The Most Encouraging Words I Ever Read

•March 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“None of my failures in faithfulness have proven to be terminal….One the last day, when we arrive at the Great Cabin in the sky, many of us will be bloodied, battered, bruised and limping. But, by God and by Christ, there will be a light in the window, and a ‘welcome home’ sign at the door.”

–Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel


On My Mind

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s some stuff that fills my head:

One is songwriting.

This guy in the video below is named Glen Hansard. He’s the front man for an Irish band called, “The Frames” and co-fronts the former “Swell Season” (may it rest in peace). When this guy talks and sings, I can’t stand how much of a genius he is. This little story (though sometimes his Irish tongues lets the more sharp words cut through). He has such great stories. And they might not have a lot of weight to them, but he makes it so they do. He’s brilliant.

Something else is guitar.

My pal has one of these. I played it while leading worship (well, during rehearsal, really) and really liked how it played. Electronics weren’t top-notch, but enough. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

A Gretsch G5120. Not my first choice, or second, but my third.

I’m on a Gretsch kick. I’ve been back and forth about solid and hollow bodies, but I’ve come to the conclusion that different guitars are simply different guitars. Unless I want some Line 6 Variax crap (yep. I said it. I hate them.), I’m going to be dropping some serious dough on this stuff.

I tried this guy out in a music store in West Chester, PA and was blown away by it's playability. Pretty smooth with a good tone versatility to it. I coveted it for about an hour.

This is my ideal guitar. I have a maple neck at the time being, and I really love it. I have my sound in it. BUT. I love a rosewood fretboard. It just adds a whole different animal to tone.

This thing has a great punch to it. Every time I put it on the neck pickup, I feel like being in a dim-lit club; tearing up a blues line.

Something that comes with an obsession with guitars, so comes an obsession with effects pedals. The great ones.

I have an obsession with overdrive pedals. I only have two, but I would love a third. Right now, my ODs are only a Fulltone Full-Drive Mosfet 2 and an Electro Harmonix English Muff’n.

I wouldn't mind adding this guy as my third overdrive.

Though a healthy portion of my music is folk, I lead worship and play guitar for various worship teams, so I end up doing a lot of different tricks with delay pedals. This is probably my next purchase:

An analog delay. It sounds thick and old. Fills a room like a champ from the demos I've seen.

That’s what’s on my mind.

Lots and lots of guitar stuff.

Honest Worship

•February 25, 2011 • 1 Comment

I have learned very simply that if I haven’t the honesty of a glass soul I have no reason to lead a congregation into worship. More over, I have nowhere near the authority to show them my heart and sing my hurt. The world has enough liars and people with agendas and schemes. We (not the people who have chosen to drop their nets and follow a Rabbi, but all of us) have a duty to be human, not perfect. It’s good to let loose. It’s good to let blood hit the strings of a guitar. It’s messy and beautiful to let your sweat drip and spit fly. As beautiful as a woman with wet hair.

If you are a worship leader or a minister or volunteer or what have you, the first and greatest commandment is this: Don’t let them scare you. Christ does not want your mantra. Christ wants you there whether you’re ticked off or put on; of hope or of failure. He came for the sick not the well. Know your demons when you come to face him in his presence. Then, maybe, we can let him do the work he’s supposed to do: clean us up and dust us off.

The world has enough people who are very comfortable with a program and with a disassociation from the higher power. If we are complacent with no fire to fuel the pursuit of the Great Beyond then it’s not our idols that kill us; it’s our apathy.

I intend to be honest.

And I intend to have the intention of letting God have his intervention.

Honesty truly is the best policy.

The Gospel According to Braveheart

•February 16, 2011 • 2 Comments

I watched Braveheart twice in two weeks last December. It usually gets my blood pumping and my heart screaming, but I wasn’t looking at it my typical way.

Braveheart is a well made movie. It’s long, epic, has a great story. And by “great story”, I’m implying that it has a character who is forced into conflict to acquire his goal or ending point. William, the protagonist and patriot, comes home from a pilgrimage after being orphaned by war, sets out to avenge the woman he was to wed (who was killed she refused a man who was making an attempt at rape) and reclaim Scotland from the tyranny of the King of England, Edward I. William summons up Scotland and the odds are extraordinary: the Scots are outnumbered by thousands, they’re common farmers with pitchforks and sickles, there are nobleman taken by greed to sacrifice freedom, and the list goes on and on. Although historical fact might be bent a bit to create, arguably, one of the greater stories told on film, it’s a story. It inspires people.

I don’t want to talk about how God loves the pitchfork people reclaiming their rights.

What I do want to talk about is one what one of the nobleman says. Robert the Bruce, son of the highest nobleman of Scotland and heir to the same throne, is compelled by the speeches and battles of Wallace. He eventually betrays Wallace, thinking the best and strongest move for Scotland is to have him lose. Realizing he has made the wrong choice, Robert the Bruce sends for Wallace to meet with him and the nobles again to advance against the English. The other Nobles sabotage Wallace and turn him over to the English. Robert confronts his father, who is pulling political strings behind his back. His father tries to reason with him, saying that there’s too much to sacrifice.

Robert replies with something beautiful:“Wallace fights for something that I’ve never had. I want to believe.”

Why does he say that?

What makes a human say, “I want to believe?”

Here’s the problem with certain perceptions of Christianity: we’re convinced it’s not necessary and the world doesn’t need it. But Robert the Bruce, though he’s not alluding to Christianity, wants to believe. Why? Because something beyond William is controlling him and propelling him into a new adventure that he doesn’t know the end of. William only knows the tug and pull of what he believes. What he has inside of him isn’t necessarily a call from some higher power, but it is something beyond himself.

Whether a Christian or not (even religious or not), there are times when something beyond ourselves takes us by the collar and whips us around. To the artist, it’s when the paint seems to swirl into colors on its own. For the writer, it’s when the main character seems to speak the words for you. For the poet, when the author’s breath is stolen from their own words. The “beyond” is something worth living for. What if, like my good friend Rilke says, we would live “as a sign unto this urge and a testimony to it (Letters to a Young Poet, 2)”?

Someone close to me once said that there’s no reason to live life with a passion guiding you. Really? There’s a verse in Proverbs that I’ve been rolling around in my mouth for a while, trying to see if I can tell what flavor it is. I think I’ve got it. It’s in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, people perish.” Okay. “No vision” is close, but doesn’t get the cigar. There are other translations, though, that put it into a better frame with the words used. One translation (NIV, 1984) reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” I like that one. That hits a bit closer to the mark. I’d like to think William is getting something that Proverbs talks about. He gets a revelation of, “This is not how things are supposed to be” and he runs with it. He realizes that if he doesn’t live for this, or for something as great as this, it won’t matter. He realizes nothing will matter.

When we don’t go by what’s beyond and we just plain, ol’ exist we don’t help the problem.

If the problem with your perception of Christianity is that it’s not necessary, I’d ask you what is necessary. You can float however you want if you want to get by, but you’ll just get by.

For me, I’m going to live by it. I’m going to live with the “beyond myself” throwing me around the world like it has the past four years of my life like a rag doll. Let’s all go get it. If we fail, so be it. Let our efforts see more fruit than our vanities.

May G-d give us the clarity either way.

Wanna Bite the Apple?

•February 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I follow a guy named Nate on twitter.

He’s been my friend since I was 15 (that’s 7 years running, folks). You can usually find him tweeting about technology usually having to do with the Android system. I’m a Mac guy, myself. I’ve owned my 15″ Macbook Pro for close to a year and a half. He knows more than I could ever hope to in terms of technology, the way the market works, and everything in between. I trust his judgement because of his brain and because he’s my friend. He shared a link the other day that made me think. Here are the two videos I watched.

Apple products (iPhone specifically) are being made in a province in China with a company called, “Foxconn”. Foxconn is using sweatshop worker methods to build the products. At one point, Mike Daisy says someone died after a 32 hour shift. He saw mangled hands and other injuries from the machines that weren’t being tended to because of inadequate healthcare. If you google Foxconn and Apple, you’ll find articles of suicide rates, injuries, and nets being built around the housing dormitories of the workers in order to catch them when they jumped to their death. The last article I saw was from mid to late 2010 saying Apple is independently investigating the matter.

I own an Apple product. So what do I do?

Nate pointed out the obvious answer: not buy an Apple product. I agreed, but even as I type this on my plastic and aluminum, I have this pull to keep it. Like Frodo with a ring. The industry standard now is something by Apple. Logic is used in recording studios. Final Cut Pro is used in major film productions. IPhones are top-notch, used by more and more companies(Sprint’s Evo and the Droid X are pretty spiffy, but they don’t have that idolatrous quality). It seems like it’s easy to lay down something that clearly butts heads with our morals, but I keep feeling that pull of, “But it’s SO good!” Now, I haven’t found anything by way of Google news or anything about Macbook Pro manufacturing, but I don’t feel very secure about it being an honest trade. As a Christian (hell, as a human), there’s an obligation to speak up and say, “I’m not okay with this. I’m going to try and stop this or at least tell people about this. This isn’t okay.” There’s some type of fire alarm in the nature God gave us to go off when we see things like this.

What can you do? The crime is so vocal, and our protest is a whisper. Our goal should be our morals directing our lives and actions. Rainer Rilke once said, if you’re a writer that is, your life, “must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it (pg. 2, I think).” Obviously, as a Christian, the life should be a testimony to “it”. What “it” is is this discontent with how life is supposed to be. This isn’t necessarily a fundamentalist point of view. Fundamentalists, progressives, left, right, moderate, should all have this feel of, “This isn’t right.”

I know I won’t buy an iPhone. I’m not going to support those methods, and I don’t want to support that company. I don’t think any of us should until something changes. I’m not saying all of Apple is evil. What I am saying is that Apple is clearly in the wrong and we need to point that out. I love technology as much as the next person. I’m a Music Technology MAJOR. I love guitar effects, pedals, amps, guitars, keyboards, drums, mixers, all that junk. Technology does great things. I’m not suggesting any barbarian retraction. But people are dying.

For nothing.

John Mark McMillan

•February 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There’s a few songwriters I’ve been listening to lately.

Almost everyone in the church circle knows John Mark McMillan for his song, “How He Loves” covered by at least three different artists that I know of.

One thing I’ll say about him: Out of every person who is a Worship Leader, he’s the one I respect the most. He’s one of the more creative people I follow, and he inspires me to write. His blog is here. His writing hits me. Hard. Like this one:

There’s some power in those words.

It’s true what he said, though. “The man Jesus Christ laid death in his grave.”


•February 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m learning about prayer.

Prayer, though, is such an etherial thing. It’s not an etherial you can attain at random events out of the blue, like the connection with a long separated friend. It’s like someone socks you in your spiritual jaw. I attend a church called Freedom Life Christian Center pastored by Sam Mastellar (you can check out his blog here.). We recently wrapped up a series called, “Sun Stand Still,” based off the concept of Joshua praying to the Lord for the sun to stand still so that the battle ended on the up side for the Israelites. Whether or not you take it as metaphor or fact, either has an implication of the miraculous from God. You end up with two schools of thought:

1. Joshua had the audacity and then the ability to follow through with his prayer, making an action out of his hope.This is more towards the metaphorical school, which is fine. Let’s put this into perspective: Joshua is in the midst of a battle and it looks bleak. The enemy has a chance to escape once the sun goes down, but Joshua knows that God promised the nation of Israel something great. So, as the walls of failure are closing in on Joshua, he musters up the courage to ask God to help him. That hope for something greater, however, propels Joshua to somehow win the battle—against the odds. Hope does some dangerous and miraculous things. It pushes us for the greater, makes us stronger…even gets us out of bed after a long, hard night. It keeps us going.

A person who has hope does something. I pray I become like one of those that do.

2. Joshua had the audacity to believe God could do such a thing. This plays off of the more literal side of things. Joshua was able to grab hold of the thing that’s beyond hope: faith. Faith is the assurance of the things unseen. He can take this and run with it because Joshua has seen what God has done in the history leading up to this point for the people of Israel. He’s got the faith and the knowledge of what God has done. If he asks God to help him win the battle, he expects God and knows God will do it.

There is a God very alive, and very real. He is more than capable of the miraculous with plenty of strength to spare.

What I’ve learned lately is that prayer does things. I just did a Daniel Fast for three weeks to start off the New Year. I have never felt more clarity. I’m a man who happens to confuse himself and convince his better judgements for the less finer things sometimes. I do this well, and I talk myself out of some really great opportunities. But my prayers have been different. I’ve had clarity; direction. I’ve come to know peace with every thought of and toward God. I’m no longer hollering, “amen.”

I’m breathing it.

I don’t know know if you’re with the metaphorical or the literal when it comes to Joshua. Something is sure, though: prayer does things.