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.

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.

When faced with a hard decision, we all have our own ways of making the judgment call. Some make lists of pros and cons, others seek the advice of those they trust, others just flip a coin. But what about when the decision is something bigger than which school to go to, which car to buy, which job to take. All seemingly very imposing, life-altering decisions, but what about those bigger decisions? Those life or death decisions we all make on a daily basis. Don’t think you’re faced with life or death decisions on a daily basis? Well think again; you are. Your life constantly hangs in the air based on which way you decide to go.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

The question often presents itself: Which way do I want go? Do I do the right thing or let it go this one time? And what happens when I let it go that one time? Will I let it go again? Will one lie lead to another? Will one angry comment produce rampant hatred?

We are given the answer… when we follow the path sin, we are led to death. Sin is a slippery slope where the decision to sin just once will numb the conscience just a bit so it’s easier to make the decision to sin the next time we are presented with it. Lie once, then lie again, then find yourself unable to tell the truth, and you have arrived at death’s door.

When conceptualized in this manner, sin and decision-making can be overwhelming and that’s why it must be broken down moment by moment. Every time we face a sin, we must face as if we were facing it for the first time. Each “no” must be emphatic and strong because every time we decide to sin we decide to die. Every time we resist sin, we choose to live. It is that simple and clear-cut.

My Dear Reader,

It has been a while. But the flow of writing has an peaks and troughs just like any wave would, so I will be back with plenty eventually. And that this is how C.S. Lewis describes our spirituality. He likens it to a sine wave. There are times when we are wholly and entirely motivated and our connection with God comes with ease. Then there are the times when it is a struggle just to crack open the Bible or say the Lord’s Prayer with real zeal and meaning. Danger lies in any complacency we may develop during the spiritual lull. So the key to emerging from the depths lies in the recognition of the trough. Only then can we begin to reach upward and begin the ascent to the peak.

With that said, expect more to be written soon.

With Love,

M.A.R.

While having a miniature quarter-life crisis the other day (not to be confused with an actual real life crisis with real life implications but more of a crisis of thought) I stopped myself for a minute and very bluntly asked myself the question, “What is it that you want exactly?” Although it may seem like a question that would open up a thought-filled can of worms, it actually brought everything and all the racing thoughts to a swift stop.

What do you want? What’s your heart’s deepest desire? Where do you wish to be?

We can learn much about ourselves simply by asking, “What do I want? What is it that I treasure?”

Because to pinpoint what one treasures will lead the individual to find his or her heart. You’ll be surprised where you find your heart abiding.

Do I treasure success? Possessions? My family? My significant other? My friends?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s essential to treasure the people in your life, but if the first answer that comes to mind when asking yourself “What do I treasure?” isn’t “God” then it might be time to take a step back and evaluate things.

To treasure God above all else is the only path to joy and gladness of heart and prosperity in life. And the beautiful thing about placing God in the number one spot so-to-speak is that it rests in our hands. WE can choose to place him there. WE can choose to make Him the one we treasure most.

In other words, we are the ones who can shape our lives by placing Him at the very center of our hearts and surrendering our will up to Him. Once He becomes our treasure, our lives overflow with treasures heavenly and earthly in nature. Figure out what or who you treasure and you will find out exactly what you have been shaping your life to become and most likely you may just be able to see a clear vision of your future.

“Above all else, guard your heart,  for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

What enters the heart will run and rule your life. What emerges from it will affect the lives of others. Choose those you let into your heart wisely. Give love from it freely and without restraint.

“…humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because ‘being in love’ does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the first place, humans who do not have the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love,’ and thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion. (Don’t neglect to make your man think the marriage-service very offensive.) In the second place any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends marriage, will be regarded as ‘love’, and ‘love’ will be held to excuse a man from all the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool, or a wanton…”

From The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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Being young and having little experience in the world, I personally cannot say very much about marriage and the love between a married couple but I found this excerpt by C.S. Lewis to be interesting and tought-provoking. I think Lewis encourages his reader to seek out the substance and the heart of a person as opposed to the feelings the person invokes. The inability to connect with the substance of man or a woman is one thing, waiting for the one to give you butterflies in your stomach is another. Lewis would most likely tell you to forget the butterflies; afer all, they only have a lifespan of a week.

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.

Recently, I began reading C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters. The book is written in the format of a series of letters from a senior demon to a junior demon in training who is still learning about the various ways to make man fall and stumble into sin till so he ultimately loses his soul. So far, I’m enjoying it. As with the few other works by Lewis that I’ve read, I find myself appreciating the manner in which he gives his readers a new take on the things that seem so familiar.

I’ll stop writing here about the quality of his work and get to the substance. One short excerpt from the The Screwtape Letters has been bouncing around in my head since I read it and it’s worth sharing. Screwtape, the senior demon writing these instructional letters, speaks of God’s desires for man in the following terms: “He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

When I read that sentence, I had to pause for a second and think about the magnitude of what it was saying. Yes, the words seem quite plain on their face but they actually resonate with the weight of the Bible behind them. The weight of the word of God  is contained in that short sentence. What is the Bible other than the the living Word that explains to us how to live our lives, how we can be holy just as our God in heaven is holy, how we can be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect.

And how is this holiness and perfection attained but by following His commands. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Give to him who asks of you.” “Judge not, so you shall not be judged.” “Pray for those who hate you.” “Ask and you shall receive.” They go on and on and give much comfort to the aching soul because they reveal the beauty of the God who uttered these commandments of love and compassion.

Yet, this short excerpt mirrors and goes to the heart of one particular verse in the Bible: “You shall know them by their fruits.” It is our actions that reveal who we are. What we do at a given moment, what we say, the looks we give, what we leave behind. It is never the things that happen to us that are remembered by others, but how we react to those things that is not forgotten. Lewis is right. We spend much time anticipating the future, all the could be’s, should be’s, and maybes and not enough time acting in the present.

The future will come; you can trust me on that one. But what will matter is not what it brings, but how we act in the face of what it brings.