Just thought I would share something personal... When I graduated from High School I came home and threw out my folders, papers, books, etc. I did not know my Dad dug my binder out of the trash and kept it. He gave it back to me last week. The class schedule inside says 1989. Wow, it's been a while. Look at that thing! I guess I was trying to say something about myself. Or maybe I wanted people to perceive me in a particular way. As you can tell I had to edit this picture to avoid offending people, but you get the point. My binder basically says, "Look at me! I am all about this (metal)."

Metal is fast, aggressive and generally serious - unlike the stuff on the radio in the 80's. For most of the bands I listened to, the words they wrote reflected beliefs, convictions, passions, hopes and ideas. In many ways heavy metal was my religion and my "bible" was found in the sacred liner notes wrapped around each casette tape. I memorized the lyrics to my favorite thrash and death metal albums. This was not like remembering the words to songs that utilize rhyme and melody. You had to care. In those songs I found strength, encouragement, and direction. Some of it was evil, some was story, some of it was moral and right (externally), and most of it was angry. But man, the music was so much more for me than background noise. It was the soundtrack to my life and the very thoughts in my mind. It was a call to be something. The ideas that burned in my heart back then were self-sufficiency, human autonomy, justice and vengeance. Though I would not have said it this way, my "life verse" came from Testament's song Practice What You Preach. That binder tells much of this, and even a little more.

In 1989 for the first time in my life I heard the Gospel. I also read the Bible for the first time that year, and for the first time Jesus began confronting my worldview, values, and very identity. On that red binder are the words, "Jesus saves." I wasn't being sarcastic. It was what I was hearing and thinking. I wouldn't believe in Jesus for another year, but during that year God brought young men and women into my life to point me to Jesus. In them I saw him. People my own age stood beside me, and with caring words told me about the forgiveness offered in Jesus. At least twice a week I hang out with two of those guys. One is an elder at Grace and the other is a teacher at Grace.

I was thinking about this, and the wicked, self-directed life I lived in those days, and it reminded me of what Augustine said,

I wish now to review in memory my past wickedness and the carnal corruptions of my soul--not because I still love them, but that I may love thee, O my God. For love of thy love I do this, recalling in the bitterness of self-examination my wicked ways, that thou mayest grow sweet to me, thou sweetness without deception! Thou sweetness happy and assured! Thus thou mayest gather me up out of those fragments in which I was torn to pieces, while I turned away from thee, O Unity, and lost myself among "the many." For as I became a youth, I longed to be satisfied with worldly things, and I dared to grow wild in a succession of various and shadowy loves. My form wasted away, and I became corrupt in thy eyes, yet I was still pleasing to my own eyes... Confessions, Saint Augustine (A.D. 397)