(e)Merging

As many of you know, I’ve recently been rehired at New Life Church.  How that happened, why, and the process thus far, you may or may not know.

For the last several months I’ve been the Worship Arts Pastor at Celebration Church.  During that time, the Senior Pastor was walking through some self discovery and trying to determine the right course of action for the church.  He decided that the best course of action was to merge Celebration Church with New Life.  As part of that, I’ve been rehired at New Life.

While walking through the process, I’ve been thinking about what it means to merge.  Dictionary.com defines it this way:

merge (verb)

1.to cause to combine or coalesce; unite.
2.to combine, blend, or unite gradually so as to blur the individuality or individual identity of 
3.to become combined, united, swallowed up, or absorbed; lose identity by uniting or blending (often followed by in or into )
4.to combine or unite into a single enterprise, organization, body, etc.

So which are we?  Are we combining and coalescing?  Blending and gradually uniting?  Being swallowed up and absorbed?  Or combining into a single entity?

Or is there another option?  Are we flowing like a stream or river in which one tributary flows into another and it’s impossible to determine which water came from which source?  I think I like that idea…At least in the sense that, to begin with, we are one family.

Just as believers meeting in Africa, Australia, Asia or South America and Europe are all part of the same family, we too are part of that family.  Sometimes we forget it with those closest to us.  Sometimes it’s easier to look at churches across a city or region as competitors.  (I didn’t say that was right, btw, I just said we do it sometimes)

The truth is we are part of the same family, and as such we are to love and honor one another.  We are to continue becoming the people and family of God together.  We are part of a faith that is communal in nature.  The scripture is rife with familial metaphors and examples.  So in some sense no merge is even necessary.

But that brings me to the example of traffic.  We’re all headed the same direction on the highway, but we have to know how to merge safely – to allow space for one another so we don’t run each other off the road.  We have to be aware and sensitive to those around us and even if it seems inconvenient when we’re in a hurry, we’ve got to let people in.

I for one am grateful for being let back into the flow.  It’s good to be headed in the right direction. And I feel as we merge with one another, there is something we couldn’t see on our own that will emerge from the process.

Running To God

Grant Pics

My oldest son Grant is eight. One of my favorite memories of him is when he was about 5. At that time, he’d get to church early when my wife showed up. Invariably, we’d be in the middle of sound check and the first thing he’d do is run up onto the stage and give me a big hug.

I loved that. I loved my son coming to just get ahold of me regardless of the setting. So I’d oblige, the band would keep playing and I’d pause what I was doing to give him a hug and kiss on the forehead and then he’d go off with mom and we’d finish sound check.

Well about the same time, my first EP released and I was doing some guest worship leading to promote the record. I was leading worship at a large church in Denver and my wife and some friends drove up for service.

We had just started the second service, about halfway though the opening song when I look out and see a 5 year old boy streaking up the aisle toward the stage…Grant had arrived.

He saw his dad on stage and he was gonna get his hug. You could see my wife and her slow-footed-friends unsuccessfully trying to catch him before he got to the stage but it was too late. Grant jumped up on stage (in front of 1500 people) and latched onto my leg. I quickly patted his head, loved on him and kept going with the song.

It. Was. Amazing.

Here I was, trying “lead worship” and my son gave the congregation the best example of what worship should be.

What better picture of worship do we need than a son RUNNING to his father to love and be loved?Regardless of the crowd. Regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the consequences.

This week, when you worship. Do it like Grant. Run to God. Run to the Father who is just as excited to see you as you are Him. Stop caring about the crowd, or your circumstances. Just run to God.

Why I Believe in the 2nd Amendment

My wife and I just bought a new home.  Actually we bought a 110-year-old Victorian  that was recently remodeled just west of downtown.  We’ve been in the process of moving some ancillary items, storage, closets, kitchen non-essentials, etc.  We had planned to take it easy and have a big moving day this coming Saturday.  Everything was going swimmingly until Saturday night, or rather Sunday afternoon.

I had a gig Sunday morning in Denver, so I got up early drove up, and did my thing.  I finished about 2:30pm and was driving home when I got a hysterical call from my wife.  Apparently, sometime Saturday night, some homeless people, broke into our new home through the basement window, and made a general mess of things.  They didn’t take much, thankfully, but they ate pretty much all the food we had there, stole some medicine and alcohol and made a huge mess.

Jenn called the police, they came out and did a report, and we hoped that would be the end of it.  We were wrong.

We decided it would be a good idea for me, our two 80 lb labs, my friend Ryan, and our two handguns to stay the night last night, just in case they came back.  I printed off some makeshift signs and taped them into all the windows.  They read,

“WARNING!!!  If my two 80 pound dogs don’t get you, my gun and I will if you come into my home again.”

Well, Ryan and I were settling in, and about 11pm last night, we heard some noise outside.  Ryan said, “Brandon, I think they’re back.” He grabbed his .40 caliber and ran downstairs.  I grabbed my Walther PPK 9 millimeter and followed.  Ryan ran out the front door, I glanced out, saw a couple girls across the way and that Ryan had made his way around the side of the house  (where the basement windows are) and towards the back.  I ran to the back of the house and came out to find Ryan had cornered two guys next to our back deck.

We confronted them, warned them we had loaded guns and that we were calling the police.  Apparently Ryan had found one of them in the window well trying to get in.  I called the police, they arrived moments later, and a couple hours later, the situation was over.

It turns out our homeless friends (each supplied heavily with pot, the police found) had some warrants, and some other issues.  They said “their friend Trey told them about the house and that he stayed there last night and it would be a safe warm place for them to squat.”  They swore they weren’t they to cause any trouble take or damage anything, and that they were simply looking for a warm place to sleep.  (I told them they were in luck, they jail they’d be staying in tonight was nice and warm.)

Here’s the thing, I really honestly thought no one would be stupid enough to return to the scene of the crime the night before.  Again, I was wrong.

I am thankful we live in country where it is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  And I believe that this is one of those instances where that right proves the idea that legal and responsible gun ownership prevents crime, whereas unlawful gun use increases crime.  Because Ryan and I have been around guns, have been through training on how to handle a weapon safely and responsibly (we both had father’s in law enforcement and both considered a career in the field), we were able to use the threat of force without having to use any force and in the end no one was hurt and a further crime was prevented.

Thank God, that’s all that happened.

What is Calling?

What is God’s will?  What is the right thing to do?  How does one know that one is doing what they were meant, or made to do?  Are these are intrinsically American questions, rife with comfort so we are able to even examine ideas? Or is there something bigger, something deeper in all of us that, by ignoring, puts our fulfillment, and perhaps the help of others, in peril ?

Yes. No.  And maybe some grey.

I think that as long as I can remember I’ve felt like I was made to do certain things.  As a boy, adolescent, and young adult being an athlete meant a great deal to me.  As a result, I often thought or said things like, “I was born to do this.”  The rush of adrenaline, the thrill of winning, the feeling of a well-timed, well-executed play in hockey or volleyball, were for me the very elements of a life well-lived.

Similarly throughout my life, the resonance I’ve felt with music has often left me speechless, which for those of you who know me, is something.  I often relate to the moment in Chariots of Fire when the main character Eric Liddel, a missionary with great athletic prowess, tries to explain to his sister why he runs.  “When I run, I sense God’s pleasure.”  Liddell is saying that he senses calling, meaning, fulfillment, and great results when he does what he was built to do.  I often feel that way while playing music.

Which brings us back to the question of whether that feeling is legitimate or not.  It’s been said that human beings make decisions based on emotion, and justify using reason.  If that’s the case, what is to be made of this idea of calling?  What do we do with the things we dream of doing?  Are we merely justifying our own aspirations in the name of some greater good, or greater force?  Are we blaming God for what we simply want to do?

Or is there something deeply, intrinsically a part of us that resonates when we act upon it?  Is there something, unique to each of us, that causes us to act in a manner that another might not?

And if so, what are we to do about it?  Certainly we ought not throw up our hands and radically redirect our lives in a way that allows us to pursue dreams over our responsibilities.  Or is it our responsibility itself that drives us to pursue our dreams?

This last week I was in L.A. to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  I was impressed by my friend’s friends.  Each of them, in their own way, seemed to be acting upon something that drove them.  All of them were very successful.  All of them were doing things that sounded dreamy.

Over the course of a few days’ interaction these things became clearly apparent.  And over that period of time, I also ran into old acquaintances, and met new ones. It seemed to me that the people I met fell into one of three very stereotypical and generalized categories.  Dreamers, Settlers and Undecideds.

The Dreamers, were much as I’ve already described, they seemed alive, energized (not that they weren’t ever tired or stressed) but the seemed peaceful and fulfilled.  And they also seemed to each have acquired a measure of success in their field of influence.

The Settlers also seemed dreamy, but in a different way, they seemed to reminisce, to remember, and even commiserate.  Each of them also seemed to have acquired a certain standard of living (it was L.A. after all) but it seemed hollow, as if it could collapse at any given time.

The Undecideds were often younger, but not always.  Some fresh out of college, some in the workforce for years.  But each of them seemed to have the hint of both dreaming, and settling within them, as if one might pop out and blossom at any moment, given the right (or wrong) opportunity.

All of this has caused me to reconsider.  What am I doing with my life?  Am I doing what I ought to?  What I should?  What I might be able to do?  Am I fully alive?  Am I simply settling for the trappings of an average, middle class American life?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with an average, middle class American life.  But for me, and I hope for you, this causes more reflection, and ultimately more intention and follow through.

I guess the good news is that on the flight back I wrote a song.  The bad news, I haven’t finished it yet.

King of Glory-EP available on iTunes now

BRANDON2-1

Hey everyone.  Just thought I’d let you know that my EP, King of Glory, is now available on iTunes, Amazon.com, Napster, Rhapsody and basically anywhere you usually get your digital music fix.  I’d love to have your feedback on it.

Along those lines, there have been multiple requests for lyrics, so I’ve uploaded the chord charts (w/lyrics) for each of the tunes here for your viewing, reading, playing pleasure.

Can’t wait to hear impressions from each of you on the project.  Thanks.

Brandon

YOU ALONE

Strength Not My Own

King of Glory – D

Change + Hope = $750bilion in Debt

First, I have to admit I stole the title from one David Wilson, a close friend and colleague.  I think it’s brilliant.

Second, I have to wonder if THIS represents the change we can believe in, the change we need or the change we need to be.  Sorry I get confused with all the Obama platitudes of the campaign trail and their, now, obvious meaninglessness.  The sad thing is we’re , let’s see…30 days into the administration?  Oy vey.

I sure hope he can turn it around.

I also understand, because I wrote about it several times, that it’s foolish to place all our “hope” in the abilities of one man, one politician, one party, etc.  I still think President Obama is a gifted, intelligent and well-meaning individual, and that he can still have a very successful administration.  I hope he does, and I hope that congress can be turned over like the tables in the Temple courts.  That bunch may be simply incorrigible.

Stimulus? Or Political Point Scoring?

I’ve often said that President Obama’s discussion of the economy, and the mainstream media’s parroting of it, has been likely bad for the economy but good for his election in November and his positioning of the Stimulus package that just passed congress with nary a congress member actually reading it.  But Economics professor, Bradley Schiller, says it quite well in this WallStreet Journal Op Ed.

Some cool headed thinking might be in order.  I hope the President’s mind is as apt as his mouth.