Monday, December 23, 2013

Ignorance is.........

I recently had a friend post on social media asking for scripture about a certain topic.  I should have realized that for her it was a joke and she did not expect anyone to respond to the challenge.  I saw it had a straightforward answer so I took the bait.  I’ve been in intensive Bible studies for the past 10 years.  I don’t know everything, but know how to find scripture on lots of topics.  I love discussing scripture with other believers.  That’s how you learn more.  I understand that all verses of the Bible matter and that we cannot pick and choose which verses we want to believe/obey and which ones we want to ignore if we are to follow Christ.  I took the time to look up some verses for her, explain them in context only to be met with the argument that a lot of the Bible is irrelevant and denial that the verses really meant what they said.  This person even told me that one of the books I quoted from did not exist in her Bible?  Huh?  At this point, the topic of our discussion didn’t matter, and really doesn’t matter now.  I won't mention her name out of respect for her.  She asked for verses and I gave them to her.  But she wasn’t looking for the truth.  She suggested that I examine this other verse, which dealt with judging others.  I said something like if quoting scripture is being judgmental, then so be it.  Again, some not-so-nice reply from her, and a couple of other people chimed in with their opinions.  I said something like, “you asked for scripture, I gave you scripture.  Don’t attack the messenger, meaning don’t get all mad at me for quoting the truth from the Bible.  I’m doing what you asked.  I didn’t write the Bible, God did.  Those are His words not mine.”  Of course that got me called “ignorant” by this person I thought was my sister-in-Christ.  So my “friend” for whatever reason shut down the whole thread after telling me I was judgmental and ignorant.  She has the right to delete whatever she wants from her page.  I was not finished with our discussion.  I’m sure the others were not finished commenting and expressing their opinions either.  I didn’t even get to read their opinions because she shut down the thread so fast and erased everything that was written. But when someone you are having a lively discussion with resorts to name-calling, you know they have nothing else.  They’ve played all of their cards.  And that’s a shame. The old saying comes to mind: Ignorance is bliss.  These days ignorance or calling someone ignorant is an insult used to quickly end a discussion. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Grave Hunting: Cozean Style

The Cozean family has been in Southeast Missouri since around the 1830’s.  Five years ago, my dad and aunt took us to the cemetery in Madison Co. where most of the Cozeans are buried.  Snowdenville Holler Cemetery is in the town of Cornwall.  Elias Milburn Cozean and his wife Martha Ellen Stephens Cozean were my great-grandparents.  I was astonished to see the graves of my ancestors and relatives and caught the genealogy bug.  I joined the team of family researchers headed up by Virginia Cozean Holter and my dad Jack Cozean.

Elva Rinke and Rolla Cozean graves
Elias Milburn and Martha Ellen Cozean at Snowdenville
The earliest Cozean discovered by Virginia was George Washington Cozean, who appeared in northern Arkansas.  He married Eliza Jane White and had four children.  A contact of Virginia’s led her to the discovery of George’s father Milburn Cozean who had married into the Tucker family of Nashville, Tennessee.    Some of those Tuckers took George to Arkansas and also migrated to Missouri.
We recently traveled to Missouri to visit relatives and meet up with my dad and sister.  I thought it might be interesting to try to find the graves of some of the Tucker relatives.  My dad decided to join me.  Now in Missouri, many cemeteries are affiliated with churches.  Others however, were family burial sites on family land.  These small old cemeteries were the ones that looked promising.
One afternoon we went in search of the Hahn Family Cemetery.  It was pretty close to Farmington where we were staying.  From reading the different lists of internments online, I hoped to find graves for some children of William Riggs Tucker, who was George Washington Cozean’s uncle.  It would be even sweeter to find where William Riggs Tucker was buried. We drove down highway OO to T in St. Francois County.  Down the road, we noticed a small cemetery next to an old church on the right hand side.  That wasn’t the one we were looking for.  We kept driving until we came to a newer church where two cars with people inside were parked.  We asked them about the cemetery, but these people did not live in the area.  We turned around to go back to the first cemetery we had seen just to check it out.  There was a house next to it where a man and woman were leaving to get into a car.  My dad hopped out and introduced himself.  This was a Mr. Barron.  We are also related to the Barron Family.  He knew of the Cozean family through my cousin Jon who runs the Cozean Funeral Home.  Mr. Barron did not know how to tell us to get to the cemetery we were looking for, but he knew someone who could help us.  He went into the house and returned with a name and phone number.  There was a Mrs. Clifton who lived down the road who had done lots of recording of area cemeteries.  He told us to call her or just go by her house.  I had no cellular signal, so we thought she would be expecting us to call or come by.  We drove down the road a bit and found her house.  Mrs. Clifton came out to greet us carrying a large binder full of handwritten records.  She invited us in to have a look at what she had.  I was floored at the amount of work this lady had done.  She had visited about 40 cemeteries in the area and written down all of the names of people buried there.  She had taken a few photos as well.  She became interested in connecting the names with families she found.  Local residents would tell her information which she would record in her binder.  Others would contact her for help with their family trees.
Mrs. Clifton gave us the phone number of the property owner to call to help us find the Hahn Cemetery.  It was on private property, and she didn’t know what condition it was in since there had been a huge storm a few years back.  My dad and I left our contact information with Mrs. Clifton and headed back to Farmington since it would be dark soon.  She asked me to let her know if I found birth and death dates for a certain Tucker she had in her book, in case someone else needed that information.
That evening, I called the Brooks family.  Mrs. Brooks told us that the cemetery was covered in thick brush and that there might be snakes.  I didn’t think it was a good place for my dad and me to be wandering through.  The snakes were definitely a deterrent to me.  Mrs. Brooks did say that she had photographed most of the headstones and that she would email photos to me of the people I was interested in and their relations.  A little while later, some wonderful pictures appeared in my inbox.  Although we did not get to see the cemetery in person, thanks to Mrs. Brooks, we now have photos from there.
Cousin of George Washington Cozean
I was in awe of these local Missouri residents who were so kind and helpful.  My dad and I were total strangers to them, yet they treated us like one of their own.
The next day, Dad and I set out to find the Barron-Gordon Cemetery which seemed pretty simple to find.  There was an area called the Crossroads, where the town of Libertyville was located.  We found a cemetery with an old church and stopped to check it out.  There were no Barrons here, but there was one Tucker.  I don’t believe he was one of ours.
Dad and I drove down a different road and found another cemetery.  There were no names here that were familiar.  It was a Methodist cemetery.
Looking for family names

At this point, I was getting discouraged.  Sunday we decided to give it one more try.  In the neighboring county of Madison, was the Stephens Cemetery.  My GPS seemed to recognize its name and could navigate us there.  So we headed out toward the town of Marquand, MO.  It was about a 45 minute drive from Farmington.

We were getting close.  The GPS told me to turn right into a wooded area.  There was no right except for a driveway.  We turned around in a church parking lot and drove back and down the unpaved driveway slowly.   There were lots of warning signs posted.  I hoped that the rental car could handle the off-roading we were doing.  We drove further and further into the woods.  The road ended at someone’s house.  There was a metal bar door on the building like you would see in a rough neighborhood in the city.  My dad commented that at any moment someone might come out of that house with a shotgun.  We turned around and drove back to the main road. 

Lost in the woods

The GPS recalibrated at the church parking lot and said to continue down the main road for one mile then turn onto a state highway.  We found the small state highway and started down.  There was a house not far off the road.  My dad got out to ask if the owners knew of the cemetery.  They did and told us to go down the road and take a left.  We went left, but then found a fork.  We ended up at another house, but no one appeared to be home.  We went back up the road and turned into another driveway.  There were people outside, so once again my dad got out of the car and introduced himself.  The wood carved name on the house read Stephens.  There was an older man sitting on the porch.  He told us we had missed the cemetery by one driveway.  He apparently had been watching us.  We chatted with him just a bit and realized he was probably related to us.
Back down the driveway we went and up the one before it.  At the end of that drive was a cemetery!!!  We had at last found success!  We were 1 for 3 finding cemeteries. We looked around and found plenty of Stephens’ that we were related to.
Stephens Cemetery Marquand MO

We knew from cemetery records that there was a Cozean who married into the Stephens family buried there.  Sarah Matilda Cozean Stephens was the daughter of George Washington Cozean.  Then we found someone totally unexpected; the wife of George, Eliza Jane White Cozean!  She was not listed on any of the records of that cemetery.  Eliza Jane had remarried after George died.  Her second husband, an Underwood, was an abusive drunk.  She divorced him; a brave move for a woman back in that day.  We think that Eliza Jane must have lived her remaining years with her daughter Sarah.  Dad and I were ecstatic at our discovery.  Finding the grave of Eliza Jane White Cozean made up for all of the driving around through the deep woods, and being unsuccessful the previous days.  This woman was my dad’s great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother.

Dad with Eliza Jane White Cozean

Eliza Jane White Cozean

Sarah Matilda Cozean Stephens

I plan to return to Missouri and look for the graves of our ancestors.  I would love to find where George Washington Cozean is buried, as well as other Tuckers that relocated from Tennessee to Missouri and Arkansas.  Next time, we will be better prepared to find these well-hidden cemeteries.  I realized that I cannot rely on the GPS on my phone.  We will need to know coordinates ahead of time, use a real GPS and get exact directions to the locations.  We may need to get permission from property owners too.  And some heavy duty high boots and bug spray wouldn’t hurt either. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

At What Cost?

The age limit for the morning-after pill has just been lowered from seventeen to fifteen per order of a district judge in NY.  Your fifteen-year-old daughter can now run over to the drug store and buy herself one.  Without your consent, mind you.  It costs between $10 and $70 depending on where she goes to purchase one.  Teva’s Women’s Health is the manufacturer of this pill.   They reported earnings for the first quarter of this year at around $100 million dollars for their “women’s health” category.  Will sales increase over the next year because of its easier availability?  Plan B is supposed to be a back-up plan if your daughter has unprotected sex, forgot to take her birth control pill or the condom broke.  How often will your daughter use these pills, and what will be the effect on her body/reproductive system?  Obama said he's comfortable with it being available to fifteen-year-olds.
Then there’s Gardasil.  It’s supposed to protect your child from cervical cancer.  It might protect you from some sexually-transmitted viruses that could cause cervical cancer but not all.  Gardasil and another similar drug are being pushed on girls as young as nine. Some states are trying to mandate these shots.  Remember Rick Perry of Texas gave an executive order as governor to mandate it for all school-aged girls.  Thank God that order was overturned. Now it’s being recommended for boys, to protect them too.  Merck is the manufacturer.  Your child is supposed to have three of these shots (at $120 a pop) to be effective. There have been reports of very negative side-effects in some girls.  Check out the documentary called “One More Girl”.  In California, as I wrote about in an earlier post, your twelve-year-old child can get the Gardasil shot without your knowledge or permission.  The Merck website reports the sale of Gardasil at $390 million in the first quarter of 2013.
If your daughter does get pregnant, never fear, clinics like Planned Parenthood will take care of that.  She can either have a surgical abortion for between $300 and $900 or take an abortion pill which runs about $350 to $650.  And in California, your daughter can be taken from school without your knowledge or permission to get an abortion.  It is after all, her choice, her body, or at least that’s the lie they’re still told these days.  Our own President of the United States praised Planned Parenthood and blessed them, while ignoring the horrors of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia.  No, God does not bless Planned Parenthood now, or will He ever.  The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, by the way, donated quite a lot of money toward Obama’s re-election campaign.
If your child experiments with different partners and those of different genders (as seems to be encouraged at school, on television and in the movies these days) it’s quite possible he or she will contract HIV or other serious sexually-transmitted diseases.  There are medications available today that can help with easing symptoms and prolonging his or her life.  Those medications run from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars a month, every month, for the rest of their lives.  Some insurance companies will partially cover the costs.
Who really benefits from all these marvelous medications and procedures?  We are told that our children can benefit from these things.  Someone is making a whole bunch of money off of our children, with and without our consent.  Pharmaceutical companies make the medications, and the FDA approves them, sometimes very quickly.  They are marketed to the doctors and to the general public. Anyone who watches television sees the commercials pushing Gardasil and soon we will see commercials for the Plan B pill.   I hate wondering if politicians are pushing the “anything goes” sexuality on our young people, perhaps because of the money to be made.  If the new normal is having sex at any age and as much as you want to with all sorts of people, then there is a need for medications and procedures to deal with the consequences.  These big pharmaceutical companies making money off our kids donate big bucks to politicians to push these drugs onto young people and without the consent of their parents.  As parents we’re told that kids are going to experiment with sex anyway, so just let them do whatever they want with whomever they want.  They’ll be okay.  Our children are encouraged to make adult decisions regarding their health behind our backs.
In a recent news article, I read that some top universities are being praised for their student health care insurance policies. These groundbreaking policies will cover sex-change operations.  Your child's college may now pay up to $50,000 for students to change from a man to a woman or woman to man.  This covers hormone therapy, surgery, cosmetic enhancements, etc.  Duke University, according to the Washington Times is hiking up tuition fees to be able to pay for these surgeries.  Some major health providers are considering similar policies to cover sex changes.  Is there really a market for this kind of thing?  Apparently, yes. 
There seems to be a trend happening today where traditional gender roles and appearances are being challenged.  Kids are told they can choose their “identity”.  There are parents who embrace this and encourage it.  Schools may soon allow boys who identify as a girl to use the girls’ bathrooms.  There is a family in Canada who refuses to tell anyone the gender of their youngest child.  He or she will decide that.  There are children who for whatever reasons are confused about their sexuality.  If you are a parent of a confused child, don’t go looking for counseling in California.  It has banned gay confusion therapy.  The counselor is not allowed to suggest to your child that he or she really is straight. 
With all that is being pushed in the schools having to do with sex, of course our kids are going to get confused.  If your son or daughter believes they are the wrong gender, he or she can start on puberty-blocking drugs.  Boston Children’s Hospital will take your child through the entire process.  He or she will need to take hormone injections for the rest of their lives.  We’re talking about young children who have not reached puberty.  Later in the process the sexual mutilation can take place to completely transform them.
If you are a parent of school-aged children, you might consider this:  There are companies, and politicians benefitting financially from the choices your children make.  Are they encouraging our children to make choices that line their wallets instead of what’s best for the children? As Christian parents, we need to point our kids to the instructions given in the Bible.  Those instructions regarding sex may seem outdated, but are there for a reason; for the protection of their bodies and spirits.  We need to tell our kids lovingly what the consequences could be should they choose to ignore those instructions.  Imagine if our young people did not follow the ways of the world and chose abstinence until marriage (which is still possible).  The abortion industry and drug companies would lose billions of dollars each year!  Our children would benefit in so many ways.  Our girls won’t have to live with the guilt and trauma of having an abortion, or damage to their bodies from one.  They won’t need to get harmful “preventative” vaccines or dangerous drugs to treat sexually-transmitted diseases.  They won’t start mutilating their God-given bodies because the procedure is covered under insurance, or taking medications and hormones that put them at risk for serious cardiovascular problems and liver damage.  The cost of doing whatever one wants is quite high.  The souls of our children are priceless.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's Alive!!!

It's finally coming out in the news. The abortion doctor in Philadelphia is on trial for murder of seven infants who were born alive. It is considered murder because these babies survived the abortion attempts and were born alive. This sorry excuse for a doctor chose to exterminate these tiny little fighters in a brutal manner.  An immigrant woman seeking an abortion at his clinic also died from an overdose of medication given there.  Former staff members are testifying to the horrors that went on there.  None of these workers by the way had any medical training.  One assistant was a teenage girl.

What is disturbing has been the lack of media attention and lack of outrage from any of our politicians.  I would really like to see our president speak out against Gosnell and what he did, but it’s probably not going to happen.  Why, you ask?  I’ve written about this before; about Obama’s stance on abortion and partial-birth abortion.  We all know by now that Obama is pro-abortion and that he’d be totally okay if one of his daughters made a mistake and wanted an abortion.

Obama believes that if a “pre-viable fetus” is defined as a person, human or baby, then they would be protected under the US Constitution which would then outlaw abortion altogether. The equal protection clause outlaws the killing of a child.  As of 2001 the Supreme Court determined that an unviable fetus (one who could not survive outside of the womb) was eligible for abortion.

As a senator in Illinois, Obama voted against any legislation that would define a baby who survived an abortion as a “person” who was entitled to medical care.  He also stated that any further discussion on the matter would merit a “present” vote from him.  Apparently, in Illinois, a “present” vote is pretty much a “no” vote because only “yes” votes can pass the legislation.  He later voted against any “infant born-alive” legislation.  Obama also voted against any late-term abortion (second and third trimester) bans in 2003. 

He made his views on partial-birth abortion known when he voted “present” for a ban in 1997.  You can check out his voting records for yourself.  The point is that we have the leader of the free world silent on the horrible activities that went down in Philly.  One can only suppose his silence comes from his support for the abortion industry.  Obama told USA Today that while he’s familiar with the charges, he cannot comment on an active case.  That of course doesn’t stop him from commenting on other cases he cares about.

If I sound angry, I am.  If you look at pictures from the Gosnell trial, you see these perfectly formed little babies finished off in the most grotesque ways.  Baby boys with their spines snipped.  Little bitty feet crammed into jars.  Perhaps Gosnell wanted these as souvenirs of his kills, kind of like how some serial killers save something belonging to their victims.  Late-term abortion is illegal in Pennsylvania, but Gosnell performed them anyway.  Praise God that this clinic has been shut down for good.

Apparently, Gosnell’s horror clinic isn’t an isolated case.  Now news is coming out about a Planned Parenthood clinic in Delaware being shut down.  Abortion clinics in this state are not regulated.  It seems that several women after having visited this particular one needed to go to the emergency room.  The doctor did not wear gloves or sterilize instruments.  These women were at risk for hepatitis, aids and who knows what else.

Recently in Florida, there has been discussion on what to do with a baby who survives an abortion.  Planned Parenthood of course is testifying against this “Infants Born Alive” bill.  Things are going downhill fast.  If Florida does not pass this bill, will there be a continuation of what happened at Gosnell’s clinic in Florida abortion clinics?  Will these tiny survivors face the same fate of having their necks snapped, or left alone crying on a cold table or in a trash disposal?  How will things continue in our country after that?  If you take your newborn home and then decide you don’t want him, will you be allowed to eliminate him? 

Is a child’s life only important if he or she is wanted by the mother?  In some countries, you can abort a baby if it isn’t the gender you want.  Look at what has happened in China and India where baby boys are of more value than girls.  Is America “going there”?  Have we already gone there?  When you go to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion clinic, do they ask you why you are having the abortion?  Do we have any bans on gender-selection abortion? 
Here in California, thanks to some legislators, it may soon be possible to get an abortion from a para-professional (nurses, mid-wives or physicians assistants).  Who needs a medical doctor anyway.  A minor girl can obtain an abortion during the school day without parental permission or knowledge.  And there's nothing you can do about it as a parent.  Supposedly, by legalizing abortion, a woman or girl would be able to get top quality medical care.  Looks like things in this state are going backwards.

We as a nation mourn the loss of children who are kidnapped, raped and murdered, shot, die in terrorist attacks, etc.  It is very sad and tragic.  But why do we as a nation not mourn the loss of the unwanted, the unborn, and those little fighters who survive abortion only to be snuffed out some other way?  I don’t have the answer to that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


As believers in Christ we are commanded to love one another and forgive those who have wronged us. But what do you do when you screw up, apologize and that person won't forgive you? Recently my nine-year-old did and said and did some things to his best friend that he probably should not have.  His friend was understandably upset and hurt.  We talked to our son about his actions and he realized what he had done was wrong.  My son apologized and we thought that was that. However, the other little boy did not want to accept Jack’s apology and chose to get back at him. My son's little spirit was now hurting. He desperately missed his friend and wanted things to go back to the way they once were. With some prodding, the other boy finally verbally accepted my son's apology. It's been a tough lesson for Jack to learn at his young age. It’s hard to tell if the other boy actually does forgive him, or doesn’t want to get in trouble again for seeking revenge. Jack has had to accept the reality that his friend may never want to be his friend again.

As adults, we also have to deal with forgiveness issues, sometimes some very serious ones.  I think everyone knows someone who holds grudges against others.  Some friends and I were shunned by a girl with an unforgiving heart.  We were close to Becky (not her real name).  There was a silly misunderstanding between Becky and Darla (also not her real name).  Becky chose to stop being friends with Darla because she couldn’t forgive what she thought Darla had said about her.  Then slowly, other friends of Becky’s who loved her very much were shut out too.  Apparently Becky didn’t want to hear the truth about some issues in her life that she needed to hear.  She had asked for their advice, but didn’t like the answers they gave. She became angry and bitter at the other girls.  Then it was my turn to be shut out of Becky’s life. I had tried to remain a neutral party through all of the issues with her other friends. Becky all of a sudden wanted nothing to do with me. I have no idea if I did something or said something that she didn’t like. She blocked all ways of contacting her.  Of course I would apologize to her if I did something wrong.  But she won’t even give me the chance to find what it is she is angry at me for.  All we can do is pray for God to give her a forgiving heart.

God doesn’t want us to dwell on anger.  He tells us this throughout the Bible.  Psalm 37:8 for example says: Refrain from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  There are countless examples of men and women doing horrible things because of their anger.
Anger that remains in your heart can not just cause you to sin (seek revenge) against others, but also against yourself.  Ephesians 4:26 states that: When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.  There’s a good reason for that. When you refuse to forgive someone, and hold grudges, and do mean things to get back at others, that does harm to you both physically and spiritually.  Constant anger raises blood pressure.  Anger affects your health and wellbeing.  My mother was an angry person.  She was not a forgiving person and that often resulted in her seeking revenge on those she felt wronged her.  At age 73, she suffered a fatal brain aneurism.  The surgeon said the weakened blood vessel was something she was probably born with.  I feel that it was probably all those years of being an angry person that caused it to burst.

It’s not easy to be forgiving toward others.  We need God’s help to be a forgiving person and not an angry vengeful person. As believers, we need to remember what Christ did for us on the cross to cancel out our sins.  It’s something we can never repay Him for.  But we can show others around us His forgiveness.  We can teach our children about forgiveness and seek theirs when we screw up as parents.   1 Peter 3:9 says: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  God wants us to forgive, so that we don’t miss some of the blessings we might have with those friends or family members we are angry at.  None of us are perfect.  We don’t always say and do the right things.  We are human. There are people out there who expect us to be perfect and never say or do anything wrong to them. When you hold others up to that high of a standard, you’re going to be disappointed.   When someone cannot or will not forgive us, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.  Unfortunately, you can’t change someone else’s heart.  Only God can do that.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rock and Roll.....and Jesus?

Some followers of Christ would frown upon those words being spoken in the same breath.  Listening to rock music is not something a Christian should be doing according to some fundamental groups.  As a musician and a Christian I want to discuss why the two can go together.  There are many Christian artists out there who have been given the gift of music and use it to glorify God through rock music. 
I grew up in a musical family and a Christian family.  Both my parents sang opera in local productions and served God in church choirs.  I loved singing all the hymns and songs of praise at church.  I enjoyed being a bell-ringer in the children’s choir.  My sister and I took piano lessons briefly.  I started playing the violin the summer after fourth grade.  I found it more expressive than other instruments.  My grandfather Munzer had played violin in the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra.  He wanted me to become a concert violinist.   I had other plans.

As a music education major in college, I listened to and studied a lot of classical music and composers.  I loved playing pieces by Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.  Many classical pieces were written for the church.  Our college orchestra participated in a performance of The Messiah.   Some classical pieces were more secular in nature.  Swan Lake is my favorite ballet.  I got to see it a couple of times when I lived near Boston.  Tchaikovsky was a brilliant composer.  He was probably not a Christian, but given a musical gift.  According to some Christian groups, the sorcery in the story of Swan Lake makes it something we should avoid.  That could also exclude the Nutcracker and numerous other ballets and operas.  But that’s another discussion for another day.

I have had a deep love for rock music since junior high.  I’m a rocker chick.  There’s just something about electric guitars, bass guitars and drums playing loudly that really get into the soul.   I’m sure I confused people in my college dorm.  One minute there was the sound of a lone violin practicing a Bach concerto coming from my room.  The next minute, Led Zeppelin or Van Halen would be blasting through the walls.  (I married a guy who also plays violin and loves rock music.)
After attending Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade a few years back, I began listening to rock bands that also professed belief in Jesus Christ.  This was where I first heard Jeremy Camp.  Seventh Day Slumber was also there.  That fall had been a difficult one.  My friend Leslie was dying from pancreatic cancer and a very young family member had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.  The music that I heard at that event gave me comfort and hope.  I learned of other Christian artists on K-Love radio and Air 1 radio.

The other night, my husband and I went to the “Rock and Worship Road Show”, a concert of nine Christian rock artists.  It was amazing.  Thousands of people young and old filled the HP Pavillion in San Jose to see Jeremy Camp, Luminate, Mercy Me, Kutless and others.  The cost was only ten bucks to see over three hours of live music.  In between songs, the lead singer for each band professed his faith in Christ and gave the gospel message.  Throughout the evening, the gospel was spoken many times, not just once.  Scripture was quoted, and the Bible was opened up and read from. 
These bands may look like typical rockers with long hair, tattoos and even blond dreads.  Their music may initially sound like generic rock/heavy metal music.  But they aren’t singing about girls or cars.  They are singing about Christ, and His love for us.  They are singing about how Christ rescued them from sin, despair, addiction and from themselves.  What powerful testimony that is.  We give our personal testimonies in church in the spoken form all the time.  It’s hard to get up in front of people and tell them what you used to be and the things that you did before Christ got a hold of you.  Other believers listen to your testimony and are inspired.  It’s awesome to learn how Christ has worked in someone’s broken life.

If you think about it, we already present the gospel message in different ways.  We translate the Bible into different languages so that even someone in the far reaches of China can hear it and understand it.  So why not use different types of music to proclaim the gospel and to give testimony.  Look, we’re not talking holding church at a bar over beers.  We’re talking music. There are a lot of hurting people out there.  They can be reached by meeting them where they’re at, by relating to their pain and sharing how Jesus saves and has the power to change lives.  This is what Christian rock does.

Take a look at the lyrics to the song “Invisible” by a band called Disciple:  You’ve got my attention/there’s no need to hurt yourself this way/you think no one will notice you’re feeling/when you cry yourself to sleep/you feel stuck on the outside looking inside/wishing this life wasn’t your life/and you think you’re damaged way beyond repair/well you’re not so far that I can’t get to where you are/you wish you were someone else/every night you fall to pieces/knowing you can’t save yourself/I can see you, I can hear you/there’s a place where the broken go/there’s a room full of second chances/you’re not stranded on your own/you’re not invisible./I’m ready to listen/there’s no need to hold it all inside/the smallest whisper/I hear it when your strength has all but died/I need you to believe me/can you trust me/that what you see is not what I see/the reflection in the mirror’s telling lies/cause nothing you have done could change how much I love you/ you’re not invisible/I can see you as you’re falling on your knees/You’re not invisible to Me.
This is a song called “Breathe Into Me” by Red:  And this is how it feels when I/ignore the words you spoke to me/and this is where I lose myself/when I keep running away from you/and this is who I am when/when I don’t know myself anymore/and this is what I choose/when it’s all left up to me/breathe your life into me/I can feel you/I’m falling, falling faster/breathe your life into me/I still need you/I’m falling, falling/breathe into me breathe into me/and this is how it looks when I am standing on the edge/and this is how I break apart/when I finally hit the ground/and this is how it hurts/when I pretend I don’t feel any pain/and this is how I disappear/when I throw myself away.

Disciple explains how Jesus is the “Remedy”: I see the world in black and gray/broken dreams of a runaway/escape the world to medicate/symptoms gone but disease remains/if the vision dies will it ever breathe again?/oh, I’ve got to let go of the illusion/this is the end of me/You are my remedy/Oh it’s taking its toll-this pollution/this is the end of me/You are my remedy/where you stop is where you’ll start again.
Jeremy Camp delivers the gospel through his lyrics.  Here is “Lay Down My Pride”: Every single word I say/ You know it before I speak/You know every thought/ the deepest part of me/You draw me closer than I see/Your presence is everything I need to be/The child that You've created me to be/(I'm ready now to see it Your way)/Lay down my pride, my desires, my demise/I'm ready now to see it Your way/'Cause I'm done, I'm through/ignoring You now it's true/I'm kneeling at the cross of Your grace/Lay down my pride/I was faced with passing time/ but I knew the choice was mine/To finally come to You and give You all control/I've wandered miles to find my way/And then You revealed this simple faith/I know that You can see the secrets of my soul.

Camp’s “Jesus Saves” is a wonderful song of praise: Hope is here/ shout the news to everyone/It's a new day, peace has come/Jesus saves/Mercy triumphs at the cross/Love is come to rescue us/ Jesus saves/Hope is here what a joyful noise we'll make/As we join with heaven's song/To let all the world know that Jesus saves/Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves/Free at last, every debt has been repaid/Broken hearts can be remade/ Jesus saves/Sing above the storms of life/ sing through the darkest night/Jesus saves/Free at last, what a joyful noise we'll make/As we join with heaven's song/To let all the world know that Jesus saves/Raise a shout to let all the world know that Jesus saves.
Kutless’ song “Carry Me” says this:   I can see thru the laughter/I know you've cried your share of tears/But you don't have to do this by yourself/You tell me that you feel abandoned/Carrying the weight of all this pain inside/You trust in someone else/But you're crying out for help/I'm a believer/That He's strong enough to hold you now where you are/I'm a believer/In the One who's always reaching out to your heart/He understands you/There's not a greater love that you'll find in this life/I'm a believer in Christ/You're trying to escape the landslide/Running from the choices that you've made/When will you surrender to His grace/He promises He'll never leave you/Offering to free you from your past/Cause that's the sacrifice He's made/He can be your shelter and your strength/No matter what you've done/Or how far you've run/There is hope for you/For every broken heart/He'll meet you where you are/He will rescue you/Let Him rescue you.

There are so many more Christian pop/rock songs out there that praise God, and give testimony to His greatness and power to change lives.  I am providing some links to a few of my favorites for you to listen to if you wish.    Jeremy Camp “The Way”   Jeremy Camp “Overcome”   Disciple “Invisible”  Kutless  "What Faith Can Do"
Also check out Decyfer Down, Skillet, Third Day, MercyMe and Toby Mac.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is the Grass Really Greener?

Duck On Green Grass

This past Sunday, or pastor used the phrase that we are all familiar with: “The grass is always greener on the other side”.  He was talking about how Satan can deceive us into thinking there are better things out there for us than what we already have.  It got me thinking how that could play out.  You’ve got your yard.  It looks okay, but as you are standing on your grass you look over and notice that the neighbor across the street has what appears to be a perfectly manicured lawn.  The color of the grass is just gorgeous.  You think to yourself, man how come my yard doesn’t look that good.  I want my yard to be like that.  I want that yard!  You think, my yard is so boring and dull.  I really don’t like it anymore.  It starts to bother you more and more.  You keep seeing that perfect yard every time you step out of your house.  Sometimes you even gaze at it from your window and imagine yourself over there laying in that gorgeous grass on a sunny day.  You can just imagine the smell of the freshly cut grass. There is a statue with a fountain running from it.  You imagine throwing a big party over on that lawn and how happy you’d be and how proud you would be that it was your lawn instead of the neighbor’s.  Life would be so much better over there.

One day you decide to go for it.  You leave your yard and head over to the more perfect yard.  But when you get there, you immediately observe that you have stepped onto artificial grass.  That grass is as fake as grandma’s teeth.  There’s no fresh-cut grass smell.  You check the fountain.   It’s made of cheap plastic and the water has this brownish tint and odor to it.  You sure didn’t notice that from your yard.  And there are some nasty looking insects buzzing around.   Now that you’re in this yard, you realize that it’s not at all what you thought it would be, dreamed it would be.  But it looked so good from a distance.  James 1:14-15 says” but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Perhaps you are feeling bored with your husband or wife.  There’s a cute new gal at work or hunky guy at the gym.  You might start imagining what your life would be like with that person.  You start up a conversation.  She’s so charming and friendly and has the most interesting stories.  She makes you feel like you’re in high school or college again.  Before you know it, you’ve gone there.  It happens all the time, unfortunately.  Marriages and families are destroyed because someone thought the grass looked greener somewhere else.  You traded in your wife for a newer model (as they say).  You left your husband for someone more handsome or richer.  But the grass isn’t really greener.  If you are thinking about a trade-in, think again.  That hunky guy probably has a lot of baggage (like lots of ex-girlfriends), or spends lots of money gambling, or has the wandering eye.  That little gal at work might really be using you to advance her own career, or will at some point, think you too old for her and trade you in. 

Take care of your own yard.  Nurture it and enjoy it for what it is.  So what if it’s not perfect.  Neither are we.  There is someone who can help us with our struggles and help us to be content with what we have.  Jesus can help us to resist looking elsewhere for excitement and satisfaction.  He can also help mend broken hearts if you have one of those. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us that we can cast all our burdens on Him because He cares.