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fountains of joy

For the past five weeks my brother-in-law and I have been making wine. We’re seriously in over our heads. Our family has been growing grapes for the past six years and in the past year we completed a winery where we can turn a small portion of what we grow into wine, we hope.

Neither of us have any real experience or education in fermentation, which has made the last month really interesting. We have read, studied, made stupid mistakes, stayed up late fixing those mistakes, and laughed a lot.

Sometimes we laugh because we are completely ignorant people who are trying to remember the chemistry that we swore we would never need “in real life” after high school – other times, we laugh because things are actually working out! There is nothing like opening the winery door a day after picking and crushing perfect clusters that took a whole summer to grow – a summer of hard work and sweat – to the lush, yeasty aromas of fermentation! It really is joy.

The only thing better than drinking a great wine is staining your hands purple making a great wine – or in our case, a “drinkable wine”. Creativity is a path of joy. Making is better than taking and giving is better than receiving. When we become producers, rather than just consumers, fountains of joy – deep, hidden reservoirs of joy percolate through layer after layer of dust and rubble.

And by-the-way, this path isn’t easy, but it is infinitely better. “Easy” is just another synonym for “worthless”. There is a reason that gold is valuable – it sits beneath mountains and requires significant investment and effort to extract.

When we stop creating, we become increasingly hungry consumers. When acquisition becomes the driving impulse in life, we become something less than human – animals hunting to survive. When we stop acting on our productive, creative impulses the chemistry of our heart and head morph, and the people around us become mere objects – objects to “have”, mountains to mine, tools to use.

Creative endeavors release joy because creativity is one of the strongest expressions of God’s image. Creativity aligns us with our truest selves – which ultimately brings us into contact with the God whose image we reflect. All of this, invisibly, is pure joy.




Jesus’ disciples were not the “A” team. Honestly, they were a lot like you and I – sometimes up, sometimes down, almost always clueless. I still marvel at the fact that Jesus chose guys like that. I mean, Jesus could have put anyone on his team, right? I mean, surely Jesus wan’t naive! Surely the son of God wasn’t being “a little too hopeful”, right?

It sure seems like he made his choices on purpose. Apparently he knew who he was getting involved with.

I, for one, am regularly encouraged by the fact that Jesus, on purpose, chose really regular people to follow him and learn.

Here are five things to take away from Jesus’ discipleship methods:

We all need help.

Every one of us. Jesus didn’t just choose 12 guys to follow him around because he couldn’t think of anything better – he did it because he knew, better than anyone in the universe, that the ONLY way the people learn in a deep, transformative manner is from sharing life together.

I think it’s funny that Jesus never taught his disciples how to pray for the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers or preach the gospel, yet the gospels and Acts confirm that the disciples were all able to reproduce his kind of life – right down to raising the dead!

Every single one of us needs a person to “follow”.

Failure is the real f-word.

We love winning. We love winners. The subtext is simple: don’t lose, don’t fail – EVER! I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons that we are such a prozac nation – we are all so paralyzed with fear and anxiety. Ironically, these fears are the engine that keep us living small, insignificant lives that never take any ground, because our fear of failure keeps us from taking the kind of risks required to grow.

The gospels, however, are loaded with average people making giant mistakes. Amazingly, Jesus never kicks anyone off the team – not even Judas! Luke 9 might be one of the funniest / most amazing / most encouraging chapters in all the bible. Right after going out and “doing the stuff”, the disciples blunder one thing after another, up to wanting to call down fire from heaven and kill a whole people group because they were “unwelcoming”. But Jesus doesn’t give up. Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending them out again.

Mistakes will be made, but it’s cool, – failure is the fertilizer that grows abundant fruit.

Being told what to do isn’t the end of the world.

There’s a part of us that wants to be Donald Trump – telling people what to do, sitting in a chair that’s a little higher than everyone else’s, firing the failures. You might be thinking “no way! not me!”, but that’s not entirely true –

What else could explain a pompous jerk with really bad hair having a successful TV series? Why would anyone consider him, even for a second, a candidate for president? Seriously!

Trump is a caricature of our own heart. Being the boss, that’s where it’s at. But being told what to do, being taught, being instructed in gentle and not-so-gentle ways isn’t the end of the world. In fact, being a student, being a learner and being bossed around a little is the beginning of the kind of formation that will eventually transform a person into a mature, healthy, contributing leader.

When a baby poops in it’s diaper – no big deal. We expect it. When a 45 year-old man is still wearing diapers, we are freaked out.

Somewhere along the way, good parents teach good kids, about a better way, the potty!

Basically, Bon Iver is music myth.

It’s a captivating story. Sick and tired, (and by the way who doesn’t feel “sick and tired” these days?) Justin Vernon treks off into frozen woods with almost no gear and even less hope only to emerge from the cabin with one of the most beloved indie records in the past five years. We hear the story, along with the record, and think – that’s what I need to do – “get away from all this stuff, all these people and just do what I do…”

I’m not saying that didn’t happen. I’m sure something kind of like that did happen, though, I’m certain that the story has, in some ways become the apocryphal collection of the human heart too.

We love the self-made man, the bat-man, hidden in his deep cave with technology that the “rest of the world” is clueless about.

The gospels, however, show us that the process of “becoming” is communal. There is always a community around Jesus. Learning, growing, and maturing in the kingdom requires that we change our go to pronouns, from “I” and “my” to “us” and “our”. My life with Jesus can’t be extracted from my life with my brothers.

The Spirit is non-negotiable.

Even after the 12 had been with Jesus for three years they were still in need of something more. Their formation was still in process. And the proof was in the fact that when Jesus was arrested, they all ran away – except for John, kind of.

Peter boldly said that he’d never leave. He ran.

But shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, in a prayer meeting, the Spirit comes upon the disciples in a powerful and dynamic way – and one of the first evidences, aside from strange, new praise languages, was iron-clad boldness. Peter preached a really fiery sermon about Jesus in Acts 2. In Acts 4 Peter and John were filled with the Spirit and boldness before the very people who worked the deal to kill Jesus. Something had happened.

The Spirit isn’t a negotiable feature like power windows or cruise control – He is as essential as the engine.

As songwriters, artists and creatives we are all, like the disciples, in the process of “becoming”. Right now we might be common fishermen – right now we might be unknown, insignificant poets and bleeding heart worship leaders, but what we eventually become is directly related to who we are following.




Songwriting, like life, has a rhythm. The boom and shake – rest then rise – conception, then labor, then delivery – seeds sown, weeds pulled, fruit harvested – sleep.

My family runs better when school is in session, because there is a schedule. We don’t drift so much, which is good, because I’m pretty much a professional drifter. Not that I would ever wear a long, oiled riding coat with a sawed off shot-gun tucked beneath, not that I’m given to bar fights and hand rolled cigarettes, but I can drift a day away so quick that it has soon turned into a month and I’m left tired and broke with nothing to show. I really hate that. It’s downright depressing.

The antidote for drifting in life and in music is finding a rhythm (notice I didn’t say “schedule”, because “schedule” is such a fatiguing word – “schedule” sounds so uncreative…) Times of creativity and production have to be broken up with times of listening, times of consumption, and times of reflection – and also, seasons of silence.

Occasionally, I just put the guitar down. I walk wide circles around it as if were a poisonous snake. Sometimes the best sounds come out of the silence. Sometimes the best lyrics come from the quietest place. A break in “doing” allows me to return to “being” again, a chance to reorient my whole self to true north – like sleep after an exhausting day of labor.

Find the beat, and find the rests between the beats. Read books, watch documentaries, be still, spend a whole day alone, say nothing – then return to your work.



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