Graduate Warning

A little warning for our High School Graduates. 

Growing up can often be a disappointing process. When you’re 10, you imagine that becoming a “teenager” will change everything. But a few days after your 13th birthday, you realize that things are pretty much the same. Then you start dreaming about turning 16, and getting your license, which is cool; but again, you quickly recognize that it doesn’t make as much difference as you thought. Even 18 is that way. Yeah, you’re legally an adult now, yet you still have to turn in your homework and get up for school the next day.

But finishing High School is different. Though you may not sense it immediately, the rules have changed dramatically. Up to this point, there was a system specifically designed to carry you along. There was a whole panel of adults (e.g. parents, grandparents, pastors, youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, counselors…) assigned to provide guidance, boundaries, bedtimes, wake-ups, rides, resources, and incentives to stay on the right track.

There were organized activities intended specifically for you, like sports teams, school plays, dances, and 4H club. And there was an education system built to pretty much ensure your success. As long as you cooperated (i.e. showed up with a decent attitude) with these processes, you were almost guaranteed to make it through.

But now, that all changes. Almost your entire support staff got laid off at graduation, and adulthood is very much a give and take proposition. Generally, you get out of it what you put into it. Even staying in school changes.

Colleges and Universities are businesses. You pay to take their classes. If you don’t show up, the teacher isn’t going to come looking for you. If you don’t turn in your work, they will not scold you, or even ask about it. If you fail the class, they will happily allow you to pay them to take the course over again next semester.

The workplace, and relationships, and almost every other facet of life works similarly. What you receive from it will be proportional to what you’ve put into it.  If you want to have a great marriage, a successful career, or even to live in an exceptional community, you will need to invest yourself (i.e. time, energy, passion…) in it.

Graduation isn’t your retirement from the hard work of high school, it’s your promotion to the Varsity team of life, and the ball’s now in your hands.

Simply showing up, empty handed, will no longer get it done. Ultimately, life was never meant to be a spectator sport – so I’d highly recommend that you dive in, and I wish you the best.

P.S. – Don’t be intimidated, you’re stronger than you know.                                        

Eve was God’s response to what He saw missing in Adam’s existence. She wasn’t created to do everything he could do, she was created to do what he couldn’t do for himself.  We weren’t meant to compete, we were meant to complete.

In order to qualify as a “Follower” you must be willing to allow someone else to take the lead, and then base your responses on their cues.

There should be a marked difference between a “Reporter” and a “Narrator”.  One should be bound by facts, while the other is simply promoting their narrative. Clearly this distinction is evaporating within our culture.

The measure isn’t how well we love those who love us (Matt.5:46), it’s how well we love those who don’t (Matt.5-44-45), and our relationship towards the “least of these” (Matt.25:40).

5 Heartbreaking Songs

Ronan – Taylor Swift:  Created in the era when Swift’s compositions were more heartfelt than attitude filled, this song is based on the true story of a 4yr old boy (Ronan) who succumbed to cancer.  It is written, and sung from the perspective of the young mother he left behind.

What if I’m standing in your closet trying to talk to you?
What if I kept the hand-me-downs you won’t grow into?
And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through?
What if the miracle was even getting one moment with you?

Come on baby with me, we’re gonna fly away from here
Come on baby with me, we’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

Jungleland – Bruce Springsteen:  In the midst of this nine-and-a-half-minute rock opera, Springsteen includes a moment of personal tragedy, where we watch as the last flicker of hope for a better tomorrow is extinguished.

Beneath the city two hearts beat
Soul engines running through a night so tender
In a bedroom locked in whispers
Of soft refusal and then surrender
In the tunnels uptown the Rat’s own dream guns him down
As shots echo down them hallways in the night
No one watches when the ambulance pulls away
Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light

Promises – Randy Travis:  This tale of broken promises is made all the more poignant by the fact it comes forth in the voice of the man who is perpetuating the emotional carnage.  As clearly as he sees the virtue in his girl’s heart, he also sees the inevitability of both his own failure, and of her eventual departure.  It is a devastatingly honest portrait of the treason within.

Once again, she’ll reassure me.
And I believe her love will cure me,
and I’ll fall asleep with tears on my face.
And I know she’s just a woman,
and her love can’t last forever.
And someday soon, I know
she’ll leave without a trace.

For, broken promises will tear her dreams apart.
Just token promises will someday
break her heart,
and for the last time, she’ll hold me
when I cry, and while I’m sleeping…
she’ll quietly say goodbye…

Diary – Bread:  What begins as a seemingly sweet discovery of unexpressed love takes a subversive turn when the narrator suddenly realizes that he is not the object of her affection.  Perhaps even more bittersweet, is his vow to wish nothing but the best for her anyway.

I found her diary underneath a tree
And started reading about me
The words began to stick and tears to flow
Her meaning now was clear to see
The love she’d waited for
was someone else not me
Wouldn’t you know it
She wouldn’t show it

And as I go through my life
I will wish for her his wife
All the sweet things she can find
All the sweet things they can find

At Seventeen – Janis Ian:  This brutally honest depiction of the struggles that accompany adolescence is as emotionally raw as anything to ever come across the airwaves.

To those of us who know the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

  1. Eric Burdon & War:  Eric Burdon rose to fame in the early to mid-1960s as the lead singer of the British Invasion band, The Animals (House of the Rising Sun, It’s My Life…).  And though their sound was solidly rooted in rhythm and blues, few could have forecast his re-emergence in 1970, fronting the California Funk band, War.  Their classic, “Spill the Wine” was an unprecedented stew of funk, psychedelia, and beat poetry.  Over fifty years later, it still defies categorization.
  2. Bing Crosby & David Bowie:  The contrast between 1940s Crooner, Bing Crosby, and 70s Glam Rocker, David Bowie couldn’t have been more dramatic, and it remains unclear who thought their collaboration might be a good idea.  Even less likely, was the selection of a children’s Christmas song as the vehicle for their duet.  None the less, their medley of Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth created a memorable moment, when two iconic artists from differing generations came together in a completely unexpected way.  Crosby would pass away in the weeks that followed their session.
  3. Carly Simon & Mick Jagger:  Though Jagger’s backup vocals on the Simon classic, “You’re So Vain” aren’t substantial, they are memorable.  And given his iconic counterculture status during the 1971 recording, his participation as a backup singer for the Pop Chanteuse seemed highly unlikely.
  4. Michael Jackson & Eddie Van Halen:  Despite the huge success of the Jackson 5, Michael’s four solo projects for the Motown label were far less celebrated.  That all changed in 1979, as Jackson switched to the Epic label, and worked with Producer, Quincy Jones, on his breakthrough album, “Off the Wall”.  It was Jones who suggested the inclusion of a “rocker” for the follow-up album, and when they approached Eddie Van Halen, he happily jumped in.  The resulting, “Beat It” sold over 8 million singles, while the “Thriller” album went on to sell over 50 million units, making this one of the most successful songs of all-time.
  5. Aerosmith & Run DMC:  It’s hard to remember that there was once a time when the Rock and Hip-Hop worlds didn’t substantially intersect, but this was the song that most prominently broke down that barrier.  At the time of it’s release, such a collaboration was unthinkable, but within a few short years, the air waves were filled with rap/rock tunes.
  6. Johnny Cash & Rick Rubin:  Rick Rubin made his name in the 1980s, as the cofounder of Def Jam Records, and as a Producer of Hip-Hop artists like LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Run DMC.  Later in the decade he went on to produce numerous Hard Rock / Heavy Metal bands as well.  But it was his collaboration with the legendary Country artist, Johnny Cash that ultimately caught everyone off guard.  While it may have seemed like a mismatch on paper, the records they created indicate otherwise.
  7. Stevie Nicks & Prince:  On the heels of the wildly successful Fleetwood Mac album, “Rumours”, Stevie Nicks launched her solo career in 1981 with the multi-platinum album, “Bella Donna”.  And as she prepared for her follow-up record (1983s “Wild at Heart”), she found inspiration in the form of the Prince classic, “Little Red Corvette”.  Borrowing from both the melody and sound, she created the foundation of her hit single, “Stand Back”.  Though it was a marked change from her grittier rock/folk sound, it proved to be equally successful.  In acknowledgement of her source material, she split the songwriter credits with Prince, and even managed to get him to play some keyboards on the track.
  8. Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole:  On the surface, there is nothing unusual about a father-daughter duet, especially when both are successful artists, but what makes this collaboration so unique is that it took place 25 years after the father’s death.  Natalie Cole was only 15 years old when her father, Nat King Cole passed away from lung cancer (1965), but thanks to the marvels of modern technology, their duet on “Unforgettable” resulted in the 1991 Grammys for Song, Record and Album of the Year.
  9. Kanye West, Rihanna & Paul McCartney:  This unlikely partnership (i.e. FourFive Seconds) began as a songwriting collaboration between West and McCartney, and further evolved with West’s involvement in the production of Rihanna’s album.  Though a bit of a departure for all three artists, it proved to be highly successful.  Ironically, many younger fans had no idea who Paul McCartney was.
  10. Lil NAS X & Billy Ray Cyrus:  The melding of Country music with Rap music hasn’t necessarily been a winning combination, so there wasn’t much reason to believe that a little-known rapper, and a largely forgotten country singer would do much to change that.  But “Old Town Road” went on to become one of the most successful singles of all time.

It is important to discern the difference between gifts, fruit, and anointing.  While the gifts are not rescinded (Rom.11:29), real fruit comes from abiding in the vine (John 15:4), and true anointing flows from the Head (1John2:20).  We must know them by their fruit (Matt.7:16)

Bi-Polar Disorder

The scripture plainly states that we both know, and prophesy in part (1Cor.13:9), that we see as through a glass dimly (1Cor.13:12), and that the wisdom of men is foolishness to God (1Cor.3:19).  It also warns that we should not lean on our own understanding (Prov.3:5-6), and encourages us to be slow to speak, and quick to listen (James1:19).  Despite these admonishments, Christendom is filled with a host of confident voices, weighing in on every imaginable topic, and/or current event.

Sadly, much of this commentary centers on critiques, and criticisms of other believers, with countless “ministries” devoted to little more than discrediting and disparaging other doctrines, practices, ministers, and ministries.  While we may rationalize that we’re simply trying to champion some sort of orthodox theology, to the naked eye it appears to be the anti-thesis of Jesus’ description of His body (i.e. they will know you by the way you love one another – John 13:35).  Indeed, we “Christians” seem far more adept at expressing what we’re against, than manifesting what we claim to believe in.

Recent events at Asbury Theological Seminary are a great example of how this works.  On one side, we have a chorus of voices attacking the authenticity of what’s happening there, based on a wide range of objections (e.g. it’s just emotionalism, no one is getting saved, there’s no legitimate authority, United Methodists are heretics…).  On the other side, there are people declaring it, “The Third Great Awakening”. 

Is it a revival, is it an outpouring, or is it hype?  What actually constitutes revival?  Do we really need revival?  How does this compare with other revivals?  Would God really manifest to a denomination who believes what they do?  And on, and on, and on.  Has there ever been a “Revival” that the religious establishment didn’t’ find a way to quench?

My question is, who really knows what’s happening at Asbury, and why is it so important to assume a position one way or another.  Many of the loudest voices belong to those who haven’t actually been there.  Even those who have attended can only speak to their own experience. 

Does it really matter if we call it revival, or an outpouring, or an awakening, or simply a really good prayer meeting?  Why are we so threatened by the idea that God might manifest Himself in a special way to a small group of young people?  Could it be rooted in the fear that God may be doing something in someone else’s building that He’s not doing in ours.

Conversely, what is the value of declaring this to be the beginning of the next great move of God?  After years of so called “Prophets” predicting an endless array of events that never actually happened, it seems prudent to simply watch and pray, lest we fall into the temptation to make something happen in our own strength.  Haven’t we already cast enough doubt with regard to the prophetic? 

When we process information through the lens of our own experience, what we’ve been taught, and how it makes us feel, we formulate opinions, which could rightfully be characterized as, “The way that seems right to us”.  From a scriptural standpoint (Prov.14:12) that leads to death. Indeed, it is often our insatiable need to express our opinion that leads to the death of relationship; as we gleefully brag about blocking and/or unfriending anyone who might disagree with our perspective.  Considering that relationship is the conduit through which the Lord works, this is no small matter. 

As the extremes of any particular topic continue to provoke us into an endless loop of contentious verbal jousting, there is one issue that gains clarity.  And that would be why our efforts toward discipleship aren’t more fruitful.  Indeed, who would want to become a part of a community where neighbors treated each other with such apparent contempt?  Who would want to marry into such a dysfunctional family?

If darkness is simply the absence of light, the only way for the dark to get darker is for the light to abdicate its position.

5 Favorite Singers

I’m not making a case that these are the five “greatest singers of all-time”, but they are amongst my all-time favorites.

5.  Peter Gabriel: 

Peter Gabriel’s vocals are certainly distinctive, and while he doesn’t possess what would be considered a traditionally great voice, his ability to effectively convey a wide range of emotions is uncanny.  Frequently his vocal performances are evocative and compelling.  Listen to “Biko”, “In Your Eyes”, “Red Rain”, “Don’t Give Up” (w/Kate Bush), “Blood of Eden”, “Secret World”…. 

4.  Burton Cummings:

Easily one of the most underrated vocalists of the rock era, this blue eyed soul powerhouse teamed with fellow Canadian Randy Bachman to create a host of memorable songs in the band the Guess Who.  Their ongoing lack of recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is further evidence of that organizations prodigious ineptitude. Checkout “These Eyes”, “Undone”, “No Time”, “Share the Land”, “No Sugar Tonight”, “American Woman”…  

3.  Ann Wilson:

Arguably the greatest female voice in rock history, Ann Wilson has created a catalogue of memorable vocal performances. Even when Heart’s music veered toward the pop-rock lane, Wilson’s singing remained an impressive centerpiece.  Listen to “Magic Man”, “How Deep it Goes”, “Crazy On You”, “Barracuda”, “Sylvan Song”, “Nada One”, “Rock and Roll (Live)”, “Alone”…

2.  Karen Carpenter:

There is no doubt that Richard Carpenter’s musical acumen was a huge part of the group’s success in the 1970’s, but it is those same arrangements / production elements that make their catalog sound so out of date today.  Even so, the transcendent quality of Karen Carpenter’s voice remains a timeless pop music treasure.   Listen to “Superstar”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Yesterday Once More”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “We’ve Only Just Begun”…

1.  Steve Perry:

Although dismissed by critics for their pop sound, Journey consistently created well produced, and highly listenable records.  Whatever they may have lacked in edginess, they more than made up for with virtuoso musicianship, and the impassioned vocals of singer Steve Perry.  Decades later, Perry is widely held as on the greatest vocalists of all-time.  Check out “Lights”, “Patiently”, “Walks Like a Lady (Live)”, “Still They Ride”, “Separate Ways”, “Send Her My Love”, “Faithfully”, “When You Love a Woman”…