Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Why Didn't You Play 'Hurricane'?"

This Dream of You

In ten years, someone is going to record this and it will be a hit for them, and no one is going to know that it was written by Dylan. Sort of what happened several times with a Dylan song that Garth Brooks performed. Or the Byrd's recording Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn".

I happen to like this song for several reasons--the sentimentality in the hopeless lyrics, as well as the ache of the regret. I imagine an elderly couple waltzing slowly in their living room to this tune, reminiscing and wishing for a little more time together.

Sometimes, the finite helps us appreciate we have as well as shows us to long for something lasting and eternal. Everything in our human experience shows us that death brings a natural end to things, but we have the word "forever" in our dictionaries. Our souls know something our brains can't wrap themselves around. Someone put eternity in our hearts. And we dream a little and the dream keeps us going on.

Dylan is only 68 years old, but he tries to give us the impression that he's 100, especially with the dry and cracked voice loaded with history. In a culture that worships youth, Britney Spears and anti-wrinkle creams, this blown out raspy but distinctive singing about regret and time passing too quickly by is basically a little horrid truth tickling our ear drums. It lingers way after the song is finished, we can't get the grating voice out of our minds. And despite all the talk about the new album, is anyone really listening? Life is short, everyone. Have you made your peace with God?

At work, I mention Bob Dylan to customers and I get different responses. The young adults know exactly who I'm talking about (Dylan has some great marketing going on), some around my age are confused, but the ones heading towards 65 are adament that Bob is past his prime. His voice is shot, they say. I ask them, are you sure about that? He sings for 2 hours everyday almost all year long on his neverending tour. It's amazing that he's still alive, much less being able to manage to croak through "Like A Rolling Stone" everytime with gusto, holding nothing back. Plus, Bob Dylan boxes for his daily workout. He travels with a trainer and sparring partner. I think he could hold his own against any one of those American Idols, if he wanted to, in the ring and on the stage.

If Dylan continues to create work that sells, he has created an kind of icon that is missing right now in American culture. Someone who knows music, lives music and has a depth that outlasts a million Hannah Montanas and Jonas brothers. He's the Grand Canyon of music compared to all the mud puddles. And as of right now, has put us right on an international border that we don't appreciate very much but has a major influence on our country if we would just open our eyes to see. It somehow comforts me that he has.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Together Through Life

"It's been so long, now you're content to let the days go by; When you were there, you were the answer to my prayers..." from Forgetful Heart , a cut from Bob Dylan's Together Through Life album.

A lot of people, including those who should know better, make the mistake of believing Dylan's music is about Dylan. The fact is that Dylan's music is about music. In his recent interviews before the release of Together, he is explicit about how it isn't all about him. As I'm listening to my CD fresh out of the package, I'm struck how Dylan's band is prominent in the songs. I hear Tony, George, Donny, and Mike all working hard and I believe that Dylan wrote all this for them. Not us, not himself, nor the record company. Sure as heck not the critics. And he gave his friends, Robert Hunter and David Hildago jobs, not easy to find these days even in the recording business.

I was torn on whether or not I was going to buy this CD. My Dylan budget has shrunk for a few months, and I'm not sure that I'll be seeing him in concert this year. I think what finally coaxed me into shelling $9.95 at Target was that good music is hard to come by, and Bob especially has a knack for creating something both old and new at the same time. He said that this particular work is his most intimate or romantic. Okay, sold. I'm in. I'm a woman and nothing is more appealing is hearing a love song. Especially during these days of swine flu, GM going bankrupt and planes flying around NYC where they shouldn't.
And I'm loving it. Most of the CD is comforting, up until we get to "It's All Good", and yeah, I totally agree with Bob. I'm sick of it, too. Thanks for telling it like it is.

Friday, April 24, 2009

He is Good

We've been busy--lots to do, people to see and places to go. I was looking forward to having today off, but it didn't turn out that way.

I need a day to spend with God. For a more than just a few hours reading the Bible and praying. To let God tell me things that my friends and loved ones can't or won't. Or even stuff I haven't been brave enough to face. And to tell God all the things that I can't or won't tell anyone else. Stuff He already knows about me--no surprise to Him. I need a God who is Holy but who invites me to move closer to Him, and it so happens that the God I worship is like that.

A few years ago, Heidi and I and a few other international women went through "The Creator, My Confidant", a bible study that goes through Psalms. We learned how the writers of the Psalms expressed their very human and real feelings and thoughts, and how they turned them over to God. It was reassuring that the Bible showed how people confessed sin, suffered, had doubts and were angry and God heard them. That is great. But the author of the bible study also showed that true praise and adoration of God erupts from an intimate relationship with Him. It comes from knowing and experiencing His goodness and His truth.

A long time ago, I wrote a prayer asking God to show me His goodness everyday. And you know, I still do. It's there, all around me all the time. It's a matter of me seeing it. It's a matter of opening my eyes.

Now, my prayer is that I would be a conduit of God's goodness to others.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Little Goes A Long Way

While living in California, a leader of our Sunday class referred to his wife as "low maintainence". It was a compliment, and everyone smiled. The wife, Michele, also smiled, but I wondered if she would say the same about her husband. But Michele was famous for her high capacity, always serving and always thinking of others first, staying calm and moving on to the next thing, even with two toddlers in tow. Privately, by email, Michele revealed to me that was the appearence she gave but in reality, she often was overwhelmed. We then had long exchanges about budgeting time and energy like we would money. Knowing where the value was, making a little go a long way, and putting out large expenditures where it mattered, as well as putting some in reserve in cases of emergencies. In short, living wisely. I was glad to encourage a young mom who wanted to glorify God and build up His church. [Some time later, I cooked for a women's luncheon and Michele came in the kitchen asking to help, it was such a pleasure to tell her no, please sit down and enjoy the fellowship].

Giving out much and asking little in return is something that will drive a woman into the ground. Women love sacrificially for whom or what they care about. Sometimes at a risk. Sometimes foolishly. It's been called many things, including maternal instinct. Many a woman would live like this 24/7 all their lives, but is that really glorifying to God? Is this really our calling?

It depends. I had a friend and room mate who was deeply involved in helping women spiritually grow--it became a full time ministry for her eventually, for awhile. She told us during our bible study that she can only give as much as she receives from her walk with God--so daily quiet times and deep prayer times that connected her to the heart of God and His word mattered a lot to her.

I agree with her. As a result, I've seen God take my "loaf of bread and a few fish" and mulitiply it further than I could imagine. The key isn't me, it is Him through me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Something Good This Way Comes

People are going around saying, "Have a happy Easter!" and it is a nice wish to have for our friends and family. But what makes Easter a happy one? Ham? Easter egg hunt? Chocolate bunnies up to the sky? Well, that does sound awefully good. Can't have enough chocolate bunnies. Ever. After tomorrow, that's it. No more until next year.

But as fun as all these things are, a man was dead for three days and was resurrected. He visited his friends, appeared to hundreds of people, and it sealed the veracity of His news that He's God, lived a perfect human life among us His creation, fulfilled every demand of the Old Testament Law and that He died for our sins in our place so we don't have to. The resurrection--and having a formerly dead man walking and talking and eating breakfast-- is the proof of His message.

So, I'm baking a ham and sharing it with some friends to celebrate something really wonderful and amazing. Something really good.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Big Event

Listening to a sample cut of Bob Dylan's new album that's due to release in two or so weeks. It's good...the line from "I Feel a Change Comin' On" that just grabbed my attention "some people say that they hear the blood of the Lamb in my voice". You can hear it for yourself on There is a big record that spins on a turntable, for those of us who might remember what that was like. Back in the day when people used to actually sit and listen to an album in it's entirety. The stereos were not small and easily portable, although there were stereos in little suitcases you can take along, as long as there was an electrical outlet.

Every so often, maybe once a year, Mom and Dad would buy an album. It was an event and we all gathered in the living room to listen to it for an hour. It was usually Dionne Warwick or Neil Diamond. No matter who it was, it was always a big deal. We listened to Harry Belafonte or Englebert Humperdinck over and over. For most of my childhood up until junior high. Then we got the eight track player and John Denver.

And that's another story.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Happy Lent

I'm multi-tasking. Right now, as I am writing this blog, I am coloring my hair. How great is that? I have fifteen minutes before I rinse this stuff out, so I have 15 minutes to kill, er, blog.

The Lent season is almost over. I've been observing Lent by doing a Lenten devotional by my church's outreach and compassion ministry, His Hands. I've also been abstaining from red meat or poultry on Fridays, but I think I will keep that up after Easter. We will participate in as many Holy Week worship services as possible, I wasn't going to be able to make our church's Maundy Thursday service, but I found someone to cover the hours I needed off. We will have friends over on Good Friday for dinner.

It has been a good Lent, I think, for me. A good Lent is less focused on the activities, but helps me be more aware of the Gospel and how it affects my life. For one, I am more aware of God's deep love for us. I realize that I experience the Gospel on a personal basis every day.

Growing up Catholic, I dreaded Lent every year. The focus was always on the abstaining, fasting and "giving up" some pleasure for Jesus. I wasn't very good at sacrificing as a child. Every single week of the season, I usually failed to abstain from something and always felt guilty about it. So, Lent wasn't about Jesus, the Gospel or even Calvary. Lent was always about feeling guilty. Which misses the point entirely. God doesn't want us walking around feeling guilty all the time. But I thought, at that time, He did.

I am glad I was wrong.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


When I was 13, I heard the story about a man who was just coronated king and God offered to grant him one desire. The new king asked for wisdom. God was pleased that the new king could have asked for anything--power, wealth, success--but he asked for wisdom instead. I was intrigued by the story, wondering what I would have asked for if God told me that He would give me whatever I wished.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted what the young king had. I didn't want to just be smart. I wanted to know how to live well--to know how to say just the right thing or do the right thing at the right time. But more than that, I wanted to know how it felt to have God delight in me.

So, I asked Him for wisdom. And I waited for a few minutes for a special spiritual experience. There wasn't any. I didn't feel any smarter, either. But for the next few years, I struggled. I wanted to die, I felt so sad and angry. Yet I do believe God answered my prayer. It was an interesting way that He did it.

First of all, I noticed something about me. I was selfish. In my heart of hearts, I really didn't care. Second of all, I started to see that this was wrong, although I wasn't ready to change. Finally, I began to feel fearful and guilty that I had no inclination for loving anybody, even myself.

At this point, it became obvious to me that anyone who couldn't change herself to give damn even when she thought it was right probably doesn't know much about life nor death. Who was I to think I knew all the answers? In other words, to quote a famous movie title, what the &#@% did I know? And with that realization, I was open to finding the answers, no matter what it took.

Not long after, I began to appreciate all that I was hearing about Jesus. He was compassionate. He loved people, especially the poor, oppressed and outcast. When a hooker washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, He allowed it. He was all that I wanted to be but wasn't. And without reason that I could see at the time, He died a horrible death that He predicted but would not prevent even though He could have. He suffered on the cross for His friends. The unemployed fishermen, the losers, the prostitutes and the crazy.

Nothing about Him would have made sense if I failed to conclude that He was God. I didn't know much, but that much I knew. And it was enough. I wanted to be His friend. He laid down His life for me because my sin kept me from what I wanted most. God's pleasure.

And that is the wisdom He wanted me to have. God's foolishness is beyond all the wisdom of men.