Friday, December 13, 2013

Fix Me

I'm not sure what it is about the holidays, especially the Christmas season...but people get so irritable.

But this isn't about other people.  It's about me.  I've noticed that I've been exceptionally irritable this year.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the rather large project I'm on at work, that is due by Dec. 31st, but that's not likely it.  It's almost done, and I'm ahead of schedule.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the fact that I'm a musician that is booked solid through Christmas, but, that shouldn't be it.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the fact that everywhere you go at this time of year, the wait times are increased, the traffic is heavier, and other people are also irritable and tired.

I'd like to be able to blame it on the kids arguing or fighting with each other.

But I can't.

As easy as it would be to blame this on others, I simply can't.  It's on me.

I have to do my best to not let things get to me.

I have to remember that the kids are just kids and that they will do like kids do and argue with each other, and be loud, and other kid things.  In fact, I need to hold on to the things they do that are sweet.  And loving.  I need to cherish the fact that they are 14 year old girls who still want to hang out with mom and dad.  Many kids that age want nothing to do with their parents. Not the case with our kids.  They love hanging out with us.  They don't care if we are in public, they love hugs.  I drop them off at school, with all their classmates nearby, they don't care.  Daddy gets a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  They couldn't care less who sees.

I have to remember that while there are some people that get upset at Christmas because the stores are too busy and they didn't get what they want even after camping out for a week in front of Best Buy, it is likely that those people that are that upset have their own personal demons they are battling.  There is no reason for me to be upset with them too.  I should understand that they very likely could be feeling even worse than I am feeling and need compassion.  It doesn't give them an excuse to be angry either, but I have no excuse to be angry with them.  I need to love them and TRY to empathize with them.

I have to remember that I love being a musician.  I feel it is a God given talent and I really can't explain the feeling of completing a song, or an album for that matter, knowing I put a lot of effort into it.  There is no other feeling like it.  I can't explain the feeling of playing in front of other people and touching their hearts through the music I am playing.  For example, I'm performing at a kids event this year called After School Klub (ASK) that reaches out to inner city kids.  We've rehearsed with the kids twice so far, for our performance next week.  Do you know, after the rehearsal, without being prompted, they came up to me (and the other two people in the band) and said, "Thank you!  You be jammin'!"   Seriously.  That touched me in a way I can't describe.  Kids that come from troubled homes showing appreciation that someone cares about them is the most powerful feeling.

I have to remember that this project I am on is helping a lot of people at my work.  It is solving a large percentage of issues we have had for several years here.  I also have to remember that my boss has been extremely encouraging throughout, thanking me, and telling me that I'm doing great.  She knows how stressful it is, and constantly says, "You are doing great, let me know if you need anything at all, and if I can help."  Seriously, she's among the best bosses I've ever had.  She doesn't micro manage.  She thanks her workers. She even sends notes "up the chain" to her bosses and directors to let them know how we are doing, never taking credit for the work we do.  I wish my last boss would take lessons from my current one. haha.

Some might say I can't blame any one of these issue, but perhaps the culmination of all of the stresses is understandable why one might get irritable.

Is it?


We all have a choice.  You.  Me.  A choice to be happy, or a choice to just be a grump.  A Scrooge, if you will.  While I don't feel "Scroogy" really, I am definitely not making the choice to just let it slide off me at this time.  I need to.

God, please fix me.  Help me to make the right choice and not let my current situations overwhelm me, but instead help me to constantly see the good in all of them and to be able to handle it properly when things go awry.

Help me to experience the joy that this season celebrates, and to have that joy all year, and in the years to come.

Sure, there will be days that will be harder, and there will be days when I fail, but gently remind me of the greatest gift of all.  Your Son.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Prodigal Son - My Take

I've always thought the Prodigal Son Parable that Jesus told was a beautiful picture of redemption, and I still do think it is, but there is more to it, that until recently, I never really thought about.

And that's the extended application of how we can further learn from it.

To truly understand a lesson from this that I've heard few people speak about, you must put yourself in the shoes of a young teen child.  I don't know how you were at a young teen age, but chances are, one thing you were concerned of was "fairness."  God forbid if your brother or sister got something that you did not get, let alone "all the other kids."

(This makes me remember something mom used to say to me..."If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow?"  and of course, my cocky attitude would say, "Yes, if I could get what I wanted.")

Anyway,  you are a young teenager now, right?  Try to remember the attitude you USED to have at that age. And if you remember yourself being a perfect child, then you are either a miracle child or you are lying to yourself. :)

Now, imagine that your brother went to your dad and said, "Yo, dad, like, I'm sick of living in your crib. I want you to give me the money that I would get from my inheritance when you kick it so I can go out and find true happiness and live it up in Vegas."

Now imagine your dad actually agreed to this.  (This proves that this is just a story that Jesus told, because I don't know a dad around that would actually agree to this, but that wasn't the point of Jesus' story).

Ok, now think about how you would feel that your brother not only got a large portion of money from your dad, but didn't have to do anything for it, and actually LEFT home because he was "bored" and wanted to find true "happiness."

Granted, this large portion of money he got would come your way when your dad does "bite the big one", but the point is, you are a young teen and don't think about the future.  You think about the now.  You are here stuck working in the garden, mowing the grass, sealing the driveway, and probably realizing that you are going to get stuck doing all of your brother's chores as well.

Oooh...this makes you angry, right?  How fair is that?

Really dad?  Really?

After some time passes, your jerk brother still hasn't come home, and you are still doing not only your share of the work, but his as well.

Then one day, you hear Midiboy music coming from the house and a bunch of people whooping it up and throwing some kind of party. You wonder what is going on, so you ask someone what is going on.

They say, "Oh!  Good news!  Your long lost brother came home and they are having a party in his honor.   Your dad got burgers from "The Fat Cow" and you should come join us!"

Instead, because of your teen angst, you get really upset and start back on your chores, but with a terrible attitude.  You are throwing things down, hitting the fence with the shovel.  Cursing under your breath. Regretting the fact that your brother came home and gets a party.

You then find out that he came back saying "Dad, I'm not worthy to be called your son.  I've sinned against you and God above.  Please just put me to work as a servant, I won't ask for anything from you ever again."

Your dad comes out to you and says, "Hey there, why won't you come in and celebrate your brother's return with us?"

You reply in a half cocked tone, "Look, I've been doing my work, and his share of work too, and never once disobeyed you.  I've never questioned you.  I always got my work done on time, and, if I may add, have always gone above and beyond your expectations, yet you never threw a party for me.  You didn't even take me to McDonalds, and brother gets a nice juicy meal from 'The Fat Cow' even after he took your money and squandered it on gambling, and probably all sorts of terrible things.  It just isn't fair."

Then your dad looks at you with love in his eyes, and a smile on his face and says, "My dear child, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours, but we to celebrate and throw this part because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again.  He was lost, but now is found."

How would you feel about that?

Now, let's look at this from several different angles:

If you are the younger brother and finally "find your senses" as the Bible so eloquently puts it in one translation, how would it make you feel when God accepts you back without so much a lecture?  He embraces you with open arms and says "Welcome home, son!"

What if you were the father and your son came home?  Would it be easy for you to embrace him and welcome him home?  Would you be able to resist any snide remarks?  Would you be able to resist being an "I Told You So?"

What if you were the older brother?  Would you think it was completely unfair that God accepted someone who admitted that they were a terrible sinner and asked for forgiveness?  Would you be able to trust that person?  Would you secretly wonder if it was all an act?  Would you spread rumors about him behind his back?

The point of this whole thing is this...let's leave it to God to deal with who and who is not going to be accepted into His love.  It's not for us to decide.  We can't assume we know God's mind on everything.

We do know from this story that the son came HOME and his father accepted Him.  We don't know AND CANNOT assume what would have happened had he not come home.

There is no reason we need to argue God's mind on such matters.

It so easy to say "Oh, well they go to 'that' church or believe 'that way' they can't be a Christian."

Let's let God decide that.  We need to love them anyway.  No matter what.  Jesus does.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Being A Musician

It's been a while since I've written a blog.  Probably too long.

Sometimes, being a musician is hard.  Frustrating, even.  Discouraging, too.

Let me explain, and please understand, what I am going to say in this blog isn't me being boastful or thinking I'm something better than I am, etc., it's just me being honest.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved music.  I believe God gave me this gift to use to bring Him Glory, and I do my best to do just that.  I have been writing songs since I was around 17, but have been playing various keyboard and woodwind instruments since I was 4 years old.  Didn't really enjoy the woodwinds as much, but keyboard....I love it.

I got my first keyboard for a high school graduation present.  I still remember it.  I got to pick it out myself.  You have to remember, when I graduated from High School, dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth, so this $600 keyboard was quite expensive when you account for inflation rates now.   That $600 was more likely like a $1200 keyboard now.  And the thing was a Casio and had mini keys on it.  But it had some really cool sounds.   You was made in 1986, and the sounds were really popular back then.  Even had a GREAT electric piano type sound for the technology that was available at that time.

I learned how to sequence on that keyboard, and that is what inspired me to start writing my own music.  Granted, my first 10 or so songs were REALLY cheesy, and I can't even tell you how they went any longer.  Just know they were cheesy, k?

Anyway, all my life people have sought me out to play keyboards for them.  Various local bands, wedding gigs, parties, churches, etc.  I can't recall a time since I was 20 that I haven't been in at least one band, a church pianist, or was working on a solo project of my own.  It's safe to say that I have at least 25 years of on stage experience.  People have always told me things like, "You are the best keyboard player in town" or "I love the textures you come up with when you play" or "I love the way you play the organ."  Yes, one of my dreams is to play a REAL B3 rather than a synthesized one, but I can make a synth B3 sound pretty darn good.  I especially love to do the "growl" as people have come to call it.

Anyway, as you likely know, I have a indie music label called Midiboy Music.  I have no aspirations of becoming a signed musician or a public label at all.  Believe it or not, Indie music is kind of where it's at now, especially now that musicians are coming to realize that being signed isn't "all that."  The labels take most of the money that the musician could make on their own.  On my label, I have two projects.  My electronic rock project, Midiboy, which is the flagship project, if you will, and one:nine, which is more of a piano based light rock style, though there are a few slightly rockier songs on there as well.

I've submitted my songs (from both projects) to various radio stations, and they aren't interested.  It's never "their format" yet when I listen to those stations, I hear songs that are practically the same style as the one I submitted, but ... they have a major label backing them.

I have ALWAYS broke even on the cost of my music.  My last two projects were fully funded via Kickstarter, which was amazing to me.  The last Midiboy project is available on just about every American music site that sells downloadable music, and the current one:nine project is available online both as digital AND physical and includes a full length DVD as well.  Not just in America, but Internationally as well.

So why is this frustrating?  Because I have always broke even.  My sales just aren't there.  Now if I were on a major label, they'd drop me if that were the case.  Since I'm on my own label, I don't think I'm going to drop me any time soon (though to be honest, I have often thought about it).

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT in this for the money.  At all.  I'm always willing to let people have a copy of my album that simply can't afford it.  But, if I were to be honest, and I'm trying to be as transparent as possible here, I would like to make some money on this so that I can fund more projects and even upgrade my gear.  But it's more than that as well...I just want to share my music and have people enjoy it.  Not just my friends and family, but people I don't know.

It has always been a dream of mine to play my original songs in front of an audience that SINGS ALONG with the songs because the songs mean something to them, and they love the song.  And not just my family that may be sitting front.  The people next to them that I've never seen cool would it be if they too were singing along?  Again, I'm not saying this because I am boasting or wanting glory at all.   I just think it would be amazing...but also very encouraging to me, knowing that other people might be impacted and inspired by what I believe God has given me the talent to write.

I know I'm not the best vocalist in the world.  I understand that I will never be an "American Idol" and that's OK.  I never want to be.  But as my friend Naomi said about my vocals, "He's certainly better than 'that Creed guy'."  hahaha.  Not sure I agree, I love Scott Stapp's voice, but hey, I'll take it!  My vocals have come a LONG way over the years, and I honestly do believe I do pretty well there, too.  I can pick out harmonies without even trying, and I have expanded my range quite a bit as well.  Several songs on the new album have up to 5 and 6 distinct vocal parts, and one song has 9 parts and sounds like a choir complete with soprano all the way to bass vocals.  All me.

Again, I'm not trying to brag, just saying what is there.

Before you read on, understand one thing.  What I am about to say isn't meant to slam any of my "fans" or discount what they think of my music.  Without the fans that I have (few as they may be), I don't think the last 4 albums would have ever happened.  Especially fans like my wife and girls, and Naomi Hanvey (who I consider to be like a daughter to me as well).  Fans like Hope, Sara, Gary, Leanna, Chris. Jennifer, Kassidy, Chadd and Kevin (my Kickstarter supporters).  Without fans like these, the "one:nine" project definitely wouldn't have happened.

I guess there is one thing I need to keep in mind...technically, I write for an Audience Of One.  Yes, that has become a "cliche" among Christian artists to say this, but it is true.  I should really only care about what He thinks of my music.  But it is certainly nice to know that other people would like my music well.  Outside of the current fan base of people that I know.

Anyway, I guess that's enough of this "rant" for now.  Thanks for reading.  Hopefully this didn't come off the wrong way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Than We Can Handle

God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle???

I know I typically reserve this blog for music things, but today, I am going to explore the common Christian catch phrase, "God won't give you more than you can handle."  This is a phrase I hear over and over again, and every time I hear it, it makes me cringe.  First, this is not a Biblical thought in any way, shape or form.  Many people think it is scriptural because they are thinking of I Corinthians 10:13 which says:

"“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

This verse tells us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle.  It says nothing about God not giving us other things we can't handle...and here's the proof!

As indicated in Paul's writing (2 Cor), Paul and his buddies were crushed and overwhelmed far BEYOND their ability to endure. But, and here's the awesome part...when they stopped trying to solve their problems on their own, and when they finally relied on God...He rescued them.

We need to learn this lesson.  It's sorta important.

It's so easy to get caught up in thinking that we are somehow protected by God from "too much" suffering.  In fact, that's a dangerous false teaching. God sometimes uses our trials and sufferings to either teach us something, or to get our attention.

Many of you know my story and know that I've been through a lot of trials in my life.  Yes, it was easy, at times, to think I was abandoned by God.  But doesn't Hebrews 13:5-6 tell us that He will never leave or forsake us?  (Yes, it does...look it up).

It's so typical of us silly humans to react to our troubles by trying to do "fix" them with our own "power."  Oops.  Epic Fail.  For me, the trials only got harder and harder until I realized that God gave more than I can handle...ON MY OWN!  See what I did there?

Until we face our troubles and realize they are too big for US to handle, and start to trust that God is using these troubles to either teach us a lesson, get our attention, or redirect us, we will continue to struggle...and sometimes, these troubles He allows us to deal with are a WHOLE lot more than we can handle, in spite of what all of the "good-intentioned" people in our lives will try to convince us of otherwise.

That's the point of this here little blog.  We can't do this on our own.  I can't do this on my own.  You can't do this on your own.  We are too proud to admit this many times, and that's just...well...silly.

That is all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Car, A Torch, A Death

I miss blogging about songs.  I am going to start that up again, I think. But only with songs that are significant to me and have a valuable lesson we can all learn from.  It's no secret that I am fan of Twenty One Pilots.  They are a band from Columbus, Ohio and honestly, have some of the most thought provoking lyrics, which stem from their deep faith in God.

It's hard to describe their style, but imagine, if you will...throwing Elton John, Billy Joel, Muse, Freddy Mercury and Eminem in a blender and setting it to high until they are nice and pureed, and then pouring into a 2 man band shaped mold and letting if harden for a few days, you'd have a close idea of what they may sound like.

Anyway, check out these lyrics.  I will give my interpretation afterwards:

A Car, A Torch, A Death

The air begins to feel a little thin
As I start the car and then I begin
To add the miles piled up behind me
I barely feel a smile deep inside me

And I begin to envy the headlights driving south
I want to crack the door so I can just fall out
But then I remember when you packed my car
You reached in the back and buckled up your heart

For me to drive away with
I began to understand
Why God died

The demons sat there waiting on her porch
It was a little dark so we held a makeshift torch
And when my car was far out of sight
He crept in her room and stayed there for the night

And then I felt chills in my bones
The breath I saw was not my own
I knew my skin that wrapped my frame
Wasn't made to play this game

And then I saw Him, torch in hand
He laid it out, what he had planned
And then I said, I'll take the grave
Please, just send them all my way

I began to understand
Why God died

The air begins to feel a little thin
As we're waiting for the morning to begin
But for now you told me to hold this jar
And when I looked inside, I saw
It held your heart

For me to walk away with
I began to understand
Why God died


Most of their lyrics are word picturesque, if that makes sense.  Rather than coming right out and saying what they mean, they paint a picture with their words so that we, the listener, can interpret them in our own words.  Kind of like an artist does with a painting.  A lot of their lyrics seem kind of dark, but they also offer a glimmer of light and hope, which as you know, can penetrate the darkest of days.  That's probably why I like these guys so much, because they lyrics are so relate-able. This is just MY interpretation.  I don't feel my interpretation is the "right" one.  It's just what I get from the song.

This particular song starts off with the singer feeling lost.  He is trying to escape from what he's dealing with (packing the miles behind me) and can't even bring himself to smile. He starts to envy that cars headed the other direction, because they seem to be facing their troubles head on rather than trying to escape them.  He wishes he could just "fall out of the car" and not have to deal with anything any longer.  Then the last two lines of the 2nd section are the glimmer of hope.  He remembers that he isn't alone.  God (who this song is referring to) is with him.  (He buckled up His heart in the back).  He realizes then that he starts to understand why Jesus died for offer him hope. To offer him salvation.

The next section is about another person that he knows that is dealing with issues in her life.  The makeshift torch represents him perhaps sharing a little of his faith with her.  After he left, Jesus continued to watch over her.

As he drove away, he felt a bad presence again, and felt like he just wasn't made to be able to deal with that on his own, but that's when he saw Jesus with His own torch in His hand.  He told the singer, "Hey, I will take the grave for you...just send all your problems my way...I'll deal with them Myself."

And again, the singer realizes just why God died for him.

And the final section, the singer takes solace that whenever he feels "the air is thin" he can count on Jesus being there for him, and once again, he recalls that Jesus died for him.


To me, that is a beautiful picture that perfectly describes reality.  Many Christians don't like to admit that they have struggles.  We are perhaps conditioned by some to believe that life is good all the time and that having faith in God is always easy.  It's not.  It's ok to have questions.  It's ok to have struggles.  We just need to take solace in the fact that Christ did indeed die for us, and that no matter what happens, He is there.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What The World Needs Now...

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

A great verse that I think all of us need to remember at times.  Since we are all loved by the Creator Of The Universe, each and every one of us, doesn't it stand to reason that we should be able to love each other?  After all, we were ALL created by Him. If someone we don't particularly want to love is good enough to be loved by God, and we choose not to show them love ourselves, aren't we basically saying " go ahead and love that person but they aren't good enough for ME to love."

Every day on my way to work, I am reminded of this as I approach the I475 / I75 exchange where traffic backs up for over a mile.  It's amazing to see how RUDE people to each other when the traffic heavy.  Fingers go flying.  Horns blare.  Dirty looks become common.  For what?  Just to get 1 car ahead in a traffic jam?  Really?

You see it everywhere, really...not just heavy traffic.  The grocery store.  The malls. Restaurants (especially fast food).   There is no escaping it.  There was a song that was popular when I was little by Burt Bacharach called "What The World Needs Now Is Love."  You could almost consider that song prophetic when he wrote it in 1965. I wonder what he thinks now?

I'm not saying we have to have relationships with everybody.  I'm also not saying that we have to LIKE everybody.  There is a HUGE difference between like and love.  A lot of people have it in their heads that love is a greater form of like, but it's just not true.  You don't have to like someone you show love to.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don't need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some, oh, but just for
Every, every, everyone.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Old Way Has To Go

It's been a while since I posted a blog up here and I have been thinking that  I need to start posting again.  Today I want to talk about something that some may not like to read.  I know I don't.

I remember growing up that peer-pressure was always a major issue.  If I wanted to do something that mom or dad didn't want me to do, there was always the old "But everyone else is doing it..." when in fact, maybe only a few were.  Of course, the parents famous reply that I'm sure you have all either heard or used as the reply is in the Parenting 101 handbook...

"If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you?"

But now, as adults, we still have to deal with it.  Adam and Eve dealt with it as well.  The pressure to go along with the crowd and accept things that you know deep down inside are wrong.  This isn't a blog to discuss what those things are.  If certain things come to your mind while reading this, then perhaps you need to ask yourself, "is this what I truly believe, or is this what I feel is right to believe because everybody else wants me to believe it and I want to fit in and not be cast aside."

The problem with going along with the crowd is, they are empty-headed.  Mindless if you will. They have lost touch with God and ultimately, with reality. They don't think straight any longer.  The crown feels no pain and is addicted to every kind of perversion imaginable.

It's not how we as Christians are supposed to live.  We are not to go along with the crowd.  What we believe is right should be completely opposite of what the world believes is right. If we are paying close attention to Christ, we should be well instructed in these things.  We do not have the excuse of ignorance. Everything we once believed, everything we once were connected with has to go.  It's like rotten apples.  Holding on to even one small part of it will corrupt the rest of the bunch.  As Christians, we are to live a life renewed, reflecting God's very character in everything we do and say.

What does this mean?  In part, no more lies. No more false pretense. Tell the truth.  Always.  We are all connected as part of Christ's body.  When we lie to someone else, we end up lying to ourselves as well.

Does this mean we can't be angry any more?  No.  Go ahead.  Be angry. We can sometimes do well to be long as we don't use that anger as fuel for revenge.  Christ got angry with what was going on in the Temple.  Don't stay angry.  That's not good.  Never go to bed angry.  It's been said, don't let the sun set on your anger.  This only gives the Devil a foothold in our lives.

Sometimes, we might try to justify things like stealing as well. In this economy, it's harder to come by the things we desire or even need.  This doesn't mean it's ever ok to steal.  We need to work honest jobs to not only earn our own way, but perhaps help those who are in need as well.

And now for a biggie...we must watch the way we talk.  It's so easy to allow foul or dirty things to come from our mouths.  You may have heard or even participated in many arguments on what is foul and what is dirty.  This post isn't to define what those things are, but it's safe to assume that if you wouldn't be comfortable saying it around your parents, your children or your pastor, it's not likely something you should say. Say only what helps. Treat each word as if it were a gift from God Himself.  You know why?  Because they are.

Don't break God's heart. His Holy Spirit is moving and breathing in us.  It is the most intimate part of our lives, making us fit for Him.  We must never take this for granted.

We need to make clean break from our old lives and the old ways we used to talk.  The cutting, backstabbing and profane things we are tempted to say need to go away.  We need to be gentle to each other.  Kind.  Sensitive. Forgiving each other without question because God in Christ has forgiven us.

Read Ephesians 4 17 - 32.  Everything I said comes directly from that passage and is paraphrased in my own words.