Books, Music, Podcasts and Practices That Helped Me Grow Up in 2018

If 2016 was full of challenging and unwanted surprises and 2017 was full of struggle and hardship, 2018 may have been worse. But each moment of pain and disappointment was met with a moment of sweet discovery and refreshment from the Lord. God uses music to comfort and inspire me; he uses books to inject wisdom and awareness; and even technology to shape and structure my days. Here is a list of what God used this year to help me Grow Up.

Music

Waylon Live – Jennings was from the same home town as my parents, Littlefield, Texas. I have always been more of a Willie guy but this album is pure country rock and one great song after another. I can’t say any of the songs helped me Grow Up but each time I listened to it, I got a little buzzing in my chest and was able to break the scales off of some of my stress for the day. Music has the power to sooth and ease a burdened spirit, this album did it for me.

Podcasts

Renovare PodcastEpisode 111– I ended up listening to this podcast several times and even played it for my staff at a moment of deep despair and hurt. This episode is full of wonderful stories of the great saint Corrie Ten Boom. We can never be reminded enough that God is more powerful than our circumstances and deeper than our lowest points.

Things Above – I talked about this podcast recently and make a point of listening to it weekly. Hosted by AE creator James Bryan Smith, the focus is on mind discipleship, where we place our mind. Most episodes are less than 20 minutes and full of holy thoughts and keen insight to help with the spiritual life’s most difficult task – setting our minds on things above.

Tim Ferriss Show – Episode 319 – This is a special episode where Ferriss plays clips from the audio version of Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is The Way. I faced a debilitating fear during the summer that I desperately wanted to overcome. I listened to this episode over and over to help me to see that fear wasn’t going to win and if I could work through this, I would have a great sense of accomplishment and growth.

black tablet computer behind books

Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com

Technology

Kindle, Audible, Readwise – As a librarian, you would think that I would be partial to the printed work and in some ways I am. This year, though, I embraced eBooks and Audiobooks like never before.

Audible allows me to listen to books on my way to work, while Kindle allows me to always have books with me while keeping a better record of what stood out for me in the text.In addition, I discovered that my Kindle stores all of my highlights in one spot, so I can scroll through them without having to go page by page looking for highlighted sections. When I finished the Apprentice Experience, I went back through all of our readings and re-read my highlights using the Kindle. I don’t think I would have done this with paper copies.

Then, just last month, I discovered Readwise. This app accesses your Kindle highlights and sends you five randomly selected highlights in a daily digest email. I look forward to reading these everyday and have started to share some of my favorites on Social Media.

Practices

Miracle Hour – This manual for spending an hour with God has been exactly what I was looking for. Worship, scripture, confession, and surrender, it is all here. I have only done the full hour once but I will take one section a day and devote about 10 minutes to it as part of my meditation time. If you have the desire for a deeper devotional life but need structure to make it work, this practice is for you.

Small Group – God orchestrated the creation of a small group at my workplace with very little effort or organizing on my part. In fact, people started to approach me out of the blue to make it happen. This was a classic case of if it is to be, it will not be from me. I just facilitated what God was already doing and provided a little intention to it, God did the rest and our times together have been wonderful, convicting, encouraging, and Spirit-filled. This has been one of the great treasures of my year.

Books and Reading

Articles – I always think that I will have added time in my day to read articles that I have discovered while browsing the internet and social media. I often collect things to read that I never get around to. This year, I made a point to read one short article (about 3-8 minutes) and 10 minutes of a longer article on a regular basis (about 3 times a week). This has given me access to great stories, important issues, and helpful wisdom.

As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson – A collection of Peterson’s sermons from his more than 35 years of pastoring a church, As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire helped me connect with scripture in new and fresh ways and helped me see God more and more in the day-to-day of life. I finished this just before Peterson died in October. I am glad I was able to appreciate him to such an extent in his final moments on this earth.

Becoming Dallas Willard, Gary Moon – I approached this book with caution. Being such a devotee of Willard, I was preparing myself to be disappointed or underwhelmed. Plus, I knew so much about him, I thought I would appreciate the book but not discover anything particularly new. Instead, I was transformed by the book and inspired to live a more personal, direct life with Christ. God working in and through Willard is miraculous and also rather ordinary, just they way all of us should want God to work in and through us.

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Books, Songs, Podcasts and Practices That Helped Me Grow Up in 2017

I am indebted to the mentors, the muses, and the motivations I gained this past year from a wide range of areas. Each item is something that I was exposed to in 2017 that had a high impact on me changing and maybe even growing up.

Music

Band of Horses – Last January was so full of stress and tension that my only moment of respite would be the last 10 minutes of my work day when I would turn on two songs by Band of Horses. “In a Drawer” and “Casual Party” had the right mixture of triumphant rock and moodiness to break some of the tension and bring a little catharsis to my overwhelmed state.

Andrew Bird – My go-to reflective, relaxing, holding the tension between pain and praise music. Every drive back from Abilene, where my Dad suffered his last days, included a six song playlist from Bird.

Podcasts

Pray As You Go – A common companion on my runs, this app provides the listener with 10-12 minute meditations on scripture along with music and time of reflection. If you want to recharge your approach to scripture, this podcast will do the trick.

The Invitation – Josh Banner has the typical interview format but regularly will have 20 minute spiritual retreats that have been very meaningful to me. A recent one covered lament, which was very appropriate to my situation. Also, his 5-minute prayer episodes are great for making spiritual things more accessible.

Building a Storybrand Podcast – I re-listened to the first 6-7 episodes twice and was inspired each time. These Podcasts are helping shape me into the kind of manager I want to be as a director of a library.

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Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

Books

Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd – I was inspired by the heart, intellect, and the spirit of God working in Zahnd’s book, Beauty Will Save the World. I heard him speak at the Apprentice Gathering and heard him mention his book, Water to Wine. This book chronicles his movement from a typical American pastor at a typical American large church to a more contemplative and spiritually rich pastor. His story is remarkable and his courage to transform his ministry after decades of doing it a certain way is inspiring.

Healing the Heartbreak of Grief by James Flamming – The author was a pastor at the church I grew up. Even as a kid, I remember his ability to mix the heady, the spiritual, and the practical in wonderfully concise and accessible ways. He is a great communicator. In this book, he does the same thing with the concept of grief. I have stepped away from this book with a better understanding of what grief is and how it works and also have been healed in the process.

Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen – I have given this book out to many people who are experiencing pain or struggle. In light of my own struggles, I began reading this again for myself. The entries from this book are taken from Nouwen’s personal journal when he was in a deep point of struggle. Not every entry applies to every person’s situation but the one’s that do are like they were written just for you.

Experiences

Running – The practice of running is so time consuming that in the past I have had to choose blogging or running because I couldn’t do both. But this year, I realized how much I love running and how helpful it is to me physically and spiritually. Running is such a good stress reliever and if I wasn’t running, I wouldn’t spend much time outdoors, which is not good for my mental state. When I think about the many gifts my Dad gave to me during his life, running might be one of the most meaningful.

Fasting – About a month after my Dad’s death, I took a day and a half and fasted. I wanted to give time and intention to my grief and all that I needed to do to move forward. This was one of the best decisions I could have made. This time was so rich with memories, nudges from God, insights from scripture, and healing. I have now committed to practice these fasts quarterly.

Examen – Our days just move along to their usual conclusion and then we reboot and do it all over again. There is often no time for reflection, for gratitude, for confession, for a challenge. Peter Scazzero, in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, lays out a simple method of what church history has called Examen. At the end of each day, you practice the following:

  • Be grateful for God’s blessings.
  • Review the day with openness and gratitude, looking for times when God has been present and times you may have ignored him.
  • Pay attention to your emotions in order to listen to God.
  • Express sorrow for sin and ask for God’s forgiving love.
  • Pray for the grace to be more available to God who loves you.

This practice has allowed me to not end my day with stress, anxiousness, disappointment, and guilt; which I am so prone to do. Instead, I place myself back into God’s hands and know that I can trust him with the outcomes and with the promise of the next day.

 

Exciting News: Fund Raising Party (feat. Chad and Melissa Edgington)

On Oct. 7, join me and the fabulous musical duo of Chad and Melissa Edgington for a night of great music, laughter, good people, and TACOS.

The event will be at La Taxqueno Tacquiera in Dallas, Texas (207 W. Suffolk Ave.). 6:30-8:30.

All are invited, kids too!

The purpose behind the night is to get good people, who care about how God is changing their life, all together in one spot for community and a wonderful night together.

Also, there will be an opportunity to give to my future ministry plans through the launch of Grow Up Ministries and to contribute to my completion of the 18-month training in discipleship, the Apprentice Experience.

Spread the word and I will see you on Oct. 7.

If you can’t make it but would like to donate, please do so here.

Questions? Leave a comment or contact me at 972-352-0125.

 

 

My Favorite Songs For Experiencing God

In 2012, I wrote the following: “I think that I would be less of a person if I did not have music in my life. And I also think that God uses music to reach us because to experience music is to participate in something that is more than just an intellectual exercise or a rational exchange but a spiritual activity… I also find that when I am enjoying music the most is also when I am most in tuned to God and his inspiration.”

https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/187381517_1280x724.jpg

I still believe this today, so I decided to create a playlist full of 12 songs that have helped me in my attempts to Grow Up. Music is a very subjective thing, so some of you may be perplexed by some of my choices but I guarantee you that some of the songs will have great impact on your ability to reflect on God, your own life story and God’s work around you.

Get the playlist.

Scripture tells us to behold the glory of the Lord. One of the best ways I know to do this is through music and these songs are at the top of my list to make that happen.

To listen to the full playlist and see my notes on how these songs have impacted me, donate any amount here and I will send the playlist to you.

For a preview of five of the songs see my Facebook page from this week.

Happy listening.

Get the playlist now.

photo credit: under the bridge

Good For The Soul Playlist

Music guitar

Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

In my last post, I talked about the profound impact of music on the spiritual life. I also promised that I would provide a playlist of songs that have enriched my spiritual life. Below you will find the link to this playlist.

If you are expecting a list of praise songs and hymns you might be surprised. This list contains songs that have impacted me on a deeper level. I can’t really predict which songs will have this kind of impact. Just because a song is sold at Christian bookstores doesn’t mean that it will reach my soul. Music is a very personal thing. Sometimes it may be the lyrics that touch you, sometimes it may be the singing or melody, and sometimes it may simply be the beat. I hope you take a listen and feel free to share with me your own list.

http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Good+For+The+Soul/65815002

Who Taught This Baby To Dance? And Other Musical Questions

Blogger Glenn McDonald once said that, “Music is the art form that humans do best.” This quote has always fascinated me and I have often thought about it and tried to determine if he is correct. What I have discovered is that music has a deep connection with the soul.

Have you ever noticed how toddlers do not have to be taught to dance? If there is music playing anywhere, it is not surprising to see an 8-13 month old child bouncing in a way that can only be categorized as dancing. I bet this is within any culture as well. Apparently, we are created to have an overwhelming urge to respond to music. There is something in the deepest part of our selves, I will call it the soul, that can be enriched, or disrupted, by music.

Some of the ways that I have used music to enrich my soul have been as a means of meditation, relaxation, celebration, worship, and reflection. Though my distraction obsessed self fights against it, I often know that my drive home from work will be much more fulfilling if I turn off the sports talk radio and listen to more music. I also find that when I am enjoying music the most is also when I am most in tuned to God and his inspiration.

I think that I would be less of a person if I did not have music in my life. And I also think that God uses music to reach us because to experience music is to participate in something that is more than just an intellectual exercise or a rational exchange but a spiritual activity.

In the next post, I will provide a music playlists of songs that have enriched my spiritual life.

Spiritual Mentors: Michael Roe

This week, I am profiling people who have had the most influence on my Christian spiritual life. Today’s profile is of a musical artist that most people have never heard of.

Mike Roe

His Influence: The first song that I ever heard from the 77s, the band that Mike Roe founded in the late 70s, had a line that goes, “You spit out Manna, God sends quails.” I snapped to attention. I had been exposed to Contemporary Christian Music, and all of its superficial fluff and lame melodies, for so long that I hadn’t realized that an honest lyric and edgy rock music was even possible from a group of Christians. I picked up the album(actually a tape) and probably played it non-stop for a year. The album had it all –  longing, celebration, teenage angst, blues, beauty, and a voice that was both haunting and uplifting.

Who was this guy? All I had was a band photo and a name in the liner notes. How did he mix longing, doubt, and disappointment with hope and faith? I was a confused teenager who didn’t think anyone could identify with me, who had very rarely had any kind of message reach into my soul and touch it with such poignancy as Roe’s songs did. I began to frantically search for older albums by the band. Every find was like another “letter from home”. It seemed like every song he wrote was one that related to me. He wrote about teenage lust, about the difficulty in forgiving others, and the superficiality of personal accolades. And Roe and the band encapsulated these subjects in pop songs that jangled and dripped with hooks or in rock songs that were so refreshingly bare for that overbloated musical time period.

The one song that meant the most to me and seemed to sum up my life during my high school and college years was a song entitled, “Come and Gone”:

The wrong places at all the wrong times
Too far ahead, too many years behind
Make-up my face to hide another line
But it’s a waste when all your precious prime’s

Come and gone
Come and gone
Baby, come on

And now you’re coming to me every day
You’re telling me it’s gonna be O.K.
And though my story isn’t much to read
If I’ve got you, the rest is history

Life is tough, our lives are broken but in Jesus we have a story to be grafted in to. A story with a glorious ending that can, even in the darkest times, be experienced right now and right here. Roe discussed his faith at a bare bones level that I needed as I muddled through my teenage years. In Roe’s music, I found comfort, hope, and an identity that was real and authentic and without fluff and church- speak. He has the most glorious ability to sweep you away through music and then knock you over the head with a lyric, or maybe it is the other way around. No matter, it is utter genius and something that I praise God for every time I listen.

What Mike Roe can teach you: “In this world you will have trouble. (Some of it self imposed) But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Mike Roe recommendations: If you want to experience Mike Roe and the 77s for yourself, check out these recommendations.

77s – Sticks and Stones – my first 77s album and the perfect choice for new listeners.

77s – 88 – The greatest live album of all time.

Michael Roe – Say Your Prayers – this should be the Christian Life Hacker soundtrack.

‘Society’s Policy’ Can Damage Your Christian Life

The Seven Storey Mountain

Image via Wikipedia

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”
Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain)

The Merton quote above paints a stark picture of a society that is addicted to falseness and superficiality.  Do you agree with his assessment or is it an overstatement? What can we eliminate from our lives to help break this addiction to artificial desire and “synthetic passions?” Maybe then we will experience the God whose existence is rich, deep, unfathomable, powerful, and unceasing.

One thing that we can do is simply eliminate the amount of information clutter in our lives. I find that the more information that is flooding my way the more jumbled and distracted my mind becomes and the more susceptible I am to the falseness that Merton describes. Here are a few things I do to limit my information intake:

1. Take a real lunch break – I am such an information junkie that I could spend my entire lunch break surfing the web and reading countless web sites but it leaves me disjointed and jumbled. I try to get out of the building, take a book of fiction, and just disengage for a while.

2. Listen to more music – instead of listening to news as I get ready for the day I listen to a CD, instead of listening to sports talk radio in the car I listen to my MP3 player. It really helps at the end of the day when I need that “cool down” period to move from work mode to family mode.

3. Keep the Sabbath – I try to get all of my “honey dos” and errands done on Saturday so that Sunday is open for worship, rest and time with family. We have to unplug from the “tyranny of the urgent” and just be for a time.

Has any of our discussion over the last three days given you some thoughts on what you will be intentionally eliminating from your life next week? Again, I will be going on a Sports Fast from Monday through Sunday. I would encourage you to pray about it and make it an activity that God is involved in from the very beginning. I would also caution you to be wary of choosing something that is too big and too difficult. If you have not had much experience with fasting you will want to start small and make it doable.