Black Sheep Bass-ic Training

Doing The Christian Walk With A Funky Strut

Thankful

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

Been a rough week at work.  Felt drained at the end of the day and still harassed…had an errand to run and had to be where I was going by a certain time, ended up leaving work late so had to rush to get there.  Did get there on time, noticed the skies clouding over on my way.  Once done, I came out of the office…to find the skies had really darkened up.  I had a mile and a half to walk to get home and this storm looked like it meant business.

I did the only thing anyone could do.  I prayed.  Begged Father to hold off on that rain until I got in the house.  And started hustling my butt home.  Speed walking a distance that normally takes 20 minutes or so, in jeans, in 94 degree heat and oppressive humidity, with clouds looking like they were giving me 5 minutes or less to get where I was going.

Every block I peeled off, I thanked Him for His protection, asked Him to keep providing it, and praised Him, stating my confidence that He could do it.

And He did it.

I shouted praises all the way up to my apartment, and 2 minutes after I got in the door, the skies opened. up.  Absolute deluge.  I was so incredibly grateful to not be in it, to be in my apartment, dry and safe.

Not a whole lot went according to plan this week, but this did, and to have this victory come when it did, was just the encouragement I needed.

Our God is a good God.  He blesses us with these “little things” every day, if we’ll keep our eyes open to see them.  I don’t ever want to get to a point where I overlook these things, or think something like this is “silly”.  Every second of every day, He is watching us and protecting us, and we need to be thankful for that.

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Note to self.

God gave every person on Earth free will.  Everyone can choose between right and wrong.  No one can truly be ‘made’ or ‘convinced’ to do the right thing, if they don’t have it in their mind to.  And not everyone operates to the same standard.

Much frustration will be alleviated when you finally, truly get this, Self.

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‘Scuse me while I kick the devil in the teeth.

I plead the blood of Jesus over my family.

I pray the name of Jesus over my employer/employment.

Unto you, O Lord, do I bring my life.

Your Word says that I can do all things through Christ who empowers me, and I am more than a conqueror.  I stand on Your Word today.

Devil, you have had enough of my thoughts and my emotions today.  Scram.  I don’t care how I feel, I’m standing on my Father’s Word, and He is not a man, that He should lie.  He is faithful and His word is true.  You are a liar.  So step off.

Father, help me through this coming week.  You know what’s going on.  And You are greater than any of it.  I thank You that You’re taking me through.  Amen.

For anyone questioning my motive for posting this…it’s not to be “seen of men”, and I’m not trying to put on a holy roller front.  It’s me pushing past my feelings and discouragement on some things, and declaring the truth by faith.  By putting it here, I’m letting the devil know I mean business…putting him on blast publicly for the mess he’s trying to create, and trying to get me to be silent about…then declaring my faith publicly, giving God the credit for the victory that will come.  I’ve been too silent too long.  On the spiritual battlefield, been hiding in the camp tent.  That’s gotta stop.  So here I am, taking an offensive move for once.

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The quiet waters

Worship is so refreshing.  This week’s setlist is a little more chill, more reverent than typical…and oh, the feeling of release.  Yesterday’s weeds have been exterminated, the soul washed clean…

Amazing what a little bass practice can do.  Doing something that I know matters.  Building skill.  Loving God through my instrument.  Doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing.   Several authors make the case that all of us were ultimately built to worship God…and given how rejuvenated I feel when I do it, I believe that.  But I know He’s blessed me to do more.  From experience, I know that I can no longer sit on the sidelines in a corporate worship setting and feel comfortable.  Yes, I can get my praise on…but it feels weird not helping to make the joyful noise.

So I play on.

Since the songs are mostly pretty downtempo this week, decided to dust off my P-bass strung with flatwound strings.  Hoo boy, did she need an attitude adjustment.  Action was crazy high, intonation was way off.  Spent about a half hour tweaking.  Got her playable for tomorrow.  Note to self–continue work on playing harmonics, now that you’ve got some clue how to make the notes sustain and not choke.  Each time I pick up one of my “kids”, seems like I get just a little bit better…feels wonderful to be making progress in something.

Time to go rest the body, as my soul is resting.  Lord, You ARE amazing.

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Think those weeds gave me indigestion….*urrrrp*

Various thoughts cropping up like weeds in my happy pasture…disturbing the harmony but not so much so that I’m going wandering off from the Shepherd again.

–Reflecting on the various things God’s been dealing with me about this year, noticing a common thread running through them…a real struggle with self-denial, or, being able to say “no” to self.  Part of it definitely has a root in pride, as I’ve noted…but I’m wondering if there might be another catalyst for it.  When I had yet another argument with myself this morning over resisting a food craving, it occurred to me that I was behaving as a drug addict seeking the next “hit”.

And that struck me.  Because, as I know from my psychology training, addictive behavior has now been shown to have at least some biological basis.  It’s partially “hardwired”, as it were, in the brains of those who struggle with it.  I also know that level of mental functioning can in some cases be passed down genetically.  This is definitely the case with depression and I am 4th generation living proof.  I’m now wondering if I’ve inherited something else along with it.  Because through that same side of the family, there’s also addiction issues.  Cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana have all been used/abused by various generations before me, through at least a couple branches of the family tree.

I do none of the above…yet I have my own things I struggle mightily to say “no” to.   Spending money on material goods and eating are probably the two biggest.   I’ve come a long way in kicking the spending habit, but the food cravings still do me in.  I don’t say no.  And isn’t that essentially what addiction entails?  Not saying no?  Telling rational thought to take a hike in favor of the temporary buzz?  I want what I want and I want it now and I’m going to have it now because I cannot bear the feeling of not having it.  Lack of self-denial.

I’ve proven that I CAN say no to self–was on a pretty strict fast for Lent this year and only slipped up on one requirement, once.   But it almost always requires a very strong external motivator.  My internal motivators are very weak…and I’m wondering if I’m fighting “bad hardwiring”.  Ultimately, as believers, we’re all called to die to self, and I take that missive seriously.  I just wonder if I have a tougher road to hoe in this area because of my genetic makeup.  Not going to use this as an excuse or a crutch, just curious as to what parameters I’m working with here, why it always seems so doggone HARD.

 

–Spent at least a half hour at Target chatting with an exasperated mom who was school supply shopping with her daughter.  The convo got kicked off because she was voicing her displeasure at the school not even having given out a list of supplies to buy…she was having to make it up on the fly.  We then coursed through the sorry state of public education today–no books for the kids, no music or art programs, no teaching of basic concepts that we had to learn as children, extra challenges for parents of special needs children.   I told her how much I respected parents for taking on the challenge of raising children in today’s world, and encouraged her to keep fighting the good fight.

I really do have grave concern about where our society is headed.  Too many children aren’t receiving proper education, and, as a discussion on the bus ride home noted, too many children aren’t receiving proper parenting either.  So what does that mean when these kids get to the age where they have to start running the show?  What’s going to happen to our country?  Our society?  US?  And I feel for the parents who go the extra mile to raise their children right and get them a decent education and teach them basic living skills and morals that others can’t be bothered with.   They and their children often suffer because they’re bucking the trend.

From time to time I get grief from acquaintances and family about the fact that I don’t have kids.  I thank God I don’t, because of all these things above.  I don’t know that I’d have the fortitude to deal with all of that.  God HAS placed a number of other people’s children in my life, and has given me the grace to help raise them.  That I will do with everything I’ve got, because given what today’s parents face, every bit of help is a blessing!

 

–The job.  After a week of starting every morning with positive confessions, and experiencing pretty good days as a result, had it all ripped to shreds in a matter of less than two minutes.   End of the day, after putting in 2 hrs 15 min of overtime, I’d still not made an appreciable dent in my backlog of work.  I literally asked my supervisor for some mercy, and pleaded with him for a few hours of overtime next week to try and get somewhat caught up.   The request was rudely denied.  Multiple excuses given.  Same ones I’ve heard before, and none of them hold any merit.   Got chided for staying late tonight.  Basically told not to worry about getting the work done.  “We’ll find a way, we always do.”  By that point I was beyond frustrated…”Yeah.  Past deadline and half-a$$-ed.”  His response?  “That’s a way”, in a tone that said, “yep, exactly, that’s what we’re aiming for”.  I lost it.  “That’s not the way I operate!!!!”  For the first time in several years there (and for the first time in life in general in well over a year), I broke down in tears.  Sat there for a good while before I could get it together enough to leave.

Prayed the whole way as I walked to Target for a few supplies.  (about a mile and a half)  Much dialogue happened, but the takeaway to share:  “don’t compromise standards”.  I don’t compromise my standards anymore when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex….sex is for marriage only and God comes first.  Well, that’s meant me being very single, because most guys don’t want to play by those rules.   When I was still willing to bend the rules, then guys were interested…but then I was miserable.  I’d rather be single and happy.  I seem to have hit a similar crossroads with this job…I know what my standards of work ethic are and it’s getting to be impossible to operate with those standards there.  What that means for my future there, I can’t predict at this time, but I am committed to holding fast to my standards, because they are Godly, Biblical standards.  I don’t serve a late, mediocre God.

 

I thank God today is over and that there’s the hope of a fresh start with the sunrise.  I look forward to a good night’s sleep, in my Shepherd’s peaceful meadow.

 

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Lying down in the green pasture…

God is good.  All the time.

Prayer last night fruitful…He showed me that I was at least part of the problem, by expecting bad things to happen at work and by confessing those beliefs out loud.  I remember saying when I first came in, “I’m in a great mood…wonder how long that will last?  I give it 5 minutes.”  No wonder He couldn’t move…I wasn’t letting Him in!  So this morning, I really concentrated on positive confessions over everything that typically troubles me, remembering that faith isn’t based on feelings.   Those positive confessions need to come out of my mouth whether I feel positive or not.  God can’t work through negativity…complaining grieves the Holy Spirit.

Well, changing my tone worked wonders…I DID have a good day, despite several challenges thrown at me…they rolled off me like water off a duck’s back.  I sensed God’s presence sitting beside me, lifting up the shield when arrows came flying my way.  Need to continue the confessions.

And I think I’ve finally found some peace on the financial situation as well.  I don’t think it was an accident that I came across some financial teaching when I cleaned out my ‘prayer desk’ on Saturday.  It was a brochure of sorts that a friend had given me about a year ago or so.  I’d read it then and tucked it away, not doing anything with it.  This time, I took it out and set it aside to read thoroughly and pray over.  Did that last night as part of the prayer time and it revealed much.  Can all be summed up thusly:  I hadn’t given TOTAL control of my finances to Him.  Was still clinging desperately to certain goals and not allowing Him to do a thorough cleansing and humbling work.  Won’t bore with the details, but the ol’ budget is getting a final re-work to address a few priorities that had to get shifted, and I’m going to learn to do without some things for a while.

To me this was the next step past the conviction I got over the whole “doing right, getting punished” thing.  Staying aware of what Jesus went through is right for us to do, after all, He promised us that suffering would be part of this life, and we need to stay aware that nothing we go through compares to His sacrifice.  But true humility and submission pushes us past the point of suffering.  If we do right, and we don’t get our way after doing it, and us not getting our way BOTHERS us, then we’re still clinging to circumstances for happiness and not totally trusting God–and suffering is the result.  But when we can have things go “wrong”, and be totally open to that and not have it faze us at all…ah, the sweetness of that peace.   God, You got this.  *long exhale*

The stirrings in my soul felt very spiritual light-bulby, but I’ll keep this under Grass Grazin’ to keep myself in check and make sure that this truly was revelation…the coming weeks and months will tell the tale.  Plan is in place, hope to stick to it.  Enjoying the calm and quiet resolve in the meantime.  Really is like chilling out in a pasture on a sunny day…gentle breeze ruffling the grass, the air so fresh to the nose and rejuvenating to the lungs…sun warming every pore of skin…all is right with the world.

Father, thank You for Your refining work.  Thank You for not allowing me to remain in the sins of selfishness and pride.  Thank You for showing me the peace and freedom that come with abiding in Your will.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*baaaaa*  *munch munch munch*

 

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Bleating in a vacuum

As folks in my life know, the single greatest testing of my spiritual mettle is my job.

I am thankful to have it.  The pay gets the bills squared away and the benefits package is pretty sweet.  Most co-workers are easy enough to get along with.  It’s easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in the city.  The actual position itself makes good use of my anal retentive detail oriented work skills and I don’t half mind doing it.

But.

By the end of a work day, enough has occurred that I’ve allowed my mouth to run foul, my attitude is in the pits, and I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.  Even on days when I’ve gotten in a full 10-course spiritual breakfast.  Today was such a day.  I got in prayer time, got some Word reading in, just felt spiritually full and positive and ready to take on the day.  By noon, I was in the same complaining, negative, discouraged, and disengaged rut as everyone else.

So I tried to really get with God on it toward the end of my work day…and that’s when part of the problem really made itself evident.

I have a really hard time sensing His presence there.

God is everywhere, so the Word says.  But it’s weird…I’m able to lock in with Him no problem everywhere I go–except there.  At home, His peace and calm reigns supreme.  At church, His presence is so thick in the place I can practically taste it.  When I’m walking about the city, doing errands or whatnot, I can see Him moving and freely converse with Him.  I can even sense Him on those rolling circuses known as CTA buses…I often pray and/or just be still as we’re bouncing along, and I know without a shadow of a doubt He’s there with me.

But at my job?  There’s a few illustrations that might give a sense of what it’s like.  When I go in there prayed up and full of the Holy Spirit, and then try to maintain that power by sitting still for a few moments and calling on Him…it’s like being on a walkie-talkie, and the channel you’re on is full of static.  I can hear Him, but there’s a lot of interference.  If I haven’t “gotten dressed” spiritually or it’s later in the day and the devil’s been busy, it’s like throwing up a lead shield in front of an X-ray machine…try as I might, I can’t get through at all.  There’s been times where I’ve gotten really down, and just dropped what I was doing to just plead for His strength–and it felt like He was just outside, at the window, face and hands smooshed against it, trying to figure out how to get in.  Him mouthing, me mouthing, the desperation to communicate being evident from both of us but that barrier being in the way.

I don’t know if the barrier is because of something I’m doing/not doing, or if it’s just something about that place.  I will say this though…I do find it extremely odd that the only e-mails I get that ever find themselves subject to Spam Quarantine on our work e-mail server are the newsletter subscriptions I get from Bible Gateway, and personal e-mails from a beloved sister in Christ.  No matter how many times I mark these as “not spam”, and release them for viewing, they continue to get quarantined at least once a week.  Unwanted marketing e-mails?  Skate right through.  Tasteless joke forwards?  No problem.  But something speaking life?  Those set off red flags.  ‘Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel’ sends our server into a tizz.

A lot of days, it feels like the only God-presence in the place, is the Holy Spirit’s fire burning within me…and it’s always reduced to a flicker or snuffed completely by the end of the day.  Even when I read those freshly-unquarantined newsletters.  Even when I do my Bible study.  Even when I read my devotional.

I won’t even go into the behavior issues that result from losing connection with my Power Source, let’s just say it’s good confessional fodder.  I just want to find out what is causing the disconnect.  We all need Him every moment of every day to do and be right.  I want to live for Him.  I want to be a good witness for Him when I’m there…the place needs it desperately, so many people there don’t know Him.  But when I can’t get through to Him….

Something to pray on this evening.  At least here I know He and I can chat freely.  🙂

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Blessed church, happy sheep.

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A huge shout-out to the hard working men of our congregation for building the brand-spanking new stage seen above.  We put it through its paces this morning…construction is rock-solid.  A “before” picture probably would have been good, but didn’t think to take one.  Suffice it to say that it opens up the worship space for everyone, movement is less restricted now for the folks onstage and in the congregation alike.

Already loved this place before the project…and I love the fact that it just keeps getting better!  🙂  The stage is a work in progress, naturally…stay tuned for “final” pics with carpet and all.

Thank You, Father, for Your provision!!

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Woot. After 6 years of tryin’…

…I can play the intro to Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights” at tempo, about 95% clean.

I know, I know.  Not Christian music.  But I’m trying to increase my skills as a bass player and that intro is an excellent speed drill.  How fortuitous that it was almost exactly 6 years ago I’d made my first attempt.  It was featured in Bass Player’s ‘Woodshed’ section in the August 2007 issue.   I’ve been noodling on it off and on since then, think I started trying to play it quarter notes @ 60 bpm.  Every time I’d pick it up, would do it just a bit faster, but then I’d hit a wall at some point.  Then I’d get mad, and chuck the mag back into my pile of stuff to work on, where it would get ignored for months at a time.  There were times I was convinced I’d never be able to play it.

See, I have hands that aren’t well suited to electric bass.  Small hands.  Short fingers.  Fingers different lengths, with the pinky being a full inch shorter than the ring finger.  And the ring finger and index finger kind of kink in toward each other rather than pointing straight up.  Now, on the plucking hand, the configuration isn’t a problem…I can zip across the strings pretty handily, alternating fingers as good technique dictates.  But this hand shape over the frets…oh, my.  Have a hard time with the 4-fret fingering in the lower 8 ’cause I have a small “wingspan”.  Always have to hold my wrist at a somewhat wonky position to accommodate for the short pinky, and have to roll it more frequently to shift up and down the strings to accommodate for the overall smaller hands.  All this extra/weird/strained movement adds up to compromised playing speed.

But it’s always funny who God uses.  The Bible is full of examples of people who were “unqualified” for their particular jobs, yet God used them in a mighty way.  I don’t know how much He intends to use my musical skill beyond its current service, but I will testify that He’s been able to take these mutant mitts and teach them how to get around a bass.

They were flying over the frets n’ strings tonight, eighth notes @114 bpm.

I know there’s plenty of bass players that could smoke me and make that look like child’s play…but hey, for me, this is big, something I thought I wouldn’t be able to do.  Still needs some cleaning up–the weakness in my left hand pinky made itself very evident and I’ll be concentrating on building up that strength–but it’s encouraging all the same, I’m more willing to set higher goals now.

I can do this.  Really.  *squee*  Nice to celebrate some progress on something after the (well-deserved) spiritual butt-kickings I got this week.  Think this is God letting me know He still loves me and still wants to use me.  Looking forward to making my joyful noise unto Him at church tomorrow.

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Funk sheep? More like punk sheep.

I seriously never realized how deep-seated a problem I had with pride until the last year or so.  I’ve never been one of those people walking ’round with my nose in the air and talking down to everyone I came across…or at least I didn’t think I was.  Seemed to get along with enough people.

But the pride’s been there.  More covert forms of it, but oh so entrenched.  Jumping in to “help” all the time because I knew people were “doing things wrong”.  Allowing judgmental, critical thoughts to escape the trap door of my mouth.  Etc.

Now God’s working on my sense of “justice”.  Specifically in the area of my finances.  Been getting good and sore about how I’ve been doing the right thing…tithing…blessing others as funds permit…and yet it seems like every week another squeeze is getting put on the money.  Major expenses popping up all at once, regular bills upticking–and income stagnating despite my company’s record profits this year.  I’m working through Joyce Meyer’s ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ action plan and was doing some workbook entries this morning, venting about just this situation…and I wrote “I’m doing right- and getting punished“.  Was about to ask “why???” for the gazillionth time…then my eyes lingered on those words.  And the conviction came as swift as a samurai sword.

Kinda sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it?

And I ask myself, “okay, genius, and you’re better than Jesus Christ how?”

Yep.  All the Scripture talking about suffering for His sake, and suffering to build character, and etc etc etc started bouncing around in my head.  Not to mention thinking about what He endured, after all the great things He’d done in His time on earth.  Yeah, that was fair–NOT.

Pride.  It’s ugly.  This is what it looks like, folks.  Gets people thinking they shouldn’t have to suffer on any level.  Gets one forgetting what their Savior went through.

Blech.

Taking this and running with it today.  A listen to Fred Hammond’s “Keep On Praisin'” and J. Moss’ “Psalm 150” helped get me back up.

Praying I keep a decent attitude…I hear a pair of shearing clippers buzzing, waiting to zap me if I lip off again…

zzzzzzt

zzzzzzt

*laughs*

 

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