Sunday, December 26, 2010

Time - A Parent's Perspective

As a parent of almost tween kids, I'm discovering more and more of what God's heart for us must be like. A particular example of this would be as my desire to spend time with my girls continues to grow, their desire for independence grows at the same time. This can be frustrating. Often, I'll sit by my girls and ask them how their day is and I'll get a short response with a request to go do something with a friend or computer time. To be honest, it often breaks my heart a little.

As a parent, I feel this. On the other side of the coin, as a child of God, I wonder if I can see His perspective a little better. As I was meditating on Christ this morning, my mind kept wandering to other things. What I need to do. Things I want to buy. Plans I'd like to pursue. And I felt all that God wanted me to do was simply BE with Him. It hit me in the face - God must be feeling the same way I do as a parent.

As a parent, Mark Beeson has taught me a great deal about parenting. He has spoken on scheduling time with your kids. This is why I still try to keep a regular time of taking each individual daughter out for a breakfast meal so we can simply BE together.

This regular time with God is a must too! But God isn't the one who sets the schedule, it's US! Regular time with God, however that looks for you, is really the only way to develop intimacy. I'm learning this from my kids.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Mighty Manger

Read this from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's God is in the Manger:

Where is the divinity, where is the might of the child? In the divine love in which he became like us. His poverty in the manger is his might. In the might of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humankind, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead.

Even today, as well as 2000 years ago, this display of might - the might of the manger - could be completely misunderstood. The general understanding of power is often through brute strength or military might. But the God-man, Jesus, enters this world and pulls a sort of jiu jitsu move on everyone. Instead of a thunderous show of the power that formed the heavens and earth, He humbly comes as a child. This child will ultimately show us a meekness (restrained strength) that reconciles the whole world to a perfect, holy God through the cross.

I really wonder how the world would be different if power was wielded in this way. What would a world look like that had leaders humbly serving the weakest members of society? I'm not slamming anyone in particular, but I really do wonder how society would be different if the might that God displayed in the manger was emulated by leaders every day. I guess this truly starts with ME! How I lead my family, how I lead my teams and our church.

My prayer: "Christ, give me a passion to know You intimately, and wisdom to embody Your selfless leadership to those you have entrusted me to lead."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How I'm Changing

I just finished Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

This book is changing me. Though I am done reading it, it is still changing me. I am looking at life differently now. A short list of what I learned:

1. A Greater Story
My heart is much more open to the beauty of a greater story that is being told through my life. I've learned that one of the easiest ways that we are de-railed from the best versions of who God wants us to be is by lesser stories. Whether driven by culture or some internal needs, we settle for less than what God has intended. As I look at my life now, and the life of the my family, I'm most prayerful about this issue. I never want to settle.

2. It Takes Effort
Nothing worthwhile comes without effort. Intentionality in writing a great story is critical. As a songwriter, I have found this to be true as well. Songs don't get written if you don't just sit down and work them out. Simply waiting for inspiration has never been the way I write. The same is true with life. I may not feel like taking time to play with my daughter at a given moment, but every time I do, it has been well worth the investment.

3. Inviting Others
My friend Rob Wegner is great at this. As the story of his life unfolds, he is constantly inviting others into what he is learning. Countless friends I have would say the same thing about him. This is the kind of life I want to live.

4. The Petty Things Seem Silly
What I'm also discovering is that when my life is in tune with God's greater plan, the little, petty stories seem to fade in relevance to me. In fact, they often seem silly. Stories about my own image, how well-liked, or how talented I am - these just seem silly since I'm too busy being involved in a bigger story.

As I look to life in 2011, I'm really thinking about what needs to change. How a life well lived will impact the world for Jesus. Praying for what SELFLESS IMPACT might look like.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The True Role of Theology

More amazing wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in God is in the Manger:

"How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God's mystery precisely as mystery."

This has so many ramifications. Since the goal of theology would then not be to "figure God out", it relieves a lot of the pressure that I believe some Christians feel. I often think about Paul's admonition to have a "ready defense" for the Gospel. While it is true that we shouldn't be thoughtless Christians, we also shouldn't feel the need to be in attack mode either. If someone comes to us with honest questions, we should be able to answer. However, if someone is on the attack, it is likely that no amount of convincing will ever sway this type of person.

It is here that we embrace the mystery that is Christianity. A lot of my Eastern Orthodox roots are stirred by these thoughts. Since the Orthodox branch of Christianity is from an Eastern mindset, mystery is embraced quite a bit more than in our Western tradition. Often, as Bonhoeffer states, we try to get to explaining God through reason, which ultimately stamps out any mystery.

This could be why so many people have turned to other faiths since many modern evangelicals seem to have all the answers about God. My thought is that theology itself, while discovering answers, should also be constantly stirring more and more questions as to who God is. This questioning posture will allow us to remain captivated by the mystery which entered the world through a manger so long ago.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who Will Celebrate Christmas Correctly?

I've been reading an Advent devotional of collected writings by Dietrich Bonhoeffer called God is in the Manger. Read this paragraph this morning that struck me in its beautiful explanation of how to best celebrate this season:

"Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A Prayer to Pray for Others

I've been hanging out in the book of Ephesians for a while and was struck by the prayer that Paul prayed for the believers. It is a prayer that I found myself saying for my family, my friends, my team, my church, and those around me who are far from Christ. You may want to pray it as well. Just replace the "you's" with a person's name. What a great prayer to lift up on someone's behalf.

Ephesians 3:14-19
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on "Our God"

This weekend at Granger Community Church, we launch our How to Wreck Your Life series.  It's basically a series on how running after "idols" can literally ruin your life.  Rob is teaching and will cover the basics of how God desires to be absolutely FIRST in our lives.

The song lyrics of Chris Tomlin/Matt Redman/Jonas Myrin/Jesse Reeves' song "Our God" are:

Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind
there's no one like you none like You!
Into the darkness you shine out of the ashes we rise
there's no one like you none like You!

Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.

As we sing the lyrics, "God, You are higher than any other," this is a dangerous set of words to sing.  If this is in fact, not just words on our lips, but the meditation of our hearts (Ps. 19:14), then we are called to live as if it were true.  If Jesus is higher than ANY other, what is the impact on my day to day?  How do I spend my time?  How do I spend my money?  What are the moment to moment thoughts in my head?  

He is a jealous God, but certainly jealous with good reason.  It is for our own good that He desires us to love Him.  When Christ is seated on the throne of my life, there is peace through trial, joy through pain, hope through suffering, and the list goes on (Isaiah 61:3).

The truth in all of this is that left to our own devices, we are COMPLETELY unable to do ANY good thing, much less give up the idols that can seem comfortable.  But through Christ, we know that all things are possible.  Love to hear other people's thoughts on this.

This weekend, as we worship in song, may we always be mindful of what we sing.  It is our desire to see our church grow in this respect.  That our people would catch and retain great theology as it applies to their lives.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Checking out Posterous to see if it will take away my Tweetdeck for iPad woes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

As I approach 40...

Here's a little blast from the past. Yes, that's me playing bass.  Yes, I had hair.  And yes, we were playing songs by Quiet Riot.  A LONG time ago...

Friday, August 13, 2010

#twittersabbath & #fbsabbath

This is something that I've been stewing on for a while. In my thought world, I'm striving to be more and more "present", with God and with others. I think I'm wired up like Dug from the movie "Up", wanting to say "Squirrel!" to every distraction.

With this in mind, the implications on my life from Twitter and Facebook are that they move me further and further away from being present in the moment. Here are just a few situations I find myself in (maybe you can relate):

1. I will often go into what I'm calling "reporter mode", so that whatever I'm experiencing, I'm thinking about how I will shrink it down to 140 characters of less. Not truly experiencing the moment. (particularly tempting on vacations where I want to impress people by how much fun I'm having)

2. I find myself checking to see if people have responded to my status updates as a means for approval. Not really living where I am.

3. While talking to someone I attempt to split my attention between them and my phone screen. This, of course, makes the person (often my wife) feel less than valued. I think we've all been in on both sides of this equation.

4. I have Tweetdeck installed on my computer with notices that pop up whenever someone posts. This is like crack cocaine for the attentionally distracted person. I usually am not as productive as I can be when this is on.

All that to say that I'm proposing for myself and others to take a Twitter and Facebook Sabbath each week. One day (24 hours) where I fully disconnect with the social networking web world and strive to be fully present with everyone around me and God. A couple of notes:

1. I'm trying hard to let go the urge to save up posts on my Sabbath day so that I can double up on the next day. Step away from Evernote, citizen!

2. God desires a glad heart toward this, so if I bring a grumbling heart, I might as well not do it.

3. I think that one cool thing that I might want to report on later is how my taking this Sabbath affected my relationships with others and God.

So, I'm giving this a try. On the day that I do this, I'm using the hashtags #twittersabbath and #fbsabbath.

What do you think? Is this worth it? Might you join me? Love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Killing Time at the Health Dept

We spent 2.5 hours waiting to get school vaccinations for Anna.  Made a little video of our experience:

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lessons Learned from a Bar Gig

I'm in a band called Vanakkam, which had the chance to be part of a team of people who went to India last March. We played several concerts in the Tamil Nadu region of India. It was a fantastic experience for us all.

This past Friday, We had the opportunity to partner with Dan Blacketor and The Rhema Project. We were part of a concert at a bar called Legend's on the campus of Notre Dame. It was a fundraiser which featured the band "The Ricki Lake Effect" (great guys!) while Vanakkam was the warm up act.  On Saturday/Sunday, we then served at Granger Community Church, helping lead worship for all four services.

I think we learned a few lessons on the way.

1. First, we found that the art we performed had both missional elements and attractional elements in it. At the bar, we were literally going to the people. We made some cool connections with the Ricki Lake guys and others who were there. At the same time, it was attractional. We helped people gather for a great cause and later in the weekend to worship God in church. This is the essence of what we'll be talking about at our conference this Fall called "The Genius of AND".

2. We have a deeper sense of community. Our band has played and practiced so many times recently that I think of ourselves more like a family than a band. I love these people now at a much deeper level than I did before we began this journey back in February as we prepared for India. The weekend was just a further deepening of that.

3. We are better musically. Our Friday night set was the tightest I think we've ever played. We now know what's coming up and how we can intuit what the others will do. For people who have played in bands a while, this is a normal thing. Since our teams have been rotating for years at church, this is new for us. (More news on this in a later post)

4. We feel USED. (in a good way!) It is amazing to think that God not only used us "over there", but continues to use us "over here" to bring glory to Himself. How this fully plays out has yet to be seen.

We're excited as to where God is taking us, not only as Vanakkam, but as an entire worship team at GCC. These lessons, I think, will continue to teach us more of the "how" and certainly the "why" of a vibrant arts ministry.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Worship That is Grounded in History

Been reading some Glenn Packiam's blog. Processing this thought:

Our worship is not an attempt to praise God for some arbitrary attribute. Instead, as we look to God's actions within space and time-- His great works of creation and salvation-- we see who He is and begin to worship. Certainly, emotion can and often will be involved. But it is not a floating, emotion; it is an emotion that is genuine not generated precisely because it is attached to a historical event. That means a worship leader's first job is not to generate emotion; a worship leader is there to remind people of God's great acts of creation and salvation in the past, and to point them to the moment God's salvation and new creation come to pass in fullness (Rev. 21).

What are the implications here? This seems to give a grounding to our worship that we desperately need. However, I'm wondering if even a bigger picture of worship needs to be painted for our people. I agree that worship (in the congregational setting) is way more than emotion. At the same time, I wonder if it is more than reminding our people of his past/future work. Our God is the great "I AM" - eternal and ever-present.

In the setting at GCC, I believe that our people need the reminder that our God is HERE. A God whose presence is sought is surely a God who will reveal Himself. I desperately want our people to collectively and individually connect with God. These encounters, as seen in the stories of so many Bible characters, produce worshippers. I think what Glenn is getting at here is the balance of Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). So much of modern worship music is written in "the Spirit", that having a better grounding in the Truth of God's works (present and future) will helps balance our expression of worship.

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Listen, then Listen: Life Lessons from a Voice Lesson

Last week, Tim Carson, of Vocal Artistry, coached me to help improve my game in singing. He gave me two fundamentals that could apply right away that I think are applicable to music, but also to life in general.

He told me two things:

1. LISTEN to singers who are modeling the style/sound that you are striving for.

2. Then LISTEN to/record yourself singing songs like those you wish to emulate. Then compare and tweak.

For #1, Tim recommended Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day for me to get my sound to be lighter and brighter. I'm more and more aware of not only what Billie is doing, but HOW he's making the sounds he makes. This makes me better. Not that you'll hear me singing in Green Day style the next time you hear me, but I'll apply his technique to produce my own sound.

This applies to all types of learning.  If we want to be a better guitarist/bassist/drummer, find the best guitarists/bassists/drummers to try to learn from.  Many websites make this easy.  In life as well, finding people who can mentor us in the how to live well is essential to living well ourselves.  Jesus is the prime example of this.  He shows us the best way to live, the life of a truly humble servant.  Emulating this example can help us so much on the journey.

For #2, Tim told me to record myself or listen to myself over a loudspeaker system at least weekly.  Having studied voice for many years, I have a reasonable ear.  I just need to get the honest feedback that hearing sound from outside of my head can give me.  Now with iPhones/digital cameras it is very easy and cheap to record oneself.

In life, this means finding people around you who are willing to not blow smoke at you.  We all need straight shooters like the prophet Samuel, who ultimately called King David out of his life of sin.  Because of encounter, David was moved to repentance.  Ultimately, the adulterous murderer is most remembered for being a "man after God's own heart".  This was in part due to the courage of Samuel, who spoke with honesty to the King.

These are two lessons I'm working on.  We'll see how my singing/life is ultimately affected.  Hopefully for the better!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Servant's Prayer

I've been reading Ken Gire's "Moments with the Savior" devotional. This morning I read this pray which I felt I had to share:

"Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for the work you have entrusted me to do. I ask only to be worthy of that trust.

Help me to be faithful in very small things, realizing it is there where I will learn to be worthy of your trust in greater things.

Help me to be faithful to the great treasure of the gospel you have placed in my care. Keep reminding me what a wonderful message it is so I would be eager to encourage others to trade their sin for its forgiveness; their anxiety for its peace; their despair for its hope.

Help me to realize how much work there is to be done. Lord, so that when I arise, it would be to serve you, and when I lie down, it would be to rest from work well done.

For all the times I have left that work undone, Lord, I ask for your forgiveness. Forgive me for the times I have served your halfheartedly and for the opportunities to serve you that I have hidden in a piece of cloth because of my fears.

Please Lord,

Be with me when I am fearful
To make me faithful.
Be with me when I am faithful
To make me fruitful.
Be with me when I am fruitful
To make me humble.
For it is only by your grace
That I was chosen to serve you;
only by your strength
That I am even able to serve;
only by your faithfulness
that I am still serving you today...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Wish

"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known." - A.A. Milne

Beauty is appreciated best at a slower pace. I like John Ortberg's reminder in "The Me I Want to Be" to "try softer". Dads, this is my wish for us today. Take time to enjoy the moments.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6 Things I'm Excited About

A few things I'm excited about:

  1. Had THE BEST time with my wife in Riviera Maya, Mexico last week!  I definitely married well.
  2. Looking forward to heading down to the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City next month.  Going to spend some time talking with other worship leaders from United Methodist Churches about best serving our denomination.  Should be good some good discussion time.
  3. Thrilled to introduce a new Hillsong worship song called "Our God is Love" this weekend at GCC BEFORE the actual release of the CD!
  4. Getting my broken iPhone screen fixed by my friend @jasonpowell who I've decided is a tech mastermind.
  5. Going CANOEING with my family tomorrow down the Dowagiac river.  Yee haa!
  6. Looking forward to the release of Toy Story 3 tomorrow night.  Very fun site here.

So, for now, that is some goodness.  More later.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Matter of Pride

I'm writing today to ask your help.  Okay, really, I'm kinda begging for it!  Take a short look at this: 
Allie and Chris Nanni: 737 votes 
Robert Wozny: 430 votes 
Brandon Siegel: 402 votes
 ErinCamilleri: 325 votes
 Paul Phair: 287 votes
 Dr. Rob Riley: 233 votes 
Lynn Ducat: 184 votes 
IdaWatson: 146 votes
 Lisa and Dan Vukmirovich: 24 votes!!!!!!!!

We're in a situation here where I feel like we're out in the community (on billboards and posters).  We're representing our church, Granger Community Church to Michiana, and in actuality, I'm kind of embarassed.  We're flat out in LAST PLACE as of today.  It starts to scare me, since we're not only representing our church, but I think, to some degree, Christians. 

I wonder as people look over the voting stats if they get a sense of what kind of generosity the church shows?  To be honest, it's a pretty rough representation of the sharing hearts that I know from most of the people I serve beside.

I believe that we can show our community that the Church, not just our church, is truly generous!

It's crunch time.  We can't wait any longer.

We need for everyone to pray about what they might do to support this and then act quickly if that's what is needed.

You can vote HERE

We need you!  Your help is critical.  Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We're Dancing with Our Stars!!!

We need your help! Please vote for us for the Center for the Homeless (South Bend, IN) Dancing with Our Stars benefit contest/auction! All donations benefit the Center and are tax deductible. Click the weblink below to vote. Each vote is $37. You can also attend the "contest" on Friday, April 23rd - 6pm at the Hilton Garden Inn (near St. Mary's). Love to have your support!!! Thanks.

To vote, click HERE

Saturday, March 20, 2010