Tag Archives: praise

In our weakness

Sometimes we need to outright declare, to tell the heavens that LIFE, LIFE with capital letters, will have its way. Life, the living breathing Word of God. The Logos. *THE* Truth with a capital T. It is going to set things right, and we get to join in. So, I wrote this song with a few friends in mind… some of them are embattled in the trenches of cancer and sickness. But they’re still crying out to the Father. They’re still clinging to the hope and truth that is, and always will be. _________________________

life takes over the sun in it cracks through the clouds to dry the sweat on our backs A breeze it blows to refresh and to revive we can’t keep this joy inside   Life takes over and the concrete breaks with flowers blooming that erase the hate of the daily life, and all its strife the mundane is swallowed by joy   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength   Life takes over hear the heavens sing They see through the lives of pain That the kingdom comes Hear their message as it echoes across the plains   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength We will sing Your praises from our sick beds We will sing Your praises in our strength   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)

Last night my good friend here in my house was having a hard time.

I didn’t know what was wrong, and it wasn’t a great time to talk. (kiddos were everywhere)

So, I broke out chocolate truffles, my buddy Logan got her an icy cold beer out of my fridge, and then we turned on some ridiculously loud music.

Now, there were certain teens in the vicinity looking forward to a movie. But I knew that my friend needed to dance and play first. There’s always movie time. We needed dance time. And the kiddos had all sorts of Christmas candy energy to burn.

I knew what would really get us dancing… REM.

I hadn’t listened to them in FOREVER! I turned on ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ and cranked it up sooooo loud. It was wonderful. My friends eyes lit up. She grabbed the kids and they spun and twirled and jumped and bounced. I watched for a while, then had to join in to. Logan and I sang at the top of our lungs.

All of the tension had drifted away. She was twirling and playing like a little kid before her God.

And the teens… well, they watched in horror. (but that’s not all that abnormal)

It was great.

It got me thinking, “Man, that’s a great song.”

There’s not enough songs about the world falling apart and dancing and playing in the midst of it.

Things will inevitably fall apart and be messy. This world is so messed up. Day to day life is so very messed up. Our emotions lie to us, and are so messed up. But there is something so very powerful about dancing in the midst of it all.

Andrew Peterson has a song on his new album called ‘Dancing in the Minefields’ that is similar. (though much more romantic) Youtube it, the video will break your heart and give you hope. It’s wonderful.

I want to learn how to dance harder. I want to learn that in the midst of this junk that we face, to turn the music up louder, lift my hands high and praise my Father who loves us so very much.

Dancing and praising in the chaos defies your soul and tells it to “Hush, be still… know that He is God!” It trains us to see things differently.

Moment by moment, the world as we know it is ending…

You feelin fine?

God works through us, in spite of us… and it’s wonderful.

I wanted to give an example of the way that our wonderful God works through us in our weakness and struggle.

My parents had both passed away by the time that I was 21. I was a mess inside.

I had been known in my home town for running youth rallies and concerts and so forth. I would preach from the stage and always be making some excited stand for God.

Looking back, I think God got a real kick out of me. The same way that He loved Saul so much, to make him blind and rearrange his life, God intervened in mine too. God took away my parents. He did it because He loves me.

Everything had fallen apart… and that’s too many stories to recount.

I lived with the band that I was in. We were a Christian metal band called Unamerican Dream. I was trying to hide just how depressed that I was. The only way that I could fall asleep at the time was by mixing kool-aid with Everclear.

I worked two jobs. Both were from 10-4. One was 10am to 4pm, I’d go home, sleep for a few hours, then get up and go to the other one at 10pm to 4am. Maybe you’re beginning to imagine my mental state.

I kept trying to maintain with God. I wanted to know Him, but more than that, I know He wanted to know me.

You see, that’s one thing that I just can’t shirk. I look back, and I don’t see myself going after God. I was self-absorbed, reckless, hateful, lazy… I wanted to gratify my flesh at every turn. But I look back, and see God after me. He put up road blocks and messed things up, just to send me in the direction that He wanted me to go.

Where can we go to escape His love. I say nowhere! Nowhere at all!

At this time in my life, on Thursday mornings, I would go down to the abortion clinic to pray and such. Some people protested, but most of us just knelt and prayed.

There was a particular church that would oversee the street counseling and prayer. We were allowed to have two people on the side of the street that the actual clinic was on to try and talk to the women as they went in. We weren’t mean or intrusive, but we were trying to talk to them and save their baby’s life.

The pastor of the fore-mentioned church had previously made some statements about me to other people. You see, I worked at a particular store in the local mall that sold all sorts of goth-punk and rock music paraphernalia, and he deemed this a very bad situation. (all in all, looking back, I do too, but you’ll see what God did with this)

I enjoyed this job for the most part. Day after day the same kids would come in to talk about the newest rock bands or whatever. But this pastor, had stated that there was no way I could be a follower of Christ and work in that store. It’s full of evil and there’s just no way.

I really don’t know whether or not I was following Christ. I’d say that I wasn’t. But I know that Christ was chasing me around.

But back to the story… There was a beautiful and wonderful woman named Pam who would oversee the Thursday morning prayer. She would decide who would do the street counseling and so forth. She also took good care of me.

I was mom-less. And Pam knew this. She knew what a mess I was inside. She would look at me with these beautiful blue eyes and her mother’s heart. She looked inside me. I never once felt her judge me. Though I did feel her worry about this young man who was drifting along.

She would check on how I was eating, and she’d try and ask me questions. I’d try to muster all the holiness I could to appear like I was doing better than I was. But she kept me near her those mornings.

One morning, I showed up at about 7:30 in the morning. She had a weird smile on her face. “Good morning PJ.” she said. (my nick-name was PJ at the time) “You’re going to be on the other side of the street today.”

“What?” I was very surprised. I had never done the street counseling before. That’s a big deal. Looking those ladies in the eye, hoping that love and conviction comes through…

“I feel like you’re supposed to be over there today. I don’t know why. I just think it’s what you’re supposed to do this morning.”

She gave me a pocket full of literature to hand out, and sent me across the street. I was very nervous. You never know what’s going to come your way; perhaps an angry boyfriend or a stream of obscenities.

A few ladies rushed by me. They didn’t give me the time of day. I can’t blame them. It’s terribly awkward. One car pulled up quickly, a nice car, very expensive. It passed us and went right to the entrance of the clinic. A well dressed woman stepped out and was ushered in. The man sped off.

It was quiet for a while. I was tired, and looking forward to sleep.

I looked up and walking toward me was a young couple. This young couple came into the store I worked at nearly every day. Our eyes met with surprise, and very precariously we greeted each other.

“PJ, what are you doing here?”

“I’m here every Thursday.” I replied. “Are you guys okay?”

The young man said, “Not really.” His girlfriend broke away and ran inside to check in.

I looked at him. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

“Yes, that’d be good.”

I glanced across the street, and Pam was smiling with a tear in her eye. She knew God. She knew His plans were good. She believed. I saw her gather everybody together to pray.

That young man and I walked around the block. He told me about their situation. They didn’t want to do this, they were being forced to by her parents. They were absolutely terrified. They needed help.

I told him there was help. That there were people, right across the street ready to take them in, help them with money, whatever it takes to get them through this. Basically, I told him that Jesus was across the street waiting with open arms.

He ran in to get his girlfriend. He told her everything I had said. Within minutes they were out and Pam was holding her and rocking her and she cried and cried.

That pastor came to me then and there and told me that he was sorry for saying what he had said about me…

The thing is, I didn’t do that. I left that day, went to work, went back home and drank myself to sleep. But God put me there, in that store, on that sidewalk because He had, and still has a plan for the baby, that girl, Pam, that pastor, me… He has a plan for me.

I did nothing… I just happened to show up. He used me, despite my sin and wickedness… and believe me, I was wicked. I haven’t even gone into that side of who I was then.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when your search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’…

Jer 29:11-14

He drove me all over the place… and now, I cry out to Him, and my dear Lord and Savior always hears me. Praise the God who drives us into tragedy and torment that we would be near Him, and never hunger again!

Regret and Praise

It had been a horrible day. I can’t remember what I was after or what was going on, but somehow, for some reason, my mom and I were fighting. She was a master of the stubborn and quiet manipulation of an argument. She could turn silence into a formidable weapon.

And this time, she was at her finest. Her eyes were glazed over. Her expression was resolute. She wasn’t going to give me anything.

My 20-year-old self shouted and got in her face. I was livid. The lump in my stomach consumed me. It needed some sick satisfaction. I wanted her to give in. I didn’t want to.

I began to lecture her about how immature she was being for giving me the silent treatment. I called her stupid.

She didn’t budge.

She was a stone… and I admired and hated her skill. But I wanted to win.

I had to break her down. My adrenaline was running so high. So I threw out that word that no son should say to his mother. I dropped the bomb and walked out the door.

I drove off to pick up my girlfriend. I was shaking. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. The shame was overwhelming. And I had the next 15 minutes to stew about it and figure out some way to tell my best friend what I had done.

As I pulled in, Jenn was outside of her house waiting for me. She looked anxious. She came right to the car, got in, and told me we had to go back to my house.

My mom wasn’t giving me the silent treatment, she was having a stroke.

______________________________

This would be the last time my mother and I conversed.

______________________________

Simon Peter found himself reeling as he attempted to warm his shaking hands. Only hours ago, he had pledged his undying loyalty to his teacher, his Lord… this Jesus, only to get back a reply about him not even making it through the night without betraying him.

Then, to throw him even more, Jesus had told him and the others this very confusing statement about selling what you have to buy a sword and be ready and… and it didn’t make sense. These people came, with torches and swords to take his Lord. What was he to do but fight?

Jesus was an innocent man. They had no right to hurt him. So he did what any good man would do. He drew his sword and lashed out, only to be rebuked. To add humiliation, Christ not only scolded him, right there in front of everyone, he healed the wound of the man he had struck.

None of this made sense.

Christ told him that on him, Simon Peter, the rock, the Church would be built. And now, this so called Messiah was across the way, being mocked, spit on, and otherwise humiliated.

Peter turned away, wincing in his perplexity and embarrassment.

“Hey you.” A servant girl called out to him. “Weren’t you with him? Hey everyone! This man was with him too!”

His adrenaline was high, and he reeled at this surprise, “No… no, not me woman!” He stumbled over his words. “I… I don’t even know the man!” He wished he could just disappear, but all eyes in this dark yard were turning his way.

A man made his way around the fire to try and see him in a better light. “Yes,” he exclaimed with wide eyes, looking at those around him, “this man was one of them!”

“Listen, man!” He said with more resolve this time. “I AM NOT!”

Another young man joined in, “Yes, he is a Galilean too. Certainly he was with him.”

Peter’s intensity was at it’s peak. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!” His words echoed throughout the dark and flickering courtyard like a gunshot, and they clashed with the dissonant sounds of the piercing call of a rooster.

He felt the gaze of his Lord, and their eyes met.

Simon, called Peter, ran from the place and wept bitterly.

Fear flooded him. What had he done? He knew that this may be the last time he would see his Lord.

_______________________________________

I spent a good month in the ICU by my mother’s side at 1 and 2 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep. I would weep and sob next to her, begging her and God to forgive me. I wanted someone to make it okay. She was hardly in her skin. Her eyes didn’t open for over a month.

When they did finally open, I could barely look at them. I was a disgrace of a son. I honestly can’t say that any one thing in my life has impacted me as much as that day.

This sting went deep, and now and then it rises up, showing its scar to remind me.
We all know that dear Peter’s heart would find relief, at least to a small degree a few days later, gazing into that empty tomb. But I’m willing to wager that it was far harder for him to look into the eyes of our sweet Savior than it was for me to gaze into my mother’s.

Mom had beautiful hazel eyes, and such a wonderful smile.

Eventually, over the 9 months that followed that incident, she would begin to learn to talk, and try and walk again. She also very quietly was working out something with God, making peace you might say.

One Friday, I came to pick up my dad. He spent every day with her. From around 7 or 8 in the morning to 5 or 6 at night, he was at her side. I walked into the room, and I swear to you, she was glowing.

I told her that I would not be able to come in the next day to see her, but I planned on spending all day with her on Sunday.

I also kissed her on the head and told her that I loved her.

She whispered sweetly that it was okay, and that she loved me too. Three hours later she ran ahead of us to the other side of the veil.

These may seem sort of random to put together, but to me they’re bound in my heart. The sting of regret and the eyes of love make for the Father’s glory. Life together, as the body of Christ is little instances like these, every day, building the church with good and solid material.

Christ knew Peter, and knew what he would do. Peter would not have been the man he was without the sting of his betrayal burning in him for the rest of his life.

But don’t mistake this regret; it is not a guilt ridden self-pity. This regret is a tool of the loving Father to show us how very deep his unending love is. It is to be held tightly to remind us that our Father is amazing and merciful. He is a good dad, a very good dad, and loves to have us near Him.

So I say all of this to say that I’m grateful. I honestly can say that I would not want to change one bit of what I’ve done and where I’ve been. That’s not to say that I don’t wince at it, but I praise God for it. He let me do it, and go through it so that I’d know him better. He redeems it all when our hearts are toward Him. And I can’t wait to see what else he has in store.