Bread in My Jar

images2‘And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say ‘man what are you doing here’ – Billy Joel

For years as a musician I’ve struggled to make ends meet. It was WAY worse 20+ years ago when I was trying to “make it big” but it’s still quite the grind sometimes. I don’t not love it, I just love it and it’s in its proper place in my heart and in my life. The thought of “making it big” no longer consumes me. I wish I could tell you it’s because I came to my senses but honestly I think I beat my head against the same brick wall for so long that I finally realized that I needed a different approach If I was going to maintain any type of sanity.

I’ve gotten all sorts of useful advice over the years regarding music/gigs but none of them has been as fruitful as the “Tip Bucket.” My friend Stephen said to me after seeing me play a show “man that was good but where’s your tip bucket? You really NEED a tip bucket.” I thought to myself that Stephen has been doing this for years, maybe I ought to try it, what’s the worst that could happen?

For decades I played without one because I thought it was the same as begging for $$ like one of the poor souls on the side of the interstate with a sign that says “Will Work for Food” or something to the like. Honestly though, I think it was my pride and my ego wouldn’t let me put out a tip jar because I thought it was just a dumb idea and it made me look desperate…um HELLO I was desperate.

Then one day I was playing a gig and I noticed a man walk in front of me with some $ in his hand. He approached me after a song and said “how do I give you a tip” I made it even more awkward by refusing to accept the money. I shrugged and said something like “just throw in down.” He proceeded to put the money back in his pocket and walk away.

The next time I encountered this phenomenon I was playing and everything seemed to be going right. The songs were sounding great, everyone was singing along. People approached me mid song with money in hand and basically started throwing it at me like I was working a pole. Anyways, then the set ended there was lots of money scattered around my mic stand and there I knelt and awkwardly scraped the money from the pavement and shoved it in my pocket, all the while hoping nobody saw me, cuz I probably looked desperate and fiendish.

So, finally I decided to take my friends advice and put out a tip jar. It’s just a little plastic bucket with Budweiser written on the side. The next gig I put the simple empty bucket at the base of my mic stand in front of my feet, unsure of what would happen. Something magical happened, It was as if someone opened a firehose, they made it rain if you know what I’m saying. It was that simple, really? Up to that point in my musical career I’d never even expected to get a tip and now they were pouring in. All I had done is just give them a place to put the money! I just kept thinking, why didn’t I do this sooner?

I believe this one way that God works, we are asked to wait but wait expectantly  Odd concept maybe, but I think that it means we make room in our lives for God to bless us and the have faith that he is gonna do so. No, I’m not promoting the “prosperity gospel” but maybe this will make some sense! His word says that he will withhold nothing that’s good from us. He also says in Jeremiah, I have plans for you, plans to prosper you, to give you hope and future!! Now, that my friends is a generous “tip”. It’s worth more than any $$ I’ve ever collected in my newfound tip bucket! How many times I’ve treated God like I didn’t have room for what his plans for my life and just like my tip jar I refused to even acknowledge that he wanted to bless me.

For years I’ve thought to myself that it was a ridiculous notion that God would wanna give me anything but HE DOES because we’re his children!! I just have to have my spiritual tip bucket out and wait on it to show up. When I leave out a “bucket” for God to fill up I’m now saying God, I’m waiting on you to show up, I’m looking for you, I KNOW you’ll show up and I’m ready to receive my blessing!! It’s so easy to miss it if we’re not looking for it! It’s really just a mental shift to say “we’re ready to receive what you have got for us God, we’re looking for it, we’re waiting expectantly.

My sister in law just had a baby boy last week who is ridiculously handsome/adorable. She was a champ in the delivery room and got little Langston into the world FAST(much props). It’s said that when a couple gets pregnant that they’re “expecting” a baby. That just means they know that at some point this child will move from a prayer, an idea or a concept to a real live person!! In other words, they’re waiting expectantly. They picked out a name for him MONTHS in advance, they prepared their home for the new arrival, they had baby showers etc. Side note, I don’t think there’s any way to prepare our hearts for a babies arrival but all that to say THEY KNEW he was coming and they made room for him.

This is what Gods challenge to me through this blog was. To wait with hope, to know and to make room to receive what he wants to give me (no I’m not necessarily talking about $$). So, that’s just what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna change my pessimistic mind set and shift it to a mind that waits expectantly. Yes, I’m putting out a tip bucket for God, can’t wait to see what he puts in it, I will keep you posted! Hopefully in exchange, he won’t ask me to play Freebird.

I Hear Voices….

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My youngest daughter just started TBall. This is the ages 6 and up league for beginners. They had something like 4 “practices” prior to their first game earlier this week. The girls bravely took the field and were shuffled into position by some very loving and extremely patient coaches.

If you’ve never been to a beginner TBall Game it will be somewhat humorous if you’re not that competitive or it will have you unraveling in your seat and yelling and Screaming for the players on the field like a crazy person. Through gritted teeth spectators scream at the kids on the field to “Run, Run, go, no…no..the other way” or “just throw it!” It’s really funny to watch when you have no expectations but I imagine it’s REAL frustrating if you do. Supportive and patient dad that I am ,I just yell “Go Cyclones, wooooo” in my best Ric Flair voice!

There are all kinds of rules in TBall that make it unique from an older league softball team OR Baseball team. To put it mildly, every time The Cyclones go to bat, it has the potential to be catastrophic event. One simple smack of a bat sends all the players into a frenzy. Out fielders run in try to converge on the ball, only for some reason they won’t actually touch it, but why?

That’s when it hit me. The players are new to this whole TBall experience and they still aren’t comfortable with what exactly to do or when a ball is hit in your general direction. Then, I noticed that all at once the games onlookers began yelling and screaming at the players. I know It was just concerned parents TRYING to help, however in the end the cacophony of voices created mass confusion on the girls part and they were so overwhelmed by all the voices that they essentially remained paralyzed. They often missed what would be simple, fundamental plays because they couldn’t differentiate the 1 voice that could tell them what to do.

That spoke volumes to my spirit. How could this be remedied ? If the girls had just one voice they could discern to tell them what to do, their ability to make key game plays would no doubt, be improved. But it’s hard to figure out WHO we trust in that situation? I think most of the time simply the loudest voice wins in this scenario. Is it gonna be the coach, mom or dad? Grandparents? Just who do they listen to?

This got me thinking about my own life experiences. They’re have been times in my life I was bombarded by voices and paralyzed. As an Aquarius, I already struggle with making firm decisions anyway but these voices make many situations something I want to pack up a leave or run from! The voices, although some meant to give me good advice, were just overwhelming and caused confusion and in turn, indecision and ultimately this made me ineffective in the moment.

So, how do we move from this chaos and confusion to peace and confidence in our decision making ? I am just stating from personal experience. We have to focus on just ONE voice that we can rely on that has our best interest in mind. Maybe their voice isn’t the loudest or even make the most sense in the moment but if you trust them and know they’ve got your best Interest in mind then you HAVE To go for it, trust and follow through.

Through my journey of recovery I’ve had several Sponsors along the way and most of them have been people I trusted so completely that I trusted them over all the friggin’ noise and chaos that tried to convince me and define me in that very moment. Even if you’re not in recovery I highly suggest a mentor or someone you can count on hearing from despite all the chaos and noise is the world.

Jesus said in John 10 that we as followers will know His voice and when we hear it to follow it. His voice should be the ONE voice for us. His voice will bring us peace in the middle of chaos but what does that voice sound like? How do we know it’s HIS voice? It seems kinda crazy to say that we can physically hear Jesus voice. In fact, if I told my psychiatrist that I could hear His voice they might immediately call mobile crisis and definitely up my meds!!

So, how do I listen for the ONE voice to guide me? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is the word relationship. If we have a relationship with this ONE voice we will have come to see over time and trial that the voice can be trusted and have our best interest in mind. We will recognize and know this voice because we’ve heard it time and time again. I don’t think this happens overnight, it hasn’t for me. In fact, sometimes I still have issues differentiating the ONE voice I need to hear for all the “noise” around me.

The one voice I trust isn’t necessarily just something I hear just by simply thinking real hard about it. Sometimes it happens through prayer, through The Spirit, sometimes through reading The Word and even through music but most often for me I seem to hear it through other people. People like my sponsor, or my pastor or sometimes friends or even strangers. This isn’t always the case but a majority of the time it is for me! I just have to be actively listening for Gods voice in order to really hear Him, it’s been a process to hear and trust His voice but it’s become The One voice I can depend on for direction.

In Isaiah it says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying “this is the way, walk in it.” Are you hearing that ONE voice today ? I’m praying that you do, that we all do!! In the meantime you’ll see me at the T-Ball field screaming like a madman “Goooooooooo Cyclones, woooo!!”

Sent from my iPhone

My “Stash”

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Getting and staying high isn’t a part time job or a hobby for me. In active addiction, it literally consumed every waking moment of my life, I’m not exaggerating. It’s really insane to look back on now but then, it’s all I knew. If I had drugs, I was using them, if I didn’t have drugs I was on the hunt to get more, whatever it took. One of my 12 step fellowships sums it up best like this we were “getting and finding ways and means to get more.” It is without a doubt all consuming. I sure did spend a lot of time feeding my habit. I’ve always been this way since I can remember. For me it was first baseball cards, then girls, then basketball, then music  and on and on but much later on it was drugs.

I’ve been reflecting on just how insidious the whole lifestyle is. One thing I remember for sure is when I was using, if I had any drugs, they were never far away. I kept them as close as I could at all times, it made me feel safe and secure just to know I had some more of whatever it was I was using. This is what I referred to as my “stash.” My “stash” refers to any additional drugs that I wasn’t currently consuming, my back up if you will. I fully relied on the next hit, line pill or drink to give me life in that moment.

My “stash” included all drugs and any paraphernalia that I might have needed to use to get the job done, and it was a full time job. These included but weren’t limited to baggies, pipes, needles, papers, pushers, straws, etc. I’m sorry if this triggers anyone but I’m making a point so just bare with me. Even just typing those things raises my heart rate 20 bpm. I’m so grateful that’s not where I am today, today I have freedom from active addiction and life is beautiful and not nearly as exhausting!

The term “stash” got me to thinking. Now that I’m not using drugs or alcohol, what is my “stash”? What I mean is, what do I draw from to make me feel safe and secure? For some people it’s a padded bank account, for others it’s that extra marital relationship on the side. I’ve traded my “stash” several times over the years for different things but here’s what I’ve been pondering.

I said “yes” to Jesus about 17 years ago. I was in so much pain when I did that I was willing to do anything.  As I reflected on this decision to follow Jesus this verse from the Book of Psalms came up in my mind. It says “I’ve hidden Your word in your heart so that I might not sin against you” The Psalmist is saying to God. He’s saying I want to be consumed with you so that I’m not ever apart from you. It sounds to me like he is saying that he wants God to be his “stash” if you will, his safety and security, his all, his everything, the thing that he draws from. In making His word our “stash” we set ourselves up for a richer existence, at least that’s what I’m coming to see.

So, what does that verse even mean? Am I supposed to sit down and just memorize lots of Bible verses and quote them like some kind of robot? I hope not, because I’m not the type of person who is gonna be able to sit down, absorb them and memorize them,(or beat someone over the head with them.) I don’t really think that’s what “hiding the word in my heart” means. I could be wrong, I do think that it could certainly be a part of it but that’s not the whole of it. I think hiding the word in my heart is much more about being consumed by God, to be infatuated and utterly convinced that His way is better than anything I could ever come up with.

When I say be consumed, I don’t mean get religious. What I’m trying to say, is that the same energy I used to get high, if it were used to seek God would produce amazing results in my life and the lives of those around me. Shoot, even a third of that energy would be life changing! So, how do I become someone who is consumed by God? I’m not sure I have the answers but here’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Before I shared you that I spent most, if not all of my time feeding my habit. It was a lifestyle, so instead of feeding my habit I’ve made a life changing shift. Now, I try to feed my spirit. I do this any number of ways and not that I am doing everything correctly but as we say in one of my 12 step groups I’m “willing to grow along spiritual lines.” If I actually follow through and do these things to feed my spirit I see tangible, internal as well as external results.

For example, I listen to music that moves me toward God(sometimes this is Jimi Hendrix, sometimes Chris Tomlin etc), I read books that talk about him, mostly books of personal testimonies of life transformation but sometimes I feel God speaking through someone like Russel Brand or a fictional piece of work. Other times I go to 12 step meetings, I talk to my sponsor, I go to the gym, maybe do some meditation or journaling.  I try to get connected to something outside of myself and my insane thought life. It’s not the same for everyone, these are just some of the things I’ve found that work for me. I try to make my relationship with God my “stash.”

On good days, He’s the source that I now try to draw from. Instead of having to change the way I feel with substances or whatever, I now ask God to help me wade through these feelings and see how I can grow from them. I try to discern what I’m supposed to be learning in the process. When I draw this wisdom from The Word I am not as quick to resort to the same behaviors I used to, but this has certainly been a process and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen from time to time but I’m seeing it less and less, IF I put in the work and effort to pull from my new “stash.”

The word says that we will be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In the same way that drugs used to consume my every waking thought I am now trying to be connected to God. The word also says that Jesus came so that we may have a full life, my life is definitely more full now, real strange sometimes but definitely richer and more full. Even just typing this I can see the internal shift, just the fact that the verses are coming to my mind are proof to me that I’m being transformed(no I haven’t been brainwashed), I’m not the same, Thank God.

Also, the fact that in this very moment I am writing a blog about this topic versus going to score dope is all the proof that I need that it truly works, I’m not looking for applause just stating a fact. If you know me, you know that is a miracle for real, and I know many who’ve experienced the same thing. It works, don’t believe me? Try it!!  I know for sure what it means to be consumed by drugs and alcohol and I’m learning what it is to be consumed with God. Just for Today at least I’ve traded my “stash” for something much richer and life giving! What is your “stash”?