Spiritual Sunday: Keeping the Rules

I finally finished “The Pilgrim’s Regress” by C.S. Lewis. It’s a tough read and frustrating at times because it is, as Lewis himself says, “I find its chief faults to be those two which I myself least easily forgive in the books of other men: needles obscurity, and an uncharitable temper.” Despite this, there are some great nuggets of wisdom in it. The basic premise is that  a normal human named John feels a supernatural desire for something more. He has been raised Christian in the town of Puritania and therefore has only heard about rules and not so much about grace. The book follows his journey to find that desire (mimicking Lewis’ own road to Christianity) through various philosophies. His long journey leads him back to Christianity, but now with the true understanding of the reason for the rules – God’s love, not His wrath. And now an understanding of religion that is centered on grace.

In the beginning of the book he states,

“At first he tried very hard to keep them all (RULES), but when it came to bedtime he always found that he had broken far more than he had kept; and the thought of the horrible tortures to which the good, kind Landlord (GOD) would put him became such a burden that the next day he would become quite reckless and break as many possibly could; for oddly enough this eased his mind for the moment. But then after a few days the fear would return and this time it would be worse than before because of the dreadful number of rules that he had broken during the interval.” pg. 6

Can anyone relate to this? I sure can. And there are days when I still think this way. It’s only natural considering everything else around us is telling us that our worth is based on what we do and how hard we work. What scares me is that this mis-understanding of God is what drives many people away from God. It is completely understandable if the only religious messages you’ve ever heard is “you have to follow all these rules that are impossible to keep and therefore you will go to hell.” I think my church was pretty good about preaching grace, but I still had to have this personal “a-ha” moment.

So my question for you: was there a sermon, book, article, conversation or experience that gave you that “a-ha” moment about God’s grace? Share and discuss below or on the Facebook page!

Tuesday Tunes: Caitlin Crosby, Save that Pillow

Tuesday Tunes: Caitlin Crosby, Save that Pillow

Friends – Caitlin Crosby’s new EP “Save That Pillow” comes out today and you should buy it on I-Tunes!!! (And you should also download Flawz, her older album). I mean, only if you like good music. Or if you like genuine people who are somehow walking that fine line of “in the world, but not of it” in the often treacherous environment of Hollywood.

Caitlin grew up in Hollywood- where there are an abundance of people using drugs, sex, eating disorders or anything else to cope with an environment that tells them they will never be good enough. A lot of this is reflected in songs on Flawz and Save That Pillow. One of these songs is a new one called “Just Another Day” which I got a chance to hear live a couple weeks ago. It’s a groovy little number with a lot of soul and truth. The chorus goes: 

“Just a little bit prettier

Just a little more popular

Just a little bit richer

Just a little messed up.

Just another day

Lost in the city of Angeles”

Oh, how true that is. I’ve been spending a lot of time in “the city” recently, and it’s been quite refreshing to get away from suburbia and be reminded of how lucky I am to have a warm bed or even just a guaranteed parking space when I get home. But it’s also easy to get caught up in all of it – what restaurants you’ve been to, who you know, what you wear, etc. Not that any of these things are bad in themselves, but you get in trouble when they start to define you. 

And from what I can tell (as reflected in the people she chooses as friends, the things she is passionate about, and her slightly dorky, yet extremely endearing personality), she has somehow managed to be a light in this environment without being overcome by it. Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it. But I’m glad there are people that can and I’m always down for supporting them. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/save-that-pillow-ep/id660530368

P.S. And The Giving Keys (the reason I’m in the city):

http://www.thegivingkeys.com

 

 

 

 

True creativity is not competitive.

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Sometimes I wonder if I am creative enough. I have been lucky lately in receiving many reminders that have helped me focus my creativity into a space which uses my strengths. Of course, this does not mean that doubts don’t occasionally creep in or that I don’t occasionally give in to the  constant desire to compare my ideas with others. But I’m getting better, and I was reminded of that this morning when my mom posted a video on my facebook wall with the caption “Someone got inside your brain. :)” My heart sank (initially) as I saw that it was a music video for John Mayer’s “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”.  

So…I love John Mayer. For almost every major stage of my life since 16, there is a John Mayer song that accompanies it (this can of worms will be opened in a future blog post). Born and Raised is no different. And although the song “Walt Grace” is not one of these life-defining songs, I was very much drawn to it. I love the waltz-like rhythm and old English ballad storytelling. But I also loved it because I could see the music video in my head. I started to imagine a hybrid of live action and animation, using an old Pasadena house as the world in which Walt felt so trapped. The pace of the editing would mimic the elegant rhythm of the song and the colors would be antique and muted. I had planned it out to the minute details and I seriously considered doing it for a class project. I decided to go with another idea that involved some animation (failed, but I’m glad I did it), but I knew I wanted to film Walt Grace in the future with the proper equipment and a full crew to really do the song justice.

I no longer have that desire because of the beautiful, magical music video I watched this morning.  Besides being incredibly inspired by the concept and in awe of the time consuming process of this piece of art, I had another profound realization about my own creativity.  Watching this video was bittersweet and I’d be lying if I did not admit that feelings of jealously and anger bubbled to the surface of my thoughts. But ultimately, I was happy. This video takes my ideas to a whole other level and the plot, cinematography, illustration and technology far exceeds what I know I would have come up with. And although I’m sure some may see this as a lack of confidence in my own abilities, I can assure you that it is not. 

True creativity is not competitive. It encourages and celebrates fellow artists. It is humble enough to acknowledge that someone else’s idea was better without letting it detract from one’s own creative worth. 

So thank you John Mayer, Virgillo Villoresi and Mom for another small, yet profound realization that I am a true creative. 

Take a few minutes and watch the video here:

Tuesday Tunes: You Have Called Me Higher

I’ve been listening to the live album of a worship band called All Sons & Daughters. They hail from Franklin, Tennessee (as most wonderful things do) and they have some beautiful and thought-provoking songs. I was listening to the album on my new commute downtown and was struck by this song called “You Have Called Me Higher”

“I could just sit and wait for all your goodness
Hope to feel your presence
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel you
Hope to feel something again

I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But you have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord”

I realized that these three stanzas represent three very distinct stages in my spiritual life.

Stanza 1 – The waiting and desperate longing to feel God describes my life towards the end of high school and beginning of college. My childhood version of faith and Christianity were just not sufficient anymore against the real and pressing tragedies of life. I longed to feel God, but I just didn’t. I tried to do all the Christian things and hoped that the feelings would come. This did not change until a change of scenery and a intense spiritual year abroad made me feel confident in my faith again.

Stanza 2 – This describes my spiritual state until very recently. Feeling secure in my beliefs but not really rocking the boat at all. I wouldn’t say I was completely stagnant as there have been many things in the past couple years that I have had to trust God with and consequently, have learned a ton. For a while, there were so many things happening that my faith was more passive in action, because things were happening to me that I had to deal with. But during this time, it was very active in thought and I truly thought I was back to where I wanted to be spiritually.

But after one of one of the hardest and most emotionally draining couple months during the first semester of grad school, I realized I could not be passive about acting on my faith, especially in regards to my vocation. 

Stanza 3: Where I am now and where I hope to be for a long time. These past couple months have been amazing! I have taken risks, reached out to people I admire, put myself in un-comfortable places, and most of all, followed my God-given instinct. Even though I often feel overwhelmed, I now have a very focused career path after lots of prayer, conversations with people God has put in my life and a strong adherence to personal convictions. 

I often regret how I let fear and complacency rule my life for the last couple years. And I don’t know if that was the path I was supposed to take or one that God made beautiful despite some mistakes. Either way, I am very grateful to be in a place where I finally know my purpose and can sing “I will go where you lead me Lord” with less fear. 

 

Monday Musings #1: Tapestries

 

I just came back from an incredible weekend with amazing people. Two of my good friends Alex and Caroline got married in Ojai which brought many people in from out-of-town and out-of-state. Needless to say, it was a big ole love fest filled with much needed catching up, relaxation and laughter. This morning, on the way to the guest brunch, my friend Sarah and I were driving through the hills to Ojai with worship music on and I was reflecting on the weekend. I had a few thoughts. One of which will be the topic of my first Monday musings. 

No one’s love story exists in a vacuum. It is interwoven in a beautiful tapestry of other relationships, events and experiences. Now this may seem obvious (given the fact that we are social creatures), but as I received some much-needed encouragement as I was reflecting on the specific story of Alex and Caroline this morning.

This has been the summer of weddings – which is wonderful and it’s far from over! Some of my closest friends have found the love of their lives and I am insanely happy for them. But if I’m honest, it’s a bit hard too. Not because you get to throw a big party and be the center of attention (eek!). But because it means you have found your person. Your best friend. The person who is there every night and every morning. They are there to encourage you and obligated to listen to you (seriously, can’t wait for that part!) And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I crave that. And I know it is coming and I know the timing will be perfect. But reflecting on Caroline and Alex’s love story this morning, gave me an overwhelming sense of peace and hope. And I feel like whenever that happens, I should share it because often in this life, they are rare occurrences.

The way in which my friends Caroline and Alex got together is quite a funny story, especially since they still (and will always) argue about some of the details. But regardless of their different opinions on whether their first date was an “official date”, a few things stand out about their story.

First, a bunch of seemingly non-significant events were the building blocks of their relationship; college parties, classes, dorm room assignments, birthday celebrations, hockey games, coffee dates, etc. This makes me realize that I need to be grateful for everyday occurrences and be more excited about every single day, no matter how boring or insignificant a day’s events might be. Now this doesn’t mean that I should be over-analyzing every new person I meet and wondering if it’s my meet cute or if they have a hot brother. But it does mean that I should take risks, meet new people in new places and get out of my comfort zone (which is good advice for life in general).

And second, how by investing time and energy into their friendships, it paved the way for them to meet each other and fall in love. Although Alex and Caroline already knew each other, what ultimately brought them back together was a birthday celebration of our friend Sarah at Alex’s house in Coronado. Our other friend Judy flew in for the weekend, and Caroline came down to see her. Now Alex, Judy and Sarah had been in Florence together, but Sarah and Caroline were not friends at the time. (Back to risks – although we tend to downplay it at Pepperdine, going overseas is a big risk and a big decision. But Alex went to Florence and made some life-long friends). This seemingly random weekend of blending friendships and one an infamous kayak ride was the catalyst (or reboot, depending on who you ask J) of their their romantic relationship.

A lot of love stories have these elements of “random” events and mutual friends, but this one is marked by a significant number of them. And this morning I was thinking about all of the “what ifs”. All the events that could have not happened or the friendships that could have never formed. But as I watched the pure joy on Alex’s face as Caroline came down the hill in her wedding dress, I know for certain that they were meant for each other. God brought them together and used the people around them in an extraordinary way. So take risks. Invest in your friendships. You never know whose love story you are a part of. And you never know what or who around you is being weaved into the beautiful tapestry of your own. We may all seem like random threads, but God’s knows what the picture looks like. And I find that extremely comforting.

 

P.S. Skeptical side note: God is also really good at re-working broken threads back into the tapestry 😉 Image