Dad’s Revenge.

Dad, this post is for you.

Around 3 AM this morning, I passed a new milestone of life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The story starts 12 years ago.  It was a Saturday morning.  Being a 16-year-old kid, Saturdays were sacred.  Our school board was under the mistaken impression that it was smart for older kids to go to school earlier than younger kids, and so my weekdays started at 6 AM, and I was showered and sitting behind a desk by around 7:40.  I longed for Saturdays.

My dad has a great sense of humor, and having purchased top-of-the-line stereo systems for both my older brother Andy and myself, knew just how to put them to use on this particular  Saturday morning.  Around 7 AM he sauntered into my room, pilfered the remote control to my stereo, tuned the radio to his favorite bluegrass station, and gave the volume knob a good whirl.  He had already done the same in Andy’s room, and for good measure he had also turned the stereo in the living room (with the two-foot-tall speakers sporting a rear-ported 12-inch woofer in each one directly through the wall behind my head) to the same loving tones of banjo, dobro and high tenor.  There are some things that two pillows can’t muffle.

Yes, on Saturday morning I ended up not-showered and sitting behind the steering wheel of a lawn mower by 9 AM.

But the curious thing is that Dad always called it “just getting payback for all the times you got me out of bed.”  And I never really knew what he was talking about.  Sure, he had explained that when I was younger I woke him up.  But there is a difference between being told the stories and living them.

Last night I lived it.  Benjamin is on an antibiotic that we think is the culprit keeping him awake at night. He sat wide-eyed and staring at me from about 1:55 AM until 3:07, when I passed the milestone, and got to see a glimpse into my father’s world.  In addition to that time, he probably sat awake for more than 3/4 of the rest of the night.

So here’s to you, Dad.  I think we can call it even now.  I’m shopping online for stereos for my son’s room.

Just as I am, without one melody.

On Saturday night I had a worship-leading experience that was totally new to me.  We were participating in an outreach with Blanket Appalachia, and about 150 of us (approximately half youth, half adult) gathered at the end of it to share what God taught us, etc.  There was also a speaker who shared with us from the word.  Standard Christian pep rally.  Good stuff.

I was sitting literally on the second-to-last row in the rural Baptist church sanctuary, playing solitaire on my phone waiting for the meeting to start when one of the leaders of the shindig leaned over the pew in front of me and asked if, while we waited on someone to show up I could lead folks in a few songs.  Not a problem.  I’ll get my guitar.

Three hymns later (the words are in the hymnal that way, and I only have to remember chords—which I did a woeful job of, as I am addicted to lead-sheets) I retreated to my spot on the second-to-last row and focused on staying awake (we’d had a really long, really good day, and I didn’t know how much preachin’ I could handle).

When we got to the end to the “every head bowed, every eye closed” portion of the event, I cheated and kept my eyes open so that I didn’t fall asleep and knock my head on the back of the pew in front of me.  The preacher got done praying and we all stood (he asked us to).  He pointed at me and asked if I could come down and lead the group in a few verses of “Just as I am” while he did an altar call.  Actually, more accurately, he just pointed at me and then motioned the “come up here” two finger deal while explaining to the entire group that we were going to sing “Just as I am.”

Let’s pause now and cover the basic information that makes this an awkward situation.  I grew up going to a Methodist church, and now I go to a Presbyterian church.  This is an entire room full of Southern Baptists, who have sung “Just as I am” (all 295 verses) at every event they’ve ever been to.  I’ve sung the song “Just as I Am” roughly three times in my life, and exactly zero of those times involved standing in front of a group.  Nothing against the song, I just don’t have it on my iPod.

At this point, walking forward, I am flipping frantically in the hymnal to find the song so that I can at least sight-read a few of the notes.  There is suddenly a pang of regret at not having paid enough atention during the sight-reading portion of music classes growing up.

I am literally blanking on the melody of this song.

To my utter joy, I learned that there was going to be a piano player helping me, as I got to the front of the room.  I silently prayed that as a prelude he would play all the way through the verse, and not just do the typical “last line of the song” lead-in.  I intentionally didn’t look back at him for a cue when to start, silently hoping that some loud singer in the back of the room would bail me out.

God in His grace provided just that.  I was bailed out by a handful of people who could probably tell I was in a “worship-leader-as-hostage” situation.  I missed about 5 notes in the first verse(singing just barely audibly), but by verse 4 I pretty much had it down well enough to sing at a reasonable volume without fear of serious embarrasment.

It’s funny how I react to situations like that.  I am so insecure, under my facade.  I’d like all of you to think that I have it all together.  And I’m pretty good at it.  I’d wager that 70% (or more) of the room was unaware I was even nervous.  I’ve got a good mask.  And when my mask starts to crumble off I make a joke to distract you from that fact.  Clever.

I long for the day, in heaven, where I will be able to truly worship the Lord without pretense.  Until then, I’ll just come to the Lord as I am, without one plea.


For creating my wife in such a way that she compliments me so well.

For giving us two sets of supportive (grand)parents who love us.

For all the folks who have given sacrificially of their money so that students would hear the gospel.

For giving us our sweet little boy to raise in such a way that he grows up to honor God with his life.

For not allowing us to continue wallowing around in our sin, but repeatedly saving us from ourselves.

For allowing us to live in a country where it is legal to share our faith, to worship You openly, and to post on a blog about you.

For giving us your written Word, so that we can know authoritatively what you think.

For Grace.

Idolatry is a Pitching Wedge.

Yesterday I played a round of golf.  Heading into hole 15, I needed two strokes to catch the leader.  Either I had to step it up, or he had to make a mistake.  As I swung, my heart was racing.  Adrenaline in my sytem took control, and I had what was probably the longest, best drive of my life.  Easily 250 yards, dead straight, middle cut of the fairway.  I was ecstatic.  I glanced again at the score card, made my way to my second shot, and amazingly repeated the same accuracy, reaching the green in only two shots.

Those of you who have ever played golf with me know how atypical (and borderline unbelievable) this whole scenario is.  Those of you with an internet connection and a decent memory might also know that even if I had made time in my schedule for a round of golf yesterday, the weather in western NC was terrible, and I would not have played.

I was playing a video game.  Tiger Woods Golf on my Playstation 2.  (I know, PS2 is sooo early-2002.  Give me a break.  It works just fine.)  But the odd thing is that if you had put those fancy heart monitor leads on me while playing, it would have been tough to argue that I wasn’t actually experiencing a round of golf.  I was nervous, excited, angry, and my heart really was racing as I played.

The thing about my experience yesterday that is so telling is what I put off doing so that I could play video games.  We are in the process of writing and sending our annual end-of-year financial support appeal letter.  I should have been finishing it to send to the printer so that we could effectively raise support.  Instead, I opted for the thrill of the back nine at the TPC at Sawgrass.  Why?

If you are ever looking for a way to understand your heart, asking the question “Why?” always gets you there the fastest.  For me, today’s answer to yesterday’s question is complex.  I desperately long to be powerful, in control, and respected.  These are just a few of the idols I bow down to (and repent of bowing down to) on a daily and hourly basis.  The video game told me yesterday I was worth something.  I have a “career earnings” on the game of well over $10,000,000.00.  In the interest of full disclosure, I grossed $16,200.53 in my first full year of staff with Campus Crusade.  I’m better at making virtual money.  The video game told me I was talented and competent.  I holed a 45 foot eagle putt, and beat Tiger Woods in head-to-head match play.

I got lied to by a 6-year-old piece of electronic equipment.  The lie wasn’t necessarily that I am competent, talented, worth something, or wealthy; but that the basis for those things could ever be found in a video game.  Jesus must have rolled his eyes when I got nervous over a putt on a video game that really did not (nor could not possibly) matter in the grand scheme.

My aversion to raising financial support is that it almost never feeds my idols of self-reliance and control.  I am laid bare (thankfully only metaphorically) before the people that I challenge to join us financially.  In a culture that relentlessly feeds isolation and independence, I am forced to depend on others, and engage in community.  Raising support forces me to do that, and to experience the rush of trusting God for his provision.  That’s a sensation that is far more real than any video game can deliver.

Now if only I could remember that the next time my favorite idols come calling.

And while I am at it, you can join our team of financial ministry partners here.

Two Baptists, two Methodists, and a Presbyterian go to a restaurant…

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, I know. But last night we went out to dinner with some of the other campus ministers at UNC Asheville. We had a good time, got to hang out with folks we don’t normally, and had one of those moments where you secretly hope somebody brings up a volatile subject like alcohol, or women in leadership, or predestination. Or maybe that was just me. It would have been fun to watch the fireworks. But alas, everyone there was far too mature, and nobody lobbed any spiritual grenades over the theological fences that divided us. It’s nice in situations like that to be on the “interdenominational” team, because it leaves others trying to figure out where you stand, which team you are on. In the grand scheme, though, it was nice to all be on the same team. What would have made the joke funnier would have been if we were walking into a bar…