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.

 

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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.

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 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.

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 09.16.15

“All Things New” | Elevation Worship

Peace, be still, You are near.

There’s nowhere we can go

That You won’t shine redemption’s light,

Our guilt withdrawn.


 

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 09.03.15

“Come to the River” | Ronnie Freeman

It has been some kind of week. One of those weeks where every aspect of your life is invaded by stress and you feel like there is no escape. That kind of week.

I heard this song for the first time about 11 years ago. Ronnie was the worship leader for a time at the church in which I grew up. He left when I was still young to pursue a solo career and after a few years of success, he returned to the church for a homecoming concert at which he performed this song. It became one of those songs that I just fall into. I can listen to it over and over and it never grows old and always encourages me.

I’m doing this song on Sunday for communion, something I planned weeks ago.  I didn’t know when I planned it into worship that I would be having the week I’m having, I just felt led to put it on this Sunday. Being able to practice this song and listen to it over the last week has been a great source of comfort and rest for me. It’s in those moments where something falls into place, something I felt led by God to do in the first place, that bring me the greatest comfort. The idea that maybe, just maybe, God knew I was going to need this song this week. That maybe someone in the congregation needs to hear this song, this week. That maybe someone reading this right now needs to hear this song, this week. Rest in God and be comforted by His incredible peace.


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