Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas music

Those who know me well will know of my somewhat conflicted relationship with Christmas and Christmas music. It's not that I don't like Christmas... it's that I don't like it. I mean, I love being with family and remembering the coming of our Saviour, I just don't like "Christmas". It's a bastardized version of something that should have so much more meaning. At least in the world I know. And so much of popular Christmas music makes it even worse... it's so cheery and happy about nothing... about frivolities of snow and warm cozy emptiness. And don't even get me started on Santa (sorry Curt).

Have I offended everyone's sensibilities yet? :)

So I have been trying, this year, to simply take it all in stride, and let it be a cheery, happy, empty time and enjoy it for what it is, and not get angry about it's violation of the depth and meaning and wonder and beauty of God with us, coming to earth to take on human flesh, live a human life, feel pain, sorrow, emptiness, joy, peace, relationship and love and ultimately die an excruciating death so that we might be reconciled to Him.

Trying, I emphasize...

So, in this attempt to cheer myself, I have been playing Christmas music lately, and trying to "get into the Christmas spirit". As such, as I was driving to Arlington tonight to spend time with my mom, step-dad and brother for Christmas, I had my Christmas music playlist on. It primarily consists of Future of Forestry's "Advent Christmas EP" (Thanks to Harlan, btw, for introducing me to my new favorite band), Bebo Norman's "Christmas... From the Realms of Glory", Shane & Shane's "Glory in the Highest", and Sufjan Stevens' "Songs for Christmas" (Volumes 1-5), as well a few random singles.

And, for the first time ever, I was brought to tears by a Christmas song, driving down the road.

It could be my tumultuous last 6 months that seem to have come to a head the past few weeks, but as I was listening to Future of Forestry's version of "Little Drummer Boy" something about the honesty of the song really hit me. I think I had to hear it without the connotation of it's normal packaging... a somewhat wooden thing really focused around a military drum sound. The FoF version was more melodic in nature, and I, for the first time, really listened to the words.

I will eliminate the "pa rum pum pums" to illustrate my point better:

Come they told me,
A new born King to see,
Our finest gifts we bring,
To lay before the King,
So to honor Him,
When we come.

Little Baby,
I am a poor boy too,
I have no gift to bring,
That's fit to give the King,
Shall I play for you,
On my drum?

Mary nodded,
The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,
Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum

Did you see it? Can you visualize the story? I know it's just a song, but could you just imagine? That little boy is all of us!! A poor boy sitting with his only possession, his livelihood perhaps? Maybe just a little toy drum? And people come up to us... so excited... "We're going to see the newborn King! We've got all this finery, all of this expensive stuff to give Him so we can honor Him when we get there."

Oh, and the beauty of this little child! He is so deserving of the finest of everything... but then, the sadness hits our little heart. We have nothing to give him. Oh, the shame! He is so deserving of honor, but we have nothing... except, maybe all that we have... "can I play for Him, ma'am? I'm not very good, but it's all I can do."

His beautiful mother, so kind and full of grace, nods her head slightly with a quiet smile, and we start playing... "pa rum pa pum pum... pa rum pa pum pum... pa rum pa pum pum". Her smile broadens. The animals even start getting into it... we can almost hear an orchestra start playing along in our head... it seems like the universe is accompanying our pathetic attempt at playing our little toy drum. But is all we know how to do, so we play that little toy drum the best that we can.

And, as we look into the baby's solemn eyes, those eyes that somehow hold the vastness of time and yet the most intimate love, He looks up at us, and smiles.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


So I've started this particular post about five times now, and nothing rings true. I keep trying to write about something encouraging, something beautiful, something... uplifting. But it simply isn't where I am right now. My heart is not encouraged.


I know I am blessed beyond all measure. I have seen God's provision so much the past few months, mostly through family and friends that have given from their heart. And in the past few days I have started back to a normal-ish job, again, a circumstance provided by God in a way in which I could not have imagined to ask. I have an abundance of friends that truly do care about me, and a family that is good enough not to ask questions that would hurt too much to explain.

I eat more than my share of food. Sleep in a comfortable bed. I just packed up more than half of my t-shirt collection, and still have enough to wear a different one each day and not wash any for over a month. I get to choose what shoes I wear. I am sitting here typing on a computer that connects me with friends across the country, even across the globe, daily.

I am blessed beyond all measure.

And I don't feel a thing, at least not anything warm, or fuzzy, or whatever. I feel only the pain, the frustration, the loneliness, and the grief.

(sigh) I am so selfish.

Lord, I need so much more of You! Even that statement betrays my selfishness... I need more of Him. Gimme, gimme. I'm treating Him as if He must serve me... how backwards my heart is.

Lord, please help my heart to look to You... not for anything You can give me... but simply for You.

I know that I am nothing, and You need nothing from me.
You are all sufficient, and I am all insufficient.
So anything I offer You is worthless in itself.
I can do nothing without You.
You sustain me and raise me to my feet.
You give me strength to keep walking when I have none left in me.

But I know that I am nothing... and deserve nothing from You.
You are all sufficient, and I am all insufficient.
The smallest gift You give is more valuable than anything in this world.
You can do all things without me, even in spite of me.
You need no one to sustain Yourself.
You have all strength within You.

Yet You love me. You are the Servant of all.
In Your service, You show me that to give is better than to receive.
So your desire for my gift, my "service" is not for it's own worth
It is for my better. It is better to serve than to be served.
And in me becoming more like You, the Servant of all, You are glorified.

As I look back at where this post started, I don't really know where I was going with any of it. It seems I am a broken record lately. Or broken, at least. I chuckle at that, because that theme seems to be running through my life lately, even being chosen as the theme for a large summer camp I help create the visual experience (videos/sound/music) for.

I have nothing to give. Everything I thought I had to offer is dross. All my life seems to always come to nothing. Only He is worth anything, and He is all I have left.

I'm trusting in You, Lord, to help me pick up the pieces. 'Cause I have no idea what I'm doing.
But I love You, and I hope that is enough...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Traffic and Thanksgiving

Today, I, like many during this time, drove several hours from home to visit my family over the thanksgiving holidays. Normally, this is not anything that I terribly mind doing. I enjoy the time to myself to think, listen/sing to music turned up loud, or, if carpooling, enjoy good conversation. But today in my drive, after dropping off my good conversation buddy Justin, I was reminded of why I do not live in a large city: A 20-mile long, 1 hour traffic jam.

While I understand that many people put up with this every day twice a day, in Lubbock, we simply don't have them on any scale worth worrying about. Now, those who know me will probably concur that it's relatively hard to make me angry... I might get irritated for sure, but seriously angry... well, it takes a lot.

But for some reason, that traffic jam today pushed me over the edge. I was seething. I was ranting. I was shaking my hands in the air. I was livid. I was thinking of all the words I could possibly use to describe how much I hated traffic and could find none other than the guttural man-yell that rarely, if ever, escapes my lips. I wanted to do violent things to something inanimate. It was absolutely maddening.

It must be the outpouring of everything I've been going through the past few months. Failing at "making it" in freelance work and deciding to go back to work... leaving ministry for reasons which few understand and fewer still agree with, all the while missing it incredibly... complete uncertainty in relationships, both family, friendship and other... trying desperately to follow God when His only question to me is "how much will you give me?"... and not knowing how much more I can give... I have nothing. No money, no pride, no heart, no dreams, no success, no holiness. I have nothing to give. I am empty. I am not in control of my life. And it hurts. Oh, it hurts.

So when I finally reached my mom's house, I was still so angry, full of ungratefulness and a hardened heart. Why? Why must my life be so unresolved? Why can't my life be more like those people that actually get what they try for, and put in half the amount of effort I do?

And then I read a friend's blog... and it spoke of thankfulness for the harvest in others amidst a time when her own harvest had not yet come...

... and I was, indeed still am, cut to the core by it...

I realized I had been giving up on the hope of things to come and just been trodden down with the weight of the "now". I have resented that I must give up these things... as if I am an undeserving victim... I have become an arrogant fool who thinks more of himself than he ought...

The truth is, I have much to be thankful for. In these times of financial hardship, I have never gone hungry. Friends and family have come to my aid in ways that they really should not have. My old boss was able to bring me back on in a capacity that seems almost illogical to even think of, and yet is exactly what I need. In the midst of feeling the need to not "go to church" on Sundays, I have been continually blessed with opportunities to "be church", over and over again showing me church outside of walls. And even in misunderstanding, hesitancy, and uncertainty, I know my friends and family still love me.

In all of this I can see the hand of God, gently trying to lead me to know a deeper thanksgiving... not for these things, for physical, emotional or relational blessings... but for their lack... to truly be able to say "Blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be Your name, Jesus."... the Lord is SO good to me... in spite of, and, really, inside all of these troubles.

Forgive me, Lord, for my grumbling.
Forgive me for my selfishness.
I. Deserve. Nothing.
Anything you choose to give me is a blessing.
Thank You, Lord, for having no money and being forced to depend on others.
Thank You, Lord, for my failure, because in it, I learn humility.
Thank You, Lord, for relationships that hurt so deeply, yet draw me to Your heart.
Thank You, Lord, for making me give up "my" ministry so I could see Yours.
Thank You, Lord, uncertainty, for it makes me look to You.
Thank you, Lord, ... sigh... for traffic jams.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Last Day (and the unknown ahead)

So yesterday was my last day at St. Luke's Southwest in Lubbock. And I don't know what to think.

God as been leading me in a strange direction the past few months. In a direction I am definitely not comfortable in. A direction completely foreign to me. One in which church is not a "Jesus show" on Sunday mornings consisting of men on a platform performing for people sitting down below, whether in song or rhetoric, asking that the Spirit flow through our actions. No, He is leading me to a church that is 24-7, to one of every member functioning, of being their part of the body of Christ, of one in which no one person is a "movie star" but instead shines all light toward the glory of Christ . . . To a church that encourages each other to actually grow . . .

And yet, I see how God did chooses to work in our present American commercialized church paradigm . . . how He will use what we give Him, because of His grace . . . but for some reason, He gave me a glimpse of something so much better, so much deeper . . . and yet, I have no idea how to get there . . .

"Light my way
Open my eyes
Won't You go before me?"
-Dallas Stevens III

So, my last day. As a small group of people prayed for me after the service, I was at once touched and hurt by it . . . and I can't put my finger on exactly why it hurt . . . It wasn't pain at leaving, as callous as that sounds. I will miss a number of people there, but I know God was leading me away. No, it was a pain of something, maybe a recognition that it takes someone leaving for them to be prayed for. . . that this type of encouragement should be going on everyday for everyone . . .

I don't know. I have been plugged into the American church machine for so long, I don't really know what it looks like outside. I am almost afraid. I have no grid for real church. When I hear the word, "church", I still think of a building that people meet in every weekend to have a service where someone talks at you for up to an hour and we sing songs that are either devoid of life, or glorying in emotion. . .

Sorry, cynical Kris took over there for a minute . . .

So Lord, lead me home
Lead me to a place where I find You
Lead me to others who want You alone
Not a show
Not a power
Not a calling
Not a mission statement
Not a program
Not a well-turned phrase
Not a clever 3-point box
but You
and You alone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A reflection on the nature of "love" . . .

What follows is no new thoughts, no new insights . . . just one lonely person's rambling in the night, trying to figure himself out: at times the hopeless romantic, at times the realist. What follows is a discussion with . . . myself.

So, as established in a few previous blogs, I am a hopeless romantic. I am a dreamer. I write sappy love songs to the object of my affection, albeit, so far, none have ever actually heard said love songs. I dream of her night and day, decline to eat because it holds no savour, decline to work because it holds no purpose. I desire the fairy tale relationship, the rose-colored glasses, etc., etc.

But how realistic is such a relationship? The unfortunate realist in me must acknowledge that is really isn't. At all. Love is messy. It's not easy. It's not all peaces and cream. It's not like the movies, it's not like the valentine's day cards.

But it's not emotionless, either. Passion (not sex) for another individual can be quite genuine. In fact, it seems to me that real love could be the prerequisite for passion; that all-encompassing emotional response that has no quantifiable objective other than to feel strong . . . somethings . . . toward another.

But is passion a valid basis for a relationship? While the world at large, collectively, seems to be shouting a resounding "yes", I would bet that most people, if honestly asked, would disagree. Passion can be fleeting . . . especially if that passion has no basis in anything other than physical or emotional attraction. People change; physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually . . . and if the passion is based on any of those things . . . it is doomed to wither and die.

No. Love. Real, honest, love is choice. It is choosing to actively love (v.) another person. Committing that nothing, no matter what, will ever change the way I treat you. People say it all the time in wedding vows, and are so happy to because of the hormones racing through their blood; "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." But very few really consider the cost of such a vow, if indeed they mean to keep it.

But is commitment without passion worth it? I hesitate, but I would say "no". However, I think that but perhaps honest commitment results in passion. What we choose to actively love inevitably creates emotional attachment in our hearts. When we decide to act towards someone with their best interest above our own, that sacrifice breaks something within us . . . it breaks down our god-complex and makes our reality no longer revolve around us. It may come slowly, but I believe that when we love (v.) it can turn into love (n.).

But is that emotion even worth it? To open yourself up to such pain? To such vulnerability to rejection? Oh, the thought makes me cringe. I want to wrap myself up in a blanket and shut the world out.

And how do we justify those other passions? Can we? Is it wrong to feel your stomach go in knots when the girl you're "head over heels for" walks by? Is it wrong to feel physical attraction to someone? To be knocked speechless by beauty? It's hard to say. . . we've so corrupted those feelings. Are these transient, experiential, feelings a justifiable reason to begin a relationship?

I don't know. I want to say "yes", but I have a hard time with that. I don't feel like it's an honest answer. And yet these signs of passion are the things I desire with every fiber of my being. How can I desire them so, when every brain cell tells me that in the end, they are meaningless? Am I so corrupted? Am I so backwards?

I suppose the answer would be that they are inseparable, when viewed correctly. We are beings of multiplicity . . . of body, of mind, of will, of emotion, of spirit. . . and all would, ideally, be involved in the truest acts of love.

While I abhor the use of Christ as an example to justify my own ideas, I must say it seems to fit in this instance. Christ, as He died for us, fulfilled all of love. He is Love. He defines it. So, what do I see at the cross? I see a God-man who made the choice to die . . . to give up his body, actively submitting His will to the Father for the sake of the people, refusing to let His mind convince Him otherwise, passionately crying out for the forgiveness of those who pierced Him, even letting His spirit take on ALL eternal consequence for EVERY thing ever done to miss the mark of His Father's perfection. I see Him loving us with every shred of His existence.

Perhaps romantic love is simply a picture that points at this, the supreme example of Love. However imperfect our love is, however flawed, however damaged, however corrupted we have made it, it still points toward the source of what could be. Can I love like Him? Can I put aside everything of me for the sake of another?

Honestly, it doesn't seem realistic. Or romantic.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Set switch time at Rock the Desert

So I'm sitting here at Rock the Desert, Leeland just finished and Chris Tomlin is up next, and I figured I'd give this blogging app for the iPhone a try.

So far, it's been hot and fun. But it's interesting seeing the music from a different point of view... Even last year, I would have been more into the "worship"-focused music, but thus year, for some reason, it all rings false in my ear. That's a strange thing for a "worship leader" to feel. But it seems to miss the point at these types of gatherings even more than typical cheesy christian muisc does.

They say, "it's all for you, Jesus", but logically speaking, how can it be? They receive a substantial check for singing all of these songs, people paid all this money for a show... And they get one... How is that "all about Jesus"?

I don't know, perhaps I'm turning into a cynical old man, but it just doesn't seem like worship at all, at least not of Jesus... It's a monument to something else entirely. I'm not saying that Christian music is bad . . . JI actually like a lot of it... Just be honest about what you're doing and saying.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's been awhile

Because I realize how long it's been since I've made an update . . . (for those of you that read this. :) ) . . . I have decided to do two posts at once. The previous post is one I wrote for a little thing called the Paradigm Exchange (, something a good friend of mine started, and has asked me to write for. My story hasn't been posted yet (as of the date of this blog), but I pretty much assume that there will not be that much overlap between the readership of said two sites.

As for me, lots has been happening . . . as some of you will already have known, I have left Abundant Harvest Community Church in Brownfield, TX. This is a good thing. A God thing. They actually sent me off with prayer and a gift card to Guitar Center (the prayer being the obviously more important and meaningful than the card, although it in itself, is very much appreciated {grin}). It was not an easy decision to make, but one in which I believe God was leading me. It's hard to leave behind a place and a people you love to serve. But God is leading all of us from that body into a place of deeper trust, I think . . . and who am I to argue?

So . . . yeah . . . now I am jobless and churchless (so to speak . . . it's not exactly accurate but we'll go with it). Who's having to trust on God?

{raising hand and waving} ooo, ooo, I am! I am!

And is He ever faithful? He is indeed. I lack nothing. My freelance business is not exactly "booming", but I always have enough to get by. I've done several small jobs lately, and several more are on my plate.

Speakin' o' which, if you have any friends/family/neighbors/acquaintances/enemies that need Web sites, videos, audio recording, print design, etc. done. . . have 'em shoot me an email. (

Musically speaking, I'm extremely proud and thankful to announce that we've finally finished my 4-song EP. After 3-5 years of some of these songs being concepts/demos . . . we have them in finished, studio-recorded (well, home-studio), production-filled form. It (the EP) sounds pretty much fantastic, and I would love for you (yes, YOU) to hear it. Unfortunately, it does actually cost me to produce CD's, so if you would like a CD in a sleeve, they are $5. Let me know, and I can shoot one your way. {cheese} I'm also selling them digitally on our myspace page (  - right underneath the music player) for $.99 per song or $3.96 for the whole EP. Also, just for kicks, you should check out our main site (which really only links to our myspace) - It's not for the faint of bandwidth, but it looks freakin' cool. And if anyone (hint, hint) wants to have my band come play at their church (or anything else for that matter), we would love to. And by "we", I mean, "at least me, and possibly one other person, but probably not a full band." It's very hard to find musicians that will work for free. {sigh}

Please pardon the previous two (or six, depending on how you look at it) shameless plugs in this blog.

I've also enjoyed playing this summer with the Dallas Stevens Band ( and I play keys with them, and have a rockin' good time. We've played quite a bit the past several months and have a few more gigs this year. I will also soon be joining the ranks of another friend's band, called Faces for Radio ( Self-deprecating title aside, it should be fun.

Let's see . . . what else . . . no girls, unfortunately . . . I'm not sure it's time yet. Of course, I actually have to talk to a girl to see. . . but that's another story.

I have a lunch "interview" with a pastor this week in Lubbock about possibly filling their Worship Leader position. We'll see if that's something God wants to work out or not. I'm not sold on it either way. I'm still trying to figure out where God wants me.

Ummm . . . yeah, that pretty much sums up my life right now. 

Dad, You are good!!
You honor those that trust in You.
Thank You so much for allowing the EP to be done.
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it
I'm about to lose control and I think I like it
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it
And I know I know I know I know I know I want You.
Sorry for the random song quote. . . but it fit.
Please lead me in the way of Your will.
Let me not get caught up in my own.
Thank You for Your leadership.
Thank You for Your provision.
You are so good!
I love You, Dad.
So be it.