Monday, December 24, 2007


My wife and I listen to a local radio show most mornings to help pass the time during our45-minute commute to work (we work at the same place, so we usually ride together). It's the perfect form of entertainment at 6:45am: there's the OCD director of the program who's a very conservative, don't-rock-the-boat kinda' guy. There's the slightly more liberal but still friendly young lady with the heavy southern accent. Then, of course there's the token "experiment guy" (you know, the single, 20-something every radio station hires to light his farts on fire, order a happy meal wearing a gorilla costume, and eat "flavored" candles to see if they really taste like they smell). And while most of the time it's lighthearted fun with contests, trivia, and the typical celebrity gossip, every now and then it gets serious when a listener calls in and asks for advice... and that's when it gets reeeeally interesting.

Last Tuesday morning, a girl called in to ask for advice: "I'm 21 years old, my boyfriend is in the military, and he's being sent over to Iraq in 3 months. They'll allow wives to stay on the base, but not girlfriends, so I feel like we should hurry up and get married before it's too late and I lose him forever. What should I do?"

The debates and arguments that followed, trying to help this girl make a life-changing decision, were nothing short of sad. "He might change; the military changes people, what then?"; "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."; "You have your whole life ahead of you, what do you have to lose?" Round and round they went, and in the end they asked the girl, "Do you feel any better about a decision?" She said, "Ummm... not really, but I mean, I hear what you're saying..." It was time for a commercial break, so they wished her good luck and cut her loose.

I had a deep and unexpected sense of hurt that morning in my gut. It was a much-needed slap in the face to remind me how desperately our world needs to know our Wonderful Counselor. Apart from the Holy Spirit's guidance, man's sense of direction is skewed. And what peace have I ever experienced in this journey except that which comes by walking and talking with the Prince of Peace? How sad it is that our world knows their need, but not the Provider- with no one to turn to for advice but a guy who lights his farts on fire for a living. The world needs to know there's a better peace.

Secondly, it became blindingly apparent to me that the greatest joy in my life is knowing- really knowing- the voice of the Good Shepherd. In John 10:14 Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me." I know that no matter how difficult the decision, how promising the career; no matter the circumstances, hurdles, or overwhelming odds, I am assured in prayer that the God who wove me together- even the deepest desires of my heart- is guiding my every step and I have nothing to fear. When I hear His voice in Scripture, I'm reminded that the Creator of my inmost being will also satisfy my every longing; the God who gave me eyes to see will also fill them with vision for His plan for my life; the God who gave me life will also give me purpose and contentment.

"Oh what grace we often forefeit, Oh what needless pain we bear- all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Receiving Criticism

Negative criticism is something we all have the joy of receiving- no matter what line of work you're in- but especially you friends who are in public ministry. It seems that everyone has an opinion of the right and wrong way to do your job. Thanks to Dr. Lamerson for this quote from Abraham Lincoln (check out his blog here:

“If I tried to read, much less answer, all the criticisms made of me, and all the attacks leveled against me, this office would have to be closed for all other business. I do the best I know how, the very best I can. And I mean to keep on doing this, down to the very end. If the end brings me out all wrong, ten angels swearing I had been right would make no difference. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me now will not amount to anything.”
—Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 29, 2007

John Powell

There have been very few movies in my life that I've watched on such a regular basis as the Jason Bourne trilogy. There are even fewer movies that I'll play segments of over and over again, just to hear the soundtrack. The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum are just such movies for me.

John Powell is the ridiculously-gifted composer behind over 40 movies, including X-Men: The Last Stand, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the Bourne Identity trilogy. The Bourne Supremacy soundtrack is top of them all, in my opinion. The movie itself raked in an easy $176.2 million dollars in the US, $288.5 million worldwide. And the movie would not be what it is without John Powell's genius. He so accurately expresses emotions and sequences of action in melody and rhythm that he tells the whole story on an almost subconscious level.

I don't really have a point, I guess (no spiritual parallels or "ah ha" moments). It's just definitely worth the $10 download- especially if you liked the movies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quote from Thomas Hobbes

"For as in the middest of the sea, though a man perceive no sound of that part of the water next him; yet he is well assured, that part contributes as much, to the Roaring of the Sea, as any other part, of the same quantity: so also, though wee perceive no great unquietnesse, in one, or two men; yet we may be well assured, that their singular Passions, are parts of the Seditious roaring of a troubled Nation."

-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pet Peeve #3

Nothing makes me want to throw my phone across the room more than the post-message message now attached to 90% of cell phone voicemails:
"Hi, this is Ryan, please leave me a message, thanks."
(And just when you think it's going to beep...)
"If you'd like to leave a message, please stay on the line; to page this person, press 5 now; to leave a call back number, press 7... (dramatic pause for effect)... you can leave your message at the sound of the tone; when you are finished with your message, you may hang up, or press 1 for more options... ~BEEP~"

I have one friend whose voicemail actually says all that AND THEN repeats it in Spanish. I wish I was kidding...

10 year olds are hacking space stations with their iphones, and we're still being told how to leave voice messages. Am I the only one who has a problem with that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"All of These Mysteries"

I have a good friend who I've worked with for several years now on songwriting and recording projects here in town. His name is Pete and he's just recently posted a song that he and I wrote together called "All of These Mysteries" on his myspace page. If you're interested, check it out and copy the link to your friends (Copy/paste this link into your browser):

"All of These Mysteries"
(Verse 1)
I prayed for rain, but You sent a storm
I asked for victory, and so came the war that is raging in me
I prayed for strength, You carried me through
And all of these mysteries I surrender to You
All of these mysteries I surrender to You

(Verse 2)
Sometimes I pray with hope in the ends
But better I pray for hope in Your means of getting me there
God, have Your way in this broken man
Command what You will of me and will Your command
Command what You will of me in this broken man

How long will I fail to wait and pray?
How long until You become my stay?

I prayed for rain, but You sent a storm
When I prayed for patience, Lord, You had me wait
And all of these mysteries I surrender to You
And all of these mysteries I surrender to You

Words & Music by Ryan Brasington and Pete Warren (c) 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Stress Threshold

When it comes to stress, I've decided I'm a sprinter, not a long distance runner. Some people thrive on stress like most of us depend on coffee; if we have it, we're productive and satisfied, if we don't, we're irritable and worthless. And while it's not a healthy state to be wired for hyper-productivity, it's got certain enviable qualities: these people accomplish more in one year than most could get done in ten with three clones, no sleep, and a robot named Rosie.

I'm more a sprinter, I guess. I can handle large volumes of stress, dozens of sleepless nights, back to back 14 hour days, and still manage to love my work and my life- but I inevitably hit a wall somewhere around the three month mark.

The break-neck pace began for me in August and shows no sign of slowing down until Christmas is over. And just
today I reached my threshold- a whole month and a half shy of the finish line. I have no choice but to continue to keep up, but sometime between midnight when I went to bed last night and 6:30 when I woke up this morning, my brain switched to auto pilot. I know from past experience that there is still one final phase of stress coming that will signify the end (one way or another): when my eye starts twitching, then it's all over...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Harvesting Wisdom

"But, as respects the majority of my corps of veterans, there will be no wrong done, if I characterize them generally as a set of wearisome old souls, who had gathered nothing worth preservation from their varied experience of life. They seemed to have flung away all the golden grain of practical wisdom, which they had enjoyed so many opportunities of harvesting, and most carefully to have stored their memories with the husks." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is a tragic scene. Aged men, despite the benefit of many years and experiences, who never learned the value of wisdom. In his introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne employs the metaphor of a harvest to describe, profoundly, the sad nature of the elderly men who ruled the town of Salem: "they enjoyed so many opportunities of harvesting [wisdom], and [yet they] most carefully [stored their memories with the husks]."

The real depth of this metaphor is in the motion of the words "practical wisdom," "harvesting," "stored," and "memories." In a wide-angle lens, the words themselves have a certain progress from seed to sowing to reaping: throughout our life experience, we will be given opportunities which are seeds of practical wisdom... we will either plant those seeds to bear fruit, or we will store them, where they will be tossed aside, wasted and forgotten with the husks... if we sow the seed, we will reap a proverbial bank of wisdom in our memory, where wisdom has been multiplied each day and distributed by the Holy Spirit, according to His most excellent use.

God doesn't tell us to manufacture wisdom, He tells us to "make [our ears] attentive to wisdom" and to "seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures." (Prov. 2:2,4) That is, God provides the seed by His Word and by His work, but only the wise man will recognize its worth; a fool looks at his lot and sees something trite and insignificant, but a wise man sees the harvest that is to come. And this kind of wisdom, being far better than merely practical wisdom, can only be informed by the Holy Spirit.

When we become believers in Christ, whose outer shell was broken, whose body was planted in the ground, and whose resurrection fruit has sprung up to eternal life, we are given a new imagination- a new wisdom. Those who have been transformed by the radical work of Christ will no longer blindly hold that the experiences of life- whether wonderful or unbearable- are merely meaningless kernels of wheat in their hands. But those who have tasted the Fruit of the Spirit have eyes that have been opened to the Paradise before them; they are suddenly made aware of the shame of their own nakedness so that in all things they may see the glory of their Provider's covering. As a consequence, the Christian will not wallow in the misery of his misfortune because he knows that his present suffering is not worth comparing to the joy he will know on the day of the harvest (Rom. 8:18); the believer's hope is not in a painless sowing, but in the Lord of the Harvest who is making all things new. (Rev. 21:4-5)

As a Christian grows in the image of his Father, he becomes a harvester by nature. As such, he will continually discipline himself to plant every action, every fall, every victory, and every defeat of his life firmly in the hope of Christ's redemption. And when this man is old, his memory will be a storehouse of wisdom, full of countless treasures, that are readily dispensed by the Holy Spirit.

"He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in the harvest is a son who acts shamefully." (Prov. 10:5)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some Darwin Award Highlights

Every year "The Darwin Awards" are published to honor those who were , by virtue of their own stupidity, removed from the gene pool for the sake of the greater good. While we wait for the 2007 awards to be published, I would like to share with you a few of my favorites from years past. Enjoy.

5. Mind over matter

4. Kung Fu expert vs. lion

3. When a land mine is the primary prop in a drinking game:

2. Jesus impersonators

1. Rocket engine + Chevy Impala=

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Office

From: Dwight K. Schrute
To: Office fans around the universe

Question: What is the best night of the week?
Answer: Thursdays. Every other night is stupid.

The author of this blog has recently added video clips entitled "The Office- Greatest Moments" . Well, as the Assistant Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, I say that as funny as those clips are, they don't do justice to what were truly the greatest moments in our history. Those of you who have never watched our show before, I expect to see you on NBC this Thursday night at 9pm or disciplinary action will be taken. *Disclaimer: the law of nature requires that as soon as I recommend a tv show to anyone the next episode will be unusually offensive, raunchy, and obscene... it's not usually, I promise.

The Top Ten "Office" Moments According to Dwight K. Schrute:
10. When Jim left the Scranton office. "Ohhh, noooo, Jim's gone. What are we going to doooo? FALSE. I do not miss him."

9. When Michael told Toby that he hates everything about him. No one can explain Michael's hatred for Toby... but it's funny.

8. The day I unveiled my ingenious idea for a new consequence-reward system around the office: Schrute Bucks.

7. The day Pam was in tears in the hallway and I alone was there to console her. Upon approaching the crying victim, I quickly asked "Who did this to you? Where is he?" After a moment of silently listening to her sobbing, I calmly diagnosed the problem: "So you're PMS'ing pretty bad right now, huh?"

6. The day my computer challenged my sales ability and I defeated it. My computer started typing these messages to me, things like: "While you were reading this, I researched everything in the world and learned everything there is to know, and oh yeah, in that time I also sold more paper than you." But Michael and I were ultimately victorious over our cyber-foe when we delivered gift baskets to our former clientèle... that is, before Michael drove the car into the lake following the GPS' instructions.

5. "Diversity Day." Michael came up with this brilliant idea to help us appreciate diverse cultures. Each person had a post-it note on his/her forehead with "Jewish" or "Asian" or "Black" or something similar written on it. It was then the role of the other office members to talk to that person about himself/herself using descriptive statements about that point of view or nationality. Toby was ticked, but Michael's a genius.

4. The day Michael hit Meredith with his car. And then a couple weeks later, when Meredith asked Jim to sign her pelvic cast. (Meredith: "Thanks. I'll read that later.") Meredith is creepy.

3. Jim dressing up like me. Impersonation is the highest form of flattery, so I thank you, Jim.

2. The day I neutralized an assailant with my pepper spray. "For two years, I've brought pepper spray with me to the office and was laughed at... well who's laughing now?"

1. And the number one, most enlightening, greatest day in the office was the day Michael dressed up like a ganster to teach us all a valuable lesson: Prison isn't funny. Someone in the office joked that work was like a prison, so Michael did a dramatic presentation to shed light on the terrors of prison life by impersonating a gansta' from da' slamma' named "Prison Mike." There's really no adequate way to describe it, so you may re-live it here: (Warning: This clip is rated PG-13 for the use of the "B word"):

I thank you for reading. Post your favorite moments of the show if you wish. On behalf of all of us here at Dunder Mifflin, I bid you adieu.

Dwight K. Shrute
Assistant (to the) Regional Manager
Dunder Mifflin, Scranton

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Great Conversation???

Those of you who have been tuned in to my blog lately know that I recently partnered with a couple friends on a new series we kicked off called "The Great Conversation" (see below four or five posts if you want to catch up on the discussion). Adam, the masterful poet behind "Late Night Over Pancakes," and Dan, the excavator of the deep and profound truths within the "Pray Your Gods" blog, had both agreed to reply to my original post concerning "Christian" and "Secular" arts.

When I stepped to the plate a month and a half ago, Dan was in the batters box warming up, as he was the first scheduled to respond (and then Adam was going to respond after him). But alas, our good friend Dan is waiting for the right moment to take his home run swing; he is yet to take a crack at the discussion we have pitched his way. I've been checking his blog almost daily in eager anticipation and I hope you have been too.

He's a busy guy and extremely thoughtful about these things, so this post is simply to cheer Dan on and to give him a friendly push of inspiration- to encourage him to post his response by the end of this weekend, if possible. We're looking forward to reading what you've been processing these past few weeks, my friend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Foo Fighter's new album released today. All I can say after my third listen-through is "Ohhhhhhhh..."

While you're putting your shoes on to go buy your copy right now ($9.99 this week at Best Buy), click this link and be amazed at their new single's music video, "The Pretender":

Dave Grohl, I think I love you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I've been going to the same chiropractor off and on for seven years here in Ft. Lauderdale, but not anymore...

Yesterday afternoon my neck was like a pretzel, so I stopped by the chiropractor's office on my way home from class (I had a 12:00pm appointment). I parked the car and walked up to the office entrance, but was abruptly halted by a police officer as I reached to open the door. "Are you a patient here?" demanded the female officer. She had enough gadgets, vests, badges and guns strapped to her to re-take Normandy. "Uhhh, yes ma'am" I stuttered in reply, taking a half step backwards. "The office is closed right now, but I need to ask you a few questions." "O- Okay." As she took my deposition, I examined her badge more closely: "US Treasury Department- Special Agent."

"What's your name, sir?" I answered and she scribbled my name on her notepad while I snuck a peek at the glock 9mm strapped to her side. "What's the best phone number to reach you at?" My eyes darted back to hers as I responded. "What kind of payment plan do you have with this office?" I glanced over her shoulder through the glass door and saw two other officers inside rummaging through files and desks, which made me cautious in my reply: "I pay monthly."

Question after question finally ended when another patient approached the door. Special Agent GI-Jane had a new target, or witness or, suspect... who knows... Anyway, I was dismissed without much explanation about what was going on. I've become friends with one of the doctors there over the years, so he called this morning to tell me there was apparently something bogus going on with the office's billing and taxes. He was ticked off because he and his wife are both suddenly jobless due to someone else's negligence and dishonesty. The raid came unannounced and without apology.

I spent all morning working in the yard, dwelling on what had happened. And it tormented me all the more when my thoughts turned introspective and I began to examine my own integrity: "What would be found if my life was suddenly raided today? No announcement, no warning, just investigators rummaging through every corner of my life. What would I be charged with?"

I may not be guilty of money laundering, tax evasion, or for that matter anything illegal by the US Justice Department's standards, but it worried me when I considered the standards of justice to which I'm truly accountable. It may be a silly picture, but think about it: if God sent special agents into your house, into your marriage, and into your office; if God Himself was the captain of an exhaustive investigation into the files on your computer... what kind of hell would you be in? Would you be suddenly jobless? Would your reputation be tainted? Would your wife still admire, family still be proud of, and friends still associate themselves with... you?

The depth at which my heart was troubled was alone enough to convict me; if I were blameless and "above reproach," I wouldn't be bothered by
daily visits from God's entire investigative staff. But as it is, I know there are dark corners of my mind and heart that need correction before I'm prepared for such a raid.

Dr. D. James Kennedy passed away last week Thursday. At his memorial service, one of the speakers said, "There was nothing in James Kennedy's life that would embarrass the name of Jesus." I want that said of me at my funeral. Not that I will be able to perfect my every flaw, be sinless, or anything like that. But just to know I was not only at rest in the grace of Christ, but also wholly blameless to the best of my ability in
this life.

"Keep your servant also from willfull sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression." (Psalm 19:13)
(See also I Timothy 3:2, Psalm 15:1-5, 37:18-19, 108:1-8)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Final Exam Results

The moment we've all (three) been waiting for... the results of this year's Summer School of Rock final exam are in:

1. Who is the lead singer of AC/DC?
Correct answer: Brian Johnson (’80-present); Bon Scott was the original lead singer (’73-’80) who died of excessive alcohol consumption

2. On the famous “Cowbell” sketch on SNL, what 70’s rock band does the cast portray and what’s the name of the song needing “more cowbell”?
Band: Blue
Öyster Cult; Song: “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” P.S. Probably the best SNL sketch of all time; in the top 10 at the very least.

3. The name of the Southern Rock band whose lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant, along with several other members of the band and crew died in a plan crash in 1977?
The one and only: Lynyrd Skynyrd

4. The name of the band and the album that can, reportedly, be played simultaneously with the Wizard of Oz as a sort of psychedelic soundtrack?
Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is said to match "perfectly" with every scene in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Personally I don't believe it, so I got the CD and the movie and now I'm just waiting for a free night to test the validity of this rumor for myself (and of course, I'll post the results of my findings here).

5. Since most of you know the answer to #4: Same band, who was their chief songwriter through the 70’s and beginning of the 80’s?
Pink Floyd's principle songwriter was Roger Waters through the 80's.

6. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones: what was their band called?
A little band called Led Zeppelin

7. What highly influential English punk rock band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and credited with initiating the punk rock movement in the UK even though they only existed for 4 years (1975-1979) and released only one studio album (plus compilations and singles)?
The Sex Pistols, when honored with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, called the award (and I quote) "a piss stain," and refused to make an appearance at the ceremony. Bassist Sid Vicious died of an "accidental" heroin overdose but is rumored to have been murdered by the dealer who made his dose of heroin unusually potent (coroner's report: it was a dose of 99% pure heroin as opposed to the common 22% pure). Yep, sounds like punk rock.

8. This duo formed in 1957 and were together through 1970, and their hit list includes “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Hall of Fame-rs and #40 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Simon and Garfunkel. Originally formed under the name "Tom and Jerry" (thanks to Rick for that extra piece of trivia)

9. Name the band whose hits include “Come Sail Away” and “Mr. Roboto.” (Hint: it’s one misspelled word, four letters)

10. Pete Townshend was the guitarist and principal songwriter for this band that has been called “the greatest and most influential rock band of all time.”
The Who

11. What genre did the band Deep Purple help pioneer?
Deep Purple is considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock (along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin)

12. What band released that single that gets in your head and never leaves you alone, “More Than a Feeling”? Boston

13. It is estimated that by 1985, this band had sold over one billion discs and tapes worldwide. They are #1 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The Beatles. P.S. One billion is a ridiculous number of records.

14. Regarded by some as “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” this group nearly fell apart between 1979 and 1984 due to substance abuse, except for the tireless efforts of then manager, Tim Collins, who reformed the band, got them help for their addictions, and made it possible for this now 38 year old rock band to still perform concerts today to sell-out crowds. (Hint: the lead singer has a daughter in the movies)
Aerosmith. Frontman Steve Tyler has a famous Hollywood daughter named Liv.

15. If you were stranded on an island and could only have one CD to listen to, which would it be?
The correct answer is U2's Joshua Tree (sorry Dan, Forrest Gump was a wrong answer; I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul).

First let me say that I was very impressed with your knowledge of classic rock. There were several who gave their answers to me in person but didn't post them here, so thanks to you guys as well. But there was one student who rose above; one shining star above the class; one student who not only answered every question correctly but also answered extra credit questions I did not ask. This person added the above-mentioned tidbit about "Tom and Jerry," knew that the week he was born "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was #1, and perhaps most impressive of all, he went through the trouble of adding an umlaut to the "O" of Blue Öyster Cult in order to properly answer question number 2. The School of Rock is therefore proud to crown Rick Hunter (aka "Tall Rick") as this year's top of the class. Rick, we have high hopes for your future. Make us proud. (Acceptance speech?)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Great Conversation

There was a day when people talked. Today when you pass a stranger on the sidewalk, there are no conversations about life, no regard for each other's experiential wisdom (what that person has been through in life and what he's learned from it), and no social permission to breach a discussion about issues of love, or God, or... anything, really. In fact, today you're lucky to get a silent head nod and not fear for your life when walking past a stranger. But there was a time when philosophy (the love of knowledge/wisdom/truth) was considered the most important pursuit in a man's existence. And so it was normal, if not expected, to run into a stranger on the street and engage him in conversation about, for example, the nature of the human soul.

Now, don't misunderstand here, my hope is not to be a philosopher; I was a C student through high school and I still only read when I "have to." But I want to continue this "Great Conversation," as its been called by many scholars, and to be sharpened by the knowledge and life experiences of my friends (and relative strangers). At the recommendation of my good friend, Dan (Pray Your Gods blog), I would like to begin a new series called "The Great Conversation" with this purpose in mind. I, or one of my blogging friends, will start a topic of discussion under the title "The Great Conversation," open it up to discussion, and then friends with blogs can post a response (rebuttal, if you will) on their own blog page. I'll spare you further explanation, it'll make sense as we go. And so, I'll open with a statement for our first discussion:

Many families cling to a "Christian-only" policy when it comes to books, movies, and music. And while I encourage protecting the minds of young kids, it's sad to me that Christians are growing up to adulthood with a subconscious belief that everything "secular" is bad. These kids grow up to be critical (rather than discerning) of everything that doesn't have a Christian label attached.

I would submit that God can use "secular" art (literature, theater, music, etc.) to accomplish His evangelistic purposes in our world today, just as He did through ancient paganism in the centuries before Christ's first advent. In ancient Greece, they didn't have an AMC, Barnes and Noble, or Flava' Flave (it wasn't all bad in ancient Greece); what they had was the theater. The theater wasn't just another source of mind-numbing over-stimulation like much (not all) of our entertainment is today; the theater was where deep-rooted issues of politics, war, and the human condition were expressed artistically through comic, tragic, lyric, or epic portrayals. The things performed on that stage were THE stories and, in many cases, the beliefs of that culture.

One such play was called "Prometheus Bound." The tragedy opens with Prometheus, a Titan god who created man and posesses the gift of prophecy, nailed to a rock on a mountain. The play unfolds as Prometheus recounts the events leading up to his punishment: Cronos, the god of the Titans, and Zeus, the god of the Olympians, were at war with one another. Prometheus, with his gift of prophecy (his name means "Forethinker") tried to counsel Cronos in his strategy against Zeus, but Cronos would not listen. So, in order to save himself and his family, the god Prometheus defected to the Olympians, and by his counsel, Zeus defeated Cronos. But then Zeus punished Prometheus by making plans to destroy all of mankind (Zeus wants to punish him because, like all tyrants, he distrusts even his closest friends for fear of his power being taken from him). Knowing that Prometheus is compassionate to the race of men (since he created them), Zeus hides the gift of fire from mankind, leaving them utterly incapable of performing their skills/crafts of survival, which would lead to their complete destruction. But Prometheus, the god, takes on human flesh and sacrifices his life in order to save and to bring light (fire) to the race of men. As a consequence, Zeus has Prometheus nailed to a rock on a mountain, where vultures will peck out his eyes every day forever.

This story (and many other Greek plays) would have been common and extremely well-known by everybody in that time (perhaps like you and I know the story of Cinderella). So when Paul comes to Greece with the Gospel ("good news") that there was a God who left His throne in heaven to take on human flesh, in order to be the "light of the world" and save men from the curse of death by Himself being nailed to a tree on a mountain... he was speaking their language, to say the least.

Did God take a pagan play about a polytheistic war and a god-man's sacrifice and use it as an evangelistic foundation for Paul to build upon? Could God have inspired those stories in the hearts of Greek men in order to prepare them for the coming of Christ? Does God commonly use "secular" expressions to make His work known to generations of people today, as it seems He did in ancient times?

I would submit that yes, He can and He does. Perhaps we should be less guarded as a "Christian" culture and more confidently aware of what God is working in the hearts of "secular" beings that could be foundational to our witness.

Please POST your thoughts (don't keep them to yourself); the whole point of this series is for you to contribute to the conversation. And after you've commented, please check out the above-mentioned friends' blogs for their responses (Pray Your Gods and Late Night Over Pancakes).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'll Be 80 Soon

Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week,
But I'll be 80 soon.

And then I will no longer look forward to my life;
I'll look back on what I did with it.

I realize now that I could never work hard enough
or do things great enough in this life
to ever achieve "no regrets."

"I could have done more," my elderly flesh will prod;
"If only I had known then what I know now."

"And what I know now at 80 years of age
is that everything under the sun will fade
And that the only true moments of life that I've made
Are those moments when I loved a neighbor
Are those moments when I heard a friend
Are those moments I reached out to a stranger
Are those moments I didn't pretend."

"Shame that is took me these twenty-nine thousand and two hundred days
To finally make sense of what was worth all that wait:
The world was drowning slowly and I knew that they would die,
But I stayed safe on the lifeboat and turned a blind eye."

Maybe not next birthday, maybe not next year,
But I'll be 80 soon
And their death is my biggest fear.

"Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last." - Unknown Author

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Just When I Thought That My Grace Was Gone

Just when I thought that my grace was gone,
You covered my shame and called me your son;
Just when I thought I failed my last time,
Your stripes stood the trial for my petty crime.

Just when I thought that I'd gone too far,
You patiently drew me back under your arm;
Just when I thought that all hope was lost,
You gave me Your Word, no matter the cost.

Just when I thought that my grace was gone,
You told me that Your love was far and beyond
All of the notions and motions and calm
That I choose to rest in instead of your palm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer School of Rock: Final Exam

Well, the summer is officially over, which means it's final exam time for the Summer School of Rock. It's been a great summer. I've learned a lot, heard a ton of new (old) music, and feel just one step closer to "capable" in a conversation about classic rock. Like I said at the outset of this experiment, my goal this summer was simply to "catch up" on the era of 60's and 70's rock that I missed out on as a twenty-something. I still have a lot to learn, of course, but I think I accomplished my goal fairly efficiently. If I gave myself a letter grade for the course, I think it would be a B+. If I had had more time to commit to it, it would have been a solid A, but alas, I'm not paid to read about Zeppelin or study Pink Floyd CDs.

What would your grade be? Below is a test from my School of Rock learnings:
1. Who is the lead singer of AC/DC?

2. On the famous “Cowbell” sketch on SNL, what 70’s rock band does the cast portray and what’s the name of the song needing “more cowbell”?

3. The name of the Southern Rock band whose lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant, along with several other members of the band and crew died in a plan crash in 1977?

4. The name of the band and the album that can, reportedly, be played simultaneously with The Wizard of Oz as a sort of psychedelic soundtrack?

5. Since most of you know the answer to #4: Same band, who was their chief songwriter through the 70’s and beginning of the 80’s?

6. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones: what was their band called?

7. What highly influential English punk rock band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and credited with initiating the punk rock movement in the UK even though they only existed for 4 years (1975-1979) and released only one studio album (plus compilations and singles)?

8. This duo formed in 1957 and were together through 1970, and their hit list includes “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Hall of Fame-rs and #40 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

9. Name the band whose hits include “Come Sail Away” and “Mr. Roboto.” (Hint: it’s one misspelled word, four letters)

10. Pete Townshend was the guitarist and principal songwriter for this band that has been called “the greatest and most influential rock band of all time.”

11. What genre did the band Deep Purple help pioneer?

12. What band released that single that gets in your head and never leaves you alone, “More Than a Feeling”?

13. It is estimated that by 1985, this band had sold over one billion discs and tapes worldwide. They are #1 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

14. Regarded by some as “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” this group nearly fell apart between 1979 and 1984 due to substance abuse, except for the tireless efforts of then manager, Tim Collins, who reformed the band, got them help for their addictions, and made it possible for this now 38 year old rock band to still perform concerts today to sell-out crowds. (Hint: the lead singer has a daughter in the movies)

15. If you were stranded on an island and could only have one CD to listen to, which would it be?

It's been an eye-opening summer learning about these artists who shaped not only the direction of music but the culture at large. I've always known that music can change the world, but until I dug into researching these bands and saw how their music directly influenced movements, reforms, and the makeup of entire countries, I didn't fully appreciate how deep that truth runs. I look forward to semester 2 of Summer School of Rock in Summer, 2008.

Check back soon for the answers to the final exam questions above. Post your answers so we can all see how brilliant you are.

Pet Peeve #2

And now for my second installment of "Quirks, Jerks, and Everyday Irks."

2. The conveyor belt at Publix.
I realize that very few will be able to sympathize with my irritation here, so I would definitely put this under the "quirks" category. But I'm slightly OCD, so when I place my groceries on the belt at checkout, it's not a random scattering of items for me, it's an art. Heaviest items up front, softest items in back, and all like-items together in a nice, neat, orderly system. And what's really weird (as if that's not weird enough), is that I literally have to take slow, deep breaths in order to fight off a panic attack when the conveyor belt starts to move because it messes up my system (no, I'm not kidding). The belt starts moving, and now instead of an orderly group, there's four feet of space between each of my groceries; instead of the 2 boxes of frozen peas standing neatly next to each other, there's a box of peas, then four feet... then a jar of tomato sauce, then four feet... then a loaf of bread, then four feet... and then the second box of peas... And few things in this world take me closer to being institutionalized.

On a side note: as much as I "suffer," I can't imagine how difficult life would be as a truly OCD person. I would say I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, but not full-blown disorder. I actually consulted a psychologist friend of mine about this issue when I was in college. I was concerned because I count my steps everywhere I go, I count my bites when I chew food, I do everything from scratching an itch to licking my lips in sets of seven, and certain things (like the conveyor belt at Publix) take me dangerously close to panic attacks. But as crazy as that sounds, I know people who literally suffer from the disorder- and it isn't even slightly funny what they go through. The difference is this, my psychologist friend informed me: "When you count your steps in sets of sevens from the car to the front door of your house, can you still go inside and relax if your last step isn't number seven in a series? Or would it mess you up so bad that you would have to go back to the car and try again? Those with the disorder would have to go back and literally try over and over again to make their steps count up to the right number before they can move on to any other activity."

Thankfully, I can go on if the steps don't add up and I can laugh at myself for being such a weirdo, which is why I've listed "the conveyor belt at Publix" as my Pet Peeve #2.

Friday, August 10, 2007


"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)

Our souls cannot survive without the nourishment the Lord provides. There is no other bread and no other water that can sustain us through the fall- nothing but the body and blood of Jesus. I love that Jesus uses our sense of hunger and thirst to help this truth hit home.

When it comes to Christian living, it seems to me that there are three kinds of people: those who are constantly hungry but never satisfied, those who are full but never hungry, and those who are regularly hungry and then fully satisfied.

In the natural world, everyone recognizes the pain of hunger and dehydration and goes and eats and drinks until they’re satisfied. No one feels a hunger pang and walks around for days in agony wondering “what is this pain I feel?” It’s instinctive: we were designed with the need for daily filling. And yet, as much as we understand this in the natural world- the world that we can see, taste, smell, touch, and feel- we have this internal dysfunction that has somehow deceived us into believing that the pain we feel in our souls, the hole we sense is empty inside, is somehow unrelated to our lack of spiritual nourishment. We go days, weeks, even months and years without seeking the Lord’s filling and then we wonder why we are keeled over in pain from depression, anxiety, doubt, bitterness and pride. And the deeper our hurt runs, the more we bite the hand that feeds, so to speak; we blame the Lord for not strengthening us or coming to our rescue, too blind beneath our shroud of guilt to recognize that the Lord has prepared daily provisions for us but we simply haven’t been responsible enough to come to the table. This is the person who is constantly hungry but never satisfied.

The second kind of person is the one who is always full but never hungry. This person digests meals as part of their daily ritual; like a machine on auto-pilot, they don’t really crave the food, they simply do what they need to do to survive. Godly men and women reach a place when they’re calloused to the ritual filling of the Lord. They eat a lot, but they’re never hungry; they attend to the business of faith but never crave after the Lord. These people are fat and happy Christians and have forgotten what it’s like to passionately hunger after anything- especially the Lord.

The third kind of person is the one who is hungry every day and eats at the proper time. They experience both the agony of hunger pangs and the joy of being satisfied- every day. St. Augustine wrote, “There is no pleasure in eating and drinking unless they are preceded by the unpleasant sensation of hunger and thirst.” In the desert, the Israelites were instructed to gather manna from the fields where God rained it down on the earth like dew on the grass every morning. They weren’t allowed to store up a supply of bread; gathering manna every other weekend was simply not an option. They woke up in the morning and gathered their bread for the day, or they starved.

How often do I go starving simply because I was too lazy to get up and gather my daily bread? How often do I just “get by” going to church, reading the Bible for 20 minutes a day, and performing my rituals of faith? I've been all three of those people at different times in my life, but most often I think I'm like the person who eats just enough veggies to feel less guilty about the volume of junk food I've ingested. I'm doing just enough good to disguise my bad.

I want to do more than just get by.

I want to be hungry again and again and again so that I can be satisfied in Him again and again and again. But it isn’t my hard work or my determination or my spiritual standards that make me hungry. Rather, the God who created my stomach to growl three times a day, who formed my spirit with a “God-shaped hole” so that nothing else will satisfy but Him, and the giver of my daily bread is also the One who gives me the hunger for that provision. So I must call out to Him daily: “Lord, make me hungry for more of You.” To my mind, there isn't a more God-honoring prayer than that. “Lord, I’m just ‘getting by’ again, please make me thirsty for You so that you can once again be my deepest satisfaction.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

GMA Conference in the Rockies 2007

Most of you who read my blog know that I'm a worship leader who dreams of becoming a songwriter/recording artist professionally. I have no desire to leave the worship ministry and no ambition beyond what I believe God has intentionally caused my heart to crave, and yet I've always felt like these two desires in my life are in conflict (writing songs and leading worship). It seems to me that the ministry of worship is altogether selfless, directing all praise and glory to God whom the congregation came to hear (in theory). But writing about my life experiences and being in the spotlight has always seemed a selfish catharsis- being the object of honor rather than the mirror of someone more honorable. So I don't write more than 10 songs per year and even then, I never have the opportunity to get them out to the masses. And while God has granted me contentment as a worship leader and I've been blessed to see Him change lives time and time again through this ministry, the longing to write music has left me with this sort of "holy discontentment" and a heart that's continually sick ("Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."-Proverbs 13:12). I've tried and prayed and fasted and waited... and yet the Lord withheld His vision from me of how all of these longings will be satisfied and reconciled... until last week when He made it all so much more clear.

God told me I'm supposed to run away with the circus...
(Just seeing if anyone reads past the first paragraph. Please read on.)

Before I tell you what "became clear," first let me tell you about where I was last week. I returned home Saturday after spending 8 days in Estes Park, CO where I attended the Gospel Music Association's 33rd Annual "Music in the Rockies" conference. (I took the picture above as I rounded the corner entering into Estes Park for the first time- it nearly stopped my heart how beautiful it was.) The week of hands-on training, masters classes, and networking opportunities is designed for songwriters, worship leaders, and artists to sharpen their skills and hone their craft. I was 1 of 1,000 conference-goers who were privileged to spend a week learning from "the best of the best" in their particular fields of interest. I focused mostly on the songwriting track while I was there, so I was able to learn from such highly-successful and widely-published songwriters as Sue C. Smith, Dave Clark, Ben Glover, and Don Koch. You haven't heard of them, but chances are you've heard of some of the artists who have recorded their songs: Faith Hill, Steven Curtis Chapman, Gloria Gaither, Travis Cottrell, Joy Williams (to name a few). Sitting in classes and receiving one-on-one critical feedback on my songs with these writers and artists was a lot like being a sponge thrown into an ocean; you soak up what you can, but you can never absorb it
all in one week.

At the end of each day I tried to spend focused time writing songs and applying the techniques and ideas I had "absorbed" throughout the day (ringing out the sponge onto paper, so to speak). And by the end of the week, I had over 20 songs and song ideas started and a few completely finished. ("But that still doesn't solve your problem of not having an open door to get your music out there." - I'm getting to that, I promise...)

The week before I flew out to Colorado, I was contacted by Craig Dunnagan, the Vice President of Integrity Music Publishing. Through a mutual friend, Craig heard two of my songs, "That Sweet Someday" and "Were You There," and he liked what he heard and wanted to get to know me. We talked for ten minutes and scheduled a follow-up phone conference for a more in-depth discussion at a later date (a couple weeks from now). But in that short conversation, Craig gave me a lot to think about and some great advice. He made it clear that he would like to work with me in some capacity, which is
ridiculously exciting; even if it's just to give me tips on how to make my songs better, it's a huge privilege for a young writer like me to have the ear of the VP of the biggest worship music publisher in the nation. Craig told me to link up with his associate, Lee Black, while I was in Colorado at this conference. Lee is the Songwriting Development Coordinator for Integrity and was scheduled to be a judge at the GMA conference.

To make a long story shorter, I linked up with Lee in Colorado, had coffee with him, and we really hit it off. We talked for a solid two hours about life, ministry, music, and future opportunities (I was expecting 30 minutes). Of all the advice, tips, and tricks I learned on this trip, Lee's advice certainly made the deepest impact in my heart:
Write songs that effectively communicate the heart of your home congregation and then let God sort out where He takes your music from there; listen to the hearts of your church members when you pray with them and counsel them and then write your songs from those interactions- and THEN you'll be a successful songwriter and worship minister, whether or not you're ever published outside your own church's walls."

It was an immediate splash but a very slow sinking in; I knew instantly that what he had said had changed my perspective forever, but I'm still unpacking those words today, a week later. His words echoed the Scripture verse that speaks of being faithful with little before you can be given more; why should God entrust me with the responsibility of writing songs that express the hearts of the
nations when I haven't yet been faithful to express the hearts of the 300 friends in my home church? It's such arrogance to ever think that God should expand my platform of ministry before I've faithfully served Him from this one. He doesn't know it (yet), but the Lord used Lee to bring my blinded vision into focus.

Here's the conclusion of all of this: Last week, the Lord renewed my vision of what He's called me to do: a ministry where He uses not one gift or the other (writing or worship), but where both passions work in synergy toward the purpose of leading people to His throne. The songs that I write don't have to be "selfish catharsis," they can put words in the mouths of God's Church; the lyrics that I pen don't have to "get out to the masses," they simply have to express what one person's heart would want to say if it could find the words. For the 10 years I've been a worship leader, I've been angsty about when God would ever satisfy my desire to write songs. As it turns out, the opportunities to write weren't in a record contract or publishing deal, they were right here in the church where the Lord called me to be all those years ago.

I can't tell you what a mystery that's been in my life and what a no-brainer it is now that the blinders have been removed from my eyes by the Spirit- in His perfect timing. While much of His plan still remains a mystery, I truly believe God ordained this past week at the GMA conference to be the moment in time when He would unveil a major missing piece of my destiny.

I'm keeping in touch with Craig, Lee, and several other writers and producers I met in Colorado and trust that they will continue to be a source of wisdom for me. And who knows, maybe someday God will use me to write the songs of the nations. But for now, He has called me to be faithful with these 300 hearts, and that's a tremendous responsibility. So, I have committed to write faithfully every week from this point on. My goal is 50 songs this year, good bad or ugly- it doesn't matter, just so long as they're expressions of worship from the hearts of those I lead and come in contact with.

"Lord, set my eyes like flint on this road you've set me on and keep my vision pure until we finish the race. Place what you will in my hands and then teach me to lay it down- not once, but every day- however much or little you entrust to my care."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'.
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

-Bob Dylan

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pet Peeve #1

Everybody has them, many have several, and some feel the need to vent about them. So begins a new series I'd like to call "Quirks, Jerks, and Everyday Irks."

1. When 3 miles of highway become a parking lot for absolutely no good reason. Stop and go traffic on the highway is always miserable: your day's schedule is null and void before you even arrive at the office; somewhere between seeing the first brake light and feeling your first twinge of whiplash, you'll inevitably have to pee; and the things you mutter under your breath ("someone better be dead in an accident up there") usually haunt you later with guilty feelings and thoughts of going to hell. But at least when there's a good reason (like a car upside down in flames in the middle of the road), there's an element of compassion for the misfortune of those involved, and it tends not to make me so angry. But the next time I sit through an hour of traffic only to find that the 10,000 cars in front of me were spooked by a police officer writing a ticket way off the side of the road, it's going to be a bad bad day for everyone.

Friday, June 22, 2007


How would I be different if I could look back on today from the end?
What would I call important if all my "nows" were "then"?
From retrospect would every wreck serve purposes for good?
Why does the hand of God in my life so often go misunderstood?

Beaten with rods and fastened with stocks for preaching in Jesus' name.
If Paul and Silas had groaned from their cell, would you have scorned them with blame?
And yet, the only sound from those prison walls echoed song after song after song:
"Praise the Lord for His rescue! No matter how soon or long!"

And then at last the earth itself began to quake and roar;
The prison cell and shackles fell with thunderous force to the floor.
But chains can't bind the heart of man, nor broken cells set free.
For in that moment, the jailer cried out, "Sirs, will
your God have mercy on me?"

"Our God is greater than these prison walls;
He conquered the grave, he can shatter these halls.
What's even still greater is hearing His call,
Opening your heart and abandoning it all."

Why do we pray "God lead the way", and then whine and complain when He does?
How quickly we trade His call for our comfort and want to go back to what was!

If only we would learn to pray, "God show me Your hand in it all",
Then prison guards and fellow guilty-charged might turn and hear His call.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Mud and Mire

Hey guys. Sorry it's been a while since my last entry; Julie and I have been on vacation for the past two weeks. Below is a letter I wrote and sent to a couple of you a few months ago and thought I would edit it and post it here. Recently a friend of mine has been ridiculing me for how "comfortable" he presumes my work to be in comparison to his manual labor/maintenance job. He breaks a sweat every day when he goes to work- always coming home dirty from fixing a toilet, or installing a sprinkler system, or hauling furniture up three flights of stairs. "You can't possibly understand how hard my job is, Ryan," he says, "I don't get to sit in a comfy chair in the air conditioning all day like you do, I'm literally shoveling other people's 'crap' all day long." Little did he know that I was engaged in discipleship (for definition, see "shoveling other people's crap") at that very moment. Here's a copy of a letter I sent in the midst of a particularly trying day in ministry- yes, from my "comfy armchair":

I feel like ever since I started working at Rio, almost 2 years ago, I am constantly engaged in discipleship-related confrontations. There have been so many hard conversations, life burdens to shoulder with people, and a LOT of criticism about a lot of things I do. Many of you guys will know exactly what I mean: there’s someone you’re discipling and your heart is so burdened for them and their troubles that you lose sleep over them. Last night, and for several nights now, my sleep has been labored with concern for one guy in particular who's on our Worship Team. He’s said some offensive things to me recently which, more important than the offense, revealed some things about the condition of his heart. This morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck, not only from not sleeping well, but because the last burden on my mind before bed last night was also the first thought I had when I opened my eyes this morning: “I need to talk with him today.” I would be neglecting my calling NOT to.

So, when I got to work this morning at 7:20am, I called him and asked him if he would squeeze in a meeting with me before he went off to work. We met, our conversation was terribly difficult and only moderately productive. I felt like an emotional rag doll when I returned to my office and the phone rang as I unlocked the door. On the other end of the phone was another member of our worship team who would require 20 minutes in conversation of the heavy-lifting sort. When I hung up the phone I was no longer a rag doll, I was on my way to numb. I took a deep breath, opened my calendar and saw that I have a lunch meeting today with a new guy in our church who wants to be in the Worship Team. And it was in that moment, when I should have felt overwhelmed at the thought of taking on yet ANOTHER “disciple”, that I realized something new and miraculous “sprouting up in my soul.”

I had already lost sleep over the one guy, been down in the trenches with two team members before 9:00am, and now I was LOOKING FORWARD to adding one more person to the team- a person whose mud and mire I would voluntarily lay all comforts aside to help him wade through. I don’t have to meet with him today- I could call it off and tell him we don’t need anymore guitar players, “go take a hike, I’ve had a hard day and too many conversations.” And yet somehow a passion burns inside of me to be bruised walking through another person’s abuses, restless in another person’s sin, and utterly exhausted under another person’s burden. This can only be the calling of God.

It reminded me of how I feel about yard work. I know it’s cliché, but not without good reason. What is it that drives me to drag my half-asleep body out of bed on a Saturday morning and spend my entire day pulling weeds that are only going to keep cropping up? Even more perplexing: how can I spend my entire God-given Saturday morning of rest exhausted in the dirt, and still sense a deep satisfaction at the end of the day? There’s something about being dirty and sweaty, and being sore and getting cut that makes you simultaneously hate and love the work you do. That’s how I feel about ministry this morning: like I’ve been down in the dirt pulling other people’s weeds, knowing that more will sprout up tomorrow, getting cut in the process, and yet looking forward to God adding more and more fields to my work of harvesting.

What madness our ministry must appear to unbelievers who haven’t personally experienced the call of the Lord.

I love you guys. I can’t tell you how much it helps me- especially on days like today- to know that you’re down “in the mud and mire” with me.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

School of Rock Update

In my previous entry, I wrote about my plans to spend this summer studying who's who among the rock and roll greats. Here are just a few interesting tidbits I found interesting in my first week of research:

1. Queen has sold over 300 million albums since 1973.

2. Guitarist Rado "Bob" Klose, Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and Rick Wright formed a band in the mid-late 60's called "Tea Set," soon afterwards naming Syd Barrett as their lead vocalist and guitar player. When "Tea Set" discovered that they were on the same bill with another band with the same name, Syd Barret came up with a new name based on two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council... which is why you now know them as Pink Floyd.

3. Joey Ramone, singer and songwriter of the early punk band The Ramones, stood 6 feet 6 inches tall, suffered from severe OCD, Marfan Syndrome, and lymphoma, which ultimately took his life in 2001. He was listening to U2's "In a Little While" when he passed away.

4. Led Zeppelin's album (the title is a symbol; it was their fourth album) that released the colossal hit "Stairway to Heaven" has sold 23 million copies in the US alone. Despite the popularity of "Stairway to Heaven," the band never released it as a single.

5. John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin (pictured above; he's the one at the top), died after starting an evening of drinking with four quadruple vodkas (that's 2/3 pint) and continued drinking late into the night. After midnight and a halted rehearsal, Bonham fell asleep and was found dead in the morning.

6. Aerosmith is the best-selling American rock band of all time at over 140 million record sales worldwide, and are also one of the few 70's rock bands whose original lineup still performs today.

7. The Doors did not perform with a bass guitar player. Instead, Ray Manzareck would play the bass notes on the Fender Rhodes keyboard with his left hand while playing other keyboards with his right.

8. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles' eighth album, was recorded in 129 days beginning December 6, 1966. The album was nominated for six Grammy awards in 1967 (of which they won four), is #1 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 2007 was named Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Most Definitive Rock and Roll Album."

More lessons from the School of Rock to come, check back soon...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Summer School of Rock

The Who, The Clash, Pink Floyd, The Beatles... all played a role in shaping rock as we know it, and I don't know anything about them. This is a sad, misfortunate truth, but I couldn't tell you when Aerosmith started (1969), or how The Ramones influenced U2, or that drugs were to blame in the destruction of The Sex Pistols. I've known my weakness for a long time, but I'm finally beginning to face my giant: I need a rock education. I know about the bands I listen to, but practically nothing about the bands that influenced them; I know where we are today, but I have only shadows of an understanding of how we got here.

That's why I am enrolling myself in a self-tailored/custom-fit "Summer School of Rock." I've made a list of over 60 bands and people who I will spend the summer getting to know more intimately. I want to study and memorize full biographies, discographies, career highs and lows, who influenced who, and cultural impact; I want to buy their CDs, download their hits, and immerse myself in their music.

People assume that because I went to music school I'm a walking Fleetwood Mac catalogue, or an encyclopedia of Jimi Hendrix facts. I went to Florida State, one of the top CLASSICAL music programs in the country. And while I'm proud of my alma mater and the education I received there, I learned a grand total of ZILCH about rock history. So, in college, while my friends were gaining a highly-applicable knowledge of Metallica, Audioslave, and Nirvana, I was locked in a tiny practice room on the 4th floor of the music building singing "Ein Jungling Liebt Ein Madchen" from Schumann's Dichterliebe Opus 48 (which I have never once been asked to sing since). The long and short of it is: I have a lot of catching up to do.

I'll write about my progress, and probably about some of the artists I find especially fascinating in future blog entries. Stay tuned.

P.S. I'll buy lunch for the first person to correctly identify the band in the above picture and post their answer here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The New Temple

Mark 14:58 "[Christ said,] I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.”

I have recently become convinced that one of our greatest weaknesses as modern-day Christians (I dare say the greatest weakness) is our failure to truly understand the Old Testament Scriptures. We’ll gladly read the story of David slaying Goliath or Joshua and the siege of Jericho, but when it comes to the more tedious writings and stipulations that are recorded between those great tales of war and triumph, many of us either read with confusion and a giant question mark (“How could this possibly be relevant to me?”), or we simply skip over those passages entirely.

Take the Tabernacle for example. How many of you considered the layout of the Mosaic Tabernacle this morning in your daily devotions? Not many, I presume. And yet, God gave Moses such an extremely detailed floor plan for how to build the Tabernacle (the tent where God’s presence would dwell) that 5 whole chapters of our Bible are dedicated to its record. The whole creation account is told in less than two chapters. Why would God do that? What can we possibly learn from 5 obscure chapters about a tent?

Before we look at how the Tabernacle is relevant in New Testament (NT) times, it’s important that we first understand how the Tabernacle was significant in the Old Testament (OT). The Tabernacle was the sanctuary of God; it was the holy place where God “tabernacled” (“dwelt”) among His people, the Israelites, during their years of wandering. Representatively, God humbled himself to sojourn with His people through the desert until they reached the Promised Land, where the temple would be built as a more permanent structure (the Tabernacle was a tent and thus a mobile sanctuary).

The furniture of the Tabernacle was set up in such a way as to require the worshipper to perform a series of rituals of cleansing and sacrifice before atonement could be made on his behalf (see diagram). Even after such pain-staking efforts, no one was allowed into the Holy of Holies except the High Priest– and even he was only permitted access once a year on the Day of Atonement. And so the first lesson we learn from the Tabernacle in Exodus is that God humbled himself, came to earth to sojourn with His people through a “dry and weary land where there was no water” (Ps. 63:1), and, by His presence, to lead them into the Promised Land of rest where an imperishable temple-house would be built in His name. (Sound familiar?)

But the lessons of the Tabernacle don’t stop there: consider the furnishings of the Tabernacle where the worshipper was required to perform rituals of cleansing and sacrifice (listed here in progression from the “Outer Courts” into the “Holiest Place”):

  1. Altar of Sacrifice: Before entering even the outer courts, a bloody sacrifice must be offered.
  2. Laver: In the outer courts the worshipper must wash his body with water.
  3. Lampstand: Inside the Holy Place, the 7-branch lampstand filled the sanctuary with light.
  4. Table of Shewbread: 12 loaves of bread on a table to represent God’s provision.
  5. Altar of Incense: Where the High Priestly prayer was offered on behalf of the worshipper.
  6. The Veil: Separated man from the “Holiest Place” where God’s presence dwelt.
  7. The Ark of the Covenant: Contained the stone tablets of the Law of Moses; God “sits enthroned above the cherubim”; the place where atonement was made and the sins of man were put away.

Remarkable details! But for what purpose? As holy as it was, we know that the Tabernacle was defiled, abolished, and then replaced by Solomon’s Temple. But even the Temple was defiled by a wicked and corrupt priesthood and was ultimately destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. How can it be that these limited and corruptible rituals of worship could satisfy the “holy and incorruptible” God?

Could it be that the Tabernacle and Temple were instituted by God to teach His people that their depraved souls need more than the washing of water to make them truly clean? Could it be that the bloody sacrifices and atonement offerings were powerless to justify anyone in the sight of God (Gal. 3)? Could it be that these temporal systems were meant to instruct God’s children to look forward to a better “Temple” that was yet to come?

John presents Christ as the God-Man who came to earth and “tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). Even the literary structure of his book is intended to show us that Christ was more than just a new Tabernacle whereby men could offer atonement, but John teaches us that Christ was the true Tabernacle even from the beginning– the perfect fulfillment of those imperfect systems that came before. Christ is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) and who offered Himself on the Altar of the cross (John 3); the Laver whose “living water” washes you completely- body and soul (John 4); the Lampstand, the “light of the world” who alone is able to keep you from dwelling in darkness (John 8 & 9); the Table of Shewbread, your provision, even your “Bread of Life” (John 6); He is also your great “High Priest” (Heb. 4:14), interceding in prayer for you at the Altar of Incense (John 17); Christ tore the “Veil” of His body so that you were permitted full access to God’s Holiest presence (John 18 & 19). Truly our God is the God of spiritual Israel, “enthroned above the cherubim,” who has written His Law not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh– even the hearts of men (2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Cor. 3:3). See also Hebrews 9 & 10.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” - 1 Cor. 6:19