OK, folks.  I know what you're thinking.  "Mike isn't making music anymore."

Well, if you're referring to the Mike Graff solo artistry, then you're probably right.  At least for now.

But what I have been up to is far from "not making music anymore".

For the past 5 years, I've been fortunate enough to be the worship pastor at First Free Church in Minneapolis.  I'm grateful for how God has helped me, our staff, our worship team, and our congregation grow over this past half-decade.

In that time, there have been several projects that have been percolating and are now finally making their way into the light.

Let me introduce you to a couple of them.
Coresound Pads is a super-cool resource for churches both small and large that want to add that ambient pads sound to their worship team without having to play it on a keyboard.  

​We've built a bunch of different ambient pads sounds and created 20-minute long MP3s for all 12 major keys.  You literally press play, fade in the volume, and PRESTO.  Your worship atmosphere is transformed.  Pretty awesome!

Click here for more info.  Be sure to download the free sample pack if you want to give it a shot yourself before you buy.
Worship Lullaby is easily the most adorable project I've ever been a part of.  :)  Worship Lullaby is exactly as it sounds - lullaby renditions of today's top worship songs and hymns.

The first two volumes have a total of 24 songs turned into lullabies - it's a great Christmas, birthday, or baby shower gift for new mothers and young families.

Get a free song today at the website if you want to learn more.



There's more projects to tell you about... but why spoil all the fun on one single blog post?  :)  Stay tuned for more info.

THANK YOU for your support, and be sure to check out both of these awesome resources.  I hope you enjoy them and am grateful to create them for such amazing people!
 
Wow... It's been a while since I last posted!  There's been a small part of me that has wanted to share everything that's been going on lately, but a much larger part of me has simply needed to focus on following Jesus through these situations without putting it into words.  There is a season for quiet, and there is a season for, well, not quiet.  :)  

Thank you to everyone who's been praying for our family and faithfully supporting us in prayer.  There are new chapters opening up in our lives over the next six weeks; Kait & I are going to be welcoming our first baby into our home, there are new opportunities for ministry on the horizon, and I'm getting a chance to dig back into passions that have been on hold for some time.

I find myself day-dreaming about future possibilities on a very, very regular occasion.  My "visionary" attributes get the best of me too often - I've been known to play out entire events in my head which, once they actually happen, appear nothing like how they went in my head.  I ask myself constantly, "Maybe God is doing this or that," or,  "Maybe this is the reason for that," which essentially is me trying to figure out God's ways instead of trusting Him with the unknowns and committing myself to the truths and circumstances God has made known to me.  I'm daily challenged in this area, and although I'm growing at it, I'm still in need of repair.

The reason I say all that, though, is to say this: It isn't very often that my "visionary" ideas line up with what actually happen.  But in some of these new-chapter experiences, a few of my visionary ideas have lined up with what God has anointed & appointed to happen.  (Praise Him!)  


I look at all sorts of people in the Bible who had vision from the Lord as to where they were to go, what they were to do, and who they were to become (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, just to name a few).  More often than not, that vision took a long time to pan out for each of them, going through twists and turns that ultimately grew each of them into the person God needed each of them to be for His story.  I'm sure there was confusion and heartache along the way, watching certain parts of their vision seemingly drift further and further away... but finally, one day, they arrived.  They arrived.  I ask myself, "What did that feel like to them?  Was there joy and relief?  Or was there more of a sense of bewilderment, because the way they finally got there looked nothing like how they had expected it to go?"

Scripture shows a bit of an answer to that question; each of those people turned to the Lord and gave Him praise that His love endures forever, despite our inability to see as far as He can.  I'm sure they were bewildered, and sometimes it didn't feel quite real, but they each bowed down to the One who deserves all of the credit.

If you're in the middle of God's story in your life, in a set of circumstances that don't make sense to you, know that God's vision and knowledge is far better than our own.  Know that, one day, you'll likely be looking back at how you got to where you are in bewilderment.  

If you're daily offering your life to God and owning the fact that we've been bought with a price by Jesus, you are officially letting go of the steering wheel of your life.  And our God promises to us over and over again in His Word that He's the best driver on the road of our life, not us.  Why?  Because He's the One who paved the road in the first place.  He knows how far it goes, where it ends, when we'll get there, and just how many pit-stops along the way we're going to need to take in order for Him to mold us into the image His Son living in us.  

Be prepared to be bewildered by the Lord.
 
...and here I thought I was just having a ridiculous time concentrating lately!

As I've been spending time reading the Bible, in prayer, and in sorting out life-stuff, I've begun to notice that my thoughts have become cloudier and cloudier.  My mind bounces from one subject to another, I don't seem to find the "meat" of the subject as easily, and it takes me roughly three times as long to do/think through anything of that sort.

Now before you dismiss me as needing medication for ADD, know this: my diet & sleep schedule has been the same for the last six months, I have no other symptoms anywhere in life, and I think twenty-eight years old still qualifies on the "young" end of the spectrum, which hopefully shrugs off any possibilities of dementia.

What is it, then?  Why am I having such a tough time digging into things?

In the thick of it the other day, I finally realized it.  It was the enemy.  God says that Satan will stop at nothing to try and outsmart us.  If we think we know what angle he's going to attack us at, he'll switch it up and come from another angle.  The master disguiser knows how to stay hidden while he messes with us.

I used to notice quite obviously when Satan began messing with my thoughts (especially during quiet time/prayer, but also throughout the entire day).  My senses were heightened to how he was trying to throw me off.  I then began to sense for a while that I wasn't getting attacked anymore, which I was pretty excited about.  As I look back now, though, I shouldn't have gotten excited that he retreated... I should've been on the lookout for how he was going to come at me next.

Thank God for showing me that when I'm in the secret place with Him, being filled with who He is, the enemy was sneakily trying to toss me off.  We are told to trust and have faith in His power, which means that we aren't simply playing defense against Satan - we have a STRONG OFFENSE.  Prayer, trust, and forward motion (i.e. not letting the struggle stop you from doing what you're doing!) are how we are to, with God's strength, bowl through the enemy's obstacles.

I hope this doesn't sound like I think Satan has more power than he does in comparison to the Lord.  But the truth is, if it weren't for Jesus' rescue of me and the presence of God's Spirit in me, Satan would have a FIELD DAY with me.  Before I was 100% the Lord's, Satan DID have a field day with me.  But now I rest in much mightier Hands.

I hope this comes as an encouragement to those who are maybe having difficulty navigating through their personal time with the Lord.  If you're being distracted, it very well might be an enemy attack.  Know that 1) God is greater, 2) obviously you're doing what God wants you to be doing, since the enemy is spending his time & energy on messing with you!, and 3) if you press through, God will honor your faith in His strength which undoubtedly crushes Satan's strength.  The enemy is NO MATCH for our God.

I'll probably dwell on this more and write more about it in the near future, but I'll leave it sit at that for now.  Many blessings on your weekend, everyone!
 
I just got back from doing a couple concerts in Montana with my ministry-partner-in-crime Tim.  It was a great time of fellowship with those of us who were out there, an incredible opportunity to see some sights (Yellowstone/Old Faithful!)... but most of all, it was a chance to minister in the name of Jesus in a place with a lot of spiritual warfare going on.

There were several times throughout the course of the trip that it was evident that the enemy didn't want us there.  Everything from scheduling to non-working gear to completely MISSING gear to dying car batteries fell on our shoulders.  During the first concert, I vividly remember when Tim got to the point in the night when he shared Jesus' story, and at that very moment his microphone starting feeding back and freaking out.  Right at that moment.  It was obvious that there was something trying to keep the light of Jesus from penetrating that place.  But, in His power, it penetrated.  Lives were touched... likely more than we were able to see.

But that's the point of it all -- we had non-functioning gear, we weren't able to hear ourselves play, and it felt as though every moment of the night involved some type of struggle.  Yet in the midst of our difficulties, GOD SHINED THROUGH.  It wasn't in our power to bring His light and truth - it was in HIS power.  

It's not that we were powerless in that very moment to change lives... it's that we are powerless in EVERY moment to change lives.  Apart from Christ, we can't do anything.  But IN Christ... well... watch out.  He'll have His way, for sure!

I've been reading "Radical" by David Platt (excellent read, by the way), and he mentions the beginning of the book of Acts when the disciples were gathered together & praying just after Jesus had ascended into heaven.  They weren't ironing out a big plan or trying to program & practice their approach to ministry -- they were PRAYING.  They didn't have any strength in them on their own, and they knew it.  They needed the power of something greater than themselves to lead, guide, work, and MOVE in the lives of the people that they were about to surround themselves with. In short, they were powerless... but in realizing that powerlessness, they BANKED on the Holy Spirit to move.  

I don't want to convince myself that these songs (or any other angle of ministry God provides me & my family with) will reach a million or billion people if I write the right melody or sing the perfect lyric.  In all reality, the perfect lyric is JESUS.  He'll raise the songs from songwriters that He wants to use to touch lives & move people closer to Himself.... HE'LL choose.  Not me.  Not the one who's composing... but the One whom I'm composing about.

To close, here's a lyric from one of my favorite U2 songs:

"I was born  -  I was born to sing for You
I didn't have a choice but to lift You up
And sing whatever song You wanted me to"
- U2, "Magnificent", No Line On The Horizon

May we all understand that God is not only our only reason for living, but also the only source of power to accomplish HIS WILL for His story.  

Let's let our lives sing for Him... whatever song that may be.  
His power, not ours.  
Less of us, more of Him.
 
There recently was a local ministry that wanted to know my thoughts on rethinking what "church" is.  Chewing on that question stirred my heart up a bit, and I thought I should share my answer to that question with you as well.

----------------
How would you re-think "church"?

How would I re-think church?  The short version of my answer would be this: if we truly want to live like Jesus lives and love like Jesus loves, then we need to CONSTANTLY be re-thinking what "church" looks like.

Now, for the long version :)

I'd start by saying that "church" is not some Sunday-morning get-together that involves 3.4 worship songs, a bad cup of coffee, twenty minutes of preaching, and a lot of hellos from people that you only see that one day a week. 

As the body of Christ, we are referred to by Jesus as “the Church,” and that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  If we measure the biggest, brightest, best example of what most of society thinks "church" is to the gates of hell, it would absolutely crumble.  So, obviously, the “church” in question has to be bigger than any man-made community.  Then what is it?

Acts 4 defines the church as “those that believed” in Jesus.  And it says in verse 32 that those who believed “were of one heart and soul”, which means that they technically were all aiming at the same goal.  The church isn’t about the success of a group of people, a fine-tuned ministry schedule, or a building with an ever-growing acreage footprint.  The church is about JESUS.

So how does that translate to today? 

The Church needs to love on the people in our neighborhood and community – the people that God has specifically put in our line of fire to serve, care for, and spread His story.  It’s gonna look different for every church and every city, because every PERSON is different.  But Jesus is the common-denominator – He's the rescue for every person, no matter what the geographic location, financial demographic, or family situation. 

As the Church, we need to tailor each gathering (what we would call a “church service”) to meet the needs of our specific group of people.  If that means meeting different times of the week, great.  If that means different music and message style, great.  If that means different buildings, programs, and specific ministries, great.  It simply all boils down to JESUS.  We are to love others as HE LOVES US – unrestrained, passionately, and without fail.  We are to love HIM that way, reflecting light into the lives of those that God has put us in front of.

If we're willing to settle into NOT re-thinking what church is, then we're sunk.  "Church" is supposed to look different in every community -- there is NO fail-safe program that can works for every ministry in every location.  Why?  Again, it's because every person is different.  So if we're not willing to ask God what it's supposed to look like, then we're already fighting a losing battle.

In closing, I find it interesting that Jesus never ministered the same way twice to people.  He always performed miracles in a different manner, preached in different places, and ministered to the people right in front of Him the way THEY needed to be ministered to.  He didn't invent a formula that worked for Martha and then applied that same formula to Zaccheus, Peter, and Lazerus.  Everyone was different, and His approach to everyone was different.  But HIS LOVE was the same.

And THAT, to me, is church - all paths of life boiling down to one focus; Jesus.
 
Continuing on in the writing/recording process.  It's amazing how much different this time around feels than last time.  That's not a bad thing (or a good thing, per se)... it's simply different.  

As I keep plugging away at this collection (which now has an almost-definite track list!  woohoo!), I've been noticing there are an increasing amount of tasks that I am NOT that good at dealing with.  There's certain recording techniques that I wish I was better with, I'm not getting even close to the mixing/mastering sounds I'd like to hear, and so on and so forth.

In the heat of all this, I'm noticing that God seems to be defining my role in this ministry a bit more.  If an album were a pie cut into several slices (songwriting, producing, performing, recording, mixing, mastering, etc.), my name was on all of those slices for The Embrace.  I am now realizing I need to give up some of my slices of pie.  

Part of it is a blessing, since I know that I'll be able to commit more of my focus and attention to the things that I AM called to.  But the other part of it is the challenge -- having faith in others to accomplish their tasks, and letting control be handed off to someone besides myself.

As of right now in this ministry, I'm running solo.  I continue to pray that being alone in this ministry changes, and I'm now being able to see what parts of the ministry I am really in need of other people filling.  

At the end of all this, though, I find myself stuck in the middle of another question -- how many of these difficulties I'm facing are signs that I need to hand it off to someone else... and how many of the difficulties are chances for me to grow, change, adapt, and learn what I CAN do it?  I don't want to claim more of this ministry than I'm supposed to, but I also don't want to shrug of responsibility and peter out the moment that something gets difficult (and, in ministry, something almost always WILL get difficult).  

So please be praying for:
- continued vision, guidance, and strength for me
- provision of people who have a heart for this ministry and want to help out in ways that they feel led
- perseverance through the difficulties
- discernment as to when I need to release my grip and hand things off
- a daily surrender to Jesus, that this is HIS project and not mine, it's HIS glory and not some musician's, and it's HIS kingdom that becomes enlarged through this instead of a band's fanbase or following.

Thank you all for following along with me on this journey.  I'm blessed & honored by it.  Be blessed, all of you.
 
My wife and I are on the hunt for a solid camcorder so that our baby-on-the-way will have their lives permanently (and probably embarrassingly) documented for future generations.  

As I've been weeding through the approximately four-trillion different models, choices, features, and so forth, I've come to realize that the camera I want NOW is not the same camera that I was interested in when we began this hunt.  New fancy options that I previously never knew about all of a sudden became the most important things I wanted in our new camera.  

Does this happen to anyone else?  Do we become convinced by outside influences (commercials, friends & family, and society as a whole) that what we need "isn't good enough"?  That what we have simply won't do?

Proverbs 30:8 says: "Give me neither poverty nor riches!  Give me just enough to satisfy my needs."  May we not be deceived into thinking that what we THINK we need is the same as what we TRULY need.  A sweet new guitar/computer/etc. would be fantastic right about now, but do I NEED it to perform the function that God's called me to right here and now?  ...Doubtful.

Let's seek Him first, and let Him sort everything else out afterwards (Matthew 6:33).  Maybe I should docu
 
How often does this type of situation pop up in our life?

In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham's son.  Abraham has some pretty specific directions for the servant (24:1-9), and the servant in turn asks God for some pretty specific evidence (24:10-14).  The moment the servant is done praying, God answers the servant's request literally word for word by providing Rebekah, Isaac's soon-to-be wife.  It's amazing!  

But THEN what does the servant do?  "The [servant] gazed at [Rebekah] in silence to learn whether the Lord has prospered his journey or not" (24:21).

WOW.  Here, God is providing exactly how Abraham and the servant would've expected Him to.  But instead of grabbing the provision and running off with it without thinking twice, the servant "gazed in silence", taking a moment for God to affirm that it was, in fact, HIS provision and not just mere coincidence.  It's trusting God not only for provision, but for discernment and peace as well.  Let Him be the giver and creator of all things!

To look at it the other way, though, you could totally knock the servant by saying: "God answered his prayer verbatim, and he STILL needed to ask Him if that was His provision?  What a faithless, fearful wimp!"  I understand that argument completely, and would almost agree with you... but I'm reminded that God wants us to submit EVERYthing in our lives to Him as a sacrifice, EVEN THE VERY PROVISION WE'VE BEEN PRAYING FOR NON-STOP.  The very thing that He gives to us is HIS.  It's not "ours" once He gives it - He wants it to be surrendered right back to Him the moment it enters our hands.

I'm encouraged by this and challenged by this all at the same time.  I hope the same goes for you, too.
 

I’ve been asking myself a question that seems to grow in size every time I try to wrap my head around it.  I started thinking about it in the middle of a songwriting session, but by no means think that it’s limited to musicians or ‘artsy’ people.

Here’s the question: When I’m working on creating something, am I actually creating, or am I actually discovering something already in existence but just hasn’t been realized yet?

I’ve had a few songs that have had a basic construct laid out for them for several months, but trying to add other parts to them to complete them never seems to fit.  Today, after wrestling with one of these songs for a long time, something finally ‘clicked’.  The song began to make more sense.

But while I was doing it, it didn’t feel like I had written another piece of music and had simply found something that fit well with the existing pieces of the song.  Instead, it felt like I had finally found additional parts of the song that had been there all along, but simply hadn’t been ‘unearthed’ yet.  It was like the song had already been written, and I finally found the missing puzzle pieces that belonged to it. 

Does that make any sense?  It sounds like an artistic-only question, but once you strip it down to its most basic level, it seems to make a lot more sense.  When you decide to paint the house a certain color, do you choose a particular color because you had a choice, or did you choose the color that your God-given personality is designed to enjoy? 

(This isn’t an argument over what choices are right and wrong – we’re the BODY of Christ, every one of us playing a different part in His story.  This is a question of if our opinions and ideas come from nowhere or if they’ve been there all along and we simply have yet to find them.)

Colossians 4:17 (which I know I’ve quoted before) says, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”  Not “the ministry you’ve created yourself”… but rather what “the Lord GAVE you.”  We look at all the ways that the Holy Spirit leads God’s people in where they are to go, what they are to do, and when & how they’re going to do it.  From the examples we see, it seems like it’s less about us creating for God, and more about realizing what God’s created in us and watching it unfold in our life.

I’m curious as to how you feel about this.  Do we create?  Or do we discover what He’s created in us for His glory and His purpose?
 
I’m getting ready to head out to work with the music ministry at a summer camp for a week with one of my dear friends and brother in Christ. 

Camp ministry is an interesting animal – as much as you think you know how God’s going to be at work, you never fully know what’s going to happen until you’re in the heat of the moment.  Sure, one can plan and program and rehearse until they’re blue in the face, but when it’s time, there’s a myriad of x-factors that can make calling an audible an almost-constant possibility.  The supernatural things that God plans to do in the hearts of hundreds of campers can’t possibly all be planned for.  The spiritual attacks that Satan also tries to unleash on those same campers can’t all be foreseen and dealt with.   It’s up to the Holy Spirit – and our sensitivity to how He’s at work – to move, guide, direct, give discernment to, and LEAD every member of the camp staff.

When we take a closer look, isn’t this really how our entire lives work?  Don’t we plan and rehearse, thinking we’ve got our act together and our five year plan knocked out cold… when all of a sudden, a cluster of plan-B-inducers slap us in the face and swing us seemingly “off-course”?  You’d be hard-pressed to find a follower of Christ who doesn’t have SOME element of this somewhere in their story.  We assume that we’ve been thrown off of our path and need to somehow deal with the issues at hand, navigating our way back to where we think we need to be. 

In reality, the “x-factors” that changed our path were the REAL path that God’s created for us.  The character and reflection of Himself that God wants to build in us through the times of trial are inseparable from life in Christ; if we’d be able to see in advance how He plans to use difficulties to mold and shape us, we’d kick & scream and fight to never let it happen.  But if we accept direction-changes as His handiwork instead of ‘something wrong happening’, we get a better glimpse of who He is and who we have yet to become. 

Let’s plan and prepare our life, surrendering EVERYthing to God with every step we take… and let’s not be unbelievably surprised when He allows our direction to change.  It may be for a season, it may be for our entire life… but it’s Him who purposed it, and it’s Him who should get the glory for writing our story the way HE wants to, regardless of what our involvement in it looks like.  I may be the tiniest pawn in his play or a main character for a chapter, but one thing’s for sure – I’m not the Author. 

Holy Author, please give me the strength to take each step that You give.  Give me the grace and discernment to navigate direction-changes that You’ve planned.  Give me unshakeable faith, that I may trust Your story is better than any one I’ll ever be able to write.  Give me more of You.