What’s in your head?

What goes in forms what comes out.

There’s a ton of scientific research that documents the drastic impact the things we witness, watch, and listen to have in altering our brain chemistry.

And like rivers eroding earth over time, when brain chemistry is altered, it can and does change the landscape of the brain itself, either through the effects of a steady stream or a flash-flood.

Yet it seems despite the avalanche of evidence supporting this conclusion, most of us live our lives as if this weren’t the case.  Our popular culture is oversaturated with sex, violence, finger-pointing, and conspiracy theories, and nearly all of us likewise are following along in lock-step with these themes in our personal lives.

I’m 31, and even within my short lifetime I’ve seen a palpable change in the levels of sex, violence and vulgarity that are tolerated on radio, TV, and movies.  Pornography and commodification of sex has moved far beyond acceptability into the realm of expectability with increasingly younger generations.

But there are plenty of negative testaments to these facts floating about.  Far from a prudish rant, I want to share some of the positive influences that can come from what we allow ourselves to take into our heads.

This actually counts as somewhat of an epiphany for me because it was unexpected.

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I have liked music since I was young but had never listened to pop music regularly until I was around 12 or 13.  Being the socially awkard teenager I was, I constantly found myself not able to carry conversations with many of my peers about music because I had no idea who or what they were talking about.

Easy solution: become familiar with who my friends were listening to in order to relate.  Having grown up hearing my brother listen to U2 and Van Halen, Rock / Alternative / Grunge was an easy thing for me to like, and as fate would have it I found myself coming of age in 1995, with Nirvana still dominating the airwaves post Kurt Cobain’s death and Sound Garden, Pearl Jam (ugh), and other lesser-known bands filling a transitional period in Rock music.

As a Christian, I learned there were two Christian groups that were having some mainstream success in ’95, Jars of Clay and dc Talk.  So I listened out of curiousity and found I really liked them both.  If this had happened at any period prior to 1995, I probably would have been out of luck (sorry, pre-95 Christian artists…) because, well, Christian pop music just wasn’t very good.  But things started to change in 1995, and I’ve been around for the growth since then.

At age 19, I began to play guitar in my church worship band and have been involved in worship music nearly non-stop to this day.  Consequently my head is filled with worship music (good and bad) and contemporary Christian pop music (good and bad).

Through it all, Jars of Clay has remained my favorite artist across genres, even while they have ventured more into the “alternative” realm over the last decade and are less into Christian mainstream “pop.”

In recently reflecting on my journey with God and finding myself dumbfounded by the fact that I seem incapable of willfully living a kind of lifestyle that I know God doesn’t approve of (or, at least, incapable of living it without seriously suffering from massive guilt and conviction while in the midst of it, to the point that I get out of it), for some reason the words to my favorite Jars of Clay song came to mind.  They are words that I’ve sang out loud and in my head literally hundreds of times, and words that I have directed to God for myself.

Prayers.

And it hit me as I listened again to that song (and then to one of my other favorite Jars songs) that God honored those prayers for me, even when I didn’t fully realize I was praying.  What was in my head transformed me.  In this regard, for the good.  God answered the prayers (sometimes painfully), and my expectations of Him were changed.

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“Worlds Apart”

I am the only one to blame for this; somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride, I flew too high, and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love, to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans, more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice?
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow?

Take my world apart
I am on my knees
Take my world apart
broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe in are worlds apart
And I pray

Take my world apart
I am on my knees
Take my world apart
Broken on my knees

I look beyond the empty cross forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains, and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now, I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain, and wash my feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak, and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears, my sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world apart; take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise, speak the words I can’t deny
watch the world I used to love fall to dust and blow away
I look beyond the empty cross forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain, take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide, take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray, take my world apart
Worlds apart.

Teh

“The Eleventh Hour”

Trace the shape of my heart, till it becomes more familiar to your eyes.
I’ve been lost without you, cold without your love.
It’s taken days and nights to make me realize.

Rescue me from waiting on this line.
I won’t give up on giving you a chance to blow my mind.
Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by.
I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

Take the place of my heart, till I become a stranger to my life.
I’ve been down without you, wrong without your love.
In time will I be what you’re thinking of?

Rescue me from waiting on this line.
I won’t give up on giving you a chance to blow my mind.
Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by.
I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

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