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Four months of doom…

January 22, 2010 1 comment

I have come to a conclusion about the next four months of my life.

PANIC! OH MY DEAR SWEET LORD, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO!

Wait a second.

Deep breath in…

Deep breath out…

*Woosah*

There. That’s better. Let me rephrase in the interest of maintaining a positive outlook. It is going to be extremely challenging.

I am going to be up to my eyes in text. Between my History class and my four English classes I might just die from all of the reading that I am going to have to do. The thing is, though, I love to read and I love classic lit, so it shouldn’t be terribly depressing, but it is going to be extremely time intensive. Unfortunately, time is not a commodity with which I can be too liberal. It is going to take some serious time management to make this semester work.

There is a tough balancing act that comes with cramming so much into life. Grievously, I am not very good with managing my limited time; therefore, my balancing act ends up like a retarded clown trying to juggle flaming torches. I just end up burnt to a crisp with a red rubber nose melted to my face in the middle of an arena full of spectators pointing and laughing. Oh yeah…and still retarded. Not really the place that I want to be.

It is all good, though. I have great professors and my classes are going to be awesome. I am going to delve deeper into the scholastic passions that drive my academic life. It should be a lot of fun actually. I am just concerned that I am going to run out of the ever elusive, always in demand asset. Time.

The paradox with taking on too much is that you accomplish more, but you don’t do as well as you could have if you just eased the pace back a bit. So quality suffers for the sake of quantity. This is never a good trade-off, but I want to finish school so badly that I would have taken 100 credit hours if they would have allowed it. It is more than just school, however. Life is just coming at me full throttle right now and I guess that I’m not handling it well.

Meh. I have to get out of this funk today. Otherwise I am going to drive those around me to murder. To murder me, that is. That is another place that I don’t want to be. You know…

Dead.

Anyway…

I am excited about this weekend. I get to hang out with my girls and actually sit down and get some homework done. Should be fairly productive. Also, I’m out of scheduled writing so I’m going to have to really step up my posting. I might just become a blogger one of these days. Until then, you are stuck with my current incarnation. A sometimes poster who pokes fun at MR.

Man, I’m a douche.

Have a great weekend everyone!

What is on the Horizon for Spring?

January 6, 2010 5 comments

Well the time for registration has come and gone and I am officially registered for Spring classes. I also finished some other important housekeeping items that were hanging over my head at the meeting with my advisor. I have been pursuing the same degree in education off and on for several years now, but, according to the official school record, I had not declared my major. Now I am a bona fide English major also pursuing my teaching certificate.

Also, through a strange exercise of fate, it seems as if I am going to receive a second bachelor’s degree in History as well. I had been pursuing a history degree until last semester when I switched my major to English because I love writing and hope to pursue a career in this field. Unfortunately during my pursuit of this degree when I was young and dumb, I took four History classes that I just stopped attending mid-semester following my marriage. This means I have four failing grades to redeem in order to bring my GPA back up to where I am happy with it. As a result, I will be one class away from obtaining my History degree in addition to the degree in English. I would be a fool not to take this opportunity.

So why am I telling you this? Simple, I just want you to be prepared for what is in store for the coming semester and what subjects I will be writing about. Without further ado, here are the classes that I will be taking.

Lit Matters– I am not sure what this class holds in store for me as a writer. There is no course synopsis available, but I do know the professor quite well, and she always comes up with interesting writing assignments so I am expecting good things from this one.

Women Writers This is another class that is being taught by Professor P (My lit instructor), so I should have some great subject matter to write about. She displays a few feminist tendencies, but I love her teaching style and the way that she loves literature, so I am definitely looking forward to this one.

British Literature II: The 19th Century-Present I am actually really excited about this class. British literature is the root of American literature. Although this class is focused the period following the Revolutionary War, I believe that I will get to experience many of the authors that influenced early American literature. I will also get to read some great classic lit which is exciting for a nerd like me. 

Theory and Practice This is another required class for my English degree. This one should focus on the “how-to’s” of writing and the theories behind why we write the way we do. This class has the potential to be extremely burdensome, but we will have to wait and see how it all pans out. This is an on-line class, so whether it sinks or floats all depends on how well the professor communicates with the students. I have had good and bad on-line experiences, so this one is up in the air.

Women in European History This is a repeat of one of the classes that I bombed several years ago the semester after getting married and preparing for fatherhood. I am excited to get back into a history class as I do have a love for the history of our planet. Specifically American history, but I have a soft spot for learning about the events that shaped the landscape of today’s geopolitical terrain. This is an on-line class as well, so I hope to have several papers to share with you from this course.

I am looking to take a sixth class (technology in the classroom), but the powers that be at my school have instituted a new overload policy where any schedule over 17 hours must be approved by the administration. My advisor told me that they had been very rare in granting their approval. Hopefully Drury will allow me to take this class because I have a lot of work to do and a limited time to get it done.

I am extremely excited about this semester (I am a dork, I know. What can I say?). I can’t wait to share the interesting things that I learn with you and I hope that you are looking forward to reading them as well.

My Personal Timeline

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

This was an assignment for my Psychology class. This was a very meaningful and interesting project as I had to reflect on the man I am today and the events that shaped who I have become. However, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I figured I would post it as I am attempting to chronicle my general body of collegiate work on this website. Enjoy!

 

When I look at myself in the mirror today, I see the reflection of a man whom is very different from the person that I envisioned myself to be as I was growing up. I have not become the fireman, police officer, rock star, or any of the other pie-in-the sky visions that I had of myself based solely in childish fantasy. Looking back on the events that have defined my life has been an extremely enlightening experience, but before I discuss what this jaunt into self-reflection has meant to me, let me take you through the journey that I experienced when I was researching and pondering the events of my life that have led me to the place where I currently exist.               

My story began twenty-six years ago in a small German hospital in Nuremburg. I was born to a pair of loving parents whom were extremely excited about the new bundle of joy that they had brought into the world. My mother’s pregnancy was mostly uneventful. She received quality prenatal care as my father was a lieutenant in the United States military. Also, it was important to her to give me every advantage possible even during her pregnancy, so she abstained from ingesting any material that could be deemed harmful to me while I was in utero. This included caffeine, which was an admitted struggle for my mother, but the sacrifice was worth it as it was for her baby boy. Although my mother’s pregnancy was fairly typical for a healthy twenty-three year old, my birth presented a severe challenge to the attending physician. As I was descending down the birth canal, it quickly became apparent that there was an issue. My progress gradually slowed until finally coming to a complete halt. This can be a deadly complication during delivery, so the doctors wasted no time and began working diligently to free me from the prison of flesh in which I had become lodged. The doctor grasped my head with a pair of forceps and began to pull me out. Unfortunately, the forceps broke because I was so tightly lodged. The doctor repeated this process twice more, finally extricating an exaggeratedly cone-headed, healthy eight pound nine ounce baby boy.             

My first year of life was spent in Germany. My mother did not have the best circumstances in which to begin her adventure in motherhood due to the fact that my father spent many months of the first year of my life in the field training with his unit. One other major obstacle that is completely foreign to many in the world today revolved around the difficulty in which my mother had in communicating with her family in the states. There was no internet, so e-mail and Skype were not in the picture. She had to call the operator to schedule an international call and then sit by the phone for hours and wait for the operator to call back. These phone calls were very expensive which led to a very limited number of calls. This was a trying time for my mother as she had no family and very few friends on whom to depend, but she weathered the storm like a seasoned veteran, providing a wonderful, nurturing start to my life that was full of love and affection. Three days before my first birthday, my father was reassigned to Fort McClellan, Alabama and my family excitedly left Germany to head home to the states. Fort McClellan was more than simply a reprieve from the foreign theater. It was a homecoming as well because this was the area in which both my parents had grown up. Therefore, my mother and father went from having no support as new parents to having overwhelming support from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.

According to my mother’s records regarding my physical and mental development, I was ahead of schedule on every milestone that a child is supposed to reach during this period. I was sitting by 22 weeks, crawling by 33 weeks, and walking by 39 weeks. I said my first word at four months and my first sentence at 13 months. Apparently, during this period I exhibited a streak of independence that was difficult for my parents to correct. My mother recorded a story of when I was eight months old. She said that I had just gotten in trouble and instead of crying; I stood defiantly and stared at her red-faced with clenched fists. This independent streak was also evidenced in the first sentence that I spoke when I was 13 months old. I boldly stated to my mother one morning “I want to go” as we were preparing to leave for my grandmother’s house. My mother also noted that I would sit around for extended periods of time doodling on paper with a pencil and that I loved books.

I also experienced two physically traumatic events during this period of life. When I was 11 months old on the way back to Alabama from Germany, I fell into a bathtub and chipped my front two teeth. The trauma actually went on to negatively affect the development of my permanent teeth in later years. Also, when I was 15 months old, I stepped on a floor heater and had to be treated in the emergency room for severe burns on my left foot. This injury did not seem to have any lasting effects.

The strong family relationships that were fostered during this period after my family returned from Germany with the members of my extended family still play a role in the decisions that I make in my life now. Although the relationships that I had with the members of my family were strong, my mother cannot remember me experiencing any separation anxiety. I spent several days a week with a babysitter as my mother was finishing college and my mother said that I also socialized well with other children. I believe that trust was established, rooting from these relationships, allowing me to successfully move into the next stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development.

During my early childhood, my mother also has recorded that I was ahead of schedule on many of the expected developmental milestones. I was potty trained by the age of two and had an extensive vocabulary. My mother noted that I understood the meaning of many words and could perceive the meaning of unknown words based on context fairly early in my development. I was talking conversationally in sentences relating to the world that surrounded me and to the adults with whom I spent the majority of my time. One of my favorite activities during this time was riding my big wheel and playing ball with my father in the yard. During the later years of this stage, I participated in organized sports.

I had surgery early on during this stage in my life. My recovery was speedy, but any surgical procedure has the potential to set back the development that a child has accomplished. My first brother was also born during this time. My mother noted no regression in development related to either one of these potential obstacles. My fine motor skills were slightly underdeveloped during this period. This may be due to lack of opportunity to exercise these skills as my parents were extremely conscious about messes inside the house. This lack of early development still plagues me to this day, manifesting itself in my extreme lack of manual dexterity.

My parents fostered an extremely secure environment for me to explore the world around me. My father had a good, secure job in the Army and my mother was able to spend the majority of the day with me, so my physical needs were all met. My emotional needs were also met as there was plenty of love that was lavished on me by family during this time. This fostered autonomy within me by giving me the security to know that I could explore the world confidently. This allowed me to once again progress into the next stage of psychosocial development. The fact that my parents allowed me room to make mistakes and grow also fostered a strong sense of initiative within me, giving me the strength to undertake new tasks and to understand that failure is just a step to a future success.

My middle childhood featured the first move that I can truly remember. We left my hometown in Alabama and moved to Lansing, Kansas. I remember this being one of the toughest things that I had ever experienced because I had to leave behind all of my extended family who had played a very important role in my life to that point. Going from many caregivers to solely my parents was a hard transition to make, but the skills that had been fostered in my earlier stages of development were extremely helpful in dealing with this new challenge.

An additional difficulty that confronted me during this stage of development was rooted in my parents’ desire to better the living situation of our family. Both my mother and father began and finished their master’s degree programs during this period in my life. In addition to my parent’s schooling, my mother returned to work. This meant many nights with babysitters. Some sitters were better than others, but honestly, I believe that my brother and I felt slightly abandoned due to the time that my parents had to spend away from us. Upon review, this could not be farther from the truth, but I do remember feeling as if I had to fend for myself emotionally during this time. I had developed close friendships with several of the children in my neighborhood that also helped to sustain me during this tumultuous time in my life.

Scholastically I did well. However, I did have a strong aversion to homework. There were nights that I would sit at the kitchen table for hours in defiance because I did not want to do my work. My parents were firm and consistent with my discipline and with their expected standards; therefore, I eventually learned that I was not going to get out of homework and it made my life so much easier to just complete it as quickly and accurately as possible. My father also spent a year away from the family in Korea, which added to the stress that pressed in on me during this time of my life. In the middle of the fifth grade, my father returned from Korea and we had to move to Fort Lewis, Washington. This was yet another extreme change during this period of my life causing me to leave the circle of friends that I had developed and moving farther away from my extended family. 

Although my scholastic achievement was good during this time, I felt as if I never really fit in socially with my peers other than the close friendships that I had fostered with the other children who lived in my neighborhood. I always felt as if I was not good enough to fit in socially and was afraid of embarrassing myself. This is a fear that I have never truly overcome. I have a strong desire to please people and I believe that much of that desire is rooted in unresolved feelings of social awkwardness and extreme fear of embarrassment that began during this time in my life.

I am fairly certain that all the changes that occurred during this period of my life limited my feelings of industry as I had to learn several new performance standards for different babysitters, teachers, and parental structures throughout this period. I do believe, however, that I did achieve industry and was able to take ownership of my accomplishments and abilities. It was during this period that I also developed a love for music, which has become one of the most important driving forces in my life today. 

Moving from my middle childhood and into adolescence was a strange transition; although, I am certain that this is a difficult transition for everyone. Again, at the onset of this time in my life, my family was uprooted and moved first to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for my seventh grade year and then back to Fort McClellan for three following years. This period was marked with extreme physical and mental changes as puberty began to work its awkward magic inside my body. 

I was a late bloomer and that caused many confidence issues that took many years to overcome as I was the target of much ridicule regarding my small, underdeveloped stature. During this period, the desire within me to please people became even more important because I desperately wanted to fit in. Erikson’s major milestone for this period has to do with the individual establishing his or her identity. I can honestly say that this was not the primary concern of the beginning of my adolescent period. I just wanted to stay off the radar. I was very small, weighing in at 75 pounds in seventh grade. It was difficult to watch the other boys changing into young men while it seemed that I remained stuck in the trappings of childhood. The others noticed, of course, and pointed this out at every opportunity that was presented to them. Honestly, this was probably the most difficult aspect of my early adolescent years. However, shortly after I turned thirteen, I discovered the most amazing relationship that challenged me to be different. This relationship continues to challenge me even now. 

Shortly after moving back to Fort McClellan, I was befriended by a young man who was fairly well known within the small school that I attended. Through this relationship, I was invited to church and eventually to a relationship with Jesus. The moment where I met Christ was the moment that my life was changed forever. This is when I began to understand what my identity was supposed to be based upon what the Bible states about how our individual lives are supposed to look. It was not easy to pursue Christ with reckless abandon as it goes against the social norm and the expected behaviors of society, but I have never made a more important and worthwhile commitment. 

My academic achievement was of chief importance to me during this time, but I also wrestled and did fairly well in both. I was consistently on the “A” honor roll and was a state place winner in wrestling. I hung out with the “nerd” group and that suited me just fine as the competition fostered within this group pushed me to greater heights academically. I felt socially awkward and was slightly terrified of girls until puberty really began to take hold of me during my sophomore year in high school. Unfortunately for my burgeoning libido, we again moved in between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This was terribly traumatic as I was involved heavily in my youth group at church and was fairly popular in my high school. I moved from a class of 60 students to a class of 280 students and a high school that was five times bigger than the small school that I had left. Talk about culture shock.    

During this time, I sank into a fairly deep depression that colored much of my junior year. I had a difficult time adjusting to the new social network, but my academic achievement did not fall off as this was still of prime importance to me. The second semester of my junior year changed everything. My pursuit of Christ had waned during this time of extreme depression, but, thankfully, His pursuit of me had never changed. I met a young man on the first day of second semester who would help to foster a change my life forever.

Through this young man, I met the first girl that I truly loved. Fortunately, she was the only girl that I would ever have to date and would be blessed to marry in the future. Thanks to the relationship that was fostered with the young man whom became my best friend, I was finally able to find a group in which I fit. This was the local youth group at the church that my friend attended. Through this group, I was able to develop the strongest social network in which I have ever been privileged to take part. This group helped me to find who I really was inside and who I was in Christ. I had several adult mentors that were also extremely vital to my personal development during this time.

I find it a curious task to set goals for my future as I ponder what God has planned, because the only thing that I do know is that I don’t know anything. However, I do feel that it is vital for everyone to establish a strong set of goals that line up with scripture in order to set the direction for their lives, always remaining open to the fact that God has the right to change those goals and the direction in which my life is headed at any moment according to His perfect will. First and foremost, my goal is to look as much like Christ as possible and to do whatever it takes to make my life look like His, experiencing true worship on a daily basis. This encompasses my psychosocial, biological, and cognitive goals as each are an important aspect in truly reconciling myself to the image of Christ. The importance of this goal cannot be understated as it is the driving force behind my very existence. Everything that I do must line up with the purpose for which God has created me. If this does not occur, then I will find myself outside the will of God, and this is not a destination that I am willing to take my life.

Biologically speaking I would like to lose 40 pounds and to get back into shape, so that I can freely participate in the sporting activities that I used to enjoy and once again be happy with my personal body image. Cognitively I have pledged to become a lifelong learner because when we stop using our capacity to learn, we lose much of our ability think and reason. These are two abilities that I hold in extremely high regard, and, due to this, I will always be enrolled in a class of some sort and a Bible study as well in order to continually foster my cognitive and spiritual development. Finally, psychosocially I desire to have a small group of close friends on whom I know that I can depend on no matter what the situation. I have already accomplished this goal to a certain extent, but I am always on the lookout for new relationships.

During the course of writing this assignment, I have had to come face to face with many of the major events in my life that have led to me becoming the man that I am today. This was an extremely enlightening experience. Prior to this assignment, I had never truly taken a comprehensive look at the struggles and triumphs that have shaped my life.

The first thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that all of my early developmental milestones were accomplished ahead of the expected schedule, specifically focusing on my ability to manipulate and understand language. It appears that I have always had a love for words and that I have been blessed with an innate ability to communicate my thoughts. This was the first time that my mother and I had ever deeply discussed my early development. My mother told me that I was always a smart child and that I was truly inquisitive as well, asking many questions to better understand my environment.

Although the study of my early development was enlightening, the study of my middle childhood was truly fascinating. I was able to look back at many of the events that shaped my behavior during that developmental period and understand the lasting effects that those behaviors and personality traits had on my early development and even persisting into who I am today. For example, socially, I never truly felt as if I fit in with my peers. This might have stemmed from the chaotic environment of regular change in which I spent my middle childhood. I still have problems feeling like that to this day; however, I have changed the way in which I cope with this perceived personal stigma. In my middle childhood I retreated into myself and maintained only a few very close friendships as this was where I was comfortable. Now, I am much more extroverted, but the motivations of my behavior have not changed. I still continually seek the approval and praise of other people.

I can most definitely see how the tumult of my middle childhood affected my adolescence. These issues compounded with the fact that I was a late bloomer made the early part of my adolescence extremely awkward socially and even within my own psyche. This was a difficult time, but the lessons that I learned during this time again helped to shape me into the man I am today. Without the early adversity during this time period, I do not know if I would have ever felt the need for Christ, which would have made the rest of my life utterly meaningless.

I believe that God never wastes a hurtful, awkward, or joyous moment. I know everything that happens in this life truly does happen in order to bring us closer to our glorious Creator. Looking back on the entirity of my short life, I am thrilled to see how God has woven all of the events of my experience together to make me the man that I am today. I am thankful for the fact that even in the darkest times in my life, I have always had a loving God looking out for me and shaping me as the potter shapes clay. Understanding the past has given me a better understanding of my present situation and, in turn, has given me a new perspective for my future. I am looking forward to seeing what plans God has on the horizon that He is going to allow me to be a part of and humbled to know that before time began, His plan for me was set into place. Above all else, I am thankful for the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that has enabled a wretched sinner like me to find the most amazing love that a person can experience on Earth. Looking back at all the great times, the destitute times, the times spent on the mountain top, and the tough moments spent in the valleys, I can sum up my life in three simple words: God is good.

And it’s done…

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

The presents are opened, the dinners are eaten, and my living room looks like a weapon of mass toy destruction was detonated within its walls. This can only mean one thing…

Christmas 2009 has come and is now gone.

I have to say that, while I am a bit saddened by the passing of the holiday, the overwhelming feeling that is washing over me at this point is relief. I have been accused of being a Scrooge in the past, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I actually love Christmas. Not for the presents (although I did get a super sweet present from my parents this year) or the other traditional hubbub that accompanies the most celebrated holiday in American culture. Instead, I adore the time that I get to spend with my family and friends and the memories that we make.

Being at the place I am in my life with school, work, other work, and trying desperately to keep up with all of my other commitments, it seems like my family is the first thing that gets shifted to the back burner. This isn’t ideal, but, honestly, I can see no other way to organize my time and maintain all of my obligations. Fortunately, I have an awesome wife who is understanding (for the most part) and totally supportive even when it seems that we haven’t seen each other for more than five minutes in weeks. She is truly an amazing lady.

During this holiday season, don’t forget to tell those whom you truly love how you feel and thank them for the role that they play in your life. Above all else, though, don’t forget why we celebrate. Jesus is truly the light and our purpose for living.

I hope that your Christmas was awesome!

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , ,

Consumerism

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

I am a member and the interim worship leader of a wonderful little congregation in Missouri called Harmony Baptist Church. A few months ago, we had a tragic parting of ways where a significant portion of our congregation decided they did not like the direction that the church was heading and that they would be better off pursuing their idea of what a church should be elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the decision of whether or not to hire me as the worship pastor was the final straw for this group. Honestly, this was a kick in the teeth to me. I have done nothing but give my heart and soul to this congregation for ten years, yet I was not good enough to pursue my call at Harmony in their opinion.

I’m not bitter. Really.

Everything seems to be working out in a positive Godly direction, though. I am still leading worship as the interim worship director and the congregation enjoys the music and my teaching,  so all’s well that ends well, right? Well, I don’t know about that, but the church is moving forward.  We are truly and earnestly seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we are really still in our infancy. The church has been around for twenty-plus years, but this “new church” (which is really what we are considering ourselves) has only been attempting to get off the ground for about six months now. There are definitely exciting things on the horizon, but, honestly, I am having some issues with letting go of what happened and I believe that when we truly understand our mistakes, we have a much better chance of making the correct choice when a similar problem decides to rear its ugly head.

So what was the problem?

In my humble estimation, the issue that ripped Harmony apart (ironic, eh?) boils down to consumerism. Consumerism is the attitude that instills the thought processes that makes us ask questions like  “what can I get out of this?” or “what is this church doing for me?” The consumer is the person who attends church and says, “I didn’t really get anything out of the sermon,” or “I really got a lot out of the music today.” While one of these statements is positive and one is negative, they are both steeped in consumerism. I saw first-hand how people who are in church for the sole purpose of seeing themselves exalted or to be put in a position of power can literally stop a congregation that is working for God dead in its track. This has really been a heartbreaking experience for me. I couldn’t get over their selfish attitude. Or at least, that is what I thought.

Interesting isn’t it…when you look out at other people’s issues how God turns it all back into an introspective journey where you end up seeing just how much you fail. That is the point that I came to several weeks ago. I realized that I was just a younger version of the people who decided to leave. I realized that the consumerist attitudes that drove them away fall into the same consumerist ideals that I hold dear and propagate.

The  older group that left was staunchly against contemporary Christian music in the church. As I would lead worship, they would stand in the back (back row Baptists! Woo!) with theirs arms crossed and glare for the entire worship service. Honestly, this was extremely wearing on me as a worship leader. I used to think, “Man, how in the world can they sit there and stifle the Holy Spirit like that,” but as I said, God has a way of turning me back to the plank in my own eye.

As I began to really dig into what their problem was, God opened my eyes to my own problem and revealed that I have exactly the same atttitude as the group that left. I am not a huge proponent of traditional church music. That is not to say that I hate hymns. That isn’t true at all. I find that many hymns are relevant and amazing, but the style that traditionally accompanies hymns (read: Piano and an organ accompaniment) is not relevant to society as a whole any longer. So, there I was, pointing fingers and scowling under my breath and God looked me dead in the face and called me out for the hypocrite that I was. The truth is, I am just as unbending as the traditionalists that left the church. Try to take away my Tomlin, Hillsongs United, and Crowder and I would be just as upset.

Would I split a church? Probably not. But would I look for a different congregation that suited my preferences better? You bet I would and that is the root of consumerism. To spin an old JFK quote we should:

“Ask not what the kingdom of God can do for us, but what we can do for the kingdom of God.”

If we worship under the banner of preference and consumerism, then we really miss out on the amazing things that God has planned for us as the Church.

Beloved Church, the time has come to let personal preference fall to the wayside and return to the root of why we worship. That is the amazing love of Jesus Christ.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , ,

Got the Blues…PART DEUX!

October 30, 2009 4 comments

ExasperationIf you happened to miss the first part of my emotastic musings, you can catch up here.

For those of you who don’t feel like reading the novella that I posted on the subject, here is a quick synopsis. 

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling down. This, however, has been most prevalent over the last few days. This stems from several things. I explored one major contributor with the last personal post. It basically boils down to allowing others to affect my temperament based upon snide comments made about certain aspects of my life in which I take a very personal interest. With this heavy personal investment, it becomes a spirit breaker when someone criticizes something that I believe was done well.

In this particular instance, it was the music part of the worship service that I led three weeks ago. Some criticism came down from some very prominent people in my life and it felt like I got punched squarely in the face. Anyway, I have moved beyond that, but, unfortunately, this has not been the only situation to darken my mood over the past few weeks.

About six weeks ago, I felt God strongly impressing me to look deeply into the conduct of myself and my praise team. Now, I am not a bad guy. The desire of my heart is to look more and more like Jesus every day, reconciling myself to Him in true discipleship. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the call that Jesus puts on all of our lives. Unfortunately, even with my best intentions, I still fall. I believe that God expects our disobedience; therefore, His grace and mercy are all-sufficient, but that is not a license to freely sin.

The primary issue that humanity has to overcome is the desire to willfully sin that is ingrained within our flesh. We are to do this through living daily, moment by moment, with a focus that is directed solely to the face of God. God has given us His word and wise counsel through Godly people along with a direct link to His knowledge and wisdom through prayer in order to allow us to seek his face moment by moment. He allows us to experience circumstances in our lives that are designed to close the gap between the perfect image of Christ and the broken image that is the picture of our human existence.

In order to be a practicing part of the praise ministry, it is necessary that the lives of the people involved, measure up to scripture. This is due to the fact that each member of the band is seen as a leader within the body of Christ. You might not agree. In fact, there was a time that I didn’t necessarily agree with that, but as I have studied the scripture and the individual needs of my local church, it has become readily apparent that those who play in the praise band are seen as leaders. As a leader, you should model Christ’s love and standards for living to the best of your ability, and, if you are unable to do that, you should step away.

I do not expect every member of the band to have every piece of their life in perfect working order. If that was the case, then I would also be disqualified from service. The heart of the document simply states that in order to participate in the praise ministry at the church, one must be pursuing God at their own pace, making positive progress for the majority of the time. Setbacks are expected. Funky moods happen. God understands this. The point is to present positive progress over time and to be able to be a role model for members of the congregation.

Following the leading of the Holy Spirit, I wrote a covenant for the band. In order to continue minister with the team, It was necessary for each member to review the covenant and sign a commitment form. There was nothing within the document that is outside the expectations of scripture. In fact, this never should even be an issue as every Christian is supposed to be doing this in their lives already. 

Unfortunately, three weeks after my initial meeting with the band to relay the heart of the covenant to the band, confrontation reared its explosive head in response to upholding the standards for Christ-likeness that are outlined within the covenant. These standards are pulled straight out of scripture.

I hate confrontation. Seriously. Hate. It.

In order to maintain the integrity of the ministry, I had to ask several people to step down from their positions within the ministry because their daily progress with God was not evident. Actually, they were living lives that were in direct confrontation with the guidelines that Jesus sets forth for us in His teaching. This was the most difficult thing that I have done since I took over as the worship leader seventeen months ago. These people are my family and some of the best musicians that I know. I cannot relay to you how difficult this decision was.

Now, these people, who are vitally important to me, aren’t speaking to me. They don’t acknowledge me. They have stopped coming to church. Hence, this is another aspect adding to the current funk in which I find myself. Seriously, I knew that this was going to happen, but that still did not prepare me for the reality of my present situation. My heart hurts because they are not around anymore, but also because I know that my action “against” them was the final straw. So, I find myself wondering whether or not I did the right thing. When I stand before Jesus at the bema seat, will my actions be justified or will I come to find that I was completely mistaken?

I sought God’s face prior to making any decisions. I also spoke with the leadership of the church and they backed me 100%. I feel like I made the right call, but it hurts so much.

I am honestly just frustrated because I love these people so much, and the desire of my heart is to see them do great things in Christ’s name. I believe that they have the potential to do so. This is precisely the reason that it hurts so much.  This is why my heart has been left ripped open and exposed. This is yet another reason that it has been so hard to find my joy as of late.

The question that I continue to ask myself over and over is “Why can’t they just do the right thing?” They know the right thing. I have seen them live a Christ-like life. This is why I am baffled. I just want to do it for them, but I can’t. They have a choice to make and Christ makes it clear that there is no such thing as fence-sitting.  In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” It is impossible to serve both yourself and God. Period.

Again, this isn’t the only reason for my funky mood, but this one hurt something fierce.

What do I do, internet?

All for His glory.

Jeremy

Got the Blues…

October 28, 2009 1 comment

Hrmph....Have you ever felt like the entire weight of your world is sitting squarely on you shoulders? For the last two days or so, I have just felt heavy (insert fat jokes here). I can’t explain origin of the feeling, however, several things over the last few days have added to this unexplainable heaviness that is making my shoulders sag.

First, let me say that I really hate this. I am not a depressed person. I love life. I have an amazing Savior, a wonderful family, a decent job, an amazing group of friends, and I have music, so this whole “depressed” feeling is new territory for me. I have a lot on my plate between college, work, family, church, and my other responsibilities, but these are nothing new. They haven’t caused me to step into my phone booth to emerge as the Emo Avenger before now, so the question that I ask myself is why now? What flipped this switch in my life that is leaving me in this depressed state rivaling that of a little emo girl pining after Edward from Twilight? I can’t pinpoint the source, but I do have a few ideas regarding the subtle beginnings of this sad state in which I am currently engulfed.

My first issue stems from the fact that I have a huge desire to please people. I am aware that this is not a good thing, but for whatever reason, it is a huge part of the make-up of my wonderful personality. I have said in the past that I don’t care about what people think, which is true to a certain extent. For example, I truly couldn’t care less about what people say about the way I dress. I dress so that I am comfortable while being situationally appropriate. I don’t care about what people think of what car I drive or anything else that exists on a superficial level. I don’t put too much stock into material possessions, anyway. However, I care strongly about what people think regarding the pursuits that hold an important place in my life.

My writing is one of those pursuits. I truly care what people think about my ability to write, the subject matters that I choose to write on, my delivery, etc, because I love to write. To me, writing is cathartic. I use my writing to express those things in my heart that I cannot verbally express either due to the inability to articulate what I want to say, or due to a lack of courage to broach a sensitive subject face-to-face with another human being. It opens up new doors into my inner person that I have trouble delving into in thought alone. This is much what I am attempting to do with this particular post.

You see, music is also one of the things that is vitally important to my life. Without my tunes, I am a lost puppy. I usually have my iPod or a radio going as long as it is appropriate to the current situation in which I find myself. The pursuit of music is the biggest aspiration for my life outside of my pursuit for Christ-likeness. It would be my dream to be able to support my family by playing my guitar and singing. This is an aspiration that even has some merit as I am currently the interim worship leader at my church. This has been an amazing blessing, but I take everything to heart. If someone complains about the music, I feel like they are attacking me. This boils down to my feelings of inferiority that are deeply seeded within me. Honestly, I just don’t feel like I am good enough to do what I am doing, but God has been faithful and he has been moving to make me a better worship leader. It has been a fun journey, but whenever I experience the slightest setback, it makes me feel like I am starting over at step one once again.

Three weeks ago, we had an AWESOME music service, or at least that is what I thought. I am definitely into the more contemporary, younger style of worship music. I love Hillsong United, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Deluge, Desperation band, Michael Gungor, and much of the new worship music that is coming out now. Unfortunately, the church that I lead worship for isn’t quite as current on the new musical trends as I am. I like to push the envelope. Screaming electric guitar belongs in a worship setting. I don’t care whether you agree or not. If you condemn any worship style that leads people to the throne of God, then you are wrong. However, I am not so blinded and self-absorbed to completely ignore the preference of others. It is my job to ensure that everyone that attends our church on any given Sunday morning has the opportunity to worship is a semi-comfortable style. We aren’t going back to piano and organ, but perhaps I am pushing the congregation to quickly to where I see the future of the ministry.

Anyway, to make an already long story a bit longer, I walked off the stage after the music had concluded and I was on the proverbial cloud nine. I sat down next to my beautiful wife and asked her how the music was, as that is my custom every Sunday morning. She said it was awesome. I asked one of my closest confidants. She said the music was great. We were a bit more rock and roll than is per our normal worship set, so I was stoked that it was well received. That is where I see the future of our music ministry. I walked out of church singing a sweet tune, having a good time, and generally just happy that God was able to use me once again in a positive way.

So the next day, I was off from my full-time job, so I decided to go put in some office time at the church. Upon arriving, I was still stoked. Then my senior pastor walks into my office and states pretty plainly, “Well, Jeremy, we had some complaints about the music yesterday.”

/deflated sails

I was flabbergasted. I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. In retrospect, the style was a bit more upbeat, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. The thing that really just smashed my face was when I found out that several of the people, whom I love,  respect, and regard highly, decided to go out into the foyer during the service and complain to another member about the music. At this point during the conversation with my pastor, I had moved from hurt and I had started to get mad. I listened to the rest of what Dwain had to say and then I began to stew.

It is funny how God works in my life. As I sat there, all riled up, I began to hear the still small voice of my loving God begin to try to break through the hurt and the anger. At first, I was resistant because Satan wanted me to be content in my rage and distract me from the prize. I was content to let him win at first, but the consistent call of love won out shortly after He began to call. So, before the ever-loving, always merciful face of God, I prayed. I asked what I had done wrong and what I needed to do differently. The answer I got was a bit coded, but made sense the more I meditated on it.

God simply reminded me that it isn’t about me. This is something that I apparently have to be reminded of all the time because I just can’t get it through my thick cranium. The verdict was that I was allowing myself to be wrapped up in all the negativity. Perhaps the sound was too loud. Maybe the songs were too upbeat for that particular morning. The overarching theme that God was (and still is) trying to beat into my brain is that this worship service has nothing to do with me. I don’t desire exaltation, but when people give you compliments about the music, it is hard not to become a little arrogant.  A good friend told me last summer that every time that you receive glory, to simply say praise God in order to redirect the praise from yourself directly to Him, because He is deserving and I am not.

He also reassured me that this goes far beyond worship style, song choice, and instrumentation. It is all about the heart of worship, which is a heart that desires to be reconciled to the image of Jesus Christ more and more every second of every day. That is the call of discipleship.

This isn’t the only thing bothering, but seeing as how this post has become a novella, I had better put the rest on hold until later this week. Remember, God works in wonderful and mysterious ways even through our emo blues. Thanks for reading!

All for His glory.

Jeremy