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JFH Staff Blog | August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good Times

A lot has happened since I wrote last.

We traveled to Holland for the first time. Holland afforded many good times: we got lost in the industrial section of Apeldoorn, saw some of the biggest cows ever, played at 2 am in a tent and people actually came, discovered the best ice cream treats on earth,"Magnum" (think Dove bar meets chocolate and ice cream from heaven), and also discovered that the Dutch language is totally different than German and that the Dutch and Germans don't dig each other. 

Then we rode with one of our favorite people on earth, Matonia, to one of our favorite places on earth, Germany.  He took us first to a German "Castle" where we played on a stage in the front courtyard. Sadly, the morning of this show, I woke up sans voice. This has never happened to us before and was a little stressful. I was able to make it through most of the show, though we had to shorten it a bit. But  the pastor running things was practically in tears afterwards. He said he was so thankful we came because that area is sort of a spiritual black hole in Germany. Only three active churches in the whole  region. So, that made me feel not so bad about things, and reaffirmed my knowledge that God can always work, even if you sound croaky.

So with one more show to go, and sounding worse than the day before, we were all a little tense about the last show. But we all prayed hard and Justin and Phee laid on hands and, praise God, I made it through the whole show minus one song and even did the encore!   The German crowd showed up in true form and went nuts as usual, so it was beyond amazing. God is Good!

Speaking of the goodness of God, I am writing this upon returning to Florida (a.k.a Hurricane  Alley) from  Michigan, where I was in attendance of our Guitarist Justin Cox's marriage to the most lovely Jessica Kellog. The night before we all went laser tagging where I tag teamed with Jessica's little hyperintense nephew, Hayden.  We made a pretty good pair, considering I  was terrible and he kept ranking higher then  half of the other players when he was a fourth of the age of  the rest  of those playing! The ceremony was splendid, and the Reception was Jamming! I danced the night away with little Hayden who is quite the little breakdancer.

All in all, very good times...

Monday, August 25, 2008

We Are The Branches. He Is Divine.

It's interesting to me how sometimes God can seem to remain so silent through times of adversity, and then just kind of hit you with a simple yet effective revelation that not only reminds you just how dense you can be, but it also tends to make you feel embarrassed that you forget His simple truths.

I'm no stranger to hard times or seasons of spiritual droughts or even times of doubting. And the older I get, I realize it's part of the Christian walk -- part of growing up as a believer and maturing in that process.

For Valentine's Day in 2007, I ventured out on a snowy day to a local grocery store to get my wife a gift. I found a potted bush of baby roses and figured a lasting plant she could enjoy maintaining (she has a green thumb for this kind of stuff), would be a much more worthwhile and meaningful gift than a batch of regular roses that would wilt and die within a couple of days. Over the past year and a half or so, my wife has cared for this plant regularly, even when I forget it's even around. She's been keeping it outside on our back deck this summer so it can enjoy the elements, always worrying about it when a storm comes, quickly jumping to pull it in from bouts of hail or hard rain when the time comes.

Yesterday when I got up, I went downstairs to the kitchen to find her beloved potted plant sitting on the counter, all dried up and wilted. I exclaimed something along the lines of, "Omigosh! You killed the plant!!" in my usual sarcastic sort of way... only this time, I meant it half-jokingly until it suddenly clicked that my statement was erroneous. She assured me that it wasn't dead and that it only needed some pruning and TLC to get it back in tip-top, budding shape again. It was at that moment I felt like God smacked me lovingly upside the head with a brutally obvious and simple illustration to remind me that we all go through these seasons where we feel spiritually dead, but oftentimes God is just working on us... pruning out the junk in our lives, rescuing us from the hail storms and pushing us on to greater things. Our Father lovingly trims off the dead branches in our life, forcing us to give up things that aren't healthy for us; forcing us to grow in our faith. We might feel like we're left out in the rain... we might feel the pain of getting something taken away or being asked to let go of something we desperately want to hold on to or just feel comfortable with but need to give up... but in the end it's all part of His plan for us... and we just need to trust Him cause, well, Father knows best!

Check out John 15:1-17. Below are verses 15:1-11. Hopefully this has brought a little encouragement to you guys today... as God finally penetrates my dense mind - for a few days, at least - as to what it is He's doing in me.

 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Technology VS Discipline and Prayer

I’ve always had this love hate relationship with technology.  Some of you know me as Barry, the guy from Code Of Ethics, a band that relied on technology to thrive in the 90’s. You might find this a bit strange, even funny but it’s true! I was selling cd’s at concerts while listening to cassettes in my car.  I bought our first home computer in 1999. It was made by Compaq and it looked like an old toaster from the 60’s, it also worked like an old toaster from the 60’s and eventually gave up the ghost just two years later.

I’ll admit that I now find myself staring into a large computer screen for a good portion of the day and have become somewhat of an addict of text messaging!  Why call and waste time talking when you can text right?  As I grow older and maybe a bit more in tune with technology I can’t help but feel a little like being in bondage sometimes.  Even though I’ve been in church ministry for the past seven years I can become so busy “doing” ministry through technology, sending emails, making band charts and schedules etc, that I push my time with God right out of what I’m trying to accomplish for the Kingdom!  Feel’n me yet?

As I recently finished reading the book of Luke, I noticed two wonderful attributes of Jesus that I have to refine in my life as I learn to walk more like my Rabbi.  The first is that Jesus was very self-disciplined.  This was not a man who hung out with twelve other guys going from beach to beach surfing, looking for the perfect wave or sleeping all day while living off the kindness of other people.  No, this was a man that woke up before everyone else and went about his routine of teaching others of the Kingdom come, healing the sick, and forgiving (Luke 6:17-19).  Lets not forget that He also went from town to town raising people from the dead, now that must have been a real crowd pleaser!  He had a very busy schedule and kept at it because it was the will of His father and because of the daily eternal impact on humanity.  So I’ve decided that before I even click the mouse and turn on the screen I will be self-disciplined in reading the word and that my study time would come first and foremost everyday!

The next attribute I noticed, and this is a really hard one for me, is that Jesus prayed.  I don’t mean like how I pray, you know, Lord thank you for my breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Please help me get that better job, house etc.  No!  Jesus prayed often and many times right through the night while his disciples slept (Luke 9:32)!  Jesus was and is our model, a way of life as we seek first the Kingdom.  So I would challenge you my dear friends to be self-disciplined during your day and to pray like our Rabbi, for everything   (Matt 7:7). May God’s peace and love be with you this week!

Blessings,

Barry Blaze

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Most Dreams Die a Slow Death by Chris Taylor

 

It’s 12:23 A.M and I just got back from a 7 mile run with 2 friends (1 of which I just met this evening.) Lately I have found myself drifting off while at work or play thinking about when I can get a run and some decent solitude in. It seems that getting off the couch and pounding out a few miles is exactly what my soul has been craving.

This series of Blogs in general are to document my life as a new artist and the trials and pleasures that ensue. But early this A.M I can’t help but document a deeper yearning. I want to LIVE. I want to get out when I should be sleeping and sweat alongside a few comrades. I want to get over the feeling of failing or succeeding in the music world and get whipped into submission. I feel the closest to Christ while going out for a run. It’s seems that running in the early hours of morning or later at night is the only real option when you have a family and conflicting hobbies☺

I think after having my first record out for a few months and getting ready to go back out on tour I find myself desperately seeking clarity. How do you remain a faithful husband and father while building a ministry and broadening a fan base? I don’t know. I do know that with every pounding heartbeat, deep breath and lack of words I am finding peace in the struggle. Mixing the joys and frustrations of music with the welcomed pain of building endurance and stamina is a delightful cocktail.

It’s 1:05 A.M and I am thankful. My legs and feet hurt. I’m hungry. But more importantly I’m writing and I am sharing instead of sleeping. I love to sleep and unfortunately I sleep too much. Not tonight.

After meeting my new friend Sean tonight I felt like I knew him better after our run. It was only 6 months earlier I drove past a crazy looking man running bare foot with no shirt who looked just like Jesus or at least the Jesus in my mind. Tonight, God blessed me with a new friend and it came by getting out my comfort. Sean is the guy you throw drinks at while driving by and call crazy because he has long hair, beard and runs bare foot. After tonight I want to take my shoes off and get nailed in the back of the head with your Wendy’s Frosty. I’m all in. I’m reminded of paragraph of one of my favorite books:

“Most Dreams die a slow death. They’re conceived in a moment of passion, with the prospect of endless possibility, but often languish and not pursued with the same heartfelt intensity as when first born. Slowly, subtly, a dream becomes elusive and ephemeral. People who’ve let their own dreams die become pessimists and cynics. They feel that the time and devotion spent on chasing their dreams were wasted. The emotional scars last forever. “It can’t be done,” they’ll say, when you describe your dream. “It’ll never happen.” Pg.139 Ultra Marathon Man, Dean Karnazes

Charge!
Chris

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Words Don't Act Unless We Do

Ah, it's good to be home this week.  The last three weeks since the album release have been gnarls (=intense/crazy/radical).  Lots of shows and new things I've never dealt with before.  So I've been having a lot of fun too!  Life would be boring with the same routine every hour, every day, every year.

I'm not sure what to tell you guys.  Like I said, a lot has happened!  But here's the first thing that comes to mind:

I was out in Maui for about 10 days, mostly leading worship for Calvary Chapel South Maui, and a really cool thing happened.  I was sharing a room with a couple other guys, one of them was from Alaska, who was visiting his friend at the bible college. Well, the dude totally decided to start following Jesus (you know, "got saved").  Of course it was the Lord who orchestrated the whole thing, but it was fun to be a part of what God was doing in his heart!  The guy was smart, so he had a lot of great/fun questions for us to answer.  Like, "do I really have to give up certain things to follow Jesus?" and "what makes a sin a sin?"

We were driving in the car one day and he asked me, "so you don't really think about God all the time do you, like even when you're eating and stuff?" I was like, heck yes I do, especially when I'm eating something super good, like shaved ice, or Mango, or 100% pea berry Kona coffee!  He didn't reply right away, cause either he thought I was joking, or he was letting the idea spin around in his head for a moment.

Then I told him that it doesn't happen overnight, but as we "walk", grow, and learn to live life in Jesus, the more and more He becomes a part of everything we do. It isn’t about just one hour at church every week, it’s a relationship to be lived in every moment!

…And then I told him that I'm in a Christian band, and he got saved!

No, just kidding, he gave his life to Jesus later that weekend at the morning service before he flew back home to Alaska.

There's more to the story of course, but when the Spirit is after someone, it's hard to get away!

Sadly, this doesn't happen every day for me, or even every year to be honest.  But it does line up with a few things God has been encouraging me in the past few months, and even this morning reading through the book of James.  I want to not just be a hearer, but a doer of God's word.  Consider this - Words don't act unless we do.

It did remind me of when I first gave my life to the Lord at junior high camp.  I was so confused, I raised my hand the next week at Youth Group to get saved again.  Ha!

I remember a lot of things that happened that first week of being alive in Christ.  I never said the "F" word again, and God took away my anger problems.  It's so much more than that of course, but those were two pretty big things for me at the time, and so my life in Jesus began!

What are your thoughts? How did Jesus radically save your life? What changes did you see once you made that choice? Has God ever used you to lead someone to Jesus?

Is it ok to say "heck" and "F" word in the same blog? / Is it better to ask for permission or forgiveness after the fact?

Random stuff:

-I finished reading The Shack by William P. Young, and started reading Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller.  The Shack was cool.  I really appreciate what Young did to really challenge my concept of God.  The book naturally stirs up a lot of commotion and opinions, but with all of it aside, I've been encouraged to live in a closer relationship with Jesus.

Miller's book is already breaking down a lot of walls for me.  He's stupid funny!  I think it's in chapter two that he talks about making God exist for our own agenda (which is a bad thing).  I've already began working on a song that parallels that thought with Psalm  43.  Don't ask why I put those two together?  It was just what I was reading that morning.

-Listening to Tyler Burkum's new release "Darling, Maybe Someday" and Chris Taylor's "Take Me Anywhere".  I recommend both.

-I've added a couple Jon Foreman songs to my worship set.  "House Of God, Forever" and "Your Love Is Strong".

-I finally found some v-necks that fit me right at Old Navy.  Go figure!  

I hope the hipster kids will talk to me now.  Especially after I cut off my skinny jeans for Summer time, became a Ryan Adams fan, and started riding my fixed gear bicycle from the stone age to work...from the suburbs.

-Last but not least, HURRAY for the Olympics!

Done.

-Michael
Above The Golden State

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Forget the Shift- Paradigms Need Breaking

I don’t rightly know how it happened.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a singular desire- one thing above and beyond all others to which I have devoted my prayer and attention.

Purpose.
Calling.
Function.
Pursuit.
Mission.

Whatever you’d call it.  A vague picture in my mind of the person I’m supposed to be.  More than what I’m meant to do for a job, who I should marry, what my existence should be about… but a full, framed picture of who and what I was created to be in my entirety.  Oh, I may have placed emphasis on one aspect of the picture more than another (during one season of life or the next), sure.  But at it’s essential point- it’s foundation and undercurrent- I’ve sought the same resolution to the same question all of mankind has desired.  I know my searching isn’t a unique pursuit, of course.  Even if I’m looking for the grander purpose- at the basest of levels- it’s the same quest for calling everyone eventually goes through.

The odd and amazing thing recently isn’t a revelation or an epiphany.  No heaven-piercing shaft of light.  No scattered crack of electricity colliding with my soul.  Just a simple, ploddingly slow shift- somewhere deep within.  See, I’m realizing my focal point isn’t the painting on the wall anymore.  That imaginary piece of 'art' which depicts my truest, most complete persona- the 'aspired image'...  Somewhere while growing up, some of us change- the simple Grace given at the cross becomes a starting point, and no longer the home base.  We say (internally, perhaps):  "Thank you, Jesus, for my salvation.  Even though I once simply relished it, simply enjoyed You there... well, Lord...  I think we need to move on, now- let's get cracking on that whole 'perfecting me' thing You do.  Let's work on making me 'better'.

I’ve always been the sort to receive a task or idea or desire or relationship and run with it at a hundred and twnety-six miles per hour until I make my face 'one' with the metaphorical wall.  And this from someone who used to thrive upon spontaneity... sigh.  My mother always reminds me “Nothing in this world is static. Everything moves. Everything changes.

My focus change hasn’t been my own doing, though. Somewhere along the last few years, the frustrations I have wrestled with have exhausted me.  As I have walked around my neighborhood at three in the morning for nights on end, frustrated with God, whining at Him, yelling at Him, irritated and annoyed and completely worn down...  God has done something in me.  My attention has left a little more of the ephemeral behind, in favor of the eternal.  My focus isn’t so wholly devoted to that picture or purpose.  Instead, I’m finding myself putting Jesus Himself in that frame.  And all the temporal, human needs and wants and desired callings have been reduced to moments.  Tiny slivers of time and connection.  The mundane, day-to-day which has for so long felt like an undue plague has become the platform upon which I build a truer relationship with Him.  It’s hard to explain… but that’s about the best I can do.

Instead of looking to God for my purpose, He has Himself become my purpose.  And the fierce fights of my heart have moved from the sweeping valleys of change and the crags of impatience- and have become one step to take.  One wall to climb.  One moment to inhabit.  It’s not easy- making yourself avoid eye contact with that imaginary artwork and instead looking into the eyes of the Savior.  That patient Savior our selfish childishness has long assumed wasn’t there at all.

But it’s so much more worthwhile.

 

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