Raphael’s Journey

joanne1Music loving Pro-lifers might want to check out the latest solo album from Iona’s Joanne Hogg, entitled Raphael’s Journey. For those not familiar with Ms. Hogg, she is an angelic-voiced Irish beauty who has been the lead vocalist for the Contemporary Christian band Iona since its inception in 1989. Iona falls into more or less the same genre as bands like Clannad or Eden’s Bridge: playing ethereal, Irish-flavored pop, mixing traditional instruments and themes into the standard rock band ensemble. But when Iona rocks, which is not infrequent, they rock with considerably more gusto than most of the other bands of this sort, and their music is often constructed around Christian themes – and is always edifying and nourishing, even when it isn’t explicitly Christian.

Ms. Hogg’s solo efforts, of which I believe Raphael’s Journey is the third, tend musically toward the softer side, as compared to her band’s music, and are much more explicitly confessional  (her first, Looking Into Light, was in fact a collection of hymns; the second, Personal, essentially a collection of prayers set to music). This album seems to be a gentle, prayerful exploration of Joanne’s journey into the mysteries of motherhood in recent years, during which time she has borne two children. The cover of the economicalraphjourneycover packaging is focused on an angelic figure, but with a bright but indistinct image of what appears to be a human right arm reaching up from behind the angel’s right shoulder, hand extended skyward. Overall, it is hard to avoid inferring a reference to the most significant literary appearance of the Archangel Raphael, in the Biblical book of Tobit, where Raphael is sent from the throne of God to make a journey with Tobiah, son of Tobit, to heal the sorrows of two pious families through the marriage of Tobiah and Sarah.

Song titles such as Songs from the Womb, Life is Precious, and Dance of the Unborn convey the sensibility of the album, which places the mystery of human life in the heart of our Creator God, and in the hands of those of His creatures whom He has called to manifest His love. As a father, I have to smile at this new mother singing, in her song Lullaby in Colour, of her determination to let her baby sleep, despite the urge to pick him up and hold him – such a scene is truly a microcosm of parenthood on a couple different levels.

The song Life is Precious, placed in the setting of an abortion clinic witness, is a direct plea to women contemplating abortion to respect the integrity of the human being entrusted by God to their care. While there are aspects of the lyrics that rub me the wrong way (e.g. “I’m not standing here in judgment”), Joanne mentions something of enormous import, which rarely seems to get the notice it deserves in the “culture wars” around abortion, when she sings: “I see you in mortal danger” and “This is life and death for you” – referring to the mother she’s addressing, not the child whose own life hangs in the balance on the sidewalk outside the abortuary. The death of an innocent is a terrible thing, but the killing of an innocent truly manifests a deadly savaging of the perpetrators; a spiritual death sentence that too many will never be able to overcome through the grace of repentance and forgiveness.

Although I think there are better songs on the album, Life is Precious stands out for its clarity of purpose, and for the gentle and accurate portrayal of the Pro-Life movement’s most visible – and despised – champions.

Given that, I’ve transcribed here the song’s lyrics, and posted an audio stream. I encourage Pro-Lifers  to purchase the album from the Iona web store, both for your own musical and spiritual edification, and to support the work of these wonderful people:

[audio:http://maybetoday.org/wp-content/audio/life_is_precious.mp3]

Life is Precious

Standing in the rain I’m praying…

Standing in the rain I’m praying…

 

Standing in the rain I’m praying / you’ll come out that door

Give me just a minute of your time / to hear the words that I am saying:

     You are precious

 

I know that you see a stranger / holding words for you to read

I see you in mortal danger / I’m the second thought

     I pray you’ll heed

 

For life is precious, life is given to us

Life is ours to live, but not to take

 

I’m not standing here in judgment / I am here in love,

Pleading for a chance to help you see / there’s another way

     For you are precious

 

This is life and death for you  / but not just you, it’s for another

God made you someone in His image / but he also made a mother 

     Out of you

 

For life is precious, life I given to us

Life is ours to live, but not to take

Life is precious, life is given in love

Life is ours to hold, but not to break

 

Two hearts beating / inside you

Mercy waiting / to hide you

Two voices speaking / inside you

Truth is waiting / to guide you

 

For life is precious, life I given to us

Life is ours to live, but not to take

Life is precious, life is given in love

Life is ours to hold, but not to break

 

Standing in the rain…

Standing in the rain, I’m praying

Standing in the rain, I’m praying