"As the music of the universe plays..."

I watched part of a special on PBS the other night called "Science and Song." It followed a group of scientists and Bobbie McFerrin as they explored the uniqueness of music to human beings and postulated on why it might exist. The discussions were evolution-based, of course, and the best guess they had was that music connects us to one another -- which makes it necessary from an evolutionary standpoint (I guess).

But it went deeper than that. One scientist spoke of "The String Theory" and the idea that every particle of matter contains a string that vibrates, not unlike a piano string. So we essentially have music in us, which might explain how music can affect us so powerfully and make me want to weep after five measures of a cello solo. Not only that, but virtually everything in the universe emits its own pitch -- it's just so low that human ears can't hear it. Human ears can't hear it. A black hole, for instance, makes a B flat. But it's dozens of octaves lower than any B flat we play.

So this got me thinking: The universe is essentially one big song. And I believe music was God's way of letting us in on it all. I was reminded of Lewis' gorgeous narrative in "The Magician's Nephew" where Aslan sang Narnia's stars into existence. Or in Job when God asks "where were you...when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:7). Then, as providence would have it, I was out driving as the song "Cannons" came on my car stereo. I was stopped at a red light and couldn't help but grin as I noticed the branches in the trees swaying back and forth in perfect time to this melody...

It's falling from the clouds
A strange and lovely sound
I hear it in the thunder and rain
It's ringing in the skies
Like cannons in the night
The music of the universe plays

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who you are
I'm so unworthy, but still you love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great you are

Beautiful and free
Song of galaxies
It's reaching far beyond the milky way
Let's join in with the sound
C'mon let's sing it loud
As the music of the universe plays

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who you are
I'm so unworthy, but still you love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great you are

'Shack' attack

I've done it -- I have read "The Shack." The Christian work of fiction has grown exponentially in popularity since it was published just two years ago. I hadn't heard of it until last winter when a friend from my Bible study mentioned it. Once I started reading it, I was amazed at how many people I would talk to in passing who'd also picked it up. Its popularity hasn't come without its share of controversy, for reasons I won't go into here for fear of giving away too much.

What you should remember going in, and keep in mind as you read, is that this is a work of fiction; it is essentially the author's imagining of what a conversation with God might look/sound/feel like. As long as you read it with that frame of mind you'll avoid the two extremes of either embracing it like the Gospel itself or rejecting it as presumptuous heresy.

I throughly liked "The Shack." The questions it asks are important and the answers are provocative. There are so many noteworthy themes — I can't even scratch the surface on this blog. But something that really resonated with me is the idea that legalism and ritual-based religion often amounts to a declaration of independence from God. How's that? Well, the more you take upon yourself to do in efforts to please God, the less you depend on Him; apart from Him we can do nothing, remember? As the book puts it, "independence is lunacy" when it comes to the way God created our relationship with Him to be like.

And there's no point saying "God is my top priority," because how much Bible study/prayer/etc. is ever "enough"? The more we know God and give up our independence to rest in Him, the more He's in all of our priorities.

There is certainly nothing wrong with church, a church building and church leadership.  But rules and rituals have never healed any of humanity's wounds or brought us closer to God.  Religion didn't die on the cross, Jesus did.  As a perfect cherry-on-top to finishing the book, my husband and I visited a church Sunday while on vacation.  It's as if the sermon was the bridge in a song I'd been learning while I read the book.

Channeling your energy into whether you're keeping the Sabbath correctly or drinking alcohol too frequently just misses the point. There is no power in religious legalism but the power to bind ourselves. The heart of Christianity is a constant conversation with God — no folded hands or closed eyes necessary — and a surrender to grace.  It is then and only then that our lights so shine before men that they see our good works and glorify the Father (not us).

So consider that my book report for the year.

"16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."

{Colossians 2:16-23}

It's kind of a big deal

"Since the dawn of time..."

Isn't that the best way to start a sentence? Well, pretty much since the dawn of time, God has been very specific about the ways we were to (and *not* to) partake in sexual activity. Man-woman-marriage-period (well, a few extra wives here and there plus a couple concubines was palatable). From what I've studied, this was a pretty rare idea among ancient religions. Why do you think this is?

I've often thought about how things changed from the Old Testament to the New, in terms of "the law." Many of the rules were thrown out. Forbidden foods can now be enjoyed with a clear conscience, circumcision is optional, etc. But the rules about sex didn't change: man-woman-marriage-period. And it seems the model was made even stronger with more focus one ONE man and ONE woman.

Sex is a big deal to God, for one reason or another. I have some theories about why, but I'm much more interested in hearing other people's thoughts on the matter, since mine are vague at best. Circumcision used to be a sign of God's promise living in you, and there was a time when you were what you ate (almost literally). But all of that changed, or rather was fulfilled, with Christ's death. What is it about sex?