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17 October 2015

Sunday's Music - October 18

I posted this on Summit Crossing's internal site and wanted to share it here.

Wherever I hear the phrase, “I sin in thought or deed every day,” uttered by a Christ-follower I get frustrated. That idea is in opposition to Scripture.

The apostle John wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1, emphasis mine)

And then there’s Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Amazing! So there’s no reason for us to assume defeat. Yes, we still live in these tents of flesh and its our tendency to default to our old nature, but that is not the NEW default for those of us who have been buried with Christ and raised in His likeness, as His brothers and sisters.

Now, all that being said, I get mad at myself frequently because I realize this in my head, yet living it out can be frustratingly difficult. I like to indulge my own desires (there, I said it so you don’t have to). And that leads to sin. Therefore, I totally identify with the song we’ll be singing during communion time tomorrow:

Will Your grace run out if I let You down?
[Be]cause all I know is how to run.
Will You call me child when I tell You lies?
[Be]cause all I know is how to cry.

I am a sinner;
If it’s not one thing it’s another.
Caught up in words, tangled in lies.
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful; beautiful.

I am thankful for Jesus Christ. I have no hope in this life or the life to come apart from His life, death, and resurrection. He makes my cruddy life beautiful in the sight of God. (Remember 1 John 1:9)
I’m sorry this is so late, but here are the songs we get to song together tomorrow:
  • From the Day (I Am They)
  • Absent From Flesh (Sojourn)
  • Brokenness Aside (All Sons and Daughters)
  • I Stand Amazed In the Presence (Daniel Renstrom)
  • My Lighthouse (Rend Collective)
Below are your playlists! There is no recorded version of “I Stand Amazed” the way we’ll be playing it tomorrow so I linked to Chris Tomlin’s version.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

04 September 2015

Sunday's Music - September 6, 2015

I wanted to share the music plans for this coming Sunday at our church fellowship, Summit Crossing Limestone (and I added some stuff at the end).

For a quick-start, here’s a Spotify playlist for those who have the app:

And here’s a YouTube playlist:

Here are the songs:

- Desert Song (Hillsong Worship)
– Our God is Faithful (UMobile Worship)
– How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (Christy Nockels)
– How He Loves (David Crowder Band)
– From the Day (I Am They)

I come from a church-culture background of singing and playing hymns. As some of you may remember, in the 90s, “choruses” edged their way in as the thing to sing. At least, they became the thing to sing for some churches. In many fellowships, though, music style quickly became a source of contention; believers argued vehemently and often quite viciously about which kind of song was the best kind of song for corporate worship.

It seems the lyrics weren’t theologically deep enough, or maybe they were too archaic. One group thought the music was too simplistic, but for some it was confusingly complex. And then there was the pivotal issue of “raise mine Ebenezer” vs. “All things are possible! All things are possible! All things are possible! All things are possible! (Repeat 3x)”.

And in all this confusion the Gospel was (and in many places still is), unimaginably sadly, lost. A totally unique vehicle that the Maker of the universe ordained for us to use to worship Him and loudly declare our thanks and praise — music — had become a source of divisiveness.

May that never be so among the people whom Jesus has brought to life. We have the mind-boggling privilege of being children of God. Do we really want to reduce that?

It’s my perpetual prayer that our corporate opportunities to sing to our Father together will be Gospel-centric; not focused on ourselves in any way.

20 August 2015

Sunday's Music - August 23, 2015

Yikes. It's been over a year since my last visit here. I thought I'd dust off the cobwebs and dive in with something I wrote to our church fellowship this evening. This coming Sunday I'll get to lead music with a talented group of musicians and singers. This is a post about what we'll be singing together

A scant few synonyms of the word "furious" might be "passionate," "unrestrained," or "fierce." The ones I typically think of, though, are more like "angry" or "enraged." (And I'm sure many of you think about cars and stunts.) I have to say that I haven't often thought of our Father's love for us as "furious."

Interestingly, though, that's one of the very reasons I so easily embraced our first song for this coming Sunday. It made me consider in a new way how how deeply God loves us. He is a love so passionate that He cannot be resisted. God's love for us will relentlessly persist in spite of our worst failures (and sometimes, it seems, in spite of our most proficient efforts).

And that's just the FIRST song.

The second song, "Look What God Has Done," has become a new favorite. I'll paste some lyrics below our song list for this coming Sunday...
  • Furious (Bethel Church with Jeremy Riddle)
  • Look What God Has Done (Ghost Ship)
  • Come to Me (Village Church with Lauren Chandler)
  • Like Incense / Sometimes By Step (Hillsong Worship)
  • All My Fountains (Chris Tomlin)
(And here's a playlist for Spotify users: )

Here are some lyrics from "Look What God Has Done":

Look what God has done: He redeemed us with His blood.
We were lost and dead in sin. He came for us.
Look what God has done: He adopted us in Love;
We were orphans without hope, now His children.

Who are we that He would save us?
Who are we that He would send us?

To God be glory, through Christ our Savior's Church
Through all generations.
To God be glory, through Christ our Savior's work
Forever and ever.

Look at Jesus Christ: He redeems His precious bride.
By His costly sacrifice, we're invited.
See the wisdom of His ways in the mystery of grace;
Every age and every race, we're united.

Do you see where this song directs our focus? What if we spent every day remembering that focus and actively modeling it? When I consider how I tend to inadvertently (and, to be real, sometimes intentionally) look down on other people, and then remember that Jesus never had the same disdain for me, I'm utterly shocked at my own arrogance.

Who am I that He would save me? Who am I that He would send me?

Look what God has done!

08 August 2014

The Perils of Taking Center Stage

You may be inclined to stop reading (because you'll think I'm a complete jerk) before you get through the account below. I encourage you to read it all before making a judgment call, though.

It was a slightly breezy, cool evening and I'd set up my guitar and microphone as part of a trio to play music for an outdoor festival on a mountain for a moderately affluent community. I had to arrange my stage area on the front porch of a small white house; I believe it was an old historic landmark. The odd thing about the setup was that my friends Chris and Quentin (or "Q"), the bassist and drummer, had to set up their their instruments (insert your own joke about drums not being an instrument) in an open area off to my right at a fairly substantial distance for a typical band layout.

We didn't get a sound check, and I remember being particularly nervous about a couple of the songs that hadn't gone too well when we practiced. Strangely, though, at that moment I couldn't remember which songs those were. Stage fright, most likely.

When it was time to start playing I stepped up to the mic and said, "Hello. My name is Dean Lusk," and immediately noticed that the crowd seemed disinterested; still mingling without so much as a glance at the stage. I reacted by throwing out a fairly dumb one-liner. Mercifully, it received some chuckles. Continuing the schtick, I put on my best Liverpool accent (or whatever dialect it is when you really don't know which dialect it is) and proclaimed, "I'm actually British," and started to wade through another stupid anecdote.

Suddenly, while I was still talking and before I even realized it was happening, Q gave a four-count with his drumsticks and he and Chris began to play the first song, "Dock of the Bay." I fell in easily enough, though I felt incredibly awkward. I guess I had been talking too much.

The first few words I sang were fine. And then it struck me like lightning that this was one of the songs I'd been anxious about. The hard part came quickly: the last half of the first line of the chorus... "watching the tiiiiiide roll in." It was slightly too high for my vocal range, and my voice almost cracked so I took a step back from the mic even before I'd finished singing the phrase. And I noticed something that was surprising and embarrassing.

This wasn't even my song. It was Q's song, and he was singing. It had been his microphone I had heard when I began to sing. I was mortified and wondered what Chris and Q thought of me (which bothered me far more than what the crowd thought); I'd essentially tried to hijack the performance with my awful comedy routine at the beginning and then by trying to sing over the top of someone else's vocal.

I put my guitar down and walked away in embarrassment and shame. The song was still going. Q sounded great. Matter of fact, even though the music was now just drums, bass, and a vocal, it sounded surprisingly good. I don't even remember if anyone in the crowd gave me weird looks as I walked through the middle of them, over to another little white house near the back of the audience, where I woke up.

I was more than relieved to realize it had been a dream, but it did reveal to me a darker side of my personality. Jesus talked about it.

“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 14:8-11, NLT, emphases mine)

While I wouldn't dare execute this dream in real life, it illustrated the extent to which I sometimes live as though the world revolves around me. I've come to learn over the past few years that self-centeredness comes in many forms, all of which are corrupting and damaging to nearly every relationship, beginning with our relationship to God and extending to our families and friends.

For that reason, I hope this dream sticks in my memory for a long time to come.

08 May 2014

You've Gotta Know When To Fold 'Em

This is yet another fun account of me doing something dumb. After considering several spiritual parallels (and even consulting my friend Lee the Enabler, who helped me edit the post) I decided to leave it as just a story. I'd be happy if you'd like to comment on what you see as allegorical in it, though.

My wife and daughter had almost finished setting up my daughter's new bed by the time I got home from work. All I had to do was obtain a couple of oddball bolts from my tub of oddball bolts (to replace the obligatory forgotten ones missing from the parts packages) and attach the headboard.

Well, that's almost all I had to do. Callie helped me dismantle the old frame before heading out to a very important ladies' shindig, about which I remember nothing because I'm a typical male, sadly. My daughter went with her and my son was at work, so the task of putting the old mattress and frame into the attic was, both figuratively and literally, on my shoulders.

As I folded the three-segment attic ladder down and listened to its squeaky voice punctuated by the the occasional "Toinnngg!!" interjection of the springs on the sides, I thought, "This attic ladder contraption is actually a remarkable achievement. I'll bet the inventor made lots of money." After I pondered it for a few seconds I mused that anyone with a rudimentary understanding of geometry could probably have figured it out eventually, so I forged ahead with my task: transporting awkwardly large objects up rickety steps through a rectangular hole in the ceiling.

It went well until I was down to only a few pieces of wooden frame leaning against the wall, sitting on a smooth laminate floor. Darn you, physics.

I had folded up the ladder to give myself some headroom as I pushed the remaining pieces a few feet down the hall. That may have been my first real mistake. Maybe I didn't wait to see if they were stable as they leaned against the wall.

Before I continue, I'd like to note that the upcoming wound healed rather nicely. No scar, even.

I reached up, grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder, and pulled it toward me, letting it swing up and over so I could catch it on the way down.

Just as the unfolding ladder was reaching the upper part of its arc before descending (seeming to hang in midair for just a moment), I heard the headboard start to slide away from the wall behind me. I instinctively lurched my head and body to the right to save the day (still holding my left hand up to catch the falling ladder), grabbed the headboard before it fell, and thought, "Oh, yeah, I rock!" and then turned back to permit the ladder to gracefully fall into my outstretched hand.

Imagine my surprise when, rather than feeling the ladder fall gently into my palm, I was greeted with a sudden splash of white light, a loud (yet strangely not loud), wood-against-bone noise, and the sudden realization that I was stumbling backward down the hall.

<i>Falling... ladder...       Hit...  in... head...         Blood...         Home... alone...     Must... get... help...</i>

It turns out it wasn't quite as bad as all that, but I realized I'd been smashed just above the eye by a rogue attic ladder.

Similar to Gloria Gaynor, though, I survived. (As I did in my last post.)

I was admittedly disappointed that I only had a small gash right next to my left eye but no cool shiner because I still think on sixth grade levels in some areas. Remember -- I'm a typical male. Regardless of the lack of a really good contusion, I received mostly acceptable levels of pity from my family when they got home in spite of my stupidity.

It was a neat experience, all told, but I doubt I'll do it again.

06 May 2014

A Journey of Self-Awareness

My bad attitude ramped up on Tuesday evening.
Oh, it would've started at least a couple of days earlier had we not been bombarded by "significant weather event" warnings that began Thursday or Friday the previous week.
But I was distracted as we rode out a bumpy Monday night packed with considerable paranoia (and we were packed into the bathroom) as tornadoes ripped through Mississippi and parts of Alabama, laying waste to sections of Athens, a small neighboring city, as well as other towns and areas I know you've heard about.
But in the end we were safe and I was able to get back to the task at hand: having a phenomenally poor attitude. Looming ahead was the weekend.
Among other music-related things I do, I play with a band. We had three gigs coming up, crammed into two days: one Friday evening, one Saturday afternoon, and one Saturday evening. I knew in advance how tired I'd be.
They say you don't get paid for actually playing music; rather, you're paid for loading equipment in and out.
Okay, maybe only our drummer says that. But he's right.
Everything I did that week was bathed in the dim, miserable fog of the thought, "I have to play three gigs this weekend and it's gonna be awful." As miserable as my self-pity was for me, I have to imagine it was doubly (even exponentially) miserable for my wife. But she was a trooper (wow, that sounds patronizing, but I'm leaving it in the post, anyway). So we all slogged through the week.
But sort of like Gloria Gaynor, though, I survived.
Sunday morning we met with our church group for corporate worship. (Full disclosure: I was, indeed, humongously tired and I went out of a sense of obligation. My wife was the only one who knew this until you guys just read it.) We had an enjoyable and relaxing lunch with some relatively new friends from our not-to-be-called-a-small-group missional community. I grilled scallops that evening, and they were even good enough for me to have served them to friends without offering up self-deprecating comments throughout the meal.
At some point on Monday, or maybe even Sunday night before bed, I realized I'd taken a boat-load of gifts God had given me and tossed them into a miry swamp of indifference.
I'm not talking about the "good" things from Sunday -- the scallops and the happy lunch. I'm referring to all of the missed opportunities to be an integral part of what God was and is doing on the world and in people all around me. That isn't a passive religious idea. The God Who created everything gives me the unmerited privilege of playing a small part in what He's doing. And that is mind-boggling.
So how many people did I come into contact with over the weekend who were hurting in some way? How many wanted to tell someone about how God had blessed them? Who needed a few dollars to pay his utility bill? Was there anyone I came across who was at wits' end but was trying to maintain a happy face so no one would see how devastated he was? And what were the names of any of the families that lost their houses on Monday night?
I've no idea.
So help me, I have no idea whatsoever.
Instead of being aware of -- or, heaven forbid, acting upon -- the myriad chances to "be Jesus" to someone (those opportunities and people are constantly in every facet of our lives), I was consumed with something rather finite and insignificant.
I was consumed with myself.
I'd like to say it's a lesson I've learned before, but it appears it's only a lesson I've been taught before.
So it's another week of embarking upon a journey of repentance and awareness. Not a journey of self-awareness, though. Those tend to take me where I don't want to go.
They keep me from going where I need to go.

09 January 2014

Abstinence of Evidence

"Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (Jesus in Matthew 7:20, NLT)

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (Jesus in John 13:34-35, NLT, emphasis obviously mine)

Believe it or not, unassailable doctrine, large churches, observance of strict moral codes, etc., are not the best indicators that we're followers of Jesus, although they may sometimes come along for the ride. But it doesn't get much simpler than this: our love for one another will prove to the world that we are Jesus' disciples.

Is it possible that followers of Christ tend to live under the impression -- and teach and imply -- that our abstinence from such-and-such "evil" will prove to the world that we're indeed Jesus' disciples? Certainly there are codes of conduct that are taught to the believer in Scripture, and often those things begin with "do not." I'm not saying or implying otherwise.

The problem, though, may be that we're so concerned with the "do not" parts that we tend to forget the "do" parts. Consider the fact that Jesus did not make any of these statements:
  • "If you do not associate with sinners, you will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
  • "If you do not use foul speech, this will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
  • "Your abstinence from alcohol will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
  • "If you do not support businesses that act in a way that is contrary to Scriptural principles, the world will know that you are my disciples."
  • "If you do not gossip, it will be obvious to the world that you are my disciples."

Some of those things are fine (unless they're accompanied by legalism, at which point they're tainted), but according to Jesus, none are the most solid evidence that we are His disciples. In fact, our reliance on "do not" rules can have a tremendous negative effect. (Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons' eye-opening 2007 book, unChristian, is a great place to start in learning about this, and I highly recommend it.)

One of my favorite quotes about the Church is one made by a man known as Julian the Apostate, emperor of Rome from 361-363. He wrote in a letter to Arsacius, the high priest in Galatia, "These impious Galileans [Christians] not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agapae, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes." It wasn't that this early group of believers stood up for their religious rights, abstained from certain foods and drinks, or didn't associate with pagans. It was direct outward evidence of their love for other people (which blossomed out of their love for Jesus) that was evidence that they were followers of The Way.

For the sake of Jesus Christ, let us become a generation of believers that is known for what it does rather than what it does not do.

(This post was originally made quite some time ago; you've just read a re-post. But that's okay. It was free!)

23 January 2013

Mostly Harmless

GARDENDALE | Wed Jan 2, 2013 8:15am EST -- Several years ago in Gardendale, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, a group of people with similar interests began to meet in a community center they rented every other Saturday. The facility in an upper middle class section of town; an area where people took pride in their landscaping, had solid high-paying jobs, two and a half kids, etc.

There was nothing at all unusual about people meeting in the community center, but when word got out that the crowd was made up of parolees, convicted felons, and people who'd been accused of any number of crimes from petty theft to rape and arson, the community was none too happy, for obvious reasons.

Fairly soon it was discovered that the meetings were essentially seminars where attendees were given what amounted to step-by-step tutorials on topics like disarming alarm systems, offensive combat techniques, and weapons training. As this leaked out, the well-to-do neighborhoods nearby became paralyzed with fear. Sales of high-end security systems, video monitoring systems, and home window security bars nearly tripled in the first two months of the group's meetings.

Over time, however, the community residents were surprised that although there was an occasional burglary in the neighborhood or a petty theft at a nearby convenience store, the crime rate didn't actually rise. On top of that, the extra income generated by the facility rental allowed the community center to make improvements on its property, initially adding a baseball diamond and after a few years, a swimming pool. The leader of the group continued to make occasional appearances on local-access TV channels and in spite of being outspoken and having rather alarming commentary on some issues, his ideas never gained traction outside the group.

It wasn't very long before the group of people meeting in the community center came to be classified as "mostly harmless."

The above is a work of fiction; a parable submitted for your consideration. Has the Church become all bark and no bite? Are our meetings just informational seminars that rarely result in action or implementation? Do we expect to get by on our reputation or things we've done in the past? Are we really "mostly harmless"?

If we lived and practiced what Jesus taught and what we teach in our meetings, wouldn't we expect to see some crazy changes in our communities?

22 December 2012

Christmas Thoughts...

As I noted a bit earlier this morning via Twitter, I discovered last night that the version of It's a Wonderful Life that exists in my memory is notably superior to the Frank Capra film.

I feel unChristmas-like when I say that it was not only boring, but for some reason I had a hard time believing that Harry Bailey was graduating high school at what appeared to be something like 36 years old, and that George Bailey was only slightly older than your typical college-aged guy when he looked 52. Kinda like Napoleon's classmate and antagonist Don in Napoleon Dynamite.

In other news, we're about to go get the ingredients for Christmas Eve fondue! I'd like to point you to, where last year I discovered an incredible beef fondue recipe. I made the mushroom dipping sauce, too. Not only did the family not hate it, they (and I) actually loved it. I think it kept our Christmas Eve fondue tradition from dying. Had it been bad we might not have planned to do it again this year.

Finally, stop by and download the absolutely free Green Hill Christmas Music Sampler! It's a straight-ahead, mostly traditional (and on occasion easy-listening) Christmas album.

Merry early Christmas!

06 December 2012

Christmas Classics Flash Poll

Okay, dig in:

1. Mannheim Steamroller or Trans-Siberian Orchestra?
2. Johnny Mathis or Nat King Cole?
3. Andy Williams or Frank Sinatra?
4. Dean Martin or Bing Crosby?
5. Jimmy Durante or Burl Ives?

Your responses and vicious arguments are solicited. Leave your comments below.

05 December 2012

Ten Least-Loved Christmas Songs of 2012

I have about 750 Christmas songs on my iPod. The problem, if it could be called that, is that I've cycled through most of them a few times already. (That's okay, because albums like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" never seem to get old.)

So, after listening to our two local Christmas-music-only radio stations in an attempt to enjoy a little variety, I have determined that only about 50 Christmas songs must have ever been recorded other than those on my iPod. Among them are three versions of "Last Christmas" and roughly 26 versions of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (all nearly identical, which makes me wonder why they bothered to record the other 25 versions).

As fate would have it, those two songs are on my "Ten Least-Loved Christmas Songs of 2012" list. It's not enjoyable to wake up to an alarm blaring either of those, so I've decided to start using the buzzer on the alarm instead. It's more inspiring.

Because I enjoy not enjoying certain Christmas songs, I'd like to present the complete list for you. It varies a bit from last year's list in that it's a little longer. Please reciprocate by listing your bottom 10 (or however many you'd like to include) Christmas songs.

Dean's Ten Least-Loved Christmas Songs of 2012:
  1. Last Christmas (Wham!, Taylor Swift, the Glee Cast)
  2. Step Into Christmas (Elton John)
  3. All I Want for Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)
  4. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee, etc., etc., etc.)
  5. Happy Christmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon, etc.)
  6. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Jackson 5, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, etc.)
  7. The Christmas Shoes (NewSong -- it's a huge victory that I've only heard this song once so far all season!)
  8. Do They Know It's Christmas (Feed the World) (Band Aid)
  9. Little Saint Nick (Beach Boys)
  10. Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry)
Don't forget to post your own list!

01 December 2012

Christmas 2012 Freebie 2

Here's the second set of freebies of the 2012 Christmas season! Like the first, this set of freebies is Christmas music. However, you'll need to be much more selective with these songs than you were with those in the first post.

During my hunt for instrumental (and tasteful) Christmas music last year I uncovered Some of the songs will make you feel like Christmas in a way that makes you all warm and fuzzy and makes you pine for olden days -- happy golden days -- of yore. Some may make you recoil in disgust like that one time you heard your Aunt Erma singing Christmas karaoke. It's okay if none of you has an Aunt Erma or has ever heard a family member doing Christmas karaoke. You'll still recoil in disgust at some of these recordings. However, some are excellent!

But they are all free.

First I recommend visiting the Traditional Instrumental Christmas music page. You can preview a song by clicking on its title. Then you'll be taken to a page where you can click the play button and preview it. Like it? Then just right-click on the title of the song and "Save as" to your "My Music" folder (assuming you're using a PC).

If you mouse over the "FREE CHRISTMAS MUSIC DOWNLOADS" menu item you'll see a pop-down of a few other categories to explore.

Your mileage may vary, but hopefully you'll find some great new renditions of old favorites.

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