Friday, April 30, 2010

Now That’s Music to My Ears

Let me be clear. I loved Carmen and Stryper back in the day. I mean no disrespect whatsoever when I say Contemporary Christian music has come far since then. They, along with Petra and Mylon Le Fevre and even Amy Grant, were pioneers, fording raging religious creeks in stormy weather. I’m just glad that now-a-days, the genre of music is not deemed Christian or secular, and that it’s all about the message.

And that’s how I’d define Contemporary Christian music – any genre that promotes the message of the Gospel, salvation through Jesus Christ, and the principles of the Bible.

Today, the pickings are vast. Folk (Todd Agnew and David Crowder have folksy sounds, I think), gospel (CeCe Winans), southern gospel (The Gaithers, Elvis Presley), country (Steven Curtis Chapman), hip hop (Hawk Nelson, Newsboys), rap (TobyMac, T-Bone), thrasher/head-banger (Thousand Foot Crutch, Disciple, Kutless), praise & worship (Lincoln Brewster, Israel Houghton), easy listening (Mercy Me, Jeremy Camp, Nicole Nordman, Meredith Andrews), others that are more classic rock (Third Day, Sanctus Real, Switchfoot) – whatever sounds good to you, there’s a band out there singing about Jesus to that exact tune.

That’s just awesome.

Now I can clap, dance, head bang, wave my hands, or boogie down all while lifting up the Name of Jesus.

Music is powerful. As I’ve said before, it sinks into the memory and grabs hold. You can hear it without being aware that you are hearing it. It influences emotions and inspires ideas.

Add the Name of Jesus, and you have a potent, life-changing, contagious phenomenon.

Listening to Christian music encourages, guides, reminds, convicts, draws, strengthens, empowers, inspires.

Certain songs were instrumental in keeping me from loosing it during our “wilderness” time (Hold Fast by Mercy Me). Others have reminded me that no matter what I’m feeling, I’m not perishing, and that I can experience peace if I stay focused on God (For Those Who Wait by Fireflight). Music focuses me on God (Rise and Sing by Fee). Music also helps me praise and thank God when I can’t put words to my gratitude (Alabaster Box by CeCe Winans).

Like stories, songs illustrate that God is big and holy while also being personal and intimate (What Do I Know of Holy by Addison Road), they describe the relationship between God and man (Beloved by Tenth Avenue North), they express in poetic beauty how God feels about me (I Belong to You by Building 429), they set principles to a tune I can internalize and apply to my life (Get Back Up, by Toby Mac).

Songs about Truth. Can’t get better than that.

I’m in a… let’s call it a mini-season… of life that has presented some challenges. I’m baffled by the darkness that’s surrounding me. It’s like being in a haunted house. I know the creepy, decked out goblins are not supposed to touch me. But they’re there to scare me, jolt me, distract me. Unless I let them, they can’t do that, though. They can’t even hurt me. My force field, of sorts, during this time has been music… Christian music… just singing the name of Jesus, in all the genres that I love, and praising over the darkness. It’s like shining a flashlight in that haunted house, right in the faces of the goblins, and discovering they are only people wearing disguises and bad makeup.

I love all kinds of music, as surely you’ve seen during the Spring Concert Series here on Dry Ground. Ultimately, though, music with the Truth message does more than just entertain or provide background noise. And that’s why I’d have to say that Christian music is my favorite. It connects with my soul, holds me up when I feel I might fall, provides a weapon in spiritual battles, and is my avenue for fulfilling this command from Paul:

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Do you listen to Christian music? If so, who are your favorites, past and present? If not, why not? I’d love to know what’s holding you back. (click here for a list of artists to get started or expand your horizons!)

Although tons to choose from, here is one of my new favorites. Hope you enjoy!

Thank you for joining me for the Spring Concert Series on Dry Ground. Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Found My Hillbilly Bone

So, Monday, I promised you a confession.

Here it is – no beating around the bush.

I like country music.

I grew up in Ohio, not particularly a state known for twang. But I knew people who liked it.

And I tortured them for it.

I suppose I was a little stuck up, being all classical and sophisticated. I mean, country music was for rednecks, Southerners (like past the Mason Dixon line) and people with no real ear for music.

Gracious – what a Yankee snob! Yuck.

Thank God I’ve grown to appreciate other genres, cultures, ideas, and people!

Yet, country music is still a recent find for me. And I can’t exactly pinpoint when my love affair with it started. Maybe when I did research for a new story.

The funny thing is, country music is all about story. Sure, some of it is cheesy, tear-in-my-beer type tunes about loss and heartache and drunkenness. But the fact is, any genre of music has a tragic side.

Country music, I found, has a lot to offer.

Some of the most patriotic, romantic, and God-honoring songs are in this genre.

Those who do it well are so stinking talented both vocally and on an array of instruments like fiddle, banjo and harmonica.

Country music lovin’ folks enjoy life, fun, fellowship and celebrate values like honor, loyalty and sacrifice.

And that twangy beat is some of the best for dancing (good exercise kind of dancing!).

I’ve decided, therefore, to declare and embrace this newfound love. It makes me smile. And sometimes, when something does that, it’s just all right.

Here’s one of my favorites. It was tough to pick just one!! I hope you enjoy! (If it's slow to load, know that it's SO worth the wait!!)

Friday on Dry Ground, the last of the Spring Concert Series, I’ll talk the Contemporary Christian music scene. We’ve come a long way since Carmen and Stryper, baby!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Concert Series - Lights! Camera! Music?

Collaboration is a beautiful thing – one person’s talents merging with someone else’s skills to create that which would have been impossible apart – like a waltz, or a friendship.

I think the movie business is the quintessential example of collaboration.

I’ve visited back lots (no, not Disney Land’s “Behind the Scenes” tram tour or Universal Studios’ sneak peek ride – real, active, bustling back lots) and seen the carpentry shop, the prop house, the painters’ shop, the closet of rows and rows and rows of costumes, and much more. My eyes were opened to how many people and their specific talents and skills go into the final product – the film we see in the theatre.

We usually squirm through or skip the credits rolling at the end (it used to be at the beginning, where I think it still should be), but those people made the movie what it is. Sure, the director and cinematographer and the actors are all important, but they could not have pulled it off on their own.


Of course, I’ve always been partial to the writers, hoping and pulling for more perks for them since, in my humble opinion, there wouldn’t even been a starting point without the writers. (Although I did see a credit scroll across the screen in a movie once that said, “Based on an idea by…” and I thought… now why couldn’t I have that job? The Idea Girl. Beside the fact, aren’t all stories based on an idea? Anyway…)

The close second (to the writers) on my list of give credit where credit is due list are the composers and musicians that contribute to a film.

In the early days, in films like Casablanca or Sunset Boulevard, the tenor of a scene’s music was a dead-give-a-way for what was coming next, a foreshadowing of good or bad or a joke or a bombshell.

Some soundtracks reflect more the era a film was made rather than the era the story in the film portrays, i.e. the 70’s electric guitar plunkings distorting the gorgeous (and one of my favorites) medieval times movie, Ladyhawke.

So many soundtracks, though, tell the story so perfectly, you almost don’t need the images to go with it. Gladiator is one of the best movies ever (not just b/c my main man Russell Crowe stars in it), and the soundtrack is so spectacular that when I listen to it, I can see the movie play in my mind’s eye. Others that, for me, paint the images with melodies and harmonies – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kamen), Finding Neverland (Kaczmarek), Pirates of the Caribbean (Zimmer), Pride and Prejudice (Marianelli), Swing Kids (Horner), Glory (Horner), The Last of the Mohicans (Jones/Edleman), The Prince of Egypt (Zimmer)…

I also love how the absence of music can affect a scene in a movie. Sometimes you don’t even notice, but the impact remains. Other times, the effect is obvious, such as several instances in Star Trek ’09 – Michael Giacchino (most likely collaborating with sound editors and the director, JJ Abrams) produced huge sounds that cut off into complete silence a couple of times. That gave me chills (the good kind!).

How about the soundtracks that everyone recognizes and are synonymous with the film they represent – Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. – those are all John Williams’ masterpieces, but he’s the not the only one who’s accomplished such a feat. Saturday Night Fever (Gibbs), The Godfather (Rota), Rocky (Conti) – they all have musical themes that immediately conjure up images of their movies, no matter who you are.

And then there are the soundtracks that employ popular music, much of it including lyrics, that marry themselves to their films, assisting in telling the film’s story with stories of their own. Some great love songs have been written specifically for movies, Bryan Adams being my favorite there contributing to great romantic films such as Robin Hood POT, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Hope Floats.

Movies without music… now that would be criminal. Even the “silent” pictures of the early days were shown to audiences accompanied by music.

When you watch movies, do you hear it? That undercurrent of collaboration that makes the story you’re seeing come to life, have a heartbeat, meld into your soul? Do you have favorites? I’d love to hear what they are.

Far too many favorites/classics exist in this genre of cinematic music for me to have an easy time choosing something to share here, but I felt that it would remiss of me not to include something… so, here you go… a snippet from a movie I like on this exact subject. Despite how you may feel about the featured actor in this clip (Jack Black), his character in The Holiday highlights a few more classic soundtracks in the following scene. Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me on Dry Ground for Spring Concert Series! See you Wednesday, when I will confess to liking… okay loving … a genre I’ve made fun of all my life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Concert Series - A Little Night Music

Another one of my earliest music memories is Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik serenading me to sleep every night. From the record player in the living room, the soothing sounds floated into my nearby bedroom and wrapped me in comfort and drowsy bliss.

I believe that routine was instrumental in starting/shaping the love I have for Classical music.

Before you think I'm too much of a bore, I admit, I have fallen asleep at the symphony before, all dressed up and everything. The circumstances were extenuating, but I did get bored. I'm certainly particular about it, just like with any other genre. I don't like all of it.

On the other hand, appreciating classical music takes the patience of a willing listener.

I grew up with a great reverence for the classic composers: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Schubert, Handel, Hayden, Vivaldi, Strauss, Mendelssohn, Verdi, Brahms… the list could continue.

And while I am no expert, can match tune with composer only a fraction of the time, I’m amazed by the genius and complexity of full orchestrations, the blending of multiple melodies and harmonies, the overwhelming emotion both conveyed and inspired listening to classical masterpieces.

In fact, here’s a secret: classical music almost always makes me cry. I can’t explain it. But it does.

Many works of classical music tell a story, another reason I must love it, such as in opera, like Verdi’s La Traviata (the inspiration for films such as Camille starring Greta Garbo and Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman). Classical compositions are used all the time as background music in movies (but that’s for another post J). And it also has given us some of the most inspired, God-honoring works, like Handel’s Messiah.

When I was younger, even though I am by no means an artist, I liked to draw pictures while listening to classical music, imagining what story the sounds were telling. Nowadays, I write to classical music. For one, often no words accompany the instruments, so I can concentrate on the words I’m writing. But also, the melodious movement in my ears helps me imagine my settings better, see my characters clearer, keep my thoughts organized.

The one body of classical music work I listen to the most while writing my stories is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. If that sounds unfamiliar, you might know it better as the tune to Ode to Joy. The symphony is far more complex, of course, than the hymn inspired by it. It consists of four movements (sections) lasting, in total, a whopping 74 minutes and 45 seconds!

But I never tire of listening because, for me, it embodies art, inspiration, and genius to such a degree that I can’t help appreciating, aspiring and aching with its perfection (in a good way). I’m so in tune with it on some sub-level, I get emotional every time I listen to it – and that’s almost every day. Sometimes twice a day, depending how much I’m writing.

Do you have a song, composition, or body of work that affects you like that? Do you use music as inspiration while writing or performing/using whatever God-given skills you have? I’d love to hear your stories of what kind of music inspires you.

A couple years ago, a movie came out called Copying Beethoven. In it, a scene shows Beethoven’s female apprentice secretly helping him conduct the orchestra. The masterpiece they perform? My favorite. J

So, if you are willing to listen, and if you employ a little patience (don't quit when it gets slower in the middle), this next ten minutes might surprise and inspire you. Keep in mind as you watch, the audience had ever heard this work before... and neither had Beethoven because he was deaf.

Thanks for visiting Dry Ground! Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Concert Series - If the Devil Doesn’t Like It, He Can Sit on a Tack

Music plays in so many of my earliest memories.

I not only enjoyed listening to it, singing and plucking around on the piano, much of what I learned as a child was accompanied by music.

Joining words with a tune triggers something in the brain (in mine, at least) that urges the memory muscles to grab it and hold on. That’s the whole psychology behind commercial jingles, I suppose. And who of us 30-something’s didn’t learn basic math, English, history and science skills from School House Rock on Saturday mornings in between cartoons? (Real cartoons like Smurfs and He-Man and Justice League!)

In the same way, music serves as one of the foundational building blocks of my Faith. If it weren’t for those cute little songs we sang in Sunday School, I may not have learned the basics of the Bible near as well or as quickly.

Honestly, would I know that Zacchaeus was a wee little man? (Luke 19:1-3)

Or that Father Abraham had many sons? (Gen. 17:5)

Or that the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone? (Ez. 37:1-14)

Who’s to say? But I kind of doubt it.

And how would I know that if I’m happy and I know it, I should clap my hands? (Ps. 47:1)

But those cute little songs served as more than a Sunday morning baby sitter and excuse to get us to expend pent-up kid energy. Though simple, say like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they fed Truth to me, preparing me for the steak filets of adulthood and even the banquet of eternity.

For example, since I sang the song –

Peter and John went to pray, they met a lame on the way, he asked for their alms and held up his palms, but this is what Peter did say – Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give to you– in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. He went walking and leaping and praising God, walking and leaping and praising God. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:1-10)

- look at all the things I learned from that one song–

Peter and John were men of prayer –intimate with God; compassion; money is not the best gift you can give or get; healing is a current and active miracle I can ask for and expect when I’m sick or hurt; the power is in Jesus’ Name; as a disciple of Jesus, Peter had the authority and ability to dispense the miracle of healing – God can use me, a disciple of Jesus, in the same way if He so chooses; a miracle occurred because the invalid walked; the healed man displayed the miracle for all to see – he provided a witness; the healed man praised and thanked God as the Source of his healing and for being merciful to him.

Of course, I didn’t realize all of that when I was a six-year-old. In fact, back then, I had no clue what the song was about. But it served as a basis to build on through more experiences, more knowledge and understanding, more awareness and revelation.

When life gets hectic for me, sometimes I find the greatest solace and the wisest words in those songs I sang as a kid. Most recently, this one came to mind:

The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. And the rain came tumbling down. Oh the rain came down and the floods came up. The rain came down and the floods came up. The rain came down and the floods came up. And the foolish man’s house went WHOOSH!

The wise man built his house upon the Rock. The wise man built his house upon the Rock. The wise man built his house upon the Rock. And the rain came tumbling down. Oh the rain came down and the floods came up. The rain came down and the floods came up. The rain came down and the floods came up. And the wise man’s house stood firm.” (Matt. 7:24-25)

Several others automatically come to mind, usually when I’m feeling low and need to crawl out of the day-to-day doldrums.

This is the Day the Lord Has Made (Ps. 118:24)

This Little Light of Mine (Lk. 11:33)

Jesus Loves the Little Children (Mark 10:14)

And of course…

Jesus Loves Me

I am thankful that music has been a part of life for as long as I can remember. And I’m glad for the Children’s Sunday School Songs I learned early on that still bring me joy and shape my life and remind me of the basics.

What songs do you remember from your childhood that made a lifelong impact? (They don’t have to be Sunday School songs) I’d love to hear from you!

So, I got a kick out of this kid singing another one of my favorites. I pray his joy follows him throughout his life, and that I can demonstrate the same kind of innocent delight (no matter what room of the house I’m in… well, you’ll see…)

Enjoy your Wednesday! And thank you for visiting Dry Ground, especially during the Spring Concert Series!

(photos by

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Concert Series

Almost as much as the written word, music inspires me.

I love that it’s celebrated and performed in the Bible.

I love that it can lull to sleep or energize to run an extra mile.

I love that it riles a crowd and adds romance to food and candlelight.

I love that it attaches to specific memories and commemorates momentous occasions.

I love that it tells a story and paints a picture.

I love that it unifies, inspires, encourages, and communicates.

I love its variety, genius, and performance.

It moves me.

The great thing, I enjoy so many different kinds of music. No matter what mood I’m in, some sort of music fits it. There’s not a whole lot in life you can say that about.

Something about Spring makes me dive deeper into the realm of music.

And so I shall here on Dry Ground during the Spring Concert Series!

Nothing fancy, just a discussion about music and highlight of my faves from different genres and maybe share some of my best music memories. We’ll see how this unfolds.

So my question of the day for you is: What is your absolute favorite genre/type of music? It’s hardly a fair question since I’d have a hard time answering it myself. Are you classical? Contemporary Christian? Country? Pop? Heavy Metal? Or a combination of a couple of those? What kind of music moves you?

To get things started, and fresh from Sunday night’s Rock and Worship Roadshow in San Antonio, TX, here’s a song that moved me!

I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Friday, April 16, 2010

God's Love Language

How many of you have heard the reference to God owning the cattle on a thousand hills?

For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)

It seems to be a favorite in the context of encouraging us that God has the resources to meet our needs and as a promise that He will do so.

Although I believe He does have the resources to meet our needs and has promised to do so, I don’t believe that’s what God is telling us through this verse.

Okay, in a backdoor way, it does infer that.

But have you ever read the entire Psalm in which this verse appears?

As awesome as our out-of-context inference is, this verse in context is even more so. At least, I think it is.

Let me show you.

God’s not telling us here that He owns all these cattle so that we know what He can give us. He’s telling us so that we know what He doesn’t need from us.

The context is sacrifice.

In the Old Testament under the original covenant, when people sinned, they would offer an animal sacrifice to God as atonement and the blood of that sacrifice covered their sin.

Israel, though, had a few ups and downs in their relationship with God. And in the down times, they tended to downplay sin by figuring they could just offer a sacrifice and be rid of the consequences, no big deal. They went through the required motions, but their hearts were insincere.

So God, in view of their rebellion, reminds His people that He is in no need of another animal, dead or alive. Not only is our highlighted verse taken out of context, it is also a fragment, an incomplete sentence. The rest of it comes first in verse nine: But I do not need the bulls from your barns, or the goats from your pens… (vs.10) for all the animals in the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.

He’s saying – don’t give Me what I already have, don’t need, and isn’t yours to give anyway. To show true love, give Me what I want, need and can’t get anywhere else – your personal devotion and thanks.

Verse 14 says - Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.

Not too long ago, I’d pictured decrees like this as coming from a High King on His throne as I cower, nose to the floor, trembling and afraid and maybe a little resentful for feeling put under the authority of a demanding, all-powerful God.

Make no mistake, He has all the authority in the Universe to approach us like that.

However, I believe it’s more like He draws near with a Lover’s invitation to His wayward bride.

Look at verse 2: From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.

How many of us have been lauded as the perfection of beauty by our earthly lovers?

The phrase drips with passion, adoration and love.

The Psalm ends with this, verse 23: But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

Is not a bride’s top desire to honor her husband? God is telling us right here, the way to do that for Him is through giving thanks – having that attitude of gratitude. Also, He says that if we stick to His path, stay by His side, He will reveal the salvation of God. The word reveal suggests deeper intimacy, deeper trust, a closer communion with our Perfect Lover. Like sharing secrets, enjoying confidences, interacting on a soul-mate type of platform – to know and be fully known.

King David is a good one to study because he experienced this kind of relationship with God, and because he was far from perfect. He turned his back on his True Love more than once, but not more famously than in his sin with Bathsheba.

Funny how the very next Psalm, #51, speaks to this incident. David knows the principles of Psalm 50 and that helps him through the process of making right his relationship with God.

He says in verses 16 and 17: You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

He also says in verse 19: Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit-

It’s not that the sacrifice isn’t needed. But the right spirit is essential, or the sacrifice means nothing.

God is sharing His love language with us.

Let’s honor our Bridegroom with devotion and thankfulness today!

Have a great weekend, Dry Ground Family!

(photos by

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Age of Innocence

Do you ever wish you could go back? To childhood, I mean.

For the most part, I don’t.

But I have to admit, many things seemed simpler then.

Like faith and trust and love and forgiveness.

Growing up sure nicks that in the bud, though, doesn’t it?

Experiencing the world’s pain and deceit leaves us jaded, depressed, cynical, reserved, cautious, defensive, leery, smarter, wiser – an adult.

Yet, Jesus explained to His disciples that unless we “change” and become like “one of these [children]” then we can’t enter His kingdom. (Matt. 18:3)

I guess I’ve always seen that as a word picture, like being reborn in the family of God – the second birth required to remove the heritage of Adam – being “born again.”

But His imagery, I see, is not completely figurative. It’s more tangible than that.

He’s really asking us to take on the countenance of a child.

That’s not to say we’re to be childish. Paul admonishes us to graduate to spiritual meat as opposed to remaining content with spiritual baby formula. (Heb. 5:12-14)

What Jesus might have meant was we must become as innocent as a child.

Well, how do we accomplish that after all those evil experiences with the world?

First, accepting Jesus means we’ve been washed, our personal sins have been eliminative. So, like in a courtroom, we are made innocent again.

But also, we are to behave like innocents, displaying faith, trusting without reservation, loving without measure or doubt, forgiving easily.

Here’s the kicker – do that despite the scars left by the world’s pain and deceit.

We all have them – some scabbed over and healing, others gapping and festering – wounds – caused by a myriad of evils that we encounter in the every day life of living in a fallen, imperfect world.

Few of us, however, have prevented those wounds from standing between us and the required disposition of an innocent child to possess characteristics like - unyielding faith, unquestionable trust, unconditional love and freely-offered forgiveness.

We make excuses. We harbor bitterness. We covet. We worry. We accuse our Perfect Lover of being something it is impossible for Him to be – imperfect. Or at least as far as His love for us, specifically, goes. He might love others perfectly, but boy, has He screwed up with us!

Oh, how He longs to heal us! And comfort us. Yet, for that, we must also become like children, trusting enough to stand in His embrace and allow Him to minister to us.

I heard a sermon once about the 23rd Psalm that created an image in my head so beautiful, I’ve never seen the well-read Psalm the same again.

The pastor filtered through every verse, giving a history/anthropology lesson on the nature of Shepherds and the nature of sheep. The verse that touched me profoundly was the end of #5 – “You anoint my head with oil…” – because he explained that at the end of the day when the Shepherd brings the flock into the protection of the fold/pen, He inspects each delicate face of each sheep, looking for cuts and scrapes caused by a certain kind of plant sheep often wandered into in the Middle East. These scratches easily became infected if not tended with oil. So as He puts his flock to bed every night, the Shepherd inspects the faces and anoints with oil any wound, small or large, so that the wounds would heal and to comfort them.

I’m sure those wounds hurt. If I was a sheep with a thorn in my muzzle, I wouldn’t really take too kindly to someone messing with it, causing more pain, even inspecting my face for damage. I might struggle. I might resent the balm. And in doing so, the encounter with my Shepherd would be strained.

But, if I entered my Shepherd’s embrace willingly and with the utmost trust… like a child… He could anoint my wounds, heal me, comfort me, protect me, show me that yes, indeed, He loves me… perfectly.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

(photos by

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Broad Shoulders of God

Ever feel like Atlas… the guy doomed to carry the world on his massive shoulders? Actually, modern culture has given him a lighter load… originally he was sentenced to carry the cosmos, keeping it and the world from colliding.

Whew. What a job.

We associate ourselves with Atlas when things in our lives pile up, weigh us down, exasperate us, overwhelm us, send us over the edge of sanity. We say that we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. When that’s the case, people can tell.

And when something good happens, a stress reliever, we say that we feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders. That, also, is noticeable in countenance, posture, expressions, reactions, etc.

The thing is, we were not created to be Atlas or to shoulder such a heavy burden.

In fact, attempting to do so means getting crushed.


Well, I try to pray. Sometimes the pressure is so intense, though, I don’t feel like doing that. And sometimes I worry myself into a corner where I have no way out – an impossible situation.

Silly me. All I need to do is turn around and see the possibilities.

Nothing is impossible for God. (Matt. 19:26)

We should cast our cares on Him for He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Jesus invited us to switch burdens with Him – He called our burdens that He’d take on a yoke, a massive piece of heavy wood that rests on the shoulders of a beast of burden. How much more a servant can someone get? (Matt. 11:30, Ps. 68:19, Luke 11:46)

God’s shoulders are broad. He can handle every single terrifying worry that crosses our path, no matter what it is.





Dreams and Desires

I forget that. I can’t believe myself, but all the time, I forget that God really is tuned into my life, that He sees, He knows, He cares, He leads, He guides, He opens doors, He comforts, He solves, He wins…

So, whenever I start feeling like poor ‘ole Atlas, I think instead of the real, live Creator of the Universe Who bears my burdens on His able, broad shoulders.

Have a wonderful week, Dry Ground friends!

(photos by

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lion's Breath

The breath of the Lion -


“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Gen. 2:7

“The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.” Ps. 33:6


“But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them [the Egyptians]. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.” Ex. 15:10

“At the blast of your breath, O God of Jacob, their horses and chariots lay still.” Ps 76:6


“I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree and take hold of its fruit.’ May your breasts be like grape clusters, and the fragrance of your breath like apples.” Song of Sol. 7:8


“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” 2 Tim. 3:16


“Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Jn 20:22


“Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.” 2 Sam 22:16

“Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.” 2 Thes. 2:8


“The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment.” Isa. 4:4


“Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last.” Mark 15:37


“So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet - a great army.” Ez. 37:10

(click to read ALL about the Valley of Dry Bones!)

“But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them.” Rev. 11:11

Lion of Judah, lend me Thy breath.

Breathe on me today.

Without it, I am fleeting, temporary.

With it, I am sustained, eternal.

May you feel His sweet breath on your face right now.

Have a great weekend, Dry Ground friends!

Check this song/video... cool stuff...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Beyond Hope

When a farmer, or any kind of sower really, plants a seed – conceals in dirt the hard, dead pod of potential – he not only hopes it will produce a crop, he expects a harvest.

If the soil is good, and the weeds are cleared…

If the sun shines just right and the rain comes in perfect batches…

If he has faith to let God do the rest…

The sower can reasonably expect a harvest, and an abundant one at that.

I talk a lot about hope here on Dry Ground. It’s essential to living. Losing hope leads to losing life. Sometimes hope is the only light we have.

Although we wait for that which our hope spurs us toward, my question is…

Do we expect the harvest?

What good does it do a farmer if he did all the work of sowing but lacks expectation that anything would grow?

For those of us who wait… for anything… whether it’s been minutes or years… if you’ve planted that seed of hope…

And you’ve kept faith in the One who holds you…

And you’ve planted in good soil and tended the seed…

Then you can expect a harvest.

I’ll admit, I get hung up on hope.

That’s not meant to sound counter-productive or contradictory.

But I’m sometimes like a farmer that pours all sweat and muscle into planting, and then walks around every day merely hoping something will happen. I even leave the field occasionally, untended and ignored, because I don’t see evidence of growth.

I get to the point that I actually fear asking God for the harvest.

And that just shouldn’t be.

I marvel at King David when I read the Psalms. He gets demanding in some of them (read Ps. 44, for example!), in God’s face, actually reminding Him of His promises and character.

No, God doesn’t need reminded. We do. But isn’t it wonderful that we can have that conversation with the Creator of the Universe at all?

I think what David shows us here is how to expect the harvest.

Plant an apple seed, and it stands to reason you will get an apple tree and eventually an apple.

Sometimes we make the mistake of expecting an orange, and get disappointed when we get the apple.

Other times, and more often in my case, I expect nothing.

I want to be more like David. He’s so in tuned with his Lord’s character, that he knows what to expect, and like a child, he does, stubbornly and resolutely.

Cool thing is… he received what he expected.

Expect the harvest. It goes beyond hoping. It is knowing.

Thanks for stopping by Dry Ground today!

(photos by

Monday, April 5, 2010


We stayed in a Homewood Suites recently.

The experience impressed me.

They sure know what they’re doing. Friendly, helpful service, clean facilities, a luxurious feel without the extravagant expense, attention to detail, extra amenities.

After we got to our room, I remembered that I’d left the book I was reading in the car. Since My Daniel already had his PJs on, I grabbed the car and room keys and made an extra up/down in the elevator. As I rode up after retrieving my book, I noticed the “No Smoking in the Elevator” sign with a passing glance. But then I had to look again because on the sign above the words sat the emblem of a duck.

I stared at it, wondering what in the world a duck had to do with not smoking on the elevator.

Exiting the elevator, I headed down the hall to the room, taking in the pictures hanging on the walls and the numbers by the doors looking for mine. That’s when I noticed something else. Every placard with a room number on it also had the duck emblem at the top.

Ah… discovery. The duck is Homewood Suites’ trademark symbol. Got it.

Once that registered, I started seeing the duck everywhere.

Embedded in every towel.

Printed on every paper coffee cup.

Etched on every door.

Not gaudy or obnoxious. Just… there.

That stands to reason. Branding is an important marketing tool. Now when I see the duck, I think of all the wonderful things I like about the hotel it represents.

But I still had a hard time with its appearance on the “No Smoking” post in the elevator. I thought those warning signs came pretty standard from the sign company. Why go through the trouble to customize that particular one with the emblem?

Here’s what I think.

I’m not a fan of gaudy or obnoxious Christianity. The in-your-face, Crusades-type bullying, or even the Bible bookstore treasure trove of every kind of sellable item in the entire world shaped like or bearing a cross. A piece of candy cross in not better for your soul or body than a candy disk or cane or ring or any other shape it could come in.

I don’t think we should over-symbolize our life with a Christian be-dazzler or make the mark of the cross on everything, especially if there isn’t anything backing it up. Symbols are fine, but substance is what matters.

However, the duck in the elevator got me thinking…

Every aspect of my life should have God’s mark on it in some way. My walk should reflect my talk. My motives should be sincere. Love should be evident in how I deal with problems, celebrate victories, offer a hand, pray and serve, even communicate with the grocery store clerk.

Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), Faith and Deeds (James 2:14-26), Loving your neighbor (Matt. 22:39), not being whitewashed vessels (Matt. 23:27) – the emblems of a Christ-redeemed life.

The “duck” should show up… even on the “No Smoking” sign in the elevator.

People will notice.

I did.

(photos by

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen!

All men die.

Only Jesus, the man who was also God, conquered death and rose from the grave.

He holds the keys now, and death no longer has a sting.

Trust in the One who accomplished this for one reason – because He loves you.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Not Forgotten

Good Good Friday to you, Dry Ground family!

Why do you celebrate, or at least commemorate this day?

Here’s why I do -

This is the day Jesus suffered under the weight of my sin, offered His life as atonement, and died so that I would not be condemned to Hell.

He went there for me. Served my sentence. Cancelled my debt.

And I’m told that while He did all this, He had me, specifically, on His mind and heart.

That blows my mind.

At first it seems unbelievable, hence the many who have shoved it aside and refused to consider it.

Believing it comes with so many benefits, I could say it’s unbelievable – except that I do believe it!

My question is, then, on this good Good Friday, why do I sometimes (too often) feel forgotten?

Are you waiting for something that hasn’t come to pass yet?

Do you need something to change but the same sameness keeps going and going?

Is your situation desperate to the point of despair?

Has it been a while since you’ve sensed His presence. Do you wonder if He even likes you any more?

Are you ready to give up?

Maybe you not only feel forgotten, but forsaken as well?

Like He’s left and He’s never coming back, for whatever reason you can’t put your finger on but you feel it’s either really not fair or really, really something you did?

Be assured, on this if not on any other day of the year, you are not forsaken, nor are you remotely forgotten.

If He could have uttered every human being’s name from the Garden of Eden to the Apocalypse in the same breath while drawing His last breath, He would have. (And I’m not implying that He couldn’t have!)

In fact, we are so NOT forgotten or forsaken, that Jesus was by God Almighty –

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Remember today how He remembers you, how He did remember you as He endured His greatest moment of agony because He loves you.

Be encouraged by this song:

Celebrate Easter! Have a blessed weekend!