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There's No Place Like Home
By Lori Lewis

I recently watched the movie "The Wizard of Oz". In it, I saw simple truths that illustrated my own life. Like Dorothy, I, too, had gone to a make-believe land that seemed attractive, only to discover that what I needed had been in my own back yard all the time!

I grew up as a baptized Lutheran, attending Lutheran grade school and, for a few years, a Lutheran college. I was very familiar with basic Lutheran teachings. But that didn't help. Eventually, I turned away from the church.

In grade school, I was exposed to what became known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). Immediately, I was drawn in. It was exciting that Christians were singing music that sounded like the pop music I listened to on the radio. I thought that this would be a natural way for me to make a connection between my favorite music and what I was being taught in church.

During my college years, I really got into CCM. I attended concerts and bought records. When I dropped out of college, I moved back in with my parents and tried to figure out what to do with my life. One day, while listening to the radio, I heard a song from a Christian artist. I was excited to learn that this radio station played nothing but CCM artists. A short time later, I began working as a DJ at the station. I was again excited, as I thought I had found my life’s work. I thought, "I can combine my love of music with doing something that will further the Gospel."

As the years passed, I became more and more involved with the Christian music world. I moved to southern California and began working at one of the hottest CCM stations in the country. I became a friend to many of the artists, and was drawn into working for record companies and individual artists.

Along the way, CCM became my whole world. I no longer knew many Lutherans. I was constantly being told that Lutherans were not "born again" and that I needed to follow a higher path to be closer to Jesus. Of course, as a DJ, I was listening to CCM music all day long. I would hang onto the lyrics. Music was always my solace.

I remember a song by one artist that I admired at the time. The artist sang, "You take me farther and higher each day". The song urged me to pursue a deeper relationship with God. I was bombarded with the message that the faith I grew up with was not enough! Instead, I had to do something. I had to "pursue God." This song became my theme for life. I began to long for this "higher" life that was supposed to be out there.

At the time, I didn’t realize that the music I was listening to represented a different teaching and perspective about God than what I had learned as a child. The CCM teachings said that what I had learned in Sunday School and in Luther's Small Catechism was wrong. It was not about what Christ had done for me on the Cross, but my role and how do I live for God? How I can clean up the sin that is in my life? How I can live a more holy, Christian life?

I soon realized that no matter what I did, sin was always there. Constantly, I was looking for new "experiences" to make me feel like I had conquered sin in my life. When I would be sorrowful over my sin, someone would tell me that I was not trying hard enough and that I needed to pray more, confess more sins, and make Jesus first in my life. CCM songs would always urge me to "live" more like a Christian. "It’s fire and ice, darkness or light, it’s one way or the other". I tried so hard to live up to these words.

The teachings found in CCM made me think that the Lutheran Church was irrelevant. So, I left the church, thinking it was forever. I had burned out on trying to be spiritual. All day, I was surrounded by Christian music and other Christians, but. I was suffering under the weight of my own sin!

When all seemed lost, I rediscovered the faith of my youth. The Lutheran Church had what I was searching for. I found out that the strength I needed was not in me, but in the Lord’s Supper and in Baptism. Here I receive forgiveness of my sins. Here I see that it is what Christ has done for me, and that I can do nothing to add to His sacrifice for me! I went looking for spirituality over the rainbow, and, instead, found it in my own backyard!

Today, I still love music, but I am open to many kinds of music. Rap, rock, dance, jazz, opera, house music, you name it. But now I am careful to analyze what I hear.

If you have questions, ask your pastor. Don’t struggle with it if it makes you feel confused. Your pastor is not old-fashioned if he doesn't listen to or recommend CCM. Instead, he loves you. He is concerned that other people’s ideas about God don’t confuse you about the fact that Jesus died for your sins, and that you are saved by His grace alone!

So rather than looking over that rainbow, look in your own backyard. And remember, there's no place like home!

Lori Lewis was a former Contemporary Christian Music disc jockey.


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