Todd's Blog

Song Story – Writing “Rest In Me”

When I was on staff at Calvary Church in Pueblo, CO, I was sitting alone at the piano in the church worship center early one morning. It was well before office hours so there was no one else in the building making it the perfect place for a quiet time. Weeks before that day I had placed a piece of Plexiglas on the piano to hold chord charts in place when the ceiling fans were running. As I played and worshiped in the stillness of the early morning I suddenly saw quick movement behind me reflected in the glass. Because I thought I was alone it startled me. I jumped and immediately spun around as my heart skipped a beat. What a relief to realize it was only a squirrel on a telephone wire outside the window behind me. I took a deep breath as my heart resumed beating. I felt embarrassed by my reaction even though nobody was there to see it. Then, in that unguarded moment God began to speak to my heart.

The squirrel startled me because I didn’t realize it was there… but God knew it was there. I felt like God was saying “I’m completely aware of every detail of that little creature’s life, the coming and going, searching for food… every single detail. How much more, then, am I aware of the details of your life?” It was like the ‘squirrel version’ of Matthew 10…

 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

Within moments I went from being startled by a squirrel to being deeply moved by God’s overwhelming love. I went back to playing the piano and without even thinking sang the first lines of the song…

 I see the sparrow fall from the sky. These little creatures cannot escape my eye.

I continued to play and sing as the song poured out effortlessly. In 30-40 minutes Rest In Me was complete. I decided it was just a simple little song between me and God and that I wouldn’t be sharing it with anyone.

In my next post I’ll explain why I changed my mind.


Three Little Words

It happened again. Turbulent storms pushed their way through middle Tennessee with torrential rains, deafening thunder and dramatic lightning.

I love storms but my dog doesn’t. She paces back and forth, hides under tables and my keyboard (think music not computer) and sometimes she even drinks from the toilet if we forget to put the seat down. I know that’s gross but humans have peculiar ways of dealing with stress, too. Last night as our beautiful Lab/Husky paced the floor I tried to calm her. I petted her gently and spoke in a calm, reassuring voice. I told her everything was going to be alright. She didn’t believe me. Actually, she had no idea what I was saying. She was completely focused on the violent thunder and lightning. Her tail, which normally wags with happy-go-lucky delight, was pointed straight down as she paced and panted. I wanted so badly to calm her but I couldn’t get through to her. I knew everything was going to be okay but I had absolutely no way of conveying that truth. It was sad. I was sad.

Then it hit me. Could this be how God feels toward us at times? He’s promised to take care of us and meet our needs. He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us. He’s promised to finish the work he began in us. But we can only hear the thunder and see the lightning. We’re focused on what the checkbook or the evening news or the doctor is telling us, shouting at us. Sometimes, many times, the voices are also internal.

“It’s helpless.”

“It’s hopeless.”

You’re hopeless.”

But it’s all lies. He’s standing there waiting and wanting to reassure us, calm us, quiet our hearts. He wants to give us a peace that passes all understanding. If only we would turn to him. If only we would ask. If only we would receive. But on we go in our struggle and stress. We pace, we worry, we fret. We listen to the voices, but not his voice. If only we would tune everything out we would hear him. We’d hear that still, small voice whisper three simple words.

Peace, be still.

Psalm 46:10
Mark 4:39
Romans 8:31-32
Philippians 1:6
Philippians 4:6-7

You’ve Got It!
July 6, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Ideas, Spiritual Formation | Tags: , , , , ,

The other night I had a dream that has changed my perspective on some things. For several weeks leading up to the dream I was searching for a desolate, dirt road to film a video I’m producing. I drove around the countryside several times looking for a location to match the picture in my head but to no avail. Everything in my area is so lush and green and dirt roads are hard to find. It’s way too pretty for what I need. In my dream, however, I found exactly what I’d been seeking and it was a familiar place I’d seen many times before. I just didn’t realize it was there because I wasn’t looking at it from the right perspective. In the dream I remarked “It was here all along. I just didn’t see it.” Then I woke up. The odd thing is that to my knowledge the physical location in the dream doesn’t actually exist. If it does, I’m not sure it’s as ideal in reality as it was in the dream. For me the ‘aha’ moment was the most vivid part of the whole ordeal and it’s actually the point.

It’s so easy to spend our lives focused on what we don’t have. We think, “If only I had more _______ !” (most common answer… money) or “If only ________ would give me a chance!” (most common answer… Oprah? 🙂 ) or “If only I had access to ____________,” (insert influential, powerful or famous person in your field) or “When ____________ happens my life will be so much better” (insert unlikely miraculous event). We’re convinced that some person, event or change of circumstance is the key to our success. For me, the dream is a vivid reminder that I already have everything I need. Specifically, I believe that I’m sitting on a particular idea (maybe more than one) that will be very successful once I act upon it. I don’t need to wrack my brain for new ideas (which I do a lot) or pursue some elusive, illusive circumstance or connection. I have what I need because God has called me and equipped me to fulfill his purpose for my life. Will he use other people along the way? Sure. Will he engineer specific circumstances? No doubt. But he’ll orchestrate things in my life (his part) as I am faithful to utilize what he’s already given me (my part). I won’t sit back and do nothing. I’m just giving up the notion that someone or something is out there and I’ll never be successful until I find him/her/it. You may have heard of the person who died in poverty on their own land which was later discovered to hold a large natural deposit of diamonds. I don’t know if it’s a true story or not but it’s a true lesson. It’s an accurate picture of how many people live life never harnessing their talents, gifts and ideas to follow a calling and impact the world.

Since my dream I’ve been looking at things quite differently and praying differently, too. I’m thanking God for his provision and asking him to help me see it in areas where I’m missing it. I’m also praying I’ll be drawn to the right idea(s) because I usually have so many to choose from. I encourage you to do the same. Begin with the perspective that you have everything you need and just need guidance on how to use it. Assume that you have the talent and brilliant ideas that just need developed. What would you do differently with this as your starting point?

And here are my scripture footnotes (along with music and artwork)…

What’s Your God like?

Recently I was blessed to be the speaker and worship leader at a youth retreat for a group of Huntsville, Alabama students. The theme of the retreat was Go Deep and the messages and worship music emphasized the vastness of God and how much there is for us to discover.

I began the opening teaching with an interesting exercise, the results of which have haunted me ever since. I handed out 3×5 cards and asked each person to write out how they would honestly finish this statement, “I wish God wasn’t so ____________.” I instructed everyone to leave off names to ensure anonymity and honesty. They then placed the cards into a box where I later retrieved them.

Now before you read on, take just a moment to fill in the blank for yourself. Until I did this activity (which was an unplanned last minute idea) I had never considered such a thing. Like many people, I was taught at an early age to accept God as he is and that ‘ours is not to question’. To some it may even seem blasphemous to consider or confess something we don’t like about God. I disagree. I think questions like this are honest and probing. Going deep with God means taking a hard look at ourselves and any ‘issues’ we may have with him. God can handle it!

Later when I read the cards I noticed many were expressing similar things in different ways. All the comments easily fell into two categories. The most popular response was, “I wish God wasn’t so distant.” The second and only other response was, “I wish God wasn’t so strict.”

I was both saddened and excited about the results of the exercise. Saddened because these teenagers held such a depressing view of the God of the universe. Saddened because I believe a large number of Christians, young and old, would probably give the exact same answers. The picture of a distant, strict God is one that the Church has all too often painted. If I were to give a definition ‘religion’ it would include a description of God as distant and strict. I’m so thankful Christianity isn’t a religion!

But I was excited, too! Excited because I now had the privilege of sharing some GREAT news with these teens. God is NOT distant and God is NOT strict! Woohoo! (yes, go ahead and do a little happy dance right now) Throughout the remainder of the retreat we discussed why God sometimes appears to be both distant and strict. We talked about suffering, legalism and why we sometimes feel abandoned by God. To sum it up…

God sometimes appears distant because…

1) The harshness of life and a fallen world seem at odds with his goodness.
2) God’s goodness necessitates freewill for everyone. Some misuse it and create tremendous suffering for others.
3) A sense of guilt that comes from others is often mistaken for God’s displeasure.

God sometimes appears strict because…

1) Sin is fun. If it wasn’t, hardly anybody would do it.
2) Christianity is often taught as a pathway to God instead of God’s pathway to us via the cross. This leads to lots of rules and the need to perform.
3) A sense of guilt that comes from others is often mistaken for God’s displeasure (yes, this is also point three from the other misconception).
4) God has given us instructions, commandments, etc. out of his goodness. He does this so we can be safe and enjoy life but we think he just wants to keep us from having fun.

Of course, this is not an in-depth theological discussion but I hope these few thoughts are enough to get you thinking and asking some questions, too. Go ahead and fill in the blank for yourself. Then ask God to show you where you may be wrong. As A.W. Tozer has pointed out, holding a wrong view of God is the essence of idolatry. Personally I have found nothing to be as liberating as dropping the chains of a wrong view of God.

For a deeper look into these issues I recommend the following books…

2969X: The Problem of Pain The Problem of PainBy C.S. Lewis / HarperOne
565065: Shattered Dreams: God"s Unexpected Pathway to Joy Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy
By Dr. Larry Crabb / Random House, Inc
48096: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God Suffering and the Sovereignty of GodBy John Piper & Justin Taylor, eds. / Crossway Books & Bibles
82372: When God Doesn"t Make Sense, softcover When God Doesn’t Make Sense, softcoverBy Dr. James Dobson / Tyndale House
021436X: Disappointment with God Disappointment with GodBy Philip Yancey / Zondervan

For a deeper understanding of God’s character and attributes, spend some time in the book of Psalms and all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John if you are not familiar with the Holy Bible). I also recommend these classics…

7310: The Knowledge of the Holy The Knowledge of the Holy
By A.W. Tozer / HarperOne
1650X: Knowing God: 20th Anniversary Edition Knowing God: 20th Anniversary Edition
By J.I. Packer / Inter-varsity Press