Authentic Faith: Show me the money

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."
(Galations 5:22-23a)

Prosperity can be an earthly manifestation of blessing; it also can be enjoyed by both the just and the unjust. But yielding wealth is not outward evidence to others for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The difference is crucial. Let us not forget.

Live music

I was able to attend an unprecedented THREE concerts within the last month ... and I loved them all. While all the shows put together produced eight total acts, I've condensed some highlights for you below (well not MY highlights, Youtube's highlights). Here's what I've had the pleasure of hearing/seeing lately:

I've said it before: I love these Leeland guys. And this song is ab-fab.

My first live Crowder "experience" (not just a concert). I was blown away.

Brandi Carlile rocks hard. What else can I say?

OK, this one isn't from a live concert performance per se, but this is the best version I could find of this song live, and I love it and I love Phil Wickham.

Authentic Faith: "Must love all"

This was the title to a sermon my brother gave not long ago. The premise being if God placed a personal ad in the newspaper for followers, what would it say? My brother speculates the last line would read: "Must love all."

We don't get to choose whom we love. We must love everyone. Saying that is easy enough; it's not that difficult to conjure up a feeling of universal love for the human race. But is that what it means? Is that enough?

I sat in my car today, listening to the rain mingled with a Michael W. Smith song, and imagined what it would be like to say "I love you" to a stranger in the store. An odd idea. Such a personal and often intimate three-word phrase we use guardedly. But somehow I don't think "oddness" would stop Jesus from saying it to a perfect stranger.

Now, I'm not going to run out and start professing my love to random people on the street. But isn't that what my heart should be able to say?

Many people in the steeple
But no one leads the lost
Quick to stand and speak
All of their beliefs
Quick to leave you if you fall

Tell me where's the love
that knows no boundaries
Tell me where's the love -- yeah yeah
Open arms
We need to be
Open arms

Never judging
Always loving
Needs to be what we become...

Tell me where's the love
It knows no boundaries
Tell me where's the love -- yeah yeah
Open arms
We need to be
Open arms...

{Michael W. Smith}

Authentic Faith: Part 1

Lately the concept of this so-called "Prosperity Gospel" has been weighing on my heart ... again. It's something that makes me both angry and sad at the same time. It's a watered-down, twisted-up, made-to-order gospel. Why fix something that ain't broke? The true Gospel IS the good news; you can't improve it, people.

I'm only one person, but I know there are millions of Christians out there who understand the frustration and long for churches to preach authentic faith. So I, in my own little blog with a handful of readers, will do what I can to make a stand. Every now and again I will post under the heading "Authentic Faith," quoting scripture and recognizing movements or people who live out the Gospel the way it was meant to be lived. I'll do this instead of tearing down those individuals who preach the Prosperity Gospel (which is highly tempting and easy to do).

Today's meditation comes from Paul's instruction to the Romans on how to behave like Christians...

"Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion." (Roman 12:16)

This day in history:

~ I awoke to sunshine and a slightly crisp breeze

~ I felt relaxed for the first time in a week

~ I rode in a limo with some of my favorite women in the world

~ I walked down an aisle, toward my future, and smiled ... from ear to ear

~ I shared a kiss and a dance for the first time as a wife

~ I was overcome by a dreamy atmosphere of love and celebration

~ I barely had time for a bite to eat

~ I listened to my sisters' heartfelt odes and my brother's sweet serenade

~ I tried to imagine feeling a stronger bond of love than at that very moment, but failed...

it is much better than my young bride's imagination could have conceived. "Wedded bliss" is a myth, depending on your definition. It is not all sunshine and lollipops. It's partly cloudy and sweet nothings. All the sighs, the tears, the brick walls -- they collide with the gentle touches, the smiles, the knowing glances. Collide. Like we did. Like we do every day. That's what makes us one.

A psalmist for the 21st century

It wouldn't be fitting to tout someone who has immense talent when that person would rather the attention go to the Giver of the talent. So I won't use this space to flatter Leeland Mooring, but simply describe what I think is a divine gift wrapped up in a pint-sized, red-headed, teenage package.

If you've not listened to the band Leeland, you really ought to (linked at "For Music" on the right). It will lift your spirits -- I don't see how it couldn't. Having FINALLY gotten the chance to see him/them play live, I was impressed with their poise and professionalism. Before taking the stage, I spied front-man Mooring sneaking around the side of the stage and shaking hands with the sound guy and assorted event staff. "That is pretty cool," I thought. Especially for a 19-year-old.

So he stands out already. And then you hear him sing -- with passion -- the moving lyrics he himself penned. It's a beautiful thing. His writing and vocal skills probably belong in the brain and body of someone 10 years older than him. If you listen, really listen, to the words, it's like hearing a modern-day psalm set to music. The reckless abandon and unabashed love for his Creator that shines through reminds me of a young King David. Almost like if he had his way, he would break out dancing and sing for days on end.

I've never seen anyone like Leeland Mooring in the music industry -- Christian or mainstream.

What a wonderful gift; I'm so glad he is using it.

The new fall season continued

Well, I managed to get a few more shows under my belt. There's some interesting new stuff out there! Definitely the most diverse crop of debuts in recent memory (at least for me). Here's what I've been able to check out...

"Pushing Daisies" -- One of the shows with the biggest buzz this season, and for good reason. It's a visual dessert and a true original. Just enough of a balance between wonder and reality. (Note: Despite its storybook atmosphere, this is not a show for kids.)

"Aliens in America" -- A little CW gem that's about neither space aliens nor illegal aliens. It's about a family, and it's got a lot of heart with a healthy dose of humor. But again, not a show youngsters should watch alone (it's so nice to see Scott Patterson on TV again!).

"Cavemen" -- What can I say? I laughed. There's no telling how long this gag will stay funny and/or clever, but the writing was surprisingly sharp, even stinging. The lead characters are quirky and interesting, so I'll probably tune in again to see where it goes.

"Carpoolers" -- Again, I laughed. It was shallow, it was predictable, but I laughed. It if were a food, it would be cotton candy, whispy yet yummy and dissolves immediately (meaning you probably won't talk about it around the water cooler). Yet, I laughed.

"Moonlight" -- I give CBS kudos for launching a vampire show when the genre is not really en vogue, but I probably won't watch again. It wasn't bad; it kept my interest for an hour. But the writing, as well as the storyline, was a tad on the predictable side. We'll see.

UPDATE: Missed the second "Chuck," but "Back to You" was funny once again. And "Life" is still an intriguing treat (I didn't want the episode to end when it did, so I think that's a good sign). So nice to have "30 Rock" back on the roster! And this week's "The Office" was MUCH funnier than the premiere last week. How cute are Pam and Jim?!

Ah, iTunes

To commemorate my move from one cubicle to another (this one within 10 feet of natural light -- HOORAY!) I subscribed to a few new Podcasts, AKA more reasons to tune out my co-workers and see how much use I can get out of generic headphones:

• Budget Health Nut (because it sounds like a good idea)
• Flight of the Conchords (because people tell me it's funny)
• Generation Youth (because I knew the pastor when we were kids)
• NOOMA (because Denelian raves about Rob Bell)
• On the Page: Screenwriting (because it's my secret ambition)
• The Ricky Gervais Podcast (becase...I dunno....I liked him in "The Office"?)

I'll let you know if they're any good :)

Autumnal items

A couple things I'm thinking about today...

1. What it your favorite autumn memory?

2. What are your thoughts on celebrating Halloween? I ran across this post on a blog today, and it got me thinking. My Evangelical Christian family never observed Oct. 31 in a candy-ish, costume-y way. We never judged anyone else that celebrated, though. It was a personal thing. But it's still an interesting point of discussion, I think -- at least for people that feel a little morally conflicted about it. Thoughts?

Happy fall, y'all!

Happy ending

I used to have part of this passage as an e-mail signature. It's from one of my favorite books, "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis. I believe they are the last words, actually. Lewis' language (yet again) paints a vibrant, beautiful picture -- this one of eternity. It makes me long. And it makes me so glad this life is not the end.

" 'The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.'

And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."