advent journal: lives in the balance


    While my parents were here they wanted us to open our Christmas presents early so they could see how we liked what they got us. I love mine –- they gave me an iPod Shuffle. The postage stamp-sized gadget holds two hundred and fifty songs. I loaded it up for work this week with some Steve Earle, Jess Klein, and Jackson Browne to keep me moving while I was doing prep work by myself in the afternoons. Browne had been a big part of the soundtrack of my life since I bought his first record in high school. Today, I was caught again by his wonderful lyrics like these from “Fountain of Sorrow”:

    Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
    I was taken by a photograph of you
    There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
    But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

    You were turning ’round to see who was behind you
    And I took your childish laughter by surprise
    And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
    There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes

    Or these from “For a Dancer,” which always makes me think of Ginger:

    Keep a fire burning in your eye
    Pay attention to the open sky
    You never know what will be coming down
    I don’t remember losing track of you
    You were always dancing in and out of view
    I must have thought you’d always be around
    Always keeping things real by playing the clown
    Now you’re nowhere to be found

    Twenty years ago, he came out with a record called Lives in the Balance that had a harder political edge than anything he had done because he became passionate about the mistakes our government was making in Central and South America. Now, in 2006, the song sounds as if it were written yesterday. Here are the lyrics and a video of the title track.

    I’ve been waiting for something to happen
    For a week or a month or a year
    With the blood in the ink of the headlines
    And the sound of the crowd in my ear
    You might ask what it takes to remember
    When you know that you’ve seen it before
    Where a government lies to a people
    And a country is drifting to war

    And there’s a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who send the guns
    To the wars that are fought in places
    Where their business interest runs

    On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
    You hear one thing again and again
    How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
    And we come to the aid of a friend
    But who are the ones that we call our friends
    These governments killing their own?
    Or the people who finally can’t take any more
    And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
    There are lives in the balance
    There are people under fire
    There are children at the cannons
    And there is blood on the wire

    There’s a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who fan the flames
    Of the wars that are fought in places
    Where we can’t even say the names

    They sell us the President the same way
    They sell us our clothes and our cars
    They sell us every thing from youth to religion
    The same time they sell us our wars
    I want to know who the men in the shadows are
    I want to hear somebody asking them why
    They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
    But they’re never the ones to fight or to die
    And there are lives in the balance
    There are people under fire
    There are children at the cannons
    And there is blood on the wire

    As long as I’m relying on him for most of the words tonight, here is the closing verse of “For a Dancer”:

    Keep a fire for the human race
    Let your prayers go drifting into space
    You never know what will be coming down
    Perhaps a better world is drawing near
    And just as easily it could all disappear
    Along with whatever meaning you might have found
    Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
    (The world keeps turning around and around)
    Go on and make a joyful sound

    In the opening verse of the passage I will read as the prophet Zephaniah in church tomorrow, he sounds as if he is speaking to dancers as well:

    Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel!
    Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!

    At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you;
    I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered.
    I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.

    At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.
    I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD.

    And so we wait.



    1. Incidentally, this is the first time in nearly a week that Google/Blogger whatever-it-is has allowed me to post a comment on your site. Probably some other people have had that problem too. I just wanted you to know I’ve been here.

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