001: Ready for Another Year?

1 Jan 2010 In: Me Please use the trackback url if you link

Self Portrait - 001 - 2010So, 2010 is here and with it a new series of resolutions. But, this year, in the spirit of keeping it simple, I’ve decided to tackle things in a smaller scale (at least I hope this is on a smaller scale). The photo on the left (yes, that’s me) was taken this morning shortly after waking up after a New Year’s Eve night filled with some sort of horrible allergic reaction to whatever blew into Austin at First Night… ugh – totally not cool. My eyes were an itchy, red, watery mess. So, this morning, with swollen eyes and feeling generally miserable (I slept most of the day after Jana woke up), I realized that I was still excited about what the future holds. We’ve joined a new church (Soma Austin Community Church), I’m finally starting to get into the groove of what it means to serve my community (slowly… VERY slowly), I’m beginning to make connections in Austin with people who have a real vision for making Austin a better city, and my family will be growing by one member in May (we still don’t know gender yet for the bambino). So, I decided to snap this picture with me hiding my disheveled and allergy-induced visage behind a beautiful bouquet of flowers that Zoë picked out for her birthday. I may be a bit worse for wear, but my outlook is still beautiful.

So… my (hopefully simple) resolutions are:

  • Continue my diet with the target goal of 175 (about 20 lbs left to go on that front) – so this is not so much a new resolution as it is a resolution to continue being resolved… or something,.
  • Begin a simple exercise program that doesn’t require the gym – 3 cardio days (comprising a 20 minute walk) per week and at least 1 strength training day per week (using very simple resistance exercises)
  • Take 1 self-portrait photo per day (or at least take a picture of something that signifies my state of mind that day) and write about it in this blog… which leads to…
  • Write at least 1 article per day on the blog with the only intent being something tangible and I resolve to not be afraid of keeping it short and I resolve to not over-explain (well, I resolve to TRY and not over-explain… see what I mean?)

Anyway – I hope everyone has a fabulous first week of the New Year… and if I don’t fail on my resolutions too quickly… I should be back at the keyboard tomorrow!!

The Gravity of the Status Quo

9 Aug 2009 In: Me, Worship Please use the trackback url if you link

On Friday night, in the midst of the passion of WorshipGod09, I hit a spiritual high. A place where the Gospel was never more clear and Christ’s unparalleled love was more real to me than ever… which, of course, led to an emotional high (naturally). But when I awoke on Saturday morning (the last session of the conference), I began to notice something tugging at my heart. It was a recognition that I was going to leave this place soon and have to get back to my life… and I greatly feared I would be unable to follow through on any of the commitments I had made at this conference.

In Christian circles, this is the typical mountain-top roller coaster ride when you go to a conference. Usually you return gung-ho to change the world and quickly hit the valley of the status quo. It’s an infuriating cycle and it can really send you plunging into a seeming black hole of despair and discouragement.

The familiarity of life reminds us of who we are naturally, without the continuous refining of the Gospel alive in our hearts. Speaking the Gospel to ourselves is not a natural thing… it is, in fact, quite radical. But if we don’t, all the things that we fear about our lives are a guarantee… and much worse will quickly follow.

To remind myself, constantly, that I am a sinner that has been forgiven. To recognize that this forgiveness came with an unbelievable price… the Son of God dying on a cross to bear the punishment I so justly deserve. He died that I might live. He had to do this in order for the forgiveness of my sin to be a just thing. Without it, forgiveness would be impossible, unjust, and despicable. It would be like letting a murderer go free just because he said he was sorry.

I wrote the following in my pocket journal today:

The tug of complacency. One day after the conference and a return to my normal environment and I can already feel this incredible pull towards the status quo. The desire that reached its climax on Friday began its wane on Saturday and today, I find it evven harder to remember that feeling, that commitment to the Gospel. Proof that a feeling is deceitful and only truly meditating on the Gospel brings it back. That’s where the real fight is – not in the feeling or the practical commitments – it is in the spiritual, tangible desire to take the time to meditate because you know it will change you… or you’re afraid it won’t (but it will)

The gravity of the status quo is almost unbearable. It’s a drowning weight that threatens to completely steal any joy you might feel and cause you to dig in with your own strength or to simply give up. The only way to beat complacency is to meditate on the Gospel and pursue JOY! The joy that can only be found in Christ… meditating on His glory and recognizing just how immensely satisfying it is to pursue Him. To recognize how immensely satisfying it is to use your gifts for His glory. To revel in the satisfaction of knowing that the God of the universe has PAID YOUR DEBT IN FULL!! No guilt. No condemnation. No hopelessness. No mealy-mouthed woe-is-me.

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Thank you Jesus for your life. Thank you Father for adopting me as a son. Thank you Spirit for filling me. Thank you God for reminding me of the purpose of my life: enjoying You and magnifying Your glory in all that I do.

From Whence Does Happiness Come?

6 Aug 2009 In: Um... dunno Please use the trackback url if you link

I’ve been a bit depressed of late… no, not that cavernous sort where you contemplate the end of all things (mostly yourself) nor the catatonic sort where you sit in a dark room ignoring all things (mostly everyone else)… I’ve just had this sort of sadness in my heart, a dissatisfaction with life. Now, this happens to all of us from time to time – cycles of joy and sadness. For some, the sadness is fleeting; for others, like myself, the sadness can last a few weeks.

So, I’ve been contemplating happiness… that elusive state that everyone seems to be searching for. Being of an analytical bent, I wonder what the word truly means in our society. We all search for happiness, but have we stopped to truly analyze what that state looks like? Is happiness a constant feeling of elation or joy? Is happiness simply the absence of sadness? What about tragedy – how does that affect happiness? When people long to be happy are they only longing to be content? Is the human concept of happiness an unrealistic Utopian ideal?

Now, to be honest, I do believe “happiness” as it is usually imagined (usually by some sort of gain: new job, big raise, better house, a child, a spouse) is a fruitless pursuit in and of itself. It’s like . We have no real idea what it is, but somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ll know it when we find it. Worse yet, we sometimes craft a “happiness that was” by using our own faulty memory of some past season and nurture a deep longing for an impossible fantasy of our own creation. So, like the proverbial pot of gold, we run after this most elusive of treasures.

Does this mean I believe we cannot be happy? On the contrary, I know that we can. I have been many times before and I know that I will be again. I just think the entire goal is ill-defined and is, therefore, unattainable. What am I saying? Before we can truly be happy, we are going to have to redefine what we think “happiness” actually is.

As a Christian, I’ve grown up learning that happiness is found by “trusting Jesus.” Which is, of course, … it’s also a cop-out response. If someone comes to you and asks you what they must do to be happy and you fall back to “trust in Jesus,” you need to record yourself saying that and wait for the next cycle of sadness or discontent to sweep into your life and then go play that little piece of advice back. Pretty lame, eh? Why do we give such meaningless advice and somehow hope that this reckless platitude will be just the thing this hapless soul needs to hear? Because we’re stupid and we fall back on ridiculous statements when we can’t think of anything good to say. Unless you’re willing to actually take time and listen to why this hapless soul is… well, hapless… just save us all time and air by telling the truth: “I have no clue.”

We are told to pursue God but are mistakenly set onto a path that focuses on moral obedience rather than passionate pursuit. If God is truly the source of all happiness… then how do we pursue Him so that we can experience and live passionate and fulfilled (happy) lives? For the answer, I borrow from John Piper: “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” What does Piper mean by that? Well, you should read Desiring God to get the whole picture, but the concept starts with a singular recognition. Happiness is found in the pursuit of intimacy with God. It’s not just doing His work (though that’s definitely in there), it’s not just acknowledging His blessings (definitely part of it), nor is it just obeying His rules (definitely important) – it’s a recognition of who He is. A paradigm shift, if you will – understanding that He is the source of all joy and hope and, yes, happiness.

He is the , the , the source of . What does that look like in the day to day? How is that different from “trusting in Jesus?” It is an active pursuit of joy… by recognizing Jesus as the source of happiness, we pursue Him as we would the love of our lives. We are desperate in our pursuit – nothing will stand in our way. God’s genius in designing it this way is that, as we fixate on a single-minded pursuit of the joy only found in knowing Him, all the other trappings of this world… the things that dissatisfy in their discovered emptiness… these things become signposts on the journey, revealing that all glory is borrowed glory. All things that would promise happiness are but dim reflections of God and God alone.

What if we don’t see this? What if we can’t bring ourselves to actually believe, in a tangible way, that God is the source and that true happiness can only be found by drawing closer and closer to Him? There is grace for this. It could be that we have pursued our own desires and wishes for so long, our eyes have grown dim and no longer see Him for who He is. It could be that we don’t know Him at all. But thanks be to God, He is the one makes blind eyes see and reveals Himself to the darkest of hearts. This fills me with great hope that no matter how dark I feel my heart has become or how blinded by my own selfishness my eyes have become… He refuses to leave me in such a state. Oh happy day… once again.

Addendum: I started this draft on July 21st, 2009. This morning, at WorshipGod09, I had the great privilege of listening to John Piper (who I quote earlier in this post) define the paradigm shift I mention earlier. The Gospel-mindset or the Fleshly-mindset… how we view problems tells us everything about whether or not we’re truly pursuing our greatest joy (God) or if we’re really just pursuing ourselves and dressing it up as a pursuit of God.

The Fleshly-mindset defines all problems in the way they affect us personally. A problem is only a problem if it somehow interferes with our goals, dreams, ambitions, or rights. This is the point where we believe God should take action and we petition Him on our behalf to right the wrong that is being done to us. The Gospel-mindset sees problems in a wholly different way. A Gospel-minded person defines a problem as something that interferes with God’s goals or rights. Do you see the difference? It can seem subtle in practice because quite often we are working towards God’s goals and something can interfere with it. How do we respond? Are we responding with indignance because we have been stopped, or are we responding with indignance because God is not being magnified as He should?

That is a poor summary, but the message was timely and, sitting here in our hotel room in Gaithersburg… I felt it a good time to go ahead and finally publish this draft that’s been sitting here for a couple of weeks.

2:1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (ESV)

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (ESV)

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (ESV)

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (ESV)

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, (ESV)

Amidst Unnecessary Conflict

3 Jun 2009 In: Culture, Me Please use the trackback url if you link

This is something I’d written down earlier this year while I was going through a series of conflicts within an association I’m involved with. I wanted to share it with you:

Humility w/o foolish surrender. Temperance without compromised values. Dialogue without useless bickering.

These are things that I seek but for all my efforts, the conversations that surround me all degrade. You are only considered humble if you surrender. You are only truly temperate if you agree. Dialogue is only possible if ideals match.

The human condition coupled with idealogically-driven politics has created an environment where temperate and respectful discourse is rare. We see it from national politics all the way down to neighbor disputes. Reasonability is judged based upon how far you’re willing to come to my side. A willingness to see the other side’s point of view is viewed, by most, as weakness.

The odd thing? Observed by disinterested parties, both sides appear unreasonable. Likewise, even when view by interested parties seeking common ground, both sides still appear unreasonable, but the interested party is forced to choose the side that seems “most right” just so discussion can move forward in hopes of possible resolution (if just by force of consensus.)

I find myself in this situation. As a Christian, I attempt in my frailty to bridge the gap and take my lead from Christ – less interested in the issues and more interested in the people. This is shown in His amazing patience for Peter, His willingness to educate Nicodemus, and, ultimately, His willingness to endure the cross.

Fleeing arrogance to find… more arrogance

23 May 2009 In: Me, Worship Please use the trackback url if you link

So, Veritas Fellowship has been partnering with Soli Deo Gloria for about 9 months now. We actually attend Sunday morning services at Soli Deo Gloria on 4th and Pedernales. I lead the music and occasionally preach (I actually preach this coming Sunday on , The Parable of the Ten Minas). I’ve enjoyed the experience so far, but have recently had to repent of a sucky attitude.

Wait… I need to back up a bit.

So, God tells me to help plant this church in Austin and I’m excited because I’m breaking away from my past arrogance and being challenged to move away from legalism and start to think missionally and incarnationally (yeah – I know, but they’re the best words I can come up with at 1:00am – I think I have another blog post that attempts to define those… if not, ping me and I’ll write one up).

The irony of this is that if you’re prone to arrogance and legalism, you are also prone to manufacture new rules for every situation. My natural tendency is to try and create a lens through which I can view the world (and this includes people). While there are aspects of this that are natural and might even be considered healthy… the danger lurking within is massive.

As Christians, we are supposed to be led by the Spirit. So, if the lens through which we view the world is the Scripture, then we are viewing it rightly. Unfortunately for me, I usually don’t find this to be good enough. Some things end up looking blurry and, in my photoshopped world, I want everything crisp and in focus with absolute clarity. So, in the areas where the lens is blurry, I try to “help” by creating a framework of rules. Ack. While the rules I create don’t necessarily go against scripture… they are impotent in comparison.

Why is this? Because we don’t get clarity in this life for every detail. The lens of scripture is supposed to be blurry sometimes! I know that sounds wrong… but it’s absolutely true. You don’t think so? While the Bible is filled with all we need for life and godliness… it is not always detailed. For example, a good friend is going through an incredibly rough time… you have good reason to suspect this is self-inflicted – do you show tough love or do you hold their hand? The Bible does not give a clear answer (might be time for hand-holding, might be time for a swift kick in the rear)… you’re going to have to be (wait for it) led by the Spirit. Yep, that’s right, you’re gonna need faith. (So, if you’re thinking that the “needing faith” part makes it clear… you’ve, uh, totally missed the analogy.)

So, when we create rules to “help” Scripture so we can provide a nice framework for our lives… we might actually be damaging our ability to have faith because we, far too often, end up replacing Scripture with this framework of our own making. Dangerous, costly, stupid, and, yes, arrogant.

Okay… what was I talking about? Right… my own arrogance.

So, we’ve been partnering with SDG… but my attitude has been we’ve been helping SDG – not partnering with them. After all, we’re our own church, right? We have a very specific vision for the Montopolis area (which doesn’t include 4th and Pedernales). So, this is David’s show and I just do what I’m asked to do. Man, I suck.

Lo and behold, next Sunday (the 31st) is Serve Austin Sunday. A few weeks ago when I heard about this, I had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. (!!?) I mean, all we’re doing is reaching out to a neighborhood I’m not specifically called to, you know? I got other stuff to deal with and this is David’s church and not mine – so this is his deal, right? (Wow… I really suck!)

Do you see what I did… for the sake of a vision, I created a new framework – one that didn’t include 4th and Pedernales (or David for that matter). Even though I serve there – even though I show up every Sunday and lead God’s people in songs for His glory… I don’t think I’m called there? Lord forgive me for my arrogance.

God does not put us somewhere for our glory. We are not called to serve somewhere by accident. Our placement is always purposeful and always intentional. We must be ever-intent, ever-listening, ever-patient to see and hear and join in to whatever God is already doing. Remember, God didn’t bring us to a certain place so that we could do something… nope, He brought us there to participate in what He’s already doing.

11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (ESV)

Being the Church

20 May 2009 In: Um... dunno Please use the trackback url if you link

Read this first: http://faithparley.blogspot.com/2009/05/something-happened-last-night.html

I was there (I’m the Asian-American Brandon mentions) and I felt such an electricity last night looking around at all of these pastors who share the same heart. The concept that 7 men representing 4 church plants could get together in one living room and start talking about how they could effectively partner with each other to reach the city in tangible productive ways was incredibly moving. None of us were there to see how we could grow our church – we were all there to see how we could be the Church in Austin: living in and building missional (gospel) communities, doing real work to help real people in this city with no other agenda than to show love and mercy, and to brainstorm ways to create a means to enable other pastors to do the same thing.

Crossing demoninational and theological lines is a very difficult thing for pastors to do… especially in American culture where competition is a part of growing up… everything is a game or a contest and everyone is told they can be the best if they give it their best (which is a bald-faced lie… but I digress). While the Church should be immune to this, it has proven to be a difficult thing to overcome (competitiveness is actually celebrated by most) without God’s amazing grace leading the way. None of us in the room were experts and none claimed to be… we didn’t come in thinking we had it all figured out – we came in with the genuine desire to see what God is going to do with this unusual partnership.

I’m very excited to see what tomorrow brings… really, really excited.

…on the Starship Enterprise under Capt. Kirk

20 May 2009 In: Culture, Me, Media Please use the trackback url if you link

I watched Star Trek the reboot at the Alamo Village on May 7th at 7:00pm in 4K digital projection (which is astounding by the way… probably going to go there for ALL movies from now on… the clarity is incredible). Being a closet Trekkie my entire life (well, while I was younger, I was an out-and-out Trekkie, but age mellowed me), I was so skeptical when I heard they were going to do a reboot of the franchise. But, unlike many avid fans, I understood. Each attempt to add to the Star Trek mythology with another set of characters and another ship got increasingly tired until Berman and company did the stupidest thing ever… they decided to do a prequel series with Scott Bakula (he of the constant comedic overtone) and a hot vulcan chick. I tried to watch Enterprise – I’m a Star Trek fan… it was so incredibly awful I can’t even describe its awfulness. At that point, I thought we’d seen the end of my beloved Star Trek.

So, the reboot was the only thing possible… but Berman and company had so destroyed the franchise, I couldn’t trust that they’d do anything good with a reboot… and then I discovered Berman and company were going to have nothing to do with the reboot and it was going to be a Bad Robot creation with Mr. Abrams himself at the helm… hope began to spring up as I’m a fan of some of Abrams work (though all his series seem to spin hopelessly out of control… the original premise of each has been compelling – plus Fringe seems to be holding together so far). But I was still highly skeptical… who could play these characters and give them justice? Then Quinto was cast as Spock and suddenly, I began to be convinced somebody was actually thinking. Quinto is a fabulous actor and his resemblance to Nimoy was obvious.

The first teaser trailer was nothing more than the construction of the ship with a Nimoy voiceover of “Space, the final frontier.” Four words were the only thing spoken and I was moved (geek) and got teary-eyed (super-geek) and became convinced Abrams was going to pull this off. Every trailer after that cemented my conviction that the new movie was going to be a solid first attempt. (I had to remain somewhat skeptical as I’d been disappointed by trailers multiple times in my life… as have we all.)

Now that I’ve seen it, I can say with conviction that it was better than I dared to hope. So good, in fact, now I’m concerned they’ll never be able to follow it up, but that’s a different article. Right now, I want to tell you what I liked:

Scott Urban as Leonard McCoy: What a beautiful tribute to this character… the writing was an obvious tribute, but the fact that Urban pulled it off with such aplomb was a very pleasant surprise. He had the rancor of DeForrest Kelley without trying to mimic the actor himself. With many fabulous fan moments, he was so great to watch. He was the biggest surprise of the movie for me.

Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott: I loved Jimmy Doohan. I loved him as Scotty and believed, sincerely, that nobody could play Scotty better than Doohan… well, fellow Trekkies might put a contract out on me for this, but Pegg’s Scotty is better than Doohan’s Scotty. How is that possible? Doohan is Scotty… regardless, Montgomery Scott is a character – a Scottish engineering genius prone to exaggerate and predict doom and gloom with a comedic wit… Pegg’s comedic timing is impeccable without making it a mockery. I love the new Scottie… I hope we get more of this.

Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock: Amazing performance… he plays a slightly more emotional Spock, but the conflict adds to his character and deepens some great moments in the film. I can’t imagine anyone else taking the baton from Nimoy… incredibly well done.

Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk: With all of Shatner’s faults… his iconic portrayal of Kirk defined this legendary character and audiences throughout history love Kirk. As badly acted as some of Shatner’s movie portrayals were, you still love this character. Abrams did a genius thing here… in the 60s, Kirk would have been viewed as a rebellious rogue who flaunted regulations in order to get the job done… today, that portrayal would look safe in comparison to our modern sensibilities. He and the writers wrote the new Kirk to appear to a modern audience as a rebellious rogue who flaunts regulations… believably. Pine was superb. He’s young, but you saw (clearly I think) the command presence as soon as he says his first order into the conn.

I can’t wait to see it again!

Changed in the doing

4 May 2009 In: Um... dunno Please use the trackback url if you link

Can writing change you? Does writing somehow redeem the writer? Can the act of placing words on virtual page actually cause a tangible change in the person doing the writing? The answer is, of course it can, but, this thought somehow never occurred to me. I was reading something by Linford Detweiler of the band Over the Rhine where he described himself as a writer who constantly runs from writing. I am also a writer who runs from writing. I have become a writer who somehow believes that the words and thoughts must be birthed fully formed. I’m so afraid of writing something stupid – even if it honestly reflects my own stupidity of the moment – that I just stop writing altogether.

Linford continues in his letter with the following:

But the writing works on me little by little and begins to change me.  That’s why I would recommend not putting off writing if it’s something you feel called to: if you put it off, then the writing can’t do the work that it needs to do to you.

Yes, I think there’s something there. If you don’t do the work, the work can’t change you. (No one expects to change overnight.)

I had never stopped to consider, really, that the writing is something that needs to do something to me. Now, with that revelation in hand… let’s see if it changes anything shall we?

Over the Rhine

3 May 2009 In: Culture, Friends, Media Please use the trackback url if you link

Tonight I had what I consider one of the best musical experiences in my life. I saw Over the Rhine at the Texas Union Theatre with my wife and two great friends. If you haven’t heard of Over the Rhine, I commend them to you for a variety of reasons – whether you be a Christian or not. Just on the level of pure musicianship, the band was incredible. Linford can play an incredible jazz/blues/country/rock piano and he hit just about every style imaginable tonight. Karin’s voice is a beautiful mix of a little Lucinda Williams and a lot more clarity – amazing to listen to as she brings emotion and meaning to every song she sings.

They sang two songs that my fellow Christian brethren should find incredibly moving. One song that I highly recommend is called “The Trumpet Child” that explores the return of Christ using non-traditional and highly poetic language that literally brought tears to my eyes… beautiful rendition that caused my heart to scream “Maranatha!” The other song is called “New Redemption Song” that speaks volumes – again, a song I commend to all of my Christian brothers and sisters.

Now, with that short paragraph and description, you’d think I went to what would be considered a Christian concert… but it wasn’t – at least not in the traditional sense. While those two songs obviously display strong Christian influence, the beauty of the concert was how real and raw everything was. There were songs about pain that were very real with a few that dropped the occassional, yet appropriate, expletive. There were songs about love and joy as well, but none using what I would consider a distinctly Christian nomenclature.

This was an incredibly encouraging evening where I believe I saw a band that hit a cultural high point in my life by showing the use of cultural language and musical influence that showed more of Christ to the world than the typical “Worship Concert” could ever attempt to accomplish. It was raw, it was real, it was moving, and, yes, it was inspiring. Hats off to Over the Rhine for an incredible night… can’t wait to see them again.

Me… unBoxed, part one

27 Mar 2009 In: Me, Worship Please use the trackback url if you link

Until now, my (intended) audience has been centered on people who have shared much of my experiences with life and faith. If you’ve read my blog, you’ll note that I have felt challenged to expand my horizons and destroy my preconceptions. Through this process, I have ventured out into territories completely foreign to me and interacted with people I would never have known. These ventures have led to the discovery of new friendships – some of whom are becoming close.

These new friends do not all share my experiences nor do many of them share my faith. Considering this, I realize that I am struggling to develop a nomenclature I can use to clearly communicate through my writing. My typical nomenclature assumes an “insider’s” familiarity with Christian language and ideas.

As is obvious by the lack of posts, my unconscious solution to a missing nomenclature seems to be silence. This has proven to be a horrible solution… its only result has been personal frustration. I love to write and I love to share my observations. I have allowed myself to become paralyzed by my fear of unintentional offense. Now, I have no illusion that there is anything approaching a nomenclature that prevents all unintentional offense, but I do feel obligated to mitigate misunderstanding as best I can. If someone is offended by what I am actually saying – I can live with that.

So, to start… obviously, I’m a Christian – what that means to you and what that means to me has so much baggage that the description is almost devoid of meaning… except that it’s still the best thing I can come up with to concisely identify my perspective in broad strokes. So, what is that perspective? That, as best as I can, I constantly try to pattern my life, my views, and my choices after the life set forth by Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible. This is not to say that I do this perfectly (far from it); however, it is my constant longing and intent to live my life to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ in all that I do. This should tell you a lot about me (but preconceptions likely prevent clarity).

What you might not know is that my use of the word “Christian” also infers a recognition of my own utter brokenness. I know this is not as obvious, but it is no less true. In fact, I am only a Christian because I realize I am broken. If I weren’t broken, why would I need Jesus… the Person upon whom the entirety of the Bible is focused? If you believe that my need of Christ is a revelation of weakness and a need for a crutch… you are correct. In my broken state, I need far more than a simple crutch… I need a new heart and a new mind.

When you realize your own desperation and brokenness, all of humanity must be viewed in a different light. Haughtiness is immediately challenged by a recognition of your own desperate state. This challenge is an important one as it forces the biblical state of humility – the most Christ-like of all traits. Brokenness should lead one to realize that life’s circumstances can force anyone down a path contrary to reason and that each individual is capable of the most heinous acts of sin given the existence of certain stressors – different for each individual. This forces more than humility – it ridicules any attempt at judging another person as somehow less than you are. Of course, I still struggle with this because I forget I’m broken (which, ironically, proves how desperate my state actually is).

This is not to say I don’t believe in taking responsibility for your actions nor do I believe those who commit crimes should go unpunished. Without the rule of law, we end up with a society ruled by the strongest at the expense of the weakest; however, I believe it is possible (necessary!) to mete out justice without condescension. We can still care about the human being who commits the crime while allowing that they must serve a just sentence. We must not look upon the “criminal” with disdain… for we are simply looking at ourselves when we do. The criminal reminds us of the human condition and how fragile it really is.

As a Christian, I believe that humanity suffers from a deep brokenness – one that can only be solved by the God who created us. Whether you believe that or not does not change what I believe: Jesus Christ came to this earth to “fix” man and bring us back to God. The requirement is to admit our brokenness – our sin – and ask Him to forgive us and, further, rely on Him to help us live for His glory and in His name – loving all of mankind and being speakers and doers of truth.

Hopefully, you see in these writings a man who is staying The Course and pursuing The Path amidst the pitfalls and selfish ways of being a son of Adam. I pray earnestly that my writing would encourage some of you by showing you that this journey - though arduous and sometimes tragic - is a journey of great satisfaction. A satisfaction greater than our greatest imaginings. The trials and refining fire of tribulation are to be recognized as a small shadow of the suffering of our Savior so that we can rejoice, as Peter and the disciples did, to be counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name.