Difficult

A person I work with asked me today how I was handling life these days.  She wanted to know how to pray for me.  I simply said that I was trying to learn how to trust in God .  Sounds noble, but trusting is by far the most difficult thing for me to do.  I can’t do it most days.  I really struggle with allowing God to have my trust.  It usually feels better for me to figure out a plan on my own.  It actually feels easier to put in the work of planning and sweating out a desired outcome than it is to just do nothing but trust.

I’ve stumbled across a really good book about trust. It’s called “Ruthless Trust” by Brennan Manning.  And I figured if your like me these days, struggling to trust that maybe you would benefit from this excerpt…

“A careful reading of the gospel message suggests that Jesus needs nothing but our humility and confidence to work miracles in us. Jesus found the humility of the Canaanite woman so irresistible that he could not refuse what she asked. “Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table,” she said. After she humbled herself in this way, Jesus exalted her: “Woman, you have great trust. Your request is granted” (Matt. 14:28). Deeply moved by the humble confidence of the thief on the cross—“Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—Jesus canceled the man’s lifetime of sin and transmogrified the ragamuffin into the first canonized saint. No million years in purgatory, no laps in the lake of fire—“Today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). With the memory of his triple denial engraved on his psyche, Peter wrote from his heart: “Wrap yourselves in humility and be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favor the humble” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

JESUS COMPARED the Kingdom of God to the inexplicable bounty reaped by the man who throws seed on the land. With that simple act, the farmer’s work is done. He hibernates for the winter, sleeps late, goes bowling, watches television, washes clothes, repairs the hole in the roof, and travels to Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon to visit his three children. Whether it is night or day, whether the farmer is asleep or awake, at home or on the road, the seed he scattered sprouts and grows. He does not have a clue how it happened. The earth does it all without his help. First the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. One sunlit morning, he has six buttermilk pancakes and four slices of Canadian bacon for breakfast, walks out the door, scratches his head at the ripened grain, and reaps his harvest (Mark 4:26-29).”

So trust is the willingness to let God do the work in our lives.  Because the “work of a heart” after all is really a mystery.  Only God can heal, mend the brokenness and call us to place trust in Him.  Only God can bring about a peace in the middle of chaos.

I love this verse when I need to remind myself to keep my trust firm in Christ…

“I’ve told you all this, so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, The Message and Douay-Rheims).

 

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Let creativity flow…

If you know anything about Einstein you certainly know that he was a smart dude.  He revolutionized the culture of mathematics as well as other areas of advanced learning.  He was and continues to be a reference point for many when it comes to hashing out ideas.

What made Einstein so special?  He wasn’t the only thinker of his time.  And he wasn’t the smartest either. In fact there were peers of his that could talk him under a table.  What made Einstein’s thinking so special was his unique personality.  It was his ability to take theories and communicate them in new creative ways.

I’ve been reading this book called “On Creativity” by David Bohm.  It’s an awesome look at how creativity is for all people.  In he frames the Einstein story this way… “There are a tremendous number of highly talented people who remain mediocre.  Thus, there must have been a considerable body of scientists who were better at mathematics and knew more physics than Einstein did.  The difference was that Einstein had a certain quality of originality.”

Just the other day the new Avett Brothers record came out and one of my favorite songs has a chord pattern that I’ve heard probably in a dozen other songs.  Even with that being the first thing I noticed, I really, really love what they placed around the common structure.  That’s what’s so cool about creativity.  It’s not reserved for a select few.  It’s available to all.  Creativity is the ability to take what’s already been done before and add your own thoughts and ideas.

Bohm goes on to say that children are actually the model for us when it comes to being creative… “It is well-known that a child learns to walk, to talk, and to know his way around the world just by trying something out and seeing what happens, then modifying what he does (or thinks) in accordance with what has actually happened.  In this way, he spends his first few years in a wonderfully creative way, discovering all sorts of things that are new to him…”

But as I know all to well being a father I will often try to conform my boys to what everyone else does.  You know things like coloring, “Hey son stay within the lines” instead of just letting him express himself on his own.  He will grow up and inevitably be pressured to conform to what we call “normal” which for some things is sad.  Because the one thing that kills creativity from the start is fear.

Fear is a powerful deterrent.  It causes us to alter our actions, our outlooks, our personalities, our bodies.  Fear of failing, fear of not being liked or excepted.  Fear that we will be called weird.  Fear that we might make a mistake.  So we don’t ever try.  The older I get the more I have to fight the urge to please others with my creative thoughts.  I will choose to be safe, just because I want people to like me.  Which in the end never really makes any one party truly happy.  The artist goes away feeling repressed and the other person forgets about it and wants you to do again a month later.

I know that this maybe not the most interesting post, but I hope that it inspires you to be creative.   Allow room for yourself to once again experience the wonder of freedom in expression.  Whether that’s in your job, the way you decorate your house or raise your kids.  God is the creator of creativity, and I’m not sure when the last time you’ve been to the zoo or out for a hike, but we serve a very creative God.

I’ll leave you with this thought from David Bohm,

“Evidently, the ability to learn something new is based on the general state of mind of a human being.  It does not depend on special talents, nor does it operate only in special fields, such as science, art, music or architecture.  But when it (creativity) does operate, there is an undivided and total interest in what one is doing.  Recall, for example, the kind of interest that a young child shows when he is learning to walk.  If you watch him, you will see that he is putting his whole being into it. Only this kind of whole hearted interest will give the mind the energy needed to see that which is new and different, especially when the latter seems to threaten what it familiar, precious, secure, or otherwise dear to us.”

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Leaning not on my own understanding.

I was having a conversation just the other day with a worship leader who was making some pretty big changes in his life to be able to move into full-time ministry.  Money was going to change, his job was going  to change, family dynamics and the list goes on.  He was feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about it all, but at the same time expressed that he had a peace in the middle of it all.

I would say a word that I often use to describe my life would be chaotic.  Chaos is defined as something that is in need of having direction imposed upon itself.  I live a life of chaos, but I know that in all reality I don’t own what I have created in a sense.  That I need to God to provide the direction and order.  To put all the pieces of my life into correct and distinct order.   So when I decided to trust in God I also decided to suspend reason at times.  In others words not everything always looks good on paper, or not everything will always make total sense.  But I am called to lean not on my own understanding.  To put the word faith into action by giving God what’s already his and trust that he knows what’s best for me in every situation.

Brothers McClurg have a new record our called “Join in the Sound” and we decided to record a video devotional for each of the songs on it.  This is a video devotional for the song “Lean Not”.  And the verse that we wrote this song around is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways submit to  Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Hope you enjoy.

From Paul to James…

In the Bible a man named Paul wrote a letter to a young man that he was mentoring named James.  In this letter Paul says this, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say that you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?…You may say that you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you!  Even the demons believe this… Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”  James 2:14-26

I’ve been thinking about this passage for a bit.  I find in my own life that I confess that I believe in God, but I have a really hard time following that up with my actions.  Why?  I know the truth of Christ is the right way to live.  Why does the truth that I read with my eyes and hear with my ears rarely affect my actions?

When I’m driving in my car and someone commits a vehicular offense against me, I find it way easier to use my horn, than to let them go with just a wave and smile.  I would much rather let that person know that they made a mistake, maybe follow them to their destination and have a friendly chat that 4 miles back you cut me off.  Then pull out a pair of scissors and cut up there drivers license into a million little pieces and say something like “this really is for your own good”.   That sort of thing does cross my mind every once in a while.  And I know that sounds a little crazy, but don’t judge.  At least I admit it.

Now I’m not saying that we don’t stand up for ourselves.  I mean we shouldn’t let people just walk all over us.   But I guess my point is that when we choose to do good like the Bible says that “doing” exposes within us some ugly things.  I mean doing good is tiring at times.  Otherwise the Bible wouldn’t have said to not grow “weary” in doing good.  The implication is that doing good can be exhausting for our human nature.  I learn more about my weaknesses when I attempt to live the way that God wants me to.  It’s hard to be a decent human being.

When we do good it does cause us to analyze our motives and it forges within us a life that God wants us to really live.    Doing good is less about the person who is receiving and more for the person that gives.  It’s what we call the action of working out our faith.  We are putting into practice something that wouldn’t come naturally to us so that over time it does become second nature.

So may your faith grow everyday in knowledge, but also in every action that you commit.  It’s a spiritual circle.  You have faith in God and your actions begin to reflect what you say to be truth and that in turn only stands to make your faith stronger.  I mean I can’t think of something that the world around us needs more than people who set out to produce good.

What a week!

Well as I am sure that many of you know this was release week for “Join in the Sound” from the group I’m in Brothers McClurg. And it’s been going very well and very busy.  But God has reminded me of a few things throughout this week that I thought I would quickly share…

1. Megh, my beautiful wife and boys are awesome!  I really couldn’t live this dream without there support.  It’s overwhelming for me to see the sacrifices that Megh makes just so that I can write, record and promote music that will hopefully touch people’s lives.  She may not play an instrument in the band or ever be on stage, but she is just as important to Brothers McClurg and the heart behind what we do. Love you very much honey!

2. Always be faithful with what God gives you to do.  Only you can bring to the table what is uniquely you.  Luke 16:10  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”  This was a week of constant reminders and encouragement to keep being faithful to the calling God has given to me knowing that God has great things in store.

and…

3. I was blown away by the support of my family and friends.  Thanks for all the tweets, Facebook comments and texts.  Thanks for going and downloading the record from Itunes and buying a hard copy  (which some of you did).  It’s in times like these you realize the backbone or the foundation that you have supporting you!  And honestly I am really, really blessed to have the friends that I have.  Thank you, thank you.

“Join in the Sound” made it to number 8 on Itunes and that’s a dream come true for me.  I am very excited to see what is in store for this record and cannot wait to see how God uses it.  Thanks again.

If you haven’t had a chance to hear it or buy it, than go here to grab it for yourself.  Leave a comment and help Join in the Sound with a community that has already begun to make some noise.

Join in the sound! It’s finally here!

We are excited for you to hear our new record Join in the Sound! After 2 years of writing and producing these songs, we are humbled and ready to release them from our hearts to yours. Join in the Sound is about adding your voice to the harmony of Heaven that is being released here on earth!

Through our talents, the Lord has given each of us something seperate and unique that is important to completing the work He has begun on earth. We feel these songs embody the highs and lows we feel on a weekly basis. Each track on this record plays into the next, with a common theme of God redeeming and giving purpose to every moment of our lives. Allowing us to see His handiwork in the good and bad times, and helping us to join in the sound of praise.

We pray these songs will inspire you. Like David in the Bible, who sang in the valleys and caves as well as on the throne of Israel, we too are called to worship God at all times. We love you and appreciate your support. Please download this record or purchase it from your local Christian bookstore.

Help us spread the word!  You can download it here from Itunes

http://bit.ly/BrosJoin

Compared to what?

Have you ever found a record that you forgot you had?  And as you pick it up, throw it back in the player, you remember how much you loved it when it came out.  I was recently digging through my garage and found a record that I haven’t seen for some time.  The group Sleeping at Last was a band that really influenced the way that I approached music.

As I listened to it so many memories came flooding back.  I love that about music.  This whole week for me has been dubbed “Sleeping at Last” week.  I have Spotify now and have been listening to all there records. In 2006 they came out with a record called “Keep no Score”.  I had a chance to see them while on tour in Illinois.  I will always remember that show.  Life changing for me.

So as I was listening to that record this week, they have a song called “Heaven Breaks”.  I forgot how powerful that song was for me at one point in my life.  So many good lyrics in that song.  Such good reminders.  If you have a way to listen to this song, stop and do it.  A good way to spend 4 minutes.

My favorite lyric is this…

When heaven meets the earth,
We will have no use for numbers
To measure who are and what we’re worth.

When Heaven meets the earth,
We will have no need for mirrors
To tell us who to be
And where we fit into this awkward point of view.

I feel like God places things in our paths at the right time.  Songs, a verse or friend to that speaks right to our soul.  You know the feeling when it happens to you.  This song came back into my life just at the right time.

I constantly compare what I do with other things of like nature.  I don’t want to, but I do it anyways.  It’s a struggle for me at times to not feel like I failed at something based on numbers or what others look as successful.  Every song I write, record I make I will in moments find myself obsessed with how it fares to other projects or songs out there.  Now I understand that numbers are also a good thing.  Being able to measure things is something that can be helpful.  But when does it get in the way of who God really wants you to be?  When does it become a snare that keeps you trapped in the shadow of others instead of walking in the calling that God has given to you and you alone?

When heaven meets the earth,
We will have no use for numbers
To measure who are and what we’re worth.

There are moments for me in life when I am walking out what I know God wants me to do and I feel very confidant in His plan.  I believe that as Christians we are called to take part in bringing heaven to earth now.  So along with that message we need to be reminded that God loves us not for what we produce, but because He created us.  We don’t need to measure ourselves by standards so restricting, instead we need to measure ourselves in what God says we are.  After all everything good and perfect thing comes from Him.  So we are just the vessels used to communicate what He is saying through us.  In other words I need to resist the temptation to compare myself to other things, because God has called me to do only what I can do alone.

So many times we are so unhappy with what God has given us.  We don’t like the way we look. We don’t think that our job could possibly be that important. etc. We look at what other people are doing and wish that we could have that for ourselves.  But in the economy of God it’s not about coveting what others posses, instead it’s being diligent to steward what God has given us to do and most importantly to be.  The art of being content.

I guess what I am saying is, Heaven in breaking forth into our world everyday.  We pray it to happen.  Let your kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.  And when that collision between Heaven and earth takes place we again receive hope that at the end of the day we do all that do to honor the Creator.  We can look at numbers or mirrors, but it doesn’t end or begin there.  We have a hope that God is in love with us, just as we are with or without what we have or have not.  God just wants us to be us.  He doesn’t compare us to anything or anyone else. He just wants us to love ourselves, our neighbors and most of all Him.

 

Brothers McClurg “You Shine Through” Video Devotional

Hey I am excited we are less than 2 weeks away (Tuesday July 31st) from the Brothers McClurg release of “Join in the Sound”!  Our single “You Shine Through” is available now through iTunes.  Please go download it if you haven’t done it yet.

We thought it would be cool to give our new songs to some amazing people and thinkers that we know and have them flesh out some in-depth thoughts behind the songs on the up coming record.  Sort of like a devotional that goes along with the songs.  “You Shine Through” is our first video devotional and we would love it if you would help spread this video around to all your social media fans if you will.

This devotional is from Dr. Ethan Worthington.  He is an awesome writer and Pastor at Eastern Hills Bible Church in ManliusNY.  You can check out there website here.  Our hope is that you listen to the song and then take part in watching the devotional as it dives a little deeper into the nuts and bolts behind the song.

What would be awesome is if you would like to join in the sound with your own commentary on the devotional.  So much of our Christian journey is to dialogue  about our faith as we work together to all contribute and have a voice in the conversation. So feel free to leave a comment.  Let the conversation begin.

Hope you enjoy.

I just need you.

A couple of years ago while visiting some family I was talking to my nephew.  We had gone to church with them and he was walking through the door with some craft that they had done to illustrate some Bible story that he had learned that morning.  Which prompted me to ask him what he had learned that morning in his class.

He began to tell me the story in full detail of David and Goliath.  And how David before he was king had to live in caves because the then King Saul was out to kill him. Now I loved this story as a kid.   What little boy really couldn’t relate with slingshots, or swords and guys fighting one another.  I loved his enthusiasm while telling this story.  So I asked him “What else have you learned in your class?”

My nephew began to recount many, many of the Bible stories that those of us growing up in the church have learned.  But I had an admiration for the stirring that these stories seemed to produce within this little man.  The stories that I’ve heard a hundred times were full of life as they were being retold to me through the mouth of this little guy.

I got home later that night and decided to revisit for myself some of those Bible stories.  You tend to forget the little details and power that they possess.  I began to read about the women at the well with Jesus, Moses walking through the Red Sea and Paul who had a conversion moment on his trip to Damascus.

What I rediscovered as I was revisiting these famous stories is that they all had room for me to relate with the characters in them.  I mean the fear that must have been part of the equation when Moses had to take the first step into the water, hoping that it would part.  Or the feeling of peace and confusion when Jesus tells the women at the well that he can provide her with water that will make her thirsty no more.

So I wrote a song that night called “I just need You”.  And the main point of the song was to remember the stories of Bible, to realize my place within them and go back to the truth that at the end of the day I need Jesus in the story that I’m living out.  In fact the line that sums it up for me is this, “Like a child that’s tired, I may need to climb on your back”.

Stories are powerful reminders of God’s work throughout history.  The stories of the Bible display the power and presence of a God that never leaves us alone in the good moments as well as the bad.  And the minute that we forget to recount the stories of past, is the moment that we lose a little of our anchor or identity.

So let me encourage you today to remember diligently the stories that remind us of who God is.  And may you, as you read or remember them find your place in them and realize that God is with you always, working on the story that you yourself are living out everyday.

Here are the lyrics…

Like David I’ll sing in the valleys and caves of this dark earth

Like Moses I’ll walk through the waters that seem like they won’t part

I’ll lift up my voice and sing all the notes that I know to

It may lack direction, and it may sound a bit out of tune

 

I just need you

I just need you

 

Like Jonathans son, I may be cripple with no hope

Like the women at the well, I’m not sure which water to swallow

Like Saul who can’t see and Paul who believed, I will have a past

Like a child that’s tired, I may need to climb on your back

 

I just need you

I just need you

 

What if it’s hard, to believe every word that you say

Will You turn Your back, will You let me walk away

There are times that I doubt, and times I believe Your one

So give me Your grace and strengthen my legs for the run

Mowing the lawn and marketing meetings..

I hope that everyone had a great fourth and that as you return to your daily lives you take with you all the fun and importance of the day.

Really excited for a new chapter in my life.  And I wanted to ask for a little help from my friends. So this weeks post is really all about what that new chapter looks like.

Today I have to mow the lawn.  So prayer that I don’t injure myself.  Just kidding.  But then again maybe not.  Pray anyways about that for me, just to be on the safe side.

The Brothers McClurg record comes out in a few short weeks.  July 31st to be exact.  So today after I get done mowing the lawn I have a marketing meeting with the label to strategize a plan.  Pray that God really does give us wisdom and ideas on how to make this record successful.  That it will reach people in the timing that they need.  And that the songs will provide them with the hope of Christ.  We can plan and plan, but I really believe unless the plan in covered in prayer, it’s not worth the time.

Please pray that this record will sell.  And if you can plan on buying it off of iTunes or our website on July 31st.  Tell your friends, talk about it on Facebook, twitter etc.  I can already hear my friends as I write this making fun of me for sounding a bit desperate.  And in a way I guess I am.  But at the same time I really do believe in this project.  I believe that God has blessed these songs and I really do want the world to hear them.  So if you need help I have always been taught to ask.  So this is me asking… Help!?

As we (Brothers) move into the fall pray that God will direct us to venues to share these songs live with people who need to hear them.  And pray that we can find ourselves a bus that will transport us all there.  We are still without a bus and are looking. But you know how that is, you don’t want to buy a lemon.  So pray that God will open the doors for us to travel where he leads and that we don’t have to walk or hitch hike there.

I love my church.  Pray that God will continue to move through me and the worship ministry there.  Please pray that God would give us as a team fresh inspiration and vision, so that we can reach more and continue to instill hope in the ones that come already. Northgate is my family and I am very thankful for them.  I am blessed.

Finally pray for my family.  We have gone through some amazing seasons in our lives already.  But pray that as we walk into this journey of promoting a record, that we as family feel passionate about, we would not get weary.  It’s easy to get tired quickly.  So pray that God would give us strength and fortitude to stand on what we know to be true.  And whatever comes our way, that we would take all in stride knowing that God is walking with us.

Again thanks for reading my little letter.  I know that God has placed people in my life that care about me, my family and Brothers McClurg. And so I thought maybe a little window into my world would be helpful as I am asking you to spend a little money on the new record, help us tell the story to others and to pray.  Again joking…but not really.

I love you and thanks.