Out of the shadow of Shadow Weaver…

…comes Sentimental song.

The Choir‘s new album, Shadow Weaver, is out and ready to be indulged.  It seems to me with each new release by this band there is a drawing of my ear to go deeper in the music and the lyric.  If you are a follower of The Choir, you know exactly what I am talking about.  There is not another band out there who can weave the dreamy alternative rock sound in and out of each album and paint as pretty a picture lyrically as this band can.  You can become a fan now with Shadow Weaver but don’t stop there.  One of the beauties of their art is how previous lyrics or themes are consistently weaved throughout their work.

In 1987, I discovered The Choir, while I was a student at Lee College in Cleveland, TN.  The album was Diamonds and Rain.  Shortly after that purchase Chase the Kangaroo was released and my followship of the Choir was solidified!  As I have grown up over the years, it’s as though the lyric and sound have been a soundtrack for my life.

I’ve experienced many highs and lows in life.  Both of which I would love to have had the right tools to draw from when experiencing both of them.  Today, I hope I’ve learned from the difficulties, destruction, and triumph experienced in my life.  (Deep breath)

I recently attended the kick off concert for the Shadow Weaver tour in Dallas, GA.  I went hoping to be able to write about my experience hearing the songs from Shadow Weaver.  They only played a couple of the new songs that night… and what we did hear was outstanding!  Right now, it’s a song off of the 1990 album, Circle Slide, that I want to share.  As Derri began to strum the first chords of this song, applause began as everyone knew what was coming…  Sentimental Song!

As Derri sang, my mind went back to a little house I lived in back in 1991.  I had been divorced for a short period of time.  Just a little bit shorter than I had actually been married.  My life and my heart were a mess of emotions during that time.  I realize Sentimental Song is really a love song.  But during those days I heard that song from the heart of the Holy Spirit.  Each time I played that song then God reached out to me with love.  I tried hard to grasp ahold of those rays of the Son through the thick darkness that had enveloped my life.  As I sat there listening to Derri sing, emotion welled-up within me as I thought about the love my Heavenly Father has for me.  How His grace is deep and not near as complicated as my life has tried to make it.

I’ve heard of people having serious car wrecks after running slightly off of the road.  The wreck occurred after they tried to over-correct from the first mistake.  Well, my life then was much like that.  I ran off the road through that relationship and tried to over-correct my life and ended up crashing.  Some of the memories of that time in life still plague me.  It’s a constant reminder that God has deep meaning and purpose that is hidden even in the darkness we find our lives in the midst of.  His desire is to mine the diamonds that we have hidden in the past of our lives.

Adonai, Master of the earth and sky…

Inspiration comes in so many ways.  But for me, music inspires me just as much as anything else in and around my life.  Most of my teenage years were heavily influenced by music.  So much so, it’s influence culminated while at a KISS concert in 1983, I gave my life to Jesus while at that concert.  Not because of anything the band did or said.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the life on an individual in the midst of what I all experienced that night and the days that filled the first 18 years of my life.

Today, music and the lyric that goes with it still influences and inspires my life.  Over the past several months I have written a lot that has been influenced by The Choir, Stryper, U2, The Lost Dogs, Lifehouse, Jesus Culture, and Martin Smith.  I’ve not posted any of those writings as I either never completed them or they felt too awkward to post.

While at a dance performance by the girls that make of Steps of Faith, I looked intently at my life.  I thought of dreams I have had for my life, failures I’ve experienced, and the present-day blessings that fill my time and space.  This was the first performance for me to attend where my oldest daughter wasn’t performing.  (However, my 15 year old was performing).  My oldest was on stage as a new instructor for the dance studio… I’m so proud! The performance was a beautiful display of artistic interpretation to the songs that spoke of the Names of God.

One song that was performed was Adonai.  I didn’t know the song, but it got me thinking about another song I was very familiar with by the band Petra, 1985.  Adonai means Master.  If God is Adonai in your life, He is your Boss, the One you surrender everything to.  Adonai is the One you give complete allegiance to – God – the Creator of the universe in which we live.

I recall being in Jerusalem back in 1990.  What I am recalling is a Fall evening.  We were at the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, in the Western Wall Plaza.  It’s a place of prayer and one of the most Holy places for the Jewish people.  That evening there was a gentleman walking backward away from the Wall – all the way across the Plaza.  At the top of his lungs he shouted in Hebrew the different names of God.  It was a beautiful moment.  It was one of the top highlights of the trip for me.  Hearing his praise to God without any reservation in front of all of us there… it was very moving!  I recall being emotionally moved in the moment as he spoke the name, Adonai.

As I write, I praise Adonai, “You alone are worthy! Adonai, let creation testify. Let your majesty be magnified in me.  Adonai you are an endless mystery.” (Petra, Beat The System).  It’s refreshing to look back and listen to these lyrics… a praise to God.  It reminds me of so much I have given in commitments to God, Adonai, my Master.  I want to live my life unashamed, surrendered, without reserve!  Each day I want to dwell in His righteousness… my Master and Lord – Adonai.

Why all the fear?

I recall sitting in my bedroom on Walnut Dr.  It was summer.  I think I was 19 years old.

I knew what God was wanting to do with me at the time.  I knew what He was calling me to do.  I knew what He was preparing.  But I had this fear of stepping out and doing what He wanted me to do. 

Fear.  It’s an ugly four letter word.  One that I don’t like to face. 

So what happened on that day in my bedroom?  I had been praying about this thing on my mind.  I knew what God was telling me.  Yet I wanted him to write it out on the wall for me… send me a letter in the mail… speak to me audibly.  I just wanted authoritative proof that what was on my mind was really Him and not something I was making up in my mind. 

So what happened while in my bedroom?  Well, after I prayed I recall having this thought come to my mind. “Read Psalm 32:8-11.”  OK – cool – I will read it.  I did.  Before I read it I had no idea what it was going to say.  I wasn’t even sure if there were 11 verses in this Psalm.  I grabbed my NIV and started reading:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
       I will counsel you and watch over you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule,
       which have no understanding
       but must be controlled by bit and bridle
       or they will not come to you.

 Many are the woes of the wicked,
       but the LORD’s unfailing love
       surrounds the man who trusts in him.

 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
       sing, all you who are upright in heart.

Well, He didn’t have to head me over the head!  But I’m glad He did! After-all I asked for it!

Tonight I am reading in Psalm 32.  While reading this passage I am reminded of that particular evening.  Now I’m 43.  Guess what!  I still struggle with that fear. 

My friend James told me yesterday, “Don’t be afraid”  – among other things.  Sometimes I think if God would put that bit in my mouth and lead me on I will not need to fear… yet he says, “Don’t be like the horse of the mule…”  I guess I’m a jack ass 🙂 !  Just kidding… I’m a child of God that wants to be safe.  I need to live with “Reckless Abandon”.

Why all of the fear?

Adonai…

According to International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,

a-do’-ni, ad-o-na’-i (‘adhonay): A Divine name, translated “Lord,” and signifying, from its derivation, “sovereignty.” Its vowels are found in the Massoretic Text with the unpronounceable tetragrammaton YHWH; and when the Hebrew reader came to these letters, he always substituted in pronunciation the word ” ‘adhonay.” Its vowels combined with the tetragrammaton form the word “Yahweh (Yahweh).”

I have been looking for a cassette tape of a sermon that I have not been able to put my hands on.  But in the process of looking for that tape I found one of my “Best Of” cassettes I made in college.  Man, this thing is good.  I had no idea what was coming next on the tape after each song.  I’ve enjoyed thinking about God and worshipping Him as I have listened.  I’ve even shed a tear or two thinking about what a profound impact many of these songs had on me some 20+ years ago.

Right after Jerusalem’s song “Time – Live” was Petra’s song “Adonai”.  I don’t like rewinding songs on old tapes but I just had to on this one.  I just worshiped driving down Euharlee Road this morning while listening.

I was reminded also of the time in 1990 I made a trip to Israel.  One moment for me that is special from that trip was going to the Wailing Wall also called the Western Wall.  I watched and listened to one man as he backed away from the wall all the way out of the Plaza… he was proclaiming praises to God at the top of his lungs.  It was all in Hebrew.  I was mesmerized by his praise.  I could hear the various names of God has he spoke.  Adonai was one of the names I heard.

This song has been on my mind all day.  All of the wonderful memories of growing in God some 20 years ago have also been there.  Adonai reminds me today I am still growing… I am still moving forward in His kingdom.  All praise and glory is to my Heavenly Father who loves me so… who loves you so!

Western Wall photo from Wikipedia.org

Mountain Biking to the Mountain Top

One of the greatest experiences in my life was also one of my scariest.

It was 1997 and I was in LaPlata Canyon, Colorado.  LaPlata Canyon is just west of Durango.  I had just begun mountain biking a year before.  This was my first trek up a real mountain.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June.  We started off at about 8,100 ft in elevation and worked our way up above the tree line at around 10,000 ft. or so.  I will never forget that moment when we were finally riding on what seemed to be solid rock above the tree line.  I could finally see the point I was headed for… then it happened.

What happened scared me pretty good.  Over one side of the mountain came a great storm that brought  sleet or hail… wind, lightning, and very cold temperatures.  I was not prepared for the drastic change in weather.  We jumped into an entrance to an old mine for cover.

As quickly as the storm came we saw blue sky once again.  There we were having worked so hard and to get so close to the goal.  As we debated what we should do – the next set of clouds, wind, icy substance falling from the sky, and much colder temperatures began to surround us…

We decided to head back down the mountain – as fast as possible!  I have never had so much fun… and to be as scared as I was at the same time.  The ground was now looking wintry and we could smell the lightning.  The sound of the thunder was so loud.  I’m not sure which was worse the sound or how the rumble felt as we darted down the mountain.

I never tried to go back up to the top again.  But I didn’t quit riding.  In fact, it made me want to ride all the more.  Unfortunately, once I moved back to Georgia I quit riding.  I really want to start back.  I think about it every day.  As for now, my Cannondale mountain bike is sitting in the house. 

This memory I have is one of my favorite memories to talk about.  It’s strange that I love to talk about it yet it is something that I didn’t get to complete.  It’s like a mirror image of my life to a large extent.  It’s another chapter started – yet not completed.

I’m ready to begin a chapter that is actually written with an ending.  It’s like my life is this book with all of these chapters that have been written – the problem is that there are not any endings to any of the chapters.  So the reader starts the next chapter and has to wonder what in the world happened in between chapters 3 and 4.  “How did he get here?” the reader would ask.

Why is life so hard?  Why is life so stinking challenging?  For me, it’s like I never get a break.  There’s no time to take it easy.  My life seems like it is made up of storms that I am constantly trying to run from.  And as soon as I think I’m seeing blue sky’s another storm sets in.  I know there is a reason behind it all – there really is a purpose behind it.  I’m not beaten up and torn down over it.  In fact, right now I am very hopeful with what the future holds. 

As I look back on that couple of years of living there – I really think I was living on the mountain top – yet there is some unfinished business from those days.  I was reading Oswald Chambers today and the following quote from My Utmost for His Highest got me thinking about this story… it got me thinking a bit deeper about my life.

We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.

Photo from summitpost.org.

September FOCUS

Here we are September 1, 2008. 

A year ago, going into Labor Day weekend, I had determined after work I would go home and lay on the sofa all weekend and watch NASCAR and football. 

I recall having that weekend to myself and desiring to do nothing!

I received a phone call from a friend (Nat) I had not seen since high school (over 20 years) that Sunday afternoon.  He invited me to a Bible Study he was leading and out for coffee at Starbucks afterward. 

Well, there went my plans for the weekend.  Little did I know – all of my plans for the rest of my life were about to change.

You see, that night was a set up. Yep, I met Lori that Sunday night. 

As we were leaving Starbucks, Nat asked if I had plans for Labor Day (There goes those plans too!) I told him I didn’t and he invited me over to his house for a cookout and to swim… Lori was there.  He didn’t tell me she was going to be there but she was… I got her phone number… we got married a few weeks later… well, the rest is history.

Here we are a year later… MARRIED!  I’m getting on her nerves (educating her) with Fox News, NASCAR, and College Football.  I’m showing her how helpless I am with my piles of clothes, inability to take care of myself, etc.  You know what?  I think she really loves me through all of that.  She’s been God’s richest blessing in my life.  I was praying for a new Jeep and got a wife!  Still dreaming of the new Jeep.

It was this time last year God had begun to do some incredible things in my life as well as Joel’s!  I think I will celebrate this time of year for the rest of my life.  God filled my life with Lori and he broke through a lot of darkness in my life.  I also saw God move in Joel and Kathy’s lives at the same time as they awaited the birth of Abbie.  I had been having many long conversations with Joel about how the Holy Spirit was at work in our lives.  I would not trade September 2007 for the world!

As I begin the month of September 2008, I want to…

Keep my [your] eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed– that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.  That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:2-3, The Message). 

“…willful, deliberate prayer.”

My prayer life with God has been on the forefront of my mind.  Several things have brought me to this place.  Conversation with friends, reading, and circumstances.  Out of all these things has come Whispering Secrets, Just how important is it? and now “…willful, deliberate prayer.”

Life is full of so many surprises.  I wonder how many of those little surprises would be surprises if life was built on willful, deliberate prayer?

When you pray – are they worried prayers as you run from one activity to the next?  Or do you intentionally sit down and focus your prayer.  It’s harder to do the later.  Do you have a portion of your day that is God’s time… totally devoted to God?

God has used Oswald Chambers today for such a time as this…

Prayer is an effort of the will. After we have entered our secret place and shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray. We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer. (My Utmost for His Highest, August 23).

I’m reminded of a time after getting to know the Lord.  I was getting ready for my second year of college (which was my first year at Lee College).  The live version of “Bad” by U2 had recently been released on Wide Awake in America.  I recall me and my friends spending a lot of time together that summer.  One night we had been over at Kathy Mac’s house… Rick Allen was there too.  We had been swimming and ended up on the porch of the house talking about prayer… getting to know God…  a deeper place.  I recall Rick challenging us to commit to an hour of prayer a day.  An hour of total dedication to God…

I began to spend that hour after work praying in my room (too hard before work).  I made myself go home and pray for an hour before I would let myself do anything else.  I did this for awhile.  It eventually developed into a daily habit at different times of the day. 

I ask myself, “What about now?” 

It’s time to enter into the secret place.  Take a moment to reflect on these words by Oswald Chambers:

Enter into “the secret place,” and you will find that God was right in the middle of your everyday circumstances all the time. Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless you learn to open the door of your life completely and let God in from your first waking moment of each new day, you will be working on the wrong level throughout the day. But if you will swing the door of your life fully open and “pray to your Father who is in the secret place,” every public thing in your life will be marked with the lasting imprint of the presence of God. (My Utmost for His Highest, August 23).