justinfox.com

music – musings – mission

Blog

Advent Devotional 2018

Posted by on 8:37 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Advent Devotional 2018

* This devotional is meant to be experienced weekly; for the four weeks of Advent and the week of Christmas. Feel free to pick one day during the week to spend some extra time with these reflections. Lighting a candle to begin your time each week would be ideal, but not critical. Journalling your thoughts and responses to God is encouraged, as well. * I’ve been inspired by Biola University’s Advent devotional, and it’s available HERE. * The music is from my album Noel. The poems come from Malcom Guite (an English poet, church leader, professor, and musician) and the photos are taken by Farrah Fox (a Richmond, VA photographer and writer) with a film camera as autumn took hold of the south.   WEEK 1 – HOPE http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/03-It-Came-Upon-A-Midnight-Clear.mp3   In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4-5 The first candle of the Advent Wreath, the “Prophecy Candle” or “Candle of Hope”, is traditionally purple. We light this candle because, like God’s people centuries ago, we also look forward with hope to the coming of the Shepherd. The purple color of the candle reminds us of the seriousness of our hope. Hope is a light shining in a dark place. As we look at the lights of this first week of the Christmas season, we celebrate the hope we have in Jesus Christ.   “O Oriens” First light and then first lines along the east To touch and brush a sheen of light on water As though behind the sky itself they traced The shift and shimmer of another river Flowing unbidden from its hidden source; The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera. Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice Are bathing in it now, away upstream… So every trace of light begins a grace In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam Is somehow a beginning and a calling; “Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream For you will see the Dayspring at your waking, Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”. (audio of this poem being read HERE)   PRAYER: Dear God, we hope for your coming as our Good Shepherd. Please gather us in your arms, feed us with spiritual food, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and “let your face shine, that we may be saved”. Come, our Shepherd! Amen. —————————————————————   WEEK 2 – JOY http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/06-God-Rest-Ye-Merry-Gentlemen.mp3   “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” – Luke 2:10 The second Advent Wreath candle, named the “Shepherd Candle” or “Candle of Joy”, is pink in color. Pink represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration. From hope, joy grows. We reflect on the subject of joy to remind us that when Jesus is born in us we have joy and that through him there will be everlasting joy on earth. Joy is a light shining in a dark place. This week, we celebrate the joy we find in Jesus Christ.   “St. John’s Eve” Midsummer night, and bonfires on the hill Burn for the man who makes way for the Light: ‘He must increase and...

read more

3 Steps to More Fruit of the Spirit

Posted by on 1:23 pm in Faith | 0 comments

3 Steps to More Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” I was recently asked this question: “How does somebody get more of the fruit of the Spirit in their life?” After reading and reflecting on the above passage, it’s a very understandable and practical question, and this short article is an attempt to answer it. As the Christmas season draws near, it’s also a timely discussion since we’ll be hearing a lot about hope, love, joy, and peace these next few weeks. When you hear those words, do you wish you had more? Do you wish these traits were not merely seasonal sentiments but more of a reality in your life? I know I do! So, to that end, here’s 3 steps toward that goal… * REMEMBER: These characteristics are fruit of the Spirit, they are not fruit of our efforts – they don’t come from us, they come from God. Just like grapes come to life through the nourishment of the vine, a person cannot externally fabricate this fruit and paste it onto their life. It must organically grow from within, through the Spirit in us. Jesus said it best, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:3-5) Does that mean we simply sit back, do nothing, and wait for God to do His work in us (in spite of us)? What’s His part, and what’s our part? It’s true, He is the one who does the changing, but we need to position ourselves to receive His work in us. We need to posture ourselves to be open and available. With that in mind, these three steps are a way we can participate better with the Spirit’s work. They’re a way for us to position ourselves and assume a posture that connects us more deeply to the vine. STEP 1: VISION The first step is to get a vision for what this fruit looks like, in yourself and in others around you. Dallas Willard’s concept of “vision, intention, and means” (or “VIM” as he calls it in Renovation of the Heart) is a helpful model here, so I’ll use it to guide our discussion. Each of these three steps will be accompanied by a 30-minute prayer time to help you further explore this area with the Lord. Experiencing more of the fruit of the Spirit simply will not happen apart from spending concentrated, focused time alone with God. If that is something you’re not willing to do, I’d recommend closing this screen right now and doing whatever else you’d like to do… (On second thought, my goal is to make this invitation to time with God more compelling through the course of this article, so I hope you’ll stick with it to the end, and...

read more

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 3)

Posted by on 4:38 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 3)

In this article, I’ll discuss 5 Practical Ways to Lead Worship as a Spiritual Director. In articles 1 and 2, I put forward a few thoughts regarding the connections between worship leading and spiritual direction and also explored some practical ways to prepare for worship leading through the lens of a Spiritual Director. Now, the preparation is done, the stage is set, the congregation is here, and it’s time to lead! Let’s discuss five ways to lead worship as a Spiritual Director. Again, I’ve chosen to list these methods with the verb “practice” before them for intentional reasons. These are practices that take time to develop. They are not quick fixes or “five easy steps.” They require sustained attention over time and through various seasons. Give yourself grace and permission to not get these “right” the first time you try them, and rest in the reality that they will never be perfected – by you, me, or anyone else (but Jesus). Practicing these postures will help align your heart with God’s heart. They’ll guide you in enabling more and more people to experience the love of God through you as you lead. 1. Practice Compassion. “Lord, help me give compassion in my statements, in my posture, in my face, in my presence.” Again, this encouragement and prayer are taken directly from my training materials on spiritual direction. Compassion is a critical, priority practice as a Spiritual Director, and yet it has so many applications for the Worship Leader, as well. What is it to practice compassion for our congregations from the sanctuary platform? How compassionate are you when you lead? How aware are you of your congregation’s challenges, hurts, doubts, and fears? I find that, as a Worship Leader, there are so many distractions around the technical, mechanical task of performing music well, that we often lose sight of who we are actually leading. If your congregation becomes a blurry mass of nameless faces, whose only function is to sing or clap along with the band at the appropriate times, compassion will be tough for you to display. Charlie Hall gave a lecture a while back with some powerful insights into this topic. I highly encourage you to check out the podcast here (I’ve also posted it as a dropbox link here, if that’s more convenient). In this talk, Charlie gets at the importance of knowing the people we lead in worship, and how their stories change everything about the way we approach facilitating worship. It makes the process more human and infuses it with compassion and empathy. He realizes there is a tension for us Worship Leaders between “excellence” and “affection.” We can often make our musical execution so excellent that we lose the heart, the compassion, the affection for the people God has placed right in front of us. How well do you know your congregation members? Are you aware of their struggles, health concerns, and prayer requests? If your congregation is large, it’s impossible to know everyone’s story, but can you begin one at a time and practice holding them in your heart, one by one? The next time you sing “It is well with my soul…” make a mental note of who is singing with you and what their experience might be. See their faces, their...

read more

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 2)

Posted by on 6:47 pm in Faith | 2 comments

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 2)

In this article, we’ll discuss some practical ways that the ministries of spiritual direction and worship leading interrelate. In Part 1 (catch up HERE if you missed it), we discussed some of the ways the two ministries are unique and the particular developmental benefits of spiritual direction in the life of a Worship Leader. We then turned our attention to these specific questions: How might a Worship Leader prepare, plan, and lead worship as a Spiritual Director? Is it possible to some extent? Could it be beneficial to consider? I said I believed the answer to both of these questions was a resounding “Yes”, so let’s dive in. Let me address a question you might have right off the top; “Why should I adopt or embody this style or method as a Worship Leader?” Especially if you haven’t had an experience with spiritual direction and don’t personally subscribe to it as an element of discipleship in your life, this is a fair objection. But, whether you are a “fan” of spiritual direction or not, it’s important to consider that as Worship Leaders, we are also Culture Makers. Meaning, the way you approach, prepare for, and lead worship creates values and cultural touchstones within your context. Whatever you’re doing to get people in your pews, you will have to continue to do to keep them there. If your strategy and values, for instance, are high-production, Vegas-style smoke and mirrors, having the right fitting jeans, or staying up on the latest, greatest worship songs, you will need to keep that up, or do one better each week in order to keep your congregation engaged and entertained. I’d propose another way, a deeper, more thoughtful approach. What is the culture you want to create through your leadership? What kind of worshippers do you want your people to become over time? Let these greater questions shape your worship leading. You and your congregation will be grateful and blessed by doing so. And, again, because I’ve experienced first-hand the profound journey of spiritual direction in my own life, and researched its effectiveness in the life of believers around the world, for over a thousand years, it seems worthwhile to pursue this connection between spiritual direction and worship leading. It also seems logical and helpful to discuss elements of preparing for worship before addressing the act of leading worship in this way. It’s particularly interesting to reflect on the ways a Spiritual Director is instructed to prepare before meeting with a Directee, and how those items of preparation have some corollary with the preparation to lead worship. So, before talking through practical ways to lead worship as a Spiritual Director, let’s look at ways to prepare for worship leading through this lens. These prayer points are copied from my course syllabus in Spiritual Direction and Soul Care at Talbot Seminary. I’ll list them, just as they were written (with a few edits for context), and then unpack various ways I see these instructions and values inform the preparation of worship leading. I see these prompts being helpful as Worship Leaders begin to plan a service or liturgy, or as they enter the sanctuary or worship space to prayerfully get things ready for the already-planned gathering to come. These postures take practice, repeated over time, to...

read more

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 1)

Posted by on 4:10 pm in Faith | 2 comments

Spiritual Direction and the Worship Leader (Pt. 1)

Leading worship for thirty years and serving as a Spiritual Director for the last five of those, has given me a unique perspective on soul care, formation, and the dynamics of worship leading. In this article, I will briefly attempt to describe the interrelatedness of these two roles, how they are alike, how they differ, and how the ancient art of spiritual direction can inform and deepen the ministry of worship leading. Many Christian leaders have found great value and support in meeting with a Spiritual Director as part of their ongoing discipleship and spiritual formation. This is a growing trend in evangelical circles, and I’m grateful for the interest in this aspect of spiritual formation. Graduating from Talbot Seminary and serving as a Spiritual Director these last several years has been a deep joy. Describing the many ways that serving in this ministry (and personally receiving spiritual direction) enriches my life and faith would constitute an entire article by itself, so I’ll simply say here that it has profoundly impacted the way I shepherd, lead, and love others. It has also shaped the way I approach worship leading and my role as Pastor of Worship at Grace Community Church. HOW THESE MINISTRIES ARE UNIQUE Before diving into the interrelatedness and connection between spiritual direction and worship leading, it might be helpful to discuss how they are not the same. Worship leading usually describes the activity of guiding a small-to-large group through an experience of corporate singing, prayer, reading, and listening to God together. It’s a role that can quickly scale from a few individuals in a quiet room to thousands in an arena. Traditional, formal spiritual direction, on the other hand, is limited in scope from a one-to-one relationship up to a small group setting, with usually never more than about ten people. It is not effective in a large group because spiritual direction relies heavily on the participant (the “Directee”) having space to talk, share, and process out loud the activity of God in his or her life. There is more content coming from the participant rather than the leader in spiritual direction. Significant time and opportunity must be created for this to occur, and a Spiritual Director goes to great lengths in providing a spiritually and emotionally open space where the Directee is free to set the pace and take the conversational and topical lead. Worship leading, especially in large groups, is the opposite; the worship leader provides most of the content, pacing, and agenda. A Worship Leader is more “directive” in this case, intentionally planning a structure and program for individuals or a congregation to follow and participate in. Spiritual Direction meetings usually occur once a month to give adequate time and space between appointments for a Directee to process God’s activity in their lives and to collect and ponder their unique experiences before they meet again with their Director. Quite different from this schedule, the people of God, in groups small and large, often gather for worship once a week on Sunday and sometimes on various days in between. The frequency of these meetings poses a unique set of challenges and opportunities for a Worship Leader that are not shared by the Spiritual Director. Formational practices that occur this frequently demand a thoughtful and...

read more

Practicing Silence for Lent

Posted by on 7:45 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Practicing Silence for Lent

I had the privilege a couple weeks ago to teach on Sunday morning at my church on the topic of silence. Here’s the sermon audio if you’d like to take a listen. May God strengthen and stretch you this Lenten season!...

read more

8 Podcasts for Lent

Posted by on 7:31 pm in Faith | 0 comments

8 Podcasts for Lent

Lenten blessings, everyone! Remember when you had to wait a week for your favorite TV show to come on? On-demand streaming has taken away a bit of the drama, patience, and anticipation of a slowly unfolding storyline, so to recapture that (and help us experience Lent more deeply) I’ve created eight, weekly audio meditations, like mini-Podcasts. These are imaginative exercises based on Scripture which take us through Jesus’ Passion Week, leading to his crucifixion. They range from around 5-10 minutes each, and are designed to lead to further reflective prayer afterward if you have time. Just choose a moment each week, grab your favorite blanket or comfy chair, maybe brew up a warm drink, settle in and hit “play”. You could also listen along during a daily activity, like a car ride or preparing a meal in the kitchen. Don’t skip ahead and binge-listen, though! I pray these are a blessing and guide you these seven weeks to a more intimate connection with Christ’s love and sacrifice for you. Week 1 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-1.mp3   Week 2 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-2.mp3   Week 3 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-3.mp3   Week 4 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-4.mp3   Week 5 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-5.mp3   Week 6 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-6.mp3   Week 7 http://justinfox.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Lent-Week-7.mp3   EASTER!...

read more

Soul Sauna: Taking a Benedictine Retreat

Posted by on 6:53 pm in Faith | 0 comments

Soul Sauna: Taking a Benedictine Retreat

If self-care is somewhere on your New Year’s Resolutions list, you might be asking yourself: How can I get a rest, a real rest this year? What would best help me clear my head and reset my heart? What could most refresh and refuel me? What might deeply reengage my relationship with God? …and if you can carve out a 24-48 hour block of time to dedicate to this endeavor (which you should!), then I have an adventure for you: A Benedictine Retreat! You know that feeling when you get out of a hot-tub or sauna after a long time; that mellow, mushy, super-relaxed, nothing-can-upset-me type of feeling? A retreat like this does that for your soul, and there’s nothing quite like it. So in the next few paragraphs, I will explain exactly how to go on a solo, silent, self-guided Benedictine retreat at a monastery, on your own terms, in your own way (but steeped in hundreds of years of spiritual history and practice) that will stretch and grow your mind, enlarge your soul, and help you deeply unplug. Let’s go! BOOK YOUR RETREAT The first thing you’ll need to do is look at your crazy-busy, jam-packed calendar and find a 24-48 hour window to block out. This may be tough, but it will be worth it. The longer the better, so try for 48 hours if possible. Choose a couple options, because when you call the retreat center they may be booked. Most don’t do email often, so calling is best. There are Benedictine monasteries all over the world that host individuals for self-guided retreats. I’ve been to three, and I highly recommend them: Prince of Peace Abby (ocean) 650 Benet Hill Rd, Oceanside, CA 92058 (760) 967-4200 www.princeofpeaceabbey.org St. Andrews Abbey (desert) 31001 N. Valyermo Rd, Valyermo, CA 93563 (661) 944-2178 www.saintandrewsabbey.com Holy Cross Abbey (mountain) 901 Cool Spring Lane Berryville, Virginia 22611-2700 (540) 955-4383 www.virginiatrappists.org You’ll simply call them, tell them you’d like to come for an individual, self-guided retreat, and they will help you book your room. You normally pay at the end of your stay, with a check that you leave in an envelope and drop in a key-slot (and they are patient and gracious if you forget your checkbook and have to arrange payment later). Room and board costs are about $100 a night. This fee can sometimes be covered by your employer through a self-care/development budget, or through a spiritual development account if you’re in ministry, so don’t be afraid to ask your boss or supervisor about this. PRAPARE FOR YOUR RETREAT Now that you’ve got the dates booked, begin thinking through what to bring with you on the retreat. Pack light. This is a perfect time to practice simplicity! Meals: If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, I highly recommend not bringing extra food or snacks; eat the simple, healthy meals that the monastery provides and nothing more. Skipping a meal or two, as a fast, is also another powerful practice, but I personally like the mealtime because it’s a unique setting to experience, and it fits nicely into the rhythm of the day. The food is healthy and simple and often locally farmed. Clothes: Bring a sun hat and good walking shoes, and a coat for the cold nights...

read more

Best 30 Seconds Ever

Posted by on 1:14 am in Family | 0 comments

Best 30 Seconds Ever

  I led a team-building exercise recently where I instructed everyone to think for a moment about their favorite memories. We took a couple of minutes in silence to catalog a few of the most magical snapshots of our lives, and then I narrowed the search further; “now consider what 30 seconds you’d most like to live again.” A lively discussion followed as everyone shared their favorite 30-second memory. After 24 years of marriage, four children, countless adventures, challenges and joys, there were several 30-second snapshots that came to my mind, but one seemed to float above the rest. My brothers and I had the chance, years ago, to travel to Hawaii for a guys-only surf adventure. I’m the oldest of five boys, and it’s an amazing gift to be great friends with all of these…well, men now. Before many of us had families of our own, this long-shot blast to Maui, with our clothes taped around our surfboards as padding during the flight, made an indelible mark in my memory, seeming to somehow weave itself into my DNA. I’ll never forget catching the biggest wave of my life at Honolua Bay on that trip, but it was the small moments, the rambling, spontaneous, gloriously unplanned days we shared as brothers that made the deepest impression. On one of the last evenings together on the island, we were heading south along a two-lane country road with the ocean on our right, and we spotted a pristine, empty surf break through the thick palms. We jumped out and hit the waves as the sun was getting low in the sky. Sure enough, this spot was perfect; small but glassy peelers crashed one after the other, and there was no wind, and no other people for miles. We shared the waves, swapping boards, goofing around, passing around a straw hat, and laughing at all the inside jokes collected between us throughout the years. As the sun finally sank below the horizon, we all caught a last wave in and sat on the beach for a moment, catching our breath in the fading light, watching another epic sunset send streaks up across the sky. The temperature between the warm air, the sand, and the water was seamless, undetectable. Our swim trunks weren’t dry yet, but I wasn’t cold at all, even as darkness grew. My brothers and I had nowhere we needed to be, nothing to do, and no reason to rush off. Just resting on the sand, slightly damp, joyfully exhausted, and perfectly content, watching those last colored strands of sunlight fade into the tropical evening…that’s my favorite 30 seconds...

read more

JFB sighting! June 9th!

Posted by on 7:20 pm in Music | 0 comments

JFB sighting! June 9th!

We’re back! Pete Dawson on electric guitar will be joining the three of us, rounding out the classic JFB line-up on June 9th in Bellflower. We’ll be featuring a full-band set of original songs from over 20 years of music making. We’ll be focusing our song set around the theme of prayer and excited to revisit classics like “I Will” and “Stay”, as well as bring to life the newer songs “Here With You” and “In My Weakness”. There will be a couple other worship bands kicking off the night, and we’ll close the evening with a set starting at 8:30. Hope to see you there!...

read more