Singing For Our Lives…

“If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous– and it is.” –Anne Lamott in Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith

Earlier this winter, Pete Seeger died. Pete was a folk music legend and a protester. The kind of man who sang stories of relentless optimism and agitation….of workers uniting, of Central American Freedom movement struggles, of nonviolent resistance and international disarmament, of caring for the environment, of his love for America and dream for what we could be as a country if we realized our interconnectedness.

Pete’s songs were songs of protest. Songs which refused to get into bed with the status quo. Songs which prophesied of a better way. Pete was prolific songwriter; he believed that folk music was the music of the people and it was meant to be shared and sung together. For him, singing was the way to stand in the moment and say: “here we are, standing here, fully human, fully alive, and demanding better, singing for our lives.”

For me, the space of optimism that Pete held in the face of injustice and oppression was what drew me to him. Much like Lamott’s quote, Pete saw the miracle in life because he was fully engaged in it. I’m afraid sometimes that all of our gadgets fool us into thinking that we are living, but really, we are experiencing a screen at best, and televised stupidity at worst.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to wake up. The old kick-in-the-pants routine. Wake up. Take control. Sing.

The busyness of life can lead to fatigue and a rote routine of daily decompressing by turning on the TV, scrolling through facebook, or watching the latest must-see You Tube video. We can end up consuming so much more than we create and this doesn’t work for the human spirit. It doesn’t ask us to be our best selves. We lose passion and purpose. And sometimes, our voices.

Have we lost the miracle of a sunset? Have we lost the miracle of the complex biochemical processes that must occur for an apple to be digested in our bodies? Have we lost the miracle of living in a community of people who know each others names, stories, and dreams? Have we lost the miracle of helping each other or working for a cause that is greater than ourselves? Have we lost the miracle of eating a fresh tomato from a garden that our hands toiled in? Have we lost the miracle of confessing our joys and concerns to each other? Have we lost the miracle of crying together? Have we lost the miracle of aching for our significant other? Have we lost the miracle of a drenching rain seeping into a scorched earth?

Have we become so disconnected with the earth and each other that we cannot feel anymore?

Being a human is a miracle. But if we forget that, we can one of the most destructive forces ever.

It’s easy to do with all of the notifications to keep up with. Sometimes, it’s easier not to feel, or examine our belief systems thoroughly, or wonder who are best selves really are. It’s easier to consume music than to create it. It’s easier to consume ideas rather than create them. It’s easier to ignore our dissimilar neighbor than to love her. It’s easier to live carelessly than to live consciously. It’s easier to keep tearing down trees as if we own this earth, than it is to plant them and work to help ecosystems thrive. It’s easier to ungraciously read biblical texts than it is to actually research them. It’s easier to criticize than to innovate. Its easier to turn on the TV instead of engaging in vulnerable conversation.

It’s easier, but it’s not better….because we are fooled into thinking that life isn’t miraculous.

And, it is.

For what it’s worth….

I just finished a great book called: The Next Christians… I would highly recommend it if you have some spare time (believe me, I know how hard “spare time” is to come by these days)… nevertheless, I think the book is a time worthy endeavor.

Gabe Lyons, the author, describes the next generations of Christians…. who are restorative rather than destructive, creators instead of critics, called instead of employed, and grounded not distracted. “These next Christians are offering a new way forward–a way to act, live, and bring others along with them into a new reality of how things ought to be.”

He explores the social realm of Christianity and many sects that it encompasses. Some Christians choose to be separatists… completely separating themselves from the social norms of society… some choose to completely immerse themselves in culture, blending in with no contrast. Some choose to be quite outspoken about their beliefs and defend them vehemently; some force their beliefs on others. And what’s more… there is a church for each of these kinds of Christians… in fact, there are many churches that support these views and lend haven to these beliefs. Lyons asserts though that the new generation will not endure these types of religious practices and beliefs. The new generation of twenty somethings is looking for a deeper, more relevant, more intimate, more sacrificial faith. Something that requires a passion…. a deep belief system that inspires people to live differently… to live the teachings of Christ.

Let me quote Lyons because I can say it no better than he:
“A GOD-centered life is a counter-intuitive existence that flips the values of the world upside down. It’s an inverted way of living that reverses the importance of what the world tells us to value most. The Western inclination is to chase after wealth, comfort, power, happiness, success, and the ever-sought-after American dream. But Jesus is describing an alternative way of living and engaging that files in the face of these values.” ———-How do we know that? Well… check out this verse: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt.” (Luke 6)

Does that make any sense…. pray for your enemies? What? No… of course we shouldn’t pray for those who mistreat us! Of course we shouldn’t look out for anyone but ourselves and those closest to us! Do you see how radical this verse is? Can you pray for Muslims? Can you see that they are a part of humanity too? Can you give them your coat? Christ is counter-cultural; his teachings are inverted. And counter-intuitive. Yes. But life-changing. Life-giving.

Lyons writes: “If this Gospel–the Gospel of Jesus Christ– is going to engage Western culture in a new way; it starts with us… when Christians put their priority on the first thing, the second things begin to take care of themselves. Jesus himself couldn’t have been any clearer: ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ ”

How does one do this? By engaging your culture and community… via serving and loving. “Possibly for you, it’s putting a dent in the never-ending cycle of poverty that destroys so many lives, neighborhoods, and nations. Or creatively addressing the malnutrition, poor health, and disease that’s wrecking so many families. Or tutoring, mentoring, and fostering fatherless children…. God’s intention and method of restoration is to use you to bring his redeeming love to the world.”

Find what you love doing… and do it with love… restore what’s broken wherever you are. This doesn’t require a call to formal ministry. I know people who are doing this…and it’s beautiful. They are the next Christians… ones who come alongside of friends who need help and help them without judgment. Ones who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Ones who realize the need to take care of our earth. Ones that hurt for those suffering injustices here and abroad. Ones who fix dinner for those who can’t. Ones who teach English to those struggling to learn. Ones who are open minded and welcome others opinions with grace. Ones who lend a kind word or an hour of their time. Ones who are getting involved in leadership wherever they are so that they can promote a positive change. Ones who don’t hate because of religion, sexual orientation, or skin color. Ones who breathe life into others.

I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I am trying. At any rate, thanks for reading thus far. Much love to you this independence day.