I’m Not Religious, I’m Not Spiritual, I’m a Christian

I am not a Christian in the sense that it is my ethnicity, in the sense that I was born into it.  I am a Christian because I follow Christ.  Too many people shy away from the label because of the negative connotation that has been brought upon it.  I am a Christian plain and simple because I follow Christ.

Religious enacts dogma, guidelines and rules.
Spiritual engages opinion.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious sees image and perception.
Spiritual doesn’t care.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious can breed legalism, bureaucracy and red tape.
Spiritual plants shallow roots.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious lets history control the present.
Spiritual lets the present control all.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious gives us solid ground on which to stand.
Spiritual gives us freedom from which to live
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

The truth is when I say I am a Christian I am seen as the worst of both Religious and Spiritual.  And though I will never uphold the best of any label given, I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Christian Music or Christians Making Music: Into the Fray

Ok Ok I admit it, I watched the red carpet coverage of the 52nd Grammy Awards yesterday.  Make all the comments you want, I know, I regret the decision now but on the bright side I have a good jump on best and worst dressed – what?  Anyway now that it’s out we can move on.

While watching the red carpet coverage I was excited to see The Fray do a quick interview.  I wasn’t as excited to see it with Ryan Seacrest but hey what do I have to argue I was watching the red carpet pre-show on E!  Here is what struck me to start a debate in my own head (those happen quite often).  Surprising to me, Seacrest asked about the bands Christian (faith based) background.  He asked if that type of lifestyle made it hard to to exist in a Rock-n-Roll world with a different moral center.   I was actually taken back a bit when the question was asked.  I didn’t expect faith to make it into the discussion at all.

I wasn’t surprised by the response from The Fray but at the same time I was.  Their response was simply: “when we set out we had no specific message, it was all about the music.”  It’s the same thing you have heard from many artists of faith – We are not a “Christian” band we are just Christians in a band.  I get it.  Heck I’ve used that to describe myself and my band in the past.  It was really coined to distance a band from the CCM world.  Than in itself is not a bad thing.  Let’s face it CCM music has a history of being poorly written, poorly produced music that lacks soul (my personal opinion views todays popular music in the same way).  When you heard the term “Christian Band” you automatically associated it with less than professional music.  So I get it, I really do – most CCM today is worship music anyway, which is it’s own sub-genre of a beast.  I also get the whole “known by our actions and not just by our words” thing too.  Positive lyrics, and being different than the industry around you is a good thing – good role models are much needed.

But on the other hand what is wrong with saying “Yes, I am a Christian and I write music from my life experience of being a Christian.”  Or saying that “My faith has made me live a life different from the world and I hope that comes through in my music.”  What if “Christian’s who make music” wanted to actually change the perception of Christian music rather than remove themselves from it.  Just thinking out loud here and trust me I totally get the argument for making music and letting people interpret it themselves.  Sometimes I just feel as if it is a copout.  It’s an easy way to keep a target off your back.  It’s a way to keep the mainstream audience interested.

If all the world knows of you is your music, lyrics, and what you say in interviews or in concert and all you do is shirk the title of Christian because of a bad association then what are you really saying?  Again don’t get me wrong I am torn on which side to fall.  I think that the Christian hipster quiet witness is cool but at times I also feel there are times to stand up and say “Yes I am a Christian and it effects every aspect of my life.”  To just say that it’s all about they music seems wrong to me.  It’s all about Christ, the sacrifice and the grace.  If that doesn’t make you want to let the world know in direct terms then I don’t know what would.

What do you think?  Which side do you fall on?  Is there a right side?

Just thinking out loud.

How can we help? Ways to Aid the Relief Efforts in Haiti.

With news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, numerous organizations and individuals are springing into action to help aid and provide relief for the multitude of people in need.  Regardless of religious beliefs or views on why this happened (cough cough pat robertson – check out the real deal with the devil here) we should all do whatever we can to help the earthquake victims.  As Donald Miller reminds us on his blog, our response as Christians should be; “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..”

If you are not concerned with what is happening in Haiti, that should concern you!

So how can we help?  I have tried to compile a list of ways to help.  This is by no way comprehensive – if you know of some other great ways to help please comment below and add to the list.

How will you help?

Sunday Brunch: A Guide for Christians Going Out to Eat

Alright so I am a musician living in Nashville which means – you guessed it I have tremendous experience waiting tables. There is an old joke that goes: How do you find a musician in Nashville? Waiter, Waiter! And in all honesty it is not even a joke it is true (well when you call your waiter you also get a number of english literature majors as well but that’s another story). I have waited tables at a place that Grills Macaroni, a Country Club in Brentwood, a restaurant owned by a Mr. Alexander first initian J., and a place called Jeffrey’s Grille (they are no longer in business so I don’t feel the need to be cryptic).

There is one thing that holds true in every restaurant. I have talked to over 100 other servers, most I have worked with, some I have not. Sunday lunch is the worst shift of the week! Sunday’s suck plain and simple. Let me share the sentiments of every other server I have worked with or talked with, SUNDAY LUNCH SUCKS! Here are the quick and most commons reason why. The general lunch crowd on Sundays is the most self centered, high maintenance, low tipping bunch of people a server comes across all week. Sunday crowds are generally rude, demanding, and leave the server questioning why they got out of bed at all that day. The people on Sundays who are friendly, caring, and nice (again speaking in generalities) are normally some of the worst tippers. Speaking completely as a former server, my judgment of you as a person is solely based on your tip.

As a Christian who was serving, I even hated the church crowd – and I claimed and association with them. It’s amazing the number of servers I talked with who wanted nothing to do with Church or Christianity because of these encounters. Sunday lunch was their only contact with those who claimed the Love of Christ and honestly they rarely saw it. I realize I am not the first person to point this out and there have been a number of churches who have produced tip calculators for their congregants to take with them to lunch after church. But I hope my experience as a server for so long can help bring a new perspective. Tipping is great but so many other things need to be considered.

Here is a quick guide to your Sunday lunch experience. (written from my experience as a server)

  • TRACTS ARE NOT TIPS!!!!!!!!!!! – plain and simple unless there is a large green bill on top of the tract there is no chance of a server reading it. And even with a Benjamin as a tip the likelihood of a server reading it are still slim to none.
  • You did not leave my tip to Jesus – you are just cheap. Seriously? Tithing is a discipline of giving back what has been given to you (hmm sounds like definition of worship too).
  • If you tell me you are a good tipper then I know…. you are a crappy tipper. Sorry but experience shows that if you tell me you will tip well then you’ll leave like 12% (which is not a good tip to any server)
  • Anything below 15% is a crappy tip and 15% is just barely acceptable. This is just how a server sees it. If you want to leave a good or at least acceptable impression then TIP.
  • You will be judged on how well you tip within the first 20 seconds of a conversation with your server. A good server knows who’s gonna tip and who’s not gonna tip. (and again its not the people who say they are good tippers).
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to tell me something is not cooked properly. Seriously a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down easier. The server has a lot of say on how fast something can get fixed – trust me being rude doesn’t grease the wheels. If you have ever heard horror stories of how food is treated in the back, believe them.
  • People screw up – it is a fact. Get over it. If I messed something up (I will probably blame the kitchen regardless) I want to get it fixed. I want things to be right when they come out for you to eat. My tip is based on my performance but at times I mess up. I want to do everything I can to correct the mix up.
  • Patience is a virtue. I have no control over how quickly something is cooked. When it is busy it takes a little extra time. Being rude will not make me care any more how quickly you get your food.
  • If you come with a group larger than 5 it will take a little longer to get your food. The goal of a good restaurant is to have all the food arrive at once. The more people in a party the trickier.
  • Don’t order wine and ask for it to be brought in a coffee mug so your church friends don’t see you. This happens more than you think and is a terrible witness.
  • Most of all just try to be pleasant. You don’t necessarily have to carry on a conversation with me or ask about my life. Just understand that when you are pleasant it makes serving you more pleasurable.
  • UPDATED: The longer you sit at your table after you’ve eaten, the bigger your tip better be. I make money per table so mo tables mo money
  • UPDATED: If you pay with a giftcard, tip on the original bill not the adjusted balance
  • TIP, TIP, TIP regardless of what Dave Ramsey says or any other financial guru below 15% is unacceptable. I get paid $2 an hour to do this job. You could be the nicest person in the world but if you tip like a chump then I will not care about anything that took place during the service. I will write you off.

Check out these useful links to learn more from a servers perspective (I apologize for some of the content if you click around the site – but it is full of great information.

Next time you go out for lunch or dinner (especially on a Sunday) remember that you may be the only “Church” table showing your server the Love of God that day. There is a lot more to write on this subject and I am thinking about writing a book. I have so many Sunday Lunch horror stories it makes me cringe to think about it. The whole world is a mission field and we need to start acting like it. The Love of God is something grand and wonderful and there are few servers who see anything of the sort during a Sunday lunch rush.

So what are your thoughts? What are you doing to change the paradigm of the Church crowd at lunch? What horror stories do you have from waiting tables on Sundays? What guidelines am I missing? I would love to hear from you.