Black Sheep Bass-ic Training

Doing The Christian Walk With A Funky Strut

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.

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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.

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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.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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Song encouragement

Building 429, “Wrecking Ball (Press On).”  Whole song feels like a broadcast of my innermost, but particularly the chorus:

I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball

I must confess that I still don’t get it all

Lord I believe that all your words are true

Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with you

I press on, I press on, I press on

When I still don’t get it

 

And press on, I shall.  His mercy is new every morning.  Hat tip to the musicians/songwriters who made this encouragement possible, who let God use them to lift others up.

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Stuck in the fence

…and man, do these barbs hurt.

Can’t move backward.  Can’t move forward.  Can’t move sideways.  Just stuck.  Doing a whole lot of bleating and not a lot of moving.

Sums up current life circumstances nicely.

I have no idea if I’ve blogged yet in 2015.  I think I have but not sure.  I do know my weekdays consist of the following:

Alarm goes off.  Reset at least twice.  Get up in just enough time to slam breakfast in face, shower, dress, and pack lunch/dinner.  Mad dash out door.

Hour and 15 commute.  Memorize Scripture? Read discipleship book and take notes?  Doze off some more?  Any option will do.

Begin madness that is my workday.  Get plucked bare of any fruit of the Spirit by 9 am, just an hour in.  Settle into frantic working pace and simmering temper.

After standard quitting time (4:45), run errands/go to chiropractor/work overtime/actually go home.

Hour and 15 commute home.  Stare blankly into space while mind races over the insanity of the day.

Arrive home, stress-eat, do something to wind down, collapse into bed exhausted (at a late hour ensuring sleep deprivation).

Next day, lather rinse repeat.

Weekends, run around like mad trying to get half the things on a to-do list done, and still have a fraction of a social life.

The three most important things for me to do–prayer time, Bible study, and bass practice–are somehow not part of the equation right now.  I’m too whipped from work and household maintenance.  I pay good money for a beautiful apartment that I hardly ever see the inside of.  And when I am here, I’m usually giving the insides of my eyelids a thorough but brief examination.  So I’m not getting to enjoy what God has blessed me with.

Seeking different employment…no doors opening.

Not negotiating my current wilderness well.  Complaining a lot and not being loving toward co-workers.

Reeling from teaching on Sunday out of 1 John.  Too many “litmus tests” in there point to me not really being in the faith.  I do question how strong my faith really is.  If I truly believed in Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins, if I truly believed that God is in charge and all things are His, etc etc etc, then I should a) not be letting so many things get to me and stress me out, and b) be acting a whole lot more Christ-like than I am.

We unwrapped this in small group on Sunday.  The Scripture “Faith without works is dead” was quoted.  Works includes acting loving toward others.  I know I’m not doing that at work.  So I said, “So, what, my faith is dead?”  The whole group laughed.

Maybe they thought I was being sarcastic or trying to be funny.

I wasn’t.

I seriously wonder sometimes.  Is it dead?

Maybe it’s on life support.

I do know one thing:  no matter what things look like now, no matter what I’m going through, I turn back to Him…He’s the only thing that I feel like I CAN consistently turn to.  Even when I don’t feel like I’m hearing from Him or that He’s listening, I still get some comfort from approaching Him.  When I get those few moments each day where I can try and clear my mind, I talk to Him about what’s going on.

I need more of that, and I need to figure out how to make it happen.

I need to get out of this fence.

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The perfect can, and gratitude

The American holiday of Thanksgiving, in picture form:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only we would take some of nature’s bounty, add enough whozeewhatsits to make it take a new shape, and then obsess over retaining that shape when extracting it from its transport to our home.  Notice the lovingly preserved can ridges in our specimen above.  I get more satisfaction at achieving this than in getting the bigger half of a turkey wishbone.  (Which I confess I’m almost never lucky enough to nab.)

So.  Thanksgiving.  Where we celebrate kicking Native Americans off their land and stealing their food, and where we commemorate this occasion by eating like gluttons and killing each other (sometimes literally) for the latest gadget (at a fantastic sale price!) designed to help us avoid social contact.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit cynical.  Holidays in my family have never been the joyous occasions I’m always hearing they should be.  We strive to get along during normal times of the year.  Add pressure of a perfectly cooked meal and a perfectly cleaned house?  Fuhgeddaboutit.  I’ve been avoiding the fights and fallout for years.  Sometimes that ends up meaning a holiday spent alone, if I don’t tag along with a friend somewhere.  This Thanksgiving is one such occasion.  Slept through the Cowboys/Eagles game, just now getting around to making the turkey pot pie recipe so graciously provided on the back of the Stove Top stuffing box.

But spending a holiday alone isn’t a bad thing if it’s something God’s given the grace to do.  Which I feel He has.  I don’t feel lonely.  I don’t feel deprived.  I do feel grateful for much, and since the name of this holiday IS Thanksgiving, how about giving some thanks?

I am thankful to have God in my life.

I am thankful that He never gave up on me, kept pursuing me until I received Him willingly.

I am thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice for me–have become more and more aware of how much I truly don’t deserve it–the self-righteousness is being stripped away.

I am thankful for my blood family.  They are teaching me how to apply mercy and grace.  Maybe I’ll even get around to that unconditional love thing.  Working on it.

I am thankful for my friendship family, both in and out of church.  These are the people who truly know me, who have seen me grow and struggle and live life–and no matter what I do, keep loving me anyway.  I am thankful that this list of people is very long and recognize what a blessing that is.  I hope that I meet their needs and show them the same love in return.

I am thankful for my pastors at FCC.  I am not exactly an easy sheep to herd.  But they’re God-equipped for the challenge.  🙂

I am thankful for my job, no matter how much I might eff and blind about it.  I would not be sitting where I am without that income.  I would not have the creature comforts surrounding me.  I would not be enjoying the level of health I am without the fantastic benefits package.  And so on.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful for singlehood.

I am thankful to live in the Chicago area.

I am thankful to be a U.S. citizen.

I am thankful for God’s gift of musical talent.

I am thankful for life.

What are you thankful for?

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Another brick in the wall

So.  The spiritual wall.  Sometimes that wall can be built by fellow believers by things they do and say.  We’ve got to be mindful of that possibility and seek to avoid hindering someone’s spiritual progress.   Each thing we err in, can become a brick in a wall.

If someone’s stepped out in faith towards something they truly believe God has called them to…but God’s not done the “grand reveal” yet…bombarding that person with (well-intentioned) “what ifs” and “did you considers” and “well what abouts” is not going to help them strengthen their faith.  And giving them a disbelieving look when they insist that, yes, they have been regularly checking in with God for guidance…that doesn’t help either.

Faith is believing in the unseen.  If one could see the future and have all the answers ahead of time, life wouldn’t require faith.  So then, what would we need God for?

Our flesh likes to be in control and know what’s going on at all times.  Our flesh makes us ask all those questions.  Faith takes those questions to God and awaits His answers.  He’ll reveal answers in His timing, whether we approve of His timing or not.  Faith grows when He delays an answer and we steadfastly trust Him anyway, even when many around us think we’ve gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Every question I’ve been asked, I’ve asked God.  Repeatedly in some cases.  He’s God.  He knows what’s going on.  He sees the end from the beginning.  I don’t.  Continuing to ask Him isn’t going to make Him move any faster or reveal anything to me outside of His perfect timing.

He’s been faithful to me even in the years where I wanted nothing to do with Him.  He changes not, so I expect Him to remain faithful.

Even IF I’ve truly misheard Him for an entire year about this house thing–despite praying for confirmation every other day!–He has a perfect plan for my life, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose, and He is Jehovah Jireh.  He will provide, one way or another.  His Word is true and I’m standing on it, despite my fear, despite the questions.

I know these things for certain:

–The anointing has been off my current residence for almost a year.  List as long as my arm of things going haywire.  And the Holy Spirit hit me hard with a “TELL THEM NO” when I asked whether I should renew my lease in June.  Firm.  Decisive.  Final.  No discussion.

–I’ve been feeling a call to step up my level of ministry at my church for over a year.  Living here hinders that call on several levels.

–God has not opened any doors to any homeownership alternatives to date.  All sane possibilities have been explored, and some insane ones too.  And I’m not too proud to revisit any of them if He leads me to.

–God has a perfect will and plan for EVERYONE, not just me–and every “rejection” I face is someone else’s acceptance.  Someone else just got their blessing.  Is my blessing more important than someone else’s?  No.  So I need to just wait my turn.

–This whole drama is unfolding in this way at this time for a reason.  I don’t know the reason.  I don’t need to.

 

I’m just waiting for God to show up and show out.

 

Anyone daring enough to put down the bricks,  lay the questions aside,  and wait with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.