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Awards, fame, wealth … Bono has it all. But the biggest rock star in the world has something more important, something that has guided every step of his success: faith in God. From growing up in Ireland during deadly times to performing on the largest stages in the world, Bono’s beliefs have kept him grounded and focused on what truly matters. Whether using his voice to captivate an audience or to fight for justice and healing in Africa, Bono is a ...
Awards, fame, wealth … Bono has it all. But the biggest rock star in the world has something more important, something that has guided every step of his success: faith in God. From growing up in Ireland during deadly times to performing on the largest stages in the world, Bono’s beliefs have kept him grounded and focused on what truly matters. Whether using his voice to captivate an audience or to fight for justice and healing in Africa, Bono is a champion of the lost and a hero to those who long for harmony.
The Roar of the Stadium
No matter who wins or loses this football game, the crowd is going to cry.
It has been five months since September 11, 2001, when a terrorist attack on the United States took thousands of lives by hijacking four airplanes and flying them into buildings.
America is still struggling to get off her knees. Now a rock band from Ireland is about to help her up.
This rock band, U2, had been inspiring audiences all over the world for more than twenty years. And on this night, February 3, 2002, they set up their heart-shaped stage in the biggest arena America had to offer: halftime at the Super Bowl.
In the darkness of the arena, energy surges through the audience like a lightning storm. U2's powerful song "Beautiful Day" has thundered through the stadium and faded out. Seventy thousand voices are screaming their support.
Then, unexpectedly, a gigantic screen, as long as the stage and as high as the stadium, rises behind the band. The glowing white words "September 11th, 2001" scroll to the sky, followed by the name of each person who died in the terrorist attacks that day.
Later Bono, the lead singer of the band, would admit, "I [couldn't] look at the names. If I looked at the names, I wouldn't be able to sing." So he faces the crowd, his voice burning through the emotion of the night as he sings a haunting lullaby.
Sleep. Sleep tonight. And may your dreams be realized ...
Then a cascade of notes from the electric guitar signals the beginning of a new song. The drums and the bass join in to drive the beat.
Muffled by the boom of the sound system and the cheers of the crowd, Bono, the biggest rock star in the world, utters a prayer from Psalm 51:15: "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise."
As the procession of names floats past, Bono calls out "America!" Cheers explode from the stadium, and Bono runs around the entire heart-shaped stage that embraces the crowd. And then he takes the microphone and sings U2's anthem of love and hope, "Where the Streets Have No Name."
The band could play all night and the song would feel too short. When the screen falls to the ground, Bono makes the shape of a heart on his chest with his hands. Then the singer opens his jacket and reveals that the fabric of the liner is an American flag. The music surrenders to the shouts of the frenzied crowd. Tears stream down the cheeks of everyone in the stadium.
Bono has sung a love song to the wounded hearts of Americans.
The Quiet of the Back Room
Two days before the Super Bowl, far away from huge stages and cheering crowds, Bono had been composing a different kind of love song.
At midnight in New York City, he slipped into a restaurant and made his way to the back room. A diverse group of decision makers, strategists, financial planners, church leaders, and generous donors were huddled around tables. Together they wanted to come up with serious, practical ways to end extreme poverty. Extreme poverty occurs when a person cannot pay for food, water, shelter, clothing, or health care. Today, there are almost one and a half billion people living in these conditions - many of them in South Asia and Africa. Ending extreme poverty in the world would take lots of fresh ideas, money, commitment, and prayer. But that was why this group had gathered: they wanted to change the world.
Bono had not come here to make music. He was here to make a difference.
"When you sing," Bono explained, "you make people [open] to change in their lives. You make yourself [open] to change in your life. But in the end, you've got to become the change you want to see in the world. I'm actually not a very good example of that - I'm too selfish, and the right to be ridiculous is something I hold too dear - but still, I know it's true."
This gathering of people fighting to end poverty was part of the World Economic Forum, which is an organization that seeks to improve the lives of ordinary people all around the world. This wasn't exactly the place you'd go to find a rock star! But Bono's heart had been moved by the desperately poor, the people that Jesus called the "least of these." When Bono read the Bible, he found over two thousand verses about poverty. Jesus cared about the poor, and he reached out to the "untouchables" of his age. "It couldn't be more [obvious]," Bono said, "that this is on God's mind, that this is Jesus' point of view."
And so Bono goes into unexpected places to work with unexpected people. He follows his heart and uses his powerful gift of communication with politicians and preachers, presidents, and popes.
It's unusual for a rock star - especially a rock star as well-known as Bono - to spend time working for others. "I know how absurd it is to have a rock star talk about the World Health Organization or debt relief or ... AIDS in Africa," he said. But he also knows that when he talks, people listen.
This night in New York City, Bono joined a serious discussion. As a team they would learn from experts, try to understand the issues and the problems, and come up with practical ways to change the world for the desperately poor. The man who sang in front of millions of cheering fans wanted to lend his voice to those who had none.
As a young man, Bono's heart had simply led him to music. But once he was in a band, working with friends to create music that moved him, love came into the room, made itself comfortable, and decided to make some changes. Now love wanted him to move mountains.
Before love took over, though, rage had its day for Bono.
Excerpted from Breaking Through By Grace by Kim Washburn Copyright © 2010 by Kim Washburn. Excerpted by permission.
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