BIRTHDAYS: happy times :) sad times :( weird times : /
So it was my birthday today and like every year, i got undeservingly spoilt, again.
It’s kinda weird. Even tho I know I’m not really a lazy person and generally try to give abit to people, it still feels a little uncomfortable having so much attention on me and so many amazing people taking time out to organize gifts, messages, hugs etc.
I don’t usually have a problem accepting gifts, but today, much like every birthday I simply cannot escape the thoughts of those who have not. The people who have no people, no homes, no food, no shelter, no encouraging words, no motivation, no hope.
It just doesn’t seem fair that I get to eat till I can barely move while some homeless child is going to bed hungry
And when I say bed, I actually mean whatever shelter they can find.
So I guess gratitude is probably overrated right now, because I’m pretty much a heck of a lot more than grateful. A definite Sobering thought.
Then weirdly enough, through my emotional ramblings, I also feel closer to God than i have for ages. I think it has something to do with the fact that He too loves us more than we deserve.
He encourages us everyday through His word, messages us and comforts us by His spirit and treats us like everyday is our birthday.
So to all those who sent a message, gave a gift, sent a wish and gave me a hug.
Know that God used you to display His love in it’s purest form.
I grew up going to a small school, which was part of the small church that I was part of in our small town, which, you may not be surprised to discover, created kind of a small view of reality in my mind. The height of human artistic achievement was the town’s only movie theatre, Rogers Cinema, which may have had almost 4 screens! The pinnacle of exotic culinary delight was either the Perkins family diner or perhaps the China Chef restaurant that employed probably 90 percent of the non-white people of the town. And the story of the universe was about a six thousand year old earth that some big powerful guy that we called “God” made so that I could believe in a guy named Jesus and go to heaven when I died…
Sing it with me: It’s all about meeeeeee, Jesus/and all this is for meeeee…
Anyway, this guy named God had music that he liked, but it was only the kind of music that was sold in stores that also sold lots of Bibles and pictures of bearded white guys holding lambs around their necks. The other kinds of music… you know the kinds that most people listen to that say words like “baby” and “damn” that they sell in places like Best Buy… This guy named God didn’t like that music because for every minute that the music played, you couldn’t hear the word “Jesus”… well, any times! He needed a much higher J.P.M. (Jesus per minute) before he liked the song.
I know this sounds funny, and I wouldn’t have ever put it into those words, but that was basically the reality. I remember when the youth group burned all of our “secular” tapes. (didn’t the Nazis do something like that…) But I had a problem, because I didn’t really own any secular tapes, at least none with words like “baby” or “damn” in them. So I think I may have just found my tape with the least amount of J.P.M.-ness and tore it to pieces!
I look back at those days with a mixture of embarrassment and fondness. I liked how simple the world was when it was so small and understandable. But, small-mindedness doesn’t always have the greatest effect of good in the world…
I guess it was a gradual thing, but over the years, as I walked with God, I realized I had made idols and silly images of him in my head. He wasn’t a guy “up there”. In fact, God wasn’t really a “He” at all, that was just a metaphor. Then I went to college and learned that there’s pretty good evidence that the earth is older than 6,000 years old, and that the universe is bigger than I thought it was, as I learned that there are a lot of things that people don’t know…it all humbled me a bit. I began to realize that all creativity and goodness and beauty comes from this infinite creative source that is responsible for the universe’s existence. This God that holds all things together and is the source of all life and love is also responsible for any beautiful thing that human beings ever do, no matter what they believe about Jesus or God or how old the earth is or whatever. All beauty belongs to God.
Then I got signed by a “Christian” label, and started learning about the “Christian music industry”, and realized that many people in the industry aren’t really Christians. In fact, sometimes the Christian music industry has shadier things going on then people in the mainstream market. I realized that a lot of these people that called themselves Christians said things that they didn’t really actually seem to live out or believe.
Then I realized that things like labels or CD’s can’t be “Christian”, only people can be “Christian.” Christian means being a follower of Jesus. Music can’t follow Jesus. Only people can. That means there is actually no such thing as Christian music. That would be like saying that a house is agnostic because an agnostic built it. A house is a house. Words are words. Music is music. This also means there is no such thing as “secular” music. It’s all just music.
I think this idea of secular music being evil is probably not as prevalent as it was in the 90’s. But I’m not actually sure it’s for the best reasons… Let me explain:
I’m not sure that the American Church hasn’t just faded into the culture more. A lot of us used to be “not in the world” in our attempt to be “not of the world”, and now a lot of us are both “in the world” and “of the world.” Scriptures teach us that we are to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
So, I’m not sure that our reasons for being in the world, listening to their music, watching their shows…etc are really rooted in anything deeper most of the time than that we do not care that much anymore. I don’t think that’s healthy either.
Ideally, I think Christians should seek to maintain a purity of mind and heart that is “not of this world.” We should be aware of what we drink in and how it affects us. For me, I have realized that if I listen to too much Christian radio, I end up getting cynical and angry. So I don’t listen to it. If I read too many books that are really anti-faith, I tend towards the same line, so I limit my intake of that stuff as well. But I also try to open my mind and heart to the potential voice and beauty of God that is all around me and very present even within the unexpected places in our culture.
For example, I personally have seen and experienced FAR more of the beauty of God in the films of the master filmmakers of our culture than in the movies labeled as Christian. There are films and plays and pieces of literature and art and music that are drenched with the creativity and majesty of the Creator that are made by artists who would call themselves “atheists.” They can’t help where they got that creativity from, even if they’d like to try.
On the other side of the coin, for those who may be cynical towards the “Christian” markets, we must remind ourselves that even in things labeled “Christian”, the beauty of God can be found. Perhaps we can even find the beauty of God reflected in music of hypocrites and Pharisees. Perhaps even on Christian radio.
This constant tension of trying to live in the world but not of it is a tricky one, and it’s easy to get the two ideas mixed up. There’s nothing wrong with singing songs about Jesus, and trying to sell it to Christians. At least I hope not, because that’s what my job is… And, believe it or not, I do love a lot of Christian music actually. But my hope for myself and the Church today is that we could learn how to recognize and be formed by the true, the good, the beautiful that is reflective of the presence and voice of God in the world around us, both inside and outside of the church. And secondly, that we would recognize the pollution of the world that is present in much of the human art as well, both inside and outside of the church, and learn how to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.
“You don’t have to be a part of a club to know Jesus, and you don’t have to be a part of a “scene” to know Jesus, and you don’t have to be perfect to know Jesus, you don’t even have to be semi perfect to know Jesus, you just gotta be willing and open and honest. That’s the only thing that will ever help you, is believing in God’s Promise. The sole reason we were made is to worship our creator and to be at harmony with our creator. If you feel that there’s no chance for you, I want to let you know that Jesus loves you, the creator of the universe loves you. You might look at this and say “Well Aaron how is that possible that God put this world in motion and sent His son to die for us and give us life?” And if you’re afraid of that, and you think that’s weird, I want you to know that your emotions are normal and your thought process is normal and I know sometimes that it’s hard to believe but you should know that Jesus loves you and wants to know YOU. It’s free, baby. It’s the hope of the world so, thanks for watching.”—Aaron Gillespie (via garethallison)