Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Firework or Sunbeam? (2012)

This is the annual update and reprint of a blog that was first published 7/21/11.

For a lot of reasons I do not stay up-to-date on the pop music scene and only occasionally listen to pop radio stations. I prefer gospel music, talk radio (when in the mood), light jazz (when I can find it), and sometimes I’m a little bit country (I grew up in Texas, what can I say?) and sometimes a little bit rock and roll.

However, even though pop music is not a #1 priority with me, because it often permeates society (clips of popular songs often show up in commercials and at ball games, etc.) I learn about songs I otherwise would not know about. 

One such song is Firework sung by Katy Perry. Even though it has been on the charts since 2010, I finally paid attention to it last year at Stadium of Fire in Provo, Utah. (That is kind of an appropriate place for a firework song to show up since Stadium of Fire is the biggest stadium fireworks show in the country, if not the world.) Appropriately, a clip of the song was played during the fireworks display.

Shortly thereafter I heard the song again, with new words, when someone pointed me to a YouTube video. The name of the video was Firebolt and was a BYU Divine Comedy sketch using different words to the Katy Perry song to send up Harry Potter and his firebolt scar. I have to admit, it was a fun video.

This particular video set my curiosity a blaze and I decided I needed to learn more about the song Firework. That led me to YouTube again for the actual Firework music video by Katy Perry. That was an interesting experience. I will admit that it is a fun, energetic song that appears to have a positive message. However, I shut the video off before it even finished because it promoted homosexual behavior, “parties,” and immodesty.

While much entertainment is good, some of it can lead you away from righteous living. Offensive material is often found in web sites, concerts, movies, music, videocassettes, DVDs, books, magazines, pictures, and other media. Satan uses such entertainment to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead you into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong.

Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.

While the words of the song Firework are not, on their own, immoral or deceptive, the music video was full of deception. It was clearly making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. I, therefore, without fully knowing it at the time, took the advice of For the Strength of Youth—I stopped watching it.

But then I got to thinking about the message of the song—that we are fireworks. That each of us has a spark of light within us and that we should let that light shine “across the sky.” On the surface, that seems like a fantastic message. However, after a while the philosopher in me kicked in.

Think about a firework for just a moment. How long does that light shine? Hours? Minutes? Seconds? Yes, fireworks are exciting and powerful and colorful (and I love fireworks). But they are also short-lived. Even the most beautiful firework fizzles out in seconds. The light will not even last a full minute. And once the light from one firework fizzles out, in order to keep the excitement going another must be fired and then another and then another. Usually, the best fireworks shows go through a few hundred fireworks, last about 30 minutes, and then they are over. The light is gone.

Fireworks are exciting and colorful, yes. But they are also temporary. Is that what our Heavenly Father wants for us? Temporary light? To be a burst of excitement and then we are over?

I believe the answer to that question is resounding “No.” Heavenly Father wants much more for us—much, much more. He wants permanent light. He wants sunshine. That is when the words to a children’s primary song came to my mind:

These words may seem trite or even childish next to an exciting song by Katy Perry, but think about sunshine. What are its characteristics? It is warm. It is life-giving and life-sustaining. It is more permanent than a firework—much more permanent. In fact, according to scientists, our sun as been in existence for about 4.57 billion years.

The sun is also more powerful than a firework. In fact, there is no question that the sun is the most powerful force in our solar system.

We also know that even the stars are actually suns from other solar systems whose light has reached our planet after many light-years of travel. Imagine the power of a sun that emits a light that lasts 24,000-26,000 years—the distance our solar system is from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. And that is just our galaxy—there are a multitude of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way!

Does all of this give a deeper, broader meaning to the phrase, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam?” I say “Yes!” We can be suns! We can be a light in the lives of those around us. We can warm their lives. We can give them lasting life. All we have to do to be this kind of light is be obedient to God’s commandments. As the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught in For the Strength of Youth:

Because the Lord loves you, He has given you commandments and the words of prophets to guide you on your journey. Some of the most important guidelines for your life are found in this pamphlet. We testify that these principles are true.

We promise that as you keep these standards and live by the truths in the scriptures, you will be able to do your life’s work with greater wisdom and skill and bear trials with greater courage. You will have the help of the Holy Ghost. You will feel good about yourself and will be a positive influence in the lives of others. You will be worthy to go to the temple to receive holy ordinances. These blessings and many more can be yours.

I truly believe our Father in Heaven wants us to be more than fireworks, which are exciting for a few seconds, but then disappear. Our Father in Heaven wants us to be sunbeams—real, powerful, lasting, life-giving sunbeams. And to have this permanent light in our life, all we need to do is follow Him.

Acknowledgement: A special thanks goes to my friend Valerie Dimick who’s lecture on the subject of “sun” versus “light bulbs” helped to inspire this message.

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