Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Circle Game

Almost every year around my birthday, a couple of favorite songs from my school daze inevitably pop into my head. This year, they were triggered by a conversation with my cousin Sandi about the great childhood days visiting my grandmother’s old country farm and home place.

The first was written by Neil Young, who holds the distinction of ranking second only to Bob Dylan in the number of volumes in my CD collection. Growing up in Canada, he often played in front of his many friends at his favorite hangout known as “Sugar Mountain”, in which only teenagers were admitted. On November 12, 1964 (his 19th birthday), Neil wrote the song Sugar Mountain lamenting the end of his teenage years when he could no longer hang out with his friends.

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that
You're leaving there too soon.
While the younger band members continued to play the club, Neil struck out on his own. Shortly thereafter, fellow Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell wrote a song for Mr Young called The Circle Game. My favorite version is the 1974 live performance that ended up on the “Miles of Aisles” album (think large vinyl CD with grooves for those under thirty), but I found a nice video with excellent graphics by Bob Marshall

In Ms Mitchell’s response, she offers hope for a bleak future.
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

Yet as Christians, our hope is not merely a wish or desire, but a rock-solid expectation based on revelation from God. While we are in some sense “captive on the carousel of time”, we serve a God that is not bound by space and time.

I would also contend that the Christian life is more like a spiral than a circle. Although some events tend to repeat themselves in our lives, we are growing and following a set plan for us as decreed by God before time began. Each year, we are being made into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), although I seem to be getting there slower than many others. Nevertheless, in contrast to unbelievers, we can have this confident assurance that although we may face many hardships, we’ll never have to face them alone or under our own power.

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2Cor 4:3-16)

So as we get older, we get closer and closer to the unseen, our real eternal life in which we’ll see our Savior face to face and be re-united with our loved ones who have gone on before. What a glorious day that will be.

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