Friendship, it is something we all need; a sense of community, support, and belonging (Though I do know a couple self-professed loners who would attempt to argue this). Friendship is something I have thought about often since our recent relocation to a small community just outside Nashville, Tennessee. Friends that I used to call to grab lunch, or that I would run into at the grocery or the hardware store are now over four hundred miles away. So, while the distance does not make visiting prohibitive it does limit spontaneity.
Don’t get me wrong, we love Nashville; the beauty of the hills and creeks, the warmer and shorter winters, and of course the music. As both a creator and consumer of music, this is a fantastic place to live. But, leaving behind so many who are close to my heart has made this move bittersweet for sure.
Recently however, I was talking with my friend Sam in what proved to be our last conversation. Just five days later he succumbed to the cancer he had been so valiantly fighting for nearly a year. I called thinking I would encourage him, but Sam encouraged me. So much so that I am certain the forty-five minutes we spent on the phone together will resonate in my spirit for the remainder of my life. One comment he made was this, “What does it matter if my life ends at fifty-three, it’s gonna be no time and we’ll all be together again anyway.” Those are the words of a man who was not staring into the face of cancer or death, but who was looking through them into the loving face of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I have been fortunate in my life to have several amazing lifelong friends, many of whom I have literally known since my early days of elementary school. These friends are people on whom I know I can always depend. To have true friends is rare in this life. And friends who know everything about you and love you anyway, those friends are priceless!
The older I get the more friends pass on ahead of me. And each passing year and each passing life serves as one more reminder of the brevity of life. James wrote that life is a “vapor” (James 4:14). Shakespeare referred to life as a “brief candle” and “walking shadow”. And my friend Sam said, referring to the number of our days, “what does it matter”. Life – no matter how long – is indeed just a blip of the radar of eternity.
Like Sam, being present in the moment while resting in the assurance that our only true and lasting hope is found in Jesus is the only way to live. Lifelong friends are a rare and beautiful treasure. There is a unique comfort in those relationships, which is truly without measure. But, when we are able to sit with our friends in good times and bad and look beyond time and into eternity – that is indeed a gift beyond measure. That conversation with Sam was a clear reminder to me of the reason we are here, to serve. To love God, to love people, and in so doing look with them beyond this brief moment we have together and into face of eternity.
Have you ever kept a diary or journal? A place where you write your innermost thoughts: your struggles, concerns, joys, and hopes. If so, the thought of someone reading it may leave you feeling uneasy.
For years, my wife Lisa has told me that listening to our songs is like reading our journal, hearing our deepest thoughts, feelings, and questions.
Over the past couple years we have continued to write – not for another project, but simply as a release for the emotions that otherwise might have stayed bottled up. While we did share a few of our new songs in concert, most were simply belted out in the comfortable confines of our living room.
During that same time our faith had been challenged and stretched as the five of us were scattered over three time zone and two continents, and then back brought together again. The same, yet different.
In different ways, we all seemed to be feeling a divine discontent, but were unsure what it meant. We wrestled with thoughts of trusting by living a life fully surrendered. We were tempted by the questions that arise when bad things happen. We clung to the truth that God is good and sovereign even in the midst of chaos. And through it all we found rest in the assurance and knowledge that God’s love is bigger than our hurts, hang-ups, questions, and doubts. And in that truth we celebrated the knowledge that in spite of it all, life with God is the only way to find lasting peace.
All the while, unbeknownst to us, we were indeed writing for a new project. As – quite by surprise – the opportunity to step back into the recording studio presented itself, this time with Multi-Dove Award Winning, and two time Grammy Nominated songwriter, worship-leader, and producer Michael Farren (https://www.weareworship.com/us/worship-leaders-2/michael-farren).
Michael’s songs have been recorded by such artists as: Lauren Daigle, Reba McIntire, Michael W. Smith, and many others, and it is quite a honor to have his thumbprint, not only on our sound, but our songs.
The title track of our new project– Things Unseen – sums up our journey well with the chorus lyric “I will trust though I cannot see this road ahead where You are leading me. My wandering heart looks to You my King. I fix my eyes on the things unseen.”
For us, recording has always been about fixing our eyes on the things unseen, but this time it hasn’t been a step of faith but rather a full-fledged leap.
Everything had lined up too perfectly: from the co-writing opportunities, to the advice of those who sit on our board and the professionals we work with, without fail each came to the same conclusion – we needed to record.
So, we took the leap and jumped headlong into this, knowing somehow, someway the funds would come. Since we began the recording project last spring life has been a whirlwind. Starting the recording process, while at the same time my wife acceped a new job – in Nashville – a trip to Guatemala with Compassion International, selling our home in Indiana, a wedding, remodeling our new Tennessee home, another wedding, and now (sigh) It’s time to ramp back up the capital campaign for the new project – which over the last several months has been the least squeaky of our wheels. Since the initial push – which includes pre-orders as well as larger backers and corporate sponsors who have caught the vision of our music, ministry, and our message of strong families and strong faith – we sit at just over 50 percent funded. Which means we have just over $14,000 to go.
Looking at that number can be a bit overwhelming, but as the old question goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” And really, that’s only 140 people saying “yes, I’ll be a $100 backer!” And, there are three easy ways you can say “Yes!”
For more information on that please contact our management at firstname.lastname@example.org and request an executive overview.
Our prayer is that the remainder of the budget will be raised over the next six weeks so that we can continue with the production and have the project ready for our summer tour. No amount is too small or too large. From $1 for the mp3 of our first radio single, to underwriting the remainder of the project, we are grateful for everyone who is willing to partner with us! Expressing this need in itself feels a bit like posting another page from our journal. So, we once again share our heart, our vision, and the opportunity for you to join us in it!
Inspring Family Harmony
We have such a tendency to water down words. Lessening their impact through casual use: awesome, love, and worship were the three that came to mind.
Worship? You might ask, “How has worship been watered down?” As I took time to think about the word, I began to realize something. Just as we have lessened the impact of words such as awesome and love through overuse, we have done much the same with the word worship through underuse.
We have so narrowed its scope until – in our current Christian culture – we relegate it to simply a style of music or a segment of time in our church services. Though worship is what we do during our church services, from the first welcome to the benediction, it is so much more. It is attitude, it is action, it is a way of life.
As I thought about all the hundreds and hundreds of times I have lead worship through music in churches, in a variety of denominations, James 1:27 came to mind. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” I began to recall several settings in which I’ve lead worship: large churches, small churches, conferences, and festivals, in many states.
But the two instances which stand out most are not found in the big venues, but in the small church basement where I first lead worship with children from 2-10 years old, and the nursing homes where I (and often my family) have lead these old dear saints in the singing of hymns. Both ends of the age spectrum represent to me the childlike faith Jesus referred to in Matthew 18:3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I believe we refuse to let the world corrupt us when we use our gifts to serve others including those who have nothing to give us in return – the children, the elderly, the sick. Yes, as I look back the most impactful worship experiences I have had are seeing these little children sing with reckless abandon, and the elderly – who often didn’t know where they were or what day it was – with tears streaming down their face singing every word to every hymn I sang.
For vocational artists it is certainly necessary that we are able to pay our bills. But for me I am realizing more and more that it is in using my gifts to serve those who have nothing to offer in return. That helps me keep a healthy perspective on what it means to truly worship.
Each of us has likely heard the warning “be careful what you wish for”. It seems in our humanness we are often prone to believe the grass IS truly greener on the other side of the fence, or we recreate the “good ole days” into utopia. In the song The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand sings “Mem’ries may be beautiful and yet What’s too painful to remember We simply choose to forget”. Whether imagined or remade we do often seem to romanticize that which is not available to us while diminishing all we have.
One of the most often referenced “be careful what you wish for” stories in scripture is found in 1 Samuel 8, when Israel clamors for a king.
“The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. “ (v.7) And while the choice to reject God’s plan was reflective of their own hardened hearts and rested squarely on their shoulders, their demand was precipitated by Samuel’s sons not fulfilling their God-given duties: “His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” (v 3-5 emphasis added).
I am not sure how many times I have read that passage, but today was the first time those verses stuck out to me. It made me stop to wonder how many times we – individually or as the Church collectively – prompt others to indulge their wishes while ignoring God’s because of our own inaction or disobedience. Another reminder of the importance of allowing God to Father us as we seek to reflect His love and purpose as we in turn father our children and serve those in our circle of influence.
This week I had a surprise and welcome visit from a cousin who was driving through Indiana on his way to Kansas. We had not seen each other in twelve years, and had a lot of catching up to do. We talked about career, family, the upcoming election, and faith. A few times during our evening my cousin referenced 1 Corinthians 6:19 “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
Thinking about the varied topics of conversation following our time together my mind returned to the previously referenced verse and I realized I have yet to blog about my personal effort to take better care of my body.
Like many Americans, I had experienced a gradual yet steady weight gain since college, nothing drastic…it seemed, just a couple pounds a year, but over the course of my 20+ years since college graduation, that added up being very significant. After a few failed attempts to regain my health I made the decision to try a program which had been successful for a few of my friends. The results: down over 40 pounds (in just three months), more energy, better rest, healthier eating habits, head aches and heart burn have disappeared (except on those infrequent occasions when I over indulge on the wrong foods), and most of the aches and pains I had attributed to my age are now gone. Not only that, but I feel better about my self.
In part because I love helping people, and in part because I wanted some accountability, I became a health coach for the company. If you are ready to make a lifestyle change and take back your health, feel free to email me at email@example.com to schedule a time to talk!