One Generation to Another

Just watched a very cool video on You Tube.  Muse, arguably one of the best live acts around, played this year at Glastonbury.  Now, I’ve never been, but it’s an event I would love to attend.  Some of the world’s biggest bands, as well as some of my personal favorites, have played there.  Just recently, Muse did a cover of U2’s, “Where the Streets Have No Name.”  Now, I’m usually not a fan of covers, especially of U2 songs, however, this one was different, and it got me thinking….

Muse invited a guest to come and play with them.  It was U2’s lead guitarist, The Edge.  The performance was amazing. Anticipating Muse playing with The Edge reminded me of the type of nervous anticipation I felt watching my younger brother perform theatre.  Success rested solely on his shoulders.  As his brother, I desired the best, braced for worst, but would’ve been happy with something in between.  To borrow a baseball term, my brother “knocked it out of the park,” and so did Muse. 

Afterward, in an interview, The Edge admitted that it was the first time he’d played that song apart from “the boys.”  However, “the boys” were behind the idea and encouraged The Edge to play with Muse.  That alone is something worth considering, but we’ll leave that for a future blog.  What struck me was hearing a younger generation singing a song that belonged to an older generation with an energy and passion that resembled U2’s, but was entirely their own.  I would argue that having The Edge play with them provided the continuity necessary for Muse to “make it their own,” but still allowing it be a reflection of the original artists’ work.  

I’m only 36, so it seems weird to write about generational things.  I know I’m young, but most of the time, wish I were younger still.  However, time is much more precious and meaningful to me than it was even 5 years ago.  I’m grateful for a connection with an older generation, whose passion and energy I can relate to, even if it’s not quite like mine.  Some of these connections have come in the form of good books.  I’m also privileged to have men and women who’s thoughts I’ve gladly “covered,” making them my own, but honoring where they’ve come from.   For those younger than me, who are asking questions, wrestling with ideas and are as equally passionate, I hope to be someone they learn from and emulate. I want to be able to recognize their gifts, abilities and capabilities, not see it as a threat, but rather, as an extension of a contribution that I am hoping to make.

The psalmist David wrote long ago that: “one generation would commend your works to another” We do that when we share the music we compose, the songs we sing, the stories we tell, the books we write, the love we give, the hope we carry and the faith we express.  I must always be reminded that much of what I’m able to articulate and express now is a direct result of the willingness of others to share and invest.  I’m optimistic enough to believe that if I live open-handedly, (although there is great risk in that); my “own” ideas (however that looks) will be incorporated and expressed by others.  Please understand, that’s meant to sound more hopeful than egotistical.  This is what I thought about after I saw Muse play “Streets.”  Enjoy:


Why Can't We Be Friends?

 Just this past week, I had breakfast with two friends.  The three of us had a great time talking about mutual interests and our personal lives.  We each have differing views on life, which makes our time together more enjoyable.  There’s nothing like walking away from a conversation, being challenged to think, compelled to listen and seeking to respond with thoughtful answers.  Like my last blog stated, I can sometimes assume too much about others, including why they may have come to different conclusions than I have.  In friendship, the development of trust, the exchange of honest ideas and the “getting-to-know” those in my life have helped in formulating my own convictions, beliefs and passions.  I often wonder how much of my own commitments would have been open for honest assessment and critique if I only had contact with those who thought exactly like me?  (Which, by the way, would be a very, very small sample size).

Often times, the ideas we believe in, (that one’s truly shape our lives), are rightly held with a closely embraced tenacity.  However, in safeguarding these ideas, people can often isolate themselves from others and develop unhealthy attitudes towards those who may think differently.  This is true among communities and groups who express a like-minded commitment to the same thing.  That’s not to say that disagreements don’t matter, they do.  It matters as to whether or not my own devotion to Christ means that I take the issue of loving God and my neighbor seriously.  Some within the Christian tradition may agree with the words in the text, but in practice, model something completely different.  When this type of tension arises within a group, the issue becomes that we learn to talk WITH each other, instead of AT each other as to why we hold to the differences in both understanding this message and its application.   Hopefully, this makes sense. 

This dynamic is further illuminated when there is not a similar or like-minded commitment.  Anyone who has followed the political scene in our country only needs to look there to understand this is the case.  The norm is to hold one’s own view as the standard and any deviation from their view as problematic.  (This doesn’t just happen in politics, but can be readily identified there).  Any attempt to be civil-minded in discourse is seen as weak, pandering or simply a way to guarantee re-election.  (Even now, I’m sure some who may read this, may be mentally assigning blame for this reality.  It’s always easier to make it someone else’s problem).  If we are to truly cultivate meaningful human relationships, this has to change.

So, this blog entry is one giant invitation for all of us to begin to change the often-isolated culture we live in.  Beginning this Thursday, at the Piper Down, I am going to coordinate a weekly discussion group called, “Barstool Seminary.”  The idea is to create a space where friends, neighbors and strangers can come together and talk about what’s important to them.  There will be topics to get us started and special lectures to make us think, but just like with any friendship, the conversation can and will lead to other topics.  Plan on joining us as we ask, listen and hear about what matters most to those who we live and work with. 

Oh, so you know, there are rules at “Barstool Seminary” to insure that the goal of having a civic-minded dialogue happens.  You’ll just have to come to find out.  (Or, check out my Facebook page later this week).   Perhaps you’ve heard a very cheesy joke in the past that starts out like: “A Buddhist, Christian and atheist walk into a bar…” The idea is that these people, under normal circumstances, would never talk to each other.  The personalities involved are intended to lend itself to the humor of the joke.  At “Barstool Seminary,” the idea is to make this dynamic more of a reality and less of a punch line.  Come join us.


A Pretentious and Presumptuous Man

A friend of mine at work and I were talking awhile back.  During the course of our conversation, the topic of music came up.  When I mentioned that U2 was my favorite group, she exclaimed, “I love U2!”

Of course, my next question was an easy one:  “What’s your favorite album?”  She was like, “I really don’t have one.”  Fair enough.  I asked, “What about a favorite song?” She said, “I really like their song, ‘One love.’”

STOP!  I’m sorry; I thought my friend said she was a U2 fan.  No favorite album! Really?  It took everything inside of me to refrain from saying, “One love?  Don’t you mean, “One?”  Are we talking about U2 or Bob Marley?”  While I pretended to act like I was enjoying this part of our conversation, I walked away believing, without a doubt, she was NO U2 fan.

Later that night, as I was driving home, a thought hit me.  The problem wasn’t that she saw herself as a fan.  The problem was mine.  I was exhibiting two very unhealthy traits of human behavior that, thankfully, in this case, did not led to disastrous results.  I was being pretentious about all that I knew about U2 and presumptuous about what I thought she should know about them.  After all, she said she was a fan.  Come to think of it, I didn’t have a favorite album (Achtung Baby) right away.  I couldn’t have told you the real names of The Edge or Bono (Paul Hewson & David Evans) until many years after becoming more familiar with the group.   Why then, would I expect her to possess as much knowledge or have as well-informed opinions about them when she was just learning about their music?

I made a decision that night to introduce her to some of my favorite cuts by the band.  That she never knew that’s how I felt, didn’t justify my attitude. The next time I worked with her, I gave her a CD with some of my favorite music by them.  “You need to check these songs out,” I told her excitedly.  Just a week ago, I offered her a chance to borrow my DVD from their most recent tour at the Rose Bowl.  Why?  If she has expressed interest in something that I love and have loved for a longer period of time, then I want to invite her on the same journey I’ve been on, with hopes that she might love them like I do.

Thankfully, something as simple as liking U2 has minimal, (if that), consequences.  However, I think many can fall into the same trap when engaging with culture about things that really matter.  I love studying apologetics, theology and philosophy.  It excites me to learn.  I see the beauty, worth and value in studying these things.  But, what happens when I start talking to others, even with those who may express a similar commitment to Jesus, in the same pretentious manner I displayed earlier?  I end up missing the mark and those I talk to may throw the baby (the message) out with the bath water (the messenger). 

The Christian commitment is expressed by loving God and my neighbors.  My love for God and others has grown as I’ve studied, learned, prayed and been challenged by those who both agree and disagree with me.  I am going to resist the urge use what I’ve studied as a weapon, but rather, as tools to invite others to join this journey.  Sort of like giving a friend a CD who has an idea of U2, but has yet to be introduced to some of their “deeper” material. To seek and find truth, experience grace, participate in God’s Kingdom and know what it is to live in this vibrant, love-filled relationship, is an irresistible offer.

The challenge for me is to avoid the pretentiousness and presumptions that I can often make when talking to someone.  People’s objections can be valid.  They (the objections) can often serve as masks for something else. What if someone has an attraction to Jesus, but doesn’t see how He makes sense in their life or even in the larger picture?  (Like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”)? My hope is that I will always be willing to equip others with the resources and provide for them the relationship to help them see why it all makes sense.  A winsome attitude and approach can engage others in more meaningful and life-changing ways.  My hope is that I always remember this.   

And yes, my friend is a U2 fan.   My favorite song?  Depends on the day.  Why would I expect her to have one?  I know, totally not right.


Welcome to U2 Gospel.

Those of you who know me well, and some who know just a little bit, might get a little chuckle at the title of my blog. I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite some time. The problem is, I’m very long-winded and I tend to be all over the place. If you need proof, I’ll post some of the feedback over the years from my professors. At the same time, I believe there is an inherent value to put some of what I’m thinking down for different reasons. One, it’s good to get things off my chest. Secondly, I’m actually interested in hearing what others have to say about what I’m thinking. You don’t have to agree with me on every point. In fact, you may disagree with me altogether, but I’m learning something priceless about friendship the older I get. The truest of friends are willing to listen, talk and ask. So, consider this blog an extension of that idea. We live in a world where people rarely talk to each other, and while that’s a topic for another day, that’s no way to live life (although it just may be the safest).

Where do I begin? How about my love for U2? OK, that sounds great. I’ll start there. I’ve always been a bit of restless soul. Not so much unhappy or miserable, just a bit restless. Not sure why, but I’d like to chalk it up to my sense of adventure (of the non-camping/outdoors variety). I remember sitting in my AP Spanish class in high school and my teacher, Senora Linares, was pointing at a map while teaching. The thought hit me as I sat there while she spoke, “I want to change the world!” I know, big idea, right? The world seemed so big and so small all at the same time. In some ways, it still does. How does a 17 year-old chase a dream to make a difference? Well, that process has been 19 years in the making (where does the time go?) and most days it has felt like I’ve taken two steps forward and 20 steps backwards. However, those two steps forward make all the difference in the world. During these last 19 years, U2’s music has become and still serves as a soundtrack for that dream to change the world.

Those who know me are also aware of my real, deep and abiding commitment to Jesus. Yes, it’s true that during those same 19 years, I’ve wrestled, struggled, cried, doubted, matured and solidified that relationship as well. I grew up, like many of my friends, in a religious environment. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my upbringing and my life’s experiences, both positive and negative, but I felt, for the longest time, that there was a disconnect from my own experience, my ideas about God and the world at large. U2’s music actually helped me transition through a very awkward time. I would liken it to a spiritual puberty. No, really, that's how I would describe it. Sounds weird, but I think it captures well what I went through.

So, you see, what the Gospel is (more on that topic later) and more importantly, WHOM the Gospel is all about captivates and consumes every fiber in my being. When U2 plays and Bono is singing, it’s often what I think about. This blog will be about more than just U2. However, this will be a lens into my life, my hopes, fears, and loves, my weaknesses, failures, optimism and faith. Sometimes it will be light, other times serious, but mostly in between. I hope to invite gracious and honest reflection from anyone patient enough to read. I am also hoping to learn from others who can add a more deepened understanding of my own limited knowledge. I’m hopeful that this will come from those who not only share my commitment to Christ, but especially from those who don’t. I will try to keep it short-ish. But like Bono sings in “40,” “How long to sing this song?” Looking forward to sharing and to getting to know you all better.