musings on worship and christian living


Thank you for the nice card…
May 29, 2008, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Time to break out the blog again for a special post Mother’s Day addition. I hope all of you mothers have felt loved and appreciated, at least for a moment of the day. It is, in fact, your day. I personally think you should get more than one a year, but hey, what do I know?

So, now for my customary observational rant…

Saturday night (Mother’s Day Eve) I stopped in at my friendly neighborhood Fred Meyer for some much needed Saturday night supplies: 4×4 magazines and deodorant. (Two very important items in my book. You may disagree on item one, but for the love of humanity I hope you’re with me on item two.) As I walked towards the magazine rack in the back of the store I turned the corner to find a mass of men, young and old, clogging the isle. You knew immediately that something was up, because they weren’t huddled around a TV in the electronics section watching Sports Center, they were all jockeying for position to stand in front of a huge wall of pink. Pink envelopes to be specific… waiting patiently to gently hold a $3 piece of paper joy known as a Mother’s Day card.

I was instantly embarrassed that so many men (no women) had waited until 3 hours before Mother’s Day to actually think about their mother, or wife whatever the case may have been. (At this point I will apologize to my dad who I know also waited until the last minute. I am not embarrassed by you. More on that later.) The isle was so clogged I had to walk around to pick up my precious Peterson’s 4Wheel & Off-Road.

And like is normal for me… I just got to thinking about Mother’s Day cards.

Now, if you know me well you would be aware that I think cards are stupid in most situations. Just go to the card store and look… they are all dumb. That anyone actually buys some of those cards and thinks “This is a great card!” is perplexing to me, but I know it happens. It seems like every birthday card out there is either about passing gas or is an encouragement to get so wasted they forget they’re getting old. Yeah… I don’t like cards.

As I thought about Mother’s Day cards I actually got sad thinking about how many folk out there use this is their one chance a year to say thank you to their mothers. I realized that for many people the card is more for the giver and not the receiver.

Next time you’re at a party just watch the situation. Who gets excited when a card is being opened? The giver. They wait in eager expectation for the card to be opened, then are consumed with pride when the receiver reads those well thought out words… “You’re a great mom. Thanks for always being there. Love…” They wait for confirmation that their love has been received… “Thank you for that nice card”, then they sit back feeling great about themselves. “Score! I’m the man (woman)! I’m so thoughtful and loving. How thoughtful and loving am I… I got them a card…”

Now I know there are people out their reading this who love giving cards. There is something wonderful about receiving a written note from someone and I don’t say these things to make those thoughtful givers of paper clad encouragement self conscience about their chosen means of showing appreciation. Please don’t stop on my behalf!

Don’t you think though that if we are living a life that is really showing someone love that a card is a moot point? I mean… If I never gave my mom another card, would she know I loved her? I sure hope so. I hope she sees how much I love her in the way I live, in the way I respect her and value her opinion. I hope she sees how much I love her when she’s always one of the first to hear one of my new songs. I hope my dad knows how much I love him by how I strive to be like him, or that I always ask him what he thinks when I’m making a tough choices because I trust him more than anyone.

To go back to my dad, I can tell you that my mom is not dependent upon an occasional card to know that he loves her. She may like it, but it’s not what communicates the love and commitment which their marriage is built on.

So I’m just wondering what kind of card giver you are? Is seeing pink envelopes in the store every May the reminder you need to show your mom or wife you love her? Or do you recognize the people of importance in your life and make it a point to show them that you love them at all times, not just when pop-culture reminds you?

Now… like my mom would say, there is a spiritual lesson in this. I actually think it’s a good one. But I will let you make that connection today.



Look both ways before you… look… look both… are you kidding me?
May 29, 2008, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If one thing has become apparent in the last (almost) 30 years of my life it is that I see things a little different than most people.  I seem to notice, and at times get hung up on aspects of a situation that no one else even cares about.  At times it produces great revelations that I get to blog about… other times it drives me nuts and elicits a much different outcome.

A few weeks back I had one of these moments where something I observed created an “oh…” moment, and now is being transformed into a (hopefully) witty and impacting blog.

The incident of interest happened on a Sunday morning, about 7:30 in the AM.  I  was headed to church and was taking my normal side road route to avoid traffic lights.  I pulled up to an intersection where myself and the gentleman across the road had stop signs, but the road we were crossing did not.  I noticed him sitting there while I was still a half a block away and he was still motionless when my truck rumbled to a stop.

I looked to the left… no cars.  I looked to the right…. no cars.  I looked across the road at that black Mitsubishi Montero expecting him to be proceeding along his desired path.  Yet there he continued to sit, apparently having no intention of heading the words of Edgar Alan Poe in the poem El Dorado to “ride boldly ride”.  Thinking I most assuredly had missed something, maybe some nearly invisible auto cruising down the byway, I looked again… left?  No cars.  Right?  No cars.  Mitsubishi?  Still sitting.

Normally at this time I would have begun to implore him verbally to push the skinny pedal on the right and motivate that fossil fuel powered wheeled vehicle across the street and out of my way.  But for some reason I just watched him in amazement as he looked left, the right.  Left, then right.  Left, then right.  Left then right.

Now I must paint the picture of this intersection for you.  Some intersections in the wonderful city of Vancouver, WA have limited visibility, and often times the liquid sunshine (rain) can further hamper a drivers vision.  However, on this particular day and at this particular intersection neither of those situations were factors.  It was just before dawn and a nice even sunlight clearly illuminated the miles of visible road that stretched out on each side of us.  We were the only two cars anywhere close to the area!  Honestly, there was so much empty road a herd of sloths could have successfully crossed the street for coffee and walked back unhampered.  (Is a bunch of sloths together a herd?)

I sat and watched that guy look back and forth for at least a minute before he cautiously crossed the road and released me from my prison of bewilderment.  I couldn’t believe someone would spend so much of their life making sure an empty road was safe to cross.

As I sat thinking about that situation it brought to my mind Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents.  I just thought about that one servant that go so freaked out about doing anything that he buried that stinking talent in the ground so nothing bad would happen.  In the end his fear of loss resulted in far greater loss than if he would have invested and failed.  In fact… he got tossed out!  Verse 30 says, “throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (I’m not sure what they mean by “gnashing of teeth”, but my vision of it is a place where everyone eats with their mouths open. i.e. hell. ugh!)

When I watched that guy looking over and over again I thought to myself, “Buddy!  At some point you’re either going to have to cross the road or turn around and go home!  You can’t live your life freaked out that something may happen if you cross that road.  That’s not life!”

How often have we sat looking in the eyes of the lost and failed to cross that street and share hope with them?  We are so afraid of getting hit that we don’t even move.  So often the road is empty and there is nothing to impede our progress but still we sit.  We sit and sit and when a car passes 30 minutes later we say, “whew!  See!  The road is dangerous!”

What has God called you to do that you are failing at because you’re too afraid to cross that street?  Is it to share hope and life with a lost friend?  Is it to pursue a dream that no one thinks would succeed?

The reality is the road is dangerous.  You may lose everything, you may gain everything or you may land somewhere in the middle.  But what is true failure anyway?  Is it trying and not succeeding or is it to never try at all?  Don’t spend your whole life checking the road.*

*Please note… If you have missed it, this blog is talking about life, not actual driving.  PLEASE look both ways and drive your car safely.



A Deeper Sorrow
May 29, 2008, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s almost 3 am… and I can’t sleep.  Usually that means I’m having a moment of profound thought, or I’ve been caught up in a particular bit of humor, or I’m stressed out.  Not tonight.

Tonight I can’t sleep because it seems like every moment my heart gets heavier and it gets harder to breathe.  My heart is broken for my friend Jonathan who lost his wife Samantha tonight.  It’s broken for the Kerr family who really became my family in the past 5 years.  It’s broken for an amazing young woman of God who was torn from this world far, far to early.

I want so badly to wrap my arms around my friends, to try and share the sorrow… their pain.  I feel so helpless sitting sleepless in my apartment, while my friend sits alone in a hospital.  I know God is somewhere in this, but sometimes it’s hard to see anything but grief.

So I guess I’ll just continue to sit and cry and hope that the raw emotion of my heart is an understandable prayer in heaven.



What is Worship?
May 29, 2008, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So… here I am late at night again having a musing. Actually, more than a musing… a full on sermon erupted in my head. (Actually… it’s funny, in my head I can be this great preacher with fascinating illustrations (verbal and visual) and great comedic moments that illustrate my points…. but in reality I hate preaching. Not for fear of being in front of people, but I just stink at it an rather prefer music.)

Here’s what has me all fired up. The question, “What is worship”. It has always bothered me, that question, and I could never figure it out. Something just twisted in my gut every time I heard it and every time the debate fired up. Maybe it’s because the “fight” between modern and traditional worship still rages. Maybe it’s because to my eyes it has always seemed an indefinable art. Maybe I spend too much time thinking about it.

But thinking about it I was, and quite frankly it was driving me nuts. I was trying to sleep and all I kept hearing in my head was, “what is worship? What is worship?” Over and over again, like a parrot that only knows one sentence. “Polly want a cracker! Polly want a cracker!”, or the seaqulls in Finding Nemo, “Mine, mine, mine, mine!” Then it hit me. It was fortunate for my sanity but not fortunate for my sleep as I rolled out of bed to grab my computer. I just knew I had to get it out though for fear of losing it by morning.

You know what I hate about it? That word, what. Just typing it makes me frustrated. What. What is worship? What is worship? What, what, what, what?  I hate that word right now! What a stupid question! Talk about a question that divides! The very question begs a definitive, singular answer.

I’ll give you and example. Ask me what I am and there is a definitive answer. I am a human, of the male gender. Ask me what I drive and you get another definitive answer: a Dodge truck. Now ask me who I am and the story changes… who am I opens the door to theories… and more questions… and deep, thoughtful exploration. Ask me how I drive, and the answer is long winded again. (well, the short version is ‘angry’, but it’s very situational and far from definitive.)

Ask a person who attends a “traditional” style church and you’ll get answers like, “special music, hymnals, hand bells, choirs and pipe organs”. It’s definitive… no room for another answer. Same question to a “contemporary” church member? “Rocking bands, killer vocals, songs with a catch and multi-media that reminds me of MTV.” Definitive… Now here is the kicker… What happens with a definitive answer? Those who don’t agree get offended. “Well, no! That’s not worship to me!” (As if our opinion is all that matters.)

No… I think the better question is “how can we worship?” Then the answers aren’t, “worship is“, but rather, “we can worship by“. It’s inclusive and inconclusive. No answer ends up being the end of the story.

How can we worship? We can sacrifice… we can sing… we can shout… we can sit in silent reverence… we can serve… we can hope… we can pray… we can play… we can dance… we can create… we can love…we can encourage… we can empower… we can include… we can give… we can hold… we can weep… we can laugh… we can breathe…

How can we worship the One who has given us everything? That’s a question I like.



Emergency Pair
May 29, 2008, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

well now… it’s 12:50 am, Pacific time, and what better time to find myself in front of my computer screen thinking about something profound?  Or maybe it’s not. It depends on how well my mind actually spits this out. The simple fact of the matter is I’m tired, but I was up working on a new song and as I put away my guitar I had an interesting thought…

That interesting thought is underwear.

Rabbit trail:  As I’m typing this I just realized how much I am like my mother, a woman who finds something spiritual in everything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words, “You know there is a spiritual lesson in that…”  This is usually followed by my dad saying, “oh brother. Your mother finds a spiritual lesson in everything.” Another interesting thing about my mom is that she knows every song that time ever forgot. It’s the truth. She knows a song for every situation. She will be happy to know I am also following her footsteps there as I found myself singing one of her songs to my band at the retreat. It was an interesting moment…

Now back to underwear. I’ve actually had two thoughts about underwear in the last few days. The first one was, why do underwear always ride up and pants always fall down? It seems like they’d go the same direction, doesn’t it? But no… they always seem to be diametrically opposed. Weird. But the thought that this thought is about is a different thought regarding underwear.

What this thought is all about is the “oh no!  I forgot to do laundry and I only have my emergency pair left” underwear. (by the way… why are they a “pair” of underwear?) Everyone has them… the last pair of underwear you ever want to put on because they are 42 years old and suffering from a variety of ailments that all prove to effect their effectiveness. No one knows why you save them either. Maybe it’s the fond memories you’ve had, maybe you’re not willing to part with clothes that still work, or maybe you think they are classics since they are so old… but the reality is we all keep them around.

I don’t know what ailments your emergency pair has, but I know the one mine has. The elastic has given up the fight. They actually handed me a waiver when I picked them up saying, “we will not be responsible if people mistake you for a plumber while we are in use.” We have fought the good fight, and we are retiring! We are willing to stand in, but we aren’t going to try to impress anyone!

So as I hastily did a load of laundry this afternoon a scripture popped into my head. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (anyone every notice how often the semicolon is used in the Bible, and how it’s never used anywhere else?)

I just thought… why in the world do I still have these underwear? I’ve got new things, I don’t need them. If I didn’t have them I would have done laundry earlier and been far happier today. But just like in every part of life we hold on to things we don’t need. Then I moved past underwear and was thinking about things that I’ve held on to since I became a Christian, or the dead things I’ve picked up since I was a Christian, and how they make me miss out on the new things God has blessed me with.

The reality is God wants to give us a whole new wardrobe! Not a physical one, but in our spiritual walk, in our experiences, in every aspect of our lives. What do we do when things pass away? We get rid of them, burry them, cremate them. They are gone. People don’t keep dead things around! Well… Norman Bates does, but I’m surely not aspiring to be like him. (reference: Psycho.  Movie by the genious Alfred Hitchcock)
So I’m wondering… what underwear are we holding on to that’s keeping us from running forward in the new things of Christ? It’s easy to point to things in the church, and I’m usually up for that… but I think the process starts with the individual. (I almost said me, but I don’t need you all pointing out my flaws…) What are we holding on to that is keeping us from the new?  I know I’d just hate to hold on to a bad pair of underwear when God is trying to hand me something new and amazing.



I want to be like: (a)mike (b)crowder (c)rob bell (d)…
May 29, 2008, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Preface… this is long. Hope it’s not boring.

I started writing this blog a while back and never finished it. It’s not an unusual practice for me to begin a thought and lose momentum as my mind begins to rabbit trail. My computer is actually riddled with half written songs, blogs and even a few chapters of a book, all saved in random places and lacking any discernible organization. Inevitably I will be confused by the title of one of my saved documents and I’ll venture inside.

Such was the case with this particular blog. I actually started a different one this afternoon that I was very excited about and was looking for it when I see the title, “I was mulling over Romans 12 this morning.” I had no idea what it was, but one thing I knew is with a title such as that it wasn’t finished because I work very hard a creating my catchy titles. Another indicator was that I apparently was studying in the morning, which is odd because I rather prefer my sleep than getting up to think.

So I started reading and I was inspired anew. There are elements of the original manuscript I typed, and all new elements combined in here in a thought evidently long in the making, and long in the reading.

_________________

I was mulling over Romans 12 this morning… (That wasn’t a very exciting sentence but I thought I’d at least leave it in there.)

Romans 12:1-7. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Wow… every time I read this I’m overwhelmed by the plethora of amazingness (I know it’s not a word… yet) in this passage of scripture. My mind is bursting at the seams with rabbit trails just screaming to be followed, but I must hold course to my first thought. It’s actually one that has nipped at my heels for so long I wonder if there was time I wasn’t pestered by its presence.

That thought is Michael Jordan. Well… not really. But he embodies it. Oh how I wanted to be that guy! (actually, that’s false. I was a Portland Trail Blazers fan and we hide Clyde “The Glyde” Drexler. YES! He was better the Michael in my book.) But Michael was the man! Women wanted to be with him and men wanted to be him. “Be Like Mike” baby!)

Now I beginning to remember why I abandoned this blog. It’s taking too long to say what I’m thinking in a creative way. lol.

So it’s the Mike concept that just kills me! Why was the add campaign so successful? Because people are generally unhappy with whom they are. Somewhere along the way we learned that how we were made wasn’t good enough and so we covet the gifts of others. We dream of having a wish that would transform our boring lives, as if we could acquire what someone else has everything in life would magically be covered in gold and happiness would ooze out of every surface in our hilltop mansion.

Now for most of the world I can understand it. Most people live without hope of something greater, and a life without hope is no life at all. The part that confuses me the most is why it is so ubiquitous in the church. (Laura McGreevey commented on some of my words, so I had to throw one in. My first word was prevalent but this was a great place for something ridiculous. Seriously, like anyone ever says “ubiquitous”.) Why are we in the church so ready to leave behind what we have been given to cling to the blessings of another?

This is by no means an issue brought on by someone in particular. The reality is I’m as guilty as the next person! I find myself doing this all the time with music. I look at David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall… pretty much any one of the hundreds I have on my iTunes and think, “I wish I could create music like that”. But the reality is that my music comes out different, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, God intentionally made me how I am. So why do I so readily abandon the blessings I’ve been given and yearn for the gifts of another?

Honestly speaking, I think this is at the root of one, if not the biggest problem in the church. Somewhere along the way (I’ve said that opening twice in this blog… I’m losing a step) we’ve singled out a few positions, pastor, preacher, singer, and raised them on a pedestal saying “these callings are what make you a legitimate gifted Christian.” So everyone dreams of being on the worship team or wants to lead something and most often they aren’t equipped to do so.

The result is anything but good. On one side an inordinate amount of pressure is placed on those in leadership to handle emotionally fragile people whose self worth is somehow caught up in “being like mike”. On the other side we have people expending all their energy and hope trying to become something they aren’t supposed to be.

When you do the math it all adds up to a body where nothing is in the right place. The hand is trying to be the head, the shoulder trying to be knee, the foot trying to be the mouth. We then sit back and wonder why our congregations in America are shrinking, and why most church growth comes from church hoppers.

Romans 12 points us to a different route. It says that we are specifically gifted on purpose so that we may function as the body of Christ. And God, knowing our presupposition to covet the character and gifts of another gave us the ultimate example. Ephesians 5 says,

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

I can’t begin to put into words how much I ache for the church to be healthy. To be a place where all gifts are celebrated and where people are consumed with being like Christ, not like Mike. That is where we find the freedom to chase who we we’re made to be and never covet the gifts of another because our goal in Christ is far greater. That’s freedom this world could buy into. Where you are not just ok, but that we recognize you were specifically designed and gifted and the people around you celebrate it.

And how fitting that as I finish this thought Bethany Dillon comes through my computer speakers singing “Beautiful”. I know the blog is long, but I’m putting in the lyrics anyway. If you haven’t heard it, go get it. (the acoustic version is best)

“I was so unique
Now I feel skin deep
I count on the make-up to cover it all
Crying myself to sleep cause I cannot keep their attention
I thought I could be strong
But it’s killing me

Does someone hear my cry?
I’m dying for new life

[Chorus]

I want to be beautiful
Make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart,
and be amazed
I want to hear you say
Who I am is quite enough
Just want to be worthy of love
And beautiful

Sometimes I wish I was someone other than me
Fighting to make the mirror happy
Trying to find whatever is missing
Won’t you help me back to glory

[Chorus]

You make me beautiful
You make me stand in awe
You step inside my heart, and I am amazed
I love to hear You say
Who I am is quite enough
You make me worthy of love and beautiful”

I don’t know if I tracked straight through on this one, because my head is everywhere. But as I’m typing one thing is for sure, I’m praying that whatever God has gifted you with is seen as amazing and that you covet nothing but developing those gifts and knowing Christ deeper.



Anemic Showers and Vociferous Deity
May 29, 2008, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I’m looking at my dashboard here (not the one in my truck, but the one for my blog) and I see that there have been almost 2000 total reads on my blogs since I started posting these little rants.  That’s actually 40% of the hits to my page overall, which leads me to believe a large portion of you would rather read my thoughts than listen to them.  You know, this information could have saved me a lot of money in CD production…  : )  (and I add for someone who thought I regretted recording.  I don’t regret it, I am just joking around.)

That said, let me now continue with those thoughts that 40% of you are waiting for.

I woke up this morning very sad and frustrated.  Although a large part of me wants to tell you about it, I’m not going to get in to why.  Some things are too divisive in nature to speak out to the general public, and the last thing I want to do is compound an already painful issue.

After a long conversation (not related to the topic) with a good friend in Indiana I took a head full of sporadic thought and frustration with me to one of my favorite thinking spots, the shower.  This only added to the frustration.  Why?  I have a very… moody shower.  Some days it is perfect, and bountiful hot water cascades from the shower from what seems like hours, and I leave refreshed and renewed.  Other days it takes offense that it’s in use and hurls buckets of scalding hot water on my back and seems impervious to my attempts to turn it down.  I can almost hear its egomaniacal laughter as my skin blisters from the heat.

Well today I stood in a frustrating display of mediocrity as lukewarm water tumbled from the shower head.  I listened intently for sounds of mocking laughter from the water heater closet but all I heard was a faint yawn.  Although I immediately felt like exiting the shower I stood in silent protest to show the shower that I would not be bullied and secretly hoped for the water to miraculously rise to the desired temperature.

Needless to say, I had no mind blowing thoughts and the best that was accomplished was leaving the shower downtrodden yet Zestfully clean.  If you are still reading and wondering if there is a point, there is.  It came over yogurt and granola in my kitchen though.

I was talking at God (yes I meant to say at, cause I really wasn’t caring what he had to say at the time) and letting him know (as if he didn’t) that I really wasn’t happy with some of his people and it would be really great if he could do something about it.  I also included that he should really say something to my shower, because it’s really not fair I have to put up with that kind of behavior.  I seamlessly transitioned into a rant about what I needed and deserved after years of dealing with his people.

Sometimes God speaks loudly.

Now I only caught the last part of his first line, but I know it ended with a resounding “up” and a small earthquake.  He then said clearly “if you want joy in your life, you need only to open your eyes to see it.”

I don’t know if that is really fair of him to talk to me like that, but I could tell he wasn’t in the mood to discuss.  So point taken and point passed on.  Now don’t read here that we abandon our frustrations, because I still have mine.  Don’t read here to bottle up emotional response to tragedy and pain because we need to walk through that.  Do read here to always be reveling in the blessings God does give, in every day and every hour.  Like we read in Job 6:10, “Then I would still have this consolation – my joy in unrelenting pain – that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.”

So in response to a very vociferous deity I’m going to list a few of things that bring me joy.  This is not an exhaustive list by any means.  Feel free to add to the list in response.

______________________________________________________________

Jesus Christ
The amazing gift of grace
My amazing family.  Mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law, niece and nephew.  Grandma, uncles, aunts, cousins…
The gift of music, the ears to hear it, the fingers to play it, and the voice to sing it
The call to use my gifts to glorify God
Amazing friends that put up with my passionate and vocal approach to life
The chance to be a part of the lives of students and watch them grow in Christ
Rain in the summer
Sunshine in the winter
Lots of snow and a wood fire burning
Hot showers  : )