Skydiving Buddies

I am calling this my year of jumping out of airplanes. That’s my way of saying I’m finally tackling some opportunities I’ve avoided for a number of personal reasons.

One of these is a Christmas CD, which I finally decided to make this summer. The follow up to that was a concert to premiere it. That happened last Sunday evening, Dec 2. It was truly one of the musical and personal high points of my life!

As I look back on this year I realize that I’ve said “yes” to more things than “no”.

For example, I’ve taken on the role of worship leader for LifeWay Men. These will be nationwide events where I will not only lead worship but will also have the opportunity to share my story. The first of which will be in July at the Curb Center in Nashville. LifeWay has been very generous to me with their audience and even promoted my Christmas project on their LifeWayworship.com site for download as a way of introducing me.

I was also invited to post weekly worship service outlines built around a feature song of the week for Essentialworship.com. It is a great opportunity to share some of my worship perspectives while highlighting songs that the publisher wants to make their audience aware of.

I attribute a lot of this newfound initiative to having a skydiving buddy of sorts – a best friend with whom I bounce off my ideas and goals and with whom I dream aloud. He shares his with me as well and as we begin to push and pull one another along there is a synergy that develops.

The best thing about a skydiving buddy is that they are happier for your success than you are. They help you critically assess something while at the same time throwing you a parade for accomplishing it.

My best friend, Jonathan is my case in point. He brainstormed and helped me flesh out a concert that would highlight the material and weave a theme of anticipation throughout it. Jonathan did everything from wrapping huge gift boxes for props on stage to thinking through the entire look, writing a great poem for the night, singing, and sharing his entire family with me for the weekend as we pulled it together.

Jonathan decided that my CD project deserved to be celebrated as well so he and his wife Jenny pulled off the best retro-Christmas CD release party afterward complete with homemade cookies she and other volunteers made. She brought vintage Christmas decorations she found around town and it looked like I was back in my childhood. It represented literally hours and hours of thoughtful preparation and loving attention to details.

That is more than a skydiving buddy. That is the best friend that you only get one of in your life.

I tell everyone that they need to jump out of airplanes if they want to experience what God has placed in their hearts to accomplish. Just don’t do it alone. You need that person that you strap yourself to who tells you to remember to breathe and makes sure your parachute opens.

Thanks, Johnny Boy! Well done!

The Redneck Epiphany

I have a friend with whom I meet every other Tuesday morning at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. We have met for a number of years and I always enjoy the times I can glean some wisdom and fresh perspectives from him. Besides, he’s a therapist and I kind of see it as the counseling version of a second opinion.

While waiting for my friend one morning I found myself browsing through their country store that begins putting out its Christmas decorations the day after Easter these days, I’m pretty certain.

As I wandered the exhibits of square-dancing pig salt and pepper shakers and tractor caps that read, “I’m With Stupid” I happened upon an unexpected Christmas moment.

At the top of a pyramid of various angel figurines and boxes loomed a glowing glass figure. It stood three feet tall and had brass wings and a bronze head. The body was an inverted cone of glowing glass that lit up with a champagne glow. As I noticed the glass body of the figure I realized that it was a lava lamp angel. Not just a lava lamp, but one that created ethereal, golden bubbles as the morphing lava swirled and reshaped itself inside. It was mesmerizing.

Suddenly, the overhead music began to play, I Saw the Light! It was like a redneck epiphany! I tried desperately to make sense of the sign that this appointed moment in time must be but alas, nothing came to me. It was simply me, the three feet of lava lamp angel, and I Saw the Light blaring away on the intercom. It was the kind of moment that could have brought a Hee-Haw fan to Jesus! Instead, I merely exhaled the slightest sad sigh to myself before realizing that now when I hear people sharing their stories of angelic encounters in our midst I’ll finally have something personal to share!

Whether through visitations in dreams and visions, messengers in great numbers or as a single agent, angels have played a pivotal role in the story of the gospel. The coming of Jesus is heralded by these beings in praising multitudes from the heavens while others share the foreshadowing of events in dreams and private conversations of the most intimate nature.

It seems that when angels are on the scene there is confrontation, information, and consolation. From the beginning of each conversation the recipients of the news are told not to be afraid and to take heart.

I began thinking about these types of exchanges as they pertain to peace.

Confronting without information is just inviting contention. Merely informing someone with a “just the facts, Ma’am” approach doesn’t get to the heart of anything. Consoling alone can sometimes even be a form of enabling that doesn’t change anyone but instead leaves them feeling justified and entitled in their pain or predicament.

Confrontation with information and consolation is what left Mary speaking the words, “May your word be accomplished in me.” It left Elizabeth saying that the Lord removed her shame from her and it found Joseph taking back his fiancee when shortly before he was planning to call off their marriage and leave her quietly.

Peace was coming face to face with indisputable truth in a consolation that made it seem doable.

Author, monk, and mystic, Richard Rohr says, “The Word of God confronts, converts, and consoles us—in that order.”

As bearers of good news ourselves, can we bring an encounter that is balanced in confrontation, information, and consolation? Can we not fall prey to the emotionally charged temptation with confrontation at the expense of informing and consoling? Can we inform without becoming cold and indifferent to the emotions in the story we are telling? Can we console in love without minimizing the facts as we help our friends own what is theirs in a situation?

I don’t have any personal connections with angels that I know of but I will say that the next time I’m confronted, informed, and consoled I will see that person challenging me as more of a messenger from God instead of writing them off as the cheap lava lamp angel version of a meddling friend.