Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Light of the World

I don't know if I've talked about Ross King yet here. Wifey just bought his latest and I will have to admit I am smitten by one of the songs: Light of the World. The lyrics are here, and no, this is not Matt Redmond's Here I am to Worship. (Also a great song, just not the one Ross recorded.) The CD is called Perhaps I've Said Too Much.

Only after wifey observed did I fully realize how much the song describes my past and current approaches to life, God, and everything, really. Go have a listen. At one time this song was available as a free download. I'm not sure Ross left them online, but poke around his blog to find out.

Thank Two Million Ross! (It's in the song.)

And to you for reading. Shalom.

- Dave

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cat's out of the bag

Well, this blog quite possibly took a new turn this evening. Anonymity is a cool thing, but it can't last forever. More on that later.

I'll be back soon with some new thoughts and challenges for you


- Dave

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back at it

So, my summer vacation has ended. I was back playing at church last week. During the summer we have a single service, which means that it is guaranteed that half those in attendance are not in tune with the music. My defense the this sometimes abrasive and always unChristian attitude is to avoid looking out at the pews. This sounds harsh for a worship leader, but the reality is that I have to stay focused on the music, and if I am distracted by - sorry to say it - a scowl, then everybody loses.

So, I watch my fellow praise team people, and venture a very occasional glance at a few known folks on the congregation. Safe people. Worshiping people. Christian people, in thought word, and deed.

More to the point, I had a really great time at rehearsal, and I felt that I really contributed to the music on Sunday.

During the summer I visited another local church every week I was in town. More on that later. The short of it is that we will probably attend the Bible study there Wednesday nights since adult groups at my church are nearly non-existent.

Monday, June 11, 2007

T minus one week

Yesterday was a good service. The pastors were away, so the music leader delivered a short message and a few other folks shared a little testimony about what music does for their worship. Some very cool thoughts. Interestingly, some commented on how important the words were to them, and others said that while good, words are not necessarily needed to get us to a point of worship. I was glad to hear that people don't always think the words are required, since I often can't focus due to other pressing matters, such as hitting the correct guitar chord. Also, the whole idea of extracting lyrics from a song has always been hard for me.

The best thing that happened came from the mouth of wifey. She noticed how real the message and the comments were. Sometimes well-scripted, and well-planned messages come across a little too scripted and planned. Why is that? Professionals have to create and deliver a message every week, and we can't expect them to hit a home run every week, can we? Well, yes we can, and we should.

What do I mean by this? Does every message have to be perfect? Of course not. But the delivery (and the deliverer) of every message must be real. Preach what you understand, and most importantly preach what you believe and what you live. Do that, and you have hit a home run. Again, pastors are not perfect, far from it as we all know. But it does me no good to hear a message that is not even real to the one preaching. It becomes an academic analysis of scripture, and possibly some suggestions for applying this analysis to our lives. But if it is not real, then how can you suggest how to apply it in my life? You don't even know what it means yourself! Those messages might be enough for some people, but for me it falls a little short of what I am hoping to hear in church. Maybe my standards are set too high.

Yesterday I heard real people, talking about real things happening in their hearts, and it was really cool.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Some peace

Last night I relaxed a little watching the little one's softball game. There are a few dads who bring a bit of grounding to the discussion. They are not simple people by any means, but we can discuss simple problems with understandable solutions. It doesn't help my situation directly, but it is good to hear that other folks proceed through life and handle various issues without mental breakdown.

I talked to wifely last night about the music situation. Two more weeks and we are off until September. Our plan right now is to play together a lot over the summer. She needs to brush up on her guitar skills, and I might try my hand at bass. Who knows where this will end up. It would be nice to grow a little closer through the process. we have a good relationship, but I don't think you can know you wife too well. I'll report back on that.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Another day another way?

So, this blog is going to turn more regular in terms of postings, and possibly less deep in terms of content. (If it was ever deep, that is.) I need some place to explore my thoughts and faith. It might sound strange, but I learned long ago that when I engage my fingers to a keyboard, different things come out than would had I spoken them, hand written them, or simply thought or prayed them. I guess I am just that weird. It's as though my fingers connect to a different communication location within my brain. My mouth is probably disconnected entirely (!) but it is surprising to me that even hand writing brings out different thoughts.

So, on to today's update. Yesterday I told the last of my music friends, those directly affected by my hiatus, that I would probably be taking the summer off. It felt good to share a little, and also to simply get this off my chest. None of them are happy, but as I told them, I feel it is a choice between letting them down a little now for the summer, or else letting them down a lot in the fall when the church season get rolling a lot. For me the choice is obvious.

Today driving in to work I felt a sense of peace surround me that I have not felt in quite some time. Possibly months. I don't know what that means yet, but for the first time in a while I may be getting comfortable with the idea of a change in my relationship with the church (the local church that is). I obviously have to dig a little deeper into this, but for now I am taking this as a sign that I am on track.

Shalom to you and, I pray, to me as well.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Back for Now

OK, it's been way too long. And I have had to say that a few too many times. The fact is I'm having a lot of trouble lately. I'm not sure what is going on with my faith. I've always known that God rarely shouts, and often barely whispers. Yet sometimes we all probably need a little more than the whisper we get. It's easy to say "all in God's plan" or "God's time, not our time" and all that, but when you're in the thick of it that is just not too comforting.

One thing I did find comforting is to read over what I have recorded here for you over the last several months. It seems like I had something then. Where has it gone? I'll be doing my best to get here more often and letting you know what is happening. I hope it is not a sad story, but right now, the future is a cloudy one.


Monday, April 16, 2007

A belated post

It has been too long since I have posted. So much has been going on. I have been very busy, but that is no excuse for not stopping in and sharing some thoughts. I did not say so then, but the last post came from a hotel room in Tokyo. I visited a university there, and also spent three days at a company in downtown Tokyo. It was a very productive visit, and part of the reason I have been so busy in the three weeks since. I came away with a lot of work, which is not always easy to accomplish during the 9-5 workday.

At church, the kids' vacations mean that we have had a few weeks with missing band members. This limits some of the music we can perform, but since performing is not really the goal, we get by. I know God hears the full complement of musicians every time we sing His praise.

Now that the update is finished, main reason for this post is to talk about Church. The Church that is. The Body of Christ. We the Believers. A very disturbing statistic was released in a Sunday Message on Easter Sunday no less. Of the 86 people joining our local church in the last four years, there were 82 transfers and 4 new confessions of faith. 4. Four! In four years! That's one per year. Thats pathetic. We are failing at the Prime Directive (No Captain Piccard, not that Prime Directive!) You might already know it:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
If you aren't familiar with this passage, it is often referred to as the Great Commission. This is the last thing Jesus said to the Disciples when He appeared to them after His death and resurrection. It is what most Christians point to as the fundamental mission of the Church. It is (or should be) the fundamental mission of the church too. The local church. My church. The church responsible for a whopping four new believers in the last four years.

Well, I don't have any answers now, except what we are doing now is clearly not getting it done. It is often said that the definition of insanity is to continue the same behavior and expect different results. I do know that the insanity is going to change soon. I don't know how, but I know that I will not experience much Shalom until I know in my heart that I am doing everything I can to fulfill the Mission.

Still, for you I hope for shalom.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is that all you could find?

The other day before our worship service began, I was having a conversation with an older member. By coincidence I was wearing blue jeans, as were a few other musicians on the worship team. This older member commented that it would never have been like that 20 years ago. His generation does, and always has, worn a white shirt, tie, and coat to church, every week. No exceptions.

So I said, what if I did not have any "nice" clothes (nice by his definition) Am I still welcome? Isn't it about presenting ourselves to God? And coming to the weekly communal worship?

"Oh, you would be welcome," he said, "but you would get more than a few looks."


Does this attitude surprise me? Not at all. What really surprises me is that this gentleman, and in general his entire generation at my church, feel that appropriate dress is a reasonable prerequisite to attending worship in our sanctuary.

In the end, all I could do is pity this man and all of those like him. They are in their own little world of Christianity. It's a very private place, but it is all they have. They have no idea what they are missing, and so it is virtually impossible to convince them that there is so much more. Do I think this is unusual? Nope. And more so, it is probably the norm in most of the mainstream churches in the US. It is my sincere hope that church could be all about Jesus, but alas this earthly vale of tears makes it almost impossible.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

May I Help You?

OK, this falls into the Soapbox category. I have lots of very helpful friends. Of course, this is a huge blessing to me, my church, and my community. What do I need a soapbox for? Well, it's like this, I have found that often, the most helpful people are also those least likely to ask for help themselves. By now they have all heard my speech. It goes like this:

Me: "Do you enjoy helping your friends?"
My friend: "Of course."
Me: "Does it make you feel good when you help someone out?"
My friend: "Yes, very much so."
Me: "Then why to you refuse to allow your friends to share that feeling?"
My friend: ...silence...

So many people are too proud to ask for help. I understand this feeling, and I have certainly felt and acted this way in the past. But if you truly care about your friends, let them bear some of your burdens, as you have borne for them. Give them the opportunity to share the wonderful feeling you love so much. Our Christian teaching to love others means that sometimes, we can let others help us, even those we may not know. This might be very hard for some. After all, it means letting your guard down. Ouch.

I might be accused of being selfish for this. Of course, sharing the burden means that sometimes we bear it, and sometimes others bear it for us. You can not expect to hide behind this philosophy and never lift a finger. As I said above, this is speech is almost always given to people who are already the most helpful.

If you need any more convincing, how about this: letting your guard down, giving in just a little, admitting you need a little help, these are all just good practice at being Christian. If you can't give in just a little to an earthly friend, how are you going to give it all to your ultimate friend, Jesus, the King of Kings?


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Special Delivery to You: Grace

During advent last year, the messages in my church were about Grace. These all went very well, and were of course very Jesus-focused, being Christmas season and all that. One of the aspects discussed was how we treat one another being a part of Grace.

For me, it all came down to this: sure, the source of grace is God. But ultimately the delivery is up to us. Unless we rely on miracles - which I do not discount totally - the delivery of Grace depends on us. Some of you might disagree on that statement about miracles. You have to admit, tangible Old Testament miracles don't happen too frequently these days. Miracles do happen, but they are in our hearts. All the little bits of Christ we spread with each good deed, each smile, each supportive word, these are little miracles that DO happen every day, if we welcome the attitude and presence of Jesus into our every moment.

So it is us to perform the little bits of Grace that add up to the Body of Jesus, the Church. Are you up to the challenge?

As an aside, I just noticed that I capitalized "Grace" without even thinking about it! It makes sense - we always capitalize "Him" or "He" when we refer to God or Christ. Why not always use a capital G? Doesn't it always refer to Him?


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Which side of the table are you on?

A few years back, our church paid for a booth at the local village days. You've all seen this type of thing before: tee-shirt sales, little crafty things for the kids, junk jewelry, we had it all at this fair. The church booth had some pamphlets about our children's program, community stuff, and some church logo apparel for sale. The Sunday events started at 11AM, so it was up to a few early service folks to man the booth for the first few hours.

So, there I was. A long time church attender, a life-long resident of this town, a very new believer, now in the position of proclaiming this thing called church to the masses. Wow. To say I was intimidated would just be the beginning. Fortunately (for my fragile self, but not for the Kingdom) business was slow, and besides I had my faithful friend Kelly with me to answer all the hard questions. So we sat and waited and talked.

The conversation went various ways, but eventually I had to confess that only a few years before, I could not have possibly imagined myself sitting at a booth advertising a church. I could (and still can) vividly remember the old me, walking down the street, not even making eye contact with the church folks. "What could they have said to me?" I wondered to Kelly. "What could anyone have said to get me over to the table?" I didn't know then, and I'll admit I don't have any better answers now. Yet, here I am, behind the table. The guy with all the answers.

We have to convince people of is this: we have something you want. We have something you need. We have something you can't live without. I don't think you communicate this with words or pamphlets. You communicate this by living. We all know it, and most of us say it, but how many really do it? You probably know of this quote by Ghandi: "Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ." That really says it all. It sounds kind of strange, but will you help me prove Ghandi wrong? How do we go about this? It's either a long list, or a very short one. I'll take the Nike way: "Just do it." Yes it is trite and overly simple. But that's the way I have to think about things.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

More on the Purpose

I have to add some to the previous posting about Soul Purpose. You can obviously take the name in many ways. I'd like to focus on purpose for now. I was away from the church for 20 years or so. Then, like now, many youth become idealistic and disillusioned with the corporate church, and stay away. Sometimes for too long. When I made it back in my late 30's, I remember my sister asking why I got so involved. All I could say was that I know it was exactly what I should be doing, at this point in time, to best serve God and my fellow man.

That's really how it still is with the band. I know more than anything that my current purpose on Earth is to participate in this group, this ensemble, this gathering of amateur musicians who somehow get lifted far beyond themselves to lead the people in worship.

I truly hope that you have a place that feels so right. I know I have not always had such a place, and I also know that this place will change someday. But for now, it is a good feeling to know that I am fulfilling my purpose the best I can, for God and church.


Friday, February 2, 2007

My Soul Purpose

Soul Purpose is the name of the praise band I play with at church. We are probably not an unusual praise and worship band: 6 vocalists, piano, guitar, bass, drums. Also parts of the band: the person running the computer and the person running the sound board. It is important to remember that they are integral parts of the team. As a group, we try to keep the congregation worshiping each week, and also move them forward in their Christian Journey.

For my part, I am the guitarist and sometimes sing backing vocals. I'm also the chief sound technician, although obviously someone runs the board because I must be on the platform.

The group is very important to me for a number of reasons. First, I love music, and it is the perfect way for me to praise the name of Jesus a few times each week in a corporate setting. (Don't forget, rehearsal is also worship time, or at least it is for us.) Second, because of the pressures of schedules, this is really our small group as well. Rehearsal is not all music, but devotional, sharing, praying, and all the things that one expects from a small group. Third, it keeps me so busy that no one dares ask me to join administrative committees and the like. (Not that I haven't had my share of that - I'm a team player.)

One thing that leads to constant challenges is the fact that we play in a United Methodist church. Not that there's anything wrong with the UMC, but the local church as well as the national church tend to be a little more traditional and conservative. That sometimes puts us at odds with the some people, although I would say I am never at odds with The Church, the Body of Christ. Often though, we find ourselves up against tradition. Not traditional, as in the music style, but tradition: what we have always done, and how we have always done it. No big surprise here. In fact every church has to contend with tradition, whether or not they have multiple worship styles.

So, this was not intended to be a very profound post, just a little more information about me. Any blogger who claims it is never about ego is probably lying ;-)

I would love to hear from you about this, especially if you have experience working in a church with two very diverse music styles and the accompanying diverse attendees.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

How to survive at work

So like nearly everyone out there, I work in an organization that is not openly Christian. This includes pretty most all workplaces except churches, Christian schools, and the occasional bookstore. How do we make it through the day, hold fast to our faith, and yet maintain the impartiality that is required for our career?

I will admit to often having a hard time with this. Where I work we have a tight-knit group, folks that I really consider friends, not just co-workers. So, we tend to have some conversations that go well past the weather and the latest ludicrous decisions of those running our organization. (Although management bashing is a fun pastime, isn't it?) When the discussion gets to religion, as it often does, I am the token Christian in the group, and expected to provide many answers to some difficult questions. I work among scientists who tend towards atheism, although many are "practicing" Jews and Muslims. I say "practicing" because there is clearly no faith, only tradition and behaviors. (This they openly admit.) How do I explain faith to scientists? Faith is this thing you can never see, never prove, only sometimes feel, and yet you always have. Just typing that out almost confuses me.

I struggle the most with defending my beliefs when confronted by the strongest objectors to religion. Like when people make absolute claims such as "there is no God." They don't seem to understand that making such a statement requires as much or more faith in science than any Christian has in God.

Mostly I live by the overused motto that actions speak louder than words. It does no good to get angry or defensive. To scientists who need to see to believe, I try my best to show them what faith can do. I can't describe this very well other than to say that it is simply an attitude I try to exhibit every day, all the time, an attitude the I hope Jesus approves of. Peace (shalom, really). Turning the other cheek. Self-sacrifice. Genuine care and concern for others. It's all there in the Bible. Do I always succeed? It would be arrogant to say yes. Do I always try my best? Yes, it is the least I can do compared to Jesus who did so much for me and you.

Do you share some of these struggles? How do you overcome them?


Sunday, January 14, 2007


Why "shalom" as a sign-off? Shalom is Hebrew for something like "peace unto you." But I think it is more than we typically mean when we would say that in English. (At least American English, apologies to my friends across the pond.)

In English, peace generally means an absence of war. The first three definitions of peace from are:

1. The absence of war or other hostilities.
2. An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.
3. Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations.

Shalom conveys a much deeper experience. Shalom is the peace of God that envelopes and surrounds you. It isn't that you are not at war with your neighbor, but rather that you are at peace with yourself and with God. I can't say it any better than this:
    Saying shalom purposefully means to offer a peace treaty, a pledge to live for the other’s well-being, a covenant to desire and seek the good life of God’s favor together. (1)
So be at peace, and of course, Shalom!

(1) Metzler, James E. From Saigon to Shalom. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985. Found in an article by Peter Kroeker on