July 30, 2009

oh my . . .

. . . I think I'm onto something.

If anyone knew me in 2006/2007 . . . one of the main things they knew about me (or perhaps one of the only things) was that I loved, loved, loved this band called AFI.

I fell in love with them Summer of '06 and the madness began. I saw them 5 times in 4 different states that year, even driving from Wilmington, NC to Albany, NY in one weekend for a show. I saw them in NC, MN, NY and SC. I accumulated T-shirts, posters, put stickers on my car, joined the fan club, got a tattoo, even met my ex because of one of their shows. They have 7 albums, so I very easily listened to them every day.

I was involved in InterVarsity in college, and while not everyone knew my name, they did know who the "AFI girl" was. The main reason I had a myspace account at the time was because it was the only way to subscribe to their blog. I could bring AFI into any conversation. In November '07, I found out that they were working on their 8th album and I got so excited that my roommate told me - "I've never seen anyone get so excited about anything! I thought Jesus was coming back!"

Over those years, I started to feel God convicting me about the obsession. I was rather consumed. There were a few areas of my life that I needed to be in control of. My music preferences, who I dated, and how I spent my money. I told God that I would give Him everything . . . except those teeny little things. I was lord over those areas, and I was convinced that I knew what was best for myself.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was buying into the worldview broadcasted by society, I think I was defining my own worldview, and I was trying to make God fit into it, putting Him in his nice little box . . . telling Him what He was or wasn't in control of.

I was listening to this music every day that focuses on the human condition, rage, and despair. It very much is inwardly focused, and only allowed my anger and depression to be expanded and justified, not healed. I went to shows and got life from watching the band perform. I still maintain that they put on the most amazing show . . . but I was taking it (not just the shows, but the band and the music) for more than it was . . . I was in essence, worshiping them.

Well, over time I started to be awakened. We don't always realize how much we are being affected or influenced by what we choose to listen to, watch, read, look at online, etc.

God is the one who can fill the holes in our hearts and heal us of the human condition (and oh, how He longs to do so!!). He sent his son purely out of love, to bring us closer to Himself and give us life . . . yet how we keep chasing after the things of this world to give us what we think we need - when they were never intended or designed to do that.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

God wants our despair, pain, anger to be healed - not for us to dwell on these things and wallow in them! He wants us to rest secure in His embrace . . . and to know of His great love for humanity.

So, this is why I say Skillet > AFI. Skillet rocks hardcore, but they sing of the truth . . . and they point to life. So does Relient K, Underoath, Red, Flyleaf, Fireflight, and many others. You don't have to be K-LOVE to be worshipful and truthful.

AFI has released the date of their album debut . . . but I didn't flip out like I did in '07. Their website has some promotion where you have to join twitter to get more information. A few years ago, I would have been signing up for twitter and doing anything to get more information about what they're doing. But today, I am free from that obsession . . . and I think I'll just chill until September to hear what's next.

There is nothing wrong with AFI . . . or going to shows, or listening to secular music - it's just being aware of how much it affects us, and what we allow to control us. I still have a keen liking for AFI and I would love to see them live again - just through a different set of eyes this time. Just appreciating them for their music, rather than proclaiming undying devotion for a group of humans might be more healthy.

God ultimately wants better for us than we even want for ourselves . . . and He wants us to know Him - really know Him - not to just try to make Him fit into our worldview or put Him in our boxes. So . . . listen to Skillet and take a peek at that Bible . . . it might even be better than a live show, I'm just sayin.

July 27, 2009

My own worst enemy

Last night I read over a few of my old Facebook notes, some of the posts on this blog and it hit me . . . the downfall of the public blog.

I look back on a note I wrote 6 months ago, and I smack my forehead.

I thought I understood or knew what I was talking about, but I didn't. I wrote about concepts with the pretension of full understanding/knowing, but in reality I had only begun to grasp them.

Such is life, I suppose. It's like how when I was a teenager, I thought I understood everything there was to know, and that I knew better than my parents. We all know that is a lie.

Anyway, I feel like I get hyper, passionate and ultimately too eager to express my thoughts . . . which can be a downfall. If I publish these thoughts in a blog or note, then everyone can see what an idiot I was 6 months ago (or even now). (that's what I meant by the downfall of the public blog)

BUT, it also humbles me, which is good.

God has truly opened my eyes in the past week. I feel like I am gaining a fresh understanding of the Gospel, of the relationship He longs to be in with humanity . . . I could go on for hours. I basically feel like a new Christian.

I want to write about what I'm going through, and what God has revealed to me, but I am afraid of expressing my thoughts and epiphanies too prematurely - in effects that I will regret publishing them - that I will smack my forehead and mutter "idiot!" in a few days, and then delete everything in frustration.

The knowledge of God and the Gospel is too vast, too beautiful, too mysterious for any of us to truly capture and fully (and I mean fully) understand. I know that I can't. I feel like I'm just beginning to really get it . . . but I have a long way to go.

This is beautiful in the sense that it affirms my human-ness, the fact that my mind is much smaller than God's, and that it humbles me.

In the end, I suppose it is indeed a good thing if we can look back on where we were 6 months ago and laugh or smack ourselves at how we thought we had it together . . . when in reality, we were kind of clueless. It means that we're making progress. And it's very humbling.

July 24, 2009

Don't go breakin' my heart

Yesterday I went to the Warped Tour . . . and more than anything, it left me heartbroken.

There were definitely hundreds, probably thousands of kids roaming the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater yesterday for nearly 12 hours, listening to more than 50 bands from multiple genres and visiting tents of organizations/sponsors from Peta to Trojan to To Write Love On Her Arms.

In between songs, lead singers from the bands would use the time to interact with the crowd - whether that meant shouting every profanity and obscene word known to man (today the tour was in FL, where you're not allowed to swear, so they had to "get it out of their system" yesterday), or how Underoath's Spencer testified that their band stands in the name of Jesus Christ (as he does with every live set, which is one of the reasons I hold them in high regard).

Some frontmen used the stage as a punk-rock pulpit, preaching in between songs about what their music stands for, why they support the music community and why you should believe in yourself and go for your dreams. Senses Fail frontman Buddy Nielsen preached more on the latter, and on life.

He told the crowd how the band built themselves from nothing and only depended on themselves. He also spoke about how you should, "treat your family and friends with passion and respect because they're all you have in this life." He continued to profess that we should all be trying to find happiness and bliss because it's not only the most important thing in life, but it's what life is all about.

Oh, Buddy. I wanted to tell him that he's missing it. There is so much more.

We are far too easily pleased, too easily convinced and decieved.

So . . . if finding happiness is the pinnacle of existence . . . and what Buddy is telling these kids is that it can be found in having a successful band (or dream career in that case), having a microphone, or by having family and friends? That's it?

Oh, how the world seduces us - telling us that if we only accumulated enough wealth, had the dream career, lost the weight, had the perfect marriage and family, were popular and well-liked, had the right house and the right cars, drank the right coffee - then we would truly be happy and complete. We run after these fleeting things of the world that will ultimately leave us more empty and void than we were before we pursued them.

How long before the beauty fades and the novelty wears off? How long before the luster and glamour vanishes? How long before our spouses, our friends, our possessions and even ourselves let us down? When do we stop buying into the lies and worldviews broadcasted by society?

What will it take for our eyes to be opened, for us to realize that we were created for more? That the one who brought us into existence has been right here all along, pursuing us? He wants to rescue us from this bondage, to provide for us, protect us, heal us, shower us with His love and blessings. He can give us something so much better than anything this world has to offer. He is the only giver of life.

After all, Jesus does tell us, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives . . . " (John 14:27)

God created us . . . we were made to be in perfect union and relationship with Him ("all things were created by Him and for Him" - Colossians 1:16), but The Fall destroyed that - leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. We so quickly turn to the pleasures of this world in efforts to fill that void, but He is truly the only one who can mend it. And how He longs to fill that space, if we would just look to Him!

Driving down I-40 last night, billboards reminded me of how this society tells us what we need to be happy . . . advertisements for colleges, employers, plastic surgeons, gyms, banks - all promising to bring fulfillment in one way or another.

Truly, Peter still stands correct when he writes, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) I know that I am just as guilty as the next person to turn to music or food or the gym to give me comfort . . . when what I really need to do is seek God first.

. . . man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
-Deuteronomy 8:13

May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope . . .
-Romans 5:13

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
-Colossians 2:8

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-Romans 12:2

July 17, 2009

You rock my world

I had the radio on a few days ago and this catchy song came on, but it was a few lines that caught my attention . . .

So baby don’t worry, you are my only,
You won’t be lonely, even if the sky is falling down . . .
"Down" - Jay Sean

I thought, how many songs are out there that portray love this way . . . that we will never be alone once we find "the one," that we should trust in them and find security and all that we need in that person?

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace
You're everything I need and more
It's written all over your face
Baby I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
You're the only one that I want
Think I'm addicted to your light
I swore I'd never fall again
But this don't even feel like falling
Gravity can't forget
To pull me back to the ground again

"Halo" - Beyonce

I think that this song is absolutely beautiful, but I refuse to believe that such a divine love can come from another human being.

But perhaps one of the best written love songs that I know, that moves me to tears whenever I hear it or just read the lyrics is this one by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus:

When I see your smile
Tears run down my face I can't replace
And now that I'm strong I have figured out
How this world turns cold and it breaks through my soul
And I know I'll find deep inside me I can be the one

I will never let you fall
I'll stand up with you forever
I'll be there for you through it all
Even if saving you sends me to heaven

Seasons are changing
And waves are crashing
And stars are falling all for us
Days grow longer and nights grow shorter
I can show you I'll be the one

I will never let you fall
I'll stand up with you forever
I'll be there for you through it all
Even if saving you sends me to heaven

'Cause you're my, you're my, my, my true love, my whole heart
Please don't throw that away
'Cause I'm here for you
Please don't walk away and
Please tell me you'll stay, stay

"Your Guardian Angel” - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

A few years ago in the midst of heartbreak, I was talking to my mom one night and telling her that I just wanted the pain to be gone, I didn't want to have to deal with it or feel it anymore.

She told me something to the extent of, "it's OK because when you find the right person, they'll make it all go away . . ."

Really? I think a lot of the time we are taught or conditioned to believe that once we meet the right person, our lives will be complete, they will take the pain away, and that we'll never be alone again. So we're left to wander around feeling inept, incomplete, waiting for this hero to come sweep us off of our feet and rescue us. And when he doesn't come, we feel less of a woman . . . or that there's something wrong with us. Perhaps we feel that something is missing from our lives.

But you know what? Those are all lies. There is someone who has known us before we were born, and He pursues us each and every day . . . He longs to have intimacy and a relationship with us. The only relationship that can truly complete us and give us life.

Here I stand
Empty hands
Wishing my wrists were bleeding
To stop the pain from the beatings

There you stood
Holding me
Waiting for me to notice you

But who are you?
You are the truth
Outscreaming these lies

You are the truth
Saving my life

The warmth of your embrace
Melts my frostbitten spirit
You speak the truth and I hear it
The words are I love you
And I have to believe in you

"Red Sam" - Flyleaf

'I have been with you all along, you have not noticed me.'
Nervosa now felt more ashamed than ever before.
'Why would you still care enough to save me
even after seeing the horrible things I have done?
Why do you remain here even now?' She asked, sobbing.
'Because, here is where you are,' the Lamb said softly,
'And I long to be with you.''

"The Beginning" - Showbread

I'm seeing so much clearer
Looking through your eyes
I could never find a safer place
Even if I tried
All the times I've needed you
You've never left my side

"Wrapped In Your Arms" - Fireflight

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
-Deuteronomy 31:8

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
-Zephaniah 3:17

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
-John 15:13

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Romans 5:8

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Romans 8:38-39

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5

We should not spend our time waiting around for "the one" to rescue us or make our lives complete. We are already made complete in Christ, and we already have the most important relationship in our lives, if only we would look to Him alone. Let His love fill you, heal you, comfort you and transform your life. Look to Him for every single need . . . His love is truly unfailing and steadfast. He is insanely faithful even when we are chasing after things of this world. He is the hero our hearts long for . . . if only we would embrace Him.

Like J.D. said last week, people are going to fail you. Your marriage is going to fail you . . . but not necessarily by infidelity or by fault of that person, per se. If you are going into open heart surgery, your spouse cannot be there when you are on the table, under the knife. It's just you and the surgeons. God is truly the only one who will be with us through it all to the end. And He's been with us steadily since the beginning.

July 11, 2009

Don't stop till you get enough

Time takes us all, so why am I not living for today?
-The Used

Today will soon be
Gone, like yesterday is gone
Like history is gone

The world keeps spinning on

You're going, going, gone

Like summer break is gone,

Like saturday is gone
Just try to prove me wrong
You pretend like you're immortal.

I had today off, and few obligations - hope for RDU (holla back summit - hopeforRDU.org) in the morning, a lunch date and a dinner date with friends. Oh, and the gym . . . and errands. However, I still found myself feeling rushed and stressed.

As I was driving home from errands, I thought to myself - why am I feeling this way? This is my day off. It's meant to be enjoyed. Then I realized that in my mind I was planning out how the rest of the day was going to play out (as well as the next week or two).

How much time do we spend living in the present?

I figure that I spend maybe 10% of my life living in the past, 85% in the future and 5% in the present. awesome.

I don't think that's the way it's suppossed to go. Tomorrow isn't exactly guaranteed. My next breath isn't even guaranteed. Shoot - who's to say that tomorrow I won't roll my car in a freak accident and spend the rest of my life in a vegetative state? What good would all of that planning and stressing do me then?

We live in a society that is constantly on the go. We gain feelings of worth based on how busy we are, how full our schedules are. We over-commit. We over-book ourselves at work and in our social lives.

When did we get so caught up in life that we forget to savor the present?

I was driving home from a friend's house tonight . . . accidentally got on 147 going the wrong way . . . then ended up on 85, still headed the opposite direction of home.

I was reminded to just enjoy life as it comes. Whether it's driving on the freeway with the windows down and the music blaring at 11pm . . . thankful that there are soundwaves pounding my tympanic membranes, transmitting into electric pulses that submit signals to my brain and allow me to enjoy (of course) some old school MJ. Thankful that I have sensors in my skin that allow me to feel the cool breeze as it courses through the open windows and sunroof of my car. Thankful that as I headed the right way on 85, I had a clear shot of the moon and a few stars.

And even when we feel like our lives are stagnant and we don't have any clear direction, God is still right there with us. He tells Israel that during the course of 40 years of wandering in the desert, He was there every step of the way, and provided for their every need.

He has watched over your journey through this vast desert.
These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. -Deuteronomy 2:7

Although times have changed, God's character, faithfulness, compassion and guidance have not. He is still pursuing us and leading us through our deserts.

July 4, 2009

So you wanna be startin' somethin' . . .

The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son . . .”
-Deuteronomy 1:30-31

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
-Deuteronomy 31:6

There is no fear in love . . . perfect love drives out fear.
-1 John 4:18

"Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
-John 14:27

Some days, I hate how much influence or power other people's words can have on me. A few days ago, my dad informed me that I need to date. I told him - do you know how old I am? He replied with, "and HOW many boyfriends have you had?" Then my parents tried to convince me to go out with one of my dad's co-workers (who hasn't even asked me out.) Thanks, mom and dad.

There have been specific events in my life where I have tangibly seen God work. He has healed me beyond understanding in times of devastation and delivered me from hellish circumstances. He has blessed me with a community that I did not know to ask for or expect. I have seen Him enable new ministries, transform lives, I have seen Him change my heart and desires. A few weeks ago, it was clear that He facilitated the buying and selling of my car (which is a story that still amazes me and makes me laugh).

“By His power He can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine”
-Ephesians 3:20

If He orchestrated the circumstances surrounding something as simple as selling my car, I should know that He's going to take care of the big stuff - relationships, my job, the future, etc. All I need to do is trust, rest in Him and seek Him daily.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

If I listen to the words of my parents, I would not be trusting God's sovereignty regarding relationships in my life. There are plenty of stories in the Bible where people have taken things into their own hands out of impatience, distrust or disbelief, and have missed out on blessings as a result. The Old Testament is filled with stories like this. (Take, for example the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 more years than they needed to – Deuteronomy 1:32-46)

But, it's also important to know that God takes our mistakes and uses them for His good, and ultimately our good. I make plenty of stupid mistakes on a regular basis, and God has used those mistakes to teach me a lot. God is still faithful to us, loves us and blesses us when we're idiots. We can't screw up God's will - God is bigger than our mistakes, rebellion and ridiculousness.

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!
-Romans 3:3-4

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion
-Philippians 1:6

In regards to the verses at the beginning of this post, we need to take comfort and refuge in the knowledge that God is fighting for us, and He will orchestrate, facilitate and provide for our every need. I know that these verses spoke to me this morning when I was mulling over the words exchanged with my parents a few days ago. We can't give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27) . . . and that's exactly what's happening when my parents' words stir up fear in my heart and cause disbelief and uncertainty that God will provide. (shout out to Lori for helping me come to this realization)

For more on rest and trust versus fear and anxiety, listen to J.D.'s "Live Free" - which is one of my ALL TIME favorite messages . . . pretty much changed my life. (click here)

For more on how God fights for us and delivers in ways that we could not ask for or even imagine, listen to "hailstones."

And finally, for some reassurance on waiting for and picking out the right person (holla to all my single ladies), please listen to this.
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