Monday, December 14, 2009

Creative Floodgates

It’s been over five years since my last album Backstage Pass was released. That’s hard to believe. A lot has happened since then. A lot. Most recently, I married my wonderful wife Crystal a little over a year ago, and about six months ago, I shifted to full time ministry after ten long years in the television industry. Wow. It’s amazing what God has done!

I met with a friend for coffee about four months ago and as we shared prayer requests, I went out on a seemingly selfish limb, and asked prayer that God would grant me new songs. From that day forward, it feels like the floodgates of creativity have burst wide open! After years of writing songs that have seemed only fit for the trashcan, the Lord has given me twelve new pieces that I actually really like. It’s been fun to watch them grow from snippets of lyrics and/or melodies to full blown songs.

One of my goals during the writing process was to focus intensely on vocal melody and piano, while leaving all the other “cool sounds” for a later stage. I am now at that next stage. So far, I’ve programmed demos and fleshed out the arrangements for three of the twelve songs on the new album. The hope is to start with sample instruments and slowly replace “fake sounds” with real ones as needed. After I have finished producing twelve demos, my goal is to record live drums and bass in Nashville. I will then record much of the guitars, and all of the vocals in Columbus (at 10x12 Productions). It’s possible we’ll also track live strings somewhere along the way. Not sure where yet. This journey should be a lot of fun!

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where Have You Been?

It's been a long time since I've written in the blog. In fact, I've put it on the back burner as I have been working on a new album! I'm currently in the writing stage and almost have 12 new songs composed (lyrics, melody, chord progressions, and general arrangements). My next step is to put the final touches on the lyrics, and start creating some MIDI demos, which will eventually be fleshed out with real instruments. Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What We've Been Up To

Life has been busy recently. So what have we been doing with our time? Last weekend, we were in Ashland. Not long before that, we were in California. We usually try to get to the gym three nights of the week. Freelance music and audio jobs on Monday or Tuesday evenings. Wednesday night band practices. Thursday night bible study. Weddings occasionally on Saturdays (I run sound). Sunday morning and often evening church. Video shoots at the station throughout the week with early mornings. Meetings at Delaware. Dinner with our family. Social time with our friends. Generally stuff - bill paying, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doctor visits, etc. All this to say, I haven't had much time to write in the blog. I know I promised an entry about our trip to California... that's still on its way.

This Friday is my last day at the tv station. I've worked in television for nearly 10 years, so the move to full time ministry will be a significant, yet exciting change. Much of my focus and energy over the last several months has been in preparation for this transition. We know the Lord will lead us in this next stage of life.

Stay tuned for more blogs...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leaving for Laguna Beach!

Tomorrow, Crystal and I will be jumping on a jet plane and heading to Laguna Beach, California to visit my sister (who formally lived in Munich, Germany). On Thursday, we'll be taking a boat to Catalina Island and will spend the day there, possibly renting some bikes to explore the sites. We'll be in California 5 days, and will return next Monday.

We'll take lots of pictures and I'm sure we'll have many stories to tell. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Day 2 at the Skate Park

Went back to the skate park yesterday and was a little more daring as the concrete was dry this time. Joining me on the ramps this time was a bashful and novice elementary skateboarder, a seven year old scooter dare devil (who was jumping off the highest inclines in the park), and a couple high school scooter/skateboard riders who appeared to be in their own world (as I almost ran into them several times as they weren't paying attention).

Some of you may not know this, but back in my middle school/high school days, I went by the nick name "skater." I would spend entire weekends skating around the neighborhood. I was a serious boarder, for sure. I think I originally started in fifth grade. Both my brother and sister used to skateboard, and my first board was a hand me down from my brother. My first helmet was a football helmet. A blue one with a white stripe. I looked pretty sweet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Still a Skater at Heart

Well, I finally bought a skateboard, a belated birthday present from last October. This past Saturday, Crystal and I went to a nearby skate park so I could test out my new board in the rain. The tricks I used to do 15 years ago didn't come as easily, that's for sure. I think I'm going to need a lot of practice. Nevertheless, I feel like a kid again and realize just how much I miss skating! Skate or die dudes!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Singlehood in the Rear View: Chapter 5

The Newlywed Game
Several weeks ago, Crystal and I had the privilege of taking part in a marriage panel at a church youth group. We were among three couples, and happened to be the most recently married. One young couple had been wed six years, and the other "older" couple had been together for some thirty plus years. We were all seated in chairs on stage under bright lights, and a colorfully dressed and animated high school senior with large glasses entertained the crowd with dry wit and a peculiar english accent. He began by sending us men out of the room. While we were gone, he asked the girls questions such as "How does your man like his steak cooked?" and "If your husband was a sea creature, would he be a shark, a clown fish, or a turtle?" After about five minutes, I and the other two guys were called back into the now bated room. With each question, one of the three wives would flip over an 8"x11" card to reveal her answer. Crystal was indeed right in saying I preferred my steak medium well, but she considered me a turtle, while I thought myself a clown fish. I guess we hadn't ever talked about such things.

Well, now it was time for the women to leave the room. The questions for the men were a bit more challenging. I scribbled my best attempts. Before I knew it, the cheesy game show music resumed blaring, and three smiling ladies returned single file to the stage. The music stopped. The first question. "What would your wife say was the first gift she ever gave you?" Uh oh. At least, this time, the other two couples would have to answer first. I was pretty sure I knew this one. I pretended I was interested in what the other couples had to say. Moments later, the witty MC directed the question towards Crystal, "So Crystal, is the answer crystal clear or foggy as a swampland?" He was funny. Crystal looked at me with a smile and a hint of uncertainty. She paused. "A Starbucks gift card and some chocolate chip cookies." Well, I was close. The cookies had chocolate in them. I turned the card over. The audience responded with a pathetic "ouuuch." The couple who had been married thirty plus years had answered correctly. Something about a "hippo." The next question was even better. "My wife has more (blank) than anyone I know." I wrote patience. I knew this was probably not what she was thinking, but I figured a few points for sweetness wouldn't hurt anything. Crystal said clothes. I turned my card over. A unanimous "awwww" spread across the crowd. Sadly, in the end, we lost the game, and the older couple took first place. Oh well. It was still a lot of fun, and we were reminded that we still don't know everything about each other.

All Hormoned Up and No Where To Go
We've all met the guy who's convinced he's God's gift to women. You know, the guy with the smooth words whose radar is aimed right at the pretty girl with the brown hair sitting alone at the table in the corner. Well, maybe we don't know the guy personally, but we've at least seen him on TV or in the movies. He's got the romantic wit, the flowers, the gleam in his eye, but when it comes down to it, he doesn't have a clue of what to do with that pretty girl after he wakes up with her the next morning. As Christians, most of us aren't this shallow, and most of us live our lives on a higher moral plane. However, sometimes I wonder how many dating believers haven't thought past the wedding dress, the flowered altar, and the tropical get away. During the dating days, the focus can be lost in having fun, and during the engagement, so much time and effort can be spent on planning the wedding while little attention is given to the most significant detail, the marriage itself.

Putt-Putt And Ice Cream
How does one prepare for marriage? Is it even possible to be completely ready for something which is so unpredictable and life altering? Having only been married a bit under six months, I am no expert, but I will say this. First of all, pray often and ask for God's guidance. Second, as you date, ask each other questions. Tough questions. I'm amazed by the number of couples who have apparently climbed all the way to "I do" without ever addressing the most basic of marital topics. Am I saying that you skip the putt-putt, the movies, and the ice cream? Absolutely not! I believe it's critical that a couple can laugh and have fun together (you'll need that in your marriage). There's no reason to be serious all the time, and there's no reason to be serious at all if you're fresh into a dating relationship (or if you're in high school, for that matter). What I'm saying is this. If you're engaged or if you're in a relationship which appears to be progressing towards marriage, take the time to talk about uncomfortable issues. I don't necessarily mean politics or religion (although these can be important subjects to address while dating). Instead, talk about your expectations of that other person. Talk about what you think an ideal marriage would look like. Discuss how your relationship with your parents will change after the wedding day. Open up about your own fears, weaknesses, and failures. Why? The reason is this... if these concerns aren't brought up before you get married, they will inevitably come up after you are married, and at that point, it will be too late to turn around if there's something you can't deal with.

Embracing The Hot Seat
One book I would highly recommend is 101 Questions to ask Before You Get Engaged by H. Norman Wright. Crystal and I went through this before we were married, and are very glad we did. In short, the book is a workbook full of mostly blank pages and lots of questions. One way to approach such a book is to answer the questions individually while later discussing the answers with the other person (that way you really say what you think instead of copying what the other person just said). I don't want to give the book away, but here's a handful of questions contained within.

1. What are five reasons a person would want to spend the rest of their life with you, and 3 reasons they wouldn't.
2. When a person marries, they sever the cord of dependency on and allegiance to their parents. If you marry, which of these will be the most difficult to sever and why?
3. To what degree are you a saver or a spender when it comes to money?
4. How has your relationship with Jesus Christ changed since this current relationship?
5. What are the questions about me you've always wanted to ask but never have?
6. What are your beliefs about p-rnography, and to what degree has this ever been a part of your life? How recently?

Some of these questions may be challenging or even embarrassing to answer, but again, it's important to consider that a strong marriage is built on such virtues as honesty and forgiveness. If you have trouble being candid with each other now, how can you possibly expect to have an open relationship once married? Most married people will tell you that negative traits and tendencies don't generally go away when you are married. Marriage instead usually compounds any issues a person already has. If your man has a drinking problem before marriage, don't expect that habit to evaporate after the honeymoon. If your girlfriend is addicted to credit cards now, don't think for a minute that a ring on her finger will quench her passion for plastic.

Getting To Know You
As you look for a marriage partner, know that whoever you choose, he or she will be imperfect. We all have baggage. We've all done things we're not proud of, and we all have tendencies which we'd rather not showcase. Nevertheless, Christ can forgive, and renew, and transform people. We mustn't forget this. Yet, at the same time, be selective when you date. Don't be a perfectionist, but at the same time, don't be afraid to move on if your spirit is not at rest in a dating relationship (better to get out now before you make a lifelong commitment). As a soon-to-be-married couple, you really should be able to discuss anything (unless talking about a certain issue leads you to sin). There may be a deeper problem if you notice your boyfriend or girlfriend changing the subject every time you bring up a concerning topic, especially if you're narrowing on the road towards matrimony.

When I was single, so much of my time and energy was spent focusing on getting married, even to the point of obsession. Maybe you're there. It's easy to get desperate (believe me, I understand) when you don't think God is listening. It's tempting to lower your standards when you can't believe there's any good options left. Just remember... choosing a mate is a huge decision, and should not be taken lightly. So many dating relationships start with the words, "I'd like to get to know you more." Don't let your marriage relationship end with "I wish I had known more." When dating, get out, have fun, but also make sure you talk. Really talk. Talk with each other, and even above this, talk with the Lord. Find out what He is thinking.

In conclusion, I realize that we can really never know everything about another person. In fact, we can't even know everything about ourselves. However, if we are following the Lord and if our mate (or future mate) is seeking to do the same, we can be reassured that two slightly different compasses will ultimately point towards the same north. Crystal and I are so thankful that God led us to talk about a lot of stuff before we were married. I can say that having those open conversations before marriage really helped in building a strong foundation of trust between us. We still make it a point not to keep secrets from each other (unless it involves a birthday or anniversary), and we try daily to share every concern and every celebration of the heart. It's crucial to see eye-to-eye on key issues, and it's important to at least come to a compromise on the lesser issues... even in such a case that you're convinced you're a clown fish, and she thinks you're a turtle.

To read the The Art of Singlehood (written through many of my single years), click here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is Worship?

Anyone who has ever attended church has an opinion about worship. I would guess that a lot of people choose a church based on the style and/or quality of the worship music. I'm curious if you have any thoughts about worship? How would you define worship? Should those involved in the worship team be more focused on having their own individual worship time with the Lord on Sunday morning, or should they be more concerned about where the congregation is at?

Through the years, I would admit that my musical tastes have changed. I still enjoy heavier rock from time to time, although I believe I've mellowed a bit in my thirties. I released a mostly guitar driven rock album in 2004, and in 2009, I'm more prone to write mid tempo alternative and introspective piano pop rock tunes, in the likes of Coldplay, the Fray, or Keane. I bring this up because I believe our own personal tastes greatly influence our view of worship.

Here goes my opinion. I believe that way too many Christians are confused about what worship music is supposed to be. And with this I open a huge can of worms. Worship is simply our position of admitting God's worth. It's us looking up and saying, "Lord, I am nothing... I have nothing to offer you except my heart... You are incredible, You are my Rock, You are my Reason for living." I think a lot of people get worship and adrenaline confused. A thumping beat and a tight band may raise your heart rate and make you feel excited, but does that really mean you're worshipping God?

From time to time, I lead worship at our church or at our Sunday night young adult group. However, most Sundays, I am in the crowd, singing with the masses. Here are a couple of my pet peeves. The guy who keeps doing vocal acrobatics around the melody. Dude, sing an appropriate harmony. You're completely distracting. The sound engineer who thinks the PA should be louder than the audience. If I'm in the crowd and I can't hear myself sing, I might as well be at a rock show waving my cell phone. The worship leader who sings the same chorus 14 times. Can we at least change keys or something? I don't even know what the words I'm singing mean anymore.

Well, maybe you have your own opinions, your own pet peeves. That's what makes this worship thing such a sore subject. We all see worship differently, just as if we all spoke slightly different languages. It's easy to walk away on Sunday morning feeling like you were gypped. We so quickly see the imperfections on stage, and I wonder sometimes if Satan is simply distracting us from the imperfections in our own hearts. If we're honest, most of us spend Sunday morning judging the people around us. Why is she wearing that? Do you have to move around so much on stage? Why do we have to hear about that same missionary guy again? I really don't care. I'm already giving my tithe to the local church fund. If we're honest, those are the types of thoughts that can go through our minds.

I believe worship is an attitude, not a song, or an event. Not sure that I'm a big fan of the song "Come, Now Is The Time To Worship" because if this is the time to worship, what happens before or after the song? The reality is, it's tough to always be thankful. It is stretching to always see ourselves in honest perspective of a perfect and holy God.

This morning, Crystal and I read James 1 which says "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds..." We really needed to read that. Life has been downright tough for us recently, but both our marriage and trust in God have been strengthened through the unpleasant. It feels like every day, we are waking up to another unanswered question, another deferred hope, another slap in the face... and we wonder how much longer it's going to go on. Maybe you're going through some rough times. My encouragement to you is this. Strive to worship the Lord no matter what. Remember you're in a spiritual battle. The Devil wants to destroy your faith. It's the first thing he thinks about when he crawls out of bed. However, the Lord is more powerful than any circumstance, any doubt, and He is greater, so much greater than the one who wants to take our spiritual lives.

1 John 4:4
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rediscovering Our Refuge

At times, I wonder how much pain and grief we'd save ourselves if we didn't worry. This past week, Crystal and I were hit with a substantial health scare. I'll spare you the details, but I'll just say that last Friday, I had an MRI of the brain which did not come back normal. I then had a follow-up MRI this past Wednesday which confirmed that what they had seen was "inactive" and non-threatening (for now) and was probably caused by migraine headaches, which I have rather frequently. We will meet the Neurologist again in a couple weeks to go over the results in more detail, but for now, we are told that everything is ok.

The Great What If
We all have situations in our lives which cause us to worry, even as much to predict the worst of the future. Life's circumstances can be downright terrifying at times, and if we don't have anything more than our own strength to lean on, we may be overwhelmed when we are brought to the reality that we are in control of nothing in this world, but our own attitudes. We all know deep down inside that trials are on their way, but generally, I'd guess most of us would rather not think about the "what ifs."

Every other Thursday night, Crystal and I attend a newly married Bible study, and last night, I shared with the group about our recent medical concerns. During prayer time, one guy thanked the Lord that "I was going to die just like the rest of them in 50-60 years." I couldn't believe he said that! Crystal was laughing under her breath in disbelief, and I was just processing whether I should chuckle along or feel insulted that this guy was making a joke out of what had only days before had me fearing a brain tumor or a terminal disease. I later concluded that I was taking his joke way too seriously, and as I thought further about it, I took to heart the hard-to-swallow and possibly uncomfortably placed lesson that every good diagnosis is only a postponing of our ultimate mortal destiny. It's good to be reminded that every breath we have and every day we live is a gift from God. Every moment is to be cherished because if you're human like me, it's just a matter of time... before time is up.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow (You're Only A Day Away)
The Bible talks a lot about worry. One verse which has really stuck out to me throughout the last couple weeks is the passage in Matthew 6 which reads, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I'm not sure how many times I've had to relearn this truth. I know I am a serious worrier. My overly entertained fears throughout the last ten days have been a testament of an embarrassing and wavering faith. Through the course of these past uncertain days, I've often found myself talking to God and exclaiming, "Lord, where is my faith? I can't change the future, so why get worked up about it? I can't know the future, so why predict it? I know You will take care of me, so why fear what lies around the corner? I believe your strength is perfect in my weakness so why am I so afraid of being weak?" It's incredible how foolishly prideful we are sometimes. We can have the greatest peace known to man before us, yet we won't take hold of it. We instead cling to fear as if it's the only option we have.

The Virtue of Expectation
It's almost second nature for many of us to expect evil from the future when we alternately should be focusing our attention on expecting good from the Lord. This doesn't mean that we will all be rich or healthy or famous. God never said life was going to be easy, but He did promise that He would carry us through the storms of life if we would trust Him. One image which has come to mind this past week has been the picture of Peter stepping out onto a troubled Sea of Galilee to meet a ghost-like Jesus walking upon the water. Matt 14:30 reads, "Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" So often, our attention is on the danger around us instead of on the Master of the Seas, and unfortunately, we sometimes only cry out for His help when we notice that we are sinking. These recent trials have really challenged my faith, and have left me asking myself if I am a lot like Peter, claiming to be a faithful servant, all the while shrinking in distrust when torrents of uncertainty crash through my otherwise comfortable life.

In closing, I'd like to share some excerpts of verses which have encouraged us this past week, and we pray that they will encourage you too.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Psalm 46
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. "Be still, and know that I am God."

Psalm 27
"The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

Psalm 31
"In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD."

Monday, February 16, 2009

No More Than We Can Bear

Lord, You will give me no more than I can bear.
When life surprises us with tragedies, and when fears make our bodies shake,
You are there to comfort us.
When the burdens of life seem so heavy, so overwhelming that our own physical well being seems at risk, You are there to carry us through our sufferings.
When relationships in our lives seem impossible to mend, and when so much of our waking days are spent wishing that another would want what we want, You are the Healer.
When decisions loom over us, yet the concrete seems so far away, You are Certain and your Words are the Light unto our path.

Lord, today I realized how little faith I have. I am a man of faith until I am again awakened to the fact that I am in control of nothing on this earth, except my attitude and reaction to the trials which have and will inevitably come into my life.
Lord, You will give me no more than I can bear, so may I trust You. May I truly believe that You are the Shepherd who leads me by still waters. May I be confident that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from Your love. May I rest assured that I am Your child and that You have plans of good for my life, and not evil. May I know that this is not the end, but may I believe with all my soul that You have a future for me. May I cling to You with everything I have, everything I am. Jesus, I lay aside all of life's treasures, and all the fool's gold that I have unconsciously compiled. May my greatest desire be in knowing You, O Lamb of God, O Faithful Friend, O Compassionate Father.
Lord, You will give me no more than I can bear as I rest in the enfolding of Your embrace. You will give me no more than I can bear.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Singlehood in the Rear View: Chapter 4

I thought another edition of Singlehood in the Rear View might be fitting for Valentine’s Day, especially as this is Crystal and my first February 14th together as a married couple. This has been a special day so far, complete with cards, candy, breakfast in bed, and a special lunch complete with sparkling grape juice, among other goodies. I’m thinking the day may be filled with some other surprises too, but don’t tell my wife.

What a Contrast
Married life is most definitely different than life as a single person. For one, the majority of my time is no longer spent looking and wondering if this person or that person is The One. There certainly is a new freedom, but with it, there comes another level of responsibility. Now, every decision in my life involves and affects another individual. As a married man, I have to work daily to keep the relationship between my wife and I at the top of the priority list.

When You Care To Send The Very Best
The other day, I picked up a card at the local Hallmark, and let me just say finding a good Valentine’s Day card is a challenge. I was flabbergasted at the number of cards which were written as apologizes. For example, a couple cards sadly began with “I know I don’t tell you I love you very often, but...” Others had such unromantic lines as “You make me a better person” and “I love you because you love me.”

How To Keep Your Valentine
I am no expert here, and I’m certainly not the perfect mate by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought I’d highlight some common guidelines which I’ve observed through the years in the lives of happy couples. Some of these seem like no-brainers, but it’d probably be startling to find out how many Christian husbands and wives out there don’t even consider the following practices reasonable nor significant.

1. Tell your wife/husband you love her/him every day.

2. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, work things out before you go to bed and don’t hold grudges.

3. Touch often. There’s really no good reason why you can’t keep touching after you get married.

4. Be open and honest with each other. Stay accountable with your mate.

5. Don’t belittle your spouse, whether in public or private. If there is a problem, focus on the problem, not the person. Phrases such “you always...” or “you never...” are a good way to knock the foundation out from under your relationship. Sarcasm may be funny to you, but your loose words may be more damaging than you think.

6. Pray together. It’s sort of a cliché, but the couple that prays together does have a better chance of staying together. It’s tough to pray together if you’re not getting along.

7. Study your spouse and learn how to put her/his interests first.

8. Keep dating (your spouse) after you say “I Do.” Babysitters may be expensive, but your marriage may greatly benefit from a long overdue weekend away. I recently heard of an author who showed his priorities at the end of the work day by always kissing his wife first before he kissed his little daughter. Kids need to see that mom and dad love each other, even if that means that mommy and daddy have some healthy alone time.

Cheers To Many More Years
I recently read some web reviews of the Atlanta church produced movie, Fireproof. As cheesy as the movie was at times, I think it had some excellent lessons. However, the secular articles I read poked fun at the film, claiming that it was over simplistic in its moral. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. Basically, Kirk Cameron is a firefighter whose rocky marriage is resurrected after he, “buys his wife roses, does the dishes, and finds God.” (as the article put it). In the movie, Kirk’s dad gives him a 40 day marriage to-do journal, and Kirk’s broken relationship with his wife does a 180 after 40 days of rethinking both his priorities and his connection with God.
I certainly don’t believe for a second that troubled marriages can be fixed in 10 easy steps, but I do believe in the power of Christ to change lives, and I would argue that this is the primary focus of the movie. I believe it’s important to always put the Lord first in our lives, and from that will outpour the fruits of the Spirit, which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control... all of which will help you and I to be better spouses.

And now off to that surprise I was talking about.

To read chapter 5 of Singlehood in the Rear View, click here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Question of Forgiveness

Have you ever had times when the same topic has been highlighted over numerous days and in various situations, so much so you’re convinced God is trying to tell you something? For me, that topic has recently been forgiveness. One morning in my devotions I read the following passage.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17.

Wow. How many of us actually follow this model of confrontation when we are offended by a brother or sister? If another Christian hurt you, would you actually be willing to take the issue all the way “to the church” and would you feel right treating an unconfessing brother or sister as a pagan or a tax collector (tax collectors were not looked upon highly in Jesus’ day)? What confuses me are the following verses in this passage which seem to contradict the above method of restitution.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:21-22.

How can we forgive our brother seventy times seven times (indefinitely, as I’ve heard this interpreted) if we are to ultimately treat an unrepentant brother as a pagan or tax collector? If grace is be indefinite and forgiveness limitless, how can there be a breaking point when the offending party is no longer fit for association?

Is it Christlike to forgive another, yet choose to avoid that person for spiritual reasons (if they “will not listen”)? Maybe. That’s at least what this passage seems to imply...specifically when it comes to relationships between believers (as the verses consistently uses the word “brother.”) We all hope no relationship will come to this...and just to clarify, there are no people in my life who I am thinking about not associating with because “they will not listen.” I am simply asking these questions for the purpose of better understanding a “straight forward” passage which I’ve read for years, a passage which has for me recently sprouted branches of strange complexity.

Any Bible scholars out there have any thoughts on this topic?

Christmas 2008

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Singlehood in the Rear View: Chapter 3

From Veteran to Rookie
I’ve been meaning to compose a new “Singlehood in the Rear View” blog for quite some time, but I’ve wrestled with what to write about. I will begin by saying that blogging about married life is a much more complex undertaking than writing about singlehood. For one, suddenly, I am no longer an expert in the subject. Thirty three years of being alone provided a wealth of experiences and material. Being married for just over three months puts me in a completely new category. I am now a beginner. I am just leaving the starting blocks.

Speaking in Variables

As newlyweds, it’s imperative to have older couples around you who can mentor and direct you as you first flap your wings through the uncharted skies of matrimony. In addition, there are a lot of excellent resources out there to help you navigate your new life together, be it books, sermons, etc. (Obviously, the Bible would be the first place to look). However, what we’re discovering as a new couple is this. Couples can be as random as the chemical reactions in a science room. In other words, our experiences as a husband and wife may be quite distinct from the next man and woman. There are of course common components between all relationships, and key principles which we should all adhere to as Christians. For example, Christ commanded a husband to love His wife as the church. This is something which every Christian husband should strive for. However, mixed in with the fundamentals is personality, upbringing, and a plethora of other variables. This is one reason why I find it difficult to vocalize my personal thoughts about marriage (especially in a blog). I feel like I may come across as arrogant to say “we don’t struggle with that” and I’m afraid that I will appear insensitive by speaking about certain marriage issues and “how it should be” when I am only fresh into marriage, and may not understand what it is to be in someone else’s shoes. When I used to speak on singlehood, I felt like I was voicing the struggles of many singles abroad (as I had numerous conversations with lots of people over a good chunk of years). As a married man, I am trying to listen more, and I am seeking to be more careful with my writing, which in turn means I’ve lessened my transparency in this blog (however, I believe I’m just as open in person).

More Than You Wanted To Know
I do admit that I’ve probably been a little too open here in the past. I now have to think about the reputation of my family (and how words could be misinterpreted) and honestly, I just don’t feel the same need I once felt to express my emotions publicly. There were times a while back when I would write blogs hoping that someone, anyone, would hear me and say that he/she related to me. That was a really lonely time in my life when I felt like I couldn’t truly be intimate with anyone. My defense mechanism was to candidly hang my struggles on the clothes line of cyberspace (the good, bad, and ugly) for the purpose of seeing if anyone could love me inspite of my weaknesses and insecurities. Now my wife and I have a closeness that I have not experienced with any other individual, and the really deep feelings and lofty dreams are discussed and embraced between us in private. I believe this is a much healthier place to be.

The Shelf Life of Words
With this said, I don’t want to give the impression that I am now a closed book when it comes to writing. I’m just trying to figure out how to “write responsibly.” This may take some time. I saw a good sign in a middle school class room not long ago which read, “Think...think... think...think some more... before you speak.” That is a great lesson for both the 6th grader and the 33 year old. I pray that God is teaching me (just as He is hopefully teaching you) that words are powerful, and the little “accidentals” that slip out of our mouths can shape our relationships for a lifetime.

“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison...with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:5-10

To read chapter 4 of Singlehood in the Rear View, click here.