of view.
Schonfeld notes, “The album on which it appeared, the murky, mid-career Various Positions, had been rejected wholesale by Columbia Records in the U.S., and when it finally was released, “the song was still generally ignored,” as Alan Light notes in his 2012 book The Holy or The Broken.“
The Holy or the Broken? That’s an insightful title for a book about the song. It’s also telling that the album on which it first appeared was entitled “Various Positions” isn’t it? Since he’s Jewish, to begin with, and the song, albeit quite short, addresses simply and profoundly the issues of God, the Bible, human sexuality, the philosophy of life and one’s earth journey, admissions of struggle and failures, and yet seems to somehow point to God as the answer from start to finish. Purposely it would seem, and honestly, in a mysterious and understated way. And people definitely have “various positions” on these issues— he did apparently.
Light would go on to say, “John Cale and Jeff Buckley, then dozens and hundreds of others lifted the song out of obscurity” but it is “something more mysterious that cemented its status as a modern standard, appearing on American Idol and in synagogue services in equal measure. It has become ubiquitous. Tallying versions by Cohen and plenty of others, Light estimates “Hallelujah” has been listened to hundreds of millions of times on YouTube alone.”
The Newsweek article goes on to list “60 notable recordings of it that are readily available online and ranking them from worst to best.” 🙂 Feel free. For our purposes here I’m going to list and link my two favorites at the bottom, then one in Cohen’s own voice, as well as the lyrics he settled on and a few quotes that reflect on the man.
Etymology of Hallelujah
It doesn’t seem right to leave the song without a good look at the meaning of its famous title and course. It’s a Hebrew word lifted directly from that ancient language and dropped into English, simply transliterated as “praise the LORD.”
Wikipedia adds, “In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hillel. However, “hallelujah” means more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.”
“In Psalm 148:1 the Hebrew says “הללו יה halelu yah”. It then says “halelu eth-YHWH” as if using “yah” and “YHWH” interchangeably. The word “Yah” appears by itself as a divine name in poetry about 49 times in the Hebrew Bible (including halelu yah), such as in Psalm 68:4–5 “who rides upon the skies by his name Yah” and Exodus 15:2 “Yah is my strength and song”. It also often appears at the end of Israelite theophoric names such as Isaiah “yeshayah(u), Yahweh is salvation” and Jeremiah “yirmeyah(u), Yahweh is exalted”. The word hallelujah occurring in the Psalms is therefore a request for a congregation to join in praise toward God. It can be translated as “Praise Yah” or “Praise Jah, you people”.
With Cohen’s Hebrew roots and his love for poetry, there can be no doubt the word was well understood and meaningfully used with sincere intentionality. When it’s sung and heard, it seems all creation and the Creator pause with a heart smile to take note. The best is yet to be.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)