- November 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
One of my favorite Bible passages is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”. As a believer, I know that God is directing my way, but since the definition of faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, many times it can feel like a guessing game. Am I on the right path? Is this where I am supposed to be?
The week before the IMEA awards ceremony, these verses became very real to me. I had decided to go and look for something to wear to the program. Those of you who know me know that going to buy clothes is not my favorite thing to do. I avoid it as much as possible. Part of the reason for this is that it is hard to find good customer service. It takes me a long time to figure out what I want, and having someone who knows what he or she is doing can be a great help.
So, reluctantly, I decided to try anyway. After not finding my size at the store closest to me, I went to Atlanta. After entering the first store there, I was greeted by a gentleman named David who asked if he could help me. I told him I was just looking, and he said that if I needed anything to let him know–”I have been doing this for 20 years, so you will be in good hands.” David had a great talent for engaging me in conversation. He asked if I was looking for something for a special occasion, and I told him I would be attending a music awards show next week. We found a jacket, tie, and shirt, and while I was getting ready to try them on, he asked where the show was being held. When I told him Ashland, Kentucky, he dropped the hangers he was holding and said, “Did you say Ashland, Kentucky?” He then told me that he had spent much of his childhood in Ashland, that his mother had grown up there, and that of the seven million people in Atlanta, he had never met anyone who had even heard of Ashland. He then told me of all the great places to eat, especially Chimney Corner Cafe, about the historic bridges that connect Kentucky with Ohio, and his memories of the landmark Paramount Theater where the show was to be held.
Later, as I was trying on a shirt, he asked me what kind of music I wrote and performed, and I described the music and said the lyrics are Christian and faith-based. Without skipping a beat, David showed me a hand-carved, wooden cross that he had with him. Not only did he know everything about the town I was planning to visit, but he also shared the same faith.
As I was making my purchase before leaving the store, I told him I liked the cross and its craftsmanship, and he told me that a friend of his had made it for him, and that it was a reminder that God is with him everyday. Three days later, I received a cross just like it in the mail! David explained to me that it belonged to his wife, but that they both wanted me to have it when I went to Kentucky. His friend was going to make her another cross.
David also sent me the Bible verse from Psalm 118:24 that says “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”, and told me to remember this on my big night. Before I was ready to perform, I said the verse to myself, and it really brought me into the moment and made me so aware that God, the Maker of the Universe, had also made this night, and I was blessed enough to be part of it.
As I mentioned in earlier posts, the IMEA nomination came out of nowhere. It was a complete surprise. After the meeting with David, it became clear to me why it was happening. For a few days, it was as if the veil had been lifted, and I was seeing firsthand that, yes, God is directing my paths. The connection I had made that day in Atlanta went beyond coincidence. In fact, it was so powerful, I felt I had already received my “award”, and considered not even making the trip to the ceremony.
Of course, I am very happy I went. Colt Chambers and his group from IMEA and the Paramount Players were so kind to me. For example, the soundcheck went quicker than expected, and even though I had arrived before mine was scheduled, it had already concluded. Nevertheless, everyone in the theater came together to hear me practice and were cheering me on the entire time. What a great group of people! I also had the privilege of presenting the Female Vocalist of the Year Award in Christian Music to Katelyn McCarter, and I was honored that she presented me with my award for Male Vocalist of the Year in the same category. When you have a chance, please listen to her song “Free from Me”. She is an amazing talent.
I have kept the cross I carried to Kentucky with me everyday since I received it. It is a reminder of the gifts I was given through this experience: (1) the assurance that God is putting it all together by making seemingly impossible connections and giving unexpected honors; (2) a lifelong friend in David, who is now like family to me; (3) new friends, who not only give their all to their own talents, but also appreciate the talent in others; (4) the best group of family and friends who support me every step of the way, (and even though the votes only counted one-fifth of the results, still voted enough to crash the server!) and (6) a heart that is still glad and rejoicing.
As I mentioned last week, I was somehow nominated for the Christian and Gospel Male Vocalist of the Year in by the International Music and Entertainment Awards (IMEA) Program! IMEA is giving everyone an opportunity to vote for the nominees before the upcoming ceremony. Voting will count 1/5 of the total score. Please click below on the picture of the Paramount Theater where the awards ceremony will be held if you would like to vote for me. It takes less than a minute to vote. I am listed on Page 5 under the Christian and Gospel Male Vocalist of the Year category. After clicking next to my name, to go to Page 6 and hit the Submit button. Voting ends on October 1. Thank you for your support of my music!
I am still trying to figure out how it happened, but I have been nominated as Male Vocalist of the Year by the International Music and Entertainment Association (IMEA) Awards! Many thanks to those who thought of me and made this possible! The press release from the Nashville Music News is below. More information will follow soon…
There is a tree in my yard that has seen better days. According to the landscaper, the tree may be the oldest one in the neighborhood. Because of this historical significance, for years I have been reluctant to cut it down, even after a former neighbor declared that he would “take the ugly thing out” himself if I would let him.
The landscaper explained that the tree is in its current condition for several reasons. When the neighborhood was built, the tree was saved, but the developers poured a concrete parking slab in front of it that adjoined the newly paved road. What was once rich soil covering the tree’s root system was now a permanent barrier that no longer allowed rain to reach all of the roots. In addition, mistletoe had attached itself on top of the tree. This parasite that we associate with romantic love (maybe there is more to this symbolism than we think? ) had killed portions of the tree.
As I have watched something that was once strong and flourishing now struggle for survival, I can see a lot of big-picture lessons. While the tree had no choice in the matter, people, on the other hand, often go through a similar cycle because of choices that seem okay at the time. Sometimes these are obvious. Like the concrete slab, we have the ability to stifle some great things that God has in store for us by inserting barriers in our lives that alter the plan. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Sometimes the choices are not as clear, like when less-than-enriching people or habits end up clinging to us like mistletoe, and again, rob us of more of the good that God has designed.
There are other lessons from the tree. Its experience parallels the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13: 3-8: ”A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” So, my tree was on good ground until this very same ground became otherwise. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly evaluating where I am and seeking the best “ground” for me to grow into who God has made me. Likewise, I want to provide what is needed for those around me to also have the freedom to grow.
The final lesson from the tree lies in its prognosis. The landscaper believes he can save the tree. He has a process in place that involves drilling holes in the ground, fertilizing the tree, and removing the dead limbs. Over time, the tree should return to its original form. God does the same for us. Like the landscaper, He can see what needs to be done to make us new again. Psalm 107: 19-21: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds…”
A few weeks ago, the spring broke inside the door handle on the driver’s side of my car. This meant that in order to get into the car, I had to go through the passenger’s side. On the day I was scheduled to take the car to get it repaired, I tried the passenger door and it was locked. Yes, I had forgotten to unlock all the doors the last time I drove, and yes, the key was inside the car.
This could have been a very easy situation to fix. When I bought my car many years ago, I was given a spare key, and was told to alternate using it with my regular key so the battery inside the key would stay charged. But since so much time had passed, I could not remember exactly where I had put the spare key, although I had some ideas.
The thought of searching for the key and where it might be was overwhelming (picture the show Hoarders), so I first called the garage where I take my car for repairs to explain the situation, and the owner said there was nothing he could do, and a locksmith would not be able to get into my car because it has a complicated locking system. I then called the dealership to see if I could get another key made, and the mechanic said unless my car had another lock on the passenger’s door (it does not), a new key would do me no good since the spring was broken inside the door handle with the lock. He said in order to program a new key, he would need to be able to get inside the car. He said if I had the car towed, he had a secret lockout kit that he could use (he didn’t use the word “secret”, but at this point, cynicism was my friend).
As I was calculating the cost of towing the car and paying for the secret lockout kit from the dealership, I was having a hard time justifying the thought of spending this kind of money when, at this point, it would be due to my lack of knowing the location of the spare key. In fact, I have had to pass on doing some extra concerts this year since these were not included in this year’s music budget, so the idea spending this kind of money was hard to take.
I called my good friend Steve, who knows more about cars than anyone I know, and he said he would do some research. He also said he thought a locksmith could do the job. In the meantime, I starting searching for the key.
There were five “regions” where the key could be. I say regions, because these Grey Gardens-like areas were not specific to one spot. For example, region one included every drawer in the house. I tackled this one first. Two hours later, and two hours behind schedule for my regular life, I knew the next searches would have to wait until the weekend. When the searches of regions two, three, and four failed (too much to describe), I gave up.
Not wanting to bother Steve again, I called a locksmith. He said he was not sure it could be done, but said he would be over in an hour. I immediately started calculating the cost of the locksmith, the likelihood that he would not be successful, the possibility of damage to my door and complicated locking system, followed by the towing, the dealership cost and their secret lockout kit, and I realized there may be no more concerts in my distant future.
At this point, I felt compelled to consider the possibility of tackling region five. Because I have no time, and 10 hours had already been devoted to regions one through four, I had previously decided that region five would be out of my league, since region five was comprised of every previous attempt at organization on my part over the years, as evidenced by stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks (you get the point) of plastic storage boxes. I knew it would take several days to go through all of this, but with the locksmith scheduled and my future as a performing musician at stake, I grabbed the first box in the stack.
I opened the box, and on the very top was a folder with all of the information from the purchase of my car, including the spare key. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with happiness. I canceled the the locksmith. Even though the battery in the key was dead, I knew the worst case scenario was now a simple battery replacement for the key.
Now standing at the broken door, I turned the key in the lock, and it locked the broken door. I turned it again, and it unlocked the broken door. I knew it was a long shot, but I kept trying, thinking the key might recharge or the other doors might unlock. After several attempts with the same outcome, I thought I would leave the key in the door to see if it might charge itself. A few minutes later, I tried it again. The key battery was still dead, so I turned the key and it locked broken door, and I turned it again, and it unlocked broken door, and this pattern continued until, suddenly, all the doors unlocked. I couldn’t believe it, and it felt like the second miracle of the day. (Steve even called later to tell me he had been working on solving the problem. We need more Steves in the world.)
As you already know by now, I look for the meaning in things that happen, and the lesson from this experience hit me several days later. I have often heard it said that God gives us the means to solve a lot of the problems we pray about and ask Him to fix. From the minute this happened with my car, I had a clear picture of what needed to be done to find the spare key, but did not even consider going the full distance at first. It made me start wondering about the things I have prayed about and would like to see happen, and the many thoughts I have had about ways they might happen that I really never fully pursue. An obvious passage about this is Matthew 7:7-9, where it says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
I thinks sometimes we have a different view of what an answered prayer looks like, when a lot of times, the answer has been given to us, but we are not paying attention to it, disregard it as impossible, or are not willing to truly seek so we can find it. Although my key dilemma was small in the grand scheme of things, the experience forced me to think about the fact that many times, we have already been given the key if we are willing to use it.
I discovered Keith Green’s music a few years ago. There is something about his recording of “Easter Song” that makes me feel like I am witnessing what happened on the first Easter. It’s sad to me that Keith is no longer on this earth, but amazing that his music, especially “Easter Song”, still breathes life into the meaning of this weekend. The link is below. Be sure to listen through the credits.
This is a continuation of a series of entries describing those times in my life when I have felt the presence of God in a powerful way, and when I knew, without a doubt, there is a God…
There have been several times when God revealed His presence to me while I was going through the experience of losing someone through death. My first experience with this was the death of my dad. I had been taking care of him while he recovered from heart surgery. His prognosis was good, so it never occurred to me that he would die when he did. In retrospect, there were so many signs that God was getting him ready to go to the other side.
For example, when he was recovering in the hospital after surgery, Dad was telling me that his father and best friend had visited with him. Since I knew both of them had passed away many years ago, I thought maybe Dad was going to say that it was a dream. But he kept telling me about their visit. Probably 20 minutes later, Dad said “They died a long time ago, didn’t they?” I told him they had, but reassured him that I had enjoyed hearing about the visit. He laughed and said the doctors must have him on some pretty strong painkillers.
The night Dad died, our devotional was about I Corinthians 13. We talked about the verse that says “for now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.” I remember telling him that I did not realize this verse was part of the love chapter in the Bible. We talked about whether or not we would all recognize each other in heaven (I shared some of this in an earlier entry).
Also, earlier that night, Dad had spent some time with an estranged loved one, and it was a great experience for both of them. Because of this, he talked to me about many of the people and events in his life, some that seemed difficult at the time, and how he saw them now that the years had passed. It gave both of us the opportunity to say what we normally would not have said.
Later that night, I woke up and heard Dad calling my name. He was holding his chest and said he felt cold. I called 911 and the nurse who lived next door. She was there in less than a minute. I remember her saying his pulse was fine—that nothing seemed to be wrong. And just like that, Dad began gazing upward and left this earth. I was telling him to hold on, but he was already gone.
The ambulance took him to the hospital, and everyone gathered to hear an outcome we already knew. Arrangements were made, and many hours passed until it was morning. My mom was with me when we returned to Dad’s place, and I remember uncontrollably wailing in grief as I walked into the house where, just hours ago, we were together and laughing.
As I entered the room where he had died, my eyes were immediately directed to Dad’s piano. Right in the center of it was the sheet music for a song called “He’s Alive”. I had bought the sheet music years ago and had not seen it since high school. But there it was, right in the middle of Dad’s piano. I knew that God was telling me that Dad is alive on the other side and that all is well. I don’t know how to describe it, but this one heavenly message completely changed the way I dealt with losing my dad. An excerpt from “He’s Alive” may explain it best:
Light that came from everywhere
Drove the shadows from the room…
Guilt and my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I’d ever had
Just melted into peace…
He’s alive…Heaven’s gates are open wide.