Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The End Is A New Beginning

The end of every year brings most of us hope, joy, family and a whole lot more.  Many a child dreams of snow days and Santa bringing the perfect gift.  The older children dream of relaxing a little, sharing special moments with friends and family and most importantly, making someone else's day just a little brighter.  For most of us, the holidays do indeed provide all of the above and more.  More food, more laughs, more stuff and more moments to be cherished.  What a beautiful time of year.

This year, I found myself enjoying all of the aforementioned pleasures of the holiday season.  Yet, I also felt much more than joy and elation.  It was the realization that this year had a lot of endings, a lot of beginnings and a lot of continuations.  I reflected on more than I normally do...or have for quite a while.  And in all these reflections, I heard the words, "The End is the Beginning," as sung by Cloverton.  The main part of what I keep hearing is the simple reminder that, "Where death makes way for living, It's on you I'm depending, and it all begins in the end."

As the year closes, I've reflected on what was, and what is ahead.  The tears that accompanied the was are many.  Every where I've turned I see what was, both physically and mentally.  As the great Ron Burgundy once bellowed, "I'm in a glass case of emotion."  Yes, that is currently me as the was plays in my head.  Yet, as the what is ahead flashes, I'm encouraged.  I'm excited to see what God is doing, and yet I'm nervous about what indeed lies ahead.  Most importantly, I know I'm not alone in this glass case.

The was of 2016 saw friends having babies.  My wife has started school to pursue nursing.  My daughter is in the infancy of becoming a photographer thanks to school and her yearbook class.  My son is pursuing life in the music industry.  I saw friends buy houses and cars.  Heck, my wife has a new car too!  Yet, all this joy has also been surrounded by friends entangled in addictions.  Friends have separated from their spouse (some restored their marriage) and divorced.  Friends and family have dealt with various illnesses.  Most recently, friends that are family have been stung by death.  I can safely say 2016 has been a roller coaster.

Now, as 2017 greets me, I know there are things and events that will be life altering.  Moments that I already cherish knowing how unforgettable they will be.  I'll get to see my son graduate high school and participate in his final home game in baseball.  I'll be watching my daughter cheer at her first Wyoming State High School Cheer Competition.  My wife and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage!  I'll be vacationing with friends and family during the baseball season, and as we visit a dear friend we have to see to help all of us heal.

Good bye 2016. It is your end that is the beginning of healing.  The beginning of renewed life.  New adventures lie ahead and 2017 is ready, willing and able to host these events.  Yes, there will be bumps, bruises, and certainly some losses, but through it all I know that indeed, "It all begins in the end."  Me, it is my pride, my ego, my hurt, my everything that will end, and it is that end which will begin my joy, contentment and peace in Christ.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

PB&J and Across the Miles

There are several things that just go together.  Peanut butter and jelly, biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, yin and yang all are examples.  Of course, there are more, but you get the point.  Today, I sit and look to see a few things and inspiration struck me again.

As I shared how I have felt over the last couple of days, I continue to be in awe of how God is moving.  Sadly, I'm still drained.  Emotionally, I have little left.  My daughter had to sit in class today and discuss this, all while probably crying through the whole class period.  My wife is ready to take her week off and head to Tennessee, simply because she feels helpless.  My son is in disbelief and can't imagine what Michael and Nick are going through.  Yet, emotion aside, I still have hope.

After a brief conversation with my dad, I became curious on how much of an impact Michael's story is making.  Yes, I assured him people know and are praying.  But until I saw it on paper (or blog) I couldn't believe myself.  God simply reminded me that he isn't about to break his promise of being with us as he stated in Matthew 18:20.  "Where 2 or 3 gather..."  I don't see anything about distance between, so maybe I'm taking this with a very broad stroke, but I say we have 2 or 3 (or more) gathered as we wait to hear more from Tennessee.  We wait to hear of a reunion.  But while we wait, lets rejoice in how well we go together, just like a good PB&J (or, despite how far apart we live).  Below is a list of cities that is rallying around the Reed family in prayer, and this is just what I know.

Gatlinbur, TN; Sevierville, TN; Pigeon Forge, TN; Knoxville, TN; Cosby, TN; Kodak, TN; Dickson, TN; Branson, MO; Cincinnati, OH; Phoenix, AZ, Yuma, AZ; Cheyenne, WY; North Myrtle Beach, SC; Stanwood, WA; Marysville, WA; Wonewoc, WI; Denver, CO; Eula, TX; Chancellorsville, VA; Fort Collins, CO; Arlington, WA; Harrington, KS; Glenrock, WY; Burns, WY; Kidjip, Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea; Yukon, OK; Abilene, TX; Jasper, AL; Seattle, WA; Oakman, AL; Boldo, AL; Fultondale, AL; Sumiton, AL; Hoover, AL; Thermopolis, WY; Rathdrum, ID; Chehalis, WA; Longmont, CO; Cody, WY; Salina, KS; Nashville, TN; Rapid City, SD; Wilmington, NC; El Dorado, KS; Wichita Falls, TX; Santa Fe Springs, CA; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Taos, NM; St. Louis, MO; Oak Grove, MO; Spring Hill, TN; and this is just that I know.  Now, add in  all 466 K-LOVE radio station cities across the US, the millions of households that watched NBC Nightly News, and CNN, read the NY Times, or stream these outlets, this world becomes very small.  A world that has become family because of word of mouth, and one viral video.

So, we are gathered.  I feel God in our presence.  I feel God lifting our spirits, giving us hope, comforting our souls, and providing our weary bodies rest.

I can't say it enough, but I will one more time.  Thank you!  Your love and support has provided my family and the Reed family more than these two simple words could explain.  We love you.  Until later.

Lost and Hope

This might be the hardest blog I've ever had to write.  I'm torn, my stomach in knots, and my heart in pieces.  My eyes have cried tears off and on for well over 24 hours.  I'm actually visualizing my heart looking a lot like Humpty Dumpty right now.  Yeah, I see it fresh fallen off the wall, in thousands of pieces.  But, I'm also seeing it having been put back together, not by horses or men, but by the King, and by the hope he provides.

Back in 2011 I met a man that found me on Facebook.  He was a nice guy, managed a band, worked hard, loved his family, loved music, loved talking and most importantly, loved God.  Michael Reed and I quickly formed a bond that has endured some really rocky moments for each of us personally and professionally.  We encouraged each other through those rough times.  From my cancer battle to some hardships at work, or his loss of job to his wifes addictions and illnesses, we were there for each other, and still are.  My family has vacationed in Tennessee with his family.  All of us have laughed together in person and over the phone.  We've also cried together, and prayed together.  Yes, they are no longer friends, they are family.

Then, yesterday happened.  I heard fear in his voice.  I sobbed with him, uncontrollably.  I had no words of comfort.  I have no understanding.  I want to, but I can't.  All I had was an ear, and an ability to pray.  So, I gave him an ear for just a few minutes, and prayed with him for a couple more.  And then just like that, he had to go.

His life was being ripped out from underneath his feet like a young aspiring kid magician tying to pull out the table cloth from under the dishes on the dining room table.  I could hear the crashing of everything around Michael.  His heart was crying out, and me, I was right there with him despite the miles apart.  His wife and daughters missing.  His house, burning.  The woods surrounding the house, engulfed in the worst forest fire in 100+ years in Eastern Tennessee.  It was all crashing.  I was going numb, he certainly had to be numb.

Fast forward to this morning, still weary from minimal sleep, I immediately checked for any update from Michael.  Nothing.  My heart still in pieces.  But, there was a new report featuring Michael and his story.  Knoxville news was interviewing him.  He shared pictures, begged for help, and again, shared his grief at the loss of his family.  They were still missing, 12 hours after he last talked to his wife.  All day long, I continued to check with limited information.  I wasn't alone in checking.  My phone was giving me notifications all day long with people seeking any information.  My family grew exponentially today, all anticipating a miracle.

Now, 24+ hours later, and the Reed family is still separated.  Michael has heard nothing from his wife, and has no idea where they may be.  His son is being a rock (Michael's words).  The story has become viral (2 Knoxville news stations,NBC Nightly News, CNN and others I don't know of) and thousands of people are now aware this family is separated.

Here in Cheyenne, my family is devastated.  My daughter is a mess, and cried throughout the day.  My wife has done the same.  Every post on Facebook receives immediate responses.  Our friends have adopted the Reed family as their own.  Our parents have done the same.  There is continual prayer.  In this midst of resigned helplessness, the words of encouragement and hope abound.  Words, they are making this easier, if that even makes sense.  Easier, because I see hope.  I see faith.  I see family.

Hope, it's how my Humpty shattered heart has been put back together.  Job 6:11 shows Job asking what strength he has to hope.  The book of Psalm is ripe with messages of hope.  But, it is in Ecclesiastes 9:4 that shows us, "Anyone living has hope..."  God is giving Michael hope, because he is alive.  There is a hope that his family will be reunited.  For me, hope is all I have, and yes, all I need.

Thank you, for your love, and your support.  On behalf of Michael, he thanks you as well.  God's family is amazing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Painted Skies

Wyoming, land of wide open spaces.  Skies that are filled with stars  you can see for miles.  Hills and mountains that are inhabited by humans and creatures alike.  A land that you can be in the mountains and almost an hour later be in the high plains of this great country.  Some days you see the same thing over and over, but other days you see something new.  One thing I never get tired of though; the painted skies of the Eastern sunrise and the Western sunset.

Every night when I leave my office, I take in a breath of fresh air and look at the skies.  Every night is different.  Some nights I can barely see due to darkness.  Other nights are clear allowing me to see for miles.  Sure, those miles can be obscured by buildings, but in breaks of rooftops I can see forever.  Some of my favorite nights are the ones that lightning is dancing across the horizon, illuminating a silhouette of clouds.  I love these nights!  I might be the oddball person loving the electrical storm despite the damage it can cause, but I find them refreshing.

Tonight, I was greeted by a panoramic view of skies painted red in the northwest, grey dreary clouds to the north, storm clouds with streaks of rain to the southeast, a rainbow to the southwest and the eastern sky charged with more electricity than a baby with fine blonde hair freshly rubbed with a balloon.  It was a scene I stood and took in for an extra moment as I began to feel rain drops.

As I drove home, the east was filled with lightning.  I could sense the energy it provided with each strike.  And with each strike, I was overcome with inadequacy.  I knew I had to share the beauty I was seeing.  I had to share the awe inspiring scene God was painting by the second.  And yet, I also knew I couldn't put words to the scene in front of my eyes.  I then wondered if John felt inadequate to share all he saw while on Patmos.  How could he find the words to describe the Throne in Heaven with the one sitting in the throne, surrounded by more thrones and elders in those thrones which God was showing him?  Or how he should describe the large red dragon.  What were his thoughts as he saw everything being shown to him?  Certainly he wasn't just overwhelmed with all he saw and the weight of knowing he was charged with writing these things.  I'm pretty sure he felt inadequate.

Tonight, I felt a little like John.  Hopefully, my little description of the panorama I took in showed you a glimpse of why I love Wyoming.  I get to see the master artist paint a new picture every single night.  Words trying to do play by play of the scene he is painting will fail.  For that, I'm sorry, but for attempting to provide a small picture, I am honored.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Love Harder

Over and over I state how close music is to my heart.  It isn't just a casual thing I listen to at random times.  It is more than just something to put me to sleep or wake me up.  No, it is more.  Music is my life.  It can be a drug, a calming sound, a job, a remedy or at times a cure.  No matter the time or situation, music will fit into one of these categories.  It is how my brain functions and how I relate to the reality around me - both physical and spiritual.

Over the last couple of weeks the scene unfolding across America is heart breaking.  Words have often failed to provide any sort of explanation.  My understanding is limited, at best.  My brain wants my eyes and ears to be deceiving me, yet daily there is a continual stream of tragedy at every glace at my phone, a TV or a computer.  I find myself wondering why, how, for what and if I'm living a nightmare.  Sadly this isn't a nightmare, it isn't a dream, and there is no need to be pinched.  It is all real.  So very real.

I have seen and heard responses from the masses.  The responses are mixed and yet they all have said the same thing.  Yes, it is heart breaking.  Yes, it is senseless.  Sure, change needs to be made.  Some blame one thing while others blame another thing.  Through all of these responses the one thing I keep hearing isn't what is being said.  Rather, it is the silence from words missing in the speeches.  It is the words not said by our leaders (choose your leader as they are many), our friends, our media, our families or even ourselves.  What is missing are simple words.  Words that are taken for granted, but spoke with intent.  Yet, they may be the hardest words one could ever speak.  What I find missing in our rush to blame, to cry for change and in sensationalizing each tragedy are the words of love.

I hear you yelling at me now, "Come on, Aaron.  It's not that easy.  Plus, you're not listening to the right people."  I'll agree with you in saying it isn't that easy.  Then I'll ask who the right people are to listen to.  But for now, let's stick with missing words of love.

Love is never an easy thing to do.  It is a choice, directed towards something or someone.  Don't believe me?  Ask any married person and they'll tell you love is a choice.  It isn't easy to love people when they've angered you.  It isn't easy to love someone when they steal from you.  Try loving someone when they lie to you.  Or, try loving them when they don't like you because you don't agree with their thoughts on a subject both of you are passionate about.  No, it's not easy.  But, the words of love are still missing.

Listen to Fox News, CNN, CBS, DailyKos, Alternet, Breibart or any other media and you'll see finger pointing.  You'll hear debate after debate from your coworkers/friends/family about how wrong one side is, all the while another side will do the same when you talk to them.  But do you hear resolve?  Is anyone actually talking action as opposed to reaction?  How much love do you hear from anyone?  Better yet, do you read any Twitter or Facebook posts offering legitimate change?

Of all the words, Dallas Police Chief David Brown spoke, he can't stress enough about love.  I applaud him for those words.  Above the promise to love, he offered a solution to join the police force and he would help you resolve your grievances.  These are words of love, of action, of compassion and of someone who is seeking resolve.  So yes, I've heard them, but not many.

In words of love, there is another part that is missing.  That is the action of listening, understanding, of gaining a greater appreciation for the "other side," no matter what that is.  One never has to agree, but a better understanding will make love a lot easier.  Hearing provides an opportunity to begin the process of change.  Hearing allows others to know you care.  Hearing allows you an opportunity to learn about the other.  Hearing, in short, is an opportunity to show it is more than your words, thoughts and actions you care about.  It is the other person you love enough to hear them out.

Now tell me, how many of you hear more than one side from your source of news?  How many times do your favorite media sources have more than one voice explaining what is going on?  Live feeds from local stations not withstanding, it is pretty safe to say that the voices provided are typically one sided representations of the views of said media source.  I believe there has to be more.

Okay, there is more.  There are people sharing love.  There are people trying to change the scene of all that is going on.  People like YouTube and Facebook sensations from the Free Hugs Project.  The people of Atlanta and Dallas that are forming lines to hug police officers outside courthouses and near rallies.  Heck, even the people of Cheyenne have talked about a rally in support of law enforcement.  So yes, there is good going on.  Sadly, the mass media isn't sharing these acts of love as often as they should.

As I wrote this, I couldn't help but think of a few things that spoke of love.  Let's start with Christ and his words in the book of Matthew.  In discussing the greatest commandment in the law of Moses, he only gave two.  The first was to love God.  The second, to love your neighbor as yourself.  Then in Galatians 5:13-15, Paul affirmed the words of Christ to love your neighbor, but also warned of destroying one another.  But, the words of love aren't just found in Christ's words, or the words of his disciples.  Solomon had many words of wisdom regarding love, however, it is Proverbs 10:12 that I find the most poignant:  "Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses."

Then, as I listen to my musical medicine, I can't deny that there are several songs about love and how to change our world through love.  But, let me highlight just two of them.  The 1st is from Five For Fighting entitled "What If" and asks us to put ourselves in the other persons shoes.  The second is from one of the most influential bands and the 1991 album.  Yes, Bono and the Boys that make up U2 knew back then that love is a powerful thing.  "One love, one life, when it's one need in the night."

Please, start speaking love, start showing love, and most importantly, be the love.  Christians and nonbelievers alike, stop speaking the hate thinking your doing something positive.  You're not!  You're only stirring the pot causing a greater divide between you and others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March Madness

Spring is here!  Well, almost here...for most of the country.  Here in Wyoming that means we have at least 2 more snow storms to survive by the time summer rolls July.  But the other thing Spring brings for the sports lover is a little bit of everything.  A little baseball, a little playoff push in hockey and NBA basket ball, a little NFL free agency, mix in some NCAA spring practices, then add in a lot of NCAA basketball.  Take your pick, it is the buffet of sports.  Something for everyone.  A plate of your favorite dish followed by a small dish of your favorite dessert.  It's like walking in to Golden Corral where you can get the hot buffet or the salad buffet.  No matter the decision you have to get the dessert buffet to accompany anything you get.  Pot Roast, beef brisket, potato soup, some green beans and the always healthy garden salad fill you up quickly.  But that can always be topped with a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge, nuts,sprinkles and a cherry on top of a chocolate chip cookie.  That is what a sports fan faces the entire month of March.

Spring Training may have started in February, but the games started this month.  Any pure baseball lover will try to convince you that watching these games are just as good as anything, especially when they haven't watched any baseball since October.  Yeah, these people are kinda nuts, maybe a little strange, but it is their sport and for them, something is better than nothing.

For the NFL fan, they have the combine - an annual collection of draft hopefuls attempting to show off their skills to scouts to improve their chance of getting drafted.  Then they have free agency, a hope that their team improves its chances of winning the Super Bowl, or a hope to not have to endure more players leaving their team and increasing the likelihood of another year of sucking.  March also provides a month or so of preparing for their draft parties.  Fans can only dream of their team picking that one guy who will put the franchise on their shoulders and lead the team to the promise of winning the Lombardi Trophy.  Yes, these types of fans redefine the word fanatic.

Next you have the NBA and NHL seasons in full swing. Their All-Star games long past, trade deadlines with all the trades made are over, and now fans and teams look towards the playoffs.  With teams firmly locked into the playoffs, a lot of the focus goes to those teams fighting to get into the post season fun. Teams residing at the bottom of each league can only hope of a better year next year. But, until the playoffs start, most casual fans wait until April to pay attention to much of what's going on. Yes, there are exceptions, but reality for me says nothing is important until the playoffs.
But, March brings out a certain Madness in nearly every fan. Even the most casual fan takes an interest in college basketball. From friendly wagers to office pools with large sums of money up for grabs, nearly everyone is focused on College Basketball.  So much attention is paid to this time of year, even urologists have noticed an increase in vasectomy procedures done the Monday - Wednesday of the first weekend of the tournament (guys, you get it, gals, just use your imagination).  I even know moms that tell their kids to leave them alone until April.  This is indeed the apex of College Basketball.

The highs, the lows and all the in between of watching March Madness.  Fans and casual observers pick 63 games before the first teams hit the hardwood.  There is hope in selecting the winners of these games and being perfect in those selections.  Then, once the first game starts, and that first upset happens, everyone (or nearly everyone) sees the error of their ways in selecting "that team they didn't trust to begin with."  It was these emotions that not only did I experience this year (and every year) that it hit me.  

How can I expect...or even hope to pick 63 games perfectly?!?!?  C'mon man!  Think about it!  What are the odds that someone picks every game correctly.  In all my years, I've only known of 1 person being perfect in their picks.  Aside from that one example, when has anyone ever been perfect in anything?  Again, I've only known one person that can claim perfection.  His name is Christ.  And until I can claim being Christ, I will never pick a perfect bracket for the Big Dance.  Will someone else pick the bracket perfectly during my lifetime?  Maybe, but I don't expect so.  Another reality with the imperfection of picking the perfect bracket - I'll never win an office pool, an ESPN or Yahoo challenge nor the million dollars that come along with any of these wins.

I'm okay with not winning, I'm okay with not being perfect, and I'm thankful I don't have to live up to the expectations of that perfection.  I'm thankful I know the only one person who has been perfect.  

Oh, and yes, my bracket this year was toast after the first round of play in the tournament.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

One Team, One Body and a Strange Competition

The spirit of victory and the agony of defeat is felt daily in sports.  The catch phrase was used for many years by ABC during the opening of its "Wide World of Sports" broadcast.  In their opening, they used images of the agony and joy from both team and individual sport.  They made certain those watching could rest assured that no matter what occurred on the broadcast, you would feel emotion along with the athlete(s).  To this day, I still see a tumbling ski jumper every time I think of the agony of defeat.

Sadly, this is what the church today is beginning to look like.  Well, maybe look like just a little.  Seriously, I'm not joking.  The church is following in the footsteps of society in more ways than one, and somehow we have to fix this.  More than divorce, greed, gossip, pornography, apathy, self gratification and hypocrisy, I'm talking about competitiveness.  No, being competitive is not wrong (just sit at the table when my family is playing cards and you'll see how competitive one can get).  Being competitive can produce good results when applied at the right times.  It can make people stronger mentally and physically.  It will make a team work that much better together.  It can be the iron that sharpens iron.  But, competitiveness can also tear down a team when egos start getting in the way.  Competitive coaches on the same sideline might accidentally step on each other in hopes of making their players better, all the while destroying comradery.

How is this relevant to the church?  Bear with me for a second.  Before I explain, take a second and think about your church, your youth group, your favorite artist, your local concert promoter or anyone else in your circle that influences your community.  What are they doing to influence the community.  How well are they playing with others?  Is it just them in their sand box?  Or, are they working with others to build the sand castle in the sand box?  Not sure?  I'll give it to you that you may not know.  You may be in a spot where you don't see or hear about those influencing your church community.  Or, maybe you are that person and have never thought about how you are playing in the sand box.  For me, I have thought about it a lot recently, based on what it is I do for a living away from my job that keeps a roof over my head.

Let me start the explanation by confirming my imperfection.  This is something I need to work at a lot, and hopefully my thoughts will encourage others to think about their place in building the church as a whole, and not just their ministry.  This reflecting came via a source I wouldn't have ever imagined.  Thank you Natalie Grant.

A while back, Natalie posted about the competition aspect regarding some of the things that were said to her by leaders in the Christian community.  When I read this, I was naturally floored.  But, upon second look, I began to realize this is something that happens every day in Cheyenne and across the country.  I can see it and hear it in the words and actions of those I listen to.  There are youth pastors here in Cheyenne I see this in them.  Senior pastors aren't exempt.  Nope, they have to have their youth, their congregants, their events, etc. and make sure that they do it better than everyone else in town.  They "have" to give their lessons/sermons just to prove they can preach/teach better than the pastor down the street.  Their outreach events are great, but the Baptist church has to be bigger and better than the Nazarene church that is bigger than the Methodist church.  And so the cycle goes no matter the church, band, promoter, guest speaker or youth conference.  Everybody has to "win."

I implore you though to think about why The Church would be in competition with each other.  Last I checked, we are a body.  One body, Christ's body.  If we are one body, then indeed we should be working for the common good.  So what if each part of the body operates semi independently, it is still God in control.  Take for instance your local high school basketball team.  They practice tirelessly before the season starts, and then every day there is no game.  Before the season, they run 5 on 5 drills to get into the game mode.  Then, once the season starts, even though not as much, they still have intrasquad games.  Additionally, they have a scout team that runs their opponents offense and defense to simulate a game.  Not once do these kids have a win at all cost mentality when going against their team mates.  Sure, before the season these games may have an incentive if they win, but the coaches make sure that tempers are maintained and there are no fouls that are harmful.  If sports teams can do this (with a few instances as an exception), then why can't The Church act more like sports teams?

One body, one team, that is what the church is to be.  So, instead of competing, shouldn't we be cheering each other on?  When we go to a concert that we love, shouldn't we be prepared to go to a concert where we may not like the music, but we go just because it is the right thing to do, and the ministry is just as good as the band we do like?  If the Nazarene church has a Thanksgiving outreach, shouldn't we support that through sharing despite the fact we go to the Assembly of God church on the other side of town?  If the Berean church had a weekend youth event that saw 20 youth have their lives radically changes, shouldn't we celebrate that even though we attend the Missionary Alliance Church?  If we listened to Paul and his writing in Phillipians 1:15-21, we would realize that petty competition isn't what we should be concerned about.  Our concern should be like that of the shepherd, find the one even if it means leaving ninety-nine.

I'm guilty.  I have failed many times over in being competitive.  As a promoter, a music fan, a youth director, I have failed.  I say I want others to succeed, but not always have I actually put my words into practice and supported.  I try, just as much as others try.  Trying though isn't always good enough, especially when there is no action.  I commit to fix this personally.  I challenge you to fix this as well.  Let's be intentional to support each other.  Let's cheer on our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Go to the concerts that you may not like the music, simply so you can support the ministry of the promoter and the band.  Go to an Easter production at a church you don't attend so you can show their pastor there is not competition between you and them.  If you attend a church that isn't down the street, cool, but when your neighborhood church has an outreach, stop by and introduce yourself. Surprise that church by your presence.

Remember, you don't have to like or agree with how people have that radical encounter with God, you just have to like the fact that heaven gains another citizen.  Each church, pastor, band, promoter, evangelist, etc. has their own methods.  They do the best they can.  Let them do their best, and lets promise to do our best to support their best.  Remember, they may be the hands while you and I are the toe nails of this awesome body of Christ.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pedestal of Failure

Who’s your favorite band?  Yes, broad question and probably a hard one to answer.  So let’s narrow the scope of the question down.  Who’s your favorite Christian band or artist?  Maybe you even have a favorite speaker, minister, author or just someone you look up to.  All of us do.  Sure, some of who we look up to are family, but may still have that celebrity type person that we hold in high regard.  As I’ve gotten older, the selection of whom I look up to has been narrowed.  Maybe that is age, or maybe that is being more cautious in my influences.  Despite that, there are still those “celebrity” that I admire based on their ministry, their music, their whatever, I admire it.  I’m pretty sure, you do as well.

Of all those we admire, there tends to be a “shock” or “disappointment” when we find out one of these people falls from the pedestal we place them on.  Sadly, we are even more shocked when it’s a Christian that we find out about.  For those old enough, think back to when you found out Michael English had an affair while touring with another Christian band.  What about when you found out Jim Baker was lying to you about how he needed your money to continue preaching on TV. More recently, we had Newsboys co-founder, George Perdikis, and As I Lay Dying founder, Tim Lambesis, both profess atheism.  What are your thoughts?  Shocked?  Surprised?  Maybe even a little hurt?  Well, get used to it, especially after the letter put out by JustinCordle of We As Human.

One of my favorite songs is, “I Will Fail You,” by Demon Hunter.  Despite the song lacking the typical growling and yelling Demon Hunter is known for, it still has the lyrical strength and Ryan Clark’s haunting vocals.  The song is a in which the lyrics are a reminder that no matter the grace given, how many sins forgiven, that “I” will fail.  The “You” in this song could be taken to mean a couple different people.  1) Could be God, or 2) could be the person who is putting the singer up on a pedestal.  Either way, this song assures the listener that failure will occur, despite the grace, mercy and forgiveness given.

Another song that comes to mind is a song from The Swirling Eddies.  “Hide the Beer thePastor’s Here,” is a song that pokes fun of christians that feel they have to hide certain things from their pastor.  Beer is the main focus of the song, but the Eddies find a way to slide hate, christian college hypocrisy and lust into the mix of what get hid from our pastors.  Sadly, this song is perfect for many christian bands touring today.  Seriously, there are too many bands out there traveling to not have problems with lust, alcoholism, drugs, sex and most any pitfall available to professional athletes and celebrities.  Yes, our bands “perfect image” is most certainly anything but.

I can hear it now!  You’re mad at me for accusing your favorite band/artist of imperfection.  Well, they are human aren’t they?  But more than that, they have struggles just as you and I do.  Our churches have imperfect people in it.  It makes perfect sense that our favorites in the music industry reflect the church as an image of imperfection.  Sadly however, many of these individuals work hard at not showing those imperfections.  As a matter of fact, their management, record labels and those closest to them work hard at hiding those imperfections.  They don’t want to disappoint their fans.  They know they are under a microscope and any vulnerability they seem to believe will show them as a failure.  For many, failure isn’t an option.  There is too much to risk if there is failure.  Sadly, we as consumers have only fueled this belief that our favorite musicians need to be perfect.

I’m not saying every band/artist is crooked, drunk, or other.  There are great artists out there that are upright in everything they do, despite their humanity and the failures a sinful nature brings.  They are honest about their failures, their struggles and their temptations when on the road.  But, they also share freely about God’s grace through everything.  

Is there a fix for this problem?  No, not unless you fix our humanity and our nature to sin.  But, I do believe that there is a way to reduce the failures that are becoming so prominent.  We do have a way to keep adultery, drug use, disbelief to a minimum, even when we aren’t on the road with the band/artist.  We can, and must pray for the musician.  We need to pray for their marriages.  We need to pray for their health.  Driving is a dangerous proposition, and something that we can pray for.  We can find a way to drop them a line via Social Media, email or sometimes even text (for those that have good relationships with bands) to let them know we are thinking of them and praying for them.  Provide them with love through gift cards, baked goods and more when you go to their concerts.  These little acts of selfless God given love won’t fix everything, but it will encourage the artist.  If they know people are genuine in their care for them, and not placing them on that proverbial pedestal, the rate at which we see catastrophic failure will reduce.  And if it is just one that changes because of our love, then we as fans have done our job.

So, as fans, let us live the great commission to love our neighbor as ourselves, including those neighbors who just happen to be in our favorite band.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wind, blowing snow and a flood

I'm currently driving to drop off a car to my brother in Coeur d'Alene, ID.  This isn't a trip that was on my schedule.  But, with the immediate need for a set of wheels, my mom and I are making the trip, thanks to several people that have helped purchase the car.  So, with the new set of wheels and the weekend off, I currently find myself in a hotel in Billings, MT.

Cheyenne to Billings isn't really that long of a drive.  Typically, the drive should only take 6ish hours.  However, February in Wyoming presents uncertainty with weather.  Earlier this week, Winter Storm Kayla moved through dumping a foot of snow on Cheyenne.  The effects of that snow storm were still being felt today through most of the eastern part of the state.  When I say felt, I have to clarify just a bit before I continue with the story.

Many people associate Chicago as being the Windy City.  Ask anyone in Cheyenne and most of them will scoff at that notion, and then correct you by informing you that Cheyenne is windier than Chicago.  Not just words, fact.  Cheyenne average wind speed - 12.4mph and Chicago is 10.3mph.  This sets the stage for the rest of the story.

My mom and I finally tore out of Cheyenne about 9:45.  Just minutes before we left, the State DOT opened up I-25 (only north/south interstate in Wyoming).  Despite it being opened, there was a high wind warning along with warnings for patchy ice from Cheyenne to Buffalo.  I knew we were in for a long trip.  I wasn't expecting such a long trip.  A long, slow, windy, icy and flat out horrible drive of a trip.

Despite the awful driving conditions to just south of Buffalo, and the slow speeds, it provided me with some great windshield time.  God took the crap of the day and turned it to gold.  He blew my mind.  He showed me his beauty, his provisions and his designs.

If you are one for road trips, I highly suggest taking a ho hum drive up I-25, then on west I-90 into Billings (the rest of Montana and Northern Idaho will be observed tomorrow).  No, the scenery won't change much, but you will get to see the mountains to the west while going through Wyoming.  Once you hit Montana, you'll get the same thing, but add in a few rivers.  Then, the farther west you get you'll be shown a river most of the way across Montana, a few mountain passes to traverse and some of the most beautiful scenery in the US.  But, I digress.

Anyway, my trip today I got to see all the above mentioned of Wyoming.  But, while I was taking it all in, I began thinking of the flood.  You know, that flood that covered the whole world.  The flood that Noah and his family took a whole bunch of pets on a boat to save themselves and the animals from drowning.  Yeah, that flood.  I began to see the very spot I was driving as being covered by water.  Then, that water receding, forming the very mountains I was looking at.  I began to imagine the water flowing along the valleys I had driven through.  Next, I wondered what Noah and family were thinking as the water was receding.  My mind was absolutely blown.

What does all that have to do with me driving what is possibly the longest trip from Cheyenne to Billings?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  But, it was God distracting me with some pretty cool scenery and a completely different perspective of the flood.

Tomorrow, more driving, more scenery and eventually getting to hang with my brother, niece and nephews.  Night all.