The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Glory of God

I’m working my way through an online course to help with food and eating issues - OK, actually I just started it today. :-D The first lesson got me thinking about life, the universe, and everything...

All together, now...


(if you didn’t join in with that, no worries - just means that you don’t know the ultimate answer... or the question for that matter)

Why am I trying to lose weight? Hmmm...

1) for health reasons - so that I can move around without wanting to fall over
2) for life reasons - to be around longer for my family and friends
3) for service reasons - to continue to use my gifts for God

Honestly, appearance or vanity never enters into it. I’m not trying to fit into that purple Speedo for beach season (I pause to allow collective retching and ralphing...), or to look better for my next album cover. (in face, you’ll NEVER see my face on any of my covers... there is a pic of me on the back of the Advent CD, but it’s just there for comic relief) The thought of trying to make myself look better for vanity’s sake never really entered my mind. Although it’d be nice to be a sweeter piece of Arm Candy for my honey... :-D

My main motivation is not to “be,” but to “do.” To ride, to live, to travel, to play and write, to create, and to love my beloved. So, is that the right answer?

Survey says...


I guess not.

Lesson one points to the real reason for this journey - the glory of God. I’ve often quoted that passage that talks about everything we do, being done for God’s glory. But what about who we are? Giving Him glory just by being who He made us? That’s one that I have trouble wrapping my head around. Doesn’t help that my self-image is pretty much compost. I find value in what I do, not who I am. But that’s not the right foundation to start from.

Those of you who are all about the worldview will recognize that flaw right away. A Christian worldview starts with God being at the center, and everything else built upon that. So it’s no surprise that the pursuit of weight loss and heath should focus not on me, but on God and His glory. Glorifying Him by submitting to a program? Yeah, but mostly giving Him glory through His work in me. It’s not what I DO, but what He does - transforming me into the image of Jesus.

“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

I’ve never looked in a mirror and said, “God’s glory!” When I look in a mirror, I see flaws, I see scars and marks, wear and tear, and all the little things that go along with getting ready to turn 50. I see eyes that have been lonely, been hurt and disappointed, have failed, suffered, fallen short, and are tired. Just as when I hear a piece of music I wrote or recorded, or look at a piece of jewelry I made, I see the flaws. Just the flaws.

But I should see glory. Transformation “from glory to glory.” The journey moves from a wretched failure, trying one more time to push the boulder uphill, and expecting to have it roll back and flatten me one more time, to a journey from glory to glory, where the effort expended is simply to honor the One who it’s all about. The focus is not on me - if it is, all I’ll see are the flaws and the failure. The focus is on Him, and His strength being made perfect in my weakness. His glory, being revealed in how He’s working in me.

At my last weigh-in, the Behaviorist at Weigh to Wellness said, “when you pull into Arby’s and you’re thinking about what you’re doing there, does God ever enter into those thoughts?” How does your faith apply when you’re waiting to order food that will ultimately kill you?

When the focus shifts to God’s glory, all the thoughts of me and what I want get laid aside. (hopefully - it’s still a battle, and a major re-routing of life patterns) He becomes the focus, not “what does Cal’s spoiled brat inner child want to indulge in?“

This is the stuff that’ll be rattling around in my head today... If you hear a strange noise, that’s probably it. :-D

Monday, April 27, 2009

Alone but not abandoned

Sometimes when one is working through the issues of life, you hit a major point that requires some re-alignment. I’ve never been much for the concept of sorting through one’s past to fix things in the present - I’ve too often seen someone who has been on that journey using it as an excuse for their boorish behavior. “Oh, I can’t help it, because I was _____ as a child.”

Don’t get me wrong - abuses suffered as a child are reprehensible, and the parties responsible for the abuse should be vigorously slapped. (he said, from his lofty perch high above, blind to most of what passes by...) And the pain from abuse is very real and must be dealt with in a caring manner. No, I have a problem when someone uses that as an excuse, proclaiming themselves as a victim. That denies the power of God in being able to heal the past and move us into the future. (again, I’m spending a little too much time in the “everything is black and white” section of the lofty perch seating area... sorry)

So, with that kind of a mindset, you’ll not be surprised to find that I’m reluctant to look at my past as a key to my issues at present. And that went along fine... sort of... until today. The word my counselor used was “abandoned.” Wow. Really? Nah! Really?“

A bit of history would be in order here... My dad left us when I was three, and the reason my Mom told us was that he didn’t want to hurt us anymore. Dad was an alcoholic, never able to conquer it, and decided that rather than work through it, he’d just leave. (I’ve never put it in that way before in all the years I’ve told that story... interesting...) And so, I grew up not knowing him. No visits, no communication, just silence. My brother bore the pain of those years more than me - mom told me of times when he would sit all day, waiting for dad to come and take him fishing, and being disappointed when dad never showed. Or at least I thought my brother was the one hurt - I honestly didn’t remember any of it.

Fast forward to when I was 21... We heard from my dad for the first time I could remember. He was back in Michigan, at his brother’s place, and he was dying. Mom, my brother and I met him there, and I really have no words to describe meeting my dad for the first time I could remember. Mom asked him to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, prompted by some God-given impulse. And I remember driving right past the house, not wanting to give up my holiday to spend it with this stranger. Spent some time talking with a much younger but far wiser friend, then went home.

At the end of that weekend, two events happened that changed our family’s history. First, dad surrendered to Jesus and became a new creation. Second, mom and dad decided to remarry.

Yes, I sang at my parent’s wedding. And my brother was my dad’s best man. How many of you can say that?

We had dad around for almost two years, until he died. The story we told folks was that he died from complications from the alcoholism. That’s true, in a certain light. But there’s a truth that very few outside of my family know about what really happened. His mind snapped - we know this because he had a cassette recorder running and we could hear him raving - and then my dad bailed on us once again.

He took a rifle, went into the garage, and killed himself.

(once again, I’ve never described it that way, that he bailed on us... interesting)

He would have met Vicki two weeks later - she was coming home to spend part of Christmas break with us, and he was looking forward to spending the holiday with his family and the girl who would become a part of that family. My dad is the one, when hearing me talk about Vicki on the phone (a lot), replied, ”Son, when you’re done shopping, get out of the store.“ Wise words indeed.

Abandoned. Twice in one lifetime by the same person. And I had no idea what that did to me. I always thought that the time God gave me with dad provided closure to my life, an ending to the story at last. And it did, but it also left unseen scars that I wasn’t aware of until today.

I’m a very visual person - to truly learn something, I have to see it as a picture or a pattern. (it amuses Vicki when I remember a phone number by the pattern it makes on the number pad...) When my counselor said ”abandoned,“ the image I got was of the gears and tumblers in a machine (a lock, a mechanism, something like that) turning, all of them spinning and searching for alignment. I saw a splinter, a fracture, a rift that sped through the gears all the way back to their beginning, and the cogs and gears trying to mesh together to close the gap and come back into sync. Some of the flaws I live with at the present end of that machine (if you will) found their connection all the way back to that point, and showed me why they can’t seem to find their place in the whole unit. Some of the things about me that frustrate me, but elude my grasp in trying to deal with them have their roots in that place, flaws in the machine buried so deeply that they weren’t visible - until now.

So, what now? That is a very deep question. I can tell you one thing - you’ll never hear the phrase, ”well, I do that because I was abandoned as a child“ out of my mouth. Or, if you do, you have my full permission to smack me. (Not in the face, please - I have a phobia about being slapped in the face. Just ask Vicki about it...) But I’ll be thinking about that question for some time to come. I’ll probably draw it out, trace some of the fracture lines, and try and make sense of the pattern that emerges, but what to do with it from there?

As my counselor said, it’s time to accept the love of the One who has never abandoned me. I am not an orphan - my Father cares for me, He loves me and He watches over my present as He has watched over my past. The fracture, the chasm, the void can only be filled by Him. He is a Father to the fatherless.

He is my Father.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Now YOU do that VOOdoo that YOU DO so well...

Why do you do what you do?

Simple enough question, right? But it’s not about what you do - it’s why you do it. The question also leaves out any conditioners - “at work,” “for fun,” “on vacation,” and so on. Just the question, without much context. And for many of us, “what you do” becomes a multiple choice thing. We do a lot of do as we do things, and so which do is the do that the question wants to know why you do?

Still with me? Good.

In all of my do-do (*snicker*), I’m going to focus in on playing live. That leaves a lot of unexplored do-do (*snort*), and perhaps it’s better that way. A life with unexplored do-do (*guffaw*) is a life that shows the truth of “ignorance is bliss.”

Anyway, enough of that do-do. (“alright, stop that.”)

Consider what it takes for a performer to go someplace and do their thing... For example, since I just happen to be at one of my favorite coffee houses as I write this, allow me to take a look at what it will take in a few days when I return here to play...

Load the van with various instruments, electronic doodads that need to live in the house, and bodies to head to the gig. Allow one hour for setup, plus travel time.

Arrive at the gig, unload the following:
PA System - 5 pieces, also a mic and stand
Wind controller rig - two pieces plus connections
Stands and tables - three or four pieces
Instruments - 12-15 whistles, perhaps a few recorders, possibly an ocarina and a melodica
Computer and connections
Promo material, CDs for sale

Now put everything in place, in an ever-changing performance configuration

Connect all the devices, including power, setup all the stands, get out all the instruments, boot up the laptop and load the tracks.

Sound check, warm up the instruments, double-check the set list, and work out any issues with the wind controller

Check the cable runs, and tape down any cords that might cause litigation.

Play for at least two hours, with a 5-10 minute break between sets (at the place I’ll play in a few days, I usually play for three hours, sometime without taking any breaks)

Take it all apart, disconnect everything, put away all the instruments, fold down the stands and tables, pack all the cords, disassemble the PA and put everything back in their cases / boxes / bags

Put everything back in the van. Allow at least 20 minutes to take down, although it takes more like 30-45 minutes.

Drive home, unload the stuff that lives in the house

Repeat. Every time you play. Ad infinitum.

Why do you do what you do?

Honestly? Because I need to. I want to. I find that those weeks where I don’t play somewhere, that something seems to be missing. When too much time goes by between gigs, I lose something - my edge, my groove, whatever you might call it. Things aren’t as smooth, the songs aren’t as tight, and it’s just not as good. When I’m playing regularly, it keeps getting easier and better.

And because Vicki likes to hear me play. That’s enough reason right there.

I think this compulsion is common in musicians. We spend so much time in our little rooms or studios, playing our songs to the air around us, developing ideas, practicing material, and polishing it as much as we can. But if it stops there, and the music is never heard, there is something missing. We remain incomplete. The music changes when it’s played live - the reaction of the audience enhances it, clarifies it, refines it. How the music is received determines if that song will ever be heard again. The reaction of those that hear it has an impact on how I feel about that song.

Did you have any idea that an audience has such power over a musician?

Anyone can sit around in their living room, crooning little tunes and playing for fun. But for a performer, that’s never enough. The music is never meant to just sit there - it wants to be heard. The musician wants it to be heard.

Why do you do what you do?

Because God made me this way. He put these gifts in me to reach out, not to draw in. And when I play, I reflect Him. When I’m using the gifts He has given, and when I am doing the things He created me to do, that’s when I shine the brightest. And that’s when I feel the most joy, the most peace, and the most connected to Him.

The music is meant to be heard. When it is heard, it reflects the One who gives it. I do what I do because He made me to. And that’s enough for me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A time for every purpose...

It’s time.

It’s not only time, it’s way past time. Totally overdue.

I went into our basement today. That’s a good thing, since I hadn’t made the trek down there in like, 6 months or so. And I saw what Vicki had been telling me about - the basement is a disaster area.

Now, the whole house is a disaster, but for some reason I didn’t think the basement was that bad. Perhaps because when I was last down there, a path existed to get from area to area. Now, not so much. So the basement I remembered from half a year ago has become the basement that can’t be moved in.

Lots of cool things down there... Material for new clothes, some shirts I haven’t worn in a year or two (but that still are wearable - just need some mending), a recumbent bike that I want to get repaired to loan to a friend, and so on. Granted, there’s a lot of junk down there too, the kind that should either be up on eBay or Craigslist, or at the bottom of a very large dumpster. And the sight of it overwhelms me.

But not as much as it once did.

Momentum is a funny thing... gain some traction in one area, and it tends to help in others too. 50 pounds ago (or almost 50 anyway), everything was overwhelming. Just walking from bed to the bathroom was a big deal. Couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds without needing to sit, lest I fall over. Walking into a store? Forgedaboudit. Now, just a few pounds down (compared with how far I have to go), and things don’t seem to be as daunting as they once were. That is now spilling over into how I view our house. Instead of seeing nothing but the tiny path that leads from room to room, or being so depressed by the fact that we only live in two rooms of our house, I now feel like it’s time to make a move on it.

There is a lot to do. Cleaning up one thing is a little tiny drop in the bucket. But so is losing a pound, or two, or five. Suddenly, traction gets under the wheels, and the whole thing gets moving... not just one part, but the whole.

It’ll take time, it’ll take effort, and it’ll take help. We have time. We can do the effort. And gracious friends have offered for a LONG time to help when needed. Not to mention the chore board at church - I’d imagine that youth would be quite good at “carry this upstairs to the dumpster, please.” And the money goes for a great cause!

Then, maybe we can start fixing some things around here. And maybe (at last!) we’ll finally kill the dusty rose country wallpaper that I just LOVE around my studio. Yerch.

It’s time.

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Turn, turn, turn. :-D

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Musician or Mercenary

As I think through this whole thing of making a portion of my living from creative pursuits, a question has come to mind. It was prompted by an evening playing at a coffeehouse, when the place was decently busy - not SRO, but a good steady flow of humanity. Three or so groups were gathered around tables, one of these (at least - didn’t check out the other two) was a Bible study. Groups of friends, gathering for good conversation, fellowship and enjoying some pleasant music as an accompaniment.

Sounds like a fine evening, right? That’s what I was thinking.

Now, allow me to digress a tad... When a musician plays someplace like a coffeehouse, it’s not like a club or a bar where you get a certain percentage of the door or some other arrangement. You’re playing for tips, and for the chance to sell CDs or other merch you might have with you. So you play for two or three hours, hoping to sell some CDs, maybe have some brochures or business cards taken which might produce some future gigs (maybe even some paying ones - what a concept!), but mostly hoping for enough coin to get dropped in your bucket to fuel the van and keep rolling to the next gig.

(Depending on your era, it would be appropriate to be humming Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” or Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” right now. Or, if you really want to go back a ways, go for Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy.” Any of these are a fine counterpoint to the discussion thus far.)

So, back to our evening of music and such... At the end of the night, when things had cleared out and we were packing up the dollies and dishies, we checked the buckets...

And found $2.00. Two. One...two. Duo. One more than one, but one less than three. (“five is right out!”) Had it been a dead night, I’d accept that. But there was a good stream of folks through that night, with a major lack of coin in the buckets.

And I was not amused. Not angry, ticked, or anywhere near postal. Just frustrated and disappointed.

Which leads me to the question that came as a result of that night: Are you a Musician, or a Mercenary?

Where does one cross over from playing for fun, to bring others joy and to give God glory, and arrive at play for pay? No pay, no play. And does that change things - your attitude, your behavior, your worldview?

For most of my life, music has been something that is done for fun, but not to make a living. I’ve often said that nobody in their right mind goes into doing this as their occupation - “never quit your day job!” is the credo we live by.

But, in this time and in this place, creative pursuits are what I do. They have to be more than just recreation - they have to contribute to our household. At the very least, they need to pay for themselves so that they don’t leech resources from what is needed to keep us solvent.

And that changes a lot. Joy gets trumped by dollar signs. The first consideration moves away from “cool - a chance to go play!” and heads toward “can I really afford to do this?” Childhood innocence and wonder meet cold hard reality at 70 mph. Ouch.

So, this would be a good place to refocus, eh wot?

God is the giver of gifts, the author of creativity. A lot of how I view the world is wrapped up in that. I believe that, although people are capable of producing amazing creative works, the pinnacle of those works are achieved when the art / music / etc. produced is offered to the Creator’s glory. Creativity for its own sake is a downward spiral, concerned only with the inward human condition and not with its impact on the world. Think of some extreme examples of modern art, of 20th century music, or of the bizarre things done as “performance art.” Creativity for its own sake.

Since God gives the gifts, and my goal is to reflect Him with those gifts, it follows that He will also provide the opportunities and the resources necessary to exercise those gifts. If I proclaim one part of His truth, I have to accept ALL of it, right? He gives gifts. He supplies needs. He cares for it all.

Two bucks in the bucket? Well, that’s two bucks more than I had 3 hours ago. And who knows what impact a song I played might have had during a serious conversation or a Bible study? What impact might the music have had on the person so ripped up by a stressful life, that a little bit of musical peace seemed like the eye of the hurricane?

The music is His. The words are His. The abilities are His. And what is necessary to use them is also His to give.

Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

“Trusting Jesus” - words by Edgar Page Stites

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Record or Not to Record...

So, my Father-In-Law was speaking to me last time we saw each other, and said something that has been bouncing around in my noggin since...

“I guess you won’t do any more CD’s, huh?”

“Huh” indeed.

At this point, I’m reading into things I’m sure, but of course my mind started to try and “fill in the blanks” of what he was actually saying with that question...

1) Since he still sees a lot of CDs sitting around, that this venture was a complete financial failure, and so I’d be nutz to keep doing them, since obviously nobody really wants them anyway.

2) Obviously, this whole creative-pursuit-part-time-no-real-job gig isn’t working out, and thus his daughter is having to keep our household afloat, which just isn’t right, so about time I got my round hiney out de doh, and get a real job.

3) If you aren’t making money, you aren’t ever going to be able to get a new vehicle, get a new house, and keep on getting and doing better and better.

4) I hate the whistle. Sell them ALL and use the money to get the aforementioned stuff.

(OK - that last one might be a bit of a stretch...)

And yes, I’m well aware that these are probably more about my insecurity than about what he actually thinks of our situation. But, I wouldn’t discount them entirely - our lives are very, very different from my In-Laws, and I’m sure there are times where Dad kind of scratches his head and mutters to himself.

So, since I’m having this internal debate, the opposing side takes the podium to refute the arguments:

1) True, we have a LOT of CDs around. We’ve sold a small number, but there are a lot left. HOWEVER, there are a lot because we did an initial order of 1000 each time - the cost per CD gets a lot better in that quantity, and since they have the shelf life of Carbon 14, it’s all good.

Oh, and the thing you don’t see is digital distribution - Vicki and I were looking at the online sales, and were pretty amazed at where my songs have sold... iTunes, iTunes Europe, Napster, Amazon, and others. Some were purchases, others were paid listens. The amount we see from each one is tiny, but take a lot of pennies and eventually you have a full piggy bank.

2) You’re right. The whole part-time-creative-pursuit thing is not bringing in much bacon. The ship has a lot of holes, and some days the waves get our legs wet all the way up to the belt buckle. We’re still trying to figure out how this whole thing works, and that takes some serious time. I keep asking Vicki if it’s time for me to get a real job... and she says, “you already HAVE a real job!” So, if the boss says this is what we do, this is what we do. I just need to learn to do it better.

3) This is also true. We’ll probably stay in our 100+ year old money pit, driving our ancient minivan, and not achieve the American dream of more and better. But is that bad?

- we are learning to be better stewards with what we’ve been given, a lesson I’ve been clueless about!
- there are reasons we bought this house, and things about it we love. Now it’s time to learn to make it into the house we want, not just the house we have.
- it takes time for a (almost) 50 year man to learn stuff. Lots and lots of time...

4) I know you hate the whistle. That’s the reason I play it. :-D (just kidding... really. :-D)

I DO ask that question - do I keep recording CDs? Is it worth the time and money we invest into them? Or do I get rid of it and get a “real” job? In answer, the Lord keeps bringing new ideas for arrangements and songs. So, as Vicki said, “as long as He keeps bringing new ideas, it’s your job to keep recording them.”

And folks ask about the new material, are excited when they hear something new at a gig and find out that song is slated for the new CD, and in general report that they are blessed by the music.

And that’s the point. The financial, the “success,” the business model, all of that is secondary. Does the music glorify God? Does it minister to folks? Do people find it helpful to bring them closer to Him? Does it provide peace in a hectic world? Does it soothe when life can be grinding?

If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then that’s our reason to continue.

We may have enough of these puppies around to build a new addition out of them, but that’s not how we are measuring success. Success is when someone is encouraged, or blessed, or finds peace through what God puts together in the music. That makes it worth it. As long as He keeps giving the ideas, and providing what we need to make them, we’ll keep going.

Oh, and if He tells you something different - that we should stop before we hurt somebody, please pass that along. We are listening. :-D I’ve always said, if this stuff is crap and really should never be heard again, somebody PLEASE tell me to stop wasting my time and give it up. :-D

So far, that’s not been the word we’ve heard.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Blank Slate...

Tabula Rasa = “blank slate”

I’m spending a lot of time these days trying to erase some things that were etched on my slate many, many years ago. Interesting that this seems to be something I’m more focused on as I get close to my 50th birthday. The feeling I seem to most identify with this pursuit is one of discontent - tired of being the way I am, stuck with the old baggage I’ve been carrying around for years and years. Weariness of stumbling through my days without change, without growth, without progress.

Tabula Rasa

What stuff am I still carrying around?

Weight - I’ve lost 45 pounds or so (might be less by now - I’m not being as diligent with the transition to food as I should be). How badly would I love to see me being below 400 lbs? Or even down to 350? Maybe down to 300? Evidently not badly enough to erase the writing on that slate that says “I love food” or “this is how I reward me” or even “I need this so I won’t be lonely.” Those things are not just written on the slate - they’re driven into the surface with a chisel, and the surface needs to be sanded and smoothed for them to be erased.

Selfishness - Only within the last couple of years have I realized what a spoiled brat I can be. I’ve managed to remain humble about my gifts, musical and otherwise, and to remember that they aren’t mine at all - but rather something given by God for His purpose and not mine. But so much of my thinking and my outlook on the world leans toward the selfish; it astonishes me. Over 27 years, I’ve put such demands on Vicki that I’m truly amazed she still loves me. The grooves on this writing are so deep they almost go through the slate.

Poor self-image - I watch my newlywed friends David and Suzie, and I see such wonder through their eyes. But something that Suzie said really rang a bell in my head - how that they both were complete persons before they wed, so their union is the joining of two whole people. I can’t say that - Vicki married a very fractured half-person, with many issues and much baggage, and any improvement or maturity I now display is more about her patient love and God’s resounding grace than about my growth as a person. And it still baffles me that she can truly love me so totally and without conditions. And to think that God loves me abundantly more than that - “inconceivable! ”

(nothing like a Princess Bride quote to lighten things up, eh?)

Past failures - Sightblinder can bring up every shortcoming, every failure, every disappointment, every sadness, and all in such detail and clarity that it makes the Imax look like a 9“ black & white set without cable. And I believe it - every time! I know that my past is covered in Christ, I KNOW that the sea of forgetfulness is deeper than any ocean, and I know that those things are past and gone, but they remain in my head, great fodder for the Shepherd of the Night to throw in my face.

Shall I go on? Shall I talk about my inability to clean my house? Shall we discuss five years of college and no degree to show for it? How about the hours and hours I spend mindlessly surfing the web, to the exclusion of anything else? Or how I get so distracted by the stupid things, that the important stuff never happens? Or how I spend hours thinking about riding my bike, or getting outside to enjoy the sun, sitting down and working on music, making jewelry, or writing, but NEVER actually do any of it? I have the titles and ideas for at least 6 new CDs, many new jewelry pieces, and new ideas to write about, but am I ever going to actually get them off the ground? Probably not.

Tabula Rasa

As Scrooge pondered, I wonder if the future will be just what I see. Will these shadows remain unchanged, so that what is pictured here is what will be? My dad died at 53, my mom at 69 - do I have any time left? Is anything ever going to change? Or will I remain bound with these words written and gouged and carved into the slate? Can any hand wipe away the writing on the stone? (something else Scrooge asked...)

Tabula Rasa

Guess it’s time to consult the Manual, eh?

”Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at Him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!“ (II Corinthians 5:17, The Message)

”If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.“ (Romans 6:2-5, The Message)

Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6b-8, NIV)

But that's no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:20-24, The Message)

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)

God is in the business of Tabula Rasa! Not just for those who have stepped from death to life in Jesus, but for us long-time battle-worn saints too. And that’s amazing! I don’t see anywhere in the Manual that there’s an expiration on the new life - use it by this date, or you’ll lose it. Apparently God invented the concept of rollover minutes long before cell phones - rollover life!! And guess what? Self-control and perseverance are a huge component in cleaning the slate and keeping it new...

”For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (II Peter 1:5-9, NIV)

Here’s how that passage reads in The Message:

”So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.“ (II Peter 1:5-9, The Message)

Self-control and perseverance. Alert discipline and passionate patience. (Not to mention godliness - or ”reverent wonder.“) As Jeff Manion said in a sermon on these verses, “This is not work God will do for you or without you. You need to get into the game. He’s given us everything we need in Jesus, but we need to be involved in the work.” He’s provided the eraser, the sander, the grinder to remove the writing from the slate - but I need to take up the tools, rely on His strength, and clean the slate. He’s erased it in Jesus, and now it’s up to me to erase it from the physical, day-to-day reality of life. To make what I say and what I do reflect what He’s already erased, and what He’s already written in its place. Jesus is risen, and He’s wiped the slate clean. Now I need to live that way - Tabula Rasa.

Friday, April 10, 2009


“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"” (Matthew 27:46)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

Even though there is so much we can directly relate to in the life of Jesus, there are things we’ll never understand. Fully God, but at the same time fully human. A man, one of us, who understands our grief, our joy, our longings, our darkness. But untouched by the curse, unaffected by the fall.

But there is one thing that I will never, ever comprehend, and doubt I ever will... being forsaken.

I’ve been dissed, ditched, dumped, insulted, disliked, looked down upon, left out, disregarded, dismissed, shunned, underestimated, misunderstood, disenfranchised, excommunicated (ok, perhaps not that one...), laid off, disconnected, disappointed, put aside, and put down. And many other unpleasant things. (I imagine I’ve even been despised and hated, but I’m unaware of it, thankfully...)

But I’ve NEVER been forsaken. Utter abandonment, total absence, complete solitude. Truth be told, I’ve never known the opposite either - complete harmony, total unison, absolute togetherness. As close as Vicki and I are, it’s not a perfect bond - no bond is, since we fallen critters aren’t capable of that.

But Jesus was and is capable of total communion with the Father. He walked in absolute oneness with His Father, knowing His will in perfect clarity. Being sure of His steps, in absolute conformity with the desires of the Father. And never knew a time when He didn’t have that bond of total and complete knowing of the Father, and being known.

Until that day. The darkness that covered Jerusalem was nothing compared to the utter blackness when the Father turned His back on the Son. When, for the first time in His existence, Jesus was totally and utterly alone. The physical torture of the cross, I imagine, was the lesser issue. The greater was the aloneness. Forsaken.

There is no joy in Easter without remembering the blackness of Good Friday.

We can trust the One who was tempted like us, laughed and cried like us, knew the heights and depths of human emotion, and became like us in all ways. Except one.

He was forsaken.

I know there’s a great ending to this story, and we’ll get there. But understand this, dear ones - when we are at our lowest, when we are at our blackest, when we see all the world around us as nothing more than a deep pit, to sink into and never return from, remember...

He was forsaken. We aren’t. And He returned from the pit. Through Him, so can we.

Have a blessed Easter.