Gospel

I Don't Care by Michael Nichols

Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.

That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.

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I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.

I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.

In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.

I don't care.

Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.

Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.

I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.

I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.

The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My isolation from people I claim to care for?

Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.

My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?

Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.

My inability to loosen up?

Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.

My jealousy?

Because I don't care about much else than what I want.

Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?

Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.

I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."

Relatable? Too much.

Good way to live? Not ever.

The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.

When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.

That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.

That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.

I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.

A reason to care about him.

About her.

About anyone, anything.

But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?

"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)

Love And Fear: Campaign Update 2 by Michael Nichols

We're about to close the first half of our crowdfunding campaign! If you haven't heard, I'm making a record with some amazing musicians and friends, and we're raising money for gear. When you pre-order the record for just $10, you'll get an instant download of one of the singles, "Find You In The Light." We're currently at 12% of our goal, which is amazing! When we first launched this campaign, I was as nervous as ever. Correction: I am nervous! But the response so far has been great, both in feedback about our music and in the generosity of friends and family. We've raised $580 of the $5000 we're shooting for to make this the best record it can possibly be. We actually crossed that 10% mark by the end of week 2!

As awesome as that is, we've hit a pretty big slump since then.

We have barely over a month left to go, so if you can help by preordering our record "Love And Fear," picking one of our perk packages (including anything from downloads to signed CDs, to t-shirts, posters, and microphones), sharing the campaign on social media, and most importantly praying that God will make a way for this to happen and that His will would be done.

As much as we love making music and having fun, though, this is our ministry above all else. We want to reach a world that is afraid by offering them the love of Jesus Christ. We're just looking for the means to do that the best way we know how. :)

ALSO, here's some exciting news! A fantastic friend of mine asked to interview me about the new record. She has an amazing devotional account on Instagram, so head over there and check out @shinejesus_ for some excellent words from the Father, and watch out for the interview, coming soon!

Be sure to check out our campaign on IndieGoGo and head over to SoundCloud to listen to our brand new track, "Find You In The Light."

Thanks for all of your support! :)

--Michael

https://igg.me/at/loveandfear/x/9877524

https://soundcloud.com/mnicholszero/findyouinthelight

https://www.instagram.com/shinejesus_/

Love And Fear: Campaign Update 1 by Michael Nichols

Hey guys! Thanks to all of you so far who have supported our campaign to fund our new record "Love And Fear." We had a pretty strong day out of the gate. I was surprised in the best of ways. While we still have just under 2 months left to go, we've already started seeing that momentum slip a bit, and that time is going to fly by, so we reeeally need your help to get that momentum back! Here are some things you can do!

1: Pray! Pray, pray, pray! Nothing is impossible for our God. His will be done. If we get funded, He is good. If not, He is good.

2: If you are led to contribute financially by preordering the record, go for it! We're not asking for you to do anything you can't do, so if you can't, we completely understand. It will mean the world if you can, and it'll be a huge stepping stone for this project. You'll be supporting local music that may move on to bigger things, but we have to start somewhere, right? :)

3: Spread the word! Social media is an amazing platform for communicating with people all over the world, something that has changed the way all of us do things. If you could share the campaign link and/or any updates we send out, that would really help. Even if you can't contribute financially, you'll be helping to get our music out there and maybe even find people who *can* contribute financially. Also, a great way to spread the word is to tell people at your church, organization, or venue. We'd love to come tell you more about what God has been doing with this record!

I can't tell you how grateful we are for the support so far. Let's do this! :)

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/love-and-fear-the-album/x/9877524#/

The Irony of Sad Songs by Michael Nichols

For those of you who don't know, I'm making a record in 2016. I'm really excited. I've spent the past two months recording some basic demos for 14+ songs while I wait for responses from potential session musicians and make plans for the crowdfunding campaign. Since my vocal coach got a hold of me in the beginning, what was once just a passive and casual outlet that was little more than a mimicry of my favorite bands at the time has become something much more.

I've been on one of the longest journeys of my life since the middle of 2009 when my walk with Christ really got underway. But things got especially bad in the beginning of 2011. A lot of the song that are on this record were either written about that time, during that time, or because of that time.

One song in particular has been difficult to write, but was one of the first ones I wrote after probably the most significant event, the one that started the 2011-present time period. I'm not just talking about the song was mechanically hard to write. I'm saying it took everything out of me. I poured out more pain into that song than I've ever poured into any other song.

It's called "Closure (If You're Hearing This)." The whole premise of the song is that after a falling-out, it's really easy to just leave things unsaid in the same place that we leave the people who've hurt us... Okay,  should say that the whole emotional premise of it is that. But the story is bigger.


I believe that we will all stand judged before the Lord one day, and that everything that is hidden will be revealed. So, say that I left things unsaid. If I did, eventually, that truth will be revealed, no matter how hard I tried to hide it. Things left unsaid will be said. That is just when it's the Lord doing it.

It starts out very sober. Single piano hits that hold for a measure at a slow tempo. Lyrics that are very objective, factual, stating the likelihood that she would never hear these words until we were both dead and in God's hands. The "chorus" sees a change in the chord progression, still with the same single hits, same tension, but now posing a question: "Was I wrong to react the way I did? Was I capable of more hate for those who hurt me than I'd previously believed?"

Then the mood changes. The undercurrent of legato cellos, the pulsating beat of the piano, gently, yet tensely. I say how enamored I was to begin with, and how devastated I was at the fact that I was abandoned because of my feelings for her. As the second chorus begins, I solidify with certainty that my pushing her away was the only way to protect what was left of my sanity and self-esteem.

But as the bridge begins, the piano notes ascend, a slower pulse with more suspense, acknowledging that my distress, turned to hate, had turned me into something I never wanted to be. Made to feel despised, I despised everything.

As the bridge begins to build, I exclaim that I felt helpless, without an alternative. I never wanted to push her away or let her go, and that if doing so hurt her, I was sorry, without regard to my own personal feelings.

The ending is a sober plea for things to return to the way they were. The tension lessens, and the tempo slows at the very end. The music itself ends with a bit of optimism, a lot of longing, and no resolution.


 

I began the song in late 2011-early 2012. Even if the story behind the song had not seen two friends reconciled, I'd still have kept the song. I was allowed to feel that pain in order for God's strength to show through an inherently weak man.

As I've begun wrapping up the orchestration to this song, the pain hasn't fully subsided. Memories fade, but never completely. Even healed scars are still visible.

I've found a sweet solace, though.

Sometimes, it's good to think about the past and feel the pain of it so we can remember why it stayed there.

Imagine what it would be like to bury someone alive, who couldn't die. A scene from Heroes comes to mind, in which Hiro Nakamura digs up the grave of Adam Monroe, a man whose superhuman ability to regenerate allowed him to revive on his own upon exhumation. That's what happens when we bury our experiences. It's not really a memory that we've buried: it's us. You can't bury a memory without burying the pieces of your heart that bear its weight.

I think that's what makes sad songs so sweet, ironically. They allow us to open up the ground above us and let in new air, allow the healing of the soul to begin. The tension, the suspense, the animosity, resonates with the parts of us that feel the same way.

But it's not that we listen to songs about pain in order to perpetuate it. It's like magnetism. We use magnets in compasses to tell which direction we're going, because the earth is also magnetic. How else can you find people who are in pain? How can you expect to reach people who are in darkness, yet refuse to acknowledge darkness, refuse to bring light into the dark? It won't just magically show up. They won't simply wander out of pitch black.

Just north of here is Mammoth Cave. On several of the tours, once you're deep enough in, all of the lights that have been installed in the cave are turned out for a moment so that tourists can experience what it might have been like for the original explorers to wander the depths with only a torch. For a brief moment, before a tour guide's flashlight comes on, you experience total blackness. Nothing. No point of reference. No way out.

It's terrifying.

It's even more terrifying that you get used to the dark, so much so that you have to adjust to the light.

It's comforting to hear voices calling out to you, telling you that you're not the only one down here.

It's electrifying to see dim rays of light bouncing around the corner.

It's overwhelming to see a map in the hands of your rescuers.

Songs like "Hymn For The Missing" and "Pieces" by Red, "It's No Secret" and "I Found My Way Back Again" by Nevertheless, "Wrapped in Your Arms" and "All I Need To Be" by Fireflight, "Breaking You" and "Run Forward" by Audrey Assad, and many, many others... they've saved me more times than I can count. Most of my own sad songs, including "Closure," have been the most therapeutic to write. It's one of the reasons I'm so excited to share them with you in 2016.

If you're like me, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's okay. If you know the darkness, it's okay. But there is a way out. We're calling out to you. Jesus is calling out to you. He knows. My God, He knows darkness. Let Him come find you. Call back to Him.

New Frontiers In 2016 by Michael Nichols

Hey, everyone! So, I've spent the past few months planning, praying, etc. And I've come to a decision. Beginning early 2016, I'm going to launch a crowdfunding campaign to begin recording an album that I'm hoping will be a defining move in my music career. If you've known me for any decent amount of time, you'll know that all I care about is giving back that which was given to me in 2007, when I first became serious about professional music, and when it began to have serious personal impact on me. I think God both made me for this and called me to it. All I can do is respond to that in the way that I best know how. So save this. Bookmark it. Find me on the interwebs. And pay attention, because I'm gonna start putting things together ASAP. Thanks for all of your support, and I'll be seeing you very soon.

Accuser Within by Michael Nichols

I've always struggled with risks. I think everyone does, though maybe not as much as others. If I know that there is something to be lost, I don't want to. Don't we all? Whether we acknowledge it consciously or not, we realize that we contain infinite value, endowed upon us by Jesus. We also experience fear when we're confronted with the possibility of loss. Everyone's looks different. Some people are afraid to take risks on career ventures. Others hate the idea of moving away and facing the unknown in that respect. My issue is with relationships, specifically the dating kind.

I'm not the only who has been hurt. I'm not the only one who has been scared. I'm not the only one who gets tripped up on words or will altogether avoid words when nothing seems sufficient enough to make enduring the fear worthwhile.

Unfortunately, inaction, in my case, has led to much, much more pain than action. You know, at least if you get shot down, you know you can change direction. And there can be a lot of reasons for being shot down other than it being, you know, your fault, something you did, something you are, heck, how you look.

But wait! How can you experience pain if you don't take a risk?

I'll tell you.

You see, it's equally as big a risk, if not bigger, to assume that something bad could come from your action, as it is to assume that something good could come from your inaction. I say this not to perpetuate the "follow your heart" mentality that has led modern day culture into a morally relativistic decadence, but holding back what's inside of you because you're afraid you might get hurt is like holding onto fire. You don't get used to it the more you hold it: you simply burn what's left of you the longer you hold it.

You're not protecting your heart by not telling people how you feel. You're actually poisoning it. You can always get back up from rejection, but you can't move past a choice you never made. I've avoided making a lot of those choices, and none of them have made living with the regret of what I might have missed any easier. I can think of a few instances in the not-so-distant past when I could have just told a person how much I cared for them, or let them see more of my real self, let go and just had fun with amazing people, but I didn't. I treated my insecurities as though they were for my benefit, like they could save me from being broken.

In reality, all I did was break myself before I let anyone else get to me.

What really eats at me is that every time, at least for the past several years, I've told myself I would stop avoiding what's inside of me, quit copping out of making the choices that I had to make. "This time" I'll say how I feel. After all, that's all I can do, right? After all, I have no control over what she does with that knowledge, right? And I haven't actually lost anything more than an idea, because until the feelings go both ways, I'm not actually "in love" with a person, right? And it's their problem if they can't get over the fact I might have feelings for them, even if I can get over them myself, right? So knowing all of that should make opening up easier, right?

I haven't. Not once.

Even as I speak these things, I realize I'm just finding more reasons to blame myself, as a dear mentor and friend recently put forth to me. And she was right. I'm not doing this for my own good, at least not anymore. Just the habit of repressing the person that God made you to be, even if you don't acknowledge that you're actually doing that, leads to the belief that God doesn't want good things for you, that you are beyond His love, His grace, a second chance, and that you might not even have any value at all.

Guess what. It's a lie. Your very existence, not to mention the whole truth and message of the gospel, is proof of that.

We all torment ourselves over something, but if it isn't making you a better person, it's not worth it. Whatever you're tormenting yourself over--and it doesn't have to be fear of rejection--isn't worth your time, your breath, your life, if it is a barricade preventing you from growing into the person God made you to be in Christ.

Easier said than done, right?

It's a good thing we have a powerful God going before us. Just trust that. Trust Him. Take a risk. Even if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, let Him carry you to the place He wants you to be, and trust that this place will be a beautiful one.

Editorial: Election Day, Rallies, and the Death of Secret Ballots by Michael Nichols

I hate politics. I really do, but alas, here I am, feeling a need to talk about them.

Of all things for society to hate, along with the discussion of religion, we had danged well better be talking about them. Living in the democratic republic in which we do, it is our responsibility to take seriously the role we stole back from the king of England in the 18th century.

To gawk at voting, rigged or not, is to shirk responsibility. If you have the power to change something bad or preserve something good, but do nothing, you are as guilty, if not more guilty, than he who executes injustice. I hate to judge, and I don't mean to do so, but we need a sense of urgency to execute justice, now more than ever. Also, note that this is an editorial. These are my thoughts, opinions, and their reasons. So, that being said, let's begin.

(Note: For those of you who read internationally and aren't familiar with how the government of the United States of America is structured, here's the basic gist. Citizens vote to elect people into power with secret ballots. The branches of government are three: executive (the Presidency and his Cabinet), legislative (Congress and Senate, two groups of representatives for each of the States, who vote on laws, passing them to the executive branch to be approved or vetoed), and judicial (meaning the people who interpret the law to judge court cases). Despite the fact that citizens vote for people based on what they're stated policies are, citizens do not directly vote on the laws. This leaves a gaping hole for political hypocrisy and corruption to fester. Those are the basics.)

I hate political yard signs. I despise political yard signs. On my way to work this morning, I passed at least ten signs, spaced no more than ten feet apart, for the same candidate, across from (and probably set up by) the same company. This would not be the only instance. No, every neighborhood I've driven or walked through in the past two or three months has been the same.

I'm also a first-amendment advocate. I like to talk and write and publish and do these things frequently and in large spats. That being said, we have something called "secret ballots," meaning simply that you have no business knowing who I voted for unless I don't mind you knowing. Apparently, a lot of people fall into that category. Fine. That's your business. Personally, I don't care who you vote for--well, I do care if they're a poor choice, and I do care if your choice comes back to bite me, and I really care if my choice comes back to bite me. (Like, "Did I really just vote for that?")

Secret ballots, though, were meant to be secret for a reason. Voting autonomously and anonymously ensures that our mutual desire to execute liberty, though it may be on different terms and by different means, is not threatened by the diverse nature of humanity, not conspired against by its governors. That's why I value my political privacy very much, just as most of us value our digital privacy. That's a whole different topic, but is it really? So much of what we do these days is digital. Not that we should worry about our secrets being divulged (what are we guilty of that requires secrecy?) but what if they were? Whose business is my transaction history? Whose business is it who I talk to or refuse? Who but God should have any say in the words of my conscience?

Speaking of private things becoming public, what is it about our desire to attend political rallies? I mean if yard signs weren't enough, let's go gather a bunch of like-minded people into the same room and listen to a person shout about the things that we want to shout about, then let's shout about them, too! Again, mind you, I love that we have that right, but does it really help? Let me restate. If any of you have received counselling, therapy, or psychiatric help, you will understand. What if all you did when you went to your therapist was yell mutually into the air about problems, then agree on an improbable and impossibly impractical and slow means to end the mutual suffering? How divisive that would be! How little would actually be accomplished! How much hate would we develop for people of opposing views, and how unwilling would we become to talk things out, and give credence to other ideas after thinking through our own and realizing they may not be as merited as they seem. Isn't that political rallying?

But wait...

That's also western church more often than not.

It's great to be able to speak freely about things that matter to you, but how far do we take that freedom, and in what direction? I have seen this so often in churches, and I've only just begun my life. How often do we take the scriptures that talk about a compassionate God and His laws, yet twist them to fit our own destructive worldviews, omitting passages about grace, forgiveness, compassion, unity; why is it so difficult to bend our will to meet His when we know that it's exactly what we need most? Yet we continue to serve ourselves first. Freedom. Is it a blessing or a curse? Or is it better to have the ability to fail and repent rather than to only know goodness, but have no freedom to grow into it? Is that even genuine goodness?

It's great to be able to speak the Gospel. It's great to evangelise. It's great to come together to be as one in the presence of the Lord. It's also great, in a much lesser way, to show support for your ideals and your candidates of choice. We need to know where we stand, and we need to be active in offering our worldview to others; but we also need to be wary that our freedom doesn't become pride, because arrogance alienates, and from alienation comes war, and from war comes destruction. Be willing to fight, but be seekers of peace. When you go voting today, when you go to your next rally or install your next sign, understand exactly what you're doing, and be ready to take the fall for what becomes of what you do. Division and unity is on our shoulders. Do not shirk this responsibility. Do not squander this power.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

--Micah, a prophet of the Living God, Micah 6:8

For the Love of Blog: Being Ready by Michael Nichols

Preparedness is a difficult thing for me. I'm distractible, which leads to the disorganization of things that need to have been organized prior to a given moment. At the same time, because I don't rigidly organize my world, I have much freedom to move with the current of life. That having been said, am I a fish in the current, or am I the riverbed finding itself daily eroded?

I've always wanted to be on top of things when it comes to this blog. I want to be free to move with the current, but then I also want to know that the current I'm surrendering to is taking me somewhere good. I don't want to be at the mercy of my environment, which can be merciless, interestingly enough. I don't like to half-do things, but because of my tendency toward minimal rigidity, I find myself doing exactly what I don't want to do. (This must be how Paul felt while writing Romans 7.) Unfortunately, that affects my blogging by making my posting frequency inconsistent despite a mile-high stack of drafts.

I recently discovered this magical little feature called "scheduled posting." Now that I know about this, I don't really have an excuse. I can keep writing drafts, but when I finish them, I can schedule them to publish as far in advance as I decide. I don't have to worry about setting deadlines for myself if I just set things up ahead of schedule, then stick to that schedule. I can take writing breaks when I need to take them without worrying about falling too far behind the flow. What that means for you, reader, is that I'm going to be working behind the scenes, planning ahead, and though you might not see much out of this blog for the next few weeks, when you finally start seeing me post again, expect much.

It's not just the blog that frustrates me, though. Unfortunately, this chaos tends to invade many area of my life--yes, my bedroom is a total mess--but by knowing ahead of time what should be happening, maybe this chaos will be brought into check. This cannot happen without God's help, though. Ultimately, the fact that I don't plan ahead, which leads to unpreparedness, tells me that I don't trust God to help me if those plans fail. After all, how can I be disappointed by failed plans if I don't make them? But then how can I truly say I trust God unless I step out on that limb? I don't know the future. For all I know, I could lose everything and it not even be because of anything I've done... but why should I do nothing? Why not take risks? Why not make investments? Why not build relationships? Why not ask for God to build His kingdom in me?

If I don't make myself ready for things to come, when they come, they will either pass me by or knock me down. It's time to brace myself. It's a big future in a big world with a big God.

Head Shot: You're Wrong by Michael Nichols

Our culture hates negative talk with good reason. The world has no need for bullying. But has this thought process gone so far that we are unable to accept and deal with the reality of the darkness?

Ask any scientist. If something doesn't make sense, either your formula is wrong, or you executed it wrong. In the scientific, analytic, performance based world we've always had, it is important to know the difference between right and wrong. Remember how people thought that the sun revolved around the earth? They were wrong, and when someone figured that out, it revolutionized (no pun intended) the scientific world, did it not? Finally, we had explanations for how and why things work the way that they do. Without the understanding the fundamental truths of our world, how can we function in it?

Is it better to preserve our all-important feelings, or to embrace the harsh truth of wrongness in order to find something more reliable? No, this philosophy that "what is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me," simply is not true. Though one's experiences cannot be undone, not a single person's perceptions takes into account every factor, and the whim of no man can undo the nature of the creation. It is arrogant to think that, just as it is arrogant to think that our own ways of thinking are flawless when only the Creator of the universe could possibly shine light on the questions we ask in darkness.