Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I am wigging out about putting together my first-ever Christmas Eve service, and of course I feel like it's going to be very monumental. One of the biggest challenges I've had so far this year is finding a drummer to sit in with us for our worship service. All four of my drummers have commitments so I asked a long list of drummers from our sister church, which is much, much bigger. I think at the weekend I was 0-10 which is easy for me to relate to considering I am a Minnesota Timberwolves and Iowa State Cyclones fan.
Every weekend I struggle what to say when it comes to the offering. We want first-time visitors to feel welcome and we don't want them to think we're after their money. After all, I think besides us Christians being major hypocrites the second reason for not attending church would be that there's this perception that we're after their money so we can build a big 'ol building. So this weekend, I looked at Christmas songs and zeroed in on the "Drummer Boy" which is a story about a musician that has nothing to bring to Jesus except the gift of music. So I shared the lyrics of this song with the church before offering and then tactfully (I am far from that) asked if anyone in the church wanted to bring their percussion gift before Jesus this year for Christmas since we needed a drummer.
God provides. After the service, I found my drummer and I am totally excited about HER playing for us. First of all, I love the fact that our drummer is a young lady since it seems like this is a male dominated role. Secondly, I love the fact that our drummer is a freshman in high school. And thirdly, it's our lead guitarist's daughter so I know it will make the night all that more special.
Monday, December 10, 2007
YWAM really hits home for me because I have some friends of mine who are missionaries with YWAM...stationed in Jamaica but currently serving in China.
And New Life Church Worship and The Desperation Band are probably two of my favorite worship teams. That church has already gone through so much in such a short period of time.
Because YWAM and New Life Church have given so much (even to me personally), I think we need to give back in prayer and support of these ministries.
Last week as I was reading from Exodus 17, I was thinking that if we approach the cross with a humble and worshipful heart, we can overcome anything. The great thing about these verses is that Moses wasn’t alone…Aaron and Hur stood by his side and lifted him up when he was drained…when he had nothing more to give. (see below)
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Stand strong, New Life Church and YWAM. We will be at your side, lifting your hands so that you may overcome this tragedy. We’re praying for you.
Jesus, please send your grace, love and compassion to this ministries and the communities of Colorado Springs and Denver.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
KHOP recently revamped their schedule and is pushing more towards that 24/7 worship and prayer model. Unfortunately for us it meant that we needed to start looking for a new practice space. We've been down this road before and truthfully I kind of like the adventure of it all. In fact, I had been spouting off to a fellow member of our ministry to have some fun and faith when it comes to overcoming these obstacles. Little did I know I would be facing that same challenge myself.
So I put out some calls to some of the churches we partnered with over the summer at Ankeny's annual Summerfest. We had played a half-hour set with three other churches during the peak of summer at the Ankeny band shell. So I figured I would call them up and see if they would be willing to loan us some practice space since we're technically nomads...a church without its own space.
The United Methodist Church responded and within a week's time, we had a new home.
While the space and the media equipment isn't ideal, God provided nonetheless. It allows us to get together during the weekday to practice and fellowship, to prepare for the weekend's worship services. It's located in Ankeny so I don't have to worry about the band traveling too far from home. And honestly it's nice to partner with a church in the area...to share the same vision of reaching the community of Ankeny, which only 30% attends church. Hopefully it will be the start of a great friendship between churches.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Provided our worship team didn't practice this week (that's another story) they hit a home run during this song. The Holy Spirit was upon the team and it turned out to be a very moving song to play.
I listened to Pastor Mike's sermon about grace and one comment he made that really struck a chord with me was, "God liberally give us grace." Now before all the legalistic theologians respond to this post, let me clarify that he was saying that no matter where you were in life, God's grace is still good enough for you. You could be a murderer, a rapist, a slanderer, or whatever.
At the second service as we finished Grace Like Rain, we walked out into the lobby of the school and the sky opened up and poured out a beautiful rain over us. All I could think about was God liberally raining down His grace on us.
Have mercy on me a sinner.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
If there's one record that I can't seem to stop listening to, I would have to say it's New Life Worship's My Savior Lives.
When I am in worship leader mode, I try to find new and fresh music that the church would respond to. Most worship CDs I would hard pressed to find 1-2 doable songs we could utilize during a worship service. In this case, I would venture to say that most of the songs I would consider using.
Some of my favorites tunes of this record include:
- My Savior Lives
- Here in Your Presence
- Your Name
- Live to Worship
- This is Our God
We also have been jamming to "This Is Our God" and are introducing this song into our regular worship this weekend. Tomorrow night I am using it during a Harp & Bowl worship set so we'll see how it does. I knew this song was a winner when my 5 year-old boys asked me if I would sing it back to them so they could learn the chorus.
"Here In Your Presence" is a beautiful song if you can stick with it. I made my wife listen to the song today and it didn't resonate too well with her because it took too long to build. I tried to reason with her saying that it was structured much like "The Stand" but she has some merit in thinking that. The bridge on "Here In Your Presence" is quite awesome though as they repeat over and over...
"Wonderful. Beautiful. Glorious. Matchless in every way..."
"Your Name" is a song that explodes near the end. There's a part in there where they cry out over and over, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" Even my two year-old picked up on it right away and started yelling it with them.
"Live to Worship" almost sounds like Chris Tomlin wrote it. It just seems to fit his style...similar to "Made to Worship" or "Holy Is the Lord."
And how can you not love "Endlessly?" One of my worshippers on our team said that it's one of our church's anthems.
So go out and buy this CD...you won't be disappointed.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Almost a year ago, I received an e-mail from our worship ministry team at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa asking if I would consider helping with worship at our satellite church in Ankeny, Iowa. Because at the time I was going through a season of busyness and purging distractions from my life, I ended up deleting the e-mail. Thankfully my wife was also on the e-mail thread.
Because I felt like I was trying to protect my time spent with my family, I was a little surprised when she cornered me later that week and said, "I think that we should volunteer at NorthBranch Church to get them through the holidays."
The next thing I knew, I volunteered my time to help with their only weekend worship service on Saturdays and a few remaining dates for the Alpha Course. Despite lacking fancy media technology the mother church owned, my transition to NorthBranch was pretty easy. I honestly walked into a great situation with a talented backline that was hungry to worship.
It didn't dawn on me how much the church had grown on me until the last weekends of leading a member told me they should create a permanent name tag for me. I stopped writing my name on the sticky name tag and thought about that for a second but said, "Actually this is my last weekend here leading worship."
Those words really sunk in. At the time, the church had called a pretty dynamic pastor named Scott Rains that really spoke to my heart. Our families were bonded together already and the church simply felt like home. But surely God didn't want us to drive a half hour each way to church. Or maybe He did.
After a couple of conversations over coffee at Java G's and some arm twisting by both Pastor Scott and Pastor Molly, they laid out the offer to come to NorthBranch to develop and grow the worship ministry. I thought they were nuts. Surely God didn't want us to drive a half hour each way to church. Or maybe He did.
God must speak to my wife pretty regularly because later in the week she said, "You're going to take that worship leader role at NorthBranch aren't you? This is something we're going to do aren't we?"
I replied, "We are?" I figured she would think it was nuts to drive a half hour each way to church. She didn't think that way.
"Yeah, I think we should," she said.
I started my full-time unpaid position at the beginning of the year and I haven't looked back. Honestly I've been surprised that I haven't burned out or grown bored. Quite the opposite has happened. I seem more engaged with worship and my role. It actually agonizes me when we're on vacation and I have to miss church. I miss seeing the people, hearing the message, following the Holy Spirit in worship.
I'm glad my wife listens to God and is obedient to Him. It's been an incredible journey so far NorthBranch Church...I can't wait to see where God leads us from here.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tonight my wife came home from Immersion in a mess. Justin showed the Invisible Children video at the church service and it broke her heart into a million pieces. She echoes what was said tonight, "Something must be done. It's time to move."
Thanks for taking a risk and showing the video tonight.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Yeah, that was me on Friday night. We drove to my sister's house and Logan crumpled on the trampoline as he and I jumped together. I knew immediately it wasn't good. And several hours later, the doctors at the ER confirmed that he has a buckled fracture of the tibia.
As I mowed the lawn tonight, I thought about how I wished I could rewind time and do that night over again...how I wish I could trade places with him. I thought about all of the things I would consider doing to trade places with him. I stopped short of sawing off my arm (yeah, I think weird things) because I wanted both of my arms to be able to hug my kids.
Anyway, if you could keep Logan in your prayers I would appreciate it.
While we were there, my father-in-law lined up an appointment for me to meet with a small business owner who was interested in having me develop a website for his business. We left at 9:30 and drove the half-hour to his office and chatted along the way. I got to see parts of the city and countryside that I've never seen before on the way down.
When we arrived, we found the door unlocked, a candle burning and a puppy roaming the office freely. There wasn't a sign of "Mike" anywhere. My father-in-law gave him a call and it turned out that he blew us off to check out some potential business.
I more or less laughed in disbelief and chalked it up to the way people do things in the south. And I thought about how I just wasted an hour in the car for a missed appointment.
However on the way back to my in-laws' house, we passed a cemetery along the road. For a split second, my eyes fell upon three people holding hands and praying. It was one of the most moving and beautiful images I had seen all week. A sudden sense of peace fell over me and I smiled thinking how God didn't want me to meet with Mike but to see this image of his children praying to him.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
So one of my friends, Mitch Matthews from "Do You Q", organized this awesome event back in May called The Big Gathering. It was a way of connecting a few hundred people in Des Moines to chase after their dreams. Mitch is a dreamer but he also chases after his dreams. I think so many of us have let too many people tell us that our dreams are silly or can't be accomplished...and unfortunately we've listened to them. Mitch is working to help people overcome those fears and has been an incredible encourager and resource provider.
If you visit the site BigDreamGathering.com you'll read and hear dreams as complicated as starting a new business to as simple as riding a roller coaster for the first time. It's a beautiful thing!This week, Brad Jorgensen, edited and posted my video out on the site. My dream is to design, develop and distribute Christian parody t-shirts. I think the Christian body needs to NOT take itself so seriously and these shirts are the perfect way to communicate that message. Furthermore, they are great conversation starters. So here's my dream...I guess it's time to start chasing after it.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
We just got back from a wonderful vacation to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and to partake in our 2nd family reunion. Since we were going to such a scenic area of the US, I thought I would surprise the boys by tossing in their digital cameras that their grandfather bought for them this year at Christmas. They honestly haven't received that much use so I thought they would find it enjoyable to snap a few photos of the mountains.
When we busted out the cameras in Winter Park, Colorado I was a little surprised at how many photos the boys were taking...especially of random things. Then I started getting a little annoyed. We tried to coach them that a camera wasn't a toy and that they should focus on taking pictures of meaningful things. But they kept snapping away.
I guess I failed to realize that what was meaningful to them is different than it is to us. They snapped photos of the jungle gym in the town square in Winter Park. Caleb lined up all of his Star Wars and Superhero action figures and took photos of them.
Last night when I was uploading their photos to our computer, I came across the most breathtaking photo of the Colorado sky. No, I didn't take it. I guess I should learn from my kids...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
This summer it seems that my twin sons are in learning mode. Perhaps it's naturally happening because in the fall they will embark upon grade school as kindergarteners. But activity after activity I find that I am teaching them a new skill.
The fondest memory of this summer is probably teaching the boys how to ride their bikes. Granted, we're still in the process of developing these skills so by no means have they (or even I) mastered anything. But it's an amazing metaphor for parenting and faith.
A few weeks ago, we decided it was time to take off the training wheels on their Trek Jet 20s. What's interesting about this story is that I am NOT handy with tools. I struggled in the garage for what seemed like hours before accepting defeat. Frustrated, we left one bike in the garage to be fine-tuned by my father at a later time, while we drove to a local church that backs to a park.
Once there, we got the boys dressed from head to toe in protective gear - state-of-the-art helmets, elbow pads and knee pads just in case they should (gasp) crash. We started on the grass on a gradual slope and I ran with them 100 feet at a time yelling "Pedal! Pedal! Hold on tight! Keep it straight! Look ahead!" and panting up a storm. Did I mention it was in the upper 80s / lower 90s that day? Eventually we moved to a baseball diamond and this is where the metaphor begins.
As a parent I learned that eventually I had to let go of the bike. That's not the easiest thing in the world when you consider that up until this point, your role as a parent is to nurture and protect your children - not let them fall over on their bikes and skin up their knees. But this was the point in their development when I needed to learn to let go as a parent and my kids needed to learn how to fall on their own & pick themselves back up again.
But there's so much freedom and joy in letting go. I can't tell you how proud I was at my little boys furiously pedaling down the grassy hill or the open parking lot. When I learned to let go and see the fruit of my labor, it was a beautiful moment to watch them glide around on their bicycles.
I think God must smile at us riding our bicycles of life around down here. He must smile when we fall off our bicycles and pick ourselves up again. And I'm sure it pains Him to let go of our bicycles and watch us crash at periodic times of our lives (or in my case all of the time). But He's there to help us back up when we crash.
One of the best moments of this particular day was that each time I'd try to get my sons psyched up to tackle their bikes, we would pray for courage and protection. One of my kids took a pretty good spill; the kind where you hold your breath and wait to see if he's okay. I ran over to him to assist and he turned to me and said, "I think Jesus helped catch my fall."
Of all the lessons he learned that day, I think that must have been the most important. Now if we could only teach them how to swim...
Monday, June 18, 2007
God really stirred my heart during the conference. The first day I felt a shifting in the spiritual world as I took in the great worship and messages from various speakers. It left me confused because I desperately wanted to hear God's voice. In hindsight, God was speaking but He just wasn't sharing any insights with my current struggles. But he was saying, "Hey Erik. We really need to hang out more."
During my first breakout session on Wednesday morning, one of Willow Creek's worship leaders (Helena McNeil) lead a workshop on "Being a Worshipper." I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to get much out of this and wasn't actually even planning on attending except that the "Building a Worship Ministry" workshop was already booked. I trusted God had a plan for me attending.
I was immediately intrigued as she was from Australia (a place I would love to move to someday) and has twins (as do I). Helena is an angel. She has the anointing of God over her so as her talk unfolded, I hung on ever word from her passionate heart. It was as if she and Misty Edwards were carved from the same DNA...there's just something special about them. Godly. Holy. Anointed.
Disappointed there wouldn't be any Q & A time, Helena turned to the piano and left some time at the end of the workshop to worship. And God began moving throughout the room...I mean seriously moving. I got hit pretty hard and began crying as I sang my guts out to the Lord.
The night before, my pastor asked me if I was able to worship while leading worship. I pondered his question and said, "You know I think I do. Although sometimes I am thinking about what's next and where I am in a song."
But God spoke to me during this session. He said, "You've been so busy leading people to worship you've forgotten how to worship and how to be lead in worship."
He was right.
I was crying, along with everyone else in the room.
Our voices and hearts were lifted high. It was a beautiful moment in time to hear 200-300 other worship leaders crying out to God in a unified voice. It was heavenly and I thank God for that pinprick of what heaven might be like.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Since I am huge Tim Hughes fan, I had worked "Almighty God" before "The Stand" as it would make for an easy transition since they were in the same key.
While we were practicing the week before, I posed the question to the worship team, "What do you think about asking the church to sit during 'The Stand' and ask them to stand during the building of the bridge?" Everyone nodded in agreement.
So when Sunday rolled around, I instructed the church to sit at the beginning of the song. When we hit the bridge, I could feel the Holy Spirit pulsing through my body and I said a simple prayer. The very last thing I cried out was, "Won't you stand with Jesus today?"
As I opened my eyes I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The church was standing, worshipping their guts out, and half of them had their arms raised in worship.
My eyes welled with tears, my voice started to break, and I almost lost it. I closed my eyes to fight back weeping before the church. I do wonder if I should have allowed it to happen instead...if I had stiff-armed the Holy Spirit at the time by closing my eyes and focusing back on the song.
But we're pretty good at that, aren't we? Shutting down the Holy Spirit when God says "Go!" I don't want to suppress the Holy Spirit any more.
Monday, May 28, 2007
From the Thomaslift.com website:
Please join us to experience the God-inspired drawings, paintings, and mixed media of artist, William Butler. Isaiah 61 is the foundational Scripture for Thomas Lift and is the motivation for the Mission 61 Exhibit.
This exhibit is for one night only, and the date is Thursday, June 7, 2007. The exhibit will be at the Great Frame-Up located in the West Glen Town Center at 5515 Mills Civic Parkway-Suite 150 in West Des Moines.
This is a free event, and the exhibit begins at 5pm and ends at 9pm. At 7pm that evening, we will have a brief presentation on Mission 61. Although we would love to have you attend the entire evening, you are welcome to come and go as your schedule requires. Refreshments will be served.
Thomas Lift is a God-centered, mission-based company, and 10% of the total purchase price received for the art pieces at this event will be given directly to bless the orphaned & poor in Jamaica. The remaining 90% of the funds will be used to begin Thomas Lift operations and Mission 61 in Jamaica.
We look forward to seeing you at the exhibit on Thursday, June 7, at the Great Frame-Up. God bless you!
After loading up with coffee and some doughnuts, we set off in the rain through rural Iowa en route to small town America. Our kids were preoccupied with a movie on my laptop most of the way while my wife and I spent most of the 2 hours chatting, which was a blessing - truly.
When we arrived in Washington, the rain was relentless so it looked like we were bound to be indoors most of the weekend. We entered through the smokey main entrance and found her "apartment" at the end of the hallway. We were greeted by an elderly couple from the local Baptist church that had come to visit with Daisy. They quickly grabbed their belongings, handed us a Christian tract, and headed for the door.
I understood why they left so soon. Daisy's hearing had digressed so much we found ourselves yelling at an uncomfortable level to communicate. She offered to turn the TV on for the kids, but the volume was at such an obscene level I quickly turned it off. She later explained that the gentleman next to her apartment moved his bed to the other side of the room because of the volume of the TV. Thankfully my wife's father had ordered some hearing aids that hadn't arrived quite yet.
Daisy explained that because of her hearing she primarily reads to pass the time. I struggled to understand life without being able to hear or much less communicate. My heart started to crack in realizing how lonely this must be for her.
She wanted us to take her to lunch, but unfortunately it's next to impossible to get a wheelchair bound grandmother into a SUV. So the boys and I headed out to McDonald's to get lunch for everyone. Thankfully they had a playground to help burn off some energy.
We ate lunch in silence. I think my wife was thankful because the conversation was already awkward enough and to throw having to yell on top of it made it miserable for everyone.
We offered to take Daisy over to her old cottage to gather any belongings she needed so we pushed her the 2 blocks in the sunshine. Her cottage was a mess and she was very troubled by the way it looked. While it seemed she was able to let go of most of her belongings, her heart was wounded because she took pride in her home. Now this was being taken from her.
"This is really hard to see my house in shambles" she said to me after sitting in her bedroom quietly for 10 minutes.
I didn't know what to say. I yelled, "I'm sorry. This must be very difficult for you."
She watched my littlest playing with some plastic balls that rang from the tiny bells inside. They were toys her cat used to paw around the living room before it was taken to the local animal shelter.
"They won't let me have my cat at my apartment so she's at the Human Society now," she said grabbing a stuffed kitten toy as memory. "He can take those balls if he wants them. I don't need them anymore."
My wife suggested having us go to a nearby park to pass time, to move Daisy from a depressing setting, and to allow my wife to clean a bit. The boys and I wheeled her back down the street, eyeing the dark approching clouds as we slowly walked towards the daycare. Daisy had wanted us to go to the park across town and again we had to shoot down the idea because of our vehicle.
My heart broke even more.
By the time we arrived at the playground and got everyone situated, large rain drops poured onto us. Thankfully a staff member at the nursing home wheeled Daisy to safety as I scooped up the boys and ran. He was a kind gentleman that offered the boys some M&Ms. He later returned with a bowl filled to the brim with candy. Three boys and a gradmother scooped handfuls of the multi-color sweets into their mouths. And we finally enjoyed a moment together.
We didn't stay too much longer as we had plans later that evening we needed to attend to. But as I walked the hallways and met eyes with the lonely, I realized that we as Christians are missing out on a great opportunity to befriend the friendless. God granted me this epiphany earilier in the year when we visited my wife's other grandmother in the nursing home. I really, really enjoyed myself as we conversed with each other and the other residents. Most of these people are at the last stage of their lives and all they want is friendship so that they don't feel alone. The staff at these places are jaded and not compassionate, unlike our Maker. But as my eyes locked with the eyes of the elderly, I found peace and serenity. I found hope to be made new again. I found the face of Jesus.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
If one person would have signed up, we would have been excited. We would have walked the whole 12 weeks with this person on their faith journey. But God blessed us with close to 20 people of various backgrounds and ages.
It's been a couple of years since I've been involved with Alpha as a host/facilitator and I am most excited to watch God move through the lives of those attending. I don't want to set my expectations too high but at the same token I don't want to sell God short.
Granted this will be a totally different situation since this is happening in the workplace over a lunch hour as opposed to a 3-hour a week commitment, but it's still going to be awesome.
I'm proud of our team. I'm proud of Holly and all the work she's put into this. I'm thankful for the support from our home church.
Father God, we ask that you move in the marketplace. Soften the hearts of those guests coming today and we ask that you would open up the eyes and ears of their hearts to your Words, love and grace. Move Lord God. Move.
In Jesus name...amen.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Winning on Easter makes Masters more special for Zach Johnson
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Zach Johnson will take a win at the Masters any day.
That he did it on Easter made it even more special.
"I don't know if I was necessarily calm. I had some people looking after me today," Johnson said after he finished the 18th hole Sunday. "Being Easter, my faith is very important to me."
"I felt Jesus, I felt my grandfather, my family, everybody," he said, his voice shaking. "So it was awesome."
Johnson became one of the most unlikely Masters champions ever, holding off Tiger Woods to win the year's first major by two strokes. It was only his second victory on the PGA Tour.
Johnson is known as one of the more religious players on tour and he makes no secret of his faith. When he climbed up on a riser behind the 18th green for an interview, he joked that he should "start preaching."
But he turned serious later, discussing a thought that was foremost in his mind the entire day.
"Regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God," Johnson said. "Hopefully I did."
I love that last quote. Regardless if you just won the masters or you're working in a diner, imagine what the world would be like if we all lived to glorify God?
Friday, March 30, 2007
Yesterday an e-mail came into my inbox that turned me upside-down. I read through the note and thought about how much time I am going to be away from my family the next week and a half from my over-extending myself. I thought I might be losing my marbles.
You see, I love worship music. I love worshipping God through music and playing with my NorthBranch worship team. I love worshipping at the Lutheran Church of Hope's Easter service and at Kingdom House of Prayer. But yesterday I forgot all of that because I was so focused on what day I might actually be free.
Our worship team from NorthBranch is leading worship tonight at Kingdom House of Prayer and I am really, really excited about it...except that 4 hours ago I didn't have a drummer. I seriously called like everyone I knew to see if they would drum for me. While everyone expressed an interest to play sometime in the future, they weren't available for this evening's worship. It gave me butterflies. What's an electric band gonna sound like without a drummer? This is no good, especially since this is our first time leading worship there.
Then I thought about my schedule the next week and some change.
Saturday: Dinner with the parents
Sunday: Lead worship at church followed by Easter practice followed by Alpha training
Monday & Tuesday: Free (Phew)
Wednesday: Easter practice
Thursday: Easter practice
Friday: Lead worship for Good Friday services
Saturday: Lead worship for Easter Vigil
Sunday: At Wells Fargo at 6 AM for Easter service and sound-check
My wife tried to talk some sense into me. I think it helped a ton she was okay with my crazy schedule and that we'd get through it together. But none of this helped me until it was bedtime with my kids. We all took our turns praying and when it got to me, I handed it over to God. I prayed for my friend walking through the mountains on his way to California...praying for our country. I prayed for my friends Mitch and Melissa Matthews and their game "Q" which was going to be featured in the paper the next day. I prayed for my friends Bill and Ronja Butler that God would pour out His favor and anointing over Thomas Lift so they can begin making apparel that glorifies Jesus. And then I prayed for a drummer and that my schedule would seem easier.
Today I got a call that we have a drummer. And I learned that it will be easier for me to get to practice this week since it's downtown where I work and not way out west.
My family came for lunch today and it put things in perspective. I got to spend some time with them and love on them. We're there for each other no matter what. And God is there for us.
Friday, March 23, 2007
My church has been focused on community this year and especially during the Lenten season. We've embarked on a 40-day journey about community that's got me thinking.
I struggle when I hear the goal for community is to do life together. It seems that all of the small group communities I've been exposed to over my Christian years do not last much longer than 2 years. And when the small group dies a slow death, I'm not sure it ends very healthy. Friendships are no longer and you fall out of touch with one another. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I just think that we go through a season of relationships throughout our lives.
There also seems to be this expectation that we're going to become the best of friends as a result of being in community with one another. I don't discount that I genuinely care and love the members of my small group, but I wouldn't say that we're at the BFF point in our lives yet. It takes a pretty special person to fill this role and truthfully looking back in life I can count on one hand the number of best friends I've had in my life. More on that later...
I wish we wouldn't sugar coat the idea of community. Maybe we just need to be straight talkers for a change and not say we're going to do life together. Maybe it makes more sense to say, "We're going to likely hang out for the next two years exploring life's questions together."
Just because I am not a presence in your daily life doesn't mean that I'm not in community with you. I think giving up a Saturday evening is pretty precious when you're living a busy life with a full schedule. And I think you can be in daily community with one another through prayer. Sure touch points are nice throughout the week but we need to remember that our ministry priority begins the home first.
And can't we be in multiple small groups? I would venture to say that I am in three: my church small group, my accountability partners I meet with weekly, and my worship team. Each one offers something different that the others don't. Along those lines, I contribute differently to each one as well. I think they each serve a need and are equally important.
Sorry this is kind of a rant, but it's been on my mind. I wanted to get it written down to remember my feelings on this particular day.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
On Monday, March 5th one of my dear friends, Craig Leaming set out on the third leg of his journey across the United States. His goal is to wlk across America (follow his journey online at www.acrosswalk.com) starting in Des Moines, IA and carrying out four separate journeys to the far edges of the US.
In the fall Craig walked from Des Moines, Iowa to New York City in about 35 days, averaging around 40 miles a day. At one point on his trip to NYC, he actually walked 73 miles while traveling through the Appalachians. This humble friend will tell you that Jesus is carrying him the entire way. I have to believe him.
After he completed his journey to NYC, he took a short break before trekking north to the Canadian border from Des Moines. He tackled this trip in about 2 weeks and had some amazing stories to share about the beauty of God's creation and the folks he met along the way.
Despite everyone's concern for the weather, Craig was faithful to his calling to leave on Monday, March 5th from Des Moines in his quest to reach the Pacific Ocean in northern California.
My family has been blessed to offer him the opportunity to call our voice mail system and I've been posting his audio journal entries to his site after he calls. Today was his first call and he's already to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Praise God! He sounds like he's in great spirits and that God is once again carrying him west.
In checking the weather, it's going to be pretty decent the next week and he should be blessed with 40-50 degree weather...perfect for walking 40 miles a day!
Now that we got all of that out of the way, I wanted to share with you what was really on my heart. You see, on Sunday before his journey, many friends and family members gathered at the Leamings to pray for them and show their support. My wife and I got there a little late as things were winding down but we were blessed to be a part of the closing prayer. I happened to stand next to one of Craig's sons, Joey who is in his mid-20s and living for God. He and his beautiful wife are actually planning on heading to Jamaica at the end of the summer on a 5-year missions journey.
As we slowly went around the circle praying for Craig and Diane, the folks he would meet, revival in the US and more, the prayer time finally reached Joey. Choking back tears, he prayed his heart out for his daddy who Joey mentioned was the perfect example of how to be a father and live faithfully for God. He continued to pray words of affirmation, encouragement and love for his dad.
And as I stood next to Joey gripping him with my arm around his back, I asked God in my heart if I could stand in the same position and hear that from my three sons. God said it was possible if I continued to faithfully live for Him.
That short time in prayer made me realize the impact I have on my beloved children. It made me realize that life is too short and we should NEVER take for granted these blessings bestowed upon us from God. It made me realize the importance of loving and serving my family as Christ came to love and serve the church.
Thanks Joey for the words from your heart. Thanks Craig for living out a life of faith and obedience to God. Thanks Diane for your banana bread. hehe. She's an awesome baker but more importantly a VERY supportive wife and Godly woman! =)
Friday, February 23, 2007
I'm proud of my friends, the Butlers. For the past few months Bill has been painting like a possessed man...possessed by the Holy Spirit. A mutual friend of ours loaned him some space in his warehouse, and Bill quickly converted it into an art studio. During the course of the past few months, he's produced approximately 50 amazing pieces of art work. What's really interesting is that when I looked around the art exhibit last night, it looked like 20 different painters developed these pieces.
Bill developed a style of paint pouring and he let the Holy Spirit guide his hands, producing image after image of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Lion of Judah, the apostles and some abstracts. Honestly, it was the first time in my life in which I felt the presence of God just by being surrounded by these art pieces. They weren't just pieces of art, they were prophetic and alive. They spoke different meanings to different people.
So why sell all of these magnificent pieces? Bill's visual communications firm Thomas Lift is to begin operations creating clothing that glorifies the Lord based on Isaiah 61. The making of the clothing is integral to the entire process. The clothing is not to be made by those who are oppressed and abused. Instead, the clothing will be made by a community of people in Jamaica. By paying these workers fairly and treating them with love and compassion, Thomas Lift will help restore broken lives and communities.
This clothing is to be a blessing to those who wear the clothing as well as to those who make the clothing. 90% of the profits from this clothing will be given back to bless the orphaned & poor in Jamaica, thereby blessing the very communities where the clothing is made.
Last night when the new proud owners began removing their artwork from the wall, I stared at the empty spaces left behind and felt a sudden rush of emotion. I felt like it was symbolic of the Butlers leaving Iowa for Jamaica. As the paintings left the wall and space was created, it felt like I was watching them pack up their belongs and move from their house.
I wish I had a speck of their faith. They are great examples of living faithfully and following their calling. What if more of us lived this way, chasing our dreams and the face of God without fear?
God speed Butlers. I love you guys.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
As I pick music and build the worship set each week, I take a look at the sermon topic and try to align the music to the subject. Sometimes this proves to be kind of difficult as some of the subjects are either vague or outside the norm. I've been contemplating this dilemma for the past couple of weeks and am pondering developing a worship leader web site that helps worship leaders pick music based upon subjects. (If you already know of a site, please let me know)
So let's say the subject matter is "Why does God allow suffering?" A perfect song for that might be "Sweet River Roll" by one of my favorite bands: Waterdeep.
What if the topic was missions? Then "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns might be the song for you.
This kind of site would definitely need to be driven by its users...a.k.a. "consumer generated content" if you're an internet marketing junkie like me. =)
The other part of the site that I would like to incorporate is the ability to let worship leaders build and post their worship sets for their respective services. They could post the songs/artists and write comments about what worked and what didn't work.
I think this would be beneficial to worship leaders because they will likely learn about new worship songs but more importantly learn from the example of others. Plus it would hopefully encourage and support the community of online believers.
I don't think the role of the site would be to post lyrics, chords and mp3s of songs. There are plenty of sites out there that already do that (eg: greatworshipsongs.com).
So if you stumble upon this post and have any insight, I'm all ears.
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
For Christmas this year, my wife and my champion arranged for some studio time so that I could start recording a worship project. When I opened her gift I was stunned. But after the initial shock wore off, dark thoughts started creeping up in my mind.
I unfortunately listened to the voices which said berating comments like "You're not good enough to record a worship project." and "No one will like what record and what you have to say."
After much thought, I finally realized that these self-confidence voices that I hear have been obstacles in my life that have prevented me from choosing to follow-through on my dreams.
How long have I wanted to record a worship project? I honestly know that I've been talking about it for close to two years. Our sound technician at church offered to help me two years ago, right before I was leaving on a missions trip to Jamaica. At the time I told him I wasn't prepared and that I hoped to use my time in Jamaica to finish some material.
Two years have slipped through my life like water through my hands. It happened so quickly I don't know where the time went. And I sit here with the same thoughts. Am I prepared? Are we ever truly prepared when we're about to embark upon a spiritual journey with God? I hope the answer is no. If we ever truly feel equipped then perhaps we've lost sight of God guiding and leading us through the journey of life.
I feel so ill-equipped in most of my spiritual life.
Do I know the Bible as well as I should? Nope.
Do I pray as much as I should? Nope.
But when I get down to the root of the issue, I find grace and affirmation in God.
Do I love Jesus and want to bring Him glory? Yes.
Do I trust in Jesus that He will lead and guide me in life? Yes.
He is the only compass I have in this journey of recording a worship project. I have to love Him and faithfully trust Him to lead and guide me through the recording process.
The songs are written. It's time to record them.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
So we've been praying over each other at home. Praying that Jesus, the ultimate healer, would come and make us well again. There's nothing more beautiful than having your four year-olds pray over you. It's so sweet and pure and they truly pray believing it will happen.
I think when your kids get sick, you can get a better understanding of how Jesus feels about us when we are hurting. I would trade places in a minute with my son if I could take his constant cough away from him or with my littlest so he didn't need to get tubes in his ears on Thursday. When they hurt, I hurt. When their hearts are broken, my heart is broken. But in this case, Jesus has given us more than I could ever offer my children: grace and salvation.
While God's word definitely suggests we'll have many hardships to endure, that's kind of a difficult subject to explain to your kids. This morning over breakfast, one of my sons said, "When is Jesus finally going to heal us?"
I couldn't very well quote 2 Corinthians 12 to him which reads, "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
But I did tell him, "I think Jesus wants us to keep praying, son."
Thursday, January 18, 2007
My friends have been nudging me to blog more, and I always feel this pressure to post something that is stirring and relevant to whoever reads my posts. I feel like I need to always say something that is inspirational and motivating; something that someone is going to write down in their journal and treasure forever. But the problem with that mentality is that it becomes more about me and not about what's relevant to the reader.
You see the reason why I've felt this writer's block when it comes to blogging, is because I am not listening. I'm simply not listening to what God has to say. If I am going to devote time weekly to blogging, then I need to be purposeful in asking and praying, "God, what do you want to say this week through me?" And then I need to spend some time listening to what He has to say.
I kind of stumbled upon this revelation this morning after some accountability and coffee time with some friends from church. I felt like God had been saying specifically about accountability time, "Ask (name withheld to protect the innocent) what's really on his heart and what God's been saying to him." I didn't have to this morning because he came forward and answered my question before I could ask it.
My beautiful wife gave me the best Christmas present on record this year. She arranged for some studio time so that I could lay down some tracks to a few songs I've been working on. My dream for so many years has been to record a project that would hopefully bless people who listen. But with that dream comes the pressure of writing material that's moving and worthy of placing my name on it.
As I was driving into work, I realized that I hadn't been faithful in listening to God recently on this stuff. I have had writer's block when it came to blogging and more recently I've been in a desert when it comes to writing music. And the biggest reason is because of my lack of listening. God inspires 99% of my music and when He doesn't, it's not normally very good anyway. After this revelation in the car this morning, words, lyrics and melodies started flowing in head. I wanted to pull over and write down these surfacing thoughts and ideas. I pulled out my journals when I got into work today and will probably noodle for a while now as long as I stay true to listening.
Are you listening? What are you hearing?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Grab life by the mane. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion!
Monday, January 08, 2007
Sometimes I will walk the halls of my place of employment or the downtown skywalk, asking God to reveal himself to me. Many times, I see Jesus walking along side or trailing people as they hurry to their next meeting or appointment.
Today as I was walking over to grab some lunch from our cafeteria, I asked God to reveal himself. In the short time that it took me to trek over to our dining hall, I saw Jesus with almost every person I encountered.
Sometimes Jesus was hurrying along trying to keep up in someone's busy life.
Another time Jesus was trying to hold the hand of a woman who needed to feel his touch.
Jesus was trying to scoop up another person and carry her in his arms.
A threesome approached and I felt the presence of God in their lives and I saw a vision of a cross across the chest of one of the nice man's sweaters. Jesus was huddled with these three with arms around all of them.
When I walked into the elevator to return to my floor, I was processing the various times I saw him chasing after his beloved children. And then I thought to myself, "Where's Jesus in your life, Erik?" And he was standing beside me, tapping me on the shoulder trying to get my attention.