Thursday, February 22, 2018
It must be amazing to win an Oscar or a Grammy. Imagine being an actor or actress or singer or musician, beloved by so many adoring fans already, and to be in a room with all of your peers who love the same craft that you do and to hear your name called out above all others as the best of the best. After all those years of hard work, at last, the spotlight is on you. The applause makes your heart swell with overwhelming joy. Life is good. You’ve been recognized. Your agent can ask for more money.
Imagine the adrenaline of finishing a NASCAR race in first place with thousands of fans cheering… roaring. The champagne cascades as you are hoisted up on the shoulders of your hardworking crew. Imagine cutting down the nets. Imagine winning the gold medal.
If you’re daydreaming, that can be a fun place to spend a few seconds, imagining that elation. They worked hard… they earned it… you’re happy for them and in their happiness, you see a place that you would like to be, if only for a while. It must be truly fantastic to see a distant light, to follow it and to finally arrive at some long-sought-after destination. It’s time to bask in that light, at long last, and to be fulfilled.
That’s what happens, right? After traveling so far… after sacrificing so much… our search would be over. Why else would we invest our very souls into something so deeply if it wasn’t to achieve fulfillment? There’s the light. I went to it. Mission completed.
Well, the answer to that my friend depends upon the stars that you are following. Not all lights are created equal. There is a well-known metaphor that comes to mind about the moth being drawn to the flame. There is another about the light at the end of the tunnel being an oncoming train. The truth is, our ambitions, while laudable with the right perspective, can easily lead us to a place far from anything ultimately fulfilling. The gossip blogs and magazines are filled with famous people who had it all and their lives careened out of control after they achieved their successes. You would think that having it all would virtually guarantee inner peace. And yet, the very pinnacles of success as measured by today’s society and popular culture leave those who achieve it still empty and longing for something more. They followed their light and in the end, it only let them down. That’s why so many famous people become activists in areas other than their own profession. The prize they attained was hollow and didn’t fill the void like they thought it would so now they must begin the search anew. They begin to search for another light… a different light.
To paraphrase the 1980’s band The Human League…We are only human; born to make mistakes. When the light we follow lets us down, we choose another light to follow and usually, striving within our own whims, that choice is no better. So how do we know that there is a target worth striving for? Is there a light that we can follow that won’t leave us cold in the end? Well as a matter of fact, there is a book, said to be an ancient sacred text, that contains the account of a man who offered a different light that men and women everywhere, of every walk of life could follow to find fulfillment. His story predates even the actual printing of books as we know them and even though there have millions and millions of books printed throughout the history of books, this one seems to speak to our life circumstances, even in modern times, better than any collected text ever has. In it, a man named Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Wow… could it be that easy? Isn’t that exactly what we have been looking for? The light of life? Something truly fulfilling? Something that somehow fills the void we fill in our hearts and that doesn’t meet us at the finish line with cold neon or fluorescent fake-ness? Just think about some of the people who followed their light and attained it all only to find it was just click-bait in the end. Without naming names, we can all think of celebrities that reached the pinnacle and self-destructed. How empty it must be to hold something you once thought valuable and realize that it doesn’t live up to the hype. At this point, you have to be asking yourself, is there anything that’s the real deal?
Jesus said in Ephesians 5:14 “Wake up sleeper! Rise from the dead and Christ will shine upon you.”
There’s your good morning wake-up call.
We are a world of followers, even those who lead. We are all adherents to something. There is a light that we all look to. The path we are on leads somewhere. Everyone that you come into contact with is a believer, in something. Since most of those roads are all dead ends, why not show them something that works. Be a burning light in a sea of neon lights.
Be a different light.
Mark Bishop is a Dove Award-winning Christian Music artist and writer with a brand new recording entitled “A Different Light”. Classified as mostly traditional in style, the lyrics and music speak to God’s bigness in everyday happenstance. You can find the new album across all platforms here. https://clg.lnk.to/HpUHw
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
So begins a story that has enraptured millions and millions of fans around the world, to the point that the mythical universe created in that story has transcended mere movie-making and for many, has become the passion of their very life.
Count me among the fans who love the Star Wars movies. I was twelve years old when the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. At that age, robots, spaceships and laser pistols were right in my wheelhouse. They could not have created a more meaningful movie for a soon-to-be-teenage boy and so I saw it eight weeks in a row, one Saturday matinee after another. It was easy for me to see myself in the character of Luke Skywalker, searching the distant horizon of Tataouine for some meaning and higher purpose. I remember longing to go with the young moisture farmer on his incredible transformational journey to see if I could find where I belonged.
Alas, we don’t stay twelve years old do we? As wonderful as the movies are, we soon realize that there is no “force” to help us move the world around us, or to pick us out of the crowd and to fulfill our ultimate destiny.
Or is there?
I grew up in church but honestly, at the age of twelve, I wasn’t very interested in what the preacher had to say. I was all about comic books, bicycles, sports (it was the era of the Big Red Machine- Cincinnati Reds baby!) and sci-fi monster movies. I was a bit of a nerd, loooong before that was cool. I didn’t mind church, but it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I started listening to what the preacher was actually saying. Maybe it’s because in your high school years you really become aware of the larger world around you. Suddenly, hurting people and their very real problems reveal themselves to you, or at least, you gain the cognizance to become aware of them. You begin to find yourself wondering what this world is all about. The planet earth grows very large very quickly and you realize that it would be easy to be swallowed by the insanity and the noise unless you develop a plan, and even sometimes if you do.
So now the preacher’s words come back to you. You remember something about all this being created eons ago and that back then, everything was perfect until one of God’s greatest generals got jealous and challenged the Creator of the universe. That a cosmic divide was created and armies of angels chose sides and to this very day, there is a hidden war taking place above and below us. That God created us humans in His own image, meaning not just in our outward appearance but in the way that we process thought and are aware of our world. And then, God sent His own Son to save all of the real Luke Skywalkers and Princess Leias of the world. And amazingly, He did it victoriously in a way that no one expected, without a powerful army or by lifting a sword. He did it by sacrificing Himself to His enemies. He won with love. I have to tell you, as a young man in a turbulent world, I wanted to know more.
The comic books and movies are fine for entertainment and to perpetuate a child’s wish fulfillment. But there comes a time, when the real world comes crashing in on top of us, that we need more than imaginary lasers, starships and wookies. We need more than an imaginary “force”, we need a real one.
It’s true that there are many in todays culture who would have you believe that you are nothing special in the grand cosmic picture; that you are just an arrangement of ingredients that could just have easily been a rock, a tree or a bumble-bee without that one slight variable in the genetic code. That you are in effect, an accident. But in your heart, you feel, nay… you know that there is something more. Maybe that’s because there is. And so, you stand in the twilight, looking out across that horizon, aching to be reconciled with your higher purpose, confident from somewhere deep within that there is a voice whispering to your heart. Maybe it’s the “real force” that calls to you, just as it has for every generation.
I guess that I am still a bit of a geek after all these years. I like a good story. Maybe that’s why the songs I write tell stories. I’ve raised my daughters to enjoy nerdy thing too, like Star Wars and hobbits and old Disney movies and such. But above all that, they also know about the greater truth and the most fantastic love story ever known. That in the end, stories are just stories, but real love from the universe’s Creator can bring real peace to troubled minds and real hope to hopeless situations. It is a “force” that causes us to love our enemies and encourages us to find strength when circumstances are rooting against us.
There are no star destroyers looming overhead. There is no Death Star. But what there is is a world filled with hurting people who are searching for the way, lost in a very noisy, mixed-up, cultural turbulence that sucks them up and spits them back out, used up and hollow. And they are standing on their own horizon, longing, aching for answers.
You my friend are Luke Skywalker; you are Princess Leia. The world needs someone to show them some love; someone to set a good example. The time has come to separate yourself from the background players. The hero’s journey is never easy, but it is essential. There is a cosmic battle that has raged for generations where the stakes are very real. Is it an accident that God has placed you here, in this place and in this time? Or as you silently stand looking out across your own future, do you see the inevitability of the job before you?
Many are called but few answer that call. God give you strength.
And may the force be with you.
Mark Bishop is a singer/songwriter who has enjoyed a three-decade career in Christian music. He traveled for seventeen years in the Dove-Award winning band The Bishops. He continues to record albums and travel as a soloist and last year recorded an album with his daughters in a band called Mark Bishop and Forget The Sea, a unique pop-appalachian-folk ensemble that still performs from time-to-time. His music tells down-to-earth, intimate and accessible stories. He reside with his wife Carolyn in central Kentucky. They have a cat named Spock. And oddly, his birthday really is May the 4th. May the fourth be with you…