Thank You

I’m hoping to get back in a rhythm here at the ID, posting on a weekly basis. Let’s begin 2015 reflecting on gratitude and the wisdom gleaned from toddlers.

M is in a stage where she says thank you for things she’s received from others. For example:

When putting on shoes from a cousin: “Thank you, Nina.”
When playing with a toy from a friend: “Thank you, Bella.”
When putting on clothes from a grandmother: “Thank you, G,” or “Thank you, Grammy.”

(This is helpful because it reminds us to write thank you notes to people.)

She reminds me often to be grateful. And to be specifically grateful.

Gratitude is never truly practiced in generalities.
Gratitude must be specific.

There are too many people to thank, at least in this space, for all the help we’ve received over the past two months as we’ve transitioned from one coast to another.

Boston friends and family.
Salinas friends and family.
Oakland friends and family.

A million thank yous. Specific thank yous. Thank yous for food and visits. For carrying heavy boxes and packing and unpacking trucks. Thank yous for hospitality. And for spending time with our kids. For filling our pantry and refrigerator. And for big checks. And for so much more.

Thank you.

In Defense of LeBron James

According to my totally scientific poll, the two most hated professional athletes in the US are Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James.

ARod I get. He cheated. He makes way too much money. He’s the personification of everything that’s wrong with American sports today.

But what about LeBron? Most people would say all the same things about him, with the exception of cheating (although some would argue that the creation of this Heat team was a form of cheating. PS: it wasn’t).

Now, I am not really an NBA fan. It’s probably 5th or 6th on my list of sports that I follow and enjoy. I’m not a LeBron/Heat fan. I rooted against him in this series because Tim Duncan is my favorite.

But, I don’t get the hate for LeBron. His sins, as far as I can tell, are:

  1. He is really good
  2. Some people call him the greatest (presumably before he has earned it)
  3. He makes a lot of money
  4. The “decision” thing where he went on ESPN and told the world he would “take his talents to South Beach” and left the city of Cleveland heartbroken

I get it. There are always some athletes and team we just love to hate and root against (for me this is Tom Brady and the Patriots).

But I actually think we should be celebrating LeBron James. NBA excellence has been expected of him since he was in middle school. His high school games were on ESPN. He has always been expected to be the next “great one”. He brought even more expectations on himself by going to Miami.

That’s a lot for a young person to take on. Dude’s only 28. He’s been carrying that weight around for over half his life.

As a college minister, I know a lot of great 20-year-old kids. I know a lot of hard-working kids. I know a lot of kids with good character and healthy ambitions.

I don’t know how many of these kids could handle millions of dollars, huge expectations, constant pressure and scrutiny, and come out of it in a good place.

How in the world we, as a culture, expected LeBron James to turn out a semi-decent human being is beyond me.

But it seems like he’s exactly that: a good dude. Mature. Grateful. Again, he’s only 28. I know people twice his age who are far less mature and have had far more normal life experiences.

LeBron’s post-game speech last night went like this:

“Listen, for me I can’t worry about what everybody say about me. I’m LeBron James. From Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here…That’s enough. Every night I walk into the locker room I see a No. 6 with ‘James’ on the back. I’m blessed.”

We live in an age of extended adolescence and so why is it weird that a 20 or 22 or 25-year-old LeBron James acted immaturely (and even that is debatable).

I would argue, again, that LeBron is grown up now and he seems (I don’t know him) to get it…to understand who he is and how he’s been gifted…and to be grateful for it.

I wish more people could see that, could see his growth, and celebrate it, because we need to celebrate people who grow and mature.

There’s a chance that LeBron skips town and joins another team in a year. There’s a chance that this all goes to his head and this post looks pretty silly in a couple of years.

But right now, in this moment, forget about his two championships…LeBron James has matured and grown and is gracious about it, and that is something that is far too often left uncelebrated in this day and age.

Thank You Notes

After every birthday and Christmas time my mom would bust out a box of stationary and my sisters and I would get to work.

Thank you note time.

I never liked this exercise…I would always mess up a word or sentence and have to re-write the whole thing. It seemed tedious and involved too much work.

Now I love thank you notes.

I love receiving them and I love writing them. As I get older I feel like “thank yous” have become a precious commodity. Gratitude is rare in a culture of entitlement.

Psalm 100 is a psalm for giving grateful praise. It is a thank you note.

Beyond politeness and pleasantries, thank you brings us very close to the heart of God.

Gratitude and grace are intertwined.

Are we able to see good gifts in our lives? Are we able to say thank you? Do you need to get work on those notes?

Give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks.


I am tired. I don’t sleep enough these days. My left eyelid twitches uncontrollably most of the time (a sure sign of fatigue for me). I complain about a lot of things: traveling on the T, people who don’t get it, the frustrations of working for/in two organizations, mice, car trouble. I could go on, I’m sure.

But, life is good. I am so blessed. I am married to an amazing woman and we have a beautiful daughter. We live in a great apartment in a neighborhood we love. We have good friends. We are a part of a church on mission. We serve some amazing college students. We are extremely well taken care of by generous partners. We have a lot of great stories. We have an amazing extended family that cheers us on in so many ways. I could go on, I’m sure.


On Crowder (A Work of Gratitude)…

During the summer of 1999 I spent my Sunday nights driving over to Santa Cruz to attend a worship gathering called “Graceland”. I had just finished my freshmen year at Pacific. The second half of that year marked the beginning of serious involvement with campus ministry (through InterVarsity) and for the first time in my life, on my own, I was really wrestling with Scripture and Jesus, and what they had to say about my future.

I was beginning to grow in an awareness of a number of things including: the reality that I did not want to do dentistry. also, something was happening, kind of underneath the surface, in the church and in my generation.

I had no language or way to really quantify any of those feelings, but something was stirring and it involved a new way to think about and approach the church.

On one of those nights at Graceland (the predecessor to Vintage Faith Church, led by Dan Kimball and Josh Fox) a strange-looking, skinny dude from Texas stood up to lead worship. He and the band he brought with him played “church music” but this was not like anything I’d ever heard or seen before. It was loud, it was loose, it was improvisational, and, and here’s the kicker, it sounded like the music I liked to listen to.

In other words, here was a band that I might go to bar or a club to watch play songs about girls instead leading me into the worship of a God I was beginning to surrender my life to. As much as I admired Josh Fox’s ability to lead worship, this was completely unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before.

The David Crowder Band has gone on to accomplish many great things in the last 12 years, they’ve grown to epic proportions and their influence has been tremendous. So, I feel like they are the one thing where I can say “I was there before…”.

DCB has been with me ever since. Their first album “All I Can Say” was copied on a tape and passed around our IV worship team…that album contained a song “Make a Joyful Noise/I WIll Not Be Silent” that became an anthem of sorts for our community.

Their first “major album”, “Can You Hear Us,” became the soundtrack to a senior year filled with difficulties: the death of friends, breakups, fires in the dorms, graduating and saying some of my first big goodbyes. “Our Love is Loud” became the new anthem. Shortly after the dorm fire, I think it was a week later, someone heard about a free concert he was doing in Livermore for a college group there. 5 of us hopped in a car and we were off. Best show ever. Crowder gave me a hug afterwards when I explained some of the stuff going on back on campus.

“Illumination” is, in many ways, one of the inspirations for this blog. Every time I listen to that album I think of my first summer at Mount Hermon, driving to and from Monte Vista, and going to the only Passion event I’ve ever attended. I went because my good friend, Steve Comer, was running lights for the show. Crowder and Giglio talked about raising money to do a free show in Boston. They really wanted to go there because they had a passion (pun intended) for college students and there were 250,000 students in Boston. This was the first time I had ever heard anything about this and I remember thinking: “I need to go there.”

“A Collision” is still the best album front to back of all time, in my opinion. Musically it is a thematic master piece, and theologically it is up there with any of the best books I’ve ever read (I mean, read this). From that point on, Crowder’s been operating at a different level, not only from other worship leaders, but from other musicians, period. I could go on and on about this album. Bottom line: it is incredible, it’s as close to perfect as an album can be.

“Remedy” became the soundtrack for Durango, and I wore that cd out driving to Albuquerque and back.

“Church Music” is a genius concept album, and Amy and I enjoyed singing our lungs out in a New York club on that tour.

Which brings us to the end. You can read more about “Give Us Rest” here and here…all I will say is it is the perfect ending to an amazing run.

Back to the beginning. The first time I saw Crowder, some things were stirring inside of me that I had no language for…years later I can explain it all, I can see the conversations and the books and the lectures and the conferences that have helped provide context for all the change that has taken place in me, in the church, in culture.

But back in 1999 I had no idea about any of that. I only knew something needed to change…both in me and how we communicated Good News to those around us. Crowder absolutely tapped in to that stirring in my soul and opened it up so something new could come in and take root. His music gave expression to that stirring.

We’ve been inextricably intertwined ever since. And while it’s sad to see them go (and even though I’m sure there’s still more to come in one form or another), I feel nothing but gratitude for these guys.

So, thank you DCB. Thank you for making great music (and it really is great music, not just great worship music), for building cathedrals we could step in to, for leading us in worship.

In the end their own lyrics express the genius of what they did so well:

And I’m trying to make you sing//From inside where you believe

Like it’s something that you need//Like it means everything

And I’m trying to make you feel//That this is for real, that life is happening

That it means everything//I’m just trying to make you sing