I used to love hearing people say, “Great worship today.” Not so much anymore. Although I understand their intent and they believe God was present among us, I also know what they’re really talking about is the music. Somehow it’s become less acceptable to “compliment” musicianship, and more acceptable to only categorize it as being worship. It’s as if we’ve somehow decided music is now the only acceptable form of worship, and in many churches I’ve attended that’s reflected in the attitudes of the worshippers.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe music is an incredible form of expressing our emotion and thought and as such should be a powerful part of our corporate experience. But if music is the only form our expression takes then our worship is lopsided and incomplete. Be assured, God will always accept our offering of love when we come to Him with clean hands and a pure heart, but there are so many more ways of expression than music.

I love my wife Jacque more today than I ever dreamed possible back in 1977 when I first said, “I love you.” That being true, I try to find new ways of expressing my love so it’s an accurate reflection of the depth and richness of my emotion. If I only said those three words over and over again, at some point they’d become commonplace and lose their appeal and impact. Out of love it’s up to me to keep my expression fresh and appealing.

In recent years I’ve learned to express my love for Jacque in ways that are meaningful to her. Before then I guess my expressions of love were based more on my preferences than hers. I don’t think this was a conscious thing on my part but more an indication of the maturity level of my love. As my love for her has grown and matured so has the variety and depth of my expression. In that process I’ve grown to understand that if my love is pure then my expression needs to be focused on her preferences more than my own, otherwise it’s about me. While she never tires of hearing the three words I would daresay they’ve become far more meaningful as I’ve expressed them more on “her terms” than mine.

So, how does God want us to express our love to Him? In as many ways as our God-given creativity will allow. It’s for sure we’re not limited to music, and definitely not one style or sound of music. The options are myriad and God stands ready to receive whatever we offer Him. So when you say, “Great worship today,” what do you mean?

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Being a dad can be the most rewarding thing in the world. There are those times when your heart is so full you don’t think it will hold anymore. This past weekend I had such a time. Although my fiftieth birthday is still a few days away we celebrated over the weekend because our three out-of-town kids were here over their Spring Break. We had a really wonderful dinner at home and retold some funny stories from the kids’ childhood. It was a lot of fun. After dinner our kids brought out some birthday gifts. Jacque (my wife) had told them to be creative, very personal and to not spend much money.

Jessica, our oldest gave me a beautiful scrap book that she had loaded up with stories from her life. On each page she captured a different phase of our life together. Some of the memories were fun and some even a little painful. Each of them express our lives together as father and daughter. Among many other things she said, “I would not be the person I am today without you.” In the back of the book she had written out the words to the song, I Love You, Lord. It’s a song I used to sing to her at bedtime when she was a little girl, and then when she got married I quoted it within the ceremony. It has always been a special song for the two of us. At the bottom of that back page was an envelope and inside was a CD. She and our son Ryan had recorded their own arrangement of the song the night before. Listening to it is just one of those moments for me. It will never get old — go ahead and listen.

Ryan, our fun loving, non-sentimental son (the one who engineered the recording of I Love You Lord, and played drums, keyboards and who knows what else) gave me a card and inside he had written words that I will cherish the rest of my life. While I’m unwilling to share all of them with the world I will proudly say that according to him, I am his hero and inspiration — it doesn’t get any better than that. Along with the card he gave me an N scale, toy train caboose to keep on my desk. He’s always loved trains, and he and I have had some great model train memories over the years. The caboose will remind me of him every time I see it.

My baby girl Aimee made me a beautiful card and mounted it in a floating frame. The card says,

Holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. I love you. Happy 50th.

It summarizes what she knows about me. It will find a special place on my office wall.

Jacque and I are very blessed and proud parents. We’ve got three great kids of our own and two of them have married great kids. Throughout our adult lives people have asked us how we’ve raised such great kids, and while I think the reasons go far beyond this simplistic answer I usually say something like, we spent lots of time together. Much of it around the dinner table sharing the highlights (and sometimes lowlights) from our day, laughing and occasionally crying.

I could keep writing but there’s really no point. God has blessed us and I’m thankful. Turning fifty couldn’t be any better than this

Ever had an intimate moment behind the wheel? Mine happened just this week, and it sort of caught me off-guard. It was a Matt Redman song that I’ve not heard for a number of years called Intimacy. Combine that with The Prayers of the Saints which is the next song I listened to and it was sort of like a one, two punch. That moment made me miss leading worship. More than just leading it made me miss the crafting art. The part of planning that allows for intimate moments.

I’m not talking about manipulating people’s emotions. I’m talking about creating the space within a service for people to experience intimacy. Not in the forced or artificial way I’ve seen far too many times, but the genuine Holy Spirit kind of moment where you just “get out of the way” and allow the moment to flow. Yeah, I miss the art of crafting those opportunities, and in that intimate moment behind the wheel I knew I was ready to lead again. I knew it because I was visualizing how I would use those two songs and what I would pair with them and it was an energizing thing.

While all of this was going on I was hearing another Matt Redman song in my mind and spirit. That song speaks of the Father singing over me. The sound of that song didn’t come through my earbuds but I could hear it as if it were.

This past Thursday I had a really great experience during my daily commute. I drive about 10 miles along surface streets to get to work in the morning, so depending on traffic it can take as long as 30 minutes. On this particular morning I wasn’t in the mood for the usual NPR so I pulled out my headphones and plugged them into my iPhone (please don’t send any comments about the dangers of driving with headphones) and launched my iPod. The song list was right where I’d left it a few days prior, which was in the G’s. 

The first song that played was David Crowder’s Glorious Day. Now it’s less than 30 seconds long but what a cool start — sort of an invocation. From there it was Glory in the Highest by Chris Tomlin, which just sort of continued where Crowder left off. Up next was the sounds of Steely Dan, singing Godwhacker. Quite a contrast to the previous two but what a great contrast it was. From there it was Tony Bennett singing the Good Life followed by Got To Get You Into My Life by Earth, Wind & Fire. How could you not like that? Then came my favorite song of the morning, Grace by Michael W. Smith. By the time I parked my car and walking to my office I was pretty much positioned for the day. 

Then on the way home I decided I should pick up right where I left off. Again, the title was Grace but this time it was U2. Different from Michael W. Smith but it’s still Grace. Then came Paul Simon singing Graceland, followed by John Mayer’s Gravity. As I pulled into the garage Paul Baloche was just ending A Greater Song. My entire commute was jammed with great music.

Now I could pontificate about how all of those songs had some sort of spiritual meaning for me, or how they spoke to my soul on a deep level. I could probably even tie them all together for you with some type of God metaphor. After all, God also begins with the letter G. But I’m not going to do that — even though much of it would be true. I’m just going to challenge you to turn on your iPod some day and pick a letter. Not an artist or an album, but a letter. Just let it play and see what happens. It’s like eating a potluck dinner at an old country church. Enjoy!

It was on the treadmill surrounded by scores of other sweaty people at the gym when it struck me so strongly for the first time. I’m not sure why it took so many years after it was released to become meaningful but it did. Jacque and I had recently been through a major loss and we were in terrific emotional pain. I was probably at my most cynical point during this particular point in the process and that night at the gym this song began playing on my iPod:

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse but

If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

For me, that time on the treadmill listening to Sting was an amazing worship experience. God moved on my spirit and I realized that I was far from actually losing my faith in God. In other things yes, but not God. I would never want anyone to believe that when I stepped off the treadmill the pain was gone, the grieving was over and my cynical attitudes were completely transformed because it didn’t happen that way. But what began that night was a renewal. A renewal triggered by music.

Some will perhaps argue this with me, and that’s fine but God used Sting to minister to me that night, and many times and through many so-called non-Christians since then. Who am I to question who God uses? How He works? The moment I begin to do that is the moment, it seems I begin to lose my faith.

So can you worship God through so called non-Christian music? (if there is such a thing) Does God work through artists like Sting? What are your thoughts? What are your stories?

I was sitting across the lunch table from my wife a few days ago when I told her. I hadn’t planned on telling her it just sort of came out. It’s not that I was ashamed or embarrassed it’s more that I thought I knew what she would think when I told her I was starting a blog. See, I’ve made some pretty bold statements in the past (which is pretty normal for me) about blogging and bloggers. Nothing terribly derogatory but more along the lines of, “who has time to sit and rant incessantly about whatever happens to be on their minds, and who else has time to read those rants and write rants of their own in response — I just don’t get it.”

Well, the truth is I’m still not sure I get it, but I’m very intrigued by a process that encourages dialogue. I don’t consider myself to be a writer although for most of my adult life I’ve dreamed of being an author. Several years ago I was actually published (you can Google my name and probably find the book if you’re that interested) but I don’t consider that to be the kind of book that makes me an author. I guess in recent weeks and months I’ve just decided that I have some thoughts I need to put in writing. And maybe in time I will write some things that others will want to read, possibly even enjoy reading and become engaged enough (or enraged enough) to post a comment.

So, when I told my wife her response surprised me. She thought it was a great idea (provided I didn’t become obsessive about it) and encouraged me to take the plunge. Okay, maybe she had a few reservations but I think she’s looking forward to reading some of what I have to say. Quite frankly, so am I.

My postings will mostly be focused on whatever is top of mind in the areas of christianity, worship, church, music, and maybe some other stuff thrown in because I feel it’s worthy of discussion. I guess you could say it’s sort of a stream of consciousness kind of thing. My goals are simple: to share my thoughts in a way that compels others to respond, to expand my own level of thinking and understanding, and maybe meet some new people along the way. I hope you’ll come along and share some thoughts of your own.