Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Humility Check (Is This Thing On?)

The past three weeks have been crazy. Two weekends ago, Hannah had her first birthday party. Last week, I practiced and sang with the worship team at our church. Then, this past week, we had two band rehearsals and a concert Friday night. I have to admit I’ve been a little uptight, specifically over the last couple weeks, as I’ve prepared for the show on Friday. I’ve been gone or busy practicing several nights a week, and haven’t had much time to spend with Crystal or the kids. It is especially difficult for Joshua when he doesn’t get to see his daddy all day because of work and most of the night because of music commitments.

I’ve been worried about concerts in the past, but the event on Friday had me especially on edge. Initially, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull a band together. Two of my regular electric guitar players would be out of town the night of the event. The prospect of having a new guitarist learn and memorize thirteen songs over the course of several weeks was a bit unnerving. Nevertheless, I began to look to see if any other guitarists were interested and available, especially as half of my songs are guitar driven and I am primarily a keyboardist. Thankfully, I found a guitarist who was willing to jump in. However, about a week after he committed, he bailed on me, leaving me less than two weeks to find another guitarist.

Taking The Guitar By Its Strings
Desperately, I began to consider other possibilities. A good friend of mine was already playing acoustic guitar, but I still thought a second guitarist would be beneficial. Seeing no other options, I decided to attempt to play acoustic guitar for the first time in front of a live audience. I have casually played acoustic guitar here and there over the last ten years, but haven’t ever felt comfortable playing guitar at a concert. I have been taking lessons over the last several months and in the back of my mind, I was considering the idea of playing guitar for shows starting next year. Funny how life can throw you a curve ball when you least expect it.

So here I was – feverously trying to brush up on my guitar skills two weeks before the concert. In addition to practicing multiple nights, I had to create capo versions of charts that had been used by more seasoned players. It was a lot of music to learn, both for me and the other musicians. We had been asked to play two forty-five minute sets – the length of a typical headliner show. To add to the excitement was an unpromising weather report. There was a possibility of rain and a potential blistering heat index of 101. To top it off, my acoustic guitar player was starting to feel sick and was running a fever the day before the show.

Friday afternoon as I was stressing about the concert, I randomly came across Proverbs 11:2 which says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.“ The verse hit me square between the eyes. I realized that I was less concerned about blessing the people that would come to the concert and was more concerned that I would make mistakes and embarrass myself. In that moment, I was reminded how many times God has used my weaknesses to show His strength. So often, He has used challenges in life to teach me life-changing lessons. Suddenly, the possibility of messing up at the concert lost its edge. Funny how pride and humility see life through two completely different lenses. Pride says, “No matter what it takes, I want to look perfect, and I want people to like me.” Humility says, “No matter what it takes, I want to be a servant, even if it damages my ego.

The Fretless Life
It turns out that the concert went great. It was actually cooler than we thought and the rain came early in the day. The band did amazing and few mistakes were made. I even learned a lesson - it is much more difficult to play guitar when your hands are sweaty. Throughout the evening, we met some really awesome people and had a lot of fun. Joshua got to play in a bounce house and ride a pony and Hannah got to go to her first concert!

On Saturday, I was talking to Joshua and apologized for a being a little short with him over the last couple weeks. I said, “Daddy was a little stressed about the concert and a couple weeks ago, mommy was stressed about Hannah’s birthday party. However, God worked everything out.” He responded, “Well, I was worried about getting a haircut and it went ok.” Guess we’re all learning how to leave things in God’s hands.

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

How To Identify a Bad Person

Children can be oblivious to so many dangers. Busy streets. Hot stoves. Electrical outlets. Stairs. And they are blind to dangerous people. For many children, every person is a nice person. And if people are different, they’re just different, not bad. Our kids usually learn that certain people are bad from us, the parents. Sometimes, this is good (in the case of their protection) and sometimes, it’s not so good. Our biases can be easily and unintentionally transferred to our kids. They quickly discover what we think about people of different races, different interests, different appearances or people with different belief systems. We tell our children they should love others like Jesus did and then we show them that we don’t like certain people. We gossip in front of our children and point out the flaws of others while medicating our own.

I’ve learned that stereotypes can be dangerous. Assuming can get one in a lot of trouble. It can keep us from better relationships and new relationships. People are not always who we think they are. And even when they are who we think they are, they are still loved by God.

Jesus associated with all sorts of people. He talked to the woman at the well even though that went against cultural norms. What if we just simply learned to get to know the stories of others? What if we entered into relationships with a blank sheet paper and an open heart? God may have put you or me in another person’s life to be a blessing, but that blessing can’t come if we are clinging to criticism. We may not agree with another person, but we can almost always learn something from someone else. And we may be Jesus along the way.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Five Excuses That Keep Me From Praying

I recently came across a thought-provoking quote by Carrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who helped Jews during the Nazi era. She wrote, “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” This simple idea about prayer made me reflect on my own prayer life and my tendency towards worrying. I couldn’t help but think about some of the excuses I make for not praying.

1. God Doesn’t Care
Even though The Bible clearly says God is a loving Father (Psalm 68:5-6, Matthew 7:11), I sometimes doubt that He cares about the details of my life. The things that keep me up at night are obviously important to me, but I wonder if they are significant to God. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 55:22 which reads, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Another encouraging verse is I Peter 5:7 which says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” So what does “care” mean? If I think about my relationship with my wife and kids, I care about their big hurts (injuries and emotional losses) and little hurts (missing stuffed animals and scuffed knees). If I love my family like this, and if God is the author of love, doesn’t He love me that much more?

2. I’m Too Busy
I grew up with parents who had devotions every morning and sometimes several times a day. As I look back, I wonder how they made the time to read their Bibles and pray so frequently. As good as it is to have a dedicated quiet time, it feels like it is next to impossible to find the time to meditate with small children and a non-stop schedule. Sometimes, I wonder if God is keeping track of my devotions or is it more important to Him that I cultivate a moment-by-moment relationship? Ephesians 6:18 says to “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” A vibrant prayer life demands an ongoing conversation with God. It's great to have daily devotions, but it needs to go beyond that. With this being said, I try to listen to scripture and good sermons whenever I get a chance, pray when I’m driving, and I attempt to fill my day with talking to God about everything.

3. It Feels Like I’m Saying The Same Things Over And Over
If my prayer life were a recording, it would be a bad hip-hop song – one drumbeat on continuous repeat. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17 is a good reminder to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is nothing wrong with repetitive requests as long as I am praying within God’s will. Daniel is a good example. Daniel 6:10 says “Three times a day (Daniel) got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel had developed a persistent prayer life. The Bible reminds me that God's ways are higher than mine and His timeline uses measurements that are foreign to my finite mind (Isaiah 55:8-9). There are also times when prayer involves lengthy battles in the spiritual realm (Daniel 10:13). I think about the disciples who fell asleep while praying with Jesus at Gethsemane before His crucifixion. Jesus exhorted them for not watching “for one hour.” He then told them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. So often, I forget that prayer is critical correspondence in a war field, not an exchange at a McDonald's drive-thru. Is it possible that my lack of fervent prayer reveals my lack of trust in God and an underestimation of prayer's power?

4. I’m Afraid God Won’t Bless My Requests
Often, I don’t pray because I don’t want to hear the answer no. Contrary to popular health and wealth teachings, God doesn’t want me to have a comfortable life, but I am constantly fighting a desire to have one. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Maybe I need to be more open to what God wants for my life even if His will infringes on my plans.

5. I’m Focusing on the Wrong Things
Quite frequently, my heart is in the wrong place. I'm embarrassed to admit that I often don't care that much about what God cares about. Today I am praying for eyes that see what matters to God and a heart that breaks for the things that matter to God. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16