change

Residents of Westernised regions of the world live in a product-driven society – a socio-cultural value paradigm that can now be found almost anywhere on the planet. This is something which regular (or previous, or both) readers of this blog will now recognise is one of my major hobby-horses – the relationship and the trade between process and product. And I have constructed frameworks for thought on this trade in both musical and theological directions. Even recently, I have been participating in facebook exchanges about the fact that the internationally renowned gospel group Take 6 is going to experience only its second change of first-choice personnel in thirty years. It has reminded me that many gospel listeners – and musicians – have never understood and will never truly understand how Take 6 became literal world-beaters. The reason has less to do with TALENT and everything to do with APPLICATION. In other words – they focussed on the PROCESS – and then the PRODUCT came as a result.

It’s interesting that this post has drifted that way, because I write this morning on a day I’m about to take my second gospel choral rehearsal with a bunch of degree-level acting students at one of the best drama training institutions in the UK. I will admit this morning that I am almost certainly the most frustrated professional gospel choral director in the UK that I know – because I no longer have a choir to work with that gives me the means to work at anything close to my best standard of work – and directing gospel music is one of the purest ways I have to offer praise to God. But this morning, I am grateful that where ‘singers’ have not come through, actors have given me a chance to experience praise today. In our first rehearsal, they handled the rehearsal PROCESS better than anyone has managed since I put down the reins of my last serious gospel choir, and that process is SO important. So I look forward to the next few weeks with them. Please pray for us, y’all who know how to pray!

So here is my question – if I didn’t have this rehearsal to look forward to, would this still be a joyful day? Would there still be a reason to praise God?

Today I want to make a change in my life and encourage you to do the same if you need to do this. I am forced to admit that although my MIND recognises that God is worthy of praise regardless of circumstances, my HEART still finds it easier to praise God for what He DOES rather than who He IS! And while countless preachers, teachers and writers have identified this as a principle, very few ministry practitioners I have encountered have given anything like adequate guidance on HOW one actually achieves this. I make no claims to be able to do better at this time of writing, but I can promise that this is something which I am exploring in my own spiritual life and which I will be teaching and preaching about before too much longer. 

But I know that I have found it hard to be honest with God about my feelings when I have had no gospel choir to rehearse. And so one of the things that I have done is lapse into my junk food addiction rather than get angry with God. You see, when you grow up in a house surrounded by conservative Adventist theology, you learn the right ‘answers’ before you know what makes them right – and before you have experienced God enough on your own terms to know and understand why Christian theology includes certain statements and positions. So I know that ‘there is no disappointment with God’ – but what do I do when I know that God knows best, but I don’t know why so often He seems to work in my life in such a way that seems designed to confuse me more than help me? This is when sometimes secular people have been more useful to me than even church folk whom I have found do a wonderful line in useless platitudes. I have to avoid church folk because they are so good at making me angry! And before any quick-thinking soul attempts to try the line of “you dislike them because you see yourself in them’ – no, this time that one’s not going to work and by jove I can prove it too. Just try me.

So when I discovered the quote below on a self-help website on food addictions, it was like being whacked over the head by God HIMSELF – but this was not a ministry website – and there was no ostensible Christian vibe being radiated by the author – but this is what she said:

“I used to tell myself that “tomorrow I’d change” but tomorrow never came because today IS the tomorrow you told yourself yesterday would be different.”

Here’s where I am going with this today – if we make the business of becoming more spiritual a PRODUCT rather than a PPROCESS, then failure is guaranteed. 

For a long time I have tried to live one day at a time – but in fact,  I have learned how to excel at living in the past and in the future while trying to shoehorn my thoughts and actions into the present. I’d tell myself that I’d drink more water, get more sleep, do more exercise, read the Bible more – and while God has been faithful and I have managed to improve in so many areas, some are still weaker than I want them to be. 

Why?

Because our HABITS are what form our characters. They are who we become. The stuff that I worked on (such as reading the Bible more and praying more) has become part of me. But other stuff, such as drinking water instead of juice – this is not yet a HABIT. So I go through phases. I’ve made savage cuts to my junk food intake. But I still eat late sometimes when I work late – and I am used to working late. Sometimes I have to go to bed just to avoid thinking about late night snacking! 

You see, while it is true that many of us are ruled by our DESIRES, for many people, their desires are in line with their habits. So if they focus on changing their desires, then the assumption is that the habits will then change. This works often enough to make it easy to miss the deeper truth about the fact that sometimes one’s desires for the RIGHT thing can become powerful and intense, but their ability to realise that desire is not what they would want, and they frequently fall short. So then they start to doubt their own sincerity, and this is where Satan has a field day.

Yes, we need better sermons and Bible studies on Romans 7, and on understanding the theological and philosophical dimensions of ‘free will.’ But before we get to any of that stuff, we need to know that our habits rule us more than our desires. Remember our quote above? Once more: 

“I used to tell myself that “tomorrow I’d change” but tomorrow never came because today IS the tomorrow you told yourself yesterday would be different.”

So, let me conclude.

I woke up this morning with stomach pain. Why? Because I ate too late last night. And because I did that for years without FEELING too many adverse effects, I learnt the psychology of eating and working late. Now I DESIRE strongly to not eat late, but I don’t now how not to do that, and I will not always have the option of not working late, because life is hard and I have more pressures than many. And I’m not complaining at all. But the fact is that despite the pain this morning, I thought of my gospel choral rehearsal and I felt OK.

But if I’d not had something to look forward to, then I’d be still feeling rubbish.

And that is why TODAY is the tomorrow that I have been saying for years that I will stop eating late. I can’t choose my life pathways and my problems and my deadlines. But I can choose how I react. I may have kicked my junk food habit, but food is still a way I can hurt myself – and therefore hurt God. Christians everywhere are addicted to food and drink. Adventists don’t drink alcohol, but we are surely no better off than secular folk who DO drink but who eat better food than we do, drink more water and take more exercise!

I didn’t need to eat that toast and those scones last night. And I don’t want to become distracted by joyful activities and FORGET that I when I woke up, I didn’t feel so good.

So today, in the sight of God and man, I pledge to give up late-night eating for good. I am pretty clear on how I define that for myself. And those details are not necessary for me to divulge. But the principle is clear. And now I’m accountable to everyone who sees this.

Christians are obsessed with things like pornography. But today I tell you that there are things just as bad and worse – because they are not OBVIOUSLY evil. Today, I encourage you to examine your own life and see what habits you need to change – and see what distracts you from dealing with that need to change, and take it to God. And then, be accountable to someone. It might just make the difference between success and failure. If we change our approach to the PROCESS of spiritual growth, we might see a change in the PRODUCT we desire!

After all, one person defined insanity as “doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results…”

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4 comments on “change

  1. Zanaida says:

    Just discovered your blog – a pleasure to read. God be with you on your journey toward giving up late night eating.

  2. MLE says:

    Found your blog through the nakedpastor blog. Interesting post. I can think of a couple of friends who are into theology, church, music, hymnody, etc. that might like this. I’ll have to pass it on.

    Wonderful quote, “I used to tell myself that “tomorrow I’d change” but tomorrow never came because today IS the tomorrow you told yourself yesterday would be different.”

    • theomusicologist says:

      Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Yes, I am STILL having to remind myself of that quote – but it is working. Thanks for passing the word on, look forward to reaching out and connecting with some new people!

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