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I Guess I’m Not A Very Good Christian

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I guess I’m not a very good Christian.

I don’t think it’s a big deal when a sports star comes out and talks about how Christian they are. I also don’t think it’s a big deal when a different one comes out as gay.

I think Jesus had a lot more negative things to say about religious people than anyone else.

Even though I think the unborn have just as much a right to life as I do, I think they have a right to be healthy once they’re out of the womb, too.

I think rights and freedoms are two different things, and I don’t think either one of those things are under attack when someone else has them too.

I’m not interested in calling some girl I don’t know a slut because she got pregnant before she got married.

I don’t believe the Constitution, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, Supreme Court decisions, or the words of the Founding Fathers to be God-breathed.

I don’t think rape victims were asking for it.

I think there’s a big difference between being outspoken for your faith and plastering Bible verses on yourself just to make sure everyone knows what your beliefs are.

I think straight people are doing just fine destroying the sanctity of marriage.

I think most poor people would love nothing more than to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter their family without anyone’s help.

I’m pretty sure Jesus said that those who live by the sword die by the sword.

I’m also pretty sure the good old days everyone wants to get back to were only good if you were a white male.

Given the past 1500 years or so of human history, I’m not very comfortable playing the victim card.

I guess I’m just not a very good Christian.

Written by matt

May 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Prayer and Daddy Issues

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The message at church on Sunday was on prayer, specifically the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers the difference between a good prayer and a bad one right before giving the example known as the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor today made several good points about what prayer is supposed to be like and laid out a few things that were meant to encourage us to pray.

I’ve never been good at praying. For some reason it’s always felt so uncomfortable to me to talk to God the way we’re encouraged to by Jesus himself. The thing that is supposed to make it easy to pray is that Jesus refers to God as “your Father” who already knows what you want and who has your best interest at heart. What’s gotten me stuck for so many years is that it’s hard for me, and I imagine for others who grew up this way, that picturing God as a good and loving father is a completely foreign concept. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve finally been able to conjure up an apt analogy.
Maybe some of you grew up like this, maybe you didn’t, but did you ever have a friend whose dad was maybe just a bit scarier than yours when you were a little kid? Like maybe he was a bigger guy, or had a more intimidating look,or didn’t smile as much, or maybe just smelled more like alcohol or cigarettes than your own dad. That’s how every dad was for me when I was a boy for the simple reason that there was a masculine authority there that was completely unfamiliar to me. For me, praying to THE HEAVENLY FATHER feels like approaching my friend’s dad to ask for a favor that he doesn’t owe me. When you grow up without a dad (or with a super crappy one, I’d imagine) it skews your perception of who God says he is for the simple fact that our feeble minds can’t comprehend who God actually is and have to draw comparisons to familiar ideas. God is consistently referred to as a father throughout the Bible which says two things to me: that we are to see Him as approachable and loving, and that fathers have an incredible and important responsibility/opportunity in their child’s lives.

To me, praying is still in my mind the equivalent to interrupting my friend’s dad while he’s busy with his own kids to ask a favor I’m not owed. My honest hope (and prayer, I guess) is that through being an earthly father myself I’ll begin to better understand what a good loving father really looks like and feel more at ease approaching my own Father.

Written by matt

February 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

“So, how’s does it feel to be a dad??”

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I’ve never heard that question prior to six weeks and five days ago. Now, it’s all I can do to go a day without being asked that. It doesn’t bother me. I’m sure most people have questions they get asked all the time. Being in a touring band for a good long time you get very used to hearing the same questions all the time and so get used to having your awesome (and always witty) stock answer ready to deploy. I’ve been answering this question since he was born and for the first time with one of these types to questions, I’ve probably answered differently every time I’ve been asked. There’s simply not a good (conversationally short) answer that could really communicate everything I’ve been feeling. This blog is my attempt at really explaining how I feel so far about being a dad.

First, there’s the wide range of emotions. Now, a year ago, after spending some months in counseling I would occasionally make the joke of, “Yeah, counseling is going great. I’m up to four feelings now.” Having a kid has kind of opened the flood gates as far as that’s concerned. I’ve felt things I didn’t know were even possible. Here’s a small sampling of the different feelings I’ve recently experienced:

-Absolute joy at seeing my son for that first time
-The weight of knowing God holds me responsible for him
-Euphoric peace when we take naps together
-Frustration at not being able to figure why he’s crying this time
-Sadness at seeing him cry with his little lower lip quivering
-Immense pride whenever he does anything
-Deeper love than I thought possible watching my wife be such an amazing mother to him
-Out and out rage towards my father for choosing anything else than what I get to experience with my son
-Curiosity about what my son is going to be like as he grows up
-Surprised at how much I’m not grossed out by all his bodily functions that need constant attention
-Sheer unadulterated exhaustion

That’s just a sampling and it’s already more than double my previous number of feelings.

Before having my son, I would ask new dads all the time what it felt like to be a dad and a recurring theme was them saying that there’s no words that can do it justice; that it was so intense they couldn’t really explain it. Being on this side of it now, I think I understand what they meant by that.

Do you know what white noise is? Or the snowy static that used to come on old analog TV’s? It’s not really the absence of a certain picture or frequency, it’s actually every frequency on display at once. The TV static is every light frequency at once and white noise is every audio frequency all at once. Part of the reason it’s been so hard to accurately tell people how it feels to be a dad is because of the number of emotions involved. The hardest thing to explain is that I’ve literally felt every emotion I’m capable of feeling all at the same time all the time. It is, in a very real sense, a constant white noise of emotions.

I think I have my witty stock answer for when people ask me that now.

Written by matt

August 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Reflections on a Father’s Day

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(I wrote this late Sunday night, but haven’t gotten to finish it until today.)

I really wanted to have a great blog post for Father’s Day. It’s been my entire life that I’ve seen this day as something that I’m left out of, and this year is the first one that I’ve gotten to celebrate. Despite the fact that it started out with so much promise, it ended with a bit of a letdown.

This was the first Father’s day that I really feel like I got to celebrate instead of doing my usual reflections on my abandonment issues. My lovely, nine-months-pregnant wife made me breakfast this morning and really went out of her way to emphasize how much of a great dad she thinks I’ll be. She knows what this day has meant to me previously and what it gets to mean to me now. I even (coincidentally) got a very welcome surprise phone call from my sister. It turns out one of my brothers is also expecting a baby only a few weeks after me. Lastly, I had a show tonight and that always puts me in a good mood.

About halfway through the four hour drive though the day took kind of a weird left turn. I’ll spare you the gritty details, but suffice it to say that there were many phone calls and frantic text messages with a few more (likely) uncomfortable phone calls in my near future.

I tend to be a “live and let live” kind of guy for the most part. The phone calls will be uncomfortable for me because it’s the opposite of that, but it’s for the good of myself, my wife, and very soon, my son. And it’s just not fair. It has so little to do with me and I don’t want to do it and I shouldn’t have to.

That’s the trick, though, isn’t it?

The more I learn about what it means to be a man and a father, the more I hate that I would much rather just let things go at the risk of those things negatively affecting my family. I’m beginning to understand on so much a different level of what it means to sacrifice for your family and to lead and protect those who God places under you. This isn’t to excuse them, but I’m even better understanding why so many men just check out of the whole thing: it’s really freaking hard.

I’m not gonna check out though. The first reason is accountability, meaning everyone who reads this gets to administer a very serious ass kicking if I ever do check out. Another reason is that is that I’m already beginning to feel rewarded by doing the occasional really tough thing. I get to look at my wife and see how much she loves and trusts me, and one day I may get to see that from my son.

Written by matt

June 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Late Night Thought

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I often wonder what would happen if I truly felt free to write the things I feel like I need to.

Alright, I can’t end this week with that one sporadic and depressing thought. Instead, I’ll leave with a thank you to Karl over at guitarforworship.com for his amazingly kind words on his last post. I also have to say thank you to the entire team over at Newsong Church in Irvine for having me be a part of their Easter services and welcoming me and my wife as family. I feel extremely blessed by both of these parties and I honestly haven’t felt so loved by so many people as I have over the past week.

Written by matt

April 25, 2011 at 1:40 am

worship music vs. christian music (redux)

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[In my original post on this subject, I made a disclaimer about how I’m not an expert. I maintain that I’m no expert, but it’s not like I’m pulling this out of nowhere. I’m sure there are points of view other than those I discuss here, but what I have included are what I think are the major views that people on both sides of the stage hold to. I realize the danger of speaking in generalities, and I know there are exceptions to every claim I make here. You may very well write this whole thing off as the ranting of some snobby musician, but please keep in mind that I’ve tried to discuss this as even-handedly as possible.]

Worship takes many different forms, but the first thing that comes to mind in modern times as “worship” is music. I believe that this portion of a modern American church service is probably the most divisive issue amongst the churchgoing public. (I think the reason for this is that everyone, with a few exceptions, loves music.) Aside from what that divisiveness says about us a culture and what the meaning of “worship” really is, I’ve decided to wade into murky waters here and talk about the worship music that’s so familiar to us.

After spending some time over the past few weekends with different church worship leaders who have a passion for quality music, I realized that I may have failed to really draw a distinction between the Christian music (that I have ranted about before) you’re likely to hear on Christian radio stations and the music that is meant for congregational worship in a church atmosphere. I’ve long held the opinion that the two are different and should be, but I thought I should further explore that idea.

Have a conversation with just about any church worship leader or music director and you’ll be sure to pick up on how difficult their job really is. I’ve been able to spend some time with a few quality ones very recently and I don’t envy their position. It’s a job I could probably never do. The part of the job that is seemingly the most difficult is in relation to the music itself. Every musician whose heart is consumed by music wants it to be the best it can, but church members typically aren’t musicians themselves and there’s a lot more of them on any given Sunday.

I think that’s where the major problems come up; not that most churchgoers aren’t musicians, but that churchgoers often don’t know what they really want, which is as much not their fault as it is anyone else’s. If it’s an easy song to sing that most people know, the worship band gets complaints that it’s growing stagnant and doesn’t play anything new. If the band plays a song that is on the cutting edge, they get complaints that no one could follow along. If it feels like a concert atmosphere, it’s too loud; if it’s not high enough energy, it’s limp and ineffective. Churchgoers are not the only ones to voice complaints like this. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s the pastors that are the loudest voices about things like this. Rather than go on another rant of some kind, I’ve decided to simply lay out a couple points and explain the inherent and unfortunate discrepancies between what is wanted and what is needed in worship music.

• Song Selection— My experience with playing at several different churches in front of many different people seems to lean towards the typical churchgoer wanting to hear what’s either on the radio or that one song from that last live worship album they bought. The problem with that is there’s constantly new songs being pushed on radio or released online. If they got what they wanted they’d constantly be learning new songs instead of focusing on what the words are saying to them. Also, there’s simply not enough time in a typical church service to throw in that awesome Hillsong United song that has two different choruses and runs at 10 minutes long.

• Creativity— Ask a churchgoer, or the musicians for that matter, and you’re likely to hear that they want the music to be as creative as possible. I believe their intentions when they say this, but I’m not sure if either group knows that truly looks like. Some of the more forward thinking Christian artists out there that try to write music to be used in church (David Crowder, Phil Wickham, Gungor) don’t get played much at all. Please hear me on this: with creativity comes complexity. There aren’t many amateur musicians that can play what Gungor or Crowder can play and there are even fewer vocalists that can sing what Phil Wickham or Brooke Fraser can sing. If there are so few vocalists that can do that, what chance does the average churchgoer have? In addition to this is the quality vs. quantity issue. When you make a huge dish of food for a lot of people, the quality is never as good as when you make that same dish for four people. Likewise, when you play a song that a group have people have sought out and memorized every word and chord change because they love it so much, the creativity/complexity/quality can be much higher than playing a song with the mindset that people who have never heard it before will easily catch on and sing along to. To put it another way, when you go to a party where there’s loud music on, you don’t expect or necessarily even want to hear the most creative music in the world. You probably want songs that are easy to sing or dance along to. That’s nothing spiritual or age biased, that’s just human nature. Everyone loves Johnny Cash until you hear him in a club.

• Volume— This is perhaps the single most contentious issue in modern worship music. Most churchgoers want it to be “rockin!” like that Chris Tomlin concert they just saw. Other churchgoers want it to have a more respectful or solemn tone. Every musician wants it to be loud. Almost every pastor doesn’t want to scare away the congregation with volume. I could very easily write an essay twice as long as this blog post on this single issue, but for now I’ll just say this: some people love when it rains and others hate it; if God can’t make everyone happy all the time, then neither should you.

I would love to say that I have any kind of a solution whatsoever, but I don’t. The fact remains that there is a fundamental difference between the music that is produced for the purposes of entertainment for Christians and that which is produced for the purposes of congregational worship.

While we’re on the subject: that stuff on Christian radio you hear is primarily produced for entertainment. If it’s a recording that is sold somehow, then it was primarily produced for entertainment (even if it’s entertainment for a specifically Christian audience). If you are able to connect with God in any way while listening to a song, that is a bonus for you and the songwriter who gets satisfaction from it. Christian songwriters usually do get personal satisfaction from that and hope to achieve that when they write a song. Christian songwriters are most likely worshipping God when they’re writing and performing their music, because it’s what God made them to do. They also know that to get everyone everywhere to connect to a song is impossible and that entertainment value is literally the least they can hope for, so they create to the best of their ability and hope that as many people as possible are able to connect to God through their song. It’s simply the difference between an artist’s realistic goals and their idealistic hopes.

So.

Here’s the difference. “Worship Music” can be any music that contains the truth, but because not all people in a church setting can connect to the same kind of creativity, the songs are often relegated to the lowest common denominator. “Christian Music” is any music that’s written for the sole enjoyment of Christians. Where we often fail is confusing one for the other out of place; producing Christian Music at the lowest common denominator, or expecting Worship Music to have more creative and artistic merit than a large group of people could not only understand, but echo back in their own voice. I have the utmost respect for those worship leaders striving to achieve the balance and living in the tension.

Written by matt

January 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Posted in God, rock and/or roll

my response

with 4 comments

it got way crazier than i expected on facebook the other day. (you can see for yourself here.) as most people know, i am for universal health care. i don’t believe in socialism, fascism, communism, capitalism, or too many other “-ism’s” for that matter. ferris bueller taught me that. the only beliefs i truly regard and try to follow are those passed down throughout the bible; specifically, what Jesus taught about loving God the Father and loving our neighbor as ourselves. after reading through the currently 46 comments, i thought i should maybe take the time to explain the reasons about why i’m so vocal about this issue.

i had health insurance as a kid, and like most kids, never really thought about it. then i turned 18 and was no longer under my mom’s coverage unless i currently lived with them and was in school. that only lasted a year. my mom and her new husband moved and i made a very difficult decision to stay in riverside despite not having a car that worked, a consistently paying job, or a place to live. i was a homeless college dropout for precisely one week. i also for the first time realized that i had almost literally no safety net. if i got sick, i couldn’t afford to get help. because i was technically self-employed i couldn’t qualify for low-income care either. fortunately, i’m a relatively healthy person overall and nothing really happened. during the two and a half years between then and when i got married, that was my situation. i got married and my wife happened to be going to a medical school. she had great coverage simply by being a student, but student’s spouses aren’t covered by that. we made just enough money to get by and there was definitely no room in our budget for me to buy health insurance. one day, i got sick. it was different than any other kind of sickness i’d ever dealt with, and i was scared. after a couple days, we made the hard decision to go to the emergency room. my poor wife was so scared and worried about what it was going to cost us. we were just hoping and praying that it wasn’t something worse than it was for the sake of my well-being and eventually our finances. in the end, the virus of whatever it was ended up lasting about five days and i’m no worse for the wear. after a 20 minute doctor visit and a quick lab test, it actually only cost us about $150. it was a ton of money to us at the time, but we were able to pay it eventually. i can’t help but think about what might have happened if it would have been something worse though. it would have put us so deep into a financial hole that, between student loan payments and the the current economic climate, i don’t know we would have been able to get out of for quite some time.

i’m not for universal health care because i so strongly believe that wealthy people need to share. i think they should though, and hope that were i in their position would hold to that value. i honestly don’t care about the particulars of one reform plan versus another. also, the more i think about it, the more i become convicted that i shouldn’t care if illegal immigrants get health care or not. that last one is a struggle for me. my true honest belief that is the one that makes me think that health care for all should be a reality is that according to the Christian faith, money is not something to be withheld to the detriment of others. believe me, as far as political ideologies are concerned, i am for as little government as possible. our government is going to take our money anyway, and if they’re going to take it and use it for something like universal health care, then i’m much more ok with that than the myriad other uses of tax dollars.

i also feel the need to be completely open about the fact this isn’t some conviction i’ve decided upon a whim either. i struggle with this. like i said already, i’m not a fan of big government or even necessarily higher taxes. also, i periodically have to truly check my motives, more so if i’m bringing my religious convictions into play. i truly believe that every human being is a child of God whether they acknowledge that or not. we could very well be spending eternity with those souls our greed and selfishness has caused us to turn our backs on. most of my life i’ve felt like i didn’t totally agree with the idea of “christians are by default aligned with the republican right,” and a lot of the time feel like i’m fighting against a stereotype. if there’s one thing i’ve learned though, it’s that “fighting against” something is rarely, if ever, a better idea than fighting for something.

i don’t expect to have changed anyone’s mind with writing this. the most i’m really hoping is for whoever reads this to have a better understanding about where i’m coming from with this. in the meantime, let’s keep challenging each other. please, let’s all be checking our motives though, especially those of us who are called to have more eternally minded motives

Written by matt

November 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm

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