Woven with Thanks

Last night, somewhere between midnight and 4am, I spent a good portion of an hour lying awake for no good reason. This is par for my course as a pregnant mom of a toddler (who still wakes up at least once a night because he needs a graham cracker/there’s a moose in his room/he got lonely). I don’t think I’ve actually slept a whole night through since sometime in 2012. But that’s not the point.

During these midnight musings, I have learned that our parents lied to us as children. If you just close your eyes and lie there quietly, well, it will be quiet and dark. It will not help you fall asleep, and you mind will not suddenly think to itself, Oh, she’s trying to sleep; I’ll quit bothering her with the task list for next week and the panic about whether potty training is damaging her child’s psyche. Since I’m too lazy to be one of those people who say, “Well, I guess I’m not sleeping, I should probably clean out the garage,” and I’m too pregnant to take large doses of sleeping pills, I knew there had to be another way to quiet my mind. So I turned to prayer.

Not prayer that I would fall asleep quickly. I’ve tried that once or twice in the past, and I’ve come to the conclusion that God’s not really in the Ambien business. No, I start praying through the needs of my friends and loved ones. (That’s where Facebook really comes in handy. You know exactly what kind of prayer your friends need, even when they haven’t asked for it, if you know what I mean.) I usually get through several before I start to drift off.  

I haven’t found anything that calms my spirit in the middle of the night like bringing the people I love before God. Not only does it bring peace, but in my intercessions for others, I find God speaking to me. Take last night, for example.

I was starting to run through my list of people and their needs, when that nagging voice of some Sunday school teacher from childhood piped up, “Always begin your prayers with thanksgiving,” (presumably so God doesn’t think you’re taking Him for granted and ignore you). For a moment, I thought, Well how am I supposed to thank Him for divorce or mental illness, Mrs. Holypants? Hmm? But then He showed me a picture of how we can thank Him in even the most joyless situations.

I suddenly imagined our prayers as a basket or cloth being woven. We go in and out, up and down as our lives and circumstances change. We weave the threads of supplication and intercession all through a framework of joy and thanksgiving. Lord, give strength and wisdom to my single-mom friend. Thank you for the ways you have provided for her and the people you have surrounded her with to support her. The struggles I am praying for on her behalf lead me to recall how faithfully God has upheld her even in the midst of a life-storm. Father, bring peace and healing to the one struggling with depression. Thank you that she is bringing awareness to her condition and that she is encouraging others. I want to see her mind and spirit healed, but in the meantime I rejoice in the courage and boldness she has found and in knowing that her transparency is going to bless others.

Thanksgiving is an absolutely integral part of our prayer life. It’s not a magic password to the throne (Thank you, God, that all of the past seasons of NCIS are on Netflix. Ok, I’m listening. Did you see Season 10, Epsiode 5? I mean, yes, go ahead with your request. Um, yeah, could you heal my friend’s sister’s cousin’s dog? I think he’s got mange or something yucky.) Prayer is about change. The more I pray, and the more I find ways to thank Him, the more I am changed, which I believe is the true purpose of prayer.

Prayer, in my personal opinion, is not meant by God as a means for us to manipulate the divine providence and sovereignty. If it were, no one would die from cancer, parents wouldn’t bury their children, and the innocent wouldn’t suffer. So Mrs. Holypants from 4th grade is right, we do need thanksgiving if we are going to have a meaningful prayer life.

Not because it gives us points towards answered prayers, but because as we thank God, we see where He has already answered our prayers and provided for us in ways we never thought to ask. In light of His faithfulness revealed by our thankfulness, we see how pain and tragedy really are part of God’s merciful plan to draw us into a deeper knowledge of Him. Our sufferings become less about how we feel or how we are affected in the immediate, and more about how God’s grace is weaving through a story that began long before us and will continue long after us.

Thanksgiving fills us with hope. It reframes our perspective. It reminds us of God’s promises and His faithfulness that never fails. It reassures us that His mercies are new each day, just as we need them.


How are you thankful?


Tuesday’s Truth – If You Can Only Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All

Hello everyone! Just a short bit of a public service announcement this week. In this latest season of my life, I have become so aware of the trials and sufferings of those around me. I’m not talking about starving children in Africa or politically oppressed people in Asia, or impoverished South Americans. I’m talking about the people in our families, churches, and neighborhoods who are dealing with pain and difficulty right now. The middle-aged man who is suddenly and unexpectedly a widower,  the couple struggling with debt and unemployment, the parents caring for a chronically, critically ill child, the small-business owner wondering how many months they can stay open or afford to employ others, or the parents who lose a child to an illness or an unexpected accident.


I’ve addressed the issues of trials, suffering, God’s plans and the like in past posts. I’m not here to go over all of that again. What I want to address today is how we respond to those in our lives who are experiencing pain and struggle. So many times our first reaction when someone shares a trial or tragedy with us is to try to make them feel better. We say things like, “God is in control,” “Everything will work out,” “God’s going to do a miracle,” “They’re in a better place,” “There’s a purpose in this,” “Just lean on Him,” or many similar things. Many times, these things are completely true. God is in control, He does have a plan, and there is a purpose in our pain. But stop and really think about it. Does saying any of those things really make someone feel better? Is it even really possible to make someone feel better when they’re really going through something life-alteringly painful? I don’t think it is. The only one who can truly comfort someone in those types of situations is God, and He works directly on the heart and spirit of the sufferer, not through their ears.


It is possible for us to do something, however. We can offer support in many ways that opens the door to God’s comfort and healing. Sometimes there are practical things that we can do to care for those who are hurting. The old saying is very true: “Actions speak louder than words.” In fact, one of the best things we can do for our suffering friends and loved ones is just keep our mouths shut. I can’t say I’m always good at that. I mean, I write this blog every week because I like communicating and expressing the things I’m learning and discovering about God. I never got in trouble in school for my papers being too short, but for them being too long. I can over-communicate very easily. Once in a while, though, I get it right. I remember one situation where I took my own advice, and I can look back and see how much more effective it was than if I had tried to pull out all my “great wisdom”.


A friend had suffered an incredibly tragic loss. I’m pretty sure one of the first things I said on the phone was, “I don’t have any words.” Just things like “I’m so sorry,” and “I’ll be there as soon as I can”. And when I did get there to support her, I ended up (not by my own brilliance, I confess) just letting her tell me the whole story, with all the good memories, and all the painful details. We laughed a few times, cried a lot, and actually had a very beautiful time together. Did I make her suffering go away? No, there was nothing I could do to fix it. Did I say something profound that put everything in perspective? No, there’s not a lot of perspective when you suffer an immense loss. I would have loved to have taken a measure of her pain away, but all I could do was help her carry it for a few days. Over the next several months I followed the same course and spent time listening on the phone when she would get overwhelmed with the grief. Again, there was nothing I could do to make it better, but I could still offer support. Probably the most surprising thing to me was how I was changed and affected throughout the process. I saw God’s faithfulness, my friend’s trust in Him and her growth, and the miracle of God’s healing in spite of overwhelming emotional injury. If I had tried to spout wisdom, make things better, and run my own mouth, I would have missed the opportunity to be blessed and learn from God’s work in someone else’s life.


So as you come across the pained and hurting in your own life, shut down the urge to try to fix things with your words, go against your natural instincts, and just keep quiet. Support, care for, and uphold the sufferer, but do it through caring actions and loving listening. You may be surprised at what God will do in your life too.

Tuesday’s Truth – You Better Find Somebody to Love

Hello again! I know, I’m a day late with this one. It’s not even very long, so that’s not my excuse. Mostly, I was letting an idea marinate, to see if it was what was really supposed to go up this week. And I think that it is. Today I want to share with you something that seems so simple, but yet is often so difficult for Christians to put into practice. It’s one of the central features of Jesus’ life, and yet probably the one we least like to imitate. What is it? Simply put, it is loving sinners. I’m not interested in discussing specific lifestyles, actions, or choices that you or I believe are sinful. That’s not what’s at issue here. The sin isn’t the issue; our action is. Let’s use a bare-bones definition of a sinner – anyone who has not believed in salvation from sin through the death of Jesus. That’s who we’re talking about this week.


We like to say that we love sinners and want to bring them into God’s family. But many of us (I’ve been guilty of this too) only love people “outside the fold” in an abstract sort of way. We don’t go outside of the church and love them (socialize with them, care for them in times of need, encourage them, etc.); we hope that they will “get saved” so that they can be like us and then we can really love them.


Why do we do this? I think there are lots of different reasons. Sometimes we are afraid that if we associate with people who don’t follow all the same rules as us (this can even apply to other Christians sometimes, sadly) we will become “less saved” and fall into sin. If we associate with someone who uses profane language, we’ll start using it too. If we socialize with someone who drinks too much, we’ll become alcoholics as well. If we befriend someone who’s living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, we’ll become sexually immoral. While we certainly need to be on our guard to not be sucked into sin or worldliness, we are promised that we have not been given “a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7) God doesn’t save us and then allow us to be weak and fragile in the face of sin. If that were true, wouldn’t He just transport each person to heaven as soon as they believed, because they would be too delicate to remain in the world? We need to have more faith in the spirit God has placed within us. If we are loving the lost in the way that God has called us to, we don’t have to worry about being dragged away from Him.


Sometimes we avoid people we see as sinners because we just don’t know how to interact with them. We may have been sheltered by our parents during childhood, and by our church during adulthood, that we feel that we have nothing in common with those outside the church. They don’t understand our “holy-speak” and we don’t understand the things that they enjoy or that they are upset by. This is a legitimate obstacle, but one that must be overcome if we want to claim that we really love the lost. How do we do it? A little bit at a time, I think. Look for ways to find common ground with the unsaved around you. If you were homeschooled, went to a Christian college, and then worked in a parachurch organization, you probably don’t want to start out trying to connect with a biker gang. Baby steps, folks. What about the neighbors who have kids the same age as your kids? Or maybe fellow athletes on a community team? Start by finding the things that are the same about you, and hopefully they’ll see the differences between you in a positive light that turns them towards Jesus. (Which means that you’ll have to be careful to make those differences positive!)


Finally, I think a huge reason we neglect to actively, tangibly love sinners around us is arrogance and pride. We have our list of the really bad sins, and people in our lives who commit one of those sins are just too “dirty” for us. We can’t be friends with that guy at work, because it might expose our children to the evil in the world if they found out how he lives. We can’t let our daughter invite the neighbor girl over to play because her mommy doesn’t have good enough morals. We see ourselves as “good” and “pure” and these others as “bad” or “corrupted” and we’re afraid that they will rub off on us, or somehow diminish our goodness. We think that it is a case of oil and water, and that mixing is simply  impossible.


Friends, that’s not how it works, for so many reasons. First off, you are not so great. Before you were saved, you were, in the eyes of God, just as lost as the most sinful person you can think of. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) In His mercy God saved you, and in His mercy He can save others. There is no award for being saved, because you didn’t earn it or accomplish it. If God can love and have grace and mercy for the lost, surely you should be able to. If you are not a slave to sin, it is because Jesus paid for your freedom, and not because you were inherently strong or good.


Second, the sin of others can’t just “rub off” on us. It’s not like the flu – it doesn’t just spread, I promise. I’ve spent a lot of time around a lot of people with all the different brands of sin, and I haven’t become ensnared by any of them. But don’t ask me, ask Jesus. He spent more time with the lost than most of us ever will, and yet he remained without sin. Jesus loved a fraudulent tax collector (Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10), an adulterous woman (the Samaritan at the well – John 4:1-26),  and so many others that he and his disciples were infamous for their associations with the moral and religious outcasts (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:29-30, Luke 7:34).  Jesus didn’t see his righteousness and purity as something to be jealously guarded and protected, but as something to be shared. He knew the importance having faithful friends who loved and worshipped God and set that example for us in his choosing of the disciples. We all need a community of people who share our faith and can encourage us. But Jesus also showed us how important it is for us to let the love we receive from our relationship with the Father spill over into the world around us, particularly to those who have not yet experienced the love of God. Jesus didn’t come so that good, moral Christians would have something in common; he came so that the sinful, the lost, the broken could be saved, healed, and restored (Matthew 9:12) And that is the job he left to us when he returned to the Father (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).


To wrap this all up, I’m not sure exactly why this is what I felt compelled to write about this week. Perhaps it will be a timely challenge and reminder to some of you. Maybe it will convict someone. I know it has challenged me just thinking about it, evaluating how I live in relation to the lost around me. Do I judge, or do I love? So often Christians feel that we have the right, the responsibility even, to judge the sinners around us. But we don’t. Of all the commands and instructions and responsibilities that God gives us after we are saved, judging is not one of them. Not the unsaved, not the saved. He kept that job all for Himself. I get so frustrated by people who claim to be Christians, but then make Christianity so unattractive by loudly and obnoxiously judging and denouncing sinners. Yes, sin is a problem. It’s a huge problem. It’s the problem. But we don’t win people to Christ by telling them how terrible they are and how they are ruining society. We don’t make Christ attractive by proclaiming our own goodness and righteousness. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of their sin, and it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, not our bashing or our boasting. (Romans 2:4)


Loving the lost is a risky proposition. It opens your eyes to see people the way that God does. It allows for the possibility that you will care about someone who refuses to answer the call to salvation. You may see those you love lost for eternity. God calls us to love the way that He does, and that kind of love opens the door to all sorts of pain. God’s heart aches continually for the lost who refuse His loving advances. And yet the rewards are just as infinite. When you see the lost saved, broken lives made new, sick souls healed, and people transformed by the power of Christ, there is nothing more amazing. You get to be a witness to something that causes all the angels to rejoice. I don’t know how God is calling you to love those around you. But I do know that He is calling you to it. Please seek Him this week, and don’t just wait for an answer – get out there and start loving some sinners!






Tuesday’s Truth – Don’t Fight Me on This!


Hello, friends! Yep, I’m a day late. The Monday holiday threw me off for sure. I keep having to remind myself what day of the week it is. Ugh.


Today let’s talk about something really fun: fighting! We’re talking about what the Bible often refers to as “quarreling”, but what we could also call arguing, fighting, or bickering. It seems as humans we have an almost boundless capacity for arguing and fighting with others. If you’ve ever watched a group a children, you know exactly what I mean. It is amazing how they can find a fight when there is absolutely nothing to fight over. As grown-ups, though, we’re not really that much better. Part of the problem is that there’s often some small grain of truth or importance to what we fight about. I’ve noticed this lately as I’ve browsed some pregnancy and child-raising forums online. There’s a constant current of bickering going on about everything: formula vs. breastfeeding, cloth vs. disposable diapers, where your baby should sleep, whether or not to circumcise, how terrible your mother-in-law is, what heinous thing your husband has just done, even how to spell your baby’s name. These women (all of us women, really, if we’re being honest) can find a way to stir up trouble about nearly anything. And it’s not just in their responses to each other on the forum; I see it in their tales of woe about husbands and siblings and in-laws. We hormonal pregnant  ladies are not the only ones guilty of doing it. Just read the comments after a news story about anything even remotely political or religious in nature. Sometimes I’m afraid the little avatar icons are going to start slapping each other on my computer monitor, the arguments get so heated. Like I said earlier, this can be so tempting because many of these things are intensely personal and we hold very strong opinions and beliefs about the issues, major or minor.


But then again, we as humans also seem to take perverse pleasure in argumentation and discord. If not, how would so many reality shows get such high ratings? I know I’ve been guilty of getting sucked into so-called “train-wreck” shows. And what about a huge majority of romantic comedies? Their plot lines and dialogue often thrive on arguments, conflict, and bickering. It’s almost a cultural imperative to be argumentative. I’ve known quite a few people who will start an argument just for their own entertainment, even if they don’t actually disagree with others. As a collective, we’re trained to think that arguing and fighting is a) funny, b) healthy, and c) unavoidable. But that’s just not the truth. Before we look at what the Bible does have to say about quarrelling, let me make one thing clear. Quarrelling is not the same thing as an honest confrontation. There are times when it will be important, even critical, to confront someone about a serious moral or personal offense. The Bible is pretty clear about that. But even in those situations, an argumentative or quarrelsome tone is never the right path to take.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about being a quarreler. We’ll break it down into three main ideas:

  1. It is not wise to start a quarrel (or to join one).
    1. Proverbs 16:28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
    2. Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
    3. Proverbs 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
    4. Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
    5. Proverbs 26:17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
    6. 2 Timothy 2:23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels
  2. God doesn’t want His people to be quarrelsome.
    1. Proverbs 17:19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.
    2. 1 Corinthians 3:3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
    3. 2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful
  3. To end a quarrel, take away the fuel.
    1. Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
    2. Proverbs 26:21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

How do we put this truth to use in our daily lives? We can remember these principles when we are tempted to start or join an argument. We can remember that it is no use to argue with a quarrelsome person, no matter how strongly we feel that we are in the right on a certain issue. We can be careful about what we let into our minds (and into the minds of our children) regarding arguing and fighting by being thoughtful about the types of movies and TV shows we watch. We can even take the extra step and do what we can to extinguish a quarrel. Will it be easy? No, because it is part of our nature to argue and fight. But I truly believe that this is an area where developing self-control will bring an abundance of peace both with others and within yourself.


Wishing you a fight-free week!





Tuesday’s Truth – You Won’t Make It Alone

Hello again. I hope you’re ready for some more truth this week! Today we’re going to look at what the Bible has to say about friendship. We’ll see why we need friends, why it can be hard to find friends, and what it means to be a good friend. Whether you feel like you have more friends than you know what to do with, or like you haven’t a friend in the world, you need to know these truths. Let’s dive right in.


Why do we need friends? The Bible has a lot to say about the purposes and usefulness of friends. Let’s be clear, though. When we talk about friends today, we’re not simply talking about people  you like to go out with – your social circle. We’re talking about a kind of friendship that is much richer and deeper than that. The Bible says that we need good, godly friends because:

We need people in our lives who will support us, defend us, encourage us, and yes, sometimes correct us. The great musical duo Simon & Garfunkel sang,

“I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.”

Now, that song was likely a bit tongue-in-cheek, but many of us have adopted that way of thinking. I don’t need friends because they will let me down. I don’t need them because they won’t understand me, or they will judge me. I can’t be completely open and honest with them, or they won’t be my friends anymore. I don’t need friends because there’s nothing they could tell me or do for me that I can’t think of or do on my own. A strange mixture of self-loathing and pride let us deceive ourselves that we don’t need real friendships; that the social circle (or complete solitude) is enough.


And why not feel that way? Isn’t it awfully hard to find good friends? Yes, it can be. I know that at certain times in my life, it has felt nearly impossible. But why is it that we struggle so much to find and develop true friendships?


The first reason goes right back to the attitudes we talked about just moments ago. We block ourselves from seeking and developing friendships because we are trying to protect ourselves from pain and disappointment, or because we think that we are strong enough on our own that we don’t need anyone else deeply involved in our life. I am certain that this very thinking prevented me from developing meaningful relationships at several points in my life. I hate to be harsh here, but you are not all that. You are not so wise that you don’t need the counsel of others. You are not so smart or so refined that you would lower yourself to be associated with other people. You are not so emotionally steady and strong that you can weather the storms of life without others to anchor and support you. Even if you don’t usually think of yourself as an arrogant or proud person, if you don’t have at least one or two deep and healthy relationships with other people (preferably outside your immediate family) then check your thinking and really evaluate your attitude towards yourself and others. Here’s the way I see it. Jesus Christ was the strongest and most emotionally stable person in history, and yet he purposefully surrounded himself with people. He had his 12 disciples, and three of those who were especially close to him. He also had trusted, loved friends among the towns that he visited. While his relationships with them were in great part for their learning and benefit, they were also meant to provide support for Jesus himself. Think about the story of his last night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked the disciples to stay with him and pray for him, not as an exercise in prayer, but because he was extremely distressed and longed for the support of those closest to him. If the Son of God needed friends during his time on earth, you better believe that you and I will need them too.


Another reason that we have difficulty establishing the kind of friendships that the Bible says we need is that it is so much easier to make shallow friends. We can create these false friendships with wonderful people, but because we (and they) are not willing to put in the emotional energy and transparency, the relationships stay on the surface. We may trick ourselves into thinking that they are truly our friends, and to some extent they may be. They may like us, enjoy being around us, express concern about us or joy for us in the ups and downs of life, but when we get into a really sticky patch, or we make a big mistake, they are the first to head in the opposite direction. Proverbs 14:20 speaks about these kind of friends as those that are only with us when they are getting something from us. This is where belonging to a community of faith can make a big difference. In my church, I find people who share the same beliefs and values as me, who live similar lifestyles, and because of these things, I feel more comfortable exploring the depths of true friendship with them. Now, is every single person in my church going to become my dearest friend? Of course not. Sometimes we just won’t click because of different personalities. Sometimes it becomes clear that an individual is not as trustworthy or as ready to invest as I might hope. Some people are already heavily invested in others, and that is okay. But even with all of those people taken out of the equation, I still have a better chance of establishing the type of Biblical friendships that I need. Yes, the fear of being judged is out there. The truth is, though, that a true friend will correct you when you are in the wrong, but they will not judge or condemn you, because that is not their job.


Finally we come to the last thought – what it means to be a good friend. How many of you were told as a child, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend” ? It is simple, but as with many simple things, very true. You cannot expect people to care for and support you if you are not willing to do the same. If you want to develop strong friendships that meet God’s standards, you need to be:

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? In fact, if you think about it, the things that make for any healthy relationship are the same, whether a friendship, a marriage, or other family relationships. Many books, articles, and essays have been written on building healthy relationships, and many of them are worth reading. But even the best of them can only give practical expansions on what we just discovered in the Bible. Boiled down to it’s essence, you will get out of a friendship only what you put in. If you are compassionate, ready to serve, enthusiastically involved, and deeply invested in the lives of others, you can expect that they will invest in your life in the same way. On the other hand, if you are only willing to make shallow, cursory investments in their lives, they will not become deeply involved in yours. It’s not profound or new truth, but yet we seem to often forget it.


I have been on both sides of this truth. I’ve gone through times of not feeling like I needed anyone, times of wanting deeper friendships but feeling unable to develop them, and times of sweet joy in friendship. Fortunately for me it has been a progression as I have learned more about God’s Word and about myself. I want to encourage you, whatever stage you are at, to take a close look at your own heart and attitude, and at your relationships, and ask God to help you understand how you can develop healthier, more rewarding friendships, the kind that He has designed you to desire.

What’s On Your Playlist?

Hello there, long time no write! I’ve been doing some new things with my days, and suddenly, I realized that I now have no time! I’ve really missed writing here, though, and I’m going to squeeze in whatever I can.

Today, I was listening to an old mix CD I had made in college. Yes, I’m old enough to have still used CD’s in college, but I did have an iPod too. It just had a tiny screen and lots of clicky buttons. And it weighed at least a pound. Anyways, I was listening to this CD as I drove around town, and I realized that the songs on that CD were not songs I had even thought about listening to in a long time. And then I quickly reminisced about all the other music that seemed to define my college years, and I had the sudden thought that the music we listen to regularly says a lot about who we are at that moment in time.

As I thought about it, I found that the idea that tied much of my college music together was anger. To give you a good example, during my first year of grad school, a dear male friend of mine took me to visit an old roommate and friend that had transferred to a college in North Carolina. She and I had both recently gone through difficult relationships with members of the opposite sex, and we needed some time to commiserate with one another. Our mutual friend who drove me up there now refers to this trip as the “angry girls” trip. The main feature of our visit was listening to Kelly Clarkson’s album, Breakaway, which is mostly a collection of angry or sad songs, most of them completely appropriate for after a big fight or a breakup. Our friend still cringes whenever he hears on of those songs. It may seem silly, but at the time I found in those songs a connection to the disappointment, pain, and anger that I was feeling just then.

And yet, if you had asked me to describe my attitude or feelings during those years, I probably would not have described myself as particularly angry. I don’t think I realized at the time just how much I was fighting against my circumstances and my own inner self. I was trying to define myself, trying to distinguish myself from my family, from my childhood, and from the rest of the people at the University. I didn’t know how to do it gracefully, so I beat about like a moth trying to escape a spider’s web. I also was finding that I wasn’t sure I liked some of my attempts at establishing my identity, and I think I was a bit at war with myself over who I would become. Nothing like an internal struggle to make you angry. I wondered, as I thought about it this morning, if perhaps I wasn’t as conscious of what was going on in my heart and mind because I had the music to tie into. Stick with me here. I really feel that the music had an effect on how I processed my emotions and circumstances. On the one hand, it helped me move along by giving me an outlet and a cathartic release for my emotions that might have stayed pent up inside me. So perhaps my angry music helped me move on from being angry more quickly. On the other hand, I know that sometimes the music just reinforced what I was feeling and allowed me to stay angry as I repeated the same liturgy of anger and depression over and over. In that sense, I was putting my feelings on repeat, just like I put the songs on repeat.

But what does this mean to you? Well, for one, if you are having a really bad day/week/month, and need something to help you get those feelings out, I can highly recommend that Kelly Clarkson album. But then, I also recommend you don’t do what I did, which is put your feelings on a constant loop of repeats. It’s one thing to be angry, or hurt, or sad, or afraid. Those are all legitimate emotions, and it is critical that you recognize, accept, and deal with them. The danger is when you allow those emotions to swirl around you and become the constant soundtrack of your life. Yes, belt out an angry song so you don’t build up emotional pressure. Go ahead and listen to a song that makes you cry when you need to let the sadness spill out. But then change the station, put on a new album, and listen to something that inspires you or puts a smile on your face. Soaring classical, the bubbliest of bubblegum, perky pop, something country that makes you want to Texas Two-Step (even if you have no idea what that really entails)…use the power of the music.

History and experience tell us that music has a profound ability to affect us. Isn’t that what we were just talking about? Music has the power to influence our moods, thoughts, and emotions. Remember King David, before he was anyone important, was boy with the gift of music. Back then he wore a tunic and played a harp. If he were around today, he’d probably have some kind of goatee and play a guitar. And guess what his job was, aside from being a shepherd – he was invited to King Saul’s palace for one thing – to play music and calm Saul down when he was on the edge of mental breakdown. And it worked! David played, and Saul felt better.

So think about it. What is the playlist of your life right now? How does it reflect your feelings or mood at this moment in your life? Furthermore, how does it affect your feelings or your mood? Do you need to turn the music up, or do you need to turn it off and finds something else to listen to?