Tag Archives: grace

A Sacrifice of Praise

We are instructed to offer a “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15. Usually I gloss over that line. Yeah, yeah, praise and Thanksgiving, blah blah blah. Yet, it deserves more consideration than a shrug of ¬†the mind.

“Sacrifice” has multiple meanings depending on the context. Between God and Man, it most often describes a bridging action from man to God which recognizes power (of God, of Law), the deviation from Law (due to intentional action or omission), and the need for the disparity between what is good and holy and what is not. Traditionally, we could not approach God directly. Nothing that is not “clean” or “holy” may. So, the regulations surrounding different forms of sacrifices described in Jewish Law serve to clean the pathway between God and Man so that we may approach Him.

A Christian’s understanding of Jesus as the Messiah means that Christ became the consummate sacrifice meeting all criteria of the Law, permanently. Our individual requirements for guilt or thanksgiving sacrifices have been met, leaving us to offer only “sacrifices of praise.”

All we are asked to do is say “thanks be to God.” Yet, every time we complain about our circumstances, every time we submit to envy or jealousy or self-pity, we do not offer praise. In these negative acts, we shunt praise and prevent it from coming to our lips or hearts.

God does not want us to pretend that suffering is not part of life. He suffered Himself. He wants us to bring our suffering to Him in prayer, however, and not idly grouse and moan to others.

When we speak or think words of praise, we create space within which God can work. When we do not praise, we close ourselves off and prevent His actions.

If we come to him in prayer, acknowledging Him in our suffering and with our praise, we give Him permission to heal and strengthen. Praise is not merely an acknowledgement of faith or of God’s greatness — although that alone would be sufficient reason for praise — it is also our permission to Him for His work in our lives.

Perfection in Catastrophe: My Review of Rush’s Clockwork Angels Performance

This is embarrassingly overdue – but worth the wait. ūüôā

Almost a month ago, Rush visited Boston to perform “Clockwork Angels.” I’ve posted other people’s reviews of that particular show already on this site, so I am not going to comment on the decadent playlist, the fantastic string section, the funny videos, et al.

I’m going to talk about everything that went wrong during this show — and how it is that these mistakes made the show truly stellar.

How can this be, right? Things (in the post-modern sense) cannot be perfect at all, certainly not when they are full of errors, because Things cannot – Be.

Yet: human beings, and art itself, are not Things.

(I know – I’m opening up the can of pastiche and Lacan and Foucault and simulacra anti-Modernist hyper-academia, uh, shit. I’ll take that fight if you want to bring it. ;p)

Things, as Signs, have no meaning other than that which we assign if you fall in with today’s popular theories. I don’t.

This idea of being able to separate the essence of some-thing from the word we use to describe it, even from it Itself, is cute in class, but ask anyone participating in a performance, especially a musical performance of any kind or scale, ¬†and each person will acknowledge the presence of something “more,” something perhaps even “universal” and “larger than us” that happens in the tempo of the act Itself.

Rush concerts are known for being spectacular displays of virtuosity and good humor. The Trio are famous in part for technical prowess and consistently solid, smooth, disaster-free performances.

I lost count of how many things went profoundly Wrong during this show. Gear broke. Screens broke. Geddy’s mic cut in and out. The drum kit needed attention repeatedly. Something¬†happened to Alex during one of the songs that actually stopped Geddy from running in one direction towards stage left and caused him instead to sprint towards Alex, visibly concerned about whether or not Alex had been hurt. My husband and I wondered if the stage was safe, if they perhaps they should stop the show for a moment. It certainly appeared that Geddy was considering it.

Now, if one was not watching the show, but only *listening,* one would have never known that anything was awry. This¬†is staggering when one considers how difficult Rush’s music is to play. The idea of being able to play it perfectly with broken gear and rattled nerves baffles. Yet, musicianship isn’t much to write about with these three anymore. ¬†It is de¬†rigueur¬†to experience perfection.

However, because I was watching and not (just) listening, I saw some-Thing truly glorious: three intimate friends reassuring one another, backing each other up, figuring out how to compensate for broken _______, and still pull off one of the best musical performances of any kind.

It is rare that we get to watch someone do something great or good.

I do not refer to the fact that, unless you’re a¬†caravanning¬†roadie, we don’t get to watch Rush play more than once every couple of years. On October 24th, we at the Garden (how appropriate) were permitted to watch three men – just men like any other, potentially any member of this universal human Thing we each are – take care of one another. ¬†We were permitted to watch them live up to the standards they have set, not merely of musicianship, but of character and kindness. In a profession in which rock stars are allowed – indeed, expected – to behave like tyrannical brats, they demonstrated consideration for each other, and obvious concern that their fans might be unhappy by a less than flawless show. We watched technical problem after technical disaster happen – in tempo – and we watched them respond with grace, ingenuity, and even jokes. (Thanks, Alex.)

The Show became a performance of character and compassion rather than a live production of a fantastic album. The Show became a breathing example of what any man can be, how friendship and kindness can be demonstrated, and how it is that one can react with aplomb in adversity. In the explosion of real time problems with a performance of art, these three hours transcended a mere musical show and became a symbol of the ever present tension between our idea of what can be and the grit of was is. It was breath-taking.

It was an honor.

Herein, this concert became more than the traditional signifer. This evening’s signified was a pulsing, searing, sweaty example of grace under pressure. During these three hours, a bit of the individuals who comprise the band was on display – not the carefully crafted professional personas of RUSH, but three regular guys making it through a rough night in what happened to be a shockingly public venue. It was private, and privileged, and truly special.


PS Thanks so much, guys, for playing “The Pass.” I never thought I’d hear it live, and – well, it’s special to me. Just ask the guy sitting next to me who was knocked over by my reaction. *sigh* It’s a good thing Rush fans tend to be friendly…

Feral Power

Inside this house, I lounge in pajamas, nursing sore muscles and a tired mind. I work with distractions, changing CDs, rifling ¬†through novels, considering movies I could stream from Netflix or pull out of my library – the kinds that I want to watch, but don’t want my 7 year old to see yet, movies like “American History X” or “Apocalypse¬†Now.” ¬†I consider also resuming my rereading of the Bible. Solitude is good for theological contemplation, then again, one also needs to be in a state of mind for such endeavors to be anything other than checking off so many chapters read per day. You need to pay attention if you want to save your soul.

Inside this mind, I pace, I lope, I sneer and snarl at the lists of things I Ought to Do, a list I wrote and tasks I assigned to myself because seeing them recline undone annoys me. (I am always balancing my annoyance with my clutter and my dust against my general irritation with doing anything that will simply need to be done again in a few days and maintained. I don’t particularly care for¬†Sisyphean¬†tasks; they remind me of all the things we have to do each day just to keep things running, like paying recurring bills or brushing one’s teeth. You’re just going to have to do it all over again in a few hours or days, Sweetheart.) I fidget and sigh and daydream and check the clock. I watch the countdowns in my mind: so many hours until Opening Day baseball, so many hours until Passover, until Easter, until a Zumba class a neighbor has invited me to attend, until my family comes home, until I might feel inspired to do all of those Annoying Tasks – I do know that I will enjoy the results¬†immensely. I run this circle in¬†repetition, in rhythm, until I am stilled by the lists of possible choices to make. To turn left, or right, to climb up or squat down, this room or the next, check email, check blog, check weather, check email.

I am like a wolf in a cage, a cage built of too many choices, none of them urgent, all of them important, and my indecisiveness is the metal holding me in. I pace and I snap. I wish I could sleep.

Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservatio...

Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, howling on top of a snowy hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I do realize that if I take action of any kind, make a decision to do any of these things that I (have at least convinced myself that I) want to do, my cage will open, and my paths to run or lope or rest will again be fresh and free. I have created my own cage, but have I done this because I am staggered by my freedom and don’t know how to enjoy it, or because there is a perverse safety in enforced limitations. (If I’m locked in a cage, then I can’t possibly do any of these things. It isn’t my fault. If I am free to roam, then am I a sloth, lazy, decadent, or are all of the things on, for example, my Spring Cleaning list not as important to me as I thought?)

When others constrict our movement, we feel resistance and a desire to escape and employ free agency again. When we constrict ourselves, we are meeting personally, face-to-face our own private jailers, and our own fear of Рthe immense responsibility of freedom, the raw power of free will, and the potential to lose our humanity to this power. Creatures tend to want to acquire as much power as possible in which ever form is the most available or the most expedient to them. None of us are above this urge, it brusts from a concept we have that more power means more safey.

I believe, however, that more “Power” means greater risk to one’s soul: you might barter it away without knowing, you might think that your power is secure in money or prestige or influence or a Best Selling Novel or IPO. These things are not power in themselves. They can assist power, but if the soil they provide is left untended, it will nourish choking weeds and creepers, nothing lovely or sustaining will grow. Power is sourced in kindness, in acts of compassion and mercy, and in the¬†discreet¬†protection of other people’s secrets, in being trustworthy and honest. Power is love in action, with no plans for personal benefit, but with attention to the welfare of others. In using our talents in context with others, each of us is powerful.

Our culture certainly celebrates celebrity power and influence – but I think that all that activity and noise is a form of star-fucking and self-aggrandizement, meant to fill in holes and gather “respect.” Reality TV offers an abundance of examples. So does politics. Sadly, even our religious communities often fall prey to the power of bullying and condemnation, of¬†hate-mongering¬†and ignorance. Atrocities are¬†committed¬†every day in the name of someone’s God.

Note: don’t bring God into your own agenda. All this evil is on each one of us and our very own decisions, not God. Not the Devil either. We made these choices, we are responsible for the¬†consequences. I’m pretty sure that God – and here it doesn’t even matter what God a person might be praying to – will not appreciate such¬†libel¬†and heresy. Be very careful if you start pinning your tasks onto someone else.

True power exists in spaces that are anonymous and gentle. The power is in the generosity, and it is a power that passes from one of us into the next. It grows as we share it, and it is through small acts towards neighbors, family, coworkers, community members, and so on, that we create a momentum of respect and love. These things are taught by example, and because we learn them in relationships with other people whose names we learn and situations we hear of, gently our fears of those with different cultures, religions, health statuses, economic standing, employment status Рthe list goes on Рour fears wane.

It is hard to hate those we meet. Once we drop our impulse to define ourselves as different from everyone else, we comfort each other in our similarities, and our differences become treasure we can share, and the beginnings of peace we can sustain.

This, this kindness, this true power, this real love, cannot be organized by law, but can be introduced by name and face. This power is what is outside the cage.

If you leave your own self-made cage, you have the opportunity to make these choices. You have the power to offer yourself to help by sharing the things you already do and already have with others. You have it, I have it, even the recovering addict in the shelter has this potential.

Outside of the cage. So, truly, there is no excuse for my staying in my cage. I need to live with my heart, and with my eyes, and with sensitivity – for, as the saying goes, “we are all fighting a hard battle.”

This is power: the power of love, from which comes mercy, compassion, empathy, charity, forgiveness, kindness, and respect. (And, in your journeys, should you meet a “Christian” who teaches superiority of any kind,¬†judgmentalness¬†in any¬†disguise, hate in any language towards anyone, or who claims to know God better than you do, or that s/he is more holy than you are, that s/he has the right to condemn you — well, run, don’t walk, run in the other direction. They aren’t teaching the Bible, they are teaching their fear and hiding behind a religious machinery to do so. It’s extreme cowardice, and it’s heresy. An aversion to these people is very prudent. ūüôā )

  • John 15:12 (KJV)This is my commandment, That ye¬†love¬†one¬†another, as I have loved you.
  • John 13:34 (KJV)A new commandment I give unto you, That ye¬†love¬†one¬†another; as I have loved you, that ye also¬†love¬†one¬†another.
  • Ephesians 4:2 (KJV)With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing¬†one¬†another in¬†love;
  • John 13:35 (KJV)By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have¬†love¬†one¬†to another.
  • John 15:17 (KJV)These things I command you, that ye¬†love¬†one¬†another.
  • 1 John 3:11 (KJV)For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should¬†love¬†one¬†another.
  • 1 John 4:11 (KJV)Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to¬†love¬†one¬†another.
  • 1 Peter 3:8 (KJV)Finally, be ye all of¬†one¬†mind, having compassion¬†one¬†of another,¬†love¬†as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
  • Matthew 22:39 (KJV)And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt¬†love¬†thy neighbour as thyself.
  • Colossians 3:19 (KJV)Husbands,¬†love¬†your wives, and be not bitter against them.
  • Hebrews 10:24 (KJV)And let us consider¬†one¬†another to provoke unto¬†love¬†and to good works:
  • 1 John 4:7 (KJV)Beloved, let us¬†love¬†one¬†another: for¬†love¬†is of God; and every¬†one¬†that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
  • Romans 13:8 (KJV)Owe no man any thing, but to¬†love¬†one¬†another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (KJV)And the Lord make you to increase and abound in¬†love¬†one¬†toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
  • 1 John 4:12 (KJV)
  • No man hath seen God at any time. If we¬†love¬†one¬†another, God dwelleth in us, and his¬†love¬†is perfected in us.
  • Galatians 6:2 (KJV)Bear ye¬†one¬†another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
  • Luke 6:27 (KJV)But I say unto you which hear,¬†Love¬†your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
  • Colossians 3:13 (KJV)Forbearing¬†one¬†another, and forgiving¬†one¬†another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
  • Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)And be ye kind¬†one¬†to another, tenderhearted, forgiving¬†one¬†another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. 

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