Here In This Moment, The Sun May Not Be Shining

This evening Jacob read, as I listened, the story from Genesis about Joseph (the dude with the extravagant robe) and his older brothers who, because they were jealous, through him in a cistern, first, and then sold him off as a slave to a caravan of Ishmaelites passing through on their way to Egypt. It occurred to me, as Jacob was reading, just how much of a pickle this must’ve seemed like for Joseph as it was happening. How was he to know, in the midst of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his brothers, being sold off and sent to Egypt as a slave, that he would one day be in charge of Egypt? Surely, he suffered and wondered what the heck was going on! But, in time, he was blessed immensely and, realizing his blessings, he forgave his brothers who eventually came grovelling back to Egypt and unexpectedly found Joseph to be the one whose mercy they would need to survive.

So, why do I mention this? It’s because, in the midst of the most challenging year that I’ve had as a teacher amidst a shift in my personal values and priorities, I find myself asking a lot of questions about what I’m spending my days doing and if or how that should or could change in the not-so-distant future. In fact, I find myself getting pretty anxious about it at times. But, with the advice of my pastor, I’m learning to breathe a little deeper and take a more focused look at the Word that God has given me to help me sort this out. If I can get to know Him better, I’ll likely have a better idea regarding what He wants me to do.

Like Joseph, many of us walk through anxious or difficult seasons in our lives that we can’t really make heads or tails of. We don’t understand why things happen the way they do. But, as Joseph knew, faithfulness in the One who does know what the future holds, despite present circumstances, is worth holding onto. So, whatever you might be going through, Seek God in daily prayer and devotion to the Word he’s given us, hang tight, and, in God’s time, it’s all going to unfold in an amazing way that you could’ve never imagined, regardless of your present circumstances. Trust him.

“Here in this moment I can feel You at work. I took forever to notice, but, now that I notice…Your voice is the Word…only in the silence I can hear…You speak clear to me…it’s so clear to me…because when You speak, I am at rest…fears subside…clouds roll back. Like a child, oh my God I hold on to you.”-from “CLEAR” by Kevin Max from the soon-to-be-released album BROKEN TEMPLES
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/clear/id951859641?i=951859655

Check out and get involved with Kevin Max’s new project BROKEN TEMPLES

My Good Works

I can’t be sure if it is just the way my brain works or if it is the Holy Spirit trying to make a point, but, one thought that has been spiraling around in my brain for the past couple of days is that of giving credit where credit is due and how to give that credit because, if you know me personally, chances are that you are aware that I am not bashful when it comes to sharing the story of how my family and I have been blessed, so abundantly (if you’re not familiar, explore this thread of posts on my blog fo learn about it), since I had to pick myself up off the ground after caring for my Dad for sixteen months and then losing him to brain cancer in February of 2012. But, the truth is, I didn’t have to pick myself up off the ground. I couldn’t have. I was picked up. While reading the January 24th entry in the devotional written by the late Brennan Manning called Reflections For Ragamuffins this morning I was struck again, as I have been more than once lately, by the notion that I really and truly have nothing to brag about on my own. The day’s devotion starts with Manning noting the precious value of the direct advice Jesus gives as he speaks to those gathered, in what is commonly known as the sermon on the mount, about how they should view themselves and the world around them. But, Manning takes special interest in Matthew 5:3 when Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As Manning explained:

To be poor in spirit means to cling to your impoverished humanity and to have nothing to brag about before God. Paul writes, “What do you have that you haven’t received; and if you have received it, why do you go about boasting as if you hadn’t received it?

If there is anything that you ever associate with me as being good, I can sincerely state that it has happened because of the grace of God – despite me. I have not and could not do anything worthwhile without Him, first, opening doors wide in front of me to walk through. On the other hand, if you ever see me failing, veering off course, or causing others frustration or pain, you can be sure that it is a result of me, in my ignorance, sewn to this human condition, having taken my eyes off of the only One who knows and freely gives real and abundant life to anyone who will accept it. But in the darkest period of my life when I hurt deeply, questioned everything, and had no answers, I hit the very bottom. And when I did it became coldly apparent to me that my only hope was in something I couldn’t see, hear, or even feel. But, because it – because He – was all I had, I held on desperately (in doing so, I trusted Him to hold me)  and the growth and change that has happened in my life and in my family in the three years since is difficult to adequately articulate with words. It most certainly wasn’t anything I accomplished. I was completely broken. But, thank God, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Through Kevin Max I learned about The Hands & Feet Project and through the compassion of Hands & Feet Project director Mark Stuart, God’s grace blossomed and I will forever be grateful.

So, if you see me wearing a Hands & Feet Project or Haiti Made clothing item or posting a picture from Haiti or you hear me talking about a mission trip I went on, please know that I am simply and gratefully celebrating and trying to support the work that the Christ-focused organization does and the manner in which my life, and the lives of so many others have been blessed. There are long-term American missionary families that have completely uprooted from the U.S. and committed to serving full-time there and they have been serving those who Jesus referred to as “the least of these” for years. Why shouldn’t I tell others about their work and support them as it most certainly is God’s work (see James 1:27)?

Galatians 6:14

Galatians 6:14

Going Deeper

Featured Image -- 1767 Kevin Max‘s alternative approach was just the approach that I needed. His music, more often than not, knowingly leans away from that which would woo the center flow of this big river we’re all swimming in. But, not everybody is caught up in the surface flow of the main channel and the concessions that must be made to appeal to the largest demographic. Some prefer to go deeper.

There is something to be said for those who opt for the road less traveled and, yet, shine, “like a piece of gold from the mountainside…” Read my story here: Providence In The Shadow And A Pledge Of Allegiance To The Music And Poetry Of Kevin Max.

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

I spent a few minutes this evening looking over different definitions and explanations of what fear is and the most common explanations focus on the perceived thread of danger. Danger, of course, can present itself in many forms, from imminent and extreme danger (e.g., coming face to face with a large, angry bear while hiking) to perceived danger which may or may not actually be a threat (e.g., discovering a lump on your body is may or may not be cancer).

As humans we sometimes suffer under the tremendous weight of fear. On the other hand, we also seem to be addicted to the sensations that come by entertaining a small measure of fear and allowing our attention, emotions, and imagination to be carried away by stories, movies, and sports — when we invest our interest in a particular character or team and allow our emotions to rise and fall with the limited uncertainties of either a happy ending, a sad ending, a win, or a loss.

And that’s all fine and dandy as long as we know the movie will end or the game clock will wind down to zero and the stress will be gone. But, what about in our real lives? In reality we don’t necessarily know when or if the job demands will let up. We don’t know what the biopsy results will be or if therapy will be effective. We can’t be there for every challenge that our kids will face as the grow up to support them through to a safe and happy end.

Fear grips our hearts hardest when we don’t necessarily have any input on the outcome. The weight of burden becomes too much for our finite brains to process and we break down under the weight.

In the March 21, 1944 audio clip from the BBC Series “Beyond Personality,” C.S. Lewis entertains a question that many, apparently, asked him regarding how God could possibly give appropriate attention to millions of prayers being prayed to Him simultaneously:

…I’d like to deal with a difficulty some people find about the whole idea of prayer. Somebody put it to me by saying: “I can believe in God alright, but what I can’t swallow is this idea of Him listening to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.”

And I find quite a lot of people feel that difficulty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words “at the same moment.” Most of us can imagine a God attending to any number of claimants if only they come one by one and He has an endless time to do it in. So what’s really at the back of the difficulty is this idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.

Well that, of course, is what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along, and there’s room for precious little in each. That’s what Time is like. And, of course, you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, present and future — isn’t simply the way life comes to us but is the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from a past to a future just as we are. But many learned men don’t agree with that. I think it was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all. Later, the Philosophers took it over. And now some of the scientists are doing the same.

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call “ten-thirty.” Ten-thirty, and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world, is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That’s difficult, I know. Can I try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I’m writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her book; next moment came a knock at the door.” For Mary, who’s got to live in the imaginary time of the story, there’s no interval between putting down the book and hearing the knock. But I, her creator, between writing the first part of that sentence and the second, may have gone out for an hour’s walk and spent the whole hour thinking about Mary. I know that’s not a perfect example, but it may just give a glimpse of what I mean. The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.

When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you’d been the only man in the world.

The human brain is a physical organ that is limited in it’s potential to comprehend just as much as it is limited in its mass and size. The notion of having every aspect of our lives and, particularly, our futures under control is an illusion that we will never be able to actually grasp in reality.

Consequently, the peace that we seek in security and control is also an illusion. We cannot achieve peace in our lives. We can’t know all that the future holds, but, we can know He that holds the future. We can’t acquire peace in our lives on our own accord, but, we can trust the One who, in His infinite existence, is able to attend to each one of us fully and at all times. He alone is peace. He alone is hope. He is love. He is infinite.

“Infinite” is a song from the forthcoming album Broken Temples by Kevin Max. In it Max celebrates the fact that God is so much larger than human thoughts can hope to conceive and so much greater than human words could ever hope to articulate. We must trust His word, but, should be wary in trying to limit Him to our own personal human conceptions and constructs. It is a perspective not often articulated in music, Christian or otherwise. Feel free to check out the Pledge Campaign purposed to aid in the release of his new project Broken Temples so that it, like his past projects, can serve as a beacon to those seeking peace and truth in an open manner so that we can all dig deeper and rest in the peace that can only come when we trust Him with the purpose and direction of our lives.

Roots, Kevin Max, and Broken Temples (Guest Post by Danny Castagna)

A word from my friend Danny Castagna about the music and impact of Kevin Max on his life:

The sudden death of my amazing friend Nancy on New Year’s Day really shook me to my core. Never have I experience such brokenness. It was gut-wrenching. So I put on the radio (which I never do because it all sounds the same) and Kevin’s voice came on singing “Gods Not Dead.” I needed to hear those lyrics:

“Let love explode and bring the dead to life. A love so bold to bring a revolution somehow…Let hope arise and make the darkness hide… MY FAITH is dead, I need a resurrection somehow…Let heaven roar, and fire fall. Come shake the ground with sound of revival.”

I also needed to hear Kevin Max and Michael Tait singing together again. Tait and Max were part of dctalk. As a teenager, I had BROKEN TEMPLES by Kevin Max - coming March 2015learned so much from DCT. That’s why the song sounded so familiar to me. God knew I need something to bring me back to my roots and remind me again. Remind me of things He had showed me when I was a teenager. Remind me of the promises that He has made. That when life sucks and we begin to question what He is doing. I forgot. I forgot those promises. I had forgotten that first love. It was in this dark moment I needed that reminder.

Its Kevin’s music (both DCT/AA and solo) that helped me remember Gods promises. Its Kevin’s music that pushes me to be a better Christian-to love like Jesus, to be a beggar at the door of God’s Mercy, to be a ragamuffin, to look to Jesus for answers. I cannot do this on my own. It’s ok to be vulnerable.

My life is His- “It’s Yours to burn your brand;” “go a head and a change my name.” “I’m just a Jesus Freak.” But I must listen to His voice. I have to listen. “Only in the silence…do you speak clear to me.” Kevin’s music also reminds me that we can have fun as Christians, not to take ourselves so seriously. Because we will stumble and fall. It amazes me that God used Kevin in a Newsboys song to bring me back into the center of His will.
-Danny Castagna

Kevin Max (of dcTalk and Audio Adrenaline) has a Pledge campaign up to support the upcoming release of his independent project titled BROKEN TEMPLES. What he’s released, so far, has been amazing and, for those interested in pre-ordering a copy of the album, there are some amazing incentives available on the Pledge campaign page for BROKEN TEMPLES.

To read the previously posted explanation of the impact the music of Mr. Max had on me (MEANDERS site admin), see Providence In The Shadow And A Pledge Of Allegiance To The Music And Poetry Of Kevin Ma

2014 Year in Review and Looking Ahead!

Some good suggestions here, but, I’d like to add my own…

Best of 2014:
3. U2 – SONGS OF INNOCENCE – The purest release from U2 in some time. I’m looking forward to the other two releases that will make up the rest of this trilogy of albums from one of the best bands to ever grace the face of the planet.

2. Vekora – VEKORA – An unapologetic, slithering swim through moody layers of Kurt Schmidt distortion, graced by the haunting vocals of Alexandra Wendt, and bound together by the unparalleled rhythms of Poor Old Lu drummer Jesse Sprinkle. Produced by Terry Taylor and engineered by Derri Daugherty of The Choir. It’s an amazing breath of fresh air that I’ve found provides the perfect soundtrack for long runs outside on overcast, cold January days.

1. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – GOLIATH – An album birthed out of nowhere by a band comprised of legends assembled in a manner nobody could’ve expected. Abegg’s guitar and Taylor’s screams blast the solid back beat of Painter and Furler  into another realm where the vast majority of faith-related tunes fear to tread.

What I’m looking forward to the most in 2015: Without a doubt, BROKEN TEMPLES from Kevin Max. His voice is unparalleled and his creative perspective is a beacon to the crowd on the edge, searching for something with a bit more texture and depth. Songs already revealed like “Infinite,” “Light Me Up,” and “Clear,” serve as an indication that this new album by the former dcTalk and Audio Adrenaline front man is going to be amazing. Check it out at… http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kevinmax/updates/46297

decentchristiantalk

I’ve asked some friends to share their favorite albums from 2014 and what they are looking forward to in 2015. Be sure to comment your own personal favorites at the end! So without further adieu….

Gabriel Jones 

Albums of the year

Switchfoot – Fading West 

Does Switchfoot ever disappoint? This album was released alongside a really good documentary (that you can check out on Netflix). Each Switchfoot release has presented songs that challenge the listener to think and examine themselves. This release is no different.

Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil – Goliath

Steve Taylor’s first release since 1994 picked up right where he left off. This time he brings a fun ensemble full of quirky lyrics and a fresh sound. Taylor has never been one to water down his lyrics that address topics that are often taboo. There are rumors that there will be multiple records from this…

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