The Obligatory Reflective New Year's Eve Blog

A few days ago, I was thinking about how much I've failed to make progress in my life, how little I had changed, and generally how much I stink at life.

It's not easy to do that when you have friends. My friend began to remind me of everything that had changed in the past year. I began to realize that I didn't stink at life at much as I thought I did.

In the spirit of this realization and the dusk of a pretty eventful 2008, I have decided that this obligatory reflective New Year's Eve blog will be about everything that has changed over the past year. You are welcome to read along. Here are the three highlights...

1. Location, Location, Location: I moved from South Texas to Dallas in August, determined not to stay in my comfort zone after graduation. The day after graduation, I already had my car packed, and I drove 8 hours up to Dallas and moved in with four guys, working at a Starbucks and contemplating seminary. Then I moved from Dallas to Tempe, Arizona at the beginning of October, for what has to be the coolest job ever. I'll talk more about that later.

2. FINALLY: After a full six years, a prior planned graduation halted by a last minute failure, 2 majors, 3 lost scholarships, 4 years off and on in the dorms, 5 part time jobs, 13 roommates, and 16,000 dollars in loans... I graduated with a B.A. in History. But I didn't want to teach, and didn't want to work for the government. I felt like I should be following my heart and God's call, so I thought I should probably go to seminary. So, I moved to DFW, where you can stand anywhere, throw a rock, and hit a seminary. As it turns out, that was only temporary, because God had another plan for me, and that plan was...

3. Third Format: When I saw an opening for "Third Format Worship Resident" on (yes) I thought there is no way they would consider a small town worship leader from Texas for this. Apparently, I was wrong, and for once it feels awesome to be wrong. I know it might not seem like that big a deal to a lot of people... but to me this is pretty big. I get a chance to be involved with an outwardly focused, innovative ministry at a church bigger than my hometown, and learn and grow and lead all at the same time. This is pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

Other things have changed as well. In general, I know the direction I am going. I didn't before June. Not everything has been awesome, either.

I pretty much killed the best, most unique friendship I had ever had, with someone who knew me like the back of her hand. I still miss that, and I wish I hadn't hurt her. I think she's probably forgotten about me, though, so I guess it's all for the best.

I already had my invitations to graduation in May when I got the news that I wouldn't be graduating. It was pretty much the most embarassing thing ever, having to explain why I couldn't graduate to my friends and relatives.

All things considered, this was still an amazing year. I have to say that for the past seven years, each successive year has been the new best year of my life. Seven years ago, I gave my life to God, to serving and loving Him in whatever way I could, and making Him more than just a savior or a part of my life. For seven years, I've been learning how to find my identity, my purpose, and my direction in Him. So, in closing, I thank God for another freakin awesome year. I never could have imagined this life before He changed me in 2000.

See you in 2009!!!

Everyone is cold in Denver

I had a great christmas trip home. I loved getting to see my family again, remembering just how much yelling and whining happens in a house with three generations of women, and seeing uncles and aunts and cousins galore. It was restful and amazing... I didn't touch a guitar once!

I got to visit some of the people who were instrumental in my formative years of Christianity. It was great... I saw this old man, for maybe just a few seconds, and he asked me how and what I was doing. I told him that I was doing great, and what I was doing, and he starts kinda laughing and crying, and tells me "We've been praying for you so much!" I think they got me in this drawing to see who would pray for which kid back when I went to camp in 2001 and first truly felt like I may be called to ministry. I am glad that me not sucking too badly at life can encourage an old prayer warrior like that :).

The trip home was kinda crazy, though. I nearly didn't make it out of Houston, which is where my first connecting flight took me. I had to change airlines, go to this detatched terminal that could only be reached by an awkwardly placed bus line that pretty much drove us around the tarmac and left us at a terminal skywalk that had been modified to lead to the ground. Then I had to go back through security with 20 minutes left until my flight, and got a bag check because I had left a bottle of water in there. Apparently those are dangerous.

By the time I was in Denver (the second connection), waiting for my delayed flight, I began to miss home a lot. The Denver airport is a miserable place to feel lonely. Everyone is bundled up, and people are laying everywhere waiting for delayed flights, and there are so many people alone there. You start to imagine that everyone is just as lonely as you, that the cold they are fighting is just as much inside of them as it is in the air around them.

Then I got home, and quickly decided that home is awesome, whether it is Arizona or Texas... and that everyone is cold in Denver, and I don't want to be there again.

Merry Christmas!!!

Here is something I love, just for you :).

Merry Christmas!

The Trifecta

It struck me today, that the gospel needs three things; hands, feet, and a voice.

If I only had one of those, it would be my calling to give it up for the sake of the gospel.
if I had two of those, it would be my calling to give them both for the sake of bringing freedom.

The gospel needs hands, feet, and a voice. I have all three.

Not just different names for the same thing...

It's amazing, the difference a day makes.

But it wasn't so much the day. It was more than that...

God showed me something about hearing His voice for the oppressed today, and I realized that I hadn't been hearing Him for a while. I had things I hadn't dealt with, things that needed to be done. There were two things in particular, the second being a prayer time, in a quiet place, alone. I prayed to hear God, to hear what He had to say to me, and to see with His eyes.

I didn't get an answer. I was pretty bummed.

But I left that place inexplicably happy, and all of a sudden my eyes were opened to just how blessed I am. God has been speaking to me, telling me He loves me, by providing everything I need and want, in abundance!

I have amazing friends, all over the place... South Texas, North Texas, Arizona...

I get to, for at least the next year, play music and lead brothers and sisters in worship FOR A LIVING!?!?!? I can't stress enough how crazy awesome that is to me. I'd do this for free! (and had been for a significant amount of time)

I am in a place where I can learn and grow and make mistakes and lead at the same time... which is very rare, considering that other places wanted me to start music ministries from scratch or take over as the lead guy, which I was totally not ready for.

I have a place to live, food to eat, and I get to go home for Christmas.

But, you may be asking yourself... What is the point?

The point is, that when you look at your world through His eyes, you hear His love in every breath you breathe and every step you take.

I was reading a book, about a man named Brother Yun, who is also known as "The Heavenly Man". He went through torture and prison and starvation and isolation and every other hardship imaginable... but he viewed it with eyes fixed on the cross, and only saw how each beating was a blessing, and each insult an opportunity to show love.

I know there are times that I can show love instead of indifference, and that I need His eyes to see those situations for what they are. Through His eyes, you see the same world as you see with your own eyes... but there is meaning in everything, and direction and purpose.

That is the beauty of life with Christ. It may look like just a different name for religiosity, but it is so much more.

Who's eyes do you see the world through?

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I had a bad day today.

I was supposed to wake up for a christmas concert with a new favorite band of mine, but I didn't. Instead, I slept until a friend called me, at the church, looking for peeps. Then I did wash and cleaned up, but didn't even get that all the way done. I showed up later than I wanted to at the church, forgot to take my acoustic, and broke the string on my boss/friend's guitar during the communion song. I messed up on every song we did, felt way out of tune, had a sore throat...

Pretty much everything I said was stupid or useless. I just want to go home already, just for a few days. I miss home. I miss home a lot.

Do you ever have days like that?

It is funny, because it is at these moments that I realize that I am ridiculously blessed... that the only reason I feel lonely is because I know nothing but loving friends and family. The only reason I feel like i could have done better is because I am blessed with talent. There are people going through so much during the holidays, and my problems are not that big. I'll be alright. God is amazing for letting me be where I am.

But it was still a crappy day.


I have this friend, who I love to hang out with. Every moment with her is fun and interesting, so I try to make time to hang out with her. However, about 50% of the time she either cancels or doesn't show up. She has a busy life, so I can understand her not showing up all the time, but constantly being ditched starts to wear on you. I get to the point where I'm not sure I want to plan to hang out with her again, where I think she probably doesn't want to hang out with me. She tells me she wants to, but actions speak louder than words. She's not shown up three out of the last four times she said she would. It has me thinking... what's the point?

On my calendar, every weekday at 2:30PM, I have "God Time". Yet, Monday I was too busy making a loop for a video and song we are doing for Christmas. Tuesday I was on top of a mountain on a video shoot. Today, I show up at Starbucks (where I do my "God Time") at about 3:00PM. I've been getting a lot out of having a regular quiet time (which, if you know me, is incredibly difficult because I SUCK at schedules), but I still missed those two and showed up late for this one.

What if God was like me? The Bible illustrates a relationship between Him and us, His people, adopted into the family. What if that relationship is more than just a nice word? What if God has humbled Himself to the point where He can be just as hurt by me not showing up for our "hang outs" as I am when my friends ditch me?

This girl asked me what I wanted for my birthday. She wanted to buy something, but all I really want is her presence. I would buy her dinner, take her to the movies, go on a hike, watch Christmas lights... whatever it took, as long as I could hang out with her. The only thing I want is her time.

I have a feeling that, as I try to do this and that to please God, working hard to perfect a string section to a song or climbing a mountain to make a video celebrating His birthday, that my priorities are out of whack. I think what matters to God, more than anything, isn't a song or a video or something like that. I think He would be honored more if I kept my word, if I valued him more than a flashy video or lush loop to a song.

What if I was made in His image, and the reason her time is important to me...

is the same reason my time is important to Him?

God and I... we have a relationship. Right now, I am one crappy friend.

P.S. John Shaffer... your comment to my last post kicked me in the spiritual balls. Good job.

Take the Exit

Jon Foreman has a song called "Lord, Save Me From Myself". It's pretty much my prayer right now.

I let my insecurities and my desires team up to guide my actions in a certain area of my life. They tend to lead me in a direction I'd rather not go. Not a blatantly bad direction. Just a direction that is nowhere near as good as the direction I should be going.

If Heaven is north and Hell is south, I'm headed west in the right lane, and following wherever the highway curves.

There's an exit coming up soon, for a little two-lane back road that meanders north. I think I should take it.

Have you ever been at that exit? What happened when you took it? What happened when you passed it?

Relief vs. Healing

I've had a cold for the past few days. When I get a basic cold, I get dayquil for the daytime and nyquil for the night. The nyquil leaves me completely wasted, which is great when I am about to go to bed. I have no problems with nyquil.

My problem is with dayquil. It touts itself as a "non-drowsy" medication, but I have found that claim to be quite misleading. When I take dayquil, I may not necessarily be sleepy, but I'm still sluggish both mentally and physically. However, I do feel better, so I live with this haze. I know no better way to find relief, and as far as I know, the common cold is pretty much gonna run it's course no matter what I do. I just rest as much as possible and wait it out.

Now, I'd be pretty stupid if I took this approach with every sickness or injury I had. Everyone knows that two or three ibuprofens won't do much for kidney stones or appendicites. Everyone, with the exception of some athletic trainers, knows that ice alone won't heal broken bones or torn ligaments. There are certain steps needed for healing in each of these cases. Bones need to be set and immobilized for proper healing to begin. That appendix and those kidney stones need to be taken out. No questions asked.

Dayquil won't heal a broken leg.

Yet, I sometimes take the dayquil approach to my spiritual life. I know that my spirit is hurting, that I am broken, and that healing can only be found in who God is. But I am stubborn, and I try to find solace in the arms of a friend, or a "friend". I try to find relationship and purpose in things of this world, and because God has blessed me so much, I am usually fairly successful in finding temporary, 4 hour relief for my pain.

It isn't healing, though. It is temporary relief, and it leaves me in a haze, almost numb to life. It is a sad state, because God has blessed me with an amazing life that I should be enjoying "to the fullest" and "abundantly". When I am all here... when I am whole and I get to experience this life for all that it is... I am amazed. Amazed that God would bless me so much. Amazed that I could be so dumb.

I wrote a line in a song a couple of years back. It went:

imprisoned in my lust and anger
selfishness and greed.
I'm tired of these medicines;
it's freedom that I need.
Freedom... healing... I need it, constantly. We all do. We live in a broken world. We are constantly bombarded with a sick, contagious world, and we weren't created to live in our own little bubble. We weren't created for quarantine. We were created for complete, total, constant healing.

This is what's been going through my mind all week. Relief vs. Healing. And I've come to this conclusion:

Healing > Relief

Little Baby Jesus (Do You Hear What I Hear?)

I have noticed this crazy backlash in the church, from seeing Jesus as a meek and mild.

Now, I think He grew up into a strong man, and that He was assertive and even forceful when he needed to be. I think the Bible is clear on His authoritative nature. I think He may even be the "man's man" of chest-bumping college guy small groups everywhere, drinking and making fart jokes and having spitting contests with the disciples during the late nights camping on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.

However, the other morning I was reminded of the beauty of the "holy infant, so tender and mild" who was born over 2000 years ago in a Bethlehem stable. I was listening to a song we are doing for the upcoming 3F service, an updated version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" The line "a child, a child shivers in the cold" caught my attention and got caught in my throat as I sang along. It was cold that night, and for some reason I thought of our Savior, who was at the right hand of the Father, and by whom all things were created... shivering. He was a baby, in a manger, shivering.

Shivering is our body's way of trying to fight the cold. He humbled himself to the point of becoming a defenseless baby, shivering in the cold, relying on His mother to wrap him up and keep Him warm, and on his feeble young body to fight off hypothermia.

He's been weak and helpless before. He knows how to help us when we feel that way, because He humbled Himself. That is so beautiful, that He would love us enough to come in such a lowly estate. I teared up a bit.