Thursday, February 21, 2019

"A Night To Forget"

Around 10 years ago, I lived what seemed like a nightmare mixed with a terrible movie, blended with an out-of-body experience. Anyone who’s every played gigs in unconventional venues, with unexpected outcomes, should be able to relate somewhat. Special thanks to my friends and band mates for going WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND where any musician friend or family member should EVER have to tread! I am forever indebted to them for enduring your basic night in hell with me. Enjoy the account from 10 years ago, and yes, you can feel sorry for us.....still today.   

     I have to paint this picture for you, so please hang out here, for a bit. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in an all day celebration of the homecoming of around 600 U.S. troops! I was one of 12 artists who had agreed to donate their time in a concert event at a local VFW hall! (I should add here that I’ve NEVER been to a VFW hall). Each artist was to perform about a 45-minute music set! In the meantime, there were suppose to be various, “family-friendly” activities for the troops and their families to enjoy! The promoter (who was a super nice dude) had told me they were expecting over 1000 people in attendance. He told us our own private dressing room would be waiting, stocked with water, drinks, snacks, towels, and personal assistants to be at our beck and call…well, actually that last one was more MY imagination and wishful thinking, but I digress.
Hours of prep work went into choosing music material, learning songs, putting together a slammin’ band, and rehearsals! We were anticipating quite an event! Our families and a few friends were planning to go hang out with us at this private event, and enjoy this really cool occasion! I was mentally prepared for this event! I was physically amped up and ready to rock! I was performing THESE songs live for the first time! I had covered it in prayer, and asked that God really do something incredible through this opportunity that had come our way! Of course, Admittedly, I was hoping to see this opportunity give birth to other opportunities, as well! Now, you should know that my band consisted of 4 VERY GOOD FRIENDS! I consider them EVEN BETTER FRIENDS now, as you will understand why, later…haha! All things were in place, right down to all the back-line equipment that was suppose to be set up and ready for the band! This was gonna really be a cool event! We were pumped! We were ready…………..
As we drove up to the venue, the security showed us where all the rockstars were suppose to park—right behind the 5 massive Harley Davidson bikes with American, and I think, Confederate Flags hanging from the back of the bikes! We got out of our vehicles, and began to “survey” the setup and the venue. At this moment, we began to realize that either we were at the wrong VFW hall, OR we were about to perform in what could only be described as a scene from the movie Roadhouse mixed with a scene from the movie Deliverance, sprinkled with trappings from EVERY Honky Tonk from W. Virginia to Sacramento. You know the ones…..where the patrons enjoy smoking A LOT, and drinking A LOT! Oh yeah, AND they HATE ANYTHING THAT’S NOT COUNTRY music or an arrangement of the tune “Freebird”….AND, did I mention…I’M NOT A COUNTRY ARTIST, I'M A ROCK/AC ARTIST???….yeah, Fun Times ahead!
As the band and I get out and walk up to the venue, I realize….THIS COULD BE INTERESTING, AND I HOPE WE LIVE TO TELL ABOUT IT.
I find the promoter (who was a super nice dude), and ask him a few questions about where we needed to go? what we needed to do? where was our “plush” dressing room? WAS there even as much as a crawl space that might be non-smoking in the vicinity? which redneck I needed to fight first?, was the “woman” who just walked by INDEED a man?, and other pressing inquiries that begged for answers.
The promoter (who was a super nice dude) began to unveil the horror that awaited us. To shorten the story, I’ll give some details in bullet point items below…..here was what we found out…
1. The 1,000 or so troops and their families seemed to be nowhere around.
2. We received the news that a convoy of troops, supposedly coming to hear us, got lost and LITERALLY, wound up in a place called Bucksnort! THAT’S WHAT HE TOLD ME! He didn’t know when or even IF the troops would get there.
3. 15 minutes before our performance was to begin, we discovered that there was NO back line gear for the band—NO AMPS! Our guitarists and bassist only brought their guitars, and NO AMPS! The drum kit WAS shiny, but that’s where the “pretty” stopped!
4. We would be singing after a talented country artist who sang 2 songs entitled, “I Got A Thinkin Problem” (or was it Drinkin problem), and “Too Much Blood in My Alcohol Level”
5. The “dressing room” was the VFW Ladies Auxiliary room. Our refreshments consisted of 2 old, blue, worn out Coleman Coolers filled with some sort of bottled water. BUT, it was cold water! Thumbs up there!
6. The sound on stage would be “unique”. The guitars and bass would use the monitors as their amps. My vocal mix was peppered with a dizzying array of all things noisy, EXCEPT for the actual lead vocal. BUT, the monitors were nice and big. (Note to self…ALWAYS carry your in-ear monitors)
7. Of the 1,000 expected in attendance, only about 40-50 would be left to hear US and our “set”.
8. Most of THEM were still living off the euphoric “high” that the previous country artist left them in! So when we would take the stage, what a “buzz kill” we were sure to provide…..since we weren’t country and all.
9. I performed about 3 “ballad” type songs, including one called “Beautiful”! Let the irony sink in here! I do think that I saw one mammoth biker dude shed a tear on verse 2 of Beautiful, though! Nice moment there.
10. And finally, the last song of our set was an anthem like, very emotional tribute tune to honor our troops (who evidently were still in Bucksnort). I did this song complete with huge orchestration and strings—sounded like a freakin David Foster arrangement! I even spoke before the song to the “throngs” of 40-50 folks who were left smoking on Camels, and knockin back brewskis, and dedicated it to the troops (who were NOT there). I felt truly relevant right about then. Just before the second verse of this anthem, there was a dramatic pause. While waiting to begin the second verse lyric, there in the silence, a young lady quite inebriated, loudly made her one request of me as she yelled out……”SING SOME LYNNARD SKYNNARD!!!!” What a moment to honor our troops (who were not there).
This was indeed a great event for the band and me! At this point, let me mention how much I love those guys in the band for being willing to jump in the trenches with me last night….THEY ARE REALLY GOOD FRIENDS, and I owe them BIG TIME! Afterwards, the promoter (who was a super nice dude) apologized profusely to me over and over, to which I replied, no problem, we’re just honored to be a part of this event to honor the troops! (who were not there).
While explaining this story to my family afterwards, I told them that I honored my commitment to the promoter and my publisher, (who also apologized PROFUSELY) even though it was a challenge and the circumstances were difficult. I used this experience as a chance to teach a life lesson of sorts to my kids about honoring their word, integrity, and so forth! They received it, especially my 10 year old.
Later that night while tucking the kids in bed, we prayed together. My 10 year old took his turn to pray, and prayed this prayer,….”Jesus, even though my dad’s concert was sort of crazy, hopefully something he sung MAYBE touched one person and helped them. That would make it all worth it.”
At this point, I had to learn a life lesson as well! My frustration gave way to focus!
We never know what God can do through us, even in crazy, unexpected, extremely uncomfortable circumstances!!!! Our effort is to remain intimate with Him, stay prepared, use our gifts with excellence, live life with honor and integrity, stay humble, and…..always take time for promoters who are super nice dudes! Well, that last part might have been a lesson just for me! Thanks for listening! Peace!

Friday, November 9, 2018

"re-Church"

Considering the tragedy of last week, with the young pastor at a large church in California committing suicide, and after enduring the recent rant of a well-known minister about people “leaving” churches, and not having the same passion or commitment to “the church” as the “pastor”, AND, about folks not giving enough or attending the gatherings consistently enough, I thought it timely to re-visit this earlier post….
I heard some rather alarming statistics recently. Unbelievably high percentages of people in ministry who gave up on what they considered their calling, walked away from their purpose, battled depression and mental illness, felt abandoned as “members” were leaving what they were building, and who also said that many of their families were negatively affected because of the perceived demands and pressures in “ministry”. I totally understand, and get that there is a real enemy trying to take out people who seek to engage and reflect God’s good kingdom work. But could it be that the occupational hazards of stress, frustration, & pressure in ministry are often times self-inflicted, because many people insist on trying to fulfill ministry expressions, focuses, images, and roles never intended by God to be associated with or define church or ministry? Or perhaps the “labels” of ministry that people use so often today such as “pastor”, “spiritual covering”, “bishop”, “apostle”, etc… were not intended to look like “western church” culture has made them to be. I’m pretty sure that the early church looked a bit different than much of what we accept as the norm today, and even vehemently defend as the only “legitimate” expression of “church”, in function and design. Maybe we have mistakenly attempted to live up to the false expectations of others, and the prevalent philosophy of what “ministry” is really about? Jesus was the ultimate model of ministry, and He gave the purest example and expression of the work of His church. He lived un-phased by comparison or competition, totally at rest, joyful, and ministering out of the overflow of His life and the purpose of His Father. He was clear of mind, always living in love, with a complete understanding of what true abundance, success, and life were truly all about. The Kingdom of God is not an American made “corporate”, top down, “caste” system of church and ministry. There is ONE shepherd, and it’s HIS church. What man builds, he has to maintain. And yet most continue to defend the old wineskins and marginalize and criticize those who would point out this reality. #NewThing #NewDayNewWineNewWay #WhoKnew #ThrivingNotSurviving

Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Divided Body, Darkened Culture"

Jesus is not insecure about who He is, but many within His body seem to be. He isn't worried about His people being "led astray", but many within His body seem to be. They are more interested in sniffing out “heretics”, charlatans, and those with whom they disagree, instead of reflecting the Light of His truth, love, grace, & power. He doesn't shame those who wrestle with Him or question Him with sincerity of heart in their quest to find and know His heart, but many within His body certainly try to. He isn't swayed by terminology, controversy, argument, semantics, doctrinal quibbles, or the like, but many within His body certainly are. He sees the heart of every matter, while many in His body seem content to pass judgment based on surface, temporal, and symptomatic grounds. The varying processes of time and revelation that His people embark on, in order to become conformed to His image, do not intimidate Him, but many within His body are self-professed “fruit inspectors”, and staunch defenders of preferential “truths”, holding others to their pious and self-imposed standards and timelines. He trusts His Spirit within each believer to "lead and guide into all truth", while many within His body are insistent on assisting in, or even filling the role of the Holy Spirit by manipulating, condemning, or coercing some sort of pseudo behavior modification through doctrinal and scriptural distortion or out-of-context twisting. He is not concerned about many of the differences within His body, which many in His body make such big deals about, even to the point of dividing over, or unfairly labeling one another as heretics, not having the "whole truth", or unbelievers. He is into the unity of His body, and unity of the spirit between His followers. There are a number of “straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel” issues that we emphasize and set in the place of litmus tests of fellowship and community, that actually matter very little to Him, and many remain stubbornly clueless to this reality. And yet, the body of Christ has become splintered, polarized, and overwhelmingly contentious as a result of those things that have little to no eternal significance. The sad thing is, that many within His body often minimize and even miss the things that He does value and consider of Kingdom significance and eternal worth. Just like the religion-defending pharisees of old, their offspring can be clearly identified in our current day culture. Religion always focuses on and puts preeminence on matters of appearance, image, doctrine, tradition, and law; Jesus places focus and preeminence on matters of the heart, a renewed mind, and a transformed life. The Pharisees were obsessed with the law, ancient traditions, and rituals. Modern day Pharisees are often obsessed with theology, appearance, and doctrinal conformity--much of which is based on interpretation and personal perspective instead of Spirit-revealed revelation. Both versions of the pharisaical expressions fixate on some substitutionary spirituality to give them a sense of self-righteousness, performance piety, and even connection to God. Both fail to understand the simplicity and power of the Gospel, the actual “plan” of salvation--which is indeed a free gift, not a progressive “recipe” of 3 ingredients, or something earned through merit systems of personal “right-ness”--,the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Grace and faith life, and the all sufficiency of Christ alone. They insist on adding to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, with performance, principle–following, and shame-based living. They ultimately substitute religion for relationship, and a form of godliness for His transforming power. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth would lead and guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit, and not a mastery of apologetics, theology, homiletics, or doctrinal “I-dotting and T-crossing”, will lead us and guide us into all Truth. The Holy Spirit corrects, aligns, and harmonizes the hearts & minds of the followers of Christ with the very Christ they are following. Many Christians and Christian leaders evidently don't really trust the Holy Spirit's leading in the lives of others, so they depend on "substitutionary" methods of “truth-guiding”. The fact is, the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of leading people--including exposing error. There is no need for fear or shame-based manipulation, in order to prompt people into alignment with our perspective of truth, or our preferences for their behavior. The purpose of five-fold ministry should be to encourage people in their gifts, their growth in grace and love, and their intimacy with Christ under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, instead of “strong arming” them into conformity to a religious set of doctrines or personal perspectives and ideals. Let the Holy Spirit do His job. Any thing less than that produces a divided body, misplaced allegiance, an atmosphere of cultural cynicism, and an ever-worsening darkness in a world in need of a Savior reflected in His body, in earth, as in Heaven. (Mark 9:38-41, Luke 9:49-50, John 17:11, Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Another 'What The Hell!' Moment"



I try, I don’t try. I work, I don’t work. I listen, I ignore.
My life has become a checklist, a desperate formula to somehow find an open door.
Every effort to surrender, every attempt to rest.
Always seems to land me back in this mental mess.
I’ve analyzed til’ I’m paralyzed, I’m numb and at the end.
This isn’t a new destination, it’s a state in which I’ve often been.
I’m out of ideas how to get over, walk through, and overcome.
I’ve tried desperately to rest in, trust in, and depend on the power of the only One.
So why do I always end up in this desert, this cave, this ‘what the hell’!
When will I ever finally see the fruit of what I believe come to life in the story I tell?
I’ve only One that I can run to, only One to heal my soul.
The silence cannot continue, this long, dark night in an emotional black hole.
When will I find that place of restful repose
Where I confidently and securely function in what my heart knows.
That I’m loved by the One who is more than enough
To fill every place, where I can’t measure up.
Not a failure, vulnerability, or a flesh and blood flaw
Can keep me from becoming and being the man that He saw
When He placed me in Christ before the world breathed its first
To live life abundant in every facet of my existence here on earth.
I can experience Kingdom come in the right here, right now space and time.
Every promise, every blessing, every desire from His heart is now mine.
So in every “what the hell” moment, when my strength is all but gone.
I simply believe, fall into His grace, and trust He is working, and I’m never alone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"The Plodders"


Dramatic, major event-type stories and tales of tragedy to triumph, rags to riches, or from the outhouse to the penthouse, often garner the biggest stages, and those "heroes" who live these "grandiose" experiences or meteoric rise, receive the most accolades, and enjoy the greatest opportunities. They are sexy and sensational, and people are drawn to them. But the plodders--those who go day after day, year after year, and extended season after season, fighting intense battles out of the limelight, surviving and suffering away from the stage and the clamoring crowds and thrill seeking masses wanting to vicariously live through the glamour of those episodes--their stories often go unsung, unnoticed, and unappreciated. Process oriented stories are not "newsworthy". They don't sell books, or build a following. However the plodders are the ones who understand the journey of life, the meaning of character development, patience, perseverance, and trust. Ironically, the plodders give hope to us all--not just short-lived inspiration. They write the stories that relate to the journeys of so many people--even the ones who are busy chasing down the "events", and the movie-worthy plot lines, and those who "star" in them. The plodders face the maddening mundane and the daily dirty, and they often do so from a forgotten place of hidden obscurity while trying to find their purpose, live their dream, grow their faith, and serve their God without recognition or reward, often void of external validation. While it is proper to celebrate EVERY story of life, hope, and true success, we must not forget the plodders. Don't abandon them as "background" noise, or opening acts to a headliner. Don't relegate them to bylines or irrelevant, less valuable "extras" as you try to build YOUR own reputation & purpose by hobnobbing, associating with, or vicariously living your own dream by attempting to ride on the backs of celebrity figures and their Pulitzer prize-worthy stories. Chances are, the plodders have more to offer you in the way of example, of hope, and a relatable process that you can identify with in your own story.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Changing Chapters"

My family and I have lived in Nashville (Franklin) for almost 11 years. It has been an unexpected, bewildering process at times. We have experienced seasons of loneliness, isolation, and confusion as to why God brought us here in the first place. We have met some incredible people, and even re-connected with a few from years gone by, but have never really found that sense of community that God has given us the desire for. Circumstantially speaking, we have made some priceless memories, watched our kiddos grow and thrive, and enjoyed some unforgettable moments, and yet we have endured some of the most challenging times of our lives, relative to our careers, our passions, and our provisions. I have misunderstood the voice of God at times with regard to what "part" we were to play, our purpose, and our engagement in the grand scheme of His vision for us here. That has, on occasion, prompted me to make "well-intentioned" decisions that have in fact turned out to be misguided and a bit ill-timed. But through all of that, I've had such a peace in knowing that God led us here. I have never been in doubt about that! I have seen God's hand at work in our lives, and have watched Him order our steps, even when it looked like to me that those steps were only going around in endless circles without rhyme or reason, all leading us to yet another lonely waiting room, for us to sit in disappointment with our deferred hopes and unfulfilled dreams. But this wild & crazy ride has been absolutely transformative and revolutionary to me personally! My journey with God, the recovery of my identity in Christ, and the story He has been writing in me leave me overwhelmed with gratitude, joy, and an indescribable expectancy for the next! I am discovering that the power of experiencing your revealed purpose is worth the pain of enduring your concealed preparation. God's timing can be trusted! His faithfulness can be rested in! I've often lamented that I wish I would have begun this last 10 year stretch of my journey in my 20’s instead of my 40’s, to which God replied (or at least I "imagined" that He replied) "You are less of an idiot now than you were in your 20's, and besides, age is never a problem or a hindering factor with me. Just ask Abraham & Sarah. You’re just getting started. Besides, I've still kept you looking and feeling like you are in your 20's, so there's that." Now see, doesn’t that sound just like the voice of God?
And thankfully, there is the now! And there is God's perfect timing again! 10.5 years later, the purpose is beginning to dawn. And as far as community, I believe THAT will unfold. There are certain aspects of living here in Franklin that feel a little "transit", even after 10 years, namely, still living in an apartment, and the community thing. But I feel strongly that our purpose has birthed, and has been developed from here. His Kingdom legacy in our lives is burgeoning from here! These past 10.5 years have been a longer-than-I-had-hoped period of preparation and isolated discovery. God has mercifully been reconnecting me to my identity, and His heart for my family and me. I have never been more excited about the revealing of this next chapter. Every part of our story has been leading up to THIS CHAPTER! Man, am I ready to close the one I’ve been reading over and over for 10 years, and start reading the new one! Thanks for listening!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"The End?"

 This might seem like a bit of a “dark” note, but read all the way to the end. Although it is a raw, transparent expression, deep beneath the tumultuous surface of the sea of this weary soul, there is a calm where the reality of Christ in me holds me in an unrelenting grip of perfect love & faithfulness. There is truly an amazing Light at the end of this tunnel. We have the ultimate Hope! And He is never absent from where we may be, even when we feel that there isn’t much of “US” left to give. Be encouraged! “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalms 3:3 ESV

      How do you know if you’re arriving at the end of yourself? Are there indicators in your emotions? Or do you simply reach a place where you are too emotionally and mentally exhausted to offer up any emotional response or basic coherent mental “functionality”? Do you feel as if your self worth itself is up for debate? Do you find yourself without any natural energy, even for elementary and mundane tasks? Do you begin to question if your family would actually be better off without you? Do you entertain the notion that, although your process and journey have taken a long time, and you know that surely your “spirit” must have grown significantly, you still feel as though you are no further along now than you were at the start of the whole process, and you are STILL hijacked by the same issues you have battled from the beginning? Is there a relentless fear, shame, and insecurity that seems to be growing stronger in its attacks on your heart and mind? Do you feel forgotten or rejected by pretty much everyone? Do you find yourself starting to believe that you were meant for nothing more than to have your ass busted over & over in the furnace of preparation and constant deferred hope, but never meant to finally experience “breakthroughs” in this life? Do you feel powerless to live from the place where God has been building you, and instead, you continually fall into the pattern of living according to your ever-present circumstances, failures and missed opportunities, cycles of maddening “stop, start, repeat”, and perpetual self-loathing? Do you find yourself apologizing to seemingly everyone for everything about yourself? Do you feel like a “leper”, avoided by everyone, the one who always reaches, but no one seems to reach back? Do the liabilities of your personality and nature overwhelm you, and though you fight like hell to settle in, rest, and live from the place of your true identity, you just can’t seem to break the “one step forward, two steps back” pattern of living? Do you have to continually fight the urge to give in to the “screw it all” mindset? Do you find yourself bargaining with God, begging Him to give some sustained relief, and trying to influence Him with some sort of personal life journey “resume”?  If any of these “symptoms” are indicative of reaching the end of yourself, then thankfully my long, dark season (at least that’s the way it has “seemed” to my natural man) has not been wasted. In fact, it has been a most joyous process. So, along with me, take heart & rejoice, for in this case, “The End Is Near” is an exciting proposition, instead of some doomsday proclamation. For it’s at the end of yourself where you find the beginning of your true identity. That identity that you were created for, to enjoy and thrive, and live In Him, not in the “best version” of your old self, but a brand new identity. Life lived from THAT reference point is truly abundant, and it’s worth coming to the end.