Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Problem of Pain

I am going to talk about something that makes me by nature, uncomfortable. I have heard quite a few Christians lately, including myself come near to apologizing for pain. In doing so they come close to apologizing for God. Everyone seems to be stumped when it comes to why there are people who are dying in the world. Why there are children crying and innocent people suffering. It is as if they believe that God is causing it and we have never heard or dealt with the problem of pain. We have forgotten that at the root of it lies a choice in a Garden.

We visit other countries and return depressed because we think God is absent. Usually an evil government headed by evil men causes poverty and war. Ironically, in natural disasters somehow we can cope. Not only do we cope, we wrongfully assume that God purposefully does it to bring vengence. It is in the disasters caused by man where we coil and accuse. I hear about pampered, rich Christians going to other countries and return wondering why God allows suffering. It is not that I don't understand empathy, Love, Charity and Sympathy. It is that I don't understand the full-on animosity towards God that results as if there is some wisdom that has escaped God and has found refuge under our salon shampooed and conditioned hair, resting in our superior gray matter.

For some reason this makes me angry. I get angry when Christians become confused and ackward at the sight of pain. At the same time I marvel at Christians who can endure pain and bring hope. Sometimes we don't have the answer that brings any relief, it is true, but sometimes, we do. Or at least we should and pain is hardly ever eased with words. Another problem is that knowing the root or source of the pain or evil doesn't do much for the sufferer and this makes the Christian feel angry and turn their fist toward God. Forgetting that the very compassion that flows from them to know compassion for those that suffer at all, comes from the one to which they wave their fist. If it weren't for God and his Love, the caring individual wouldn't care at all. Again, this makes the suffering no less painful. It is the powerlessness of ourselves in it all that gets us.

I have wept over family members lowered into the ground. I have wept for the suffering of an immediate family member. I have watched and cried allowed to God for the deteriorating mind of my closest friend. I have observed answered prayers and I have sat in the cold silence of unanswered prayers. I myself have suffered. I don't boast of it, nor do I shrink from it. I am sure that I will suffer more. I hope God grants me the Grace to endure and grants others the Grace to Love me during.

The cold truth of the matter is that suffering is the effect of the fall of man. Something that we don't really like to hear. Who likes to hear the truth though? Who likes to hear that they need to loose weight or that they have an addiction? Evil and suffering is a product of the assertion of the will against God, and his warning. He told the truth and we didn't believe it. It was the price for the Will. God saw it better to bring Glory out of suffering then to not allow suffering at all. No suffering was wished or caused purposefully by God. How can it if God is truly Love as John so profoundly stated. God entered mankind and took the evil by the root and yanked it up. He did this by suffering Himself. Afterwards he left a great hope for the world by remaining in the world via his Body, the Church. So while we still suffer, we can hope and give hope when there could have been none. Hope is the flower that blooms in the ashes of the worst disaster. I marvel at how any Christian can accuse God of allowing suffering while sipping on their warm Carmel Macchiatos from Starbucks. If the world suffers needlessly, then we aren't doing our Job. Before anyone gets mad at me let it be said that I have waved my fist at God with the best of you and before we close our next fist at "God's injustice" then let us make sure that our indifference isn't part of the object that obstructs the light and brings the darkness of hopelessness.

I might die of Cancer someday. I probably will. It is in the genes. If Cancer doesn't get me then the Heart Attack will. Either way, I suffer. My loved ones suffer. In fact most reading this will die while suffering. (Apologies to those hoping for the light read of sunshine and smiles today.) Some might say that suffering itself is a gift. We can use this to turn to God and offer this to him in great faith. No Angel or Demon has such a gift. We can "have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."

Dylan not Dillon

I have been swimming in the music of Bob Dylan lately. I can't get enough of it. Did anyone know that Bob Dylan and Keith Greene were friends and that Bob Dylan actually played harmonica on one of Keith's songs?

Evidently Dylan converted to Christianity in the 70's and was involved in a Grapevine Church in California. Of course, this has nothing to do with my fascination with Dylan's music lately, I just found that interesting, being a big Keith Greene fan.

I have always loved Dylan's music and I have always considered him an influence, but for some reason, the last few weeks I have had the time, and it has hit me... in just the right spot. It feels good to immerse myself in someone's music again. I find the older I get the harder this is for me. It is hard to keep your mind fertile like a childs. Yeah, back in the day... when watching Popeye in the morning and knowing the Incredible Hulk or Dukes of Hazzard were coming on later that night could make your entire life happier.

So I have my fav's. I love Dylan's Poem and Song "Shelter from the Storm." It reminds me of the Church. He even quotes a bit from Isaiah. In the honor of the valued and important discussion on the Authority of the Church I leave you with this song. (try to think of it Pre-Jerry McGuire, although a good movie)

"Shelter from The Storm", Bob Dylan

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Monday, September 25, 2006


I wonder what gets Protestants so riled up about authority. We bark and bark against conforming and/or submitting to the Authority of ANY Church like the Catholics do and then we turn around and bark and bark about the Authority of the Scripture Alone, but who's interpretation of the Scripture Alone are we talking about? Yours? Mine? One might say: "Well the Holy Spirit is my guide." Well what happens when "my" Holy Spirit conflicts with "your" Holy Spirit?

Take the verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Probably the most misinterpreted Scripture of all time. We as Americans think we can use that Scripture in all sorts of contexts. Football games, Wall Street deals, Arm-wrestling matches, Mountain-climbing, Poker Games,...Busting Bricks, Ripping Phone Books.

What it REALLY means, if you ask any Geek-Greek student studying the Scripture is "I can BE CONTENT in all things through Christ who Strengthens me." Big difference.

Then there are those bigger problems... Homosexuality, Divorce, Communion, Salvation...

What if there is a 'Right' way to interpret the Scripture. What if the Holy Spirit never Contradicts Himself. What if the answer to that was yes. Would you believe it? Would you submit?

Who is your authority my Protestant brothers? Does anyone here REALLY trust their own self to complete and perfect authority in the interpretation of the Scripture? If you do not then who do you turn to?

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I miss the Stars. How can one expect to dream great dreams without being able to see the stars. Kant said, "two things keep me in a constant state of wonder, the starry sky above, and the moral law within." Incidentally this was a quote that a little known composer by the name of Beethoven used to carry around in his pocket.

October is my favorite month in Missouri. There is nothing quite like it. I hear Nashville is the same way. There is this one tree starting to turn colors in my Parent's back yard and it looks like it has sprung a thousand blooming rosebuds. It is incredible. The air is crisp and clean. You can smell the faint hint in the night air of people firing-up their hearths. Halloween decorations are appearing and the town is starting to have a festive cozy feel to it. Makes me want to go on a Hay-ride. From start to finish October is the most beautiful month of the year in Missouri. It is also primo star-gazing time. It is just cool enough for a good coat but not too cool. You can't quite see your breath but your nose gets cold after 20 minutes. Especially when you have a honker like mine.

The best part about the climate is that you can literally sit for hours under the stars and let your mind go wild.

When I was a kid, I used to sit on my back porch under the stars and imagine taking a trip to each one. My dad had a copy of "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan and I spent each night at the tender age of 11, in my room after star-gazing, turning the pages and dreaming of different worlds. 20 years later and I am still dreaming. Still flipping pages.

"But no, I was out for stars:
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked,
And I hadn't been."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Springfield MO a.k.a. Mayberry

Sometimes we forget what it is like to live in a place where you don't need to lock your doors at night. Sometimes we find those places but they are isolated, rinky-dinky little towns in the middle of the Appalachian backwoods. Rarely does one find a place where you can do all of these things TOGETHER in one night: Go see a Broadway Musical, and I mean a REAL Broadway Musical. Drop by a Mom and Pop Italian restaurant after. Actually LIKE the food. On your way home, mosey by the local HUGE Barnes and Noble for some coffee and a good read. THEN get in your car, drive home, get out of the car, consider locking the door and think to yourself, "you know, there is nothing in this car that is valuable... nahhhh." You walk in the front door of your cozy home, close the door noticing that their are still bells from Christmas on the door. Walk into your room, crack open a window and hit the sack. You fall gently asleep to the sound of crickets outside and windchimes in the distance, even though you live in a populated suburb. You wake up the next morning and realize that you forgot to lock the front door. You say, "oh well," sip on your morning coffee and enjoy the non-mosquito-infested cool breeze floating into the opened window.

Springfield Missouri people. It is like the Truman Show minus the creepiness. Right outside of Branson, Missouri. Population 200,000. 12 Colleges. 1 billion Churches per square block. Headquarters of the Assemblies of God. Hometown of Brad Pitt... More importantly, the hometown of Yours Truly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pause for a Tolkien Nerd Moment

I probably pick up a copy of the Lord of the Rings and read some part three times a week. I am a huge Tolkien Nerd. On the Tolkien nerd scale I am probably a 7. I have friends that are 8-10 that can read and write elvish. Not kidding. NERDORAMMA. One guy can reproduce just about any map from middle earth in 15 minutes. I am not that bad. Although, if I wasn't married and I had a little less of a life I could probably get that bad.

Sometimes I am reading Tolkien and the writing is so incredible I have to read it outloud. This is from "The Return of the King." It is when King Theoden arrives at Gondor and starts kicking some serious Orc behind. You should put your nerd hat on with me here and read this outloud to get the full effect. Come on. You know you want to...

"Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Eomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming on the shore, but Theoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City."

Top 5 favorite books.
1. Huckelberry Finn
2. Lord of the Rings
3. A Confederacy of Dunces
4. City of God (Augustine)
5. Old Man and The Sea

Whats yours? (feel free to leave your fav. quote.)

"We need more Authors that are Christian than Christian Authors." -C.S. Lewis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It is hard to describe the Church where we just shared our music. Rarely have I been to a church filled with so many lives, changed, dramatically. You could stop every single person, listen to their life story, and each would have one of those testimonies that would leave you in tears. Recovered drug addicts, porn addicts, bikers for Jesus, x-rockstar-crazy-partiers, etc. -Basically rough and tough guys (and their wives) that have had their hearts made tender by the Love of Christ. It was as if a chunck of the crowd gathered, banging their heads to Jimmy Hendricks rendition of the National Anthem at Woodstock, was transported to this little church in Indiana in 2006 -and they all got saved. And I mean for real - "Got Saved." I felt like I was meeting a bunch of Keith Greens. There was a light shining from every soul I met. From the multi-colored-haired girl in the back right up to the rough-and-tough Born again Pastor, who's nickname used to be "Bear." He reminded me of my Dad in the way he could relate to everyone in the room. He had an everyman aura about him.

The Church is located in downtown ... Indiana. It is pastored by Tom Camp, Jeremy Camp's Father. Yes "that" Jeremy Camp. Sometimes I think the congregation reflects its pastor and it surely did in this case. It has passion, devotion and a spirit that can only be described as Salty. Even the Church Building itself has a dramatic born-again story. It used to be a Strip Club until the Church bought it and turned it into a coffee shop by day and bible-study/church by nights and weekends.

We had a great time sharing our music there and getting to know the Camp family. I can't say enough Good things about the Camp Family. Jeremy comes from good stuff.

In the Camp family, We got to know Trent and April the most for those few days and I was touched and moved by Trent's life story and his transparency when it came to his Life transformation. I was struck by the Spirit of the witness Himself. Many times I hear people talk about their past life and come close to bragging about it. "Yeah the good ole days when I used ta' drink and smoke pot. Then I got saved." There was none of this with Trent. Anything about his past was for the purpose of amplifying the change in his life made by knowing Christ. It wasn't rehearsed or canned either. It was just there. And by golly, it made me just want to be "there" like Trent is "there." I sat and admired his wife April and her prayerful struggle with deciding whether to move her husband and kids to a "Safe" neighborhood as opposed to staying where she was because she wanted to be a witness in a place where there is none. I had no good answer but to offer her prayer. There was a woman down the street from where she lived who had been raped by a man for 14 hours and it had her understandably spooked.

Yeah, That is what I am talking about my friends, brave, salty people.

I will be praying for that sweet and powerhouse family this week. I will be praying for Trent and April and that decision. I will be praying for the Camp Family, and the Church they pioneered that transformed a strip club into a Light shining in a Dark area. If you think about it this week, pray for them as well.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Trinity Fun

"Trinity fun." That sounds like some kind of ride at Jim and Tammy's old christian amusment park before they were both thrown into the slammer.

Back to business. The students at Trinity rock.

I love colleges. Obviously, I have spent the past 12 years in college off and on. I think it is a record of some sorts. It was all by choice however. I wanted to keep playing and writing music and schools kept paying me to teach, so... the degrees kept piling high. I love the environment and as far as colleges go, the students at Trinity are cream of the crop.

This was the first concert that we were able to use the whole set, full force. We are pretty bummed that our zillion dollar Cannon XL2 is out of commission but hopefully that will be fixed sometime soon. Now the microphone is having issues.

Right now we are on the road from St. Louis and Springfield MO. I'll be posting some pics from the concert as soon as we get back. Fun stuff. Hey Lucy was a blast. Everybody picked a Peanuts dance and danced around like crazy people. It was awesome.

Thanks to all the Students and Staff who helped us set up and tear down. Amazing attitudes and great hearts. We would especially like to thank Justine for introducing us to the greatest sandwiches known to man and the Chicken Ceaser Wraps from Heaven.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All about Joel

I can't believe I am about to do this. I am going to bats for Joel Olsteen. The thinking moderate and Conservative Christian's favorite punching bag. (including myself many, many times) Before anyone or any Christian delivers their best diatribe, filled with all of your prayer-of-jabez-book-burning Rick-Warren-lovin'-rage ask yourself a few of these questions: When God gives you a good Job or a nice car, do you thank HIm for it? When you receive your paycheck and you get a bonus around Christmas-time, do you thank Him? Do you flinch when a rich buddy of yours at your Church says "I have been blessed."? Have you been Olsteen's Church? Have you been to Lakewood? I don't mean, -have you watched him on the tube? I mean have you sat down in that service, listened to those amazing musicians, witnessed the presence of God change lives, including your own, worshiped without inhibitions (that means silently OR hands lifted high), and listened to that smiling young fellow preach his sermon to a stadium full of minorities and poor people? I have. When Lakewood was in the poor neihborhood and when it moved out to 59. I am going to stand in the current here and say this; It aint all that bad people. The gospel is still the overall central message, inspite of your summarized notions of what you or I have seen, read or heard.

This whole prosperity bit has got my cylinders firing hot lately. First of all, prosperity doesn't equal happiness. We all know this. The Love of God is what we need. We are ticked because he gets up and and tells people that God wants them to prosper. I get ticked because that notion has been such a sore spot for Christians in the past 30 years. -Tilton, Swaggard, Roberts. But take a look at most of Joel's congregation. So we are getting riled up because Joel gets up to people who are financially in debt, single mothers, people who have had the worst possible fiscal training and habits and tells them that God loves them and wants them to prosper. He tells them that God wants a better life for them. It isn't theologically deep but then again, last time I was there, half the people barley spoke English. He closes each sermon with an opportunity to "Make Jesus the Lord of your Life" Most of us have turned the channel by this point. I know I have from time to time myself. Also, lets be honest, how many times have you turned on old Olsteen and watched more than a minute and have NOT been uplifted, even slightly? I know pastors who know Joel personally. He is a good man from all accounts, and most will agree about his character and then go on to mercilessly criticize his sermons and message, secretly jealous of the incredible growth of that place, then use similar techniques to try and increase their own church attendance. They watch and listen and imitate then turn around and point a judgmental finger at him standing from their own bazillion-dollar Sanctuary filled with extremely wealthy congregates.

Joel may be guilty of what many high-profile preachers have, -vanity- but hello, you can't tell me that the Yin to Joel's Yang, Rich Warren doesn't enjoy the limelight from time to time. You can't tell me that he doesn't just smirk a tad when he hears his book outsold Olsteens 7 to 1. All in all I think both of them enjoy helping people more than their vanity, and both love the Lord and seek to honor Him and that is why both are still successful. I certainly fall more in line with the Warren camp (I flinch) but neither do I believe that he is the fearless leader of the "way it should be."

That being said, it should not be forgotten that Lakewood is a Church, and a good one. Joel pastors it and has done a pretty darn good job. What most of us don't see is the pre-sermon worship. The Gospel is laid out and delivered in song more in such a way that skeptic news reporters are impressed. I am not saying that I agree with Joel on everything but hey, who here has it all figured out? I wonder if what we are REALLY ticked about is the fact that some of this prosperity stuff seems to be working. People pray to be blessed and they are. Hey, I can't explain it away. Can you? Somebody's doing it and we pretty much have two choices in that arena. I am not sure I am that confident to say who is doing the gifting.

Another question. I give my compassion money every month. Is that not God helping someone across the ocean out of poverty because I believe that God doesn't want them to suffer or starve? Do we tell the people overseas that God wants them to remain poor and suffer becuase of it? Do we believe that? I might be destitute tomorrow. I might lose everything. I might be tortured and martyred. I might lose my wife, my sisters, my mom, dad and best friends. Then if I were struck with boils and cursed the day I was born, I hope I would still believe that God wanted to deliver me from my circumstances and give me something better, if not in this world then the world to come. More than that, I hope that I would say "though He slay me, yet will I love him."

I guess the reason for this here post is to shine a big fat light on my eyeball to search for any signs of a big fat beam. Mostly thinking out loud from the road here. Am I off? Help me out here. Hit me if I need it. I can take it. I do need some caffeine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Am I Relevant?

I think I have had just about enough of that word. Everywhere I go I see it. I think most of the time it can be pretty egocentric. For the church it has come to be a morally and spiritually cosmetic term. It has always been used in the past for politics and economics. It is now a crossover buzz word. I am not so sure it is so healthy. I am not sure I know what it means. It seems to breed discontent and inspire imitation. Maybe we have needed a good buzz. Who knows? It is hard to keep up. I guess that could make me irrelevant. I know what I need. Does knowing what I need make me relevant or does how I get what I need make me relevant? What is a relevant Christian? Is the Old lady living down the street who had been the nursery worker for the church, for free, for the past 20 years relevant? Is the church with all the lights, camera, action that money can buy as relevant?

I also know that I am not about to start church bashing. That might make me irrelevant as well. We have all had our times of discontent with the Church. "I just got tired of all the show" or "I had heard it my whole life and was sick of the hypocrisy." or "It was so old-fogey that I found another hip Church." "He is too prosperity." "He is too judgmental."

With the help of God, I will not become cold and hardened to the Bride of Christ like I was 8 years ago. I would still be mad at the Church if it weren't for that little African American Church in Waco Texas 8 years ago, that hired me to play piano for them for 100 bucks a week.

I took the job because I needed the money, desperately. Prior to the Job, I had decided that I didn't like Church. I arrogantly thought that I had a better grasp on theology than most of the preachers that I was hearing and I didn't need to hear them yapping false or incomplete doctrine. I prayed, daily and I felt God's presence when I did. In fact, I was so Godly that I thought it was OK to date who ever I wanted, Christian or not. Right in front of me, the enemy had dug a trench and was starting to fill it with troops and supplies for a full out invasion. All because I felt the church had become irrelevant to me. God had not given up on me though, and was already planning the counter-offensive.

He did it with a job offer through a friend. I said yes. Taking that Church Job changed and saved my life. The first few Sundays were nerve-racking. I had to play with the preacher. Now if you are as white as I am and you have to play "soul music" while the preacher gets fired up, ON THE PIANO, NOT EVEN THE HAMMOND, then you might get nervous as well. I was forced to pray for help. "God what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I do? I don't know when to play the soul chords???? I decided with the help of the Holy Spirit to play whenever I felt the urge to say "Amen." It worked! The pastor and I got worked up to a frenzy and emotions ran at 7000 volts that Sunday. However, as fun as all that was I left that Sunday just as calloused as ever. I walked away and decided to write a piece of art music for piano and a taped-black church service.

Finally two Sundays later, God broke me. I sat in awe that Sunday as a black man in his forties got up to give thanks. He had a limp so he hobbled to the stage and with his big booming voice he began to testify. I expected him to ask for prayer, to ask for money, healing... something that resembled what I had grown used to.

Instead he began to speak of how grateful he was that God had saved him. He had been in jail for 5 years and after he lost everything from a drug addiction he found his Savior, Jesus. It wasn't a dramatic overblown rehearsed testimony. It was simply stated. It was almost understated in fact. It had the power of that still small voice hidden in its subtlety. He was changed. He was thankful for everything that he had at that time, and it wasn't much. Then he gave thanks right then and there. Each thanks was accompanied by a thunder of "Amens." He thanked God for the roof over his head. He thanked God that he didn't have to be afraid anymore. He thanked God that he had food to eat. He also thanked God for small things like when a woman bought him a pack of cigarettes the previous day and that it was helping him not to want to smoke pot. He thanked God that his children were speaking to him again. He spoke as if he had the wisdom of something ancient. Powerful and clear, his simple words cut right through me. Scripture flowed from his mouth as though he had known it his whole life when he had only read it days before. It was the Spirit of the living God that was shooting me in the heart through this Saved by Grace Sinner.

I began to understand that nothing but that can change a man. This was something unique to meeting together as Christians. No matter how relevant your service gets. There is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit speaking through a changed life. Whether in words or in action.

From the day I stepped foot in that Church to the day I left, that Church Loved me. They welcomed me and thanked me for my gifts, every week. A few weeks after his testimony I sang a solo. I was nervous. I had decided when I was 13 that I would never sing in Church. At 13 I begged God to remove the desire to sing in church from me. For some reason, I sang that first "testimony in song" in that church 12 years later. The hymn was "He Leadeth Me." As I sang, they verbally confirmed that message. Every Sunday, they loved me again and again. That Love broke my heart. I began to see the Church again as it is and as it will be. I began to Love God again because he first Loved me. He loved me right through my sarcastic and calloused indifference. Never has a Church been more relevant to me in my life, my pilgrimage to the gates of heaven, than at that time in that little 40 member church in East Waco Texas.

I always hope to be that kind of relevant to the people I meet until the day I die. I hope they see how grateful I am that Jesus saved me and He saves me everyday. I hope that the Light of Christ shines so bright, that it can shine into the darkest, jaded heart. Then I will be relevant. The Love of Christ that flows through me becomes manna to a hungry world. It is what people really want. We don't want relevance. We want God. It is that simple.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Bring Out Yer Dead!"

"I'm not dead" (name that movie) We just finished a concert/chapel at ETBU. It was fantabulous. I think that the Chapel kids were surprised that they actually had a good time. A couple of times I think they looked at the hands clapping in front of them and thought "are my hands clapping???" "Isn't this CHAPEL???" It was kind of like that scene in "Dr. Strangelove" when Peter Sellers... well, you just have to see the movie to understand that connection. Too weird to describe. Anywho...

Thus is the plight of the cheerful, captive chapel goer. I always sympathize.

Thanks to guys that stayed after to help strike the set. It was a huge help considering I blew my rib the other night lifting a box that had been secretly loaded with uranium, hard water, gold bullion, the compressed remains of a horse named "Big Barnabas." The thing was just a bit heavier than I expected. Such a innocent looking little box.

So 15 exrays and one sleepless night later (I thought I was literally having a heart-attack)I am directing like a pro, young strapping college students, where in the Uhaul to slide the speakers.

The videos are coming soon. We have to buy a new battery pack for the XL. 100 smackers for that little battery pack. I guess the battery's inner coil is coated with mithril or whas blessed by Ghandi or something. They sure are proud of it.

The tour has been a total blast so far. So many kind and gracious people. One thing that has been interesting to me... Well I think I'll save that one for the next blog.

(Joey snapped this shot while doing a sound check. Amber is was getting the merch. table ready and changing. More pics to come along the way!)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This just in: The new Dr. Pepper is YUMMY

You take a sip. Your eyes widen.

"Not to fast oh internal-soda-rating-system. Every first drink of a soda hits the spot” But then you take another.

"Wait a second. Something is amuck. This tastes BETTER than the first drink. I don't smoked marijuana so I know that it isn't some psychotropic experience causing the heightened taste bud tickling."

Suddenly I am transported. It is as if my tongue and taste buds are a Sheik seated in a lavished tent in the Sahara. There are servants, belly dancers, a British Prime Minister of some sorts and Obi Wan Kenobi. They are all gathered in a royal feast in honor of my tongue and taste buds. The main course... THE NEW DR. PEPPER.

The Tongue shaped Sheik leans over and asks the Wise Obi Wan how the Dr. Pepper got so tasty. Obi Wan turns to the Sheik and says. "You don't NEEEEEED to know what makes it so tasty."

"The reason oh wise Sheik...," said the British Prime Minister now wearing African Safari accoutrement and looking a little like the Banana Republic Guy.

" the real Sugar.” he said arrogantly but pleasant. Only the British can achieve this kind of conversational tone.

The Sheik tongue stood up dramatically, raised his sugar-sweetened cup and said.


The sheiks golden garbed wife stands up and dances while singing,

"My happiness is a Golden Pond...."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

For my Bloggers

For your listening pleasure and just for the heck of it, I have a spare Myspace that will be known only to you, the readers, and friends and family. On it I will be posting various musical endeavors that are in progress or that are past projects. I will also post demo versions of songs that are going on the next album. You can download these demos and anything else that is posted there for free... as long as you don't use it as background music for the taping of a Jewish circumcision ceremony.

Posted right now are two art songs that were performed last year at the Shepherd School of music on Paul Busselberg's Doctoral Recital. He is pretty amazing. At the piano is your blogging buddy Seth.

Just a little warning. The music is pretty artsy fartsy so I won't feel toooo bad if you get bored this round. The songs are e. e. cummings poems set to music I wrote last year. Enjoy!

Just in case the link doesn't work it is

Monday, September 04, 2006

One of My Favorite Poets

I have always loved this poet. I have read his poetry since I was a wee lad and liked it even when I didn't get it. Many people think he was a verbal trickster with all of his prose acrobatics, and his refusals to capitalize any words but "God." I am always stimulated and inspired when I read his stuff. Whenever you see people writing with no capitols you are either seeing extreme laziness or they are emulating cummings. Here is one of my favorite poems that I set to music and was performed at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice last year. It is a beautiful prayer.

i thank you God for most this amazing... by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


The last guy I would expect to killed in the wild. We have all seen him divert ginormous croc after ginormous croc yelling "Crimy! That was a close one!" I saw the news on Yahoo last night and almost thought it was a joke. Sadly it was not and the man we all know as the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin has been killed by a Stingray of all things, shooting a documentary on dangerous sea creatures. It is very rare to be killed by a Stingray. Somehow the stingray was able to stab Steve through the rib-cage right into the heart with the barb on its tail.

Prayers go out to the Family and friends of this pop culture icon, passionate conservationist, and from all accounts a faithful loving husband and devoted father. When you watched him you felt like you knew him. Such a lovable guy. I can only imagine what he was like to the people who actually knew him.

There are a few people that I always imagine as being invincible. He was one of them. It is another testament of how short and how fragile life is.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Goodbye's are Tough

We have been up till' 4 a.m. these past 4 nights practicing and preparing for the tour and good Lord are we tired. Tomorrow is the first Sunday in 3 years that I won't be on staff at Williams Trace Baptist Church. It is an odd feeling. I am not setting my alarm for 6 a.m., I am not laying out uncomfortable clothes and I am not running the worship service through my head 200 times to make sure I have transitions or making sure I contacted all the band/orchestra players for the Sunday Morning Bash.

I will miss playing with my friends. Such great people.

Moving on has always been hard for me. I remember when I was 13 years old and in the ninth grade. We had just moved to Alabama and it was our 3rd move in 3 years. I was tired of moving. Tired of making friends and saying goodbye to them. I thought we were there to stay.

When my Dad announced to the Church that we were leaving I snuck out of the service, went to our car and cried my eyes out. It was heart-wrenching. My youth Pastor and the youth group came out to the car after and cried with me. I loved my friends. I loved our house and the girl I had a crush on at school was just starting to give me the eye. It was the best of times for popularity and friends and all around the worst of times for leaving.

The church kids knew about the move but as far as school went, I had moved before and I knew that people act differently when they know you are leaving. They distance themselves from you. Suddenly you get left out of invites. Your friends can even start to get a little cold toward you. This wasn't going to happen this time. When I found out we were moving from Alabama my freshman year, I didn't tell a soul. Not one person at my School. If the teachers wouldn't have announced it to the class my last day, no one would have known until the next day that I was gone. This upset some really good friends of mine. Somehow in the end, they understood.

I didn't realize until later how unhealthy this was. It caused me to not make a single friend at the next school for almost two years. I went from becoming VERY outgoing to a total and complete recluse. I wore long-sleeved shirts in the summer and sat in a Library reading-booth for lunch. It wasn't until I joined Choir the next year that I came back out of my shell and started making friends again.

Saying goodbye is still hard for me. It is painful. But that is normal. It means that I am not afraid to Love and be Loved. When you Love people you risk something. In a weird way, when you choose to Love in this life, you choose suffering. "The pain now is part of the happiness then."