Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In case you're wondering ...

Where I've gone, the answer is nowhere. :) Well, not exactly. Let me explain.
For the last several months, I've been mulling a transition to a more definite blogging/website identity, and I've recently taken a step in that direction. For the time being, I'm posting my ramblings at As I'm able to make a more permanent change, I'll work that in as well. Until then, the "posterous" account is where you can find me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

'All the world's indeed a stage'

Over the last several days, I've wrestled with what to say in response to Jason Wert's post "Rush and God." I'm just going to write from the heart and see what happens.
I first heard of Rush when I was 14. I distinctly remember one early time I heard one of their songs – probably "Limelight" or "Tom Sawyer." It was on a bus while on a Scout trip to Washington, D.C.
Over time, my affection for and interest in the band grew. I even attempted to play the drums, modeling myself after Neil Peart. This is hysterical because I have no natural sense of rhythm.
I can't say for sure but I do wonder sometimes how much of his work as a lyricist impacted my chosen profession as a writer. I think it had some influence.
Around the time I was 19, I met Christ in a real and personal way and spent time with people roughly my own age who'd had the same experience.
Up until about eight years ago, my last Rush concert was around the time I was 20. I still liked the band and eagerly awaited every album, but I felt conflicted at times about listening to and supporting a band whose members were – at minimum – agnostics if not atheists.
Allegations from fundamentalists who believed the "Red Star" of 2112 was more than just the symbol of oppression but rather an sign of allegiance to Satan didn't help either.
In late 1998, I'd just been through the loss of my mother when I learned Neil Peart suffered two personal losses – his wife and daughter. My interest in the band renewed and I waited for the band's triumphant return on "Vapor Trails."
I took my wife along for the VT show and she likes the band now too.
Then, we went with a friend to see the opening show of the band's 30th anniversary tour in 2004. That friend, his wife and two children died in a automobile accident in Arizona four years ago this month. The day after the Rush show was the last time we saw them alive.
He was a drummer and she was a graphic artist. They'd moved to Nashville so he could pursue his passion. They later moved to Arizona to help out with a church.
I sat in my car crying the day after we learned of their deaths and listened to and sang the words to "Afterimage" over and over. "Suddenly you were gone; From all the lives you left your mark upon."
So, word of a new Rush album and tour began to spread later that year. In 2007, I began to introduce my young daughter to the band. She stayed with some friends and my wife and I went to see Rush on their tour-opening stop in Atlanta, Ga. We felt like we owed it to our friends. I sang the words to "Mission" in their memory. "A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission."
I still continue to grapple with the conflict between who am as I believer and the enjoyment I get out of being a Rush fan.
I've prayed for God to just shut off this desire if it's not something that pleases him and I hope I haven't ignored what may have been quiet whispers in this direction.
I've met dozens of other Rush fans at other shows and my daughter went with me to one when she was a little more than 2 and a half.  Why would I do this?
Fortunately for her, she has a sense of rhythm and I believe Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee are the among if not the best at their instruments. My wife couldn't go to the show in New Orleans in April 2008 because she started a new job and the show was rescheduled from a Saturday to a Sunday.
So I drove to New Orleans, went to a hotel not far from the arena, met up with some fellow Rush fans at a restaurant and walked to the show. An online friend met us at the arena and when they said no backpacks – my daughter's diaper bag was a backpack – we left the bag in our friend's vehicle and I stuffed two diapers in my back pocket and went in the arena.
She loved it and still remembers several aspects of the show.
So we're planning to go see them again this tour – hopefully with everyone along for the trip.
Where am I on the aspect – and question – of the influence?
I believe that many people who are like the guys in Rush haven't truly encountered genuine believers – people who do their best to make their actions and their faith match. They've seen the ridiculous roadside church signs and at least one member has said the church just looks like an exclusive club. It's so much more than that and I long for Rush and their fans to discover what authentic Christianity looks like.
My wife recently got a tattoo with the Hebrew word for "redeem."
She says she got it because she believes God can redeem anything if we let him.
I'm trusting him in believing that all this energy, time and money spent supporting Rush will somehow be of benefit to him and his kingdom.
Over time, as I've contemplated my own mortality, I've thought about wanting two things to happen at my funeral. I would like whomever delivers the message that day to give people an opportunity to consider and accept Christ as their savior and Lord – for all time.
But I also want them to hear "Limelight." "All the world's indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers; each another's audience; outside the gilded cage."
When the curtain closes, I want to hear my Lord say: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done."
What do you struggle with as an obsession or long-term habit and how do you think God could you use it for his glory?

Blogger's note: All lyric references in this post are the copyrighted works of Rush, not mine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Secular music and faith - should there be a line?

As most of you know, one of my favorite bands is Rush. For those who've never heard of them, they're a Canadian rock trio founded in the Toronto area in 1968. Their debut self-titled album hit the shelves in 1974 with Geddy Lee on bass and lead vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitar and (the late) John Rutsey on drums. Later in '74, Rutsey bowed out due to health problems (he died within the last few years), then Neil Peart joined the band as the percussionist. He later became the chief lyricist.
For many years after I became a Christian, I struggled with continuing to listen to this band because they are, well, secular - for starters, and second, they are agnostics at best. Why the struggle? I embraced the Christian counterculture of rock music in the late 1980s/early 1990s and believed some of those who said Satan directly influenced some forms of secular music. Rush got lumped into this category because of the "Red Star" emblem depicted as part of the story in album "2112."
After years of wrestling – and even skipping songs I didn't think were appropriate (which I still do sometimes) – I reconnected with the band on the album "Vapor Trails," the band's first album after they took a hiatus while Peart spent some concentrated time coming to grips with the loss of both his wife and daughter in a short period of time.
The VT album and tour was also my wife's first real introduction into the band's work, and she's hooked too.
On their 2007 release – "Snakes and Arrows" – Rush displayed the song "Faithless." Its chorus goes:
"I don't have faith in faith
I don't believe in belief
You can call me faithless
I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that's faith enough for me."
On a "making-of" video for the album, Lee talks about how those outside the church view it as an exclusive club. Essentially, I think they speak for people who see the church as it exists today and want no part of it. This shouldn't be seen as a threat to the church, but a challenge; a challenge to be what we were called to be and be fragrant to God and those who don't know him and are turned off by what they see from his representatives on Earth.
So, do we – as the church – distance ourselves from the likes of people like Rush, or do we appreciate their talents, hear their words and enjoy their work?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So do we trust the storywriter or not?

As I've been thinking through some circumstances in my life recently, I've been mulling over some things Mandy Thompson said. And I've tried to put some of these things in practice. I've worked to approach God with some honesty about how I feel about some of these things. I've come back around to realize there are some heart issues I need to face: How's my attitude about this situation? What have I done to improve it? I have I made the circumstance better or worse for myself or others with the way I've handled it?
The answers, unfortunately, are probably not good.
As I thought on this today, I began to understand the core problem is I'm not trusting God – with friendships and other circumstances. I'm trying to make things happen because I don't like how things have turned out. So I've been trying to reverse-engineer things and cut paths in places which were never meant to be disturbed. In other words, I've been trying to play mini-Providence and it's a role which isn't suited for me.
So instead of trying to "fix" the circumstances, I need to take my hands off of them and let the Person who started writing the story in the first place finish the job. Do we really believe the verse which says: He is faithful to complete it? That's what I need to find out for myself.
In what areas of life are you learning you need to trust God's ability to finish the story?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Apologies, dear followers

Hey everyone!
It's been far too long since you've all heard from me. I could rattle off the old excuses – I've been busy, tired, sick, playing Wii (some), lollygagging on Twitter, procrastinating and generally not thinking about my blog – but this information wouldn't do you any good.
You want to READ stuff!
Well, I had a few ideas last week. I remember three of them and will hopefully get a couple of them out over the next week or so.
I haven't figured out yet how to hold down a full-time job and blog. But people who do this successfully are typically multi-taskers by nature. I'm a rifle kind of guy and I usually take a long time to line up my shot, sometimes missing the opportunity.
But I've been thinking again lately about ways to revamp and upgrade my Internet presence. I don't want to make any promises, but let just say some things are on the agenda for the ol' family board meeting.
In the mean time, I'll start noodling on those ideas and hopefully some will blossom soon!

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I've recently discovered a personal challenge I guess I always knew was there but recently became glaringly obvious.
I want people to like me, so I sometimes try too hard to achieve this. I guess somewhere way back (or maybe over a series of times), I felt unliked, unloved and unwelcomed enough to think I had to find external validation to my existence.
So, it seems I'm on a regular search for this elusive emotional stamp, usually from people I wouldn't ordinarily think would like me. It's like a twisted relationship treasure hunt or geocaching game. I'm not sure what “winning” this game will look like but I'll know it when I see it and I haven't arrived. This is complicated by the sense I'm already at a likeability deficit before someone gets to know me.
Yes, I know how messed up this sounds, and it won't likely earn me a spot as add-on chapter to "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
I think of the famous Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech where she said: “You like me, right now, you like me.” She hit the acceptance jackpot and was overcome by it.
I know we have to look first to Christ for acceptance. It cost him a whole lot – his life in fact.
I realize as I examine this that I've got a long way to believe he's really here – right in the midst of this, even as I write. So, healing is in order and he's the only one who can heal a hurt this deep and cavernous. As a believer, I know he accepts me, it needs to start there and work its way out. I invite him to start this healing when he's ready.
Acceptance can't get any better than this (Ephesians 1:4-6): “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
I know I'm not anywhere close to being done with this issue, but acknowledging it and letting Christ do his healing work is the start. And, on the human end, I need simply to let people like me for who I am naturally (and returning the favor), not beg them for their love. If I am really honest with myself and Christ, I already have more than I need and should be willing to give liberally, not act as though I've never received any.
What challenges have you faced with acceptance and how have you overcome them?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead and trying not to crash

This past year, my family and I have gone through some radical changes, the most prominent being my wife's employment with We've also gotten to know a bunch of wonderful people all around the world. My perspective on the world and how we interact with it has changed radically.
I no longer see just my little chunk of the globe – and what I've experienced of it – by itself. I'm connected with people in India, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and varying parts of North America. On the whole, this past year is certainly one I don't want to back up and do over (I certainly can't say that for other years, that's for sure).
To look ahead, I know I need to get my weight under control and we've recently taken some positive steps with this by using the Wii Fit system – a step forward from little to no activity is better than standing still.
But beyond this, I hope 2010 is the year I really get some clarity about what I'm to be about and what my purpose is, or at least some level of contentment with my circumstances in various settings. Sometimes I think I'm missing the mark. At other times, I realize I'm probably right where I need to be. Sometimes, I get the wrong messages from my circumstances. So, if nothing else I hope 2010 will be a time when I get my perspective right, even if my circumstance don't change one degree.
Though in much of the last year I've gained a great amount of confidence, I still face challenges in second-guessing myself in so many areas of my life. So, I need to learn how to take risks and not worry about the consequences as much after I make a decision. I should just make the choice, stick with it and pray it works out for the best.
I feel like I've made more progress this past year in living by faith and I want to continue down this path in 2010, learning even more about who Christ is and growing in learning how to love and serve with my brothers and sisters, being more generous in how I spend my resources.
So here's hoping 2010 will end with me being thinner, physically healthy person who is willing to take greater risks with proper wisdom, discernment and confidence in how I approach people and life's circumstances. How will I measure this? I think I'll know and I'm trusting we'll see real fruit from this 364 days from now. So let's do this!