Friday, October 23, 2009


Ten years ago, I was fighting the “guitars in the worship service” battle with my church. Of course, the battle wasn’t really just about guitars. At its core, the battle was much more about worship styles than instrumentation. Granted, battles of this nature were already raging among transitioning churches around the country for years before, but many churches tend to move into transition behind the curve, and my church was among that group. Fortunately for those of my generation, the most intense part of the conflict had already been waged over a decade earlier by people like my friend, Gerrit Gustafson, who was apart of the original creative team of Integrity Music. It was those individuals in that time period that faced the heaviest resistance to God’s movement, giving people like me a better opportunity to be heard. I continually felt impressed to challenge the mindset of congregants (which, as a teenager, most assuredly came across as youthful insolence and rebellion.) During that time, as many churches were still clinging to their hymnbooks and organs, I hoped that I, along with many others in my generation, could convey the fact that the instrumentation during a service shouldn’t matter, neither should the style of song in which a worship song is packaged. What truly matters is that people come into the presence of God with a worshipful spirit and that “songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” are offered “in Spirit and in Truth.” This is what God desires, and it’s what we should desire as well.

I’ve recently felt an ironic twist in the narrative, however. In the recent months, I’ve felt these same questions being posed to me by God. Am I so caught up in a “contemporary” worship mindset, that I’ve started to unhealthily cling to elements of a contemporary service that don’t hold any sort of vital role in true worship? Have I begun to assume certain instruments are crucial to a “good worship service” when in fact; these instruments are inconsequential to whether true worship is actually taking place? I feel like we’ve, once again, begun to assume some things are formulaic in our offering of worship.

Acoustic guitar + plus electric guitar + plus electric bass guitar + plus drums= good worship.

The bottom line is, if we say that worship styles shouldn’t matter, and if we say that worship instrumentation doesn’t matter, then wouldn’t worship in “spirit and in truth” be just as likely to happen at the tiny Episcopal church down the street as it would at the massive ultra-contemporary church across town?

Maybe we should rethink what is vital in our worship service. Maybe we should once again be willing to strip everything down to the bare essentials in order to burn away the dross. Maybe we should pay a little more attention to the heart behind the action. We should all know by now that formulas just don’t work.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"I want to see the kingdom come..."

My brother and I went to see Fran Healy at the Belcourt Theatre this past Tuesday, one of my favorite places in the city. It was rather nostalgic for me since I’ve been listening to the band Travis for over twelve years. What a great experience it was. Fran really took the time to document his own personal history through his songwriting, as well as some of his experiences living in Scotland. I think I often forget how moving personal experiences can be when conveying an art form. Sometimes I feel jaded to anything autobiographical, especially in an age of Twitter messages, Myspace profiles, and Facebook surveys. Everything just feels so disingenuous. But to really experience, even for a moment, an authentic and personal narrative through a song is something to be treasured. I was fortunate enough to encounter it on Tuesday in that beautiful old theatre.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I can’t explain the excitement I feel! This Sunday night, my wife and I will be inviting a group of our brothers and sisters from church into our home for the first of many Sunday nights of fellowship. We will be gathering to encounter authentic relationships and to fuse the lives and journeys of those who live by faith. I know that this will be a time to grow in our awareness of the bond we share as believers that supersedes our denominational, social or economic backgrounds. I pray these nights will be filled with raw encounters of authenticity and that these encounters will cause us to dive deep into the depths of God’s heart as we experience the richness, complexity, and enjoyment that genuine community brings!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Morning Gospel

The flesh always resists what the soul hungers.

It’s amazing how much I hate getting up early. The air outside of my bed feels arctic and the sensation of being awake feels completely foreign. But somehow the early morning hours awaken my spirit and direct my mind towards God like no other time of the day. This morning I sat in a coffee shop at 6am in East Nashville and soaked up the air of daybreak. The cafĂ© had a sliding garage door open to a veranda and let in a cool, consistent morning breeze. A contemplative spirit arose within me as I let my soul awaken at God’s gentle beckoning. The quiet gave me the opportunity to ponder, once again, the beauty of the Gospel. I was quickly reminded of my own sinfulness, even after years of “sanctification”, and the contrast it bears to the purity and holiness of Christ. How quick I am to resist community; how quickly I fall into spiritual apathy; how easily I sin against God and those around me. The sacrifice of Christ and its dramatic effect on this sinner’s existence once again stirred my affections for Him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

an artist's doxology

"The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life -- they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God -- not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. And art work can be a doxology in itself." - Francis Schaeffer

Friday, July 10, 2009

a continued conversation on evangelism…

I agree that cultural perceptions and priorities are continually changing in our society. I also agree that our methods must be somewhat modified to fit the context of our time. I think it is our duty as ministers of the gospel to make sure that the answers we are giving are relevant to the questions being asked of us. But we can’t expect to simply utilize the latest software, marketing schemes, or innovative tools of technology and expect lives to be changed. We can’t shove our heads in the sand and forget that the gospel is primarily about relationship, however “relevant” to the culture we may perceive ourselves as being. Our message must be coupled with our action and the truth of the gospel must be embodied in order to be identified as genuine. If those in our community are struggling to love others, and they observe us plagued by the same disease, how will they perceive that we are any different? If we are preaching change and living stagnantly, I believe, our message will inescapably fall on deaf ears. The gospel will be rejected on the grounds of the soiled version of Christ that we present. I’m seeing more and more that our character and attitude has to operate as an uninterrupted segue to our presentation of the gospel, not the other way around.

Monday, June 29, 2009

existing to worship

I love old trees. I’m really not sure why. They have a way of causing me to stop and consider their faithfulness, the hundreds, if not thousands, of years they have endured, patiently, resolutely. They exist with their sculpted arms stretching against gravity, towards air and sky, moving at the winds prompting, calling on the earth around it to join in the silent dance.

God, give me the same resolve. Give me the same determination to offer myself, emotions, will, and body, in a concerted gift to my creator.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shepherding the fields of Obscurity

Sometimes I can’t help but feel like a vagrant. I often experience a strange sense of homelessness when I consider my place in life, a type of drifter’s mentality of sorts. It’s not by my conscious choosing, mind you. I unquestionably want to find my place, the ground that perfectly matches the shape of my feet, the role that was unmistakably written just for me. I wish I knew why that has been so difficult to find. I observe others close to me, happily operating in a place that feels like it was tailor-made for their personality or desires, completely and wholeheartedly engaged with the work of their hands. I see others around me with the same passions and desires and gifts that God has given me, somehow falling backwards into positions that provide for their needs materially and engage their hearts spiritually. For some reason, finding my place has seemed more enigmatic, like a formula that I just can’t get right, or a secret that I haven’t yet been told.

I heard a quote recently that has been especially applicable to life’s events recently. I think it originally referred to a particular occupation (I don’t remember which) but I think it’s especially pertinent to ministry. It goes something like this, ‘Ministry roles don’t create character in individuals; they highlight character.’ This means that whatever character a person has going into a certain ministry position will be illuminated and magnified once that person starts to operate in the position. This was eye-opening for me when I heard it for the first time. I think we assume that places of prominence or significance will evolve us into more holy beings, somehow magically hastening the work of sanctification. I don’t think it works that way. I think God provides periods of obscurity to develop in us the characteristics needed for places of notoriety. Just like David, we are seasoned in the fields of anonymity, sometimes for a season, sometimes for a lifetime, all to make our hearts pure and our spirits holy.

God give me a holy confidence in Your intentions for my life. Keep my eyes fixed on the fields of obscurity in which you’ve placed me. Keep me from foolish fears of worldly insignificance. Breathe humility deep inside my spirit. Keep my eyes fixed on exalting my King wherever I’m lead.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father’s Day Thoughts

I’m completely amazed by this holiday. I feel so privileged to be known as Jonah’s dad, so fortunate to be able to closely witness his life, yet I am the one who is celebrated today.
I am blessed beyond measure.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Savoring the Moment

It’s strange how this little guy has completely captured my attention. I could stare at him for hours. His little movements are so astonishing to me- his limbs moving involuntarily, his eyes shifting from one object to another, his little smile that starts with his eyes lighting up and then turns into an expansive dimpled grin. I love every little moment I get to spend with him.

All of a sudden, one of my greatest joys in life is seeing him smile…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

abandoning distrust

Sometimes I get this overwhelming sense of frustration. Maybe frustration isn’t the right word. It’s more of an anti-faith, a groundswell of anxiety that causes me to question who I am. This is an old wound I’ve revisited countless times. I can recognize the moment the feeling starts. My wife can see it in my eyes when the sting arrives. A wave of anguish washes over the faith of my spirit, tearing at the stitches of a wound that the Great Physician has tended to so many times. I suddenly get discouraged by my place in life, my personality, my reality, the timing of circumstances…so completely consumed by what is summed up as “me”. I get discouraged by God’s timing, by his seemingly slow, unhurried unfolding of what He has deposited in me.

I long to rest in the identity God has bestowed on me, yet I so often try to craft the definition myself. I let myself get completely encased in my own barometer of self-worth, my classification of value. I want to let go and rest, “to just simply be a thing in Your presence” as Rilke said in one of his Book of Hours verses. I was communicating by email a few years ago with a mentor of mine and describing to him these very circumstances. He wrote back about “the gap that often exists between our swift and elegant version of how events should unfold and God's seemingly clumsy, foot-dragging, labyrinthine choreography”. How well this describes my perspective of things. I fail to rest in God all too often. I lack the trust that the spiritual life requires; the confidence in His perfect schedule. I choose, instead, to calculate my self-worth by my own graph. Oh God, release me from my delusion. Strip me of my selfishness. Breathe your truth into my life and let it settle inside me, deep and slow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


"Detachment is the word used in spiritual traditions to describe freedom of desire. Not freedom from desire, but freedom of desire . . . An authentic spiritual understanding of detachment devalues neither desire nor the objects of desire. Instead, it 'aims at correcting one’s own anxious grasping in order to free oneself for committed relationship to God.' According to Meister Eckhart, 'detachment enkindles the heart, awakens the spirit, stimulates our longings, and shows us where God is.' With an awakened heart, we turn and face the road ahead, knowing that no one can take the trip for us, nor can anyone plan our way." -John Eldridge

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Revisiting Silence

Entering into moments of silence is an incomparable benefit to my spirit. It’s amazing how often this truth eludes me, however. I let the pace of life swindle me of moments that could be spent in simple stillness. Any time that is unaccounted for is quickly allocated to meaningless, but often necessary tasks. But the silence beckons me when I neglect it for too long; it always has.
I found a few minutes to breathe in the crisp spring air early this morning with a cup of coffee. The silence immediately caused my spirit to awaken after lying dormant for a few days, causing silent prayer to rise from my heart like the morning mist over the field behind my house. Suddenly, I could inhale and exhale, long and slow, after days of quick, shallow breathes.

What instills in us this natural aversion to silence? Why do we often fear the quiet? I think it could have something to do with man’s fear of obscurity. Insignificance and anonymity have become some of the greatest worries of Western civilization. Most everyone feels, whether they admit it or not, that they have some great gift or trait that will one day surface and thrust them into the spotlight, and they’ll have to “humbly” accept the burden of their own fame. (Unfortunately, I think this is the unspoken dream of pastors and worship leaders across the country.) But Isaiah says that the result of righteousness is quietness and confidence (i.e. trust), not pride and popularity. If I am silent and still before God, I am not striving to be something other than myself. I’m forced to exist as I am in my true state; a servant to the Master. Moments spent in silence often strip us of our own narcissistic sense of self-importance and remind us that we are just a tiny granule in a very large and complex creation. May silence teach us, and give a renewed clarity to the voice of our Master.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Sign of Jonah

At 12:02 pm on March 8th, my life changed forever.

Welcome, my son...
I have so much to show you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Of Fleeing Bishops and Apprehensive Shepherds

It’s amazing how observant I’ve become of other fathers in the past few months. Occasionally, I’ve looked into the eyes of a passing father and seen his resolve, that intense tenacity that accompanies only the passionate. In that moment, I glimpse the immensity and significance of the task before me mirrored in his glance.

The blessing of fatherhood is perhaps only days away from me and much of the implications are still setting in. I’m so excited about the thousands of little blessings I will experience over the expanse of my child’s life. I often find myself daydreaming about the depth of love that I will instantaneously feel once this little life emerges. But the infant smiles and gentle touches also guarantee the arrival of a weighty assignment, dense with responsibility.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt God consistently give me the picture of a shepherd and its parallels to fatherhood. I am given earthly charge over this helpless little life while it walks on this earth. My reach and extent of influence is short; time is precious. Will I lead this little lamb to water? Do I possess the aptitude to navigate the rugged terrain (that I myself am still struggling to map) in order to find nourishment for the life I’ve been entrusted? I can’t help but feel somewhat unqualified.

If you study early church history, you’ll notice a curious trend arises as the church begins to extend and swell in size and influence. Quite often, bishops would lead their congregations until the day they died, providing the flock with endless service, dedication, and spiritual authority throughout their lifetime. When a new bishop was needed to replace one who had deceased, the congregants would seek out the most qualified individual, many times from the local monastery. Here’s where the peculiarity lies. When they would decide upon the man they felt God had appointed, they would go to him, notify him of the position of which he was called, and amazingly…. he would flee. The soon-to-be-bishop would frantically run away to avoid the assignment. Those in charge of notifying him would have to track him down, and in some cases, drag him to the election ceremony. Whether this attempt at escape was the result of a fear of leadership or a desire to remain anonymous in service, I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, it makes for a curious bit of church history.

There have been moments where I’ve felt that same striking emotion of the fleeing bishop, a prick of anxiety in my bones that comes only when I consider the weight of my role. Am I qualified to lead another? Can I, as a father, walk in a way worthy of imitation? Will I be able to recall the location of the life-giving streams of water that my little lamb will need?

One feature of streams that I find especially symbolic is the paradox of their static yet dynamic nature. The location of the stream itself is fixed; you can always rely on its position to remain constant. The water flowing through the stream, however, is always different. The cool refreshing water is available to drink, but you will never consume the same water twice. When a body of water is referred to as “living water” in God’s word, it literally denotes a movement, or flow like that of a river. It can be relied on to be fresh and clean because of its procession.

I think this is especially applicable to our lives. We have to remember that God is our source of life, though his blessings and provision will continually take different shapes. The location of our source, however, will always stay the same. If we expect his grace to take the exact same form today that it did five years ago, then we may find ourselves disappointed with the taste of the water we drink.

So it is with the provision of God. His nature is unchanging, but His way with us continually adjusts to evolve us into holy beings. His provision changes in order to change us. God “provides” a plant to shade Jonah, then “provides” a worm to eat the plant in order to uncover deeper truth. He deals with us in ways unexpected to expose our sin and reveal His heart.

Teach me, Oh God. Help me to fervently take hold of the task you’ve given. Give me a constant awareness of the deeper implications that each seemingly mundane moment holds. Help me to seek and be satisfied with the daily bread you provide to nourish and transform me. Lead me to streams of living water so that I may drink deeply, and teach my little lamb to do the same.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I Love This Woman.