Sunday, March 20, 2011

Come Thou Fount

This morning after a good walk with the Lord I came home and felt like doing something moderately creative and quick.  So I recorded an acoustic version of Come Thou Fount in like an hour and a half to see what I'd come up with.  I think it came out nice considering I have terrible time when playing with a click, recording, or just other humans.  I might do more of these, but don't expect anything.

Come Thou Fount by thecomposinator

Monday, March 14, 2011

oh you (my sick heart)

It's interesting to be confronted with issues that stem from my heart's idolatry.  Last week Beau spoke about the 'deep' idols, the ones that drive all the others.  I believe mine are comfort and acceptance.  Those two things pretty much have a hand in almost all of my decision making, as well as my other idols.

I've been confronted with some pretty sick things in my heart of late.  Well, not of late in my development as a human, they've always been there and I'm now starting to see them.  God has been calling out my pride through the form of being accepted lately.  It's really hard to take.  We all want to be special, and especially now in our social climate.  I'll admit I love getting praise and feeling like people like me.  I fight this as a teacher all the time, I want them to be my friends instead of being their teacher.  (I guess I'm a lot more like Michael Scott that I realized....)

I want to be special.  I really do.  The thing is, I am.  Not to anyone on this planet.  But to the Creator of this planet.  The One who literally spoke everything I can see, feel, touch, think, and experience into being.  He simply spoke.  This God also sent his Son so that I could be free.  He didn't save me while I was good but before the foundations of the world were put in place and while I was actively rebelling against him.  I am special to Jesus.  He has my name written on his hand, not just my name, but my real name, the name He gives to me.  A totally unique name that only He knows.

He and he alone is my sufficiency.  When I need affirmation, I need it from Him.  When I am feeling insecure, he is my security.  When I am rebelling and running, He runs with me and angles me back.

He shows me this wicked heart so that I will cling to the cross more. Because in myself I have no hope for reconciliation, but through Him I do. When I start to wander I get this vivid picture in my mind of me at the crucifixion literally laying on the ground with my arms wrapped around the cross, around Jesus.  I hold on so tightly to that, to have him be my sufficiency.  Then after a bit I start to feel good and stand up on my own two legs.  Then I take a step away from the cross on my own.  I literally get two steps away and start to waver, so I turn back to the cross and fall with arms open to grab it.  It's still there. He's waiting for me.  I grasp and I don't let go, until I get to prideful and stand up again on my own.

Always go to the cross, to Jesus. His gesture is the most meaningful one we have and will ever have.  Cling to it.

Sanctification is simply dwelling daily in our justification.  Never get past the cross.

Monday, February 28, 2011

seven swans

This post isn't about seven swans.  Although I've been listening to it for the last hour on repeat, actually not repeat I just re-click it when it's over (which is more work for me).  That being aside, tonight I feel deep, so I'm going to write it out like I always do.  It's interesting that this blog turns out to be many posts when I feel heavy, maybe one would get the sense that I'm kind of a sad person or whatnot, but I don't think that's the case, I just write things out when I feel this way.

First off, today was the last day of February, my least favorite month.  I don't think it is by choice, if you were to make a chart of my emotional state for the year, it just plummets in February.  I don't really know why but every year I pine for the first of March. That day is tomorrow.  Thank you Lord.  I've made it though this disaster of a month relatively okay.

Maybe tonight is remanence of that....

Tonight I spent some time willfully in the past. It's weird that I used to live so much more in the past than I do now, I still get the urge to live there but God has been faithful in keeping me present.  Tonight I wanted to go back, for many reasons.  One was because I had some business to take care of, the business of repentance.  That's where this little stroll began, thinking about a time that I sinned against someone and thinking and praying about how to ask for forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness is harder than one would think.  Not so much in the obvious way, as my heart has changed and I want to repent and be reconciled.  It's more the logistics of writing a statement that says what I need to say.  It's sometimes just plain hard to find the right words.  I really do love to apologize to others for my blemishes, it shows God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, and glory.  No matter the reaction of the other person, God has moved my heart to want to repent, that is an act of grace.  It shows he's working in my heart to want to humble myself, claim my garbage, and to ask to reconcile.  It's beautiful.

So, on a different note, I've been (for the first time really) trying to memorize scripture.  I'm going for Romans 8, a verse a day.  It's going well, I'm not much of a good memorizer, but God had been merciful to me and the time spent is worth it.  So here's a bit now.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do, by sending how own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
For to set the mind on the things of the flesh is death,
but to set the mind on the things of the Spirit is life and peace.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,
for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

There it is, that's where I'm at.

I'm thankful for the faithfulness of God.  That he died for me not when I was perfect (that hasn't happened) but he died while I was willfully rebelling against him.  He saved me from myself, my evil heart, and from eternal separation from Him.

So this post was kind of a throw away, but I'm going to post it anyways, maybe no one will read it....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two sides of the same coin

I may have written about this before, but through some conversations (no Lee they aren't cite-able! but are a fertile ground to get the ball rolling) with some dear friends I've decided to perhaps revisit this idea.  This simple little idea is suffering.

This crux has set more doubt in our minds maybe more than any other question about God.  Why do we suffer?  How can an all-loving God let us suffer?  Now, I'm not here to answer any of those large questions, and I also think that some of these questions can/should be tied into justice, which is God's alone.

But I want to leave these questions behind because they are too big for my minuscule brain to tackle.  What I can discuss though is a quote from the Valley of Vision, which if you read my blog know I'm a really big fan of.  It comes from 'Divine Promises' and goes like this:

May I not instruct thee in my troubles,
   but glorify thee in my trials.

As my roommate Lee always exclaims during catchphrase® 'this is a comparison, four words.' Although this is more than four words, it is a comparison.  A single event described in two ways.  It is divided into two ideas, 1) a circumstance, 2) our reaction to it.

Something has happened.  Someone is hurting.  Someone is broken.  God is chastening the one that he loves.  How do we react?

The last word in each line should be all the indicator of the point that needs to be made.  Do I view events that happend to me as trials or troubles?  It's not just a pithy use of vocabulary, but the word choice defines the point of view.  Do I perceive things as bad (a circumstance that either the Lord doesn't know about, or that he is powerless to control) or as hard-but-good for God's glory?  Know that God allows 'bad' things to happen to us for His glory.  As Matt pointed out in his sermon this weekend, we don't always know how how it glorifies God (such as children dying), but rest assured it does and someday we'll know why.

Troubles imply an inward focus.  Troubles happen to us.  We want them to be fixed.  The point of a trouble is for it to go away.  Compare that to a trial, something we walk through.  Something we look to the Lord to get us through.  Trials don't need to be 'fixed', we must practice patience through them.  They teach us something about God.  The Bible is littered with the word trial in this manner, unlike troubles which can usually be found when describing intense, personal pain and an inward focus.

The other comparison has to do with our reaction.  Do we instruct the Lord on what to do?  This comparison is interesting because instruct and glorify are not antonyms, it's saying that the answer is not simply to be instructed by the Lord, but to glorify him.  Now it is glorifying to the Lord to be submissive to him.  Being submissive is not the same as 'happiness'.  It's not saying 'grin and bear it', but more 'suffer well knowing this is happening for a reason and you will bear the image of Christ more because of it'.  It's still difficult, but suffer well saints.  In that you are glorifying God.  The glorification isn't whether you are happy about it now, but whether you are trying despite your circumstances (or character traits) to sincerely be obedient to the Lord.  This is glorifying God, to follow when it hurts.

I find much hope in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (emphasis mine)

Suffer well good and faithful servants of the Lord.  Know that if you rejoice in your sufferings (glorify him in your trials) it leads to endurance, which leads to godly character, which leads to hope which will never put us to shame.  It's all for his glory.  To paraphrase Lewis; 'he was serious when he said he wanted us to be like his son and he will never quit as long as we live'.  He chastens those he loves, like a good Father would.

Know too, that it's only a season, there is hope!  Push forward in the Lord, cling to the cross and know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will never leave or forsake you, never.  Nothing can separate us from the love of the Lord (Romans 8).

Weeping may tarry the night,
   but joy comes with the morning.
                            -Psalm 30:5a

It may be a long night, one you may not think you can handle, but there is joy in the morning.  Be patient, suffer well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Inside the mind of a composer (pt.1) --- Title

I'm going to start a short series on my blog over break on a topic that I seem to rarely write about anymore, my music.  As you can all see I changed the name of my blog from the almost always mispronounced 'thecomposinator' (sounds like the terminator) to 'I writes a blog' due to this phenomenon.  So I'm going to start a series for all you blog readers to get a glimpse into the mind of an elusive composer, how I think about composing, the process, ideas, structure, and other junk about what I do.  So here's post number one.

In many ways the hardest part of the compositional process (and most often for me one of the last) is the arrival at a final title for a piece.  Each composer assigns a different amount of importance to what their titles mean and what they want to evoke or give away.  Composers like Russell Pinkston stick to titles that are light hearted and incorporate the name of the performer he's writing the piece for in them, ex.  Lizamander for Elizabeth McNutt, or Gerrymander for Gerry Erante.  Of course these titles are puns and have second meanings that tie into the process too.  This points to the title being a structural part of the composition (or at least incorporated into early ideas).

Some titles are meant to evoke an image to the listener that the composer desires them to know going into the listening.  Takemitsu has some very evocative titles (especially in his last phase) like Rain Spell or Rain Tree.  He also had a water motive (s-e-a) infused throughout these works so most of their titles have to do with water.

Some composers like really technical titles that have either to do with an algorithm or scientific (hard or soft) principle behind them.  They typically sound like a word you've never heard before ex. (making these up) Geometus, or Fractal Dimentions, or something equally cool sounding.

These are but a few of the ways in which composers use title for their works.  If a composer wants to be really 'original' they'll call it untitled in an attempt to negate any connotation of pre-conceived notion, or perhaps they think they are really really smart and a pioneer (which they aren't).

Titles generally fall into two categories, 1) a title that piece is built around (ie, pre-compositional), or 2) a title designated after the work (or near the end), or post-compositional.  Now it is true that the idea of the title can be pre-comp and the finalized version appears at the end (which is usually how I work).  I'm sort of a hybrid titler, I have the idea for the title and for what the piece means to me usually very early in the process and it (or the idea of it) will dictate the compositional choices I make but will usually arrive at a sleek, shiny new title near the end.

This is happening with the Mass I've been working on for almost a year now.  I knew I wanted the name Mass incorporated into it, but I didn't know the nature of how I wanted it to be incorporated.  I thought of doing a statement like, Mass for a new generation, since the Mass is generally an unused form in modern music. But then that sounds a bit pompous to me and it reminded me of the Pepsi slogan from the early 90's.

Then I got the idea to incorporate the Mass as a subtext and have a different headliner, so that people would be tricked into listening to it.  Yes, this is that path I shall take.  So I have a first draft of the title, which I really like at this point.  Int[er(re)]actions I: MassOrd.  This title may seem long and weird, but let me explain.  First off, this piece is built around guided improvisations and interactions between vocalists and instrumentalists.  It's also going to be a part of a larger series of pieces for improvisers.  So I wanted a title I could use more than once, hence the I.  It's the first of a series of these types of pieces.

The name MassOrd is a shortened version of Mass Ordinary which is the type of mass I'm setting: five of the traditional (mostly latin) mass, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus, Agnus Dei.  I like the sound and look of MassOrd, as it's less clunky than the whole title.

The beef of the title is two words within in the one.  Inter-actions, inter-reactions.  I put the bracket (which I might take out) around er-re to show a symmetrical relationship between that letter ordering and symmetry is a main structural element in this piece.  I might take the brackets out because symmetry might only be an important element in this work, not more down the line.  I like it for now, and who's to say I can't take it out in later works.  So it could be Inter(re)actions or Int[er(re)]actions, I haven't decided yet.

I really like this title as of now, but who knows, as the work is not yet done and I have had no feedback on it yet.  It says everything I want it to say, that is, it has interactions, reactions, uses mass text.  Now as we get into the structure in a later post, we'll see how the structure is based all on personal and doctrinal view of God and that is very important, but I don't want to give that away in the title.  I want to title to be broad, interesting, and cool sounding.  I want to music to say what I really want to say and hopefully it will.  We'll have to see when it gets performed this semester.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Tonight it was a bit warmer here, which means it was above freezing.  So I took a walk intending to have some phone time with some friends, but as luck would have it (which isn't luck at all) it all went to voicemail.  So I took off the earbuds and looked up and saw a most beautiful sky filled with low-flying brown clouds interspersed between a perfectly clear starry sky.  It was amazing.  Snow everywhere.  Beautiful lights.  It was a real scene. It was a scene I won't get when I go back to Texas so I wanted to soak it in.

The real amazing part was the wind.  It's no secret that I really don't like the wind most of the time.  But tonight I loved it.  It was refreshing and cold and reminded me of all the walks I used to take when I was in Ohio.  Cold walks around the pond next to the music building.  There were times when I'd be going crazy in my office with work and needed to cool off and take a walk.  At the moment they were a necessity, now I look back as they were a privilege.  I don't have a place like that in Texas.

Bowling Green is windy.  That old walk around the pond was usually windy as the music building is at the edge of campus and there was a flat across the street that the wind would blow across.  It was kind of a wind tunnel.  The wind tonight took be back to that place.  It was beautiful.

I started to pray and talk to God.  I just felt so thankful for him and all that he has done for me.  He has brought me so far along in my walk with him, only by his grace alone.  It really is a privilege to follow Jesus.  I used to have this attitude of pride in that "I chose him and what a score that is for him because I'm awesome" kind of thing.  Most days he has broken me of that (I still have my days!) and he's shaping me more and more into a servant of him for his glory only.

It's hard not to miss some of my time in Ohio, especially the first few years, those hard years of growing in faith and in academics.  I grew a lot in those years, they were full of confusion, love, pain, fear, with good community and fellowship.  I made a lot of good friends, joined my first church, joined in some leadership, made a lot of music, and really began to let God work through me.

Sometimes I long for those times, but more and more I don't long for them so much but am happy they happened and when I'm reminded of them to be thankful of that time that God gifted me with.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spirit > pathetic-ness

It's weird how pathetic I am.  I should give the caveat that we are all pathetic, and because of my selfishness, I'd like to think that my pathetic-ness beats yours.  But I know this isn't true, that we are all flawed and saved only through grace.  My whole body permeates with sin.  Every cell of my being is immersed in it.  Even down to the core of my being, my heart–full to brim with wickedness.  I've been dwelling lately on how painful the effects of sin are, how deep this goes, how much pain we can inflict and take.  Dwelling here is sobering.

I think there's a problem with not knowing about sin, and about how seriously the Bible takes it.  Most of the book has to do with it, how disgusting, perverse, and wicked it is.  Yet, most Christians don't ever really dwell there, they just know it's something that God has saved them from.  They see it mostly as an external thing.  Jesus would contradict this many times, foregoing the outward affect and going straight for the heart.  When I have a bad moment, lose my cool, or do wicked things, it didn't happen because of an external circumstance, it only shows a reflection of something already wrong in my heart.  The problem was already there inside of me the whole time.

It may sound harsh to say that every cell of my body is imbued with sin, and I think the old humanist side of me would debate it, but the Bible says otherwise and deep down I just plain know I'm rotten.  That time and means reveals my true wickedness (most outward sin occurs when I'm bored or when I have money).  This is the cause of this blog post tonight, that I'm just sitting around letting my mind wander, trying to capture thoughts but being unsuccessful.  I'm not really tired, I'm not really entertained, I'm not really wanting to read my bible (I did some tonight and had some good prayer time), but after all that's done I have time to sit and meddle.  To stew in my own mind and thus go places I should not be going.  It's pathetic.

I'm not going to say that "it's all okay", or that I'm being too hard on myself, or blow it off, this is the type of thinking that leads to cheap grace and shallow faith.  It's the kind of faith that blows off these heavy moments as a passing momentary weakness instead seeing it as a little peek into my thought-life.  I'm not shying away from it (that's why I'm writing) but I'm also not letting the evil one get a foothold with it either.

Because I know the truth.  That even though every bit of my being is broken, fractured, and selfish, that the good part of me isn't of me at all, it's a gift from God, his own Spirit.  It's that God actually puts the only good thing we have in us.  He literally injects us with his goodness.  I have that in me.  He is in me. My flesh is weak but his Spirit is strong.  I don't need to have faith in myself, to make the 'right' decisions, to not be pathetic, to earn my salvation, but instead understand that he already did everything for me, that he chose to love me, and that he lives inside me–I am his temple.

So while I am pathetic and nights like tonight reflect my flesh to me, I know that this is just a reflection of a part of me that will die.  That I can lay my head on the pillow knowing he is here, never forsaking me, always teaching me, and forever loving me.

At the start
he was there, he was there
In the end,
he’ll be there, he’ll be there

And After all our hands have wrought
He forgives

All is lost
find him there, find him there
After night
Dawn is there, Dawn is there

After all falls apart
he repairs he repairs 

Oh the Glory of it all is:
he came here
For the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
for the glory of it all

                -david crowder

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazing Grace

This seems appropriate after my last post (which is below as it's reverse chronological).

O thou giving God,

My heart is drawn out in thankfulness to thee,
   for thy amazing grace and condescension to me
   in influences and assistances in thy Spirit,
      for special help in prayer,
      for the sweetness of Christian service,
      for the thoughts of arriving in heaven,
      for always sending me needful supplies,
      for raising me to new life when I am like one dead.
I want not the favour of man to lean upon
   for thy favour is infinitely better.
Thou art eternal wisdom in dispensations towards me;
   and it matters not when, nor where, nor how I serve thee,
   nor what trials I am exercised with,
   if I might be prepared for thy work and will.
No poor creature stands in need of divine grace
   more than I do,
And yet non abuses it more than I have done,
   and still do.
How heartless and dull I am!
Humble me in the dust for not loving thee more.
Every time I exercise any grace renewedly
   I am renewedly indebted to thee,
   the God of all grace, for special assistance.
I cannot boast when I think how dependant
   I am upon thee for the being and every act
   of grace;
I never do anything else but depart from thee,
   and if ever I get to heaven it will be because
      thou willest it, and for no other reason beside.
I love, as a feeble, afflicted, despised creature,
   to cast myself on thy infinite grace and goodness,
   hoping for no happiness but from thee;
Give me special grace to fit me for special services,
   and keep me calm and resigned at all times,
   humble, solemn, mortified,
   and conformed to thy will.

travelling thoughts

This is yet another post about time.  How it doesn't seem to change, but how our perception of it does.  Maybe it won't be so heavy as that.  I just had a thought as I travelled to Indiana to spend christmas with my family, to have a white christmas.  I'll get to that in a bit, but I want to share that I'm done with my semester.  I wish I could say I was halfway done with coursework, but I can't.  I'm afraid that I have a lot left, probably at least two years and a semester for quals. 

It's weird that this program is so much longer than my masters but seems to be going much faster.  At this point in my masters it felt like I had been in school for years and it was only three semesters with one to go.  Here I'm three in and have like four or five to go and it doesn't bother me.  Actually I look forward to learning more over the next few years.  

So, during my travels to Indiana I had a layover in Detroit, at DTW actually in the McNamera terminal.  This is by far my favorite terminal.  It has a lot of personal meaning to me.  The first time I flew on my own was when I flew to Ohio to visit BG for my masters (my family weren't flyers so I started late).  I remember all the anticipation, life change, excitement, and most of all a time of waiting on the Lord.  I was waiting to see if he'd permit me to go to BG for grad school.  I returned from that trip not knowing what he was going to do.  I just prayed and waited.  Then I got the call that they were going to offer me an assistantship which opened that door wide open.  

Then in BG, Detroit was my go to airport.  After every semester I flew home and it was DTW that started the trip.  I remember specifically after my first semester the relief of just finishing the semester as it was a hard semester, actually the hardest, and I did laundry until midnight staying up until Jason arrives to go to the airport at 3:30 to fly out at 6.  

I took a walk out to the end of concourse B and prayed.  I thanked the Lord for how he's been faithful to me in my life.  That all the hard times I went through and went to that airport to escape them.  I prayed over that place.  I felt peace.  I haven't been there in years and it felt like it.  It felt like almost another life.  Another me.  

I'm so thankful for how God has changed my heart over the last year and a half.  He brought me to the end of myself.  I was ready to call it quits.  When I moved to Texas I was done with God, I felt stone-cold dead.  That what happens when you run from him for a long time.  He let me.  

Romans 1:21-25

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

But that’s not the end of the story. He reclaimed me. I’m not saying that God ever really left me, but that he gave me over to myself. It wasn’t until I confessed and repented that he made himself known to me again. I never want to be in that place again. With only his grace could I ever not. He firmly is my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 62 is in my heart right now.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
From him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My fortress; I shall not greatly be shaken.

When I’m not outrightly sinning or running from God and putting my trust in him it’s so much easier to see what he’s up to. Life begins to look different. There aren’t as many problems (that I attempt to control) but are more trials (which God glorifies himself in). I think of Matt Chandler and how faithful God has been through him to glorify himself through Matt’s affliction. How Matt knows that and lets that wash over him, give him strength and hope, and is allowed to be a conduit of grace and power. When I see a trial I can see a bit into what God’s showing me. Not that I’m not a flawed human who still desires to please myself, but that I can see trials in a different light.

Right now, God is calling me into a time of patience. I love/hate it. I love it in that God is shaping me, he loves me, he wants me to be more like him and this is what he’s showing me now. This is the privilege he’s bestowed on me right now, to be patient in him. I hate it because I want things now, this second, I don’t want to wait. But he’s calling me to wait, so I try to. I’m not perfect at it, but he gives grace whether I fail or succeed. He knows me, he knows how I’ll react. So no matter what I want, I’m clinging to Psalm 62. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turning 30

It's official.  I'm 30.

It's been a date looming over my head through my mid-late 20's (27-29).  I look at it like I'm in my late 20's now.  But honestly, I look forward to my 30's, I think it's time I became a man and what better time than to leave the decade that the beginning of my walk with Christ began.  He's been faithful to beginning the maturing process in me and I look forward to walking down that road more with him in the next decade.  I really desire to let him mold me into a man that desires to follow him and him only.

It's been interesting the last month how some epiphanies have really struck home.  The main one has been meditating on obedience to Jesus.  He doesn't command us to make any grand oaths or whatnot, just to simply let our yes be yes and our no be no.  I've gotten caught in the web of oaths and there's no substance to them.  There is a lot of power in saying yes or no in the moment.  Maybe power is not quite the word, perhaps pressure is a better word.  As much as we all have convictions, we still have to choose in that moment to be faithful to them.  I've been warned in many cases by the Spirit to choose rightly, but unfortunately for much of my time following Jesus I've chosen what I want over what's best for me.

I love the idea of obeying Jesus.  It will bring me more joy than anything else.  It's not a legalistic thing, or that I have to follow the 'rules', but that Jesus wants me to obey him and that's how I can really show him that I love him.  It's me listening to him, loving him, and following him, even when my wicked heart desires something more.  The object is always cheaper than the trade off when I'm disobedient.  Finding joy and contentment in the Lord is the only path for joy and contentment for the soul and I've often been without peace.  I want to be clear that it's not a one-to-one ratio where I do something for God and he does something for me.  That's ridiculous and not biblical.  He's already done it all for me and he wants me to rejoice in that through making him my all.  If he isn't he has a funny way of destroying our idols (which often hurts at the time but is much better after).

I'm walking through a time of patience on him and I'm so thankful for it.  I don't need more idols in my life but to be seeking him only.  Psalm 62 says a lot to me right now.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
   from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
   my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Being patient and obedient with the Lord is where he had me on this occasion of me turning 30.  It's a good place and I'm very blessed and thankful for his faithfulness.


Heavenly Father,

If I should suffer need, and go unclothed,
      and be in poverty,
   make my heart prize thy love,
   know it, be constrained by it,
   though I be denied all blessings.
It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
   for by these trials I see my sins,
   and desire severance from them.
Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
   if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil,
   and be delivered from it with gratitude to thee,
   acknowledging this as the highest testimony of thy love.
When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul
   instead of sin, he became more dear to me
   than sin had formerly been;
 his kindly rule replaced sin's tyranny.
Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any
      sin subdued
   I must not only labour to overcome it,
   but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it,
   and he must become to me more than
      vile lust had been;
   that his sweetness, power, life may be there.
Thus I must seek a grace from him contrary to sin,
   but must not claim it apart from himself.
When I am afraid of evils to come,
   comfort me by showing me
      that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
         but in Christ I am reconciled and live;
      that in my self I find insufficiency and no rest,
         but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;
      that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,
         but in Christ I have ability to do all things.
Though now I have his graces in part,
   I shall shortly have them perfectly
   in that state where thou wilt show thyself
      fully reconciled,
   and alone sufficient, efficient,
      and loving me completely,
   with sin abolished.
O Lord, hasten that day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Holy Trinity,

All praise to thee for electing me to salvation,
   by foreknowledge of God the Father,
   through sanctification of the Spirit,
   unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus;
I adore the wonders of thy condescending love,
   marvel at the true believer's high privilege
   within whom all heaven comes to dwell,
   abiding in God and God in him;
I believe it, help me experience it to the full.
Continue to teach me that Christ's righteousness
   satisfies justice and evidences thy love;
Help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace
   and of thy favour and acceptance,
   so that I may live always near the cross.
It is not feeling the Spirit that proves
   my saved state but the truth of what
   Christ did perfectly for me;
All holiness in him is by faith made mine,
   as if I had done it;
Therefore I see the use of his righteousness,
   for satisfaction to divine justice and making me righteous.
It is not inner sensation that makes Christ's death mine
   for that may be delusion, being without the Word,
   but his death apprehended by my faith,
   and so testified by Word and Spirit.
I bless thee for these lively exercises of faith,
   for the righteousness that is mine in Jesus,
   for grace to resign my will to thee;
 I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal,
   and I love to leave them there.
Then prayer turns wholly into praise,
   and all I can do is adore and love thee.
I want not the favour of man to lean upon,
   for I know that thy electing grace is infinitely better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I won't always be

Do not love the work or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
-1 John 2:15-17

I read this passage this morning and it reminded of me what Chandler was saying in a sermon a few weeks ago.  He was saying how he wasn't going to be a pastor forever, so he couldn't make that his identity.  I think at the time it was profound, but has since rolled off me until this morning.  

I will not always be a musician, so I can't make that my identity.  I've know for a long time that I can't make my music my identity, but the idea that when I die I will no longer be a musician never occurred to me.  I love music, don't get me wrong.  I also work really hard at it.  But I also know the futility of it.  That no matter how much I work that I can't take it with me.  

This is actually very comforting to me.  I don't have to pretend that all of this matters to me as much as it seems to everyone else.  It gives me licence to fail.  Not that I like to fail and I totally do care about my work and its quality.  But it's not what makes me.  I could write total junk music the rest of my life and Jesus will still love me as if I were Mozart.  I mean look at the Christian music industry...most of it is trite junk but that doesn't mean that they aren't believers.

Anyways, this is a comforting thought, especially this morning when I'm trying to complete my paper on the theme and variations from Webern's Symphonie Op. 21.  I again waited too long to finish it and find myself at Zera at 6 am to write all day until it's due at 6.  

Regardless of this paper, my program, my music, or my circumstances, my sufficiency is in Christ.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I gave my testimony at recovery on Tuesday.  It's been a date I've wanted to avoid since September when I found out I was giving it.  It's not that I'm not comfortable in front of a room, I mean I am kind of chicken and I get nervous almost all the time when in front of people, but the Lord has given me calm whenever I get up there.  I think it's more like I didn't want to share the gritty with everyone.  That's my fear of man coming out again when the truth of a giving a testimony is that it's not about you (me).  It's about God's way of capturing me.  It's a chance to show all the times where I was unfaithful, He was faithful.  That is a good thing.

Testimonies give hope to people that struggle the same (or different really) way you do.  Joel was absolutely right after when in prayer with our group of guys, that my story is all our story.  We fall, God saves.  I love hearing a lot of short testimonies in a row, different stories, same ending.  God wins (so do we).

As much as I didn't really enjoy writing the testimony, it confronted me with many things.  Bitterness and unforgiveness that I still felt in my heart, seeing patterns of my failure, seeing God repeatedly love me.  I wrote about my relationships and how I continually let them get in the way of God in my life.  I don't blame any of the girls, but myself for putting them on a pedestal or for making them my source of happiness (they are doomed to fail b/c they are not God).  Through this writing process I realized that I never, never submitted my relationships to Jesus, not fully.  I didn't make him my happiness, joy, and contentment first.  I never obeyed.

That word, obey.  What a dirty word in our culture.  It shows you are weak, a fool, not a free thinker, and a sheep.  Wait, a sheep?  But I am a sheep and Jesus is the shepherd.  Unfortunately, in today's society to obey seems to be borderline dictatorship.  But the Bible has a different take on it.

1 John 5:  By this we know that we love the Children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

I had this love of Jesus that had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with him.  I loved him, and would sing it all day, but when confronted with a situation where I had to obey a teaching (mind you because I'm sure what I was about to do was wrong or selfish) I would do what I wanted.  I never showed Jesus that I loved him in my actions, that he was worth more to me than anything else.  I've been dwelling on that a lot, as a matter of fact I wrote on my bathroom mirror, "obey Jesus because you love him".  I do love him and it's time I lived that way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brief Ineptitude

It's amazing how God breaks us, our confidence, our pride.  What's even more interesting is how he breaks our insecurities too.  As you may or may not know, I don't have the best self-confidence, I never have really.  I know I have fear of man issues as one of the symptoms of fear of man is insecurity and the feeling that there's this secret person that if anyone knew would reject.  My security lies within the Lord, but I can't help but feel like I'm doing a bad job.

Right now the culprit is school, my assistantship, and composing.  I've always struggled with whether or not to pursue composition as a life.  I really don't know what else I could do outside of music.  I'm not much of an exhaustive knowledge type of person.  I peruse many topics but never really master anything.  It's not that I even don't master them, but really have an introductory level knowledge of subjects.  This frustrates me.

But it all points to the Lord.  That He is my trust.  He is my security.  That really none of this matters in the grand scheme of His perfect plan.  When I think about this, dwell here, my anxiety goes away and I'm free.  Free of this world and it's constraints on me.  I can leave it.  I can work hard, and either be successful or not and it won't matter because it's all for His glory, not mine.  I'm free to write music in praise of Him.  I'm free.  This is where I'm dwelling today.  I'm walking away from my failure and towards the one who saves.  Thank you Lord for saving a nobody like me.

Friday, October 22, 2010


O God, the Eternal All, help me to know that
   all things are shadows, but thou are substance,
   all things are quicksands, but thou art mountain,
   all thing are shifting, but thou are anchor,
   all things are ignorance, but thou are wisdom.
If my life is to be a crucible amid the burning heat,
   so be it,
   but do thou sit at the furnace mouth
      to watch the ore that nothing be lost.
If I sin wilfully, grievously, tormentedly,
   in grace take away my mourning
      and give me music;
   remove my sackcloth
      and clothe me in beauty;
   still my sighs
      and fill my mouth with song,
   then give me summer weather as a Christian.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Yesterday I returned from Marion, IN from the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers (CFAMC) conference.  It was a long trip that sat right in the middle of finishing an analysis paper and finishing the piece to be performed on the concert for the festival!  So it's been a stressful time the last few weeks.  Last year felt like a cakewalk compared to this semester.  I'm trying to be effective with my time, but it just slips away from me.

But that's neither here nor there, this post is about the trip.  It was interesting to go back to Marion.  I went to this same conference at this same place two years ago.  It was a striking reminder of how much God has changed me.  It was an emotional few days, which for the most part I suppressed, but was able to articulate to a brother that I really connected with.

First off, it's fall up there.  Legit fall.  Yellow trees, cool mornings and evenings.  It's the perfect setting for a specific type of nostalgia that only can occur in the fall.  It's the type that feels bittersweet yet hopeful.  The natural slowing down of nature, the hastening days.  The days where I only but desire to sit in my apartment, open the windows, drink warm coffee, and think.

I know that I live too much in the past.  It has been a plague to me and my walk with God for my whole existence.  Luckily, I've been delivered to Texas where 'fall' happens in a single day where all the leaves turn brown and fall off in one giant swoop.  It's not a nostalgic place which does me some good.

So when I got to Indiana, I could instantly feel the change.  The want of being alone.  Of wanting to think, to feel, to live in my brain.  Again, God would provide a way out though my sister's family.  I got to see them on Thursday all afternoon and evening which kept me sane and happy.

Friday morning out the door on the open road at 7 am.  Just me.  Just the road.  It was 47 degrees and no major highways between Valparaiso and Marion.  Two and a half hours of silence, winding roads, and pretty trees.  It was a nice ride.  It was some sweet time with God.

I got to the campus and joined the group an hour late (I didn't account for the time change) but was glad to see familiar faces from two years ago.  They all remembered me too and things were off to a good start.  The guys were great.  The festival was great.  Busy all day.  Got my piece worked up in the afternoon and had to miss one talking session to do it.  After the evening concert we went out for a beer and had some great discussions.

The came along Saturday morning.  I drove to Indiana Wesleyan and today parked on the other side of campus than the previous day.  I pulled in, put the car in park, and when I looked up waves of memory washed over me.  This was it.  This was the spot two years ago that I lost it.  Almost the exact parking spot.  I remembered vividly the buildings, the signs around, the trees, the anger, the bitterness.  It was all so overwhelming that I got out of the car quickly and walked into the student center.

Here's a little back story about the CFAMC conference.  I went there two years ago presenting a vocal piece.  It was a time in my life I was struggling with God and wrestling with my life.  At the conference, two things happened: 1) I got a reprieve from my life and was able to fellowship with some strong men, 2) This festival was the main reason I went on to grad school.

Unfortunately, at the end of last year's conference I came home early, back to my life.  I wasn't happy about this.  I drove three hours home in the middle of the night, furious at God.  I gave him every ounce of distain, anger, and bitterness I could muster.  I was literally tapped out physically, and spiritually bankrupt.  I said things to and about God that I've regretted for a long time.  It was one of those fights.  It left an otherwise great experience tinged with badness.  This is what washed over me in that parking lot.

After the festival, it was time for me to drive home.  Out to the car.  Half an hour before sundown.  I went out and looked around sitting in that car.  I prayed.  I prayed over that place, over that time, over my anger, my bitterness.  I prayed to be released from that horrible night, for all the wrong I said, for all the hate I felt.  I know I was forgiven for that night, well that night, but I wanted in that moment for God to know how sorry I was and that I love him.

More importantly I wanted to know he loves me.  He does.  I drove the next hour with the windows down, thankful for how far God has brought me over the last year.  How I'm thankful for what Jesus did for me on the cross and how there's nothing I can do to add to that.  How he's placed me in this great community where I can be broken and be sustained.  I go to a church that cares about each person and loves on all.  I live in a city that is unique and full of interesting people.  I live in a country that allows me to say what I want and believe what I want to believe.  That I live on an earth that was created by God simply speaking.  That I am made from dust and the only thing that separates me from that dust is the the breath of God.

It was a bittersweet trip, but one full of hope.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Divine Promises

All thy promises in Christ Jesus are
   yea and amen, and all shall be fulfilled.
Thou hast spoken them, and they shall be done,
   commanded, and they shall come to pass.
Yet I have often doubted thee,
   have lived at times as if there were no God.
Lord, forgive me that death in life,
   when I have found something apart from thee,
   when I have been content with ephemeral things.
But through grace I have repented;
Thou hast given me to read my pardon
     in the wounds of Jesus,
   and my soul doth trust in him, my God incarnate,
   the ground of my life, the spring of my hope.
Teach me to be resigned to thy will,
   to delight in thy law,
   to have no will but thine,
   to believe that everything thou doest is
      for my good.
Help me to leave my concerns in thy hands,
   for thou hast power over evil,
   and bringest from it an infinite progression
      of good,
   until thy purposes are fulfilled.
Bless me with Abraham's faith
   that staggers not at promises through unbelief.
May I not instruct thee in my troubles,
   but glorify thee in my trials;
Grant me a distinct advance in the divine life;
   may I reach a higher platform,
   leave the mists of doubt and fear in the valley,
   and climb to hill-tops of eternal security in Christ
      by simply believing he cannot lie,
      or turn from his purpose.
Give me the confidence I ought to have in him
   who is worthy to be praised,
   and who is evermore.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Confession and Petition

Holy Lord,

I have sinned times without number,
      and been guilty of pride and unbelief,
   of failure to find thy mind in thy Word,
   of neglect to seek thee in my daily life.
My transgressions and short-comings
   present me with a list of accusations,
But I bless thee that they will not stand against me,
   for all have been laid on Christ;
Go on to subdue my corruptions,
   and grant me grace to live above them.
Let not he passions of the flesh not lustings
   of the mind bring my spirit into subjection,
   but do thou rule over me in liberty and power.
I thank thee that many of my prayers have been refused –
   I have asked amiss and do not have,
   I have prayed from lusts and been rejected,
   I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness.
Go on with thy patient work,
   answering 'no' to my wrongful prayers,
   and fitting me to accept it.
Purge me from every false desire,
   every base aspiration,
   everything contrary to thy rule.
I thank thee for thy wisdom and thy love,
   for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject,
   for sometimes putting me into the furnace
   to refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin.
If tho shouldst give me choice to live
   in pleasure and keep my sins,
   or to have them burnt away with trial,
   give me sanctified affliction.
Deliver me from every evil habit,
   every accretion of former sins,
   everything that dims the brightness of thy grace in me,
   everything that prevents me taking delight in thee.
Then I shall bless thee, God of Jeshurun,
  for helping me to be upright.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jeremiah 17: 5-8

5Thus says the LORD:"Cursed is the man who trusts in man
   and makes flesh his strength,
   whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6He is like a shrub in the desert,

    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
   in an uninhabited salt land.

 7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
   whose trust is the LORD.8 He is like a tree planted by water,
   that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
   for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
   for it does not cease to bear fruit."

These verses have been in the front of my mind for the last 6 months.  I am in transition from the first guy to the second.  Although, transition assumes too much, like a distance, I was totally the first guy, etc... The truth is that I'm somewhere in the middle and have been for a very long time.  My trust in the Lord was there but (like the depth of my faith) was shallow for a long time.  I'm thankful for the Village, recovery, and my community for helping me to give up spiritual milk for meat and potatoes.  It's been a hard transition (again a flawed term) but I feel so much more deep in the Lord.  I truly seek to obey Him and desire to please Him.  Not that I do it perfectly, or fail literally every day, but to dig into Him all the more every day.