Black Sheep Bass-ic Training

Doing The Christian Walk With A Funky Strut

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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And the bleat goes on…

…the bleat goes on…life keeps pounding rhythms in my brain…

(think Sonny and Cher…yeah…start bobbing your head to that groovy bass line, y’all.)

It’s 2015.  I’m still here.  That’s a blessing.

Usually around New Year’s, most folks look back on the year past and make plans for the future.  I’m no different….or am I?

I don’t know how to “rate” 2014.  Had 2 deaths in the family, got seriously burned trying to purchase real estate, undid 5 years’ worth of debt repayment effort in a few short months, am at my wits’ end with my employer.  But good things happened too.  I became closer friends with one of my FCC sisters, I seem to have cut out some nasty habits (surfing ‘Net til 2 am on a weeknight, anyone?), I wound up with an awesome apartment in a cool neighborhood and a God-fearing, on-fire Christian for a landlady, and my dad is seeking a personal relationship with God.

Call it a wash, I guess?  It just…was?  Life happened?

Onward to 2015.  Milestone year for me, turning 40 in October.  I was quite embarrassed at one point, while visiting Dad to take care of Mom’s estate stuff…he was drinking his coffee out of a mug I remember giving him when he was the age I’m about to turn.  It says, “way, way, WAY OVER THE HILL”.  Wow.  I was harsh.  We’ve always had that kind of relationship, sledgehammer humor and gag gifts..but dang.  I sure don’t feel “over the hill” at my age and I’m sure he didn’t when he was this age either.  I thank God he took it in the humorous spirit it was meant.  (‘Cause hey, to a teenager, 40 years IS over the hill!!!!)

So, anyway, made it this far.  But where to from here?  I don’t honestly know.  I did have an insight the other day that I need to seriously dig into and pray about.

I’ve always been a dreamer.  Big dreams.  Grand scale.  The daydreaming frequently got me in trouble in school.  But as I grew, 1) I began to seriously doubt ever being able to make any of those dreams come true because I couldn’t see past my relatively narrow existence, and as a result 2) I stopped dreaming so much.

I know my lack of hope growing up can be traced back to depression, low-self esteem, and unresolved relationship conflicts.  But I wondered to myself just last week why I’m lacking hope now.  Not operating under major depression, thought I put the self-esteem issues to bed for good, and I’ve forgiven a whole boatload of people and can name on one hand (with fingers left over) who I currently have active relational conflict with that needs resolving.

So what gives?

I can’t honestly say that I have a dream or vision I feel passionate enough to pursue.  Why is that?

I think it kind of ties back to the whole real estate mess.  I thought I had a vision from God for what to pursue and how to go about it.  It turned out I was very wrong.  And my pastor was kind enough to point out that maybe I was trying to put God into some box, that thing A was going to happen in B manner.  He’s probably right.  Because if thing A happening in B manner was really a God-inspired vision, it would have happened.  God is a big God and He can do whatever He wants however He wants.

And that’s not the first time in life that I’ve been so sure that certain things were supposed to happen, only to have them not happen.  I’m not angry or bitter that they didn’t happen…usually it’s been for the best that things didn’t work out and I can recognize that.

But I think I am now second-guessing myself to the point where I’m not allowing myself to dream anymore….to seek a vision…because I’m afraid I’ll “see wrong” and sink more effort and time into another failed venture.  Having dealt with 5 deaths in the space of less than 2 years, I’m very keenly aware that our time here is brief and I’m getting less and less inclined to waste any of it.

The problem is, now I’m in a rut where I’m not taking any risks either.  I’m not allowing any passion to fuel me toward some purpose.  What are my goals for 2015?  Don’t really have any.

I’m letting fear drag me down into laziness and complacency.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of failure.  Fear of being wrong.  Fear of disappointment.

I can spit 2 Timothy 1:7, Amplified Version, in my sleep.  Why am I not living that reality?

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.”

God did not give me all these fears.  He gave me all those other things.  But I don’t find myself operating in them much.  I don’t like that.  I want to be using what God’s given me.  He gave it to me for a reason…so I could use it, for His glory.  He’s not in the business of giving gifts we can’t use.

So maybe a good goal for 2015 is: pursue a 2 Timothy 1:7 life.  Find out why I’m not using what God’s given and start breaking down the barriers.  Reject the fear that God did not give, but that I’ve been accepting willingly.

To the “closet” for prayer…

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Doris Jean (Schaefer) Strohfeldt, 1955-2014

Mom and Dad

 

Mother of two strong-willed children, crafter, artist, musician and lover of music, faithful wife of 40 years.

May you now know the peace you never quite found while here on Earth.  We miss you, Mom.

Love, your kids

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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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Visiting different pasture, washing feet, and time warping

Hey der ya der hey der.  Busted the gates and committing sheeply mischief in Northeast Wisconsin.  Grew up 30 miles south of where my carcass is currently parked, and get up here every now and again to visit family and take care of business.  In this case, visiting brother in Titletown USA, had him rebuild my desktop, and claiming furniture from parents which is currently being refinished.  I’ll be coughing up sanding dust for weeks.

Time warping.  As I remarked to my brother the other day, coming back here, and especially driving through certain towns, feels like I’m traveling back in time.  Life here is very different than it is in the Windy City.  Pace of life is slower and there’s different things that tend to occupy people’s time.  Certain landmarks from my youth still exist, almost in the exact same form.  Just the weathering of time is noticeable.

And yet…time marches on.  Went to visit a high school buddy today and we met up at a diner that’s been around since we were kids.  It’s still in the same place, but the roads leading to it have completely changed.  Old stores torn down, new ones in their place.  Road reconfigured in spots.  I was unsure exactly how to get there but did manage in the end.  Was a trip traveling through an area where the past has been all but erased though.

In either case, one point is solidly driven home:  This is not where I belong.  I mean, I’m a weirdo and don’t completely fit in anywhere…but I truly feel like an alien here.  Even when I don my Packers gear, something still doesn’t feel quite right.  Other people wear their swag too…

…but they walk different, talk different, just ARE different than me.

Like this last weekend.  My brother has been talking for some time about attending Green Bay Community Church.  On Sunday, I made sure to insist that we go.  I can’t do Sunday morning without church anymore.  So we went.

About as different from my home church as one could get.  I did not see one non-white person in there…and considering the congregation was at least a couple thousand strong, that was intriguing to me.  Service was good…it turns out they need another A/V person and my brother is gifted in that area, so he’d be able to lock in there…but it was just different to what I’m used to.  I’m used to knowing everyone’s name and seeing every God-drawn color of the rainbow.  Good church to visit, just thankful to call FCC home.

Home.  The parents are still in the same house they’ve been in since the mid ’80’s.  Both of them in rapidly declining health.  Went over there Tuesday with intent of a quick stop-by on the way to the family estate for more work on the above-mentioned furniture…when requests for help were given.

My sister-in-law and myself ended up assisting with household chores, and we plus my brother ended up hauling some fitness equipment up from the basement.  A quick stop turned into 4 hours of sweating and swearing.

It was washing feet.  Tasks were unpleasant but necessary, and neither of my parents was up to doing them physically.  The fact that my brother and I jumped right in without hesitation is a testament to God’s healing power in our lives.  Both of us had a lot of strife with the parents growing up, and I actually did not set foot in that house for 10 years.  Had they asked me to do those things 7 years ago, they would have gotten a point-blank “go to hell”, and my brother probably would have responded similarly.

Forgiveness goes a long way.  It creates a heart with a desire to serve.

I know I have much growing to do as a Christian, but that day encouraged me…it’s evidence that some change has taken place, in an area that was a stronghold for years.

This trip was worth it for that alone.  Still have until Monday night to see more miracles happen.

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Beracah, and the absence of anointing

Random observation before I begin–my homepage no longer displays the 3 blogs I was following–have I been thrown off due to inactivity?

Inactivity.  On here, yes, in real life, excess of activity.  A lot of the summer spent “being led where I do not wish to go”.  Many trials.  God led me through all of them to what appears to be the Promised Land.

But it doesn’t look like I expected it to.

For over a year, I’d expected my next (final??) residence to be a modest sized house.  Had certain things I wanted to do with the space that I felt I was being led to do.  So searched diligently for a house, put my life and finances on the line multiple times…and ended up very burned by the whole experience.  I don’t know if I’ll ever try buying real estate again.  Not to say I won’t, I just don’t see it happening in the near or mid range future.

So I found an apartment.  Where I can do everything I’d intended to do with a house, except build a music studio.  Place is huge, landlady is an active believing Christian, great neighborhood, within budget, good neighbors.  Plenty of space to host small group and accommodate guests.  Just need the furniture…and I know that will come when it’s supposed to.

Feels like  a place I can truly call Beracah, for it is a God-ordained blessing.  He made this place happen.  Very little of my effort got me here, the circumstances were just too wild.

There’s just one thing making me hesitate.

The music thing.

I made a list of criteria for housing that I prayed over.  This place literally hits on ALL of them EXCEPT being able to play my music.  I do have means for “silent” bass practice, but long-term I was hoping for someplace to have an acoustic drum kit so I could learn to play.  And silent bass practice isn’t as much fun.  There’s also not really enough room in here for any other additional music gear–keyboard, recording equipment, etc.  Jam sessions would be an absolute no-no.  The downstairs neighbor would flip.

As if that weren’t enough to raise an eyebrow, there’s the strange thing happening with what I do have.

The passion’s been deflated, and the hands and ears aren’t working right.

Been feeling a disconnect in Worship Team for several weeks.  I show up, I play.  I feel nothing.

Then, while practicing this evening for tomorrow’s service, I had such a hard time trying to get a groove going with certain songs that I just put the bass down and gave up.  One of them is a song we’ve done plenty, it’s just in a different key to usual.  Transposing should not provide such a block.  1/2 step shift, big whoopie.  I know I’ve not gotten much time in on the instrument this summer due to the circumstances, but getting back on the horse should not be this hard.

So.  Could be a lot of things contributing to this, but my gut tells me that the anointing’s been lifted off my musical gift at the moment.   I don’t know why.  I have my suspicions.  Only thing I can do is pray and fellowship with the Holy Trinity to get the blockage cleared.

*shrug*

 

 

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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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Lace up.

Hat tip to my senior pastor for some truth:

http://firstchristianchicago.org/you-are-a-long-distance-runner/

Timing made me giggle…I’m still, 3 days later, suffering aftereffects of running a 3.5 mile race downtown.  Not a marathon, I know, but for someone fitness challenged like me, a lot of the same “rules” apply.

Definitely up against a spiritual “wall” at the moment.  Few things niggling at me, actually.  See subsequent post.  But as I did in the road race on Thursday, pressing past the wall with eyes on the finish line.  Jelly legs and all.  “Quit” is not a part of my vocabulary.

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Waylaid plans and walking on water

As I sit here contemplating how to approach the two above subjects into one cohesive post, I realize that God’s really touching on the same thing in me with both of them.

“You’re not in control, honey.”

My natural bent: Planner. Proactive.  Lists lists lists. Breaking everything down into measurable, predictable results.  No wonder I aced statistics in undergrad.  Forget plan B, I’ve got everything mapped out to plan Z 1/2.  I try to think of every last contingency.

So, for the last week and change, I have had about a 2 % success rate in accomplishing what I’d planned.

To-do list at work?  Nope.

Social plans with a friend?  *bzzzzzzzt*  Try again.  (Though we DID do the MAIN thing, which was take in a marvelous concert by Selah.  Praise God.)

To-do list at home?  Cue breath-stealing laughter.

You’ve heard the saying, “We plan, God laughs”?  I think I had Him off His throne and rolling on the floor laughing to tears this week.  Because nothing. went. according. to. plan.

I got pretty testy about it at various points.  “Can just ONE THING GO RIGHT TODAY??????”  *deep breath*  *deep breath* *staring upward, lips clenched*

After over a week straight, though, I finally backed down.

From now on, I’m not going to call them “to-do” lists.  I’m going to call them “Father, May I?” lists.  Because I can do absolutely nothing unless He allows me to.  That point has been solidly proven!!!

And in the same track, an update on the house search.  Still nothing.  But I’ve stepped out in faith now…gave official notice that I won’t be renewing my lease, yesterday, directly to my building manager.  This is directly in God’s hands now, no turning back.  I’ve stepped out of the boat, I’m on the water, I’m walking toward Jesus.  This isn’t happening unless He makes it happen.

Help me, Father, to keep my eyes on You and Your Son, until you come through.  I can’t swim.  🙂

God’s in charge, and He is faithful.  Words to live by in the coming days.

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