I Don't Care

When you are deeply involved in the ministry, you are almost constantly inundated with stories of "church gone wrong". We sing many songs that originated at Hillsong in Australia, and many other songs that are the products of "the industry", songs that have that "Nashville" sound. It seems that at least a few times every year, I hear another "concerned" person trying to convince me that Hillsong or Nashville only cares about the money.

I think I've finally come to my conclusion on this whole matter. I think I have an answer now, when people ask me how I can sing this song, or quote that preacher, or talk favorably about another ministry. It isn't the answer you'd expect, unless you read the title of this post.

You see, what I'm trying to say is, I DON'T CARE!

I don't care what you heard about how rude Nashville people can be, or how their motives are all wrong, or anything else. I don't care what happened with the Hillsong Church, how much money they make on their music, or how shallow their preaching is. For now, I am done with the big picture.

I have one concern when it comes to corporate worship music, and that is the people that God has given me to lead in worship. If a song reaches them where they are at, or inspires them to reach out to others, it was probably written by someone who has that same heart. Even if it wasn't, it is still good and useful for my goals, which are to lead people to find healing and bring healing to others.

This is life; to be the cure for the sickness, the light in the darkness. This is what matters, and from now on it doesn't matter how that happens. I may end up in a church with a money tree out front, pastored by a man with a yacht, and it won't matter as long as healing and hope abound. I could be at a church where the preacher is a political nut, and I may have to run sound for a townhall meeting filled with angry senior citizens, but it won't matter, as long as the Kingdom is at hand.

We Are Homeless

We are a transient generation.

We don't put down roots, perhaps because there is so much less deep soil available. We travel with the winds, barely acknowledging the people around us, the ones we used to know as neighbors and trusted friends. We hang out with people when it is convenient, and are quick to forget them when the winds take us somewhere else.

I feel transient. I feel homeless. I don't think I'm the only one.

I want to put down roots somewhere. I want to live and work and go to church in the same place, for a long time. I want to be someone that can be depended on, to have friends from ten years ago coming over for lunch on the weekends, and to see something God is doing grow over the course of a decade. I am hurt that when things go wrong, our generation can be counted on to turn tail and run. There has to be something more, and that something starts with a home.

We need a home to care about, a solid base to build on. We are not all itinerant workers in the kingdom of God. He wants to establish us, in a neighborhood and a church and a family, with solid connections that are not easily broken.

For now, we all drift along, and I'm beginning to see how truly sad that is. Home is more than a place to lay your head.

Simple Truth

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so...

How does God speak to you? What words does He use?

Have you ever thought you heard God saying "Okay, that was stupid. Why were you such a jerk?"

I am in the process of a revelation. I say "in the process" because this revelation is a process. King David would often beg for mercy and cry out for forgiveness as if it were in short supply, when God's love and mercy are limitless. I am sure he never completely figured it out. That is what makes his songs so amazing, that they are the songs of an imperfect man, the artistic expression of a broken soul, canonized as ultimate Truth because that is the truth of human existence.

Sometimes I think God put the Psalms in the Bible to convey a simple message to our hearts. It's words speak to our souls, and take hold of our spirits with the promise that "it's all gonna be okay."

The revelation that I'm coming to, the simple and profound truth, is that God loves me. He doesn't think I'm a loser, or a failure, or a jerk. He sees me as His child, and He loves me with a perfect and unconditional love. He loves me through thick and thin, through obedience and random acts of stupidity.

It isn't His voice that tells us we are stupid. There is an opponent, an adversary, who would like nothing better than to speak darkness into our lives disguised as light. The word "Satan" actually comes from the Hebrew word for adversary, and this is what that voice is. The voice that speaks to and highlights our every weakness is the voice of one who wishes us harm. This "Devil" wants us to wallow, to give in to who we can't help being.

No, God loves us, and is the one who tells us that we can do more, that what we've done isn't who we were meant to be. His spirit is what spurs us to be bigger than ourselves, and to love with a supernatural love. He has allowed there to be an accuser, and allowed us the choice to love Him or leave Him, but His love cannot be questioned or described. It was an act of love to give us a choice. We can understand the beauty of perfect love because we live in a world of imperfection and longing.

I thought that this God was like my father, and maybe you have the same problem; that voice that doubts your worth as a person. I thought He would be angry or disappointed if I cried, or if I showed any weakness to Him whatsoever. I thought He would point out my flaws and consider me unworthy of His time or attention. All of this will sound dumb to those of you who've never been through some sort of traumatic rejection, but the rest of you...

The rest of you get it. You understand all too well where I'm coming from. You've been in the exact same place, and maybe you still are. You have no problem telling other people about God's love for them... I mean, heck, I sing about it every week, leading hundreds of people to sing a truth that we'll spend our whole lives trying to understand!

This is what I ask of you, if you've read this far. Say this simple sentence, stating it as a simple truth... and let it speak to you. Speak this, out loud, and if you have trouble, say it louder. Say it through your anger, through your tears... let these words pour over whatever threatens to keep them silent. Whisper it, sing it, or scream it at the top of your lungs...

Jesus Loves Me.
Repetition weakens the idea, but not necessarily the truth behind it.

Recent Worship Leading Videos

This is a big post, lots of music. These are from Third Format at Central Christian Church in Gilbert. They are some of my favorite songs, and I had a blast leading them!

"The Second Alive" - originally by Charlie Hall.
Video from November 1

"The Time Has Come" and "Not Ashamed" - originally by Hillsong United
Video from November 8

"The Highest and the Greatest" - Originally by Tim Hughes
"How He Loves" - Originally by John Mark McMillan
Video from November 8

"All Around Me" - Originally by Flyleaf, also covered by David Crowder*Band
"SMS (Shine)" - Originally by David Crowder*Band
Video from November 1

"Starlight" - Originally by Muse (this was an intro song)
Video from October 18

"Uprising" - Originally by Muse (another fun intro song, and as close as I've come to "sticking it to the man")
Video from November 1
Imperfection is the one thing we have in common. Imperfection is universal. Imperfection is a reminder of who we aren't.

How Should We Study God?

I've been thinking lately, about this whole "Creation vs. Evolution" debate, and the broader animosity between Scientists and Theologians. I think we often feel the need to validate one to the other, Science to Theology or Theology to Science, as if we have been tasked with this, and as if we had the ability to accomplish such a validation.

I think there is an inherent flaw in the whole debate, however. Science is concerned with the quantifiable, that which can be recreated and studied. It is concerned with the study of the natural universe, and that is certainly a dauntingly huge subject to comprehend. Science, however, is by very definition unable to viably discuss the "supernatural", and this is a good thing.

See, the study of any God or Deity with the ability to create an entire universe, of which our planet is merely an atom orbiting a molecule inside of a speck floating in the vast expanse of space, would be far too large an undertaking for science. Creation is unquantifiable, and it can't be replicated. There is no possible point of reference to the power of a Creator, because all of creation is within the Creator's realm of possibility, and we can know nothing that is not in that realm of possibility, except for the preposterous things that we attempt to describe in big words to give us the illusion of understanding (string theory, anyone?). Even those things are within our imagination, which is a part of the brain, which is itself simply replicated cells replicating and multiplying and living and dying.

No, Science cannot, and should not, endeavor to understand our Creator, and neither should Theology attempt to finagle its way into the Scientific. Both sides, both groups of people, fancy themselves and their areas of expertise to be far more than they actually are. God, or whatever creative force you choose to believe in, seems to have made this distinction quite apparent, even going so far as to give us the words "Natural" and "Supernatural" to describe the two separate realms. Theology is concerned with the Supernatural, and should not attempt to impose the Supernatural upon the Natural (although living out the Supernatural will in the natural world, for the benefit of the world and the pleasure of the Supernatural, is certainly within the Theological discussion).

Instead, we've been given Art, which is not limited by rules or logic, but merely by available materials, talents, and imagination. As I wrote previously in response to a friendly discussion on Facebook, I think the realm of art, that which is for the most part immeasurable (and at certain times and from certain perspectives seemingly pointless) is a more proper realm to discuss the sum and substance of God. Our creative artistic ability and appreciation is the very meaning of being created "in the Image" of our Creator.

I think Art itself attests to it's necessity in the human experience. This is why so many stories de-humanize certain people groups or alien groups by taking away or severely limiting their ability or desire for the arts. Two examples I can think of are V for Vendetta and the newer Star Trek iterations. In V for Vendetta, V is fighting essentially for England's right to humanity, her people's right to the Arts and to disagreement and all of that which is part of the human experience. In the Star Trek series, the Borg are introduced as a "collective" in which people lose their identity for the benefit of the nearly invincible collective. The show constantly presents humanity and individuality as the one thing that defeats this otherwise overpowering force.

I believe that the Arts are our conduit to God, our best method of understanding our Creator. I believe there is an overlap into Theology, which is the best method for understanding our role and relationship with the Creator. I believe Science should be free from discussions about our Creator, and instead busy itself with this vast and beautiful creation.

Love (In The Pit Of My Stomach)

So, if you are late to the party, I will tell you the awesome news one more time... I'm engaged! (never gets old)

Now, my fiance is from here in Arizona, but I am looking anywhere and everywhere for a worship leading position, either full-time or substantial part-time staff, because this is the thing that God has made me good at, the thing that brings me the most joy, and it would be dumb for me to not at least pursue this as a career. She is completely behind me, and wants me to look everywhere for a position and go wherever that takes me, even though it means we may be apart for five months (from the time my residency at Central ends, until we get married and she follows me out).

This has seemed like a good plan... unenviable, since I knew I'd miss her, but still not too bad. I mean, it's only five months, right?

But love doesn't work like that, apparently. I was looking at someone's 21st birthday pictures up on Facebook, and I realized that I would be missing Kristen's 21st birthday. That made me very, unbearably sad. My stomach started getting tied up in knots, and I came to my blog because I needed to do something to get it out. I love that girl, and I don't want to be apart from her for five months. I get sad when I don't get to see her for a day.

And suddenly I understand a lot more about romantic love, about the longing to be with the person you love. I understand what it means when being apart isn't an easy "option" but a depressing prospect. I feel like I'll be leaving part of myself back here in Arizona if and when I leave. I mean, it is what's best for our future and all that jazz, but those words seem a lot less meaningful when coupled with the word "apart".

It's a privilege to love someone this way, and I know that, but that doesn't make the idea of being apart any less painful. I can't wait until I get to spend the rest of my life with her. I suppose that is a good thing, that I feel the longing of this love in the pit of my stomach.

Simple Things

Why do we like simple things?

Maybe because we've made this world too complicated. Maybe we've lost the joy that came with growing up.

I don't know what it is, but something in side of us makes us grin from ear to ear when we open a brand new box of crayons.

I suppose I could combine this childishness with adult responsibility, and go invest in Crayola or something.

Do you like simple things?

Running From Snowballs in Arizona

The first and only time I saw a significant amount of snow, I had to be shown how to make a snowball. I had to start with something small, something that fit inside of my hand. I then had to roll it around, letting the snow on the ground become part of the snowball. I was surprised at how big it started getting, and eventually it was big enough to become the bottom of a snowman.

I've been pretty stressed lately. My fiance, who is crazy smart when it comes to how people think, told me I was letting things snowball into something I couldn't control. I got the image of one of those big cartoon snowballs that comes careening down a mountain to bury someone. Then I remembered that snowman, and how that big bottom of the snowman started out as something the size of my hand.

I don't think I'm the only person dealing with snowballs these days. There is a lot of uncertainty out there, a lot of unemployment and uncertain futures and self-doubt. We want to be self-sufficient, to say we're just fine, that we can deal with this snowball that started out as something the size of our hand, something we just couldn't let go of.

Except that now, it's bigger than us and threatening to bury us.

In the Psalms, I could hear David dealing with his own snowballs, and constantly reminding himself that God would be his help, that God was bigger than the biggest snowball David could create. I think he did this as much for his own benefit as for the benefit of whoever may have read and sung his songs.

Music is cathartic that way... the melody and harmony and dissonance, they come together to say what words alone couldn't. I wish I could hear the music that went with David's Psalms. I think that music would resonate with all of us who are busy running from snowballs.

As for me, I sometimes feel like I've already been run over by the snowball. I suppose it's time for me and Jesus to grab a couple of shovels, because ultimately, if you are trapped underneath a crapload of snow, sitting and moping won't really help you much. Besides, all that a snowball consists of is a bunch of microscopic flakes of snow, just like most of our own "snowballs" consist of a bunch of little crap that looks much less cool that snowflakes.