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JFH Staff Blog | July 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Traveling Thru Colorado

Hey everyone, this week finds us traveling through beautiful Colorado.  I have to say, it has to be one of the prettiest states of them all.  If you've been here, you know what I'm talking about.  When you're driving into the state from the east you see rolling green hills transform into stunning mountains with whitecaps, and crazy rock formations.  This landscape never ceases to amaze me.  How much more can we say about God's creation?  It reminds me of how big God is, and how little my problems really are in the grand scheme of things. So awesome.  

I should let you all in on what brings us to Colorado.  We just finished doing two nights of concerts for WayFM.  I have to say that they were some of the most fun we've had in a while.  Everyone was amazing at these shows.  The churches, their staffs, the WayFM folks (Michelle, you rock), and the opening band were all fantastic.  Now, let me tell you the back story behind this opening band.  WayFM did a contest to decide who would be the opener for both shows.  Local praise bands that wanted to be the opener had to submit a video of themselves playing.  WayFM then uploaded the videos to Facebook and had people vote for their favorite band. The winner ended up being a band called Wires Crossed...  

Believe it or not, Wires Crossed is made up of 10 and 12 year old kids.  I almost hesitate in referring to them as kids, because of how impressed we are with how good they can play.  Either way, these kids are going to be fantastic musicians. I wasn't nearly as cool as them at that age. I'm pretty sure that at that age I was focused on picking my nose and playing video games. These kids are already playing music using in-ear monitors and playing to a click track. There aren't a lot of bands doing either of those things, let alone kids at that age. Not only were they great musicians, but they were fantastic kids. We were blessed more than they know by being able to play two shows with them. Their parents should be proud...I know we were very proud of them, and we barely know them.    

Today we had the privilege of stopping by WayFM's corporate offices.  We were able to sit down with the staff there and get to know them a bit better. They were seriously such a great group of folks to meet and hang out with for a little while. It's such an honor to meet the folks behind the radio stations that are playing our music.  It's a blessing to do what we're doing, and we love being able to meet the people behind the scenes that are helping us get our message out there.  God is so good, and He's using them and their ministry in great and awesome ways.  We love that we are now able to partner with them and learn about their ministry, as well as be able to share ours.  A big thanks to WayFM, you guys are awesome!  

And now my food for thought for the day....I was thinking recently about how I have such a tendency to be impatient.  I want to have things turn out exactly as I hope, exactly when I want it to happen.  How often does that work out?  I think I can confidently say that things rarely work out as I would envision them...but yet, things always seem to work out in ways I could never imagine, and in a much better way than I could have planned.  I don't know how many times that has to happen for me to realize that I just need to have patience and to let God's plan unfold.  Now, granted, I have to do my part in all of this and do my due diligence, but sometimes I just have to let go, and let God do his thing.  I love this verse in Psalms 27:13-14, ÒI am still confident in 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. It's so simple, yet it's so powerful.  My prayer today, is that I can give over my worries and concerns to Him, because He already has an awesome plan unfolding.

Be Well,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

All the Relient K CDs, RANKED by Readers

This is a continuation of my last post where I ranked all the Relient K CDs in order of my favorites. Reading through all the comments that post received, it's pretty obvious I'm not the only one that holds Relient K in a place close to my heart. I had a lot of fun reading through all the reasons for the different rankings you guys put together to show me up, and tallying up the votes. Hearing all your memories of certain songs or CDs, and buying their CDs on release day, etc was great! Anyway, here we go:


6. Relient K (2000)

No real complains here, just an understanding that it was their carefree beginning. Though, a few of the rankers admitted to actually having never heard this one. To which I say, do yourself a favor. If you didn't hear it when it first released, a lot of the appeal is probably lost, since this one exists best in that nostalgia section of the brain, but even still. Songs like "Wake Up Call" are as catchy now as they were in 2000.

5. Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

 A common criticism was that the subject matter was simply too depressing. I can't really jive with that argument, I mean, yeah the subject matter lends itself to melancholy, but this record is so hopeful. Another criticism I saw a couple of times was that it is the least spiritual of all of their releases, to which I say "on the contrary," because it's the most spiritually mature album to come out of CCM in a long while, but I guess I'm just trying to defend my favorite CD, huh. And that's not really fair to this list, haha. You guys ranked this one at number five, and that's where it is. This one appeared in first place about the same number of times it appeared in last place on your lists, a testament to the diversity in opinion.

4. Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

This one got high marks (And I want to state that numbers 5, 4, 3, and 2 were all within 8 marker points of each other on this was close) because it's a fun record. I enjoyed reading the comments that basically said "Look, it's not their best work, but I had a girlfriend at the time it was released and..." It was great. That's part of what makes Relient K music so great, because it's so easy to connect with a certain time in your life. No shame, no shame. Oh, and tons of people called me out on my negativity towards "Deathbed." I'll have you all know I heeded your words and went back and listened to it again to see if I could change my own mind. I tried. I did. I'm sorry...

3. The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek (2001)

 This one recieved high and low marks for being corney and goofy. I guess it just depends on what kind of music you enjoy, and what part of your life you were living out when you first heard it. It was noted that this one blends spirituality and goofiness in a very fun and entertaining way, and I couldn't agree more. I also agree with the comments that mentioned that they were in the process of defining themselves. Honestly, many of the kids listening to this one when it released were in the process of defining themselves as well. I know I was. Lots of good memories associated with this release for all those who ranked it high on their lists, I'm pretty sure.

2. Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do (2003)

 This one got ranked highly on most lists, but without any real clarification. A few things I read were that it had classic written all over it, and that they really came into their own on this one. I think this one ranked as high as it did because Relient K was maturing along with their audience. Their first CD was fun, their second one was spent defining their sound, and their third one was where they finally settled down and said "This is who we are." I think of lot of kids were able to relate to that maturation over the course of three years. That's why in my rankings, I said this one just had that X-factor. I think a lot of people relate to that idea too, hence why this one just happened to be atop many of the lists without much of an explination.

1. mmhmm (2004)

It was a runaway. It appeared at the top of just under a third of the lists, and is the only one that holds the distinction of not being ranked last. Once Relient K had decided who they were on their last release, they began defining and tuning their sound, and this is the first one that displayed what we now know as Relient K. A lot of people think of their CDs as the front half (their first three) and the back half (their last three) in terms of their overall sound, and this one marked that transition. I know a lot of people that also, sadly, think of this as the last good Relient K CD. Even though I'm no huge fan of the one that followed this one, I couldn't disagree more. While it appeared in third on my list, I whole heartedly approve of this one sitting atop this particular list. It earned it. There was nothing more exciting than Relient K when this one released, and boy, did they deliver.


A couple of people suggested putting together a list of my favorite RK songs of all time, and then I'd ask you guys to do the same, and we could see how the lists compared (Something tells me EVERYONE's lists would be a lot different...) What do you guys think?


Friday, July 9, 2010

The WOW Series - A Consumer's Friend... or Foe?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... there was a brand of music compilations called "WOW" that served as the ultimate mix of what's hot in the Christian music world. While most samplers showcasing new tunes were a mere two to five dollars a pop to get a taste of what was up and coming, the WOW series were full price, but they would also consist of two full discs, offering 30 tracks of music (Sometimes including more, actually). In addition to the hottest songs at radio, a few future hits would often appear on the WOW compilations - songs that were on new releases from some of the hottest CCM bands before that album was even out yet. These were the kinds of compilations that did a pretty good job of representing the best of the industry... At least, that's how they started out.

Now, over fifteen years after the first WOW release, the annual installments of WOW are going Gold (WOW 2010) and Platinum (WOW 2009), a truly impressive feat in this economic climate.

But over the past couple years, the WOW brand has tried a bit too ambitiously to cash in on its success, (not to mention that with the ailing economy and music business, the structure of the industry has also greatly changed). In 2008, the WOW brand announced that they would cut the WOW releases from 2 discs to one disc (which was 16 songs plus 3 "bonus" tracks from newcomers) and release them three times a year, starting with the title "WOW Hits 1." To make matters worse, they were going to charge full price for the now one-disc release. It was such a bad idea that "WOW Hits 2" never even saw the light of day and the WOW brand returned to the annual release idea. (And besides... when would you know which ones were released what year?)

We get the idea of WOW Worship, WOW Christmas (which is actually a really fun idea), and WOW Gospel -- even the marketing aim of doing the whole "WOW New & Next" sampler of up-and-coming fresh talent (and at $2.99 by itself or FREE with another WOW purchase is actually a great idea). But what we don't get here, is this "Best Of" annual re-release thing (that was announced earlier this week). Doing a "WOW Best of 2004" in 2010 truly makes little to no sense. Not only are a majority of music buyers [sadly] not interested in the music any older than two or three years, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many music buyers interested in a collection of what was popular six years ago. On top of that, who would want to pay $9.99 for a one-disc release of old music when they can, say, hop on and buy the 2-disc version brand new from a market seller for $9.80 or used for as low as 84 cents? To make matters worse, these one-disc releases are a trim 12 songs, as opposed to the 32, 33, or 34 tracks that the original release offered (depending on the year). It just doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Also, the 2-disc versions are $12.99 digitally... why would you pay 3.00 less for 20 less songs? Sure the WOW folks are proud about the reissues... but why, really?

The "Best Of" marketing strategy just seems nearly as insulting to the intelligence of the consumer as the "WOW Hits 1" did two years ago. Here's to hoping someone re-thinks this and begins to give music buyers just a smidgen of more credit than this.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Fun Story -- Part 2

I hope everyone is doing well this week.  We’ve continued to enjoy our 2 weeks off, as it’s been a while since we've had that long of a time to relax and reenergize.  This week we’re back out on the road (as of today).  The adventures continue, as we were only a few hours from home when our van started to shake violently.  We immediately pulled over to check it out.  We thought it was either a flat tire, or some crazy sudden alignment issue.  We inspected the tires, and we couldn't visibly see anything wrong, but we knew that something was up, or the van wouldn't be shaking that way.  We promptly looked up the closest tire place, and headed that direction.  A few minutes later we had arrived at a local brake/tire shop, and sure enough, one of our van’s rear tires was engorged (the exact diagnosis from the local tire guru).  From the moment we had initially stopped, to the time we pulled up to the shop, one of our tires had swollen up almost to the point of exploding.  If we had driven much longer on that tire, it would have blown, and we probably would have wrecked, since the weight of the trailer would have pulled the back of the van to the ground.  Bad news.  We know God was looking out for us, because we are safe and sound, our van is safe, and we got a good deal on a new tire.  Yay!

This week’s installment of David Troyer’s relatively boring, but astonishingly interesting stories from domestic home life is a continuation of last week’s story.  If you didn’t read last week's blog, you need to go read it first, as the rest of this story will make little sense to you otherwise.  Trust me, you’ll want to read Part 1 first...then the rest of this will bring more joy to your life.

Ok...I believe we left off with a trapped raccoon in my bedroom...

You can imagine that as I sprinted out of my room, that my mind was racing with all kinds of questions.  The one most obvious question, How did a raccoon get into the house?!?!  Additionally, two things occurred to me at that point. 1: I ran out of my room without any clothes other than what I wore to bed, and 2; my phone and keys were still in my bedroom.  So, if I wanted to leave the house, or call anyone, I had to go back into my bedroom.......with the trapped raccoon.  Not good.

Ok, back to the “How did a raccoon get into the house?” question.  It didn’t take but a few seconds for me to realize that the door to my bedroom had been closed all night, so either the raccoon was already in my room when I went to bed, or it somehow got into my room during the night.  One background detail to this story is that neither of my two housemates were home that week.  So, it was just me to fight the raccoon battle.  Another important detail, both of their bedroom doors had been shut all week.  Soooo, knowing this, I knew that if the raccoon had been in the house earlier the previous day and got into my room, that it would have been roaming around the house, and it was likely that it would leave some sort of clue that it had been there.  So, other than the other two bedrooms (because, how could it have gotten in there if the doors were shut?), I checked the whole house.  No signs of a raccoon anywhere.
This is where it gets interesting.  I knew that if the raccoon had gotten into my bedroom during the night, there was only one way in...through the floor vent.  If it got into my room, then it was possible that it had also gotten into the other bedrooms as well.  Soooo, I went to the bedroom across the hall, and inspected that bedroom.  I found that it was empty; no raccoons.  But, the vent had been pushed up out of the floor.  Aha!!! The raccoon had been here!!! And there was my answer as to how he got into the house.  Now all I needed to do was check the last bedroom to make sure it was ok...

I giggle every time I think about this inspection.  The last bedroom is the master bedroom of the house.  I cautiously walked into the room, and I immediately saw evidence of an intrusion.  One of his vents was pushed out of the floor as well.  Not only that, but there were little piles of raccoon poop on the floor, which was both repulsive and hilarious at the same time.  I’m thinking at this moment, “Oh man, Tim (roommate) is going to flip when he hears about this.” Then I walked into the master bathroom, and it turns out the fun had only just begun. The first thing I see in the bathroom is that the raccoon had knocked the toothpaste bottle and toothbrush holder(including toothbrush) into the sink.  Apparently the raccoon then thought it would be a good idea to poo all over the items in the sink!!!  Not just a little...a lot!!!  Once again, completely disgusting and hilarious at the same time...

By this time, I realized that when the raccoon had sprinted towards me and then run under my bed, he was really making his way to the vent in my room.  The vent is at the foot of my bed.  I knew at that point that there was no way he was still in the house.  I got brave enough to go back into my room, and of course, I found that the raccoon was long gone.  Cue huge sigh of relief... ahhhhhhhh....

In the aftermath of that event we found how the raccoon had gotten into the ventilation system in the house, and sealed it off.  I also want to say that when I called my roommate Tim about what happened in his bedroom, he laughed hysterically.  Since he was going to be gone for a while, I had the joy of cleaning up the raccoon poo, but frankly, the whole thing was so funny I didn't really mind.  Good times.

That my friends, is a another chapter in “David Troyer’s relatively boring, but astonishingly interesting stories from domestic home life.”

Again, I hope you’re all doing well... and I’ll be back again next week.

Luke 10:27

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All six Relient K CDs, ranked.

All of Relient K's CDs RANKED
(Excluding every time they re-released that Christmas CD) (And EPs)


6. Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

Now, granted, when I did my initial write up for this CD back in '07, I gave it a glowing review. But even in those paragraphs, a nagging discomfort with the album as a whole was apparent. Well, "One Forget and Not Slow Down, and Three Years Later," hindsight proves this one to be a quick detour for an otherwise stellar career. At least even when Matthew Thiessen is writing his least-great CD, he's clear about his intentions. With lyrics like "Why don't you come right out and say it?" and "And I know that it's so cliche..." we're made aware of the fact that this is Relient K's most direct, simplistic CD- not that we really needed to be told. But at least he warns us. Half the songs are about this girl he was crazy about. Good for him, bad for us. The whole thing just sounds kind of off. There are some good tracks mixed in with the bunch ("Faking My Own Suicide," "Give, and "Up and Up,"), but Five Score... just sounds off balance and haphazard. It's something they would have gotten away with earlier in the decade, but not by 2007. Some of the lyrics are signature Thiessen and stand their ground against some of his best writing, and some of it is literally awful, particularly anything relating to how in love he is with his girl. And then there's that over indulgent, eleven minute "Deathbed" song that had everyone in a tizzy because FINALLY Relient K got back to their Christian roots! What? What band had these people been listening to for seven years? Did anyone actually listen to this song? It was boring. So was this CD.

5. Relient K (2000) Does anyone remember what it was like when Relient K showed up? It was exciting. There was cool Christian rock music to listen to. It wasn't too heavy, it wasn't too weird, it was just fun. It was some kind of pop/punk rock that hadn't really touched Christian music yet at that point- at least not with the impact that Relient K was threatening to bring. "Hello McFly," "My Girlfriend," "Wake Up Call,"... Christian music was finally cool. And the dark, stellar "Softer to Me" was a glimpse of the honest, reflective writing that would become Thiessen's trademark. Not much substance; mostly fun and goofy, but still one of my favorite CDs to listen to when I'm feeling nostalgic.

4. The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek (2001) The excitement and anticipation surrounding this CD was unmatched at the time. And Relient K delivered. The songs were still goofy and fun, but Thiessen started developing his real songwriting chops on this one. The songs became more spiritual in nature, not just in name. Definitely as the album title describes, this one contains probably the most pop culture references of any Relient K CD to date (Thundercats, Mr. Ed, etc.), but songs like "For the Moment, I Feel Faint," were honest, sincere looks at faith and God. Thiessen has always had a knack for taking a tough personal issue and resolving it by song's end.

3. mmhmm (2004) Definitely their darkest album to date, mmhmm is hard to stick in third, but, really there are two others I enjoy more, somehow. So here it finds itself. Thiessen continued to mature as writer and wordsmith on this, their fourth CD. This was also the first CD of theirs not to include some sort of goofy, throw away track (Not even a hidden track!). Relient K meant business, this time. The lyrical maturity is all over it, and the music never sounded better. So many classic tracks came off of this one... I started to list them, but erased it when it just became a track listing. Really, the only drawback is (surprise, surprise) the one track devoted to whoever he was dating at this point ("My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend") which just sort of sounds bland and out of place on an otherwise dark, earthy release. Oh, and the fact that "More Than Useless" and "Who I am hates Who I've Been" sound pretty much identical. But I'm being picky.

2. Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do (2003) This one is the perfect blend of fun and heart. Again, so many classic songs came off Relient K's third release. It's hard to sum this one up in words. It just has that X factor to it that makes it stellar. And it just hit at the perfect time. For me, it kind of marks the end of the "glory days" of Tooth & Nail and the like. Maybe it's just because I was 15 at the time it released, and it was just perfect for that time in my life. But nostalgia aside, this is the release that brought us the popular answer for "best Relient K song ever" in the form of "I Am Understood?" Really, Thiessen was unmatched in his ability to craft a song at this point. Only he could pull off a song with an opening lyric as simple and honest as "Sometimes it's embarrassing to talk to You" and then bring it home with a chorus so resounding, so heartbreakingly truthful, that seven years later, it still brings a tear to the eye. Aside from the rich spiritual themes found throughout, this was the last time Relient K played the goof-off card, and it was a fitting farewell.

1. Forget and Not Slow Down (2009) It was hard not to rank Two Lefts... number one, and harder still to rank a CD that hasn't even been out for a year yet higher than all the rest, but that is a testament to the treat that is Forget and Not Slow Down. In a nutshell, the girl Thiessen spend half of his last album ranting and raving about dumped him, and then he wrote his whole next album about it. Popular wisdom would say that the former release would be a lot better than the latter. But a breakup apparently made Thiessen a lot more reflective than did relationship bliss. It's a little bittersweet that it took a breakup to get him to write his best record of his career, but hey, it's the truth. Of all the Relient K CDs, this is the most honest, most heartbreaking, most hopeful, most spiritual, most conceptual, and most sincere. Somewhere in every Relient K record, Thiessen likes to state his intentions. This one is simply therapy. Without even trying, Thiessen wears his heart on his sleeve with an album that is written like a fifteen-track prayer. For those experiencing this kind of loss, it is therapy too. And for those in happy relationships, it provides perspective with lyrics like "I don't need a soul to hold. Without you, I'm still whole. You and life remain beautiful." The contrast between Five Score... and Forget... is so stark, so drastic, it's hard to believe they sit next to each other on the discography shelf. It took a poor outing to give us all the details about his self-proclaimed "Best Thing," but we find out he's "Over It" on his best one to date.

That's my list... where would you guys rank them?

- Josh

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Recommend - Summer Music Guide

I thought a "special edition" of JFH's "We Recommend" was in order to feature Summertime recommendations. Now, keep in mind - this is by NO means a comprehensive list of music that is perfect for your Summer music enjoyment, but this is simply some tunes we recommend for crusing to or enjoying the Summer sun with.

Each Summer, those who can drive know what it means to have some music especially suitable for blaring with the windows down. And for those who can't drive, Summer music represents that time in our lives when Summer music is a soundtrack for life. So, to honor that, here are a few titles currently available that I recommend for your Summer driving and life soundtracks...

-- Children 18:3 ... Rain's 'A Comin'... this is one of those albums that just begs to be played with the windows down during one of those sweltering Summer days or cool, starry nights. The record takes its time to rock out and even go the acoustic route, offering a full-range of Summertime-worthy sounds. Highlights? The title track, no doubt, as well as "Cover Your Eyes," "Oh Bravo," Oh Honestly!", "Stronger," and "Lost So Long."

-- Ivoryline ... Vessels .... Fans of Anberlin itching for a new release (or one a bit less commercial than New Surrender) will find what they're looking for in the hooky and catchy sounds of Ivoryline's new record. Although it doesn't drop until July 27, it's worth the wait, and will serve as a nice accompaniment to Children 18:3's latest. Highlights include "The Healing," "Search Me Out," "Instincts," "Hearts Open," "Vessels"

-- House Of Heroes ... Suburba .... It's unfortunate this one doesn't release until August 3rd because this album is pretty solid for Summertime enjoyment. At least it's still hot out when this one drops... HOH taps into Americana influences and Queen to capture a unique vibe for Suburb. And since this record thematically focuses more on the teen years, younger listeners (and the sentimental older listeners) should connect more with Suburba. Highlights include "Relentless," "So Far Away," "Elevator," "Independence Day for a Petty Thief," and "Love is for the Middle Class."

-- Newsboys ... Born Again .... Tait band and faithful Newsboys fans will especially want to grab this one on July 13. It's a solid mix of soulful pop and pop rock, with even a cover of dc Talk's "Jesus Freak" featuring KJ-52 (instead of TobyMac on the original). If the aforementioned titles are too indie rock or edgy for your tastes, you'll want to look into Born Again. Highlights include the title track, "Build Us Back," "Impossible," "Miracles," and "Escape."

-- Charmaine ... Love Reality .... I find I keep coming back to this one. If you like epic, big sounding power pop, this record is what the doctor ordered. Lovely, fun, and insanely catchy, pop fans will find this one quite Summer-worthy. And best yet, with some meaningful lyrical themes found within, this is a pop record that's ANYTHING but just fluff. Highlights? The whole thing.

-- TobyMac ... Tonight .... Like Charmaine's record, it's a bit unfortunate this one came out so early this year. The party anthems and catchy hip hop flavored pop and rock make this one perfect for the road and chill-time with friends. Highlights - "Hey Devil," "Showstopper," "Tonight"

-- Group 1 Crew ... Spacebound EP .... Dance music fans will want to check out Group 1 Crew's teaser EP from their upcoming Fall release. This is Summer music at it's poppiest. G1C may find this one a big stylistic shift from the band's previous efforts, but it's undeniably party-ready!

-- OTHER Notable Releases: The hardcore fan will surely want to check out Haste The Day's new record, Attack of the Wolf King, while another hard release worth checking out is the self-titled release from Write This Down. And if you maybe want a softer record, definitely go for the soulful pop of Jaymes Reunion's new album Everything You've Been Looking For. And don't forget... pretty much anything Family Force 5 has made (save for the Christmas album) is perfect for Summer listening.

-- "CLASSIC" SUGGESTIONS: Not worried about making sure you have the latest music for Summer listening? Not a problem. Check out the ska-rock of The O.C. Supertones, particularly their final release, Revenge Of The O.C. Supertones. or the 90's pop rock sound of Audio Adrenaline's gem, bloOm. I could really go on and on, but other reliable artists to check out -- Dakoda Motor Co. (either of their first two releases), Bleach (who actually have a new EP releasing sometime this year), Switchfoot, Jars Of Clay (their album from last year, The Long Fall Back To Earth even has a song called "Scenic Route"), NEEDTOBREATHE, Project 86, and Skillet.

Happy Summer listening! - John

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberated to Live

By Dr. Charles Stanley

Freedom is one of the most-prized human ideals, and as Americans, we are blessed to live in a nation where we can serve God with unreserved obedience. Throughout our great history, people have fought and given their lives to be liberated from tyranny. We know that the rights and privileges we enjoy today have come at an incredible price. So as we celebrate the 234th anniversary of our Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence, I challenge you to consider both the freedom from oppression we enjoy in the United States and the liberty from sin we have through Jesus Christ our Savior.

These are important subjects to consider because as our nation enters another election season, we must be wise and watchful. The decisions being made and the direction the country will take in the months and years ahead are sure to impact many generations to come. If we make the mistake of surrendering control of our lives and country to those who act contrary to God’s Word, we will find ourselves bound by the same chains our forefathers cast off so long ago.

That is why it is critically important for all Americans to seek and obey God, because it’s only through Him that we have true liberty to live life at its best. Therefore, the first thing we need to do is make the choice to put the Lord first in everything we do. We must reject the destructive ways of the world and choose to live in submission to our heavenly Father (John 8:34–36).

Second, we must trust God to change the course and character of our nation. We are to be salt and light in our communities, stepping out in obedience with the faith that He will hear from heaven and heal our land (2 Chron. 7:14).

Third, we are to fight this battle for America’s future on our knees. It is our duty as Christians to pray for our leaders in the hope that they will turn their hearts to do the will of God. Only He can transform them into men and women who will truly honor Him (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

We may not know who will hold the seats of power across America months from now, but we do know the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So let us embrace the freedom He’s given us and thank Him for liberating us to live for His name’s sake—and may God continue to bless America.

Copyright 2010 In Touch Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Going Old School (MIM Tour Blog)

JULY 2 2010

So we're currently in our van driving home from a show in Richmond VA last night, which was a lot of fun, except for the fact that my guitar kept going out on me during the show. Not to mention, the light controller crashed before the show. And also, the power for the entire building shut down halfway through our set. But besides that, it was a blast, and the folks in Richmond were super fun. What else matters at the end of the day anyway? :)

This was not the first show that my guitar has went out on me. In fact, I feel like the past several shows, I've had some kind of different issue with it every time. Last night, the first thing to go out on it was my wireless pack. The cable that connects my guitar to the wireless transmitter apparently has developed a short in it. But no worries, our road manager Josh came to the rescue with a guitar cord to replace the wireless. So we're good to go...for a minute anyway.
It works fine about halfway through the next song, and then something in my pedalboard started making tons on loud alien noises and then all of a sudden just went out altogether. I did what any intelligent person would do when this happens, and I kicked it several times, hoping that it would work out whatever kink it was experiencing. But no, that didn't work. So I bent down and unplugged my volume pedal and just bypassed it, hoping that this would fix the problem, as I've  had issues with them in the past. But no, that didn't work either. Meanwhile, Tim and Dex were still playing and I was having to keep the vocals going on top of all of this.
I got so frustrated that I just said in my head "forget it", and unplugged the entire pedal board and went straight into one of my amps, going "old-school" again.
Luckily enough, this worked well enough to get us through the rest of the show.
Now as frustrating as this all was, it reminds me of a simple fact that I feel that God teaches me over and over again in my life, and it's simply GETTING BACK TO THE SOURCE. When I just took my guitar and plugged it straight into the amp, there was no room for error, and it just worked fine. With everything in between, there is a risk that any one of the small little cables or power supplies could go wrong at any given time.
This is the same with our lives, and the relationship we have with our creator. When we fill our lives with clutter that we so often think is essential to our survival, our "direct connection" to God gets fuzzy, and can sometimes get cut off. We forget that He is the reason for our being, and that He is the one true source of our purpose and balance. It's my prayer today for myself, and for everyone reading right now, that we are just reminded to get right back to "the source", and make sure there is nothing standing in the way.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Who Brings The Change (More Like Falling In Love Part 7)'s like I'm falling
in love, love, love - deeper and deeper
it was love that made me a believer
in more than a name, a faith, a creed
falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

"Therefore... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Philippians 2:12

I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog series that I've gotten emails and notes - most of them respectful and thoughtful - from some who have had concerns over what some of the lyrics mean in my song "More Like Falling In Love", and though I run the risk of seeming defensive, I thought it might be good to let some recent emails guide our conversation for this blog.  The two latest comments I received were kindly expressed by people whose concerns, interestingly, were polar opposites - which I suppose can be expected if we understand truth to be paradoxical more often than not, it's DNA made up of seemingly contradictory ideas (the greatest is the least, you lay down your life to find it, work out your salvation… it's God who works in you…, etc.).  The truth is black and white, and sometimes even seems frustratingly gray, or sometimes even purple, for that matter.  (I'm not talking about relativism here, so don't get nervous :-)

On the one hand are those who are concerned that I'm downplaying the believer's role in the saving/sanctifying work of God in our lives.  The line that says, "it's more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance" is the real stickler for them.  (Okay, maybe I'll get just a little defensive for a moment and point out that I'm not saying that we don't give our allegiance, but rather that it's more like losing our heart to a Person than it is giving allegiance to an ideology of propositional truths.  If the relationship is in place, a passionate allegiance will surely follow.  Blood is thicker than water, right?)  I imagine their concern is that I'm shortchanging the cost of discipleship by encouraging believers to do too little in the "working out of their salvation with fear and trembling..." I mean, c'mon - you can't just sit there and do nothing, right?

On the other hand are some who have expressed concern that I give us too much to do and am shortchanging God's role by making too big a deal of our role in the work where I write "falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me". Their read on this lyric is that I've put the ball of salvation/sanctification in our court, implying that it was my willful act of falling in love that brought about the change in me, that it's up to me to somehow manufacture transformation by mustering up enough love and devotion for God, when the scripture clearly tells us "…for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose."  

I guess it just goes to show you can't please everybody :-)

But they both make a good point, and I'm grateful that they're listening - what an honor to have someone engage a song lyric on that level, and a pop song no less!  I suppose the truth is that there is a real tension between these two ideas, and my lyric - like myself - is probably caught somewhere in the middle.  Maybe that I've gotten both kinds of emails is a sign that I was on the right track.

I will confess that I have passionately believed in the role that I'm responsible to play in God's work in my life.  But as I've gotten older, I also confess that I've become just as passionate about the conviction that it's all grace, all a gift, that even the ability to receive it is a gift, and that my insufficiency can only be met and answered by God's all sufficiency.  And yet, and yet…

We feel the tension - the great mystery of God's sovereignty and the holy freedom of free will He bestows upon us: the freedom to honor the gift giver or do terrible, terrible atrocities with the freedom that he sovereignly gives us - including the atrocity of complacency.  It's enough to make the head spin or the scalp go cold…  I'm with Job: "surely I spoke of things… too wonderful for me to know." (Job 42:3)

But even if I'm afraid of diving in the deep end of this great mystery, I think I can at least dip my toe in the pool by reflecting on the idea of how "falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me".  

There is a sense in which the action of falling in love is my own, I suppose.  I remember when I first saw Taya, my wife, and the way she absolutely caught my eye and captured my attention.  We were both on a mission trip with our youth groups in our senior year of high school.  She was from Bellingham, WA and I was from Mankato, MN.  Our youth groups converged in Chicago as we partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build housing for the poor there.  It was a grand adventure and each night we would gather to share our experiences of the day.  And here was this lovely young woman who spoke with such depth, passion, and authority!  She was lit on fire with her love for the Lord and when she would share, her words were like little sparks that would set flame to anyone who let themselves be touched by them. I sought this girl out.  It was an act of my will to get to know this girl. I found excuses to engage her in conversation and eventually even got her address and phone number (this was before the days of email, youngsters).

I remember a pastor friend of mine talking about how he met his wife, what it was like when he first saw her across the room, and how he then moved towards her to try to make contact.  He was always convinced that it was he who initiated the conversation that led to their relationship, but it wasn't until years later that he realized that he saw and noticed her across the room because she wanted to be seen and noticed by him. What humble grace to allow him to think all those years that he was the sole initiator of the relationship!  What generosity to invite him to play such a dignified part in their meeting when she knew what she was doing all along.

I remember talking with another pastor friend of mine once as we wondered about when the moment of salvation actually happens - does it happen after you go to the altar and pray the magic prayer?  Or did it happen before the prayer when you were in your seat and the Holy Spirit first quickened the words of the gospel in your heart and you decided to respond?  Or did it happen earlier that day when you decided to obey the leading of the Spirit and go to church?  Or did it happen somewhere before the beginning of time at the foundations of the earth?  Such a delightful mystery…  It should leave us humbled and grateful to be recipients of such grace.  It should ignite a passion in us to work toward being better disciples of the Author and Finisher of our faith. It should make us want to both give more of our lives and receive more Life, to work out our salvation, trusting that it's God who is at work.

Either way it went down, the creeds - the intellectualization of it - came after the fact. But at the moment of truth when my heart first surrendered to what the Lord had been doing in me all along, it was love, love that I felt and knew for the first time, Love that changed me from the inside out, Love that changes me still and is leading me home.