Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Inadequacy and Separation and Heartbreak and Wearing that Heart on that Sleeve (And a loving, forgiving, beautiful, joyful Hope...)
I’ve heard it said numerous times recently that stress and anxiety are severe forms of selfishness because they reflect an inability to rely on Jesus for the necessities of life. The last couple of days, I have seen life pass by in a blur because I’ve literally rushed through them in an attempt to feel accomplished about something. In return, in all honesty, I have not gotten a single thing done. Rather than waiting on the Creator, I’ve created this mess of tangled webs in my head, constricting my heartbeat to small, fast paced pulses. I’m not trying to be poetic. I'm wondering at the fact that I haven’t had a frickin’ heart attack. I’m breathing too heavy and my heart’s racing too fast. And since I haven’t been relying on Jesus, it’s led to sinful “fulfillments” of myself through thoughts and actions displeasing to the Lord.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”- Philippians 4:4
“When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about my life, my family, my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a “right” to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities. Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance.” – Francis Chan
Isn’t It absolutely ridiculous how we, as Christians, can want something so badly, and turn over and over again to the very thing that takes us away from him? It’s incredible to me. It’s angering to me.
Lord, turn my thoughts of lust to thoughts of longing for you. Please, turn my self-reliance to a selfless reliance upon you.
In Christ, there is no condemnation. This blows my mind. When I fail, I’m prone to damn myself to a day’s or a week’s worth of sulking and self-pity. But in Christ, there is no condemnation. Yes, of course, there are consequences for sin, but so often if I start the day off wrong, or if I screw up in the middle of it, or if I end it in sin, I get into this, “Welp! I messed up, Lord! I failed you! Now you can’t use me today anymore! Now I’m worthless until the sun rises again and your mercies start anew!"
But God’s mercies started anew at the cross and into forever, for forever, and I am not worthless. In Christ, there is no condemnation. Thank Jesus for that.
I want a complete and total transformation. After seeking and knowing joy in Jesus, it is incredible how much it hurts when I fail and seek fulfillment in something other than him. It’s like my heart breaks. Shatters, even. It’s like this enormous, heavy disappointment in myself – this weighty separation from God. It’s frustrating to know that, on this earth, I will fail and I will sin and I will rebel against the God that I want more than anything else to be close to. Such is life.
I cannot imagine hell. Yes, the fire and the brimstone and the gnashing of teeth and the darkness are enough to know that I do not want to spend eternity there… but the separation from God… that’s what does it. It brings me to tears to even think of it.
Oh, how thankful I am for the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Because despite the inevitability of sin on this earth, in this place, in this time, we have the joyful anticipation of heaven – of perfection and closeness – a bear hug from Jesus Christ.
Monday, November 30, 2009
So I have a couple things that I have to clear up, because if I don’t, even though they may be rather awkward in light of circumstances, then everyone else is going to continue to speak for me, and I am so frustrated that people are continually putting words in my mouth. Locally, where I live, there has been gossip and rumors going around about things that have gone on and things that I may or may not have said, and I want to clear them up.
The other day, I met a friend of mine who told me that I don’t like the band Poema. He told me that I don’t like someone else. First of all, that’s false. Second of all, I’m not saying that it’s false because I am going to tour with them – I’m saying it’s false because it’s false. I like Poema. I literally listen to their songs every day. Shealeen and El are friends of mine, and we have always gotten along great, and I’m excited to tour with them, and I’m excited about what the Lord has provided for them by getting to sign to Tooth & Nail and get their name out there. Even if I didn’t like them, who would I be to say what should or shouldn’t happen if it’s already happened and the Lord is planning on using them for his glory? I am no one.
Secondly, there has been a lot of talk about trouble between myself and Veil Arms. I will not deny that we have had our differences, and I will not deny that I have wrongfully been the source of gossip that should’ve been kept private about our relationship. This was sin on my part, and I will own up to it, and for the places that I sparked the flame, I will be the first to apologize to anyone and everyone that I may have negatively affected – burnt, even – by the fire in the process. The looseness in my lips was not edifying to Christ. But I will also say that VA and I have reconciled our relationship, are very good friends, and all has been forgiven and forgotten. I support what they are doing, because Christ has called them to their ministry, and they are following that call obediently. If you don’t know the details of the bumps along the way, it doesn’t matter, because it's in the past, and it is none of your business.
I could name numerous other things that I hear from here, there and everywhere about me or about someone else or about someone else or about someone else... And I keep on hearing about these lies going around as truths. And maybe it’s gossip in the form of a prayer request, and maybe it’s just straight “he said, she said” when the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what anybody’s said because everything is a skewed misconception of what it once was.
Regardless, I’m not posting this to ruffle anyone’s feathers. I’m posting this because I want to apologize for my part, and I have no idea who I need to address or apologize to in person anymore because random people that I don’t even know have been talking about all this stuff, and it’s ridiculous. One of the things that Shawn (the Veil Arms dude) told me that really humbled me is that we’re called to build one another up and grow in Christ and in community and not to be divisive. This rings loud and clear to me because that same spirit of division nearly ruined our friendship because of the words of another person, and none of the gossip was based off of any truth whatsoever. I have been a very divisive person. I am sorry – I am doing everything within my power to change that. If some of you read this, maybe know me a little bit better than others, and feel that I am being hypocritical – I probably don’t blame you – but I beg of you to have mercy on me, because I am realizing where I need to fix issues within myself as well, and I know that it takes time. All I am saying is that I am frustrated with the gossip – yours and mine.
One of the major things that the Lord taught me through my time with White Collar Sideshow last month, and has continued to instill in me through my own prayer and seeking to follow him is that we are all one body, and that we may not always all agree with one another, and we may not always all appeal to one another, and at other times, we might just straight up annoy one another, but for those of us that claim to be Christ followers, we are all on the same team, seeking the same goal, and in it for the same purposes, and it’s unacceptable to keep on screwing each other up.
“Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!” – Psalm 34:12-13
So, my friends, I am so, so sorry for the lies that I have told, for the sins that I have committed, for the gossip that I have spread. This is certainly a lesson for me, as well. Sometimes people tell me that the best way to learn and seek conviction for yourself is to try to teach it to others. This has definitely been one of those circumstances for me. Please accept my apology as sincere.
And if it is applicable, please allow it to permeate your heart as well. I am apologetic, and I'm also so incredibly frustrated with this behind-your-back nonsense that keeps happening and happening and happening and happening. Please at least try to be respectful of one another, and I will do the same. None of us are perfect, and all of us know it, and not every single person needs to know every single detail of every single little thing, because it is so damaging, and it's ruining a lot of things, and doesn't show the characteristics of Christ that we are to be recognized by... love, compassion, etc...
Love you guys. See you on tour.
Friday, November 6, 2009
The date is Thursday, November 5, 2009, and the time is 3:14 pm, central time. Pilot Truck Stop, Kentucky.
Text to Jonathan, my friend back home: I’m doing well. I’m very happy with these guys, and I feel like God is showering me with so much conversation about Him and people that are living out their lives passionately for Him that I don’t even know what to do with all the thoughts in my head. Whether it be with White Collar specifically, or the people we meet on the road. It’s crazy. I was thinking today that this month has felt like watching 50 hours of some discipleship training video and soaking up God like a sponge, and that’s very exciting.
Have you ever seen a movie called “This Waking Life?” From what I can remember, it’s some weird cartoon movie about post-modernism or existentialism (which, I guess, are one in the same, basically) or whatever (it doesn’t really matter), and the entire film is a series of interviews about life and reality and meaning and vanity between these cartoon characters and the drawing styles change and it kind of follows this empty story line and, and, and...
Anyway, that movie specifically popped into my head today as we were meeting with Stump – the pastor at The Anchor Fellowship in Nashville, TN – because this entire month has felt like a huge series of intense, beautiful conversations – conversation that envelope depth and God and life. They’ve been conversations that have stirred up my spirit with burden and longing. They’ve been conversations that have tied my thoughts in knots and inspired so many ideas in my brain that it’s hard to know which are which and what is what and what the heck is going on. They’ve been conversations that have challenged and encouraged me to think about what it is I’m pursuing in life, in this project.
I was reading a journal entry that I wrote back in September. I am not going to divulge the entire thing here (because if I did, you may never listen to my poetry every again! ha!), but there was a part of it that caught my eye, which said something like, “I wonder if I’ll ever be a successful poet. Ha! Just think! A successful poet!”
If you want to know the truth, I’m rather ashamed of sharing that line with those of you that may read this, because it sounds kind of – well, I don’t know how it sounds. It sounds kind of stupid to me (stupid is a pretty good word) – maybe because I know where my heart was at the time, and what my heart is struggling with now, for that matter, and I know the thoughts behind it… the point that I’m trying to make is that I feel like, over the last two months – and even before I wrote that little line of brilliance – my heart and mindset have been radically challenged as to what exactly “success” is. Because when I wrote “success” – my definition was financial. Sweet Jesus! I ask with all of my heart that I would not equate success with finance, because that is not what this life is about. And I’ve been learning, seeing, thinking, wondering about the majesty of God, and about something that T.D. Benton from White Collar Sideshow drilled into the minds of people that we played for every night, which was this: We are called to love one another and to love Christ, and if we’re not doing those things, then what are we doing?
I would like my success, the focal point of what I’m doing in this life, to be Jesus Christ. I would like to be a person that loves and feels and relates and cherishes relationships the way that Jesus did when he chilled with people – and God frickin knows he didn’t base his success on the overflow of his pockets.
Every night before a show, I pray that Jesus would be noticed, glorified, lifted up, honored and praised through what I do. I wish that people would close their eyes for my entire performance so that they could hear what God has to say (I’m not saying that to sound pretentious or righteous – I’m saying it because I think that God really has something to say), and not focus on the distraction of a poet with the orange hat that looks like he’s cracked out of his mind because he’s so twitchy on stage. I have so many friends that I’ve seen give it all up for the sake of Jesus, and I would like to know what it is to be sacrificial without worry, stress or anxiety on the false pretence that I deserve credit for anything that I do.
So back to “The Waking Life” – somehow, almost daily, I’ve found myself looking into the eyes of these people that I am meeting and have come to admire – these people that I view as examples of faith that I desire – as they go off on these monologues about what God is doing and how he’s developing them and what they think about things that are happening and what the crap is going on. And through all of this, the Spirit is stirring within me these desires to pursue righteousness over wealth, and to develop a lasting, patient maturity rather than stressing over something that needs to happen immediately. He’s reminding me that if I count on anything other than him as my source of happiness, I will be disappointed.
More than shows or merch or whatever else I have judged past tours as successful by, this run has been a huge blessing to the spiritual condition of my health, and I hope that the Lord has used me to bless others in the same way, because it’s truly been incredible, and incredibly encouraging, and that is the ultimate point that I am getting to – I would like the Lord to use me to encourage and love others the way that he has used others to encourage and love me. I hope that he continues to provide and open up opportunities to know him more, to know others more, and to hone in on relationship with him. I would surely love that.
Sometimes when I write these long updates about things, I wonder how they sound to others. I would like to think that these thoughts are me maturing, or at least trying to learn and be shaped into the likeness of Christ, but I sometimes wonder whether or not they just sound like aimless thoughts and wonderings – or wanderings – like I’m spinning in and out of these “spiritual highs” or something.
Sometimes I get scared that the people that truly know me might think I’m being hypocritical. Sometimes I get scared that the people that I’ve misrepresented Christ to will think that I’m wearing this façade to be the good Christian. Oh how I would love to be able to do away with the word “Christian” as an adjective, maybe even to forget the word altogether, and to just live for Christ without having to quantify things – to label actions – as holy or not, and to just live. And for that “just living” to be for Christ.
Regardless, these are the thoughts on my mind, for now, and it’s probably the best tour update I could have written. I’m still trying to understand what it all means, and I’m asking for direction and organization of all the crap in my head and heart, but aren’t we all? God forbid I should ever have it all figured out, because when and where would I need to rely on God if that happened?
Levi the Poet Werewolves
Passionate and unique, Levi the Poet exemplifies the deepest of these. At times he screams his poetry as if all alone in his bedroom late at night, lamenting and challenging. Other times he brings it down to a soft whisper to draw you in to his confessions. Levi’s honest words cover everything from nightmares spanning childhood to adulthood to pornography and relationships leaving no stone unturned. All of this is deeply rooted in his intense faith. You don’t see many spoken word artists anymore but this stuff is just too contagious not to marvel at. You might wonder what made a twenty year old New Mexico youth so tortured. Trust me, Levi the Poet gives you an 11 track explanation that will surely rock you.
Check out more at http://www.hopecore.com
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
September is coming to an end, as is this month’s run with In The Midst Of Lions. We’ve been out on the road since the 4th, and it’s been great. The Lord has provided wholly and completely, and despite the brief moments that we all want to kill each other in the van, we’re all accounted for! Praise Jesus!
Tour is awesome, but it’s difficult. This isn’t really anything that surprise me, by any means, but definitely something that hit closer to home now that it’s happening. If those of you that keep tabs on what I’m doing out here would like to pray for myself and a couple rocky relationships back home, it would mean a lot. I believe that the Lord has been working to show me trust and complete reliance in a way I’ve never known before – and although it’s exciting to grow and mature, spiritually, it’s also scary, and takes letting go – and letting go is not easy for me at all.
So – specifically. I would love some prayer for me and my girlfriend’s relationship, that the Lord would make himself known in our decision-making about where to go from here. Also, I believe that the Lord has called me to this, but I’m still a baby in the world, and teething my way into this part of the industry, setting up dates, figuring out how to make them happen, seeking to maintain the ministry aspect above and beyond the rest, and trusting the Lord with all of it is a bit nerve-racking sometimes.
Praise reports? God has shown himself faithful to my prayers for stress and anxiety relief – at least in a few areas, which is amazing. Financially, times are hard (like they are for everyone), but I know that God still holds me in the palm of his hand, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will be my provider.
Jesus has been working like crazy in the hearts of so many people throughout this last month – including (but definitely not limited to) my own. Kids and adults alike at shows have come up to me after my set and said that the Lord worked through it in ways that no pastor or preacher ever has, and that the Holy Spirit is present in what I’m doing. This is not said in any sort of haughtiness – but to boast in Christ. It has been my constant prayer that he will shine so much brighter than I ever will through what he’s doing in this project, and I praise him for glorifying himself and accepting my worship the way that he has.
So yeah… that’s what’s up for right now. I came to this coffee shop in Missouri to get work done, and I’ve pretty much been sitting here screwing around for the last three hours – so now I’m finally going to get to it.
Thank you so much for your prayers.