Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Balance of Love

Blogger's note: Reading back on much of what I have written in this blog, especially during my time of intense theological study a few years back, I realize this may be a more "liberal" view to take for me. It occurs to me, having Christian friends on both the far right and far left ends of the spectrum, that a more moderate, balanced approach to the faith and those outside of it, needs to occur before both ends destroy the faith from the inside. The bickering, disagreements and fighting over various preferential issues, and even major issues needs a revision. These were my thoughts a few days ago, as they came to me (edited for grammar, spelling and some phrasing), but reflective of my current thoughts on my faith, and being a Christian in an ever-changing world. Thanks for reading! Chris






Many of us who grew up in the Bible belt going to church each Sunday, attending Bible studies, youth group activities and those things, have not often met any challenge to our Christian belief. With a church on every corner, and Sunday worship commonplace, we were immersed in a culture of Christianity. 

As such, it was typical to develop certain views that we might carry as we move out of the home and into the real world. Even in college, it was possible to be quite actively involved with a church, and still not see much outside of the stained glass window view. I wish I had known more about the faith, and been challenged to develop my understanding of why I believe what I believe as I was growing up in the church. More often it was simply the common routine of the week. It was easier to simply go with the flow, or in my case, read a few books and develop a set point of view, that did not need challenging, and which suited me just fine. 

And, fifteen years ago, that was an easier road to take. It seems now, there is so much disruption in our culture over a number of hot button issues, that it isn’t quite as easy to maintain the same distinct Christian worldview at all times. Just as we physically and mentally mature, so our faith must often mature with us.

As a Christian, I do still want to hold to the primary theological truths that make up the faith (or else why bother tagging myself “Christian”), but I also understand, there are many key issues that the church and Christians have taken a stance on in the past, that are now being revised, or rethought in an effort to match the cultural shifts we are seeing today. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on our approach.

For many Bible Belt believers, we grew up somewhat sheltered from the non-Christian world, and real life interactions with non-Christians. We may have known coworkers or friends who didn’t believe, but it was quite common for the casual Christian to not bother ever speaking up about their faith, in an effort to not rock the boat. And, within the Christian culture that concept has been acceptable for quite some time. We often forget that Jesus was not afraid of being around sinners of his day in order to more completely make them aware of a better way through love and acceptance of their humanity, even while not specifically accepting their sin. 

Jesus being around prostitutes, for example, does not mean he was an avid supporter of prostitution, nor should he have been. What it did show was that the mindset of the religious leaders of the time was so focused on morality and theology, they had forgotten to reach out to those in need, or show God’s love to others.

Jesus turns the religious leaders on their heads by having meals with prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors and other unseemly people of the day. In no way does this make Jesus an advocate for those lifestyles or sins. What it did; however, is show those people that there was another way, and in their situations at that time, a better way. But, it was not done by pointing out the immorality in a condemning fashion. It was done by loving the person, and then, simply asking they go and sin no more, or go onto a more fulfilling path.

And, though not meant as a cure all for our happiness, Christ’s teachings do in fact lead us to a better way of life. We learn to love one another, to help those in need, to look out for our brothers and sisters, and in effect to show God’s love to those who might otherwise not hear or know about it. 

As Christians, we are taught to sanctify ourselves daily, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Fear and trembling seems to imply then, that there will be some discomfort, even for the person who has put their whole faith in Christ and His word. The Bible is cut and dry on many issues, but it does not always speak directly to everything. I do believe it is the inspired Word of God, I won’t deny that. But, I think in some ways, modern Evangelical (and other types of) Christians are missing the point on a number of aspects of Christ’s teachings. 

Before I nitpick too much, I will admit that I do have my own sins and struggles, even as a professing Christian. In fact, maybe that is the most important thing for Christians to acknowledge when asked about their faith. We are not meant to be white-washed tombs- externally displaying perfection while internally housing decay and death. We are a work in progress, just as all of the heroes of the faith were at one time. 

Abraham went against God’s will and had a child with his servant, Moses murdered a man in what he perceived as righteous anger, Paul (While still Saul) killed many followers of Christ before having a conversion experience and going on to be one of Christianity’s strongest fathers. Humanity and humans are broken, and our churches and Christian homes should not be afraid to let the outside world know that we also struggle in this life. 

Now, do we actively sin for the purpose of showing we still fail as Christians? No, that would be missing the point. We should not seek sin. But, we should know that even if Christ is the primary focus of our life, we are going to fail at times. Those who preach perfection, and overcoming in the name of Jesus speak only a partial truth. We are over-comers, and we have Christ as our mediator in the end, but our daily struggle is still real.

So, for the Bible belt believers, surrounded by a changing culture, can we afford to forget how to love those who are different than us? We are on a path now which I am starting to feel paints us more as the Pharisees than the disciples Christ intended us to be. On one far end, we have hate speech and racism bleeding back into the faith, much as it did in the sixties. Remember, the KKK considered itself a Christian organization, and I think everyone can agree that was not the way Christ meant for us to act towards others. We have petty disagreements which end up blowing into nation wide events, that only seek to paint our faith as unloving, and uncaring for those who are different, or who do not believe the same as we do. Then again, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Christians essentially denying aspects of the faith that form the core of Christianity to begin with, sometimes to the point it would be more honest for them to simply drop the title of “Christian.” 

I think we must hold fast to the truths of the faith without neglecting our fellow humans. If the path Christ taught is meant to better us, and to lead us into the existence that was meant for us in the beginning, we ought to make sure we are presenting that road accurately, and lovingly. 

Is every Christian meant to go to a street corner to preach the gospel? No! Is every Christian going to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as strongly during worship? No! There are absolutes in the faith and there are matters of preference, or individual style which God has ingrained in our hearts.

None of us are 100% correct. I can study theology for the rest of my life and develop the most accurate representation of Christ’s teachings that anyone has ever done, and I’ll still not be 100% on mark. There is a message somewhere in that statement. We may be a new creation in Christ, and the old nature may pass away, but it does not forever leave us while we still abide in this world, and we are not going to get it 100% correct. 

So, if my theology says that I must not support a certain behavior, do I need to immediately blow off, condemn or ignore someone who practices that behavior? The answer, if we mean to win hearts to a better way of life, should be a resounding no! I cannot run around treating people differently, regardless of their sins or even my own. And, just as Christ with the prostitutes, we are not advocating those vices, but simply showing the person there is still love for them, and that they need not turn to those vices  or bad decisions as a crutch for what feels missing in their lives. 

To the woman who the religious leaders of Jesus’ day intended to stone for being an adulterous, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more.” Notice, He did not say, “hey it’s cool to be loose and continue living that way.” He said, to paraphrase, “look, I know you are hurting, and I am not here to hurt you more, but there is a better way, I love you, but do not let your lifestyle or your sin take hold of you, do not be a slave to it.” I’m not attempting to put words in Christ’s mouth, but rather to point out that even in the midst of loving, he commanded to not sin. 

So, there is a balance to be had, and being on the extreme right or left of the spectrum is not doing anyone any good. We can love, and encourage to better show a new way of living. We can share our own struggles and hurts in our humanity, so we are not the white-washed tombs, or the people with large blocks of wood in our eyes trying to remove the specks of wood from the eyes of others. We need to not actively make ourselves into hypocrites, though I realize hypocrisy may very well be a struggle or sin for some Christians.



Christians are called to make judgments within the faith in terms of accountability, yes, but not to the outside world in the same way. Paul says in Corinthians that God will judge those outside the faith. This implies to me, we are meant then to love them, and bring them to a knowledge of a new life following Christ. We are also to compassionately rebuke one another within the faith, as necessary, so that once we commit to follow Christ, we hold one another accountable. But, even then, it doesn’t mean there is perfection within that faith. Again, a balance is to be had.


So, why not try a balance going forward? Say hi to the coworker who you wouldn’t normally greet because of their attitude or lifestyle. Have a meal with your friend who believes differently than you and let your light shine in your attitude and your love, not in cramming theology in their face. Theological knowledge and growth can come in its proper time for those who choose to follow Christ, but God drew us in initially with love, should we not also do the same? 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Lack of Spiritual Focus




2012 was my year of true spiritual discipline and study. It seems to have gradually fallen away into the background more and more since then.

I was telling Juliet that I always seem to do things in phases. I'll have a video game phase for 6 months or so where my main point of excitement is from games. Or, I might have a songwriting phase, where most of my free time is invested in writing and performing.

My concern, as I expressed to her, was that spiritual discipline was becoming just another of my phases of which I drift in and out. Understandably, this is not an ideal spot in which to be for one claiming to follow Christ.

Now, I will say that I have not floundered my core belief. I still do my best to lead worship at Amen Austin on Saturdays when I am in town and able. Yet, I feel deep down, the hunger for God's word, and even for studying things of a theological nature has been waning more in the past couple of years. It seems I always hit a spiritual high point, some instance or activity that really tells me I'm headed the right way, and then somehow, it just derails.

For example, sometime back in 2012 (+ or - 1 year for lack of exact memory), I was really studying theology. I had even planned out a book that I was going to begin writing. I had a chance to co-lead a seminar with my pastor friend, and overall, most of my free time was dedicated to studying the Bible and theological resources. And, it was my desire to do so. I had an unquenchable hunger to dig deeper into the faith which I claimed. I wanted to know why I believe what I believe. I wanted, as Peter said, to be able to give an answer as to the hope I have (1 Peter 3:15).

Then, maybe a week after helping with the seminar, the interest began to fade. It was still there, but it became more gradually replaced with other interests and activities.

As things stand right now, I have my areas of interest and focus split, and unfortunately, theological study has become less of a priority.

I don't believe that having other actives and interests is inherently a bad thing. The time I am investing currently into music for example, is time spent investing in one of my God-given talents. I think there is a purpose within it which has yet to be revealed. So, my focus there continues. It is also something about which I am passionate. And, since I do still try my best to lead music at Amen Austin on Saturdays, investing in musical performance and skill helps on that front. The more disciplined I become practicing and honing my craft, the better it will be for both the secular and spiritual environments in which I find myself.

Part of my loss of focus spiritually came last year (or was it 2 years ago) around this time when I stopped working on the overnight shift, and my days off got swapped around. Instead of having a Saturday/Sunday off schedule, I ended up having to work a day shift with no Sundays off. This prevented us from attending our home church in Leander, where I was receiving a lot of good teaching that was helping me to keep focused on my study.

Thankfully, I was able to lead music for Pastor Matt's church on Saturdays and still maintain some spiritual focus.

My work shift is changing yet again in two weeks, and now I will be off Friday/Saturday, but work 3pm-midnight Sunday-Thurs. The benefit will be having Sunday mornings free again for our home church. The biggest drawback is that the open mic nights in which I have become so invested, are all on weekday nights, and I will now be working.

So, I can't help but wonder from a Spiritual perspective, if this shift in time slots is to allow more focus on church and spiritual discipline. I've invested more time playing music and performing in the past two months with open mic nights than  I have dedicated to any sort of spiritual study in the past year.

As Christians, are we supposed to dedicate every waking hour to spiritual discipline and study? Or, are some set apart with that gifting, while others manifest their faith through other means?

I don't know that I have an answer. Honestly, I don't know that in terms of writing I've even dedicated enough focus lately for this post to have a point. I look back on some previous posts when I was really dedicated to writing, and they seem a lot more thought out than the more recent ones.

Maybe I'm just over-analyzing small things again. I think the opportunity for a Sunday service again, and the chance to maybe book some Friday night gigs in the upcoming weeks though some of the great people I've met during the open mic nights will allow for plenty of balance.

I'm sure the other Christian brothers and sisters around me could stand to invest a bit more time in the faith, just as I could. There are so many distractions and activities in this world to eat up our time. Some days I wish I was retired already so I could invest my days in reading and studying and growing. But, that type of thinking is probably more excuse than anything.

With a work shift starting at 3pm, I should have enough time to dedicate to God, exercise and anything else I'm looking to accomplish. Here's hoping for a better balance going forward.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Musical Adventure

I'm not sure at what point I stopped writing here, but it wasn't fully intentional. Much has been happening in the past month, and honestly I haven't really thought of anything particularly special to write.

But, in the interest of consistency, I wanted to take some time and put down a few thoughts. This one may not have much of a theme, but hopefully will kick things off again.

When we first moved to Austin in 2009, I had been playing music pretty consistently in Oklahoma. My band, "The Huntsmen," was playing cover songs at a few gigs here and there. At the time, I also loved just sitting out on a street corner singing. There was a confidence there, that seemed to disappear after leaving Oklahoma.

Austin, being the live music capital of the world (their words), intimidated me musically. In Oklahoma, my harmonica/singing/guitar simultaneously was a treat for some, as it wasn't as common. In Austin, everyone sings and plays guitar, and many add in the harmonica for good measure. Or, this is what I had as my perception.

So, I attempted one time to sit downtown on a corner playing, and it went decently enough, but didn't quite have that feel that doing it in Oklahoma had. From that point, it became more of a hassle to motivate and stretch myself to do that.

I wrote a lot in Austin. Some of my newer songs (many not recored) were written in Austin. I did most things at home, and didn't venture out musically. There is a coffee shop next door to the plasma center where we used to work that hosts an open mic night every Thursday, and I didn't once try to make it out and play.


Fast forward to this past week.

With Juliet still in Mexico this month, and feeling like there was nothing to do, I ventured out in Round Rock (north of Austin where we reside now) to a bar that listed an open mic night that evening. I didn't know what to expect, but something kept pushing me to just be confident again, and play. I arrived way too early, but spoke with the musicians of the house band, and they said once their set was over, they would begin the open mic portion. They insisted; however, that they back the acts. I usually do acoustic/singing/harmonica, and haven't had a band behind me since the Huntsmen, so this was an interesting curve.

As I listened to the group, I became aware that their musical style was similar to a lot of the more upbeat cover songs I used to do, so I mentally adjusted my playlist and got ready to perform. I told them what key we would be in, and tossed a few familiar song names at them, and we began. And, it went quite well.

Afterwards, I met a man named RJ, who goes from bar to bar in Round Rock listening to live music. He began to educate me on the best places to listen/play music in the Round Rock/North Austin area. A professional bar hopper, he had some good insight.

So, per his advice, I got off work the next Monday (on a work night) and rushed over to another local joint to sign up for their open mic. The first person I saw walking in was RJ, which made me laugh, but was also somewhat comforting, as he had enjoyed my set that Thursday before. I signed up and ended up playing sometime around 9pm (though I arrived closer to 7:45pm). This locale had quite a few talented musicians, and was basically booked solid for the open mic list. It filled up fast, and each musician got 3 songs to make sure we didn't go over the 10pm stop time.

Inspired by another round of applause for my performance, and some great compliments, I realized this is what I need to be doing when I am able. I don't know that I'll ever be a fully fledged gigging musician, but I'm remembering now that I do have some measure of talent, and can typically entertain a crowd. The rush on stage is much more exciting than sitting at home burning through a selection of Redbox movies (I used all my free codes anyway).

Last night (Wednesday) I tested another venue out for open mic. This was probably the oddity of the bunch, but as the night wore on, I realized I actually liked it.

I signed up way too early here, having been wary of waiting too long due to the long list at Monday night's venue. Due to early signup, I was asked to kick things off (which I did not particularly want to do). The MC for the night said take about 20 minutes (which was also unexpected). I had planned for 3-4 songs, and ended up needing about 5-6 when it was said and done.

On top of that, the crowd was literally (in the correct, unexaggerated sense) just the other musicians waiting to play. There were no patrons at the time I went on stage, just the open mic musicians, one bartender and the MC. It was a slow looking night. (I suppose my use of "literally" up there isn't quite correct as the bartender is not a musician-forgive me my grammatical stretch).

Before I got up, and older gentleman, "Overdue Bill," had approached me and was talking about all of the open mic venues he frequented. Bill is 88 years young, and his wife of 66 "tours" with him as he goes around Texas and other areas playing songs from his songbook. The songbook was thick and heavy as he has collected probably all of the older tunes out there into his repertoire.

My set went fine, despite a malfunctioning cord, and a PA in need of some care. I experimented more with the crowd and song choice as it was only the other musicians watching. Bill got up after me, put his chair on the stage, music stand and giant binder. As he began to strum, I got chills.

Bill was not particularly great at guitar or singing (which he admitted prior to playing), but this same type of love for singing reminded me of Mema (my mom's mom who has passed). Bill, made me think back to her days running her Gospel Singing Barn, when anyone who wanted to sing for the LORD could get up on stage and go. Even Mema didn't have the greatest voice in the world, but she had a passion for people and for singing. Bill reminded me of this. When his final song choice was "Old Rugged Cross," I felt great peace come over me. Bill later said that his two songs that earn him the biggest tips are "Old Rugged Cross," and "How Great Thou Art," despite the crowd being a bar crowd. That makes me wonder if deep down we all feel a connection to God brought about by those beautiful tunes. Or, perhaps people were humoring him.

I heard the MC talking about how he always tries to limit Bill because his style doesn't mesh as well with the others, which honestly frustrated me a bit. To compensate, I went up to Bill's wife and started telling her how much I was enjoying his playing, and how it reminded me of my grandma singing years ago. She was a nice lady, and told a few good stories about how Bill began to be the 88 year old open mic performer (she had talent but stage fright- bill wasn't afraid of stage despite not having a great talent - his words- I thought he was great).

I started talking to some of the other acts as they finished, and realized that even in this venue with nearly no one to watch, there was a nice camaraderie among the musicians. I met Phillip from Houston and Mark who had come from Boulder, CO and was just visiting open mics around town for something to do.

I came home refreshed, but exhausted (I Had worked my normal 10 hour work day prior to this). Today, as I reflect back, I'm anxious to get out and try more open mic venues. My music on reverberation website has put me at #11 locally in the singer-songwriter category (though according to online sources, this doesn't mean much). Locally, is also "Round Rock" in this case, which does not have quite as much competition as the Austin market. Still, it's nice to see that by posting a few songs, and shows, my rank moves up as more people listen and like it.

Today, I plan to frequent at least 1, if not 2 open mic in town to keep the flow going. I figure I can just become the open mic regular eventually, and build a fan base from that. I'd love a solo acoustic gig at some point at a bar or restaurant. At home, I continue playing with my songs, and using my iPad to record backing instrumentation to fill them out. The newest one, "Julie," was finished this time last week.


For more of my musical ventures visit me over at http://www.reverbnation.com/chrisbyersband or http://www.facebook.com/chrisbyersband

For booking around Austin/Round Rock, email at byes.chris@gmail.com


I like this opportunity to get out there and just have some fun performing again. My muscle memory and skills didn't leave me completely (Though I forgot a lot of my cover songs and will need to relearn them).

Hopefully, Ill have some more writing inspiration as I experience more than just sitting at home (Though I plan to do that from time-to-time still as well). Stay tuned, and thanks for reading/listening.

CHRIS

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Obligatory New Year's Blog

I've noticed many people are posting that 2014 was a rough year for them. Honestly, this was one of the better, or at least more consistently favorable years for us. 

Actually, until 12/17/2014, a day that will live in infamy (when our precious Puggy went missing), it was going quite well.

After Puggy's disappearance, my mom lost all her hearing in one ear, and a good bit of it in the other. To my knowledge it still has not returned.

My heart is still heavy going into 2015 because of those two things. I desperately wish Puggy would come waltzing up to the door here in Mexico, or that someone would call to deliver him back before the clock strikes midnight. I wish as well as everyone rings in the new year, my mom's hearing would come ringing back to her.

As I write this, I just received a text from our pastor friend:

"I declare and release God's manifested presence, power  and goodness over your life and loved one's in 2015.  Start this year by taking time tonight to dedicate yourself to God in prayer and worship. Thank Him for your 2014 blessings  and by faith declare all the Promises of God over your life.  You are loved! Supernatural blessings.  Pastor Matt"

This lifts my spirits a bit. One thing we must always remember, in good times and bad, is to be thankful. 

Looking back at this year, there is much for which to be thankful.

Juliet and I took steps to allow her to begin working with the ministry in Mexico. We downsized and moved to the RV, and in the midst discovered we can survive on my income. This frees up Juliet to do what she loves, and makes me happy that it's possible.

She may come back to the states a bit this year to work somewhere she enjoys while we hit our debt hard, but the goal will be a potentially life changing move to work towards both using our gifts with the Manos Juntas ministry in Mexico.

I am thankful to have had family in Austin, and that despite their move back to Oklahoma, more family has now moved to Austin. Can never get enough family!

Even in the loss of my mom's hearing (hopefully temporarily) and Puggy's disappearance, I still must thank God for His provision.

Even if Puggy does not come back, or my mom continues to have partial hearing, we must always give God thanks. 

Our purpose in this life, no matter how often we try to hide it with less fruitful endeavors, is to give God the glory. We were created for fellowship with him, and our following of Christ is a large step back towards the intended relationship.

To paraphrase, we are aliens in this world. We see but a glimpse of God's good intentions for us in this life. It must be our joy to be thankful in good times and bad, to grieve, but not as those without hope.

It is often overused, but Jeremiah is correct when he writes,

"I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper not to harm, to give you hope..." (Jeremiah 29:11)

The context of that verse was a time of tribulation much worse than anything we are currently experiencing. And yet, God speaks comfort to us through his prophet.

I've been less Spiritually involved this year (due in part to initially being unable to attend church consistently due to work), and I do want to get my focus back in 2015.

Not due to a misplaced negotiating tactic with God in which I focus on Him more and He then blesses us more. God will bless whom he blesses and put through trial those he loves that they may grow stronger in their walk.

For now, we must be thankful for the 6 wonderful years we had with Puggy. My mom, despite what I imagine is a huge feeling not to, must give thanks even in the midst of her hearing loss. For in all things, there is a purpose. 

We may not know why Puggy remains missing, or why my mom can't hear, but as we enter 2015, I pray we will remain joyful and thankful for all the things these past years with which God has blessed us.


Friday, December 19, 2014

PUGGY IS LOST- HELP US FIND HIM #bringpuggyhome

Hello all,






I am hoping some who read this may have connections in Rio Bravo, MX or surrounding area who can pass the world along.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 around 9pm, Puggy (Our pug) went missing near the building for Manos Juntas Mexico, in a neighborhood in the Northwest part of Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, MX.

We have searched the neighborhood for 2 days now, and think that someone must have taken him inside. Pugs are a valuable dog here, and taking one to keep, or sell, could be a strong possibility.

Some people had seen him running free that first night with another dog, but after searching far and wide, we think he would've turned up by now if he was still loose. More likely, someone has him in their house- hiding him.

We are offering a reward, in dollars, final amount TBD depending on whether Puggy is returned safely and without harm.

If anyone in Rio Bravo area has information, I will list the numbers to call- or location to meet us to deliver Puggy.

For anyone who knows our family, he is a baby to us, our first dog together as a married couple. Juliet and I are heartbroken, and only wish for Puggy to be brought back safely.

We won't ask questions, or turn people in for taking him. We simply want to have him back before Christmas, so our family can be reunited for the holidays.

Thank you in advance for anyone who helps lead us to our Pug. See the info below for how to reach us, or bring the pug to us.

If you have any information, call or email at the contact info below:

In US- byers.chris@gmail.com or 9186161693 for Chris

In Mexico- (in Rio Bravo area code) 933-0640, 933-0268 OR Mexico cell phone- 044-899-2160416

Please only call if you know where we can find Puggy, or have information on his whereabouts

Check the craigslist links for Lost and Found posting:

In English: http://mcallen.craigslist.org/laf/4812875258.html
In Spanish: http://mexicocity.craigslist.com.mx/pet/4812885783.html

Help fund Puggy's return with announcements, reward money and general funding for his search.
Bring Puggy Home Campaign

Please help us find our precious pug!

Friday, November 7, 2014

All they will call you will be, Deportee

I helped with a team of doctors/dentists/optometrists from Asbury UMC today at "Senda de Vida" in Reynosa. "Senda de Vida" is a ministry which helps those who have been deported from the US, some after living there with family for many years, get back on their feet and communicate with family members still in the states. The teams today did general checkups, dental work and checked eyes. It was a very rewarding experience. 


I had a chance to speak with one gentleman "William" who had lived in Oklahoma for many years with his 5 daughters, and was now separated and back in Mexico after being deported. He is probably 80-85 years old (too old to take care of himself), and cried each time he mentioned his daughters. One of them works at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
This is the human aspect of deportation and border patrol we often forget, and I think it takes meeting some of these people first hand, and hearing their stories, to get a full understanding of where we as Christians should stand on border issues. Yes, they were living here illegally, but many with family or working steady jobs. Others were being taken care of by their family, as they were too old to be living alone. Now, they have nowhere to go, and Senda de Vida helps get them back on their feet on the Mexican side. A noble work, but one that can only do so much.
Deported immigrants line up for medical services from the Asbury UMC medical team out of Tulsa, OK
Often, US Border patrol drops illegal immigrants off thousands of miles from where they first crossed, with no means of communication with family or survival. It's a common practice that I can only assume is some form of sick punishment our US side came up with to further demean the people. If we must deport can we not at least send them back to their hometowns? They're more likely to cross again if they are given no other alternatives by being sent thousands of miles away, than if they at least get to be back in Mexico with family. 
Immigration reform should have a goal, first and foremost, of reuniting families, and preventing the break up of existing families, regardless of mistakes that may have been made. Many of these are Christian people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who we are sending away, and condemning. Jesus said, "come unto me you are are weary and heavy laden..." (Mt. 11:28). I think we should remember that when our brethren from the border sacrifice everything for a small chance at a better life, and we promptly kick them back south of the river and call them criminals. 
I know many disagree, and many agree. Honestly, tired of debating it back and forth, so just think about the human side of things. Throw out the politics, and the arguments about safe/not safe. In the end, these are just people with families trying to make better lives for themselves. If it were any one of us, wouldn't we pray too for a little compassion and care from our brethren, especially those who call themselves Christian? I think we would.

A Whataburger just visible in the distance, looking stateside from Reynosa, MX..so close, yet so far








Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Swon" Song



Today marked the release of the debut album from "The Swon Brothers," who rose to fame after a successful run on the hit show, "The Voice." Though they were runners up on the show, they have taken that opportunity, and made something great of it.

I don't want this to be an excuse to play the "I know Colton and Zach," card, but I do want to share some of my experience around the brothers, and try to put into words the great emotion I feel having seen them make it this far.

First, let me just say to you guys, well done! You have absolutely been blessed with a great opportunity, and you are using your skills and your faith to realize God's call on your life as musicians. And, I do believe it is a calling.

I went to high school with Zach and Colton, though Zach was a year ahead and Colton a year or two behind. I won't say we hung out frequently by any means, but I do have a few fond memories of these guys, and the impact they made on all whom they came across.

Throughout high school most of our interactions were battling as bands in the talent shows. I began performing around my Sophomore year, but was certainly not at the talent level of these guys. As such, I had a sort of envy/admiration from afar.

My senior year, though, I had a chance to really sit down with Colton and get to know him a little better. It wasn't much, but we had a jazz band class together (which was more of a "jam band" class). I remember one day sitting in one of the band rooms with our acoustic guitars just strumming and hanging out. Whether or not he knows it, Colton has a way to make you feel like you are the most important person in the room without even saying a word. I can't remember what we discussed or what songs we played, but I haven't forgotten that moment when I finally got a glimpse at Colton's personality. It took away any friendly competition, and turned it into true admiration of talent.

There was one time before Colton and I sat together in Jazz band during my sophomore year that stands out to me as well. My band (if it could have been called that) had somehow booked a gig at our Spanish teacher's restaurant. It was my first real gig, and though our talent wasn't quite there, my brother, friend and I were very excited to play. I remember setting everything up and nearly being ready to play when Colton and Zach walked in with some friends.

I should clarify that this restaurant was not an easy find, it was out in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. What they did next has always been a cherished memory as well, though at the time I doubt I realized it would be.

Despite them already knowing we weren't the most skilled guys out there, they sat and supported us through our set, applauding when applicable, and legitimately watching us. I have a video of that night, and I know we didn't sound too good. The Swon Brothers have been talented since the crib, so to us having them watch was a big deal. It meant a lot that they stuck around. I think they played gigs there sometimes as well (maybe even later that night), but what stands out is their willingness to show support to a group that was clearly not on their level.

It's that kind of caring, and respect for those around them that really shines through. I could talk all day about how great this album is, and how each song is equally uplifting and inspiring. How "This side of Heaven," brought a tear to my eye, and how "Pray for you" makes me feel a surge of happiness at the sheer honesty of it all. Or, how I can't seem to stop singing, "Later on," and how "Same Old Highway," is very relatable as I drive to and from Mexico so often in this season of my life. But, I think there is more to Colton and Zach than the musical skill. They have an uncanny ability to make everyone around them feel special and relevant. They interact with their fans, they genuinely enjoy what they do and it shows.

I really can't think of two better guys to have received this great opportunity. Since high school, I've matured spiritually and mentally, and realize now that this is definitely more than just a career for them. It is a calling. It's hard to explain what emotional response I'm experiencing listening to this album. I have immense pride for their accomplishment, and I feel uplifted each time their perfect harmonies line up at just the right moments. There is something special about their music.

Colton and Zach, I just want you to know, this isn't a unique situation I write about. There are countless people you have touched, and who probably have a thousand other stories of your generosity of spirit and kindness. It didn't occur to me completely in high school, but looking back, you two are genuinely talented, level-headed, kind people. I can see that now with the insight of a few more years under my belt.

I want to let you know I'm proud of you. Your hometown of Muskogee is proud of you. Your friends and family are proud of you. I am overjoyed at your success, and I don't know if the high school version of me would have been able to see that through all the teenage emotions. I know now you are destined for this success. You've prepared your whole lives for this moment. Don't lose sight of your roots. Don't lose sight of Christ and your faith. To those who much is given, much is required, so don't let the road or fame get to you negatively. Stay positive and keep doing what you do best, God will take care of the rest.

Remember to bring glory to God in all you do, and let your lyrics and music speak to people's hearts. I can tell you with this album they already have. May God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine up on you and your music. You are an inspiration. Today I'm going to keep listening to the album, but tonight, I'm gonna pray for you. God bless you brothers!


If you haven't already, head over to iTunes and show these guys some support by getting their album. It's a good $10 investment, and they deserve it.