Tag Archives: Christianity

Unexpected

SO apparently, the creator of the Slinky® was incredible wealthy at a young age and then left his wife and 6 children for a cult.

Those of you that know me know that I’ve grown tired of zingers and one-liners due to their overuse, but, I must admit that this opener was undeniable.

This morning, on my walk home from work, I was very tired. I got to my street for the homestretch and I could feel the cotton sheets caressing my face in my subconscious. Just then, a white man walked up to me.

 “You look like you’re dressed for an interview!”, the man said, quite jovially.

“I’m actually on my way home from work.” I wasn’t trying to show that I really wanted to go because he’d went out of his way to come and talk to me.

His name is Bob Swaim, and I had no idea how big a deal he was until I Googled him a second ago.

Bob is about 5’10”, white haired, bushy eyebrowed dude who falls somewhere in between typical Central Pennsylvanian and Southern Gentleman, aesthetically. Bob disclosed to me that he was a bike collector (see link above) and was in town for PSU’s Ag Progress Days. After suggesting that I check that out, he asked me questions about my job and I told him I was a night auditor. 

“I bet you have all sorts of stories then, huh?” He let out a sincere chuckle. “I have a friend who’s a funeral director and he wrote a blog about it. It’s hilarious! He’s got a couple stories of his own.”

His friend’s name is Caleb Wilde and his blog is here, if you wanted to check it out. Looks interesting to me.

Bob went on talking to me and asking me questions and alluding to the fact that he thought I was a business student. As tired as I was, I found myself sort of warming up to this strange man. He’d engage me in something that seemed so alien but felt so right – a face to face conversation with a stranger.

We got to a point in the conversation where we were talking about where I’d come from, and he took particular interest in my background, asking me about my interest in communications media.

“So, is that like TV and radio stuff? I guess it’s everything, haha!”, Bob said.

“Actually I’m moreso interested in audio engineering. This hotel gig is more transitional.”, I replied.

The next part rocked me.

“That’s good. It’s better to struggle for a long time and then be successful. If you don’t struggle a while, you won’t have any foundation.”

My interest was piqued. Where did that come from?, I thought. I’ve been having a rough week and struggle was really weighing me down. This is why I love old people. No offense, Bob, I think you’re awesome.

“Say you were given a couple million dollars right now, Vince. It would probably ruin your life.” I was still listening. “That’s just like the guy who invented the Slinky. He was about 28 years old when he got rich off of that thing. He ended up leaving his wife and six kids for a cult. Crazy, right?” Indeed it was. 

“It’s really better to struggle all your life and THEN be successful. If you gain success too early, you won’t be grounded. It was nice meeting you, Vince! Have a good one.”

He walked away. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t, but he encouraged me so much this morning. It’s funny/sad that this man striking up a friendly conversation with me is odd. I’m really glad I opened up to it though. God truly used him, with tact and precision, simply to encourage me to continue to go through what I am going through. I’m amazed.

To quote my awesome roomate, Mike Swanson:

“You act surprised, but you shouldn’t be.”

I hear you, God.

Post-Angst Angst, Part II

I’ve been feeling this way for a while now.

I feel like I’m missing out on quite a few things. My personal life is spiraling and I don’t know what to do about it. When I say ‘personal life’ I mean the content of my character. Got a job. Attending church. People love me. God is good. But life is harder than it looks.

Have I been so drawn away from God that I’m not as excited about God as everyone else? Am I losing all semblance of sanctification in my life? It sure does feel like it.

But God is there. No, He’s here. And He sees me. Even in this angst. Even in my inconsistency. He sees me.

I was talking to a friend earlier this week and he encouraged me with the following statement:

“…you’re not crazy, you’re just going to a new level of faith.”

This impacts me deeply, still. Even in my angst. Even in my shortcomings.

“…no matter what it takes/i’ll make sure that you’ll find, you’ll find your way/I know how hard you been trying, little one…”  – Bilal, Little One

On Tuesday, I got together with a group of mid-twenties/early thirties from my church, as we do regularly, and our pastors were there. This weeks topic of discussion was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The pastor highlighted a few pertinent things in this story. One thing was the fact that God is always in control, but doesn’t intervene in every situation. This enlivens Romans 8:28 in my heart.

Romans 8:28 NLT

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

God is not to blame for all the bad stuff that happens to me. A lot of that is my choices. But the verse doesn’t say that God causes every little thing to happen. It just says that He takes every little thing that happens and makes purpose out of it for the ones that love Him. Now, that’s incredible.

God sees me. God sees me and knows me. God wants to redeem every place I’ve been and every thing I’ve gone through. So sometimes, He allows me to be in angst…if that’s what it takes for me to invite Him in.

Remember teenage angst? Yea, me neither, but whatever happened in those years, God gave purpose to it in order to benefit you and me. Same goes for post-angst angst.

Good day, truly.

Post-Angst Angst

Let me just start off by saying this:

My life is my fault.

Moving right along…

Tye Tribbett (for those of you who may not know him) is a gospel artist who’s been on the scene since the early 90’s. Many, in black church circles at the VERY least,  consider him to be this generations greatest musical mind. I’m willing, personally, to say that at a few different points, his music has changed my life.

Due to tragedy in his life (which I won’t be getting into at all), he took a big blow to his ministry and things seemed to be falling apart. After some time away from putting out music, though, redemption swept into his life and he began putting out music again. He released a new album and, to the chagrin of many, it failed a lot if expectations. The new album was indeed incredible, but his previous works have been lauded by a great number of folks to be far and above this new album. Since the point of his tragedy, his music was not the same. It wasn’t the quality that diminished…it was something else.

Yesterday or so, Tye Tribbett released another album, entitled Greater Than, an ode to God superiority to everything else. Per usual, I didn’t hear the album immediately. I usually let the air clear a bit on new music, as to not cloud my own reception and experience of it. Based on what people were saying and how people were reacting about it so far, it was as stupendous a work as his pre-tragedy music. This was the reaction by and large for the first day it was released. The second day is when I decided to listen for myself.

Just before that thought, there were some comments made from some musical minds/close friends that gave me pause. One person said that they couldn’t get past the second song. For those of you who know Tye’s work, this sounds like a pure travesty. But this was someone whose musical opinion I trust. Shortly thereafter, a second opinion from a trusted source surfaced and with not much good to say about the album. It was time for me to check it out for myself.

Upon my first listen through, I found the album to be very good. But, when it comes to Tye Tribbett, “very good” isn’t saying much. Am I holding him to a higher standard of music making? Of course I am. You’d do the same if Michael Jackson were in a high school talent show…that’s how great a musical mind Tye Tribbett is. With that being said I cannot say with any form of conviction that I am impressed with Greater Than. His first album after the tragedy got the same response from me, but over time that album grew on me. Maybe such is the case for Greater Than.

Meanwhile… seemingly everyone I know and a lot of other musicians, singers and musical minds I trust think the album is amazing. For some reason, I feel very itchingly that I am missing something.

Believe it or not, everything written before this line was set up for everything written after it. Bear with me, if it suits you.

Remember about an hour ago, I prefaced this blog post with the statement that my life is my fault? Yea, its a faint memory to me too. Here comes the boom:

I feel very strongly that I don’t love God enough to enjoy this album as much as my counterparts have. I also feel very strongly that currently, my personal and spiritual life is in shambles. That’s a direct correlation in my psyche.

I arrived at this by comparing my life to those that I percieve to be leading better lives than myself, which I know I probably shouldn’t do. But I am doing it. I just want to paint as honest a picture as possible.

Well, then…is it true?

Part II coming sooner than you think.

Hear My Voice

Hear me
whimper
at the thought that I can BE something…

Listen
for the air that stands before
my blank stare and
behind my goals…

Know that what you see is a lie
and far-from-the-truth is what is
common to sight…

Reluctance tries to kill me
everyday
clawing with sloth-like precision
but I’ve since decided to move more quickly
however, my choice betrays,
infiltrating my activity and freezing
it with the coldness that is life

But indecision won’t choke me any longer.
And the fight against a second mind gets bloody this time.
Someone has to die and, essentially, that is the goal on both sides.

Understanding that, this is inherently understood: silver does no good buried in the ground except for someone who had not earned it to find it.

I am charged to brandish my worth, attack my goals and make them bleed glory.

My mother and father did well to name me conqueror, clearly their insight was from foresight.

Hear me
roar in what I am…

Listen
for the air that briskly seperates betwixt; before me and behind my goals.

It’s Not A Diary, It’s A Journal

My pastor here in State College suggested that I should start keeping a journal. It’s an admonition I’ve been hearing for years from God and other people. I’ve not been turned off by the idea; consistency has been the least of my assets. Lately, though, I find myself writing more and more. I’ve been keeping a journal since early last week. Coupled with The Talents Blog, I’ve had a good outlet of creative and expressive writing.

I find that (when I finally get to it) I enjoy writing a lot. For some reason, though, my thoughts leading up to writing are often loathsome and seldom excited. I don’t know what that is for sure. At the moment, I’m choosing to attribute it to demonic attack. I don’t feel like explaining that right now, but I will render that I believe in the spiritual realm and spiritual activity, both good and evil. I had a thought a few years back that maybe I might write a book. I wonder if folks will enjoy my writing voice as well as my singing one.

What excites me most about the prospect of daily writing is that i’ll be able to chronicle my life and look back at it clearly one day, at least MORE clearly than trying to remember it by heart. Hearts are decietful, you know? Especially when I comes to memories.

I remember when I was a kid, the idea of a boy writing daily was taboo amongst elementary schoolers. You didn’t want to be that guy who kept a diary. Even if it was purely creative writing, if it wasn’t shared with classmates it was considered a diary and boys did NOT keep diaries. Journal? Yeah, right.

That’s probably robbed a lot of men of some sollice, some relief, some happy reminiscent memory. Or closure. Or healing.

I’m hoping I’ll have that and more.

Sheesh.

I’m conflicted.

I signed up for a website today. It’s one of the websites dedicated to helping folks get free from addiction. My addiction is pornography.

I figured I would give it a shot, so I signed up and started the lesson. The first lesson talked about motivation/what your motivation should be for getting free from porn should be.

The answer: God’s glory, nothing else.

Here’s the conflict:

The teaching today made the point that if you wanna get free for ANY personal reason at all, that God won’t help you get free because God wants glory. I agree that God wants and deserves glory. I also agree that I am a Christian. While being a Christian doesn’t guarantee that that person will want God to get glory, I do want God to get glory, but I also don’t want to walk around feeling guilty and downtrodden and ashamed anymore, either. According to the teaching so far, if I want not to feel those things and my focus is not on God, then God WON’T help me.

Now, maybe I’m taking it wrong. I’m pretty sure some if you will tell me I’m taking it wrong. I’m already braced for that. My issue is that I reached out to get help and now I feel like crappy even more for doing that.

I can only attribute that to my heart being black as coal because of all the filth I let into it and every thought or feeling that expresses that it feels askew to me will point back to said black heart.

I must be more immature than I realize. Either that, or too much of a coward to challenge what I was taught today.

I need to stop thinking before I lose it.

Vincent and his Technicolor Dream-Guitar

Last night I hung out with two good friends of mine, one of which I haven’t hung out with in a very long time. After all of the updating and whatnot, we got to talking about how miraculous Muslim-to-Christian conversions have been happening in the Middle East. There were some remarkable stories that she shared with me.

“I belong to YOU?! Really, White Jesus? Oh wait, this is a stock photo, not a dream.”

One dude had a dream that Jesus came to him and touched him on his head and on his heart and said to him, “You belong to me.” He was a devout Muslim his whole life up until that point, and after that point he followed Christ, going the first two years with no bible, no church and no one to preach the Gospel to him. That is the most remarkable story of conversion I have ever heard, not to mention the details about him being a drunk and an abusive husband and father before then, at which point he moved away to an Islamic monastery type place, worked full time and sent money home to his wife – just so he wouldn’t beat her and the kids. Amazing. Jesus led him right back to his wife and children after the dream. Upon telling his wife what had happened to him, she then said that she would follow Christ if that’s what he was doing.

Yup. Same dude that was punching her face in. Amazing-er.

That was just one of the stories she shared with us last night. Even more amazing.

Both of these friends, like most of my friends, are musically gifted people. One is a signed recording artist, singer/songwriter. The other is a phenomenal pianist, with a very finely tuned musical mind, but he’d never admit that to you. Naturally the conversation found it’s way to the arts, more specifically singing. My songwriter friend shared some new material she was working on with us and it was solid stuff. Really creative and original sound. I’m used to her making good stuff, but this was even above what I was used to. Now that I’m thinking of it, she’d one of the best studio singers I know. She went on to tell us about some frustrations she was having with her label and what she planned on doing to rectify things. That’s when I spotted the guitar nestled in the corner.

I asked, politely, if I could check it out. She said yea, so I went for it.

She was still talking about her label as I tuned the last few strings. I started strumming some arbitrary chords and my pianist friend noticed.

“That’s a nice chord,” he said.

(Just so you know, I was STILL listening to my songwriter friend. Those that know me know I suck at multitasking. But recently I discovered something: I can be engaged in a full on conversation while playing guitar. I haven’t tried other instruments yet, but I can imagine it works with piano and bass too. Drums, ehh not so much…I’m still trying to get a solid coordination down)

I asked if they had heard my latest material and they hadn’t. I figured I’d share a couple songs I’d been working on. I braced myself mentally for the well-meaning red ink that I would be receiving in a few minutes, as these were musically astute folks I was dealing with.

I played the first song. It’s called Hurricane. It has nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy. (Shout out to those who suffered losses and are STILL recovering….keep holding on!) I’ll share some lyrics for context:

Lord, take the reins of my mind

steer me into the eye of this hurricane

where the winds are just calm enough

for me to see.


They were really impressed with the song. I forget exact words but they expressed to me that they really liked it and that is a lot from them. Needless to say I was pleased with this. It boosted me a bit. I went on to share the next song with them, a song called Empty, which you can check out here.

Dead silence.

“You need to be signed!”

“You could perform that at a secular gig…and they would listen.”

“I’m not saying that you should not sing gospel music, but that’s better than what the secular artists are doing.”

I took in what they said and began to think about what it is about my music that was so great to them. Then I stopped thinking about that, and started feeling an intense urge to get up and do something about it. I still don’t know where to begin.

Sign up for some open mics….and not just Christian ones!”

I really want to push this artistry.

Hit up (music engineer we all know), go get your stuff recorded!”

Somehow, still, there are reservations. I don’t think that on the surface my music has that “life changing” aspect to it yet, and I don’t know what to do to get it either. But then, as I was writing this entry today, it dawned on me:

If Jesus can convert a Muslim to a Christian with something like a dream….and then have that Muslim follow him for two years based on one dream, no church, no leadership, no bible, no nothing but that man….then most definitely he could use my music to touch people’s hearts and bring them closer to Him. Of course He can do that.

I believe that wholeheartedly. Maybe – just maybe – I’m someone’s dream to be had.