The Greatest Voice of the Rock Era

     The greatest voice of the rock era- that’s a loaded topic! I am (NO surprise) a HUGE fan of classic rock. For ME, “classic rock” means from 1974-1983…give or take a year here and there! I grew up the baby of the family (I suppose that means I am STILL the baby of the family! Some people would heartily agree with that!), and so I “cut my teeth” musically on what my siblings and parents listened to. Because of that, I have an incredibly varied taste in music. My parents listened to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Julie Andrews, Jim Nabors, Frank Sinatra…like that. My siblings listened to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Three Dog Night, Joni Mitchell…you get the idea. I knew the extended drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida before I knew my ABC’s! 

     But then, I began to “come into my own”…musically. I started listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Chicago, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Head East, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Blue Oyster Cult, The Edgar Winter Group…the list could go on and on. And let me be clear…I LOVE all of those groups and their music…and many more! But two groups that always seemed to draw me in even more were Journey and Queen. Great music, to be sure, but over time, I began to realize that there was more to it than that. With all the REALLY good groups out there, Journey and Queen seemed to have something…special…different…than the others. I finally realized what that was- they had, in my humble opinion, the two greatest lead singers of the classic rock era. Steve Perry from Journey could hit notes that no human should be able to git…and do it effortlessly. And Freddie Mercury from Queen…well…there has never been another singer quite like Freddie Mercury! 
     As a drummer, I realized LONG ago that, for the VAST majority of successful rock bands, once you get beyond the lead singer and MAYBE the lead guitarist, the rest of the band is basically a collection of interchangeable parts. NO offense intended to any drummers, keyboardists or bass players out there, but  if a different musician sat in at that instrument for a recording session, the average fan would never know the difference. BUT…take away the lead singer…suddenly it’s a Tribute Band covering someone else’s songs! But, at least for me, that’s OK! I don’t play music for the glory (good thing!)- I play for the sheer joy of the creative process!
     Who do YOU think is the greatest voice of the rock era? Admittedly, I “wussed out” a bit by choosing two, but who would YOU pick? Email me and let me know. I f I get enough responses, I will share the results in a future blog! In the meantime…rock on!
     Thanks for stopping by…I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back for tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Birthday of an Angel

     Today is the birthday of an angel…my wife! I have now spent 34 birthdays with this awesome woman. In fact, out FIRST date was on her 16th birthday! I was in the high school production of Oliver! and opening night was…her birthday! I had been trying to get up the nerve to ask her out, and that seemed like a rather low-risk date! (Looking back- asking a girl out on a first date to an event where she has to A. sit by herself and B. watch YOU…may NOT be the best choice…but it worked!) I sent roses to her house that afternoon, so that they had already arrived when I came to pick her up. (I know…smooth…right?!) After the show, I changed out of my costume, scrubbed off the makeup (ALSO not something you would normally flaunt to a new girl on the first date!) and we headed to the restaurant at the local Ramada Inn. I had called ahead and ordered a birthday cake. (Again…smooth…right?!) We ordered sauteed mushrooms and shared them while we listened to the musical stylings of Mike Zichovich. He had two…count them…TWO…electronic keyboards that did EVERYTHING. (You know, guitar, bass, drums, piano…all coming out of two keyboards.) He covered Billy Joel and the like, and we gazed longingly into each others eyes. (At least I did- hers might have been less about me and more about a bit of nausea over the karaoke-like music we were listening to!) After we finished our sauteed mushrooms, I had them bring the cake. As it came out, it became apparent to me, 16-year old boy that I was, that “cake” may be a bit of a misnomer! It was round, about 2″ tall, about 6″ across, and stale as the day is long!! (I know…NOT smooth…right?!) BUT…she blew out the one candle (SURELY they knew she was older than that…didn’t they?!), we had a few bites of stale cake, and the die was cast. 

     I was too big of a goober to actually kiss her when I took her home (to say I was backwards around females would be like saying the sky is blue or the ocean is deep…painfully obvious!!), but I was smitten! And I remain smitten this many years later!
     Love is an interesting thing. It is light, breezy, warm, fuzzy, and all-encompassing. But after “the shine is off the apple”, love takes work. It’s no longer this blindingly beautiful feeling that transcends anything and everything. To fall in love is EASY…to STAY in love is hard sometimes. But I have learned a lot from my wife over the years (she IS a very wise woman!) about how to make a relationship last. Every day, try to put the other person’s needs above yours. Try to do all you can for them. Show them, EVERY day, that you love them. TELL them every day that you love them. Don’t go to bed angry. Do part ways with reminding each other that you DO love each other! Make sure you tell the people you love THAT you love them. Don’t assume they know, but remind them…daily. And if you love them…TREAT them as such. We often tend to treat those closest to us the worst. But they deserve the BEST we can give them. Don’t let today end without telling someone important to you that you love them. My wife is a bona fide saint to put up with me all these years, and on her birthday, I just state publicly that she is the most awesome woman ever and I am LUCKY and BLESSED that she said “yes”! Happy birthday, sweetheart! 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Eating Backwards

     A few days ago, we had dinner…backwards! Dairy Queen was having a sale- buy one Blizzard and get a second one for just a few cents. I ran to pick up my youngest son from school, and as I was leaving the house, my wife suggested I pick 2 Blizzards up…that we could split between the three of us. I did…and we did. So we had tasty ice cream treats at 3:30PM, and then dinner about 6:30PM. So we did it backwards…ate the dessert and THEN the meal. (My mom would be appalled!) And may I say…my son LOVED it! (Speaking personally, the Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard is awesome!)

     There are so many rules and social conventions in this world- walk here, don’t walk there, do this, don’t do that, eat this now, eat that later, stand up straight,…you name it, there is a rule or social convention that covers it! Now, don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with rules…in the right place and at the right time. If the rule is “walk when the crosswalk sign tells you to walk. there is some wisdom to that- getting hit by a car is NOT high on my “to do” list! If the rule is “don’t touch these high-voltage power lines”, I’m fairly likely to follow that rule- I am not big on being deep fried! If the rule is “don’t stick your hand in the bear cage”, I would like to think that is a rule with a great deal of merit! (My wife once saw a guy in Yellowstone try and feed a younger bear bologna…while it was laying on his opened, outstretched hand! The bologna…NOT the bear! Needless to say…he got bit! He’s LUCKY that’s ALL he got!!)
     Rules are good, rules are meant to keep us safe, rules are intended to help maintain the order of things. And that’s all well and good. But sometimes…you have to fly in the face of rules. Sometimes you have to “let your hair down” (a metaphoric image for me personally!) and do something a little crazy! (Like when my family played Frisbee out in the front yard…in the pouring rain! The neighbors thought we were NUTS! Perhaps we are!) BUT…it should never be something illegal, immoral, or unethical. It shouldn’t have the end result of hurting anyone or anything. It should just be outside the box and…fun!
     So, what can YOU do today that “outside the box”? What can you do that would be marvelously counter cultural and a whole lot of fun? Remember, no harm, no law-breaking, no foul! But you will be amazed at just how good it feels to just…let go…once in a while! If you do something fun (and perhaps a bit outlandish) as a result of reading this- email me and tell me about it! I’d love to hear from you!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Thoughts From a Magic Lamp

     A new Goodwill store opened in town recently. Well, it wasn’t so much a new store opening, as much as it was an old store relocating…but you get the picture! To be honest, we never really liked the old Goodwill store, but LOVE the local Salvation Army store. (I do all of my fine suit buying there- $7 for a suit- hard to beat!) So we decided to give the new Goodwill a try. While we were there, I though about the fact that I wanted a new lamp to sit on my desk at work. So I went to the “lamp section” and found one. Simple, relatively unassuming, and $4- hard to beat. BUT…does it work? (Once bitten, twice shy…and all that rot!) So I carried it over to an outlet and plugged it in. It did NOT come on. So…I looked for a switch (NOTHING gets past me!) to turn it on. As I was looking, my 9-year old son came over. “Whatcha doin’?” “Trying to turn this lamp on!” “What’s the problem?” “Can’t find the switch!” “Maybe it’s one of those ‘touch’ ones?!” He reached out, touched the metal shade, and VIOLA…the lamp came on! He’s a genius! (Me…not so much!) So I said, “Let ME try that!” I reached out and touched the shade…NOTHING! He touched it again, it got brighter. I touched it again…NOTHING! He touched it again, it got brighter. I touched it again…NOTHING! He touched it again, it went off. I touched it again…NOTHING! I felt frustrated, foolish…but $4 for a perfectly good lamp was hard to beat, so I went ahead and got it, thinking at least we could put it in HIS room!

     As soon as we got home, I had to leave for a meeting. When I got back, the lamp was sitting on the kitchen counter, plugged in. So I went over and tried it…VIOLA (again)…it came on! I kept touching it, and it kept doing what it was supposed to do! Awesome! So I took it to my office and set in on my desk. It works great. But there was still the mystery of why it wouldn’t work for me at the store.
     Then I talked to my dad, the retired electrician/design engineer. I said, “Oh, you of all people should appreciate this story” and I proceeded to tell him the mystery of the lamp. As I neared the end of the story, heading toward “and I still don’t know why it wouldn’t work”…it HIT me! When I tried it at the store, I was HOLDING it in my hand, thereby acting as the ground. I COULDN’T light the lamp and be the ground at the same time. My son, on the other hand, was touching it until he tapped it each time to turn it on. Duh!! Another mystery solved!
     It was no accident that I figured that out while talking to my dad, because it was he who told me that, anytime you are trying to solve a problem, imagine the easiest solution first. It’s OFTEN the right answer, and it is ALWAYS the easiest to check! I can’t tell you how many times I have been trying to figure something out, only to stop and say, “Wait a minute, what did dad say?” I then applied that principle…and almost always figured it out immediately thereafter! Have a problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the EASIEST possible solution? More often than not- it’s also the RIGHT solution! 
     Another great resource when trying to solve a problem is prayer. Prayer is conversation…with God. And like any good conversation, prayer should be AT LEAST as much listening as talking. I find when I pray to God, and spend time listening for that still, small voice, often the answer is right there in front of me. Turn to God in prayer- at all times, in all places. It is NOT the least you can do- it is the MOST you can do!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Abbeyfield? What’s THAT?

     When I first moved here, I was asked if I knew about Abbeyfield. Now, I AM a Beatles fan, so I knew about Abbey ROAD…but NOT Abbeyfield. Now…I do! Abbeyfield is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to making the lives of older people easier and more fulfilling. Abbeyfield helps people live independently by providing a range of services, all of which are linked to the local community.Each Abbeyfield society is guided by the beliefs that older people have an important role to play among their families, friends and their communities and that overcoming loneliness and insecurity can make all the difference to an older person’s quality of life. People have an essential part to play in helping older people within their community, and the Abbeyfield team of volunteers and professional staff offer practical support and companionship to residents within the comfort of their own community. Residents enjoy an assisted independent lifestyle free from the hassles of running a household and the concerns of dealing with loneliness. Abbeyfield is, in short, a residential living center for the elderly that is specifically and intentionally built to be directly linked to the community in which it exists. Folks can move from their homes into this environment, but stay IN their own community and continue to be a vital part of that community, attending their home church, shopping at their home grocery store, etc.

     So, pastor, why are you taking blog space to promote a “third party” organization of which you are not affiliated? Well…thank you SO much for asking! Yesterday, a group in my community had the official “groundbreaking” for an Abbeyfield facility- I was asked to coming and give the Invocation. This facility (the FIRST one in the United States!) will allow older residents of this community to stay here, even when the are not able to tend a home, yard, etc. How awesome is that?!
     I invite you to say a prayer for this facility, this organization, and ANY organization that is dedicated to helping our elderly remain important parts of our communities, our lives. They deserve our prayers, our love, our attention. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

McDonalds, Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?

     What do you call it when a wife or husband makes bad coffee? Grounds for divorce! What Star Wars character drinks too much coffee? Java the Hut! A man goes to the doctor, “Every time I drink my coffee, I get a stabbing pain in my right eye. What should I do?” The doctor replies, “Try taking the spoon out of the cup!”  

     The last two Sundays, we’ve walked with Saul on the Damascus Road, where we witnessed a life-changing encounter with Jesus. We’ve met Ananias, who is sent by God to get Saul. We’ve also talked about coffee…and my addiction to caffeine, and my change to decaf, and how people can also change. When we left Saul last week, he was sitting in Judas’ house on Straight Street, blind, deep in contemplation…and Ananias has gone to Straight Street, laid hands on Saul and restored his sight. 
     Acts 9:19b-28-   “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. 23After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. 26When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”
     Bill Cosby said, “Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries!” So Ananias goes to Judas’ house, lays hands on Saul, the scales fall from his eyes, and he begins preaching in the synagogues of Damascus. He hacks some folks off, no big surprise there, and so they conspire to kill him. But his buddies stick him in a basket in the dead of night and lower him over the wall of the city and he escapes. He goes to Jerusalem and tries to get in with the disciples, but his reputation precedes him and they don’t want to have anything to do with him. Then along comes Barnabas. It’s NO coincidence that the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. He tells the disciples about Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus, about how he is a new person. They accept him, and he begins to preach there. 
     Paul was a pot-stirrer! I’ve been told many times, “If you’re going to preach the Gospel…do so with your bags packed!” But my philosophy is that, in the end, you just can’t let the guy who sweeps up afterwards determine how many elephants are allowed in the parade! God filled Saul with the Holy Spirit that day…and he became Paul. God’s forgiveness can turn you around 180 degrees, but it’s important to note that the Spirit was already at work in his life, convicting him of his sins, preparing him for the person of Jesus Christ. There was a total transformation in Saul’s life. Days earlier, he hated Christians, hunting them down to kill them. Now, he’s getting baptized, identifying with the very people he hated. Saul had to be dismantled and then reassembled as Paul in order to be used for God. God wanted to use Paul to reach the Gentiles in a way no one had. Growing up in Tarsus, being a Roman citizen, speaking fluent Greek, and being Jewish made Paul uniquely and perfectly equipped by God to help people come to Christ. The guy who was sent to stomp out the fledgling church of Jesus Christ is the same guy who is now telling anyone who will listen that Jesus is the Son of God. The transformation from Saul to Paul was complete.
     Being a Christian is truly an amazing thing. Our sins are forgiven, our lives are changed. And, as an added bonus, God gives us people to share the experience with, people to help us along our way. God puts other believers in our lives to encourage us, teach us, help us be accountable for our actions. When I look back at my life, I’m thankful for the people God put in my path. 
     We’ve looked at four different methods for decaffeinating coffee thus far. Today, we look at our fifth and last- the Carbon Dioxide Method. This process is technically known as supercritical fluid extraction. Pre-steamed beans are soaked in a bath of supercritical carbon dioxide at high pressure. After soaking for around ten hours, the pressure is reduced and the CO2 evaporates. The condensed CO2 is then used on another batch of beans. This process avoids the use of potentially harmful solvents. 
     We’ve talked about many different ways to decaffeinate coffee. There are also many TYPES of coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts is the world’s biggest coffee and baked goods chain. They serve about 2.7 million customers a day at about 8,800 locations in 31 countries- 6,400 of those locations in this country. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world. They have more than 16,000 locations in 49 countries- 11,000 of those locations in the United States. But regardless of how big Starbuck’s or Dunkin Donuts is, McDonald’s is, and will always be, the 400-pound gorilla in the room. They have over 31,000 locations in 119 countries, serve about 47 million customers every day, and employ more than 1.5 million people. Although they have SOLD coffee for years, they are a fairly recent entrant into the competitive coffee market, but again…they ARE the 400-lb. gorilla in ANY group they enter. So, each of these three, in their own way, is known for their coffee. But they are very different…and market to, and appeal to, relatively different markets. 
     McDonald’s is ubiquitous…they’re everywhere. I would be hard-pressed to believe there are many, if ANY people in this country that HAVEN’T been to a McDonalds. They’re handy, they’re reasonable, they’re dependable- you KNOW what you’re going to get. AND…their coffee’s pretty good! Starbucks is KNOWN for coffee- so much so that their employees have a special name- barista. From the Italian and ironically meaning “bartender”, a barista is a person who prepares and serves coffee drinks. Starbucks is nearly as ubiquitous as McDonalds. They opened one in New York City some years ago, and on opening day, they had a HUGE line of people waiting to buy coffee. Many of the “management types” thought that was awesome, but the president of the company pointed out that people are going to wait 30 minutes to pay $4 for a coffee ONCE! So, they built a NEW Starbucks…across the street! Now, they HAVE expanded too far, too fast, and have had to make some pretty drastic cutbacks, but they are still a strong force in the market, and for MOST people, they have great coffee. (Their regular blend is too bitter for me…but I LOVE their Christmas blend!) They’re high-class, they’re high-profile, they’re an EXPERIENCE- and you KNOW what you’re going to get. Dunkin’ Donuts, for many, is the surprise entrant in this group. A lot of people know them for…well…DONUTS…but don’t think much about their coffee. Let me be the one to tell you…their coffee is EXCELLENT! We buy it TEN pounds at time: five regular and, of course, 5 decaf!! They’re NOT as omnipresent as McDonalds- not by a long-shot- but are nearly as reasonable and have GREAT coffee! They’re old-school, they’re functional, but they’re unexpected- you’re pleasantly surprised by what you get.
     There are many different methods for decaffeinating coffee. There are many different kinds of coffee. And there are many different kinds of people. Saul was about a different as they come. And…God…used… him- in a powerful way…to do great things. God uses ALL types… literally. So…which type of Christian are YOU? Maybe you’re the McDonalds type of Christian- you’re handy, you’re reasonable, you’re dependable- people KNOW what they’re going to get! Maybe you’re the Starbucks kind of Christian- you’re high-class, you’re high-profile, you’re an EXPERIENCE- and people KNOW what they’re going to get. Or perhaps you’re a Dunkin Donuts kind of Christian- you’re old-school, you’re functional, yet unexpected- people are pleasantly surprised by what they get. Not sure? Not perfect? Not ready? Join the club! Saul was a little TOO sure…that Christians were wrong. Saul was far from perfect. Saul was nowhere NEAR ready to serve Jesus Christ. And yet BOY did God use him! 
     Whichever kind you are most like- God can use you. God WANTS to use you. God is ready and waiting to use you. But you HAVE to be willing to respond to the call. Saul could have received Ananias’ touch, had his sight restored…and gone on with his Christian hunting. But he was willing to respond to the call. And, in his own way, he changed the world. You and I…in our own little way…we can change the world, too. I’m ready…what about you?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday. Next Sunday, we start a new series- Things Your Parents Said! Please make sure and come back, and stick with Jesus!

Oh, My Aching…Everything!

     OK, let me admit RIGHT up front- I’m 49 years old, I out of shape, and I carry a bit more weight than would be ideal for my body and age! Having said those things (grudgingly…I might add!), last Saturday I paid rather dearly for those cold, hard facts! I tried to be…you guessed it…a weekend warrior! I have been sedentary ALL winter- my only real exercise was shoveling snow…and that wasn’t all that much! So here we are- Spring has sprung…and a middle-aged man’s fancy turns to…the great outdoors! 

     So, on Saturday morning, I went to my son’s soccer game. I was asked to be a Line Judge (before you think that a great honor…I was asked because I was the first one there with “sucker” written on my forehead! Our coach asks me, and added, “Any questionable calls, just remember…it’s OUR ball!) and agreed. Well, it was a very good game, with the kids moving the ball up and down the field the whole game. That’s great and all, but that meant that I had to run…up and down the field…the whole game! (By the way, our team won, 3-2!)  
     Then I went home to a lawn that looked like a demilitarized zone. I had done NOTHING to it since last fall, and needed some help. So I spent about 2 hours picking up sticks, mowing, trimming, pruning…you name it, I did it. Then I went to our first church softball team practice of the season, where I spent 90 minutes taking batting practice and infield practice (i’m the 1st baseman). Then I went home, not feeling too badly at all…until Sunday morning!
     I got up Sunday morning, and my body felt like it had been run over by something large and unwieldy. I hurt in places that I didn’t even know existed! Walking down the stairs to the front door to take the dog out, I felt like I had aged about 40 years while I slept! I popped some Tylenol, got dressed, went to church and tried not to hobble TOO much!
     Our bodies have muscles than need to be used, or they begin to atrophy. They need that semi-regular exercise if we are to keep them supple and ready to use. The same is true of our spiritual muscles. If we don’t use them, they lose their potency. If we are only going to church once in a while, how can we expect to live the life Jesus calls us to live? How can we expect to set a good example for our families, neighbors, co-workers? If we only come to God in prayer when we are in the middle of a crisis, how can we expect our prayers to be genuine, sincere, heartfelt? If we only treat others as we want to be treated when it is in OUR best interest, how can we expect to be seen as Godly people? 
     This week, use your muscles. Do something physical- whatever your body will allow you to do. But also, use your spiritual muscles. Go to church. Pray regularly. Treat people the way you know you should even when you don’t feel like it…especially when you don’t feel like it! If you do, your faith will remain limber and supple, ready to be used at a moment’s notice, ready to withstand a bit of extra stress and strain!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!