Wins & Losses (May 23-June 6)

Wins

  • I always love getting new books in the mail. Rarely do I pre-order books unless it’s by an author than I highly admire or a subject matter that interests me. Bill Haslam’s new book, Faithful Presence, was one of those “I’m gonna pre-order this one.” Governor Haslam (governor of Tennessee from 2010-2018) is my favorite person in politics, though he doesn’t currently hold elected office. I met him twice and felt such a genuine spirit about him. His new book discusses a Christian’s place in the public square and how Christians have a higher calling in all areas of life, including politics. I’m about halfway done with it and can affirm that it was worth the purchase!
  • I registered for my first SBC Annual Meeting last week, and it will be held in the WONDERFUL city of Nashville! As excited as I am about attending my first SBC meeting, I am more excited about reconnecting with a lot of old friends. It appears I’ll be seeing a lot of folks from college and other walks of life when we are there, and I’m ecstatic. I got my SBC FAQs by Amy Whitfield and I’ve been reading up on everything I need to know before I get there.
  • We spent Memorial Day and the following week in Tennessee at my in-laws house. Unfortunately, temperatures did not allow for many hours in the pool, but we managed to enjoy the time away for a spell. I loved being able to be in Tennessee to celebrate Statehood Day, and made some tri-star cupcakes to show my love for the Volunteer State. On our penultimate day, we all visited Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid and went up the elevator to the observation deck. It featured some gorgeous views of Memphis and the Mississippi River (and the closed-off bridge!), and the kids loved seeing the live fish and alligators.

Losses

  • It feels like death has been awfully present lately. More often than not, it appears that family and friends have been affected by death more than usual. Perhaps I am just more aware of it as I get older. Perhaps it is actually more common than it has been. Either way, it’s been hard lately to see so many loved ones affected by death.
  • We knew when we moved to Georgia that we would be a long way from our families. What we did not anticipate was how hard that drive would be for all of us. It is not a pleasant drive EVER to make. What is supposed to be a 6.5 hour drive without stops turned into a 10-hour drive with children asking about food the entire way. It was like they had never been fed!

Wins & Losses (May 16-22)

Wins

  • The highlight of my week was Sunday afternoon. I made the short drive down to Warner Robins to enjoy a concert by the Wellston Winds. The Wellston Winds is a regional community band comprised of musicians of all trades including band directors, former Marine/Air Force band members, church musicians, and everything in between. Two of my own church members were playing with the group and it was a delightful concert. Wind bands are a favorite of mine, so the chance to hear quality music by quality musicians was certainly a treat. My favorite selection was the finale of the first half entitled “Minimalist Dances.” I couldn’t wait to show it to Becca once I got home. Second to the performance itself was the performance venue. I had seen the Museum of Aviation a few times as I drove through Warner Robins, but the inside was MAGNIFICENT. I can hardly wait to visit their during normal business hours to take it all in.
  • K wrapped up her short school year on Tuesday with a beach party and riding toy day! Considering she had to wait until January to start (the CEO decided against opening in the fall due to COVID), she learned quite a bit in 5 months! We are so proud of her for how well she acclimated to school life and love that she loved school. She had excellent teachers and made several new friends. We’re looking forward to her continuing next year with the same friends!
  • Wednesday night was a blast. We had a big church party on the church grounds and loved every second of it. The weather was perfect, the food was delectable, and the fellowship was sweet. My kids got to run around to their heart’s content and we got to enjoy company with our church family outside of a Sunday service or class. The next day found just about all of us tired as all get out! It appears that everyone loved it as much as we did, so I hope we do it again soon!
  • Saturdays have become one of two things in our house: massive cleaning or family outing. I certainly enjoy one over the other and was glad we took advantage of the great weather last weekend! We picked up lunch in North Macon before having a picnic and playtime at Amerson River Park. Afterwards, we all got ice cream at my and Becca’s favorite ice cream shop, Macon Swirls. By the time we got home at 3:30, we were all so exhausted and took naps…until 5:30 pm. That made for an odd evening for everybody, but it was certainly a day well spent!

Losses

  • Sometimes, technology is my worst enemy. We had livestream/sound issues at church for two weeks straight. What’s worse than that is my struggling to find out what the issue was. For the life of me, I could not figure out why all of our equipment was working just fine until a certain day, and nothing would explain it. Thankfully, after a few test runs, it appears I found the root of the issue (a bug in the software update), and was able to repair the issue. Another responsibility of mine is our LED sign in front of the church building. That sign has been the bane of my existence since moving here. And just when I think I’ve fixed it, it screws up again. I have yet to find that issue with that…thing.

Wins & Losses (May 9-15)

Wins

  • After months and months without a piano in our house, I’m glad to say that issue has been resolved. Some time last summer, my faithful Casio Privia keyboard finally kicked the bucket. It was a dang good digital piano, having served me well for twelve years. I got it for my 16th birthday and used it for weddings, jazz band, home playing, and college dorm room playing. But all good things must come to an end. We were getting tired of having to go across the street to my office to play piano, especially when we needed to play something immediately for our various musical purposes. So I searched across the Facebook Marketplace for a while until I found the style I wanted at a cheap price. I drove down to Warner Robins last Wednesday with my friend Luke, and picked up a Samick SU-105 (circa 1984) and put it in the living room. It needs a little love with tuning and a few mechanical issues, but it can really pack a punch for its small size. I’m so looking forward to having one in the house and I’m even looking forward to having my kids play on it as we prepare them for piano lessons in the future.
  • My Tuesday morning was made even better when I learned I (officially) received an A in both grad classes this trimester. Even better was a 97 on my research paper (35% of final grade) and a request from my professor to use my paper as an example in his future classes. That was certainly an academic goal of mine and I’m glad to have attained it before I turned 30!
  • We all enjoyed a fun outing on Friday morning at R’s field day at school. Parents and siblings were invited and it was such a delight to watch R participate in the activities and interact with her classmates. The faculty were so kind to let K play with the kids as well and she had a ball. After the games, we had lunch together via picnic and then all slept well that afternoon. I love changing up the routine every once in a while to give us all a change of pace. And I’m so proud that R attends such a great school that encourages group activities and playtime!
  • Saturday night was date night! Not much was done out of the ordinary for us (Longhorn Steakhouse and Macon Swirls ice cream), but we certainly enjoyed the night anyway!

Losses

  • Saturday marked twenty years since my Papa died. He is, to date, the only biological grandparent I have lost (my step-grandfathers died in 2017 and 2018, respectively). Twenty years seems so much further away than nineteen years, so it was a sobering moment to come to grips with over the weekend. I tell more about it here.
  • My fear of failure has seriously taken its toll on me lately. Failure is, by far, my worst fear. One part of my Ennegram 3 personality is my desire for perfection and success. If I think I will fail at something, rarely will I even attempt it. And lately, I have feared failing at a number of things. I even saw the same quality in R on field day when she made a small mistake in a sack race and wouldn’t even try again (talk about humbling). It’s so easy to say, “Try again!” when you aren’t the one making the attempts.

Twenty Years Missed

Twenty years ago, I was an dorky little 3rd grader just trying to finish what had been the hardest year of school for me at that point. I had just started playing the piano, my best friend was Tyler Henry, and my favorite thing in the world was whatever happened to be on Nickelodeon. And my favorite person to be around was my Papa.

Little did I know that late that night, my Papa would see the face of Jesus.

I loved spending time with my Papa. Everyone I knew said I looked like him. Even though he died when I was only 8 years, I can still vividly remember several of our adventures and often mischievous escapades. It was not unheard of for me to do something wrong or bad and have him swoop in to fix my error before my parents (or, God forbid, my grandmother!) found out.

Things I remember about him:

  • His little, blue Nissan pickup truck
  • His coveralls that he wore all the time
  • His ability to grow and sustain any vegetable in the garden (he started growing strawberries when he found out I liked them)
  • Our daily drives to school and betting on whether the light in town would be red or green
  • A ride down to the creek on my aunt’s little Yamaha motorcycle or the three-wheeler
  • His laying on the floor on quilt pallet next to the wall heater in kitchen while eating cheese crisps and drinking a Pepsi
  • Eating lunch with him (usually another cheese crisp and Pepsi) while on his break at Garan, the old shirt factory in Adamsville

Our last day with Papa was so special. He and my dad spent the whole day finishing work on a treehouse for me and my brother. That night, all of us were at the local ballpark for a baseball game my cousins were playing in. He went home that evening having spent the day and evening with his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and all his grandchildren. Clearly, a day well spent. And what a day to end on.

When you add “twenty years ago” to an event, it suddenly seems much more distant than it actually is. We will all experience that later this year as we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

I sometimes wonder what he might be like now. He would be 92 years old if he were still around, and clearly having the time of his life with great-grandkids. I’ve been told he was over the moon for all his grandkids. I hope that when I can tell stories to my own kids when they’re older, I’ll do him justice. Twenty years later and I still miss him just as much as I did the day he left us.

Wins & Losses (May 2-8)

Wins

  • After a few weeks of my evenings being filled with errands and other responsibilities, I was grateful to be home in most evenings with the family. I like working and don’t do well working from home (I was a whole mess during the shutdowns last year). But once the work day is done, I like being home with my people. I’m certainly no night owl, so the opportunity to be home in comfy clothes with the option of going to bed as soon as kids are down is nice. Just another reminder that I could not effectively work away from home for long periods of time.
  • A paper submission on Saturday afternoon capped off another trimester of grad school. I so enjoyed writing a paper on liturgy in the evangelical church and hope I can use what I learned in the future. My class on worship philosophy was more challenging that I originally thought, but gave me lots to think about as I continue to develop as a worship leader and a pastor. If you want to talk liturgy or worship philosophy, I’m pretty fresh!
  • I really stretched my ability to do stuff on the fly last week when I played BASS GUITAR with our youth praise band. A few things happened and I found myself leading the group on Wednesday night during the music portion of the student worship service. We played some great songs and I had a ball playing bass. I had been tinkering with the acoustic guitar, but couldn’t really find my sweet spot while learning it. Bass came much easier and I am excited to keep working on it.

Losses

  • One of the downsides of being a worship pastor is when you think something is going to go over incredibly well only to be shocked when it falls flat. I introduced a quasi-new song to the congregation on Sunday. The choir had done it before and it was relatively well-known. Easy to sing and had a smooth, gospel jazz feel to it. I was so excited to use it, but could tell that my congregation did not echo those sentiments. It’s a humbling moment, but not one to raise a fuss over. We’ll just shelve that one and maybe look at it some other time.
  • Poor G-man had a rough week. What we thought was just a cold/allergies/teething turned into double pink eye and an awful ear infection. Becca stayed home with him for three days, and the little dude couldn’t hang. I had someone tell me last year that there is nothing worse than having sick kids. And she was right. Seeing my kids sick and knowing there’s only so much we can do for them tears me up. Thankfully, he seemed to be on the mend by the weekend.

Church Songs Review Suggestions

In wanting to post content that is meaningful to my readers, I’d love to hear suggestions of worship songs or hymns you’d like to see reviewed. I promise that if I pick the song you suggest, you’ll receive a thorough and comprehensive review of the song with regards to theology, singability, and appropriateness in a congregational setting. Mind you, these are only my opinions and don’t dictate whether they can, should, or should not be sung in your local church setting. Just fill out the form below and let me get to listening! If you want to keep your submission anonymous, just put”Anonymous” in the name box. And also feel free to suggest more than one song per submission!

Wins & Losses (April 18-May 1)

Wins

  • I’m usually not one that up for a new movie. I guess it’s my fear of being disappointed and therefore wasting 90-120 minutes of my life (usually evening). However, Becca and I decided to watch something new the other night and came upon The Iron Lady. It starred Meryl Streep in the title role of Margaret Thatcher and had pretty good reviews including Streep’s nomination and win for Best Actress. I’ve always admired Margaret Thatcher and one of Becca’s favorite actresses is Meryl Streep. So we settled in to watch it and very much enjoyed it! Meryl Streep did a masterful job portraying Thatcher and we highly recommend it!
  • I finished coursework for one of my grad classes last week (Music History), so that gave me some more free time to dive into new books. I grabbed the second LOTR novel, The Fellowship of the Ring, and a new book by my former pastor (Joey Johnson) in Selmer, Disarming Conflict. They have been enjoyable ways to begin my mornings and sometimes end my afternoons!
  • Secret Church 2021 was incredible as always. David Platt and his team at Radical do an awesome job getting it together every year and I always leave motivated. This year’s emphasis was on the 3 billion people in the world who are considered “unreached – meaning they have never even heard the name of Jesus. It was a convicting evening and one I won’t soon forget.
  • Spontaneous activities are the best. Right after we had put our kids down for naps, Becca remembered a nature center near our house that was apparently great for families. So we got them all back up, put shoes on, packed a few snacks, and headed out to Dausett Trails Nature Center. There were lots of animals to see, a huge pond with turtles galore, and a playground. It was all free and the weather was perfect. Everyone had a good time and we can’t wait to go back!

Losses

  • Lately, I’ve felt that there just isn’t enough time in the day. I’m one who organizes my days by what needs to be done so that other things can be done on another day. And when something throws a kink in that day-to-day plan, it gets rough. It’s especially bad when those kinks are hours-long commitments. Perhaps I’m the only one. But the appointments and engagements and errands have seemed to pile up in the last month to the point where I feel like I’m barely getting things done. Sheesh.
  • Sleep has been difficult lately. Even when I am dog-tired by the end of the day, I find myself waking up in the morning just as tired as the night before. The past few weeks have had me up 1-3 times a night and struggling to get through the morning in one piece with all the other pieces barely hanging on. I need a vacation.

Wins & Losses (April 11-17)

Wins

  • A follow-up appointment with the pulmonologist on Thursday showed clear lungs! I still felt some tenderness in my back, but it appears that the spontaneous pneumothorax has gone away for now. I will probably encounter this again in my lifetime especially if I remain in the same physical shape as I am now. And considering I am built just like my Papa who only gained weight in his late sixties, I think I can confidently predict the future here.
  • The absolute highlight of my week was a 45-minute interview with Jenn Crider of Christ Church in Nashville. I am writing a paper for a worship philosophy course in which I argue for the use of liturgy and the church calendar as a discipleship tool in contemporary evangelical churches. I had been following CCN for some time and knew they had managed to effectively blend the liturgy/church calendar with free expression in their corporate worship services and was eager to use their methods in my research. Jenn and I had a wonderful conversation about liturgy, the church calendar, effective ministry tools, and, unexpectedly, the state of the American church compared with the global church. She gave me so much material to use for my paper and I can’t wait to rewatch the video to get my notes. And just to make this even cooler: Jenn Crider is the daughter of Sandi Patty. Casual, I know.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: serendipity is my friend. I just love stumbling upon something that I find meaningful or entertaining or useful. In this case, it was a YouTube channel. With my grand piano at my office and my keyboard broken, we haven’t had a working piano at our house for some time. I’ve been on the lookout for cheap/free ones that would fit in our apartment and while doing so, found a YouTube channel of a guy named James who reviews literally any type of piano or digital piano you can imagine. It has been absolutely fascinating to watch James play dozens of pianos large, small, grand, vertical, digital, acoustic, and eccentric. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to piano construction, so this has definitely kept my attention for a few days.
  • A last-minute trip to Valdosta was just what the doctor ordered! We made the 2-hour drive south to Valdosta to visit with our dear friends, the Washburns. Our kids played hard all day and we loved getting to catch up (in person) with this couple that has become so special to us since we moved here. It was pretty wild to realize we were only 25 minutes from the Florida line. I always forget how close to the coast we actually live.

Losses

  • The lung issues I had kept me from leading worship on April 11th. I am thankful I have a wife who usually knows what she’s doing when using a microphone and guitar, so I was pleased to watch her lead with our church musicians last Sunday. I resigned myself to the back of the building and manned the AV booth. And let me tell you something: running ProPresenter, a sound board, AND a livestream is a full-time job. I never stopped moving! I think I may have used more energy back there than I would have on the platform! It made me appreciate my intern a lot more and I’m grateful for the help I get.
  • I was absolutely not a fan of the cool weather that creeped in last week. Georgia likes to play tricks on its residents and make them think summer is coming early when, in fact, it is faux summer. BAH.

Church Song Review: Graves into Gardens

Let me begin with saying what I like about this song. Musically, it is super-catchy. It’s probably best known for the DAH DAH DAH DAAHHH several times over in the bridge of the song. I’ll admit, when I was listening to it for the first time, I found myself fist-bumping every time that section was played. It’s easy to move to. It’s even pretty easy to sing by a group which is one of the criteria I use for picking corporate worship songs. And if you know the song’s context, it’s not that bad of a song theologically. But that’s also where it falls short.

I’m a firm believer in church songs being able to stand on their own. By that, I mean that I shouldn’t have to pick apart every detail of a song to find Jesus or find the source for its material. Context matters and should be blatant. Unfortunately, “Grave into Gardens” does not hold up. For example, the first reference we find to anything resembling a deity happens in the chorus and it is simply “Lord” in a passing phrase (the previous references are just second-person pronouns). The second verse actually mentions the name of God, so there’s a bit of saving grace there. However, looking at the text of this song as a whole harkens back to the days of Christian music in the early 2000s when the “Jesus is my boyfriend” song was extremely popular (think “Beautiful One” of 2004 or “Draw Me Close” of 2001). And considering that “Graves into Gardens” was released by Elevation Worship, it doesn’t surprise me. Much of Elevation’s songs have, in the last few years, become very shallow in their theological content and “Graves into Gardens” is no exception.

There are a few biblical references in the song such as “turn mourning to dancing” (Psalm 30:11), “give beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3), and “turn bones into armies” (Ezekiel 37). These are true characteristics of God and, in my opinion, probably the only part of the song that I can sing with confidence and assurance. I sometimes suggest that certain Christian songs are fine to listen to on your own time, but not appropriate for corporate worship. This is one I certainly do not think is useful for corporate worship and I would even hesitate to say it’s useful for listening on your own time.

Wins & Losses (April 4-10)

Let’s see if I can get this bad boy up and running again…

Wins

  • Easter was an absolute grand slam this year. After last year only saw about 10 of us in the sanctuary, it was a major blessing to celebrate it with so many friends. It was made even more special by the Tenebrae service we held on Good Friday. Easter morning began where Good Friday ended and we sang some of our best songs for the day. It was certainly the best Easter service I’ve experienced in some time. I was so pleased with everyone’s efforts!
  • I was exhilarated by the productivity I was able to devote to schoolwork this week. A bit of slacking on my part led to a number of assignments needing my attention all at once, so I was glad to be able to get several of those behind me. Aside from a few weekly tasks for one class, I only have about 2 more large assignments before I’ll finish the trimester.

Losses

  • I tend to keep my health issues to myself so to avoid unnecessary drama or misinformation. But 2 weeks ago, I developed a spontaneous pneumothorax. This is fancy talk for “a small area of the lung is collapsed.” I had been experiencing some sharp pain on my left side both in my chest and back. Breathing wasn’t an issue, but it hurt like the dickens. I had similar pain in February, but a clear X-ray determined that it was pleurisy. This time, the X-ray showed something different. An area on the top of my left lung (about 1 cm wide) was releasing air into the pleural space, and it was that loose air causing the major pain. Apparently, this type of pneumothorax is pretty common for tall, skinny dudes like me. The doc thinks it will heal on its own as it shrunk about 8mm in 2 days. My part in that is reducing the amount of talking and singing that I do, which led to my having to sit out leading worship on Sunday.
  • Around the middle of the week, a dear deacon from our church passed away. He was always incredibly kind to both me and Becca, and had some of the most beautiful benediction prayers. He was one who would stop you at church randomly and ask, “What Bible verse has been most meaningful to you lately?” Coincidentally, his verses never changed (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Brashers will certainly miss Mr. Byron.