Sunday Thoughts (Inspired Prose/Poem): Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

Have you ever thought

how truly terrible

telepathy would be?

To read and feel and

know a fellow sinner,

a fellow monster’s,

inner thoughts?

All their anxiety, all their hatred, anger, lust, petty meanness, belittling, envy, covetousness. All that is selfish, self-focused, and disloyal in each of us. All that is psychopathic and sociopathic about each of us. All that is dark in us.

Can you imagine how that would tear,

rend,

bruise,

destroy

all of us, our families, our relationships, our world?

Monsters are we all, hidden behind our pretty clothes and jewels. Tombs, rotting and stinking, painted white and carved, all beautiful.

A King of pure holiness,

pure goodness,

pure light,

comes.

And horror of horror, mountains please fall on us, this King can see all that we are. Into our core, the very heart of us. He sees our TrueSelves: lazy, self-worshipping monsters, oozing rot and ruin, that we are.

He opens his mouth and we quail back from him.

We’re lost.

How can we be in his light?

“Do not be afraid.”

Worlds stop.

Sounds fall.

All stills.

Do not be afraid? He of pure light tells darkness not to be afraid?

“Your sins are forgiven.”

Worlds rejoice.

Sounds rise.

All is in peace.

True goodness says, “Do not be afraid.”

Grace, Grace!

We have found our hiding place where we are free, accepted, clean, and loved.

“Do not be afraid.”

With these words, we can turn and love washed monsters because we are washed monsters, fellow beloved of the good King.

-Abby Jones: inspired by Pastor Jarret Downs’ sermons on Luke 5

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Failure

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

Sometimes I spend an evening, generally while my husband unwinds with a video game, wandering around Pinterest. I enjoy looking for new recipes to try, new cleaning tricks, fashion inspiration, decorating inspiration, writing inspiration, things that make me laugh, things that creep my out, or geeky things centered around my own particular fandoms. As I scroll through pins, I’m sometimes amazed at the level of narcissism and the lack of mercy shown to other sinners gathered around us. You see pins about rejecting the negative people in your life. You see pins about getting rid of those people who don’t just think you’re the greatest. Heaven forbid they don’t think your life dream is amazing. Heaven forbid they hurt you. Well you know what to do right? Throw those people away. You don’t need that kind of grief in your life.

Really good friends are perfect. They are perfectly loyal. They are perfectly focused on you. They are perfectly supportive of everything in your life, both good and ill. Good friends, and good Christians never fail.

Do you ever scroll past these types of quotes and feel like a failure? Do you every feel like you must just be a horrible person for honestly telling someone that while their dream is nice, they need to count the cost of the choices they’re making. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try something things just don’t go right? Do you ever remember with horrible guilt the time you were that person who wasn’t loyal and lost a friend because of it? Do you ever remember with terrible pain the time you were failed by a friend and were broken by it?

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I'm not god. I'm a failed and failing human being.

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I’m not god. I’m a failed and failing human being.

Guess what?

You are a failure.

You will fail and the people around you are going to fail.

You’re going to miss someone, look back later, see how they slipped out of your life, and you’re going to regret it. You’re going to say something about someone and regret it. You’ll believe the worst about someone only to realize you misunderstood them. You will be disappointed. You will have regrets. You will disappoint others and have regrets.

You will fail and you will be failed.

Some of us are overcome with sadness when we see all the ways we’ve failed, especially if we admire and appreciate loyalty and friendship. The weight of disloyalty and failure can almost break us.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn't anyone notice how much pain I'm in. Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice anyone elses pain.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn’t anyone notice how much pain I’m in? Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice the  pain of others.

Where do we find comfort?

1) Find comfort in the truth and not fiction. We all fail. We all sin. We are all sinners. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord that He saves sinners. If He didn’t I’d be lost. Knowing we all fail gives me peace because God saves sinners. I’m only perfect in Christ and the same goes for you. We are only faithful by grace. Knowing that gives us the strength we all need to forgive those who have failed us. It gives us the strength to resist being paralyzed by fear of failure. Grace! Grace!

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

2) Find comfort in He who is faithful. God is faithful. Look at the parable of in Luke 11/5-13. We are all the annoyed neighbor who is already tucked in bed. God is never tucked in bed. He is never annoyed. He is holy. He watches for the down trodden, the broken, the least of the least. Cry out to Him with your needs and fears. Don’t put your faith in your fellow-man, that is far too big a burden for any of us to bear. We aren’t God. We are weak. We have to sleep and eat just like you do. God doesn’t. God isn’t bound by the time, space, and corporeal weaknesses we are tied to. God is faithful. (2 Tim. 2/13)

Knowing we are failures isn’t a license to fail as much as we want, but a reminder that we are all sinners and only God is faithful. I can turn to my fellow church members and forgive and be forgiven. I can ignore the pins of people who hope in this life, build little gods of others, and try to find their satisfaction in a broken world. Better yet, I can pray for them. My sins are covered by Christ. He is my perfection. Remove that burden from your heart and from the hearts of those around you. Realize you are going to be hurt and you’re going to hurt others. Instead of finding perfection in fellow sinners, look for it in Christ, forgive, show grace, and help each other along.

Remember Iron sharpens Iron. Does that sound comfortable to you? Sparks are going to fly. Remember the wise man heeds rebuke. That means you have to endure and apply the rebuke of others. Remember that we are called to be a body in our church and not everyone is going to get to be the eyes and ears, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of removing people who suck from your life–people!–maybe look beyond the end of your own nose to serve them instead.

Hope in this life isn’t found in being unbroken. Hope in this life is found only in the Triune God.

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God!

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God! Here, oh soul, you may take your rest.

Music, the Silver-Lining

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Hope in the darkness. It’s hidden in the midst of great sadness.

I don’t normally dedicate my articles to specific people, but this is for Emily Shiflit. Emily and I were having a discussion about music when we first met each other. She mentioned that some of the songs I brought up seemed short on hope. She wanted to know why I liked songs that seemed hopeless. She shared some of the songs she liked. The lyrics were great, but the music grated on me. Why? What is it that I look for in music? Is the music I enjoy hopeless? If so, why do I like it? Is it all subjective? Lots of thoughts and too big of a discussion to fit in a Facebook message or text, hence a blog post.

Self-examination can be very revealing, encouraging, saddening, or just interesting. I’m normally a happy and upbeat person. I often see the silver-lining, so to speak. But I love things that are sad, gray, and melancholy. I like the rain that falls from the silver-lined cloud. I also feel, or have an angry passionate streak, which tends to come out in my love of heavy metal and Irish Punk music. Then, there’s the nostalgia side of me that loves Christmas and folk music. Like most of you, I’m an odd person.

But what is it about contemporary Christian music that generally just grates on me? Why is it that I turn on the Christian radio station and instantly start gagging? Why is my ‘Lord’s Day’ playlist so short?

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I love the imagery in the lyrics of this song. Remember that winter will fade and spring will come again. There is something very Narnian about it.

The focus is only on the silver-lining. The music, for much of contemporary Christian songs, is…mambsy pambsy. This was a term which me and my siblings invented, or stole from a book, which communicates someone being weak in a refusal-to-get-their-hands-dirty-and-get-the-work-done sort of way. It’s weak, wimpy, and almost a waste of space. This is how I view the music of most contemporary Christian artists. I’m not talking about the lyrics, just the notes they use to communicate truth. Music should match the truth being communicated. Their music is soft, inoffensive, mild, and annoying. There is no brokenness communicated in the music. There is little longing, little anger, little sadness, and thus little truth, little hope, and little salvation. The smaller you make God, the smaller you make salvation. The smaller you make the offense, the smaller you make grace.

When I was a child, I listened to a lot of Christian music. When I was a child, happy music was my fare. But when the rain came, when my faith was tested, when the trials of life crowded in around me, and the depth of my own depravity came to light, I found praise songs and most contemporary Christian music lacked depth. They were fine for the spring of life when all is green and bright, but they quickly burned away when the hot summer sun glared down upon them full of damnation and driving away every cool shadow. The Christ in those songs couldn’t have endured the cross. The Christ in those songs didn’t love me anymore than my boyfriend did. The praise didn’t include standing on the very cusp of the pit of hell and being rescued when you deserved to die. They didn’t include sin. They didn’t include my worthlessness. They were happy and thus weak. They failed to understand that to have a silver-lining you must have a very dark storm cloud blocking the sun.

Seeing the silver-lining should never deny the thunder cloud hiding the sun. 

It is truth that makes the silver-lining shine. Remember, hope is a light in the midst of great darkness. That means you have to pass through that darkness to reach your hope. So, why do I love Mumford and Sons even though the hope in their songs is often hidden behind sad, and somewhat angry folk music? Because that’s real life. Hope is often hidden deep beneath darkness.

Why do I love Metallica’s Master of Puppets? Because we are enslaved to our sin and it is damning. That comes through in the song in a far more real and visceral way than most contemporary Christian music.

Dark, heavy, but true. This is what sin does to us.

Dark, heavy, but true. This is what sin does to us.

The Bible teaches us that Christ did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. Christ didn’t come to make us perfect and give us perfect lives. He came to make us like Him. Not only should the lyrics communicate this struggle, this war, this perpetual battle between flesh and spirit, but so should the music. Our modern ‘worship’ is all about feeling good, but go back and listen to some old hymns. Listen to the sober tone to their music. Listen to how the music swells and grows, drops and dives, as the sinfulness of our own hearts is exposed by the light of God’s grace.

I don’t hold to separating out Christian and Secular, since God gifts both saint and sinner with artistic talent. I think lessons and truths (small truth, big Truth only comes from the word of God) can be gleaned from both. I also know that our emotional reaction to art has much to do with what we bring to the table. A song that speaks to you may seem insignificant to me, while a song that makes me weep may annoy you. Isn’t art an amazing thing? Isn’t it amazing that God saw fit to include it in our lives?

Emily, I hope this helps explain why I love the songs I love. Thanks for sparking the conversation that lead to this article! And please, don’t take this as me thinking my songs are better than anyone else’s favorite songs, this is more an exploration of self. I’m sure there are plenty of counter arguments to what I have said in justifying my own song choice. One of the interesting parts about getting older is how I have returned to the roots of contemporary Christian music with a renewed love of old hymns. The truth set to sober, serious, heavy, music feeds my soul when I sink down in the pit. They help me more easily remember the truths of scripture and sometimes memorize scripture themselves. For me, it’s a returning after years of avoiding “Christian” music almost all together. God is always good. He does not give us only sunny days, but provides us a song in the rain.

 

One of the Christian bands that I, so far, enjoy. Their lyrics are pretty good, not great, but good, and I like their music so far.

Gungor is one of the Christian bands that I, so far, enjoy. Their lyrics are pretty good, not great, but good, and I like their music. They have that haunted tone that I love so much.


 

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