My (Preferred) Alter-Ego (come find me here!)

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Monday, June 22, 2009

siren's song

I'm singing The Prayer in a wedding soon, and even though the version I'm singing isn't exactly like the one that Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli have made so popular, I've been listening to their version regularly as a learning aid. Yesterday, in the course of clicking through various links on youtube trying to find a clearer recording of the song, I found myself suddenly listening to another of Celine's songs.

Let me say from the beginning that I have great musical respect for Celine Dion. She has an incredible vocal range and has had more worldwide recognition that most of us could ever dream of having. She also has a history of carrying herself with class, unlike many of her contemporaries.

This particular song was catchy. It featured a sitar riff that immediately appealed to me (perhaps because of my background of growing up in India) and the melody was catchy. I found my foot tapping and my head imperceptibly nodding.

Then I locked into to the words.

There was nothing truly "bad" in the song--no overt vulgarity or profanity. In fact, we could almost call the message of being faithful to one's significant other wholesome in the face of a society where broken relationships have become "normal." But I felt somewhat "checked" at references to a "devil inside" and being told to "keep your eyes only on me." I'm supposed to keep my eyes at all times on someone, but He's not you. No big's just a song... I reached to shut it off.

The instant the music stopped, I felt like I had the air knocked out of me and everything inside of me seemed to shrink. I had a raging desire just to hear the end of the song. I switched over to a Christian music station, and immediately felt bored. Yesterday was one of those days where I felt bored with my walk with Jesus in general. The Word seemed stale and my prayers felt like lead.

The strength of my inner struggle over the Celine Dion song shocked me. I make it a practice not to listen to secular music, not out of legalistic, "religious" reasons, but just because I find myself feeling dissatisfied with my life when I do. I am desperate to have open communication with God at all times--to be able to hear from Him no matter where I am or what I'm doing. When I listen to secular music (or even a lot of "positive Christian top-20 hits"), I find that the communication pipeline gets clogged.

However, I sometimes listen through a secular song on youtube that I've heard on a movie or when I'm walking through a store because I like the musical arrangement of it. I've never really thought much about it, justifying myself by thinking, I don't listen to it all the time. The struggle I had to pull out of it yesterday makes me believe that I may need to up my standards even higher, at least for this season of my life.

I realize this is a sensitive, highly personal subject, and that everybody has their own list of what they will and will not allow themselves to hear (much like the list of profanity deemed "acceptable" in movies....personally, I never understood how one curse word could be more offensive than another). I would challenge you, though, to examine your standards on a regular basis. The spirit behind a song will manifest itself whenever and wherever that song is played, and small compromises lead to huge concessions. We are to guard our hearts with extreme diligence, giving no chance for vulnerability, because our enemy does not rest seeking after our hearts.

May God strengthen you all with power in your inner man!

Psalm Studies -- Week 3

Week 3 -- Worship and Prophecy -- Psalm 27

Friday, June 12, 2009

unanswered prayers

Last night was night four of Vacation Bible School. It was an emotional night for me for various reasons, but the defining moment of the night for me was the final 20-minute segment (called the "Firefly Finale"). The roughly two-dozen children gathered around their respective crew-leaders and visualized putting the all the wrong things they've ever done in a big black trash bag each crew had. The crew-leaders placed the bags at the foot of a large cross, and one of the teachers, dressed as Jesus, came and carried the bags away as "Amazing Love" played in the background. When Kelly gave the children an opportunity to ask Jesus in their hearts immediately after that, at least four little ones raised their hands wanting to pray the prayer of salvation. We all had a time of worship in the altar while the crew-leaders finished praying with those who'd asked for prayer.

What struck me, however, was what happened just before all of this. I had gotten up to teach the kids a new song that talks about how God renews our strength when we wait on Him. Kelly and the crew-leaders had gone to a room in the back to pray about upcoming altar call, so I took a few minutes to introduce the song to the children and make sure they understood the concept of waiting on God (giving the adults time to pray). The Bible points we've learned so far this week have been: "God is with us," "God is powerful," "God does what He says He'll do," and "God gives us life." I opened by asking if any of the kids had ever prayed for something before. Immediately all of them raised their hands.

I followed by asking if any had ever prayed a prayer and nothing happened, and again, all of them raised their hands. I asked why they thought that was, and I'll admit that I was expecting a collection of blank faces and shoulder shrugs. To my surprise, however, one of the little girls to my left lifted her hand and, without a pause, said, "Maybe it's not the right time for God to do it, yet."

My eyes swam with tears as I praised her for her answer and went on to explain that we can trust God to give us strength to wait for His timing. All this time, however, my heart was crying, "Oh Jesus, no wonder you loved little children. They just understand."

I over-complicate things so much. God didn't answer because there's sin in your life. Or because you aren't asking what He wants. Or because He doesn't love you as much as _____. Or.... I don't take into account the fact that I strive daily to keep my heart free from hidden sins or that His Word says He loves me.

There was such a confidence in what my little friend said last night, though. There was no pause to check herself--no sense of, "I'm not good enough for Him to answer my prayers." She knew Jesus loves her and would answer her when she prayed to Him. If He didn't answer, all it could possibly mean was that He was waiting for a better time. It didn't mean she was forgotten, neglected...ignored.

What a blessing these little ones have been to me this week. I can't wait to see what happens tonight!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

missing you...

Things have felt a little distant this week with the one my heart loves. I've been helping out with Vacation Bible School at the church every night, so we haven't exactly had the time together I'm used to. I know there's no condemnation there, even though it's entirely my fault, but part of me feels so lost.

He's been part of every thought, ever breath, every action. I throw out numerous 30-second prayers His direction all through the day. I listen to live worship from the IHOP prayer room almost constantly. I've spent large parts of every evening this week telling thirty children about His attributes, singing about how He's always with us...even memorizing small slices from His Word. Isn't it funny how sometimes it feels like the more we talk about Him, the more distant we feel from Him?

I guess it's like any other relationship--there's no substitute for quality time (especially when that's one of your primary love languages). It's difficult to sustain intimacy in marriage if both parties don't make it a point to stay connected. Telling everyone about your husband's amazing qualities is no substitute for snatching up the moment to stop and listen to his heart. Nothing better communicates how greatly you value a person than making a point to shut down all outside interferences and give your full attention.

So much of our communicating is non-verbal. In my quest to become a better woman, there's a whole list of things about which I'm trying to become more aware when I interact with other people. How consistent am I at ignoring cellphone interruptions in one-on-one conversations? How often do I multi-task? How often do I interrupt? How often do I respond to something the other person said with a noncommittal one-liner and then change the subject? All of these are pet peeves of mine in other people--and yet, each is a personality trait I possess.

What becomes painful to notice, however, is how often I behave this way toward Him--cutting short our time together, responding to interruptions, making it all about me when we talk. He's always so patient with me, giving me such grace when, in my frailty, I miss it yet again. The Holy Spirit always comes again to breathe fire on my heart once again and prod me forward in passion and in love. Sometimes I just wish it wasn't necessary. What would it be like to live in a constant state of zeal--to never go through those seasons where my heart is cold? I was laughing with some friends yesterday that I seem to hit a dry spell every Thursday, and it tends to last until mid-Saturday afternoon. Weariness? Perhaps. Unwanted? Entirely.

I've jumped around a lot in this one, and I'm not even sure I've said what I meant to say. Maybe what I should have done from the beginning is this:

...I miss You. I miss just sitting in silence with You in perfect camaraderie. I know You're reading this, because You've already written in my heart what to say. All my words come from You. All my seasons are in Your hands. Draw me away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a tragedy

The following quote was in an email I received this morning from Bound4Life regarding the reprehensible murder of abortion doctor, George Tiller:

"There is merely bad luck in not being loved; there is tragedy in not loving." ~Camus

My heart aches for this man who died with the blood of babies on his hands, and for his wife who was in the choir and witnessed his death. Who knows but that his murder robbed him of an opportunity to repent? Life is life, whether it is a child in the womb or an adult about to draw his or her last breath, and resorting to violence in protest should never be an option for those who claim to be "pro-life."

Paul really captured the heart of it in the "love chapter" of I Corinthians 13 when he said, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, "it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3) I found myself examining my heart and my motives this morning. How many choices do I make in a day? What do I choose to wear? Do I speak to the other person in the elevator? Do I cut off that teenager on his cellphone in rush hour traffic? How thorough am I in the tasks I receive at my job? Do I thank the cleaning lady who comes in every morning to keep the office bathroom fresh? Do I even see her? How often do I do things out of guilt or necessity, caught up in the drudgery of everyday life?

Paul's message was that every action is an opportunity, and every action that does not stem from love is an opportunity wasted. Sometimes we get caught up in the mindset that God only sees the extremes--donating half the church building fund, staying up until 3:00 in the morning to organize a food drive, speaking from a platform to millions of people; but God weighs the heart on the smaller decisions as well. Let's make them count.