Mama’s Story

3385_4783739844795_1899185606_nToday my Mama turns 59 years old. In another 22 days, I will turn 40.

I was probably 14 years old when I calculated the years between my mother’s birthday and my own. The realization that there were only 19 years between her birthday and my birthday intrigued me. So, being a rather fundamental Baptist kid at that time in my life, I decided to calculate the amount of time between my parents’ wedding anniversary and my birthday.
Let’s see…November ’74 and May ’75…
[counting on my hand]: December-1, January-2, February-3, March-4, April-5, May-6…6 months? No, not 6 months.
How could I have been born just 6 months after my parents were married?

During a visit to my grandparent’s home, I recalled the troubling mathematical path. So I asked an aunt, “Was I a premature baby?”
Looking back on the memory, I realize how clever her initial response to me was.
My aunt responds, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, there’s only 6 months between my parents’ anniversary and my birthday. There should be 9 months. So that’s why I’m curious if I was a premature baby.”
“Yes. Yes, you were.”

Fascinating. How had I missed this piece of my life’s story? Why had I not seen the pictures of life-sustaining tubes and incubators? This was good stuff. I was born after only 6-months in the womb. That’s church testimony stuff right there!

One evening, after coming inside from finishing the daily list of chores that my mother always had for my brother, sister, and me to complete, standing in the kitchen, I asked my mother,
“Mama? Why haven’t you ever told me that I was a premature baby?”
My mother, back turned to me as she stood at the stove in her simple and practical floral-print house coat, responded without hesitation, “You were not a premature baby. I was pregnant with you before I married your daddy.”

You know those scenes in movies when an actor experiences something that causes the entire environment to suddenly telescope into a blur of bright light? When the camera angle suddenly and abruptly rushes towards the face and expression of the actor all while a sound like oxygen being noisily and quickly sucked from the room occurs? That’s how I replay this memory in my mind. In that moment, I experienced a crisis of sorts and I was given new sight.
I wonder if the transformational experience I felt in that moment was similar to the one that Adam and Eve experienced when their lips parted and their teeth broke the flesh of the forbidden fruit taken from the Tree of Knowledge? It kind of makes sense that it would. After all, this knowledge I had just received brought an awareness to my 14-year old existence that I had not possessed prior to that day. And it was a formative awareness that my mother was a human, not some automated and perfect presence in my life. My mother had a story; one that preceded and transcends the story that I felt I already knew.

There was no more discussion of the matter after my mother gave me her answer. She continued, uninterrupted, preparing our family’s meal, as she did nearly every night of the week and I continued to stand there surveying her. With new eyes. With new questions. With new awareness.

Autobiography: an account of a person’s life written by that person.
Mom: the person most likely to write an autobiography and never mention herself.

If I had to know my mom’s story only by what she said about herself, I would know very little of my mom’s story. She doesn’t talk much about herself. She talks…goodness does she talk. But it’s never talk about how she wishes to be perceived. It’s never talk about circumstances that she hopes will help her gain that excusing sympathy from a listener that we feel relinquishes us from all personal responsibility. It’s never talk rooted in self-love or in self-loathing. Instead, it’s talk that is an outflow of a life shared with others, of experiences, of lessons learned, and sometimes of people who have scored a place on her, “I want to drag them into the woods and bury them” list.

For me, my mom’s story is a reel of personal vivid memories, mysteriously preserved in the mind’s eye of a son and rich with insight anytime I revisit them or they revisit me.

One day, I plan to share a narrative of Mama’s story. I will craft it from the memories she indelibly left within me. I will preserve it with carefully selected words that will still fall short of capturing who she is. And I will ensure that it is passed along in an attempt to achieve the impossible:  to share a story, poorly reflected through words, that is told best through action.

Happy birthday, Mama. As you prepare for your big backpacking trip on the Uwharrie Trail, I hope that you enjoy respite, refreshment, and happiness. And I want you to know, as you trek out, that your life, though composed of challenges, sacrifices, hurts, pains, and self-denial, tells a story of humanity that is largely drowned out by those shouting their own stories that they want the world to hear, but that serves as a beacon and a raft that quietly leads and carries those fortunate enough to share life with you.

Your son,
Jason

“Daddy Talk” with Liam

DSC04645Liam,
On our morning drive to school you and I talked about the need for you to become aware of routines and habits as you approach the turning of 9 this coming July.
The talk was a result of your mother’s request to me as I was leaving the house for the day that I chat with you about the morning care that you are providing for your dog, Blitz. This desire of her’s was brought on by this morning’s discovery that you sat downstairs, immobilized for 30 minutes, while contemplating Blitz’s poop and pee that you discovered in his crate. Your mother wanted me to discuss pet care and the ordering of your morning around pet care. As I walked the stairs headed towards the kitchen so that I could complete my morning ritual of water, supplements, and shakes, I determined that a talk based upon a larger scope of life was necessary. Rather than discuss Blitz’s pet care, I wanted to focus on your trend of choosing between doing something productive that would move you through the morning’s tasks as we approached our daily departure time of 7:15am rather than sitting in your underwear bemoaning resolvable circumstances.
As I gulped down the contents of capsules, glasses, and blenders, I decided to take advantage of our 30-minute drive by discussing with you ways that you can begin working on creating “big boy” routines that will lead to healthy adult habits along the journey of your life.
So what are habits and what is a routine? How can I define them for an 8-year old through this improvised talk?
For “habit”, I used the example of how you and your brothers expect a snack anytime that you visit a gas station with me. This expectation is present, without exception, anytime we are together at gas station or convenience store. This expectation, therefore is habitual (or a habit) and was formed through a routine; I would routinely buy you and your brothers drinks and snacks anytime I took you to a gas station with me from the moment you were allowed to eat anything besides your mother’s milk. I shared how this routine was rooted in my own childhood memories of treasured visits to “Bige’s”, a small family owned gas station in my community, and how thrilling of an experience it was for me to walk into Mr. Bige Bowling’s store and to peruse his candies, snack cakes, and sodas and to come out with a brown paper bag filled with these treasures. To this day, I still love gas stations and I have now passed that habitual love and routine onto you and your brothers. As an adult, you will no doubt feel nostalgic and a great compulsion any time you set foot in a gas station. Why? Because of the power and sway of habits and routines.
To move to the morning’s point, I segued into a discussion of your current morning habits; how you awaken, how you move through a morning, the tendencies you have, and how they will, over time, create a routine for the future adult Liam. We talked through the morning schedule and the morning tasks that must be completed by a set deadline. I encouraged you to develop the effort to awaken your mind, not succumbing to the physical fatigue that draws you back to the covers of your bed or to couch in the corner and, once it is awakened, to visually embrace an intentional movement through the morning’s tasks that must be completed before 7:15am; the time that my truck pulls out the driveway and drives you either to school or to a drop-off point where we meet friends with whom we carpool.
I encouraged you to see the differences in the various parts of your day; parts in which you are either independent of or dependent upon the direction and instruction of others while not being or being monitored. In the morning, you are largely independent of watchful eyes and consistent verbal direction or warnings. You are awakened and set upon the goal of “getting ready for school”. Once you are in the cab of my truck, you are now dependent upon others and are largely carefree of the burden to individually think/do/manage decisions/tasks/projects. Once you are in the cab of my truck, I am responsible for navigating towards the completion of the current goal; get you to school. You can sit easy and ride. Once you are in the doors of the school, the school staff shares responsibility with you by introducing you to and managing you through the day’s tasks and activities. And so it goes until you are back in the bed for the night.
You’re a good boy, Liam. You sat attentive to the talk. You responded where appropriate and necessary. You successfully led me to believe that you were listening. That’s a great habit you have formed through the routine of my talks 🙂 I love you and I want the best for you. Therefore, I am sure we will be talking about habits and routines a few more times before you turn 9.
Love you always,
Daddy

Thermometer vs. Thermostat…The War of Worship

Any time two or more people simultaneously share a space (whether it be tied to shared geography or shared time), there are critical differences in perception; visible & hidden differences in:
1) The way the space is perceived
2) The way each person is perceived
3) The expectations each person holds for themselves and for others and for the space they share
4) The IQ, Emotional IQ, personality, upbringing, Christian testimony, etc. of the people

As you consider this list, you probably already have a fairly good temperature reading regarding your own likes or dislikes. You probably have good reasons for why you like, dislike, are indifferent towards considered things. You may not necessarily associate your likes, dislikes, or indifference to your unique blend of IQ, Emotional IQ, personality, upbringing, or Christian testimony. But these “hidden” aspects of “you” are most definitely playing a role in how you think & how you feel about your immediate environment, what you’re experiencing in your personal world, and, what you feel about and how you relate to God and others. You are an individual with an outward appearance, an inner personality, and innumerable expressed/unexpressed/repressed emotions and thoughts that constantly ricochet through your mind which is, at some level, always processing and thinking.

NOW:
If you’re a Christian, think “corporate worship at my church”.
If you’re a Christian and a member of a worship team, think “corporate worship at my church”.
If you’re a Christian, think “global/universal worship”.

Dependent upon the number of people reading this article and the roles they may or may not play in worship in their church, there were probably several different “temperature readings” that just registered.
The individual perceptions of : the service, the people involved or uninvolved in the service, the expectations each person holds for those attending or leading the service, and the unique blend of IQ, Emotional IQ, personality, spiritual maturity, Biblical understanding, etc. all play a role in creating your inner response to your church’s corporate worship.

 

To be continued…

Constructing Worship Teams with Honor & Heart

Life Arts Worship Team

 

I find myself in a season of building & strengthening worship teams at my church. This task encompasses musicians, vocals, technicians, and various production roles. It is a delicate team task that requires honest prayer, purposeful decision-making, lots of patience, collaboration, & the willingness to take risks with & for people. If you’re a worship leader, music minister, worship pastor, and you’re in a similar season of ministry, here is a list that is helping me at the moment:

1) Choose honor over production quality.
Honor the Lord & honor His church in your decision-making. How? Pray for God’s team design to be clear to you. Pray for His discernment when seeking teammates. Then choose to build by His design from the “natural resources” around you…the LORD put them there! DON’T set out to build according to a video from Hillsong, Passion, or Jesus Culture, etc. I LOVE these videos…but they are not necessarily reflective of where you are, where God wants you to be, or who God has brought to your church. What is He doing where YOU are? I detest McChurch mentality in worship service and team design.


2) Choose heart AND talent.
Too often in our production driven culture, we overlook the absence of “heart”…that nearly undefinable ingredient that we know is a requirement of authenticity in worship. It is oft imitated through cleverly chosen words. It can be tricky to discern. Ask the right questions and learn to listen. Don’t pursue the WOW that doesn’t pursue God. Demand both. There are artistic believers out there that possess both heart and talent. Sometimes you may have to look past the present display of the talent and seek the potential for the talent…and then be willing to invest in it so that it reaches its potential.


3) Choose to partner in patience rather than to pester toward perfection.
When you’re building new teams, there are going to be bumps; mistakes, awkward moments, missed targets, etc. The teams are composed of members who are assigned specific roles. Of course there will be some bumps and misses as members learn their roles, then learn how their roles fit with other teammates and their roles. Be patient and learn/teach together. Do not succumb to a sense of defeat or exasperation that comes with setting uninformed expectations and failing to meet them. Additionally, be prepared to receive LOTS OF OPINIONS from others…informed and uninformed. Everyone’s a critic…including you and me. Take them in stride and remember 1 & 2. Partner with your teams and its members. Get to know them. The REAL them. This TAKES TIME. Do not allow yourself to feel rushed. Fast growth is not typically sustainable NOR good growth. Neither is “organic growth” good. Be intentional. Nurture. Invest. Be willing to inconvenience yourself with and for each other.


That’s all I have for now…the inspiration hit, thought I’d share it while it was on my mind and in my heart. If you have other tips, please share! I’d love to read them.

Defy Gravity

YOU MUST NOT ENABLE PEOPLE TO DISABLE YOU

Social media is a marketplace of diversity & variety.  It is a cacophony of emotions, opinions, impulses, and useful/insightful/trivial/rich information.
I love it…and I’m betting you do, too!

But as you wade into it, or interact with it,
remember this:

Don’t allow anyone’s words to thoughtlessly bully or distract you from what you believe is your life’s mission/purpose/destiny.

Consider the source.  “Consider the Source” means — only take opinions seriously that are informed. Uninformed opinions are only statements about the psychological state of the opinion holder — which may be important in some contexts.

Most of us desire, or are conditioned, to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We may know that the wise thing is to “consider the source” when encountering an action or opinion, but we often hesitate to be too judgemental or critical in our consideration of someone else.  Instead of considering the source, we will, instead, allow insidious self-doubt to creep into our minds and turn our passions and ambitions into insipid memories.  In other words, we can needlessly allow the gravitational pull of others’ words to weigh in our spirits pulling us down, becoming de-winged, and we sit on the bench.

Know this:
There are a lot of unhappy & hurt people all around you; online and otherwise. Henry Thoreau wrote, and I believe, that most of the folks that you and I know are living their lives in “quiet desperation”…and they will leak their despair.

Looking over the horizon

There is great truth to “hurt people hurt people”!  Whether intentional or not, words are a salve or a dart! YOU MUST NOT ENABLE PEOPLE TO DISABLE YOU. Instead, remain salt & light. Honor the Lord, love people, & keep your eye on your horizon.

20 years ago, God lifted me from the miry clay & He put a new song in my mouth. Sometimes I sing that song loud and clear…other times it gets a little pitchy due to my flesh and nature. I try to remember and live by Proverbs 3:3.  It states, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As you pursue your course, #defygravity#seekwisdom#liveabundantly, and keep on interacting with people!  You may be the breath of fresh air that their soul needs.

Look At His Glorious Cross

Look at His Glorious Cross
Here is the gateway to Heaven
Opened at last for the lost;
See such a price for the sins of mankind,
And His love is paying the cost.
Towering over history
Look at His Glorious Cross.

When the storms had swept the crowds away
And each left with their own fears,
The truth could not be seen through hate
Or through the disciples tears
For who could know redemption’s plan
Had just been realized?
And soon He would be risen,
And men would turn their eyes.

To Look at His Glorious Cross,
Oh, Look at His Glorious Cross,
Here is the gateway to Heaven
Opened at last for the lost;
See such a price for the sins of mankind,
And His love is paying the cost.
Towering over history
Look at His Glorious Cross.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have my Jesus
Than anything this world affords today.

Jesus the price for the sins of mankind,
And His love is paying the cost.
Towering over history,
Look at His Glorious cross

The Voice Divine

 

Image
The voice

 

The human voice is such a beautiful piece of engineering…intentionally designed and curiously placed between mind and heart…how can it NOT be used to glorify the Creator that made it for His pleasure?  Singers, of all types, should not hesitate to raise up a sound from their bellies that rushes past the heart for flavoring and detail, intersects and mingles in your voice box with your mind’s thoughts, and exits your physical instrument for both the enjoyment of the Creator and for His purposes as your offering enters the ears of believers and non-believers alike in order that it may infect their minds and hearts.

To use such a gift for anything less than to elevate one’s or other’s existence(s) is a tragedy of waste.

Likewise, singing composed of impurity and evil will equally infect the hearts and minds of listeners.