Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Believe in Santa Claus

I believe in Santa Claus.

I’m not talking about the 4th century Greek bishop named St. Nicholas who gave up his riches to help the poor. Of course he existed. No, I’m talking about St. Nick, the chubby, jolly old elf with the white beard, red suit, and belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly when he laughs. That Santa. I believe in him.

Do I believe he sneaks into my house on Christmas Eve to plant presents under my tree? No, I do not. I’ve stayed up far too late wrapping presents to know better. Do I believe he lives in a magical, invisible workshop at the North Pole where hundreds of little elves make toys for good boys and girls? No, of course not.  I’ve been to Target. I know where the toys come from.

I don’t believe in flying reindeer or a sleigh that can bend the space-time continuum as to allow him to visit every house on the planet in one night.

But I do believe Santa exists. Because I’ve seen him.

He exists in the hearts of those who are true givers. People like my wife. She’s good at giving. It is just part of her nature. She’s miserable if she’s not doing something for someone else. That’s right, I married Santa!

I’ve seen Santa in a lot of my co-workers at Compassion International—people who have given their entire careers to helping poor children escape poverty. And I see him in the hundreds of thousands of sponsors who give to a child on the other side of the planet, simply because it’s the right thing to do. That’s Santa.

I see Santa in the volunteers at the soup kitchens, homeless shelters and church food pantries. I see him in those who organize fundraisers to clothe, feed and educate those less fortunate. I’ve seen Santa in the pastor of the small church who just wants to “feed the sheep” even though it requires getting a second job to make his own ends meet. I see Santa in the single moms and dads who have to pull double duty and sacrifice personal desires to make sure their children have everything they need. I saw him in my grandmother and my aunt and uncle who inherited five rowdy little orphans and did their best to make sure we all grew up healthy. 

Santa teaches Sunday School for kindergartners at my church. And he does the 5K every year to help raise money for those with cancer, Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome and other disorders. Santa prays for people he's never even met. He’s a busy guy, this Santa.

So yeah, I believe in Santa Claus. And he doesn’t work just one night a year. He’ll be around in February, June, October…all year long. All you have to do is look for him. I bet you even know him. Heck, I bet you’re even Santa sometimes too.

If you believe in Santa like I do, tell the world. Share your stories of where you've seen Santa. This year, let’s tell the world we believe in Santa. Share this message. Share the “I Believe” button on your Facebook wall, or make it your profile pic. Tweet it.

It’s time we all started believing!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Wandering (And the Wondering) Soul

I’ve had a handful of friends in my life who, at one time, were passionate about their walk with Christ—only to walk away from Him at a later date. I don’t know if there’s anything more sorrowful.

Recently, one of my friends commented on how he now believes the entire story of Christ is a fairy tale, a “work of fiction” he called it. And my heart literally aches. How one goes from passionately pursuing a God who loves him so much to passionately running away from that same God is beyond me.

And then I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12, when he tells us that a “house divided against itself will fall.” (Matthew 12:25 paraphrased)

When we submit ourselves to our own desires, knowing that those desires are the antithesis of what God wants for us, we have to run. We must run. Because the two cannot occupy the same space. My friends who used to preach, pray and pursue Christ each found themselves divided. They came to a point where the struggle between wanting to follow Jesus and wanting to follow their own desires wouldn’t allow them to stand any longer. For one, it was homosexuality. For another it was porn and sexual addiction. And yet another found himself addicted to drugs. When those things try to dwell in the same temple as God, something has to give. The house will crumble.

 I understand why they had to run in this direction. It’s the only place they can feel safe in their sin. You see, if you can disprove God, if you can prove that the whole thing is a made up story then you can justify your actions. What does it matter, after all, to live in sin, if you can prove that the concept of sin is flawed?

Sadly, all of these friends of mine know me too well. So, in the height of hypocrisy, they point to my sins as a way of justifying their own…all while trying to tell me that the concept of sin is irrelevant anyway. “My sins aren’t sins because I don’t believe in the concept of sin. But you…I know your sins. So don’t preach to me about mine.”

So, they try hard to discredit the Gospel. And here, many would simply write them off. But not me. I think it’s a good thing. To me, the fact that they spend so much energy trying to disprove Christ is an indicator of the inner-turmoil that’s going on inside of them. As much as they want to let go of God, they can’t. Because God’s fingerprints don’t wash off easily. And, try as they may, they can’t seem to get the name of Jesus off their lips. Sure, it’s in a negative connotation right now, but that’s a very powerful name. And as long as they utter it—in a negative or positive sense—there’s a chance for that power to once again take hold.

 So, if you know someone who has walked away from God, don’t give up. If he/she is working hard to discredit faith it’s not a sign of a lost soul. It’s the sign of a soul that God is still wrestling for. And if you have walked away from your faith but find yourself trying to disprove Christ, ask yourself why. Why must you disprove him? What is it in your life that you need so bad, that it requires God’s story to be false?

My prayers go out to the wandering (and the wondering) souls.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Wretch

There's this word, in a famous hymn by John Newton, that I haven't really thought much about, though I've sung it dozens if not hundreds of times. What did he mean when he said, "...a wretch like me?"

I looked up the word and it pretty much means what you'd expect it to: "a despicable or vile person." I can surely associate with that. But there was a synonym listed in the definition that struck me:


I thought about that word for awhile. Am I the villain in God's story? The answer is far too often, I'm afraid, yes.

When Jonah boarded a boat to get as far away as possible from God's will, he became the villain in the story. His sin brought a horrific storm on a ship full of sailors who were not party to his sin. Consequences of one's sin are rarely, if ever, heaped only on the sinner. I too, have boarded the boat to Tarsus. I have tried to flee from God's guidance. I have seen the consequences of my own sins leave their stains on other hearts.

When David decided that he wanted another man's wife, he became the villain in the story. Consumed by his lust, fleshly desires and greed, he went as far as to commit murder to try to cover up his sin. I too have peered over the balcony and coveted that which is not mine. And I have dug deeper holes to cover the sins I thought could be hidden. Though I have not committed physical murder, how many have I "killed" with my word and deed?

When we first learn of Paul in the Gospel, he is already the villain. His life was dedicated to persecuting believers. He stood by as others stoned Stephen. His life mission was to destroy those who worshipped God. I have been complacent in the destruction of fellow believers. I have watched them stumble, only to throw stones or turn my back as others hurled theirs.

I am the wretch.

I am the villain.

But the beauty of the Gospel is found in that very same hymn that brings us that awful word. The wretch can be saved. The villain's heart can be turned. God's grace put Jonah back on course. It allowed David to go down in history not as a wretch, but as "a man after God's own heart." Grace is what turned Saul into Paul.

That same grace is available to me and to you. But, as in each of these stories, it takes repentence. Whether you pray that prayer in the belly of fish, on your knees in your castle or on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere, grace is there. For every wretch. For every villain.

Yes, John Newton was right. It IS amazing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Wildfire

It started as a small puff of smoke on the other side of the ridge. Visible from a few miles away, that small puff was actually deceptively large. The flames that birthed it intense. As the smoke plume grew, I knew how easily it could spread. And spread it did. From treetop to treetop, pushed by winds across the dry, parched earth. The absence of rain made for perfect kindling, as even the tiniest of sparks grew the inferno. 100 foot flames shot into the sky, blocking out the sun with their thick, black smoke. Homes destroyed. Lives uprooted. And when it was all said and done, the landscape forever charred…blackened by the relentless, disastrous fire.

And no, I’m not talking about Waldo Canyon.

Some years ago, I allowed a sin into my life that was shameful. And while I managed for many years to keep the smoke plume at a distance, the flames were tremendous. And they consumed everything in their path. My heart, my mind, my body. And I wasn’t the only victim. This fire scorched others in my path. Like innocent trees on the landscape—friends, family, strangers and acquaintances were damaged. This sin took advantage of the lack of fertile ground and spread like wildfire through a bone-dry field of starving grass. And before I knew it, my landscape had been forever changed. In my wake, I left ashen remains of who I once was. Those who knew me still stood but blackened, wounded by the flames of my selfishness.

Sin is a lot like a wildfire. All it takes is a tiny spark. One hot ember landing on the right blade of grass can quickly become an unstoppable inferno. The lack of rain—that nurturing that can only come from God’s word, will turn a once-fertile valley into a arid field ripe for burning.

The good news is, scorched earth can regrow. In fact, it can come back stronger, greener and livelier. But not without that rain. Not without nourishment.

I am so sorry for those I have burned in my past. Maybe you too, have some fires to apologize for. Maybe you still have flames that need water. Maybe you need to ask for forgiveness from those you left in the ashes of your folly. I wish I could say I will never allow flames back into my landscape. But that would be a lie. But what I can do is keep the ground fertile. Keep watering the grass with the Word that replenishes. And, when sparks land, ask for help to snuff them out before they ever have the chance to spread.

Maybe, just maybe, the landscape can be changed…and return to its once fertile state.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Okay, I have to chime in here. Because it's been bothering me for far too long.
It started with Susan Boyle...the vocal wonder who wow'd and amazed folks on Britain's Got Talent. Now, years later, it's Charlotte and Jonathan.

Can these people sing? Absolutely. Amazingly so. Powerful voices. Beautiful voices.

That's not what bothers me.

What bothers me is that the world is shocked that they can sing...because they're not what media has told us is "beautiful." I actually heard a network morning news anchor introduce the video clip of Charlotte and Jonathan by saying "he doesn't look like he can sing..."


What does that even mean?

What happened to our love of music? When did we become a world of people who will shell out ridiculous amounts in ticket prices to see so-called "beautiful people" dance on stage, LIP-SYNCHING to an AUTO-TUNED track that they could never pull off live...and drop our jaws in shock when an "unattractive" person can actually stay on pitch, hit the notes and deliver an arousing performance?

Why does that shock us?

In the words of the old song, "video killed the radio star"...we allowed it to happen. When video came on the scene, all of the sudden, we wanted our music stars to be beautiful as well as sing. Now, we've gotten to the point where the latter doesn't matter, just as long as they're appealing to look at.

Shame on us.

Shame on us for making music about waist size, or performers who are willing to wear outrageous outfits (or no outfits at all) to get our attention. Shame on us for expecting airbrushed beauty in place of talent. Seriously, some of our "pop stars" today are an insult to true musicians.

It used to be about the music.
It used to be about the talent.
It used to be about the message that someone put into their song.

Jonathan, I hope you do have a wonderful career ahead of you. Not because of the shock value. But because of your talent.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Like many people in this world, I have dreamed of writing a novel. Well, actually I’ve done more than dream about it. I’ve started a few. But I have yet to finish a single one of them.

Years ago, I started a fiction novel called Prompting the Apocalypse, about a cult that thinks they can prompt God’s hand to start the end of the world—if they just do something horrible enough. I sat it aside and starting working on my life story, growing up an orphan in a small, south Texas town. That turned out to be overwhelming, trying to remember details and honestly wondering if anyone would be interested in that at all. So I put that one on the shelf.

I moved onto another autobiographical piece called Lessons in Failure, which focused on my many missteps in life—and what I learned from them. But that was terribly depressing, so it’s sitting in a folder somewhere. I worked on a devotion piece that focused on Matthew 11. I love the story of John the Baptist sending two messengers to ask Jesus a very important question. More importantly, I love His reply. But, at about 75-percent of the way through, I lost interest. I worked on a short story called The Roaring Gnat. I couldn’t even finish that. A short story!

Currently, I’m writing another fiction piece called Ghosts of the Potential, about a retired travel photojournalist who finds himself living in a slum in Kenya when he encounters something he never imagined possible. I still have no idea how it’s going to end.

And I can’t begin to tell you how many half-songs or choruses I’ve written that have never seen the light of day. For some reason, I just can’t seem to finish these projects.

Why is that?

Part of me wants to say that unfinished products are useless. They are worth nothing until they are completed. What good is a car that sits in your driveway without an engine? What value does a home with no roof bring? But then I am reminded of this verse:

“Be confident of this, that He who began a good work

in you will carry it on to completion until the day of

Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

And I am thankful. Thankful that God doesn’t see unfinished work as worthless. Thankful that He knows how to finish a story. My story. (Even if I can’t.) Unfinished doesn’t mean without value. And—as the verse says—until Jesus returns, there is always time to work on the project more.

I don’t know if I’ll ever finish any of these writing projects. But I am learning to see the value of them even in their current state. They are a part of me. They allow me to hone my creative skills. They challenge me. And, finished or not, they are part of my story.

(Hey look! I finished this blog post! That’s something, right?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012



It’s the first word in my bio on my website. It’s what I have tried to emulate in my songwriting. Funny though, how it’s easier to do in a song than in real life.

Truth is, I’m not a very honest person. I strive to be, but there are some things that I’d much rather keep hidden in the dark corners of who I am. Ugly things. Shocking things. Things I don’t want you to see.

“Don’t look at me. I’m as ugly as ugly can be.

Don’t look at me. I’m afraid you won’t like what you see.

There’s a stain on my heart that is darker than dark

I’m a liar, a cheat and a thief.

Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.”

-The Liar, from an upcoming project

For years, I have wrestled with this one sin that has sunk its claws deep into my flesh. I hate who I am when this sin shows itself. I have told myself that, if I can just beat this one thing, I’d be doing alright. My guess is that many of you have that one thing you wrestle with too. But as I dig deeper into why this sin has such a grip on me, I realize it’s not just one thing. You see lust, pride, envy, anger, greed, discontentment, selfishness; they are all woven together like a tightly knit bundle of nerves. It’s hard to separate one from the other. Suddenly, that one thing…is many things. And I realize I’ve been fighting the wrong battle all along because I focused all my efforts on only one soldier in the war. Leaving myself open to ambush over and over again.

There are days when I feel like I’ve won. There are moments when I no longer feel consumed. But they are fleeting. With every step forward it seems, there’s a step backwards.

“I sit in the middle of poison.

I sit in the middle of sin.

I say my prayer of forgiveness

then turn around and do it again.”

-Secret Sins, from the XP album, Ten Songs

(Written by Clint Locks, Arr. And performed by Tim Glenn)

I imagine that’s what it’s like for a drug addict or an alcoholic. There are days when they don’t desire that high. Those are good days. Strong days. Bright days. Then, out of nowhere, something triggers a craving and before they know it, they’re intoxicated again…and the days turn dark. The self-loathing returns. I too have found myself in this cycle. More times than I care to admit.

“It’s a cold dark hell in this hole of sin

I’m ashamed to tell but I fit right in

I keep spinning in these concentric circles.”

-Hole of Sin, from my album, New Pair of Shoes

The Bible says to confess your sins to one another. That’s hard to do in this society because we love gossip. We love deflection. Focusing on the sin of others allows us to ignore our own. Sin is messy and no one wants to deal with it publicly. We don’t trust anyone to know who we really are inside. So we lock it away. And I wonder if we are a secret society of self-loathers. We fear how much others would hate us, if they only knew. So we choose to hate ourselves instead.

“I hate that I’m so human, fighting with this flesh

This wicked war of wiles.

If I could hide myself in you and take on all your qualities

Now that would be worthwhile.”

-So Human, from my album, So Human

I wonder how many of you would still associate yourselves with me if you knew what evil sneaks around in the darkest parts of my being. I have done horrible things. Things that would give you every right to hate me, disown me. I fear the loneliness that would follow such abandonment. So I choose to shoulder the weight in silence.

“My cross is the shame I must bear, with me everywhere

I admit that it’s bigger than me.

Though I try to walk it alone, my cross is a stone

that’s bringing me to my knees.”

-My Cross, from my album, So Human

I wonder how forgiving we can really be of each other. And I wonder… is it possible to completely overcome these things in this lifetime? Even if I did win this battle, would another one be waiting? Perhaps that’s why heaven is so special—the absence of the dark corners.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back in Time

What if we could go back and fix the mistakes we've made?
Would you want to?
There are a handful of things from my past that I've longed to go back and correct. They will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.
Still, as I consider this train of thought, much has to be taken into account.
My first impression is, "I should write a song about this!" But then I think, "No, this is just a blog post."
This time, it's both.
Here are some thoughts mixed with some lyric ideas:
Probably the most famous sin on earth took place in the Garden of Eden. Oh, that garden! All the food they needed. Innocence and honesty in their purist form.
Then, one bad decision:
"Seems to me she was deceived
And took the apple from the tree
Shared it with her helper, friend
And things are not the same since then…
No things are not the same since then."
I wonder if Adam and Eve ever looked back. In those following years of dirty, sweaty toil, did they ever have the conversation?
Eve: "Oh, if I had only told that stupid snake to shut up!"
Adam: "If only I hadn't taken that bite!"
Did they ever fight about it? Was blame ever cast?
Adam: "Why did you have to bring me that confounded fruit!?"
Eve: "You didn't have to eat it, ya know! No one forced it down your throat."
Here's an interesting idea: What would've happened if Eve ate of the fruit but Adam stood his ground and denied it. How would that have changed the world? I'm sure, at some point, mankind would have still screwed up. But what if we hadn't?
Or, what if Eve DID shoo the serpent away…and neither of them partook of the fruit?
Think of the ramifications on life as we know it. Perhaps there would be no sin, no war, no death. But also…no need for Jesus. No blood. No crucifixion. No resurrection. No Christmas. No Easter. What if our story was simply…"God made us and gave us a perfect home?"
Wait…as a musician, I wonder how that would change our hymns? All those beautiful songs celebrating Jesus' victory over death. All those praises to God for His sweet redemption story.
"Can we go back in time to right our wrongs?
Would it erase our rhymes?
Would it change our song?
No more sweet refrains of Amazing Grace
Not one single verse with Jesus' name?"
I honestly don't believe man will ever figure out how to travel back in time to change the past. And my gut tells me that's a good thing. But even if we could, I'm sure we'd slip up somewhere else along the way. Maybe we'd create drama some other way. Because, us humans, we thrive on drama!
And now to apply that to my own life. As much as I'd like to go back and change the past, I wonder what I'd miss out on if I did. I wonder what blessings, joys and wonders would never begin, without my sin.
"To erase the bad, you must erase it all
Every joy and blessing fall.
Crimson gone but at what cost?
Precious memories…all are lost."