Saturday, December 31, 2011

Countdown to 2012

Suitz Movie
by: WittyAuditor

Well, it's New Year's Eve. 2011 is gone, and 2012 is at he door. This is the time of year when we all make "resolutions."

I have one: complete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

However, it's looking grim. I think I'm already injured in week 3 of training. Sadness. I'll try to recover, but...

I don't actually think that can be a resolution. A resolution, relative to New Year's is when you are determined to change something from the prior year. I didn't incomplete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler last year, so now it's just kind of a New Year's goal.

There are common resolutions that people make each year:

  1. Spend more time with friends and family - But isn't there a reason why you are currently avoiding them? So I'd have to resolve to fix that issue first...but I don't really like conflict.
  2. Stop avoiding conflict - Just kidding. Is that on anyone's list? Speak up! 
  3. Drink less - Water? No. We're talking about that stuff that usually has the word "proof" attached. Yeah, cut back; it leads to better decision-making.  
  4. Lose weight - This is probably the most broken resolution of all time; probably because lose weight has so many other resolutions (and subresolutions) embedded in it:
    • Eat healthy
      • Give up Soda/Drink more water
      • No more junk
      • No more fried foods
      • Eat fresh produce
      • Fiber?
    • Exercise regularly
    • See dietician 
I'm sure there are others, but those were three that I think get a lot of NYE play, but who cares? I think New Year's is very psychological.  Tomorrow will be very similar to today, unless something NUTS happens. However, New Year's is something that we definitely need. We need a reason to put the past behind us. And January 1st is that excuse. We need something to be fresh, and new, and full of possibility, and January 1st gives that to us. Or so we think. We don't really have to wait for January 1st, or our birthdays to turn over new leaves, or to put bad feelings on the shelf. We can do that every day, because every day is new:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning... - Lamentations 3:22-23


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. - 2 Corinthians 4:16

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas World!!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)

Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies will tell you that sometimes the greatest gift at Christmas is knowing someone cares.  In so many movies there’s this person that shows up JUST in time for Christmas. They make it home right when you need them. Their point is that Christmas is nothing without the ones you love. And they are not wrong. It is for this reason that all of Christmas (what it means to you, what it means to me) can be summed up in one word: Emmanuel.

Emmanuel. God With Us.

We go through life some days wondering how God feels about us: is He mad? Is He angry? Does He want me? Am I good enough? But…

Emmanuel is the answer to that question. God With Us.

“God With Us” is John 1:14, and John 1:14 is the mystery of God revealed. Jesus is the revelation of God’s plan: to be WITH us.

There’s a scripture that I was reading this weekend, and it is a scripture that is oft read at Christmastime. It’s Luke 2:8-14.

I often get caught up in the shepherds. How the shepherds are just nobodies going about their business, and how God chose them for the announcement of the biggest deal in history. But not this Christmas. This Christmas verses 13 and 14 struck me.  

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

It’s the angels. The angels are worshipping and praising like crazy.  Because these angels know something that the shepherds didn’t know. The angels know something that sometimes WE don’t know: that Jesus’ arrival just defined the relationship. It just changed the relationship...forever.

Have you ever been at a restaurant and notice that some dude is down on one knee proposing to some chick?…it’s EXCITING! And we are all clapping and hooting, because this is a big deal. This guy just proposed.

Jesus Christ is God’s marriage proposal to human beings, and the angels are the audience. Two parties are acknowledged in their praise: Glory to God in heaven (groom), and peace to those on earth (bride) all via Jesus Christ (the biggest diamond ring in the history of the world)!  

At the birth of Jesus…God proposed. And all we have to do is say “yes.” Christmas Day is our wedding anniversary! That’s Merry Christmas: God with us. That’s the Christmas message.  But everyone doesn’t know what the angels knew. You can tell, because there was an incident in the synagogue…

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
This is like my favorite scripture of all time. I mean, can you imagine their faces. Walks up, reads from the old book, sits down and says: Yeah…that’s me. Is Jesus not hardcore?!? You would think that this declaration would be met with the same praise and worship that the angels exhibited 30 years before, but no…this was their reaction: 

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town… (Luke 4:28-29)

It seems extreme, but they didn’t know it was Christmas. They didn’t know that God was with them. Lot’s of people don’t know God is with them, they don’t know that God is down on one knee…to them! So we tell them. Via Matthew 28:19, and all the rest of the scriptures. We proclaim Merry Christmas, not a big dinner/gifts/Santa. We proclaim Merry Christmas: God with Us.

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Diets, Legalism, and other Such Nonsense

For the past 6 days I have been on a detox diet. For 10 days I am basically a Vegan. Some days it's easy...some days it's hard. However, yesterday when I was sulking about being on detox I thought: Diets are just like legalism. To make sure that we're all on the same page for this analogy, let's drop a few definitions:

Diet - the process of adhering to strict rules and regulations regarding the food one eats to achieve health, and a more aesthetic physical condition.

Legalism - the process of adhering to strict rules and regulations to achieve both salvation and subsequent spiritual growth.

So, it goes like this: if you follow the diet, you WILL lose weight. If you do X,Y, and Z then you WILL go to heaven (I refer to the latter as "checklist salvation").

The problem with both of these premises is that they both hinge on one really important ingredient:


Willpower is the ability to do what you don't want to do. When I found that out, I knew it was all over for both my diet and my salvation...because Paul says it best in Romans 7:18-19:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Basically, Paul...the apostle Paul is saying that his willpower is crap. So, if Paul was on a diet, he'd EAT the CAKE. And that's the issue with legalism...sooner or later, willpower runs out, and you eat the cake. And then what? You know how you feel when you break your diet: 

At first, you're terribly disappointed in yourself, guilty, broken. Then you're all like..."fat is my destiny" and you stop caring and eat whatever you want. Until you want to lose weight again, then you're back on the diet, eating right and exercising, up until you encounter: cake. Then the whole thing happens all over again: disappointment, guilt, brokenness, "fat destiny", apathy, anarchy, repentance, repeat.  Sound familiar?
So, if legalism is like the diet, then when you break a rule or don't correctly observe regulations, you're off the diet. That means, you've lost salvation, and you have to get back on the diet to get it back. This is concerning for a number of reasons: 
  1. It puts all the power of salvation in our hands. If I can save myself by following a few rules, Christ died for NOTHING (See Galatians 2:21)
  2. The only thing we're actually supposed to be doing is exhibiting the fruits of The Spirit. Note: they are not your fruits. They are the Spirit's fruits, so willpower can't produce them (See Galatians 5:22-23).
  3. It perverts the purpose of the Law (bits and pieces of which are used to this day) .The Law was not a means to salvation, but was rather to teach us how CRAPPY we are, so we realize that our salvation can only be found in Christ (See Galatians 3:23-24)
  4.  Sadly, there is always cake.
One, two, and three are bad, on a spiritual level...but number four feels REAL in the here and now. Because there is always cake. DARNED CAKE!!! What happens if I die with cake in my hand?! AHHHH!! Paul was plagued by this issue at the end of Romans 7...when he realized he'd probably (or definitely) eat some cake:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
...Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)

So, via faith in Jesus Christ, we are free from what law? The law of: if you sin you die. So if we're free from that law, what makes people think that if you do X, Y, and Z you live? Hmmm...

I will now beseech God about that other law: if you eat junk food, and sit around watching Elf you will get fat. I wish faith in Jesus Christ would beat that one...


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Anatomy of a Busy Holiday Weekend

Last Saturday night was my company's holiday soiree, and I kind of didn't decide to attend until Friday night. Which meant...craziness on Saturday. This is how that decision played out:


My hair salon is in the basement of my apartment building. How convenient is that?! Anyway, I washed and dried my own hair, so that all she would have to do is curl it. Hairdressers never listen, though. Went for a routine curl, came out with an unauthorized cut. Goodbye dreams of one side short/one side long. That's over. However, I didn't really care, so, I paid...let eyebrow girl do my eyebrows, grabbed some pound cake (that's how the black hair salon rolls!) and was outta there!


Voice in fitting room: "I CAN'T BREATHE!!"
Other voice in same fitting room: "You get used to it. With these on you can eat and drink whatever you want. ALL NIGHT. All these years, I thought women just looked better than us in dresses, but they've been cheating all along.
Original voice: If you can't beat 'em...join 'em.

I knew IMMEDIATELY they were having the spanx discussion. I was in my fitting room cracking up. Gotta love the mall. However, that happened when things were still funny. When I was in the early dress-search stages. After hitting up Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, Nordstroms, BCBG, Francesca's, Macy's, Anthropologie, and then Macy's again...I found a dress! And by then...I was pissed. I could've cut someone. Perhaps I could have pepper-sprayed someone like that woman in Wal-Mart on Black Friday, except I'd be doing it to let off steam, rather than to snag a deal.


A day of mayhem precludes you from eating a good meal. Starvation was my destiny. My one bit of nourishment was the pound cake at the salon.  If I had eaten after shopping (after 4pm), I wouldn't be hungry at the party. So, I  to the grocery store pick up razors, shaving cream, and...cup of noodles. Hits the spot, but doesn't fill me up. I think it was a genius move. Genius.


It's not summertime anymore, so my toenails were in major disarray. And, I wasn't paying $40 to get them fixed up. So it was my time to shine. But I really don't have a steady hand and I'm a clutz. As I was creating an abstract painting on my nails, I accidentally knocked the nail polish into the tub, where the red polish began to immediately spread out in a magical, beautiful shade of "goodbye rental deposit." So then I spend the next 20 minutes using a mixture of acetone, Comet, and Fantastik to get my tub didn't work. And truth: my nails looked really bad, but it was dark at that party, so my hack job was sufficient.


Your feet hurt after dancing and walking around in heels. The company ACTUALLY provided us with socks and flip flops to help with dance floor woes. I decided to take both to create what I call "holiday feet." These holiday feet were seen at Circa last night, as well as on trains of DC during the "Day After."


Day After

So after dancing the night away, and thinking we were still young enough to have an "after party" longer than 30 minutes, we crashed post 2:30am in DC. I wake up at 8:30 thinking: I HAVE TO GO!!
Christmas cookie exchange party at 1pm and I don't even have ingredients! And I was supposed to go running at 10:00 with a friend. Run = canceled. Without question. Cookies...?? So I ran to the grocery store picked up my items and got to work.

Note: I have never baked cookies before.

The stuff in the bowl was the consistency of ICE CREAM. I thought: "this can't be right..." (called Mom, she said it should look like that). Then,

I mixed in all the junk. Still had some misgivings, but this should do. After which,

They looked good in the pan! This is promising! But then,

ARGH!!! There were some that made it though, so I took them on to the exchange! Many came back home with me. Sadness. But it was a fun weekend.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Covers - Make Me a Star!

I love a good cover song. We all do! People can become famous posting a well-sung cover on youtube. Why is the cover so great? I mean, it's just a new performance or recording of a song that has already hit the airwaves under someone else's name. The work has already been done! In my opinion, covers come in two kinds:
  1. Straight up copy - No part of this is your creation; you didn't add to it, you didn't take away. You just sing it in your own voice. But just the fact that it's your voice, adds something never heard before...rendering it as "new."
  2. Re-interpretation - a personal and creative explanation of the meaning of another's artistic or creative work. You've changed up the arrangement, but you haven't created anything new, per se, but it feels new and different (though substantially still the same).
There are ridiculously awesome covers of both types. Below is my quick-and-dirty list of my top 5 covers of all time. Please feel free to let me know of your favorite covers, because I want to hear them. Maybe you'll knock one of these out:

July Flame's All-Time Favorite Covers
  1. "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton, as sung by Whitney Houston
  2. "Unchained Melody" by Alex North and Hy Zaret, as sung by The Righteous Brothers (I now desperately want to watch GHOST)
  3. "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush, as sung by Maxwell (sidenote: who is like the most beautiful man in the world...but in this video he looks a little busted. Just sayin')
  4. "Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun" by Robert Hazard/Cyndi Lauper, as sung by Greg Laswell (he also does a beautiful "This Woman's Work")
  5. "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan, as sung by Adele
I want to give an honorable mention to my girl Ingrid Michaelson (I can never leave her out) for "Can't Help Falling in Love" by the late great Elvis Presley. It's very pretty, but not in the top 5.

ANYWAY, I was thinking of covers, and had this crazy thought...I am a cover song. Or at least, I should be a cover song. Or kind of like a cover song in that I have to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28:19 for our command). And I have to live my life like He did (click here for what the entails). So my life is like a "new performance" of a life and a message that has been already hit the airwaves. That perfect life has already been lived and that perfect message has already been given. But it's my job to do it all over again. To keep it fresh and alive and heard. I had NO idea that Bob Dylan sang the original "Make You Feel My Love" but Adele brought me to him. Likewise, there are people who have no idea about Jesus Christ, but we...we help bring them to Him. Through our lives, through our love, through our continuance of His message.

Sometimes, it's required that we give the gospel via a straight-up copy, but your voice and your life experience lend something to it that is 100% unique. Sometimes, we get this blog. It's a personal/creative retelling of a biblical truth through the lens of "cover songs." But it's still the same. What kind of cover are you? Are you even singing the song? I just pray that I always be found singing, and always giving the credit where it's due: to the original author - Jesus Christ.

Sidenote: The body of Christ is like one big tribute band. Is that not the coolest thought ever? We are rock stars!