"But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole." - Harry Chapin - chorus of "Mr. Tanner."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rats . . . Rats . . . Rats . . .

Well . . . it was bound to happen sooner or later, as much guitar playing and singing I do around the church . . .

Before singing last night at a very special Eagle Scout Court of Honor . . . I put down my Martin DC-16 . . . and while I turned away . . . it fell out of the stand . . . and the head stock struck the metal bass of the Troop flag that was in the room for the ceremony.

No wood damage to the guitar . . . but the nut shattered . . . and I think the 1st E string tuner is broken . . .

It could have been worse . . .

There is no more horrible sound . . . than to hear a guitar fall and strike something metal . . . and you have your back turned when it happens.

Ouch.

But . . . it appears to me to be more than repairable. Yes, it could have been worse.

Glad I had the Tacoma Jumbo as a back up . . . and it actually is more western looking, so it fit the occassion better . . .

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas went so well . . . I forgot about the new year . . .

Honestly . . . I was so focused on all our recent band gigs, and getting ready to preach yesterday, that I hadn't given much thought to the coming of 2010 in just a few days.

Wait a minute . . . wasn't Y2K just a year or so ago?

Decade?? Give me a break! I usually say, "where has the last year gone?"

Today, I am saying "Where has the last decade gone???"

For the love of . . . oh well.

But, my fussing won't last long . . . I only have one goal for 2010 . . .

To be what I am.

At my age (52) . . . it is too late, too painful, and way too expensive to even begin to try and be something I am not.

I just don't have the time anymore . . .

I know, in my heart, what I like.

I know, with passion, what is important to me.

I know, concretely, what I believe in.

Everything else . . . will probably get a "No!" answer in the most polite and loving way I can offer it.

In 2010 . . . I will just be me.

Happy New Year!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I may never own one, but I got to play one . . .

One of the highlights of a recent trip with my wife and a couple of very dear friends to East Texas. In a small hole-in-the-wall music store, I got to play a 1970 Martin N-20 classical guitar.

For those of you who are Willie Nelson fans, Willie's "Trigger" guitar is a 1969 Martin N-20.

Awesome! Brazilian rosewood back and sides. It plays itself ... wow! What a thrill!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What do you do when you've gone as far as you can go in your career?

This is a great question which Glenn Shepherd answers in his latest newsletter.

He uses a story about guitar great John Fogerty . . . so he got my attention quick . . . and I was glad I read the article . . . he makes a very good point . . . that when we come to a point where we are wondering what to do next . . . we should "get even better."

This is a story I had to print out and put in my "personal" notebook.

www.glennshephardnewsletter.com/2009/237print.htm.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guy's Grids . . . More than a chord book . . .

If you are wanting to reach the next level in guitar playing . . . then I recommend you check out the new book, Guy's Grids. Just got mine in today . . . and I am overwhelmed with possibilities.

Granted, learning chords is a matter of memory. However, Guy's Grids changes all this. It is advertised that it easily expands yoru chord vocabulary by visualizing guitar chord relationships.

More info here.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Five Practices of Faithful Congregations . . .

Many of the clergy in our annual conference recently attended a special event at FUMC in Mansfield, TX. Bishop Robert Schnase was the key note speaker.

As a rule . . . I loathe Saturday clergy gatherings. Sorry, it's just the way I feel. Mostly becasue I have been to a lot of Saturday clergy gathering / trainings that were a complete waste of time.

Hmmm, I see that I have failed to mention that the event with Bishop Schnase also included laity? There were over 1,000 in attendance . . . and it was well worth the time of all who attended.

Having said that, I am spending December carefully re-reading Bishop Schnase's book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

In January, we are starting a church-wide study of Richard Sterns exceptional book, The Hole in Our Gospel. This will be a second read of this book for me as well . . . but the first time doing so with many of our church members reading it as well. I look forward to many future conversations about both books.

Why read these two books? Each makes use of various terms which center, in my opinion, around the need for our Christian church / individual focus on people who live out in the "periphery."

"Periphery" is my new favorite word.

Let me explain, in terms that at least I can understand, both from experience and personal study.

Many churches, if you will, put most of their focus and efforts on maintaining status quo. Most effort and a majority of resources are spent on maintaining property, etc., and in most cases, longing for the way things were 20-30 years ago. They are not growing . . . they are not winning people to Christ . . . they are not engaging their neighborhood or community in mission or service.

Most of these churches . . . are dead spiritually . . . or soon will be. The focus is on the grand ol' days of the past . . . prior to the culture shift we live in now. Ask them what their mission statement is, and the answer will be something like . . . "we are nice people . . .but you should have seen this church back in the 1950's, 60's, 70's . . ."

Question: how does one move forward when you are always looking behind you?? Not a safe way to travel.

Some churches, and I am blessed to be at one of them, have a healthy balance of both looking inward at ourselves, but also looking outward in mission and service to others in the name of Jesus Christ. We began this process a year ago by drawing a mile circle on a map . . . with a pin marking where our church was.

What happened as a result? We started getting to know people who lived and worked within a mile of our church. As a result, we discoverd that over 40% of these people were Hispanic. We talked, prayed . . . and then moved to bring an Hispanic Associate Pastor on staff, who has created a Spanish worship service on Sunday morning in our Founder's Chapel.

We began a reading program in the elementary schools. We offer a once-a-month meal to our neighbors, especially those who live in the government housing next to the church. We sponsor local mission projects aimed at helping people with the real needs of their lives.

A lot of these people . . . don't look like us . . . or sound like us . . . or act like us.

These sweet people are"fringe" people. Fringe people are those who are just outside of your vision focus . . . you see them . . . but not very clearly . . . and unless you move forward to meet them . . . they are going to remain out-of-focus . . . and in truth, you will clearly see them as you think you do. These are people that would not feel as if they were welcomed or even wanted, unless you say . . . "Hi neighbor!" . . . and then reach our your hand.

Periphery people . . . my goal for ministry in 2010 is to discover what other people are out there, just beyond our ministry mile . . . just beyond our focus . . . who I can get know . . . who I can play guitar for and sing to . . . who I can start a relationship with . . . and who knows, maybe God will help us discover and start a new ministry or two . . .

That means . . . and this is going to frightening to many pastors . . . I am going to be out-of-the-office more. Bible, note pad, cell phone, and guitar in hand . . . this means walking out the office doors of our church building . . . and getting to know people again . . .

As I understand it . . . the model of ministry I was taught, was that we were to build a great buildings and programs, and people would come.

That model of minsitry does not work anymore. For the most part, people come because they are invited to come by people they know. They come because of relationships they have, and/or can form. And . . . they come because they have a need . . . the Spirit has told them that we are cooking and serving "bread." The "bread of life" is a mighty tasty thing.

I solicit your prayers. I am going to be doing, dare I say it . . . some local missionary work.

If you are not already doing so, or planning to do so . . . I cannot more highly recommend Robert Schnase's Five Practices book, and Richard Stearn's The Whole in Our Gospel. These two books, along with your Bible, will cause you to examine your faith as you start 2010, that may in time cause you to change your mind, in a good way, about what being a Christian in today's world is all about.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>