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.
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
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”?
I was watching a toddler today while I was at a sporting event with my family. I think it was Johnny Depp who best described them as “drunk little people.” The little boy was very cute and equally as rambunctious. Every time his parents would put him down for a second, he was off to the races. He was climbing on and behind and under the bleachers beneath our feet, then he crawled at Mach speed toward any door knob or gate latch that he could reach and of course attempted to open them.
I laughed a little while and just observed the toddler and his parents. Don’t get me wrong, if the little boy had done something to hurt himself that I could have prevented I surely would have swooped down and helped him. Nothing seemed bad enough for me to intervene so I just watched in amusement. Over the next few minutes I felt God speaking to me. It wasn’t audible or anything it was just an awareness of his presence, his nearness. I think it’s always there but unfortunately most of the time I’m not really tuned into him.
So, the toddler breaks away from his parents on one of his first few attempts and starts to climb on these cold metal bleachers we are sitting on. It was almost predictable, the little boy hoists himself up and in the same motion falls forward just enough to hit his mouth on the bleachers. He immediately began to cry and scream for his parents, who, as parents should, came over to swiftly aid their son. There was no blood, nothing to really be alarmed about and soon the crying subsided and the toddler was once again trying to break loose from his dads clutches, why you ask? To get down and crawl around again and return to his rambunctiousness, as kids will do.
The toddler then began to do the exact things he’d done before. He was climbing on the bleachers once again and I thought to myself, “why would you do that?, don’t you remember what happened last time?” But obviously he has quickly forgotten because yep, you guessed it, he pulled himself up and did the exact same thing, this time a little less extreme, he bumped his head and began to cry again. Rinse, cycle and repeat.
This is where the light bulb came on, it was at this point that God spoke to my spirit and brought a verse to my mind from Proverbs. “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” I realized in that very moment I was just like the toddler I’d been watching. I mean the circumstances have been a little different and varied but I do the exact same thing, I’ve been a fool, ALOT!!
What comes to mind immediately is my own personal story of addiction and recovery. When I first started realizing there was a problem, in my mid 20’s, I would get into a drug and alcohol fueled frenzy and then realize I needed help. I was much like that toddler, crying for help. I would end up getting the help I needed , going to treatment or detox, but soon after I would forget the pain that drove me to my knees in such a desperate state and I would relapse or return to the exact same behaviors I’d done before. It made no sense, it still makes no sense but that’s the insanity of addiction.
Here’s where it gets even more tricky. I’ve been able to put the drugs and alcohol down for long periods of time but when I do it seems like I always have another issue that raises its ugly head, (in recovery we call these things defects of character) and the cycle starts all over again. I’m perpetually in this sick cycle and I feel like what the word says is a “dog returning to its vomit.” That May Sound extremely harsh unless you’ve ever been stuck in this type of cycle, then of course you know this is the truth.
Time and time again since I’ve become a believer and follower of Jesus I’ve gotten stuck in these “sin cycles” where some behavior I’m repeating is making me feel alienated from God and from who I really am. The good news is we have a God who doesn’t condemn us but instead continues to draw us to himself with what the Bible calls “cords of love.” Now, that makes no sense in my mind but I’m so glad it’s the truth. I’m so glad that his mercies are new every morning. I’m also grateful for a program of recovery that allows God to heal me through the 12 steps.
I’ll close with this little children’s song that sums it all up for me. Sing it with me If you know it. “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the earth, the sun and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient he must be, he’s still working on me….”
As I think back to my childhood I have a lot of memories stored away and that I have held on to that make me happy. Memories of family vacations to Florida in our 1984 Caprice Classic Station wagon, carving pumpkins, decorating a Christmas tree and the like. Then, there are also things I remember that I would have rather forgotten.
Recently I found myself in a scenario where I was forced to relive and process some of these things so I could finally move forward and I thought I would share those thoughts here. See, my mom was an alcoholic. She was very much a functional version. She never had any problems holding down a job, cooking dinner or whatever. She was never homeless or destitute or desperate which of you asked me now I’d say was to her detriment.
Mom would come home every day after work and almost immediately begin drinking. She poured a tumbler 90% full of Popov Vodka and a splash of grapefruit juice. She would sit and drink glass after glass and chainsmoke cigarettes and watch TV. This ritual went on night after night. As the night progressed her mood changed, She could go from semi jovial to volatile in a matter of a few short hours.
I remember trying to sit and have conversations with her and her speech slurred and her words became venemos. I was always on edge because for some reason she used me as the target for all her frustration. I remember the sinking feeling I had and the dread I had when I saw her sitting in her spot on the sofa. This pattern became a daily routine for our family, things always escalated as the night went on.
Of course at that age I didn’t know what an alcoholic actually was I just knew that I hated seeing her like that, I hated the effect it had on our family. This continued night after night for years. I recall actually pouring her vodka down the drain when she wasn’t looking and filling the vodka bottle back up with water but this was only a temporary solution, she always found a way.
It got so bad that I figured out the best way to avoid it was to just go straight to my room right after school and just stay there until she drank herself to into oblivion and finally passed out. My room became my hiding place, a place safe from all the chaos, a sanctuary of sorts. When I closed the door behind me I could leave all the bad stuff outside and just concentrate on being a kid.
As I got older and finally left the house to go to college I found myself doing this same behavior in new ways. I discovered alcohol and other drugs for myself. The feeling that they gave me was the same feeling I had about going to my room after school as a kid. It was an escape, with alcohol and drugs I could hide from my emotions. I never had to feel or deal with all the bad stuff, the hard stuff in life. When I was drinking or using I felt safe for lack of better words but I learned this was only a temporary fix, when the alcohol and drugs wore off, the chaos returned. My only solution was just to never stop drinking or using and it worked until it didn’t.
I really never made that connection until a recent therapy session but when I finally saw that it was like a light came on. I realized and saw this same pattern in other places in my life. There were other places too that I was searching for that same peace, the peace that I had discovered as a kid in my room and I’ve been doing it ever since.
The therapist looked at me during our last session together and asked me “Why do you think you work so much?”. At first I didn’t know where he was going with it. I replied with all the normal answers like “I got bills man” and he just looked at me, I knew that answer wouldn’t do. So we processed my insane work schedule. He pointed out that my schedule was too crazy for anyone to maintain any type of normal life or sanity and then he asked me, “Why do you think you do that to yourself?”
Then it hit me, I was using work as an escape from all my problems. Work had become to me a place where I didn’t have to feel. It became the new version of the room I fled to as a kid, it was my new safe place, my hiding place. See if I just maintained the unmanageable schedule there was no time for things like feelings or emotions. I couldn’t believe it once I finally saw it but now the question becomes what do I do about it? How do I correct this behavior? Where else am I doing this?
This is such a recent revelation that I am only just now discovering how far reaching this is in my life but it’s really helped explain some things for me. For example, things like my tendency to isolate as another coping skill. The list could go on and on but at least I’m beginning to see it. Now, I just have to begin to correct these behavior patterns which I am discovering is easier said than done. The good news is I’m not where I once was and I guess that could hopefully be said of all of us. In the words of John Mayer, “I’m in repair, I’m not together but I’m getting there.”
I’m originally from Columbia, Tn. It’s a small town in Middle Tennessee. I remember growing up there were a number of even smaller outlying communities but one in particular that was memorable was Summertown, Tn. The one thing I remember about Summertown is there was a group of hippies who lived on something they called “The Farm.”
Anyone who I ever met from “The Farm” were always way different from the “regular” people I encountered every day. They men all had beards, wore very simple clothes and they most of the time wreaked of pot and. B.o. I was taught at an early age that I didn’t ever wanna be like these people or live on “The Farm.” I wasn’t really given a reason but I remember it was pointed out to me that people on “The Farm” shared cars, clothes and even wives I think. I’m not so sure everything I was taught about them was wrong or right but I’ve since come to believe they could be on to something.
I’m a big Prince fan, probably one of the bigger fans you’ll ever meet! I’m not saying that to brag but I seriously love his music. I wasn’t really a fan of his during the 80’s but I really grew to appreciate him about age 15 or 16. His music gave me a sense of identity and purpose. It made me feel connected in a way no other artist I had ever encountered before or since.
I’m not sure I agreed with everything he’s sang about over the years but I admired him simply as a musician and entertainer. I will still argue to this day there has never been, there will never be anyone like Prince. I believe one day his work will be held up next to Mozart or Bach or any other great composer in the history of the world. You may disagree with me but you’d be wrong, I told you I am one of the biggest fans of Prince you will ever meet. I think my affection for Prince’s music may take a backseat only to my friend Robby or Matt.
Robby, Matt and I have seen Prince live, in concert dozens of times throughout the years. He was by far the best entertainer and musician I’d ever seen. He was a true genius. I don’t think we ever would’ve thought he would leave us so soon. I remember the day they announced on TMZ that he had passed away at the age of 57. I was working that day and I remember I was sitting at my desk, choking back the tears, hoping it was just some sort of fake news but it wasn’t.
Anyone who has ever heard the music I make would probably say something like “it sounds like Prince, are you trying to sound like Prince?” Although I would consider that the highest compliment, I don’t really feel that way about my music, (ok, maybe the earliest stuff I wrote was a little derivative lol). I think I spent so much time listening to and studying his vast catalog of music that it just became part of me. I honestly didn’t mean to sound like him on purpose I don’t think, the music just came out that way.
Even though I’d seen him in concert dozens of times and had a couple of backstage shoulder brushes with him I never really knew the man. Although, he did give me a high five over a a crowd at a small after show one night in Mississippi. I screamed like a preteen girl and I felt like I never wanted to wash that hand again…seriously I know he was just a man but I can’t talk enough about his music.
One of the things that had and still has me baffled is how he really was a one man show. He quite literally didn’t need a band. He would go into the studio and literally play every instrument and sing every part on the record. When I found this out I was floored. He was doing this from the very beginning of his career. His first few albums had the words “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince” on the back of the albums. My mind was blown, not only was the music stellar, he did it ALL himself. This was revolutionary at the time he did it and very few, if any artists had done this.
Early in my musical career I decided I wanted to be like this. I wanted to be able to play ALL the instruments and sing all the parts. We had one BIG problem though, I was no Prince. Oh, I tried to be a one man show early on but I couldn’t pull it off, at least not for a whole album. It made me realize even more what an immense talent he was.
My failure at trying to emulate Prince showed me something even of greater value. It showed me the power of collaboration. I had to lean on other musicians to help me pull off what I was trying to do. It was through this process I realized that in this exchange with other musicians, my own music became something different and most of the time way better than I could have come up with by myself.
This process of collaboration is the reason many of the greatest bands of all time worked so well. You’ve got greats like The Rolling Stones, who’s music is really defined by the collaborative efforts of Mick Jagger, their singer and Keith Richards, one of their guitar players. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith fame are another pairing that, without them, the bands just wouldn’t have been so great!
It’s very interesting to me that THE music Prince is most known for is still his Purple Rain album. Interestingly enough that album was one he credited as “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince and The Revolution.” This was a collaborative effort that really defined his career. If you are a Prince fan, you know what a profound influence that his band mates Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution had on Prince’s songwriting at the time.
I believe that that this idea of collaboration is something the Bible shows us is essential for our lives to be all that they were designed to be. Even the Bible itself, all 66 books is a collaborative effort. I don’t mean to say let’s collaborate just for creative purposes but doing so just to get the most out of life. We are not wired for isolation but for community.
If we look in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis we will notice that God said even back then “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, God creates Eve, someone very much like Adam but at the same time very different. Eve is someone who quite literally completes Adam in every way. I believe we are all like this and I’m discovering that we need each other to bring out the best in all of us. We are, as Jack Johnson once sang, “Better Together.”
I am an alcoholic. It’s been through my recovery process that I’ve learned to move from isolation and self addiction into community for the sake of growth. This has been a slow and often painful realization but Its’s been through the relationship with my sponsor and other recovering people I’ve come to know the value of community. It’s also been through this process I’ve begun to see God’s plan more clearly for my life.
I am still In repair in this area of my life but I’m slowly moving from being someone who wants to be a one man show to being someone who is willing to be vulnerable with others. This is reshaping my life in many ways. I’m discovering as I come out of my isolation that this thing called life is best lived as a collaboration with others and it really isn’t just about me at all.
In Proverbs the Bible states that “as Iron Sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another.” That simple truth sums up what I’m learning in the new part of my journey. We are all designed with strengths and weaknesses that are completed in our relationships with one another. Even Jesus surrounded himself with community with the 12 disciples, if he did how much more do I need to?
In Romans 12 The Bible talks about the church. He makes the analogy that the body of believers is like our physical body. Just as we have arms and legs and fingers that all serve an individual function so we as believers all have a part to play in The Church body. Each person in a community brings something unique that only they can bring. So even here we can see that we are wired for connection with one another.
So, I’m learning, I haven’t arrived but I’m growing. No, I probably won’t go join a hippy commune like “The Farm” but I will be more intentional with community. I’ll fight my tendency toward isolation and selfishness and try to make myself available and vulnerable to others after all that is more of what life is about and as Prince once so beautifully said “Dearly Beloved, WE are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”
I think I was 16 the first time I got arrested. I was caught driving the get away car. See, I was out with a couple of friends late one summer night playing a more grown up version of knock and run or whatever you may call it where you live. We thought it was hilarious to drive through a neighborhood with our headlights off, let one guy out of the car and send him up to knock on the door. Then my friend would sprint back to the primer blue Toyota Tercel and we would peel out and speed off into the night. This was all fun and games until that one fateful house in Sunnyside.
Since I was driving the get away car I would just go where they would tell me. I am truly directionless and really had no idea where we were and wasn’t really familiar with this neighborhood. Sometimes we could coast down a hill with the engine off since it was a five speed. We staked out our next house and we were ready. Engine was off, all was silent except frogs and whippoorwills. My friend tip toed to the door and then knocked REAL loud about 4 x and took off through the yard. He was sprinting like he was a football player about to score a touch down when OUT OF THE BLUE came an older man in his underwear who proceeded to tackle my friend. OH SNAP!! We didn’t know what to do.
My other friend in the car with me shouted, “Go man, drive” but I couldn’t leave my friend to the hands of some dude in his tighty whiteys. So I jumped out of the car and tried to pull my friend out from under the hairy middle aged man. Eventually, we got him free and we sped off into the night. We were all out of breath, laughing and trying to recount the incident when all of the sudden we saw blue lights in our rear view mirror. This is it, we were busted.
The officers pulled us over and asked “what are you boys doing in this neighborhood at 3am?” We must have just looked guilty cuz they arrested us on the spot. The police, for whatever reason, took me home that night instead of to a police station. I begged them to take me to jail because I knew that would be better than the reaction my parents were gonna have.
They pulled me from the back of the car and I stood on the front porch of my house handcuffed and surrounded by 2 officers. It took a little while for my parents to wake up, after all it was 3 in the morning. Finally after a few minutes the porch light came on and my heart began to pound. This was it, my life was over as I knew it. There I stood in my baggy, acid washed jeans and backwards starter cap and then my stepdad emerged from the shadows and slung open the front door in his underwear. They began to explain to my parents why they were bringing me home, it was brutal.
The officers then turned me over to my parents. The looks they gave me are hard to describe. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to touch it. They both stood in the living room as I sat on the couch. They were both yelling and screaming and pointing their fingers at the same time. Then my stepdad looked at me and said “well, what do you have to say for yourself.” I don’t remember exactly what I said but I’m pretty sure it started out something like “See, what had happened was…”
See, I had tried to come up with a good story in the back of that police car. I came up with excuses about how it wasn’t my fault and I was just the driver, blah, blah. My parents were so irate they hardly let me get a word in so it didn’t really matter, they weren’t really interested in my story.
Years later, I’m sheepishly sneaking into the back of an AA meeting. I had been battling addiction for some time at this point and had just come out of relapse. I thought if I snuck in and grabbed a seat as usual that nobody would even notice my long absence. Much to my chagrin, they did. I started getting hugs from people I didn’t even know and everyone was saying the same thing. “Welcome back, we’re so glad you made it back.” Wait, what?
See, I had already prepared excuses for anyone who asked me about my relapse. I was gonna tell them how I was just so stressed out and my girlfriend told me I was better off just trying to control my drinking, etc. I had a ton of excuses but it was as if nobody could even hear me. I tried to tell them “See, what had happened was…” and no response just “welcome back.”
There’s a well known parable in the Bible most know as the parable of the Prodigal Son. The story focuses on a man and his 2 sons. One son looks at his father one day and says basically, “Dad, you’re not important to me, I want my inheritance now.” This was basically like saying “Dad, you’re dead to me, now give me my $$” So, the father gives him his inheritance much to the dissaproval of his older brother and I believe as really sad father.
Jesus goes on to say in this parable that the younger brother spent his inheritance on wild parties, prostitutes, crack and late night Waffle House(my more modern translation.) The younger brother finally spends ALL his money and winds up broke and homeless. He even got a job feeding slop to the pigs. The Bible says he was so hungry that he daydreamed about eating the slop he was feeding to pigs.
This is when he hit his “bottom” as we call it in recovery. The Bible says “he came to himself”, he had a moment where he finally realized what he had done and was ready for a way out. He then made a plan to go back to his fathers house to ask for a job as one of his fathers servants. He was at an all time low.
On his way home he was rehearsing a speech over and over that probably sounded something like “See, what had happened was…” The Bible goes on to say that while he was still a “long way off” the father saw the son and ran toward him. No, it wasn’t to scold him or lecture him on how he had blown it but instead to welcome him home!! The story goes on to say that the father wouldn’t even listen to his story, he basically ignored him because he was too busy welcoming home. The father then threw a party for his son that had been lost and was now found!!
For a long time in my life I thought that in order to have a relationship with God that I would have to clean up, get rid of some of my bad habits, my addictions and what have you. I think religion made me believe that I had to have all the right words for an apology for God to get back in a relationship with Him or even start one with Him. I had worked up my “see what had happened was…” story but I thought it was just too messy for God to handle. I thought I had disqualified myself from ever being in a relationship with God.
What Jesus is saying in this parable is that the Father isn’t interested in where we’ve been or what we’ve done, he’s too busy just welcoming us home and he’s ready to throw a party. He will certainly allow you to use the story of where you’ve been to show others of his love, grace and redeeming power but as far as beating us up over the details, it’s NOT happening, never.
The term “repent” gives me the hee bee gee beez. I think I’ve just heard it used so wrongly for so long. It just simply means to turn the other direction. When I screw up I don’t have to come up with a fancy prayer or go see a priest, I just turn the opposite direction and head back home. I’m just like the Prodigal son, who’d wasted his inheritance and disgraced his family. The Bible says he “came to himself” and headed toward his fathers house, this was simply a turn in the opposite direction of all that was destroying his life.
God is the same way. He is perpetually inviting us into his abundant life(John 10:10). He’s not concerned about where we’ve been or what we’ve done and he ISN’T expecting us to start with “See, what had happened was…” he just wants us to come home!! He’s ready to throw a party!!