‘Forbidden’ Music and ‘God-Absent Holes’

My teens and twenties were dominated by an obsession with music. At one point I owned over 1,000 compact discs. I would carry the huge binders in my car, ready to punch up on the stereo system in my old Buick (where the stereo system cost more than the car was worth).

Then I hit a religious point of zeal and get rid of all my ‘secular’ CDs. Anything by non-Christian musicians was out. I destroyed most of my music collection, believing that God wasn’t in the music and that he was unhappy with me.

They say that every man has a ‘God-shaped hole’. My problem was that I had some very large ‘God-absent’ holes in my life, areas where I was convinced that God would not go. I was afraid that if I listened to ‘secular’ music, that I would drive away the presence of God, so in order to please him, I needed to listen to Christian music only. This eventually narrowed to ‘worship music only’, so Jars of Clay was out and Hillsong was in. This made my world narrow and unpleasant! But God was happy with me in my misery, or so I thought.

The problem I constantly experienced was that I still loved the music that I had thrown away. Artists like Yes and Peter Gabriel and Genesis and Gentle Giant were ‘bad’, but I still missed their music terribly. I wasn’t supposed to miss it–after all, I had given it up ‘for God’, but I still did miss it. This caught me in a trap: this music is ‘evil’, I love the music, therefore some part of me must be ‘evil’.

When I finally got the revelation of grace and started emerging from legalism in 2010, I slowly discovered–very slowly discovered–that God was not absent from any place in my life. John Crowder talks about this bipolar idea in a post from today:

There are no unbaptized parts of our lives that are out of His range. Drop the double-minded polarity. It never occurred in the mind of God that creation would be something separate from Him. As soon as we wall God off from certain areas, we jump to a place of insanity – a religious schizophrenia. Delusional separation anxiety. He does not exist in this area of addiction, my finances, my health, my dysfunctional family relationships. Before you know it, we are locked into this false pagan mindset that is based entirely on a lie. We start forming personality disorders founded only upon smoke and mirrors.

God was always here – and is shining right now in the midst of the darkness. Even the darkness is as light to Him. Plato and Aristotle could see a dualistic split between light and darkness. Good and evil. Right and wrong. But the apostle John throws us a brain scrambler in the first chapter of his Gospel when he tells us that the light is shining in the darkness! (John 1:5). There is nowhere you can hide from the inescapable love of God.

John Crowder

I like that ‘there are no unbaptized parts of my life’, because that leaves me free to enjoy listening to Yes or the Beach Boys and enjoy that music as much (or more) than that of Hillsong United or Jesus Culture. Whenever I get in my car, I’m free to whatever I want: I can cue up a sermon or a podcast if I’m curious about something, or just toss in a CD by whatever artist and enjoy it.

That freedom took years for God to work into my life. But the good news is, the freedom is there, and always available.

Allow God to set you free. Allow yourself to love the music. There is no secular-sacred divide any more. No part of your life scares God away. If you’re in sin, stop! But you’re not in sin when you’re just living your life.

Reaching The Other Side of Pain With Music

Today’s song is the ever-so-smooth Gospel track, I Want My Destiny by Fred Hammond, off of one of his greatest albums, Purpose By Design.

The other day someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that music is like a drug. He dismissed it as it was like any other psychiatric medication. I disagree that it’s ‘just a drug’–but maybe that’s because I’m a ‘user’.

For many years, silence was painful for me. Without something in my ears, I was terrified that ‘demons’ would overtake my mind, and the pressure cooker would explode. Music was often a comfort, especially when I was in private and could cry as much as I needed to. There are so many comforting albums that I relied on during the hard times that it’d be hard to list them all here. The aforementioned Fred Hammond album is one–most of the songs speak directly to things I faced, and sometimes still face, in my life: the desire to see my destiny fulfilled, to have a clean, unencumbered heart–all of it.

For a while I couldn’t come back to the music that helped me get through the pain. Some music I was listening to during profound times of deception, such as during my ‘Messianic Jewish/Torah Movement’ or ‘Drunken Glory’ kicks, I would never return to–but the albums that helped me through the generally hopeless and heartbroken times, when I come back to them, sometimes they don’t hurt any more. That’s how I know I’ve grown up a bit–that God has worked in my life to heal the hurts. I’m still a work in progress–it’s an everyday thing, believe me!–but I am thankful to God that he hasn’t given up on me–and indeed, has promised never to, Phil. 1:4-6:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

unsplash-kitsune-4If you’re someone for whom music plays a fundamental part, and you’ve gone through a long time of healing, you might occasionally test your progress by trying some of the older music that you listened to while you were healing. If it brings back old hurts, then there’s no shame! You’re still a work in progress and it’s totally OK. If the hurt has dissipated, mark that down–God has healed you, and you’ve made progress.

Think of this as if you’ve broken your leg and someone prayed for it to be healed. Most folks praying for you will ask you to test it out. With mental and emotional healing, it’s invisible and there’s nothing to test. Results may occur right away, but you won’t know for weeks or months exactly what the impact was. Music is a quick test for that. Does it still hurt? That’s OK, just rejoice that God’s helped you make progress elsewhere and then come back to it later. You’re on your way.

Scattershot Thoughts, 3/30/2016

photo-1458640904116-093b74971de9 (1)I couldn’t sleep without writing something, but I have been sick for the past couple days and really couldn’t think of anything today. Plus, there were a couple of excellent Donald Trump events (a rally and a town hall), and and I didn’t want to miss those. MSNBC did a town hall this evening too, but they chose a rapid-fire interrogator who wouldn’t let him speak, in an effort to collect sound bites for liberal consumption tomorrow. It was terribly unprofessional, but that’s what the extreme left MSM does.

Here are a few quick things: Continue reading “Scattershot Thoughts, 3/30/2016”

Take Time To Recharge

photo-1413882353314-73389f63b6fdThe other night I was hyped up on election results (my candidate won big) and online discourse. Once the adrenaline died down, I was left drained, agitated, and not at peace. If you’re not at peace, you don’t have anything, so I thought about it and it came to me: where was I getting my power from?

Turns out that even an introvert can get benefit from online discussion and debate, even when I’m such an awkward wallflower in real life. The palpable energy of an online political rally 24/7 can bring you up, but you will crash eventually. There are only so many articles you can read and memes you can laugh at before you get tired.

That’s where my unlimited energy source comes in:

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Continue reading “Take Time To Recharge”

Music Soothes Even The Savage Beast…Or Something Like That

photo-1431069931897-aa1c99a2d2fcThere is a funny introductory track to a wildly-inappropriate album I used to listen to as a teenager that ends with the phrase, ‘…lean back and just enjoy the melodies. After all, music soothes even the savage beast.’

As a highly sensitive individual (an introverted type who has much more sensitivity to certain things than others; see the book ‘Quiet‘ and the web site Quiet Revolution for more), one of my main sensitivities is to music. This has caused both great joy and great distress in my life, and in this post I hope to help you navigate through the worst and the best of what having such a thing entails.

More after the break.

Continue reading “Music Soothes Even The Savage Beast…Or Something Like That”