“Your friend wants to add you on MeWe!”

WordPress was the only social media I was allowed to have before I turned 18. I joined both Facebook + Instagram soon after turning 18, and Snapchat about a year later. Thankfully, WordPress doesn’t really count as toxic social media in my book. The people I’ve chosen to follow on here I follow for their content, which means I don’t see what I don’t want to see! Anyway, disclaimer over. Enjoy 🙂

I’m not on social media for the political content. I’ll always laugh at the memes, but it’s not my focus.
I value the people that God has put in my life regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
I value my relationships more than I value my ever-maturing political beliefs.

If I was on social media to share political information, I would be upset that what I believe is the truth is being taken down in favor of what I believe is misinformation meant to manipulate me + those I love. However, if I let my distrust of the Powerful (those with money who know how to use it worry me more than those with a title in our nominal government) affect my actions, then I wouldn’t be on Any social media in the first place!

I might mute you on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat if you post more about politics than about your family or faith, which can and should be an indicator that your politics IS your religion, and you and God need to have a chat about priorities.
But I mute you not because I can’t handle the viewpoint from which you post, but because too much political information takes my faith away from God and puts it in humans who can buy + be bought.

Christians need to be aware of what is going on in their respective cultures, but that applies to Every country.
How do you think Christians in a monarchy follow God? Do they serve their communities through grassroots fights for justice + peace, or do they plot to overthrow the king? (Bonheffer’s attempt on Hitler’s life will always be something I wrestle with).

We can’t idolize even the good (or less bad) leaders. For every Godly principle they uphold well publicly (think Trump’s stand for unborn life), it’s almost guaranteed that they’re breaking another in a significant way (think his public apathy in speeches towards minorities suffering, which was one of Christ’s main ministries!).

We need to rejoice in the Lord’s provision, and that includes thanking him for the fleas (if you’re familiar with the story of the Ten Boom sisters in a Nazi concentration camp) even before you know why God gave them to you.

I’m registered Libertarian, but I still mentally assign myself as Republican (or at least right-wing) when I say that We lost Congress this election. That worries me.
A) I’m worried that I still identify with a party I’m not willing to stand with in hard times and don’t agree with enough to truly identify with more than generationally (my family has always been conservative)
B) I’m worried that the balance of power is still upset, and that that will lead to more abuses of power, differing from the past 4 years merely in which side it benefits.

I’m sick of Christians neglecting to remember that we should all hold our positions that we think will truly help people the best and that will show them the heart of God towards them.
Those who think a welfare state is desirable (and I respect many who do) think so because they’ve seen studies + communities that support its effectiveness, and that God calls us to give up our Rights in order to provide for those who can’t, for whatever reason, provide for themselves.
Those who think we need to shrink the welfare state and let individuals keep the money they’ve earned so that they can support each other without a governmental middleman (thus fulfilling more holistically Jesus’ heart of serving each other + the least among you) think this is a good solution because they’ve seen studies + communities that support it!

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is an incredible amount of nuance that is needed when dealing with a country as large + diverse as ours is, economically + socially + politically + culturally + religiously.

Pilgrim, don’t demonize or moronize those who disagree with you. I was stuck in that trap for too long, and it kept me abrasive + unwilling to hear out those who might have information that could change my mind on the efficacy of the solutions I hold to.

The one solution that will never be proven wrong is the Gospel, which is the power of God to restore + reconcile + heal + break chains of oppression.
(If I’ve learned anything at Covenant so far as a Community Development + Economics major, it’s that!)

-Squid

Punchinello, a tribute to Max Lucado

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Punchinello by Max Lucado, I would recommend reading it here!

——

I finally knew how to let the dots fall off.

but.

I have to let go of the stars.

too.

As long as I hold on to my
stars from those around me,
{ my value <– them }
I’m not acknowledging that
it comes from my Maker–
I come from my Maker! When
I need their stars,
I fear.

It is vital.

Let it go.
Look at Him.
Act on your freedom.
Act on the love you’ve received.
Only then will you, will I, be
able to love +
able to live.

—–

originally scrawled (by me, I think??) on the back of the program of the Vega Quartet’s performance at Covenant College – Thursday, November 14, 2019. I’ve edited it a bit + formatted it in this post, but the majority of it came from that almost undecipherable piece of paper I found in my room randomly XD

Wrestling With God + CCM

Background: Pride

For as long as I’ve had Spotify (which has been a LONG time), Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has consistently been one of my top genres. And this has often bugged me, since I associate that label with the fluffy stuff on the radio today that often focuses too much on us and too little on God. It’s encouraging, but it’s rarely convicting. However, CCM has defined my childhood and relationship with God for so long!

  • Stellar Kart’s All In (Apologize) wrecked me as a 14 year old. I heard it the first time I ever listened to K-Love, and I googled it asap and listened to it again, amazed that a song with such radical lyrics would be on Christian radio.
  • The Afters premiered Broken Hallelujah at one of my first concerts and I WEPT. It was one of the first times I had put my heart’s sorrows into a worship song like that — where you don’t ignore the issues, but you lay them at His feet. This set a huge precedent for my life!
  • Tenth Avenue North’s songs were popular for most of my childhood (and their concert was my very first concert!), but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that they’re the one of the only Christian bands who are addressing sexual sin in their music!!!! As that’s the area of my biggest struggles, their music has brought incredible balm to my soul and such truth to combat temptation. I really recommend their EP Things We’ve Been Afraid to Say.

Having these standards, I get frustrated with a lot of the mass-produced Christian music that gets popular. It’s been a matter of pride for me that I don’t listen to the “stupid fluffy stuff,” but instead take the time to search out the lesser-known songs full of Biblical truth by people like Jon Guerra and Andrew Osenga and The Porter’s Gate and Beautiful Eulogy. I still go back to what I grew up on: dc Talk, Rich Mullins, Audio Adrenaline, and Petra. When you have Petra writing about spiritual warfare, it’s hard to be content with songs that the world can listen to and never hear the Truth in.

But I’m realizing that I actually need CCM in my life. I need Christian music. I need good to fill my soul, even if it’s occasionally frothy good. It’s still propounding a Godly worldview, even if it’s watered-down. It’s not wrong.

Part 2: Influence + Protecting Yourself

The media we consume influences what we value. I can attribute my desires to be a self-sufficient woman who kicks butt to games like Tomb Raider that I watched my dad play when I was little and to shows like Alias that I watched as a teen. I’ve always been a hopeFUL romantic, but when I listen to love songs, my heart focuses much more on that beautiful thing that I happen to lack at the moment.

My heart learns to long after other things when it marinates in music that longs after other things. Secular music doesn’t bring peace, and it doesn’t bring comfort. It’s good to rock out to, and can even be productive since I’m not being convicted all the time XD (my eMo-pOp-pUnk-rOck-oUt playlist is amazing for crunch time paper writing, for example). But it’s not ultimately beneficial for my soul; It’s junk food. In moderation, it can be great, but if it’s being used as primary sustenance, it’s destructive to what is best!

I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing sinful about listening to music of Any kind, but it’s ultimately detrimental to consume Any media (visual OR audible) without considering the worldview it both starts at + ends up at. There is no neutral music. Either it glorifies God, or it doesn’t. But you’d be surprised at what I believe Does glorify God vs what doesn’t.

The song Weak by AJR is a ROCKING song. It’s got a great hook, great mix, great feel to it. It’s not explicit, and it never talks about sex or anything. However, I cannot listen to it. it’s an extremely natural + primal cry of rejecting God’s authority over your life.

But I’m weak, and what’s wrong with that?
Boy, oh boy I love it when I fall for that

Even though obviously you can reject the message (and as a Christian, you better!), if you’re not careful, it still permeates my soul just a bit, weakening my resolve to fight temptation.
(side note, tho. AJR is an awesome group, and their song Turning Out breaks me EVERY time I listen to it)

Or, for example, there is something unavoidably destructive about listening to a song that glorifies sex outside of marriage. (mind you, a song that merely Talks about it without painting it as normal or good might be OK!) Things that God condemns are condemned for our benefit! They are harmful to us! When the music we listen to preaches a different gospel, our hearts’ focus is changed, and we’re more open to the devil’s influence. He seeks to destroy us, remember? If he gains a foothold by what we do, including what we listen to, then there will be practical consequences for our souls and relationships with God. We can choose to risk that, but we must be aware of the impact it has on us.

If the piece of media is a fly on the wall of our culture, what web is it caught in, and what kind of spider spun it?

Peter Edgar 12/18/20

But common grace is a thing! God gives insight to even those who don’t know Him!
Love songs written by even atheists can wrestle with what love actually means. Sometimes the content can be graphic, but life is graphic. We do ourselves and our witness a disservice if we hide from that.
Christians can write songs about doubt and sin and what it means to be a believer, and they might just so happen to use strong language! (more on that later)

I’ve been listening to a good deal of music recently that I couldn’t listen to in the car with my mom or my little 6 year old brother. And it’s hard to listen to sometimes! Songs like Dear God by Dax aren’t my cup of tea stylistically, but others like Dear God by Confetti are. Both of them drop a couple f-bombs and speak candidly with God about what they think He’s doing wrong, but this comforts me!! It reminds me that there are still people out there who are bold enough to wrestle with God. They’re listening to the heart He put in them, even if they don’t realize it. It reminds me that every human who rejects God is still loved by Him and coveted after by Him. It gives me an insight into their heart so I can engage with them more empathetically. It also encourages me to wrestle with God from my strong theological foundation.

On the less obvious side, I found the creative project The Narcissist Cookbook about halfway through this past semester. The creator, Matt Johnston, is British, so his accent is awesome in general, but it’s his ADHD rambling about important and complicated things that my soul just adores. He admits at one point that he doesn’t believe in God and uses female pronouns in a nod to the postmodern trend, but he’s got such a deep and intentional insight into the brokenness of the world that I cannot ignore, for the reasons above.

He has a song called Apple that rethinks how Satan temped Eve in the garden. It struck a chord in my soul, because he ends with “I don’t think God can see what I can see [the beauty of the human race post-Fall].” And I remember the first time I heard it, I wanted to yelp, because he addresses it! He addresses the problem he has with God! He doesn’t see Him properly, so he doesn’t realize that the value system he’s processing everything through comes from the One he thinks he’s thinking clearer than. He says at one point that God is afraid of what humans could become + achieve, and it’s just so fascinating to see how someone could have so much insight and yet miss the fundamental Truth! He comes to the wrong conclusion because he has the wrong starting assumptions, but his wrestling helped me process a possible reason why God let the Fall happen in the first place! Maybe God DID see what Matt saw 🙂 (taking a Doctrine class will get you excited over the coolest niche things XD)

Even agnostics’ songs wrestle honestly, and I think that that honors God, possibly even more than frothy feel-good “Christian” songs that miss the point of the mind-boggling Gospel.

However, wrestling =/= condoning. If I wrestle with my propensity to fall into temptation and enjoy it, I’m not pretending it’s OK, but I’m acknowledging the real danger and bringing it to God so that He can show me how to move forward through it. Instead of Weak, I raise you Maybe IDK by Jon Bellion.

Although I guess if I knew tomorrow
I guess I wouldn’t need faith
I guess if I never fell
I guess I wouldn’t need grace
I guess if I knew His plans
I guess He wouldn’t be God, God, God

So maybe I don’t know…
But maybe that’s okay

Maybe IDK – Jon Bellion

Songs that address brokenness as brokenness and address God as the only reason life is worth living give my soul life! even if I’m mourning what they describe.

It almost feels like I have hypocritical music standards. I don’t want to listen to Weak, because it doesn’t benefit my soul at all, but it’s technically clean. Apple (and other TNC songs) and most Jon Bellion songs are definitely not clean, but they do my soul good and bring me closer to God!! Profanity does not define the content of a song. Jon Bellion is much more an honest Christian than some CCM artists who later go on to renounce their faith, and curating that opinion has taken a long time and lots of, well, wrestling with God!

Part 3: Wrapping Up?

I started writing this post over a week ago, and then forgot my laptop existed… oops

Today, I discovered Jars of Clay’s 2013 album Inland and fell in love with it. Jars of Clay have always been extremely intentional about not being cliché in their writing; staying away from Christianese and making their music accessible to unbelievers has been one of their primary focuses.

Haseltine [the lead singer] said, “our songs … [are] not really there to explain our faith,” but are “written about our life that is affected by our faith.” Haseltine explained the decision to “shy away from … traditional religious language” as a conscious one, in part to make their music more accessible to those “put off by religion”, and to “love people in a way that isn’t exclusive to simply people that understand the language of Christianity.”

Dan Mitchell (March 30, 2002). “NPR Weekend Edition Saturday interview”. Npr.org. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved December 31, 2011.

I think that it’s really important to have believers who make music for the Whole body of Christ. What I find inaccessible might be exactly what someone else needs to hear. What brings me back to the Lord might be offensive to you, and vice versa! I ask my friends to skip Weak when it comes on in the car. Not for their sake because I’m somehow holier than them and want to protect them from its influence, but because I know that it leads me into temptation that much easier.

Paul focuses a lot on the role that the Holy Spirit plays in individual conviction on non-essential matters. I think this falls under that. 1 Corinthians 8 warns us about exercising our rights if they’re a detriment to the faith of others; verse 13 says “If what I consume causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” Please bear with each other, listening to the weaknesses of each other’s consciences, and rejoicing in self-sacrifice.

Love you all 🙂

Squid

P.S. Don’t even get me STARTED on Kanye’s Jesus is King 😉

I don’t want an airbrushed god

The Tenth Avenue North song I Confess has been hitting me hard recently.

I confess, I admit
I look for life outside of You
I repent, I’m coming back
To the only joy that’s true
I don’t want to look in a stranger’s eyes
When I come into this place
Let me grow familiar with the lines
The lines upon Your face

I’ve listened to this song a hundred times, but today I decided to think about what it would really look like to know the lines on God’s face.

When you know someone’s face well, you can tell when they use a filter on it. You can tell when Snapchat smushed their face or enlarged their eyes. You can tell when their camera has face-smoothing on. They look slightly unfamiliar to you since you know them so well.

If you took that to the spiritual realm, it seems to me like it’ll look a lot like the American church today. We’ve tried to make a palatable god, one we can understand, one without acne or who’s face is a bit asymmetrical, one that didn’t order the extermination of millions of Caananites during the Israelites’ conquest or who lets bad things happen to people who are trying to be good.

As I’ve been studying for my Doctrine 1 final, I’ve realized that there are so many theological positions that start from an assumption of “I can’t understand how this can be true, so it must not be, since God is rational.” and I genuinely can’t understand the mentality that needs to understand God in that way. I take comfort knowing that there will always be things I can’t understand, truths that are as true as their opposites (or are they actually complements?), and a God who is more glorious than I could ever explain to anyone. A god who makes sense to me is one who I am equal with. And He is gracious enough that that will never be the case.

I don’t want an airbrushed God. Because his ugliness is more beautiful than the finest forests he’s created, breath-taking Covenant sunrises, or whatever else you find incredibly lovely.

If you think that you need to hide the flaws you see in God from those you want to know Him, then I don’t think you truly know Him, so for your own sake you should get to know the lines upon His face. For if you erase the aspects of Him that you don’t like, He ceases to be Himself and becomes instead who you want Him to be, which will always be inferior. Your god then is yourself, and that will never be sufficient.

May you learn the lines upon His face.

My Own Scent

I finally have my own scent;
I no longer have to miss yours.

I really like my perfume
Almost as much as I liked your cologne.
I inhale +
Almost forget what it was like to 
Breathe
While clinging around your neck.

You never gave me anything that smelled like you.
Instead, you bought things to smell like me,
Despite feeling like you,
Artificial.

Now that I'm separate from what held me back
I can find what makes me
Smell sweet +
Breathe deep +
Rise like incense.
Instead of you permeating every sense.

I'm learning to like my own scent,
+ I'm hoping God does too.

The sweet smell of holiness
Can't be forged but only be forged
By the Master Heartsmith
May my prayers smell sweeter than
My perfume.

This was inspired by the fact that I got a great deal on a lovely perfume recently and get to regularly wear perfume for the first time, given that my mom has a pretty severe allergy to most scented anything, even natural.
In past relationships, I’ve always enjoyed the cologne/aftershave, especially because I’ve grown up in a fragrance-free household. But, being at college, I’m realizing that I can finally experiment and find olfactory satisfaction without being a relationship, and I think that’s pretty swell 🙂
However, scent is most definitely a metaphor for confidence and identity too. I’m enjoying finding out who God says I am in Him and in relationship with Him. That’s the most fundamental change and I take it for granted too often.

Death + Life

There’s too much death in the world.

That’s what I find myself thinking as I look at every social media feed I have, every news notification that pops up on my phone, even in church prayer group emails I receive. There’s just too. much. death.

I started writing this because of the recent attention the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is getting. He was killed in February, but people are only caring now. I decided to mull over this disconnect today a bit. In the midst of that, I wondered why I was so relatively numbed to the death all around me. Why it’s hard for me to care about one more person, when people are murdered every day across the globe for a variety of reasons and intersectional conflicts.

Yes, I know that white on black violence is a hot topic in media, but many more black communities are torn apart from the inside. This dynamic was something I got a hard look at in a book I read recently for Community Development 210, a class at Covenant that should be required for all students. The book is called Our America, by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman. I wrote a paper on this book, but first I cried as I read it. It is a plea from the inner city of Chicago, for us to turn, look, and listen to the other America, the one where there isn’t hope. Where the only dream these Americans have is to get out.

This book holds a parallel to the fervor with which the media has grabbed onto Arbery’s death. In 1994, two boys dropped a 5 year old boy, Eric Morse, out of the window of a high-rise in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago. Now, the way the book is laid out, you’re already used to the sickening apathy towards death in the Wells. People were killed, often, by each other. There was mourning, but just a perpetual and almost routine state of it. So when you hear about Eric Morse, you’re sickened that a 10 and 11 year old would do such a thing, but, knowing the culture they’ve been raised in, you’re not exactly surprised. However, it makes national news. Eric Morse’s name is used as the rallying cry to fix the ghetto. For us to do something.

But no one ever does anything helpful. They plant a tree or a statue in his name, sure, but what does that do? Nothing. The community has hope that things will improve, but nothing ever comes of the passionate outsiders proclaiming the need for change. Eventually, the story fades away. And more people are killed. More go to jail. More die in jail. More get out of jail and kill more people or are killed themselves. And this is normal life! It was before Eric Morse and it was still after him.

So why do these stories blow up? These stories are powerful because each one became a symbol. They each gave us someone we could picture and cite and strive to avenge. Today, there is now an investigation into why Arbery’s killers were never prosecuted, and this is good! This is outrage used well!!

But it’s not going to change much at all, ultimately. Systematic violence is systematic. We don’t have a moral compass as a culture. In a post-modern “my truth”-worshipping society, you can’t give anyone good reasons to value life.

Yet, we are saddened. We are upset. We are angry. Because someone was killed and it could be someone we know and love next. We inherently know that life is valuable. This is a good thing to come to terms with!

What are we going to do, what are we going to change in our own lifestyles to reflect that knowledge? That passion? People die everyday. We all are going to die unless Jesus comes back first.

If you haven’t noticed, on a post about death I haven’t even talked about the millions of people who are infected with the newest coronavirus, one frighteningly contagious to everyone and definitely dangerous, even fatal, to those at risk with pre-existing conditions. A lot of people have died from this disease. But a lot of people die from medical malpractice every year. A lot of people die in car crashes. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to be a reason someone dies, period. I try to drive safely, and I try to wash my hands and stay at home.

< But I’m not living in fear. We all will die. I want to be an example on how to live >

The death surrounding us should give us, as people of Hope, that much more stimulus to live! We limit our own freedoms to protect others and even serve them in times of plague.
We are not bound to the chains of fear or of recklessness that our leaders will alternately preach to us from our news feeds.
We take action in our communities to stem the tide of violence where we can. We reach out to children and adults alike in love with the Gospel that breaks every chain.
We fight for justice for the powerless and oppressed.
We love with a fierce and confident joy, knowing that our labor will not be in vain if we follow the example of our Magnanimous Messiah.

In other words, we live out Isaiah 58 (powerfully sung by the Urban Doxology here).

I’m glad the media picked up another symbol of the oppression so many communities face every day. We need to be reminded! But we also need to be reminded that we have power in our communities to advocate for those who can’t. That that’s how we use the blessings (privilege) God has given us. We are wealthy in so much more than just money. This is a spiritual fight. How can we use our wealth to kneel before others and wash their feet, to help them stand?

Pray for your communities. Get involved in them. We’re here for a reason 🙂

Sydney