Through the cracks in all of us.

Shortly after Megh and I got married we moved into an apartment located on the third floor of an old Episcopal church. It was originally used to house the organist and had been vacant for some years. So we went in, did some painting and updating and made into a nice home for us.

I loved living there. Mainly because it was pretty quiet, except for when the organist would come into practice mid-week. But that was a welcomed sound in our house. He was really, really talented and the music was played beautifully.

Often I would walk down stairs and go into the massive sanctuary and pray, or play the nice grand piano. I wrote a lot of songs in that space. But what I liked the most about the sanctuary were the stained glass windows surrounding the entire outside walls of the church. Stunning colors of light would come shining through on those sunny days and the pictures depicted in the glass would come to life.

Stained glass is really only beautiful when light illuminates it. The beauty of the glass can come into full focus when light makes its presence through it. So I was often reminded in that sanctuary of how God’s light or presence works in my life.

I spend a lot of time working on my image before others. You know, they call it “keeping face”. I really don’t like to show the broken parts of my life. The cracks in me I would rather just try to keep to myself. But the reality is, the God that created my life calls it beautiful. God doesn’t look at my outward appearance but looks at the heart.

But just like stained glass, you really can’t see the beauty of it until light shines through it. So it is with my life. My life isn’t really that beautiful without God’s light progressing through it.

Robert Wicks says talks about out stained glass lives this way…

“We are like a stained glass window that is open to being a way for others to experience God through us rather than being so involved in what image we feel we have to project.”

The interesting thing about the stained glass in that Episcopal church was that it was old. And with every passing year it would produce more imperfection. And so if you were to go in there at night you wouldn’t really see any of the imperfections beginning to develop. But around three o’clock in the afternoon on a sunny day you could see every crack and blemish very clearly being projected by the light coming through.

I have a lot of cracks in me. And to be honest I’m always a little nervous to allow the light of God to shine through me, because it means that God and people are going to see all my imperfections. And that feels a little or I should say a lot uncomfortable. But that’s what God wants from all of us. He calls us to let his light shine in and through us. And yeah it’s going to expose some ugly stuff at times, but the beauty of yours and my life has a chance to project the colors of God’s love and presence to this world. And that’s the goal right? I mean if I am a follower of Jesus, than that’s what I want people to see. I want them to see that even through a broken down, cracked, dirty life the light of God can still illuminate beautiful colors.

So today may I encourage you to allow the light of God to shine through you. Even if that light exposes all the dust and cracks you may have. Only God can bring out the colors that you have. And may your colors contribute to a world around you that desperately needs to see the beauty of God.

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Run to those who love you!

Run to those who love you!  Find people in your life that will be your advocate.  And when you find those people who love you, hang on to them tightly.  I think that we underestimate the power of a team.  It’s important in your life to have a team that can surround and protect you, keep you accountable to your calling, your direction and help you make good decisions.

Brothers McClurg recently recorded a live taping of our new record “Join in the Sound”.  It was a packed couple of days.  And all of us were really exhausted.  The concept was that we would record live most of the songs and tell the stories behind them.  The band would be placed in a circle and the crowd would gather around and in middle of the circle.  It sounds like fun, but really does present itself with some very difficult challenges.  Sound system wise, camera wise and staging wise.  We spent about 2 months planning it.  Brothers McClurg has some very dedicated people who really help make visions come true.  It’s overwhelming at times to be rubbing elbows with others that want to help to see what your passionate about come to life.  And I am very, very, very thankful.  It was a successful night!

Here are some shots of the night…

I’m blessed beyond belief and really do want to always remember the importance of having healthy people in my life.  People that will always “tell you how it is”.  That’s something that we need to hold onto.  The tendency in life is to push away at times.  To find ways to do life on our own.  But I’ve tried both, it’s better to include than to isolate.  And victories are always better shared.

I realize that this post is centered around a band, but may it inspire you to think about it for yourself.  Who are the people who want to see you do well in life?  Who are the people who care about your decisions? Who are the people who aren’t afraid to let you know when you’re heading off in some direction that they know is not what you want?  Gather a team around you.  Help them to help you.  You will find love there.  And always run to those who love you!

Take me out to the ballgame.

A few weeks back I took Lu to a baseball game.  We got ourselves some good seats, a few drinks and some cheesy chips (or nacho’s).  My son brought his glove and was very excited to be there.  He kept asking me if he could go out and “play with the guys”.

The whole game whenever he would get a little board, I would tell him that when we reach the seventh inning stretch we will be singing the song “Take me out to the ballgame”.  He loves this song.  It’s a song that he knows all the words to and you can pretty much get him to sing it anytime anywhere.  That would catch his attention once again and we would be back focussing on the game.

Finally the seventh inning arrived and we stood up, I grabbed him into my arms and the organ began to play.  He started singing the first few words and then all of a sudden he heard all the other thousand voices joining with his.  He began to smile really big and sang the song with this sense of amazement. He finally stopped, looked at me and said, “Daddy they know the song too!”.  I will never forget that moment.  It was so funny.

I think that in a small way that’s what worship music does for the church.  You know the feeling of all sitting or standing in a room with others of like-mindedness and singing together.  It pulls us into a sense of community.  It calls us all to join in the sound together.  To find our voice in the midst of all the others and at the same time realize that faith in God is much, much bigger than just you.  It’s encouraging and overwhelming all at once.

So there we were, my son and I and thousands of other people all singing this really old, fun song.  And my son was in awe.  The power of words, music and thousands of other voices all coming together for a moment sounded and looked like church to me.

Renting a log splitter…

We cut a tree down last year that was in our backyard.  It sat on my lawn with grass growing around it and finally yesterday I decided it was time to wade through the jungle and get this tree cut up.  So I rented a log splitter.  It’s incredible what people invent. Such a simple machine, yet makes so much sense.

You usually only have 24 hours with stuff you rent, so the race is on to get it all done.  And my back is complaining a little bit.  But it was also a little therapeutic.  I don’t know what it is about hard work that helps clear your head.  I guess it’s the repetition in most yard work that allows your mind to focus on your life.  At least that’s what happens with me anyways.  I cut the lawn and come in with a five year plan.  Okay not really, but you get the point.

It’s been a tough week for me emotionally and spiritually.  I have a lot on my plate.  And I’m a little overwhelmed with it all.  And I’m not the best at managing many things all at once.  Not a strong suit of mine.  I am much better with things like taking a nap.

Usually what happens for me is that I become pretty depressed in times when I’m overwhelmed.  The walls close in on me and I try and manage my way out of the room.  I look for the door in a dark room and grasp for anything that feels like a door nob.  Only finding my efforts really, really draining.

So this morning splitting logs I just started to pray.  Basically laying out the list of things that I am currently trying to manage.  And right around log number three hundred I felt God just reminding me that I’m a terrible manager of my own life.  That I need to get out of the way.  You know the type of people that step in to try and do something for you only to make it worse?  God kept telling me to just get out of the way.  Don’t make it worse.  Let me handle the load.  Let me do the work that needs to be done.  Let me show you how to live.

Here’s a silly scenario,  I could attempt to cut into the log with a screw driver while standing right next to a 27 ton log splitter.  I would never be able to do it with my method.  But if I put the screw driver away and just hold the log into place under the wedge it’ll happen.

So the lesson is get out of the way.  God really has my life in His hands.  And I guess it all comes back to trusting in the power of God.  I needed a reminder.  And maybe you do to.  Go rent a log splitter and tell me what God has to say to you.

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30 or bust, my story so far.

Yesterday I turned 30 years old! And I guess you could say that it’s still a bit of a shock to the old system. And people really don’t help the matter by continually reminding you of how old you are. It’s all in fun, so I understand. No one knows how to creatively tell someone else, “Man your almost dead”.

Anyways it’s caused me pause this morning to look back and do some thinking. My story so far has been pretty crazy. And the reality is, I’m still chasing a dream that I had since I was a little boy. I’ve always wanted to play music, always wanted to do it for a living and I haven’t given up yet. In the words of Ben Folds, “I’m still fighting it”.

Other things have been added to my story since. Like my beautiful wife Megh. I am so blessed to lay next to her every night and talk about life together. The places that we’ve been, the things that we’ve seen and hopefully end most days with a feeling of thankfulness. Only to be roused from sleep by two other addition to my story, my boys, Lucas and Arlo. I never knew that I could love two little guys so much.

The story of my life 30 years in is something of a miracle. I really do feel every page tells of a guy that’s been blessed by God. Even the rough chapters have a sense of redemption to them. And some chapters seem a little unfinished and confusing still, but it’s all there. It’s funny at times to see how hard I struggled to change what was being written. You know the look of a paper that has been written on and then erased, written on again etc. It gets to be a little grey in color and looks like a battle has taken place on it. What ends up there is always interesting. Because behind the final draft was an obvious struggle. No hiding that. The best stories often have a weathered feel to them.

But I also know that I am not the one that has been writing my story. If I was the sole author I understand that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. The struggle seen on those pages were me getting in the way of the other author. The one that I have handed the pencil to. Now I realize this is a cheesy, predictable metaphor for God’s presence in my life. So please forgive me.

I’m 30.

Old, cheesy and predictable.

Get over it.

My favorite story in the Bible is the one of the prodigal son. I have loved getting to know that story for years now. And every time I revisit it, it opens my eyes to new revelation. I relate with the characters in the story on a very deep level.

I recently read the book by Rob Bell “Love Wins”. He brings the story to new life for me, especially in entering the 30’s. He says this,

“The younger brother tells a story. It is his version of his story, and as he heads home in shame after squandering his father’s money, he rehearses the speech he’ll give his father. He is convinced he’s “no longer worthy” to be called his father’s son. That’s the story he’s telling, that’s the one he’s believing. It’s stunning, then, when he gets home and his father demands that the best robe be put on him and ring placed on his finger and sandals on his feet. Robes and rings and sandals are signs of being a son. Although he’s decided he can’t be a son anymore, his father tells a different story. One about return and reconciliation and redemption. One about his being a son again.

The younger son has to decide whose version of the story he’s going to trust: his or his father’s. One in which he is no longer worthy to be called a son or one in which he’s a robe-,ring-, and sandal wearing son who was dead but is alive again, who was lost but has now been found.”

My struggle has always been that God has written for me a beautiful story of love, grace, conviction, heartache, disappointment, failure and redemption. Because it’s tough to accept it all. It’s tough to receive something of gift that you don’t always feel you have earned. I have to say that it’s not always my favorite feeling in the world to review my life story in the light of God and feel worthy. But my story, the things that I have done in 30 years means nothing if I don’t allow God to have the final draft. It’s not worth my time, at least in my opinion.

So today is I choose to continue to let my story unfold the way that God would will it too. And I also choose to fight and struggle to re write it into something more believable for me, only to have it erased before my eyes. To again find the feeling before me this morning, which is one of mystery. And I guess finally choose to try to accept and believe daily the story that has been written for me after all.

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You know what that sounds like?

“You know what that sounds like?”  I think I’ve heard that question a thousand time in my life.  You know, you sit down to write a song, you play it for someone only to have them say, “that sounds like….”.  At times it’s bothered me, but it’s also not my goal to come out with an original idea.  I mean that would be a little unrealistic.  Even the Bible says “There is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.  So I guess that is going to be the normal response to creating something.  It’s going to have smattering of other influences and it’s going to in fact sound like something else.

Last night I was up late listening to the new mixes for the new Brothers McClurg project.  And it’s funny how much you realize your influences when you listen with fresh ears.  You can tell the music that influenced your life all along.  And so even I last night was thinking man that sounds like….  I have just come to except the fact that if it doesn’t sound like something I’ve heard before, than I might want to look at the foundation that I am building on.

In fact I actually intentionally try to mimic the things that I idealize in others lifestyle, art, music etc… And if people can notice those influences, than I guess I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.  The only downside of course is that someone may refer to my music as a “Kenny G” rip off, or some other musician I don’t have a taste for.  Than you’ll never hear those songs.

But in reality a healthy dose of collecting influences to imitate is a good thing.  Not just in music of course, but in all areas of life.  I want to live my life like my Grandfather.  I want to be as good of father as my Dad was to me.  I hope that I can imitate Jesus more and more everyday.  But at the same time I have my own voice.  Right?  I mean God has given all of us our own unique personalities and characters.  So we can take those influences in our lives, process it and apply our own voice to the conversation.  We can take what we have been taught and put it through a blender adding in “you”  and show the world what that looks and sounds like.

French Writer Andre Gide puts it this way, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”   Another writer I like, Austin Kleon says this, “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

So here’s some questions…

Who do you look up to?

Why?

Are they worth the time to study?

How can you take what they have done or said and make it yours that makes it uniquely you?

Spend time around things that inspire you to create for yourself a good song.  Of course that a metaphor.   But you get the point, only ingest the things that make you want to say something.  So many people walk around with nothing really to contribute.  And it’s really because no one has given them the passion to have to speak up.  A good book, a good movie or song that really moves you becomes your new testimony.  You tell your friends, you talk out loud.

So do the world a favor, find what makes you passionate.  Study it over and over and spread the word.  Join in the conversation.  And go out and inspire others with what you’ve learned and had help creating.

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Writing with Paul Baloche.

Just a little over a year ago my brother and I went to Nashville to do some song writing for the Brothers McClurg “Alive” EP.  It was one of those defining moments for me as a worship leader, musician and song writer.  Loved every minute of it!

Our second writing session was with the amazing Paul Baloche (Open the eyes of my heart, Above all, Just to be with you, The Same Love etc…) and it will be for me one of the most amazing writing sessions ever.  It didn’t feel like we were writing a song, but more like a small worship service shared between three new friends.  We spent time just sitting and praying for people that we knew in our lives that needed a healing from God.

We started to sing the phrase.. “Just say, Just say the word, I’ll be made whole”.  I felt the presence of God in the room and we wound up with a song called “Just Say”.  Praying things like, “You will be my ark, that floats me up above the storm”.  This song was ordained by God to heard in moments of struggle,  whether physical, mental or spiritual.  If you look to God and believe He can make you whole again.  He can take the most broken life and piece it back together.

Well yesterday another childhood dream came true for me, Paul released his new record “The Same Love” and put the song that we wrote “Just Say” on it.  What an honor to be apart of  that collection of prayers.  I grew up listening to Paul Baloche.  I have always loved the way that he allows God to work through him.  He is real deal and I am grateful for the opportunity.  But most of all to have had a moment to worship together which binds people together in a very special way.  The record is amazing, and I have my copy already.  Go get it here, not just because I say so, but because you truly will be blessed.

Thanks…

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Jared Anderson and Brothers McClurg.

Hey all, tickets for the Jared Anderson “Hear Us From Heaven” tour go on sale to the public today.  300 tickets already sold.  And they are going fast.  And yes Brothers McClurg will be there to join in on the celebration of worship.  The event will be held in Batavia N.Y. at http://www.northgatefmc.com Friday April 20th.  Call now and get your tickets for 10.00 bucks.  The number is 585-343-4011.

So excited to be apart of this event.  Also check back tomorrow as I have some big news to share with you all.  I am going to need your help.

Thanks,

Anthony

 

Brothers McClurg Recording

So I’ve been a little socially absent as of late.  But in my defense I think it’s for a good reason.  The past couple of weeks I’ve been busy recording a new Brothers McClurg project.  I am really, really excited about it and hope that God can use it to touch people who need to be reminded of the hope that lies in him.

I have had a lot of people ask me how it went.  So I thought that I would talk about some things that go into recording a Brothers McClurg project….

Every project always starts with prayer.  Asking questions like, “What do people need to hear?”, “How can we spread Jesus’ love to more people through what we are saying in these songs?” and then directing the process to that end.  It’s important that you do what God is calling you to do.  And being faithful to that calling is what keeps things grounded.

When we record a project, songs seem to take a life of their own.  I have never recorded a record that has turned out exactly as I thought it would.  I think that’s what’s fun about gathering together with others in a room and seeing how a song comes to life.  And it keeps things fresh.  It’s like getting to know a new friend.  Each song takes time to understand and communicate with.  And I have always found that when I try to force a direction that you don’t wind up there anyways.  So it’s a lot about letting go and letting things form.  Your sort of along for the journey.  I love that.  Too many things in life are predictable.  So when there’s spontaneity in life I try to enjoy the feeling as much as I can.

We are proud of what God has gifted us with.  We work hard to make the best of everything that we can.  But it’s also scary to record.  It’s a blessing, but it’s also a huge responsibility to get it right.  I mean there’s nothing like spending money and time on something and then it falling flat on its face.  There’s no guarantee on how people will respond to what you’ve created.  The most confident people still hate rejection.  And so when we record we try to balance these emotions a little.  We try to keep ourselves somewhere in the middle.  Understanding that if we always worry about how people will like something or the opposite where we could care less can both be paralyzing and get you nowhere.

I always try to relive every word in every song.   So we will often talk about what the songs mean as we begin recording them.  We let the room know what we were thinking, or going through when we wrote that particular song.  We have discussions about what words mean and this allows for an atmosphere appropriate to dress a song in music.   This is important to keeping things honest all the way through from beginning to end.

I am really excited for everyone to hear the new stuff.  Keep us in your prayers.  And thanks for caring.

Here are some pics of the past couple of weeks.

 

Living Simply Part 2- Forgot to love your presence.

So I just finished reading a book called, “Living Simply in an Anxious World” by Robert Wicks. Check out part 1 of this blog here.

My wife and I went out on a date last night for the first time in a couple of weeks. What with two little boys, work, exhaustion and the many other things that seem to monopolies our time it’s hard to pull away. But we did and it was awesome! It was relaxing and we decided to throw out the calorie counter and just enjoy the company of each other and good food.

I sometimes forget how good it feels to be in the presence of my wife. To sit and talk. And just be. She is so beautiful and captivating to me still. We are coming up on 10 yrs of marriage and I would still pick her.

But if I go long stretches away from her. I can forget all of that. I forget what it feels like to love. So the challenge of course is to make it a regular thing, where we get together to reconnect and remember to what it feels like again to love being in each others’ presence.

It’s the same with God. I can go long stretches of time where I forget how good it feels to be in His presence. And then I’ll be sitting reading the Bible, or in a worship service and feel a peace that just feeds my soul. And I remember again how much I really do long to be in the presence of God.

Wicks throws out a challenge to learn how to love the presence of God everyday. So just like a healthy marriage you make time to recognize the one you love, because it will feed your soul and cause you to remember again why you love it there. Just sitting in the presence. He says it this way, and I leave you with this thought,

“Moments of alienation and depression can help us to raise our eyes to view a new horizon of hope instead of a darkness of spirit. They can awaken us to embrace our inner fragmentation and our outer interpersonal fences. They can shake us our of our complacency and righteousness and in a gentle spirit open us up to God.

And so, next time we feel low, maybe it is not a time to cry and run. Maybe it is a time to sit or kneel and wrap ourselves in gratitude to God. Gratitude for everything is needed-including the very act of stopping us or slowing us down so we can see how we have forgotten to love the presence of God in all creatures-including ourselves.”

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