Relatable

On January 19, 2017, and for the eight years preceding that date, Barack Obama was my president. As of January 20, 2017, and for the undetermined foreseeable future, Donald Trump is my president. No snarky slogan or attempt at poetic justice will ever make either of those statements less true.

We live in a society that yearns to degrade those with whom they disagree. Rather than attempt to engage in civil discourse, we hide behind jeers and slurs. We give self-appointed titles, attempting to box the world around us into the vision of our own reality. “Obama is not MY president.” “Trump will never be MY president.”

I understand the frustration; I get the sentiment. It’s hard to accept that the world’s reality does not fit within the selfishly created box of one’s own mind. It’s a struggle I have faced time and time again throughout my short life. I’ve been shaped by the landscape of my own personal journey as have we all. To some, the life experience I’ve had so far has been adventurous, filled with cultural and religious diversity. To others, my life experience has been narrow-sighted, lacking exposure to the greater world and it’s many beautiful nuances. To all, it’s relative.

Collectively as human beings, we do a tremendously bad job of being relatable. Again, it’s hard to accept that the world’s reality does not fit within the selfishly created box of one’s own mind. I’ve met many wonderful people who are excellent at attempting to be relatable, even succeeding at times, but yet they still suffer the consequences of their own life experiences and the prejudices that come with that. We attempt to ignore the prejudices rather than trying to overcome them which creates a cyclical effect of constant resurgence. We never get past ourselves to see into the lives of others.

Maybe it’s negative to say but I also don’t think we will ever get completely past ourselves truly allowing us to see into the lives of others. I think that’s assimilation and we aren’t built as human beings to be universally assimilated. There will always be cultural, ethnic, religious, and political division that we face (which is good if treated in a healthy way). The key is found in the respect of the opposing view, which brings me back to my original point:

On January 19, 2017, and for the eight years preceding that date, Barack Obama was your president. As of January 20, 2017, and for the undetermined foreseeable future, Donald Trump is your president. No snarky slogan or attempt at poetic justice will ever make either of those statements less true. Don’t disregard this statement because it is coming from a white, middle-class, Protestant, male; that would be the antithesis of my entire point. Eight years ago, I was rallying a battle cry that Barack Obama was not my president and over the last eight years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a life experience that showed me just how wrong I was. Don’t be me. Be better than me.

Fight for injustice, stand up against tyranny, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and clothe the poor, pray for those with whom you agree and pray for those with whom you disagree. Today, let’s all try to be a little more relatable.

The stones will cry out

The nineteenth chapter of Luke tells of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. People everywhere were shouting and singing “Hosanna” and waving palm branches in excitement and adoration of their Messiah. In verse 39, some of the Pharisees demanded that Jesus rebuke these people for making such a fuss. In verse 40, Jesus responds that if they were silent, the stones themselves would cry out.

Wouldn’t that just be utterly terrifying? You’re going through life, minding your own business, never praising God, and all of a sudden, the rocks on the ground starting yelling and singing. Not only are they yelling and singing but they’re shouting praises to God.

As a worship leader, it can be hard to remove my ego and realize how truly irrelevant I am in praising God. Yes, it is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to glorify God and yes, it is my responsibility as a worship leader to utilize music to worship and lead others in worshiping God. But it’s plain right there in verse 40, if I don’t do it, someone else will, and if they don’t do it, the rocks themselves will cry out in praise and adoration of our great God.

God will be praised. God will be glorified.

The fact of the matter is: I’m replaceable, and that is a good and wonderful thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to use music to glorify God and lead others in worship but the realization that I’m easily replaceable, that God will be praised regardless of what I do, helps me to keep the most important aspect of worship in check: it is completely and entirely never about me or you. Ever.

Does ego get in the way sometimes? Absolutely it does. Even worship leaders and Pastors are fallible. But if I can’t work past that ego, then I’m in this for all the wrong reasons and need to get out of God’s way. We reach a dangerous point when we let ego step in and make worship more about our desires and our preferences than the reason we are worshiping in the first place. We reach an equally dangerous point when we constantly criticize another person’s preference of worship just because it doesn’t fit into the mold of what we think is best. When we allow that to happen, the only rocks that won’t be praising God are the rocks that were once the hearts beating in our chest.

God is expansive and beautiful and worthy of all the types of praise and worship that we can muster. Praise God with all you can. Don’t let ego get in the way and don’t let the rocks do your job.

Mom: The Emotional Basket Case

I like pretending that I am not an emotional person. It’s always seemed like it would be so much easier to get through life if you just didn’t have emotional responses to situations or people. Thus I decided that making it seem as if I didn’t care would make it easier for me to get through life. The problem is I do care.

I secretly cry more than the average person. I read articles about war-torn countries taking the lives of children halfway around the world, watch stories about young athletes overcoming disabilities and adversity, see homeless veterans begging for food at intersections and I can’t stop the tears welling up as my heart begins to ache inside my chest. I say secretly because I hate crying in front of people. When it happens, I turn my head or leave the room and fight it as best I can. Most of the time, no one notices; I’ve gotten very good at it.

It’s my mom’s fault. She is an emotional basket case. At least once a week, I call my mom and we talk about what’s happened in each of our lives over the previous week. She shares a plethora of opinions and I have a retort for every one of them. At least once every couple of weeks, she will inevitably cry. 99 times out of 100, it’s over something that would seem trivial to most people but she doesn’t care, it’s meaningful to her and deserves tears. That’s where I get it from.

I got something else from my mom: my love of people. From an early age, she has taught me tolerance and acceptance. She has tried to teach me to meet people where they are rather than forcing them to come to me. She hasn’t always been perfect at practicing it but she has always worked to instill that in me and my siblings.

In a recent TedTalk entitled “Love, No Matter What”, Andrew Solomon shares a saying his mother used to tell him:

“The love you have for your children is like no other feeling in the world; and until you have children, you don’t know what it’s like.”

I can’t know if that’s true yet. I don’t have children and I’m not positive I ever even will. But I do know how much I love people and I know how much my mother loves me, my brother, and my sister. I know that she has made mistakes in life because she is human. I know she has had uncontrollable setbacks because this is a broken world; and I know that there is nothing that could compromise her love for me.

I’m grateful for her. I’m grateful for her life. I’m grateful for her love, and I’m grateful that she has passed on to me, a genuine love for people. I hope I will always be an emotional basket case just like her, crying when my heart aches for others. I hope that I am able to love others even half as much as she always has and always will love me.

Midweek Music 04.13.16

And So It Goes | Billy Joel

We’re in the midst of a sermon series at the church called “Vinyl Theology” that challenges us to see and hear God in all kinds of music. This is going to be a special series for me to experience for obvious reasons. In addition to that, I’ve been on the side of the road in experiencing bits of tragedy and pain here and there over the last week. I say “side of the road” because I’ve not been directly involved or affected by any it but I’ve been present as people have been grieving and sharing their stories and experiences. Of course even when we aren’t directly involved, we are affected when those with whom we “do life” experience unexpected changes, good or bad.

This week, we have two memorial services at the church; one for a 7-year old and one for a 4-year old. I can’t comprehend it. I have an 8-year old nephew and a 4-year old nephew that I adore. I’ve had moments of transference as my mind uncontrollably places them in those shoes and I weep. I don’t see them nearly as often as I would like and yet I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t want to imagine life without them.

It was in high school that I first felt a calling to ministry. Recognizing what I was feeling was helped and nurtured by my youth pastor at the time. I loved that guy and I loved that I was challenged to love God and share that love with others. I loved his wife too. I was on the worship team with both of them and I spent most of my high school years in awe of their talents, their passion for God, and their ability to love people. Jeremy was one of the first people I reached out to after my divorce; it was the first time we had spoken in at least 4 years. I found out that his wife had Huntington’s and I was heartbroken. This week, he started a blog and I read his first post. I wept after I read it.

Billy Joel wrote “And So It Goes” when he was going through a breakup with his girlfriend at the time. It seems like a such a small experience compared to the deaths of children or being forced to watch your significant other succumb to disease but if there is anything I’ve learned about pain, it’s really not our place to tell people about what they can and can’t grieve or how they are “allowed” to grieve. All I know is that when I hear this song; I see, hear, and feel God amidst pain.

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

 

Midweek Music 03.16.16

My Song in the Night | Traditional American Folk Hymn

There is unequivocal beauty in the Passion story. The fact that God, because of the great love God had for us, descended from heaven, took on flesh in the form of the Son, and sacrificed himself for us. I find the world to be a dark place more often than not these days. Maybe that makes me pessimistic, maybe it just makes me realistic. Either way, that is how I view it. But I take comfort in words like the lyrics in this song. May it be a comfort to you as well.

O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love,
my soul’s delight.
Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night.

O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night.
Come to us with Thy tender love,
my soul’s delight.
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night.

My Song in the Night (Arr. Mack Wilberg; performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

My Song in the Night (Arr. Paul Christiansen; performed by the Salt Lake Vocal Artists)


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 03.09.16

Every Breath | Gungor

I just love this song. We’re doing it this week in worship at Keller so it’s in the forefront of my mind and I felt like sharing it.

Every breath
Every moment life beats in my chest
Springs up from your hand
Creation resounds
With every color and every sound
Your love is calling


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 03.03.16

Child of God | Mark Miller

I was introduced to the music of Mark Miller 5 years ago. I was immediately captivated by his way of capturing powerful text and setting it so simply and beautifully to music. I had the privilege of meeting and working with him a little over 2 years ago for the first time. Since then, I’ve been able to work with and correspond with him on occasion. In that time, he and his music have shaped my philosophy on ministry and music as well as the church’s responsibility in regards to social justice.

Last year at a conference that I was attending and Mark was leading worship, I had the opportunity to hear him lead one of his most recently published songs. “Child of God” is the simplest yet most underrated message to and for the church. That next weekend, I took it back to my church and played and sang it for the congregation. It was a message that I felt needed to be heard immediately. The political climate in this country is terribly divisive right now. There are certain politicians claiming Christianity while standing on a platform that tears down people of varying cultures, genders, faiths, and creeds. That is not love. That is not the message of Christ. This is:

No matter what people say, say or think about me
I am a child, I am a child of God

No matter what people say, say or think about you
You are a child, you are a child of God

You can listen to a better recording here but there is no video.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 02.25.16

The Light That Has Lighted The World | George Harrison

Happy Birthday to the quiet and underrated member of one the greatest bands ever whose life was far too short.

I’m grateful to anyone, that is happy or free,
for giving me hope while I’m looking to see
The light that has lighted the world


 

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

2 Corinthians 12;9

It’s not a typo. The semicolon is supposed to be there but we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.

Two years ago, I made a series of bad decisions. Some of the worst decisions I’ve ever made all in one night. Those bad decisions were the product of a time in my life when I was experiencing deep depression. The last bad decision I made that night was to harm myself on my left forearm. It’s not in my nature but depression can make you do things that you never thought possible of yourself. I was ashamed. I had allowed my brokenness, my weakness to control me. I sank further into depression. I drank more.

It was about 3 months later that I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 in my personal devotion time. I’d read it before, it was familiar, but it was different this time. I can be a prideful person and with that pride comes difficulty in recognizing and admitting faults, or weaknesses. It was easy to read the words and think, “I’m good.”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

“(Christ’s) grace is sufficient for (me)” “Power is perfected in weakness”

This time as I sat there depressed and broken reading this passage of scripture, the words sank in and I wept. How could Christ’s grace be sufficient for what I did? How could power come out of such a great weakness, nonetheless be perfected by it? It couldn’t in my mind yet there it was in black and white. Paul didn’t mince words, he wasn’t talking in coded circles, he was explicit.

It took me some time to accept it. It took me longer to even think about boasting. I wrote about it several months later for the first time. It was hard. It hurt some people, it helped some people. After that, the whole thing became taboo to me. I didn’t talk about it and I didn’t want new acquaintances and friends to know about it. It was as if it had never happened.

I’m not regularly depressed but I’m going to admit, I do get depressed sometimes. Every so often, I become overwhelmingly and inexplicably sad. But I’m a lot better now; in some ways I’m better than I’ve ever been before.

The turning point was what 2 Corinthians 12 did for my faith. Everyone always seems to have it all together in church, good on them if they actually do, but having it all together is not grace; that isn’t Christ’s power working in us. Christ’s power is never better displayed than in our weakness. It’s right there in verse 9. Why do we hide it? Why do we, in essence, flee the perfect, redemptive love and grace of our Creator and Savior? For me, it was pride. I couldn’t admit problems because that’s not who I was. I had it all together.

I don’t have it all together and that is okay. I want to boast about my Savior’s power to the world. I want to scream it even though I have found that screaming, “JESUS LOVES YOU” at people is one of the worst and most ineffective forms of evangelism. BUT HE DOES LOVE YOU AND I STILL WANT TO SCREAM IT.

I’m not going to scream it. I’m going to find ways to display Christ’s power through my weakness. One way I’m going to do it is through my newest tattoo. Project Semicolon was founded to be a way to spread hope and love for those who are or have struggled with depression, self-harm, suicide, mental illness, and addiction. You can read more about it by clicking above but the basis is to get a semicolon tattoo as a statement that my life isn’t over yet, the same way a semicolon works in a sentence.

I wanted a way to display this idea while honoring Christ and the work He has done in my life. I decided this was the best way to do so:

FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender

Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses. I will boast about my weaknesses so that His power may reside in me and give me the ability to show that power with others.

Midweek Music 02.17.16

Psalm 16 (Fullness of Joy) | Shane and Shane

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good besides You’…You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:1-2

Psalm 16 is one of favorite chapters in Psalms. The NASB translation titles it “The LORD, the Psalmist’s Portion in Life and Deliverer in Death.” What an incredible reflection during Lent. God took on flesh and became Christ to be our physical portion in life and to deliver us from our certain death. And for that, I give all thanks, glory, and honor to God.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.