Wisdom & Noise

There are a lot of people with a lot of things to say in this world today. There's a constant barrage of opinion and conjecture filling the status feeds every second of every day.


It used to be just the writers for the New York Times or Time Magazine were the voices we heard. It used to be that controlled media was the only platform from which to share content.

Not anymore.

Today, everything is different.

Anyone can have the potential for a global-reaching platform through social media. All you need is an email address and a password. 

 

But having a platform and having a voice are not the same. Nor is either one a right of entitlement, even though we can oftentimes think so. We can falsely believe that we have earned the right or that we even deserve to have a platform or have a voice of influence. Sometimes, we can even think that one is owed to us.


A platform is earned, and it's earned over time. But I think we sometimes make the mistake of placing our concern and desire for having a platform in front of our care for developing our voice. A voice doesn't emerge in an instant; it is actually more like a sculpture that is carefully and diligently chiseled, bit by bit, piece by piece.  Every one of us has a voice.  The question is whether or not we are developing it.


Though it may not be what you want to hear, you don't have the right to be an influence on people's lives simply because you have a Facebook account. Post all you want, but you will ultimately only be received as a voice of influence when you actually have something to say, when people know they can trust you.


Part of the issue I see is we simply have so much to say, but in reality, we are not saying anything.

 

I would rather have something to say and no platform to speak from
than to have a platform with nothing to say.

ONE IS WISDOM.  THE OTHER IS NOISE.

A voice will be earned when great care is given to every word shared.

 

With having a voice comes great responsibility. When we take that responsibility seriously, I am a believer that the platform will take care of itself. Good content always finds a way out.


May we always be people who add value to the world we live in by sharing wisdom. There is enough noise already without us adding more to the narrative.

 

"....be ready in and out of season to give an account for the hope you have....” 1 Peter 3:15

To Be Famously Great

Do you want to be great or do you want to be famous?

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy asks, “How can Beethoven be great if he never had his picture on a bubble gum card?!?”

It’s a fair question to ask, especially considering the methodology in which our world operates when it comes to greatness. 
 
I would propose that our world has redefined greatness and added to it a qualifier of being famous.  There’s this misnomer that your greatness isn’t qualified until you’ve made a splash of fame.  Let’s face it; we judge how ‘good’ someone is based on their number of followers on social media, how many records they have sold… and all the while, there’s a guy who lives across town who can write circles around the chart-topping writer, who can play the touring guitar player under a table.  Don’t believe me?  Go spend one night in Nashville, listening to open mic night.  There are massive numbers of those who have the chops and are awaiting their chance.

Most everyone chases the fame.  And they chase the famous.  And they aspire to BE the famous. 

But how many of us know that many of the famous are not the great ones.  Sure, every once in a while someone comes along who possesses all of the greatness, but also has made a famous splash.  James Taylor, John Mayer, Garth Brooks….

And then for every famous one, there are a hundred greats whose names will never trend on social media.  So my question is simply this:  Which do you aspire to be? The great or the famous?  Here is the reality – if you aspire to be great, then you cannot measure your success against being famous.

Fame is fleeting.  

Every famous person I have ever met all have one thing in common: they have yet to find their sense of arrival.  There is still a longing for something beyond their current reality.

So let it be said of us that we are the generation that flips the script from chasing fame to embracing our unique God-given path; that we each chase greatness, giving our best and leaving nothing behind.

 

Eeyores & Aussies

 

"We live at the edge of the miraculous.  One step away from a transformation." 
That's how my fortune cookie put it recently.

So often in life, we get caught up in just surviving.  Making it through and still being alive, escaping as much hardship and heartache as possible.  And in our overburdened, weighed-down, survivalist mindset, we lose out on the adventure, the possibility, and the potential that is around every corner.

Think about it.  Around every corner is something.  And depending on our perspective, we hear that and see the potential in one of two ways.

“Around every corner is something or someone lurking…."
This mindset is filled with fear.  Everything is a potential burden, a potential for disaster.  Everyone’s out to get me.  It’s just a matter of time before something breaks down.  I’ll never get ahead.  I’m destined to be stuck.  Someone else always gets the miracle.  This is the "Eeyore” mentality. 

The cup is always half empty, if that.  In this mindset, we begin defeated before we even start. 

“Around every corner is something or someone awaiting…"
This mindset is filled with faith.  Everything is a potential blessing, an opportunity for celebration.  Everyone is a fan and a believer in me.  My best days are still ahead of me.  The best is still yet to come.  In this mindset, we are overcomers before we even start.  This is the mindset I like to call the “Aussie” mentality.  

When I was in Australia a few summers ago, I was both captivated and inspired by the mindset of the people there.  They spoke about everyone and everything with such a sense of hope. Every person I encountered was always speaking to the potential.  It was one of the most life-giving experiences I have ever walked through.  

We live on the edge of the miraculous.  But only if we choose to see it, speak of it, and lean into it.  

We also live on the edge of disaster.  But only if we choose to focus on it, speak of it, and believe it.

Friends, let’s be those that choose the miraculous.  And I don’t just mean choose to live on the EDGE of the miraculous. Let’s be those who think about, speak about, and live FULLY IMMERSED in the miraculous.  

The Road That Leads To Life

It's not the easy one to walk, that is for sure. The road is narrow; it has its share of potholes, cliff hangs and opportunities for utter demise, though when it is the road walked, it leads to life. There may be years of hardship and heartache, which may or may not be resolved in this earthly lifetime, yet the stakes are too high to choose the alternative. The alternative is the wide open road. It is easy. It is also pleasant on the joints, the feet, the mind and the heart. And it's the road that most choose to walk. 

But if you're one of the few that are born with an unshakable, unquenchable burden that almost holds you captive, you know there is ultimately no way you can desert the narrow road for the easy way. 

You may try, but in the end, you can't stomach it. You can't let yourself do it. 

For some of us, there is something that burns like a fire inside our bones. We have a sixth sense that we were made for more than the carnal, that we were made to serve a cause greater than the name of the organization or institution we receive a paycheck from.  

We know somewhere within our being that we were, as C.S. Lewis concluded, "not made for here". 

So what are we to do with this holy, burning passion that we can't reason or push away? How do we live in a world with people who see things at face value, at ground level, when we see from 30,000 feet? That clearly there is more to our present reality than that which meets the eye? 

We are writers. We are poets. We are thinkers. We are believers in the God-given gift of creativity birthed in the soul of humanity. We are the few. The survivors who will live to tell the story of a grander tale. That we not only live to exist in our world today. And we live for more than surviving through Friday to live for the weekend. 

Our lives are but a vapor. And yet, we have the potential with the momentary breath we have to make lasting impact, affecting generations to come. 

Now I know what you may be thinking.  This is a great philosophical principle, but it is nearly impossible to to contextualize how we actually live this out in our everyday lives.  

Yes, this is a great philosophy, a great guiding light for us to follow, but there is a very simple way we can choose every day to either walk the narrow road or the open road.

It all comes down to two simple words, one decision.

Discipline or disregard. 

You see, in every choice we make, we come to a fork in the road, and depending on how we choose to decide, we continue on our way towards life or towards death.  

We all live our own version of a choose-your-own-adventure story, where we hold the keys of decision and power, and we control, at least to some degree, our outcome and destiny.  Now, I'm not saying we play God. There is a distinction between the supreme God of the universe who holds the keys to death & hell, the One who has the power to save and has control of every wave of the sea...  What I am saying is, we are not just robots who do everything God says all of the time.  We carry our own free will.  And, with that free will, we make choices everyday; these choices shape the people we are and mold our character, for better or for worse.

In every decision we make throughout a day, we are choosing one of two things.  Discipline or disregard.  And ultimately, lots of little decisions build upon each other and the collective sum adds up to a life lived on the road that leads to life or the road that leads to destruction.

Let's talk about discipline. 

Discipline is the practice of training.  It's the choice to do the hard thing at times, to push the limits outside of what is always comfortable.  Discipline is the choice to give time and attention to caring for physical or spiritual health, doing what needs to be done, even when it's not the easy thing to do.  It always leads to the results everyone aspires to but few want to do the hard work to actually obtain. 

The opposite is disregard. Disregard is choosing to ignore, to not pay attention to what's at hand.  Disregard is the easy way out of most situations.  It's choosing to not choose, to be lazy, and ultimately, live in a state of decline. 

The simplest way to do an assessment of discipline and disregard is this. 

Take out a piece of paper and make two columns.  On the top of one, write "discipline," and atop the other, write "disregard".  Then list every decision you make that is either one or the other.

Make some comparisons.  Reading the word, watching TV.  Working on hobbies, taking a walk…

And as you go throughout your day, ask yourself this question - is the decision I am making a decision of discipline or disregard?  This simple question may be the one that alters the course of your final destination.  

May we continue to be those that choose the road less traveled, but in the end, the road that leads to life.

The Six Inch Dagger

Reality check. 

Our souls are dying. And it's not because of natural deterioration; it's a self inflicted eroding of our very core. 

The weapon? I suppose you could call it a plague, a disease, perhaps even a pandemic. It's a six inch piece of plastic, metal, and glass. Our souls are being obliterated by the technological advance of the cell phone. 

Everywhere I look, eyes are fixed on the screen. Thumbs are typing away. All the while, human interaction is reduced to merely grunts and groans. And the human soul that so desperately needs refreshing and renewal? Well, that is something of a forgotten gift in a bygone era. 

Even as I sit on a beach in tropical paradise and write this, I am punching thumbs on glass, since it's the most convenient meathead. 

And this, my friends, is the death of the soul. 

Take A Nap

Afternoon naps.

I know. This is a worship blog.  What the heck does an afternoon nap have to do with anything?

My whole life growing up my dad would come home from work and take a 5 minute power nap.  He said it reenergized him for the rest of the night.

I didn’t get it until recently.

I have two kids.  It was not long ago that they both still took naps.  And over the past few years, I have come to love joining them in that rhythm. 

It started out on Sundays.  I would come home from church, and flip on a football game and fall asleep for my weekly afternoon nap. 

Then it became more severe.  Any day I got the chance, I'd take a nap.  And I had forgone football.  Then it became shades drawn, sound machine on, hoddie over my eyes kind of naps. 

Sometimes they only last 15 minutes.  Other times they go 45 minuets, sometimes even an hour and a half.  I logged a 3+ hour nap not long ago….

Most people hate naps.  Well, they don’t hate the nap but they hate the ‘fog’ they wake up in.  Me?  I’m a nap fog junkie.  I love the fog. 

It may sound crazy, but the think I love the most is that when I wake up my mind is stilled.  It is no longer racing in a hundred different directions.  I love the sense of refreshing I wake with.

The most valuable thing I have discovered is that my afternoon nap reinforces God’s mandate of rest.  I am a DOer – I get stuff done.  And when I start, I have a hard time shutting my email, my cell phone, my brain and my responsibility off.

But naps are my reminder that I am not anyone’s savior.  I’m not meant to carry the weight of my world.

Naps remind me that I have limits.  And if I ignore those limits, I will crash.  I get sick, get irritable, and lose perspective.

Naps remind me that it’s equally important what I choose not to do as it is what I choose to do.

Let me unpack that one for a minute. 

A few years back, I worked on a record in Nashville with some of the music industry A list players.    They blew my mind how proficient and polished they were at their craft.  But the thing that stood out to me most of all what not what they played but what they DIDN’T play. 

They left space in the music.  And a lot of it!

That space created room for something beautiful to take place.  That space meant that there wasn’t always noise.  That space meant that when something did happen it was even more significant, meaningful and powerful.   And it meant that things could naturally develop and grow organically rather than always being jammed in to crevices.

The same is true in our lives.  When we create space, we make room for significance to happen. 

Naps are my reminder that I don’t have to force everything. That sometimes the best thing is to take a step back and let things be. 

So my question to you today is this: what rhythms and practices in your life help you keep perspective of who you are and who you’re not?

 

 

The Two Sides To the Starving Artist

When you hear the phrase "the starving artist," I'm sure the same thing comes to almost everyone's mind on the planet. The starving artist is the term that we endear to those who are gutsy enough to live on Ramen noodles and pop tarts, attempting to "make it" and find their big break in their land of artistry. 

And I would have to agree that this is a real reality for much of the artistic world on planet Earth today. Artists are slaving tirelessly over their craft, perfecting and honing their skills, doing what they love, regardless of what profit it may or may not afford them. 

I, myself, have been there as well, spending time "paying my dues," with big hopes for a bright future.

Although, today, I would like to suggest an alternative definition to the term "starving artist". 

You see, I have discovered that many of us, in effort to pay the bills, to make ends meet, and to make a difference in the world, make some minor concessions along the way so that we can stay afloat. This is a very, very good thing. I know in my life, with having a family, a wife, and two little angels, there are some real realities that are present in my life today. And as much as I would love to just live in my land of artistry, I must be responsible to take care of that to which I have been entrusted.

Here's the problem as I see it today: the unintended consequence of living in this world is that the artist in me I have neglected, and I have starved. I have created an entirely different beast of a starving artist by locking away the hidden gems within me, starving them out for a "one day", never to be found.

We have to make, find, and discover ways to unlock the artist inside of us. What you feed will grow; what you starve will die. So the question for me today is, what can I do every day to feed the artist in me? It doesn't mean that I'm able to quit my job and live sold-out to my artistry, but it does mean that I have the opportunity to do something - to do one thing this day to feed the artist within me. It may be as simple as slipping away and writing, or reading a blog, or spending time living creatively. 

Think about it. And act on it. 

Do something before the artist you have chained up inside of you starves. 

The Private Public Life

For many of us, we spend a lot of our energy fixated on the public life.
It makes sense. The public life feeds us. 

Here's the problem I have been coming to realize in my own life. 
If we don't feed our private life, eventually we will starve our public life.

We tend to think of it like this:
Feed the public life because that's what feeds us. The accolades, the credibility, the adrenaline rush, the platform, the empowerment of leaders ...... These are the things that drive us, that energize us. The private life, well, I will feed that in the margins of living and leading a public life.  Or so we think. 

It works for a while. 

Until you cross the threshold. There inevitably comes a point in your leadership continuum where you have starved your private life at the expense of feeding your public life. And once those lose balance and the scales begin to tip, it becomes increasingly more and more difficult to keep both from imploding. 

The best thing you can do?

Push pause on your public life. Every single chance you get. 

Feed your private life. Walk with Jesus. Daily. Love your wife and make her a priority. Daily. Invest in relationship with your kids. Daily. Practice the Sabbath religiously. 

Here's the sad truth I have seen in too many friends in ministry. 
They poured everything into the public life, into "ministry", all in the name of building the Kingdom of God. 

But when they reached their threshold moment, that point in time where the scales tipped, everything began to implode. Every thread in their life began to unravel. 

And the sad reality is this. 9 out 10 of them? When everything fell apart, they no longer had a family to rebuild with. They. Had. Lost. Everything. 

Character is built over an accumulation of small decisions over time. 

Credibility takes a lifetime to build. And it can be squandered away in an instant. 

So join me in doing ourselves, our families, and the family of God an favor. Let's be those that feed our private lives. 

Feed the private life and let the fullness that exists there be what sustains us in our public life of leadership. 

So the next time we are compelled to launch some new public endeavor, let's first ask ourselves if the principles and concepts are being lived out in our private lives. 

Maybe things need to exits in our private lives long before they make their way into our public arena. 

Think long and hard about it. If you don't, you will take on more than you are designed to carry, and will always be playing catch-up to implement it in the rhythms of your daily life.

Insecurity is bound to follow.  Those who neglect the private life eventually loose their grounding and live always looking over a shoulder, concerned what people think. Why? Because self-confidence and self-worth now come from a place that exists only on the surface and from the external.  

But if they flow out of your private walk with Jesus? 
That's what it means to be anchored. Your confidence and self worth are rooted and grounded from the core of who you are and the core of who your Creator says you are. 

Who you are in private is what you reproduce in public. It's NOT what you project in public that will become who you truly are. 

Out In Front Of God

 

 

We set our own pace.  We forge our own way.  
We do so many things in the name of God, in the cause of increasing the name and reputation of Jesus, to serve Him. 

But what happens when we get out in front of God? 

Go with me here. Sometimes we get so consumed with the path of God that we are walking that we forget we are walking with Jesus.  It's all about taking one step, waiting for the next instruction from the sovereign One and then taking the next step. Or maybe it's just me; I absolutely know I am guilty of it. Working in a church, Sundays come often, and the pressure to produce is a stress unique unto itself. It's not just to produce, but to foster spiritual environment for people away from God to experience a divine encounter. 

We plan. We strategize. And sometimes we just might be putting the cart in front of the horse. 

It's not that what we are doing is in contradiction to that which God intends to do, though at times we may jump the gun and circumvent God's timetable. 

I've heard it said that God is always on time and never early. I have seen this to be true, time and time again. And from our human perspective, there's no doubt this is perceived as a true reality. 

But what if from God's perspective WE are sometimes on time and always early? 

I'm learning that a move of God is less sudden than we would think or expect. And I am also learning that the every day activity and movement of God may not be sustainable at our relentless pace of technological, social platform living. 

So what are we to do about this? What does Jesus have to say? And what would Jesus say if today were a day he was teaching in the synagogue? What would be his words of choice be to our ragged, warn and weary souls, over-extended by our own good will, to make his name something more than it already is?

You know what's funny about that statement? We make God.... As if God needs our tweets or our strategy session. I'm pretty sure he's had it well under control since the beginning of time, and he's still got this now. 

So friends. My question to us all today is this. What does it mean for us to live our lives to honor Him today, not to merely serve Him? 

I've often prayed the prayer "God, let us not get ahead of you, but to stay closely behind you, following where you lead". 

Let's back the cart up and get it back behind the horse. 

Thank You Pocket Gopher

Thank you, pocket gopher, for reminding me again there's more that's going on that what can be seen on the surface. For keeping my focus clear that what you see above ground is only a piece of the whole extent.

Last summer, I discovered a new resident occupying our property.  He lives about six inches below the surface of the grass and makes his presence known sometimes by building a mound of dirt where he decides to come up for air.  He is a pocket gopher.  

He and I don't get along well.  I have nothing but distain for this little creature who was chased out of my neighbors yard and then found refuge in mine…..

But distain aside, this little creature has taught me something profound about life and the condition of the inner person.

See, it's spring now, and I had hoped that Mr. Gopher's time in our lives had come to an end.  Sadly, I have learned he's not yet ready to give up his stay on Jersey Drive.  And yet, I have learned something valuable from a creature I fully intend to evict.

There is more going on.  Always. 
There's always more happening
than what my eye can see.
 

My friend, the pocket gopher has been busy this winter, carving his path around my yard.  He has seemingly had the time of his life, digging and digging and digging some more.

But he has taught me never to discount the internal solely based on the external perception. 

He has also taught me that people may be more receptive to hope than I ever thought possible.  As we approach Holy Week and think about Easter, I'm reminded about the people we may have in our lives that we think are far from God, who God would never ever reach and who would never be open to God at all. 

But the pocket gopher has reminded me this spring that there's more there than meets the eye.  And that you never know what the condition of the ground is until you step on it.  See, in my yard, there's grass everywhere.  And in most places, the ground is still hard, except for the places the pocket gopher has been busy at work.  

In those places, the ground is soft, moldable and pliable.  It occurred to me that the pocket gopher's affect on my yard is not far removed from God's affect on the inner person of people everywhere.  

There's more going on under the surface. 
And sometimes all it takes is one step
to discover the openness to change.

Too Many Choices. Why The Suitcase Destroys The Closet

Hanging in my closet are all of my clothes from the past year to two. In reality, I only wear 10 shirts that hang on the left side. Sure, from time to time I'll venture in to the right for an occasional change of pace. But, ironically, I scour the whole collection every morning before I create my new-fangled combination of attire for the day.  

Every day, I refuse to just re-wear the same outfit from last week. I have to come up with a new and fresh, never-yet-been-put-together combination.  

I want fresh. I want new. And I want it every day.

The same way, I find myself wanting to put together worship sets for Sundays...new and fresh. Never been done before. "What is God saying, right now in this moment" kind of worship flow. But without introducing a new song every week. New and fresh, within the current options.  But is that even possible?  

I've been thinking a lot about how we do church. How we plan worship sets. How we continue to drift towards programmed services and leading songs rather than leading worship.  We are so strategic in how we introduce new songs to fit a theme, or we have our songs on a rotation, to ensure each one has their chance on the big stage. 

I think we have a case of full closet syndrome. 

I just got back today from leading at a youth conference. I love it. It feels so fresh. So organic.  It dawned on me as I came home today: at camp we are suitcase travelers. We bring our go-to clothes and work with that.  We don't get caught up in too many choices, because we only bring so many options and not the whole closet. 

Now, I have been thinking all weekend, why is it that at camp I feel so at home, and worship seems to feel so fresh and organic, raw and catapulting?

It's because in that setting, we are also suitcase worship leaders. We only have the go-to songs. We stay within our 10 best options and we don't even bring the other half of our "worship closet" into consideration. 

But that's not how we do it at home on Sundays.... We approach our worship sets like I approach my closet; we keep everything as an option instead of picking from a limited selection. 

There is something freeing
about having fewer options. 
 
When we are limited, it keeps us focused,
keeps us with clear vision.

It also keeps the people we lead, focused. 

So here's my big what-if. 

What if we changed our whole approach in how we planned worship gatherings? 
What if we adopted the suitcase mentality over the closet approach? 

What if we stopped trying to introduce every new song that came out last Friday?  What if we eliminated the pressure to replicate the move of God from across the pond, and embraced the uniqueness of what God wants to do here and now, in our local church?

What if we stopped trying to work our whole wardrobe through on rotation, and instead, said, "these are our songs right now." We might beat these songs into the ground, but we are going to get theology into our people. Let's free them up from being screen-readers and song-learners, and enable them to become worshipers and truth-declarers. To become the people who press in to the presence of Almighty God, together as the people of God, and allow ourselves to be encountered and changed, not by a song, but by the worship of God alone. 

What if we let go of the pressure to scour the whole globe to find the "perfect" themed song to fit our worship experience each week, and instead took on the pressure to walk in and ask the question, "God, what do you want to say, and where to you want to take us today?" What if we used the songs we had, along with the spontaneous songs that will be birthed in moments of worship, to facilitate that?

What if, in our suitcase mentality, we picked out 20 songs on our playlist - not for a sermon series, but for a season? 

What if we picked our songs based on asking this simple question:
God, who are we as a worshiping community right now? 
And as a result, what songs do we need to be singing? 

Our musicians would be freed-up to flow, knowing the list for this season inside and out. They would be ready for anything - and they will be. 

What if it also made planning services much different? Far too often, we are spending our energy strategizing how we're going to work songs in so people can learn them.  THIS IS SO BACKWARDS!!! That energy should be diverted to focusing on how we can foster environments of worship. No longer do we scour the entire world for the perfectly themed song, and no longer do we make our priority how to strategically teach new songs so that people can learn them. We simply take the best-matched option from our current suitcase and go with that. 

Lower the stress. Lead the people.  Keep the main thing the main thing. Still stay big and congregational but agile. Teaching a new song is not the main thing - leading people is.   

Let's be leaders who use the songs we sing as a vehicle, not as the destination. 

I'm pretty sure it would begin to feel like camp all over again, except it's now every Sunday. 

I'm packing my suitcase. You with me? 

The War On Words

There is a war going on in our world today. It has nothing to do with armies, nations or militant groups. On the contrary. This war has everything to do with intelligence, creativity and the future of complex thinking everywhere. 

There is a war on words, a war on language. 

Point the finger at social media, instant messaging, cell phone companies, millennials, ultimately the internet, but where it started is irrelevant in my eyes today. The real question is not where it began but where is it going, and what will be the carnage left along the way?

 

We have moved out of an Old English, New king James area where language was filled with color and vivid imagery. 

And now? It has been dwindled down to txt spk and emoticons. Three of those last four words written didn't even show up in spell check as improper spelling. 

Our world has changed. 

Where human interaction once thrived, we now see social media relationships exist; controlled by each user, images are managed and communication is limited, subject to substantial interpretation by the recipient. 

Where language was once vibrant and imaginative, we now see sentence structure that more resembles my preschooler's "learning to read" books rather than an intriguing narrative. 

Again, I cast no stone in any one direction. I simply ask the question: what are we to do about it? And honestly, I haven't the faintest idea.
But my lack of plan doesn't minimize the need for a plan...

Words have power; they can either speak life or death. With every utterance, we have a choice and hold the power. 

Some of our communication today attempts to not take the road of life nor death, but to forge a path down the road of neutrality. We try to walk the line of commonplace and compromise, not to offend or ostracize anyone. 

Your words are weapons. Be careful how you use them. 

Would you consider joining me in putting the color back in our language? And join me in assuming the responsibility of our words once again? Let's take back the ground stolen in the war on words. 

On The Eve Of A New Year

 

On the eve of a new year, I can't help but look back and be filled with gratitude. 

It has been a good year. No, it has been a great year! One filled with challenge and points of stretching that took us beyond our perceived limits. It has also been a year laden with surprises, unexpected adventure and blessing. 

For the miracle upon miracle that we have witnessed and walked through, gratitude falls short. For the heartache we have encountered and the unrealized pain that we have been spared, I am humbled by God's infinite sovereignty.  May it all continue to produce Christ likeness in each of us. For it is clear that God blesses far beyond what he takes. 

It is with much anticipation and excitement that I say, on behalf of me and my tribe, bring on 2016. May it be a year where we experience the impossible, embark on the unthinkable and live to our fullest potential. 

May it be a season of joy in the sunshine and grace through the storm.

That we would remain hungry to persue God's best and humble as we walk it out. 

Whatever awaits us, we lean in with anticipation that the best is truly yet to come. 

 

On the journey together,

Mark, Jill, Greyson & Annabel 

No Room On The Plane

 

It all began at 530am and concluded 20 hours later. 

Today was a day that will live in infamy. Maybe not on Fox News but undoubtably in my mind and my kids memory. 
Today is Christmas Day. And it's a day I was suppose to catch an early flight out of town to meet them at grandmas house in Orlando for the week. 
This day couldn't have come soon enough.  The kids have been counting down the days until I get to join them! 

The journey leading up to this point has been filled with anticipation. And in an instant, one bout of sobering news brought me crashing back to reality. 

Long lines at security and one missed plane. 
Than another. Standby. 
There's no room on the plane. 

But I have people to see. A place to be. 

And yet, none of those things matter. Try as I may, I am not the orchestrator of my outcome today. 
As much as I'd like to think it, I am not conducting this symphony. 

Strangely enough it's like a scene from home alone flashing in front of my face. Give me a flight anywhere so that I can end up where I am going. Except this time it's not separated by a tv screen. It is my reality. 

So many questions. Like where in the USA is my suitcase? And why didn't I curb check the dumb thing to cut 20 minutes out of my check in process? Or how can I finagle a flight somewhere within some drivable distance of my destination?

I now understand what that must have felt like for Mary and Joseph. "No room in the inn." 
How easy it must have been to feel deflated. To experience a sense of let down. 

And yet I choose this day to hold on to hope. To not let go. If I learned anything from that first Christmas it's that nothing good comes without a cost. Without adversity and obstacle. 

I don't yet know what that outcome will be but I choose to keep my head up and hold on. 

Somethings bound to happen. 

So as I watch pleadingly as people pile on the plane, I approached the counter once more and I pleaded with the ticketing agent to check for anything once more.
He said "I've checked them all and everything is overbooked. Atlanta, memphis, even Phoenix and Seattle." 
I said "can you just check once more?"
He responded "hold up.... Where did this come from?"
"Did you just pull a rabbit out of a hat!?!" I asked. 
He cracked a smile as he printed me two boarding passes with confirmed seats for a connecting flight through Atlanta. Msp to Atlanta. Atlanta to Orlando. 

He said dumfounded, "I have no idea where that came from. Or how this is possible".

I said "I know how it happened." 

Miracle #1.  

This seemed to become a pattern for me on this day because it would not be the only time that there was no room on the plane. 

 

My first flight (now to Atlanta) was delayed. Not a big deal except that I only had a 35 minute layover. In most airports, that's doable. But in Atlanta?! It's nearly impossible. 

I landed with 15 minutes to takeoff. And the moment we landed, I ran. I hopped on the tram and arrived at the next concourse, followed by more running. Only to arrive at the gate and hear the same news I had heard at 7 am. We just closed the door and the plane is off. 

So off to the ticketing counter I went. 

"Can I help you?" She asked. 

"I just missed my flight to Orlando. Can I get on one of the last two tonight?" 

"I'm sorry but they're both full. There are no open seats. In fact, they're overbooked. How about we try another Florida airport?" 

So we tried them all. All over booked and sold out. 

"Can you just try it once more?" I asked. 

She humored me, certain of what she would find. 

"What's this!!!??" She exclaimed. "It just appeared from nowhere.  There is one seat open on the 9:59 flight."

"Thank you Jesus!" I blurted out. 

Miracle #2.  

And to top off God's sense of adventure and humor, it was a first class ticket. 

12 hours later than I had planned, I will arrive at my destination. 

But this day has been far from wasted. 

Hope does not disappoint. Hold onto it. Tightly.
Regardless if your ticketing agent pulls the rabbit out of the hat or not. 

The hope we possess transcends the ups and downs of this carnal life. 

Thank you Jesus for the reminder on this day of all days to hold on. This Christmas Day will forever be a reminder to me that God is deserving of our trust.  Always. And He always comes through; and it almost always looks nothing like we could have planned. 

Miracle #3.  

Merry christmas to all. And to all a good night.  

 

 

 

Why God Chose The Church And Not American Idol

We all have a tendency to approach what we want to do, where and how we want to serve and what we don't want to do through the lens of our own preference. What's in it for me? What will help me grow most? What will give me the most opportunity to develop?

Sunday is about serving. Not about our opportunity. 

Sure. Do you grow on Sunday? Yeah. And you still should. But the main point for each of us when we gather as a church? To serve the church. 

Serve what the moment needs, not your agenda. 

Honestly, if you're just looking for your chance to get on the big stage, or an outlet for you to use what you've been given and showcase, the church isn't the place for you.  

At least not our church. 

You won't get in the spotlight because you're the most talented. Or because you've proven you're good enough. 

Jockeying for position won't work.

Jealousy is a powerful thing.  We compete and compare because we are afraid we might not get our shot, that we might miss our moment. 

Do you actually believe there is enough room for both of us to serve side by side, to coexist and to actually flourish? Or do you believe you have to make and take the opportunities when they come so they don't dry up?

American idol is all about getting your big shot. Proving that you have what it takes. 

The church is all about serving the moment. Proving that you aren't the point. 

Frankly, the church doesn't need you. The church doesn't need me. 

We think they do…like the world won't continue without us. And in all honesty the church often sends that message - "we really need a keys player.... Can you do it...??!" 

But what do we really need to be the church?  

We need the word of God and we need the people of God.  We need our voices.  To be a place where everyone comes together and has a role. We need Jesus to be present.

We don't need the drum fill, a vocal adlib or killer guitar tone.  God doesn't need us to add to anything. 

Now I'm sorry if you feel like I'm minimizing what you do. Like I don't value it. 

Actually I value it immensely... At least when it's in proper alignment.  

What does proper alignment look like? 
You serve the moment. 
Not your agenda. 

When your skill, your craft, your lick is coming to serve, then we need what you bring.  

Here's a few ways you would know if you're serving the moment or your agenda. 
You think you didn't do well if no one compliments something you did? You're serving your agenda. 

You find yourself always thinking you could do it better than someone else, you're serving your agenda.

You have to wedge in your flair or unique style to prove you deserve to be there. You're serving your agenda. 

On the flip side, if you're willing to play something different than you planed, even different than you rehearsed because there was an unexpected change, you're serving the moment. 

If you can leave at the end of the day having never played anything fancy, being ok if someone thinks you're just an average musician (even if your not) because the moment didn't need you to showcase? You're serving the moment. 

Check yourself. I'll check me. 

And do everyone a favor and get the servant heart infront of the desire to excel. 

When you do, you will indeed excel in the end. It will just not be limited to all about you. It'll be much much bigger than that. 

The fear is that you will never excel if you do move out of having it be all about your chops. But the truth is the team will excel and you are a part of the team. And when the team wins you win. 

Leaders. 
This is for you. We replicate what we model. What gets celebrated gets repeated. 

We do a disservice to Jesus and the integrity of building a healthy church when we allow unhealthy ambition to exitst. When we tolerate attitudes of premadonas and accept that "it just comes with the territory of having musicians involved" we allow the talent to be that which is cherished and esteemed. When what should be cherished and esteemed is the recognition of a Savior. And it's not your guitar playing that set people free. It was the One who hung on a cross. 

If we always put the most talented person on the platform we will single handily create, build and facilitate a culture of striving and an environment where people jockey for position. 

 

What if we put the people with the right heart to serve and an ability to do it with excellence, but the excellence never overruns the heart attitude? We will single handedly create an environment where people are fans and encouragers of eachother. A place where  skills come together and function to serve the greater good; the good of God being recognized and encountered. 

So it's really up to us. 

What do we want as our end game? 

A culture of striving or a culture of serving? 

Let's be those that stop striving and trying to prove and start serving. 

A Tool Is Not A Treasure

Not unlike most other worship leaders or musicians I know, I continually find myself back in a place of either wanting new gear (that’s what we musician dorks call our equipment…pedals, guitars, etc) or buying and selling gear.

The reason is all completely justifiable. Just ask any musician. Once you’ve lived with a piece of equipment for a season, inevitably a newer, shinier better version comes out. And I always can seem to draw a greater sense of inspiration from the newest stuff.

That being said, I’ve been on a journey the past few weeks. It’s a journey of seeing God really challenge my consumeristic need for new stuff.

You see, what I’m learning is that the gear I own is meant to be a tool. A tool I can use to help me and those around me see my creator. But it becomes very dangerous when my tools become my treasure. In the rightful alignment, the tool helps reveal the treasure – and in this case the treasure is Jesus. But when I lose my perspective, and the tools turn into the treasure, my music and my worship becomes a self-glorifying song.

Through this there have been moments when I’ve heard God whisper – ‘really? You’re going to draw your inspiration from that? What if you we’re inspired by Me and then used what you have, weather it’s the latest and greatest, or it has every nuance of coolness, to help paint a musical sound scape of what you see.

Here’s an excerpt from my constant prayer I keep coming back to in this time:

I will work as though
The only eyes that matter
Are not of this world.
I will rid myself my life and possession
Of anything that I can pride in
Just because I can have it.
Doesn't mean I should.
I will live and lead on what He supplies
Not what I can afford.
I choose a life of enough
That leaves room for God to be the abundance.
I reject a life of excess
That pushes God to the margins

How do you keep a proper balance on what you have not getting in the way?

Jesus and Instagram

It’s all about the followers. The onlookers. The spectators. The people who casually or religiously follow our every move and comment on the narrative of our lives as it unfolds.

We live in an age where the bigger the crowd, the bigger the bang. The more attention you can draw, the more traction that is gained. Here and today, we are all about wanting the crowd of onlookers to grow. We let the situation begin to heat up in hopes that more attention will be aimed at our scenario, more buzz will be developed.

And Jesus did the exact opposite. Jesus got something we miss in our social media age.

It’s not about attention from the masses. It’s about massive attention on the right thing.

Don’t believe me? Look at Mark 9:25.

When Jesus saw the crowd was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit...

Or Mark 9:30-31.

Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, he wanted to spend time with his disciples and teach them.

There is a distinct difference between the crowd and the core. Jesus was very reluctant to let the crowd take over and begin to dictate the activities and atmosphere of the core.

So the next time you go to post a picture looking to attract attention of the crowd ask yourself this one question.

Does this inflate the crowd or build the core?

Jesus was all about the core and could care less about the hype. Maybe we could learn something from the guy who wouldn’t have an instagram if he walked the earth today ...

The Hardest Part About Leading Worship

You need new mana every day.

You can’t just use the same tricks you used last week.  You literally have to be dependant on the spirit of God alive and at work within you to inspire new innovation, new creativity and fresh perspective from the viewpoint and voice of heaven to sing over the people you lead.  That God would continue to inspire our hearts to live for Him alone, to credit His Name only as we lean in towards His voice – not just in our corporate times of worship but in our everyday lives.

If you don’t, well then you are left to regurgitate something today that was fresh yesterday.  

So You Think You Can Fly...

There comes a moment in life. A moment that is undeniable, a fork in the road. We all live some version of a 'choose your own adventure' story we call life. And in it, each of us come to crossroads, usually multiple times throughout our pilgrimage.

When the moment comes, it usually brings up a whole slew of emotions, feelings, concerns and logical rationalizations. But at the end of all of our mumbo jumbo sits one simple question. What will we do?

We stand at the edge of a cliff. Do we jump? Do we shrink back to where we have been, to what we have known?

So many people stick with what is safe, predictable and calculated.  There's definitely stability in that. But I would challenge this - where is faith found in that?

If faith is 'being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see' then unbelief in God is being sure of what we can control and certain of what we have already seen.

Choose to SEE what hasn’t yet happened. Faith precedes understanding.

We often are afraid and ask the question "what if I fall?" But the real question is, what if you fly?

Jump. It's the only way you will find out if you can fly. 

You may crash and burn. You may die. And you may end up limping back to the place you stand now. But at least you come back with no unanswered "what if" questions.

"what if…" is a question that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

I know there are a handful of 'what if' questions that have haunted me.

One thing I know to be true - I will one day give an account for what I did do and what I didn't do MEASURED AGAINST that which I was given. It's not all about results, it's about intent acted upon.

Faith means taking what you have been given and doing what you know you're being asked to do. The results AREN'T UP TO YOU.

You can't change the past. But you certainly can learn from it and allow it to affect your future.

So make a moment.  Step INTO it. Don't just live it vicariously through someone else.

Miracles and the Mundane

For miracles to be experienced faith has to be exercised. 

God is on the edge of his seat waiting with baited breath for an opportunity to display something divine. And most of the time He watches as we exist in a realty that is completely human in nature. There's no opportunity for God to actually do something beyond us, byond our control or beyond the limited scope we see. 

When God is blessing we should start stepping. 

We fail to experience the fullness of life and of the blessing of God because we stay behind the protection of our current reality. 

God will never force us in a direction.  It's really up to us how miraculous or how mundane our lives will end up being.

Is your life full of meaningful, memorable and significant events and endeavors or is it full of mundane ordinary?