Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Prayerwalking

Prayer is something I have never felt I was very good at. It seems like it should be an easy thing for a Christian--just talk to God--but I have always had difficulty knowing what I should pray for and how I should go about it. Especially when it comes to big prayers that require a bit of vision. Prayerwalking: Praying On Site with Insight by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick, is an introduction and practical guide to prayerwalking--the practice of walking through your community while offering up prayers to God on its behalf.

According to the authors, the benefit of taking your prayers to the streets of your neighborhood or city is that you gain a larger vision of God's purpose for that community. It takes less imagination and effort to pray that God's Kingdom will come to your town when you are on the streets, seeing and praying for the needs first-hand.

Contrary to what is commonly assumed, prayerwalking is not for the purpose of physical exercise. Prayerwalks are slow-paced and punctuated by frequent stops at locations of significance like schools, government buildings or the sights of historic events.

I especially appreciated how the authors included the testimonies of Christians across the globe who have prayerwalked in their communities and seen God move in mighty ways. Prayerwalking helped me to see beyond the walls of my prayer closet or church and see the purpose of my community for the glory of God. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to get into their community and bring Christ to their neighbors. Prayerwalking is a great place to start.

*I received Prayerwalking: Praying On Site with Insight by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick by request for review from a Mission Frontiers promotion (

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sleeper: A Short (True) Story

There was a chill in the air early this morning, when I first awakened. It was pitch black outside and I was still tired. I reached for my extra blanket, pulled it over me and curled up to go back to sleep. While still only half-conscious, I remembered that it was time to get up and get ready for work. Ugh. I knew that once I was up and moving I would warm up and wake up, but I was just so comfortable there under the covers. Who gets up before the sun anyway? Especially on a chilly morning like today. And yet the alarm clock still came blaring into my room, chasing away any thoughts of sleep.

I'm living in a world absent of the Light, where the chill creeps into the very core of my being. My desire is to pull up the covers and stay warm while I sleep it all away. But then the Son comes into my room and beckons me to follow Him. He promises me that He will warm me from the inside-out with a fire that burns inside me, whether night or day. But first, I must get out of bed and look this cold, dark world in the face. I must get up and start doing the work of the Kingdom before the fire will start burning and chase the chill out of my bones. I must run to the ends of this bleak earth and share this light, this fire, that comes from inside me but not from me.

"Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you."
Ephesians 5:14

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Courageous

Police officer, Adam Mitchell, spends his days fighting crime on the gang-ridden streets of Albany, Georgia. He knows the statistics--that the vast majority of gang members come from fatherless homes--but as a father himself, he feels that his physical presence in his children's lives is "good enough". But when life brings a sudden reminder that he only has one chance at fatherhood, Adam, along with friends Nathan Hayes, Shane Fuller, David Thomson and Javier Martinez, resolve to love God and love their families courageously.

Courageous by Randy Alcorn is a novelization of the screenplay written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick (makers of the movie Fireproof). I felt that Courageous was much more like the Kendrick brothers' Fireproof than any of Randy Alcorn's other novels, but being a fan of both, I enjoyed it very much. It felt a lot like the sequel to Fireproof, except with all new characters.

There are several main characters in the book and for about the first third, I felt like I was chasing them around in my head and trying to pin down who was who. Unfortunately, because of that, I never quite made a connection with the characters in a way I felt I should.

The message of Courageous is an excellent one! Unfortunately, I think sometimes the story got lost in the message, but overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it--especially to fans of Fireproof or Facing the Giants. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie when it is released.

Bonus features in the book included a reading group guide and production and movie photos that give you sneak peek behind the scenes on the set of the movie Courageous.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Desiring God Revised Edition

Hello Friends,

After reading the Revised Edition of John Piper's Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, I see why this book has become a classic in the twenty-five years since it was first published. From what I have experienced and seen in my own life and in the American Church, joy is a seriously under-developed fruit of the Spirit. In this book, Mr. Piper biblically demonstrates that we were meant to seek our personal joy and Christ! Because, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

"This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome," 1John 5:3. There seems to be a prevalent idea that obeying God should be burdensome. That doing what is right should be hard.  But this is not biblical. If we truly love God, keeping His commands will not be a burden, but rather, a joy! When God created mankind, He made us in such a way as to not be satisfied by anything but Himself. "In Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures." God's commands are given to us as instructions for attaining ultimate happiness, contentment and joy! And when we obey and find our satisfaction in Christ, He is glorified. Everything that we used to consider gain is loss in comparison with the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus!

The Revised Edition of Desiring God includes a study guide for group or individual study and an additional chapter on the topic of Christian suffering that, in my opinion, the book would be incomplete without.

I would very highly recommend Desiring God to any Christian! This is one that I plan to re-read in the near future because it is so saturated with truth that it requires more than one read to absorb it all.

Click HERE to purchase Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist Revised Edition.
Click HERE to read the first chapter.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

If you rank this review you will be entered to win a free copy of Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist Revised Edition!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Death of Me and How I Lived

Hi Friends,

Several months ago I made mention of the fact that I have a strange salvation story and that perhaps I would write about it someday. I call my story “strange” because of the way God reached down and rescued my soul at a time when I thought I already had salvation in the bag. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family and to have been taught from a very young age about God and Jesus, Heaven and Hell. I was full of questions and my parents patiently answered them. At the age of five, I prayed a simple prayer asking Jesus to come into my heart because I didn’t want to go to Hell when I died. What I didn’t realize until I was much older was that I prayed this prayer more because of faith in my parents than faith in God. I thought my parents were probably right about what they said about Jesus, so I believed them. They were a lot smarter than me, after all.

I lived the next nine years like a good Christian kid should. I prayed, I read the Bible; I talked the talk and, on the outside, walked the walk (for the most part). But God always had a tendency to seem very far away and not all that real to me. When I was nine, depression crept in and swallowed me alive every night. I felt completely hollow inside. Totally alone and scared, and I didn't know why. I remember laying awake at all hours of the night wondering why I felt like there was a gaping hole in my heart when Christians were supposed to feel like that hole had been filled by God. Mine was empty. Where was God? I brushed off these doubts and just assumed God couldn’t really fill every void. The god I knew was growing smaller.

At the age of 11, my life was looking up. It had been a couple years since both of my paternal grandparents had passed away and the wounds were nearly healed. I had a new baby sister and my family and I were now living on the beach. Life was good and my depression went away almost entirely. I was thrilled.

Jesus once said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” [Luke 18:24]. I’ve seen this in my own life. Having all of my needs and many of my wants satisfied blinded me to my desperate need for God. If the things that made up my life were described as a meal, God was a side-dish of vegetables. He was good for me, but He wasn’t much fun. My Mom would always make me eat all of my vegetables if I wanted to have dessert. God was the same way. He was the means to getting to the good stuff in life. If I pleased God, He’d bless me and make me happy. The one I truly worshipped was Me.

In my pursuit of God’s favor, I was baptized by my dad in our bathtub when I was twelve. By the age of thirteen I was reading the Bible fairly often, I read books on Christian apologetics, and tossed my prayers heavenward whenever I needed help – which wasn’t very often now that life was so good.

Things did not remain so easy, however, and I will forever be grateful to God for it. Hard financial times fell on my family and things got tough. I grew fearful that these trials would bring back my depression, so I cranked up my God-pleasing skills to max and prayed He’d make life easier again. I read the Bible fervently, read devotionals and even bought a WWJD bracelet to remind myself not to be mean to my brother. After several months of trying to placate God, our situation continued to grow worse. I was beginning to get irritated with Him, but still tried to save face. It’s a hard game to play, trying to pretend to God that you think He’s all awesome when in reality all you want is to be done with Him.

In 2001, that old, dark fiend called Depression came back to haunt me. But this time he didn’t come at me with that hollow emptiness like when I was nine and ten. Instead, I was consumed by darkness and rage towards God. He no longer felt small and far off. He was breathing down my back.

These were the worst days of my life, and I almost didn’t live to see the beauty that lay just beyond them. All that was before my eyes was hopelessness. My Santa Claus god no longer paid any attention to my good deeds. Now I was on the Bad List and I didn’t know how to get off of it. So I gave up. I turned against God completely and no longer wanted to even try to do what was right. I didn't care. Doing good hadn't spared me from pain, so what was the point? But like a terrible nightmare, I discovered that no matter what I did, I couldn't shut my conscience up. It kept blaring sirens every time I did wrong. My guilt weighed on me like a herd of elephants. I wanted God to disappear. I blamed Him for all of my suffering because I had tried to earn His favor and He rewarded me with misery. I thought I deserved better than that. It seemed God was impossible to please. I pictured myself running for my life in a dark tunnel with God breathing fire down my back. If I dared stop, I'd be incinerated in milliseconds.

The misery I was in drove me to the point of wishing I would die. Sadly, the only thing I prayed for several months was that God would take my life. Because He didn’t, I began to think of ways to do it myself. There were only two reasons I never followed through. The first was that I didn’t know of a sure-fire way to get the job done. The last thing I wanted to do was attempt suicide only to survive and have to live with the consequences. The second reason was that, for the first time in nine years, I wasn’t completely sure God would let me into Heaven. And Hell was certainly worse than even the misery I was in at that point. I was in despair and there was no way out as far as I could see.

God has many tools that He uses to work on the hearts of mankind. One of the tools He has very often used on me is music. There was one song in particular during this time that gave me the first glimpse of hope I’d seen in a very long time. Maybe even the first glimpse of true hope I’d ever seen. The song was called “I Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot.

Maybe redemption has stories to tell.
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell.
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here.

The thought that maybe, just maybe, God didn't need anything from me to be satisfied. That perhaps He could save me right in the middle of my rebellion. That I could find forgiveness in that awful place where I'd fallen. These thoughts changed my life…forever.

If I had needed to clean myself up and change my ways and attitude before God would come to my rescue and forgive me and love me, I never would have made it. Not in a million years. I had absolutely nothing to offer Him. Here, I had hated Him and blamed Him for so many things, and all I had to do was ask Him to forgive me and He came running to my rescue! Why didn’t He just leave me where I was? Where I deserved to be? I will forever be grateful for God’s amazing grace; that He saved a wretch like me.

On May 22, 2011, I was re-baptized by my brother, Andrew, at a beach a few miles from my home. I put off being baptized again for nine years because I felt bad for having been baptized the first time when it meant nothing to me. But God is the Redeemer of all things and He is not holding my past against me. So under the water I went! I am forgiven and free!
"But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ --the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead."
Philippians 3: 7-11


Monday, May 30, 2011

The Worth of a Soul: Image of God

Hello Friends,

I've had some ideas stewing for quite some time for a new series titled The Worth of a Soul. In this series, I am going to write about topics such as abortion, human trafficking, poverty, and other things that dehumanize and degrade people, and what the Christian response should be to such issues. I've only written one other blog series before, that being the Story Behind the Song, so this will be a rather daunting task for me. Especially considering the subjects I'll be dealing with.

Before I dig into specific issues that degrade human life, I want to start by establishing from a biblical perspective why human life is so valuable in the first place. Without laying this foundation, there will be no reason to even bother with later posts. I don't value people's lives just because it's the nice thing to do. I value human life because we are made by God, in His own image. This has huge ramifications. 

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.'

So God created man
in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female."
Genesis 1:26-27 

This is huge. I mean, really, think about what this means. For those of you who are Christians, you've probably heard this scripture so many times that it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But, oh my, is it a big deal! The Eternal God, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, the One who made the stars and named each one of them, has made us in His image!

I think the majority of people either think too well of themselves or not well enough. And usually we believe both at various times. These two verses from Genesis should keep us on the right path. Most Americans spend 12+ years of their early life being told that they are grown up slime. A cosmic accident. If that's the case, then what's the point of life? What makes me any better than a monkey or a dog or a rock? Why is existence better than non-existence? Then there's the other end of the spectrum where people think that they themselves are gods. There is no other God but me. I am the captain of my soul. I exist for myself and for my pleasure. In both cases, the devil wins because we fail to see the purpose of our existence. God is not glorified when you say you are god. And God is not glorified when you say you are a useless mistake of the universe.

"What is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? You made him a little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him lord over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet."
Psalm 8:4-6

See the balance here? The psalmist is saying that we are less than God. We are not on the same level as God. He created us. We are below Him. But it also says that we are crowned with glory and honor by God himself. Wow. And he made us lords over the works of His hands. Can you imagine that? Such a glorious Being created the universe and everything that's in it. Then He fashions people out of the dust of the earth and makes them in His own image, crowns them with glory and honor, and establishes them as the rulers of all He has created. That should make the despairing lift up their head! But at the same time, we have nothing that wasn't given to us, so there's no excuse for pride. You can never claim that it was by your own strength or genius that you went from a pile of dirt to the image of God. We are honored only because Someone greater than us has bestowed honor on us.

This fact - that God has made mankind in His image - stands for every person who ever has, is, or will live. Born or unborn. "Good" or evil. We are all created in God's image. And this has magnificent ramifications. This is why we should cherish all people, everywhere. This is why murder is so wrong. This is why neglecting those who suffer is so wrong. This is why keeping the Gospel to yourself is so wrong. This isn't just about us as humans, it's about God's glory - His image - that He has stamped us with. If you insult, harass, oppress, neglect, ignore or abuse a person, you are declaring God's most valued creation to be worthless.

If you put someone down or treat them poorly, what do you think that says about how you feel about God? What if you kill someone? These are serious offenses because they are directly tied to God. Here are a few examples from Scripture that connect offenses against people to sinning against God Himself:

"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind."
Genesis 9:5-6

God relates murder directly to a sin against Himself because He made mankind and He made us in His image.

Jesus says in Matthew 25:41-45, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ "

This passage is, of course, very well known and popular amongst Christians. Our song "Least of These" was mostly inspired by this Scripture. Jesus blatantly says that whatever we do for one of the least of these, we do it for Him. We cannot treat poorly those who are created in God's image without God taking offense. People are valuable because they are made by God, belong to God, and bear God's own image.

And so we find that the worth of a soul comes from the One who makes it.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: A Deeper Kind of Calm

Hey Friends!

Okay, I've got another book review for you today. This one is for a book called A Deeper Kind of Calm by Linda Dillow.

Also, I apologize for the abundance of book reviews lately and the lack of other blog posts. I'm working on some great ideas for a new blog series entitled The Worth of a Soul and I am really excited about it! So hang in there with me and I'll have some fresh material coming your way shortly! Now on to the book review.

A Deeper Kind of Calm by Linda Dillow is a four-week women's devotional based on Psalms 77, 46, 63 and 84. Linda goes through each of these Psalms and discovers what carried the psalmists through their "valleys of weeping" and how God can use the emotional/spiritual/physical valleys of your own life for your good.

I am generally not a fan of women's devotionals as I find they seem to lack much spiritual depth or weight. This was one of the somewhat better ones that I have read, but I would still classify it as "Christianity Lite". I think this book might be well-suited for newer Christians.

I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


P.S. The book reviews that are posted on this blog are ones that I am required to write in return for receiving the books free of charge from the publishers. However, these are not the only books I have been reading. Here are two others that I've read recently and would highly recommend:
  • Too Small to Ignore by Dr. Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International
  • Terrify No More by Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission (I've only just started reading this one, but I'm sure it will be great)
  • I also love the magazine Mission Frontiers. You can subscribe at their website
Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: Life Without Limits

Hey Friends,
I'm back with another book review! Here are my thoughts on Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic.

Nick Vujicic is an inspiring person. Born in Australia without either arms or legs, he has overcome just about every obstacle life has placed in his path. Rather than viewing himself as "disabled" and letting life pass him by, he believes that his lack of limbs has "enabled" him to live a ridiculously good life, by the grace of God. In Life Without Limits, Nick shares his strategy for overcoming life's challenges and says that everyone can live life to the fullest regardless of the difficulties they face. Coming from such a joyful person -who has no arms or legs- it's hard to argue otherwise! Life Without Limits is choc-ful of inspiring, personal stories of struggle and triumph, as well as the stories of other inspiring folks Nick has met along the way in his world travels.

I had high expectations for this book because I've seen a video of one of Nick's speaches on YouTube and thought it was excellent. I am also a huge fan of the short film, The Butterfly Circus, which Nick stars in. Even though Life Without Limits is contagiously optimistic, I was disappointed by its blend of Christian and humanistic ideas. Throughout the book, Nick encourages the reader that anything is possible if you work hard and never give up. He frequently used the saying, God helps those who help themselves, which is not a biblical concept. The main focus of the book was how you can live a happy life. I am thrilled that Nick is a joyful person who is not wallowing in self-pity. Like I said at the beginning of this review, he truly is an inspiring person. But God's main focus for us is not that we would live a happy life here on earth, but that we would turn from our sins and believe in Christ so that we can live a happy life forever with Him in eternity. Unfortunately, Life Without Limits is not a book I would recommend. 

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for this review.

As a side note, I would very highly recommend the short film The Butterfly Circus that Nick Vujicic starred in! In fact, I love this film so much I plan on blogging about it soon :) Check out the trailer and then go to the website to watch the whole film!

BUTTERFLY CIRCUS TEASER from The Butterfly Circus on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Real-Life Discipleship

Hey Friends,

I just finished reading a great book called Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples by Jim Putnam. I would definitely recommend it. Here's my review.

Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putnam is an excellent basic manual for the Christian desiring to disciple others. Though this book is written specifically for church leaders, it is a valuable resource for all believers. Real-Life Discipleship emphasizes the biblical mandate for all Christians to make disciples (the Great Commission) and gives a biblical and practical strategy for how to make it happen.

One of the things I found most helpful in this book was the way Putnam defined the spiritual stages in the life of a Christian and how to minister to believers in each stage. I have witnessed first-hand the various spiritual stages (dead, infant, child, young adult, parent), but I was at a loss for how to minister according to the stage a person is in and how to move them forward in their spiritual maturity. I have read some reviews of Real-Life Discipleship that said the spiritual stages were presented in too strict a manner, verging on legalism. I don't think this is the way it was intended. The descriptions of the spiritual stages are only generalizations and a person may be between stages at any given time. They are given only as an aid to finding where a believer is at in their walk with Christ and how to minister to them right where they are.

The discipleship "game plan" laid out in Real-Life Discipleship is one that has been tried and proven effective at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho - one of the top 100 most influential churches in America. But this is not a manual on how to turn your church into Real Life Ministries. Rather it is a book about discipleship the way Jesus did it. I highly recommend this book.

*I received Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putnam by request for review from a Mission Frontiers promotion (

To purchase Real-Life Discipleship or read a sample chapter visit

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Story Behind the Song: Dreams

Hey Friends,

The Story Behind the Song series continues today with the song "Dreams". I wrote a little bit about this song last year in the post Some Thoughts on Following Christ, but today I'll write in more depth.

Even though "Dreams" is quite possibly my favorite song we've ever written, I can't seem to put its story into words. I've put it off for weeks (okay, more like months) and even now this is my second time writing it. Part of me wants to just leave the song to explain itself, but I don't think that would do. So here goes.

I used to think that we should dream big because we have a big God who can make our dreams come true. I still believe that statement, but not quite in the same way as before. My vision was short-sighted back then. I expected my dreams and desires to be fulfilled on this earth, in this life. But I've come to realize that this life does not always go the way you'd planned. Sometimes your desires go unfulfilled. But the thing is, it's not because God isn't big enough to make your dreams come true and it's not because He is cold-hearted and doesn't care about the things you long for. If all of our wishes were granted on earth, who would ever want to go to Heaven? I mean, really? Would you have any desire to go to Heaven if your life were exactly the way you wanted it? And the question goes the other way too. If Heaven didn't exist or if it wasn't really all that wonderful, why would anyone give up their earthly dreams to build God's Kingdom?

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:44-46

I love those parables! Those stories are what "Dreams" is all about. Living for God's Kingdom is so much better than living for my kingdom. It is so much better that I will give up all of my earthly dreams in order to follow Christ. He is worth every bit of it. Every tear, every heartache, every loss, every dream that goes out on the breeze. Because in their place God has given me wings to fly after Him wherever He goes. Does it really get any better than that? I believe with all of my heart that I will be richly rewarded for everything I've ever given up for the sake of Christ.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11

What a beautiful declaration! "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Have you ever really thought about what the Apostle Paul is saying here? He's saying that there is nothing better than knowing Christ. Nothing! Everything else is a loss in comparison to knowing Christ. I never used to feel that way about Jesus until my dreams began to crumble. When the picture in my head of what I always dreamed my life would be like didn't look anything like the life I was living, I found the value of knowing Christ. My dreams may have come undone, but God has given me Himself instead. What a trade!


Sometimes it seems I've lost all my dreams
To the bottom of the ocean
I let them go out on a breeze
You carried them far away from me

Is this where You want me?
Is this how it should be?
Can I follow You and still live out a dream?

The plans that I made up years ago

Took flight and left me here all alone
And in their place You've given me wings
To fly after You wherever You go

Is this where You want me?
Is this how it should be?
Can I follow You and still live out a dream?

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
On earth as in Heaven
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done

This is where You've brought me
This is how it should be
To follow You has become my only dream
To follow You has become my only dream

Blessings to you,

You can listen to "Dreams" HERE and buy it on iTunes HERE.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Story Behind the Song: Lock Down

Hey Friends,

I'm excited today to tell the story behind "Lock Down" because out of all the songs we've written it's been one of our absolute favorites. "Lock Down" is the second track on our fourth album, Where I'm Found, and it's also our radio single for CHR format radio stations. The story for this one goes back to the spring of 2006, and what's funny about it to me is that the song was born from an error in my guitar playing.

In early 06, we were having a band practice and I was trying to work out some accompany chords for the song "Mercies". I'd always played the same thing as Andrew and I wanted to change it up and play a different guitar part. In the end, Andrew ended up playing some cool ambient sounds on electric while I stuck with the same chord progression as usual on acoustic. But in my failed attempt to use different chords for "Mercies", I kept accidentally playing some funky, dissonant chord (that I still don't know the name of) rather than the Bm7 I meant to play. I kept making this error as we tried to play through the song so I finally stopped and showed Andy and Kaitie what I was doing wrong. As I played the Bm7 and the mistake chord back-to-back a few times I realized they sounded pretty cool together. I started jamming on the chord progression until Kaitie joined in with a funky, rhythmic bass line and Andrew started ad-libbing random, humorous lyrics to a catchy melody. Before we knew it, Sam had heard that we were playing something new and joined us with a pen and notebook handy. Within a few minutes, she'd written the first verse and handed the lyrics to Andrew to replace his dummy lyrics. Andrew also started playing a guitar lick with some attitude that ended up being the lick you hear after every chorus and between verses. We were having a blast writing this one!

Ironically, our neighbor at that time who lived across the street from us--though very kind--had a bad habit of peeking through her blinds to watch us every time we came home or stepped out our front door. While we were writing "Lock Down" and getting into the lyrics, we couldn't help but start to feel creeped out. It was dark outside and we had the curtains in the room open and we started feeling like the Devil literally was prowling around our house and peeking in our windows. All the while, our neighbor across the street was probably peering through the blinds thinking we'd lost our sanity!

The easiest part of writing a song is the very beginning when you have a burst of creativity and start writing. The song can be anything you want it to be at that point. It's once you've established the theme and structure of a song that it starts to get tough. And that's exactly how it went with "Lock Down". Musically, there wasn't much difficulty because the entire song is made up of those two chords. But the lyrics were another story. Sam wrote the vast majority of them with some help here and there from the rest of us. Most of what we did to "help" her was say, "Hmm, I don't think that line really works. Maybe try again." She was a great sport and wrote several versions of the song until she was nearly crazy. But the final product ended up being a song that I can hardly believe we wrote. The lyrics are so off-the-wall and yet so deep that it reminds me of Steve Taylor's lyrics in Newsboys songs like "Shine". Maybe that's a bit pretentious of me to say, but I can at least tell you that Sam credits Steve Taylor for inspiring such insane lyrics!

"Lock Down" has been an incredibly fun song to play live. The first time we played it at a show, we were elated by the response from the audience. The kids in the audience were even jumping up and down and pumping their fists, which was behavior completely unheard of at a Truth Bomb concert in the past. Up until that time, we had jokingly called ourselves a ballad band as we seemed incapable of writing anything with a tempo over 85 BPM. The lyrics also seem to stick with people, which is awesome. For us, if people love the sound of a song but don't remember it's message, it's not even worth playing. The purpose of writing music is to communicate a message.

We hope "Lock Down" serves as a reminder to Christians that we are in a spiritual war. Ephesians 6:10-13 says, "Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand." Our goal with "Lock Down" was to reveal the tactics of the Devil and encourage the saints to take up the armor of God and stand against the spiritual forces of evil. This song is our battle cry.

 "Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour." 1 Peter 5:8

You can listen to "Lock Down" HERE or buy it on iTunes HERE. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: The Charlatan's Boy

Hello Friends,

I am an avid reader and have been since the first grade. Which pretty much means I fell in love with books as soon as I could read them. Recently, I discovered that WaterBrook Multnomah, a company that has published many of my favorite authors, has a cool program called Blogging For Books. WaterBrook Multnomah mails me free books if I will blog reviews for them. As long as I keep reviewing books, they'll keep sending them. If you love to read too and don't mind writing reviews, then I highly recommend you check out Blogging For Books.

The first book I have received for review is The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers. Here is my review.

The Charlatan's Boy is the story of an orphan named Grady who lives in the frontier land of Corenwald. Grady has spent his whole life--as far back as he can remember--playing the part of a live, in-the-flesh he-feechie in huckster Floyd Wendellson's traveling show. Floyd never gives Grady a straight story about where he came from and who his real mamma and pap are, leaving Grady feeling forever out-of-place. Though Floyd is not the sort of character Grady prefers to be around, Grady remains loyal because "you've got to love someone", and Floyd is all he's got. And besides that, the feechie show is where Grady feels the most like his true self.

The Charlatan's Boy didn't keep my attention very well during the first half of the book, but the second half improved. The end of the story provided a very unexpected plot twist that left me, surprisingly, very happy with the outcome. Over all, this fantasy novel left me wishing the story were as fascinating as the beautiful cover.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Until next time,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Story Behind the Song: Where I'm Found

Hello Friends!

I haven't been keeping up with the Story Behind the Song series very well, have I? Today's post is about the title track off our new album Where I'm Found.

The song "Where I'm Found" has been around for a few years so I feel like there are a lot of stories to tell about it. The only part I had in writing the song was naming it -- and perhaps providing a mild critique of the lyrics. I love naming songs and albums and I blame Switchfoot for that. I have always enjoyed the creative, intriguing names Switchfoot gives their songs and albums. "Where I'm Found" doesn't quite meet their standard, but I did my best.

I believe it was Ginny Owens who once said that you should never stop writing a song. Always be willing to revise it if a better idea comes to you. "Where I'm Found" should be the poster child for that statement! Andrew and Samantha (Sam), wrote this song back in '07. Andrew wrote the music on an acoustic guitar using an alternate tuning. In fact, I think this was the first song we've written using an alternate tuning (besides standard down a half-step, which doesn't really count). The tuning on the guitar gives the chord progression a big sound with a sad, beautiful melody running though it. And Sam's lyrics totally fit it. The song is really a lament and a prayer. It is a lamentation over our propensity to wander from God's way. And it is a prayer that God would let His love be where we're found.

When this song was first written, we had some serious issues with the tempo and it tended to be too wordy. It was one of those deals where we thought we had a really good song on our hands, but it somehow wasn't quite there yet. We played the song at our concerts with a slightly awkward tempo change and it always felt just a bit too long.

In October 2007, we attended a weekend-long music conference in Tampa called Ignition. Part of the conference was a songwriting class where they had members of the class come up on stage and play one of their songs. Then the audience and industry executives would discuss the song's high and low points. Andrew played "Where I'm Found" for this class. We intentionally chose that song knowing it wasn't our best. We knew it needed a little work and we wanted the opinions of the industry "big shots". Over all, "Where I'm Found" stood up pretty well. Actually, some of the comments were better than we expected. But the problems we had with it didn't go unnoticed. The tempo issue was mentioned as well as the song feeling too long and wordy. Unfortunately, no one had any idea what part we should cut. So for over two more years we played the song as it was, not knowing what to do differently.

At the end of '09, we had a lot of success on radio with our Christmas single "Angels We Have Heard On High". So at the beginning of 2010 we decided we should record a radio single to follow up with. We felt that "Where I'm Found" would be our most commercial song to fit the AC radio format. It wasn't until we began recording the song that Andrew had a breakthrough. He suggested that we cut the bridge of "Where I'm Found" out completely. Music and lyrics. And instead replace it with a guitar solo played over the chorus chord progression. After re-evaluating the bridge lyrics, we realized that they weren't necessary to communicate the message of the song. And musically, a guitar solo would accomplish the same thing the bridge had. Even though the song isn't really any shorter than it used to be, at 3 minutes 46 seconds it fits right in with any other song on the radio. The omitted lyrics and added guitar solo create more diversity and interest in the song making it feel shorter.

Early last year, we released "Where I'm Found" as a single and began sending it out to radio stations. We didn't honestly have a great deal of confidence in the track as we knew it didn't meet the quality standard of our Christmas music. But we released it anyway because it was the best we could do. One of the stations that we had a HUGE amount of support from during the Christmas season was KLTY in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. But we "knew" they wouldn't play "Where I'm Found" so we almost didn't send it to them. The music director for the station ended up surprising us by saying he would play it on a program called New Music Cafe to see how the listeners liked it, but he told us he thought it would go over better if we could record drums and strings. We told him we'd work on it some more and get the song back to him when we'd improved it. Andrew recorded drums on a borrowed kit at church and began programming synths because he didn't know how to program strings. Then we "met" Brian Gocher on Facebook. Brian is not the kind of guy that you will know by name (unless you are a die-hard liner note reader), but you've heard his work. He's worked with artists like Kutless, Newsboys, Superchick, etc. It turns out that Brian's specialty is programming. Exactly what we needed. So in April, we began working with Brian on "Where I'm Found". He co-produced the song with Andrew and programmed drums, strings, keys and other cool stuff at his studio in New Jersey. We recorded our parts here at our studio in Florida and Andrew mixed and mastered. The first time we heard "Where I'm Found" with an orchestra in it, we were totally thrilled! It has honestly been a dream of mine since we started Truth Bomb to hear our music with strings. Brian did a phenomenal job! And on top of that, Andrew learned a ton by working with Brian and was then able to program drums, strings and keys for the rest of the album himself.

So in the end, this awkward song that got mixed reviews finally grew up into a fully produced radio single and the title track of our first full-length album. Not bad, if you ask me.


P.S. You can listen to "Where I'm Found" HERE and buy the new album HERE!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On This Day

Hello Friends!

Today is a pretty special day around here. It is, in fact, Truth Bomb's sixth birthday. And for some reason all day I keep writing "third" rather than "sixth". Maybe it only feels like three years? Not really. I don't know why I keep doing that. In commemoration of this special occasion here are two photos. One from "then" and the other, "now".

It's bad when your own photograph makes you laugh! In the photo from '05, Kaitie's bass was almost as big as she is! She wasn't even 12 years old yet. And Andrew was still shorter than me. He's got me beat by about a half-foot now! My "little" brother no longer.

On January 23, 2005 we played "Today" -- the first song we ever wrote -- at the end of the last service at our church. And by "last service", I literally mean it was the last service at that church, ever, before it closed. It was a sad day. And I was so nervous! My hands shook so bad I was surprised I could still play. We recorded our performance of that song on a cassette tape and that's what we used to book our next couple shows. To this day, I'm still not sure how we got any bookings!

Oddly enough, the closing of our church was the reason we decided to start a band in the first place. Andrew and I had been playing in the worship band and we had every intention of continuing. But when the church closed, we no longer had a place to play music. We were writing our own songs by then too. So we decided we'd try to play at any churches that would have us. And play we did! About every other week on average that first year. It's just like God to take a sad occasion and use it to make something good and entirely unexpected happen.