musings on worship and christian living


What Is Needed Not Desired
May 20, 2009, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Life

If you know me at all you are probably aware I’ve been walking the path of “starving musician” for the past 8 months and counting.  I effectively went from a living wage job to… well, not a living wage job.  It’s hard enough to make a living playing music when you’re well known, it’s next to impossible when you’re just getting started.  

It has been an interesting journey for me as I have had to swallow my pride and rely on the generosity of others to even make ends meet.  I’ve also had to take a hard look at what is important, weighing what is needed over what is desired.  At times I have been extremely frustrated that I couldn’t do what I wanted.  Many times I have found myself being envious of friends who were traveling and vacationing when I was struggling to find enough money to put fuel in my truck and essentially living off Top Ramen (which actually kills my stomach, but it’s cheap).  

The gut check for me is in realizing on a global level I am wealthy.  This was refreshed in my mind while reading a blog post by Vicky Beeching in which she re-posted this video.

Right now I’m averaging about $700 a month in income, or about $8400 for the year.  That works out to about $23 a day.  The poverty line for the US is right around $12,000 a year for a single with no kids, so I am well below that.  However, in the global scheme of things I am a wealthy man as 53% of the world population lives on $2 a day.  I still have a truck (which will soon be for sale if anyone is interested), a roof over my head (thank you Jonathan), guitars, 2 computers, a TV, an Xbox and a cupboard full of dehydrated noodles.

In the past 8 months I have realized what a culture of extreme excess we live in.  It strikes me as insanity that we continue building fiscal empires and consuming without end while so many in the world sit with nothing.  

As with most things what is in my heart comes out in song.  I wrote this yesterday in response to the video as well as 8 months of observation and pondering.  It is yet unnamed (your suggestions are welcome).  

My challenge for us all today is to give up something you desire and instead fill the need of one without.

©2009 Nathan Arnold

I haven’t slept for days
The world and its dismay
Weighing on my shoulders
I’ve heard them saying we should change
To things essentially the same
So much for simple answers

And I’ve been wondering what our dreams are made of
Is sleep a needed element to reach them

“Hey there Mr Sandman” I say
“Won’t you pass me a little sleep now?
I want to leave this place
And dream a piece of heaven.”

I’ve heard it said that we should save
The hungry, hurting and enslaved
Yet we lounge in our own excess
Should it come as a surprise
The desperate see us and despise
Our self-righteous answers

And I’ve been wondering what my dreams are made of
Is sleep a needed element to reach them

“Hey there Mr Sandman” I say
“Won’t you pass me a little sleep now?
I want to leave this place
And dream a piece of heaven.”

If we dream a better world where there aren’t hungry sick and poor
Will it just fade away as waking turns from sleep
Maybe if we would just survive on what is needed not desired
We could find a way to see dreams awake

“Hey there Mr Sandman” I say
“Won’t you pass me a little sleep now?
I want to leave this place
And dream a piece of heaven
The peace of heaven.”

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Reprise: Emergency Pair
May 4, 2009, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Life

I just got done moving out of my apartment of 2 years and after spending weeks sorting through all my things and giving much of it away I thought of this blog.  It also seems fitting in light of my previous blog and embracing the new things God has for me going forward.  So I thought it was worth a reprise.  I dug it out of the backlogs of the blog and here it is again, one of my favorites.  Hope y’all are having a tremendous day!  

-Nathan

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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 about is the “oh no!  I forgot to do laundry and I only have my emergency pair of underwear left”. (by the way… why are they a “pair” of underwear?) Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.  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 severely affect 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 (or vintage?) 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 genius 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.



Reflections: My Life and the Songs that Healed
May 4, 2009, 2:59 am
Filed under: Life, Worship

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” – Proverbs 27:19

My final words from high school.  Quoted eloquently under my senior picture which turned out OK despite a frustrating bad hair day.  Of course… looking back, I think every day was a bad hair day in the mid 90’s.  

It’s amazing what happens over the years, how we are changed and shaped by life’s events, by choices we make and by experiences forced upon us both good and bad.  I’m sitting in my new temporary home and the location has caused many hours of reflection, on what is and what has been, where I’m going and where I’ve been.

If you read the previous post on my blog than you know Jonathan’s story.  What’s not included in that post is that I lived with and worked closely in ministry with Jon for over 3 years.  I’m writing this from his house where I once rented a room and am now living again, a house that was later shared by he and his wife Samantha and then left vacant in the wake of tragedy.  This house carries with it many memories for me and has brought me to a place of reflection on the past few years.

I’d love to tell you that my life in that time has been one of extreme joy and blessing.  Although I know God has been with me through each moment the bottom line is that life, MY life, was not supposed to be this way.  I understand in the global scheme of things I am tremendously blessed and I should find tremendous joy in that.  The reality though is that I had expectations for my life, and expectation is often a joy killer.  

I think my expectations were reasonable.  By 31 I was supposed to be married to an amazing woman who, like me, had honored God and retained their purity.  (She was also supposed to love Jesus, have an angelic voice, think I was cute and not strongly desire the company of cats, because I am allergic.)  I was supposed to have kids, be working a steady job, own a house and a few cool vintage 4×4’s (and a sweet guitar collection).  

Instead, as I approach birthday #31 I’m sitting in a friends house and am as broke as a college student after buying textbooks, I am still single and am beginning to think I’m the only virgin left on the planet, (is this a run on sentence?) I work part time at a bookstore and beg and harass people to let me play music for them hoping to somehow eek out a living doing what God has called me to and I’m selling my cool 4×4 to support my music habit.  (What kind of idiot to I have to be to pursue a career that costs money instead of making money anyway?)  

If I am honest, 30 for me really was the death of joy.  Every expectation I had of what life should be was dead, and what I could see before me was bleak at best.  To add to the death of joy I had a string of tragedies that still give me anxiety issues when answering the phone.  Within the course of a year one of my students lost his mom in a hiking accident, my best friend lost his wife in a car accident and my niece was diagnosed with leukemia.  When I lost my job in September I was beaten down and out of hope.  

It wasn’t until recently that I say God working in the last few years of my life, breaking down what I wanted so (hopefully) he can replace it with what He knows I need.  I was reading 1 Kings 19, and that iconic passage where Elijah hears God in a “gentle whisper”.  If you are unaware of the context of that verse, Elijah was pretty much beaten up and left all alone, something I was really connecting with.  Although Elijah was dejected and defeated God gave him hope, peace and a promise of a future.  From that passage I wrote these words:

You said You’re not in the wind but in a whisper
So I’ll be still and listen close to hear Your heart
I just need a word of peace a place of refuge
To know in this breath that You alone are God

The Word and those lyrics challenged me listen closely for that quiet voice, and what God showed me was that even through my lowest He had been speaking and healing me through the lyrics I wrote and melodies I composed.  Thankfully God walks with us through each step, be it dark or beautiful.  Although I don’t know what’s coming I have a hope that I’ll at least play a part in something great; the story of God working in a broken world.  Though I am not a poet I hope the words of these songs and the stories that birthed them touch and heal your heart as well.  I know this post is really long, so feel free to chip away at it.  I’ll keep the next one shorter.  

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Trevor Pahn was a senior in my high school ministry.  His parents were hiking and his mother fell 230 feet.  I had never met Melissa, but her legacy was clearly seen in her son Trevor who was (and is) one of the most tender hearted, loving people you will ever meet.  Trevor’s phone call was the worst I have received, and the emotion and brokenness of that moment is a pain I won’t forget.  Here are some of the words I wrote in response:

Help Me Carry On
©2007 Nathan Arnold Music

Another life has come and gone
Another lost who knew to show what redemption really means
Why do we lose the noble young
While the wicked rages on bringing madness to our peace

In a broken, fallen world
There is a hope that keeps us climbing towards the sky and pressing on
Into the face of the unknown
He will help us carry on
Help me carry on
Jesus help me carry on

On April 15, 2008 my best friend lost his wife in a tragic car accident.  Samantha was one of the most grace filled women I have ever met.  Her dad once said that Samantha had a special light to her, and he was right.  There are people that shine brightly when everything around them is dark.  Samantha shown brightly even in the light.  In fact, she is still shining today.  

Sam’s Song (Lighting Up Heaven)
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

Sweet angel of mercy, sweet angel of peace
Rain that falls to you early we can barely believe
Words fight to define the measure of your heart
Words fail to describe how precious you were
Oh sweet angel of mercy
Sweet angel of peace

But as we cry these tears we know you’re lighting up heaven
Though there’s no reason to find for those left behind
We know you’re lighting up heaven

Sweet angel of mercy, our angel of light
Christ shown so clearly through you illuminating night
Words fight to define the measure of your life
Words cannot describe the brilliance of your light
Oh sweet angel of mercy, sweet angel of peace

Echoes still remain
Of life lived for the King

The next earth shattering news was that my 4 year old niece Audrey had been diagnosed with leukemia.  I remember the agony of the moment, and literally crying out to God to fix it.  I have never prayed with such ferocity or intensity as I have for her, wishing in every moment that she could be spared this experience.  In the end all I had left was just to cling to God, to believe that no matter how much I loved her He loved her more.

Hold On To Love
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

Just heard the news today
Doctor spoke and tore the world away
Words expressed are incomplete
Silence falls and still I weep

I search for words that will bring peace
After cancer shattered fields of infant dreams
But all that lingers, all that stays
The only words that still remain are

Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love
Hold on

Such indiscriminate disease
Unaware of how it preys upon the weak
“She’s four years old” I cry in vain
Every tear a wish to steal away her pain and I just

Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love

In the darkness I can hear Him speak
He whispers softly to my need
“What was broken in her won’t remain
My blood was given in its place so-

“Hold on to love
Hold on to love
When you can’t stand on your own
Hold on to love
Hold on”

In September 2008 my interim time as worship and youth pastor at my church ended.  I had hoped to stay on as the worship pastor but was told after interviews that they wanted to go another direction.  After months of applying for jobs (0ver 150) with no luck and completely frustrated with where life had taken me I wrote a song, my lament.

If This is My life
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

This is not where I wanted to be
Hand out for charity
Head on the ground
Rain pouring down
This is not where I wanted to be

But it’s the life that I get so I’ll live it
Though it’s not where I thought I would be
Through the pain and the rain I’ll try harder to see
The man that You want me to be

If this is my life

This is not where I thought I would be
Forgiven yet not living free
Heart in my hand I can’t understand
This is not where I thought I would be

But it’s the life that I get so I’ll live it
Thought it’s not where I thought I would be
Through the pain and the rain I try harder to see
The man that You want me to be
If this is my life

And my head overflows with things I don’t know
And my heart sometimes won’t believe
That forgiveness resides and hope still abides
In a love that chases me

In November of 2008 I wrote what has quickly become my favorite worship song I have written.  The song was really written as a reminder to me to trust in the Lord, and seek only Jesus Christ, for it is by Him alone we are saved.  This song is embodies my resurrected hope and joy and is constant reminder of where I need to turn.  It’s interesting that the most simply of songs lyrically seems to speak the loudest.  

Hope To Deliver
©2008 Nathan Arnold Music

There is one name, one Hope to Deliver
Savior, my Strength, my Redeemer
Bright and Morning Star
Desire of this heart

His name is Jesus
We praise the name of Jesus
Mighty in power
Strong to deliver
His name is Jesus

By no other name we are saved
By no other name shall we lift our praise
By no other name we are saved
But the name of Jesus

Though there are many songs in between, all carrying their own story and all on my heart to share the ones here are the signposts for me that speak to where I’ve been and where I’m going.  They are altars of remembrance and thanksgiving, of pain, healing and hope.  May they be used by God in any way he sees fit.