Flinching

“Two for flinching!” Bam! Bam!

Did you ever play that game when you were young?

The idea is this. I act like I’m going to punch you and, if you flinch, I get to punch you for real.

My boys tried it with me and I told them that if they punch me for flinching I get to kick them for being silly.

“But dad, it’s just a game.”

No, it’s trying to train my body to not do what it was designed to do.

Flinching is an autonomic reaction to a visual stimulus. It can be directed into various reactions of defense or offense. But to teach yourself not to react is just bad.

So gentlemen, why do we watch TV, watch a movie and then wonder why we struggle with pornography, with lust? Ladies, why do we read romance novels and then wonder why there’s a struggle to love your husband? Teens, why do you listen to popular music and struggle to find time for God?

These things will always backfire because they go against the design. We were designed to be visually stimulated, as men. Don’t put a stimulus in your path, don’t choose one that isn’t your wife. As women, you desire relationship. Don’t fill that need with the false ones in a book. As humans, our need is to be with God, spend time with Him. Don’t choose to listen to the world’s preaching, the world’s worship of money, of fame, of humanity.
It’s always best to follow the design.

Ha! Two for flinching!

Cold Water

A simple request.  “Could you get me some cold water?”

And I heard the voice of God!

I practice and sing.  I want to be “good”, whatever that means.  Excellence is a core value for our church, and for me personally.  I know that I’m not that good.  I have seen to many excellent musicians, doing amazing things, to ever think that I am even in their league.  But I still push myself.  At fifty-one years, having played for almost thirty-seven of those years, I still want to get better, faster, more confidant, more artistic.

But one thing is blatantly revealed in my playing, I am inadequate.

This may sound like self-pity or a need for encouragement.  It may sound like self-deprecation or humility.  It is not.

I have so much fun playing.  There are few things that sadden me more than not playing music.  There are only a couple that I ask God not to take from me.  One of those things is music, as realistically limited as my skills are, it is something so deep within me that to remove it would kill me.

So what does God want with me, my skills, my passions, my heart and soul?  What does the Creator of the universe, the one who put me together, planned me from the beginning of time, fashioned me through physical attributes and the molding of time and experience, what does He want from me?

“Could I have some cold water please?”

Cold water in a glass on a hot summer evening.  Cold water splashed in my face in the early morning.  Cold water lapping at my toes as I walk the beaches of Lake Michigan.  Cold water pouring over my body in the middle of winter.  A cold shower, an ice pack, snow falling softly in the middle of the woods or coming in blizzards that blanket our roads, our houses.

Cold water can come in many different forms.  Is that what You call me to?  To be refreshing, awakening, calming, shocking, healing, quieting, covering….

Yes, Lord.

What’s On Your Radio?

Every once in a while, I catch my sons listening to some pop, techno crap.  It makes me so mad I could scream.  I have taught them to like good music that takes more than a nice computer to produce.  Then other days, their listening to some country song about a girl in tight jeans, “gettin’ all tangled up”, or drinking the night away.

I know!  Makes me sound like some old guy.  But the truth is, I like good music, from all eras, all genres.  I like Rap, classical, country, punk, techno, blues, and many others.  The problems I have are more with what is being said and whether any thought and effort was put into the music.

I have heard many well meaning preachers, radio hosts, talk show people and counselors that are saying things that sound so good, so biblical.  Then I was reading in 1 Kings 13 about the man of God from Judah.  God had told him to deliver his message and then return a different way home.  He was not supposed to stop to eat or drink along the way.  But an old man of God lied to him, got him to do the wrong thing and he died because of it.

I think there are people who want to help.  They want to make things better.  They want to deal with problems.  But their words are not from God.

Check this:

In the bible, what does it tell us to fear?  Just God.  Never says to fear homosexuality or political figures.  What does it tell us to hate? Sin, evil, but never people, never relationships.  Are the songs we listen to telling us to devalue women?  Are they telling us to put ourselves first and others second?  Do they remove God from our lives or make Him greater?

Everyone, and I mean everyone should be weighed on whether they sound like God or the world.  Whether their voice has the tone of scripture or the condemnation of satan.

Because…in the end…we’ll follow what we listen to.

What’s Your Flavor?

The question caught me off guard.

It could’ve been asked different ways.  What’s your color?  What’s your background?  What’s your heart?

What’s your flavor?

He was trying to see what made me tick.  We were playing a song together and he saw through my attempts to sound like someone else, to immitate, to comply.

What’s your flavor?

I think Jesus asks us that some times.  He doesn’t want us to try to be like others.  He isn’t looking for us to fit some mold of contrived religion.  He created us as unique individuals that bring various facets of His nature, His beauty to light.  He didn’t bring us into creation to be like anyone.  He wants us, all of us.  He wants our light to shine, our purpose fulfilled – which is really His light shining through us.

So once again, I ask, what’s your flavor?

Is This Thing On?

I have heard so many responses from people hearing my pain that I feel like I have to say something.

I have had pain in my life.  Not everything has been easy, comfortable, fun.  THANK YOU, GOD!

To my parents (who read this):  you weren’t perfect.  Shocker!  Let me start with you.  Do you know that I watched you having devotions every morning?  In your failures, you sought God, you prayed.  You stayed in pursuit of God, even when you weren’t perfect.  That is a gift.  You read stories to me of Jesus.  You had me practice.  You were faithful, through the storms.  You had me read, a lot.  You made me go to church, to youth group, to missionary meetings, where I could see a real God at work.  Do I wish you would have behaved better?  Yep!  Probably about the same way my kids want me to behave better.

Now for the rest of you:  I get to play music.  I have people from multiple places around the world who listen to me and what I write.  These two things just blow my mind.  Totally unworthy, but there it is.  This past Sunday, I got to watch as 5 and 6 year old children raised their hands in worship.  Tonight, I play bass for our youth group and stand in awe of a God who is changing a generation.  I wouldn’t trade my life, my pain for anything.  GOD IS GOOD!

I share my doubts and struggles because they are voices that have ruled my life for many years.  I share my pain because I know that others are walking with me.  But those voices aren’t the only ones I hear and we are stronger as we walk together.

Please don’t feel bad for me, ever, for what I’ve been through.  Share your stories with me.  I bet we’ll find similarities.

And, I bet, if we look at Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives, we’ll see what satan meant for evil, God meant for good.

And HE WINS!

Too….

My good friend Caleb Sunnock (rock on Cast and Crew) said something last night that I just had to share.

“Did you know that Satan will never tell it’s the right time?  You will always be too something, and he will let you know.”

You’re too young.  You’re too old.  You’re too fat.  You’re too skinny.  You’re too dumb.  You’re too sinful.  Too!  Too!  Too!

But God’s voice is so different.  He never, never, ever, ever discounts someone.  Abraham, David, Paul, Peter is a short list that, if you look at it very closely will reveal people that were definitely too something.  But God used them mightily.  God used them for His glory.

God never gives up, never fails, never forsakes.  He is in constant pursuit of you and me, our hearts, our minds, our love.  And He doesn’t care where you are or where you’ve been.  He just wants you.

This doesn’t end when you become a christian.  Eternal security doesn’t mean He checks you off on some list.  He doesn’t ever lessen His love for us.

That is TOO amazing, TOO cool.

Fields of Gold

What happens in a marriage of two people who can’t live apart but then find they can’t live together?

When I met my wife, she took my breath away.  I couldn’t believe she answered the first letter I wrote to her, picked up the phone the first time I called.  I was shocked when she said she loved me.  When we kiss, my heart still skips a beat.

I’m writing this now but still neglect to let her know.

We almost didn’t make.  We almost ended it.  I walked away to live alone, to have my own way.  I spoke so many words of hate and anger.  I broke her trust and blamed her for every failure.

Do you know why I love my Jesus?

HE WRITES MY STORY!  HE COMPLETES EACH CHAPTER!

Satan would tell you that you write your own life.  We would close the book with pages still blank, with pictures unpainted, with songs unsung because it all gets so hard.

But not God, not my King.

He writes the harmonies.  He composes the lyrics and melody, with minor chords, sevenths that don’t make sense, dissonance and resolution.  He colors the canvas with grays of shadow and yellows of sunshine, blending colors, striking lines where definition and boundary are needed.

He writes my story.  And He will bring me, has brought me to healing and hope.

He brought me home.  He heals the wounds.

He gives me fields of gold.

Thank you, my love, for walking them with me.

Take My Breath Away

When was the last time the dawn caused your heart to skip a beat?  When did you last feel your pulse quicken at the melody of a song?  When was the last time the thought, the mere thought, of God took your breath away?

God can seem so distant, so austere on His lofty throne.  We can feel so, so small by comparison.  And in that distance of location, those dimensions of size and space, we can lose sight of Him.  His grandeur and magnificence can become intellectual exercises as we KNOW His vastness but lose all feeling of who He is.

When I consider that He commands stars and orbits, tells winds and waves to be still, orders the intricacies of my own anatomy, my mind is caught up in the hurricane of something too great for me to understand.  I know that, in my humanity, if I dwell on this, I will be undone as my walls of intellect and reason are torn down, the fortresses of stoicism and rationale crumbling to dust.  But then, He speaks of His love.

We can not forget the enormity of our King, His rule, His holiness, His unchallenged will.  But, it is His love, His mercy, His patience, His kindness that cause my breath to cease.  My body halting natural, unthought functions, in expectation of MORE, my brain suspending its normal tumult to hear, to feel what might come next and enjoy the wonder of His NOW.

Songs are inadequate, raised hands seem so trite.  But, what else can I do?  For when my breath returns, I can think of nothing else but to sing and dance, laugh and jump, clap and shout for the honor of living for Him.

The Way We Were

This song is running through my mind today which is wierd because I haven’t thought of it in years.  Nothing happened, that I can think of, to make me sentimental or nostalgic.  I simply started the day asking God what He would want to say through me and BAM this stupid old song starts playing in my brain.

Now I don’t want to offend any Streisand fans or insult anyone that loves this song but I’m sorry, it’s stupid.  I’m angered by the fact that we can feel so romantic and teary-eyed about a song written about a love that was once shared.  Two people who found each other in this crazy world, built a life together and then gave up.  Now they want to live on the memories of what they had together and find comfort in knowing the love they once shared.  WRONG!  WRONG!  WRONG!

I was talking with one of the youth and he was lamenting his twentieth birthday.  “After twenty, what else is there to look forward to.”  Kind of made me want to slap him.  His understanding of life was that after twenty there is nothing else.  After TWENTY you simply deteriorate and die?!  He saw his time here on earth as drawing to a close – AT TWENTY!  Boom! (That’s the sound of my mind being blown)

I’ve been walking with Jesus for thirty-four years.  I am now fifty-one.  I don’t want to look at my life with him and reminisce about the love I used to have for Him.  I don’t want to remember how great it was to live for Him.  And I certainly don’t want to see my life as finished.  I’m not finished dancing.  I haven’t sung my last song.  I can still riff around and love.

The way we were is nothing compared to the way we’re gonna’ be!!

A Symphonic Crescendo

I love to run sound for our church’s worship services.  It is a blast for me to work with the band, listening for the various nuances that bring out the beauty and power of a certain song or phrase.  But in simple terms, my job is to make things loud enough for people to hear them.  Oh but it gets better, I don’t want them to just hear it.  I want them to feel it, in their bones, in their souls.

A mistake made by newcomers to sound technology is to always elevate the sound.  By that I mean that a good bass part comes up so they push the sound of the bass, then a lead guitar part is due so they increase the volume of the lead, but then the keys are getting buried so they raise that up.  Before you know it the volume is at 120 decibels and no one can hear anything, certainly not the words to the song.  Part of what is difficult for even more experienced  technicians is knowing when and how to back off the sound of the instruments.

And before I lose too many of you, there is a word here from the Lord for all of us in this.

Loud getting louder is just loud.  Emotion getting more emotional is just emotion.  Worship that has the freedom to be quiet, the openness to invite God’s presence, will find His movement, His heart.  If, in our singing, we can not stop to listen for His voice, we will miss Him.

And the awesome wonder of our relationship with Him is that as we open up our hearts, create space for our lives to be joined with His, it then can build, together, to the moments, the rapturous places where time and space lose all meaning.  The locus where divine and human, eternal and finite join for the reason we were all created, to love and be loved.