Like an old Sabbath

A few weeks back, I was invited to do special music for the church I’ve been attending since I arrived in Houston. Given that I really had not other performance opportunities in sight, I accepted.

I haven’t played much, and I have honestly felt the void. On Monday, I had an excellent practice session. It was productive and fun—one of those you don’t get all the time. Then on Wednesday, while preparing the piece for Sabbath, I hated my guts because my altissimo register just plain sucked (that’s what practicing is more like on a daily basis).

So even though I generally don’t play music outside of the classical genre, I looked forward to performing once more, to feeling those nerves and the adrenaline, to enjoy being shaken by the beauty of music.

My faith has been faltering; my spirit has struggled with finding purpose, my self-esteem with the ever-challenging demands and expectations of a PhD program. But today, playing for the worship service at the West Houston Seventh-day Adventist Church, I felt fulfilled. Making music, participating in worship, if only for a moment, I was home.

The Sabbath closes and I thank God for a much-needed reminder of who He is even as I am overwhelmed with, not doubt, but questions. And I am grateful for another chance to make and share music. I needed it.

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#023 – Michael Paradise

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Before leaving Lincoln, Neb., for good, I sat down with Michael Paradise in his office at the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church where he serves as the young adult pastor. I was curious to know what it is like to work with young adults and what made him want that job—it may have something to do with having a pretty wife.

After a fun chat, I left so he could continue eating pizza and playing worship songs on the guitar, which is basically his job description—according to him, not his employer.

#022 – Honest and Self-revealing

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Slade and I have been spending quite a bit of time attempting to read at our local coffee shop, but we just end up talking whenever we run into each other. We decided to talk for the podcast about some of the Christian books we’ve read—or more specifically, just me ranting about an “honest and self-revealing” book I read. Enjoy!

This episode contains some explicit language.

This was our new set up! How does it sound (and look)?

In Times of (Some) Trouble

I’ve heard it’s easy to trust God when things are going great. When things are looking up, we look up. However, when crises arise we focus on what we can do instead of asking for help.

That makes sense, I thought when I first heard this idea.

I’ve also heard, though, that when we have plenty, we forget about God and perhaps tend to believe it’s all from our own making. Then, when we hit rock bottom, we kneel and ask God to take hold of us because we just can’t go on.

Of course that’s how it works. (See, hindsight bias applies for erroneous conclusions, too.)

So, which one is it? Which one is the universal principle we should apply? I don’t know I care which ‘axiom,’ if any, better describes reality in this context. What I can tell you is I’ve struggled to be close to God in both situations.

When things were okay, I prayed for meals and before going to bed—morning prayer has always eluded me. Once the day looked ominous, I prayed for meals and before going to bed. Treading rough emotional patches, I prayed for meals and before going to bed.

Although I’m not sure I’ve prayed every night in the last two weeks, my relationship with God hasn’t improved nor deteriorated. But perhaps, things have changed slightly.

Scattered throughout the year, from January and through the summer, I’ve dropped to the floor and pleaded with God for guidance, for the certainty I once had. In the last few weeks, those prayers come with tears.

I’ve shed copious tears (in that regard, I live an opulent life), but I maintain abundant reserves.

I just don’t have time or space to cry, even if I need it. Do I have time for a chapter of two of First Peter when I need to soon decide whether I stay or go home to Mexico?

How do I take time to read the Gospels when I’m trying to find some solid ground—ironic, I know—or at least prepare a speech to recite when I’m asked what I’m doing, why I’m still around?

Petty social stuff, right? I’m guilty!

But how can I read little, cutesy devotionals when on top of the existential crises I need to figure out where from I’ll get enough for food?

How do I take time for God when time is what I don’t have? Think about your life in heaven, I can hear you say. I get it, there’s a life after this one, but this one is pretty fucking real.

How do I take time for morning prayer when I have no idea where I’m sleeping that night?

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Yet, God has provided in abundance. Not the way I expected, not in all matters, but in what I needed most then.

I don’t care about those universal principles we come up with for the next pop religion book or viral sermon. Don’t give me the prosperity gospel or the newest Joel Osteen grin.

When things are not looking up, I’ll look up. I’ll try that. It’s all I can do.

#017 – Tyler Morrison

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Today on the show we have Tyler Morrison, a talented Christian singer-(now)songwriter. On September 4, he’ll be releasing his debut album “Surrender.” Tyler is here to share all about how his music ministry has evolved and where it may go.

To receive a free download of “He Leadeth Me” visit tylermorrisonmusic.com and subscribe.

This week’s book and film recommendations (check them out!):

Dave Eggers’s “What Is the What” (recommended by Pablo Colindres)

People Places Things (recommended by Slade)

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Those plans are not yours

If we have talked recently, you know things have not turned out as I expected, or at least hoped. Even then, I felt confident I was heading in the right direction and it was only a matter of time for things to come together. Little by little, as the reality of the situation settles, that confidence wanes. Those plans I was so sure about, even when interrupted as they are now, now seem a bit unclear.

Were my plans ever clear then? No, they really weren’t. I just knew the general direction. But the problem doesn’t lie there—I can deal, even thrive, with some uncertainty.

The thing is that those plans were not mine. I liked and internalized them, but they still didn’t belong to me.

It was at a moment when my devotional life, although not great, it was stronger than at many other points in my life. God helped me to constantly remind myself of who was in control and what I was really after (or wanted to be after)—Him. Surrendering my fears and dreams, I began to experience His promise from Jeremiah 29:11.

As my connection with Him grew stronger, so did my confidence in His plans, regardless of things not heading in such a hopeful direction. I knew my way, because it was His revealed way.

Just recently, I can’t even point out when, I seemed to have forgotten about God, being preoccupied with graduating, figuring out a way to afford grad school, staying in Lincoln, moving out of the dorm, finding work—becoming an adult.

I don’t even know what happened. Without realizing it, I soon found myself lost again. My plans didn’t work. Without Him, they meant nothing and directed me nowhere. They only mattered because they were His. He had shown them to me and I took them away trying to make them mine. I took them away from He who had designed them, and without Him I couldn’t understand them.


Perhaps this is a bit unrelated, but I want to show you what brought about this epiphany.

I just finished reading C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” where he writes:

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.

For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.