Today is the 22nd anniversary of the first time I contacted the girl who became my wife. Here is the song I wrote and sung for the occasion last night.
There’s a certain precious magic in communication When distant souls discover they are close; Two lonely hearts that have their homes in separated nations Take a chance, and thus a friendship grows.
That friendship can plants seeds of love that sprout and grow and bloom, And multiply the joys and stakes of life, Until the two stand side by side as blushing bride and groom, Forever to be joined as man and wife.
I’m so glad I started down this path that led me to your heart And grew my soul immensely on the way, So I’ll do my utmost to always play my part In blessing you, my treasure, every day.
Last time I gave a sermon, I introduced a new song, and played a video connected to the sermon that also served as a pre-sunday-school message for children. This time, I have (almost) combined all of those into one (I’m not sure it quite works as a message for children, but they might enjoy some of the images at least)
Many people struggle to love God because they can’t grasp who and what God is, how indescribably wonderful he is and worthy of our praise and attention. This passage provides us with one key to grasping a whole lot more of who we are called to worship and follow.
God is love. Would you say that the song was telling the truth about love? We see examples of love in the world that reflect those aspects, those properties of genuine love. Even if we aren’t experiencing them directly ourselves, we have certainly witnessed something like them in the lives of others around us, or in stories that really resonate with us, because they are showing something true and pure, the love of good parents or grandparents, of good and honest friends, a motivated rescue worker or doctor, the camaraderie and sacrifice of an honourable soldier, a helpful colleague at work, a kind-hearted stranger, a loving husband or wife. All of those loves that we can see concretely are weak reflections of the perfect, abundant, generous and powerful love of god. All of those loves that we see around us or hear about ultimately come from him.
God is love. So everything that the song said about love, we can say about God. He is patient and kind; he won’t leave us to our fate, he looks us in the face; he sees our flaws, but that doesn’t discourage him; he gives us a place where we truly belong, he continues to care even when we turn our backs on him, he forgives us and welcomes us back when we realise how stupid we have been, he gives us room to grow and empowers us to be the person we were truly meant to be.
God is love. A key aspect of God is that He is a powerful, active, invigorating, joyful, and supremely generous relationship between three persons. God is so overjoyed by this relationship that he wants to share it with us! Imagine that. He wants us to be as loving, as joyful, as generous and fulfilled as He is—to have live in abundance. To grow the gifts that he has already given us and become more and more the magnificent creations he made us to be. Now that is an invitation worth accepting. If we have already accepted that offer, it is one worth remembering, being grateful for and living accordingly with all our heart, all our strength and all of our mind.
Perfect love casts out fear. What is the message that the world, our governments and news organizations has been telling us for the last two years?
Be terrified. Suffering and death is around the corner. Hide. Everyone around you is a threat; keep them away. Don’t meet together, don’t celebrate, don’t sing. Wear a mask, or two, or three. Be responsible and show everyone around you how terrified you are. I recently saw a video of a man on an airplane putting on six masks. He was very proud of himself, making a show in front of everyone of adding mask after mask, as if to say, “Look at me! I’m better than all of you, because I’m more afraid.” It’s absurd. Other people scream hysterically whenever anyone comes near them, as if standing next to someone is the same as attempted murder. Some just play at being scared so they can look down on others and bully them, others have become addicted to this foundation of fear and are unable to cope with things going back to normal. They should be pitied.
What else does the news try to terrify us with? War is coming with Russia! (Now that the war between Ukraine and Russia has begun, that it’s the start of World War III and nuclear catastrophe) Democracies are turning into tyrannies all over the world. Civil wars are on the horizon. Economies are collapsing. Everything is unstable, out of control and you’re powerless to do anything about it. Despair, cower, and most of all, be terrified.
How do we respond to that? We could quote Mark Twain:
“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.”
Because so much of the news is distorted, if not invented, and important events and contexts are often ignored completely. Unfortunately this is not only true of the tabloid press, the never-ending news cycle means that reaction and attention is everything, and the easiest attention-getting reactions to evoke are fear and outrage. (The fact that these reactions also make the viewer/listener easier to manipulate is a bonus). There will be some fragments of truth mixed in occasionally, but without a reliable direct source for comparison, it becomes very difficult to know what is really going on (even moreso during a time of war, as all you will hear on the news is propaganda from one side or the other), so ignoring the sensationalized version of what a given news source wants you to think becomes more appealing, even healthy.
Even if every danger they warn of is real, the words of C.S. Lewis that have been recently circulating online in various venues come to mind:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb.“How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
If all of our hopes are in this life, then despair and terror are logical responses. It has always been that way. But our hopes are not all in this life. We are promised persecution, struggles, difficult tasks and difficult choices, but also the strength to endure and grow through them. We are not abandoned and helpless, we are treasured children of a loving God. If the worst happens and we die, we go to be in the arms of God, fully plunged into that amazing relationship, seeing His infinite beauty face to face.
Getting back to the song, a blind friend of a friend by the name of Michael Bayus listened to it, liked it and shared the following thought:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives one strength, loving someone deeply gives one courage.”
So know that you are deeply loved by someone stronger than the world, who has defeated the world, and take strength from that to deal with the discomforts and troubles of life, and we are still very well off compared to any era in history.
Let’s have the courage to love those that God loves around us, work to make our little part of the world a little closer to what it should be, create something beautiful and share it, renew a relationship that’s been neglected, support a friend in their efforts to improve themselves, work on developing the gifts we have been given, aim to be more like Christ in the way we treat others. Meditate on what it means that God is love, and that He loves you, and learn to love him back.
After far too long to get it ready, I am pleased to announce the release of Without Love, There is No Life, available on most streaming and music platforms, complete with a music video on youtube.
All options for listening to and downloading the song can be found here
The song has been tweaked and expanded on since the poem version, originally inspired by multiple scenes in Nobility Among Us, and even since the live performance a year and a half ago (which was less than an hour after the piano accompaniment was worked out with the extremely talented Daniela Zoubková).
She is back again providing the piano, Petr Mares is on the guitar, (whose talents you may know from Did you Know? and A Tale of the Once and Future King) and I provide the vocals. I edited the music video using freely available stock footage and imagery from Pixabay and Unsplash. English closed captions are available in the youtube video for the hard of hearing and non-native English speakers, and Czech subtitles are available.
Listen, watch, enjoy, and share with those you think will appreciate it.
Love is full of purity. It shows patience and humility. Love is not a selfish lust; Instead, love gives a grounds for trust. Love gives a child security. Love gives a thing its beauty; Because, without love there is no life.
Love is a many-splendoured thing. Love gives a broken man new wings. It perseveres, no matter what the cost; If you have love, you’re never truly lost; Love, seeing all my flaws; Love, guided by higher laws; You know, without love there is no life.
Love simply wants to hear the truth. Love, it is not eternal youth. Love is more than soothing noises, ‘Cause love steps up and makes hard choices. Love lasts through the ages, It’s written on all life’s pages. You see, without love there is no life.
It makes the ordinary great, Won’t mind if you are late, Won’t leave you to your fate, This is love.
Love puts you in harm’s way. Though you try, you can’t always save the day. Love is there to share your pain, To weep and help you on your feet again. Love is a healing flow. Love gives you room to grow. You know, without love there is no life.
Love looks you in the face. Love helps you find your place. With love, you can forgive the past, Move on and build a peace to really last. Love is where you find your worth; If you’re loved, you’re more precious than the Earth. You see, without love there is no life.
Love is full of light. Love does what’s right. Love is patient, love is kind. Love is humble, but not blind. Oh, love is beautiful! Oh, love is wonderful! You know, without love there is no life.
It shows you you belong, It admits when it is wrong, It’s majestic and it’s strong, This is love.
But love is not every time returned; Love is not something you have earned. Sometimes our care isn’t even prized; Instead our thoughts are utterly despised. True love goes on caring anyway, Even when we walk the other way; It knows that without love there is no life.
Love is how your soul can truly shine. Through love, I am yours and you are mine. Love expressed is such an open book; A life of love is worth a closer look. Can it be, that here is love for me? Come explore this greatest mystery, And see that without love there is no life.
**EDIT** Czech subtitles are now available, translated by Petr Mares. It is not meant to be singable and is not always an exact translation, the emphasis was on the beauty and flow of the text while capturing as much of the original meaning as possible.
Kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska – ta je vždy čistá, Plná trpělivosti a pokory, Není sobeckou vášní, Ale právě naopak: je základem vzájemné důvěry. Dítě pocítí v lásce bezpečí A každá věc jen v lásce nabyde své krásy. Protože kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska je něco nadmíru zázračného. Je to láska, co dá zlomenému nová křídla. Láska vytrvá, ať to stojí cokoli. A máš-li lásku, nikdy nejsi ztracený případ. Lásce nejsou moje chyby skryté, Řídí se nicméně vznešenější logikou. Totiž tam, kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska chce znát pravdu takovou, jaká je. Láska není slib věčného mládí. Láska je víc než plané konejšení. Umí se vydat i cestou těžkých rozhodnutí. O tom, že láska přetrvá věky, se dočteme na každé stránce života. Ono totiž kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Věci běžné promění ve skvělé, nerozladí ji zpoždění, nenechá tě napospas osudu. Taková je láska.
Láska tě neušetří těžkostí. Rád by ses jim vyhnul, ale není to vždy možné. Ale je tu láska, aby sdílela tvou bolest. Aby s tebou plakala a pomohla ti znovu na nohy. Láska je proud moci uzdravení. A láska ti dává také prostor k růstu. Totiž tam, kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska ti hledí do tváře, A pomůže ti přijít na to, kam patříš. V lásce dokážeš odpustit věci minulé, dokážeš jít dál a budovat trvalý pokoj. V lásce najdeš svou pravou hodnotu. Když jsi milován, jsi vzácnější než celý svět. Ono totiž kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska je plná světla; udělá to, co je správné. Láska je trpělivá a vlídná, je pokorná, ale nikoli slepá. Jak nádherná a úžasná je láska! Víš, kde není láska, tam chybí život.
Láska ti dá najevo přijetí. A pokud se mýlí, dokáže to uznat. Je vznešená a silná. Taková je láska.
Láska nicméně není vždy opětovaná. S láskou to není něco za něco. Občas zůstane naše snaha bez ocenění, někdy se setká dokonce s opovržením. Pravá láska i tak vytrvá. I tehdy, když je jí odpovědí lhostejnost. Ví totiž, že bez lásky není skutečného života.
Teprve v lásce se tvoje duše skutečně rozzáří. Skrze lásku jsem já tvým a ty jsi mou. Láska vepsaná do stránek otevřené knihy, Život v lásce stojí za bližší prozkoumání. Mohu se opravdu i já setkat s pravou láskou? Pojď, prozkoumej to největší tajemství. A přesvědč se: není života bez lásky.
Today is my twentieth wedding anniversary. Here is the song I sang to my wife as I handed her the below bouquet.
Yellow Roses for My Love
Yellow roses for my love, Who I’m always thinking of, And ways in which I can support and help her soul to grow; Though my love for you is deep, Mere sentiment is cheap, The thing I really struggle with is how to make it show.
I’ll wipe the table in the kitchen, Take away your dirty plate, Think of other minor kind requests I can anticipate, Find ways to lift your spirits, give you strength to last the day, And in the calm and quiet moments, most of all I’ll pray
For your heart to find its rest In Him, and all he’s blessed, In our lives together as we’ve built this family. Two decades have flown by Of such abundant life That I still can’t quite believe it’s happened all to me.
Today is the twenty-first anniversary of the first time I contacted my wife. Here is this year’s poem:
Communication is so cheap, and yet it brings so much; How greatly we’re enriched by another human’s touch. One and twenty years ago, we took our first small steps, When words were typed and sent with faintest hope in their effect.
Yet as the back and forth went on, a deep connection grew; An unexpected friendship, something beautiful and true, That served as the foundation for a life we both now share, So bountiful and loving that our old selves can’t compare.
The lesson to be taken is to reach out and connect; The worst thing that can happen is that they will just reject Your offer of communication, friendship or support, In which case you’re no poorer, in fact you’re only short
The time you would have spent uncertain, torturing yourself, To formulate the perfect words to cast the perfect spell And win them over to your side as friends or something more, When all that’s really needed is to open up the door
With honesty and openness, being true to who you are; Few healthy people really want a puffed-up movie star. Luckily for me you liked the things I had to say, And who I was inside didn’t frighten you away.
I learned to share my deepest thoughts, my passions and my fears, Building up a trust that’s served us well so many years, So let’s keep talking, sharing, as we build our family, Our lives woven together as a wondrous tapestry.
Two weeks ago, I took part in the fourth Visible Music Weekend at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Prague, in which the topic was live performances and livestreaming music performances, which culminated with a livestreamed music concert featuring songs by all of the participants in the weekend, together with some prerecorded videos, a short sermon and adverts for the two schools involved to give the live participants time to reorganize the stage between performers. The vast majority of the video is in Czech, so might not be of interest to the majority of my readers. (Some technical issues resulted in just under the first 40 seconds of the youtube video being blank). One of the prerecorded videos is a slightly tweaked version of my “Silent Night” video from several years back (21 minutes 23 seconds in), I feature in the backing choir in one song (39 minutes 37 seconds in), and my live section (starting at 56 minutes 26 seconds) is comprised of a bilingual reading of my Bohemian Advent poetry series, followed by the debut performance of a song I first wrote over a decade ago, but whose musical accompaniment was only finalised an hour before the livestream started, then finishing off with A Hope That Burns.
Through a combination of extreme nerves and no chance to rerecord things, I made a number of errors during my live performance, Over the coming weeks I will attempt to record a better quality version of Without Love, There is No Life for you all to enjoy. Here are the lyrics:
Without Love There Is No Life
Love is full of purity,
It shows patience and humility.
Love is not a selfish lust;
Instead, love gives a grounds for trust.
Love gives a child security,
Love gives a thing its beauty;
Because, without love there is no life. (music begins on life, the rest is sung)
Love is a many-splendoured thing.
Love gives a broken man new wings.
It perseveres, no matter what the cost;
If you have love, you’re never truly lost;
Love, seeing all my flaws,
Love, guided by higher laws;
You know, without love there is no life.
Love simply wants to hear the truth.
Love, it is not eternal youth.
Love is more than soothing noises,
‘Cause love steps up and makes hard choices.
Love lasts through the ages,
It’s written on all life’s pages.
You see, without love there is no life.
It makes the ordinary great,
Won’t mind if you are late,
Won’t leave you to your fate,
This is love.
Love puts you in harm’s way,
Though you try, you can’t always save the day;
Love is there to share your pain,
To weep and help you on your feet again,
Love is a healing flow,
Love gives you room to grow.
You know, without love there is no life.
Love looks you in the face;
Love helps you find your place.
With love, you can forgive the past,
Move on and build a peace to really last.
Love is where you find your worth;
If you’re loved, you’re more precious than the Earth.
You see, without love there is no life.
It shows you you belong,
It admits when it is wrong,
It’s majestic and it’s strong,
This is love.
But love is not every time returned,
Love is not something you have earned,
Sometimes our care isn’t even prized;
Instead our thoughts are utterly despised.
True love goes on caring anyway,
Even when we walk the other way;
It knows that without love there is no life.
Love is how your soul can truly shine,
Through love I am yours and you are mine,
Love expressed is such an open book,
A life of love is worth a closer look,
Can it be, that here is love for me?
Come explore this greatest mystery,
And see that without love there is no life.
As I indicated back when I first posted this, I hoped to participate in a local training weekend for musicians and sound engineers in collaboration with Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee, that included the professional recording and mixing of songs that we the participants wrote (one each), as well as basic instructions on techniques, tricks and resources for mixing and producing music professionally.
That recording went well (though it very nearly didn’t happen at all*) and in due time I received a mixed and raw multitrack version of the song, so I could practise the mixing techniques I’d been taught. I then had some vocal instruction from the amazing Moira Greyland Peat, who’s strength, grace and generosity of spirit despite a truly harrowing childhood is an inspiration to many, and resung an improved version of the vocals at home, then mixed it together to produce this final version that I hope will be enjoyable and uplifting.
For the rest of this month it will be available via the CD Baby store for the princely sum of 99 cents, (all other outlets are the same price, but the CD Baby store link above gives the best royalty per sale). Clicking on the image below shows all the outlets where you can stream or download the song.
Melody and Lyrics by Ben Zwycky, accompaniment by Tomas Pavlicek
Vocals Ben Zwycky, keyboard Tomas Pavlicek, guitar Michal Petras
(*I completely lost my voice a week and a half before the weekend, only heard its musical accompaniment for the first time about an hour before we were supposed to demonstrate our songs to show that they were worth recording, while my voice was still shaky, and a scheduling conflict meant that we ended up doing our full recording half an hour after the window for recordings was supposed to close.)