Month: February 2013

my top 5

what are your top 5 worship songs? what are the songs that really speak to you when you sing to God? it could be a right now list, or an all-time list. these are mine.

5. Overtaken-Gateway Worship/Walker Beach & Zach Neese

this is a powerful song for me. it was one of the first times that i was exposed to the songwriting of Zach Neese. he has been a great voice and mentor in my own worship life. funny thing is when i’ve introduced this as a congregational song, it has always fallen a little flat.

4. How He Loves-John Mark McMillan

i remember the first time i heard this song, and i wept. for the record, i love the lyric “sloppy wet kiss”, but that’s not the focal point of the song. it all leads to “i don’t have time to maintain these regrets when i think about the way He loves us.”

3. You Bled-Rend Collective Experiment

i was first introduced to Rend Collective at recreate10. i found myself just weeping at this video because it’s such a beautiful depiction of Christ in that little boy. it has fast become one of my favorite songs, and is powerful when sung in a corporate setting.

2. Beautiful Things-Gungor

again, thanks to the recreate conference i got to hear Gungor debut their album “Beautiful Things”. honestly one of the most holy moments i’ve ever experienced in my life. the passion with which each song was presented and the heart behind them made me play this CD in my car for 5 months straight. i love every song on this record, but the title track was so healing for my life. for a stretch of 2011 i couldn’t sing it because i didn’t believe it, but that has changed. He makes all things new.

1. O Praise Him (All This For A King) David Crower Band*

i don’t know what to say about this song. i tear up just thinking about it. it is my heart’s cry. i thank David for writing it. as well as being my #1 worship song, it is my #1 song period. the lyric that says “it’s the sound of salvation come, the sound of rescued ones” might be the most meaningful lyric i’ve had the pleasure to sing. all this for a King.

so what are your favorites? tell me in the comments.

how’s your heart?

i got the chance to go sit in my friend Ramy’s living room the other night and worship with some friends. it was a beautiful group of moments. i’ve been fighting allergies and couldn’t sing, but it was nice to sit in the dimly lit room and just take it in. it was really simple. towards the end Ramy asked everyone in the room a question.

“how is your heart?”

and i began to think, what am i going to say when it gets to me? am i going to say something that sounds slick or amazing? am i going to say something that sounds authentic? what am i going to say? then i began to listen to the others who were telling how their hearts were. some beautiful answers to a simple question, and i realized that my heart is still on the mend. it has been stomped on, but it still beats. it still dreams and longs to create. and as the testimony time was finished we sang Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”. i sang with what voice i had as the evening ended with communion.

i tell you that because i want to ask you the same question. how’s your heart? what is it longing for? is it freshly broken? do you feel like it can never be put back together? do you still have hope? or, is your heart joyful and full? it doesn’t have to be broken.

how’s your heart?

you got a little something right there…

i was thinking about judgment yesterday.

we all judge even if we don’t want to admit it. we look at people and make calls based on what we see. we listen to conversations and critique even though we really don’t know that person or their heart. or we look at a “sin” and immediately in our heart we say, “i’m not as bad as they are”

so like the Pharisee who prayed out loud in the temple, we look at others and give them a grade based on very little information. it’s judgment, but very poor judgment.

it is something i fight almost everyday. i try and remind myself that i don’t know the rest of the story, but it just comes up.  to quote Peter Cetera and Chicago it’s  a “Hard Habit to Break”

so what got me moving in this direction of thought?

i was remembering a conversation i had with a friend about the movie “Gladiator” several years ago. now this friend didn’t go to R rated movies, or at least didn’t admit to going. but they went to see Gladiator because the R rating came from “necessary violence”. so that was the first qualifying remark so that no one would judge them. and that’s the way it is with our media, we can justify something if it’s violent, but not if it has sexual or lewd content. God forbid any people in church actually admit that they like SouthPark or Sex in the City.

i’m not advocating anything, i just think if we were honest about who we are and what we do, then there would be a lot less judgment. i mean i don’t care that my friend saw Gladiator. it’s an awesome film with a great story. i don’t care if people watch South Park, it’s funny and honest. i don’t care what you have on your iPod, well i take that back i will judge you if you have Lil Wayne or Justin Beiber, but that’s just a quality issue. i’m saying just own it. don’t apologize for it. don’t try to sneak into the back of the theater when Hangover 3 comes out.

so i’ll finish with this passage from Matthew where Jesus is talking about judgment.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 NLT

that’s how i try to deal with judgment. i try and remind myself that there is a huge telephone pole in my eye and it blurs my vision just a little.

which way

i think we’ve all asked the question…

what is God’s will for my life?

He says He has a plan. why can’t i have a copy of it?

and all kinds of people have answers. most of them clichés.

i’ve heard them all.

“well if you knew the shortest way from point A to point B, you wouldn’t need God”

“it’s selfish to ask about His will for YOUR life. His will is His will”

“just let go and let God”

one after another ad nauseum. i know that people are well intentioned, but sometimes it’s ok to just not have a pat answer for everything. and yes when i say people, i mean me too. i’ve been guilty of pulling the “Christianese” answer. sometimes we just think we need to say something. i know that we want answers. we want to know why. but i think sometimes what we really want is God to conform to our will rather than us conforming to His. we make plans and want God to put His stamp of approval on them as His will. our plans, as well intentioned as they may be, usually involve a path of least resistance that will bring glory to us. then we get frustrated when things don’t go our way and like an overgrown child we sit on the floor and throw a tantrum and ask God why. then it comes back to that question. what is His will for my life?

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s WILL for ALL of you in Jesus the Liberator) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 The Voice

i love that. maybe if we looked for that will of God and lived our lives in thankfulness, we would begin to see where He works to grow us into who we are in Him.

the passage continues

So now, may the God of peace make you His own completely and set you apart from the rest. May your spirit, soul and body be preserved, kept intact and wholly free from any sort of blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus, the Liberating King. For the God who calls you is faithful, and He can be trusted to make it so. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 The Voice

i’m going to try and walk that way today. my prayer is that you can too.

there is only one you

Romans 11:29 says

The gifts and callings of God can never be withdrawn.

dwell on that today. 

know that what He has given won’t be taken away. people take things back all the time, but not God. so if He has affirmed something in you, if He has gifted you, then move forward in that gift. people recognize and affirm our gifting, they can also deny and try to shut it down for whatever reason. but the gifts of people can be taken back or returned. the calling of man can be removed or disposed of. but not God. if He calls you, He also gifts you. and that is your portion. you have a uniqueness that the world needs. only your DNA can fulfill that calling. 

so recognize who you are today. realize that you have specific God-given skills and talents. believe that He has a purpose for you. go and live. don’t let others define who God says you are. 

So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:16-18 NLT




sing with all you’ve got

i’ve been leading worship for about 18 years. it started with an acoustic guitar at small groups and youth camps. i still can’t play “I Love You Lord” worth a flip.

i love leading. it is something that makes me feel alive. that has always been the case. i love to sing praises to God. i love to sing to Him with all of me, but i have to be careful that i don’t fall in love with the songs, or the singing. there are lots of songs that make my heart cry out to Him and there are songs that i actually weep as they are sung because they are powerful in my life. when i am in the moment, and i don’t analyze it, they are beautiful opportunities of brokenness between God and myself.

sometimes i try and analyze why that particular song caused me to be emotional instead of just enjoying the beauty of being raw and real before God.

as i’ve led over the years, i have sung lots of songs. hymns, and choruses. i’ve sung other people’s songs and my own. i’ve led songs of deep theology,  songs with spiritual themes, and songs without. i try to plan songs that people will sing, or songs that will grab people by the heart or even the throat. now, i’m not trying to manipulate them, or the Spirit. i want to turn their attention to God. i found that when i did things with my agenda that it did not go well.

as i was reading in Colossians today, i was reminded that Paul was impacted by music as well. in the middle of a prayer for the church, he writes out a hymn. it is about Christ and is called the Colossian Hymn. it is found in Colossians 1:15-20

He is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. He is the head of this body, the church. He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything–He is first. God was pleased that all of His fullness should forever dwell in the Son, who , as predetermined by God, bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling the whole creation to Himself–all things in heaven and all things on earth.

wow, what an amazing picture of Christ. i find it really interesting that Paul would use a song to convey to the Colossians Who they belong to. music is one of the strongest pulls to memory. i can see them as this letter is read maybe begin to hear the tune in their head, or maybe the leader who was reading recognized the lyrics and sang that portion of the letter. i can almost imagine the church joining in, and as they sang, they remembered who this Savior is.

so my prayer is that as you sing, you will remember Who you belong to. no matter if you are singing an old hymn, Mumford and Sons, or the latest Justin Timberlake song (My Love is my jam). think of the joy that music brings, and remember that everything belongs to Him and has it’s meaning because of Him.


did you see anything good yesterday?

yesterday was a much needed break.

i got some things done that needed to get done and just had a nice relaxing day.

sometimes we just need some rest. i think that’s what God wants to give us amidst all of the turmoil in our lives, but He wants us to see that it only comes from Him. many verses from the bible come to mind as i think about that. verses about coming to Christ because He will give you rest. about the Israelites never entering His rest. about His grace being sufficient. so how do we live in that place of rest, especially when things seem so hectic and chaotic? i think we have to stop. we have to slow down the breakneck pace that we run.

to really experience the presence of God, we have to stop the noise and listen for His soft voice.

so slow down today and see if you can experience rest. you don’t need a day off to do it, although they are wonderful. see if you can stop and breathe for just a minute or two.

in the words of Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

wherever two or more are gathered…

i continually wonder about the presence of God. He promises to never leave or forsake us, yet sometimes it seems like He is distant. i know the clichés like “if God seems far away, it’s you who has moved, not Him.” ugh, i hate clichés.

i realize that sin sometimes is a barrier for us. nothing is a barrier for Him. I can see how we put on our fig leaf and try to hide. i just wish sometimes i would hear Him say “where are you?” maybe i’m not listening. maybe life is too loud and it drowns out His voice. maybe the shame is so heavy that it dampens the calling. whatever it is, to be honest, sometimes i feel alone.

but my feelings will betray me. if i do the things i feel like doing, then i am not living in His will, i am dwelling in mine. i’ve found that my will, even with temporary moments of pleasure, does not bring long term peace or satisfaction.

i was reading this morning and came across a prayer. i love Paul’s prayers for the people in the new testament churches. this one was for the church at Ephesus.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Liberating King will reside in their hearts. My love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Liberator is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus, the Liberating King, from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:16-21 The Voice

he addresses the very thing i’m feeling, so i suppose the Ephesians struggled with the presence of Christ too. he talks about it taking root so that they and we would know that Christ’s love surpasses anything that we can understand. so maybe instead of seeking the presence which is already there, i should ask for the fullness. i should seek to be filled. i should request the power to understand.

also this prayer does not say i pray that this individual will see these things. it says they. we were not meant to grow outside of community. maybe sometimes the reason we don’t feel the presence of God is because even when we are around people, we isolate ourselves. He wants us to practice His presence in the midst of others. He wants us to see His power in the lives of others. we grow as a body. He promises to be wherever we gather.

do you struggle with believing that God can do those awe-inspiring, immeasurable things? well, then let’s get together and be for each other as He is for us. let us dream big and see what He can do. are you ready?

vaLENTine day

today is valentines day. this is my third year in a row without a valentine. i even joked with people that i was celebrating Single Awareness Day. 

but that is silly. it makes me that much more aware that i am most certainly not alone. i have great friends, and i should spend more time with them. i have an amazing daughter who lives with me and  3 more wonderful children that i get to see several times a month (not near enough). i have parents and family that love me. i also have a God who calls me son and friend, and i daily have to remind myself that He is more than enough. if everything else fades away or disappears, He is still there.

 so i will not be S.A.D. today. i will be thankful. 

 today is also the second day of the lenten season. i decided to go to an Ash Wednesday service last night. i went to the church of my high school friend Cynthia Kepler-Karrar. she’s the pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in East Austin. it was a beautiful service. her joy in prayer, scripture, and preaching was contagious. i was so very happy and proud to see her in her calling. i’ve always loved confessions and benedictions. and here is the confession from last night.

Face yourself, your life, your brokenness,

Face the wrongs you treasure, the anger you hold dear, the hurts you preserve

Face the darkness that holds you back.

Linger here for a moment, look in the nooks and crannies and the hidden places

For it is in those places that our most stubborn sins hide.

Face even those as God reveals your sin to you.

Then step forward in faith, through the darkness

See all of life, all people and see as God sees

See yourself in the light of God.

Allow God to claim your life, all of your life.

Your humanness, your gifts and your limitations.

Understand the truth of these words:

“In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, you have been offered forgiveness”

And then, allow yourself to accept that forgiveness and live freely in Christ once more.

 once more. that means i have lived freely before and i’m probably gonna get bottled up again, but i have been offered forgiveness and so have you. i hope that you see yourself in the light of God today and know that you are loved. every part of you.

on the inside…

i was having a conversation with a friend the other day and they asked me if someone was a “believer”.

that set the cogs turning in my head. they were asking me if this person was a Christ follower, but used a church insider word. i thought, everyone “believes” in something. then i thought how arrogant to call ourselves believers when most of the time we struggle with trusting and believing the truth of what God has even revealed of Himself in the bible. we don’t even believe enough to apply it. and then we have the audacity to call people who aren’t in relationship with God “lost”. they may be more “found” than we think.

i love soccer. when i come across other soccer fans the language changes. we shift to “footballspeak”. cleats become boots. field becomes pitch. game becomes match. teams become clubs or sides. we use terms like touch, chance, cross, brace, and nutmeg. and we understand each other, but someone who is not privy to the language would be confused or think we were being exclusionary, and we are. we know the beautiful game and unless you are interested in knowing, we are not letting you in. it’s often the same way in our churches.

so our language creates a barrier for people rather than invite them in. now i know not everyone uses these words, but “churchspeak” is very common. i’ve sought for years to come up with synonyms to help better express who i am and what my life with Jesus looks like. i still find myself being cliche quite often. even my favorite analogy of sons and daughters who dwell in the kingdom of God is a stretch for some people as i invite them to experience life with me.

so how would you describe this life? what words would you use? how do we let people know they are included in this life? how do we tell this story of extreme love without being cliche or exclusive?