Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeling Inclined

To write another review, that is. Of the new CD from my friends Mike and Suzanne Cowan of Scarlet Snow entitled Inclined. The first words that come to my mind when I think about this CD is...Holy Crap. I can't believe I actually know these people. It might surprise you all to know that I had a very brief musical career with them in their band Kudzu. That was right before Scarlet Snow. And after listening to quality of this CD, I am convinced my leaving the band was by far the best gift I could've ever given these cats. ;)

First of all, I've always known that these guys were muy talented. But this CD is crazy good. Suzanne's vocals are the best I've ever heard. She has really pushed herself on this CD, reaching notes and ranges that I can't even comprehend coming out of another human being's mouth. The musical arrangements of all the songs are perfection. And the lyrics. Don't even get me started on the lyrics. They've reached a level of, sometimes brutal, honesty mingled with loving truth that, let's face it, a lot of artists are afraid to go for these days. Especially Christian artists.

Here's the deal. I've recently purchased a bunch of new music. So I've been listening to all kinds of great stuff. But it's this album that gets stuck in my head. No matter what, you can find me humming or singing one of their songs all throughout the day. There are so many songs that I love, like "Politix," "Turning This Around," "Lay Down," and "Sonrise." But my favorite song on the CD is the title track, #5, "Inclined." Here's a sample of the lyrics:

With a blanket of mystery, You cover me like a little child.
And even though I don't understand You, at least I'm warm tonight.

I love people who aren't afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I love artists who are able to do the same through their music. I love the truth. I love people that aren't afraid to look into the very face of darkness and look for God, even there. These guys have a story to tell. And they tell it. Very beautifully, on this new CD. So be sure to check it out for yourself. It's well worth it.

Feeling Overwhelmed

I absolutely hate feeling overwhelmed. To me, it's got to be the worst feeling in the world. It's a feeling that comes and goes for me. And I'm sure we all struggle with it from time to time. You know that feeling--there's so much going on in your life that you're sure at some point it's all going to consume you. And one day, years later, your body will be found underneath piles of unpaid bills, dirty laundry, dirty dishes, unanswered emails, unreturned messages, and neglected school fund raising campaigns. I would imagine it's sort of what being in an elevator feels like to a claustrophobic. It also makes me think of the garbage compactor scene from Star Wars. The scene featuring Han Solo famously saying, "One thing's for sure, we're all going to be a lot thinner." Oh Han, if only that were true. That certainly would be the upside to having the fool squeezed out of you.

I've noticed that when I get to feeling this way, I really see the ol' "fight or flight" response in myself in action. I either get snappy and a wee bit confrontational, or I hole up and want to take a permanent vacation from life. I think it may be the result of focusing on too many things at the same time. And before I know it, I find myself at the foot of this cold, ominous mountain of stuff that needs to be moved from Point A to Point B, and I haven't the slightest clue on how to even begin to do that. It really is all about perspective, though, isn't it??? According to Matthew 17:20, it's because my faith is too small. Jesus says,

For if you had faith even as small as a tiny mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move!' and it would go far away. Nothing would be impossible. Matthew 17:20 (Living)

I'd like to think that my faith is larger than a mustard seed. But at times, I'm afraid it isn't even that large! Especially during those times when I am feeling most overwhelmed. In that very moment, we cease to operate out of faith, and begin to walk in fear. How many of God's plans are aborted or disrupted when we choose to react in fear (fight or flight) instead of responding with faith? What I need to do, in that moment, when I feel like I am about to crack under the pressure, is stop, pray, and ask the Father to give me more faith and His perspective. For everything is possible for those that believe. And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

However, I realized something the other day. It's not my faith that gets me through these things. It's God Himself. It's not faith in faith that I need, but faith in a faithful God. That certainly takes some of the pressure off, doesn't it??? Thank God that it's not my pitifully small faith that will get me through tough times. But a rather large and reliable God. My faith just lets me enjoy the process and the journey, and hopefully see God's hand guiding me along the way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Crisis of Faith

I just read this post today over at the Gifted For Leadership blog. I just posted something similar a couple of days ago. I taught on faith this past Sunday, and used a LOT of the scriptures that are referenced in this post. God always seems works in themes in my life. He's tricky like that.

The bottom line is that when we have a crisis of faith--and we all do at some point or another--the only thing we can do sometimes is stand and trust. I was encouraged by this. I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Office Related

I am so glad that The Office is back on TV. I've really enjoyed the past two episodes of the new season. I got into it about a season and a half ago. So I had some catching up to do. But I am so glad I did. It's now one of the highlights of my week.

One of my favorite minor characters is Andy, played by Ed Helms. Yes, I know he's incredibly annoying. But darn funny. When they introduced his character in the second season, I was so hoping he'd become a regular on the show. Apparently, I wasn't the only one since he's now on staff at the Scranton Branch of Dunder-Mifflin.

Well, you can imagine my delight when I found this gem the other day. It's called "Zombie American" starring Ed Helms. It's a short documentary about the discrimination one experiences as a member of one of America's minority groups--the walking dead. Don't forget to watch Chapters 2 and 3. Enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Review

I've never done a CD review before, but thought it might be a good time to start. Plus, blogs seem like good venues for that type of thing. And since my blog has seriously lacked some good, consistent posting lately...

I just downloaded Sunday! by Tree63. And. Oh. My. God. It's rocking my face off. I can't stop listening to it. I have been a Tree63 fan since their self-titled debut in 2001, which has always been my favorite album of theirs. Sunday! may either be just as good as that one, if not better. I can't be certain of that just yet, because it's still too early to tell. A CD has to stand the test of time for me. Will I still be actively searching for songs from it on my iPod two years from now??? I hope so. Some of my favorites on this one are "Sunday!", "Becoming", "World Undone", "Foolishness", "New Creation", and "The Revolution." I could honestly list every song on it, it's that good. They seem to be drawing a bit more from their punk rock roots, which always gets my seal of approval. Yet, every song is still beautifully written and anthemic, so much so that I can often be found shouting "WHOOO-HOOO!!!" when I'm listening to it by myself in the car. Rest assured, when that happens, it's got to be good.

I give it 4 & 1/2 stars.

Go out and buy it now!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007


I am two days away from preaching again this Sunday. I honestly feel like I have absolutely nothing to say. I am supposed to be teaching on faith. It's ironic, because right now, I seem to have very little. Things seem very dark. I can't seem to see or hear God. That's sort of a problem, isn't it? If this is some sort of test, it's one from which I'd like to exempt myself. The last time I preached, I really sensed God's grace, help, and power. I really haven't felt that this time. It makes me wonder--am I doing something wrong??? If He's calling me to preach, why isn't He providing the help??? It's Friday, and Sunday's fast approaching. I keep waiting for some spark. Some light. Some glimmer of hope that help is on the way. This week has been the week from Hell. Literally. And things just seem to keep getting darker...

I imagine that's what the disciples felt like on Friday when Jesus was crucified. This was the Man on whom they'd pinned all their hopes. Wasn't He supposed to come and save them??? Why, instead, is He nailed to a cross??? What happened??? What went wrong??? Isn't He supposed to save us???

Now, He's dying!!!



But wait...


John and Simon Peter saw the body of their Lord gone from the tomb. And they believed. It wasn't until then that they understood the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead (John 20:8-9).

I don't know why things have to die first in order to bring about newness of life. But they do. They always do. I am realizing that I have nothing. I am nothing. I bring absolutely nothing to the table. If the Lord has called me to preach...and I truly believe He has...for this was never my plan or crazy idea, after all...then I must die. I must die in order that He may live through me. I must decrease that He may increase. It's not pretty. And it's certainly not always fun. But here I am. Where else can an ambassador in chains go? How can I extinguish this blazing fire shut up in my bones? I cannot.

And I would not.

I read this morning that when Peter, John, and the other disciples spotted Jesus' resurrected form from their fishing boat, they quickly headed to shore and not only found Jesus, but also a hot breakfast waiting for them (John 21:9). After all that had been...suffering the loss of their Lord, fleeing His side and denying His name...and after a hard night's work...Jesus is the one waiting for them. With a hot meal.

It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'...Hallelujah.