Faith General Virginia Tech

Ten Years Later

VT Cross with black ribbonApril 16, 2007. A cold Monday morning in a sleepy town that would change the world. I slept in, waking up to find that the world of the night before was nothing like the world of now. A gunman on campus. People injured and dead. Lots of rumors but no one knew anything for sure. What was supposed to be the uneventful last few weeks of my senior year took our quiet corner of southwest Virginia and made it the focus of the world. In many ways, it feels like yesterday. In other ways, it feels like it was an eternity ago.

What we learned that day is that life is fleeting. Evil is all around us and comes when we least expect it. We are like flowers: here one day and gone the next. But for those who know Christ, we can have hope even in the face of unspeakable evil. How appropriate that the 10th anniversary of such a dark day falls on the day when we celebrate the ultimate victory over evil. Jesus Christ willingly laid his life down on the cross to pay the debt that you and I owed but could never pay. A good man payed the debt of evil people. But the story doesn’t end on the cross. The real story is the empty grave on Easter morning. God raised Jesus to life, forever ending the curse of sin for those who know him, and making it so that we can be right with God, both now and for all eternity. Just like Jesus rose, we too will rise.

I can’t think of a more appropriate thing to celebrate on this anniversary. This song is both a powerful reminder of what Easter is all about – and was the song that became our theme in those dark days where we discovered what the new normal would be for us at Virginia Tech.

Faith General Music

Favorite Christmas Songs for this Year

Adore: Christmas Songs of WorshipEvery few years, I like to post some of my favorite music for a specific occasion. This year, it’s Christmas. Christmas music is meant to be sung with other people, so you’ll notice that many of these albums are live recordings.

Chris Tomlin’s Adore: Christmas Songs Of Worship (Live)
The title track He Shall Reign Forevermore is the best one on the album and I think it’s going to be a classic. It’s a reworking of the old carol In the Bleak Midwinter with a little bit of Handel’s Messiah in it. The whole album is great and is a great follow up to his earlier Christmas album.

Hillsong’s We Have a Savior
Another great album that I was a few years late to the party on. Some great new songs and good renditions of old favorites. I like the opening rendition of O Come Let Us Adore Him and the title track of We Have A Savior. Another good new one is Our King Has Come.

Chris Tomlin’s Glory In The Highest: Christmas Songs Of Worship
A couple of years old, but still frequently in my playlists. Particular favorites include Joy to the World and O Come All Ye Faithful.


Honorable mentions:

Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration
Handel’s Messiah as it would have been written and performed by an early 90s gospel choir. The whole album is interesting, but especially great is the Hallelujah Chorus.

Paul Baloche’s Christmas Worship and Christmas Worship [Vol 2]
Good albums that take Christmas carols and blend them with better known worship songs. Check out Angels From the Realms of Glory / Emmanuel.

Point of Grace’s A Christmas Story
Released over 15 years ago, this album is a Christmas classic to me. Great arrangements. Check out O Holy Night and When Love Came Down.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Faith General Photography

Downtown Photo Shoot

Took a lot of pictures this evening from Rosslyn and Washington. Still trying to get the perfect artsy DC photos to hang in my office. Not convinced that I’m there yet, but still enjoyed a beautiful evening out and about. Photography is definitely one way that I worship. Also gotta love being minutes from the nation’s capital.


Prayin’ it up

Had an awesome time last night with the G703 leadership talking about prayer and, more importantly, praying. Definitely looking forward to being part of what God is going to do this year!

Now to him who is able to do more than we can ask or even imagine to him be the power in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Current Events Faith General Virginia Tech

Reflections on the Massacre

VT HopeIt’s been a year. It feels so far away, yet it could have been yesterday. The day that my quiet little town of Blacksburg became the center of the world.

From the first I heard – a phone call from my sister saying that something had gone terribly wrong in her dorm – blood everywhere, it seemed unreal. Nothing in the news yet. The suspense was unsettling. Surely something that had my sister so upset would be at least mentioned in the news. Finally, an email. “A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.” I never knew so many words could say so little. Perfectly written PR mumbo jumbo. Still nothing in the news.

I’m still not sure what to think when another email arrives. The composure of the first email long gone. The subject was “PLease stay put” with a brief panick-stricken message: “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows”. This is not just a shooting incident. God, what is going on?

The day brings back memories of September 11, 2001. A day spent in shock. The pentagon, less than nine miles from where I sat in high school, was the victim of terrorism. I had studied terror, but it was something that happened overseas. This was America after all. In much the same way, I sat in my black office chair staring at the computer screen. Continually pressing the refresh button to see what was going on. Reading news coverage from hundreds of miles away about events going on just blocks from where I was sitting. It seemed the number of the dead just kept rising. First it was one, then four, soon 14, finally rising to 32. The worst massacre in the history of the nation was unfolding in the kind of town you came to in order to escape senseless killings.

As I joined others to reflect that evening, emotions ran raw. There was a lot of crying, even more hugging, and certainly a lot of praying. Still, the whole thing felt artificial, like a movie. Was this really happening? My connections to those who were confirmed dead were limited – just friends of friends. Which kept me somewhat insulated from the events. Don’t get me wrong: I was very glad that my friends were safe. But things still felt unreal. I was able to help support those who were hurting, but I hadn’t grieved for me yet.

A couple days after the massacre – I don’t remember exactly when – everything came together for me. I was looking at more news, watching campuses from across the nation overflow with Hokie spirit. The only way you can understand Hokie spirit is if you spend some time in Blacksburg. It’s something that goes beyond sports and school loyalty. Something I’ve never felt anywhere else, and I’ve been on a lot of college campuses. It was amazing to see the whole country get caught up in a glimpse of this spirit. But the one thing that did it was when I saw a picture that would come to mean more to me than any others over the coming months.

The picture was simple. Not something that you’d want on your living room wall. A picture of a storied bridge two hours up the road. The Beta Bridge in Charlottesville, home of The University of Virginia. One place where Hokies usually aren’t welcome, even though that’s more trash talk than truth. When I saw this picture, I lost it. I cried all those tears that the previous few days had stored up in me. If Hokie spirit can touch UVA, truly anything is possible. I can’t even explain exactly why this picture gets to me, but I still tear up today when I see it.

Beta Bridge

As I grieved and continued to do my best to meet people where they were at, things started to change. I have never felt such a palpable spiritual change in my life. We had seen evil. On that day, there was no denying that evil exists in the world. An evil so dark that we can’t explain it. But what we saw after that is that there is a God who has overcome evil who is in the world. As people started to return to the new normal, people came together. People who had wanted nothing to do with God were suddenly seeing God in the midst of tragedy. The people of God came together and prayed. And on those days God poured out his blessings on us because we simply asked.

Less than two weeks later, many groups from across campus came together to declare that we truly are all here because we’re all needed parts of the body of Christ. A powerful night when many people were finally able to experience true worship again. I will never forget standing on the side of that hill in the heart of downtown Blacksburg where we sang these always powerful words that will never be the same to me again.

Savior he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of salvation
He died and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Those words were challenging at first to sing on that crisp spring evening. And sometimes they still are. I teared up every time I heard this song even during the summer.

As I reflect on the massacre a year later, I remind myself that evil is very real in this world, but I know a God who has conquered evil and the grave for eternity.

Faith Music Virginia Tech

Just Wanted to Say

Awesome last two Wednesday nights at The Gathering 703.  Looking forward to getting to know more of my Mason peeps.

Headed to Blacksburg for a few days tomorrow.  Enjoyed the short trip this weekend and looking forward to a few more days at good ‘ol VT.  And the concert can’t hurt either.

Faith General

Bringing More Shalom to the Neighborhood

wild rose after rain by Windy AngelsIt’s been a very long time since I last blogged. A lot has happened during that time, including taking a much needed rest from blogging. As much as I like blogging, it can be taxing at times, and so my silence originally came from business, but later became a break as I was adjusting and settling in to the new neighborhood.

Soon (I promise sooner than the last post!), I will write more about the time in the blog silence. However, today I want to share briefly about tonight. A little bit of background: I’ve moved since I last blogged. Up here, we’ve been in a drought. I’ve had to start watering my trees to keep them alive.

Tonight, I went to Frontline. Ken Baugh was in town and shared a message with us that deeply impacted me. Ken taught about prayer. Many of you at Virginia Tech would think that I am a prayer warrior. But the truth is that prayer comes hard for me more often than not. I can pray before meals and before bed, but those times of intimate, heartfelt prayer are things that I have to go at least an extra mile to make happen. I’ve seen God move mountains through prayer and I don’t have a shadow of a doubt in my mind that God answers every prayer that is in line with his heart for the world. I understand that prayer is important, but I am lazy and unmotivated. Tonight, Ken told us that there are three areas to praying powerfully and effectively. If any of these areas are lacking, we will struggle in our prayers.

  1. Have God in the right place
  2. Know and obey God’s word
  3. Pray in faith

I was convicted of not putting God in the right place. As I’ve been in transition, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands than I have had in years. I’m also at an awkward time right now where most of the stuff that I’ve previously been involved with is over and the next chapter of my life hasn’t fully materialized yet. With so much in the air and so little on my plate, I have absolutely no excuse for not putting God in the right place. There never is a good excuse, but when I have only one weekly weeknight commitment, I should have an amazing prayer life instead of a desert prayer life.

As I was debating getting ready for bed this evening, I realized that I needed to do something. It’s not enough to feel convicted if that conviction doesn’t lead you to action. So I decided that I would take some time and pray. I realized that I wasn’t in the right state of mind to pray in the house, so I put on some shoes and started walking.

I prayed as I walked around the neighborhood. As I walked, I remembered prayer walking on the Virginia Tech campus. I remembered walking by the dorms on Otey Street. I remembered walking from McBryde to Burruss, praying for all the students and faculty in each building along the way. As I walked, it started sprinkling, which shortly turned into a full out rain. I thought about turning back, but knew that the plants needed the rain, just like I needed to be out here praying.

I walked around the neighborhood, lifting up the apartments and houses in prayer, repenting for not giving God the role he deserves in my life, praying for people I work with, praying for friends. That’s when I realized that I had a spiritual impact in Blacksburg because I was persistent in prayer. If I want to have a spiritual impact in Vienna and Washington, I need to pray. If I want to see God move in my own neighborhood, I need to invite him to use me here. That rain felt good. A soaking, cleansing rain. Rain that washes away the dry past and marks the start of a green future. I believe that God has big things in store for my generation, and I don’t want this generation to miss some God’s blessing because I wouldn’t do my small part in bringing it to them.

God, send your rain. I don’t want to just know you. I want to make you known, like your son Jesus made you known to us. Change me every day so that I can be the man you want me to be. Have it your way God. Break me out of my comfort zone and give me the strength to put you in the right place, even when it costs me.

Current Events Faith Virginia Tech

Prayers from Around the World

VT Ribbon Cross 4-16-07I want to draw your attention to a page we put up on the vtONE site sharing some of the prayers and stories that are flowing in from around the world. Feel free to check out the page and the announcement post on the vtONE site.

Current Events Faith Virginia Tech

Please Pray for Virginia Tech

It’s been the kind of day that you wouldn’t wish on anyone here at Virginia Tech. Our campus has been shaken, but God is still our king.

As people are coping with the loss of so many members of our community, we want to take every chance that we have to lift our campus up in prayer. There’s a few specific things that we can pray for:

  1. The injured members of our community
  2. The families of those who have passed away, especially that people in their lives would be able to share the Good News with them while they’re more receptive
  3. That a tragedy like this one would not derail what God is doing on this campus. God is moving powerfully here like we saw two weekends ago, and a tragedy like this is no excuse to let Satan have the victory instead of God.
  4. Ministry opportunities as our campus heals to share the Good News with people who wouldn’t have cared at all 24 hours ago.

Gatherings related to the tragedy in Blacksburg:

  • 7 p.m., West Eggleston Hall on Virginia Tech campus – sponsored by IV
  • 8 p.m., Henderson Lawn on Virginia Tech campus – sponsored by VT
  • 8 p.m. at the Old Red Cross Building (130 Jackson Street, Downtown Blacksburg) – sponsored by NLCF
  • 6 or 7 p.m., Blacksburg Church of Christ
  • 7 p.m., Blacksburg Presbyterian Church
  • University ceremony, 2pm TOMORROW in Cassel Coliseum
  • Planned gathering for the Christian body Wednesday night (details not yet available)

Outside Blacksburg:

  • 6 p.m., St. John’s Episcopal Church, Roanoke
  • 8 p.m., McLean Bible Church Community Room A, McLean, VA
  • 8 p.m., Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

We appreciate your prayers as our campus struggles to resume life. Please post a comment if you’re aware of any other goings on that would be of interest to the Christian body at VT ro cool ways of how God has worked through this bad situation.


Some days just kick your butt

Today has been one of those days. It hasn’t even been a bad day, but it’s just kicked my butt several times over. I can’t even explain it, but the rollercoaster that I thought was over returned today.

Up down up down up down.

It’s days like this where I know where I need to be (and it’s the hardest to get there): on my knees. I can’t make the world right, but the God of the universe has things under control. I like how The Message puts the Lord’s prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.

Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

You know what? This chapter of my life is over in four weeks. The next chapter begins shortly after that, and I don’t know what it brings, but it’s going to be all right. Today I declare that I’m not going to listen to Satan’s lies and admit defeat. My God is mighty to save. He makes mountains go swimming, and all kinds of things that are beyond my wildest dreams. Living life with God is an adventure. It is absolutely unsafe. But God is good, and he will supply all my needs according to his riches and glory through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 paraphrase).