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.

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Midweek Music 08.12.15

“Christ is Enough” | Hillsong Worship

We all “need” something from time to time. A new car, new clothes, certain foods, different job, more money, better social status, etc… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of “needing” something that, in actuality, I didn’t.

We play a game with God. “Give me (insert item) and I’ll do better about (insert spiritual attribute)”. We treat our relationship with Christ like a points-based reward system. I’m just curious when Christ stopped being good enough. When did his unjustified love and grace towards us stop being more than what we deserve.

It’s hard to live the words of this song. It’s hard living in a material world and not being a material girl (or guy) to reference a song with a different mindset. It’s hard but it’s worth it. Letting Christ be more than enough, let alone enough, is so worth it. Commit yourself to Christ, be encouraged by his unmitigated grace, and follow the direction toward which he is leading you. Let Christ be enough.


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

Jehovah Jireh

Throughout scripture, many descriptive names are ascribed to God in order to portray the active role he plays in our (his creation’s) lives. One such name is “Jehovah Jireh” or “the Lord will provide”. It’s taken from Genesis 22 and the story of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. At the last minute, after proving himself faithful, God stops Abraham and provides for him a ram to sacrifice instead. It was a test for Abraham to prove his faith and obedience. In response, Abraham names that location “Jehovah Jireh” to acknowledge God’s faithfulness in providing.

Over the weekend, I found out about a couple friends who are in need of jobs. Someone had been talking to them about “Jehovah Jireh”. This type of theology makes me shudder. God is faithful and God is just but I see the “Jehovah Jireh” theology, such as this one, taking firm roots in Evangelical America. The idea that your want is in actuality a need and that God is a magical genie waiting to grant your wishes if only you ask enough and/or are “good” enough.

That is not the Gospel of Christ. That is dangerous thinking. That is prosperity gospel.

I believe that God loves you and because He loves you, He wants to be in relationship with you. The problem is we live in a first-world society which seems set on the mentality that being in relationship with God means material blessings. It gets worse when we equate the amount of our material blessings to how much we love God and God loves us. What does this theology say to third-world missionaries? To starving children? To our atheistic neighbors?

I believe that God plays an active role in our daily lives. I believe He loves and cares for us. I also believe the opportunity to use my passion for leading worship as a career and the fact that I have money in my bank account is not because God loves me more than a friend who is serving as a missionary in Africa. He doesn’t love me more than the starving and homeless people my friend works with on a daily basis. He doesn’t love me less than Joel Osteen and his $50 million estimated worth.

God will provide. It just might not be in the way you expect.

(Insert Name Here)

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

I’ve never been exceptionally talented at any one thing. I have attained many average or “slightly above average” skills. Because of this average “jack-of-all-trades” life that I’ve led, I have oftentimes found myself in an almost constant state of comparing myself to others.  I was a decent baseball player but not on the same athletic level as my older brother. I was a pretty good public speaker but didn’t size up to my youth pastor’s ability to draw in his audiences. I am a good musician but can’t even begin to list the countless people I’ve met who are far more talented and hard-working than myself.

I admired these people for what they were able to do and what they were able to accomplish in their field of expertise. I admired them and I compared myself to them. I compared myself to them and I put myself down in my own mind for my inability to live up to them. In turn, I would find people less talented or less intelligent than myself and feed my own ego off their “inferiority”. I would tell myself that I might not be as good as (insert name here) but at least I’m better than (insert name here). I caught myself in this trap of feeling insufficient through comparison while also needing to gain self satisfaction through further comparison.

We live in a world of constant comparison. Competition is not only encouraged, it’s expected. Survival of the fittest is ingrained at an early age. Work harder, move faster, study more…be better. The error is when we step back and realize whom we are supposed to be better than. We’re told to be competitive with those around us which is not totally wrong, healthy competition is good, but are we really improving our lives by holding our heads higher from having defeated someone else? Isn’t true improvement, the truest “betterment” in character attained when we can look in the mirror and say, “Today, I am better than I was yesterday.”

I’m a remarkably competitive person and I won’t lie and say I have this completely figured out. Comparison and competitiveness is something with which I struggle on a daily basis. I have, however, come to a point in my life where most days, I can shut out the rest of the world, stop worrying about others achievements, look in the mirror, and know how I size up to the man I was the day before. Some days the man I see is better and some days, that man falls short. On the days where I have fallen short, I pick myself up and find ways to be better the next day. On the days where the man I see is better, I find ways to be even better the next. On this day and every day after, don’t concern yourself with being better than (insert name here). Concern yourself with simply being better than (insert your name here).

Happy Thanksgiving

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:18

 

Being thankful is not always easy. It’s something I try to practice on a daily basis as I pray and think on the blessings I’ve received but not something I always accomplish. Of course, there is usually an emphasis on it around this time of year as Thanksgiving approaches. However, it seems this year there is more emphasis on what is wrong with the world. There has been a harsh focus for the past week on political and social differences with little focus on what is good and right with the world. I wanted to share with you some things for which I am thankful. I hope it encourages you to spend some time considering all you’ve been given.

Christ, Mom, Dad, Denise, Tori, Griff, Brittany, Addison, Logan, Jordyn, Korban, Lawson, Becca, Bradley, Maria, Goggy, Grandad, Kay, Scott, Ashlyn, Natalie, Lauren, Nathan, Clark, Jeff, CUMC, Matt, Zach, Pat, Joan, Berk, Michael, LPYC, Jim, Amy, Sarah, FUMC-Trussville Youth, Bluff Park UMC, ministry opportunities given to me, mercy, grace, the cross, music, and Advent Conspiracy.

This is just a small list of things currently on my mind but there are so many other people and things that I could share with you. I have lived a blessed life, even when I maybe wasn’t able to see it or realize it.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving Day.

Reset Button

I used to love playing Pokemon on my GameBoy Color. And I’m lying when I say “used to” because a friend recently showed me how to get the game on my iPhone and now 2-3 times a week, 12 year old Trey reawakens for some mind-numbing Pokemon action. When I was really into it, I would research and use all these different strategies to get better and better (let’s all take a moment for how incredibly nerdy I was)…One of the strategies was pretty basic, right before something big or important was about to happen, you save your spot in the game, that way if it doesn’t go the way you want, you can reset by turning the game off and then on again to start over from your saved point. I used it often.

I can think of several times that being able to use this strategy in real life would have been really nice. I’ve made plenty of bad decisions in my life, who hasn’t right? Sometimes it would’ve been great to have my place right before that decision “saved” and then I could just magically go back to that exact moment if things didn’t go how I liked. It doesn’t even have to be the big moments or decisions in life either. There are some days that just don’t go the way I’d like, things I can’t even control, that would be awesome to reset.

That’s, at least, how I always feel in the moment. See, when we are facing adversity, indecision, complications, etc., it’s understandably hard not to focus on what is wrong. It’s easy to forget Romans 8:28 and forget that God is working for us while we are working for His will. As I look back at all the times I made decisions that turned out bad or those days where everything that could go wrong went wrong, I see a negative and frustrated person who wanted that reset button. Then as I take time to reflect on the aftermath of those bad decisions and terrible days, I see a person who is covered by the mercy and grace of a God who loves him enough to work for his good.

I’m glad that life doesn’t have a “reset” button. Not figuratively, I mean literally. Anyone can change their path in life at any point if they want to bad enough, I get that…I mean that I’m glad life doesn’t have a literal “reset” button or “on/off switch”. Some choices I’ve made that seemed “bad” in the moment have even led me to bigger and greater things than I ever could have possibly imagined happening in the first place. We serve a great, big, loving God. The next time you find yourself searching for that save and reset button right before you face the elite 4 (Pokemon reference), spend some time searching for the One who is always working for your good.

Accepted

I was recently talking with my good friend, Becca Wilson, about the realization that college students aren’t staying connected to the church. In fact, research from the Fuller Youth Institute and College Transition Initiative has shown that approximately 50% of youth who grew up in the church are leaving their faith behind in their college years. As someone who is passionate about working with youth and young adults, this troubles me. As a college freshman and someone who is passionate about her faith, Becca wrote this recently and sent it to me. I loved it so much that I wanted to post it on my blog. After some convincing, she is letting me share it with you.

“I recently went through recruitment and was offered a bid to a sorority at TCU. At first it seemed cool, a fun social group to be a part of on campus. But I had a gut feeling and after some serious thinking, praying, and talking with several people on and off campus, I knew my gut just wasn’t going to shut up about this one. Now don’t get me wrong, the people are awesome; every single girl I met through the recruitment process and after bid day was so welcoming and really seemed to care about what I was going through. There was just something in my heart telling me that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, that I was meant to be somewhere else. I just realized that Greek life wasn’t for me. Since I made the decision to drop out, I have been happier and more confident in who I am and where I’m headed, and I am 100% sure I made the right choice. However, there has been one stressor that has come with my decision. Multiple people, including me, have worried about my decision because of one reason, and I’ve been thinking about it extensively the past couple days. As a college freshman, this little phrase is EVERYWHERE in my life right now and it has begun to bother me quite a bit:

“In college you’re going to want to have a group you can identify yourself with”

Why? Why do I need people to define me? Why do I have to be a part of a group just to feel important on campus, and why does that matter at all? Of course in the beginning, I was guilty of this mentality, for sure. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s one of the main reasons I even decided to go through recruitment in the first place. Every girl in every house would ask me, “Why did you decide to rush?” And every time I answered, “I don’t really know many people here, so I just want an instant group of friends to associate with and to know I can count on.” I’m not saying this is WRONG, but I’m saying there is something to be said for the fact that we don’t NEED to find a group to define us. Having a group of people who genuinely love and care about you, who you can go to for advice, for accountability, and for guidance, now that’s something everyone needs. But the fact that we, as college freshman, or as anyone really, should feel that we HAVE to find some sort of group to call our own is simply false.

Instead of running towards people who will make us feel accepted, and make us feel like we are a part of something, we should be running to the one who will never fail us, Christ. Can’t I identify myself in God alone? Can’t I identify myself as a Christian, with the church, with the community of fellow believers? Fellowship is very important to me, so I’m not saying that Christ is the only thing I need in my life. I strongly believe that my faith would not grow without the help of others, but I’m talking about identification, not existence. All of this college stuff, all the sororities, the clubs, activities, parties, they’ll all go away. Christ won’t. So doesn’t it make more sense for me to identify myself in Him rather than a fleeting social group? Honestly, this concept scares me to no end. The fact that I may never find a social group to call my own, the fact that maybe I won’t fit in. But you know at the same time it’s awfully comforting. God will never go away. I wish I could bold that one hundred times and scream it because so many people just don’t live their lives in a way that exemplifies that.

I believe in Christ’s eternal and unfading love. Since I’ve been at TCU, my faith has been tested through the activities I’ve tried to put myself into. My life before now has been easy, I was in band, and I had a home church. My path was laid out for me. I had easy ways to make friends, and I felt I was somewhere I belonged. When that suddenly all ended and I had to start fresh, I was forced to put my faith and trust in Him to lead me where I’m meant to be and it’s been a hell of a lot more challenging than I ever thought. I’m not telling you that being in a sorority is bad. I’m not telling you that not being in a sorority is bad. I’m telling you that if we are to call ourselves believers, our identification in Christ alone should be enough. Worldly love, worldly acceptance, and worldly comfort are all essential to fulfill our social needs, but you don’t need a group to have a purpose. Our primary purpose is found in glorifying God and through our worship of and devotion to Him we are fulfilling that purpose.

If you’re like me, stop searching for a group. Stop stressing out over being accepted and fitting into a certain mold these groups have for you. If you find one that uplifts you and helps you grow spiritually, by all means do it. If you don’t, just know that you don’t need that to feel accepted. Christ has already accepted you and in the end, that’s the only “group” that is truly everlasting.”

Weird Kid

I was a weird kid. The only reason I use “was” is while I’m definitely still weird, I’m no longer a kid. When you’re a kid, everyone always asks you what you want to be when you grow up. All of the typical answers are baseball player, ballerina, doctor, astronaut…you know, all those jobs that seem really cool to little kids. In first grade, I remember my teacher at Creek View Elementary School, Mrs. Lovelady, asking everyone in class that very question. As she cycled around the class, everyone was giving those typical answers that you’d expect, then she got to me. I proudly proclaimed my desire, at the age of 6, to be a district attorney. I was a weird kid.

I always wanted to be a lawyer. I liked arguing, I liked talking, I had a keen interest in history and politics (yes, at 6) but, more than anything, I liked attention. And I didn’t just like having some attention, I liked being the center of attention. I loved the idea of standing in front of a courtroom and everyone watching me as I talked and argued about legal matters. As I got older, I would actually daydream occasionally about winning court cases. Let me reiterate, I was weird.

Obviously that’s not at all how my life turned out. I did spend the next several years with the same desire to be an attorney, all the way up until my senior year of high school. It was then that, with some nudging from my dad and my high school choir director, I reluctantly decided to give music a shot. In college, I fell in love with the idea of working in music and knew that’s what I supposed to do. Unfortunately, it was with the same mentality as wanting to be a lawyer…I fell in love with the idea of being the center of attention on the stage instead of in the courtroom.

By my junior year of college, I realized that I enjoyed performing and I liked having the attention, but I didn’t feel passionate about performing. I don’t typically like doing things “half-way” but I found myself perfectly content with it when it came to the stage. With some guidance from a couple of my professors, I came to realize my love for conducting. It was the end of my junior year and I didn’t really have any interest in doing music education so changing my major wasn’t an option at that point. Fortunately, I did land the opportunity to serve as an assistant conductor for one of the choirs.

I entered the field of conducting with the mentality of how much I was going to enjoy being, quite literally, the center of attention. I was going to get to make music with other people while being the focus of the rehearsal and the concert. In hindsight, I now see how I had slowly evolved from being a weird kid to being a weird jerk.

I entered graduate school with the same mentality; however, it was during graduate school that things began to change for me. For the first time, I started to truly appreciate working with others in a way that would give all of us glory. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted plenty of the attention, I was just more willing to share it with others. While this new appreciation began to develop inside of me, I got my first job as a church music director in Texas.

I don’t recall any “lightbulb moment” or epiphanies. There was just this steady evolution inside me over time as I worked with my choirs at school and worked with the minister and musicians at my church. Eventually I got to a place where I realized, “Hey, this isn’t about me.” What a concept to grasp.

I left that first church and got a job as the youth choir director at a church in Plano, TX. It was here that I really and truly learned what it meant to be a servant leader. I fell in love with the youth of that church. They helped me to discover this passion inside myself for seeing them grow closer to Christ. They helped me realize that it really isn’t about me, it isn’t even about them, it’s really all about our ability to glorify the One who created us, gave us life, and gives us breath.

It was during this time that I received what I consider to be the greatest compliment I could ever receive. One of the youth wrote me a letter and shared that they had struggled with their belief in God, even considering becoming an atheist at one point. They went on to tell me that during one of our nightly devotionals on choir tour, they were able to begin the reconciliation of their faith because they “could see and feel Christ through (my) teaching”. As I read the letter, it became one of THOSE moments. I was alone in my office as I read the letter and I was overcome with emotion and just began crying. It wasn’t about glorifying me, it wasn’t about praising me; I was just the vessel through which the message was being delivered, I became emotional because I realized the powerful effect we can have when we get out of God’s way and let Him use us and speak through us.

I’m not one for definitions. I like things being a little ambiguous, I like gray areas, and I love playing devils advocate. Despite all that, I have decided to define, from this point forward, what success is to me. You can take it or leave it. I have decided that as long as people see or feel Christ through interaction with me, my life can be counted as successful. It’s not how much money I make, what possessions I have, it’s not even about bringing hoards of people into the church or making people happy. If I can shine the light and life of Christ into this dark and dying world, then I have done what I am supposed to have done.

It’s a process. Don’t think that I have this all figured out and that I am now completely able to set my own ambitions, cares, concerns, etc. aside and always have that mindset. Some days are easier than others and some days I find myself unbelievably impatient and frustrated with God. Then there are the days where I stop and remember that it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about Him and what He has done for us. Soli Deo Gloria.