Rich and Free

A friend recently directed me to a website that blew my mind a little bit.  Basically, certain library systems subscribe, and people who have a library card under one of those systems can log on and download music for free.  They’ve got everything from AR Rahman to Ke$ha to Billie Holiday.  And it’s free!

You get three free downloads a week, and as far as I can see, you get to keep the songs.  The whole time I was browsing the site, I was just in disbelief.  I gasped each time I saw an elusive artist or a song that I had wanted to buy for months.  (I am not a huge fan of spending money.  I still haven’t bought the album that Owl City released last June because I was worried that he would release a deluxe edition as soon as I bought the regular one.)  I’m still kind of expecting that when I log on to iTunes, it will tell me that my rental has expired and I need to give my song back.

Basically, it completely made my night to learn that I could have access to all of this music for completely free.  Then I remembered something else.

The campus ministry I’m in regularly has pizza lunches in the eating area of our student union.  We buy a bunch of boxes of pizza and welcome anyone to eat with us for free.  “The pizza is free because God’s grace is free!” my campus minister often says.

God’s grace is free for me because Jesus paid for my sins.

It’s something that I’ve heard over and over again, growing up in the church, and that I don’t appreciate nearly enough.  It’s a little bit ridiculous that I can get so incredibly excited about getting some free music and just accept getting eternal life as the regular.  I’m grateful, though, for the way that God uses little things like this to remind me.  So now, I turn to His Word, specifically Ephesians 2:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Sometimes it takes a little music site to remind me of what’s really important.  The Ephesians passage tells a true story- it really points out what we were, what God was and is, and what we can become through Him.  And while my iPod will pass away, and I’ll probably eventually forget some of the words to the long-treasured song, the love and grace of Jesus will last forever.  And that is pretty amazing.

Also, because I feel the need to sing about everything, all of this brought to mind the hymn “The Love of Christ is Rich and Free.”  =)  It’s little lessons like this that remind me to not get swept up in just the music, but to actually reflect on what I’m singing and to truly understand the words in this song and in the Bible passage above.

The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.

His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.

Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.

He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.

Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.

Which never could from them remove.

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Before They’re Gone

Around the time I discovered Relient K and sang “Pink Tux to the Prom” incessantly with my best friend and her brother, I bought an album, The Beautiful Letdown, by a band called Switchfoot.  The album is fantastic, and in an age of downloading singles, it’s one of those albums that I love listening to straight through.  Its song “Redemption” is one of my all-time most favorite songs.  Anyway, another one of the songs is called “Gone” and makes some pretty poignant points.

She said, he said, live like no tomorrow

Everyday we borrow brings us

One step closer to the edge. Infinity.

Where’s your treasure, where’s your hope, 

If you get the world and lose your soul?

She pretends like she pretends like

she’s immortal.

Don’t say so long, and throw yourself wrong

This could be your big chance to make-up

Today will soon be

Gone, like yesterday is gone

Like history is gone

The world keeps spinning on

You’re going, going,

Gone, like summer break is gone,

Like Saturday is gone

Just try and prove me wrong and

pretend like you’re immortal.

… Life is a day that doesn’t last for long.

There are a lot of things that I could say about this song, but I chose to include it today because it connects well with something that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I get ready to start my last-ever semester of college.  Change.  And what that implies for the people who are in my life for whatever length of time.

When I look at mental (and physical) images of freshman year, and compare them with images of senior year, I can’t help but notice that some things are missing.  Two of my dearest friends from school graduated in December.  Another friend passed away last June.  Thinking enough about losing the others in the freshman crew easily sets me off into tears.  I’ve been incredibly blessed to be around such amazing people, but thinking of how relationships change reminded me that when we’re told “there is a time for everything,” we need to remember that our time with people is limited, too.

I’ve mentioned before, I believe in my very first post, that exchanges of any length can be opportunities to show Christ’s love.  For example, I try not to glare at other drivers while I’m on the road- you never know what kind of day they’re having, or what role they might play in your life later, etc.

In case you were getting the idea that I’m this wonderful little person who trots around sharing joy and love with every single person she sees, let me quickly tell you that this is not true.  Sometimes one’s facial muscles react before the brain, as one’s tongue often has a habit of doing.  Sometimes- often- I sit there and think “I should really go say hi to so-n-so and see how they’re doing.  But, but- oh, I should really do it”‘ and then the window of opportunity closes.  It’s something that I’m praying about and working on, and not only in brief exchanges.  Even the people who it seems like will be around me forever, like my family and my best friends of a decade or so, should not be taken for granted, not only in the sense that I should be grateful for them, but I should be grateful for opportunities to serve and love them, too.

I’m praying that God opens my eyes to all of those around me, and gives me the courage to love them as He would.  Not many things are forever.

Right Here, Right Now

I’m not going to sit here and lie about it- I love High School Musical.  I have all three movies and saw the only one to come out in theaters on opening day.  It’s a well circulated story that the two other college freshmen who accompanied did so to watch me watch the movie and were not disappointed.  Now that I’m a senior in college, I’m falling in love with HSM3 all over again: Troy and Gabriella are moving through their senior year and trying to figure out the future, and I’m doing the same, just four years ahead.

Unfortunately, “thinking about the future” often just translates to “sitting and worrying.”  The HSM soundtrack conveys this well, with plenty of heartfelt songs about indecision, conflicting opinions, and fears, but it also slows down for a song called “Right Here, Right Now.”

Oh we know it’s coming, and it’s coming fast

So let’s make each second last, make it last

Right here, right now

I’m looking at you and my heart loves the view, ’cause you mean everything

Right here, I promise you somehow

That tomorrow can for wait for some other day to be

‘Cause right now there’s you and me

T & G are singing about each other here, but in looking at the lyrics, I’m reminded of my relationship with God and certain Psalms.  One of my favorite passages from the Psalms comes from the 73rd and says

“Yet I am always with You,

You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel,

and afterward You will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

My heart and my flesh may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.”

And later in the New Testament, we’re told to make the most of every opportunity but to not worry about tomorrow (each day has enough worries of its own).

The idea here isn’t to stop what I’m doing and hope the future won’t come as quickly because I’m singing about my feelings.  It’s to be more aware of what I’m doing in this moment and how I can serve and love God and others in this moment.  In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis mentions how people often get so caught up in fears about hypothetically doing something wrong in the future that they forget that their sitting and worrying about it right now is doing something wrong in the present!

Planning is important, but let’s be honest- at this point, I’m just stopping and thinking “I’ve done everything I can to be prepared for X and I just can’t handle sitting and waiting!  God, what if Y happens?  Or what if Q happens?!  I hadn’t thought of Q  before!!!” (where Q is some far-off possibility about which I can do nothing right now)

Right here, right now.  Am I fearing, doubting, and forgetting to cast my cares on God?  Or am I learning to wait in peace, to yield control to God, and to truly rest in and trust Him?  I’m praying that I’ll do much more of the second than the first, even during trying times.

The New Year, or Just Another Night?

Today’s post title comes from a rather sad but thoughtful song by the band Switchfoot (it brings to mind a lot of passages from Ecclesiastes and Psalms).  These lyrics tie in well with my normal perspective on resolution-making.  I try not to wait until the new year to make changes, but realized that it’s prideful of me to purposefully avoid resolving to do anything just because everyone else is doing it.  I definitely get more contemplative and self-reflective around this time, so I thought I’d go ahead and make some resolutions, too.  Here’s a few:

1.) Be more serious about my devotional time.  I feel like this is the Christian version of “exercise more.”  We all say it and it’s just a matter of actually doing it and continuing to do it.

2.) Write my Compassion child more often.  To learn more about Compassion International and how you can sponsor a child, click here.  I’m so blessed to partake in Compassion sponsorship and adore my little girl.

3.) Be more aware of my surroundings.  I got a lot better at this when I moved to a city with regular crime alerts (they’re less frequent now), but this time I mean to be more aware of the people around me and how I can serve them.

All of my resolutions are made with my true purpose in mind.  I’m here to love God and serve Him.  One Bible passage that especially motivates me comes from Ephesians 5: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  I also frequently turn to Romans 12.

I encourage you to share your resolutions as well and to continue to share them with others as new ones comes to mind over the year.  There’s a reason that we’re all parts of the body of Christ- to hold one another accountable and encourage each other as we go down a difficult road.  May God bless your new year!