The Christian Oldies Shelf

So, I have a rule: I don’t rock the boat until I’m entirely convinced the boat needs rocking. And of course only when I have the clout to get the rockin’ goin’. Because of that, I want to specify something before I even get started on this blog: No boat rockin’ intended today. I’m not here to tell you you’re doin’ it wrong, or your pastor is doin’ it wrong, or anyone who may or may not be famous is doin’ it wrong.

That said, I’m kind of beginning to detest modern Christian music. There, I said it.

Christian music is all made up of cliches, anymore. I feel like there’s this pot of Christian phrases and sentences and sentiments, and all you have to do to write a Christian song is to reach into the pot, pull out three or six or fifteen papers, and arrange them so they rhyme. Here’s a sampling: “Worthy is the Lamb.” “We praise Your name.” “You’re high and lifted up.” “You’re awesome in this place.” I’m not even thinking of any specific songs. Those are just common papers in the pot.

Everything in that sampling is hugely, critically true. Our whole eternity hinges on those truths. As Christians, we have to understand them, to believe them, to meditate on them.

But have we made them cliches? When you sing along with a worship song, do you hear it? Or do you think more of the melody? If there’s a song you really like, is it because the truth in it rings so loud and clear in your mind, or because it’s a pretty song? Do you really worship Him? I don’t.

Here I want to reiterate my boat-rocking speech. Guys, if you are deeply touched by modern Christian music, and every time a worship band gets out their guitars, God touches your heart, and you really genuinely hear the words, that is downright cool. I am glad God speaks to you in that and that you’re not missing out on anything. Keep it up. For reals.

But if maybe, as you read, you’re trying to remember the last time you even paid attention to the worship at church, or you tend to find yourself really crazy about the singer and not the Creator, or you like worship because you like to sing – or whatever – I have a suggestion.

Hit the oldies shelf.

Hymns were absolutely not written out of a hat. Consider this verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, written by Robert Robinson:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Like I said: if you’re getting a lot out of modern Christian music, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. But if you – like me – are having trouble hiding your yawns during worship time, consider looking into this. You could buy a CD of hymns – Jars of Clay has a great one called Redemption Songs, but there are plenty – or even just look up the words to these songs and meditate on them. Find YouTube videos of old hymns and play them in the background. Buy a few hymns on your iTunes.

Give it a shot. Let me know what you think.



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Horatio Spafford on the Cross (… from my favorite song ever)

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought-

my sin, not in part, but the whole-

is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more- 

praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

–Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well With My Soul”

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More NaNo

Another excerpt from my nanonovel (and an invitation to pitch some title ideas to me, if you got any):

Everyone has a life they would live forever, if they could just get back to it.

When we were six, Mom and Dad took me and my twin sister Marissa to the zoo. There were lions and giraffes and penguins and even a zebu, which at six years old was equivalent to meeting an alien face-to-face. In the big cats display, Marissa saw a leopard cub. It was romping around in its enclosure, behind chain link reinforced by what looked like chicken wire.

“Mom!” Marissa shouted, running to the cage. “Look at the cats!”

Mom chuckled. “Those aren’t cats, honey. They’re leopards. Baby leopards.”

“Kittens?” Marissa asked.

“Well,” Mom said, crooking her head, “they’re cubs. Baby cats are called kittens and baby leopards are called cubs.”

“Cubs,” she said, approvingly, turning back to the cage. “I want one.”

Dad laughed. “If you want, when you grow up you can work with them.”

“Really? I can have one?” She took Dad’s hand as we walked away.

“You have to learn how to take care of them and work at the zoo,” Dad answered. “And you have to grow up first. But if you work really hard, you can.”

“What do they call grown-ups who take care of cubs?”

Dad thought for a moment. “Leopard tamers,” he said, with a dramatic, round-eyed flourish.

Marissa started singing to herself, “Marissa, the leopard tamer, I’m gonna be a leopard tamer,” as she skipped along holding Dad’s hand.

“That’s silly,” I said. “Animals are smelly. Who would want to take care of animals?” But Mom shot me The Look, and I fell quiet.

Half an hour later we walked through the marine animal display, and I saw the otters. Any condescension I felt for Marissa’s childish excitement over the leopard cubs melted away at the sight of them.

“Whoooooa,” I said, dumbstruck, face in the glass. “Dad, what are these?”

“Otters,” he said, and rubbed my shoulder. I turned my back to the glass. All my awareness of potential embarrassment slipped away. “Do they have otter tamers?”

Marissa popped a pose that said, Are you kidding me?, with a hand on one hip and her head tipped sideways. Mom laughed.

“’Course they do,” Dad said, and that made Mom and Marissa’s responses worth it.

In the gift shop there was a display of two-inch-high animals made of porcelain. Marissa and I both sprinted for it the moment we saw it, which was the same moment we ran in the door. We also both stopped dead three feet away, then inched closer. “You break it, you bought it,” Mom always said. We were searching feverishly for our new favorites, but there were so many. A nice teenage girl came over, though, and asked, “What kind of animals are you girls looking for?”

We answered at the same time: “Leopard [“Otters!”] cubs!”

The girl smiled, reached out, and came back with a leopard in one hand and an otter in the other. Then she leaned down and whispered: “I can give you twenty percent off, if your mom and dad don’t mind.”

Five minutes later we were clutching our new treasures to our chests, safely tucked away in little boxes lined with tissue paper.

We had forgotten our egos by then, and we were united in our dream to become Leopard [or Otter] Tamers. We set our porcelain figurines on a high shelf in our room, to remind us. A few years later, when we moved and got separate rooms, we felt strange, somehow, about separating our figurines. But we also both wanted to see them (even though by now, we both wanted to be writers). It was her idea, finally, to go ahead and separate them, but opposite: I took her leopard, and she took my otter. That way, they were apart, but still united.

My otter stayed in her room, back home, when I moved out. And up until today, Marissa’s leopard has perched on the top shelf of the entertainment center in my apartment. I’ve thought about putting it away. There’s no reason that I need to see it every day, and I certainly want it safe. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. And just now, my roommate Abby, burdened and disoriented by a load of painting supplies, bumped into the entertainment center, knocking it off the top. “Oh, Ta –” she says, dropping her stuff and tripping over herself.

For the first couple feet of its fall, I don’t worry; it will land on the carpet, which is thick enough not to cause concern. But then I notice a vase one shelf below it toppling. It falls immediately behind the leopard, chasing it all the way to the floor. They land at almost the same millisecond with a tiny chink that I know signifies the leopard’s demise.

I inhale sharply, frozen for a second.

“Oh, Tara, I’m sorry,” Abby says, but it’s sheer politeness. She doesn’t care because she doesn’t know.

“No!” I cry, lunging for it. “Did it break?”

Abby is confused. “Yes – it did, didn’t you hear it?”

I lean down, pick everything up. My sister’s precious leopard is in three jagged pieces, but the stupid vase, a gift from my still-living aunt, is intact. I throw it at the wall. It shatters.  I turn and lean my back against my entertainment center.

I curse. Abby has never heard me curse before.

“Tara …” she says, kneeling down. I’m surprised to find I’m not at all angry with her.

“You didn’t know,” I whisper, a tear already hanging off my nose. Her hand settles on my forearm.

“I know that,” she says. “But …”

“It was my sister’s,” I say.

“Your sister’s? I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“A twin sister. Four minutes older. Marissa.”

“Is she …?” She knows, but she won’t say it. Polite of her, I think.

I nod. “She killed herself when we were sixteen.”

hate saying that.

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The Great Looming Stretch

I don’t know if this is a Brittani Thing or a Human Thing, but when I was little, I always really looked forward to being another year older. Birthdays were fun and everything, but that’s not what I mean. I mean, when I was four, nobody was cooler than a five-year-old. After I turned five, the idea of being six was just swell.

Well, now I’m 23, and the novelty has worn off (although, thankfully, dread of the next birthday hasn’t set in, either). But the feeling of anticipation never went anywhere.

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be in middle school – middle school, high school; high school, college. When I was in college I looked forward to graduation.

When I was single, I wanted a boyfriend. When I had a boyfriend, I wanted to get married. After getting married, I wanted a kid.

… Does this cycle ever end?

Because here’s where I’m at now. I am a college graduate. I am married with a son. I am in the career (housewifin’ and mommyin’) which I intend to remain in for the foreseeable future. In school every assignment was one step closer to completion. Before “settling down,” moving forward was the focus of relationship. For the first time in my life I’m not working toward a change.

I picture myself in ten years, having lived in the same house with the same people and having done the same work for all that time with no real change on the horizon. Where does this usually lead? Mid-life crises, right? And that’s totally “normal.”

Only it’s not, guys. One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes, and once when I was reading it I noticed a recurring  theme. It’s said in a lot of different ways, but the summation of it is this:

There is nothing better for a man than to do his work and be content.
2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:8-10

So here I am on the cusp of that great long stretch. I’m not bored right now – that would be ridiculous at my age – but I’m becoming aware of the reality of it. And maybe it’s hypocritical for me to even address the issue when I’m not in the thick of it yet, but even so, I have to remind myself to keep a proper, healthy, biblical attitude about what’s to come.

Maybe Something Big will happen; there’s no serious reason to think that it will. I hope to get a book published and I want to have another child and hopefully we’ll be buying our house soon, but put simply, here I am. Doing this. And I will continue to do this. For years. Hopefully, with a smile on my face.

And there’s nothing better for me.

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Oswald Chambers on Tribulation

The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it. Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things – tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight.

–Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

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Because It’s Still On My Mind

I don’t have a large amount of things to say today. I was reading an old journal entry and came across this quote:

“I don’t know why, but God has been beating me over the head with this psalm now for almost two years, since the day I read it to my grandma on her deathbed.”

For serious, guys. My grandma Christine was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known, and I didn’t realize it while I had her. I wish I had something more original and inspiring to say, something besides “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” but there you are. Human condition, ya know?

Anyway, in June 2008 she was on her deathbed and I had a few moments when I could be alone with her. I tried to talk to her, but I didn’t know what to say. I had brought my Bible. I knew Grandma believed the Bible. So when I was at a loss for words, I let it fall open in my lap and I read:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100 

I have two things to add to that:
1. What on earth could I possibly ever add to that?, and
2. Man, do we not have the best God ever???

And then that psalm just cropped up constantly in my life, for months and months and months. And months! A friend would quote it to me. A line or two would be on a refrain in my head, the way a song gets stuck there, but with no provocation. Just when it had slipped my mind, my pastor preached a whole sermon just on this psalm and I sat in the third row crying.

Is there nothing more comforting to a godly woman on her deathbed? Or to a young woman watching her grandmother slip away into eternity?

I have to say it again: We have the best God ever!


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Ogden Nash on Vanity

I think it high time these hoity-toity ladies were made to realize that when they impugn their face and their ankles and their waist,
They are thereby impugning their tasteful husbands’ impeccable taste.

 –Ogden Nash, “An Aside to Husbands”

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