Midweek Music 01.06.16

“Hey Jude” | The Beatles

This isn’t a worship song. If you didn’t know that, you don’t know who The Beatles are and if you don’t know who The Beatles are, I don’t know what to do for you.

A few weeks ago, Spotify released the complete discography of one my all-time favorite musical groups and one of the greatest bands of the 20th Century. I was ecstatic as it’s always been a disappointment that Spotify didn’t have but a handful of The Beatles’ songs available. It’s very uncommon that I listen to any music not related to Christmas during the month of December but I was very comfortable making this rare exception.

I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s with family in Alabama. Every time I go home, I take my nephews, Korban (7) and Lawson (4), out for the day; just the three of us. I had the distinct privilege of introducing them to the wonder that is The Beatles. As we drove around town listening to various hits and a few deep tracks, we kept coming back to one of my all-time favorites, “Hey Jude”.

“Hey Jude” can be perceived spiritually in it’s own way, like much of The Beatles’ music. Paul McCartney said he wrote it for Julian Lennon while his parents, John and Cynthia, were going through a divorce and it’s message, at it’s most basic level, is essentially saying it gets better. I think that is very much a message that Christ wants the world to hear, it gets better.

We played “Hey Jude” several times and I belted it out in the car with Korban and Lawson half-mouthing words they didn’t know. I thought it was cute they were trying to amuse their uncle. I didn’t think much more about it past that.

A couple days after I was back in Texas, I get a text from my sister informing me that Korban insisted on downloading the song to his iPad. My sister was probably confused how he even knew the song but he insisted on having the song because we had listened to it and sang it together.

“I didn’t think much more about it past that.”

I think we sometimes overlook the little ways we impact people. I never would’ve thought my nephew would remember the song nonetheless want to download it. I didn’t truly realize in that moment that I was creating a memory with him, I was potentially shaping how he felt about music and more importantly, how he possibly felt about me. I just thought I was playing a fun song for him, I didn’t realize that the moment would have any effect on him whatsoever.

As we enter a new year that will be filled with ups and downs, steps forward and backward, big moments and small moments; I challenge myself, and you, to not overlook those small moments. Enjoy the small moments, then you can start to make it better.


 

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

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Midweek Music 12.09.15

“A Light” & “May You Find A Light” | The Brilliance

Lost and weary traveler
Searching for the way to go
Stranger, heavy-hearted
Longing for someone you know

A light shone down on us
A star of hope shines bright

May you find a light
To guide you home

Working in ministry, I typically begin to think about Advent and Christmas in August. It helps that this is my favorite time of year. I enjoy the decorations, the parades, the parties, the time with family and friends, and man do I love the music. It’s all wonderful but there is one thing that makes the season stand out to me, one thing that makes it something more than an enjoyable time of festivities. Hope. Advent is a time of expectation, it is a time of preparation, it is a time of celebration; Christmas is a time that our hopes are fulfilled in the form of a child, the picture of innocence, sent to save us from ourselves.

As I began to prepare the Advent music service for this Sunday, I found myself dwelling on the theme of light throughout scripture. I began to connect the beginning of light as God separated it from the darkness, the prophecies of a “new light” from Isaiah, Christ being personified as light in the Gospels, and finally the expectation that we should be reflections of that light into this world. John Arndt and David Gungor of The Brilliance wrote these two beautiful songs that perfectly captured my thoughts.

We are, all of us, searching for answers and we’re all on this journey together. We can rejoice that a star, a light, shone over Bethlehem signifying the birth of our God in the flesh, our Savior. This Sunday, December 13, we are having a special service of music in the morning services at University UMC. I hope you will join us during the 11:15am service where we will celebrate Advent, Christmas, and this light that is guiding each of us weary travelers home.


 

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 11.18.15

“Brother” | The Brilliance

This morning I was worried about how much traffic would back me up on my morning commute. This morning refugees from around the world were told “you’re not welcome here.”

It’s easy to ignore what isn’t right in front of you. Poverty, homelessness, persecution, genocide…these things are daily realities all across the world. Our version of persecution is being forced to hear “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas or a caterer being unwilling to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Our persecution is someone not thinking like us or bowing to our own wills.

It’s easy to forget (or ignore) what God commands of us. Commands, not suggests.

Love your neighbor as yourself 

It’s easier to hate than to love. Love takes effort. Love isn’t always convenient. Love might cost me something.

We condemn these refugees to poverty, homelessness, persecution, and genocide. We condemn them because otherwise it will take effort, it isn’t always convenient, and it might cost us something.

Herod sought to kill Christ. Mary and Joseph took their child and sought refuge in Egypt to save his life. Praise the Almighty that no one refused them as refugees.


 

 

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

An Open Letter: Starbucks and the ‘War on Christmas’

I’ll admit it: my first mistake was reading an article on Breitbart. I saw the headline and they got me, I fell for the clickbait.

“WAR ON CHRISTMAS: STARBUCKS RED CUPS ARE EMBLEMATIC OF THE CHRISTIAN CULTURE CLEANSING OF THE WEST”

For the record, I didn’t click on the article because I believed in any way that the headline would reflect truth nor did I continue to read the article thinking that I would have my opinion changed in any way. I dove in head first knowing that I was reading grade A bullcrap. I clicked and read because I am a person that tries (and sometimes fails) to follow the tenets and teachings of Christ and because, like Buddy the Elf:

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The article tries to disseminate the idea that because Starbucks’ annual red cups, which are meant to acknowledge and celebrate the holidays, aren’t festive enough; Starbucks is perpetuating, even advancing, the “War on Christmas”. Let’s just forget that Starbucks is an individual corporation free to market itself any way it pleases. Let’s forget that they don’t even have to make their cups red in the first place. Let’s overlook that they have a coffee roast that comes out every single year appropriately named, “Christmas Blend” or that they sell an Advent Calendar. Let’s ignore the idea that they are trying to be open minded and market to a wide demographic of people who prefer to celebrate other holidays this time of year or who choose not to celebrate any holidays at all. This is clearly a calculated attack on Christmas, and by association, Christianity itself.

The article itself is relentless. It’s unnecessarily critical of Starbucks products and the people who patronize the business. The author of the article openly mocks the baristas for misspelling an uncommon name in the Western world in an article demonizing the Eastern world (the part of the world in which Christ was born). He accuses Starbucks of “subliminally, (telling it’s customers) that this time of year is no longer about Christmas.” My favorite part is when he states “It’s a ‘holiday season'” with “holiday season” in quotes. Why is this my favorite part?

BECAUSE IT IS A HOLIDAY SEASON

Some Christians have this idea that December is exclusively our month and it’s been that way since (sarcasm alert) Jesus himself came over on the Mayflower and planted the first American flag straight into Plymouth Rock to commemorate the day of his birth (December 25) before founding Fox News to ensure Christmas would always have a righteous defender.

Forget that there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ was ever actually born on December 25, there is simply no room for other holidays. There is no room to observe a holiday like Hanukkah with origins based long before the actual birth of Christ. I can’t believe that anyone would ever want to acknowledge a holiday that Jesus Christ himself celebrated in scripture.

I guess if we can’t call it a holiday season, there is no room for Kwanzaa which is cultural and doesn’t even conflict in ideology with Christmas. Forget Bodhi Day or Ramadan.

We can’t celebrate other holidays like the Feast of Saint Nicholas which is a Christian holiday on December 6. Don’t mention Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, or New Years Day which are completely secular in nature but recognized by Christians around the world.

Here’s the thing: tolerating someone’s ability to believe something different from you doesn’t mean you’re accepting their belief, it just means you’re not being a jerk about it.

Ask anyone, I’m a Christmas nut. I’m that annoying guy who starts listening to Christmas music in October and has a Christmas countdown on his phone so he always knows exactly how far away the most wonderful time of the year is. I tell people “Merry Christmas” every chance I get starting with the day after Thanksgiving. Sometimes they say it back, sometimes they say “Happy Holidays”, sometimes I’ll get a response related to another specific holiday, and sometimes they say nothing back at all. The response makes no difference to me. The intent is what matters. My intent is to spread a little cheer while acknowledging that my thoughts, my beliefs and I are not the only things existing on this planet, Christmas is not the only holiday in December, and Starbucks red cups are not a subliminal nor purposeful attack on anyone. If you think otherwise, you’re just kidding yourself.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Midweek Music 10.28.15

“Breathe” | The Brilliance

I sigh a lot. I find it is the quickest and easiest way to deal with stress. Not that I lead an overly stressful life but while working in ministry brings its many rewards, it certainly brings its fair share of stress and frustration.

Sometimes I’ll be working around other people, none of us talking, just working. I’ll be working on worship planning or scheduling or designing or formatting or any of the other things that serve me a large dose of fulfillment with a side of frustration and I’ll take a deep, audible breath in, hold if for just a second or two and then audibly exhale out my stress. Sometimes in those moments where I am holding the breath, without actually uttering a word, I’ll think to myself, “Lord, restore me”.

I heard this song for the first time earlier this year. This song is the perfect representation of those little 5 second “sigh-moments” I have throughout the day. In those 5 seconds, I take all the built up stress and frustration, I inhale as much as I can, I dwell on God and His renewal, and exhale my problems. It’s my 5 second interaction with God asking Him to breathe life on me again.

I’ve gotten to where those moments don’t just happen, I need them. I depend on them. I would probably, in complete honesty, quit ministry without them. And it’s good that I have this dependency on those moments because in those moments, I abandon myself and re-learn just how in need of God’s renewal I am. I need God’s breath, God’s love, God’s life, God’s spirit to take over where I am unable. If I sigh around you, it’s okay. I’m not sad or upset, I’m just having a moment and lesson that I think all of us need every now and again.

Oh, Spirit of God
Here with us now, giving us life again
Breathe, breathe on us now
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God


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 10.21.15

“You’re Beautiful” | Shane and Shane

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful


 

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 10.07.15

“Ave Maria” | Franz Biebl (performed by Chanticleer)

 

Exceptionally beautiful text honoring the mother of Christ set to exceptionally beautiful music. When I heard Chanticleer perform this for the first time, I wanted to cry, and I’m not a crier. I had the privilege of being a part of a small ensemble of University of Montevallo alumni who sang this at the the wedding of two of my best friends. I want to cry then too and I still wasn’t a crier. This week, a group of which I am a part will sing this in concert. I’m sure I’ll want to cry then too and I still won’t be a crier.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


 

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 09.30.15

“Take Heart” | Hillsong United

The end of September means one thing to me: it’s almost time for Christmas. I know some of you are “purists” who want each of your holidays in order with no intersection whatsoever. But consider that I’m a planner and I work in ministry. I started preparing for Christmas and Advent in late August, it’s the busiest season of the liturgical year, not to mention my favorite!

In my preparation for this season, I’ve spent a good time dwelling on light. I like the idea of Christ personified as light. I take overwhelming comfort in the fact that in this dark world, there is a light of hope to follow. This isn’t a Christmas song per se, but there is definitely an inadvertent Christmas message behind it. With the birth of Christ, we were given a light…a light of hope…a light of hope that we know will never fail.

Take heart, the wait has just begun but our light of hope is on the horizon.


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

Seeing orange when all we want is red (another Lawson inspired post)

11201811_10153658453707813_6482443562922202457_nIf you don’t know who Lawson is, you must not read my blogs very often. I talk about my youngest nephew quite a bit, not only because he is one hilarious and cool kid but also because, when I visit him, I always leave having learned something.

On one of my recent visits, Lawson was showing me some of his newest Ninja Turtle gear. He’s a big fan. His favorite is Raphael, the red-masked ninja turtle with attitude…let’s just say it fits well that the stubborn, strong-willed turtle is his favorite. While we were going through the inventory of his Ninja Turtle swag, he pulled out his Raphael mask and wanted me to help him put it on his face so he could pretend. I was more than happy to help and play Ninja Turtles with him but every time I tried to put the mask on him and tie it, he resisted.

The problem, as it turned out, was that the mask was double sided. The part of the mask facing out was red like Raphael wore, but the part facing in towards Lawson, was orange like Michelangelo wore. Every time I went to put the mask on him, all he could see was orange. In his mind, I was making him be Michelangelo when he wanted to be Raphael.

There have been many times in my life where I had an idea of who I wanted to be and what it would take for me to be that person. In my pursuit of this, I would plan my path and do anything I could to stick to it. The issue here is that sometimes, dare I say oftentimes, the path doesn’t follow the plan. Situations arise, circumstances change, paths need to be rerouted and plans just fall apart. Sometimes the person we think we are “supposed” to be changes entirely.

Like Lawson, I failed to see the “red” because I couldn’t stop focusing on the “orange”. I became so focused on the destination that I forgot about the journey. I needed a change of perspective. I tried showing Lawson that there were two sides to the mask and when I put the orange facing toward him then the red was on the outside making him Raphael. He couldn’t grasp it because each time I went to try again, he saw the orange and would get upset. He couldn’t, nor wouldn’t, change his perspective.

There are times we become some fixated on how we want things to work out that we don’t see things from God’s perspective. There are times we become some fixated on getting our own agenda out there, that we fail to see things from other’s perspectives. After a good while of disagreeing, Lawson eventually grasped the concept of what I was trying to tell him. He got to be Raphael when he opened up to a new perspective.

Imagine the things you could do by opening your eyes and your mind to God’s perspective over your own. Imagine the person you could be and the glory you could bring to God by viewing life through the lens of another’s perspective. Imagine what we could accomplish together if we stopped seeing orange when all we want is red.

Midweek Music 09.23.15

“Greater” | MercyMe

There’s a lot wrong with this world. Like everything. See, I’m a bit of what John Piper terms a “Christian Hedonist”. I really do believe that there is no good in this world except that which Christ brings into it. I believe that my base desire is not to do good of my own nature but to serve Christ and glorify Him thereby giving me the most satisfaction and joy in life.

Because of this, I don’t have to be defined by who or what I am. I am defined by my relationship with Christ and what he makes me in spite of my own failings. I’m going to fail at things. I’m going to be disappointed and I’m going to disappoint. I’m going to shame and be shamed. I’m going to experience and cause pain. You are too. It’s our nature.

We are broken humans. I’m thankful for a God who is greater than me. I’m thankful for a God who, through redeeming love, grace, and mercy; makes me greater than that of which I am capable by myself.


 

 

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