Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Why I Don't Listen to Music

The other day I was thinking hard on the subject. There was a time when music was practically my life.  Now I find myself avoiding it mostly.  It almost always leaves me unnerved in some way.  Secular music is hollow.  Christian music, despite it's sincere message, leaves me wanting.  Occasionally a praise song will break through.  Hymns sung in church almost always do, but that's because they're in a league of their own as are the two singer-songwriters we discovered in Mexico.  This league is untouched and, thankfully, unaffected by what I can only describe as an addiction I had to music years ago.

It may seem really strange to call one's interest in music an addiction but after many years I can look back, detached from it all, and see it for what I really think it was.  Music was my world.  It consumed me.  There were countless hours spent listening to lyrics and instruments that very effectively lured me away from spending time with God and learning what God might want for my life, what His plan for me might have been.  Other areas of my life were left malnourished and this makes me incredibly sad.

I realized this past month that I needed to talk about it here.  Maybe because I think it might help someone else.  I'm not exactly sure.  What I do know is that this was/is a fairly large part of me and my story and I need to look at it head on.  I need to acknowledge it's power and call it what it is instead of poo-pooing it away as understandable and excusable teenage behavior.  If I do that, I'm not taking responsibility.  I must admit that while, in many other ways, I'm pretty quick to bare my soul here, this issue leaves me feeling pretty vulnerable.  It's taking some courage to write about it (especially in front of family), so please be gentle.

My first memory of music was getting a dark pink (very boxy-looking) boom box for my birthday when I was 11 or 12.  My parents have a photograph of me holding it, grinning widely with my boy-ish haircut and pink and grey striped dress, complete with a bow at the neck.  My next memory is of figuring out that when I recorded a song off the radio everyone in the room didn't have to be completely quiet.  Wasn't that a relief?  I had been freaking out when someone knocked at my door or a sibling barged in.  A couple years later a girlfriend of mine and I started keeping a list of all the songs played on one of the local pop stations.  Can you imagine??  We listed the title of the song and the artist and kept a meticulous list.  I even alphabetized my list a time or two.  It was pages and pages and pages long.  If a song was on the radio, it was on out list.

Memorizing lyrics came next.  If I could memorize Bible verses like I did lyrics I might possibly know whole books of the Bible by heart.  Just the other day, out of the blue, the lyrics to LL Cool J's "I Need Love" jumped into my head and I was off, still remembering almost every single word of that ridiculous song (rap it- "When I'm alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the wall and in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call, telling me I need a girl whose as sweet as a dove.  For the first time in my life, I see I need love.  There I was..." )  As you can tell, I only memorized winning lyrics.  At this point, I only recorded songs off the radio onto blank tapes.  If I owned any real tapes, I can't remember them.

Around this time my friend base changed.  I started hanging out with some of the greatest and most fun fellow middle-schoolers in the world (at a small, Christian school).  They happened to be mostly boys.  My best (girl) friend and I had the privilege of hanging out with some hilarious and amazing individuals, most of which were skaters.  They donned the skater hair cuts, shoes, clothes and often the attitudes which got them into trouble with our teachers fairly often.  Through them and some older skater friends of theirs at our school, one of which I had a herculine crush on, I was introduced to alternative and punk music.

Fast forward a few years and you'd find me in public high school spending every waking moment (other than church, work and school) living and breathing it.  If it wasn't playing in my tape deck, I was in a record store (remember those?), in a car with the base literally willing my body to respond, in a friend's room hanging out (always with music playing), or (my all-time favorite) at a concert taking it all in live.  My friends and boy friend during this time loved almost all the same music.  If they hadn't, would they have been my friends?  Thinking back, the memories wash over me.  They were times that I still treasure because those friends of mine were the most incredible people.  Sure, they dressed a little weird and often acted pretty strange, but we were all trying to figure out where we belonged and somehow that music tied us all together.  7 Seconds, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Sonic Youth, Ride, Stone Roses, Ministry (not the good kind, unfortunately), Jane's Addiction, Beastie Boys, Dead Can Dance, The Pixies, The Ramones, Social Distortion, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Love and Rockets, The Stone Roses, Bad Brains, The Clash, Descendents...just to name a few.

There was a time when my hair was bleached blond (and later, dyed deep auburn) and the bottom half was shaved with the top half chin length.  I wore thrift store clothes, a lot of black, including long skirts, trench coats and combat boots.  Steel-toed boots were very practical at concerts where your feet inevitably got stepped on.  I did wear bright red lipstick in case you were worried that I was completely devoid of color.

This music drew me to places I knew I probably shouldn't have been, namely concerts.  For awhile I kept a list of all the concerts I attended but at some point I stopped writing them down and the list is gone.  Our favorite place to go was City Gardens in Trenton, N.J.   Somehow even the look of the place didn't dissuade me because I was about to see a band that I nearly worshiped.  It was a block building with no windows (red flag number one) that looked as if it had been abandoned.  Inside there was a bar at one end (I honestly never hung out at that end- I was underage and didn't drink anyway.  Jon Stewart bar tended there a little bit before my time.).  At the other end was the stage.



The best "seat" in the house was right up against the stage as long as you didn't get pushed too hard into it.  My boyfriend, in an act of appropriate chivalry for this occasion, would brace his arms against the stage behind me so I wouldn't get crushed.  I was pretty tiny then.  Many popular bands debuted at City Gardens.  The agent that signed the Beastie Boys saw them first perform there.  Depending on the band, the crowd would look pretty frightening to most people, but I had friends that looked like a lot of them and, hey, if they were there to see the band (like me) they must be okay.  There were several rules: no slam dancing, no stage diving, and no spikes.  Generally these rules were adhered to, but there were times when the mosh pit got unruly and some people (often skin heads) were escorted outside.  In addition to concerts at City Gardens, the highlights of my summers from 1991-1994 were the first four Lollapaloozas.  Think Woodstock for funky kids without the nudity and slightly less drugs.

None of this dissuaded me.  I felt such a strong attachment to the music and held the band members in too high esteem.  The night Thurston Moore dripped sweat on me...well...I was thrilled.  And, despite a broken vertebrae (due to a sledding accident of all things), there I was, in my back brace, planted out of harm's way on top of a speaker by two guy friends, in Philadelphia at a Pearl Jam concert.  Who was I??

If you've been reading me for very long, you know this doesn't really sound like me.  And that is the point I am trying to make.  My involvement with this music blinded me to good judgement.  Being a teenager didn't help.  But I must say that the music (and most secular music in general) made me feel invincible and it was this, I believe, that lead me into situations and circumstances that an otherwise good, Christian girl would not have put herself into.

If you're wondering about my parents, I will tell you (and them) that I never lied about where I was going.  I may have withheld information about a place that might worry them because I didn't want them to worry.  *I* would be fine.  They walked a fine line with me and did so very well.  If they would have pushed harder against me, my music and friends, I might have rebelled in different ways.  And I knew, without a doubt, that they were praying for me.  Those prayers were heard and answered.  Prayers are always heard, but not always answered in the fashion we request.  I thank God that my parents' prayers were.

Jamey asked me the other night (while we were looking up pictures of City Gardens online) how I came through it all unscathed.  I truly believe that God was shielding my heart and my body.  I became a Christian at 8 or 9 years of age.  God was protecting me despite my disobedience, despite my turning away from Him and choosing a music (that was often flat out evil) and it's culture over time spent with Him and for Him.  And I did it all right in His face.

Oh, Lord, forgive me.  Your grace is all too sufficient for me.

How did I come out of it all? Well, I chose a Christian University where I couldn't find anyone who held the same music interests as I.  My high school boyfriend broke up with me the summer after my freshman year.  God started working on me big time and introduced me to Jamey, a strong Christian who just came away from a profoundly spiritual experience serving at a Christian wilderness camp over the summer.  If someone would have told me a year before that I would end up marrying somewhat of a jock with short cropped hair who would later become a pharmacist, I would have howled.  He does play guitar.  I think God gave me that as a joke.

In response to God's leading and a very real experience with an evil presence (a story for another time), one day I chucked almost my entire (huge) music collection down the trash chute in my dorm.  It brought incredible relief.

So this is why I don't listen to music.  I've been there, done that.

And it all leads me to wonder.  What's my current addiction?  What I am throwing my time and energy into now that isn't all about Him?  While may not be as blatant and obvious as music was for me in the past, I have my issues.  Like music, I'm working on kicking them to the curb.

Sometimes it really needs to be all or nothing.  Don't let our society or culture tell you otherwise.  It's lying.  Pin It

36 comments:

  1. WOW, just wow! I had no idea. Knowing the *you* that I know now, it's so hard to imagine the *you* back then. I might have been scared of you! LOL This is not only a testament to the influence that music can have on people, but also the influence from peers. In your case, it was bad and good influence (when you came to college and surrounded yourself with different people). Thanks for sharing this part of your life.

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  2. Wow Jane. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate so well to so much that you wrote here. Music was an extrememly important aspect of my life for a long time too. (And,yup, I know every band you listed and owned several of their tapes as well). I also was into alternative music & tried to fit it with the 'alternative' crowd.

    My love of music and dancing (dancing was a huge taboo as I was growing up!) led me into bad situations which led me into making some really, really bad choices in my life. It's too long of a story to put on your comment section, but I am slowly working on writing out my testimony for my blog.

    I have almost completely cut out music from my life now, and I am a little sad about that. I do miss the way it can stir & move me. But, that's also part of the reason I'm 'taking a break' from music. I don't listen to secular music anymore. The music I used to love stirs up too many haunting emotions and memories.

    Christian music usually leaves me wanting (like you mentioned), although I too sometimes find some praise & worship music that resonates with my soul.

    But, another reason I've stopped listening to music very much is that sometimes I just crave silence. With a rowdy houseful of boys, music sometimes adds to the chaos. Maybe someday I'll be able to listen again, but for now I don't too much.

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  3. Music is a gift from God.

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  4. Oh, one other quick thought I forgot to include in my first comment...I almost dismissed my husband as a potential boyfriend back when we first met because he didn't like the same music that I did & music didn't carry the same weight for him that it did for me. Looking back, that seems so silly.

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  5. Wow. You just described my teen years. I remember smashing my CDs on my porch in grad school (it took me a little longer to get it out of my system). When I realized that Morrissey, The Cure...and a bunch of the above-mentioned bands...all brought back certain memories and emotions God was trying to wrestle out of me, they became victim to my hammer. Occasionally I will hear an old song, and it doesn't bother me, but I pretty much adhere to classical and a VERY small number of Christian bands I can tolerate. Thanks for sharing, and for the exhortation to search for other idols. I am glad I'm not the only one like this! Oh, and I married a jock, too. ;)

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  6. wow,thanks for sharing all that,I can't see it but if you say it was so,I believe you.I too had friends that went to Woodstock [ the real one ] she is gone now,died of hepatitis c,her liver failed. she came back into my life after I was doing childcare for the county but held in the church across from my house [ I could bring the kids ] it was a pre-natal clinic,and my friend came to come there. than I lost her again until the end,she came back into my life and hopefully I was able to be of some comfort to her if only to talk and reminisce

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  7. Thanks for your vulnerability--loved this post!

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  8. I never knew this about you! Thank you for being brave finding the courage to share, and putting this out there. I pray that your friends and family are gentle, it is hard being sharing the vulnerable things in our lives, especially in a public setting like a blog where you are without a face, people can forget you are a person with feelings. I do hope you have a picture of yourself during these high school music years. ;)

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  9. Interesting post..........I think you are right. There is always something that we have, as humans, in our lives that while it isn't bad, it isn't the best thing. We put "it" before God, it fills our times, fills our thoughts and fills that space that has been hollowed out within us for God. This is never a good thing and it's easy to trick yourself into believing it's ok - especially with something like music. Mine can be reading - I LOVE to read, I can become obsessed with novels, not even bad ones - good ones, uplifting ones, one that teach me but I put them before God. I have had to do reading fasts to get back to a good place. I admire your courage in giving up what you have loved and recognizing it's power over your life.

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  10. I really enjoyed this post. Music is a very powerful tool that Satan uses to lead us away from God. We get so focused on the feelings it kind of sweeps us away from the reality of life and what is really important. On the other hand, the right kind of music can bring us closer to God if the music brings glory to Him.
    Thanks!

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  11. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I appreciate your open honesty, and I am so thankful that God brought you through this and you are able to see from the other side God's great mercy. I have 3 teens at home and I have encouraged them over the years to stay away from secular music and to be very careful about "Christian" music as well. I personally know the dangers of music that does not uplift and glorify our Lord and want to spare them from that trap. Your post has re-affirmed the work the God did in my heart several years ago concerning this issue. God bless you!

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  12. Wonderful! My husband and I (52 and 55) got rid of ALL of our music a few years ago...one of the best things we have ever done...that....and getting rid of the tv.

    We realized that those tapes playing in our heads were DAMAGING to say the least and also...kept us bound to a time and place in our lives that were almost ALL bad memories. Bad childhoods, bad teen years, bad adult times...bad marriages...bad bad bad. So, we saw that those old songs that we had been listening to for 40+ years were nothing more than the old dead man we were packing on our backs. A song would always bring back memories ....some ok...some really NOT ok. But, the tapes that kept playing in our heads were not of God. We knew it and we accepted it. Even modern Christian music is annoying to us now.

    It's so good to be free...free from the old man...free from the old life...free from sin...free indeed because of Jesus Christ. We are never depressed anymore since we let it all go! THANK YOU FATHER!!

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  13. After reading some of the other comments I hope that my own comment didn't give the wrong idea. I don't think music is in and of itself evil. And, I agree with the one anonymous commenter who said music is a gift from God.

    What I hope I got across in my comment (and what I think you were saying in your post) is that, like anything else in life, music can be perverted and can stir thoughts and emotions that are not uplifting or pleasing to God. And, music can become an idol of sorts.

    That is not to say that all music is wrong. I am incredibly grateful for music & that God gave us the creative ability to form many different types of music. Music still speaks to my soul. And, often I imagine it is God's own voice that is speaking through music.

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    1. Isn't it amazing to look back on your life and be able to see that God protected you, even if you hardly acknowledged him. I can only praise and thank Him for keeping me alive and amazingly unscathed when I was so foolish and reckless.

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  14. I can relate to so much from your story. I also know that the prayers of my parents got me through without any real harm. It's so crazy to look back at who I was then and how different I am now.

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  15. I was a professional classical musician, but quit several years ago (I wrote about it here: http://adventuresinthriftland.blogspot.com/2011/11/swimming-in-satisfaction.html). I found with being a professional musician, feelings of pride and envy were something I needed to fight against, and I eventually decided the whole music scene wasn't worth it. The funny thing is, my high school boyfriend tried to dissuade me from studying music for that very reason. He was very perceptive.

    I find I rarely listen to music anymore, but I still find very uplifting English choral music and Bach, especially the cantatas and passions.

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  16. I'm really glad you broke that habit.
    Music moves in different frequencies through the air, similar to the way various electromagnetic frequencies do. These frequencies are also called waves such as in electricity. Perhaps you've heard the term 'negative waves'? All of these invisible forces affect us one way or another and can cause pretty bizarre behavior in some instances. Go to Wikipedia and look up cognitive neuroscience of music. Lot's of studies have been done on the various types of music and classical music; Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, etc. is actually therapeutic. I enjoy classical music on low in the background when I have a monotonous job at hand or after tense situations. I do have to agree, though, nothing makes my heart sing like "How Great Thou Art".
    If you were Satan, wouldn't you send The Beatles to America?

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  17. Music used to be so important to me. It always had to be on in the room I was in. Or in the car. Even up through the last year or two. I remember my first stereo I received as a Christmas present in 7th grade. The tapes I would make off the radio. The singles cassette tapes. The records. The CD's. I took piano lessons for over 10 years and I was in chorus throughout most of elementary school and then all of middle and high school. Your music tastes then were so different from my own at that time. I had friends who went to Lollapalooza and even at the time, I wondered how they got their parents' permission to go. I was the nerd who liked Billy Joel and Elton John. And the Beatles and the BeeGee's, since that is what my Mom raised me on. But now, so much of it seems like noise. And like most everything on the tv, I have little interest in having it on. Even in the background. I just don't want it on. I want my head clearer. I want to focus on what is important (a double meaning from my photography business that serves to keep my attention). Thank you for sharing your story on music, Jane. It made me smile, thinking about where you have been and where you are now.

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  18. I'm probably one of your oldest commenters. I grew up in a house where the radio was only on for news and we didn't have a tv until my last year of high school in the 50s. I never developed a liking for contemporary music and today's Christian versions leave me cold. My dad bought me a stereo when I was about 15 and some classical records to go with it. I was hooked. Today, classical music is a necessity in my home, from Mozart to Sibelius. My favorites are classical CDs by a Swedish performer played on an 11-string guitar. Extremely relaxing. Music is a gift of God. As is silence, which I also value. And with anything in life, moderation and balance are the key. Think I'll have to go change my CDs right now to Goran Sollscher and his guitar.

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  19. My daughter and I have many talks about what a sneaky creature Satan is and the ways that he will distract us from God, even using things that seem harmless and noble. This is a perfect example. When you get to heaven, you'll be able to sing without distraction.

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  20. What a testimony of God's preserving power in your life Jane! How incredible it is to see HIS hand in our lives, don't you think? My experience with music had some similarities to yours, although, my vice was *Christian* music...and *mild* at that! Even though it was *mild* I still found myself feeling rebellious and agitated in my soul...interesting hey? Music is powerful. We must handle it with wisdom and care. I am sure your story will be used in the lives of others. You do not know who this will minister to. The LORD is praised when we stand for Truth.

    Many Blessings,
    Camille

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  21. Your experience with music in high school is similar to my own in college. I didn't leave any room for God in my life during that time period (which also included Lollapalooza). When I had my children, music that I used to love suddenly seemed shallow. I'd wince at lyrics I never used to pay attention to. As I approach my forties, I find that most rock and pop songs irritate my brain. I find myself listening to the classical music station more often. It challenges my brain with its complexity.

    The addiction I'm fighting now? Sugar. Awful sugar. I am using the season of Lent to work on this.

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  22. Thank you for your transparency! I can relate to your experience, and am comforted.

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  23. this gives me hope for my son. Thank you for the courage it took to share something so personal. Glory to God!

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  24. would you be willing to describe in a little more detail how your parents walked "the fine line"?

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    1. They allowed me to express my individuality through hair style, music and dress(which was never inappropriate in a skimpy-way) because (I think) they knew I wasn't into more dangerous behaviors like doing drugs, drinking and being promiscuous. We had a good enough relationship that they trusted that I wasn't doing these things (I wasn't). My grades in school remained very good and I still participated (albeit grudgingly at times) in church and youth group activities. They drew the line, though, with my hair at church. I wasn't allowed to wear it up to expose the shaved half. We butted heads at times for sure, but overall our relationship remained good (if not great at times) and I think this helped them trust the state of things.

      They didn't push their views to the point that they forbade any of my activities. I don't know what I would have done if they did. That said, this is one family's story. Each family is different and I do believe that there is a time and a place for parents to forbid activities. I saw friends who really needed strong limits and didn't get them. This is the best answer I can give. I hope I addressed what you wanted me to.

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  25. thank you. It always helps to see how others dealt with something.

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  26. I so relate to how you related to music growing up! I was almost exactly the same way as far as the passion for music! Same bands everything. BUT I danced, and I think that propelled it somewhat. But even then, even though I listened to that 'stuff', I longed for songs that were wholesome. I would get excited about a song that was clean or had an uplifting, yet secular, message. Always hopeful something good would come out. For me Christian music has replaced that hollow stuff(although I do listen to secular music here and there sometimes still). For me Christian music, music praising our Lord, was what I was truly longing for. I can certainly see how it makes you want more and even how it's just best not to 'go there' even with Christian music. For me it has been wonderful, and it has helped me talk more openly about my faith because I am immersed in thinking about Jesus all day, it's just normal to me, as it should be. It doesn't replace my study, it's just an extension of the expression of my faith. Just love this post! I am so glad you shared! Oh if you hop over to my blog, I have music playing. You can turn it off, it's at the very bottom. Bless you girl!

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  27. I think you sharing this helps us to see that you aren't perfect! None of us are...we all have things we struggle with, things that have shaped who we are today. It takes humility to share and this is what I appreciate about you. I got on your blog because someone said you had a great homemade laundry detergent recipe. I haven't left since then...months ago. I enjoy reading your honest posts about your life. Thanks so much!

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  28. "Jane"
    Thank you for sharing your story. I come from the other side of the hill - but share your love of quiet. I am a worship leader in a fairly contemporary church and yet until recently, I didn't listen to music either. I have always valued my quiet time to think, meditate, pray, innovate, etc. Then the Lord put me in a place where I was paid to listen to , oversee, and participate in leading weekly worship in a church setting. As I am surrendering my heart and life more completely to God's call, music is taking on a new dimension. I find myself blessed, challenged, and encouraged by music that I used to brush aside as shallow and "beneath" my spiritual and musical sensibilities. I am being challenged, encouraged, and convicted as I listen with a heart to hear what my Lord would say to me in the process. God can and does speak to me through whatever channel I I choose to "tune in" to. Reading/meditating on His word, hearing the word taught by another, and...yes...even music. When we open up our hearts (without reservation or precondition) to the Creator of the Universe and Savior of our souls, we hear Him speak and minister to our hearts in the most unexpected ways. Thank you for what your are doing and may the Lord richly bless you on your journey.

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  29. Peace be upon you.

    As a muslim, the attitude towards music in Islam is similar to Christianity. We believe it to be Satan's tool to distract masses from the remembrance of God as well as encouraging people to commit sins (lyrics these days are atrocious!). I'm a teenager and find it quite difficult to warn my friends of the evil effects, thing is people know they shouldn't but still do. After ages of not listening to music every time I go to shops and there is some song playing I do not feel comfortable in it's presence. I ask God to protect us from the distractions and evil thoughts satan instills in our hearts and I ask Him to guide us to the straight path- Ameen.

    p.s I love the blog!

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  30. Music was also an addiction for me during my formative years. There was a lot of turmoil in my household, and music was literally a way to drown it all out. I never got into alcohol or drugs, thank God, but I poured tons of money and time into music instead. Live concerts were also common place for me as a teen. I can remember roaming the floor of a Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson concert back in 1993 or 1994; I would have only been 13 or 14 years old at the time. God definitely had His hand on me then, because I came out of all of it okay. Not even the massive family problems have been able to keep me down. I'm 33 years old now and no longer actively listen to music. It's simply not interesting any more, and I don't need to use it as a crutch. Through the years I've become much stronger and better at facing problems directly...and God still has His hand on me.

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    1. Oh, Nikole. Thank you so very much for sharing this and praise God for His protection over us both. He is so good, isn't He? :-)

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  31. "one day I chucked almost my entire (huge) music collection down the trash chute in my dorm."

    What on earth is wrong with you..... That's the same thing as throwing away books. You GIVE THEM AWAY.

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    1. I understand your thriftiness but if you were trying to give up cigarettes (something you thought was harmful to you) would you pass them off to someone else to smoke? Those were along the lines I was thinking when I tossed them.

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