Monday, January 20, 2014

Lyrically speaking

I dig lyrics.  Instrumental music has it's time and place for my relaxation, but I like me some songs with words. They stick with me.

I have no gift for song-writing; believe me I've tried and it was not pretty.  They were all mostly of the "roses are red, violets are blue" category.  Speaking of, I can't write poetry for crap, either.  And I don't know if you are like this, but when someone shows an amazing, I mean a GOD-ordained talent or giftedness in an area where I am talentless, it leaves me in awe.  (Don't even get me started on the dancers on SYTYCD.) And then when they USE that gift to point to the Creator?  It gives me chills down to my toes.  I feel that way about certain songs and their composers.

Sometimes I find a line or two in a song and pull it out of the rest, carry it with me and put it on repeat, over and over.  There's a song we sing at church called "What Joy is Found" by Vineyard/Jeremy Riddle (but, FYI,  I like the way we do it at church better than the recording.)  Some of the lyrics are simple, but divine.  This juicy nugget was something I meditated on for a good week:

What joy is found in communion with you/
In living a life that pleases your heart/
Responding in reverence to all that You are

Do I really believe that?  That there is deep and abiding JOY in just living a life that pleases God's heart? In being in communion with him, recognizing who HE is and repsonding to it?  Even if I get nothing accomplished in the eyes of the world--or my eyes, for that matter. Oh, gosh, I hope so.

Then sometimes, I notice that lyrics from different songs written in different centuries complement each other beautifully, or express a similar concept in different ways. For instance, in the third verse in the hymn "When I Survery the Woundrous Cross," Isaac Watts wrote these words: 

All the vain things that charm me most/
I sacrifice them to his blood

That verse is so convicting to me!  Oh, Jesus, help me see past all the vain things that charm me most and focus on what is eternally important to You.  Then I noticed there is a similar sentiment in the more recent chorus "Lead Me To The Cross," written by the amazingly talented Brooke Frasier:

Everything I once held dear/
I count it all as loss

See what I'm saying?!  And, to top it all off, I feel like these "discoveries" of mine are not just me having my observant hat on.  I think the Holy Spirit brings these to my attention when I'm willing to have open eyes and ears.  Maybe when I need to learn something?  Ouch.  Vain, charming things that I hold dear?  I'm embarassed to say how many things are on that list.

On Christmas Eve, I got to sing a fun duet arrangement of a little known holiday jig called "Joy to the World."  LITERALLY I've sung it hundreds of times in my life.  Same words, same melody.  But I got thinking about the refrain:  

And wonders of His love, wonders of His love/
wo-ONders, wonders

What is it about His love that is so wondrous?  Do I recognize it?  Does it feel wondrous to me?  How can I describe it?  Then I heard this song, that you may not have heard, so I'm going to link you up with the vid down below, because it is too good to miss.  And in the same days that I was pondering the wonders of God's love, I heard these lyrics mixed with a moving melody (not realizing they were by Sidewalk Prophets, quickly becoming one of my fave bands):

I am the thorn in Your crown/ but You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow/ but you love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist/ but You love me anyway
I am Judas' kiss/ but You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes, then I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

Oh, you love me

THAT is it.  Those words painfully capture the beauty and the WONDERS OF HIS LOVE.  That I am a sinner, failing Him day after day, making the same mistakes, feigning passion when I am often so wretchedly mediocre.  We ALL sin and fall short of His glory.  We let Him down constantly.  And yet?  His love is constant, perfect, never-changing.  He picks me up time after time.  I am His beloved, His precious daughter.  He give me new mercy every morning, even when I give Him nothing in return.  It is truly nothing short of WONDROUS.  Now these two songs are forever linked in my mind. I'm so grateful for  God who created music and for the song-writers who use their gifts to move me closer to the original Composer of all things beautiful.  

Please listen to this song!  My fave part starts around 1:56.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Some of you know that human trafficking has become a "cause" for me.  I really don't know why, other than the more I learn, the more I feel ill.  The FBI statistics show that humans, primarily young women, are being bought and sold--most often for $ex--around the world.  This is happening in the US.  This is rampant along the I-5 corridor, where I live.  It is a quick way to move people out of state, undetected.  This is happening in the run-down hotels off the I-5 exits that I pass EVERY DAY.  This is happening at the truck stops where I get gas and run my kids in to use the restrooms.   Hundreds of sad stories describe how these girls became victims--some were at risk, homeless or missing, others were drugged and taken from seemingly safe situations.

I have read articles and statistics, so I know this is happening within miles of my safe home, but I have never seen it with my own eyes.  However, I'm quite certain there was a moment when I came face to face with a woman being prostituted against her will.

My heart is racing and tears are stinging my eyes at the memory.  It was our last day in Bangkok, Thailand, where we had spent 2 weeks meeting our son to bring him home.  Our flight was leaving around midnight, so we moved to a fancy hotel RIGHT next to the airport to kill time until we needed to check in at BKK.  We were walking ALL around this hotel with a hyper toddler, exploring and letting him roam in hallways that were deserted...just because we had nowhere to be.  In one especially quiet and vacant back hallway, a older, white, overweight man--I would guess he was in his 60's--came out of a hotel room holding the upper arm of a very young Thai girl.  I would say he was gripping her arm, but that might be me adding drama.  But they positively were NOT arm-in-arm.  He was dressed nicely, she was not.

He caught my eye for 1 second, and I know my face was full of alarm.  He then avoided eye-contact with us and looked straight ahead, walking quickly.  The girl's face was expressionless.  Her arms were to her sides and her eyes were on the floor. She had no purse or bag.  She had to have been around 20.

Can I be 100% certain that this woman was being forced into $exual acts with this man?  No.   Can I be 100% certain that everything about it FELT WRONG and red flags were flying in every direction?  Yes. As we walked away, I began to shake and feel nauseus.  My mind started racing...who can I call?  I don't have my phone, and I wouldn't know what to dial even if I did. How can I report this? We had no internet, we had a very traumatized child on our hands, and we were leaving the country in 2 hours.  By the time I started thinking clearly and trying to form a plan, they were gone.   I knew it would not be wise to try to become Sydney Bristow and track them down.

This encounter still sits in my gut like a cement block.  Thailand is a beautiful country, full of kind and generous people.  I adore this country, my son's birthland.  It is also a land plagued by human trafficking.    For so many of us, the numbers and the horror stories can blur together and become a little hypothetical.  In the hallway of that hotel, the blur became crystal clear to me.  The statistics had a face.  [I want to add that it was not the inter-racial aspect of the couple that alarmed me.  It was everything about the situation added into the moment, especially the countenance of the 2 people.  Later at the airport we met a lovely couple--American man in his early 50's and Thai woman in her late 30's--and they were very much in love and had been married for 10 years.  No red flags flying.]

I ask you to take a few moments today to do a little research, read an article or two.  Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.   I believe that this ugly secret does need to be brought into the light.  Most of us cannot become covert spies and infiltrate brothels.  But we can support anti-trafficking efforts with our time, our money and our prayers.  Here are just a few organizations that are working to end human trafficking, and/or support the rescue and rehabilitation of victims:

Destiny Rescue
International Justice Mission
House of Engedi
Abolition International
Compassion International
Not For Sale

"Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery.  But nothing will ever happen until we are."  Gary Haugen