Thursday, November 12, 2015

Life Changes / The Undiscovered Country

My life has gone through many changes in recent months.  Some of them deeply personal and internal.  Those I'll save for another time or perhaps never write publicly about because quite frankly it's no ones business ha!  I will say  this: I NEVER thought I would think the way I now think...  Vague sentence is vague.

On to what I will write about.  My wife gave birth to our SIXTH child.  A beautiful baby girl with black hair!  Her name is Thea Sue and she is our first baby that got my black hair in fact!  My wife is a trooper!  I can't believe she's gone through labor SIX times and delivered SIX babies into this world.  I could not do it.  Believe me... I thought I was going to die once when I got a kidney stone so I don't want to even try to pretend that I could do that once let alone six times.

We FINALLY painted our house!  We have lived in our city home going on 9 or so years and have wanted to paint and repair the exterior of this 106-year-old beaut since day 1.  Well it took waaaaaaay too many years to make it happen but better late than never.  We also put a new roof on her and we finally have a home that doesn't leak with every rain or snow fall.  There's still more work to do to get our home ready to sell... oh, did I not mention that's the plan?  Yup!  All this work is so we can bless this home to another buyer.  We long for greener pastures.  Literally.  We want green pastures and a country landscape/view.  I NEVER thought I would ever want to move out of Kansas City but my heart has fallen in love with the idea of moving out of the city limits and into a home that's more rural in location.  That's the new dream and it WILL happen.

We also finally got a large family vehicle... one where we can ALL fit in it!  You might not realize this but there aren't many options for vehicles that seat a family of 8 comfortably.  It has been an incredibly long time since we've gone anywhere as a family because of this fact.  Well no more, thank you Jesus!  Our kids were beyond excited when I pulled the new (new to us anyway) family vehicle into our tiny driveway.  It was like Christmas to them!  And it's like Christmas to my wife and I too because, I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not but, cars are dang expensive!  So merry Christmas to my wife and I lol this is what we're getting "under the tree" this year.

Another huge change I had was getting a second job.  Working paycheck to paycheck is not fun and Joy and I have done it for most of our marriage having only brief periods of excess.  With my wife just having had a baby AND teaching our other children, we were left with one option to get more income: Daddy has to get another job.  I have worked at my church full time since 2006 so going out and getting a job somewhere else was very new and very intimidating to me.  Everything I know and have worked for was for ministry and here I was applying at places that have no use for those skills.  I don't know how many places I applied at but only ONE ever called me back.  It was extremely rough.  The only shift they had for me was 3rd shift: 11:30pm to 8:00am.  My days felt so out of wack and they were.  Everyone I knew was asleep when my day was just getting started.  And I was asleep when everyone else day was in full swing.  I would get off at 8am and head to my church for a few hours.  I would then go home and go straight to bed.  I would wake up just in time to tell my kids goodnight and get one or two hours to spend with my wife before heading off to work and starting this process all over again.  Let me be candid: I hated it!  I barely saw my wife and hardly saw my children.  I didn't get to hold my newborn at all!  Was this it?  Was I blessed with six children just to have to work so much that I actually would never see them? 

Then my father had a stroke.  He's ok now but I was shocked and stunned.  I had no clue he was in the hospital.  I was sleeping before work (in the middle of the day of course) when all of this happened.  I remember waking up and trying to piece together different text messages to figure out what was going on.  When I got to the hospital my dad was back to his sarcastic, joke telling self.  Some would hardly notice any difference in him.  Stress is a killer.  My dad and really entire family have experienced extreme stress for the last few years.  I don't want to go through the MANY different situations that have been down right painful to walk through but one of the biggest stresses has been the financial situation of my dads church.  My dads doctors said he can make a full recovery but now it's all about stroke prevention.  This big change is still being figured out and I honestly don't know what the future looks like yet.

About that second job...  Between my dad having a stroke and me never seeing my family, it was obvious that this 3rd shift job simply was NOT going to work.  My family is far more important than money.  Period.  But what about needing more income?  Well, I've been blessed with an awesome best friend!  He was able to line me up with a new job that has a MUCH MORE family friendly shift!  I'll be able to help my dad more and I actually get to see my wife and kids for more than just for good night kisses! 

So life has changed in quite a few ways.  I'm believing for the better.  And don't think for a second I've let go of my dream to make music.  For now that dream does seem on pause but I still believe that's my future.  So if my nerd self were to make a toast right now it would say, "To the undiscovered country!"

P.S. if you got that Star Trek reference then you sir or madam are awesome!  Live long and prosper!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Among The First

Hey!!!  Exciting news!  I've started a brand new band called Among The First.  We're really ecstatic about this new venture in our lives.  As a part of this new project we're also launching a podcast.  You can listen on SoundCloud or watch on YouTube (the video is also below).  We'd love to connect with you too!

Like us on Facebook!
Subscribe on YouTube!
Follow us on Instagram!

Thanks and much love to you!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Box

Look for God and you will surely find God.  It's a principal Christan's live by.  Unfortunately it is more times than not put in an unfair, unrealistic, and illogical box.  This box is an ugly thing, a cruel thing.  It is something that some Christan's hide behind to justify behaviors like, boycotting businesses, writing people off, and sometimes even avoiding entire areas of their city all in the name of righteousness and holiness.

So what is this box?  Simply put, it is the thoughts and actions that say, "Look for God and you will surely find God but only as long as your opinions and views on life line up exactly with ours."  It says you can say or do A, B, or C but cannot say or do X, Y, or Z.  It's "our way or the highway to hell..."  Some Christians have tried to put God in this box;  they've tried to make it seem like God waits until you get your life together and get all the answers before He allows you to even start looking for Him.  The bible teaches that we should,

 "Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with - even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently."  Romans 14:1 (The Message)

It also teaches people to be so open with each other that we confess our sins, our weaknesses to each other.  But this is rarely done because we've created a box that says "Get right this very second and agree with our opinions or you're not welcome in God's house."  So instead of being themselves the few who do enter churches often put on this mask and pretend like everything is okay.  Instead of having freedom to openly discuss the things that they struggle with or disagree with or things they're unsure on they bottle it all up, causing themselves stress, frustration, and sometimes even depression.  Meanwhile outside the church "walls" it feels far more freeing, accepting, and understanding.  Maybe you were raised in a Christan home. Maybe you were taught from a young age what is and isn't right.  That's awesome if that's how you grew up but other people aren't you (And on a side-note that doesn't exempt you from seeking God as well and truly making a decision for yourself).
I'm not making excuses for people's wrong behavior.  And yes, Jesus Christ did tell people to "Go and sin no more."  But realize this: Jesus was regularly found eating with sinners and visiting them at their houses.  Do you really think while there He was constantly pointing out everything wrong they were doing?  Do you think He was sitting there on a couch with a picket sign that said turn or burn?

What I think it boils down to is people are so focused on the wrong things.  Instead of focusing over a person truly finding the peace of God in their life, they're worried about them behaving correctly.  Instead of being focused on showing people that there's real love in the world, they're focused on trying to find (out of context) bible verses that prove they have a right to judge others.  Instead of being focused on the fact that God wants to welcome all, they're worried what their church looks like to other Christians.  This box that says people have to get "it" (whatever that is anyway) right away has to be done away with.  Someone once said, "It's impossible to look upon the glory of God and leave unchanged."  I believe that to be true.  But I can speak from experience that sometimes that change can take a very long time... and sometimes unexpectedly we find that it is ourselves that need to change.  Don't rob others of the journey they need to go on.  Just help them along the way.
Look for God and you will surely find God PERIOD...  No box.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Whats "Good" Mean Anyway?

What makes a "good" musician?  Some say it is the talent or skill they possess.  They say the more complicated the piece the better musician they are.  Some add the criteria of how fast one can play to measure of what makes a good musician.  Time and again I've heard statements like, "They're an ok musician... but all they play is the basic stuff so they're not very good."  So is that the measuring stick?  The ability to play a complicated piece means you're a good musician and if you don't play that complicated piece you're "ok" at best a.k.a. you suck?  I personally don't believe in that measuring stick.

$300 million.  That is probably more money than I will ever make in my lifetime (Though I can hope right!?)  That's the estimated net worth of one musician.  He was the drummer of one of the most successful bands ever.  They're known world wide and even though their last album was released over 40 years ago they are still beloved by millions today.  The band I'm speaking of is The Beatles and their drummer, that $300 million dollar drummer, is Ringo Starr.  Like them or not you cannot deny that they were a huge band.  Record sales don't lie.  So why do I bring him up?  If you listen to the drums on any Beatles tune you won't hear this complicated drum piece.  You won't hear a double bass pedal that's so fast it sounds inhuman.  What you'll hear is a steady beat provided by Mr. Starr.  Some would say you'll hear a "simple" beat.  I've heard people say that he isn't a very good drummer.  To them I'd say he has 300 million reasons proving them wrong but whatever...

I love complicated arrangements in music.  I also love simple songs.  I don't think one is better than the other at all.  To me it's all about the individual songs and even what band is playing them.  I think you're a good musician when you play your music well.  Whatever voice, story, lyric, or lick you bring to the table just be yourself.  Complicated and fast doesn't mean you're good.  Simple and basic doesn't mean you're bad.  Being true to who you are and excelling at that... To me that means you're a good musician.

Play well.  Be well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dinner with the Pigs

One of the hardest things I've learned in life is sometimes you have to let people eat dinner with the pigs and not call them out on how nonsensical that is.  To some that entire sentence is nonsensical.  Let me explain what I mean by eating dinner with the pigs.

A long time ago there was this guy named Jesus.  He liked to tell people stories about God and heaven.  People call these stories parables.  On one such occasion Jesus told a story about a son who wanted to leave his family and go experience life or what he thought life was.  So this son goes to his father and demands his inheritance.  Now if one of my children asked me for their inheritance before I had keeled over and died I'd probably laugh at them and make them go to their room and think about how stupid they just were but that's just me.  In the story this sons father does the opposite of what I would do: he gives the son the inheritance.

So now rich with money the son goes off on his journey to experience life and to (I'm not really going to say this.... yes I am... I'm sorry) turn up...  Those of you who get that are probably shaking your head.  Those of you who don't get that be glad you grew up on actual good music instead of the random noises that come out of teenagers iTunes libraries these days!  Anyway...  The son (surprise, surprise) wastes all of his new riches on wild, crazy, party-like-its-1999 living.  Now completely broke, the son gets a job feeding pigs (Jesus telling a crowd of Jews about a guy getting a job feeding pigs probably had more impact on them than it does us.  Just picture the worst job you could possibly ever have).  Eventually he gets so hungry that the food he's feeding the pigs starts to look good.  In a sense he wanted to have dinner with the pigs.

Finally the son comes to his senses and goes back home with the intention of becoming one of his fathers servants because even they were eating better than he was.  When the son got close to home the father ran out to meet him, embraced him, clothed him, put the family ring on him, and threw a freaking epic bar-b-que!  The fathers other son got jealous because he was being a tool but lets talk about that another time.

There are many things you can take from this story Jesus told.  The one thing that I feel is rarely talked about is the fact that this awesome, merciful, loving father let his son... well... make stupid choices!  He let his son waste his money.  He let his son throw stupid pointless parties.  He let his son waste part of his life.  He let his son go eat dinner with the pigs.  What I'm trying to say is sometimes you just need to let people go make that terrible mistake.  Sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can say to that person that will change their mind so why even argue?  Are they walking down a path that is going to lead them straight to the pig farm?  Probably... But maybe that's where they need to go to finally get "it"

It's not fun when you see someone you love start down that path.  It can even physically hurt to hear them talk with their terrible, poorly thought out life choices.  I'm not saying you should never say something.  I'm not saying you should absolutely never try to intervene.  But there are times when you just need to take a step back and say, "Ok.  Go make that mistake if that's what you truly want right now."  What I am saying is sometimes people need to have dinner with the pigs to finally realize what's true, good, and acceptable.  Pray for those people.  Be there for those people.  Don't write them off or judge them from afar.  Be the best friend that you can be.  And when they finally see the light, throw the biggest, most epically epic bar-b-que they've ever seen!

If you'd like to read this story Jesus told you can find it in Luke 15:11-32