If imitation is the highest form of flattery for the mimiced party then it must be the highest manifestation of admiration from the one enacting the reproduction. Of course, not every form of copying is praise for the original producer. Claiming the work of others as your own without due credit being given can oftentimes be an outright criminal act. But somewhere on the scale of orginality, there lies a space for one individual to come in and take the work of another and make it his or her own work (without incurring criminal charges, of course.) And that space, my friends, is commonly referred to as the cover song.

Cover songs illict a wide range of reactions that run the gamut from cringing to absolute joy. Some make you realize just how good the original song is (because the cover is just that bad) while others make you wish the original had never existed. Then there are some cover songs that just make you pause and think. And then think some more. About the differences, the similarities, and how if a different perspective can really change one song so much, then maybe, just maybe, a different perspective can change the world.

When my favorite band, Disturbed, dropped their new album recently, they covered one famous song by the favorite band of many of my friends–U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for.” Below you will find first the original then the cover for your listening pleasure. Take a good listen and see the different perspectives. Then maybe today you can go out and change the world.

“What we do to each other, we do to ourselves.” – Paula A. Franzese

My mind has been plagued by “What if?”s lately. What if this hadn’t happened? What if I had not said this? What if? What if? WHAT IF?

We are told to not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about it’s own things; sufficient for the day is its own troubles. We aren’t told anything about worrying about yesterday and wondering what things would be like if it had been different. But something about this thought process strikes me as wrong and flawed. There is something quite contrary to the notion that we are to always be in positive action that clashes with a mind caught in the past and what has happened.

There is also something that reeks of ingratitude about it. In the prayer of thanksgiving, we give thanks for every condition, in any condition, and concerning every condition. But a thought process devoted to wondering what if the past had been different does not give thanks for the past conditions. It is the very essence of ingratitude. It is defiantly telling God, “I may say I trust in Your will and that all that You do for me is done for the best, but I still think I could have worked it out better.”

This thought process also robs us of our ability to rejoice, and we are told to rejoice always. When caught in what has been and what could have been, there is no room left to rejoice in the present moment. There is no room to give thanks for now. There is no room to live.

There may not be an express warning about getting lost in the “What if?”s of yesterday (that I know of, if you have any please share) but the very thought process contradicts several of the commands we are given. I cannot submit my present will to Him if I cannot accept His past will for me. Time to leave “What if?” in the past.

I seem to have run into a small problem lately. Like the majority of girls and women out there, I have my arsenal of beauty products that I keep at the ready. Out of these products there are some that are used quite often and on a regular basis, like my facial lotion or my face wash. Within the past few months, I ventured out into the retail world at different times to restock on some of my basics, and each time I would come back empty-handed. The answer from the store clerk was the same each time I asked for something, “Sorry miss, it’s been discontinued.” I would go home, sorely disappointed and mourning the loss of my dependable product that has been a part of my life for a good amount of time.

I was telling a friend of my recent dilemma over lunch and she simply laughed out loud and said, “Your life has been discontinued.” I too had to laugh at that, because it was such an extreme statement. No, my life had not been discontinued, but calling the discontinuation of various products a “dilemma” was just as dramatic of a statement. My dilemma is no dilemma at all. I will simply find replacement products, which will most likely be even better than the ones I had been loyal to for so long.

And so the same can be said for all things in life. We have things that we deem to be essential and necessary to us and our lives and we are devastated when they’re taken away in one manner or another. We get angry and yell things out toward the heavens like “Why, oh God, why?” God must be punishing us for taking away the things we’ve deemed good. But that could not be farther from the truth.

When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done,” and we truly mean it, then we trust that all things done in our lives and all things that happen are done for goodness. God may take away something seemingly good to us and it may hurt and the loss may be hard but He is only making room for what is even better. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Among my friends, I am known for my lack of driving skills. It’s not a reputation I ever try to rebut. I admit it. I am not a good driver. But if there’s one thing I do right when I drive, it’s my obedience of traffic laws. I stop at all stop signs, I yield when I’m supposed and I always signal before I switch lanes. Except when I drive into the city where my law school is located. With a reputation for being a fairly dangerous and lawless city where the police have bigger fish to fry than those disobeying traffic laws, I find myself treating red lights as mere suggestions to stop. I go 55 miles-per-hour in a zone with 25 miles-per-hour speed limit. And I rarely ever signal.

The state of lawlessness around me makes it much easier for me to break laws I would never break otherwise. St. Paul honed in on this point in his epistle to the Romans when he wrote, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness…”

Lawlessness leads to more lawlessness. It’s much easier to cheat, lie, and steal when everyone else is cheating, lying, and stealing. And this is the problem that arises when we begin to set the bar for comparison at our surroundings. The world is full of lawlessness and if the world is the standard we aspire to reach then we set ourselves on a downward spiral. But we are called to perfection and holiness just as our Father in heaven is perfect and Holy. The bar must be set high so that we may continue to reach toward Him at all times.

My baby cousin Peter is someone we can all take a few lessons from. At a little over two years old, he’s got his priorities and values straight. Let me explain by giving you an example of a typical Peter-action.

This past Sunday he was at church with his parents and sister. After the liturgy was over, people mill around and greet each other outside the church. His father is carrying him, when a family friend approaches them. My uncle greets his friend and tells Peter to say hi to “amo”–one of the Arabic words for “uncle.” In Egyptian culture, every male adult that you know is referred to as “uncle” and every adult female is referred to as “aunt.” It’s a part of the respectful and familial nature of the culture.

Peter, being the ever quick little child, looks at the man and very promptly shouts, “Not Amo!!” and smacks the man across the cheek.

It was simple really, the truth as Peter understands it is that his actual uncle, my father, is the person that is referred to as “amo,” not the stranger his father presented to him. Too young to understand cultural connotations, he repelled what to his innocent and simple understanding was a complete lie and guarded the truth he knew with fervor.

I had to stop and wonder how things would be if we all defended the truth that we know within our hearts and spirits with such passion and conviction–if any challenge to our faith and beliefs was met with a metaphorical smack across the cheek. Then perhaps we could sing out with David the prophet and the king when he says: “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.”

Get to know me and you learn that I have much to say. It’s not so much that I talk a lot as it is that I talk densely. Whatever I say just happens to be expansive. (Ok, so maybe I talk a lot too.) But lately I find myself growing quieter and quieter by the day, and it’s not because I have less to say. In fact, my thoughts become more and more complicated by the day, but the desire and need to vocalize them is dissipating. Instead of wanting to project outward for the world to hear me, I’d rather project upward toward the heavens. Simply put, my spirit has grown quieter. St. Peter speaks of quietness of spirit in his first epistle:

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

It is in reading over those two verses that I can pinpoint what I often viewed as a strength but now appears to be more of a flaw–my ever moving mouth, spouting big words and theories of this and that was and is a mere outward adornment. “Here! Look at me! Look at what I know and what I’ve learned! Look at my big brain!” is really what my rambling mouth says to the world. My version of spending hours upon hours on my hair and makeup.

Where is the humility in that?

I worried when I found myself growing quieter thinking that perhaps I was losing my sharpness, but now I see it for what it is–pure grace from heaven.

I have heard the quote “You must be the change you want to see in the world” several times before without ever giving it much thought. It was just always one of those positive platitudes that were supposed to be inspiring, but nothing more. But the other day I was thinking about perspective and points of view when I found it unexpectedly crossing my mind.

Of course a world changing for the better would be ideal, but I am taken with something smaller at the moment. Simply the vision we have of others, or more aptly put, the vision we project onto others. If we take the premise of the quote–the vision of change will enact change–and apply it to the way we see others, then the way we see others is the way they will be. The next logical conclusion would be to interact with goodness and love from others we must see goodness and love in them. It is easy to see the faults and the flaws, even easier to exxagerate them to gross proportions, and easier still to concoct flaws that aren’t there at all in the name of wisdom and knowledge–false wisdom and false knowledge.

It is clearness of sight to see past all that and to see the goodness and beauty inside our fellow man. Perhaps then we can continue to mold and transform ourselves into the image of Christ when He said “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Seeing past the sin, the flaw, to the inner man, Christ came to gather us unto Him. If He afforded us with the benefit of the doubt that is the very least we can do to others.

I was called out on the one time I’ve used a swear word in years yesterday. It happened almost a year ago and a dear friend of mine pointed it out to me last night. I’d completely forgotten about it and when he refreshed my mind of the context “it didn’t seem so bad” for a second, and then I snapped myself out of it. Of course it’s bad! There is no justification for it.

I must admit, if I was one to blush, I would have been beet-red during the conversation. It’s embarrassing, to say the least, to have your mistakes pointed out to you so bluntly but also necessary. As I have learned, in the early days of the church confession was conducted in public. You were to stand up in front of the entire congregation and recite your sins. Of course it is no longer done like that but I had to stop and think about the benefits of public confession for a moment. You’d most certainly be far less inclined to commit the same sin again because you didn’t want to face the embarrassment of standing up and reciting it in front of your peers and loved ones. You’d also do your best to avoid doing anything that would be particularly embarrassing to admit to the world.

And so there I was, terribly ashamed while sitting there facing my shortcomings being read back to me by a peer, and my mind went reeling. If I can’t face my friend, how could I face my God? How could I possibly face the One who died on the cross for me and explain myself? Did it matter that I hadn’t uttered a swear word since or for a very long time beforehand? No it didn’t, because to be lulled so far deep into false security as to forget your falls and shortcomings is to make yourself a prime target for another attack and another fall.

Although I walked away embarrassed from that conversation, I also walked away ever grateful. The only way to overcome one’s demons is to look them in the face and acknowledge them for what they are.