Category Archives: Music

Spark and Mountaintop

One of the Gator Wesley bands is going to be playing both of the songs that I’ve included in this post. They’re both by a band called The City Harmonic and they are called “Spark” and ‘Mountaintop” respectively and Gator Wesley hopes to book them in late January. I share these songs because I shared them both in a closing worship that I did at Duke’s Foundation of Christian Leadership, a week before my surgery. I have no clue what I said at the time. But, reflecting now, these things jump out at me so I share them with you, in no particular order.

1. Breathe – There’s nothing a few deep breaths won’t solve. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Have you heard people encouraging you to take deep breaths if they have just said something that they think will make you mad? The lines of “Spark” that say “When I breathe in hope/And breathe in grace and breathe in God/Then I’ll breathe out peace/And breathe out justice, breathe out love” make sense don’t they? So take a couple of deep breaths. I’m not talking about shallow breaths. I’m talking about using your diaphragm. Visualize you’re breathing in God and breathing out peace.

2. Have you heard that John Wesley said, “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” Well, he didn’t actually say that. It makes for a great quote though, doesn’t it? If we all come together and share our “sparks” we CAN set the whole church on fire. Are you with me?

3. Our spark sometimes gets snuffed out. By life, by stress, by midterms, by tragedy, by doubt, by what we say as the very nature of God. It’s never too late to ask like the lyrics say, “Light a fire here in my heart.” If you ask God surely will answer. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

4. Have you ever had a “mountaintop” experience? I like that the song talks about “The valley low, that’s where we make our homes” and God is present in that valley low. I love the line, “He’s here, I feel it in my bones, our God.” So God is WALKING WITH US EACH STEP OF THE WAY.

5. I like the image of no matter what walls or temples we can build, we can’t hold God in. That’s so powerful. So many times we try to put God in boxes of our own making, but God leaks out and CANNOT be CONTAINED. No matter what. God cannot be contained, no matter how the world defines God (“they”) or how we define God (“we”).

What jumps out at you in regard to the two songs? You may have noticed that music plays a significant role in my faith walk. What are the songs that have shaped your faith?

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Filed under 5 Things, Breathe, Music, The City Harmonic

Praise the Lord in All Circumstances

For some of us we have a harder time acknowledging God in the good times but we cry out to God readily in tough times.  Others of us, lean the other way – feeling like if everything’s going right in our lives we must be in tune to what God is calling us to do.  I definitely find myself pulled in one direction or the other, but I remind myself of Paul’s words in Philippians and Thessalonians.  In Philippians 4:11-13 it says, “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  

It reminds me of the song Praise the Lord from The City Harmonic’s just released album Heart.  The lyrics and the link to the song are below.  

It reminds me of the ordination question, “How do you interpret the statement “Jesus Christ is Lord?””  So I pulled out my ordination paperwork and perused the answers that I wrote in 2004 and 2007.  I wrote this in 2007 as I went before the Board for my Elder’s orders, “Jesus is (past, present, and future) our Lord.  He is the Lord.”  I go on to write, “In confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, I am affirming that Jesus Christ won the ultimate victory over sin and death.  Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.” 

I like the images of seeming contradiction of being on top of the world and the world on your shoulders.  

So what do you think?  Is it easier for us to see God at work in the good times or the bad?  Do we feel closer to God in our turning towards God after we’ve been through things?  Is it easy to see God at work in our lives?  Or a challenge at times?  No matter where you find yourself on your journey, I hope you will wrestle with these questions.  And that God will give you real, tangible signs that help you to praise the Lord!

The City Harmonic – Praise the Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50e4vTAexMM

Praise the Lord when it comes out easy
Praise the Lord on top of the world
Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord
Even in the middle of the joys of life
There is always grace enough today to
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
Praise the Lord with the world on your shoulders
Praise the Lord when it seems too hard
Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord
Even in the middle of the long, dark night
There is always grace enough today to
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
Praise the Lord if you can sing it at the top of your lungs
Praise the Lord like every moment is a song to be sung
Praise the Lord: though it might take blood, sweat and tears in your eyes
There is grace for today so praise the Lord
There is grace for today so praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord
Won’t you praise the Lord?
There is grace for today so praise the Lord

 

Two More Awesome Songs by The City Harmonic:

The City Harmonic – Mountaintop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUYAqH2yRqQ

The City Harmonic – Spark

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVzrCGM_ilI

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Filed under Jesus is Lord, Music, Praise the Lord, Scripture

Overcomer

My mom sent me a song in an email.  It’s meant to be encouraging.  It’s meant to speak truth to my life.  It’s meant to remind me that God’s with me.  

But I deleted it.

This was a particularly low point in chemo (I had brain surgery in May of this past year and they completely got all the tumor, but because it had changed to a grade III which is cancerous and my type of a tumor – an oligodendroglioma – is in the cells, the doctors thought that I should have radiation for 30 days as well as chemo for 6 months.  The surgery also affected my speech and right arm since it had invaded the motor cortex.)

But you know how God keeps popping up, two weeks ago, my friend Corrie posted the video.  I hesitated opening the link because I didn’t want to acknowledge that it could be about me.  You see the song was Mandisa’s “Overcomer.”    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z29olPjFbqg  (Mandisa’s Overcomer Lyric video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw (Mandisa’s Overcomer Actual video)

I felt God working on my heart so I finally listened to the song.  And I’m glad I did.

My communication skills are something I’ve taken for granted.  I heavily rely on written and verbal communication.  I didn’t realize how much it was my “go to” thing.  Until I lost my ability to communicate.  These gifts were a part of my identity.  They made me who I am.  I’ve struggled to find my new normal and I have often found it frustrating.  But God has been faithful in the midst.  Giving me the verses of scripture that I need for me to keep moving forward.   

“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7

“The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory on your behalf…Do not fear or be dismayed…the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.  They are created now, and not long ago.” – Isaiah 48:6-7

The Lord said to Moses, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” - Exodus 9:16

The Lord said, “See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.” – Isaiah 48:10

The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

Last week as I drove back from Evensong, I was sharing with a friend, that I felt like there were moments during Communion as I said the Communion liturgy where it naturally flowed.  It was the first time post-surgery, I had ever felt that way.  That’s when “Overcomer” came on the radio.  I had never heard it on the radio before.  I guess it’s not in the regular rotation on the JOY FM or 106.9 The Pulse.  I just had to stop the car and acknowledge this as a God moment as tears began to fall.

On August 20th my mom sent me another email that had a new video with Laura Story, who she knows I really like and yet again, I haven’t opened the email until this afternoon.  Call me a slacker.  Call me an avoider.  Call me a procrastinator.

Here’s the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VRUU8UBXCk - Laura Story’s “I Can Just Be Me”

We need a healer, comfort, peace…  What makes you, YOU?  You’re enough.  You’re more than enough.  Laura Story says about the song, “How freeing it is to just sit back and allow God to be the one that writes the story. Allow God to be the healer in the relationship.”  God loves you for you.  You were known in secret in your mother’s womb.  God knows when we sit and when we rise.  What makes you think that God doesn’t know what’s on our hearts – our worries, our fears, our hurts, our struggles?   So why are we surprised when God shows up and provides what we need?  God is faithful when we least expect it.  Even when we don’t want to hear it.  Even when we’re kicking and screaming.  Even when we ignore Mom’s emails.  

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Filed under Campus Ministry, God's Providence, Identity, Music, Scripture, Sermons

Jethro – The Butt Kicker

Exodus 3:1, 4:18-20

My campus minister retired while I was in college after serving 27 years in campus ministry.  Risher Brabham was a true character.  All of the Wesley Foundations in South Carolina would do a joint mission trip the week after graduation in Hollywood, SC down in the Sea Islands of South Carolina to work on different houses of the mission site Rural Mission on Johns Island.  We would sleep on the floor of a church and take outdoor showers that teams had previously constructed, where if you were a tall person, like me, you’d be able to look the other tall people in the eyes.  You either would try to make small talk or……it was more than awkward.  The Sea Islands trips were some of the best memories I made in college.  One of my favorite parts would be the way that Risher woke us up.  He got his kicks from waking us up morning after morning at 6 am, where in a mischievous voice he would say grinning, “The sun is rising, the coffee’s hot, the pancakes are on the griddle, it’s a beautiful day to be alive.”  When we grow up, we don’t have our parents to kick us out of bed, but we still need someone to kick us around when we’re intellectually or morally or spiritually lazy.  Basically we need a Jethro – a butt kicker!  Risher took his job of butt kicker of the work camp very seriously!

Who is Jethro, anyway?  The short answer is the father-in-law of Moses.  Reuel is probably his proper name and Jethro his official title.  Jethro is a priest of Midian and is recorded as living in Midian, a territory stretching along the eastern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba in what is today, northwestern Saudi Arabia.  Some believe Midian is within the Sinai Peninsula.  Biblical maps from antiquity show Midian in both locations.  The Midianites were a nomadic Semitic tribe – they were descendants of Abraham through his second wife Keturah.  In the previous scene prior to our passage, Moses is seen fleeing from Pharaoh after killing an Egyptian.  He ran into the wilderness and met Jethro’s seven daughters, who needed Moses’ help at the watering hole because shepherds were driving them out.  Moses came to their defense and upon their returning, their father asked them why they had come back so soon.  They answered, an Egyptian had helped them and Jethro invited Moses to dinner.  Jethro gave Moses his daughter in marriage.  Then Moses tended Jethro’s sheep for 40 years. 

40 years is a long time, and ironically for Moses he would spend another 40 years in the wilderness.  But that’s a different sermon.  It is believed that Jethro, while not an Israelite, did believe in a monotheistic religion that professed the existence of many gods, yet taught that only one was all-powerful, and only he should be worshipped.  It is thought that Jethro taught Moses about the one God.  Moses had been raised to believe in the Egyptian deities.  An illegal Egyptian underground religion – Atonism – also taught one God.  This belief was held surreptitiously by many of the Egyptian nobility, and it was very likely that Moses was exposed to this in the palace so Jethro’s ideas were familiar to him.  Because of Jethro’s teaching, Moses was prepared to accept God’s charge to him when he appeared to him in the burning bush.

That’s where Exodus 3 verse 1 comes in. You have the scene where Moses sees the burning bush where God calls to Moses and says God has observed the sufferings of the people of Israel, and God wants Moses to deliver God’s people from the Egyptians by doing signs and wonders.  And that’s when Moses needs a good kick in the pants because he says in Exodus 4:10-13, “10 But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” 13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” 

One morning, Moses woke up and his father-in-law was grinning, not smiling, much like Risher.  Jethro kicked Moses’ butt out of the tent and into the mission God had given him.

Jethro officially returns in the story in the second passage I read, in verse 18, “18 Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”  The proper translation of the Hebrew phrase is a bit different, lech b’shalom, means “go to peace.”  “Go to peace” was a push to make the best use of whatever life remains.  “Go to peace” has the peacemaking sense of ‘shalom,’ the channeling of energies that brings wholeness and wellness to the world.  It’s one of the most powerful acts you can do to another human being – bless them forward.  Len Sweet writes, “When you’re spiritually neutered, or when you’ve become complacent, when you begin to shrink from your mission, you need a Jethro to keep you loyal to your dreams.”

You need a Jethro to kick you in the rear and get you off the couch with whatever Netflix episodes you’re obsessing over or off of the time vacuum of facebook or the latest youtube sensation and says, “What’s your favorite future?” and blesses you forward.  You need a Jethro, a nagger who kicks open the doors and window of your house and finds your hidden potential, resources, and the person that you were created to be.  You need a Jethro: a commanding voice  that kicks it up a notch and asks, “How are you?” to which your soul responds by asking itself, “How should I be?”

Who is your Jethro?  And who are you Jethroing? 

I bet Johnny Manziel felt like he was being “Jethroed” at times during the game yesterday! 

Jethros bless you to go to what God is calling you to do so that you can receive peace in your life – everyone needs someone that’s wild and crazy about them – and cares enough about them to wake and shake them up to dream big and live large.  A Jethro is a blesser, not a flatterer, and Risher was not at all a flatterer.  He would rather give you honest criticism than empty praise.  He was not the most “religious” man even though he was a pastor, but he took seriously the calls of Jesus, and in the words of Micah 6:8, “To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”  He inspired all of us to be and live better.  He was the one that introduced me to social justice as a life, not just a concept.  Risher was the first one to do Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week even when it wasn’t cool.  Risher founded the oldest CROP Walk in South Carolina, which raises 75% for the world’s hunger needs and 25% to go to fight local hunger.  And there’s one right here in Gainesville.  He’s also the one that invited me on a trip to Nicaragua my freshman year – my first international mission trip, frankly the first mission trip that I had ever been on – and pushed me to apply for a summer mission internship for two summers at the Cooperative Ministry, which was a clothing bank, food assistance, car assistance, counseling center for the homeless in Columbia.  The first summer I worked in the clothing warehouse part-time and led a summer camp part-time and the second summer I wrote grants and coordinated the largest school supply drive in Columbia.  My commitment to social justice is in direct response to Risher’s pushing and his legacy.

A Cheyenne Native American song says, “Only the stones stay on earth forever.”  We all end up in the same box – we all must die someday – we only have a short time to fulfill the mission that God has called us to.  To leave our legacy.  To do the things that we were created to do.  “Jethro pushes you out the door with these questions haunting your every step:  Will you look back on your life and see a succession of sorrows, missteps, and missed moments?  Or will you look back on your life with a sense of satisfaction and joy?” 

Risher died from multiple battles with cancer the August that I returned as the campus minister of Winthrop Wesley.  Man, I wish I had had more time with him.  His daughter at the funeral said that she was glad I was at Winthrop Wesley because she knew I would understand her father’s legacy and life’s work.  Fr. David Valtierra, the Catholic priest assigned to do campus ministry, at his retirement party due to his losing battle with cancer, was a part of the Winthrop community and shared in ministry with Risher for over 30 years and also indeed was a butt kicker.  I have to admit I was a little afraid of him as a student, and I was a little afraid of him as a campus minister, because you had the sense that he could see inside your soul.  Fr. was formidable.  It was the day of Winthrop’s Potato Drop ironically, and during his retirement speech, he looked me right in the eye, and called me Risher’s spiritual daughter.  You don’t understand what high praise that was!  And what a moment of blessing.  He was blessing me forward.

Jethros function as reminders that no matter what the world says or thinks – that we are called to a purpose by God and God ‘breathes into us’ the second wind of hope and purpose and puts our mind back on our mission. 

My Dad coached my two brothers’ little league baseball team, and he was a DEFINITE Jethro for the team.  He wasn’t afraid to give them a good kick in the pants, he was honest and not a flatterer, and he cared about each one of them.  Northcutt Motors, the blue team, Dad’s team played in the championship against Sara Lee, the red team.  I don’t know why I remember the names and the colors.  Dad wanted to get them psyched up for the game so he came up with an idea.  He had memorized the rule book, as he is want to do, so he knew it wasn’t against the rules.  He set up a boom box. Note for the youngsters in the audience, we have one of these in the prayer room.  These are ancient relics that play tapes and the radio, I don’t even think CD’s existed back then.  He played this song…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgSMxY6asoE  Eye of the Tiger

I have no recollection if they won the game.  You’ll have to ask my brother on fall retreat that one.  But I definitely know that it sure pumped the team up.  Big time. 

It was just the kick in the pants that they needed to play their best. 

Remember, your Jethro blesses you forward – forward, not backwards.  Your Jethro believes in YOU.  Your Jethro believes you will complete your mission, in fact he or she has no doubt about that.  Your Jethro is one of God’s angels sent to help us handle the “dark night” of the soul and the “dry well” of the spirit. 

Katy Perry experienced her own dark night of the soul after her divorce from Russell Brand.  He broke the news to her via text message, and she’s not heard from him since. She says she has been to therapy since her last album, which influenced her new music to be that much more self-empowering and that much more “her.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8 – Katy Perry’s “Roar”

Jethro’s help us find our “roars.”  Jethros don’t seek out those people that need a good butt kicking for butt kicking’s sake.  A Jethro seeks to inspire and bless.  Just as bruised apples make the best pies – bruised and broken people, like you and me and even Katy Perry, make the best blessers and blessings.

I don’t know what Katy’s therapist said, but a Jethro will push you out the door while telling you, “Trust God.  The way will open.”  Trust God.  The way may be hard, but I’ll be there to both cheer you on and give you a reality check.  Trust God.  Because when you trust God, God will give you the words to say like he gave to Moses, God will give you the inspiration you need for the journey, like the Eye of the Tiger, and God will give you the shoulder to cry on and the ability to do the healing you need. 

Amen.

Holy and Gracious God, we come to you seeking your will and seeking your guidance.  May we let the Jethros break through to us, may we hear what the Jethros have to say, may we trust that they’re blessing us forward.  Your grace doesn’t leave us where we are down in the mire and muck, your grace lifts us out of the pit of despair and realizing that your grace is meant for us inspires us to live life to the fullest, abundant life, and pushes us forward that we may grow in you more deeply.  We thank you that you love us so much that you sent your son to die for us and you left your Holy Spirit to guide and lead us in all that we do.  We pray now as you taught your disciples to pray, saying…

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Filed under Campus Ministry, Exodus, Eye of the Tiger, Jethro, Len Sweet, Music, Roar, Sermons, Social Justice, Spiritual Mentors

Hold Me

Do you like these Florida days when the weather doesn’t know how to make up its mind? It can be dark and cloudy one minute and bright and sunny the next. Either way, we can’t do anything about the humidity. So whether you wet from rain or wet from sweat, makes no difference in the long run. We’re all a little damp.

We’re three weeks into the semester, so not quite a quarter of the way through, but papers, tests, and projects are still looming. You may feel like you’ve finally got a handle on this college thing. There’s fifth year seniors who admittedly still claim to have no idea. You’ve color-coded your calendar to draw some inspiration from that, but you still may be feeling overwhelmed with everything and it seems like there’s too much to do and not ever enough time.

There are also those times when it’s hard to get started on anything or inspired to actually study or write that paper because there are so many other things you would rather be doing. There are also those days and weeks when there’s so much other “stuff” going on whether friends or family back home or friends and roommates here. Or maybe it’s with your significant other or the one that you want to be with. Life can come at you trying to twist and turn and pull you in many different directions.

Maybe you’re searching for the right answer or a little inspiration. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself. You can ask for help. You can trust that God is right there with you in the all-nighters and in the nights where you didn’t procrastinate and went to bed at a decent hour. God’s right there with you no matter what. Let God speak to you and lift you up and give you that burst of energy or that rest that you need.

An oldie but a goodie – Jamie Grace’s “Hold Me” – Do you like these Florida days when the weather doesn’t know how to make up its mind? It can be dark and cloudy one minute and bright and sunny the next. Either way, we can’t do anything about the humidity. So whether you wet from rain or wet from sweat, makes no difference in the long run. We’re all a little damp.
We’re three weeks into the semester, so not quite a quarter of the way through, but papers, tests, and projects are still looming. You may feel like you’ve finally got a handle on this college thing. There’s fifth year seniors who admittedly still claim to have no idea. You’ve color-coded your calendar to draw some inspiration from that, but you still may be feeling overwhelmed with everything and it seems like there’s too much to do and not ever enough time.
There are also those times when it’s hard to get started on anything or inspired to actually study or write that paper because there are so many other things you would rather be doing. There are also those days and weeks when there’s so much other “stuff” going on whether friends or family back home or friends and roommates here. Or maybe it’s with your significant other or the one that you want to be with. Life can come at you trying to twist and turn and pull you in many different directions.
Maybe you’re searching for the right answer or a little inspiration. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself. You can ask for help. You can trust that God is right there with you in the all-nighters and in the nights where you didn’t procrastinate and went to bed at a decent hour. God’s right there with you no matter what. Let God speak to you and lift you up and give you that burst of energy or that rest that you need.

An oldie but a goodie – Jamie Grace’s “Hold Me” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISgr8SgCYbYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISgr8SgCYbY

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Filed under Campus Ministry, Exams, Hold Me, Music

Sara Bareilles – Brave

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQsqBqxoR4

Jamming to this song right now…thanks to the person that pointed me in the direction of this song!

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July 17, 2013 · 5:30 pm

It Started Out as a Feeling

I haven’t been writing on the blog. And as I sit here examining why that is I feel a swirl of emotions. I love to write. I don’t necessarily like deadlines or required writing, but I like the therapeutic process of putting thoughts out there and trying to articulate and be open to God’s leading in my mostly ridiculous life. I love that dance of trying to articulate and reason and examine things that can be random and personal and hopefully my journey of trying to figure out how to be a Christ follower in this world. The beauty of this blog is that I’ve never done it to try to elicit some sort of response. It’s personal. Although I try to choose words carefully, I don’t always edit or re-read or censor myself. There’s pros and cons there of course.

I think that’s been the “catch” for me is the season of quiet. My life hasn’t been quiet in the slightest bit. We had a whirlwind end to the school year at Winthrop Wesley, the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, South Carolina Annual Conference, Florida Annual Conference, packing up and cleaning our house in South Carolina, moving all of our crazy earthly belongings to Gainesville, Florida, trying to get the kids reasonably settled in their new home, feeling the warmth, excitement and joy of Gator Wesley, going to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference for our week of “vacation” with the family gathered in the mountains (this is a hilarious joke), and back down the mountain to the real world – back to our new home.

I think the quiet had more to do with things feeling so beautifully out of control and so full of conflicting emotions that my articulation-o-meter was a little busted. It’s hard to be super excited and grieving at the same time. It’s hard to hold the ache of disappointment and the hurt of betrayal in tension with the full belief that God continues to provide and call and ignite. As much as I tell students and others that God can handle our full range of emotions – anger, joy, frustration, fear, thanksgiving, doubt, trust, hope – it’s hard to go through those motions yourself. It’s personal. It’s real. Every day is not perfect. Some are pretty cruddy actually. And it’s hard to speak that when you’re trying to keep a “brave” face in the midst.

But we don’t have to do it by ourselves. And it’s more than just “a sin and a shame,” as some say. It’s wrong. It’s beyond prideful. As I can hear Evy say in my head, “All by myself!” We’re not all by myself people. We do not go on this journey alone. Just saying things out loud to our spouses, friends, loved ones. Asking for help. Going to God in prayer. Opening our worries, fears, frustrations up to the light takes away the power of the darkness. It’s not a magic wand where everything magically turns into fantasy land, but we more clearly see that we’ve got fellow travelers/warriors/truth seekers/justice workers/peace keepers.

I was looking at Ephesians 3:14-21 for this Sunday’s scripture and I kept thinking of it as a blessing, prayer, and hope for all of my students and loved ones. But it’s a promise for each of us. May we be rooted and ground in love. May we have the power to comprehend the love of Christ. May we be filled with the fullness of God. And may we trust in the power of the One within us that is able to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Does that verse give you peace or freak you out? Who knows what we’ll encounter along the way, but I know that when we call, God is near.

“The Call” by Regina Spektor (thankfully played on my Pandora and made me start thinking…)

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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Filed under Moving, Music, Pastors, Peace, perseverance, Seasons, United Methodist Church

The Gritty.

ImageI am obsessed with the “Fun.” CD right now.  If you’ve been in my office or walked by my office in the past week you know that I’ve been listening to it almost constantly.  There are several things that I like about it and there are many a time that I’d like to play one of the songs in worship, but the lyrics aren’t the most “clean” shall we say.  However, as Jon wisely pointed out, our lives are often not all that clean.  They’re often pretty dirty and gritty and not quite what we want to show to the world.  Tonight is Maundy Thursday – in other words – the night that Jesus had his “Last Supper” with his disciples.  He knew that some crazy stuff was going to go down in the coming days but he shared a last meal with those who he loved the most.  Things weren’t going to be all rainbows and rose-colored glasses, it was going to get pretty real, real quick – with ears being cut off, betrayal, cock crows, whipping, a crown of thorns, crucifixion.  It’s not the glamorized view.  It’s reality.  May we find God not just in the beautiful and in the high points of our lives, but also in the midst of the struggles and the confusion.  May we remember during this Easter season that it’s not just about Easter Sunday in all of its glory, but that these days leading up to it, happen as well – days that feel dark and hopeless, days when it feels like we’re alone.  May we fully feel that so that we know the true power of the resurrection that’s coming!

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Filed under Easter, Last Supper, Lent, Music, reality

Make You Feel My Love

I was in college in the late 90′s so I’m very familiar with the “Jesus as your boyfriend” kind of praise music. I get the critiques and the easy jokes… But in listening to my Pandora a second ago, Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” came on and it just reminded me so much of this Advent/Christmas season. We don’t love a distant God with arms crossed, tapping foot, we love Emmanuel – God with us. The God who will walk across glass for us. The God who will draw us close even when we don’t realize it and who will continue to love us despite all things. That is beautiful.

As we draw towards this Holy time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us may we be ever reminded of God’s passionate love for us and desire to be with us. With Christmas songs and tv specials and holiday cards swirling all around us, let us not lose sight of the Savior in the midst offering love and new life. I know that I needed to hear this today.

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Filed under Advent, Emmanuel, God, Love, Music, Prevenient Grace

I’m Still Listening

I’ve just gotten into using Pandora. I don’t know what the difference is between the things that I’ll jump on the bandwagon for and the things that I won’t. Some of them that I’ve just started – itunes (I’ve always liked actual CD’s – call me crazy), instagram (no idea yet), or even Words with Friends (the students have me playing it, but I’m absolutely terrible.) Maybe I wait and see if it will catch on (still waiting on Google+) or more than likely, I wait until I have some free time to try it out and it’s easy to access. I still haven’t figured out the “cool” Pandora play lists yet, but I have a couple that I love and regularly jam to. The thing that I’ve noticed more than anything is how long it takes me to realize that the music has stopped. You see, if you listen long enough, or if you like me listens while you work, eventually the music is going to stop and you’ll click on the box and you’ll see a message that inquires whether you’re still listening or not. There are some days when I immediately notice, whoa, whoa, whoa, the music has stopped. There are other days when I’m running a bit more on the ragged side or if I’m deep in thought or a project and I finally realize it but can’t remember where along the way it stopped.

Yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, Mike and I worshiped together at a local church. Neither of us responsible for any part of the service. No preaching, speaking, singing, playing the piano, announcements…nothing. Several things struck me all at once. One, I was tired. And it’s a lot easier to zone out and yawn really loudly and for a long time when you’re not the one leading worship. I noted that there’s something energizing or I would say more accurately – Holy Spirit infusing – about leading worship. Sometimes it’s hard to go from closing your eyes during the prayer to focus in on what’s being said. Then I began to wonder to myself about how the folks in the congregation feel? After a few moments I arrived at the conclusion, that a lot of it had to do with me. If you are an active participant in worship – singing, listening to the words of the prayers, paying attention to the children’s sermon – than you’ll get a heck of a lot more out of it.

When I calmed down in my own skin for a minute and actually tuned in to the word God was speaking, I was able to realize that somewhere along the way, the music had stopped and I indeed needed to click the “I’m Still Listening” button. As pastors or those that work in the church, how often are we tuned into the word God would have us share with our congregations, but we’re not quite as open, when we’re not the ones in charge, doing the feeding, and being open to the ways that word will be revealed to us?

I don’t know about you but I feel like there are times when we have been coasting and cruising and we’re doing the appropriate motions and the right spots, but our movements aren’t connecting with our brains. Things are going pretty okay, but if we tuned ourselves in just a bit more to the music flowing all around us, things would be going pretty fantastic…or at least more in tune. Once I got my head and my heart communicating and opening up, I heard a great, convicting, challenging, and well-thought out sermon that was a confirmation that I needed to wake up and do some listening. Isn’t it funny that God brings those things that we need to hear? We just need to clean out our ears sometimes and sort through distractions to get to the place where we can feel and know the presence of God clearly and actively.

What are ways that we stay in tune to God’s music?

What are the things that get in the way and distract us?

What are ways that we can practice listening or centering?

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Filed under Distractions, Faith, God, Life, Listening, Music, Pandora, Pastors, pride