Now Playing

I love listening to music.
I own two stereos; one is my room with speakers that stand waist-high while the other, smaller system currently resides in a friend’s dorm room. I also own two sets of headphones, have invested hundreds of dollars into physical CDs (call me old-fashioned, but I like them in the car), and love going to local music shows (because without local talent, there would be no music industry). The internet has become a very useful tool in discovering new artists and in expanding my taste in music. Even as I write this, I’ve got my Marleys on while listening to my playlist onyou probably guessed itSpotify. 
Since acquiring a Sony Walkman CD player at 12 years old, I’ve immersed myself into the world of music. My taste has changed over time, and my involvement in music has gone from being a passive spectator to being an active participant, but music has been, is, and will probably continue to be a prominent part of my life. I’m even social about music; if I find a song that I like, I’ll share it on Facebook or Twitter. Here’s what I’m listening to right now as I write this sentence. That round, orange icon at the top of this page will take you to a magical place where you can listen to some of own recordings. The green Spotify icon will open my Spotify profile where you can listen to my playlists; I also have some of my playlists listed to the side of this post. I could go on and on about this, but I think you get the general idea.
I really enjoy listening to music.
Music is a beautiful thing, and I believe it reflects God’s creative nature. The world would be a pretty boring place without art, and Western culture is rather Athenian in how much art plays into our everyday lives. Do you even know how many different genres and subgenres of music there are? Even using 12-point font, I could cover every square inch of wall, ceiling, and floor space in my dorm room attempting to list artists, from famous to unknown, from 1900 until now and probably still fall pitifully short. Think of how many songs each artist or band has put out. A 2011 estimate states there are approximately 97 million (and counting) recorded and published songs out there. That’s a lot of music. It’s all part of our culture, and we’re all a part of it.
If you’re reading this, odds are you probably enjoy listening to music a great deal as well. If so, that’s great; comment below this post with some of your favorite artists and we’ll compare tastes! I’m always looking for more artists and styles to color my musical canvas. But still, if the odds are true and you enjoy listening to music like I do, then I have a very important question to ask that will set the tone of the rest of this blog post.
What’s in your ‘Now Playing’?
Put another way, what are you listening to? There’s a phrase I’ve acquired from my mom: garbage in, garbage out. Though I’m sure she wasn’t the first to coin it, it’s incredibly true. What you take in greatly affects what you put out. This is scientifically shown when it comes to music. The tone and feel of music does have an impact on your thinking depending on where you are in a moment of time. There’s a reason why we each have our favorite styles of music, while saving other kinds for rarer occasions. It’s important to be mindful of how various styles and tones of music will affect you during different moods.
Here is how this presents itself personally. There are times where a certain kind of music will spur me toward Christ, while there are other times where that same type of music just irritates me and makes it difficult to focus on Christ. Some people over-spiritualize this and say that if you’re not “feeling Jesus” (or something to that effect) while hearing/singing “worship” music, there’s something wrong in your relationship with Christ. Fortunately, this is not true. The fact is, this is a psychological phenomenon that is normal. Even if little is known as to why, your mood affects your taste in music, and thus music affects you differently depending on your mood. This is why I enjoy a wide taste in music. Also, if I might confess, I sometimes find “worship” music a bit off-putting. Stone me.
Lyrics also play a very (and, I might argue, more) important role in how music affects your thinking. This much I can tell from personal experience: lyrics have a substantial impact on your thinking. If you’re pumping messages into your ears that aren’t pointing you toward Christ, guess whatthey’re pointing you somewhere else. No matter how innocent a song may seem, if the message is not pointing you toward Christ, then it’s time for it to go. I used to make excuses for this all the time. “Well, really, any song can point you toward Christ in some way…” Yes, but is it really pointing you toward Christ, or are you justifying compromise? “But this song fuels me and gets me going.”  Music will definitely fuel you, but what is it fueling? Ask yourself: Is this fueling my passion for Christ, or is it fueling my flesh?
The same could be said for movies, TV, video games, etc.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Each person is wired differently and it is important to spend time figuring out how music affects you personally. On the one hand, don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t listen to something just because they don’t like it (I’ve even had pastors try to pull this on me); on the other hand, be sure that what you’re listening to isn’t actually distracting you from Christ. If you’re just not sure, try silence. God often speaks in whispers, and sometimes what is needed most to be able to hear Him is silence.
We live in a noise-saturated culture, and we’re willingly pumping it into our ears. Admittedly, I am no exception; on Friday I exhausted a 9-hour playlist as I spent the day sitting in my room while working on designing my blog and doing assignments for class. However, I’m very meticulous in censoring what I’ll purposefully put into my ears because I know that it will eventually make its way into my heart and, little by little, shape who I become. It doesn’t happen overnight; the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and each willful step will leave an imprint on your heart, whether good or bad.
It comes down to what you’re willing to intentionally take in. Exposure for the sake of understanding is one thing; I frequently check out all sorts of music so I can understand the messages that teens are pumping into their ears. However, intentional repeated exposure, purposefully subjecting yourself to it over and over and over, continually pumping it into your ears, is going to have an influence on your thinking and leave a lasting impact on your heart. As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it.”

I may not be the most “churchy” Christian; I hang out with a lot of people that some ‘churchgoers’ might scoff at, and I hang around a lot of places that some folks might not approve of. I greatly enjoy attending (and performing) open mics at bars, and some of what I sing is ‘secular’ for the sake of connecting with people in a way that they can understand. Admittedly, I still listen to music that I probably shouldn’t be listening to, and it’s something that I’m still wrestling with and trying to understand for myself. I don’t know if this is something I will ever master.A pastor of a church I used to attend would frequently say, “If you don’t like what you’re growing, then change what you’re sowing.” The music you purposefully listen to on a daily basis is packed full of seeds which you are willingly sowing into your own heart. Eventually, and inevitably, it will bear its fruit. Suddenly, ‘innocent’ doesn’t appear so innocent after all. So, again, I will ask (to you, and to myself).

What’s in your ‘Now Playing’?

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