Take One Thing

I love going to concerts. I have often told people that I will go see anyone play live, even if I don’t like the style of music. Seeing a band or an artist play live always teaches me something. But, I didn’t always feel that way…

Phil Keaggy is one of my favorite guitar players. I would like to say that I have patterned some of my playing after him, but the truth is I can’t really even comprehend what or how he plays. I have seen him in concert several times and the first few concerts left me with a sense of sadness – I came away knowing that I had witnessed a level of skill, passion and freedom that I could never match and the sensible thing would be to put my guitar down now.

I am not sure when the shift happened or who gave me the idea (I will credit my wife, however, because usually the best stuff comes from her…) but somewhere the idea was given to me to “take one thing.” If I watched the concert as a whole, tried to take in and comprehend everything PK was doing, I came up empty and frustrated. However, if I “took one thing” from the night and endeavored to master that, I came out of the evening with a goal and drive to accomplish it. And in the end, learning some fresh nuance to playing always makes me a better player.

This idea crosses easily into several facets of our lives – case in point, our Sunday Gathering a few weeks back. As the Worship Minister, I get to hear each week’s Message several times and the week in question had a lot of good insights in it. The problem was that being in a bit of a spiritually dry season, I risked missing all of it. Then I remembered Phil Keaggy and the concept of ‘taking one thing’… so, I did.

And in the end, learning some fresh nuance of faith – no matter how small –  always makes me a better Follower.

My iPod Identity

I remember a birthday a few years back when I unwrapped a small beautiful box and found this…


…an iPod Nano and in red, no less! Now, I will admit that I was a little late to the whole iPod show – after years listening to cassettes, recording on a parade of 2 inch, 1 inch and digital tape, the thought that music could be housed and sound good without tape being involved was a mystery to me. But now I have succumbed with a vengeance.

So, the other day as I was driving and listening to my iPod, I was struck by how this little device is a mirror to my personality. It holds all the best, the worst, the depth, the contradiction, the expected, the unexpected… if you scrolled through the library, you would find a lot of what you expect – the Beatles, a lot of classic rock, faith based music – but you would also find cheesy music that meant something to me when I was a teenager – you would find a little bit of country (only owned because that guy can really shred on guitar!) – you would find songs that I would skip when my kids were little and riding with me – a plethora of Christmas music – all these small pieces of a larger mosaic, songs that mean something or did, at one time, and remind me of places I have been, people I have known, the person I have been.

Then when I put it on shuffle, the fun really begins – that is when KISS plays next to Rich Mullins, Stryper leads into Simon and Garfunkel, Bread goes head to head with Spinal Tap, Amy Grant walks hand in hand with Thomas Dolby, there are Rick’s Cua, Astley and Nielsen, Bob’s Dylan and Halligan, Split Enz, Squeeze and Switchfoot in alphabetical order, the world discovers that I own the soundtrack to the movie Howard the Duck, and the Beatles and Bangles permeate everything… (and let’s not forget Tom Petty and Phil Keaggy and Larry Norman and and and and…)

We humans are, indeed, a mixed bag – some parts we are proud of, others we are embarrassed by, some parts we have forgotten and others we never want to forget – and our iPods prove it!



What Does Your “Community” Look Like?

I was telling a friend of mine recently how much I enjoy the way my work week is laid out – it starts Sunday morning playing with the worship band at our Gathering and ends on Thursday night in rehearsal with the same band. A week book-ended with music and time spent hanging out with the musicians I get to lead – community.

Please continue reading today’s post at Eastern Hills Staff Blog.

Greatness is… Taken?

I have seen a new billboard on the highway the last several weeks and every time I see it, I wonder.

Full disclosure – I am not actually sure what the billboard is trying to sell – it is positioned on the far side of an overpass so that when I get close enough to be able to read the smaller printing, the bridge is in the way. I have no idea what business, service or product is being advertised. The only thing I can read on it is the main catchphrase…



Please continue reading today’s post at Eastern Hills Staff Blog.

Are You a Lifer?

It is always a great time when I check my PO Box and all of the month’s new guitar magazines have come out. I usually have to wait until my next day off and then I hunker down with coffee and read them all in one fell swoop. As I was doing this very thing with the latest batch, I came across the following quote in a Guitar Player interview with Zakk Wylde (guitarist for Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne, among others). The quote is a little long, but worth the read:

GP: What advice do you give young players who have seen you play and tell you, “Man, I want to do that”?

ZW: Well, it depends what you want to do with music. If it’s just going to be a hobby for you, that’s cool – but when I was 14, I said, ‘I’m going to dedicate my life to this. I’m doing this.’ Even if I had never been blessed with having Ozzy in my life and having our Black Label family, I’d still be doing music. I’d never be one to sell all my gear and try something else. Me and JD [BLS bassist John DeServio], who I’ve known since I was 17, would still be at it. We’re lifers. We’d have a music store, be teaching, or have a wedding band and maybe also a cover band devoted to the music we love – probably all of the above. And we’d be writing music and doing our own thing, too. I could never have some crummy job where I’m digging a ditch, wondering, “What am I doing with my life? I can’t stand this.” Everything would still revolve around music. I’d be cleaning the floors at a music studio right now if I had to.

I love this for so many reasons – the clear call to passionate dedication; the ‘music or nothing’ credo; but I am probably most drawn to two things – first, that riches and fame don’t really enter into the equation. Don’t get me wrong, when I tell you that I don’t want riches and fame, I am lying. I recognize those ulterior motives and underlying lusts in myself. But as I get older and put more mileage on my story I realize I need better motivators (especially since riches and fame in the music business seem to be reserved for the very young and inexperienced – social comment, that.) The bitter truth is that if riches and fame are why I play music, then I should look for a new job.

The second thing, and the deeper thing, is this comment, “We’re lifers.” It brings to mind this sense that no matter what else happens in his life – tragedy or comedy – music will play a part in him and that he will play music. Listing off several things that may of us musicians have done, but often consider less than the ‘dream’ – wedding bands, cover bands, giving lessons, working at a music store – I don’t hear any sarcasm here. To be a lifer is to play when ever and where ever we can and be aware of the gift of that opportunity.

A few years back when I made the transition from touring musician to local church musician, I had to struggle with the perception (in myself) that somehow I was quitting real music, that I was giving up on the dream, that I was settling. The truth is, I am as busy now as I ever was – leading a worship band for my church, leading the CA Band, playing gigs full of original music, gigs full of cover tunes that I love, giving lessons (although I stopped that because I really am not gifted there), sitting in with local musicians, playing on friend’s CD projects, and on and on…

To be a lifer, for me anyway, is to stop worrying about the false carrot and gladly revel in the story I was created to tell. In my case, music.

What about you? What is it that you can’t escape doing? Are you a lifer?

Captain America, Uncle Bruce and Character Formation…

Have you ever had one of those weeks where several unrelated things have happened and then at some point, as you reflect on them, they coalesce into one thought?

It has been one of those weeks for me… an action movie, the passing of a family member and an offhand thought from a sermon…

The action movie? Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A great flick – it is a super hero action film, an espionage thriller and lots of stuff blows up! An all around good time that leaves you wanting to grab a shield, throw on a cape and go be heroic. (OK, I know that Captain America doesn’t wear a cape… just go with me here…)

The family member? My Uncle Bruce. I come from a fairly small family so Bruce was my only uncle. Even as an adult I still see him through the eyes of my childhood – a big man who smoked a pipe (at least he did back in the day), a military man who served in the Navy as a submariner (how cool is that?), a model railroad enthusiast, a ‘techie’ (before that was even a word) who always had his thumb on the pulse of what was coming in computers, and a guy with a job that took him all over the globe. I would only see him a couple of times a year, so I know that these recollections only scratch the surface of his story.

The offhand thought? In the course of a message out of Esther about stepping into the role of your life, our pastor said something to the effect of “people who step into their role in the big moments of life do so because they have been stepping into it in the small moments all their life.”

How does it all coalesce together? Simply put – the heroics of a movie, the brevity of a life, and the influence of small moments on big moments… For me, personally, I am always pulled to the dream of being a hero. So, if it is true that being heroic in a big way is made likely by being heroic in a lifetime of little ways then I need to get started because life, however long we live, is brief.

What calls you? What lights a fire in your soul? What character do you want to play on the Big Stage? To be kind? Than start being kind today in any and every small way you come across. To be creative? Then start creating in the spaces of your life. To be faithful? Then act on your faith, even when no one will ever see it. To be brave? To be generous? To be a hero? Then today is your day. The opportunities are there and not a one of them is too small.

Why We Need Community – Reason #48

When I was a little kid I was always losing things. I would complain to my mother that I couldn’t find the lost item and she would always respond by asking me “Have you looked under your bed?” I would say yes, stomp around some more and return to the complaining. Finally, she would come upstairs and immediately find said lost item… under the bed.

I swear that woman spent her days stealing my stuff and hiding it under my bed.

Please continue reading today’s post at Eastern Hills Staff Blog.


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