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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Way Down in the Background

I played my bass guitar with the worship team at church on Sunday.  That may not seem like a big deal, but it was to me.  It was the first time I have played it since October, 2010.  It was the first time I have played during Sunday worship in my home church since May, 2008.  It was also my first Sunday back in church since my carpal/cubital tunnel surgeries on my left hand a couple of weeks ago.  So, it really was special for me.

In 2006, I had just completed my 15th year as senior pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church.  Our church’s most recent bass player had graduated from high school and was going off to college and there was no one ready to be the next one in line.  After having had that instrument as part of our music ministry for the previous 8 years or so, I really missed it.  There is something special about that deep, sustaining foundation under-girding the other instruments.  Since I had been playing guitar for about 35 years, I decided I could make the move to the bass. It was pretty much love at first play.  I probably have more pure fun playing it than anything else I play.  In the background, I can play around with all sorts of ways to support what’s happening up front.  I’ve never been interested in giving up my other instruments and certainly the bass has its limitations.  I have performed and accompanied worship playing only the piano or guitar, but I’m pretty sure I never will do so with only the bass.  At least not more than once.

All that said, Sunday was fun.  But it was more than that.  I am humbled by the grace of God.  On day 12 after hand surgery, the hour of rehearsal and 20 minutes of playing in the service left my hand fatigued and sore.  That serves as a reminder of all my frailties.  I am not unlimited in my abilities or my energy. I am further reminded that the only service I can offer God comes as a direct result of His goodness in having given me my hands, my abilities, my passions, and my opportunities.

I am also reminded of the importance of service that appears in the background and supports the efforts of others.  Much of my ministry has been spent as the “front man”—the preacher, soloist, worship leader, speaker, teacher.  All my gifts are not the public ones, but those have had plenty of opportunities to be on display.  But in the background have always been those whose support has steadily provided the foundation for all the things up front.  As my ministry has shifted from always being the out front leader to more and more being the background supporter, facilitator, and encourager, I am embracing the opportunity to provide that foundation for others.

And I am finding that I am having a lot of fun.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rock On!

While I am recovering from carpal tunnel surgery and have limited typing ability, I have revised a Life Matters from April, 2007 (pre-blog days)

She sits in the corner of a bedroom my dad’s house.  She could tell some tales, but she’s old and tired and a little cranky.  In fact, she doesn’t want to be disturbed.  She’s happy to be observed, acknowledged, and left alone.  She traveled by boat from Scotland to the United States and by covered wagon from Missouri to Texas just after the Civil War.  She was given to my great-great-grandmother and came to live with Dad when my great-grandmother (his grandmother) passed away.  We don’t know how old she is, but over 200 years is a safe bet.  She is a rocking chair.

Most mornings I visit one of her relatives.  She’s not nearly as old, but she is precious.  Twenty-six years ago, my young bride and I took a trip to Canton, Texas to First Monday Trade Days.  We had begun to think about starting a family and when we saw her we thought she had some baby rocking potential.  When we sat down and tried her out and heard that steady creaking sound, we knew she’d be perfect.  We weren’t expecting yet, but we bought her as an act of faith that we would have a job for her soon.  Not long after that that we found out she would indeed be going to work soon.  She’s rocked two babies in our house since then and maybe someday she’ll rock some grand babies.

Presently she rocks a middle-aged preacher.  She sits by the front window where I can watch the sun come up as I sip coffee, read my Bible, and talk with the One who knows my thoughts before I can put them into words.  Sometimes I just sit and rock and enjoy the security of His presence.  Sometimes a memory flashes through my mind of a restless baby gently soothed back into slumber by the gentle rocking motion, that perfect creaking sound, and the security of Daddy’s lap.

Those baby-rocking times were just as precious to me.  Yes, they were soothing for the little ones, but I loved to have them in my lap.  Sometimes I kept rocking long after they drifted off to sleep.  I would still rock them now if they would let me.    

I’m certain that my heavenly Father loves to rock His babies.  Sometimes, we need to simply let the security of His presence soothe our restless lives.  And in times when restlessness gives way to more intense experiences of turmoil, fear, anxiety, grief, and anger, we need to crawl into His lap and rock on.

My favorite translation of Psalm 46:10 is Cease striving and know that I am God.  I like that because it illustrates the great truth that I can be still on the outside, but in turmoil on the inside.  I don’t just need to get still, I need to stop struggling to get it all together, to understand it, to fix it … I need to know that He always has been and always will be God.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Get a Grip

I had a lot of typing to do yesterday, only slightly more than the average Monday, but the pressure was on a bit more.  I am having carpal tunnel surgery today, so my left hand will be out of commission for a few days.  I’m pretty excited about it because of the anticipated improvements in my life.  I asked my doctor how long it will be until I can play the violin.  He said I should be good to go in a week or so.  I told him that’s great since I have never been able to play the violin.  I’m not sure he appreciated my sense of humor.  

Maybe I will even write better blogs once my hands are fixed.  Yes, I said “hands”.  With an “s”.  The right one is scheduled for next week.  I’m going for the quantity discount.

Seriously, I am looking forward to some things improving.  My piano and guitar playing may not move into the realm of virtuosity, but they should be less painful.  The quality of my blog writing will need to be addressed in other ways than surgery (or is that another word for ”editing”), but at least the only pain involved will be for the readers.

One of the most frustrating things about all this has been the loss of strength in my grip.  There are days when I shouldn’t pick up anything breakable.  On those days, I am reminded of the frailties of the human condition and how easily we lose our grip.   

We lose our grip on our temper and our tongue and say or do things that damage those around us. 

We lose our grip on reality and bail on our responsibilities.   

We lose our grip on our dreams and settle for the status quo.   

We lose our grip on our integrity and cut corners for the sake of convenience.

And is it possible that we sometimes lose our grip on our faith? Do we sometimes feel like the circumstances of our lives have shaken us to the point that we are hanging by a thread?  And that thread is frayed?

The Bible records these words from Jesus in John 10:27-30. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.   My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.   I and the Father are one."
Did you catch that?  “No one will snatch them out of My hand … no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”   

Our lives matter so much to God that He doesn’t leave our lives up to the strength of my grip our yours. When we belong to Him through trust in Christ, we are in His hands.

And He has got a grip.

Turn Out the Lights

Well, the Super Bowl party has come and gone again.  I’m pretty sure that what will be remembered most will not be the commercials, the half-time show, or even the game itself.  Even the intrigue of the brother vs. brother head coaching duel was overSHADOWED.  The highLIGHT of the 2013 Super Bowl will be the 34 minute delay when the lights went out in half of the Superdome.  Just as it seemed that the Ravens were going to run away with the game, the ghost of old Dandy Don Meredith started to sing, “Turn out the lights; the party’s over.”  Yes, I am old enough to remember the golden tones of Dandy Don on Monday Night Football.  

Apparently there are a lot of people of Facebook who are old enough to remember that, because the jokes were flowing during that time period.  It is actually my Super Bowl Facebook experience that inspired this blog.  

A Facebook sports watching party can be a great time.  You can interact with your friends without having to buy enough snacks to feed them.  When the Rangers were in the World Series in 2010 and were two strikes away (twice) from winning it all in Game 6, I shared the whole heart pumping experience with family in the room and friends online.  It was a blast.  It increased the fun. 

I was hoping for that as I watched the Super Bowl last week, but it wasn’t the case.  The lights going out mercifully gave people a joke forum just before I bailed on Facebook for the night.  I bailed because I was tired of the criticism.  Everyone and everything were fair game … wardrobe choice … lip-syncing … anthem arrangement … who did or did not acknowledge whom … which players deserve to be hated.  I was ready to deliberately turn out the lights on this party.

Those of you who don’t do Facebook or other social media might suggest that this is just one more reason not to.  I might agree if it were not simply a reflection of real life.  I fear that we are becoming a culture of cynics, critics, and whiners.  We have forgotten the old adage about not saying anything if you can’t say something nice.  We have forgotten the message of Jesus that we should treat others as we want to be treated.  

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”   

Many of the folks who read this rarely do much cussin’.  But this verse encourages us to ask these questions of our talk:  “Is it helpful?  Does it build up?  Does it bless?”

Our lives matter so much to God, that He wants us to constantly consider how to build up instead of tearing down.  When we can’t find anything encouraging to say, this party’s over.