Esther Pavao
I've been waiting to post this because I wanted to write something with a friend, but I've had so many people ask about it (courtesy of Abba...) that I have to post it now. I'll see if I can get my friend to write something and post it later.

I went to a Christian concert a few weeks ago. Not my first one, but the first one with a Christian rock band. And it left me with a few questions. Are we worshipping God? Does God feel that Christian rock concerts further his kingdom?

I'm inclined to answer no. I don't think I can say they're "bad", but I don't want to delude myself into believing that I'm worshipping God either. Yes, the words are to God, and I believe the singers meant what they were saying. I heard the lead singer talk before the songs, and I truly believe he was genuine. He meant what he said, and he does follow God. Which is why I left confused.

The songs were good, but in today's music industry, to make any money at all, you have to entertain people. And that's what I believe that a concert is for: entertainment. The people in the audience were worshipping the band as much as they were worshipping God, if they were thinking of God. I personally was a little distracted by the flashing colored lights and the vibrating floor from the bass...and I'll admit to clapping, screaming, and even dancing to the music. Yes, I meant the words I was singing, but I wasn't singing them to worship God. It was fun.

I could totally picture myself on that stage, thousands of people watching me sing and the lights and the drums and the worshipping fans. I don't think that's what God has in mind. He wants us to worship him. I'm not saying the band wasn't worshipping God, but I know for sure that if it were me on the stage, it would be to get glory for myself. I'm only human.

I'm not going to say that I'll stop going to concerts, I just want to be in reality about myself. I loved the adrenaline rush I felt when the bass and drumset exploded and the lights flashed. I nearly lost my voice screaming. But I'm not deluding myself into believing that it was the Holy Spirit that filled me. It was entirely my flesh.

I think music opens doors. It's a tool that God gave us to reach people, but like every tool, it can be used dangerously. I got a whole new picture of why teenagers do stupid things after listening to heavy metal concerts. You get so pumped up and excited, you want to go do something, anything. If the words I'd been listening to had been encouraging stupid behavior instead of godly, I think I'd probably have done something stupid. And I don't make it a habit to do stupid things in case you were wondering.

So my question is, how does God feel about concerts? If it leaves me feeling pumped up and excited, not about anything bad, but not necessarily centered on God either, is it okay? And how does He feel about having His name in there? Is it disrespectful to say we're focused on God and this is all about God when we're really just enjoying the show?

I think like everything else, it's fine in moderation, as long as you know where you stand with God and you're not believing you're going to find God. It's pure entertainment. Like junk food, movies, and games, it's okay to have a little bit. But a steady diet of it will kill you.
Esther Pavao
Me and Vesper, in our matching dresses for Quinn and Amy's Wedding

I wanted to take a minute to talk about my niece. I decided to break up the heroes blogs throughout. I can't do them all at once, and when I want to write something else, it feels like it has to wait on the heroes. So, that will be a continuing thing.

My niece, Vesper, is only 8 months old. Actually, as I write this, she is sitting on my lap, attempting to contribute. She is already full of personality, and her least favorite word in the world is "no". Which is funny, because that was my first word to say. She is already testing her limits and trying to figure out how much we will allow her to do. My favorite thing about her though, is how much she loves people. I'm sure she doesn't have a very clear picture of "love" and everything, but she hates being left alone, and loves being held as much as possible. The hardest thing, is when she doesn't understand why I take things away, or tell her no.

It gives me a better picture of how God wants us to be with Him. Too often, we think we know what's best and we go off on our own and want Him to let us do what we want. He always knows what's best for us, the same way I know what's best for Vesper, even when she doesn't believe me and reaches out for a box fan or a small toy someone leaves around. And she gets angry at me for pulling her away or taking the toy so she doesn't choke. But in the end, she always forgives me. She always wants to come back to me and play and reaches for me when someone is holding her that she isn't familiar with. She doesn't hold grudges because I saved her life and she didn't understand. She just tries again the next day to see if I'll let her do it again, and when I stop her again, she realizes it's just something she can't do and stops trying.

I wish I was that way with God. I wish, when He told me, "No." I would realize that it was Him, instead of going, "No, I really do know what's best for me. I know myself better than anyone else, so I know what I need." I never know what's best for me. And as far as knowing myself better than anyone else, that's just an excuse for my behavior. "Well, she said this to me, and I'm just this way so it's my prerogative to react the way I did." It's my excuse to do what I want to do, and behave the way I want to because I'm "just this way".

Now, Vesper can't talk yet. Well, she can say "Whoa", "Mama", "Dada", "No", and something that we think is "Watch out!". Nothing very clearly though. But I hope that when she does, she'll realize the reasons I've been stopping her from doing what she wants. I hope that she realizes that I did it because I love her. The same way I've come to realize that God puts restraints on us, not because He doesn't want us to be happy, but because He loves us, and He wants us to be the best we can be, not get distracted by what we think we want and we think will make us happy.
Esther Pavao
I have a few minutes. I wasn't paying attention to time and started my lunch break later than I usually do, so I have a few minutes to try to write about my next dead hero.

Joan of Arc

First of all, she did some amazing things in her life. There's debate on whether God told her to or not, and some people go so far as to say that the devil was her advisor. I obviously disagree, but I suppose we're all entitled to our own opinions.

She stated in court that she started hearing voices when she was 12 years old. The way I see it, she was marked out by God as one of His from the day she was born. He started preparing her for His work while she was still a child. At 17, she became the only person to ever be placed General over an entire countries armies under the age of 18. She united a country that had been divided for years. She crowned a spineless king and helped him to become a man, in that order.

How did a girl, who could neither read nor write, was untrained in military knowledge, and had been expected to do no more than farm and raise a family leave behind all that she knew, spend her days with rough and tumble soldiers and speak to people far above her station, and unite the downtrodden people of France and eventually throw England off entirely? She trusted God. He spoke to her, she obeyed without question. She didn't know what she was doing and she knew the kind of ridicule that she would get. Not only did people not expect her to do anything great, it was considered impertinent to step out of her station, and it was virtually impossible for her to have accomplished anything that she did without the help of God. But she trusted that He wouldn't ask her to do anything that she couldn't.

And at the end of her life, after she had been imprisoned and forced through unfair trial and tricked into saying things that would condemn her, God asked one final thing of her. The thing she was most afraid of. She is quoted saying she would rather die one hundred times by the sword than by fire. And yet, that is exactly what she did. Without doubting God, she recanted the words she had been hoodwinked into saying and so condemned herself to the stake. She died before she got to see her work truly finished.

How do we form trust like that with God? For me it comes down to me not believing I know best, because most of the time, I do. I believe that I know better than anyone else. I guess that could be translated to pride. Not being able to admit that I'm wrong. I don't actually hear voices telling me what to do all the time (actually, if I did, I probably wouldn't tell you!), but I do have common sense and a conscience that guide me, as long as I let them.

Time's up. I don't really have time to make that tie together how I wanted to, but I'll just write the questions I asked myself and had to answer. They weren't easy for me. "Where in your life do you trust yourself over God?" and "Why?" and "What are you going to do to change that?"
Esther Pavao
I've been meaning to catch up on this for weeks, but we've been in the middle of our Ingathering. Hmmm....I wasn't going to use this post to describe the Ingathering, so I'll have to save it for later.

This one I wanted to write about my heroes. See, recently, about 60 of our teenagers went to a Do Hard Things conference in Alabama, and one small morsel of the tons of stuff we got was that we should have heroes: people we look up to, dead or alive, that influence our life, decisions, and way we behave. So I took a little time to think about people who I really admire, why, and what I can do to be more like them.

So I'll start with the dead ones. My first hero is Mary, Jesus' mother. I've always been completely amazed by her story. First of all, that God would choose a poor, illiterate girl to carry His son. That enough would send me reeling, but her reaction, not her position is makes me admire her.

I've never had an angel appear to me and tell me anything, so I can't even imagine what was going through her mind, but I have to say that I would probably be beyond terrified. But from the records we have, she didn't freak out. She merely said, "Let it be as you have said." She knew the ridicule and scorn she would get. She knew people would hate her, she knew the rumors that would go around about her. She knew that her parents and her betrothed would believe she was unfaithful. She knew that she could get stoned to death. And yet, in spite of all of this, she obeyed God. Can you imagine a world where we all just obeyed like that?

It took a lot of thought to come up with what I could do to be like her, but when I finally came to it, it's quite simple. I have to assume that she obeyed like that all the time, to any authority that was put over her. If you don't practice obedience, it won't come naturally to you. (Don't I know it?) So, in order to be like Mary, to be chosen to do great things by God and for God, I have to be obedient in small things, and to people who have authority over me. Even if I feel that they shouldn't have authority over me. Examples of this for me would be my siblings, or people put over me in dance, or school. See, I have this mental block that if I feel someone hasn't done anything to deserve my respect, I don't have to respect them. God has taken a little time to change that opinion. Sometimes it still flares up inside of me, but I think I have gotten a little better at swallowing it and obeying it. If not all the time, then at least sometimes, which is definitely better than not at all.

Well, I'll have to tell about the rest later, my lunch break is nearly up. I guess I'll do this one hero at a time.