contemplation

Dying to Comfort Vs Dying of Comfort: A Journey to the Prison - Micah Matthews No. 33 by Joshua Banner

Micah Matthews recently finished and MFA in fiction at Warren Wilson. This episode is his audio essay where he describes his visits to the prison with Josh. These visits cause Micah to reflect on the spiritual good of going outside of his comfort.

Without permission to take microphones and cameras into the prison, this essay is the next best way for you to come inside to taste and see the movements of the Holy Spirit in a prison.

The Invitation is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to cover our capital budget. Please consider contributing financially so that we can create more creative spiritual formation content like this for you. tinyurl.com/y9gqmnha 

Please subscribe to the Invitation Podcast to stay in the loop with all the new content as it becomes available.

Thanks for joining this journey with us!

Much Love & Peace to you!

Josh

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Update: A Hasidic Tale & Giving Tuesday! No. 32 by Joshua Banner

In this update episode, a Hasidic tale from Abraham Joshua Heschel helps us understand the Spirit's invitation to find the treasure right here in front of ourselves, right at home.

We are on the eve of #GivingTuesday. If you haven't had a chance to watch our Kickstarter video, please do.

Here's a link: tinyurl.com/y9gqmnhaA 

We hope you can catch onto the larger vision of what the Invitation is up to as a nonprofit connecting the prison to the local church parish through spiritual direction and this podcast. If you have means, please support the Kickstarter campaign as it raises money to fund our capital budget, money that will help us efficiently and creatively offer you spiritual formation resources on a more consistent basis.

Share the Invitation with your people, and pray for us on this crazy journey of trusting God. Peace & Love of Jesus to you!

The picture of this episode is the home of what we are calling 'Cloudstreet' as it is under snowy construction. Cloudstreet will be the hub of our practice of spiritual direction, a retreat space, and a production space!!!

Big hugs and LOVE!

Josh

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Conversation #10 Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove No. 31 by Joshua Banner

Who wants to talk politics & prayer?

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This conversation with Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove will lead you into a Spirit-filled wilderness of hope in the midst of our political wasteland.

Yes, trusting Jesus with our politics will be difficult and intimidating. We should offer more than any party-line assent. Opening ourselves to engage in this kind of learning curve and conversation will require courage and patience. This wilderness journey will bring us to exhaustion and then likely to our knees, to repentance, and then finally to Hope.

Here in this wilderness we must especially learn to wait on the Lord in quietness and trust. He alone is our salvation and help.

However, there are several voices in our country pushing back on this call to prayer. "No thanks," they say. "We don't need your thoughts and prayers. We need new legislation and we need your action!"

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
— C.S. Lewis

This response is fair if its in response to small prayers. C.S. Lewis famously argues in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory” that our desires are not too strong but too weak. We are far too easily pleased.

In a similar way our politics are not too strong but too weak. Our neighbors do need our thoughts and prayers if we are engaging God’s love in a transformative way. They need us to be so thoroughly changed by our thoughts and prayers that we might become agents of justice and righteousness in our neighborhoods and cities.

In this episode I offer you a hearty introduction to this conversation by encouraging you to enter into this wilderness desert for the sake of loving God with your strength for the sake of righteousness, which is justice. This episode is a challenging invitation for you to bring your politics under the Lordship of Jesus no matter your political leanings and affiliations.

Can we trust the Spirit to lead us into the wilderness, to brave this political storm growing our faith to believe yes, everything is going to be alright?

Truly truly! Verily verily! Amen amen!

Let it be so!

Love,

Josh


Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne edited the prayerbook Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Each day’s prayer is concluded with this:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
— originally from the Celtic book of Prayer
 

"Jonathan is a moral prophet and spiritual physician for our time. In this timely book, with the precision of a heart surgeon, he exposes the sickness that has long-plagued American Christianity and infected our society and politics, revealing that none of us is untouched by the disease. With the credibility of his life lived in solidarity with systemically oppressed people, he resounds a clarion call to reform the way in which we live the gospel. This is a must-read for all Christians in America. You will be humbled, enlightened, and motivated to heal the ailing heart of our country and recover its soul." 

-Philenna Heuertz

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5-ish Minute Prayer #7 "Autumn Prayer feat. Jordan Bruxvoort" no. 30 by Joshua Banner

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Have you taken a moment to breathe today? Have you noticed up close the changing colors? Have you stood still long enough to enjoy the wind on your face?

How is your sleep? How about your peace of mind?

There is much working against our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The local, national and world-wide news continues to waylay us with death. Death by tsunami (Indonesia). Death by suicide (my community). Death by body failure and age (my church and my great aunt).

And of course there is strife. We seem addicted to indignation and rage in America (pick any of today’s political news bites).

In this 5ish Minute Meditation, Jordan Bruxvort invites us to consider how the movements of Autumn teach us how to let go and trust. As the weather splinters, leaning towards winter, we are reminded that all things in creation disintegrate. All things eventually go to sleep. Yet beyond sleep and death, we yearn for and we trust in a greater hope of new life, of resurrection and spiritual help.

In this five-ish-minute meditation Jordan and I invite you to join Autumn in a season of letting go.

Peace & Love of Christ to you!

Josh


Jordan Bruxvoort was the first to help me identify the Jesuit vocabulary of “contemplatives in action” as he sought Ignatian spirituality to sustain his activism on behalf of immigrants. Jordan and I got to know each other in the first year of our practicum in spiritual direction with the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. He approaches his vision for social change through the lens of spiritual direction in a wise, generous way. A big thanks to him for being involved in the Invitation—for his encouragement, insight, and collaboration! I encourage you to take a look at his website and bio below.

And please don’t be shy. Email me if you also have something to offer the Invitation:
* a response to a guided prayer or conversation
* a creative insight into what the Invitation can offer
* if you’d like to write or even record a 5-minute meditation

Jordan Bruxvort Bio

For the last ten years, Jordan Bruxvoort has worked as a community organizer, primarily in the struggle for immigrants' rights.  Jordan, his wife Sarah, and their two children Amos and Abigail live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where Jordan directs the Naomi Project, a workers' and immigrants' rights project (www.projectofnaomi.org).

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Summer Retreat 2018 - Prayers of the Heart no. 25 by Joshua Banner

Much has already been said about the heart.

How many volumes upon volumes have been written to express the many movements of the heart? How many songs have been written to celebrate the goodness of the heart? And how many songs and poems lament the grief of the heart’s weaknesses, darknesses, and failures?
 
Yet with all that has been documented about the heart, why are most of us still relatively clueless about our own hearts and the hearts of those we are closest to? Why are we afraid of opening our hearts to each other, to God, or even to look closely at our own hearts? Why does the heart remain shrouded in mystery?
 
We can consider each story, poem, or song is a kind of map that offers us a vantage point to see the landscape of the heart. One map describes how the heart can move here over this mountain. Another shows the heart’s descent over there into a dangerous valley. The difficulty is that these are maps of someone else’s heart, someone else’s interior regions. Here is a terrifying consideration: there is no map available for the unique terrain of your heart. The only way for you to learn your heart is to practice it, to traverse it, to dwell within it.  
 
In Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter, the grandmother says that Thad Coulter “was not a bad man…I believed then, and I believe now, that he was not a bad man. But we are all as little children. Some know it and some don’t.”
 
When it comes to entering the terrain of our hearts, we are beginners; we are children. Yet few of us are willing to assume the assume a posture of child-likeness, so we feign and hide behind presumption, sophistication, and ego.  And why hide? To enter our hearts is to veer into close proximity of the regions where our deepest desires lie.  Here we can again celebrate a child who is immediately familiar with her desires. Children are vulnerable, often naked, and are by nature silly and even foolish. The most naïve have not learned to look over their shoulders and worry about who is watching.
 
Summertime offers some of us a hope of rest and play, a break from the seamlessly never-ending grind, the conveyor belt of daily humdrum we go through in fall and winter. I invite you to join four me and four friends in a conversation about the advantages of spiritual formation in the rhythms of the summer. In this episode, the third movement of the Summer Retreat 2018, we focus on prayers of the heart.  This episode can be approached on its own, but you’ll appreciate it more by listening and praying through the first two introductory episodes. We continue through the summer with the prayers of the mind, soul, and strength.
 
You can find prayer resources at the download page of the Invitation website, an overview of the prayer of examination and a worksheet, as well as the prayer guide, "40-Ways to Spend Five-Minutes with God." And you can also find some of the music used in the summer retreats for free on the music page.

Happy summer-time!
Peace & Love,

Josh

 

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5 Minute Prayer #13 'Meditation on Isaiah 9' no. 18 by Joshua Banner

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"Drop the mirror and let it shatter.
Crush the hourglass and stop the clock's ticking.
Stand still.
Hold your breath."


Immanuel, God Incarnate with us. The manifestation of God in human form is a first principle, absolute salt, the truest Reality, terra firma, the fabric of the cosmos. Words fail. How can we say anything well about Advent? No, we must immerse our consciousness in the presence of the Incarnate One, whom one theologian described as an "ontological revolution." Our minds will never wrap around Advent, yet it helps to proceed how St. Anselm and others encouraged have taught: to believe in order that we might come into understanding. We begin with Him, present in his Kingdom, and then everything else becomes clearer and true.

We had wandered in a darkness and then the Light of lights dawns upon us.

A few weeks ago I offered you a  long-form retreat, a mediation on lamentation. I humbly offer it for your advent prayer and worship if you haven't already spent time with it. It is perplexing that a few days after sending that your way, I enter into a new experience of confusion and hurt. This isn't the space to elaborate on my personal trouble, but its safe to say that I have new reason to understand Advent as a time of longing and ache. 

When we lament and ache, we have access to Jesus, our terra firma. He is ground zero. He is base camp, our safe harbor of love and healing.

I invite you to join me in this short-format, 5-Minute Prayer where I pivot off #13 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend 5 Minutes With God."In approaching this prayer method I recite a Meditation on Isaiah 9, a creative piece I wrote for a worship service back in 1999. Both the prayer guide and the reading can be found on the 'resources' page on at invitationpodcast.org.


Words will fail me in expressing how helpful it is to return to this writing on Isaiah 9 after all these years right here in the midst of personal hurt--to "drop the mirror" and rehearse Immanuel. I've been attentive to the swelling #metoo movement that has overtaken our country in the wake of the revelations about film producer Harvey Wienstien. These days I have to limit my daily intake of news and politics. I even deleted my facebook account to better find solace from the many heavy things pressing upon us. I assume you are also experiencing your own difficulties. Great or small, whatever our hindrance to faith, we bring every part of ourselves, every experience to Him especially during Advent. This year my gift box is full of questions instead of gold. Let's rehearse Immanuel and drawn near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings us, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:22).

Peace of Christ to you!

Josh

Retreat #5 Lament: To Cleanse Your Spiritual Eyes no. 17 by Joshua Banner

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As we enter Advent, we take a sober look at the darkness in and around us to prepare for the dawning of a Great Light. If we do not honestly look at this darkness, we diminish our exceeding need for the light of Jesus.

Eastern Orthodox spirituality richly embraces this honest, necessary look into the darkness by teaching that tears are a second baptism. If we truly weep over our sins, the compunction of our tears refreshes and renews our identity as children adopted into the Kingdom of God. Surely we also return to the essence of our baptism, our identity resurrection with and in Jesus when we turn to him in the midst of suffering and offer prayers of lament.

One third of the Psalms are lamentation, yet there is not one lectionary from any Christian tradition that includes lament in this proportion throughout the scope of its annual worship. We are able to say then that none of our worship is fully Biblical. None of us sufficiently bring our complaints, confusions, doubts, and anger to God. There is much for us to learn about ourselves and God in and through lament. 

The novelist and essayist Fredrick Buechner explains, "Before the Gospel is a word, it is silence." This is to also mean that "The Gospel is bad news before it is good news." Advent, like Lent is a time to imagine the grief and misery of a world without a savior. If we open ourselves with humility, we will also see how we have resisted God and made our lives desolate. We will see how we have allowed ourselves to live in darkness.

I invite you to participate in this fifth, long-format retreat to consider that lament is not an end it itself. Instead we explore how speaking honestly with God can heal us. Opening the door to our pain allows us to see the prognosis our our sin-sick lives and our sin-sick world. If we locate the source and location of the pain, we can then more intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into our suffering.

Peace of Christ to you!

Josh

Original music with help from Jared DeMeester and Josh Holicki.

5 Minute Prayer #41 'Our Father Is Younger Than We' No. 15 by Joshua Banner

G.K. Chesterton says that children are strong because they can enjoy monotony.

I've watched Casper, my seven-year-old, sit with markers, paper, scotch tape, and scissors for hours. He has a powerful internal strength that keeps him so focused on making things that it is difficult to get his attention. He gets thoroughly lost inside his rich internal world. Nothing seems boring to him as long as he is free to experiment with colors, textures, shapes, and the stories he tells about each drawing or cut out. Imagination and creativity are strong with this one.

God asks us to love him with strength, to be squarely focused on him. He desires that we might lose ourselves in abandonment to his love and presence, that we might be so consumed by him that it will be difficult to distract us from that love. 

How can we become so focused, so consumed by God's love? "Focus" shares the same latin root as the word "hearth," that space around a fireplace. We stay focused on that which warms us. Fire is mesmerizing. It attracts our gaze like almost nothing else. If you watch Casper at play with his art projects, you'll see a little boy lit by an inner fire. When he brings me his finished crafts, a shining light of excitement glows in his eyes. He is in love with his art. Art gives him a kind of strength that compels him to do strange things. He often wakes up early before school to have some alone time so he can piece together something new. When we have favorite guests over, he will go to the other room to make them special gifts of his art. He wants to share his fire. He does so easily.

How is the fire inside of you? What are you focused on these days?
What fire is consuming you?
Do you want to be aflame with God's love? 


I invite you to stoke the fire of your own strong love for God in this newest 5 Minute Meditation, "Our Father is Younger Than We" based on prayer exercise #41 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend Five Minutes With God."

Peace of Christ to you!

Josh

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5 Minute Prayer #14 'Lion or the Dove' No. 11 by Joshua Banner

A lion or a dove? How do you meditate?

The awkward truth about prayer is that you can only learn it by practice. This can be a very discouraging realization. This truth can cause many to avoid prayer altogether. We don't like being beginners. We don't want God to be difficult, and we don't know how to be alone and quiet. We assume that if Jesus is really about love, then a relationship with him should be convenient and simple.

I know how to confess the difficulties of prayer because I've been discouraged most of my life in regard to prayer. Even while serving as a ministry leader, I held God at arm's length and struggled to sit still and give myself to his presence and truth through prayer and meditating on the Scriptures. 

While we can't learn how to pray from books or from someone else, it is possible to gain some inspiration and even some practical coaching on what to look and wait for as we approach God. This is the gift of spiritual direction and what I hope is the gift of this podcast outreach: that you can find some inspiration and practical help to get started or to try again to know and be known by God.

Prayer is simple. It is accessible and even convenient, but not in the way we think of any other simple, accessible, or convenient thing in our lives. Once you enter in you will understand in your own way what I mean. Talking to God is unlike talking to anyone else. Being in his presence is different than the personal presence of any other being. This is God. No one is like him. When you go to prayer on your own, you will learn your own way. There are various ways! You might pray like a lion or a dove, or in some completely other way. 

To understand what I'm getting on about, I invite you to listen to episode no. 11 based on prayer exercise #14 from the prayer guide, "40 Ways to Spend 5 Minutes With God."

5 Minute Prayer #4 'Listing Your Loves' no. 9 by Joshua Banner

The goodness?
The truth?
I'm having a real good time. 

Living into my vocation has become a delight. Yes, there are genuine difficulties. Susanna and I lost three babies in the past three years (Jericho 20 weeks, Tiernan and Havilah at almost seven). I really miss being with college students and running a recording studio at Hope College. At times it is a mess managing two little boys, the house, the calendar, making meals.... Yes, I'm at my worst in the 'witching hours' of 3:30-8pm. 

However, I'm happier, healthier, and more emotionally and spiritually present than ever. In fact, the Spirit is changing me in ways that are beyond anything I could ask or imagine. 

How? Meditation, the Scriptures, contemplative prayer, spiritual direction, serving in the prison, risking with God. These are all things you and I have known for a long time about faith. It's just that I've only begun to take it all seriously in the last five or six years. 

Please consider the Invitation Podcast my attempt to share the goodness with you, to invite you to listen to the Spirit's invitation. What could be more fun than to watch the Holy Spirit speak to incarcerated felons and pastors?

A NEW 5-Minute Format!
This will end up being five-ish minutes. As you see, I've put a big No. 4 on this one. The 4 refers to exercise #4 from the prayer guide "Forty Ways to Spend 5 Minutes with God" that I wrote for Harderwyk. The idea is to do guided meditations of each of the 40 prayer exercises. N. 4 is my first attempt at this. As always, I appreciate your positive/critical feedback.

I started with #4 because I hope it might especially help with the front end of Lent:  During Lent we are attempting to slow down, do less, eat less, drink less…to empty ourselves…to create internal space for God as we anticipate his resurrection. I pray episode No. can help you live into Jesus' death and resurrection.

I invite you to 'list your loves' here in Episode #9 on prayer exercise No. 4.  

The closing song, "Psalm 23:1-2" is used with permission from theversesproject.com and Zach Winters.

Conversation #3 Sharon Garlough Brown no. 7 by Joshua Banner

 

January 7, 2017

In late November I had the good pleasure of sitting down with author of Sensible Shoes, Sharon Garlough Brown. In our conversation Sharon says:

"Whenever we are talking about spiritual disciplines, we have to talk about them as ways of receiving the love of God, and then abiding in the love of God, and then finally responding to the love of God."
 

I fear that we often get this backwards. We focus on our actions trying to live out the Christian life without substantially receiving much of his love into our lives. When we get this backwards--when we don't live with a deep sense of God's love--we will either practice a vain, superficial Christianity or a very guilty, heavy Christianity. 

In my conversation with Sharon Garlough Brown, you'll get a glimpse of a woman compelled to serve God out of an abundance of love. 

A few years ago several women in my spiritual direction cohort recommended Sharon's books to me as a good way to introduce folks to contemplative prayer and spiritual direction. A few even said they were training to become directors all because of what the Spirit stirred in them through Sensible Shoes. I quickly read the book and introduced it to Harderwyk where it has taken off. 

For those of you who still feel outside contemplative spirituality--those who are scratching their heads wondering who Ignatius of Loyola is--this conversation should be helpful. Sharon and her fiction are very much in the Spirit of the Invitation Podcast extending the invitation into the deep love and life of God. 

I welcome you into conversation #3 with Sharon Garlough Brown as we discuss Sharon's journey into spiritual direction, the story behind her Sensible Shoes books, Ignatian Spirituality, the missional church, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, the disciplines of silence, lectio divina, journaling, Scripture meditation, and Sabbath keeping. Sharon also recites a section of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "Aurora Leigh."

Conversation #2 Brad Kilman no. 6 by Joshua Banner

December 20, 2016

In early November I had a reunion with my long-time friend, Brad Kilman. Brad and I have been friends since we were 18, almost 25 years. We were interns together at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City in 1999. We wrote our first worship songs and recorded them with Charlie Hall for his Generation Productions during that time.

Over the years since I have had to discern my way through the conundrum of contemporary worship. There is enormous power in those instruments and musical voicings that can easily dethrone God with ego and self-worship. As I've struggled to trust leaders and songs, Brad has been a touchstone especially when he says things like:

"I only have my own affection and my own prayer. And if that is not true and honest before him, the I have nothing to give...."

It had been two years since we had been together, so there was much to talk about. The recurring theme of our discussion on and off the podcast mic was how to follow God. As the conversation progressed, we began to outline the similarities between leading worship and practicing spiritual direction.

Mostly it was just good to be with a spiritual friend. 

A spiritual friend is a true gift of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual friend shows you God in ways that make you jealous for more of God. Deep calls unto deep. Brad's relationship with Jesus--the way he sings to God and loves God is contagious. 

I welcome you into conversation #2 with Brad Kilman as we cover topics like song writing, mentoring worship leaders, the influence Charlie Hall and Don Chafer had on us, balancing life with ministry, serving a local church community, the ego, the enneagram, Taizé, and our first experiences in a recording studio.

 

www.bradkilman.com Also check out www.theversesproject.com to find more of Brad's music. The next interview will be with author, Sharon Garlough Brown in anticipation of a contemplative prayer retreat for church leaders she will be co-leading with Josh February 7-8. Then we will begin releasing a new five-minute retreat format that will correspond to Josh's prayer guide, "Forty Ways to Spend Five-Minutes With God." At the end of this episode you can hear a bit of a song based on Psalm 103 written by Brad and recorded in a cabin during their time in a cabin near Three Rivers, MI.

Conversation #1 Joseph Byrd OLF no. 5 by Joshua Banner

November 1, 2016

In this episode, I sit down with my spiritual director, Joseph Byrd OLF, to conduct the very first interview of the Invitation Podcast! Joseph has helped me and many others, even so-called 'hardened prisoners,' experience God's loving presence.  In this conversation with Joseph you can experience our shared joy and love for each other and God. Our deepest lessons are more 'caught than taught,' as God is a person to experience instead of a concept to explain. In this discussion with Joseph, my hope is that you will catch on to a new experience of God as I have over the past seven years.

Joseph says:

"Prayer is so much like music....What my sense of God has become is flow."

And goodness, does this conversation flow!

Join me for Conversation #1 with Joseph Byrd OLF as we cover topics like prayer, suffering, waking to God as if from a dream, music, prison outreach, CS Lewis, Dallas Willard, Teilhard de Chardin, St. Ignatius, St. Francis of Assisi, Isaac of Nineveh, Evelyn Underhill and more.

Retreat #3 - Revelation 3 no. 4 by Joshua Banner

"I will come in to you to eat with you, and you with me."

September 18, 2016

We eat from many different tables even while the Spirit of Christ has invited us to eat from the abundance of his table. As CS Lewis has said, "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us....We are far too easily pleased."

Yet, how do we sit down and participate in the greater pleasures of God? This retreat slowly and carefully guides you through Scripture, quotes from great authors (Fredrick Buechner, Origen, Theophan the Recluse), and questions for you to consider, all to help you become more familiar with God in prayer.


Join me for Retreat #3 as we meditate on Revelation 3 and consider the inner regions of our hearts.

Music:
“Save My Life” Josh Banner 1999
“Always Faithful” by Brad Kilman www.bradkilman.com
"Silence" Josh Banner and Susanna Childress 1999
Josh with Jared DeMeester (uke & upright bass)
Other sound design by Josh (rhodes w/ fx) & Josh Holicki (snare)
“Light of Jesus” Instrumental Josh Banner