Sunday, April 26, 2015

Living Someone Else's Dream

A couple of weeks ago I was at work and noticed that in one of the break rooms they had put out a note pad. Someone asked "How are you doing?" which got a couple of responses, kind of a way to put out there communications between people that would otherwise not talk.
A small gesture, but anyway...
On the second page, there was a quote on there, someone trying to put out some encouraging platitudes: “Race the wind, blah blah blah, follow your dreams.”
Below that was found this response: “Sorry I’m not as chipper as you. But as long as I work here, I’m following someone else’s dream.”
I was captured by that, because that is, in essence, me. I am following, I am living someone else's dream.
My time in school led me to a career and a life in music. My favorite teachers, my inspirations in school, were Mr. Whitener and Mr. Carswell, my band directors. My dream was to be a music teacher.
Another facet: On January 14, 1995, I was at a concert in Lenoir, NC, where I honestly believe God spoke to me. I believe He told me I was to minister through music. Which I did, for a few years.
But what am I doing now? Certainly not music. Certainly not living my dream or pursuing my dreams, following the plan that I believe God had for me.
Now whose fault is this? Primarily, it's mine. I ignored the advice of Mr. Carswell when he said to go to school immediately, because I probably wouldn't get a chance to go later. I thought that I could fulfill the dreams on my own terms simply because I was there.
Think of the 12 disciples. Other than Peter, Andrew, James, John, and yes, Judas, what do we know of the others other than the fact they were there?
Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn were signers of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina. But what do we know about them other than they were there?
Listen- great things have happened because of the fact that I was here. I met my wife. I made relationships with wonderful friends. But it really feels like the steps I made with my life led me down an incorrect path.
This could all be the depression talking. But I'm tired of just being there. I want to get it back. I know I have the responsibility of a family now, but I cannot sit anymore and let life pass me by. I've let too many dreams go, and I've sat waiting . 
No more. 
I will be where I am now, but I will actively pursue the next. Others somehow have done it, why not me?
WHY NOT ME?

 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Can the Dead Live?

As this is written, it's the week before Easter. The celebration of Easter is not without its controversy in Christian circles, because, well, Easter didn't start out as a Christian celebration. It was mentioned once on the book of Acts, but it's not mentioned what was celebrated. In fact, the Apostle Paul only mentioned the commemoration of the Lord's death (1 Cor. 11:26).
But so much time has passed, and the doubt in people continues to grow. So I ask the question: Can the dead live? Is there really more than this? Where did this idea of resurrection come from?
A couple of weeks ago I put a request on Twitter (and subsequently, because my accounts are linked, Facebook) for Old Testament references to resurrection. To be truthful, there aren't that many. There are a few stories of people being revived, once by Elijah (1 Kings 17:21-22), once by Elisha while he was alive (2 Kings 4:32-37), and after he died (2 Kings 13:20-21). There's also Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37).
Time for a song break- listen to Lecrae read the passage from Ezekiel in this song by Chris Tomlin:
Other than that, what mentions are there? Not many. Job 19:25-26 (KJV):
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God"
Daniel 12:2-3 (Again, KJV):
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
Also see Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 26:19. There's more mentions in the book of the Maccabees, but sonce that's in the Apocrypha, a lot of people don't see that. 

This is why when Jesus came on the scene there was a division, and why a group known as the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They used this division in belief to test Jesus' authority in his teaching in a hypothetical situation found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20. He immediately told them that they were in error, "because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matt 22:29, ESV). He goes on to explain that marriage does not exist in Heaven, and mentions how when God spoke to Moses he stated "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (v.32, KJV). Why this astonished the people is this reason: Jesus stated that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though long dead, were ALIVE. With this in mind, it could be said that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16, is "based on actual events."
Speaking of Lazarus, or another Lazarus anyway, there's also the story in John 11. Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, was dead, and had been for four days. This was full-blown death, beyond rigor mortis, decay would have started. Before Jesus brings Lazarus forth, he tells Martha "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die (11:25-26, KJV). 
This is why we can have the hope that we have. The dead can, and do, live! This hope is in Jesus, not only because he brought about resurrection, but because of his resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 explains it far better than I can, culminating in verse 20. Better yet, Jesus tells John in Revelation 1:18, " I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (KJV).
Do you need more proof than Jesus? Ever seen a defibrillator? Ever seen successful CPR? Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? It happens. The dead live. But these things are temporary. What Jesus has done is a permanent fix to this problem.
It doesn't mean we don't have to deal with the pain of death here and now. We will feel the temporary sting of death of our loved ones and friends. It's part of the curse we're under living on this earth. But we will live beyond this place.
Resurrection is real. The dead live. You will live. The only questions is where your permanent residence will be after this Earth.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below...

Monday, March 2, 2015

CD Review: GVB's "Sometimes it Takes a Mountain:" Not too Crabby, Not too Shabby

In late 2012 the Gaither Vocal Band released Pure and Simple. Pure and simple (pun intended), it's one of the best Southern Gospel CD releases ever. If you don't believe me, listen to their version of "The Love of God.:
Last year, Michael English and Mark Lowry decided to leave the group for the second time, putting an end to the all-star lineup. Before they did, they released a Hymns CD. As much as I hate to say it, it was uninspired. Contrived. Simply another hymns CD release.
The new lineup was announced, which gave me great trepidation, primarily because of one thing: Adam Crabb. If you know me, you know I do not like the Crabb Family. I do not care for their style, their presentation, the fact that when they performed the sound went up 200 decibels, basically anything.
So get ready for this. I will present this like I did the TaRanda review.
I am actually saying this: Adam Crabb and Wes Hampton sound really good together on the title song. I'm an adult. I can admit that. It's one of my favorite cuts.
Song that requires a warning label: the first song, "Jesus Gave Me Water," features running water on the track in the beginning. Do not listen if you have to go to the bathroom.
Song that you will want to repeat- repeatedly: "Written in Red," the Gordon Jensen song originally made famous by Janet Paschal. This cover, featuring David Phelps, can melt the hardest heart, and is simply beautiful.
Conspicuous by his absence: Bill Gaither?!? I think I hear him ONCE on the CD. He is said to be splitting bass and baritone duties with new member Todd Suttles, but I don't think I ever hear his voice. Todd Suttles is incredible, by the way.
On that point, this appears to be the beginning of the passing of the torch (just my opinion here). David Phelps and Ben Isaacs have been splitting producer duties of the last couple of CDs. You can hear more of David Phelps' influence in this, both in orchestration and harmony. It is quickly becoming his group.
The Gaither name has been associated with Gospel music for over 50 years. It's tough to think that there will soon be a day that Bill may not be traveling, writing, making videos...but that day is soon. He seems to be preparing for it. Prepare for it with us.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I don't believe I will get old, huh?

It's been an interesting week for me- moreso than usual, and I've been at home for the last two days of them.
Pull quote for the week for me came from my father-in-law. In casual conversation with him, he mentioned to me something to the effect that people my age don't think that I will get old, or believe that I will get old.
Yeah. About that.
Monday: I took my 86-year-old dad to the VA Medical Center in Asheville, NC for a shot in his knee. It was a nice drive, a quick trip, and we were back in time for the Price is Right. I changed his headlights for him in his car, and after a couple of stops, made it home in the snow. More on one of those stops later.
Tuesday I took my father-in-law to that same VA Medical Center. He had four appointments, and it took most of the day. One of his appointments was to get a new walker. That meant I rolled the walker he came in with around the rest of the afternoon. I sat entirely too long and dealt with too many extroverts. By the end of the day I could barely feel my right leg and was feeling pain in my low-to-middle back.
I guess from being bent over my dad's car, sitting and driving two days straight, my back has hurt so bad I missed two days of work. There goes any aspirations I may have harbored of being an OTR driver. (I never had those aspirations, Sheyna.)
I don't believe I will get old, huh?
I have a five-year-old girl that is starting to have an issue telling the truth. Meanwhile a girl I dated and a couple of people I went to high school with have kids with driver's licenses. One is a grandmother! Also, this is the year of my 20-year high school reunion.
I don't believe I will get old, huh?
I've been to entirely too many funerals in my life. I've sang at the funerals of a next door neighbor, grandfather, an uncle, two aunts, and a cousin. I found in this past year the burial site of my great-grandparents deep back off of Wildcat Road in Deep Gap. I realized then that I had not seen this country in 30 years.
I don't believe I will get old, huh?
On my way out of town on Monday I went to see Jenny. I haven't dropped by on her, probably, in this century. Jenny rests in the far corner of the Yadkin Baptist Church cemetery. She was seventeen, just three weeks graduated from Hibriten High. We were in band together, worked together at FairValue, and hung out with the work people after work. I had driven her red Dodge Neon before. I was never interested in her like a girlfriend or anything like that- in fact I took her best friend, Felicia, to senior prom- we were just friends. She was a lot of fun to be around. After I lost my job at FairValue, I lost contact with her.
The next thing I knew, she was gone.
Time has made an impact on the site. The concrete her gravestone sits on is cracking now, and has now turned a dark gray. The concrete bench at the end of her grave is weathered and worn, as well as the rabbit on top of it. Everything else there is at it was- little figurines brought by friends and family. One more thing- her mother now rests beside her.
I don't believe I will get old, huh?
At least I get the chance. Thank God for the chance.

Monday, January 5, 2015

CD Review: TaRanda IS Stronger

The year is 1997.
I am splitting time between my home church of Stone Mountain Community Church on Sundays and Westview Baptist Church of Boone on Wednesdays. Westview, at the time, is pastored by Tim Greene, one of the Greenes, a Southern Gospel group that has had a lot of success. Late that year they bring on a new soprano, 18 year-old TaRanda Kiser. In her 13 years with the group she marries Tony, helps in Tim's Loft Studio (including graciously singing background vocals on the two CDs my brother and I recorded), travels the country singing the good news, and has two beautiful girls.
In 2010, Tim is no longer able to travel at that time with the group. Tony has passed. TaRanda takes some time to herself, which she should have.
Fall 2014: TaRanda releases Stronger, produced by Geron Davis and released on Ernie Haase's Stowtown records label. Major kudos to Ernie for picking her up. The CD features 12 songs focusing on not just her journey, but that God has brought her so far, delivered her from so much, and given her a brand new life. Here's how I'm gonna break this down:
People will be disappointed in this CD if: They are looking for TaRanda Greene, Southern Gospel soprano. It's my belief that she is so much more than that now, and if you put her into that little box, you won't like what you hear. This is not a Southern Gospel CD. This is a Christian CD, full of contemporary, Southern, traditional gospel, worship, and even a little country music. Open your horizons and see who she is now, and YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.

The must-listen to portion of this CD: Track 5, "Deepest Praise," and the seamless transition into track 6, "Healer." I have raved about "Deepest Praise" for weeks because it is that good. When I heard her sing it at Bald Mountain Baptist Church in West Jefferson a couple of months ago, I was blown away. You HAVE to listen to it. It transitions into the Hillsong favorite "Healer," and lets you know just how far she has come. (It's my second favorite version of that song, next to the one my cousins Tim, Nathan, Mark, and Mark's daughter Tiffany sang at my cousin Lilly's funeral.)
My least favorite track: It's hard to say there is a bad one, so I'll pick "Awake My Soul," simply because it's written by one of the known heretics called Phillips, Craig, and Dean.
Pleasant Surprise of the CD: "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." Yes, you know this song from Willie Nelson. I was concerned when I saw that Jason Crabb was a guest vocalist on this track. If you know me or if you've read my stuff from the last 8 years, you will know I can't stand to hear the Crabb Family. Buy he's just singing harmony, and can't really be heard. It's a beautiful track and tribute, and TaRanda's harmony with Sonya Isaacs-Yeary is amazing.
MY VERDICT: BUY THIS CD. You can buy it here, download it on iTunes, or however you get your music these days. Support this wonderful friend, woman of God, and all-around great person. Listen to her story in song, and hear what wonderful things God has done.

Track list:
1. Stronger
2. Where Amazing Happens
3. Shackles
4. Awake My Soul
5. Deepest Praise
6. Healer
7. Promise
8. A Little More Jesus
9. If I Could
10. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
11. All I Need
12. The Sound

Monday, December 1, 2014

Breaking From the Theme

I've done something a little unusual tonight.
I've gone through and re-read some of my old blogs.
This is for two reasons: one, for inspiration, because I thought since the wife and kids are coming home later tonight, it would be a good time to put up another post. Two, just because I don't want to keep posting the same thing over and over. Goodness knows I don't want my writing to become stale- I have only a few readers as it is.
I realized that for the most part I am a little repetitive. Most of the time I follow the Biblical devotional style. That is, I talk about things going on around me, cite a Bible reference, talk about how it's all going to be okay, just hold on for the greater God has. In other words, the best is yet to come. I relayed how I lost my job at Family Christian Stores in 2010 and then the first thing I heard was how "Greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city."
(If you need a reminder...)
So here I am, almost five years later. A dreamer that is mired in a land of lost dreams. I was supposed to sing gospel music. It felt like God himself impressed that upon me back on January 14, 1995. I recorded two CDs with my brother, led music at my church for seven years. Was that all for that dream? Nine years worth? I know for a fact that God doesn't offer a temporary calling on your life.
It felt like I was supposed to start my own Christian retail store. Yet I have nowhere near the capital, means, or any other assets to start such a business, and I sure don't have a location.
I have several boxes of tile, two bags of thinset mortar, and grout outside waiting for me to put a new floor down in the bathroom. But that has to wait as well.
It just really feels like my life is in a status of "Incomplete."
I still believe the song- greater things are still to come. I totally believe the Bible. I know that glory awaits, I know that there are better days ahead. When do I see those better days?
Now do you understand why I have written two blogs titled "Depressed Christianity" and a blog titles "Called to Hardship." I'm kind of in a standstill. I have a wife facing surgery in a week in a half, expenses I have no idea how my one income is going to cover. I spend my days doing something that is the exact opposite of what I should be doing. Yet it's all I have to do. I'd love to spend a lot more time in the fetal position, but that isn't a practical option.

So that's the conflict. That's the point where what I believe and what I feel intersect. For you readers, I need your prayers. I believe the best is yet to come. I'd just like to see it come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Called to Hardship

You may have seen from the last two posts on this blog that things have not been so good lately, psychologically speaking. I try to be nothing if not honest, and post my heart from where I am at that time. True, things are not always great. But I know without a doubt that no matter how good things may not be, I know people that have things far worse than I do. 
I think about the friend I saw in concert a few weeks ago. She lost her husband, a dear friend, four years ago, and had her entire world turned upside down. She recalled the whole story and talked how she entered a state of clinical depression. She is a real encouragement to me. Here is a link to TaRanda's website. You need to check out her new CD, and definitely listen to the song "Deepest Praise." 
I also think about a family that in the last week here in Ashe County has lost everything to a fire. A Wilkes County family that lost a little girl that was born no larger than a cell phone. My wife has had ear trouble since childhood and faces surgery in a couple of weeks.
There are lots of issues going on, and they're not just mine. 
The problem with Christianity in America today is that the fringe has become the mainstream, and many people believe a lie about the Christian life. They think if you declare certain things over your life, speak a certain way, do certain things, God will bless you and you will have no troubles. Jesus never said that. He said "In this world you shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). I Peter 4:12 says "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you."
God never called us to ease. 
God has called us to hardship. 
Consider the words he said to Moses in Exodus 10: "Go to Pharoah...for I will harden his heart." In other words, go to someone that isn't going to listen to you. Does not sound like my idea of fun. Neither, of course, does leading a nation of people that do nothing but complain, question your authority, disobey the rules, challenge you at every step, and make you so mad they cause you to not receive your promise. 
Consider Ezekiel, and this from Ezekiel 2: "And he said to me, 'Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’" Ezekiel dealt with hardships,to be certain. God asked him to eat bread baked on dung. For goodness sakes, to show him His plans for Israel, God took Ezekiel's WIFE from him, and then told Him not to grieve. That is a life of hardship.
Of course, we don't have to look at the Bible for examples. Think about the missionaries that have been to your church. Where has God commanded them to? Think about where they have had to go to, what they have had to do without, what persecutions they face because of what they believe and where they are. Surely, if you believe the popular theology of the American church, they aren't living right.
I also think about my dad. He turned 86 this year. He still pastors the church he came to in 1970. This church is far away from the beaten path. He wasn't called to be famous, to be rich, to be popular. He was called to preach the Word of God in an out-of-the-way place in Caldwell County. He still faithfully does it.
The people I mentioned- why did they do what they do? Because they realized they were called to hardship. Because they realized at the end (along with many times at the beginning and the middle) the glory of God. 
Moses started by witnessing a burning bush.
Ezekiel started with a wheel inside a wheel.
He knows your path is going to be hard, and He wants you to know that it is worth it. 
That verse at the beginning from Jesus? Remember the rest: "but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Hang on, friends. Hang with me. It will be worth it in the end.