Where is God?

"Sometimes You're further than the moon. Sometimes You're closer than my skin." -Martin Smith

I have often heard people talk about "falling away" from God, or "backsliding" away from the life they once led. I think these nice words, these gentle words, belie the true nature of what we are doing.

God is Love. What is more, He is IN LOVE with us. He created sunsets and starry nights as a love letter to us.

We rejected His love, and got ourselves into a huge mess that we couldn't get out of. We were doomed to die, pitifully and hopelessly. He sent His Son; indeed, His very self in flesh and blood. He loved and healed, and He showed us what love and healing truly were. He gave His life so that we might be freed, us who were covered in this world's filth, dirty and despised. He died to make us His own, and His love makes us beautiful.

Yet, even today, we reject that Love, instead settling for the scraps this world offers us. We tell Him that He isn't enough, and we leave Him brokenhearted as we turn our back on Him yet again. This GOD, creator of the universe, has humbled himself to relationship with us, His most beloved creation... and we have used it to hurt Him. We have hurt and betrayed the only perfect love we will ever know.

It should break your heart. I know it broke mine, once I realized just how far I had "fallen away" from... ignored... betrayed... and utterly disregared this Perfect Love personified.

It should do more, however, than simply break your heart. I know that when I realize that I've hurt someone I love, the first thing I want to do is make it right. I try as hard as I can, right then, to fix it, and I continue to try and repair that which I've broken. Once we realize what we have done, we should "repent"... turn from what we've been doing, and do all that we can to return to our Perfect Love.

What is amazing, though, is this one other fallacy in the wording of "falling away". See, we never actually fall "away", because God is always right there to pick us up again. We don't have to wait until His feelings are under control, or until He can look at us again, because His love is more perfect than ours will ever be. Right now, as you feel far from Him, He is simply waiting for you to turn around, to come back to His love.

This is the Gospel. This is the Good News, a Love that is stronger than our imperfections, more resilient than our rebellious hearts.

"My love for You
My heart for You
My life for You
All I am for You"
-David Crowder

I know many people who are afraid to say this, to give Him everything. This is sadly ironic, since "perfect love casts away fear"...

... and He is our Perfect Love.

Richard Leading Worship - Videos

I am placing this on my blog for two purposes. First, this is for all of those who have ever wondered what kind of music we do at my church. Second, this is where I will refer those who are looking for a worship leader and wanting to see me on video. Enjoy them, because I sure enjoyed making them! The audio isn't perfect, but it's better than anything I've had before.

These two songs are originally by Hillsong United. The Time Has Come has been one of my favorites to lead over the past few years, for youth and collegiate groups, both with my band back in Texas and here in Third Format. I'm Not Ashamed is a song I was introduced to here in Arizona, and I have grown to love it as well.

God Is Alive is a new song by Steve Fee. We learned the song off of a YouTube video, so I'm not sure this is the exact way it is going to be recorded by Fee. I love the words and the energy of this song, and singing this truth out, that God is alive and worthy of being glorified.

This last one is Running With Your Heart by Charlie Hall, and it is a bit different. We had an acoustic set, and I used a 12-string acoustic guitar and had Vik playing djembe. This song is one that many found hard to follow, so this was one of the only times we used it. I still think it's pretty amazing, and would love to try it again sometime.

Thanks for watching! I will update this post with new songs as I am able to convert them.


I’d like to think that my heart is for people in the gutter, but I have just been reminded of a time when I was completely oblivious to a gutter around me. I’ve told the story of my friend Anansi, my former next door neighbor who ended up killing his mother, at least a hundred times. Today, after getting a few things done and before starting on my review of The Gutter, I looked at a blog I follow called The Church of No People and responded to a question asking what the stupidest thing I’d ever done was. I began to tell the story of Anansi, and how he had left me high and dry in Sugarland, a suburb of Houston.

I had given him a ride home from our college, about five hours away. He had promised me gas money, which he had shown me the night before. Like the stupid freshman kid that I was, I took off with very little money, without telling anyone where I went, just to prove that I could make a long trip and to do something for my friend. When we got to Sugarland, Anansi didn’t know the way to his house, and when we stopped to fill my car up, he only had 6 dollars for me, because apparently he “had fun” the night before. He promised me money when we got to his house, but it took us about an hour to find it. When we finally did, there was an eviction notice on the door and the locks were changed. I left him there with his clothes under the awning of the house, angry and worrying about how I was going to get home.

The story of how I got home is one for another time and place. Anansi was found walking down the street on December 29th, with blood on his shirt and a bloody knife in his hand, and when confronted by police he immediately confessed to murdering his mother. I got the news that night, as my friend Marvin called me and told me to turn on the news, just in time to see the house I’d dropped Anansi off at, and a picture of his mother before she was slain. I considered this the end of the story for a long time, and after a while I treated it as my trump card story in any conversational situation, saved for the special occasions but shared countless times nonetheless.

I was in the process of telling this story in a comment on The Church of No People when I went searching for the story from the newspaper in 2002, the one with Anansi’s mug shot. Instead I found this story from 2008, catching up with him and his high school coach, and telling his story. Anansi had a life I couldn’t imagine, a life I had never asked about. We knew him, talked to him every day and hung out with him constantly, and yet we didn’t know that he spent two and a half years alone in an apartment that his mother and stepdad paid for, after he got out of Juvenile Detention. He told me, on the way to the place I dropped him off at (which apparently was never his home), that his mother didn’t want him, that he was going there because he thought he should, not because anyone particularly missed him. He told me about his religious meanderings and what his parents believed. He told me about not seeing his dad, about the relatives…

He told me so much of this, and all I remembered was the part about him leaving me nearly stranded, and the part about him killing his mother. I never tried to keep up with him, and never tried to stand up for him when his name was dragged through the mud, especially because most of the time it was me doing the dragging.

We need to be about loving the Anansi’s of this world. I don't know what to do right now... I think one way I can apply this to my life is to reconnect with this young man, though I don’t have the first clue as to how. I am going to email the writer of the article. I think also that I can listen to those around me, because there are those in my life right now that are hard to listen to, hard to want to be with, who need someone to shine a light into their darkness. I don’t know who the next Anansi will be in my life, or how long I will have with him before it’s too late.

*Picture is from this article by Ken Sherrington

Lead Servant

My grandpa, before he retired, was a foreman for a rancher in South Texas. He was the head ranch hand, the #2 guy for a man named Stanley. He worked hard, and was trusted so much that for years after his retirement, Stanley would ask him to come back and run a combine for the harvest.

After retiring, he has kept busy, working with his hands to help his family, both earthly and spiritual. He did a lot of work getting a house ready for my mom and stepdad to move in to (if only the stepdad's character had been half as solid as my grandfather's handiwork), and I am always hearing about something he is working on. He is 72 and can still work harder and smarter than men half his age.

That trusted man, that lead servant... I don't know that they are ever truly recognized for their importance and their contributions. There is an old saying, that "it's hard to find good help." This is a common saying because it is true. Whatever we do, we do it for ourselves, trying to get the money we need, or the recognition or the accolades to quench our ever-thirsting egos. Too often we work just hard enough to get by, to be average, or perhaps just a little bit above average. It is almost always less than we are capable of, and then we wonder why we can't find a job more fulfilling?

This applies to our spiritual lives as well... trying to find that line that we shouldn't cross, some taboo that we want to inch ever closer to without ever broaching. We do enough to feel like a "normal" christian, like an "average" kind of guy or an "above average" type of girl. The only problem is, we were made, each of us, for the extraordinary. Our self-doubts and fears constantly try to silence our spirits, but still we hear them faintly calling out for more life, more effort, more fulfillment... life, to the full.

What would happen if all of our restlessness turned into action? What if our boredom produced movement? What if we got up from our "average" lives and reached for the extraordinary, despite the limits that our doubts and fears insist we adhere to?

What could God do with an army of lead servants, of trusted men and women who could storm the gates of hell with super-soakers full of love and peace and grace and truth, the WMD's of the spiritual realm?

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... It is the Lord Christ you are serving" -Colossians 3:23-24

It starts with integrity, and it starts with each individual act from this point on. Whatever you are doing... with all of your heart. That is what being a lead servant is all about. If you strive to be a leader for Christ, this is especially important. We are not called to simply lead, as those in the world are. The leaders that the world looks up to answer to no one. We, as Christians, are called to constantly remember that we are accountable to another, that what we work with and nurture is not ours to boast in. We must constantly remember that it is Christ who is the leader, and no matter how many people are below us, it is always our duty to serve.

The lead servant is one who has a leader's ability and a servant's heart.
The lead servant is the one who can be trusted to know both what he's doing, and who he's doing it for.
The best leader is the lead servant.

Escapism- San Diego @ Night

All of our plans were falling through.

We were supposed to hang out. I was off the next day, and she didn't have to work until 10. Everything we tried to plan just wasn't working. In humorous frustration, she texted me:

What if we drove to Cali tonight to play in the ocean and then came back?

It had been a long few weeks, and I'd been wanting to do something completely random for a while. Usually I would want to know all of the details before agreeing to something like this, but not this time. I texted back:

I'm down.

We stopped and got an audiobook by David Sedaris to listen to (not my choice, but funny in a "wow, that's wrong" kind of way) while driving on I-8 headed toward Yuma. There are very few radio stations between Phoenix and Yuma. We were headed to San Diego, on account of Los Angeles having no soul.

It was a beautiful drive once we got past El Centro. It was my first time in California, and winding through the big hills silhouetted against the light of the moonlit sky was a bit thrilling. I needed to get away. We needed to get away.

I think we all need to get away sometimes. Life gets more and more complicated and intricate as we get older, mostly because we suck at life and tend to make it that way. We get caught in a rut, and we need a fresh perspective, and so we go for a walk, or a run, or a ride, or a drive... something to take us away from the mundane, from the same old thing. It's called "Escapism", the wanting to get away from it all, to put distance between yourself and whatever it is that weighs you down.

As we get older, I think we convince ourselves that escaping is impractical. Heck, I didn't think I had that random trip in me anymore. But driving into San Diego under the cover of darkness, putting feet to the ocean and listening to the sheer massive power of it's waves, is cathartic to the soul. Really, the beauty of any new place is usually enough to bring our problems into perspective.

Escapism is healthy, as long as it ends. We were back in Mesa by 730 the next morning, with the same old struggles not looking quite as big as they once did. I had a feeling that everything would be alright. Then I crashed on my girlfriend's family couch.

Here's wishing you a Great Escape, a San Diego of your very own.