Music That Keeps Me Going

As anyone who has iTunes knows, the newest album from U2 was automatically added, for free, to users “purchased” folder. With no effort, and no cost, Songs of Innocence was just … there.

Some people complained. Others critiqued the music. As for me, I was just glad I could figure out where the songs were, and how to move them to my iTunes playlist. It took me and my non-Apple-programmed mind a bit longer than it should have. While others were worried about Big Brother, I was happy just to find the songs.

For I learned a long time ago how important music is to me. It lifts me up when I’m down. It makes me smile. It makes me think. It reminds me what I believe. It reminds me that I am human.

I think that’s what the best art does. It reminds us who we are. Whether it’s music, or movies, or poetry, or a great story – the best art tunes us into the truth about us. And sometimes that comes packaged in Christian content, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I am challenged by a Christian book, and sometimes I am gripped by a Hollywood movie. Or a song by U2. Or Dave Brubeck. Or Mat Kearney.

The list goes on. But in the interest of claiming my little piece of the blogosphere for music that I think is essential for the human journey (and the journey of faith), here are the top five groups I want spinning on my playlist:

  1. Lost Dogs. My all-time favorite band. Simply the best story-telling in music I know.
  2. The 77s. If you stick me on a deserted island with only a cassette player and one cassette, I’d bring along Sticks & Stones. (And yes, I still do have the cassette version of this album.) And If I had landed on that island because of my own stupidity, I would be able to listen to God Sends Quails over and over – my favorite song about failure. (Hmmm, is it okay to have a favorite “failure” song?)
  3. Nickel Creek. Bringing bluegrass into the 21st century, one smooth mandolin lick at a time.
  4. The Call. If you’ve never heard of these guys, give a listen to “I Still Believe.” And keep believin’.
  5. Over the Rhine. What a voice. What an album. And what a nice rendition of the best song on that album.

Anyway, those are some of the musicians and songs that keep me going. Any that you would add?

What a fourteen-year-old boy has in common with a healthy church

My fourteen-year-old son grows like a proverbial weed. Scratch that; he grows faster than a weed. It is now a matter of weeks before he passes my tall, lanky frame with his soon-to-be taller, even-lankier frame. I am about to lose my 23-year-reign as the tallest member of our family. And when Quincy grows past me, I will from that day and forever after be 2nd place in the contest for family height. (What can I say? I’m a guy; everything is a contest.)20140831_140005

But that sure beats the alternative. I would much rather he would grow past me than not grow at all. I would rather he reach 6’5″ than stay the same size he was when he was 5 or 6. I know he’s healthy because he keeps growing – and because he keeps eating, and eating, and eating…

The truth is: growth and health go hand-in-hand. Whether you are a parent watching your child mature, or a teacher guiding a student, or a employer training a new worker, you want to see growth. You need to see growth. That’s how you know the person is healthy.

Isn’t the same thing true when it comes to our faith journey? The healthiest among us are the ones who keep growing; who aren’t content to sit still – or, worse yet, regress. Spiritual health is seen in my growth, as I continue to learn, to listen, to love. As I use my spiritual muscles, I become more and more like Jesus. And isn’t that the best way to measure growth?

And if that is true of me and you as individuals, can’t we say the same about us as a group (that is, the Church)? If I am healthiest when I am growing, isn’t the Church also healthiest when it is growing?

But truth is, sometimes that is hard to measure. I can chart my son’s growth; all I have to do is look at him and notice that I no longer have to lower my head to look him in the eyes. Soon I will be looking up to him. Growth, for Quincy, is very easy to measure – it’s seen in the swivel of my neck.

But measuring growth in church isn’t so simple. It’s not just a matter of knowing our ABCs (attendance, building, and cash). Those are helpful tools, sure; but often the way to truly measure growth is more difficult than that. In his article, The Measure of a Church, Will Thomas suggests five ways to gauge church health. All of his recommendations are good, because all of them point beyond simply measuring what we can count on our fingers.

At the end of the day, what matters is not how often we sit in a pew or how much we put in a offering plate, but are we changed by what we hear? Do our lives look different? Are we transformed by what we say we believe? And does that impact others?

In short: are we followers of Jesus who help others see what it means to follow Jesus?

At Fern Creek Christian, we have begun a new series, Discover Your Mission Now. But it is more than a series; it must be a way of life where we aren’t measured simply by what we attend or what we give, but by how we live. And healthy, growing followers of Jesus are people who live on mission – with Jesus, for Jesus, for a world that needs to see him live through us.

So, how healthy are you?

Living Like You Mean It

I was out for a run the other day, and came to the halfway place in my run. (I really should call it a jog; I’m not setting any speed records out there.) And when I am out jogging, the hardest part is undoubtedly the middle 20%. If I am going to downshift my jog to a walk, it’s usually in that 20%. .

But the other day, as I hit that make-it-or-break it spot, I passed a toddler who was outside playing with his grandpa. Since I was on a cul-de-sac, I turned around not long after I passed him and came back around. And as I did, I saw the little boy running, waving his arms, with a look of pleasure on his face. His grandfather, walking behind him, looked at me and simply said, “Inspired.” That is: this little guy was inspired to run because I was running.

But he had joy. He ran with abandon. He ran like he meant it. Even though every step I took was difficult for me, I had inspired him to get started. And, in turn, his delight inspired me.

I want to run like that little boy. I want to run like I mean it. Don’t you? Don’t you want to live with purpose, on purpose, On Mission?

At Fern Creek Christian, we begin a series this Sunday that will help us do that. It is called “Discover Your Mission Now,” and it will give us simple and practical tools to live out our faith, every day. Whether you are 8 or 88, or somewhere in between, DYMN will provide clear and helpful ways to live daily lives grounded in God’s love, and share that with others. In other words, we will look at how we can live like we mean it.

To get the most of this series, you will want to read the free book (it’s short and sweet). You will want to join a study group. And you will want to make a point of being in worship each Sunday, now through October 19.

Back in February, our church unveiled our vision to be a church that is living and loving like Jesus. “Discover Your Mission Now” will give you a direct and daily way to live that out. I hope you’ll join us.