Black Sheep Bass-ic Training

Doing The Christian Walk With A Funky Strut

Pride check

Learning the hard way that we need God EVERY day, for EVERYthing.

We are weak beings.  Even when we have something “figured out”, we really don’t…we’re only operating under His grace on that given day.  We cannot take that grace for granted.  What we may have no issues with today may rear its ugly head tomorrow…

Two (related) cases in point: my depression issues, and my shopping habits.

The depression.  Major depression runs through my dad’s side of the family, going back at least 3 generations that I am personally aware of, probably further back than that.  I have been diagnosed and, in the past, medicated for it.  I gave up the medication after a time because the work God did in me to release old baggage of unforgiveness and bitterness seemed to negate the need for it.  Plus, having the masters’ in psychology, I’ve had to study these drugs at length, and I have concerns about long-term effects on the rest of the body.  So I’ve sought more natural remedies for my “blue” days.  Which, as I’ve gone on in my Christian walk, seemed to be coming with less and less frequency.  By last fall, I thought I truly had this beat.

Then winter showed up.

And it hasn’t even been that bad of a winter by Chicago standards.

But.

Ever since about mid-December or so, I’ve felt what I call the “lead beanie”.  When your brain chemistry is off-kilter, it can literally be felt physically.  I never knew this until going on the meds, and having them alter my brain’s depressed state.  During a bout of depression, there’s this heaviness that sits on the top of your brain, feels like a lead weight covering the whole top of your head.  Meds take that weight off and you feel a lightness there instead.  Being in a happy state also produces that light, free feeling.

I’ve felt the weigh-down.  And for no good reason.  I am intensely, richly blessed and I know that.  This didn’t start with bad thought life.  It started with the physical manifestation…which itself wears on you…

…THEN some circumstances happen that take your thoughts the wrong direction.  I fought this during all of January, but by this last weekend, I ran out of fight.  I just wallowed.  Did nothing fruitful.  Just did mindless things and hibernated.  And slipped up in…

The shopping habits.  Another lovely bit of brain chemistry I’ve picked up from my wonderful family is, propensity to addiction.  I’ve never smoked, never done any drugs, am not a habitual drinker.  But I like nice things.  I like brightly colored things and nice sounding things and funny things and…yeah.  I like the “whoopee” of getting a package in the mail and unveiling things from packaging.  I like scoring a bargain or getting a unique or limited edition thing.  I like these things to the point where I could potentially be an addict with it.

After getting my custom bass, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse.  Not in the usual sense-I don’t regret the purchase one iota and I’ve been having more fun with her in church than should be legal.  But the bills came in and presented me with reality.  She cost me the price of a used car.  And I don’t have used car money laying around.  Timing was not the wisest.  But it is what it is, what’s done is done.  I took a good look around my place not long after taking delivery, and realized how blessed I am, how many things I have…knowing deep down I don’t need anything else.  Seriously.  I have abundant abundance.  I felt like I was truly done with the shopping.  I felt content with my lot in life, even a bit of “I don’t deserve all this”.  Had resolve to not touch my credit cards until paid off, and to not even buy any non-essentials until debt gone, even if I could afford them.

Until I hit that funk this last weekend.

It was an item I first wanted when it came out 9 years ago.  I’ve successfully talked myself out of getting it for 9 years because it serves no practical purpose whatsoever.  Its sole purpose is to sit there and look cute.  I was a rabid collector of such things in the past and thought I was “over” that, since I had to sell a lot of them off in 2007 just to keep a roof over my head while I was unemployed.

But I got surfing the ‘Net in my murky brain state, and saw the item, and saw that similar items were no longer available for purchase, and thought “if I don’t get this now I’ll never be able to”…so I bought it.

I am happy to have it.  Seller shipped quickly, it’s already in hand.  It makes me smile, as I knew it would.  I will enjoy it for many years to come.

But I come out of this knowing that I can’t say I’ve beaten anything.  I can’t say I’ve beaten depression.  I can’t say I’ve beaten the shopping bug.  I can only ask God to help me come against it every single day, and thank Him profusely when He lifts the burdens and rebuffs the temptations.  I need to thank Him when I have a day of clear mind and sound, wise thought.  I need to keep thanking Him for what I do have so I don’t get off into thinking about what I don’t have.

I need to thank Him for a job that allows me time off so I can get in the Word long enough to be able to see things more clearly.  I knew after last weekend that I needed some extended time with Him to get back on track.  He has been faithful to revive my spirit and renew my mind.

Thank You, Father, for…everything.  For Who You are, what You do, what I have spiritually and physically.  For the wisdom I’ve gained these last few days about emotions, ministry, proper worship and attitude.  Thank You for revealing how much I need you, every day.

Thank You especially for lifting the lead beanie off my head today…and for the little blue weirdo sitting on the futon behind my shoulder.  🙂

 

1 Comment »

Beside the still waters

Wow.  It’s been forever since I’ve posted.  Been faithfully reading posts from those I follow…some great thoughts out there, particularly from kiffblog.  I haven’t had any amazing spiritual revelations such as those, but I can share some good things God is doing.

———————

Traveled to Germany with some good friends in late October/early November.  It was an amazing experience.  Getting in touch with my ancestral roots and realizing how German I still am was pretty cool.  But what was even more fulfilling was noting how God has changed my heart when it comes to things I focus on.  The impetus for the trip was seeing some shows on Simply Red’s 30th Anniversary Tour.  I’ve followed the band for 29 of those 30 years.  For many of those years, it was an obsession.  Spent thousands of dollars/pounds on collectibles and music.  Wrote penpals clear across the globe.  Was a very active participant in the fan club and the online forums when they each still existed.  Been around this band and the fans enough to be on first-name basis with a lot of them.

But this trip…I can honestly say will be my last.  The concerts were great.  Did get to chat with some of the band before one of them.  But the whole thing just does not hold any sort of allure for me anymore.  I don’t have that burning desire to be up into it all.  I enjoyed the experiences, yes, but I wasn’t craving and yearning for them, and I didn’t experience a “crash” after the trip was over.  It’s all finally in its proper perspective.  I can see now that my involvement with this band was trying to fill the “God-hole”, and now that God Himself is in that place, there’s no room for this.

God did use it for good though; I’ve met some wonderful people because of this band (including the musicians themselves), and where common ground outside the project was found, the relationships have continued and grown over the years.  They will continue to do so.  I am thankful.

————–

After several years of (impatient) waiting, have taken possession of a custom bass.  She’s named after a dearly departed sister in Christ who gave an absolute masterclass in heartfelt worship during her last months on this planet.  I have been having an absolute blast playing this bass in worship.  I know my sister is smiling down from heaven.  Maybe God’s enjoying the extra rumble, too.  🙂

—————

Rediscovering this thing called “discipline”…sort of.  I have stoutly resolved to knock out the list of unfinished projects mentioned in an earlier post.  Since the beginning of the year, I have made visible progress on this list.  I’m just taking things a bit at a time, a day at a time…as long as I just keep moving forward.  Some days (like today!), I’m not as productive as I’d like, but God’s mercies are new every morning, and I’ve gotten better at just getting up the next day and doing what I can, instead of getting discouraged and dropping the ball yet again.  I know it is God at work in me that is enabling me to stay on track.  All glory and honor to Him.

—————

Been taking on a more active role on the church Music Team.  Doing admin-type stuff.  Singing lead every now and again (gasp!).  I guess, being groomed into a co-leader kind of thing.  It’s been quite humbling.  I can see why I was not able to do more in my earlier days on the team…God can’t use a hothead very well.  I would have done more harm than good if allowed more “say” back then.  I have a better appreciation for just how challenging it is to be in a leadership role…and am far more willing to let God do what He wants, when He wants.  Am just letting this evolve as it’s meant to and not trying to push an agenda.

—————-

I guess that goes for life in general.  God has enabled me to become far better at just rolling with things.  I do still get frustrated with some things sometimes, but am able to check it down a lot quicker and keep moving forward.  Still a lot of growth to do but I can see His hand’s work so far.  I am so thankful.

Lord, you are amazing.  You deserve everything we can give and far more besides.  Let our lives be a sweet smelling sacrifice to You.

2 Comments »

Over what hill? An inventory

I turned 40 this week.

While cleaning out my parents’ house in December after the passing of my mother, I came across a mug I’d given Dad when he was my age, that he still faithfully drinks out of.  Says “way, WAY, WAY OVER THE HILL”.  I felt bad for giving it to him.  Because, here I am, at the traditional “over the hill” age…and I don’t feel old.  Hill?  If there is one, I’m still climbing it.  I said when I turned 30 that life began then.  I’d like to think that 40 is beginning an era of living well.  So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Neener.  😛

Given that this is a milestone birthday, I naturally took some time to reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.  Thoughts:

–I can truthfully say that I am happier than I’ve been at any point in my life.  It’s a God thing.  Even on my “throw-this-stinky-fish-back” days, I am more at peace than I’ve ever been, because I draw on the strength of Jesus to get past the problems.  It is so freeing, not having to have all the answers…a hangup I had for yeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrsssss…still have to fight to not go there…

–I am still wearing a loud orange “under construction” sign.  I still, all too easily, slip into relating to Father God like I relate to my earthly father.  Knock myself out trying to please Him, getting off into works trip after works trip…always worried I’m not doing enough, not doing things right, underlying fear of criticism.  I’ve read the “faith vs. works” Scriptures plenty.  I’ve read how much God loves us and that His love is not based on what we do or don’t do.  But still having a hard time receiving that unconditional love and having revelation of it within my heart.  I know He’ll get through to me one of these days.  🙂

–Ultimate irony, given that I’m works-driven–I’m rather lousy at seeing things through to completion in my personal life.  I made a list the other day of every partially-finished project in this dwelling.  It took up an entire page.  And two of the items referenced separate page-long lists.  So, an upcoming goal is to finish all of these “stragglers” before undertaking anything new.  I’m giving myself 5 years to knock it all out.  Yeah, it’s that involved.  🙂

–I think it was Joyce Meyer who once said in one of her teachings, “there are no padded crosses”.  Well…I get what she was trying to say…but some reflection is causing me to respectfully disagree.  We as Christians usually use ‘the cross’ metaphorically when applying it to our own lives, to symbolize a great struggle that we must bear with good courage.  So it is in this metaphoric sense that I present my case.

I see my place of employment as a “padded cross” for me.

It is a daily source of struggle to act in a Christ-like manner there.  It is way too easy to get off into talebearing, gossip, anger, complaining, cursing, on and on and on.  Even in my new position, which on the whole is a lot less stress and drama to deal with, there’s definitely moments of testing.  On a broader level, I struggle with just being there, doing work that is NOT my passion, giving up time I could be spending on music, which IS my passion.  But then reality always stuffs me back in the trench–a whole lot of bad decisions have culminated in the need to pull down this paycheck to keep the household running.

Struggles, yes.  But in the grand scheme of things, minor struggles.  I don’t have to worry about getting sick from drinking the water.  I don’t have to worry about a bomb getting dropped on my head.  I’m not even dealing with any major illness, like certain co-workers are.  What on earth would I do with any real trial in my life?  I think, on some level, God knows I don’t have the strength of character to deal with any extremely difficult issue.  The Scripture does say that He does not put more on us than what we can bear, right?  I look at my “problems”…and apparently I can’t bear much.  I sheepishly grin as I write that.  I’m not feeling condemned…just a nice healthy dose of conviction.  I am soooooo thankful that God is as merciful as He is.

I mean, come on.  This job I’ve railed about for so long.  I’ve survived countless layoffs there.  I won Chicago Symphony Orchestra tickets there.  I recently won an NFL jersey in another contest there.  My co-workers are easy enough to get along with.  Benefits package is out of this world.  New boss is da bomb.  I could have it so, so, so much worse.  I have HAD it worse in the past, job-wise.

Is everything there ideal?  Far from it.  But there’s plenty of “padding” on this cross I bear.  God’s using the place to refine me, no doubt.  But He’s not allowing it to be too rough.  So I need to be thankful for that, and pass along the mercy I’m receiving.

–Last but not least, I can look back and see the growth I’ve experienced since becoming a Christian.  Too much to go into at this late hour, but I am thankful for all of it.  Here’s to continued growth in the time to come.

Off to continue climbing the hill.  🙂

1 Comment »

Low frequency lull

On another “note”…

Been so distracted with things this summer (trips, Dad’s move, work transition, other projects) that I’ve not spent much time with the bass.  I do spend more than I was earlier in the year after the whole Malachi gut-check…but it’s revolving strictly around don’t-sound-like-a-twit-on-Sunday-morning.  I’ve not gotten any scales work in…or transcription…or just plain goofing off.  I’d like to mess around and learn the line to “Low Rider” just cuz…but that requires sitting down and actually doing it.

Haven’t actually been listening to music much, either.  Maybe that’s part of it.  Usually listening to music gives me the itch to play it.

This season, too, shall pass…hope to get back to shakin’ and quakin’ soon.

Leave a comment »

Praise report

After my many posts about frustrations with my job, finally have good news regarding it.

I received a promotion recently.  A promotion that takes me out of the department I’ve been in for the last 7 1/2 years and puts me in a completely different one doing completely different work for better pay and less drama.

Still the same company, so there’s going to be the same pervasive issues underlying everything…but they’re not things that make the day-to-day unbearable.

It was all God, all day, for me to get this promotion.

–timing

–favor with the right people

–breaking down every potential barrier/setback

–bringing on more increase than I could have asked for/expected

And…fulfilling His word about “vengeance is Mine, says the Lord”–this is hurting my old department far more than any scheme I could have cooked up.  They are finally realizing how much I did and how much I knew.  And decisions made since the transition began are their way of admitting, without admitting, that they made some key mistakes in the last year.  Mistakes that frustrated me into jumping ship.

This will ultimately be a win-win for everyone…they’ll finally clean up the processes and personnel, and I’ll gain knowledge and experience that I wouldn’t otherwise have, had I stayed put.

Thank You, Father, for providing what I needed, when I needed it.  I’ve now learned to be more patient when waiting on Your timing…because You truly do provide above and beyond anything we could dare ask, hope, or think.  Never saw this coming but I’m thankful for the opportunity.

 

I’m also learning to rely more heavily on Him through this…feels like I’m in over my head some days, it’s all new systems and procedures.  But He won’t put me where He can’t keep me.  And He’s given me some very merciful and tolerant people to work with.  I just need to pass that along to my old department as I download 7+ years of knowledge and experience on them in a very short amount of time.  🙂

God’s hand is all over this.  Quietly watching Him work.

Leave a comment »

Gratitude check

Been meaning to post this for a bit but just now getting around to it.

Quote heard on the radio one morning:

“What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things that you thanked God for today?”

 

Checkmate.

Leave a comment »

Lame sacrifices

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If I am a father, where is the honor due me?  If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.  “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.  But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’  You place defiled food on my altar.  But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’  By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible.  When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?  When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?  Try offering them to your governor!  Would he be pleased with you?  Would he accept you?”  says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, crippled, or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord.  “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.  For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

Malachi 1: 6-8, 13b-14

These verses hit me like a suckerpunch recently.  In context, it’s God going in on the Temple priests who had gotten considerably lax in their practices, and it was affecting the worship of all the Jews under their care.  As the shepherds go, so go the flocks.

But as all Scripture, this can speak to us today as well.  We are all called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), and we have to ask ourselves, what sacrifice are we presenting to Him?  Are we giving our best (our ‘firstborn male’), or are we giving a poor substitute (the ‘blind, crippled, or diseased animals’)?

For an example (the example which this Scripture convicted me on), let’s go with Worship Team service.  Fitting example as it is a very public ministry that can influence many (just as the priesthood was).

If we don’t spend regular time in prayer and the Word before going in front of the congregation on Sunday, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we don’t settle heart issues (unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment) before showing up for church, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we don’t treat our service as a commitment and a priority, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we don’t make time to prepare our parts for the music (listen to recordings, practice, etc), we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we routinely show up late for rehearsal, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we don’t approach rehearsal with a humble heart and willingness to learn and serve, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

If we allow our focus to be on anything but Him during worship, we’re offering a lame sacrifice.

Seems strict, yes.  But God is worthy of and deserves the absolute best that we can give, especially when He has placed us in such a visible role.  Anything less, is a lame sacrifice.

I know I need to raise my game.

I challenge others to do the same, in whatever ministry they’re serving in.  Bring God the best that you have to offer.  Let Him show you where you might be shortchanging Him, ask forgiveness for that, and give Him the effort He’s due.

God has been so good to us.  Let’s show our gratitude in what we give of ourselves.

Leave a comment »

Success and failure

…and various quotes.

Success: reclaiming part of my life back from my place of employment.  I have refrained from working overtime, despite production being just a bit behind.  Too many messages coming at me telling me that my time should be spent more fruitfully and that time allocated to something indicates the priority I’m giving it.  Work was crowding out things that mean a great deal more to me.  And the work I do does not feel fruitful.  So.  Since giving up the OT, my house is cleaner, I’ve gotten more Bible study in, and I’ve put myself in a position to dive into my music-making more fervently.  And funny thing is, the bills are still getting paid.  Not much “play money” left but that’s due to my own silly decisions making the bills what they are.  God’s still covering my backside.  Which leads to:

Failure: not extending the mercy God has shown me time and time and time again.  Quote from Joyce Meyer in a set of teaching notes in her Everyday Life Bible: ‘Mercy chooses to be kind and good to people who deserve to be punished.’

I have not been making that choice.  There is an individual at my job that works my last nerve on a daily basis…won’t go into reasons.  But every day is an opportunity for me to extend mercy to this individual.  I usually end up snapping off, and my heart attitude is, I want this person to fry for all the consternation they’ve caused the whole office.

But that’s not what God has done for me.  He has continued to bless me and keep me despite my disobedience that deserves punishment.

I need to find out why I struggle so much with giving away what God has given me in abundance.

Another quote on the mind, from the memorial service for our dear church elder that passed this week: ‘Live in such a way that when people think of integrity, they think of you.’

Getting my mercy issue straightened out would probably move things in that direction.

I do realize this much: I need to come against the spirit of fear in my life.  I’m realizing more and more how much anxiety drives my thoughts, feelings, behavior.  I am not trusting God fully.  I want to build that trust.  I have tasted the peace that passes all understanding, for brief moments…I want it to become something I dwell in.  Because if I’m dwelling in that peace, I am thinking, talking, and acting in a way that is Christ-like, and it will make those around me hungry for Him.

The world needs Him more than ever.

I need Him more than ever.

Selah.

Leave a comment »

Sheep dip

Shaking head, laughing.

Been a trippy few weeks.

Went to the Land of Cheese a couple weekends back to assist with house cleanout for my ailing father.  Threw out my back first day there and remembered what excruciating pain is.  But pressed through and got stuff done up there anyway.  Also got a chance to meet his longtime friend and have extended fellowship.  Dad has good taste in friends.  Was fun watching those two converse about their upcoming trip in July, one they’ve both wanted to take for years.  They were like two excited kids.

Work is its usual daily spiritual test that I typically flunk before first break.  I despair of ever improving my conduct there.  But God decided to bless me ANYWAY, and use THEM to do it.  We’re a corporate sponsor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the company gives away tickets occasionally.  I managed to win a set and bless some good friends with a wonderful concert.  That was worth about several months’ worth of stress and hassle.  🙂

Spiritual progress or growth?  I wonder if I’m making any.

I do know that the back incident was a very painful check on my pride (hey, genius, you’re not a teenager anymore).

I do know that I’m trying to figure out how to be more disciplined with…well, everything…I have shown in the past that I am capable of regular Bible study/practice time/exercise time/household chore schedule/diet…but I’m slipping further and further into doing whatever, whenever.   I don’t want to use my job as an excuse–I do have a very deep-rooted lazy streak–but I do have a very hard time mustering up motivation outside my work hours, anymore.  My get-up-and-go got up and went.  I need to go find it.

I do know that reading ‘The Knowledge of the Holy’ by A.W. Tozer is helping me get through this dry time.  (It’s one thing I HAVE been disciplined about; I read a bit of it each night before bed.)  Chapter 10, “The Divine Omniscience”, is particularly sticking with me.  God knows ev-er-y-thing.  EVERYTHING.  So He knows what’s going on at my place of employment.  And He is allowing the things that frustrate me to happen.  Most things that frustrate me there, frustrate me because they prevent me from getting work done.  A thought dawned on me.  Maybe He doesn’t WANT the work getting done.  Because if He did, He would remove the constant roadblocks or not allow them to occur.  He knows more than I’ll ever know about the eventual consequences of the work I do…and maybe those consequences aren’t good.  Or maybe He wants our fatal production flaws truly exposed…my frantic work pace has covered up a lot for a long time.  Or maybe something entirely different.  Obviously, by having my work goals blocked, it is a test of my patience and is helping me develop that…but I have to believe it’s more than that.  Because I’m not the only one unable to keep up with production in my department.  We ALL run into multiple roadblocks every day.  So I’m really thinking He doesn’t want this stuff done, for whatever His reasons are.  And that thought has been rather comforting to me.  I give my best effort, and if it’s thwarted?  Oh well.  Point out issues…if they get corrected, great; if not, I did my due diligence.

He knows everything that’s going on and His will shall be done in the end.

He knows, so I don’t need to know.  I am getting more comfortable with not knowing everything that’s going on…I can let it go more often when I don’t get answers to questions.  Heh.  Progress.  That’s a good thang.

Sheep dip purges the animal of pests lingering in their coat.  Trials of life purge us of our spiritual “pests”.  Been getting plenty of “dip”, but I’m better off for it.

God is good.  His love is unfailing.  I am knowing those things on a deeper level, I think…I don’t get the fuzzy-wuzzy feelings much, but I can say those things with a confidence that I can’t even explain.  I look forward to the day when my life reflects that faith better and others are blessed with God’s love through whatever I’ve done in a given day.

Jesus, this world desperately needs You.  Help me to show You to others I meet more often and more consistently.  That’s the job I should be giving most of my energy to!

 

1 Comment »

Walking wool

A recent stumble in the Christian walk:

The paycheck provision has been driving me crazy for months.  There are certain people there that work my last nerve just by showing up, there’s been that many not-pleasant interactions with them.  And I’ve been praying to get my mind right about that, because Jesus did not go about His business with perma-scowl, which is what I’ve been reduced to on an average workday.  I’m grumpy enough that I can’t even stand to be around me.  Follow?

So I get the mail a few days ago.  I’m a monthly partner with Joyce Meyer Ministries and they send a teaching CD every month.  This month’s shows up.  Title:

“Developing A Merciful Attitude”

BAHAHAHAhaha hahaha haha ha ha     haha   heh   hrm

 

ouch

 

Can you say God’s timing is perfect.

Listened to it of course.  It promptly whipped my spiritual bottom.  I have been an unmerciful so-and-so and with God’s help I will extend my co-workers the mercy that I use up in spades every day.

 

Taking a musical walk:

Bass line to “Moondance” by Van Morrison.  I had fun this evening working on this.  (For those familiar with the recording but not necessarily musical terms, that is a “walking bass line” you hear bouncing all over the place)  Working on a transcription of the line to aid in memorizing the changes.

 

So, learning how to walk more fluidly in more than one arena at the moment.  Hoping for less faceplants in the coming days.

 

 

Leave a comment »

Holy Soup

with Thom Schultz

differentlonestar

An Autistic Christian Techie

Kiffblog

Bring it on

Grace for the road

Seeing God's goodness in the unexpected path.

Hartin Soul

Spiritual reflections, random musings, and commentary on life.