I think back to my early years of being a musician and the way I thought about and approached music vs how I think now are so drastically different. I was raised in the days of metal/hair bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Skid Row and the like. In those days, almost every song had a guitar solo sometimes more than one. Not all, but most of the solos were a flurry of notes, tapping, harmonics and all the fancy stuff that was trendy back in the day. I still play a mean air guitar when “Talk Dirty to Me” comes on.
Fast forward many years later I picked up the guitar and started to learn scales and chords and when it came time for me to solo I tried to squeeze as many notes into as few a bars as possible because I was just emulating what I heard growing up, plus it looked cool. Then I had an epiphany. I began to listen to guitar players like Eric Clapton, who I swore must have been drunk because he played slowly, very slowly and with lots of space between the notes, I thought “he’s just lazy” where are all the notes? I asked myself. Then, I dug and listened to people like Freddy King, BB King, Buddy Guy, Miles Davis and I started to notice they all played slower and with more space in between notes, on purpose. It was a revelation, and I thought I might give it a try.
What I noticed at first was because of my pattern of playing of flurry of notes that this new technique that involved space was very strange and uncomfortable, it felt very unnatural, it still does sometimes. It’s taken years and years of playing slow and melodically to undo my stubborn technique that I like to think of as guitar vomiting. What I noticed is that my playing became more soulful, more spacious and more engaging than when I play a flurry of meaningless notes. I mean, think about it if we applied this to our regular conversations, what if it’s really about what we DON’T say sometimes. This got me thinking, where else in life am I not leaving enough space? How else could I apply this concept to my life?
I get the privilege of facilitating some group therapy from time to time. My experiences in life have left me the ability to reach and connect with other people like myself, broken, hurting people. At first when I led these groups I had some insanely grandiose thoughts. I said to myself “I’ll just listen to these folks and then I’ll help them with their problems by giving them a response or a solution to each problem.” I’m not gonna lie at first it felt good to have all the answers for these folks. It seemed like there was nothing they could bring up that I didn’t have some response for. Then it happened, I realized that I was vomiting answers and that wasn’t what the situation needed or called for.
So, with a nudge from The Spirit I began to try to minimize my responses and just listen and leave space. I would use my words sparingly and my response often became “Me too.” It was awkward as hell at first for all of us! I had laid down a foundation that had to be undone. Sometimes there would be long periods of silence and I would have to fight the urge to break it up with some sort of interjection. What I discovered was so beautiful. The space and silence began to bring forth new levels of intimacy, if you can believe it, the silence and space produced more productive meaningful, fruitful conversation.
I was thinking about an incident in the Bible (John 7)where there was a woman caught in the actual act of adultery. The woman was drug in front of Jesus and the religious leaders of the day tried to provoke Jesus. They tried to get him to agree with them by quoting the mosaic laws of the day and get him to agree to stone her to death. How does Jesus reply? He doesn’t, at first just silence. In fact, he leans down and begins to write in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what he wrote but evidently it spoke volumes. The silence was deafening. The religious leaders continued the provoke Jesus He at last, replied simply, “whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” One by one the woman’s accusers drop their stones and go home. Mic drop/stone drop….see what I did there??
If we believe that Jesus was who he says he was then we know that he had all power and authority to do whatever he wanted in that situation. He could’ve entered into an argument with these religious leaders and surely he would have won the argument, but that’s not what he chose to do. Even though he had all the knowledge at his disposal to argue them into submission, He chose to let the moment speak for itself. He chose silence and space and and the result was far more powerful and made much more of an impact that a flurry of words would have done.
So, what happened to the woman. She’s left alone there with Jesus because all the accusers have dropped their stones and walk away. So, then I would think this is the part where Jesus gives her a long lecture about adultery and sin and a 7 point illustration of why it’s not a good idea etc, etc. but again Jesus responds with a question to her, not an answer, a simple question. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus said. She said “they’re gone” and Jesus then said “I don’t accuse you either” then I imagine with compassion he said “go home, and sin no more.” Again, Jesus with very few words let the moment speak for itself.
So, what happens in the space and silence? I’m not exactly sure but I know it often makes the words spoken or notes played more powerful and meaningful, the space seems spiritual. Why is it that I’m noticing that the people with the most knowledge, say the least? I don’t know, maybe I’m imagining things but I think there’s lots going on in these moments that we will never comprehend, at least not here. But I’m in the process of practicing this principal in all areas of my life. I’ll keep you posted…
I recently took my kids to an indoor water park. For this of you who know me, you know that this was a feat all in itself. Why, you know my lack of excitement for anything having to do with water combined with my crippling fear of large crowds made for an uncomfortable weekend to say the least. Did I mention we were in water with hundreds of other people, sharing their germs etc, YUK. However, I knew it was something my kids would love so I just went for it and tried to make the most of it.
It was a place neither of them had ever been before. In fact, they’d never been to anything even remotely like it, so it was quite overwhelming for them in the beginning. I had visions of lounging by the wave pool in a reclining chair while they splashed around gleefully but this was NOT the case. Because this whole experience was new, they wanted me to be with them every second of the day. I kept assuring them, “you’ll be fine!! Daddy’s just gonna chill right here in this chair” but it was not to be as they insisted that I accompany them the whole time.
So one of the first things we did was get in the wave pool. When we first waded into the water it was calm and serene. Moms and dads held their babies close and let them float around in their life jackets and floaties. All the children around us splashed each other and played “Marco polo” in a carefree fashion. I thought to myself, “this is not so bad. These kids will be fine” and I started toward my comfy little beach chair when I was startled by an apocalyptic sound.
There was a loud, really loud buzzing noise followed by the piercing screams of the children at play in the wave pool. I didn’t know what was about to happen but it was the same reaction I would’ve expected if Luke Bryan showed up for a concert. Nonetheless, this stopped me in my tracks and I turned around to check on my kids. They were faced in the opposite direction as the water began to swirl and stir beneath them. At first the pool began to manufacture little, manageable waves. Excited at this new element, my kids went for deeper waters. I just kind of observed from a distance.
The waves kept getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER. Suddenly the look of joy on my children’s faces became a look of sheer terror. The once kid friendly wave pool had become a battlefield. Kids were being tossed and flipped and pulled under the water. The sound of joyous carefree play became shrieks and crys for help. “Daddy” I heard my little girl scream and I ran for her with no abandon leaving a trail of dizzy and confused toddlers in my wake. I finally got to her and she at once latched on to me.
She was terrified and began to cry when she wasn’t swallowing big gulps of the pool water and coughing and gagging as a result. What started out as seemingly innocent fun had become a nightmare in a matter of seconds. I grabbed my little girl and held her close to my chest and above the water. I tried to comfort her but in the moment she was inconsolable so we waded back out of the pool and gathered ourselves once again. I decided to use this a teaching moment. I said to my kids, “ok, see we’re fine, I know it was scary but let’s go back out there and show these waves what we’re made of.” My general Patton-esque speech was met with looks of disdain from my kids.
Finally, I was able to talk them into going back out there. At first they were skeptical but I stayed behind them with every step. We waded deeper and deeper into the pool and the waves got higher as we went. They met each wave with a new confidence and looked behind them for my approval. I applauded them and encouraged them all the while to go deeper because I said to them, “I’m here, I’m not gonna leave you or allow anything to hurt you.” If they got knocked down by a wave I quickly scooped them up, raised them out of the water and comforted them. I immediately put them back in the tempest and let them see for themselves that there was really nothing to be afraid of, daddy was here.
Eventually, The once terrified kids began to navigate the rough terrain and were once again playing. The environment that used to terrify them became their playground. It was a process but nevertheless they were aware that their father was always with them, would never leave them and this allowed them to be carefree even as they were being tossed about by the waves.
God does the same for us. There are tons of verses and examples in The Bible where he says he is always with us. Genesis 28:15 says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” And yet another one is Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you or forsake you.” Even Jesus says “Surely, I am with you always…” but even if it never said it in the Bible this is something I’ve come to see happening in my own life!
God used this time at the water park to speak to me about my own life and current set of situations. Even when it’s dark, even when I’m unsure of what’s about to happen, even when I’m afraid and being torn apart by the “waves” I know my Heavenly Father is with me and he won’t leave me, he’s promised! It may be a process and it may take a little time but he’s taking these times in life that used to paralyze and terrify me and with renewed confidence he’s turning what seems to be a disaster into a playground. Anybody else wanna play?
Ahgitupa, gitonuppa! What’s it mean? Is it Hebrew or Greek? What’s the significance? Say it again. Does it sound familiar? If it doesn’t it’s ok it’s just my spelling of what I hear James Brown rappin’ at the top of one of his most famous tunes “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) A Sex Machine. Now, if you’ve read my other blogs you might be thinking “what in the world does this have to do with spirituality or God or anything really.” In fact, you may think I’ve lost my mind but here we go, so buckle in and hold on. In the words of The Staple Singers, “I’ll take you there.”
Everybody on this planet struggles with something, right?. (If you think this doesn’t apply to you, just keep reading anyway) It’s that thing that you say you aren’t gonna do anymore but somehow we always do. For some it’s drugs and alcohol for some it’s materialism for some it’s unhealthy relationships, for some it’s pornography or food and the list could go on and on and on and on. If you know me then chances are you know my struggles at least some of them but I KNOW I’m not alone.
The beautiful thing about this life we get to live is that God is all about helping us recover from the things we tend to hold on to that don’t give us life. He says in his word that Jesus came to give us life and give it abundantly or in some translations to give us a FULL life. That’s good news for someone like me!! I’m experiencing a little more of that full life daily.
He also says It’s the sick that need the doctor, not the well! That’s more good news for me cuz most days I fall under the category of “sick.” No matter what your struggle today just know that God absolutely loves you. It’s hard for me to imagine that he loves me being the mess I am but he keeps showing me that he does and he loves you too, so very much even when we fall short..and we all fall short.
He says in Psalm 34 that he’s “close” to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. I’m never more broken hearted than when I fall. I find it odd that when someone falls that most people tend to run the other way. It’s like we’re saying “don’t get your mess on me” but Jesus runs right toward our mess and meets us there. My experience is that spirit filled believers seem to follow suit.
Maybe you’re familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible. It sounds to me like a King who has everything is still unsatisfied. One day he sees Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop and in the moment decides to have his servants go get her. They bring her back and he puts on some Marvin Gaye and then we’ll, ya know. But then, it gets complicated. Turns out Bathsheba gets pregnant and is married to another man. Rather than face the other man and tell him of their mistake, King David decides to have her husband killed. What a damn mess…sounds like it turns into a Jerry Springer episode.
King David, who is supposed to be a Worship leader, a man of God falls and he falls terribly. The story gets even messier but eventually David comes to a place where he realizes he’s lost his way. He’s fallen time and then again and realizes that where he’s landed is a place that isn’t part of God’s plan for his full and abundant life. David then writes one of the most beautiful psalms he’s ever written, Psalm 51(please read it.) One of the lines says “Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” It’s at that moment that David gets back up!
It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves and remain full of excuses. Jesus encountered a man like this who had been paralyzed and knocked down by life for 38 years it says in John. Jesus asks the man “Do you want to be well?” The man responded with a bunch of excuses as to why he couldn’t be well. Then it happened, Jesus spoke to him and set GET UP! He did just that, can you imagine how shocked he was, how shocked everyone else. No religious jargon, no ceremonies to perform, no magical waters to be stirred by the angels. It was just 2 simple words from Jesus, Get up!
The word says that a Godly man may fall 7x but they get back up again. I think there’s probably some real significance in the fact that it says 7x but I think God has said to my spirit in these moments that he doesn’t count like we do. Whether is 7x or 47x the important thing is we keep getting back up…NO MATTER WHAT!
So, where am I going with all this? You may have seen it coming but I want to encourage those who have fallen down, I too know the pain and disappointment, the feeling of rejection. However, this is just part of our testimony, God will take this mess we’ve landed in and will use it to bring about good stuff in the life of ourselves and others. There would have never been a Psalm 51 if David hadn’t messed up!!
Romans 8:28 says that ALL things work together for the Good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, lemme say it again ALL things. Our worst disaster, our worst failures, ALL of it!! That’s for you, that’s for me, that’s for everybody!!! So, WHEN we fall down, let’s not stay down, don’t let the enemy or anyone else keep us down. This is our moment, God is calling us to freedom, to A FULL LIFE, so cue the James Brown record and 1, 2, 3, 4… Ahgituppa, GitonUp, Gituppa, Git on up!!!
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.