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The Best of 2013

Though I’m not one to get into New Year’s celebrations, a tradition I hold dear is my favorite albums of the year list. In the past, it has consisted of my top 5 albums, with commentary from me on each of them.

Then last year, I did the same with iOS apps, and it was well received.

This year, I had some difficulty narrowing down to just 5 albums and 5 apps, so I decided to shake up the format. Instead of giving you my gratuitous commentary and spreading things over several posts, I have decided to give you everything in quick lists.

Because there were several songs that I loved this year that I did not necessarily love the album of or they were just released as singles, I also added top songs of the year as a list. The rule when creating it was that none of the songs could be on one of my top albums.

I should clarify that I do not think that all of these song/albums are amazing works of art (though some are). These are simply what I enjoyed most in 2013.

So without further adieu, I give you The Best of 2013:

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A Sweet End

Our community group finished up its 2 year run with a trip to Gatlinburg at the beginning of November, and a graduation ceremony last week. It was a sweet time of celebrating what God has done in our lives.

The group started out as mostly strangers with very different interests, in different places in our marriages. But over two years, we’ve celebrated births, job successes, and marriage milestones. We’ve also faced anxiety, parental divorce, death in the family, depression, and so much more. Words can’t express how thankful I am for each one of these people.

Sundays won’t feel like Sundays without seeing these faces.

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I Understand

Last week I was the substitute in a 2nd grade class at one of my favorite schools. As part of the lesson, I was asked to go over some vocabulary words from the story we were to read that day.

One of the words was “understand.”

I had a list of sentences I was to read to them, and if they felt they agreed with the statement, they were to raise their hands.

After a minute or two, we came to the sentence “I understand how a plane flies.” I did not raise my own hand because I do not understand in the slightest what makes a plane stay up in the air.

However, I was surprised to see most of my students raise their hands. I asked one of them to tell me how planes fly, to which he responded “With wings! Duh!”

The confidence and simplicity that he viewed the world with was so innocent and beautiful. Maybe I should try to get some of that back in my life.

App Store Entitlement

I am a well documented early adopter. I was attempting to update my iPhone and iPad to iOS7 at exactly noon on release day. I sat and watched Apple’s most recent announcement live, and spent the rest of the day updating my computers to Mavericks and all of my software. I read rumor sites, and check the App Store for app updates multiple times a day. I love seeing what new functionality things will bring, and how it will improve my productivity.

The last month or so has been nerd heaven for me. With the 2 major OS updates, app developers have been releasing major new updates to their software. As they have, I’ve noticed a really strange thing rising up on the internet:

Entitlement

I know there is a lot of discussion about the prevalence of entitlement in our culture, but most of it revolves around big ideas like socialism and the economy. The Apple App Store is not somewhere I expected to see it. And yet, it rears its ugly head even there. There are 2 forms of App Store Entitlement I’ve seen. (more…)

My Newfound Love of Football

If I were to tell you the tale of my childhood and upbringing, you would hear tale of a kid who didn’t always fit in. A kid who liked Power Rangers way longer than all the other kids.

“I watch it to make fun of it guys!” I said (not fooling anyone).

But the biggest point of isolation for me in for most of my life has been my dislike of sport.

I grew up in a family that was always more focused on academics than athletics. I started reading at a really early age, but was never taught to throw a football. So while other kids were perfecting the spiral, I was reading Animorphs alone in my room.

I even looked down on people who were obsessed with sports. Why spend that much of your life knowing stats about how many times one guy successfully threw a ball to another guy?

But things changed when I got married. Laura grew up 30 minutes from Auburn University, and thus comes from a family of huge Auburn fans. In order to not sit awkwardly silent at dinner with my in-laws, I decided I needed to pay attention to Auburn football. (more…)

Relaunching Embracing the Mess

The death and now resurrection of this blog amuses me to no end because it’s a perfect example of the title Embracing the Mess. I started it with grand hopes, and yet because I couldn’t execute it as exactly as I wanted, I gave up. I didn’t modify it, or try to change. I shut it down because it couldn’t be perfect. Looks like I still have a ways to go.

Even writing this post has been a chore. I wanted the right words (that no one will read I’m sure) to bring the blog back to life. I wanted to be insightful, witty, and sincere. I’ve started countless drafts of this to no avail.

The problem is, I’m not a very good writer. I’m not generally insightful, witty, or sincere whenever I post something in public. That’s not to say I won’t get there. It’s just I have very little practice.

I feel like throughout the last few years, I have probably quoted on various blogs or tweets Katie Herzig’s “Make a Noise.” The chorus simply states:

Find your voice
Make a noise

That’s what I want to do here. Over the last year and a half, I have been learning so much about who I am and what I’m passionate about. I want to share pieces of that. It might look different from day to day, week to week. I might share stories from my own life, art that I think is good, funny videos, I don’t know. But all of it is part of my mess, and part of embracing it is sharing it.

So in the words of Congresswoman Regina Bookman:

“I might not know where I’m going with this, but I know we will get there together!”

Peru Wrap Up

I apologize for leaving this blog empty for so long, as well as not talking about my Peru trip after the first day. Honestly it’s difficult to find words to describe the trip without either going way too long, or just saying it was amazing.

One of the best parts of the trip continued to be the main session worship times I mentioned in my first post on Peru. Hearing truth declared from 500 mouths all speaking Spanish was a life changing experience.

I also really enjoyed time spent having conversations with people in the coffee shop of the church. I loved getting to know people who lived outside my American bubble and hear about all the struggles and triumphs in their churches. It’s beautiful to see different parts of the Body of Christ and how God is working around the world.

One of the most fun moments came on the trip’s final day day. We had built in a sight seeing day into our schedule, so we used that day to take surfing lessons. I can proudly say I did successfully stand up on the board, and on my second attempt. It was one of the most fun and tiring things I have ever done. Ryan brought a GoPro camera, so there is video footage of our trip being assembled. I’ll make sure you see it as soon as I get it.

As amazing of a trip as it was, it was not without struggles. Most the difficulties I faced were related to my personality and how I approach situations. However, I feel like I learned more in the challenges than the parts that went smoothly.

I think because it was my first real mission trip, I expected to come home feeling super fulfilled because of how successful I had been as a teacher and worship leader. I know this is a self absorbed way of viewing a mission trip, but it’s the truth. I wanted to feel good about myself. I don’t think my entire motives for the trip were selfish. I genuinely believe the trip was in line with the giftings God has given me, and He sent me for a reason.

The problem was while I am a musician and a teacher, Peruvians (mainly teenagers) have very different needs from the American adults I usually teach on the subject of musical worship and electric guitar. The combination of struggling to understand/meet their needs and speaking through a translator made it difficult to get feedback on how the classes were received.

I wanted to see the impact I had on the conference attendees. I wanted to know I made a difference.

But that’s not how life works.

God calls us to be faithful stewards of the talents He has given us. He calls us to say yes when He asks us to go. As my friend Carl always says, God doesn’t need us. He invites us to help Him with His work because He is a perfect Father who loves us. We can sow seeds (and in our brokenness, even that is a feeble attempt), but God is responsible for what becomes of those seeds.

This is something I knew in my mind, but had never experienced in this way before. It was a hard, but much needed lesson.

If any of my new Peruvian friends read this, please don’t take this as looking for approval or reassurance. This is me trying to be honest about my whole experience, including the hard things God taught me.

I leave you with a video from the conference featuring us leading worship. It’s a small peek at the beauty I experienced in my week in Peru.

Have you ever experienced a mission trip where you weren’t able to see the fruit?

Peru Update #1

Greetings from Lima!

(Warning, this post was written late at night. I’m quite tired, so please excuse…everything I say.)

By the time this post goes up, I will be about to go teach my first class at the conference. Can’t wait to update everyone on how that goes. It should be very interesting teaching a class with a translator.

Everything is going really well so far though. We left Nashville Tuesday morning at 9:30AM. We flew 2 hours to Newark, and then 8 hours here to Lima. I haven’t ever been on a plane for that long before, and let me just say, it was grueling. We were pleased that all of our luggage arrived safely (though Peru did decided to tax us on my pedalboard).

The weather here is amazing. I’m definitely not missing the Nashville winter weather (or the snow and ice we flew over as we landed in Newark yesterday). It is unfortunate that we don’t have air conditioning most places though. I feel like I’m back at summer camp, perpetually sticky.

The people here are incredibly nice, and the language barrier hasn’t been too bad. I remember enough Spanish from school that I can at least understand some conversation and chime in occasionally. Plus we have translators, and Ryan from our team speaks great Spanish.

The food so far has been great as well. It’s hard to go wrong with meat and rice.

It’s also been amazing to watch God provide for us. Somehow my power supply for my pedalboard didn’t make it here. Whether I left it at home, or it got lost in the customs mess, I don’t know. However, someone at the church actually had the exact same power supply and got it for me. I’m floored that that is here.

Last night we led worship for the first time, and it was beautiful. Almost 500 people, many of them teenagers singing along passionately. It’s always astounding to me to hear something like this. It broadens my narrow view of our huge God. He is so big enough to receive praise in every language, in every country in the world.

Please continue to pray for us. Pray that we stay healthy (I’m trying hard not to drink the water!), and that God would continue to use us in this time. I’ll try to continue to update, as well as post pictures. However, for some reason, the internet doesn’t like me uploading them.

Peru Hiatus

When this post goes up, I’ll probably be on my way to the airport. I’m leaving today for a week long mission trip to Lima, Peru. A group of 6 of us from my church here in Nashville will be going to teach and lead at a worship conference. It’s my first mission trip out o the country, and I’m nervous, but incredibly excited.

I apologize for the lack of posts here lately. Between the holidays and getting ready for this trip, I feel like I’ve been going non stop since before Christmas. Something had to give, and since this blog is just a hobby at the moment, it has been neglected.

I’ll do my best to post from Peru at least once, but I don’t feel like internet access is guaranteed. So I’ll post a big recap when I return.

Please pray for our team, for our health and safety, and that we would be able to equip and encourage the worship leaders and musicians there.

My Favorite Albums of 2012

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I know I did, and it’s not done yet. I’ll see more family tomorrow and Saturday which is nice. I like extending Christmas for almost a week.

Still, it is the time where most people transition from thinking about Christmas to celebrating the new year by reflecting on the year passed. In that spirit, I present to you my favorite albums of 2012:

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