Tag Archives: thought

The Mighty Pen

Occasionally I look at my blog & wonder if I’m actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing with it, or if I’m just writing for the sake of it. Then I remember that one of the main reasons this place exists is for me to think & to learn to think. So here is an imaginary poetic conversation between the me of just a few years ago & me today. It seems my poetry is more than checking the box of better thinking J

 

What do you see?

A pen

What else?

Just a pen

Nothing more?

Just a pen

How does that make you feel?

It doesn’t

 

Indifference, just a pen

Yet in the darkest recess of your mind

You know that this should be something more

Certainly it is a pen

But is it not also a portal?

Is it not a weapon?

More powerful than any sword ever cast?

 

Yes, a portal to your very soul

The doorway to expression

What could you say with this pen if you were to allow it to speak?

The possibilities are endless

This is not just a pen, this is the future, the past and the present

This is your hope, your freedom, your journey

More than an inanimate object

This is the mighty pen

Embrace it my friend

 

 

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Complete Surrender

This has to be one of my most procrastinated posts yet. Usually when I have an idea of something to write on it just falls out on the paper (or screen). Sometimes if I don’t have time I’ll put the idea in a folder for later but most of the time my blog is an outpouring in a moment.

This started with something that I wrote in my career change post, which I then removed & made into another post. For whatever reason I didn’t post it & now I have been delaying revisiting, realizing that I have been avoiding it I am pressing on because if I don’t it will begin a descent that I am not willing to go on anymore. So here today at lunchtime I re-read, re-worked & added to the original post. The post was originally called ministry, which is a word that to me implies a profession, as you will see I realized that this was more a way of life thing than a profession, hence the changed title, reading this blog on The River walk entry during this process helped with the perception (& title) change.

The other week I thought I was feeling a vaguely familiar call, a call to completely dedicate my life to God & somehow find a way to enter into full time ministry. The week after I heard nothing but how I am not good enough, how the words I use when I’m frustrated in the car speak to how I simply don’t have the character for such a calling. If what I believe is true, if what I have been reading is true, then ever since a thought that can only have come from God appeared & I acknowledged it, I have been under attack from the devil. It has took all week for me to fully acknowledge this.

Which is rather scary, if I am under attacked for a possible call to ministry, then does that mean it really was God? Am I really supposed to somehow try to move towards that? The thought of it both excites & terrifies me, I would love the work, yet can’t think what I might have to offer, let alone what I would have to offer a church or ministry that would justify them compensating me at a level that would not require me to shatter my family’s life. I’m not even sure that I want to work for a church, I have a feeling that it would ruin a lot of nice illusions that I would rather keep. I don’t know, I just don’t know.

That is where I was leading upto Sunday. After a great day on Saturday serving complete strangers doing repairs in a trailer park with my church’s men’s ministry, I was feeling good about life, I did my usual serving efforts on Sunday service & then, by the end of the sermon I was a blubbering wreck. You see, what has been on my heart recently is that the thought of working another 30 years in the freight industry is just unimaginable to me today. I’m fine with plodding through for right now, but really, to be doing this still when I’m in my 40s, or 50s or 60s? Please tell me that won’t happen! It seems that God agrees. So on Sunday I built a bridge & got over myself & I visited the prayer team, then I spent time talking to my wife about things, then I emailed my mens group & asked for their prayers.

Do you know what I received? Love and acceptance from a group of people who see me as significant enough to pray for & care for. I can’t express how much that means to me, I really can’t. You see, for all the healing that has gone on in my life, there is apparently still more to be done. I was at a dead end because I was trying to figure things out by myself, not allowing anyone in & not wanting to bother them with my needs. As ridiculous as that may seem, that is one of the great challenges that come out of my insecurities.

So onto the future. A call to full time ministry? I believe that is what has happened, however, here is the kicker, I am not sure, in fact I am pretty sure, it is not a call to professional ministry. Maybe one day that is where I will be lead, I have no expectations of that, but time will tell. I think the call I was receiving was a call to complete surrender. Something that I have heard for years but if I am honest, never been able to accomplish. You see, while my beliefs are full time, the fruits of my beliefs have been less than that. The thing with complete surrender, with not just allowing Jesus in the car, but letting him drive & me sitting in the back seat, is that it is a completely new way of life. It is not 10 minutes a day reading or praying & a few hours on a weekend in worship & fellowship. It is full time. My ministry is my life, my life needs to be a reflection of Jesus at all times, at home, at work, at play, even driving!

What has happened after I reached out to the people that God has placed in my life has been incredible. I felt an amazing peace that entire week. I also started to see that this year has truly been an explosion of long term prayers being answered. Prayers asking for my true identity to be revealed, for me to be molded into who God wants me to be, not the mess I used to be. For continued & deeper healing from the wounds of my past. Prayers for friendships.  On & on.

The reason why I had to ask for help before I could see these things? I needed to experience that I am not a lone voice in the wilderness. I believed that isolation & alone is who I am at my core, part of my defective nature. I am not alone, I am loved, I am cherished & I am at my best in community & fellowship. Sharing all of who I am with those who love me & need me to be me, to be wholly & unashamedly me.

Now, where does this leave me with my career funk? I think it is Gods way of telling me that it is time to stop asking my job to do what God can only do & start bringing my identity, my true self, the me that God sees, into my job. Does that mean I will be doing the same thing forever? Probably not, does that mean I have the answers? Not at all. Does it mean I will never have a bad day or lose it again? No.

Does it mean that I have understood correctly, again I really don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds, all I know is that it is time for a career change, but not at an environmental or behavioral level, not a capability or belief level, but at a God spoken identity level. My ministry, regardless of my vocation, needs to be based around being the true me at all times & allowing the love of Christ to be expressed through that.

If you have 37 minutes to spare, I cannot recommend this sermon enough, it was a great message, it was not until the end that I realized that I had been feeling like my (18 year) career was oppressing me. It was at that moment that I knew I couldn’t go on the same anymore. It was through that moment that God told me I didn’t have to, even if I am in the same place forever, it will be forever changed because of that Sunday.

 

Some of what I need to be conscious of today is not being in such a hurry for God to fix me & move me onto whatever the next step in His plan for me is. I need to enjoy the journey, I need to stop wanting to do more out of my need to feel significant, I am significant, He is not going to allow me to do more until I am doing it for Him, not for the brokenness that only He can fix. I need to celebrate in my blessings more, start really realizing all that I have in life. If my life is my ministry, it does it a great disservice to be down on something that is so wonderful.

Maybe the upside of taking so long over this post is that I can also share the following week’s message. One of my favorite teachers was visiting, it is an incredible message, but also for me, served like a review of what has been done since 2004 & a reminder to stay connected to the true source .

 

 

 

 

After writing all this earlier today, I then spend the afternoon questioning if I should post this, if I am being too open with the inside of my mind, if my continuous rambling about my faith will drive me & others crazy. I wonder if I am over thinking this whole thing. Should I just get on with life & not worry about things so much, learn how to be satisfied? How has my blog become the gateway to not only thinking so much, but my faith growing so much? The more I think, the more questions I have, the more questions I have the more I am confused, which in turn causes me to think (vicious cycle). The more I discover who I truly am, the more I now have to learn how to live life in this world as the real me, not the me who learnt how to survive in this world with coping mechanisms.

Who am I today even? I am one who will pray for anyone. I am one who now when he blows it in frustration, recognizes it & seeks help from God to change, standing up to the issue to take its power, instead of throwing extra fuel on the fire. I am one who earlier this year admitted to God that I am ok with being thought of as a little strange if it means I get some extra Holy Spirit in me. I am slowly, but surely, beginning to be the me that I was created to be, and that is a good thing.

I think something from the other morning summed me up perfectly. I am the one who was reading the Bible at his desk while listening to Appetite for Destruction (not a thought out moment, it just happened naturally), hoping that when my emails finally stopped downloading my work day would not start with a kick to the proverbial nuts. Guns N Roses & Jesus, that right there, for all its wonderful contention is as good a word picture of me that I can give today.

 

 

I have to wonder

I have to wonder

Or maybe to ponder

If in all this awakening

In all this discovery of consciousness

Deeper thought & feeling

Spirituality & supernatural

If I have forgotten something?

Well I know I have forgotten

It seems like a lifetime

Where did the fun go?

Where is the spontaneity?

It is not lost in responsibility

That is the easy way out

The opportunity to dance or sing

Is just as real in an office

As it is in a distant night club

Now the desire, that’s another thing

Oh life, you are such a confusion

In freedom, submission & complete surrender

Surely a place can be found to feel alive

Stop looking for grand adventures

Stop waiting, and start living

Even the smallest adventure, is an adventure

 

Career change?

So following on from my last post. I think it is clear that I need a career change. However, what exactly do I mean by that? The easy, rational (maybe) & certainly worldly thing to do is to go find another job. If it is my industry that is the problem, then I should go & find another industry right? Go to school or something. This is all good practical advise that I have received & told myself many times over the last 18 years.

For whatever reason I have never done it, fear of failure? Sure, fear of not being able to meet my responsibilities & commitments? That too. The thing that gets me though, is that no matter how close I get to leaving my company, I always wind up staying, why is that? Well I’m sure you know by now God is a pretty big part of my life, whenever I get close to doing what I think I should be doing, there is always a thought that says you are right where you need to be, don’t leave. Now could have I been misinterpreting the message, getting caught in my own fears, but I believe that until now I have been where I should be.

This brings me to the present, my stifling, oppressive dissatisfaction with where I am today. Some days the monotony is more difficult than others. Going through the motions, just trying to get it all done so you can leave & forget it ever happened. Clearly this is not a good place to be mentally or emotionally. The baggage from this struggle can infect the rest of my life & frankly I am sick of it.

So here I am, back to the new job or new career thing. Let me investigate that briefly before I explain the problem with that. There is a train of thought that you should find what you love to do & do it, find what makes you feel alive & figure out a way to get paid for doing it. In Wild at Heart, Eldridge quotes Gil Bailie saying “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. Now I’ll be honest with you, I absolutely love that way of thinking, there is nothing more that I want for my daughter’s career than for it to be that. But for me? I don’t even know what that would mean for me. What makes me feel most alive today when I am doing something? It is when I am in an act or worship, whether it is at church, or serving in the community, more than music or sport or doing anything, I feel alive when I am in an act or worship.

This is where the problem lies. It is not a matter of vocation, it is a matter of mindset, heart & identity. If I change my job, that is an environmental change, of the 5 levels of change (future blog spoiler), that is the lowest & least effective. If I change my job I will still be there, wherever I go I will be. The thing that I have realized is that it is not necessarily the job that is the problem, yes I am bored, but the main problem is me. I am asking my job do to things for me that a job cannot possibly do.

What do I want from a job? I want to be stimulated, I want to be challenged (ok a job should be able to somewhat do that). I feel most alive professionally when I am required to be creative. More than that though, I want to feel like I am making a difference, bingo. You see that is where this all comes from. I want my life to mean something, I want my life to be significant.  This is where I am at today, I need to & am learning what significance really is. For most of us it is not some big Bob Geldof or (err I really should know a significant American) moment, it is like my poem, a small collection of moments that add up to a lifetime of significance.

Somehow I have convinced myself that if I am stuck doing this thing that I did not choose to do, dealing with stress everyday, then my life is not mattering enough. This is the first place that my career change needs to take place. I need to get it through my thick skull where significance & making a difference comes from. Yes I may not be directly making a difference (in my mind) every day. However I am making money, money that I use to provide for my family, my biggest everything is my family, they are my life. I also use the money to give to charity, this is not some trumpet blowing exercise, but indirectly I do make a difference everyday, from the orphanage in China we give to, to the clean water project in India, to our church & all the outreach we contribute to through them. So while I am not directly & actively involved in these things, me doing my job helps provide for them to be done. My job also provided the funds for me to do the things I enjoy, music toys, travel, beer, all sorts of things. That is just material crap & doesn’t really matter, but I’m not going to lie & say I don’t like getting new toys I mean who doesn’t and there is nothing wrong with that (unless that is your entire reason for existing).

Then there is this other small (yeah right) matter of what does God want me to do? This for me has to be the number one priority, this is where some if not all of this is coming from. If you’re not a God person, you have this part easy, you just do what is right for you & yours, whereas the Godsman must take into account these other factors. This is where things are really muddled right now.

If you’re reading this & you are a believer, please pray for me, for guidance & clarity in my life for my future.

Music 3: The non-adventures of a guitar player

I play the guitar, I have now played the guitar for more of my life than I have not, which is crazy for me to think about. What is also crazy is that there are probably many people who know me who do not know that I play, when I tell them they are surprised. I’ll get to that later.

I made mention in part 2 of my self-exploration of music that I had briefly played guitar when I was around 8 or 9 years old. It didn’t last & I had almost completely forgotten about 08-InTheseArms-BonJovi01-tnit. However, when I was 16 & had rediscovered rock & roll, my desire to play guitar was overwhelming. My hero was Richie Sambora & I simply wanted to play guitar. I had bonded with a friend at college over music, he was as big a GnR fan as I was Jovi, we both decided we needed to get guitars. My friend had his stuff together a little better than I did, he had a part time job & he had some money. I’m not sure I even had a paper round at this point in life, I’m going to go with probably not. My friend got an Epiphone Les Paul & I saw a white Stratocaster that I simply had to have.

The date was February 23rd 1994 (I know because I still have the receipt). It was a white strat, just like the one Hendrix played at Woodstock (I was wonderfully naive) I had to have it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any money to buy it with. The store was a place called Big Deal, it was pretty much a pawn shop in the city center, they bought & sold things, mostly musical or electrical. So no money & a guitar I had to have, I did what any right minded person would do, I negotiated (which in hindsight is hilarious because I don’t negotiate, I just don’t).

I worked a deal out with the place to trade my computer & all my video games for the guitar. Now looking back, this was a really big deal, I love video games, I lose more time to gaming than any other hobby, for me to be willing to give that up completely in order to get a guitar shows how badly I wanted it. I remember going home to get my computer all packed up, going back into town (all on the bus). It was snowing by the time I got back there. They checked every thing over & before you knew it she was mine. A beautiful white Fender Squire Stratocaster.

Now I talked about being wonderfully naïve, it is really ridiculous how naïve I was. Let’s start with the guitar, I had no idea that there were different levels in quality on a guitar, I thought they were all just guitars. My introduction to the electric guitar was on a completely base, entry level piece of wood. That of course didn’t matter; it was the perfect guitar for me at the time. I wish I had taken a picture of it, unfortunately I apparently didn’t think about such things back then – the digital age is wonderful.

Anyway, anyone who knows anything about electric guitars knows that you need an amplifier in order for them to be, well, electric. This concept had completely eluded me & I had no notion as to how I would amplify the guitar. Step in my Dad, this is not the spot for it, but I struggle with finding happy childhood memories, heck I struggle with finding memories period. So happy Dad memory, yay.

My Dad rigged up an amp of sorts, he had a tape deck that would accept a phono input, he then connected that to an old record player from my Granddad for the speaker. There you have it, my first amp. I played either through that or through the karaoke mic input of my hi-fi for almost a year before I got my first real amp. My Dad played guitar at his church, acoustic only, to me he was a master of the instrument. He showed me some chords, let me borrow his big guitar book (I’m still borrowing it) & also showed me how to play the House of the Rising Sun. The 1st song I learnt to play, I still get a kick out of playing that song.

I am completely self-taught on the guitar, other than when I was 9 I have never had a lesson, img019 I don’t count them as anything that I learnt was completely gone by the time I was 16. I learnt initially from the Guitar handbook that I borrowed from Dad. Then from other books, from playing along to music, playing with friends & from just practicing over & over. These were not the days of youtube & free tab, if you wanted the music for a song you had to buy it. Half the time you could only get the piano music for it anyway, for guitar all they gave was the chords, you could tell how tricky a song was going to be by the number of chord boxes shown at the beginning.

So I went along my journey of learning how to play, very slowly figuring things out. I didn’t even attempt to play lead for months, I’m not sure why, but I didn’t grasp the concept initially, on the bright side that allowed me to build a good solid foundation of chords. Speaking of chords, I remember the 1st time I tried to play a power chord, something that is so natural today, was the most painful thing I’d ever asked my hand to do.

On July 19th of 1995; 17 months or so into playing, I got an upgrade on my guitar. Probably the coolest new toy I’ve ever had, simply because of the significance of it to me at the time. Iimg022 got a brand new Richie Sambora signature Stratocaster. Ok, it was the made in Mexico version & not the Fender custom shop edition, but it was & still is, an utterly awesome guitar. What made it even more special was that it is autographed by the man himself. The 1st Bon Jovi concert I went to, June 28th 1995, the guy from the music shop I frequented got to have a dream come true for him. He was as big a Richie fan as I & he got to go back stage & meet the man, also getting 2 pickguards autographed, one of which I still own today.

img020 Here it is (bedroom guitar photos are awseome – in a ridiculous kind of way)

The guy from the music shop, would go on to become the best friend I ever had, other than img023the one I married (hand hint, marry your best friend, it really helps your marriage work), he was the best man at my wedding & for seven years after I bought the guitar until I emigrated in 2002 we would jam together our on guitars. We became friends because of Richie Sambora, that dude has had a huge impact on my life. My friend Scott also arranged for me to meet Richie a few years later courtesy of Taylor guitars, we had a brief meet & greet backstage at a concert – talk about a big moment, that day I started to believe again that things were possible in life. August of 2000, I wonder now how much that seemingly impossible moment allowed be to have the faith to follow my heart & move to Texas in 2002.

img021Ok maybe Scott is a bigger Richie fan than me, he had the double neck custom made, the triple neck he bought from the man himself. that very same guitar is the one Richie used at the Moscow Peace Festive.

So anyway, I’m getting better as a guitarist, writing songs & like any other guitar infatuated teenager all I wanted to do was become a rock & roll star. The thing is though, I never even got started. I never tried. of all the things I have done that I shouldn’t have, of all the things I never did that I should have, my one big regret in life is that I have never played electric guitar on stage in front of people.

Ok, so I did try, just not very hard. Partially due to my naivety as to how the world worked, partially because a few years after I started playing, life got tough & instead of retreating into music I all but stopped playing. Life got real & I had to take care of that. There were other things though, I wanted to be in a band with friends, I wasn’t confident enough to join a band, I needed to start one, yet they never got off the ground. Ultimately though subconsciously I didn’t figure it out because I was afraid. I was especially afraid to go out & try to do it by myself. I remember one time me & a buddy tried out for a band, a few days later they called me & asked if we were a package deal or if I would be interested in joining alone. I politely declined, horrified at the thought.

Why? What causes someone that wants something so badly to not even try to attain it? Quite simply 2 things, a complete lack of self-worth & a crippling fear of rejection. Until recently (a few years ago) my identity, what I believed in my heart of hearts to be true about myself, was built on lies. My identity was that I was not worthy, that I was unlovable & that I would never achieve anything. I learnt to hide these things, ignore them, pretend they were not there, but (and this is always sub/un-conscious) these lies have controlled more of my life than I will ever know.

What causes such beliefs? It’s easy for me to blame it on my parent’s separation, divorce & the fallout from that when I was 13 or being beaten & bullied all through high school. The truth though, is that while they were significant contributing factors, the damage had already begun long before those periods. When I was 13 all I wanted to do was play soccer, yet it took me 2 years to try out for the school team. I would practice for hours, even play on non-school teams, but I wouldn’t try out at school. Why? Because I was afraid they would tell me I wasn’t good enough & it was so important to me that I couldn’t face the chance that they would say that. I was so afraid of the rejection that I did not put myself in a position to be rejected. I’m not going to air what I have discovered about my childhood here, my parents did the best they could, they loved me & provided for me, that is way more than a lot of people get, unfortunately they were not so great at nurturing me, I’ll leave it there. It was not all my parents, so many little things here & there that seem insignificant at the time, insults, jokes, they build up, like a runaway snowball until they are huge & crippling.

So where does that leave me today? Well, I’m comfortable with not being a rock star, honestly it would have been more than I could have handed any way. Was I good enough? Who the heck knows, probably not, but it takes way more than talent anyway. I play guitar for my own entertainment, occasionally I get to play with others, my brother-in-law is a very talented bass player, I have a friend who is a very good drummer. I hope that one day we will all be able to make enough time to get to play a gig together, make that band that I always wanted to make. That’s really all I want, 1 show. I have looked into joining bands, the problem is I don’t want a 2nd job, I already have a job, I have a family, I have a life. It seems that most bands want to play multiple shows a weekend, practice a few times a week & basically want more of a commitment that I am willing or able to give. So if I wind up going through life having never played on stage, while it will be a regret, I am good with that because today, my family is my main thing.

As far as my playing, I enjoy messing around with the guitar. I learn songs only when I really want to, most of the time I like to invent music. I love to sit down & just see what comes out, maybe play a few chords into the looper & just play lead over it. I love the spontaneity of improvisation, I play the same way I write my poems, I just see what is going to come out, there may be an initial plan but it is always a matter of lets see where it goes.

Where am I at with my self-worth & fear of rejection you might be wondering? My self-worth is at an all time high. My wife did wonders for that, the love she spoke into me changed me forever and then there is God. When I was learning how to hear from God, one of the things to do was ask him to tell you something about yourself, something he wanted you to know. I asked and I was told “you are loved”, not an audible voice, but the words appeared in my mind, words that I know did not come from me. At the time I was hoping he was going to tell me something like you’ll be the next Clapton lol. That’s not how He works, he is not interested in the goals of this world, He is interested in the Kingdom & freeing His beloved from the chains of lies. I am loved, I am accepted, I am worthy. If I am all these things to God, then why should I fear rejection from humans?

Easier said than done of course, but I have found over time that just stubbornly defying the fear, putting it out there, at least allowing for the possibility for the rejection to happen is infinitely better than hiding from the possibility itself. That is how I am able to press the publish button after I have written something. Years ago I could not even have contemplated writing something like this.

Where do I go with my music now? Well I really want to start writing songs again, I have over 20 songs I wrote back in England. I figure that my poetry should be the basis for some new songs too. I think that to honor that broken kid who was too afraid to share his works, I am going to make an attempt to record at least a rough demo of all those songs & post them on here, good bad or indifferent. It may be that nobody listens to them, but at least they will be out there & one more shackle from the past will be broken.

To finish up I’ll leave you with these 3 videos of my playing. When I gave my testimony to my men’s group at church earlier this year, was when I realized that I had been afraid to share my music all these years. So I decided to record me noodling around & share it. 2 reasons, 1 so that I didn’t lose whatever I was creating that. 2  just to get over the fear of someone that I didn’t know hearing me play. So here they are, just me in my office messing around, not polished, not finished products, but me playing, so be gentle

This is the 1st one I recorded, the audio was captured using the camera so it’s not great quality

This was me figuring out how to make a video, I recorded the guitar through Cubase & mixed it with the video using Windows Movie Maker

This I came up with playing in an open tuning that a friend showed me. Apparently I am getting more comfortable as I allowed my head to be on the screen 😉

Now I’m going to go & play guitar, maybe I’ll record something, maybe an old song that I wrote, maybe I’ll relearn Johnny B Goode, who knows? …..