A New Song

Forgive me now because I have been unfaithful

don’t ask me why, because I don’t know

So many times I tried, but was unable…

but this heart belongs to You alone

And now I’m in our secret place, alone in Your embrace

where all my wrongs have been erased

You have forgiven

All the promises and lies, all the times I compromised

All the times You were denied

You have forgiven

It looks something like a hymn, doesn’t it? It reads like a hymn; it’s a song to the glory of God, and its words are a celebration of the Lord’s all-embracing forgiveness. None of the lyrics of the whole song – this is just a part of it – are untrue or blasphemous; in fact the whole thing provides hope and encouragement for those who wonder if God can ever forgive them yet again. It rings with the joyous knowledge that Jesus will always forgive, even when there are no excuses, and that He is loving and merciful no matter what. If we’ll only confess and ask Him for forgiveness, He will forgive. And that is exactly what this song says.

Yet, if the song was actually played, not just the lyrics written, there are thousands of Christians all over the world who would protest that the song is an abomination to God. Why? Because it’s rock. Christian rock, yes; but all the same, it’s hard-hitting, drum-solo-abounding, electric-guitar-slamming rock. This particular song, Skillet’s “Forgiven”, has a particularly heavy feel to it and its writers sure didn’t hold back on the drums. And because of this, people everywhere – people who believe in God, mostly, and who stand up in church to sing His praises every Sunday – call it blasphemy.

I have never really been able to grasp why. I know that there are many rock artists out there who have a less-than-favourable reputation; in fact, rock in general has been cloaked in disrepute for years. But why should there be such a taboo on rock written for God’s glory? It’s a little like saying that because heathens invented calendars, all calendars are blasphemous. Isn’t it a good thing that some people are turning rock into an instrument to edify fellow Christians and praise our Lord?

To be honest, I’m not even a die-hard rock fan. I mostly listen to classical, pop and country (which drives some of my peers insane, but hey, nobody has a voice like Josh Groban), but if I like the lyrics and the singer’s voice, I’m just as happy listening to Skillet or Joe Niemand’s heavier albums as to a rendition of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”. Happier, in fact: some of the old hymns like “Amazing Grace”, originally so powerful, have become so old that people forget they’re even hymns. Unbelievers sing “Silent Night” at Christmas with the rest of us, because that’s what they do, not because they actually believe in the Virgin Mother and Child. Old hymns have become much the same.

But when a long-haired guy with tattoos walks up to the microphone, slams on his guitar and starts to sing about forgiveness or grace or redemption, you have to sit up. You have to take notice. Because this is a new song, and it’s loud and it’s in your face and you can’t just hide it away under traditions.

Perhaps that’s why rock is so detested by so many – especially the older generation. No, I’m not just saying this because I’m a teen who wants her own way. And yes, I know a lot of older people don’t like rock because it’s loud and noisy and it’s not to their taste. And that’s fine. If someone tells me to turn off that noise because it’s driving them nuts, I’ll do it. But don’t tell me to turn off that noise because it’s tainting my soul. That young Christian rock artist with the long hair might look like he just walked out of a bar fight, but (and there are exceptions to every rule) he is singing to God’s glory, and he probably means it a lot more passionately, and believes a lot more fervently, than the stiff-collared pillar of society mumbling through “Jerusalem” on Sunday morning.

In fact, the trouble is not so much that people think rock music is wrong, as that so many adults are terrified of what teenagers are going to do to themselves and society. They have good reason: teenagers have acted irresponsibly, criminally, carelessly, and heartlessly. Our generation is dying young and suffers from depression, eating disorders, and other mental issues like never before. Teenagers are in trouble; in some cases, teenagers are trouble.

Yes, teens are young and inexperienced and get into trouble. But there are some of us still out there who are responsible, who believe, and who aren’t going to be stupid and end up in jail somewhere. There are those of us who, like me, were raised well and have loving parents and have dedicated their lives to God. But our number is diminishing, because some adults don’t trust us. And I address this not to all adults, because I know many adults who treat us right – not the way we want to be treated, maybe, but the way we need to be treated – with enough freedom and enough guidance. I address this to the small amount of people who choose to handle us like we’re on a short fuse and about to blow up and destroy ourselves. Thanks be to God, very few of the adults I know are like this, least of all my own parents; but there are some out there, and I beg them to listen.

Yes, we are still teenagers. We are young and we are alive, and we still celebrate it. Yes, we know they just want what’s best for us, but we have to spread our wings sometime. We’re not afraid of adrenalin and adventure the way so many older people are. A lot of us celebrate it by going out and getting drunk and driving fast just for the thrill of it, or being stupid and reckless and taking inordinate risks, which is one reason why so many people die so young. But don’t turn us all into rebels just because we’re a bit noisier and a bit livelier and a bit more fiery than the rest of you. Let us have our rock, if its lyrics are acceptable to our God; let us have our parties, if we all stay responsible; let us try new things and gallop on young horses and ride rollercoasters, if the risk is not irresponsibly high; let us dance late into the night with the flashing lights and the loud music and the laughter, if we remain pure and free from sin. It is possible. We are young and we are alive. We have no right to inflict our noise and our liveliness on you if you don’t want it, but when we’re out of your way, not harming anyone, and staying out of trouble, don’t stop us from being young and alive. You were young too, once.

Yes, there are responsible teenagers out there. We can have fun without causing danger or trouble or sin. So guide us, discipline us when we need it, set limits, and be our leaders by example; but don’t stifle us, don’t try to crush the life out of us and turn us into grey stereotypes, cardboard cut-outs of society’s expectations. We are already a group of square pegs in a world of round holes, treated like children and expected to act like adults; we are already studying hard, working hard, struggling to break into the adult world of forms and licences and signatures. So let us escape, responsibly, into our loud music and our parties. Trust us just a little, and we will honour you.

God wants people to be alive and afire, not stumble colourlessly through life. Let us dance as the night grows older, knowing that our own youth will only last a moment. Let us celebrate being young and alive. We know about all the rebels out there, about all the teens that get into trouble, and we’re not them. I speak for all the responsible teenagers out there who want to breathe. Who want to be trusted.

We sing a new song to the God we love just as much as you do. “Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:3). We will sing “Amazing Grace” with you on Sunday morning; we will kneel in our closets in silence and praise Him with our prayer every day of the week; but let us be free to praise Him in our own way. We are on fire, and ours is a generation of lively believers.

We know what’s right and wrong and we’re trying to do what’s right. We might not be doing it the way you would, and we might still be on a learning curve, but we’re on fire for our God and we want to get out there and grab life with both hands.

Please don’t try to stop us.

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The Silent Mist: A Flann Flash Fiction

Copyright - Erin Leary

Copyright – Erin Leary (via Friday Fictioneers)

 

Word count: 117

Genre: Christian Fantasy

It’s quiet. Too quiet.

I shake myself mentally as Prince Demetrius and I ride patrol beside Ardara’s river moat. I’m a knight. Mist shouldn’t be giving me the creeps. There’s nothing scary about mist.

Scary is what the mist hides.

When something moves in the grass, I move faster. In a breath, I’ve wheeled Tariq around in front of Demetrius and drawn my sword, ready to defend him at any cost.

In the same breath, Demetrius has dismounted from his horse and dived into the long grass. He straightens, gently holding a frightened child, obviously lost.

Shame boils in my gut. I need to stop wondering, “What can I do?” and start thinking, “What would Jesus do?”

 

*  *  *

For Friday Fictioneers, this is the first of a series of flash fiction I plan to write starring the characters of my novel, “Another Sword”. I hope you enjoyed meeting Crown Prince Demetrius and his loyal bodyguard, Sir Flann Hildebrand – you’ll be seeing some more of them in the coming weeks!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Daniel 6:10

Almost every morning at about 6:30, just after breakfast and before feeding horses, I go into my room, close the door and have my God time. It’s only ten minutes, but I treasure those precious ten minutes spent reading God’s Word, talking to Him and worshipping Him. All through the day I’ll pray short, silent prayers, of thanksgiving or awe, worship, intercession, or pleading; but this prayer is my check-in with God before I start the day.

Like Daniel, I have my own little praying place – the window in the east wall of my bedroom, which looks out onto the little bluegum forest I call the Shuddering Woods. At my prayer time, the sun is just rising with dazzling brilliance in summer, or perhaps flushing the sky with pink in winter. I kneel before my God underneath the little wooden cross stuck on the glass, and I feel the warmth of His created sun on my face. And I know that not even the sun is bigger, warmer, stronger, or more everlasting than His wonderful love.

Challenge1

On a more playful note, Blizzard also loves windows. She’s become quite skilled at using them as a vantage point!

Blizzard2

No Tomorrow

 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34

This is January. We spend our time reflecting on the year behind us and setting goals for the year ahead; we make resolutions, we get excited. We can’t wait to charge forth into that splendid new year and grab it by the throat and show it what we’re made of. We stare into the future, drooling for the next twelve months to come and get us.

We tell everyone what we’re going to do in the whole new year that’s coming.

We forget that we might not live to see tomorrow.

I am as guilty – probably more guilty – as anyone else of worrying about the future. I don’t just worry; I obsess over it, until worry can become paralysing terror. I wish I was the only one who had to live with fear of the future. But I’m not. There are millions of you out there, people who are afraid, people who see the dawn coming and feel the vice grip of terror clench around their hearts. Look at us, a generation of worriers, dropping like flies from stress-induced sickness, stuffed so full of heart pills and blood pressure pills and anxiety pills that if we were shaken, we’d rattle. I’m not even talking about the generation as in the 30-year-olds and other people in the prime of their lives. I’m talking about *my* generation, the teenagers: we walk around smiling through our depression, pulling down our sleeves to mask the cuts on our arms we inflict on ourselves, starving ourselves in an attempt to fit in. Why do we do this? Because we’re scared! We need addictions or pills or people just to make us feel better!

Would we need any of those if we knew how fragile we really are? If we lived in the liberating knowledge that today might be the last day we have left?

Do I sound depressed? I’m not surprised. Depression is a blight on my life, but it taught me this: We could be dead tomorrow. When you’re depressed, you learn how easy it can be to die. But the difference between depression and living in the moment is that when you’re depressed, you’re at once afraid of and longing for the imminence of death. When you live in the moment, you know death could come at any moment – and you’re okay with that.

You’re okay with that because you live each moment like there is no moment to follow. You’re okay with that because you speak every word like it could be your last. You’re okay with that because you part with your loved ones, every time, like you might never see them again.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you waste today, or would you use it to change the world? If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you have that fight with your boyfriend, or would you give him the benefit of the doubt and ask forgiveness? If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you walk past that beggar sitting on the streets or would you try to make his tomorrow a better one? If you knew you were never going to speak to your parents again, would you scream that “I hate you” that sits like acid in your mouth, or would you submit and try to understand?

It’s a tragedy that it takes terminal illness or death itself to open the eyes of so many people to this truth. Yet it doesn’t have to. The words are there in our great guide to life, the Bible, the living Word of God. “Give no thought for the morrow,” Jesus says. “You have enough to worry about today.”

It’s when we’re worrying about the problems on their way that we miss out on fixing the problems that are here.

Do I sound morbid? If I do, you have work to do. To the unsaved soul, there is no knowledge more terrifying than knowing that any breath could be your last. You cling to the fragile life you have, frightened of any dangers, terrified to try in case failure is fatal. You are so paralysed by the knowledge that you could be dead tomorrow that you can’t even live today. I know, because I’ve been there.

But to the soul of the saved, this truth liberates. Because if a true Christian knew he was going to die tomorrow, he would dance. He would sing and rejoice, he would scream out the news. He would be going home. He would know exactly where he was going and comprehend a small part of how wonderful the coming life is. Fear would be the last thing on his mind. Death can’t touch us. We are the children of the God who is Love, which is stronger than death; and passing from this world and into the next holds no terror for one who comprehends the greatness of the gift Jesus gave us when He died on that cross.

Jesus might call you home at any moment. Are you ready to meet Him? If not, what are you waiting for? Do do it later? A later that might not come?

Live like there is no tomorrow! Because there might not be one! Because what do you have to lose if you live each day like it might be your last? Nothing, and you have so much to gain. You don’t have to be afraid of tomorrow! It might never come.

And oh, how shallow, how pitiful this argument would be if that was all there was too it. If I could say nothing more than “Don’t be scared, because you’ll be dead soon”, there would be nothing left. No hope. But I can say so much more to you, there is so much more truth to this story. Because here is the whole truth: You don’t have to be afraid of tomorrow. Whether it comes or not, whether you live or die, you belong to the Lord God Who is bigger than any problems you will ever face. He’s got your back, He’s on your side, and He’s going to take care of it. There is nothing in your future, however long it may be, that scares Him. You have absolutely no reason to be afraid, because your God is with you.

There is nothing to fear when you know that the most powerful thing in the whole entire world made you and saved you, is all around you, is within you; you can receive it, you can hold it close, and you can even give it; and the more you give, the more you get. What is this thing? It’s love. It’s God. There is no difference between true love and our God. And He loves you.

So go out there and seize this day like it’s the last day on this earth that you have to seize. This isn’t really life, not yet; what is to come is so much better. But here, in this life, we can make mistakes and we can regret. Every single moment is a gift from God; treat it that way, and use it wisely. If you don’t, you will either die knowing that it was the last thing you did and you can never go back and fix it, or you will live to regret it.

Use every moment! Tomorrow is a gift we might not receive! Today is a treasure we have, here and now!

Go out there and shine today. The world needs your light. It’s the light of God, burning inside you.

It’s so easy to say it. It looks so simple on paper. In practice, it will be your life’s battle, should you choose to fight it; and yes, this is war. Spiritual war, and you are a warrior. It’s better than being a worrier. It’s a daily fight, sometimes an overwhelming struggle against the threatening darkness. It’s a fight you’ll fight for most of your life, but rest easy in this knowledge: The rest of your life could be hours, days or decades. But however long it is, it is exactly the right length.

Because our God is in control, and He’s on our side.

A New Look for CWT

Dear readers,

You might have noticed a new set of links along the top of CWT: “Joyful Jerseys” and “Riding on Water: Horses”. I mentioned in my older post “Requesting your Thoughts”* that CWT’s old format of a random mishmash of subjects wasn’t really working for me. You guys responded saying that splitting the post subjects probably would work better for you, hence, I bow to thy wisdom.

So, this is how the blog will work from now on. Clothed With Thunder remains the main blog, the home page, if you will. I’ll be publishing my deep thoughts, devotional material, and responses to prompts and photo challenges on this blog. In short, this will be my “God blog”, focused on Spreading the Word and writing about His Kingdom.

But never fear: I couldn’t stop writing about Skye and her Horde, so I hereby introduce Riding on Water, my horse blog. For my equestrian readers, pop on over there and hit the follow button – otherwise you won’t get my horse posts anymore. (I do apologise for this inconvenience; I meant to have one follow button for both blogs, but alas, my technical expertise didn’t stretch that far, despite my best efforts).

Joyful Jerseys is the link to the official website of my Jersey stud. There I will post news about the cows and also information on the Jersey breed.

My hope is that this will enhance your experience of Clothed With Thunder, my dear readers. The horse blog, especially, will be expanded, with more articles on riding and horses, and maybe even a guest blogger or two.

So there you have it. Hop on over to Riding on Water for the equine escapades – I’ll see you there.

*The second one, not the epic failure one, although that one did spark a few interesting comments.

Charging into the new year

Charging into the new year