Month: October 2013 (page 1 of 2)

What I Learned about Life and Love from Listening to the Music of Trevor Gordon Hall

I have known Trevor Gordon Hall since my freshman year of college. One of the joys of knowing him has come from seeing how his music connects to his personal life and beliefs.

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Whenever you have a chance to meet a musician, take time to ask them what inspires or motivates their music. In the last few days since my wedding, I have reconnected to Trevor’s music. Not only to his music, but also to our conversations about life. Here three things I have learned from listening to the music of Trevor Gordon Hall.

1. Relationships and life move a lot like a Coldplay Medley.

Today, Trevor shared “Fix You (Coldplay Medley).” Music includes terms like crescendo and decrescendo. Often we find ourselves in the quiet moments of “Fix You” only to have them turn into bursting moments of “Viva La Vida.” Movements of music,like life, remind us to cherish both the boisterous joy and the quiet notes of reflection.

2. Read and re-read A Severe Mercy.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to read A Severe Mercy by  Sheldon Vanauken. Trevor was the first person that recommended this book. Then he proceeded to write a song about the book. As I read the book, I could hear his song. Vanauken deals with love, doubt, and the goodness of God. No matter where we find ourselves, this book brings us to our own questions about our relationships with others and with God.

3. The music matches the seasons of our lives.

Trevor’s album “Finding my Way” released right after his marriage to Erin. I can remember hearing people say, “Trevor’s music changed.” Back then, I entered my career in admissions with vivacious ambition. Now, a few days after marriage, I’m learning to find my way in a different aspect while journey with another person. I am beginning to understand why the music changes. We move from wanting more to gratefulness for this specific season and the people around us.

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To learn more about Trevor and his music, check out his latest campaign with Indiegogo. For those you who live in Rochester, NY, mark your calender for his concert on November 22 with the Rochester Guitar Club.

Our Issues with Extraordinary

We cannot walk very far without feeling the influence of the word, “Extraordinary.” Movies showcase the seemingly normal person who defies the odds. Conference speakers by the droves share their story of fulfilling their dreams. Even narratives in sermons come back to David beating Goliath.

1431677_55639123Today is Monday. Most of us have a few issues with extraordinary right now. We live in this jumbled mess of trying to reconcile our present with what we had expected for ourselves. Our souls long to combat the lies of where we think we should be with the truth of where we are.

All of us to some degree or another want to live with contentment of the present and hope for the future. At the root of dealing with extraordinary, we are wrestling with these internal issues:

Narrow Focus

Along the way of planning for our lives, we made one defining moment. This moment we have prepared by pursuing education, networking, and researching. You can call it a career or relationship, but the best way to describe it is a dream. Our view of extraordinary is limited to this one narrow focus.

Distortion 

Brene Brown in Daring Greatly defines narcissism as, “…the shame based fear of being ordinary.” All of us to some degree deal with love, acceptance, and belonging. We want to know that we matter to people, but even more so matter to God.

Cynicism

There is no easier place to be than pointing out the wrong without ever taking the chance of providing the view of what is right. Perhaps, the depth of our cynicism reveals our doubt of extraordinary. It seems to never happen to us, but happens to everyone else.

The issues of our view of extraordinary deals with our hearts. It delves deep into our view of God, attitudes, and what we understand as blessings. By no means is this a simple issue. But maybe in identifying these issues, we can start to understand what extraordinary looks like in our lives.

What does extraordinary look like for you?

 

 

Thank You

Sometimes, the words “thank you” cannot adequately describe the way we feel. Since the wedding last week, Robyn and I have felt extremely grateful by all of the responses, congratulations, and sentiments from family and friends.

Perhaps, the most tangible evidence of God’s blessing is recognizing the wonderful people He has placed around each of us.

Thank you for sharing your joy with us.

Thank you for all of your prayers along our journey.

Thank you for being there for us, whether we saw you in person or connecting with us on social media.

Thank you most of all for reminding us of how gracious God has been to all of us.

Photo courtesy of Jessie Schnall - https://www.facebook.com/PortraitsByJessie

Photo courtesy of Jessie Schnall – https://www.facebook.com/PortraitsByJessie

Comparison, Critiques, and Our Issues with Social Media

My two friends Jeff Martin and Vinnie Lupoli coined the Urban Dictionary word, “Cybertoothing.” The meaning of this word consists of, “the act of using social media to air grievances.” Most likely, if you have opened a news feed you have noticed this phenomenon.

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Recently, an article in the Huffington Post, 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook, circulated on social media. Google “bad habits” on social media and scores of article will abound with cringe laden tweets and posts of others. People can use social media to brag, complain, sulk, and disclosures of more than anyone wants to know.

Exposing these practices on the surface only points to a deeper problem. Behind every written update and audience interpretation reveals a lost sense of authentic community. Part of the issue comes from an incomplete view of what is happening.

What if…

The bragging status indicated a highly insecure person looking for recognition and the upset reader indicates a significant struggle with jealousy?

The update that sounds like, “Is anyone free tonight?” revealed a lonely person searching for authentic community?

Behind the complaining person was someone who cannot frame their life in gratitude, but has felt beaten down by the challenges?

The calculated Instagram photos portrayed the life a person wish they had rather than the one God has given them?

The sharing of good or great news on social media was really about celebrating?

Every cynical follower of social media who pointed out the truth, has lost their sense of joy?

We live in a society which loves to share, compare, and critique. Part of experiencing the Gospel means to look beyond the surface level and to see behind these behaviors is an issue of the heart. As followers of Christ we have the opportunity to model authentic community and attempt to see social media through the eyes of Christ. All of us long to look like Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

May God enlarge our hearts with grace and compassion for each other. May we model a redeemed practice of social media.

The First Gift for the First Date

December 23, 2011, started with the all too familiar drive. Beginning in Binghamton head north on I-81 to 90. It was still the part of winter every Upstate New Yorker enjoys; the snow and change of temperature which signals Christmas.The setting sun gave way to a brilliant clear sky full of stars.774625_17852520

Robyn and I had two coffee dates. On this occasion, we had setup our first “real” dinner date in Rochester. One of the looming questions for both of us dealt with concerned a gift. What do you get for a person in a budding relationship two days before Christmas? Her and I faced the same dilemma.

In moment of serendipity, we exchanged gifts to find we both bought books for each other. Robyn gave me Whole Life Transformation by Keith Meyer. This week I took a chance todownload reminisce on that moment and the book. These words of Meyer on slowing down seem very applicable for the start of this week:

The slower pace on the road put me in a more reflective mood. I no longer had to worry about making up time for being late. I found myself becoming more relaxed and less preoccupied. I use these times as openings to calm myself by being in God’s presence. I learned to take whole days to just “do nothing,” to rest, and I began to make more room for restorative slowing exercises. Now waiting in line at the grocery store is not an annoyance but an opportunity to be quiet and become more attuned to God. These and other slowing exercises began to bring me home to God and others. Now, when I notice I am going too fast in my car, it’s time to examine what is driving me to distraction. (pg. 166)

Where do you need to slow down today?

 

A Theology of Disagreeing – Questions on Sharing Opinions

Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the Senate, has emerged as a voice of reason during the government shutdown. The Huffington Post began referencing the prayers last week. Black is quoted saying, “Lord save us from the madness.” Then following up with the petition, “…deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

The government shutdown can teach followers of Christ. Now more than ever, people have the platform to share their thoughts and opinions. Sermons, articles, interviews, and blog posts have become the spaces air disagreements and opinions. Ultimately, has platform brought the body of Christ closer together or divided sects of Christianity?

In my attempt to understand opinions, agreeing, and disagreeing, I have few questions for those of us who communicate within Christianity:

1. How does stating “but” and/or “even though” affect our communication?

Christian writers follow the pattern of state an agreement with a person and then subtly use “but” or “even though” to reference the area of disagreement with a person. This pattern seems to exacerbate the disagreement over the area of agreement. Why not keep the whole tone of the article positive? Even if the author or speaker’s motive is to agree, do we need to add the “but” or “even though?”

2. Do we really need to bring up every point of contention?

It you attended a Christian college, more than likely you can remember the late night debates on theological or doctrinal issues. Often, the fight was not about the issue but about the fight. So, is worth bring an issue of disagreement to the public forum? Often, Christian leaders can act like a filter to their followers as opposed to letting them think. Not every issue seems worth fighting.

3. Are we already stating the obvious?

If you have a platform where you share your beliefs and opinions, do you need to keep vocalizing them? Certain things should be brought up. My English teacher use to write “RD” on my papers- standing for redundant.

4. How can we love our neighbor in public disagreement?

What does it look to disagree on a theological issue without damaging a person? Part of embodying Christ means coming together with people who have no reason to come together through the Gospel.

Chaplain Barry Black will come to the Senate for prayer this morning. Perhaps, the way he has shepherded his parish can act as an example for those of us who follow Christ. “Lord save us from the madness,” and “…deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

Moving Past the Sad Songs

What happened to the lost art of mix tapes? For that matter what happened to mix CDs? One of the grandest expression of friendship from the last decade was creating the perfect album. 965831_25125572

This week Robyn and I have worked together on a playlist for the wedding. Our designer, Chris Mason, added to the return post card, “I’ll dance if you play_____________?” The responses ranged from classy Sinatra to songs unmentionable to this post. Compiling this music expresses the joy of that special day just under two weeks today.

I can remember the seasons of my life when I chose the “sad songs” over the dance songs. The Psalms talk about how God has turned our mourning into dancing. All of us walk through seasons when the sad songs adequately describe our feelings, but never forget to play the dance songs in seasons of joy. We are far more blessed by God than we can ever realize, whether a season of pain or joy.

G.K. Chesterton gives us this thought on moving past the sad songs:

“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton (pg. 159)

What songs are you adding to your playlist today?

All Seminary Retreat with Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling

The fog lifted Saturday morning over Canandaigua Lake. The lifting provided the view for one of the best regions of Upstate New York to experience the fall season. Northeastern Seminary hosted our annual All Seminary Retreat at the Notre Dame Retreat House overlooking this site.

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Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling, daughter of Dr. Gordon Fee and professor at Northern Seminary, was the featured speaker of the retreat. Her two sessions explored the Image of God, the relational aspect of Christ with ourselves. Here four thoughts from the retreat:

1. “You are not just saved from sin, but saved to life in Christ.”

Dr. Nordling challenged the presuppositions of the story of the Gospel. When we over focus on the Cross, then we can miss the reality of living the Resurrection. Often, our view of the Gospel falls more in line with sin-management and behavior modification. The Resurrection of Christ implies restoring us to what He intended us to be. We are on a journey to become more like Christ.

2. We have an underwhelming understanding of the humanity of Jesus Christ.

She made this statement, “We see the Apostles in Acts doing a lot of the same things Jesus did in Luke.” The humanity of Jesus reveals to us how our lives look empowered by the Holy Spirit and the Apostles live this out in Acts. The life of Christ embodies what our lives can look like with fully trusting in the work of God.

3. Examine the list you make for your life versus the one God has given you.

This thought came from a passing comment during her session. I have created more lists of plans and goals, that perhaps Christ has never called me to do. Matt. 11:28-29 refers to the load He has called us to carry. Becoming more like Christ means living with His expectations for our lives.

4. Create the space for silence and solitude.

For many of us silence does not come easy. My mind wanders and I struggle with no noise. Practicing silence creates space to listen to God. The Norte Dame Retreat House provided a picturesque scene to experience the presence of God.

As we begin this week, how is God speaking to you?

The Power of Showing Up

The movie Hardball debut in 2001. Keanu Reeves portrays a wayward coach to a group of misfit little league players in Chicago. In one of the final scenes, Reeves turns to the players and says this:

What I’ve learned from you is that really one of the most important things in life is showing up. I’m blown away by your ability to show up through everything that’s gone on.

726538_72151427 (1)The ability to show up communicates a powerful message. Think of your childhood. Whether you played sports, performed in recitals, or displayed your art pieces, you will remember those who showed up. Those individuals took the time to not only say, but they visibly showed you they believed in you.

Most people can come up with a million excuses not to show up. Don’t get me wrong, we need to setup healthy boundaries. But possibly the greatest difference you can make in someone’s life is simply showing up. Perhaps, our greatest example comes from Christ. The Incarnation is the theology of “showing up.” The Son of God made Himself present to us (Philippians 2:5-11).

How are you showing up for others today?

A Personal Letter – Three Years Younger and Single

Dear Peter,

Three years from now, your life will be completely different. You will not even believe how it will unfold. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a few observations on your life. Hopefully, this journey can provide assistance and perspective for others in the midst of theirs.1426825_30079170

You define your life by the following: height, age, relational status, career, accomplishments and what people think of you. Somehow, the lies of these definitions have remained in embedded in your soul. All throughout this process of growing, Jesus Christ will graciously surround you with people and provide circumstances to help you see the truth. He is far more present in your life than you can notice.

Many of your friends will start dating and get married. Celebrate wholeheartedly with them. One of the greatest miracles is when God brings a man and woman together. Often, you feel left out, because you feel couples tend to spend time with each other. These couples need the support of each other. Also, they covet your prayers and encouragement. Your friends value you and they are there for you. Cherish the time you have with these phenomenal people.

On singleness; sensitivity is both a strength and flaw for you. People can sense you care, but your sensitivity can fuel your self-pity. What you feel matters, but temper it with the truth of God’s grace. Singleness can cause people to feel alone and forgotten, but singleness is also wonderful gift. Instead of fueling your pain, seek to minister to the lonely people in your life. Remember how you feel as single and help people realize that Christ brings wholeness to individuals and not a change in status. Communicate that to people, single or married.

Here are a couple practical things. Take the Dave Ramsey class. You need to get on a budget. Enjoy all of your recruitment trips to Upstate New York. Remain open to random opportunities. You will appreciate the words of Philip Yancey, “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

Lastly, God’s plan for our lives is far better than we could ever imagine. Communicate that to others.

Sincerely,

Peter three years from now

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