Pentatonix is one of my favorite bands and they sing all their music acapella. They are probably some of the most talented musicians I've ever seen. I first found them on NBC's The Sing Off where week after week they continually impressed everyone with their unique arrangements and their powerful sound for using only five people. Avi (their bass) and Kevin (their beat boxer  are unbelievably skilled at their craft. Kevin is a Christian and I would love to see him perform at Urbana15 with his beatboxing and cello skills.

Speaking of Kevin playing the cello, this is from one of their new singles, Radioactive, a cover of the Imagine Dragons song. They invited violinist, Lindsey Sterling to play with them, and I believe it rivals the original (which is also an amazing song). Take a look and forever be impressed. I warn you - you may spend the next few hours on YouTube, looking up more Pentatonix greatness.

And for a bonus video of Pentatonix's greatness: A History of Music


Who You Are

Every since probably 2000 or so I have been a fan of JJ Heller. She is a really good friend of one my old small group leaders, Sarah, so she actually came to one of our small group meetings. Later she performed at my church and I've been a fan ever since.

While she isn't a new artist I follow, her newest album, Loved, came out this March. I think it ranks in my top favorites - keeping her traditional acoustic style and depth of lyrics, I've always valued JJ for not trying to be "too Christian" or "too mainstream" when it comes to music. She speaks from her soul, and it shows. She loves her daughters, loves her husband, and love God, and writes all of this into her music. She impresses me as a woman of faith and and as a musician.

Here is the official music video for one of her songs, Who You Are, from the new album. As a side note - I want a dinner party like this. 


Trust and Gratitude

I was looking back at some old posts and I came across this one I wrote about Henri Nouwen's book: Return of the Prodigal Son. I was struck by the profound comparisons it has with Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts.

The last part of the Nouwen's book discusses the necessity of trust and gratitude  In the current book I'm reading gratitude has been a major theme and I just read how intentional and consistent gratitude builds trust.

Ok Jesus - I'm starting to sense a theme here.



I wrote this poem about four years ago, when I first studied 1 Corinthians and was given the task to look at what I felt I was entitled to. Four years later, I had picked up all the same entitlements but masked them with different words and different spins but they were the same. I let them go again and I hope that four years later I have not picked them all up again.

At the Bottom of the Sea
I stood upon a dock lined with mattresses,
With five friends standing small.
So no one sees the inscriptions I wrote upon their faces,
The words harbored in my heart from all.

Together we hide in the darkness,
Hoping it will bring us peace.
But the harder I clutch their hands,
My contentment begins to cease.

Their stony faces have no expressions
As they stand solemnly still.
I close my eyes just to be hidden
From the outside world.
I carried them around all day and night.
My entitlements, my rocks, my rights.

Freedom stood across from me,
The eldest of them all.
He was given to me upon my birth,
And always standing tall.

Fiercely independent and strong,
But upon my word and command
He would jump into the ocean himself
For I knew without him I could stand.

The twins of a pair stood in between
They were the desire to be praised
They never parted each other's side or mine,
For Respect and Affection are what I most craved.

They rarely looked at me,
But eyes were always daring off into the distance,
Hoping to catch a glimpse of someone watching
For a stolen smile would always lift their spirits.

I carried the twins for as long as I could talk,
When I saw that words brought praise and high remarks
Desperate speech I used just to get attention
It was a long a journey I thus then embarked.

The youngest, Leadership, stood next to me
He was new to this twisted family I had formed,
But the easiest to see with his dark sleek face
All knew that I deserved to have such a beauty adorned.

The smallest and easily missed
Stood quietly at my side
I rarely spoke of him
Or with him one day I might abide.

The man, the partner, the husband.
He was a future right, but one I wanted still.
The man I rarely spoke of to anyone.
It was my heart he was meant to fill.

He would be the hardest to let go of.
But then again, I held tightly onto to all of them.
They sat together, out of sight, out of mind
For everyone else had their own burdens.

Five rocks. Five rights. Five words.
I carried them around the nights and days
That I stayed on this secluded island.
Weighing more each moment that they stayed.

Smooth and soft, round and real.
Each I knew I deserved to have and to hold.
Who could contest that I had not earned them.
Yet there was one who wanted them let go.

I was commanded to throw each one away
Into the depths of the ocean below.
And there they would remain in
The dark depths that would swallow them whole.

And so there I stood alone
With these strange friends of mine
Small simple, but carrying great burdens
That had plagued me for too long a time.

One by one I threw them into the giant sea
Never knowing where they went or would go
All give, for it had to be all or nothing
I just let them go.

I felt lighter the moment I walked back
Without five rocks buried in the small
Pockets of my pants. But there was the unsettling feeling
That I had not done the right thing after all.

For I missed those rights once they were gone.
And even though that island is far behind
And the rocks are lost among the sand and sea
With other of their own kind.

I am still tempted to pick them back up.
God give me strength to leave them where they belong.


Campus by the Sea

I really haven't had the time or energy to reflect about what happened at Spring Con yet (I blame getting sick almost right after camp).

So here are some of my favorite shots of Campus by the Sea from this year.

Where 1 Corinthians met every day. This has become my favorite room at camp because my two favorite studies met here (1 Corinthians and Genesis).

The view from the very steep hike to Avalon.

By the dock while in Avalon.

The dolphins we saw on our boat ride home from Avalon.

Yet another home away from home.



In the wake of tragedies - I always wish I could find the right words to say. I never seem to have the right string of letters combined to give comfort and encouragement.

I just wish I could hug everyone in Boston right now. That's about all I've got.


Bed of Pencils

I couldn't fall asleep tonight so I decided to write poetry. I was inspired by the phrase I wrote about a while ago "we hold onto grudges as easily as we hold onto pencils" that I wrote in a blog post almost a year. It's not fully formed out yet but I feel just like I want to get it out in it's raw stages and that's ok.

Laying on a Bed of Pencils
I cannot fall asleep tonight.
I lay awake on my bed of sharp nails of un-forgiveness,
tossing and turning mind racing from every single wrong –
what they did, where they were, what they said.
The sharp nails piercing my skin
bruising and bleeding – the reminders of the pain

I cannot fall asleep tonight because I am terrible at forgiveness.
But I am all too great at remembering.
Despite how many scriptures I read
or movies I see that tell me the same thing –
forgiveness is a choice that I must make
I hear the good words from preachers, pastors, and pulpits
sitting in pew after pew but nothing penetrates in brain of mine
other than all of the wrongdoing.

Oh I know I should make that choice every day.
It’s what the good Lord told me long ago ever since that prayer I prayed.
He said, “love others, forgive the wrongs did and done,
do unto others what you desire done unto you.”
doesn’t mean I do it.
Sunday school teachers and preachers drilled over and over
candy prizes for memories scriptures that I certainly don’t remember anymore.

To me forgiveness was a land of sweet marshmallow candy.
fuzzy feelings that are just as real as unicorns and leprechauns.
The fake stuff I only regurgitate because I have to,
because mom is watching me right now
waiting for the magic words that when heard apparently makes it all go away.
“I forgive you” –  which we all know only means I don’t want to talk about this anymore
because I sure as hell don’t forgive your sorry ass.

I hold grudges as easily as I hold pencils.
Writing my hatred upon the faces of my enemies.
Spelling out their failures – what’s a seven letter word for left behind?
“a-b-a-n-d-o-n” – abandon. Ding! Move onto the next round.
Sitting in a corner by myself with my sketch pad
sketching my the hurt of past onto relationships of the present.
Burning and bruising all those that have wronged me

I hold grudges as easily as I breathe.
With every intake of breath I remember –
The time you left me waiting at the bus stop
for two whole hours never knowing, never showing up
I stare at the phone willing it to ring, to explain, to justify
to give a reason because there must be one for all the waiting
you wouldn’t just forget, leave me here with my thoughts and memories
remembering the times of the past where I sat waiting by the window
for that red pick-up truck that was already an hour late.
The clock ticks on by and the sky shines bright but no car drives past that I know.
Now the moon rises over the sky but no apology comes.
Lame excuses whispered and half-hearted sorries said only to make yourself feel better:
“Got tied up at work.”
“Got tied up at work.”
Record stuck on repeat, repeating and skipping, skipping and repeating
the same sounds
“Got tied up at work.”

With every intake of breath I remember –
the time you hung up the phone too early.
I called in pain and stress and I got just a little bit less of your time
than what I asked for.
Didn’t ask for much in the first place – never do.
And you didn’t even ask the next day how I was doing.
I sat in solitary darkness, only feeling my tears fall, not seeing anything.
We were separated by roads and stop lights and houses
but you still couldn’t see anything – you shut the door,
leaving me hanging and waiting and sitting in my own shit.
I tried to be open and honest with you but all I got was –
“Can’t do this now.”
When you hung up that phone did you know that I went back to that bus stop?
Went back to the staying and waiting and praying – dear Lord not again
I will not let this happen again!

Years later the record changed sound but it still means the same thing
What’s a seven letter word for “given up?”
F-o-r-s-a-k-e – forsake. Ding! Move onto the next round.
I was mistaken to think I would never be forsaken again
I was mistaken to hope I would never be left waiting at the bus stop
sitting in my car, or lying awake in bed – unable to sleep
praying, wishing, hoping that I would magically pop into your mind and remind you to call
just to see how I am doing 

The red face of the clock shines an ungodly hour
and here I am still awake on my bed of sharp pencils,
I can easily pick up and hold.
Lord help me drop the grudges as easily as I drop the pencil 
because I need to sleep tonight.

I hold grudges as surely as the day passes.
each one blackens my already dark heart and keeps me
wishing, praying, hoping, saying, that things will be different –
as long as it they who make the changes.

I will be ok as long as it is they who arrive when they say will
or stay on the phone long enough to hear the cries of my anxious heart.
I will be ok as long as it is they who make every effort to change.

I cannot sleep – not because I am un-forgiving but because I am selfish.
I live in a world circling, revolving, spinning around my self-created needs.
I look to help in the mountains where self-created, ill-fated gods reside,
instead of my true creator.
I look to the idols of attention, desire, self-satisfaction, and independence
to bring me out of this pit of self-hatred.
To bring reprieve from the heavy weight of the fall and all the crap that comes along with it
- the separation – the isolation – the loneliness.
Can I look to the stars that shine above in the blackest of skies
hoping that some light pierces into the sharp selfish soul.

Here He is, the creator, the master, the savior who
never forgot, never forsook, never gave up, never gave in
who sat at the bus stop and in the car when and is sitting by the bed I was crying out to a God I thought couldn’t hear me
as I wept aloud in the screams of my own own hurt, I couldn't hear the whispers - 
Daughter I love you.
Daughter I gave everything to be with you.
Will you let the grudges and the hurts slips through fingers and fall forever to the floor
Because what good has holding onto them done for you.
He whispers.
Be free from the chains of your memories.

I cannot sleep because I cannot hear the words of my father
Be at peace. Your faith has healed you.