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.

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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:

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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 01.20.16

“Lead Us Back” | Sojourn

I’ve had difficulty writing this blog post, not because I didn’t have anything to say about it, more because I have too much to say about this song. This song convicts me because I can pinpoint many specific times throughout my life that each verse reflects perfectly.

It makes me sad that I have found myself to be so broken so often in life but at the same time it gives me hope. Each verse ends with “Lead us back to life in You” and I find hope because that is what Christ does. I fail, He breathes life into me. I seek comfort, favor, and power over Christ until I realize those things are empty and meaningless, then Christ gently and lovingly shows me that there is wholeness and life in Him not in the world.

I feel lifeless, I experience spiritual hunger and thirst as a valley of dry bones. I become wrapped up in the logistics of ministry and worship as if it’s a talent show. I criticize, mutter insults and judgments under my breath, hurling heavy stones at others failing to see the boulder in my own eye. Then Christ gives me new life and love.

I recently finished reading Blue Like Jazz. I loved every second of the book especially chapter 11 and a specific quote about death and life. I can’t share the whole chapter but I highly recommend reading the book if you are at all serious about loving God and loving people. I’ll share the quote below with the song. Read the book, listen to the song, love people, and live a life filled with Christ.

 Dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something is the hard thing. Living for something extends beyond fashion, glory, or recognition. We live for what we believe.


 

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

Crisis of Conscience

Disclaimer right off the bat: I’m not anti-lottery nor am I anti-gambling.

It seems like the Powerball jackpot is the big thing in the news (read: pop culture) right now. I’m going to buy a Powerball ticket. I’ve never bought one before and I have no real expectation of winning but I mean, come on, $800 million (after taxes) is a lot of money and the ticket is only $2. Why not?

Over the last week I’ve had a couple conversations with people about what I would do with that much money. I said the first thing I would do is pay off my student loans which isn’t an uncommon answer for many people. I would pay off all my family’s debts; mortgages, car loans, student loans, I’d take care of all of it because I would want my family to live a comfortable lifestyle. I was told my answers were boring.

I told them the first non-debt related, slightly impractical thing I would do is buy this house. I love Fort Morgan and I have always loved this house, both its beauty and its seclusion. Then I’d get really impractical and build a long private pier at which I would dock my private yacht. Then I would need an airstrip right by my house so my private plane could fly me to Auburn during the fall to enjoy all the games in my 50-yard line private suite. Oh, I have plans for that money…

I once read an interview with Bill Gates where he was asked if he had any real concept of the sheer amount of his wealth. He responded, “the only (he) could really grasp it was thinking that there was nothing in the world that (he couldn’t) buy.” After the interview, I thought for a few minutes about what that might be like. What would it be like if there was not a thing on Earth that I simply could not afford?

A few months ago, I wrote about an experience I had with a man named George. When I met George at a RaceTrac gas station, he hadn’t eaten and was hungry so I bought him some food. What I didn’t write about then was my desire to spend my money elsewhere.

For several years, I owned a beloved pair of polarized Rayban Wayfarer sunglasses. I’m notorious about losing sunglasses so for the longest time, I wouldn’t spend more than $15 on sunglasses. One day I decided that I really wanted those sunglasses so I would buy them and take extra precaution. I owned them for 4 years before I finally lost them one day by leaving them at the tennis court after a couple long matches. I was upset but proud of myself for owning them as long as I did.

I decided to reward myself for the longevity of my ownership by purchasing myself a new pair. I spent about a week shopping around, deciding if I wanted to stick with my tried and true Wayfarers or give something else a try. Once I made the decision to stick with those, I wanted the best deal, of course, so I looked a little longer. I met George the day before I was going to buy the sunglasses. The aftermath of my interaction with him left me feeling helpless and ashamed. In the midst of this man being unable to afford food, I was filled with excitement at the idea of owning my second pair of $200 sunglasses. I didn’t buy the glasses. I couldn’t buy the glasses.

I found myself feeling the same way in the aftermath of my lottery conversation. I first felt convicted upon realizing that none of my initial thoughts about spending the money involved giving money to the church. Tithe is important and I know some pretty awesome churches (namely the two I work with) and ministries out there that could do a lot of really great things with $80 million. That wasn’t even on my initial radar.

The conviction grew when I realized I hadn’t thought anything about helping people who needed it most…”most” being the essential word. Would my family benefit greatly from my paying off all their debts? Sure. Are any of them in danger of facing homelessness or starvation if I don’t? Not of which I am aware. But there are people who already face homelessness and starvation and they had nothing to do with my first thoughts on what I would do with all that money.

The conviction intensified to it’s maximum when this question popped in my head: “Why do I need $800 million to help people?” I didn’t have millions of dollars when I bought George food and I don’t tithe and give to certain charities each month out of some million-dollar paycheck I assure you. Why do I need to daydream about winning the Powerball to help people? The answer is I don’t.

I’m still going to spend my $2 on a ticket because how cool would it be if I got to write a check to feed every single homeless person in DFW. I think it would be way cooler than buying that beach house (which I would still buy). But I’m not going to sit around thinking about what I could buy with that money, I’m not going to sit around thinking about the ways I could help people with that kind of money. I’m not going to sit around thinking about what it would be like to literally be able to afford anything on planet Earth. I’m not going to sit around thinking about what I could buy with the money I have now and I’m not going to sit around thinking about the ways I could help people with the money I have now. I want to actually get out and help people. I think I will. I don’t need $800 million to help someone and you don’t either. Let’s do it.

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.

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.

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 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.