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

 

John Crist and the Greater Global Sexual Crisis

Earlier this semester, I wrote an article about Christian comedian John Crist. I’ve been a big fan of Crist for basically his whole career, ever since I saw him opening for Tim Hawkins online and creating rather edgy satire of American Church culture on YouTube and Instagram. I probably can’t even count the times my family and I have said “check your heart” with his inflection, sometimes mockingly, sometimes genuinely.

Apparently, though, he knew how to call people out because he needed to be called out. In November, the truth came out about his numerous sexual sins against women, both physically and online, that he and his team have been covering up for years. I would do your own research — Charisma News has a thorough article — before reading my response, but it’s not necessary.

Responding to John Crist’s Responding to John Crist’s Sexual Midconduct — THE BAGPIPE (the link takes you to my school newspaper)

I think that whatever the heck you want to call this decade, the twenty-teens?, it was marked by sexual conduct coming into the public eye. I got into politics because I saw and was interested by the controversy of Obama being first elected (my father is staunch right-wing), so I began to observe and study politics just around the turn of the decade. From what I remember, we had, in partial chronology…

  • The legalization of same-sex marriage on a national scale
  • The subsequent bullying of Christian business owners who didn’t feel comfortable supporting this behavior with their services
  • Chick-Fil-A get bullied repeatedly across the decade for giving to “non-LGBTQ-affirming organizations” but them also quietly opening on Sunday to serve the probably mostly gay Pulse shooting survivors.
  • (Also can we just mention Chick-Fil-A thriving in general, despite losing one day a week, 52 days a year, compared to their competitors. Makes ya think about how God still honors His promises to those who keep his Shabbat….)
  • Slut Walks in DC, as freedom to be however sexually loose you want is crowned the highest goal of the American people
  • The #metoo movement as a whole. Sexual abusers in Hollywood get taken to task, despite being rich and powerful (the Leverage team would approve).
  • The anger against VP Mike Pence for his strict rule against meeting with women to protect his integrity and his wife’s integrity. The juxtaposition of this with the #metoo movement was poetic and stunning and sad.
  • The Catholic church sex scandals that are Still coming out!!
  • The #believeallwomen movement, unless the woman is accusing a Democrat. Obviously. (#sorrynotsorry, still bitter about the blanket apathy towards the women who accused Former President Clinton of rape, who had legitimate proof and many witnesses who could attest, even after the circus of the Kavanaugh hearings and accusations.)
  • Planned Parenthood being proven to be selling baby parts by apathetic and even sociopathic doctors. PP aiding child prostitution. And yet, nobody on the Left has changed their tune. Still not fully defunded, tho Trump has tried and made Some progress.
  • The Pro-Life movement has swelled and is spreading across the country! People are having their eyes opened, and Trump has stood for life very openly and strongly.
  • Gosnell and Unplanned, two anti-abortion movies, had incredible opening weekends and held strong turnouts, but were dropped from many theaters absurdly and unprofitably early.
  • Trump’s explicit “grab any woman” comment from his playboy days shocked the public.
  • …as the sexually explicit Shades of Gray books and movies swept the nation. The hypocrisy should be sickening. But nobody cared. Welcome to our decade.
  • Planned Parenthood released sexually explicit sex-ed videos for schools to show in middle school classes, often without parents having any idea it was happening or what the content was. It encouraged sex, usually safe sex, and a few PP employees have gone on record as saying that they’re doing what any company does: creating customers. This has continued throughout the decade.
  • The prevalence of pedophilia (especially in Hollywood and DC) has been coming more to the public’s attention, culminating in Jeffrey Epstein becoming a household name through the meme quote “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” The Lolita Express’s roster is public domain, and the world’s elite’s secrets are coming to light.
  • Trans female (men taking testosterone blockers, to put it almost too simply) athletes are dominating in women’s sports, and guess who’s mad about it? Women. True feminists. Huzzah!
  • Oh, who can forget the bathroom confusion? Also known as, why you should never use Target bathrooms.
  • Drag Queens (esp children) are being paraded as courageous for their authenticity. It’s sickening and I dare you to watch any video of these young boys in drag, dancing for adults, that our country is applauding. It should make your heart cry.
  • Adult drag queens, including registered sex offenders, are now being paid by the government to read to children in libraries across our nation, often explaining sexuality and what it means to live in drag, or even flashing the children. All for the sake of inclusivity and freedom!
  • Even more confusion and pain in regards to those with gender dysphoria, same-sex attraction, and more, due to the arguments around gay conversion therapy, hormone-blockers, what the legal age should be to transition, what parents’ roles should be, etc. Just look at Canada. They’re even deeper than we are.

I’m missing others, I know, and I might have a a few details wrong. But this should give you a good idea of how crucial this decade was to the world’s sexual identity, especially America’s. Do your own research, check out Disrn.com, run by Adam Ford of Babylon Bee fame, and don’t be afraid to be skeptical of what the media on either side says. We have to be aware of what they’re trying to teach us, so that we can protect ourselves and our kids from the utter depravity. I’ve been trying to get better at going back to the Bible and letting God’s truth about sexuality soak into my heart, so that He can become my lens for how I view all these attacks on His normalcy. The book Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy is also I recommended. I’m only in the first couple chapters so far, but it is SO good. She hits the nail on the head as to the why of the sexual depravity we see around us to clearly.

As a Christian, I’m deeply troubled by the blindness of those around me. But it isn’t anything that God didn’t call ahead of time, and I know I can trust Him. As the world around us plunges itself deeper into darkness, we will shine all the brighter by even just little differences we intentionally make. We will be known by our love, Love told us. It’s time to see what that looks like.

Thanks for reading??

Sydney (Squid)

Thankful for Election

I had a discussion last night with a few other counselors about the regrets you have at the end of the week, the nagging “I could have done more” thoughts. The “maybe my kid could have gotten saved if I’d just said the right thing.”

Since we know the importance of our mission, we take it seriously. And when we don’t see the results we so dearly crave, we often feel like we failed.

But we’ve had a few testimonies this year that struck us bc of their relevance to this issue. Ones like “I got saved this week. This is my third year coming to camp, but it finally clicked this time.” What a wonderful thing, right? But the fact that it took three years means that there were two years of counselors feeling like they failed. But they didn’t. It was all in God’s timing.

The problem is, we don’t know which kids are going to have that testimony and which ones won’t ever come back to camp, church in general, or God.

The great news is, we don’t have to know that!

I’ve been studying Reformed theology for a while now. And of course predestination, one of the 5 components of TULIP, comes up a lot and is heavily debated in Christian communities. Last night, I finally realized why God talking about “the elect” in the Bible is so reassuring:

He doesn’t need us!! We staff remind each other over and over that WE don’t save the campers. We lead them to Christ and let Him do the work in their hearts. We’re here to pray and talk with them and help them understand what He’s leading them to do.

But if that human being is one of God’s elect, he or she (aren’t you proud of me, Mom? I didn’t use singular they) WILL be saved! Maybe not at camp, maybe not now, but our actions cannot change their eternal destination for better or for worse. God has already planned out if and how they will be saved. If we slack off and don’t let Him use us, then He’ll use someone else. And that’sOK! We want God to use us bc it’s a beautiful thing to see a child come to life in Him! We want to be a part of that process! But He doesn’t have to use us. He might just use us to plant the seeds.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

-1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV

That verse gave me a lot of comfort last year, but the doctrine of election is giving me even more. And joy!

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

-John 15:16 NIV

It’s not me out here trying really hard for God, it’s me living out what God has called me to do. It’s showing His love in everything I do and say. I’m His servant, and I know that He has me here for a reason. He has a purpose for me. I’m not flailing aimlessly, trying to prove I can love somehow.

Romans 9 talks about this too.
Actually, there are a lot of scriptures on this topic. So, here’s a link to a good list of them.

I’d like to hear thoughts, or just “mmmmm”s. Either way, it’s nice to know that I can’t make or break a kid’s salvation. Someday, I hope he or she can look back on my influence and say that I helped them positively and showed them Christ, but that’s it. God is the potter, I’m only a tool.

And I’m just fine with that. 🥰

Sydney (or, as my girls called me last week, Sweetart)

Music. A Scholarship Essay

percussion-ensemble

The following is adapted from a scholarship essay I wrote on the prompt of “What are you average at and how does the Lake Wobegon Effect (a natural tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities and see oneself as better than others. Research psychologists refer to this tendency as self-enhancement bias and have found evidence for its existence in many domains) affect that?”

It was weird to write this, but also enlightening. 🙂


I come from a musical family. 

My dad played french horn and trumpet in marching band, but also plays piano and guitar, and, thanks to Amazon having a deal on them, ukulele. He taught my mom to play the drums a little when she was pregnant with me, and that’s my theory of where I got my passion for proper rhythm.  Mom was never classically trained outside of playing clarinet in high school, but she has a great ear for right and wrong, so she’s helped me train my voice.  My stepdad is a complete music nerd and we own way too many guitars and mandolins and octave mandolins everything inbetween.  I took piano lessons for five years and played percussion in a Christian homeschool concert band for the past two years.  All my sisters and I also sing in the same organization’s choir. 

All of this to say, music is a huge part of my life 

So, understandably, most people tell me that I’m good at music.  But I’m scared to believe them because I don’t want to be wrong.  What if they’re just being nice?  I’m afraid of having this false idea that I’m quite good when I’m really not, because that would be obnoxious to other people who actually are good.  I’m so scared of the Lake Wobegon Effect that I overcompensate by telling myself I’m average, if not slightly below.   

To help keep myself in this “humility,” I hold myself to impossible standards and compare my skills to others’ around me.  The internet gives me an infinite amount of people to compare myself to, but I’m also surrounded by very talented people.  I feel like if I can’t play guitar effortlessly like my stepdad, piano delicately and powerfully like my dad, drums and mallets perfectly and confidently like our band’s first-chair percussionist, or sing accurately and melodiously like the competitors on The Voice, why am I even advertising myself as a musician?  There are so many people better than me! 

I don’t want people to think that I think I’m as good as those incredibly-talented stars. 

But then I run into people who are amazed that I noticed that a song on the radio is in ¾ time.  Since I think I’m average, I’m shocked at their lack of knowledge.  Instead of understanding that not everybody understands what I do, my first mental reaction is that they must be unusually uneducated.  Which. Is. Not. True.  Instead of having a realistic appreciation for how much I actually know, I grade people on a curve, putting myself as something like the 67th percentile.  This makes people seem much less savvy than they are, since I really do know a lot about music theory.   

Every time I do well in an audition, I assume that it was just easy, or that the judges don’t have very high standards.  I’ve chained myself to this idea that I am unable to do hard things, that I am relatively unskilled, and that anyone could do what I do.  That there’s nothing special about me or my abilities. I hear the people complimenting me, but I also hear them complimenting other people who may or may not have done well.  The insecurities rise!  

But this attitude ignores my own hard work and the hours I spent crying at the piano when I was eight years old because I couldn’t figure out Three Blind Mice by ear.  It ignores the afternoons I spent playing the guitar and refining my strumming pattern even though my fingers were turning blue.  It ignores the moments when I’m in a room with a piano and feel my soul being drawn to it inexplicably.  I have a connection with and passion for music that I can’t ignore, lest I go crazy. 

If I ignore the power and beauty of the music I love, I will never be able to take advantage of all I can do with it in God’s service. 

And to tell myself these lies, that what I do isn’t special, isn’t good, or isn’t worthwhile, is to discredit God’s work in my life.  He is the one who gave me my passion for music.  He is the one who inspires me to bless people with my music and singing.  If He’s calling me to devote a bigger part of my time to getting better at some instrument, and I just point at someone else who’s better, then I’m no different than Moses reminding God that Aaron was a better speaker.  I’ve always yelled at Moses to man up and trust God. If He calls you, He knows you can do it! It’s through His power anyway, dummy!  Well, I guess I need to take my own advice.   

There’s always going to be someone better, who is legitimately good (in my estimation) at what they do, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to get better.  The idea of minoring in Music isn’t out of the picture just because someone else is way more talented than I am. If I can bless someone with my music (which, praise God, I’ve already been able to do), then it’s all worth it!  Whatever training I can get, God can use.  And I trust Him on that.  


Squid 🙂

 

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