Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Awe & Mediatation: The Tree Of Life

I have loved the films of Terence Malick from the moment I first saw Badlands. This only deepened with viewings of Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. Though I have wanted to see The Tree of Life ever since it came out in 2011, I never got the opportunity to until I ordered the Blu-Ray for my birthday. 

The film won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was hailed by critics, and is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Roger Ebert even compared this film to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It opens with some of my favorite lines from the book of Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?"  It will be repeated later visually when the Mother, after the death of one of her sons, asks God, "Where were You?" The answer is a stunningly visual series of creation. 

An ambitious and vast meditation of a film. At times like a prayer as it contemplates the two ways of life: the way of nature and the way of grace. These two ways will be portrayed by the Father (played by Brad Pitt) and the Mother (played by Jessica Chastain), as well as by two of the sons, Jack, and R.L. Jack, the oldest son, struggles with his nature and, while he's drawn to grace, finds himself,  like the Apostle Paul, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." This is shown in segments as Jack finds himself thrust in with a group of boys where he has to prove his strength and that he's not afraid (though it is quite obvious that fear is one of the things he struggles most with). In voice-over, we hear Jack say, "Mother. Father. Always you wrestle inside of me." 

A devout Christian, Malick has made a film that is deeply theological and philosophical film, embracing the Bible as well as Kierkegaard and Heidegger. For Malick, time is not chronological but the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously and can fold back on themselves, so that he tells the story of the life of one family in Waco, Texas in a nonlinear form. Its poetic in the imagery and the way that repetition and visuals ebb and flow like the waves.

In many ways, this is kairos, God's time, and not ours. That is why we are shown the beginning of time as well as eternity.  In his Four Quartets Eliot wrote:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps in time future,
And time future contained in time past

Like Four Quartets, The Tree of Life has movements and repeated themes that run throughout it. Much like T.S. Eliot does in his Four Quartets, Malick uses film to meditate on time, mortality, faith, doubt, love, forgiveness and grace. This requires more from the viewer, who cannot be passive to appreciate such a contemplative film. This is not mere entertainment, but a rumination on the nature of life and of God. Not your typical film fare and this is far from most mainstream movie releases. 

It has often been compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey because of its ambition, but I see it more closely linked to a film like Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror, also a nonlinear film that tells the story of a boy's relationship to his absent, poet father and his lonely mother.  Both films rely on voice-over and imagery rather than traditional narrative, plot structure, and character development. 

Both Malick and Tarkovsky are more interested in poetry, theology, and imagery of film. Like The Tree of Life, The Mirror is about how history repeats itself  through cycles of love and nature passed by generations both seen through the eyes of a boy, adolescent and grown man (all the same person). 

Dreams and memories are all apart of his life with as much meaning as reality, since the latter is shaped and formed by the other two elements. 

Both filmmakers draw from their own lives for these sublime masterpieces. Both are exquisite meditative journeys that draw in the viewer to make sense of the metonymy, ellipsis, and aposiopesis. These require the audience to move past traditional film watching where one passively sits there to not think but to be entertained. Instead, it's the audience who must make the connections and to see more deeply into what is unfolding onscreen before them. It is a rich and profound work that rewards those who are willing to undertake it. Many, however, will be put off by the film, so much so that when the movie was originally released, there were theaters who posted this at the box office:

This is cinema as art. There are frames of this film that could hang on the walls of any major museum and even bares resemblances to works by artists like Andrew Wyeth. I was even struck by how much Jessica Chastain resembled Helga, Andrew Wyeth's favorite subject. 

The gorgeous cinematography was done by Emmanuel Lubezki (whose work can be seen in films like Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant). 

This film ranks up there in the tradition of the works of Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski. To call this film impressionistic and spiritual is to simplify the depth of it. There is such beauty and mysticism in this work that it challenges us. This film, like Tarkovsky's, does not just translate life into film, it transforms it.

 It is a rare work of beauty, power, and poetry. 

As the Mother (Chastain) tells her sons, "Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light." Malick's film does just that and I am thankful for it.

Here is the amazing trailer for the film:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Silence: Endo's Masterpiece & Fujimura's Meditation

While in graduate school I read Shusaku Endo's spare and elegant novel Silence for the first time. This masterpiece had a profound impact on me that would last all these years as I wrestled with the questions that this work asked and it was unsettling how inconclusive I was in asking them of myself. 

For those who've never read Silence, Endo's story centers on a young Jesuit who's sent to Japan to investigate whether or not his mentor committed apostasy. What Rodrigues, the young Jesuit, learns is the truth of the Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians)  whom officials root out and take anyone suspected of being a believer out in front of their village. There, they force them into stepping on a fumi-e (the bronze image of Christ) as a way of not only renouncing their faith but to shame them so that others will not believe. Those who refuse are either imprisoned or killed by anazuri (hanging them upside down over a pit and slowly burned alive).  

This is a real fumi-e worn smooth by all the many who had stepped on it

The illusion of the glory of martyrdom is stripped from Rodrigues as he witnesses this. Worse, he learns that Ferreira, his mentor, and other priests were told to either renounce their faith or watch as those believers were tortured and killed before them. The novel wrestles with doubt, shame, betrayal, and traumas' effects on faith. 

This was one of those great masterpieces that made me ask myself, "What would I do in that situation? Would I renounce my faith in Christ to end the torture and suffering of others?" 

These questions haunted me long after I had read this book. The more I ruminated on the painful, difficult questions of what am I willing to endure or have those around me endure for faith, the more I had to look at my own heart. To face the darkness of my own doubts. This came at a time when, having grown up in extremely conservative and fundamentalist churches, I had been taught that to doubt was to sin and so I wrestled with doubts in fear of what they meant.  

In his new meditation on Shusaku Endo's masterpiece, Makoto Fujimura writes how Endo exposes the flaw in this line of thinking. "It does not express faith in God but instead faith in clarity and, as one of my friends puts it, 'our lust for certainty.' Faith can be rational, but only after a deeper journey toward mystery and transcendence."

Most of us do not like to sit with our doubt and want only to dismiss it, but both Endo's novel and Fujimura's new work make us face truths we don't like facing. Fujimura, who lived only a few blocks from the Twin Towers, writes of the trauma 9/11 had on his own faith. How it drove him to wrestle and try to come to grips with other horrors, such as Hiroshima. As he writes, "People experiencing trauma often do not dare to ask, because we know no answer will come back, only silence."

We don't like silence. We like to have the answers. It unsettles and unnerves us not have them. 

As Endo writes in his novel:

I suppose I should simply cast from my mind these meaningless words of the coward; yet why does his plaintive voice pierce my breast with tall the pain of a sharp needle? Why has Our Lord imposed this torture and this persecution on poor Japanese peasants? No, Kichijiro was trying to express something different, something even more sickening. The silence of God. Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.

Both Shusaku Endo and Makoto Fujimura are outsiders who do not fit in within their cultures (Endo was a Christian in Japan and Fujimura is a Christian in the art world. Both cultures are unwelcoming towards faith). Yet in both men, this being the outsider has given them a wider perspective to objectively assess and address the cultures they're alienated from. It gives both "a language of hiddenness, of empathy, and visual beauty" they would not have otherwise.

Too often, in our consumer culture we only want mere entertainment. Entertainment comes from the Greek words meaning "to come between." Our entertainment is used not to enlighten or to cause us to question and think more deeply, but to keep us from doing exactly that. I have heard it said, "When I watch a movie, I don't want to have to think. I just want to be entertained." It is very much a fast-food approach to art and culture. But art should reveal "the power of the intuitive, capturing the reality hiding beneath the culture" (Fujimura). That's why, when we read a book like Silence, it strikes us so hard and shatters the illusions we like to hide behind in our entertainment. 

In reading Silence, I am confronted by my own duplicity, my own weaknesses, my own doubts and fears. I am caused to question, "What would I do?" It's one thing to read a verse like Romans 8:18, "I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us," but it's another to live that out when believing could cost not only your lives, but the lives of others. This is a very real fact of believers in many countries around the world where martyrdom is a cold, brutal reality. 

To witness just such actions, such as these beheadings of believers by Islamic terrorists, makes me read Endo's words with a better understanding:

I do not believe that God has given us this trial to not purpose. I know that the day will come when we will clearly understand why this persecution with all it's sufferings has been bestowed upon us -- for everything that Our Lord does is for our good. And yet, even as I write these words I feel the oppressive weight in my heart of those last stammering words of Kichijiro in the morning of his departure: "Why has Deus Sama imposed this suffering on us?" and then the resentment in those eyes that he turned upon me. "Father", he had said "what evil have we done?"

Makoto Fujimura grapples with these questions as he makes a pilgrimage back to the what is now known as Martyr's Hill in Japan. In so doing, he begins to confront his own identity as an artist, as someone who struggles with belonging and with culture, with expressing his faith in Christ-hidden cultures, whether they be Japan or the art world. 

His book is beautiful and thought-provoking. It moves through both Japanese culture and aesthetics masterfully, all the while wrestling with the underpinnings of belief and what does that mean for someone who wants to create meaningful art that has an impact on those who encounter it. One of my favorite lines in his book says, "Deep communication can only take place through a path of vulnerability." This is exactly what he is doing in this book. Fujimura's vulnerability in writing of his own painful experiences allows the beauty to come through of how he had "studied the arts of unbelief" (as William Blake wrote of Albion in his poem Jerusalem) and how it was that very poem which led Fujimura to the reality of Christ.  

By having encountered Silence, Fujimura understands that a "willingness to spend time truly seeing can change how we view the world, how moving us away from "superficially scanning what we see" so that we can begin to "delve below the surface." That is where great art is born and that is where faith truly begins to mature and grow. We must confront the silence that we so fear. As Henri Nouwen wrote, " . . . it is precisely in silence that we confront our true selves." That is what Endo exposes in his novel, that is what Fujimura ruminates on his work. 

Both Shusaku Endo and Makoto Fujimura are more concerned with going deeper, understanding that to contemplate the very things most of us try to ignore, are what lead to wisdom.  

I came away from Endo's novel with questions that made me confront myself and my faith. I came away from Fujimura's Silence and Beauty realizing that I was not the only one. He helped me to see more than just another perspective on Silence but something much larger, richer and a wider perspective on Endo the man and artist, on Fujimura the man and artist, but Japanese culture and art, the hidden shame of those who are the "children of failed faith," and of the "paradoxes and the mystery of suffering," and ultimately of the light that is there even in the darkness, the beauty in the brokenness. 

Silence and Beauty is a profound book that asks us to confront suffering and at the same time be confronted with the sublime beauty of grace.  

Makoto Fujimura's "Silence Kairos"

Here's Makoto Fujimura talking about Beauty and Silence:

Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese has adapted Endo's novel into a film to be released in late 2016. It stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Note To My Sons On What I've Learned So Far

Yesterday was my birthday. While working in one of my stores, someone I know wished me "Happy Birthday" and, as we were talking, asked me, "What have you learned from the years you've lived so far that you want to pass on to your sons?" Not the usual conversation one has with co-workers, but then I never have the usual conversation with anyone. My first thought on hearing this was, "HEY! I only turned 48, I'm not Joseph on his deathbed offering sage advice to his loved ones." But the more I thought about what she'd asked, the more I paused to reflect on what exactly would I pass on to my boys.

It was only as I sat in the car line at school to pick up Cava that I began to put words to paper.  While this is hardly King Solomon writing down his Proverbs, here is what I came up with:

- God made us creators, not consumers. Live in that.

- Never lose your sense of wonder.

- Delight in play no matter how old you are.

- You are not a failure if you fail but only if you quit.

- You were fearfully and wonderfully made. This means you should celebrate your quirks and your uniqueness as they are a gift from God not a curse.

- Pursue joy and contentment over happiness and pleasure.

- Think beyond the moment. Consider your choices in terms of generational thinking.

- Your purpose is to praise, not popularity. Seek God's glory, not your fame.  Character is more important than celebrity. Wealth and fame only deepen insecurities they don't erase them.

- Spend more time praying for others' needs than your wants.

- All honesty should be tempered with compassion. Offer your hand more than your opinion.

- Gentleness is not weakness.

- There is no such thing as a "real man." Focus on being a "godly man." The "real" in that is called authenticity. We need more of those and less of the world's "real men."

- Be mindful of the grace God has shown you that you might extend that same grace to others. This means choosing the path of peace over power, mercy over might, and humility over hubris.

- Be hopeful, not hurtful. You may be the difference in another's life.

- Our culture objectifies women. You should edify them. When looking for a girl to date and, even more so, to marry, look for one who is able to make you think, who challenges you by her own intelligence and gifts, who balances you out.

- Know that real love (not the kind in movies and TV) is sacrifice. View that as a gift, not a hardship.

- Don't be afraid to be vulnurable. To be vulnerable with another person is a spiritual act.

- Be guided by Christ and not culture.

- Seek real community. Real connection comes over deep conversations, not likes on social media. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your presence. Be present. Be a good listener.

- Choose hospitality over hatred.

- See the holy in the daily. There is no act to small that you can't do it to the glory of God.

- Attend to place. Pay attention to the world around you or else you might miss the miraculous beauty God has created for those who take the time to notice it.

- Be still. Find moments of solitude.

- Find patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit and, like all fruits, does not grow overnight. It must be tended and nurtured first. Have patience for yourself as well as for others.

- Your biography will always reveal your theology.

- Don't be afraid to doubt or question. Doubt is not unbelief, it is just trusting even when one doesn't have the answer.

- Know that hurts are going to come along in life. That's a given. But use them, use your brokenness to have empathy and compassion for others. Remember every one has their own stories and their own struggles. When we stop and listen, we begin to understand.

- Live a thoughtful life.

- Lastly, if someone offers you a paper crown: Put it on! Immediately! Don't think about it, just put that crown on! Yes, you will look silly but so what? Looking silly may put the smile on the face of someone who desperately needs it.

That is what I would offer my sons from my forty-eight years.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Happy Birthday Papa!

Today my dad is turning 48 years old (but doesn't look a day over 30) and I wanted to wish him a happy birthday. Even though I have only lived with this man for 1/3 of his life, I have always looked up to you from day 1. You are smart, handsome, and funny and i'm glad to get these traits from you (especially the handsome part). You have been the biggest role model in my life teaching me whats right and wrong and you have always been there for me. From birthdays to award ceremonies you have always been there for me and to take a picture. Every,single,time. You have helped me to follow my dreams in software development and engineering,even when you don't understand what i'm talking about, you have encouraged me to continue and work hard. Through my life I have cherished the times we have had together, through watching Good Mythical Morning, going on walks, to just sitting on the couch and making fun of old, bad sci-fi and horror movies, like MST3K. I love you and I am glad to call you my papa. Happy birthday dad, and here's a birthday tip for you: Always remember to sign out of your blogger account, someone could get write a blog while you're at work you know.

Love your son Benjamin.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On Natural Beauty

It is Spring, my favorite season of the year (along with Fall). Spring always reminds me that, after the cold, hardness of winter, is rebirth and resurrection. God has subtly reminding us of birth and life and death and rebirth throughout the year. He does the same through sunrise, noonday, evening, and night. Rising and setting. Inhaling and exhaling.

I love it when the daffodils bloom because it reminds me that Spring is near and, of course, gives me a chance to trot out my recitation of Wordsworth's poem. I love how this poem deals with nature and time in such simplicity as having the poet walking along the shores of a lake when he discovers the daffodils in glorious bloom. At that moment, the poet feels such unity. If you've never read this poem, read it and see if you don't think of its lines whenever you see a daffodil in bloom.

Springtime is one of the many ways that I find that I  "hunger after the beautiful and the good," as George Eliot puts it. Seeing dogwoods and azaleas in bloom, I discover that I am stopping more to savor and feast on beauty of my surroundings. Because of Cava, I notice the birds and the loveliness of their birdsong.  I stop to notice the baby Cardinal just outside its nest in one of our azalea bushes.

How fragile and small it was. This nestling has not yet found the glory of its deep, rich brilliantly red feathers yet. I could not wait until it did, as I love to see them in our yard as they remind me of my mother, whose favorite bird was the Cardinal.

One morning, as I was doing my centering prayer in silence, I heard their calls and it only reiterated the attribute of God that I was meditating on: joy.

Webster's defines joy as "a feeling of great pleasure or happiness." In the Greek, joy is a source or origin. It's also closely linked with grace and favor.

As I heard the trilling of the birds, I could not help but think of the laughter and pleasure of God who called such things "good." Yet if I had not been in that moment would I have noticed or made that connection? Too often I am so busy that I do not hold it within myself such beauty without hurriedly moving on.  How often do I let art or nature penetrate myself so that it effects me beyond just a cursory glance or moving quickly on to "more important things?"

The German poet Goethe wrote, "A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul."

Do I take time daily to do this?

Do I listen to the words of Christ who bids me, "Consider the lilies of the field?" Or the daffodils, or the irises, or the tulips, or the chrysanthemum? The word chrysanthemum comes from the Greek words "chrysos" (gold) and anthemon (flower). I cannot help but wonder if the streets of "gold" in heaven aren't flowers. I know I would prefer it to be so. It's easier to delight in them.

One of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, would have agreed. For her, the world was her garden. Nature revealed her theology of God and death and beauty.  One can see in her poetry her daily communing with flowers, birds, and even insects.

"Nature" is what we see - 
The hill - the Afternoon -
Squirrel - Eclipse - the Bumble bee -
Nay - nature is Heaven -
Nature is what we hear -
The Bobolink - the Sea -
Thunder -  the Cricket -
Nay - Nature is Harmony -
Nature is what we know -
Yet have no art to say -
So impotent our Wisdom is
To Her Simplicity.

Those who would read this poem might ask, "Why all the dashes?" There have been many theories on why she did this, but it causes one to pause in the reading and not hurry through, perhaps pausing with each dash instead of dashing on, as the words and the poet are so connected. The dashes give each part emphasis and ask us to reflect on them, as parts and parts of the whole. To her, all of these elements of nature are connected and she wants to illuminate each one. Each is holy. Each is sacred. Like Jesus, she is telling us, "Pay attention. Notice."

I love Emily Dickinson's poetry. Her faith and her doubt. Dashes: interruptions and connections. Like the dashes in her poetry, she moves between both, but ultimately settles on the beauty and belief.

The language of faith is the language of creation and in that is the ability to appreciate and hold beauty deep within ourselves because we understand that all of it was an act of divine love. I cannot gaze on our irises without seeing that "Christ-artist" William Blake spoke of. This iris, with it's rich plicata purple against  the white, with its lines and splatters makes me see the artistry of its beauty. This is the work of a God who delights in His creation: its variations and differences. When I take the time to notice it is then that I am truly being still, and noticing that He is God.

And this happens when I see a beautiful painting. One of my professors once told me that she was fortunate enough to be in the room of The Musée de l'Orangerie in which Monet's cycle of water lilies known are hung when no one else was. The eight paintings are hung in two large oval rooms so that the water lilies and the pond surround the visitor.  I envied that experience if being able to sit by oneself with these gorgeous images all around you, overwhelming the senses with their beauty. That is a moment of prayer. To be there in the silence with only those paintings. How could one not feel gratitude and appreciation for Monet's creation?

Monet once said of his gardens, "Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It's enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it." He was overwhelmed but the beauty of his garden that, like Dickinson, it became the world to him. "I would love to paint the way a bird sings,'' he stated and, listening to the joy of the birdsong during my prayer, made me more fully understand what he meant.

The artist Andy Goldsworthy also sees art in the natural world and takes objects that many would not stop to consider and makes them stop and reconsider them. Just look at what he did with small stones:

Or these leaves:

How many of us would stop to create such momentary and ephemeral art? 

Yet there is such beauty and grandeur in the natural world around us. Just look at these warm colors and amazing blues and purples from a fossilized tree? Those sea like rings are the growth rings of the tree. How did that happen? Water filled in the cracks and empty spaces of the fossil and, when the silica content of the water hardened, it turned into opal. This shows how, even in death, there is great beauty. 

Is there not wonder all around us? But to notice and appreciate it, we must stop, see it, meditate upon it, and allow it to transform us. When we do, we become grateful that God is a God who loves us enough to offer up such opportunities to catch glimpses of transcendence. When I look at creation, I see the splendid extravagance of God who delights in variations and richness of seasons, the beauty and love contained in creation flows from the veins of our Creator. 

Is it any wonder then that Julian of Norwich used to carry a hazelnut around with her? Most would consider this tiny brown nut to be insignificant, but she saw that this was the entire universe encapsulated and that it was nothing in comparison to the Creator. As she wrote in The Revelations of Divine Love, "It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it; and so everything has its beginning by the love of God."

How differently would we all view the world if we saw it as full of His eternal passion? How differently would we treat this world and nature if we did? 

When I encounter such beauty in nature I cannot help but be reminded of the book of James, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . . ." (1:17). Or of Romans 1:20, "From since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities  - his eternal and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . ."

I see nature as the seen of an unseen God. Why? Because all of these things give Him glory and are ways for us to do likewise. When we see the beauty of the natural world, I first thought should be a moment of holy gratitude. A simple prayer of "Thank you" should utter from our lips. 

But we have to show up and have a willingness to truly see the world. It must be more than a fast-food viewing  we so often give to all that comes at us in our hurried lives. We have to be present. For when we contemplate and reflect on the handiwork of God, we can also ponder and be in awe of His greatness, His wisdom, and the very reality of Him in all that is around us.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lifting Up A Prayer For Syrian Believers

In honor of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Syria at the cost of their lives, I am praying and posting a traditional Syrian Orthodox prayer for today.

Glory to you, O my Lord, who created us even though there was no cause
for you to do so at any time; glory to you, O my Lord, who called us your
living image and likeness; glory to you, my Lord, who nurtured us in
freedom as rational beings; glory to you, O just Father, whose love was
pleased to fashion us; glory to you, O holy Son, who put on our flesh and
saved us; glory to you, O living Spirit, who enriched us with your gifts;
glory to you, O hidden nature, who revealed yourself in our manhood;
glory to you, O my Lord, who brought us to knowledge of your
Godhead; glory to you, O my Lord, who made us rational instruments for
your service; glory to you, O my Lord, who invited us to the exalted
habitation of heaven; glory to you, O my Lord, who held us
worthy to glorify you together with the angels; glory to you from every 
mouth, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, from those above and those below;
glory to your Trinity; in both worlds glory to you, from both spiritual
beings and from those in the body, from everlasting unto everlasting.

Please join me in praying this prayer today and in praying for them during a time of violent persecution when many may become martyrs for the faith. They are living out what Christ said in Matthew 16:24-25, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince: Purple Rain, Sign O The Times, & The Cross

To say I was stunned to hear that Prince had died would be an understatement. His music was part of the soundtrack to my growing up. His album Purple Rain is considered to be one of the greatest records ever made and, like Michael Jackson's Thriller, made a huge impact on my generation. Prince was not only great a crafting R&B, funk and pop but also the sacred and the profane all in one song. 

One cannot even say the word "party" without someone saying that they're going to party like its 1999. His mark on culture, fashion and music are tremendous. He also performed one of the best Super Bowl half-time shows defiantly in the rain. The pouring rain felt like it was a part of the act, as if he had planned it. 

Along with Madonna's Like a Virgin, Prince's Purple Rain was the album my mother hated the most that I had spent my money on. Yet there they were next to Amy Grant's Age to Age, Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts and Rich Mullins. I definitely preferred Prince to Carman. It was a friend of mine who even explained that "I Would Die 4 U" is about Christ. The lyrics go:

I'm not your lover
I'm not your friend
I am something that you'll never comprehend
No need 2 worry
No need 2 cry
I'm your messiah and you're the reason why
I would die 4 u

Yet as big as his Purple Rain was on culture and the collective conscious, it was his album Sign O The Times that made the deepest impression on me. From the title track  to the hit "U Got The Look" to my favorite song and the one that probably surprised most Prince fans, "The Cross."

When I found out that he had died, it was this song that came to my mind.  I couldn't meditate on the spiritual truth found in those lyrics:

Don't cry, he is coming
Don't die without knowing the cross

We all have our problems
Some Big, some are small
Soon all our problems
Will be taken by the cross

He would even go on to record the song "What If" by Christian singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman. What many didn't realize about this artist was that he believed strongly that Jesus is the way. Those who knew him understood that Prince was constantly striving after God and that he had a deep faith in Christ.  He read his Bible daily. 

While I, like most of my generation, will be mourning this deep loss to music, I can't help thank Prince for helping us "get through this thing called life."

He will be dearly missed.