Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Earth Shatter # 1

1995 was a very good year, well at least the first ten months of it anyway. Life was rolling along in the Bowling Center business. My relationship with Betty was growing more and more, and then taking major steps back every once in a while, but nothing to get too worked up about. And then came November. Exciting news for Beatles fans, new CD's and a TV special (Anthology), Thanksgiving, Christmas, there was a lot to get excited about.
And then it was over . . .
Too many fights, too much insecurity and immaturity (mostly on my part). She walked into the bowling center on a Sunday. I was preparing to run a tournament. She gave me her ring and I lost it. I left, no tournament for me, I ran as far as I could. There just happened to be a Beatles Convention of sorts down near the airport so I went down there and basically spent an entire paycheck to try and forget about what had just happened. It didn't work, the music was great, but it didn't work. I remember a snapshot of me outside her window, straight out of a movie begging to be talked to, her father attempting to reason with me (he and her mother were so very sweet to me through all of it and I thank them for that). And there's another snapshot, a few nights later of me standing behind the counter watching The first night of the Anthology and watching Paul McCartney sing "Yesterday" and crying my 22 year old eyes out. Another snapshot a few weeks later of me (and this is the only time I've ever done this) sitting at a bar at another bowling center and enjoying strawberry wine coolers being supplied by a friend of mine who understood that I was hurting deeply. My dad, watched from a distance, embarrassed and concerned for his son. I cherish that part of the picture. That which I had come to see as the ultimate reality in my life was gone and there was no getting it back. So . . . I ran straight into 1996. More to come . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meanwhile . . .

He met Betty. We'll call her Betty. He was working down in Bugs Bunny World serving a demotion period for a mistake at another ride of which he was a lead. He thought he would be serving his time while waiting to climb that ladder again. But then . . . there she was and he was hooked. The two of them dated steadily and realized they both had a common interest, bowling. He was an average bowler, but she was outstanding. It seems that she had been bowling all of her life and was one of the top youth bowlers in the state of Georgia. He just tried to keep the ball out of the gutter as often as he could manage.
Meanwhile he was repromoted and things were back on track at Six Flags. That ministerial calling was fading into the background as career and possible family interests were muting the call of God. Still, he couldn't complain about where life was going. Except for one thing . . . he needed a full time job to pay his full time bills. And Six Flags could not give that to him, at least not yet anyway. He made a decision which he still considers a mistake today, he left Six Flags and started working in a bowling center. He still wishes he would have stayed at SFOG but he would have more steady work and it didn't hurt that Betty worked at this bowling center.
Well a few months later he and Betty were engaged. He was the Assistant Manager at the bowling center and the future was bright. But off in the distance that still small voice was still whispering . . . You're mine and I have called you to something else, something more, something . . . but enough of that, let's bowl another game and get on with life . . .

1995 would change things, EVERYTHING. More to come . . .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving Right Along . . .

Well, it's a few days past tomorrow but nevertheless . . .

The angry young man leaves Young Harris after two years and experiences great success at Six Flags Over Georgia in the Rides Department and begins working his way up the ladder. Over the course of the next two years he ascends and descends as he struggles with the success at SFOG and his calling to ministry. And then in 1994 he meets her and becomes a little confused about his calling and his place of employment. God is working but the young man must admit he's clueless as to the direction of his life. More about her and the rise and fall of the mid-90's to come . . . Remember we're trying to uncover God's hand in each of these situations. More to come . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

God's Fingerprints . . .

Life sometimes just doesn't seem to make much sense. As I drove over to the office this morning listening to "In The Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra I began to reminisce about my teenage years (along with my early 20's) and ponder where and when God was most at work in my life.

Consider the following . . .

1. An angry (and we never really knew why) young man reaches a point of no return with his dad and moves in with his mom (whom he had never lived with) for his Junior and Senior years of high school and changes his name as a symbol of this new lease on life.
2. This angry young man hears the preaching of Johnny Hunt at First Baptist Woodstock and hears afresh the gospel call and begins to reorient his life to God
3. This angry young man excels in the arts, meets a friend, John, who would be his partner in music) and at least attempts athletics and then receives a scholarship to Young Harris College to study music.
4. This angry young man meets Rev. Frederic J. Whitley at Young Harris, serves as his assistant and one night during a thunderstorm receives an unmistakable call to ministry.

And at this point this angry young man begins to pick up God's trail . . . or were his eyes opened to the fact that God was there all along? More to come tomorrow . . . . Js

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Weekend Away . . .

Last night my family left the friendly confines of the ATL in search of some rest and relaxation at the lake in Milledgeville. My wife's grandparents own a lake house and we were invited to accompany them on this Labor Day weekend. Our son, Grady, will be playing ninjas, Power Rangers, Star Wars, super heroes, etc., with his cousins for the entirety of the trip. Getting him to stop long enough to eat is quite a challenge. My wife will absorb another book or two as she relaxes and takes care of our seven month old daughter. And I . . . well I'm trying to keep up with all of the scores from the first full weekend of college football and rooting on our Braves tonight as they try to rebound from an embarrassing game last night.

Also, for the first time this year I will be away from the church where I am privileged to pastor, New Hope Christian Church in Lawrenceville. My wife and I will be driving back into Atlanta tomorrow morning for her to work at her home church, Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta. We will return to the lake to continue or time away. i am praying for those precious folks at New Hope and I know that Ray Austin will bring a solid word from the Lord for them.

Tomorrow morning I will have the privilege of being "ONLY" a worshipper, instead of serving as a leader. And if I'm totally honest it feels weird to just worship. And yet as I read my Bible that is what I find God has created us for, to praise and enjoy Him for all eternity. Now there's a lot packed into the word praise and its not just singing and making melody in our hearts to God. No, there's a task to which God has called us and we are to do that whether we are up front near the altar or in the back nearer the foyer. Our lives are to emanate Christ's light to a dark world. Little pieces of that darkness find their way into churches each and every time we meet together. Disciples are to share what they have received as part of a praise-filled life.

So tomorrow when I walk into the Peachtree Christian Church I am truly still "on the clock" and I pray that I will be ready when I have the opportunity to praise God with someone in need of a little bit o' light. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One Of The Greatest Albums Ever . . .

In 1968 The Beach Boys, (that's right, The Beach Boys), reeling from the failure of Brian Wilson to deliver SMiLE in 1967 and their disappearance at the Monterrey Pop Festival that same year which they were asked to headline, went back to Brian's home studio and created a masterpiece titled Friends that was hardly noticed by the public world. Brian reminded everyone that although he was sliding away from public life, he was still able to deliver terrific music with melodies and harmonies that were second to none.

Friends features contributions from each group member, especially in the songwriting department. Carl Wilson steps forward in a big way on this album with beautiful vocals on the title cut. Dennis sings lead on two cuts, "Little Bird" and "Be Still". The songs are gentle (with the exception of "Transcendental Meditation" which was on the mind of Mike Love after he spent some time with The Beatles with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India.

All in all, this was one of the first group efforts which wasn't dominated by Brian. Each member played a vital role and while it didn't sell many copies, Beach Boys fans know of its beauty and cherish its warm sounds. No surfing here, no fast cars. Just great music from one of the most underrated musical groups of all time. Seriously!! Check it out!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On the musical side of things . . .

I have decided to post a weekly review of a CD which is getting heavy rotation in my car, home, or office and recommend it to you for your listening pleasure. This week I want to focus on Phil Keaggy's Acoustic Sketches. According to I-Tunes I have listened to this CD over 230 times since importing it into this computer some two years ago. But I have been listening to it for over 12 years. And all I can say is . . . God-honoring and a musician's delight.

Phil Keaggy is the best guitar player that so-called Contemporary Christian Music has ever produced. That's not my opinion, that's a fact. Phil has been around since the birth of CCM and is one of its pioneers. He started out in the late 60's in a secular rock group called Glass Harp and shredded his Gibson Les Paul for all it was worth. During his time with that band he met the Lord Jesus Christ and began the process of turning his talents toward the Lord. When he sings he sounds a lot like Paul McCartney (which is a-okay with me) and when he plays he sounds like no other. Landmark albums include What A Day, Way Back Home, Crimson and Blue, Phil Keaggy, True Believer, The Master and the Musician, Beyond Nature, The Wind and the Wheat, Dream Again, and Acoustic Sketches. (There are many more, these are just the ones I could think of right now).

Sketches is the official background to my work days at the church office. Highlights include Metamorphosis, Spend My Life With You, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, The 50th, and Legacy. In each Phil lets his fingers do the walking in honor and praise of our Lord. The styles range from contemplative to folk and classical to all out jam.

If you enjoy acoustic guitar . . . this is the album for you. I hope this disc will lead you to discover more from Phil Keaggy. Enjoy!! Next week's review: who knows? :)

I've been thinking . . .

a lot recently about something I heard a preacher say at a pastor's conference earlier this year about God's passive wrath. I am paraphrasing him but what follows is pretty close. There are pastors everywhere who are struggling with sins which God will either confront here and now by dismantling ministries and disrupting lives in God's objective of saving the heart of the pastor for eternity OR God will simply allow pastors to continue in ministry and then they would become objects of God's passive wrath in judgment when they, like the people in Matthew 7, will say "Lord didn't we do this, this, this, and this?" to which Jesus will reply, "What does that have to do with me?"

I had never considered the second option and to be honest it caused me to sit up straight and take a more serious inventory of my life and how I conduct myself as a minister of the Gospel in EVERY area, son, husband, father, pastor, preacher, administrator, whatever . . . We would all do well to take serious these words and use them to check ourselves and strive to live lives of faithful service unto God in Christ. We must understand that there's nothing we can do to earn our salvation for the love of God as displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ has covered each one of us. But we are called to live Christlike lives in response to God's initiative and calling for each one of us.

That is my pursuit today. I pray that it is yours as well. Being a Christian is seriously joyful!!

peace -- Js

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dinner at the Dining Room Table

This friends is a story of procrastination and perseverance. In September of 2008 Ellie, Grady, and I (with a lot of help from a lot of friends) moved into our new residence in Vinings. Our dining room area has served as a storage unit and home for 15 to 20 boxes which just weren't very high on our list to empty. So there they sat, untouched but not out f sight and not out of mind.

Two forces encroached and the unthinkable has happened in our dining room. Those forces came in the form of my mother-in-law and a birthday party planned for Grady here at home. In just a little over ten days the dining room is box free, the China cabinet is in place (and looks great by the way), and I write tonight from my spot at the table facing the television.

Much stress has been relieved and it's as if we've added a room to our living space. The spaghetti was excellent as well. Back to sermonizing then . . . Braves Baseball!! :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

He made it and so did we!!

It's been a month since Ellie and I picked Grady up from camp and I thought some of you would like to know how it went. It started out really well with a cute picture from his mother's cell phone as he unloaded his stuff from the car and stood triumphantly on the deck at Woodland. My wife and mother-in-law helped him get situated in his cabin (which was a real train car) and slowly and subtly disappeared from view as he went to the pool for a swim.

Apparently he had the idea that his mother was staying with him there at the camp, and upon awaking the next day realized that she was not there. According to his camp dad he was a bit weepy and clingy but he manged to participate pretty well.

Then came night # 2 and my little man had a hard time getting to sleep. A big thanks to his camp director, Vangie, who treated him so well and was successful in getting him to sleep that night. Early the next morning we received a phone call from Vangie who promised Grady he could talk to us if he went to sleep. He was ready to come home and we were just about to walk out the door to get him. It took us about an hour to get to Temple and the campground. But when he saw us he was excited and it wasn't long before we were in the car and headed home. We stopped for some lunch on the way home at Arbor Place Mall and a little playtime.

All in all, it was a great experience for him and I think he'll be ready for another go-around next summer. As for his parents . . . my how time flies and babies become little men and before long . . .oh I'd rather not think about it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My little buddy is going to camp . . .

My wife and mother-in-law will be taking Grady, my 5 year old son, to Woodland Christian Camp tonight for First Timer's Camp. This will be the first time he has been gone without a relative being near EVER. His mom and I are not so sure about this little experiment. But I can only imgaine the mix of excitement and fear that must be present inside of him. This is really exciting, swimming, games, singing, Bible study, meeting new friends, getting there early enough to get a top bunk, But then tonight when it's time to go to sleep, there won't be prayers with mommy, no chapter from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to make him laugh and ooo and aah. No baby sister asleep in the crib next to his bed, no Baby Einstein music or lava lamp to serenade and keep the ghosts away. But he will have Teddy, his mom and dad's prayers, and God will be watching over him.

I know its only 41 hours, but for his mom and I it's gonna feel like eternity.

Is this how God felt when he sent Jesus to be born of a teenage virgin? I don't want to be overly dramatic here, but Ellie and I are hoping that Grady, who will be separated from us by a great distance, will stay the course and finish the camp. God watched His son intently and wanted so very much for Jesus to finish the course which had been given him, namely salvation for all of God's creation. God watched as Jesus came to his Gethsemane moment and I am sure God wanted to reach out and stop these events from unfolding. But "God loved the world," which includes you and I, so much that God did not intercede and Jesus was resolute in his obedience. He stayed the course and you know the rest of the story . . .

Tonight or tomorrow night, when Grady has his Gethsemane moment, will his mom and I allow the camp process to go to the end on Friday (coincidence, huh?)? I hope so. Grady's not saving the world by staying at camp, but he is showing a desire to obey and be challenged. So pray for us and for little Grado . . . we all need it. Js

My Blog Has Moved

Not that anyone looked at my other blog but I thought I would create a new space for all things theological, biblical, musical, and otherwise entertaining or at least worth a discussion. I hope someone besides me will read this and I hope you'll follow this blog in the days to come. peace --Js