Try

I got a magazine in the mail today. It came in a package from my mom with many other things, so I assumed that she got it and didn’t want it. But, when I looked in the bottom right hand corner of the front page, it was addressed to me. I don’t remember ordering a magazine, but since it was addressed to me, I figured I should read it.

I very quickly realized why I don’t subscribe to magazines like that. Page after page told me what I should buy to fix myself.

Cleanse my pores.
Have a personal trainer.
Make my hair thicker.
Look into the benefits of spray tanning.
Buy lingerie online.
Paint my nails.
Eat snacks, but only the kind that keep me skinny.
Buy new sunglasses.
Get a little black dress.

Yeesh. I didn’t realize there were so many things wrong with me. If I were to do all the things the magazine told me to do I would be broke immediately.

Colbie Caillat released her music video for her latest single “Try.” I appreciate the message that she is sending to young girls. The music video starts off with very beautiful girls covered in makeup and fancy hair. By the end of the song, they all are “natural.” Hair extensions out, makeup off . . . and they are still beautiful. She concludes the song with “Don’t you like you? Cause I like you.

It’s okay to like makeup and getting your hair done. But, life is more than that. Don’t be overcome by pursuing beauty. Pursue justice. Pursue happiness. Pursue love. Those are things you should try to be. Don’t worry about trying to be beautiful; you already are.

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Two Years

483293_4052422661344_1432714434_n“Pose like your favorite jungle animal!” the photographer said to us.

It was at least 90 degrees. We had all just met. We came from places like Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Canada. We all came from incredibly different backgrounds and experiences. But there we were, acting like monkeys, giraffes, lions and crocodiles. We were Team Guatemala 2012.

Working with CTI Music Ministries was the most life-impacting thing that has happened in my short (almost) nineteen years of life. If it wasn’t for CTI I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s where I learned how to wrap cables. It’s where I learned things like the difference between a monitor and an amp. It’s where I learned good stage presence. It’s where I learned how to transition between songs, whether verbally or musically. It’s where I learned how to effectively plan a worship set. It’s where I learned how to share my testimony.

Before CTI I had only worked with my school and my church’s praise teams. They were fine, don’t get me wrong, but at CTI I was able to work very hard at musically perfecting sixteen or so songs instead of plowing through a set an hour before worship. They taught me how to pursue musical excellence. CTI taught me so many skills that I am incredibly grateful for. Honestly if it wasn’t for the summer with them, I probably wouldn’t have made a team here at Dordt, and I wouldn’t have realized (at least not as quickly) that worship leading is a huge passion of mine. But the most important thing that CTI taught me is that I am a servant first and a musician second.

I have learned not to walk into a venue thinking “We’re the band. They need to cater to my needs.” My job as a worship leader is to help usher people into the presence of God. My goal is that when people look at me, they don’t see me; I want them to see Christ shine through me. This is not only through music. I want to be a serve. I want to do ministry on and off the stage. I want to be a light of Christ no matter where I go, not just when my fingers are on the keys or when a microphone is in front of my face. When all the lights turn off, the coils are wrapped, and all the monitors are in their cases, I want people to still be lead to Christ.

I went into CTI with a very selfish heart. I wanted to be on a big stage with good musicians in a foreign country. I did that, and don’t get me wrong . . . playing music every day in Guatemala was AMAZING. But what I learned was far more than how to be a good musician in a foreign country. What I learned is that God hasn’t called me to be some pop-star celebrity that goes on tour; God called me to use my gifts that He gave me to advance the kingdom.

Two years ago I started an incredible journey, one that has left a huge mark on my heart. I’m so thankful for all of the crazy jungle animals I got to work with that summer. If it wasn’t for them, I have no idea what my life would look like today.

Snotty Christianity

“Hey, I just got an All Sons & Daughters album for free! I think you’d really like them!”
“Yeah, I’ve been listening to them for a while now.”

“Have you head the song God’s Great Dance Floor by Chris Tomlin?”
“Blahhh . . . yeah I have.”
“Oh, I take it you don’t like it then.”
“Absolutely not!”

I am incredibly guilty of being a snobby Christian. I don’t listen to 96.5, the Christian radio station where I live. I didn’t see God’s Not Dead. I like Hillsong, but I certainly don’t start drooling when someone starts talking about the new album they released.

I like the way I live my life. I like the music I listen to, the church I attend, the books I read, the way I plan worship sets . . . I think that they are good. But my way of life is not the only way of life.

I read an article this morning called The Dangers of Being a Christian Culture Snob. I strongly encourage you to read this article. Michael Wear talks about how a friend of his really wanted to go see God’s Not Dead, and he went kicking and screaming. Wear admits that there are several flaws in the movie, but he walked away challenged about some things in his faith. This caused him to ponder his extreme judgement on the movie before. He writes:

Our preference for sophistication can be a stumbling block in our own faith and the faith of others. Judgment in the name of sophistication has somehow remained acceptable, even laudable, in today’s culture that scorns judgment in other forms.

Yet, when applied to matters of faith, this sort of judgment can be just as harmful. When our cultural tastes start making people feel inferior for how they relate to God, then our cultural tastes have become a danger. We can convince people that God is unreachable and far away, when our God is close and wants to be known.

I am so guilty of judging people’s faiths. When people go to a church that is different than mine, when people listen to different music, read devotional books that I don’t like, I roll my eyes, sigh deeply and say “Oh . . . I see.” I assume that their faith isn’t nearly developed as mine.

But the truth is just because I live my life one way doesn’t mean that that’s how everyone should live their life. God cannot be limited. He is a God of diversity; He can’t be put into a box. God is love; God is not confined to music you probably haven’t heard of or churches that use fancy lights during their service. We should be eagerly seeking after God and learning more and more from him every day. Let us not limit how God works to our cultural preferences.

So yeah, I can be a bit of a culture snob. I listen to music that isn’t played on the radio. I watch Ted Talks and listen to podcasts. I have a blog, for crying out loud! I like learning this way; this is how I prefer to process my faith, but that isn’t the only way that the Lord speaks. The Lord works through God’s Not Dead, Chris Tomlin songs, and so many things that I am not necessarily instantly attracted to.

God is God. I am not. Who am I to say where God can and cannot work?