When You tore the veil, it was finished.

I love big, invitational worship songs. The entire focus of either a corporate body or one heart crying out on inviting presence of God to come is focus well placed, and I don't think we'll ever have any idea how many lives have been transformed in the moments brought about by those songs. 

"Spirit Flow" came as a response to those songs, the next step in that process. I feel like I often get stuck on the welcoming and the inviting of the Holy Spirit to walk in my presence or the celebration of Jesus in my midst, but didn't focus on turning my own heart to Him. "Spirit Flow" is the in between- committing this time to Him, regardless of what this time looks like. A declaration that, "I know that I am in Your presence, and at least for this moment, I choose to just allow Your spirit to wash around me, permeate every cell of my being, and I recognize that I don't need to beg for You to meet me."

One of my favorite lyrics in the song is in the chorus: 

"I let Your Spirit flow like a river over me- let the currents pull me under, fill my lungs with Living Water."

That image is, to me, an extremely vivid representation of the act of surrender in that time of worship. We step into the water- wildly rushing beyond all control- and instead of fighting to keep our heads above the currents, we inhale deeply and allow the water to rush in with every breath. There's no fighting or struggling in that moment. I'm not looking for rocks or staring downstream at the horizon, hoping desperately that there's no waterfall around the bend. I'm not going to struggle to keep my head up- I'm not fighting my own thoughts or fears, I'm simply going to let go and let the Spirit wash over me. It's already roaring wildly around me. It's up to me to decide to step in.  If you haven't heard the song yet, check it out below. 

Voice

I have been  playing music in front of people for most of my 28 years of life. I have taken hundreds of lessons and practiced for tens of thousands of hours. I have been extremely fortunate to study with the best teachers I could ever ask for, and still I have struggled with one thing for the better part of my life.

I don't like my voice. 

I have a very hard time sharing my music because of this. I hear my favorite musicians and singers and catch myself making preposterous comparisons, putting my voice against theirs, their range or how expressively they can sing. I drive myself nuts, writing and rewriting songs, sometimes dozens of times, until I think they've met some quality control standard that I impose on any and all products leaving the Patrick Lynch Music Factory, only to revisit them months or even days later and deem them unworthy to be heard by anyone else. After years of frustration and disappointment with trying to reach some lofty, imaginary peak of admiration and acceptance from my peers, I actually burnt myself out so badly that I gave up on music and moved into a completely different career field, taking myself as far from music and ministry as I could.  

Comparison gets the best of many of us in some way or another. The entire idea of something being good or bad based on how good it is when stacked against others in the same category is drummed into us from a young age. And this isn't a bad thing on its own. The competitive drive to push limits and test boundaries is what breaks through ceilings and establishes new norms, and critique and artistic development are (oftentimes painfully) necessary to the evolution and development of who we are as creative, artistic, thinking and breathing beings. But I still often find myself tearing down everything I make, reluctant to share my creativity with others in the fear that they'll be disappointed or not be as moved as I am by the sounds and words and ideas that inspire me.  

What I have realized through all of my self-inflicted torment and striving is that the quality and sound of my voice don't matter nearly as much as the simple fact that I HAVE a voice. There is something in the cracks and flaws of my voice that can't be found in any other instrument in this infinite universe. Like the dust that gathers in the grooves of an old, worn down record, the dents and dings in the wood of a favorite guitar, or the bright and out-of-tune strings in an upright piano in a church basement, there is beauty and comfort found in the flaws and reality of our creativity. 

In the summer of 2017, while away from home from several months for work (a story for another time) I wrote and recorded an album of music using my laptop and a terribly maintained guitar that I borrowed at a local library. I mixed the album on cheap headphones and struggled for weeks with the question that has tormented me for all these years:

"Is this good enough to show to anybody?"

I ultimately forced myself to post the recordings on the internet and leave them there. Though they were poorly recorded and full of technical disasters, I have not allowed myself to pull them down. The lesson I'm still learning from this is a powerful one. Owning what we create in spite of the flaws and imperfections is VITAL to growing and becoming more like our Father. Never has there been a better example of doubling down and taking ownership of creation by the creator than the Cross. God believes so much in what He sang into existence that when- by all standards of beauty and excellence- His creation could have been deemed a total failure, He put his own life in the hateful hands of that same creation to say "this is what I created and I'm standing by it, good and bad, and I'm not giving up on it." 

I have a voice, and whether it's good or bad, it's mine. Nobody on this planet has a voice like it. And you have one, too. You have a voice and a sound, an offering that's inside of you that nobody else can give. Let that voice resound and resonate. Embrace the flaws and speak above every other voice that would silence it- especially the voices inside. Sing and do not be silenced. Let's take ownership of our creativity and allow it to breathe unimpeded by comparison, from within us or around us. 

 

When waves are churning violently, You get me where I'm going

 On a cold Sunday morning in January of 2016, I led the most difficult worship set of my life.

 My wife Bethany and I had just received terrible news about my sister-in-law and our niece. Bethany immediately boarded a plane to join them in Florida, and I stayed behind for work.  

 The shockwave caused by these circumstances was devastating to us and our family. Friendships and relationships were shaken and torn apart. Tears of anger, confusion, and sadness were shed.  Unfortunately, life goes on even in the face of tragedy, and three days later I found myself on the schedule to lead worship at our home church.

  I wasn't okay. 

  I was full of hatred, and I didn't care. I could not let go of my pain, and I didn't WANT to let it go. I wanted the people who had hurt my family to hurt, to feel the pain they had caused to these people I loved so dearly. I remember talking to God in the car and telling him that I didn't care how wrong I was. My grief and anger climbed and wrapped around me like gnarled, twisted veins on the side of an old house, creeping into every corner, every dark place, every shadow of my being.

 Looking through songs as I prepared my setlist, I picked anthems of hope and healing- hope and healing that I refused to accept for myself- and begrudgingly took the stage. 

 Every chord I struck on my guitar was struck in that black, dripping anger. Every word I sang was soaked in bitterness and sarcasm, and even if the congregation wasn't able to tell, I wanted those words to reach the ears of God with every bit of sting and malice I could spit into them. I knew of His goodness and kindness, but in the past 72 hours I had felt my grasp on just how far that kindness could reach slipping and crumbling away until I was barely clinging to it by cramping, weary fingertips. 

  As the band reached the end of our set, I took a step back from the microphone. Exhausted and defeated, I took a deep, shaking breath and closed my eyes. My fingers lazily plucked half-hearted chords and my weight shifted uneasily from my left foot to my right foot and back again. 

  "God," I screamed in my head. "How can I sing about how good You are when things like this happen?" I was facing betrayal and pain in a very personal, real way for the first time in my life and all of my intellectual understanding of the love of God had been torn away me. I was empty.

 I began to hear a simple melody over the four chords repeating from my guitar. I walked back to my microphone, drew one more deep breath, and began to sing.

  "I can't escape Your goodness, God- I can't escape Your love, it is all around me." 

  I didn't mean a single word of it. I didn't believe it, I didn't want to sing it, but I was so exhausted and empty from all of my fighting and rage that it was all I could do. 

 But it was enough.  

 This emptiness was all Jesus needed. I sang this chorus over and over again as the band joined me, quietly at first and then building to a tremendous roar, and I felt my words turn from sarcasm to sincerity. The greatest truth, the ultimate, highest truth in the Universe- there is no escape from the love of God- did not require my belief and understanding to grant it validation. It was true not because I meant it when I sang it, but because it birthed everything from nothing and gave form to the formless, gave life to the lifeless, and took black, empty space and filled it with light and hope and potential.

 Months later, Bethany would speak about her similar experience at an event at our church. She shared about her anger and her unwillingness to let it go. She talked about how Jesus sat with her, gently by her side, and told her that He wouldn't leave her in her hatred, but that when she was ready, He would take it from her. This is the kindness that we cannot escape, that even when we are so angry that we do not want to know this kindness, He sits with us, seated on the floor with clenched fists and kicking feet, and loves us through it all. 

  The melody and chorus that I sang that Sunday morning would eventually become "Steady Wind." Though I have written dozens of songs to date- some more complex, some more lyrically intricate or with stronger hooks- it is still the song that has had the most impact on my own life. I have not fully healed from that season, though I surrender more every day and have come a long way from that first Sunday service.  But I know that as long as I draw breath, I can find the strength to sing of the kindness of God, and that whether I can find the strength to believe it or not, the truth of that kindness is far greater than any anger, sadness, pain, or defeat I could ever try to hold in my heart. 

"Though seasons change, this hope remains- I can't escape Your love."