Tag Archives: Faith

Why Andrea Bocelli?

I Don’t Know

First let me say I don’t know. Only God knows, and He doesn’t make it the most obvious, as is His Way. I just know I’m intrigued by the man, his apparent faith and life lived in his community, and with His God. I tried very hard to search the web and discover who picked the powerful music for the Easter 2020 “Songs of Hope” Bocelli sang to millions that day live, and many more millions since via YouTube. Apparently he did.

It started with a prayer written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century put to music, asking that the Bread of Heaven (figurative of Jesus the Son of God — our sustenance and power for living) Who Is “the end of all Symbols” Most Highly Exalted, the promised One — come help us on earth, we who are “poor and needy.”

There followed two songs praising Mary, the Mother of God, for responding to God’s messenger angel, “Be it unto me as you have said.” Accepting God’s offer of divine life to be birthed within her, as mysterious as it mush have seemed to her, and to us still.

There is within these two songs, a prayer to Mary, not dead, but living in heaven, that she would pray for us in this time of our very real need.

His fourth song with 4th century lyrics was a powerful anthem of praise and acknowledgment, of worship, to God the King of the Universe and His son Jesus.

“O Lord God, heavenly King,
God the Father almighty.
O Lord the only-begotten Son,
The only-begotten, Jesus Christ!”

It ended with “Amazing Grace.” A humble acknowledgement that it’s in Him (by and in His grace) that “we live, and move, and have our being” as Paul told the first century stoic philosophers and men of Athens on Mars Hill (Acts 17). And it’s only by His grace that we behold God and know Him, “see” Him, as the African slave trader and ships captain, John Newton, discovered after almost destroying himself and others — then coming to faith and going on the write this song in England about the time of our Civil War in the U.S.. It’s one of the most telling, insightful, powerfully-true songs of all times. It is a fitting ending to humbly bow and acknowledge how needy we are and how gracious He Is. The ending says it’s only by His Grace we see. Amen.

Snippets from Wikipedia

“Doctors had advised the couple [Bocelli’s parents] to abort him, as they predicted that the child would be born with a disability. It was evident at birth that Bocelli had numerous problems with his sight, and he was eventually diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. He has stated that his mother’s decision to give birth to him and overrule the doctor’s advice was the inspiration for him to oppose abortion”

“Bocelli grew up on his family’s farm where they sold farm machinery and made wine in the small village of La Sterza, Tuscany, Italy, about 25 miles south of Pisa.”

“Bocelli showed a great passion for music as a young boy. His mother has said that music was the only thing that would comfort him. He started piano lessons at age 6 and later learned to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and drums.”

“At age 12, Bocelli lost his sight completely following an accident during an association football game. He was hit in the eye playing goalkeeper during a match and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Doctors resorted to leeches in a last-ditch effort to save his sight, but they were unsuccessful and he remained blind.”

“Since 1982, Bocelli has recorded 15 solo studio albums of both pop and classical music, … selling over 90 million records worldwide. His first compilation album, Romanza, is one of the best-selling albums of all time, while Sacred Arias is the biggest selling classical album by any solo artist in history.”

“In 1998, Bocelli was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.”The Prayer” is his duet with Celine Dion for the animated film Quest for Camelot which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.”

“Celine Dion has said that “if God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli”, and record producer David Foster has often described Bocelli’s voice as the most beautiful in the world”

In other places I’ve read he was first married ten years with two sons, and since married several years with one daughter. In spite of a normal life in many respects and a good deal of suffering, or because of it, he apparently has a heart of sincere love for people and for God. Although a somewhat reclusive, multi-millionaire, his wife mentioned that he visits local nursing homes and sings for the residents. Telling, isn’t it?

In His Own Words

Bocelli said: “I will cherish the emotion of this unprecedented and profound experience, of this Holy Easter which this emergency has made painful, but at the same time even more fruitful, one that will stay among my dearest memories of all time. That feeling of being at the same time alone – as we all are in the presence of the Most High – yet of expressing the voice of the prayer of millions of voices, has deeply impressed and moved me. Love is a gift. Making it flow is the primary purpose of life itself. And I find myself once again indebted to life. My gratitude goes to all those who made this possible, the City of Milan and the Duomo, and to all those who accepted the invitation and joined in a planetary embrace, gathering that blessing from Heaven that gives us courage, trust, optimism, in the certainty of our faith.”

            kpbs.org

In his own statement, Mayor of Milan Guiseppe Sala said, “I am happy Andrea has accepted our invitation. This year, Easter will be very different for all of us. The joyous serenity that usually comes with this day, has been greatly troubled by the pandemic we are experiencing. I am sure that the extraordinary voice of Bocelli will be the embrace we are missing these days, a strong, special hug, capable of warming the heart of Milan, Italy and the world.”

Once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Milan, Italy will mark Easter Sunday by staging a very special concert featuring Andrea Bocelli. At the city’s request, the famed opera singer will deliver a solo performance at the historic Duomo cathedral on April 12th. Though it won’t be open to the public due to the countrywide lockdown, the event — titled “Music for Hope” — will be live-streamed globally to promote a message of “love, healing, and hope to Italy and the world.”

Bocelli will be joined by the cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, who will be playing one of the world’s largest pipe organs. The Easter Sunday concert will consist of “carefully selected pieces, specially arranged for solo voice and organ for the occasion,” including “the well-loved Ave Maria setting by Bach/Gounod and Mascagni’s Sancta Maria – uplifting sacred music repertoire on a day symbolic of the renewal of life.”

            kpbs.org

Andrea Bocelli performed a special online concert from the Duomo cathedral in Milan this Easter Sunday (12 April 2020).

Entitled ‘Music for Hope’, Bocelli’s concert was poignantly performed without an audience and instead streamed globally via Bocelli’s YouTube channel, in light of social distancing measures in place across the globe to stem the spread of coronavirus. Bocelli was joined – at distance, of course – by cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, who provided accompaniment for his chosen pieces. Selected to communicate a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the rest of the world during this difficult time, the pieces included the popular Bach/Gounod setting of ‘Ave Maria’ and Mascagni’s ‘Sancta Maria’, as well as an arrangement of John Newton’s enduring ‘Amazing Grace.’

            classicfm.com

DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It is Easter this Sunday. And in Milan, the renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will be sending a message of love and hope to the world, especially Italy, which has seen more death in this pandemic than any country.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “PANIS ANGELICUS”)
ANDREA BOCELLI: (Singing in non-English language).
GREENE: “Panis Angelica” (ph) is one of the songs Bocelli will be performing Sunday at the Milan Cathedral, which is known as the Duomo.
BOCELLI: Many times, I’ve performed this piece also in front of the pope, for example. It’s a beautiful page of music.
GREENE: On Sunday, there will be no audience because of the pandemic, just Bocelli and his organist in the empty cathedral. He’ll livestream this concert on his YouTube channel for free. Bocelli joined me from his home outside Milan, where he and his family have been staying put, mostly. He says he knows how many Italians have been suffering through this. And he feels fortunate.
BOCELLI: For us – it’s very bad to say this, but I dreamed throughout my life to have a period to rest myself, to stay with my family, to speak with my sons, and I had. But anyway, I am privileged because I’m in my house with my families. And I’m – everything’s OK here.
GREENE: He was speaking to me along with his wife, Veronica. And as we were setting up, I could hear the tinkling of their piano. I mean, the idea of Andrea Bocelli playing for us in a moment like we’re in was a wonderful thought. Though, we were warned not to get our hopes up.
Who’s playing the piano?
BOCELLI: Me (laughter). It’s me.
GREENE: Yeah? Have you been playing a lot of piano during – while you’ve been home?
BOCELLI: Yes, yes. Many times during the day, I go to play the piano because it my first…
VERONICA BERTI: Hobby.
BOCELLI: Hobby (laughter).
BERTI: …And work. Work and hobby both go together.
GREENE: That’s great. Well, I want to hear about Easter Sunday. Andrea, you – the mayor of Milan invited you to do this show.
BOCELLI: Correct.
GREENE: Why did you decide to accept the invitation?
BOCELLI: Because I think that, in this moment, music can help. And in this moment, I think it’s very important to do our best to create positivity among the people. My idea – my will will be to help people don’t lose the hope.
GREENE: Well, I know the Duomo in Milan and the square would normally be very crowded on Easter Sunday. Is it going to be strange to be there and performing with almost no one else there?
BOCELLI: No. It’s not strange because this is not a concert. Basically, this is only a prayer. I really hope that people listening my singing can pray with me.

“This is only a prayer. I really hope that people listening … can pray with me.”

Sounds to me like someone who sees…. Amen?

Lord have mercy on our straying nation and world. Show us our blindness — help us see. Amaze us again, please, by your grace. Amen.


“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” II Chron 16:9

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

Beautiful, sincere, and recorded previously in NYC — “The Prayer”

Why Milan?


I Don’t Know

First let me say, “I don’t know.” But as a student of history and the Bible I’ve seen many times that things happen in certain places for a reason. It seems plain to see that it happens that way, but seldom do we see in the spiritual realm, why?

But this Easter 2020 performance, or prayer, as Andrea Bocelli called it, live on YouTube, has so captured my imagination and spiritual hunger, that I’ve tried to look into it as much as I can. To see its fuller meaning, if the Lord would reveal some of it to me.

I know I can’t linger here too much longer. I need to move on to journaling, listening, writing about the next big thing He’s showing me — Grace. In many ways this Easter 2020 event is a good trumpet or launching point for looking at Grace, and its practical work, mystical work, and spiritual work in our lives. It would seem I’ve been blind to how important it is, but now I (am beginning to) see.

“Amazing Grace,” ended Bocelli’s prayer from Milan, Italy, April 12, 2020 — Easter Sunday, in a city and world silenced by a plague called COVID-19.

Snippets from Wikipedia

“Milan, Italy is an ancient city in northern Italy first settled in about 400 BC by Celts. The settlement was conquered by the Romans in 222 BC. Diocletian divided the Roman Empire, choosing the eastern half for himself, making Milan the seat of the western half of the empire, from which Maximian ruled, in the late 3rd and early 4th century AD. In 313 AD Emperors Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, which officially ended the persecution of Christians.

“ In 1450 Milan was conquered by Francesco Sforza, which ushered Milan into becoming one of the leading cities of the Italian Renaissance.

In 1629 The Great Plague of Milan killed about 60,000 people out of a total population of about 130,000. This even is considered one of the last great outbreaks of what was a pandemic that ravaged Europe for several centuries, beginning with the Black Death.

Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796, and later declared Milan the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. After Napoleon’s occupation ended the Congress of Vienna returned Lombardy and Milan to Austrian control in 1815. This is the period when Milan became a center for lyric opera.”

“With the unification of the country Milan became the dominant commercial center of northern Italy. In 1919 Benito Mussolini rallied the Blackshirts for the first time in Milan, and later they began their March on Rome from Milan. During World War II Milan was extensively damaged by Allied bombings. Upon the surrender of Italy in 1943 German forces occupied northern Italy until the end of the war in 1945. Members of the Italian resistance in Milan took control of the city and executed Mussolini, his mistress and other leaders of his Fascist government by hanging in Milan.”

Since the end of World War II Italy experienced an economic boom. From 1951 until 1967 the population of Milan grew from 1.3 million to 1.7 million. The city was reconstructed, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s the city suffered from a huge wave of street violence, labor strikes and political terrorism. During the 1980s Milan became one of the world’s fashion capitals.”

In March 2020 Lombardy had the majority of Italy’s cases of Covid-19 during the 2019-2020 worldwide coronavirus pandemic, with the highest rate of death in the world.”

[Bolding for emphasis is mine.]

Duomo — The Cathedral

“Milan Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Milano) is the cathedral church of Milan, Lombardy, Italy.”’

“The cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete: construction began in 1386, and the final details were completed in 1965. It is the largest church in Italy—the larger St. Peter’s Basilica is in the State of Vatican City, a sovereign nation—and the second largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world.”

“At the end of the fifteenth century the greatest architects and artists of the time, including Leonardo da Vinci, tried to accomplish the difficult task of designing the tiburium.”

“The 5-manual, 225-rank pipe-organ, built jointly by the Tamburini and Mascioni Italian organbuilding firms on Mussolini’s command, is currently the largest organ in all of Italy.”

“The American writer and journalist Mark Twain visited Milan in the summer of 1867. He dedicated chapter 18 of ‘Innocents Abroad’ to Milan Cathedral, including many physical and historical details, and a visit to the roof. He describes the Duomo as follows:

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!… The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures– and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest…everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself…Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. … (Up on) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street… They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.”

I’m struck by many of the Duomo’s features, but especially the very high statue on the spire, and the extremely large crown at the churches center, homage to Christ the reigning and soon coming King. Amen. [Psalm 2]


 “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” [Revelation 22:17,21-22]

Amazing Grace

A Christian Easter

A Christian Easter

“So you don’t care about one billion Catholics?” That’s what I heard in the spirit recently — a thought that wasn’t my thought — which I’ve learned to believe is from the Lord. I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking at the time, but I will never forget what I heard.

I have a high view of Catholics, I think, and I’ve always found common ground in Christ when relating to them as friends, in monasteries and retreat centers, and I had a good friend for a time who was the priest at Christ the King Catholic Church in the neighborhood where I lived.

But I didn’t question the thought. I know that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” [I Sam 16:7]. The inference, strong but gentle, was,”I do, and you should too.” That became easier and almost a mandate and passion Easter Sunday 2020 with what I heard from Andrea Bocelli. It peaked my spiritual senses, and I believe it reverberated in the heavens. A prayer birthed in the heart of God, to be answered soon. Mercy for our world.

Protestants & Catholics

There may be something just below the surface in protestant thinking that goes something like this, “Most Catholics don’t read the Bible for themselves, and have at times been discouraged from doing so, so how could they believe? Do they even know what they believe?” Something like that or along those lines. Then some superiority illusions or pride creeps in, because we protestants study the Bible, know the Bible and what we believe it teaches. Pride blinds one to truth and reality.

Protestants beware of blinding pride. Or as Jesus told the Pharisees (the most religious Jews of His day), “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” [John 5:39] That is, they couldn’t see that God in the flesh was standing right in front of them, even though they studied Scripture and its prophecies.

But Bocelli’s simple act of faith, prayer, and worship on the world stage demonstrated simple, childlike faith in doing what he had been invited to do. Child like faith may be a trademark of Catholics? Something akin to the thief on the cross, who sensed his own miserable condition, getting what he deserved, but also sensed that Jesus was the Son of God, asked for mercy, and received the grace of salvation — without much Bible knowledge, as far as we know, like a little child.

That kind of faith may be a Catholic strength?! Yet beware of being somewhat familiar with Jesus, and like the five foolish virgins, not being known by Him, [Matt 25:1-13] putting your faith in saying, “I’m a Catholic or I’m a Christian.” Jesus had something to say to the Pharisees about that too, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” [Matt 3:9] Or said another way, “You think you’re fine because you’re Jews, but that’s not enough.” Grace received by faith is required, and the resulting relationship.

Christians

I think this pandemic, isolation, and solitude has caused Christ followers around the world to reexamine what they believe. Who and how much they trust? Something along the lines of “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12b] And it’s caused Christ followers to minimize their differences and pull together in faith, solidarity, and obedience to Christ.

I’m not talking about universalism here, the teaching or belief that everyone will go to heaven and have eternal life. The Bible doesn’t teach that. And Jesus Himself certainly didn’t. Remember He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matt 7:13-14] And, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” [Luke 13:24] He also said it wasn’t His will that any should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.” [2 Peter 3:9] So our wills, wants, desires, actions, and words play a pivotal part in knowing Him.

I’m just saying I’m not the gate keeper. None of us are. Only One is — He Who rose from the dead that first Easter, once for all time, and for all who believe.

So know Him! More importantly, be known by Him.

Amazing Grace — Blind or Seeing

The Bocelli event ended with Amazing Grace, something every believer in Christ can identify with immediately and intensely. A humble acknowledgement we once were blind. And only by His Grace, now we see — the Risen Savior, for Who He Is. The Christ. The King. The Messiah. God’s Son. A loving, powerful One Who hears prayer.

How striking and strong it was to have a blind man with perhaps the best voice in the world standing there singing and seeing in the spiritual realm, while many sighted people watched who were perhaps spiritually blind. Grace was all around, and is there to be found.

Something Changed

I think something changed with that proclamation and prayer Easter Sunday 2020. Many prayers were ascending to God to have mercy and extend grace in our time of global need. More than 2.5 million people watched the powerful event live. As of this post, 38,629,568 have viewed it! Certainly it must have been the largest Christian meeting or spiritual meeting ever experienced at one time. That it included people of all faiths and many nonbelievers is remarkable as well, in the privacy of their own homes, listening in a world quietened by plague. People looking for answers witnessed a global spiritual gathering and event around Christ — facilitated by YouTube, the world wide web, and a humble man with a great voice and sincere faith, moved by compassion for his city, his country, and the world.

So there you have it. There are an estimated 2.3 billion Christians in the world, 1.2 billion Catholics and 1.1 billion protestants — about 30% of the world population. Because of Jesus, we care about each other and our world. Our prayer is that He show us more of His Amazing Grace in this crisis as we love, serve, and worship Him, Who Is Worthy — He is rich in Mercy and abundant in Grace. Amen.

Amazing Grace

Easter Sunday 2020

Trailer for Easter Sunday

A Protestant Easter


Allow me to recount the personal way my wife and I spent Easter 2020 along with some thoughts on how Easter was shared among believers in the protestant world.

I’ll start with an entry from my journal on Saturday before Easter. “It’s sunny with clouds and a cool east wind on a crisp spring day atop of this beautiful mountain as I read another chapter in Dudley Hall’s, Grace Works.” In the latest chapter he notes, “The major sin of God’s covenant people is that of unbelief… since Gods primary requirement is faith.” “In fact, I would dare say that no violation of the law is ever committed without prior unbelief.”

Profound! Grace and Faith. Faith and Grace. The two key issues with God! (Eph 2:8-9)
Then Abide (John 15:5). No boasting ( I Col 1:29, Jeremiah 9:23-24)!

If you fall back into law or works, pray-repent-admit-be restored at once. The price is paid — Easter 2020. Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent. It’s a good day to ponder such truth. Thank you Lord for leading me. Help me to abide more with You, and in You, and You in me. This is my plea, my prayer for holy Saturday, 2020.

April 12, 2020 Easter

On a beautiful, high overcast morning with a sea of pastel greens and blues below… there is thunder in the area on Easter morning — a power display.

I share “He is Risen!” and “He is Risen Indeed!” — the traditional Easter greeting of the early church — with a few close friends and family by text. Now begins a virtual Easter celebration with our present home church, Fayetteville Fellowship. Strange it seems, real and surreal at the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has much of the planet in isolation, so on one of the most church-attended Sundays of the year in Christendom, the faithful are not allowed to meet! So plans have been made, with a few weeks practice under their belts, for most of the planets churches to meet on line, via streaming, Facebook, YouTube, etc. People are forced to be more private and thoughtful about their beliefs, as they ponder them alone, and with their families, or small groups of believers in a time of uncertainty.

This also allows my wife and I to visit the Easter services of friends in Kansas. And of our Fort Smith, AR church for more than thirty years, before we moved last year. Amazing developments all the way around!

As startling as it is, it’s also refreshing in a sense — to break with tradition and consider what it is you really believe? And why you do what you do?

The outline of our pastors message was:
The Fact — of the resurrection
The Implications — of the resurrection
The Meaning — of the resurrection

You assume His death is the end. His disciple did! The most faithful prepared spices. It’s over.

But within days, Peter, arguably the most prone to act in the flesh or his own strength, has a personal meeting with his risen Lord in Galilee, gets a personal commission, and a few days later the inner empowerment to carry it out, being filled with the same Holy Spirit operative in Jesus.

In similar fashion within a few weeks, Paul a violent, angry religious, Jewish bigot, would meet the risen Lord and receive the same Holy Spirit, along with a new identity. The two of them, in that power, would go on to change the known world of their time extending down to our time. Amazing. Grace.

Or in his own words recorded in Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, promised by the Prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord! News by which everything is changed. A plan to fix and reverse the curse of sin… One Who would come has come.

The implications Paul goes on to say in Romans 8, is that, “We are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

And in Romans 10, “If you declare with your mouth, and trust in your heart, you will be saved.” Declare and believe what? “Jesus was raised from the dead!”

It’s the claim of Easter. The victory we walk in. Celebrate!!


Here are two special worship videos going around in our area this season especially apropos the pandemic and the cultural era in which we live.

This one from our home church.

This one from a group of believers in Nashville TN.

Enjoy! He is risen indeed!

Corona Chapter Change

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 responded:

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.

Me:

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.

My Friend:

I totally agree with his comment on doing too little or not enough. There is no way to win on this one. 

Me:

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

My Friend:

Amen

:):) love ya 

Thanks Friends

Bob Goff

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.

Pondering A Virus

Already I feel a little bit silly spending almost a whole day pondering a virus. My research was completed rather quickly and can be by anyone a little bit savvy on the Internet. I feel there are much better uses of time. But since I’m into it, if it helps one person a little bit with their fear or faith, or looking at this objectively, I think it’s worth it.

First let me state my qualifications, which are few. I have a degree in mathematics from the University of Arkansas. However let me truthfully say that I feel more like an escapee than a graduate. That said with no false humility, I was exposed to statistics, many algorithms from algebra, geometry, calculus, number theory, and algebraic theory. So I’m mathematically ( the universal language ) inclined enough for simple deduction and reasoning, with statistical validity and error analysis skills, to look at this threat to humanity simply and objectively, by the numbers.

I’m using the KISS principle if you will, (Keep It Simple Stupid), which suits me and most of humankind I believe.

Definitions

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

Solomon said 500 years earlier that,”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We won’t argue or even discuss the “beginning” part, which could be semantics or context? But I love history, and I love wisdom. I also like to view life through the eyes of the ancients, seeing what’s been valid enough or meaningful enough to be passed down through history as truth. Certainly when discussing or researching a matter and looking for truth, one has to be clear on words and their meanings, or “calling things by their right names.”

[1] co·ro·na·vi·rus: any of a group of RNA viruses that cause a variety of diseases in humans and other animals. Or if you prefer something from the medical community rather than the dictionary, this is from John Hopkins: A newly identified type (of coronavirus) has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19 that started in China.

[2] swine flu: The 2009 flu pandemic or swine flu was an influenza pandemic that lasted from early 2009 to late 2010, and the second of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, albeit a new strain. And: According to the latest WHO statistics (as of July 2010), the virus has killed more than 18,000 people since it appeared in April 2009….” Wikipedia.

[3] Spanish flu: The 1918 influenza pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, with the second being the swine flu in 2009. The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion. Wikipedia

OK, simply put I’ve listed above three major outbreaks of the flu in history. Actually and factually the coronavirus isn’t even honorable mention yet. Check it out by the numbers you can search any day of the week. By any metric: total number of cases, how contagious, how fatal when contracted, etc. It’s just not that destructive by the numbers. And it’s hard to tell why the experts the media chooses to quote think it is? You get a different picture when you read medical journals, etc. So why don’t we? Is it because our default is to slave toward fear? Or slave to the media who make their money that way, having turned long ago from objective reporting of the facts to sensationalism and fear? Just a thought.

I’ll go ahead and prescribe my simple math operations to calculate and compare the threat the coronavirus is today compared with past versions of the flu in our country and perhaps the world. But I think a better approach might be to demonstrate what other experts are saying without being filtered through the media. And encourage you to turn off the hype and do some research yourself.

Numbers of People With The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Cases CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
3487 / 330,435,890 = .0011%
[2] #Swine flu Cases CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
200,000 / 309,300,000 = .0645 %
[3] # Spanish flu Cases CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
34,485,000 /104,500,000 = 33% (est. 1/3 of the population at the time)

Number of Deaths Due to The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Deaths CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
68 / 330,435,890 = .00002%
[2] #Swine flu Deaths CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
10,000 / 309,300,000 = .0032%
[3] # Spanish flu Deaths CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
675,000 / 104,500,000 = .646%

These are the numbers, verifiable from the CDC Website and from history. They certainly don’t indicate a pandemic yet, and if it were to become one, it seems likely to be small compared to 1918 and 2009. So it would seem to me the USA needs a good slap in the face to be snapped out of hysteria and back to reality.

Click here to see John Hopkins Medical folks tracking the world wide numbers.

Click here to see the up to date numbers in Arkansas on two maps.

Click here to see the up to date U.S. numbers as reported by the CDC.

There is some troubling uncertainty of course because it’s new, specifically the Italy numbers. I would assume they are accurate and growing while the numbers in China and South Korea are diminishing. But even the numbers as percentages of the population are quite small in all these countries.

Compare the coronavirus with another virus in the USA this year. According to a US News & World Report article February 7, 2020, “Influenza has taken the lives of 10,000 Americans this season. At least 19 million have caught the flu, with 180,000 landing in the hospital because of it.” “The CDC predicts that at least 12,000 Americans will die from the flu in any given year. As many as 61,000 people died in the 2017-2018 flu season, and 45 million were infected.”
That puts coronavirus in a different perspective with it 3487 cases and 68 deaths. It’s the flu season. Take precautions. Take courage. Live life, without fear.

Finally read this John Hopkins up-to-date article about COVID-19 and other such medical journal articles. They seem far away from the media’s hype and spin. You will get a much different perspective of the disease and the associated risk it poses to the health of our citizens and country. May you farewell.

Here are a couple quotes from the article. “As of Mar. 16, 2020, 6,705 deaths [world wide] have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 77,657 people have recovered from the illness.” “In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.” Does this sound like what you’ve been hearing?

If more people would take a positive, you might say “faith filled,” attitude about life, and exercise common sense with a historical perspective, there would be a lot more toilet paper, paper towels, and bleach on the shelves of our local markets. And our economy and our lives could return to normal. May it be so, and may it be soon.


“Overheard in an Orchard” by Elizabeth Cheney

Said the robin to the sparrow,”I would really like to know Why those anxious human beings rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

March Madness

I think maybe it’s time to start at the gym? Maybe today? I know in light of all the coronavirus chatter in the media, you may think that’s the last thing I should do? But God told Jeremiah the prophet that even though the children of Israel were going to go into Babylon as captives that he should buy a piece of property, put the deed in a jar, and bury it — a symbol that the Lord would have mercy and that they would be coming back to the land.

I don’t know if that’s really apropos to this article but that’s what I am hearing this morning as I ponder and write. These days I find what really brings me joy and what I’m passionate about is spending time with God: reading, journaling, and sometimes sharing what I see with the faith community and seekers, on the web via this blog, maybe in preparation for another book.

But I feel compelled or at least the freedom to pause this morning and talk about the coronavirus. I promise I’ll get back to doing what I’m passionate about very soon, and stay there. Abiding is key for all of us in these days.

I haven’t written about the pandemic — and even thought about it that much. If it is a pandemic? It seems more like a pandemic of “fear.” Shutting off life to a relatively healthy culture and economy to me.

In the early morning hours my son has been texting that he’s been called back to New York City from the West Coast where he’s been visiting successful businesses—to discuss [1] If he should come into the office since he’s been traveling? [2] If they should close some stores?
Mind you, this is an expanding, healthy, thriving business until the “scare.”

Locally, store shelves are empty of toilet paper, paper towels, breathing masks, and who knows what else?

Of course I’ve been curious, even incredulous, at the wide sweeping closures and paranoia about this supposed threat to public health, our nation, and our way of life.

So I check the web from time to time to see the numbers of people who are infected with the disease and who have died because of it, as best as can be known in this instant information age, and compare it with the total populations of the countries and what has happened historically with other viral infections, commonly known as the flu, since the Influenza outbreak in the early 1900s.

Very few! One could say extremely few statistically. As this has progressed a few days now, the statistics on the spreading virus haven’t climbed as one would expect given all the hysteria, yet the hysteria seems to escalate.

This prompts me to think and say, “It’s the flu, people.”

Sadly, there will be people die from it. And I’m sad about that, and would not say anything to diminish their pain or that of their loved ones. Death hurts, and leaves a void. But it’s also a part of life and living.

I don’t fear death, largely due to faith in Jesus Christ, the One who overcame it for Himself, for me, and for millions who call upon his Name and put their trust in Him.

Even without faith in God, Jesus, the hereafter, or the Bible; it doesn’t make sense to fear death, the flu, or anything else so much that you quit living your life with courage and joy.

Yes wash your hands with soap and hot water, which is my M.D. daughter tells me is a better protection from viruses than wipes. But use both if you like, and keep informed about real news and real numbers and take precautions until the threat subsides or it is better known.

But don’t let it rob you of life and living – a single day. Death comes too soon to all of us for that. Life is a precious gift to be used, enjoyed, spent, and given away or shared with others.

Choose life!

“…So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” Deuteronomy 30:19b

Christmas Hallelujah

Part Two of Two

Then a summary of the priest’s life comes in the last verse, along with his final confession. You may ask, “Why did you call Cohen a priest?”

The name Cohen in Hebrew denotes a priest. To be a priest may have been a call on his life or his job description from the Lord? His destiny? To make God known to the people and to pronounce forgiveness, restoring relationships between God and men. It is a high calling.

Yet the calling is not that different from that of David or Sampson or any of us. To know God and make him known, in the time and place God plants us. (Acts 17:22-32)

All He requests from us is an invitation to let him tabernacle within us. (Revelation 3:20 and Isaiah 66:1-2) To be His image bearers again and anew. Then we have this treasure in earthen vessels. (II Cor 4:7) And let him be the light that dwells in us and shines through the brokenness of our lives, bringing healing to us and all who behold it.

As someone has accurately said, “No one can go back and make a new start my friend. But anyone can start from now, and make a brand new end.”

Whether Cohen made a brand new start or came to know the Light or made peace with the Light is unknown. That is a mystery known only to God, like so many others. But the summary of his life in his song and his final confession in verse four gives me hope that he did.

It’s a humble confession and one that finishes strong!

“I did my best, it wasn’t much. I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”

It’s almost as if he said, “I tried to live life on my own and figure out God on my own. I wasn’t successful, and I’ve told you as much. In fact I failed and it all went wrong.”

Then there is the blazing, strong confession at the end. Sort of like Job’s confession when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and He will stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25-27) Cohen says. “I’ll stand before the Lord of Song.” There will be a reckoning with the Almighty which he gently, and beautifully addresses as “the Lord of Song,” since he is a musician, but one senses he knows Him to be Lord of All.

“With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”

“God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecc 5:2)

Then follows the ending, the gentle, powerful refrain; not twice this time but four times, followed by a single, “Hallelujah”—“Glory to the Lord,” as Cohen defined it.”

My dad was a wildlife officer for forty years, also an accomplished hunter, naturalist, outdoorsman, trapper, and explorer. He was at home in the woods, and the deeper the better. If he came across a wet sandy spot, a mud hole, or any watering hole; he could tell you every animal that had been by the place and about how long ago.

I’m at home in the spiritual woods and feel with some degree of accuracy I can see someone’s spiritual tracks and identify them. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruit.” And Solomon said, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw them out.”

Leonard Cohen’s spiritual foot prints are complex and a little confusing, but telling.

As many people find his song depressing as find it hopeful. Many wonder how these words could have been written by a man of faith, yet with such admitted failure and questionable fruit in his life. Many see echoes of the thief on the cross, and an epiphany in his life.

It’s plain to any biblically-knowledgeable person, Cohen knew his Bible and had perhaps seen some deeper things about the Lord; as well as the end of life for every human being.

The Preacher says, “God has placed eternity in the human heart.”

Leonard Cohen gave voice and words to that reality. And it’s a voice and reality we humans recognize, whether we understand it or not.

It’s baffling to some and beautiful to others. It’s a mystery, like something God would do or say — a parable of Jesus or an instruction from the throne of God to the prophet Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah chapter 6.

The fact that Cohen recognized that about God and wrote like this is telling within itself. It’s evidence that he knew something of the understated ways and purposes of God.

Most telling for me is that at the end, he seems to throw himself, all that he is, on the mercy of God. And that my friend is the only safe and worthwhile place to throw oneself.

“I beseech you…by the mercies of God” writes Paul the first century Jew and Christian.

Covering the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle of Israel, there rested the all important “mercy seat “over the law, the manna and the rod of Aaron that budded. The very presence of God with man. Emmanuel.

Yes, Leonard Cohen’s life is a mystery of sorts, especially his spirituality and standing before God. It is. Maybe it is so for a reason. His life is like his song.

But I sense strongly that God loved Leonard Cohen, even has he ran away from Him. And journeyed far away from Him. In His merciful and all-seeing eyes He found something good in Cohen’s heart towards God.

God gifted him with this melody, I believe, and helped him pen these words. A modern parable of the kingdom of God perhaps. Something a priest can tell the people who want to know, about God. Millions and millions of people. Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

Thank you Leonard Cohen for painting your real life picture in song, a picture of us all, before God. Perhaps the strongest picture since Jesus painted with words the prodigal son and the incredible father in the trilogy of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coins, and the Lost Son. (Luke 15)

Hallelujah

The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson
Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah
Hallelujah – Pentatonix