FallRigganRanchI love fall. The cool temperatures, the autumn colors, the rain (yes, I actually enjoy being outside in the rain). But in truth, I have a love-hate relationship with this time of year.

I was in my yard on Friday and snapped this picture. You can see a red leaf maple, some poplars, one of our sheep and the horse corral in the background. What you can’t see is about 17 other trees – all of which are dropping leaves like crazy.

Raking leaves. This is the part about fall I hate. It’s also an excellent reason to have children.

It’s possible to simultaneously experience two distinctly different feelings about something. I love fall, but hate the hours spent raking leaves. And I love ice cream, but hate stepping on the scale the next morning.

So when I think about the cross, it’s heartbreaking to remember what Jesus had to endure. And yet . . . I also experience joy. And gratitude. I’ve been forgiven.

Last year, I recorded the classic hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” and wrote an additional chorus called “How Can I Thank You.” I’ve always been moved by the lines “What language shall I borrow / to thank Thee, dearest Friend.” In the context of a song about His suffering and death, that line leaps out at me; there are no words sufficient to express our mixed feelings – regret, sorrow, joy, relief . . . and gratitude.

The cross is both terrible and strangely beautiful.

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Well, it’s official. If you’ve heard rumors that I’m recording a new Christmas CD, I can confirm that, yes, my tenth solo project will be entitled PEACE ON EARTH.

I’m really happy with how the record is turning out, and I need your support now to get it finished! Visit my Kickstarter Page right now and see how you can help!

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One of my favorites from the new “Deep Roots” CD is the simple hymn “My Jesus I Love Thee.” It was written by a 16 year old young man shortly after he found Christ, and there’s something so beautiful about these simple and sincere lyrics:

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now

For my arrangement, I wanted the music to reflect the simplicity of the lyric, so it’s not a busy track. In the second verse, I decided to use some minor chord substitutions, which I think darkened things appropriately for those more somber words. And of course, the lovely harmonies provided by Rachel Lampa added something special. This may be my favorite track from the record, to be honest.

We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 (ESV)

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In addition to my singer/songwriter gig, I’m also a worship pastor at Eagle Christian Church in the Boise, Idaho area. Periodically we host “Night of Worship” events, and the next one will take place on Sunday September 14 at 6:30 pm. If you’re nearby, please join us! And if you can’t make it, you can stream it at the ECC website.

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BaseballBatLadyA friend of mine grew up in Japan as a missionary kid. He told me about a girl he knew whose parents had kept a running tally of every penny they had ever spent on her: the cost of food, housing, medical care, clothing – everything.

So any time she wanted something or gave them any trouble, they’d pull out the tally sheet and remind her of how much she had already cost them. “After all we’ve done for you, you should be more grateful!”

(So … am I Bad Father if I admit that doesn’t always sound like such a bad idea? Wait, nope. Strike that. Never mind…)

Sometimes we talk about God’s love in a way that makes people feel like that girl – guilty and ungrateful for not loving God more, obeying Him more faithfully, serving Him better.

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 1 Peter 1:18-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

I love this scripture, but you could totally use these verses as a baseball bat to beat someone over the head with the love of God. “After all God’s done for you – after the priceless ransom He paid for your freedom – why aren’t you more grateful?

I think it’s healthier to think of the love of God this way: God loves you so much, He places such high value on you, His child, that Jesus went to the cross.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony
Lest I forget Thy love for me . . . lead me to calvary.

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Do you need anyone to tell you that water is wet? Or that ice is cold? Fire is hot? That shadows are dark, while sunshine is bright? Wind can be windy, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Some things are just obvious, right? But for some reason, we need to be told that sin is “sinful.” You would think that this would be self-evident. But consider the sacrificial system that God commanded for Israel; the whole point was to teach God’s people – over the course of generations – these two concepts:

  • Doing bad things is bad
  • Doing bad things is costly

The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Our culture excuses all of these things – makes them seem normal so that we begin to look at our sin (violations of God’s law) and we think “. . . eh, that wasn’t really so bad . . .”

We really should know better. We shouldn’t be surprised that God is intolerant of sin; just look to the cross to see how seriously He takes it. And isn’t it incredible that “envy” and “fits of rage” are listed along with things like “sexual immorality” and “drunkenness?” Looks to me like all sin – not just our “big ones” – are “sinful.” A little surprising?

What really should surprise us is this: in spite of His fierce opposition to sin, He is absolutely willing and eager to forgive us.

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If you’re in the Boise area, you’re invited to come to my next Night of Worship event. It’ll be July 13 at 6:30 pm at Eagle Christian Church. If you aren’t in the area, you can stream it at the ECC website.

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It’s Throwback Thursday! So here’s a live performance of “Designer” from the CD “Clouds and Fire.” It’s from a show in Nashville in February 2010.

The band: Chris Cooke, Clay Krasner and Gary Ishee. Jaime Thietten was also there that night (we sang I See You and she shared a song or two of her own). Special thanks to my good friend Greg Campbell who ran sound and captured the video!

Comments? Yes please! (Does that make me sound needy?)

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At the Riggan Ranch we have ten baby lambs right now, all just a few weeks old. It’s always entertaining watching them scamper around the pasture – never getting far from their mothers, of course.

lambThroughout the Old Testament, God’s people made sacrifices to God. They continually offered bulls, goats, lambs, birds, grains – all to “pay” for their sins. If you sinned – even unintentionally – you had to make a sacrifice. It was a very straightforward (if bloody) system.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we still offered sacrifices today? You tell a lie, or maybe covet your neighbor’s new Volvo . . . and now you have to go out to your herd and pick out your best (spotless) lamb or goat and take it to the priests to sacrifice.

At what point would it occur to you that maybe you should try to stop lying or coveting? The tenth lamb? The hundredth?

The point of all of this was so that God’s people would really understand one thing: sin costs.

Our sins still come at a high price, but God Himself has provided a lamb (Genesis 22:8) – the One John the Baptist referred to as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

I know that I can be too casual about my sin – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. May we  begin to grasp the cost of our sins – and the great value of what Christ Jesus did for us on the cross.

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV)

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Some of you may have heard that Netflix has a new show streaming called “Sizzling Bacon.” It’s 20 minutes of … well, I probably shouldn’t spoil the surprise.

But I can’t help myself … [SPOILER ALERT] at one point a hand appears with a pair of tongs to flip the bacon … it could be Kevin Bacon, but we aren’t shown clearly. That’s one of the fascinating things about this show; there’s so much ambiguity and nuance. Which is why it will probably be cancelled soon.

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