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Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31st, 2011

     I was awakened this morning by the cry of "Happy Reformation Day!" from my mother. I peeled my eyelids away from my eyeballs. Not yet fully awake and half dead from ballroom dancing classes the night before, I crawled forth from my bedroom with a lamenting moan. "You look like Medusa!" My mother laughed. I stumbled into the bathroom catching sight of my reflection in the mirror. Yes, I had gone to bed with wet hair again and my curls had dried in a unique shape. I brushed my teeth out of sheer habit and went straight to the computer, where I began to write.
     A few hours later my mother came in and pointed out to me that it was past twelve o'clock. I had to leave for band in about an hour. I suddenly realized several things. 1. I hadn't had breakfast and my stomach was complaining as subtly as a bulldozer. 2. My hair was an absolute rat's nest. 3. I was still in my pajamas. 4. I needed to eat whatever I could get my hands on and make myself as presentable as possible in that time.
     I sped on, absentmindedly and brushed my teeth a second time. I had brushed my teeth twice and I hadn't even eaten yet. I could already tell it was going to be 'one of those days'.
     An hour-and-a-half later we pulled into the parking lot to see the large earth-colored van that belonged to Jessica, Duke and JakePen's family. No matter how early we came we never seemed to beat them there. Duke helped us unload the instruments and bring them inside. Their family have been coming early since the beginning of the band-year to help set up, which we are all grateful for. In a family of all girls there isn't enough muscle to go around.
     Soon, everything was ready and the students began to arrive. I surrendered my baritone to Duke, who plays the trombone, but wants to learn all the other instruments in the brass family.
     Charlie had just arrived and of course a card game was about to begin. I was walking by, minding my own business, my fingers still greasy from valve oil, when they caught sight of me and JakePen asked me to play. So, I found myself playing Baloney with Charlie, Emaline, Duke, Tedly, JakePen and one of my little sisters. With every triumph he made, Duke grinned with fiendish glee. The game ended with my little sister winning (as usual). I gave up playing and went to look over an antique trombone that one of the band moms was thinking about buying for her son. I looked it over with admiration. It was obviously very old apparently from the 20's or 30's. I tried to keep from drooling over it.
     By the time I had finished helping her, I didn't have much time before Jazz band started. Emaline and Tedly were still playing cards. As I hate playing cards, I decided to meander about for the rest of the time and try to look like I was doing something of importance.
     Jazz band went on as usual, even though several of its members were missing, with our teacher Mr. Minguez not saying anything remarkably hilarious except for when he told us that he would like "Spladeet" inscribed on his tombstone. I was sitting beside Emaline and we exchanged various amused glances throughout the class. Mr. Minguez then compared the trumpets to fireworks, adding brilliant color to the music. The guitar player, obviously amused, leaned over to my little sister (who happens to play trumpet). "You're a firework!" he whispered, laughing. The song Firework popped into my mind and I tried to force it back out. Like I needed that stupid song in my head.
     The last band of the day was concert band. It was also largely uneventful accept for when my father, the director, started clapping subdivision in my face in the middle of a song. Now, he knows I start laughing very easily, and he also knows that I can't play while laughing. I promptly burst into an attack of mirth on the spot and couldn't continue playing. I tried to join back in, but it was futile. I had thrown the entire low brass section (and as a result, the entire band) off track.
     When we finally got home it was past dinner time and pouring rain. Everyone except for myself was already upstairs when the doorbell rang. Thinking it was one of my sisters who hadn't come in yet, I opened the door.  I was bewildered to find a large group of waist-high children in full costume and plastic rain ponchos, staring at me expectantly. As I opened the screen door they bombarded me with a chorus of 'Trick-or-Treat's. It hit me like a bucket of cold rain to the head. It's the 31st! I took it for granted that since it was reformation day for us, it was the same for every one else. I realized they expected candy and I knew I couldn't turn them back into the cold rain without something to show for it. I remembered the large plastic teddy-bear filled with candy that my mother used to reward her band students. I asked them to wait there and went out to the car. I tried the door. Rats! It's locked! I ran back in to get my keys and at last came out of the rain with the candy. The children went away with pleased smiles and I begged my mother to let me hand out more to any other children who came along. She finally relented.
     I ran to the closet and threw on my old pizza costume and said something I never thought I'd say. "Life always seems better when I'm a pizza."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Temptation

     The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is a book that will definitely make you think.  Lewis has many fascinating things to say about temptation and how the human mind works.  Nonetheless, there are a few things in his book that stick out, such as his point of view on the doctrine of eternal security.  In his book, the main character, Screwtape, makes it clear to his nephew Wormwood that their goal is to get the "patient" to somehow lose his salvation.  It seems from this that Lewis did not believe in the "once saved always saved" principal.  Personally, I believe in this view.  If you aren't familiar with what "once saved always saved" or 'the doctrine of eternal security' means, I shall explain.
     The "once saved always saved" view says that once someone becomes a  true Christian, they will always be one.  They simply cannot lose their salvation.  This also means that anyone who falls away from the faith was never saved to begin with.  There are a lot of other things that go with this view but I'll probably talk about that more in a later post.
     From his book, I think it's safe to assume that Lewis does not agree with this point of view.  As I go back and read through The Chronicles of Narnia, I begin to notice a few things that appear to line up with this idea, particularly in The Last Battle.
     Aside from this doctrinal difference, I found The Screwtape Letters to be a very interesting and thought-provoking book.  It really delves into the mechanisms behind temptation and it also made me wonder about demonic influences over Christians and non-Christians.
     If you are not a Christian, I believe the devil has one goal for you; to get you to Hell.  I don't think he cares whether everyone thinks you are a wonderful person or a terrible person.  His goal is to keep you from repenting and turning to Christ so that you will die in your sins.  He does not want to keep you from a moral lifestyle, only from Christ.
    If you are a Christian, Satan knows he can't take away your salvation, but he wants to prevent you from growing spiritually so that you cannot witness to the lost.  As Christians we still struggle with sin and will until we die, but we should grow gradually in holiness.  If Satan can stunt our growth, people who aren't saved will see it.  Believe me, they do see it.  They know when you are acting like a Christian and when you aren't.
     Do I believe that he uses demons to accomplish this? To some degree, yes I do, but I don't believe that is our only sinful influence.  Even if there were no demonic influences in the world, I believe that our own sin nature, inherited from Adam, would entice us to sin.  In other words, we commit evil all by ourselves without any outer influences.
     Temptation is not a sin itself.  You can't keep sinful thoughts out all together, but when they pop up you can ask God to help you thrust them aside.  "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair" summarizes what should be done about sinful thoughts and temptations.  Do I think demon put thoughts in our heads?  I think it's possible.  He definitely could do it with someone who isn't a Christian.  How much influence Satan has over us as Christians is not completely clear, but whatever he has he will certainly use.  We have to be careful and arm ourselves with correct theology and scripture, especially if you have a lot of unsaved friends.  You may go to church on Sunday and act 'righteous' for all of your saved friends, but if the devil can get you to act unsaved around your unsaved friends, he'll be accomplishing what he wants.  Think about it.  What will it tell your friends if you are cracking rude jokes and swearing right alongside of them? What would that say about the life-changing Gospel?  If you're a real friend, you'll want your friends to be saved from sin and you'll do anything possible to make that happen.
     Pray if you find yourself being tempted.  It's hard to commit a sin while praying and God will help you if you ask.  God won't ask you to do anything that you cannot.

Scripture: James 1:5, 4:7

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Ultimate Weapon

     There is a powerful weapon that we all possess. With a careless lash, it can bring a friend to his knees and begin an intense hatred between two people. One blow of it can cause the deepest of pain or bring a life to an end.  What is this weapon? Look in the mirror and open your mouth. There it is, all pink and squishy. In case you haven't guessed what it is yet, it's your own tongue.
     Speech is one of the most powerful tools God gave us. Through speech we, unlike animals, have the ability to share thoughts, express affection and to create linguistic works of art, but like almost every gift from God, Satan has found a way for us to misuse it.
"Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell."
 ~James 3:5-6


     We need to be very careful of the way we use our tongues. Even things that we don't mean or that we think no one will hear about can get out, and they probably will. I've learned this from personal experience. Keeping a tight reign on my tongue is something that I struggle with. I say a lot of unnecessary things that I don't mean and I have to rely on the grace of my good friends, who are all very forgiving. Thank you, and please warn me when I misuse my tongue. Don't be afraid to give me a good old fashioned slap upside the head when I need it :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

God is NOT Your Girlfriend: My Biggest Problems with a lot of 'Contemporary Christian' Music

     A lot of people are under the impression that I hate all modern 'Christian' music.  That's simply not true.  I actually like it.  In fact I listen to it a lot when I can get my hands on a song with good lyrics.  God gave us music to enjoy and so we could glorify Him with it.  I'm just uncomfortable with the irreverent attitude behind a lot of what the Christian community calls praise music.  Here are some important things to think about when your jamming out to your cool beats:

1.  Does it exalt man or God?:  This is the most important thing I can think of.  Does the music you listen to talk only about how God loves us 'cause we're so beautiful or great or does it talk about how God loves us despite our wickedness and depravity?  God does love us, but it's not because of how terrific we are, it's because of how merciful, loving and forgiving He is.

2.  Does it reflect an attribute of God?:  I think a good way of praising The Lord is by finding music that reflects an attribute of God.  It should be sweet like God's mercy or graceful.  Maybe musically or lyrically deep like God's wisdom.  If you want to hear something that does not sound like an attribute of God, look up a heavy metal 'Christian' band like 'Demon Hunter'.  Should music that speaks about God or Christ sound like darkness, evil, hatred and anger?

3.  God is not your girlfriend:  This is by far one of the most annoying trends in music.  "Hold me in your arms," "Whisper to me"...  all those whiny romantic-sounding songs... are you really giving praise to your All-powerful Creator with these songs?  You know... all those sappy, drippy, drooling songs that sound like they've come from a really creepy, love-sick teenage boy writing to his girlfriend?  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against romance.  There's nothing lovelier than seeing a married couple show a sacrificial love for one another.  And I think that's what the Bible means when it says the church is the bride of Christ.  Sacrificial love.  Not man's 21st century idea of romance.   If you could sing a song to your 'sweetie' with little or no change to the lyrics, it probably shouldn't be sung as a praise song to the omnipotent Creator of the universe.

     Music is something beautiful.  It should be used to glorify God with utmost reverence.  Music is also a wonderful tool.  When words are set to music, they are much easier to remember.  My parents can still recall countless ridiculous songs from their childhood.  This can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing.  It's imperative that the music we listen to have truth in their lyrics, because the lyrics we listen to will be with us for a long time.

Charlie's Birthday and Emaline, the Pirate

     It's time once again for a new post, again concerning Emaline (the pirate).
    Yesterday was the birthday of Emaline's sister, Charlie.   Happy Birthday beautiful.  I'd like to say something... but all that comes to mind is that you really are a six-foot black man at heart.
     Anyway, this day consisted of church, a lunch fellowship, cards of course, (Charlie never goes a Sunday without playing cards) and the boys including Duke (sorry, I couldn't think of any other name to give you) playing that abhorrent sport they call football.  My mother sat watching with Charlie's mother, expressing fears that someone was going to "rupture a spleen", while I was tying a stick to Emaline's leg.  Yes, you read correctly.  I was tying a stick to Emaline's leg.  You see Emaline stuffed the bottom of her pant legs into her socks and was thrilled with how piratey it looked.  So of course she went searching for a peg leg to finish her pirateyness (There is no way that's an actual word...).  So we found a good stick and a bunch of rope, and that is why I was tying a stick to Emaline's leg.  I have the most eccentric friends...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Of Football and Fairy Logs

I bet you're wondering what football and fairy logs have in common... the answer is: ME!
     The other day--this past Thursday actually--Charlie begged me to come to football practice to hang out with her.  My initial thought was 'Oh lovely.  I get to go and watch a bunch of sweaty adolescent males run around and tackle each other in a game that I have not the slightest idea how to play.  How fun for me, right?'  But Charlie and Emaline would be there, and I had a sketchbook with me, (I can be happy anywhere with a sketchbook), so I went.
     Charlie, Ash, Emaline, Jessica and I all piled into the large white van that Emaline and Charlie's mother usually drove.
     I'm very glad I did go, for, I found the loveliest big old log.  It was about a yard or more in diameter, and stretched across a shallow, leaf-filled ditch.  It was exactly the kind of log under which you might expect to find a small goblin or fairy living.  It was very romantic-looking.
     Charlie, Jessica and Ash followed me down to see it.  Jessica's brother, Duke, soon found us, with his trombone in hand and we all began dancing on my log, to the sound of trombone music.  I'm sure anyone who saw us would think we were all crazy, but we had too much fun to stop.