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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

walk in the woods...

A couple days ago, my whole family took a walk in the woods. The trees are ripe with color and the woods have that incomparable autumn fragrance. That aroma takes me back to memories of childhood unlike any other. I don't know what it is, but this season unlocks the dreaming gland. I find myself dreaming at night and daydreaming during the day. It makes me feel like I'm a part of something big. Like I'm in a movie and my next move could save the world. I don't know what it is.

Heidi and I walked these trails in the woods with our three chillins' and enjoyed watching them play, laugh, run, and wonder. The trees were alive with vibrant color. We stumbled across an old cabin. We rested on an old bench. We even went off the beaten path and walked spontaniously through uncharted territory. It felt wonderful.

I think we're going to do it again soon. I need to feel that my life is a part of something bigger than me...and the woods seem to be one of the only places that assures me of that reality.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

wrap it up...

tonight we leave for Columbus one last time to finish vocals and the electic guitar tracks. We were down there a few weeks ago and recording five more songs, three of which we sung by Bethany Dillon. We got everything laid down other than my vocals, Heidi's vocals and the electric guitar parts. I can't wait for this to be done...it's coming along so well. I think everyone will think it was worth the wait.

I can't believe it...after all these years, I will have finally completed my first studio project with 10 of my favorite songs that God has planted in my heart. The guys that I've recorded with have been awesome to work with and the amount that we've accomplished in such a short amount of time is nothing short of miraculous.

I just wrote a new song last week called, "Humanity" that we might try to slip into the end of the cd...(you know, like a hidden track since that's the cool thing to do these days...ha.) We'll see. Heidi sings it and just rocks it out.

I just need prayers. I don't know how God wants to use this...but we will soon see as the mixing and mastering comes to a close and the cd hits the streets. I hope these songs bring glory to the God who birthed them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I went hunting...

ok, for those that know me, I'm not the hunting type. Sure, I love the woods, but I've never caught the hunting fever. I used to serve as a dog for my friend Art when we went rabbit hunting. I would climb my athletic carcass on top of brush piles and jump until Thumper came out of hiding just in time to be ushered into glory by my buddy's 12 gauge...rabbit glory that is. Other than that, I've done very little hands on hunting...until two days ago. I hunt...I'm a hunter.

Early on Tuesday morning I moved my body of the matress to exercise my dominion over the beasts of the field. Honestly, I was still half asleep, but it didn't take long before I was wide awake with adrenaline pumping blood through my veins at an accelarated velocity. The habitat where the hunting would convene was ripe with fresh signs of life. Fresh droppings were everwhere...almost steaming in the cool air. I saw a hunter pick them up one time to find out how recent they were expelled from the huntee. I thought better of it though I was fascinated by their uniformity. You could almost smell the wildlife in the air. I wondered if they were even watching me from a distance. I could tell I was in their world.

My heart started to pound a bit as I prepared my weapon. For some reason I still get scared of triggers. It's like I don't trust myself or something. After my weapon was loaded (I like using the word loaded...it sounds more primal), I positioned myself in the blind. I knew where the majority of the activity was taking place among these creatures; I had studied there patterns closely. It's funny...animals think they are smart, but when your a hunted by a college graduate...you don't have a fighting chance.

I waited until I heard the sound that put the fear of God in my fingers. I could hear the movement, but couldn't see the creature just yet. I had heard of this rush before, but you can't know the heart pounding thrill until you're in the fat middle of this moment. Just then, before I even knew what happened, the trigger went off and was standing there wondering what to do next. I was stunned. By now, the pounding in my head and heart was so loud, I thought I would scare off the rest of the pack.

I calmed myself down and then moved toward the sound off rustling and shuffling. It sounded like a downed critter break dancing in a pile of leaves. I knew that I had at least maimed the beast. I didn't know whether to smile or wince as I rounded the bend. I took a deep breath and to my amazement the creature was laying still on it's side. Twitching with it's stomach heaving up and down like he was on life support. This is the point where you freeze in fear.

Should I touch him? Should I let him be for a while? Should I bash its head to put it out of its misery? She I say the Lord's Prayer over his cooling body? Should I talk to it to see if it responds to sound? I did what any warm blooded homosapien would do in such a predicament...I blew in its ear. When I did, he jerked and spun around looking right at me as if to say, "So you're the one who did this to me." Instantly, I was filled with grief. The kind of grief that you feel at the funeral of a stranger...disturbing, but not deep. I backed away trying to communicate nonverbally to the poor creature. In my mind I was saying, "This is just how it had to be, you understand don't you?" His eyes swore at me. I turned away and looked for a sackcloth and some ashes.

Finally he gave up the ghost. I was sure I heard him whisper in his dying breath, "Father, forgive him, he did not know what he was doing." How did he know? I'm sure my novice tendencies were written all over my flush white face.

I moved toward my kill and touched it. The stiffness was already settling in. I hunted. I killed. I emerged a stronger, more able man.

Such were the exploits of my hunt...I stood on the neck of my prey and said, "In the world of men and mice, mice will always perish."

The world has one less mouse. Don't mess with me. I hunt. I'm a hunter.

Monday, October 17, 2005

and the leaves laughed...

oh, the leaves. I live in Michigan. What a place to be after Ohio St. beat up on Mich. St. Sweet mercy! But this is the place to be if you want to enjoy the Autumn metamorphosis. It is splendor beyond compare. It actually is the time of year that I don't much yearn for heaven. I like it here. Is that wrong? I like driving under a canapy of color arching over the country road. I love the smell of my yard after a fresh cut. I love watching my daughters jump into the pile of leaves I just raked into a heap. I love eating wild apples that have just fallen from the tree. I love seeing the deer roaming about on the farmland. I love the sunrise making the low-lying fog glow like a hovering spirit. I love the gleam of the full moon casting shadows across my lawn as I take the garbage out. I love the crickets and peepers bursting into song as the dusk becomes increasingly darker. I love the sound of geese migrating north for the winter. I love the smell of my daughters clothes after they spend time outside playing...the smell of the outdoors on clothing is priceless. I love the tireswing that hangs from my Ash tree waiting to be climbed upon and twirled. I love the laughter of my daughters when I'm chasing them in this new game I made up called "Prison Break" (yes, I love that series on ABC). I love writing a new song after nearly a year of writer's block. I love seeing tears fall from people's eyes when I'm telling stories of homeless folk at the mission downtown. I love giving hugs to harrassed souls needing a spoonfull of friendship with a dash of hope thrown in for good measure. I love taking a deep breath early in the morning and actually tasting the air. I love walking in the yard and marveling that I own my own plot of land on this beautiful earth...how I long to care for it well. I love chasing this pesky groundhog that refuses to give up digging a burrow under my landscaping along the garage...(he's dead meat...I'm so mad at him, I might eat that rodent when I catch him just to take his rebellious flesh into my own bossom so as to let my digestive system break him down bit by bit until he's nothing but dung being flushed down my toilet. Wow, I just realized I've got serious issues.) I love making people laugh. I love creating life where there appears to be none. I love seeing the lights at the friday night football game light up the sky. I love watching leaves float down the river. I love looking up at the stars and just letting my mind go to to the infinite vastness of universe. I love life.

And though there are days when I would just as soon get hit my a semi, I quite enjoy waking up in the morning knowing I've got another shot at bring deeper, fuller redemption to this place. This morning, as I took my daughters to school, I smiled at the dawn of a new day...and the leaves laughed.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Homeless shelter experience...

Today I went to a homeless shelter called Guiding Light in downtown Grand Rapids. It was enlightening to say the least...disturbing to say the most. The place was filled with human beings living moment to moment on the next hand out or charity. We got a tour of the place and the program these guys go through to detox, and then to rehabilitate. It was so awesome to see the time and effort that has gone into shaping a program for guys who need a second, third, fourth, etc. chance at education, occupation and salvation.

A fight almost broke out while we were there because some guy grabbed another guys shoes and put them on. Oh man, they were about to throw right there in the lobby. Security gaurds came from all sides and attempted to talk sense into the drunk guy who stole this nice man's only pair of shoes. I think they finally convinced him to take them off, give them back and wait for someone to hit the charity closet for a pair of size tens. Over shoes. A fight over shoes. Old crusty, dirt-covered black leather shoes. I thought about all the shoes in my closet. And then I decided not to think about that anymore.

I ate with a guy who is in the program there trying to break free from cocaine and start afresh. You could tell he really wanted to do something with his life. He talked about a dream he had of starting a music revival in Elkart, IN where 50,000 people come from everywhere to get into the music. He was passionate about this dream.

While we were eating, the lunchroom turned into a chapel service somewhere between my bite of caserole and cold carrots. Papa Stokes got up to the pulpit and started preaching to about a 100 homeless people saying halleluia and other sundry religious words that sound appropriate only in that setting...a chapel, with a pulpit and a preacher. We sang amazing grace...you can tell that song was written for that setting...everyone chimed in. I was sitting next to a homeless young man who had cerebral palsy which left his left side withered and bent. His teeth were rotting out of his gums, but did he ever sing that song. It didn't sound like the song, but I could tell he was singing it beautifully in his own heart. He smiled as he sung, "When we've been there ten thousand years..." I smiled, too.

Papa Stokes then stepped up and let his wife, Mama Stokes (this is what they called each other though they were obviously married.) She started lighting that place up with that black gospel feel. It was amazing.

We left and a part of me stayed there. I don't know how to leave those environments anymore. I just don't. My body leaves, but my heart lingers wondering how so much could be happening in the world without my presence or involvement. It's so overwhelming to think that there are over 6,000,000,000 people on this planet and God knows every one of them by heart. I love that about God.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sat. night service...

Well...the day has finally arrived. Tomorrow we launch our Sat. night service. I'm sort of in charge of coordinating the details of it and seeing to it that we have something with a little structure and a little substance. I will be speaking each Sat. night which is a change from what I've been accustomed to up here in the the grand ole state of Michigan. I'm looking forward to more Word-time...that fuels me.

This next series we are talking extensively about social issues such as poverty, the fatherless, disease, religiosity, racism, and just humanity in general and God's head over heals love for all those weighted down under these various oppressive burdens. I don't know the half of what it's like to live under these circumstances, so I need God to show me His heart for these people.

I'm nervous inside. Tonight we have a meeting with the core team who is helping get this new service off the ground. It's odd, I've been at this ministry thing for over 9 years now and I'm still as pit-stomached as I've ever been taking the lead in these types of things. I wonder sometimes if I'm in over my head. It's like everyone else sees me as this confident and articulate leader and inside I'm shivering like a leaf wondering what on earth I think I'm doing. But somehow, every time, or almost every time, God fills this earthen vessel and shows his all-surpassing power. But for now, I feel like I'm going to soil myself. Heart pounding. Stomach cinching. Brain racking.

This is what it feels like to be in the adventure. To go forward without the gaurantee of anything but God's presence. Somehow, I'm ok with that tonight. Here's to life with a pit in your stomach. I've given up expecting it to ever go away.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

courage...

...so yesterday was a day where I met with people all day long from 8:30 - 5:30pm non-stop. To put it bluntly, I was spent. I made a call to my wife after the last meeting and told her I was coming home. Though my body was without life, I told her, "When I come home, I will be a good dad and husband and bring energy to our family." I wanted the accountability to be strong even though I felt weak.

I got home and was helping around the house with some damage control when the pizza finally arrived via delivery. We gathered around the table and I asked who wanted to pray for the food. Both Kami and Aly raised their hands and so I said, "Both of you can pray." Of course, what I meant was they could both pray one following the other. Before I could say another word of direction, they both started to pray simultaneously almost word for word what the other was saying for the first half of the prayer, "Dear Jesus, thank you for the day and that you for the food and thank you for our family..." and then from there is where I started to hold back the tears of laughter. Kami started to pray for random things and Aly in attempts to keep in step with her repeated each of the words Kami was saying a half second behind her. She mumbled and muttered all the things Kami was saying until the final, "amen." Heidi and I laughed...you had to be there.

Then, the girls went into the living room and I shared with Heidi how absolutely exhausted I felt and why. We sympathized with each other, and then I moved to the living room. I felt like I wanted to crash on the couch, but I knew that I should interact with the kids. They had given Heidi fits that day, so I wanted to free her from their life-draining attitudes for just a wee bit. I walked into the living room and said, "Girls, listen to me. I'm only going to say this once to you better pay attention..." They turned toward me and were waiting for the wrecking ball to drop. I continued on, "...tonight we are going to...HAVE FUN, DANCE AND WRESTLE UNTIL WE DROP! THAT'S FINAL!" At first the girls couldn't seem to make sense of the big, bad voice mixing with fun and dancing and that sort of thing...but their eyes finally showed that they got was I had done and they all jumped over on me and we wrestled for a bit. It was fun.

I was spent...but God gave me courage to push through the fatigue and into my family. May He grant me more in the days to come...