Concerning Eddie Vedder

Did you know that you can be MySpace friends with Pearl Jam? Also Facebook, in case that's more your style.

I was privileged, nay, honored to see Pearl Jam in concert here in Va Beach on June 17. This was my first ever Pearl Jam viewing, and indeed I have not exactly followed them very much. The extent of my pre-concert hype was wondering whether they were going to perform "Last Kiss", the only Pearl Jam song that I can actually identify as theirs when I hear it.

Sad, I know.

But this has all changed! Well, not the part about my Pearl Jam knowledge. But while I remain sadly ignorant in the ways of their discography and repertoire, a new love has been born in my heart for the raw beauty of their talent.

And by that I mean that Eddie Vedder is my new Rock Star Crush.

My SIL, Becca, really knows what she's talking about when it comes to Rock Star Crushes. In her graciousness she has agreed to share Eddie with me - better than catfighting SILs, I have to say. She has also agreed (I think) to let me live, even though I was at the Pearl Jam concert a full three nights before she would see them in New Jersey. Funny story about that, actually:

So I got $5 lawn tickets (Yes, $5!) for the concert the day it was slated to take place. My dear friend Laurie called me up and said hey, wanna go see Pearl Jam? And I said, hecks yeah. And Joel said ooooh man Becca is gonna be so jealous! (We speak the King's English here in my circle of friends, y'all.)

And halfway through the first song I texted Becca something to the effect of, "You were so right, Eddie is amazing and I will fight you for him! XOXO".

Her response? "What are you talking about?"

Guess she missed the whole FIVE DOLLAR PEARL JAM TICKETS memo.

But once she arrived safely on the same page, she was thrilled for me and didn't act very hostile, which was surprising. But this was very much helped by the fact that she was planning to see them a few nights later with her hubby. Otherwise I believe she might have found a way to detonate my cell phone in my hand as I texted her.

Not that she is vindictive. Quite the opposite in fact, but when Rock Star Crushes are involved, crazier things have been known to happen.

Another humorous angle to the evening was that Laurie and I decided to take beach chairs and a blanket for our hot date on the lawn. We checked the Amphitheater website to ensure that these would be allowed, and sure enough they regularly permit low beach chairs and blankets to enter with lawn attendees.

We bee-bop right on up to the gate with our ticket (only to find that it wasn't actually a REAL ticket, we had to go to the box office and trade it in for a REAL ticket). And at least eight different employees, in separate incidents, tackled us to the ground and wrestled our chairs and blanket from us.

Apparently these are considered contraband when Pearl Jam is in town, yo.

One kind lady (Lindsay, I think?) took us under her wing and led us to the place where you check your contraband for the duration of the show. As we followed her, another eleventeen overzealous employees made for our lawn chairs, but she thankfully warded them off with a wave of her walkie and assured them that she was our Official Confiscator, not to worry.

In the end, it was a good thing Laurie and I thought to bring jackets for later in the evening. They served as perfectly individual-sized seat cushions. And it only smarted a little to see several people around us sitting on bedsheets that they apparently smuggled in beneath fat suits. And the beer washed easily out of my hoodie - not sure about Laurie's poor Harley Davidson jacket. (An unfortunate wild-concert-goer incident caused a large quantity of beer to splash upon us, wetting Laurie's hair and our jackets and small portions of my clothing. Gross.)(The wild concert-goer was not me.)

A fun time was had by all, and Eddie Vedder was Really Something. The man can Sing. He quickly entered Rock Star Crush territory in spite of his plaid lumberjack shirt. Becca, I am so glad that I have seen the light (or maybe that was his flowing mane?), and I appreciate your unselfish heart in sharing him with me.

No offense, Joel. You're still my Ultimate Normal Guy Crush. Love you!

On Cravings

I asked Joel and Brittany to give me a topic on which to blog, since it has been several days and I am not feeling quite motivated on any particular subject.

Brittany: Cravings!

Me: Cravings?

Brittany: Yeah, cravings!

Me: I don't have anything to say about cravings.

Brittany: A good writer can write about anything!

Me: Cravings, they are wonderful. Give in to them.

Brittany: What causes cravings, miss psychologist? Should you give in to them?

Me: Well, it depends on the craving.

Brittany: See?? You're running with it already!

I much prefer Joel's advice: Don't push it. Don't blog just to blog if you haven't posted in awhile.

But here it is anyway. Perhaps I had a craving for a new blog post?

P.S. regarding cravings: Always give in if they involve chocolate. Never give in if they involve an urge to punch someone in the face. wisdom, it is extensive and valuable.

Incidentally, the psychologist in me wonders why Brittany suggested cravings. What are you craving, sister of mine, that you would suggest this as a blog topic? This indicates a deep and profound lack of something in your life. Do you feel unloved? Without purpose? What is it that you think you need? With what craving are you struggling? Are you sufficiently embarrassed at being psychoanalyzed on the interweb?

Dealing with Depression?

Something I wrote for my hermeneutics class and thought I'd pass along...

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is within me – a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Theme: A thirst for God, a longing after Him in the midst of melancholy and depression
Author: Most likely David
Background: David had been driven from the sanctuary of the Lord and prevented from waiting upon Him in public religious services, possibly because of Saul’s persecution or Absalom’s rebellion.

To Think About:
Is it okay for me to be honest with God about the way I feel? David pours out his feelings in this psalm of great anguish. He is open and broken before the Lord, confessing his melancholy and depression. He even questions why the Lord has forgotten Him! How often are you tempted to do this in the midst of your depression? It is not wrong to question God’s purposes, if the response that follows is one of faith and trust that He remains sovereign.
Does my depression mean that I lack faith, or that I don’t love the Lord enough? It is easy to travel down this road of doubt, particularly in the midst of emotional struggles. Many times, well-meaning Christians tell depressed believers that they would not be depressed if they had enough faith in God. However, be comforted by the knowledge that if God has wrought in you a sincere and earnest desire toward him, then longing after Him in dark times is as sure a sign that you love Him as is your delight during joyful times. If your soul is panting for Him and wishing to be in His presence again, be assured that your faith is intact. Throughout the psalms we watch the psalmist experience a wide variety of feelings and struggles, and we can follow his example of trusting God in the midst of suffering.
Where is my God? The psalmist is tormented by the words of other men, who view his distress as evidence that God has forsaken him. Yet the psalmist goes on to place his hope in the Lord and praise him in the midst of suffering. Your God is with you, even when it does not “feel” true. Turn to other Scriptures that provide assurance of God’s promises, such as Psalm 18, Psalm 40, Romans 8:28. God is with you, and has already rescued you from death!
How can I get out from under these feelings of depression? When we are depressed, we often find negative thoughts washing over us, one after another, like the waves and breakers mentioned by the psalmist. How does he counteract this? By repeating a refrain of faith: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” The psalmist knows that if he rehearses the promises of God and repeats words of faith, eventually they will stick and take root, and turn the tide of his depression. The light of morning always follows the darkness of night!

To Remember:
Observe and follow the psalmist’s example as you struggle with emotional pain. He lays himself bare before the Lord, pouring out his anguish and even his questions regarding the Lord’s purposes. Yet he reminds himself to put his trust in the Lord, and recalls that God is his Rock and Savior. We know from the tone of the psalm that he is in the midst of great melancholy, yet he intentionally puts into words the truths of God. Even when you do not feel like being joyful or praising God, even when His presence seems a distant memory, repeat to yourself statements of trust and remind yourself of His promises. Battle your negative thoughts by turning to positive declarations of truth. You might not feel that they are true at first, but praise God that our faith is one based on fact rather than on feelings! The facts of Christ’s salvation and of God’s promises remain true regardless of where our emotions run. Cling to what is true and your heart will eventually follow. You might not be able to calm this storm, but you know the One who can.

Perfector or Perfection?

The Lord is really peppering my life with words of wisdom lately, particularly in the area of overcoming sin. I shared the other day about the concept of watching your sin bow down to Christ, Who is Lord over both your life and your sin. Today, I came across these words on a blog that I frequent:

And, it makes me wonder if sometimes I seek perfection rather than the Perfector if that makes any sense. I long to be perfect, flawless, selfless, and pure, but if my desire is perfection, and not the One perfecting me than I am completely missing the point.
Father, you know my heart. Be my sole desire, Lord.


This little paragraph stopped me cold. What an excellent point she makes by highlighting the difference between seeking perfection and seeking the Perfector. Too often I get caught up in the me vs. sin tug o' war, and when that happens it is all too easy to view my sin as all too powerful, to develop tunnel vision and see only my sin determined to take me down. So, in addition to acknowledging my need for Christ in those moments and picturing my sin bowing down to Him, I should also shift my gaze from my sin to His glorious face. That sounds obvious, but what a necessary and beautiful part of the victory process!

If my sin is a dead skunk, to which I return over and again to pick at its decaying flesh (tantalizing metaphor compliments of a seminar my husband and I attended at church), then Christ is the turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes, the meatloaf with brown sugar sauce, the fettuccine alfredo. He is the BROWNIE EARTHQUAKE SUNDAE to my sin's stinking carrion!!! Let's hear it for Jesus, the most delectable feast of which we will ever partake. Would you sell all that you have to purchase a rusty trinket, or to obtain a flawless pearl?

Remember in your temptation to step back and view your sin alongside Christ. Not only can you visualize how much more appealing and satisfying the Lord is, but you could imagine some serious Mortal Kombat action as well. Nothing quite like watching your sin die a gloriously operatic and faintly ridiculous death, eh?

Pray that the Lord will increase your desire for Him. He is faithful to answer those prayers, as I have seen in my life and in the lives of those around me. Pray that God will give you hatred for your sin, and He will share His feelings of wrath and disgust for those things. Pray that He will show you how much more attractive He is than your sin, and He will show your sin in its true light of being ugly, weak, and somewhat comical in its attempt to trap you. Nothing to help you overcome sin like being able to laugh at the very idea that it desires to have you - silly, pitiful little sin!

The power of visual imagery, it is shocking.

I fear that this post has become a somewhat rambling conglomeration of my recent thoughts on sin, but there they are. Seek the Perfector over and above perfection, and He will wash you whiter than snow.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

Can You Spell Catastrophe?

Oh no.

This is terrible.

And yet wonderful.

You know how I'm slightly addicted to Dicewars?

Welcome to Dicewars 2.0, the online multiplayer version of your (my) favorite game.

Dissertation = never gonna happen now.

Is He Really Lord?

I heard some words today that may not be incredibly novel or profound, but they nonetheless gave me a whole new way to frame my struggles with sin.

Do you have some particularly nagging, bothersome sin that just won't go away? One that you perhaps even secretly enjoy indulging, even though you know you'll live to regret and repent? I have to confess that I do not truly hate my flesh wars constantly with my spirit (or rather, with the Holy Spirit living within me), to the extent that at times it just wears on me and I wonder whether I'm really cut out for this whole Christian thing.

The lies that the evil one hisses, they are destructive.

So anyway, there's this tug of war going on between my sinful nature and the new nature that has been reborn in Christ. At least for me there is. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to get the sinful nature to just DIE. The Scriptures tell us to put to death what is earthly in us (Colossians 3:5), but just how do we do this? How, practically, can I deny what comes naturally to my sinful heart?

Today I heard these simple words (or something like them): Who is Lord of your life? Is Jesus greater than your sin? Then will He bow to your sinful desires, or will they bow to Him?

Wow...when I conceptualized my sin in these terms, I suddenly felt empowered to kick them all right in the hiney! I often think of my sin as this hugely powerful thing, something I will be struggling with for years to come...but just visualizing Jesus as reigning supreme over my life, including my sin, helped me to realize the simple truth that he is Lord over my sin. Duh, right?

I am slow, I know.

But the next time I am faced with a really hideous impulse to, like, sin or something, I will dive into Christ's promises and exalt Him as Lord over my life and over my sinful nature. It is not I who have the power to choose between sin and righteousness, but it is I who have the privilege of humbling myself in the face of sin to acknowledge His lordship over it (and me!). Sin no longer has power over me if it is subject to the authority of Christ. If I picture my sin literally bowing before Him, then how can I engage in it? Not that this is a shortcut to total sanctification, but I think it has the potential to be a huge weapon in my spiritual arsenal.

So that's what they meant by the whole "free from the bondage of sin" thing.

Just thought I'd share.

Lessons Learned From...Computer Games?

Some of the most profound things I've learned have come from the seeming inanity of my beloved computer games.

Don't believe me?

Take online Jigsaw Puzzles for example. (You should complete a few before you continue...not only will it help you understand my world a bit better, but the illustration will make so much more sense.)

As I completed puzzle after stimulating puzzle a few months ago (my computer game habits come in waves), I noticed an interesting phenomenon. As I dragged a piece around a partially-completed puzzle in search of its home, it became apparent that as it drew near to its intended location, the edges became less distinct and the colors and patterns blended perfectly with its surroundings.

Lesson #1: When you are where you are supposed to be, you disappear and allow the big picture to become the focus. When your colors and patterns (say, gifts and talents) line up with your location, you often lose yourself in the larger goal.

Take the Christian, for example. We read that "He must become greater, I must become less" (John 3:30). The analogy holds up: better for me to be almost indistinguishable, but rather a piece of something that conveys the image of Christ. As I join hands with my brothers and sisters in Christ, my edges should blend away and I ought to merge seamlessly into the body so that others see not me, but a piece of Christ. As Christ becomes greater in my life, so my flesh, my desires, my will submit to His until I am but a window into His greatness.

Seriously, do a puzzle, you'll see what I mean. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a piece snap into place and disappear!

Ok, lesson #2: Appropriate vulnerability leads to true strength.

Travel with me to a different game this time. In Dicewars, the goal is to take over the map by winning dice rolls against your opponents. Kind of like Risk, only with much less thought involved. A strategy I've learned throughout my months playing (this game defies the typical wave pattern and is more of a long-term addiction) is that sometimes you have to let the enemy break through your defenses so that you can ultimately punch back through and defeat him. Drawing him out with some weaker territories will spread him too thin to be able to defend against your next attack.

The point? There is benefit to showing weakness. Not to say necessarily that your displays of weakness should be a stepping stone to world domination. But there are times when our ultimate well-being depends on allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. By allowing ourselves to be penetrated past our weak defenses and into our very core, we allow ourselves to be changed, cultivated, and finally grown stronger. Whether it is a word of loving truth, a difficult piece of criticism, or the very Word of God which is sharper than a double-edged sword and penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12), when we are pierced by something or someone truly worthwhile, we often find that it is a blessing rather than a wound, bringing healing rather than injury.

And as a psychologist, I have to add that it is when we allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable before others that we are able to build the strongest relationships with them and, indeed, know ourselves the best. This is true particularly in our relationship with is in true humility, laying ourselves bare before His penetrating Word, that we learn the most of His grace and rise up strengthened in His love - and having a right view of ourselves as favored sinners.

See how much you can learn from the right computer games?

And you thought I was just wasting time...

Excuses, Excuses

So my blogging seems to be slowing down a bit. I attribute that to the heat - everything slows down when it gets above 90, right? And also to the crazyness that is summer semester. I have two five-week classes, which means that I am spending 13 hours a week in class as opposed to about half that many during a regular semester. I am also continuing to see clients at my practica site (sort of...when they show up...see my post about respecting your therapist from back in April). Plus starting to study for comps, and working on my dissertation when I have time. And planning music for the summer, as well as attending physical therapy twice a week for the next several weeks (see my post about my back pain, and how I procrastinate). In short, the things to do, they are plentiful. And here I am having not posted for almost a week. I figured it was the least I could do to throw a few words up here for those of you who remain interested and let you know that I am, in fact, still toiling upon the face of the earth and have not, as it might seem, fallen off of it.

Thank you, please return to whatever more interesting things you were doing a moment ago.

Sometimes There's Nothing Like a Good Psalm

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
They are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgressions.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, O Lord,
my Rock and my Redeemer.
~Psalm 19

When I read a psalm - I mean really read one - I am always struck by (at least) three things. The psalmist's honesty, the psalmist's humility, and the psalmist's unswerving focus on the greatness and glory of the Lord.

The psalmist is so open about his sin...He prays in this psalm for the Lord to forgive him his hidden faults. How often do I assume, when I cannot see my own fault, that it does not exist? Clearly if my wrongdoing is not obvious to my own eye, then I am blameless. How arrogant of me, and what a blatant oversight of the most pervasive of my sins - pride. But here David prays for forgiveness of his hidden faults, and he later expresses the desire for his words and meditations to be pleasing in the Lord's sight. I don't think my words are nearly pleasing enough to the Lord, let alone my thoughts! Oh for the day when sin not only disappears from my actions, but also vanishes from my very mind! How honest David is in confessing that his heart is frequently I like to assume that my intentions are pure, that my motives are unblemished. Oh Lord, lay my heart bare..."search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139).

The psalmist has great humility. His words are characterized by such an accurate view of both himself and the Lord, which defines true humility. To see oneself as tiny and insignificant, unworthy of the attention, let alone the love of a mighty God. "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8). He maintains a right view of his sin as well: Psalm 69 begins with a cry for help to the Lord to save him from enemies who seek to harm him without cause, and then the very next verse says "You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you" (verse 5). David knows that the Lord sees his inmost heart. Even as David faces seemingly unwarranted persecution and attack, he prays that the Lord will forgive him and that he will not cause other believers to stumble because of his own folly. Oh Lord, when I am feeling self-righteous, help me to remember that I am only a sinner saved by grace; "may those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me" (Psalm 69).

The psalmist is constantly focused on the greatness and glory of the Lord. In Psalm 19 he extols God's law, His precepts, His commands, and declares that they are radiant, giving light, pure, more precious than much pure gold. What beauty he finds in the Word of the Lord! And the language that he uses to describe natural revelation: the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands; they pour forth speech and are heard in every tongue. Listen also to the words of other psalms as the writer exhorts all of creation to shout to the Lord, to sing a new song, to be thankful for His great blessings and mighty deeds (Psalm 75, 81, 89, 96, 98, etc.). Oh Lord, help me to focus my heart on You, help me to ponder first the magnitude of who You are before I allow my "little kingdom" concerns to overwhelm my thoughts.

Whenever you feel swallowed up in your own "little kingdom", as though the walls are crashing down around you, or just as though you don't a psalm. Be reminded of God's greatness and, yes, your own smallness. Be reminded of how little you ought to matter, and of how high and how wide are His love for you. Be reminded of His justice and wrath, and of the mercy and grace He shows when He rescues us. Be reminded of all these things, and be refreshed, restored...hope in Him and renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31).

By the way, the word psalm becomes weirder and weirder the more you look at it.