Friday, June 26, 2009

My new Nephew LEVI!!!!!!

Let it Sing!

My wife and I married in college. There were advantages to this, which was good because we couldn’t wait to be together any longer than we already had. You see, financial aid in the form of pell grants are only available to college students who are over the age of twenty four… unless you’re married!! When Christy and I got married, the US government started throwing money at us like crazy; in fact, the checks kept coming even after we graduated! We were debt-free 22 year-olds with college degrees who opened the mail box one day to find a check for $800! Christy turned to me and said, “I think we should buy your mandolin… it’s our only chance to have money like this outside of our budget. I was elated and started researching mandolins online. I soon knew everything there was to know about what is (in my opinion) the most beautifully constructed instrument on this planet, the F-style mandolin, created by Lloyd Loar for the Gibson Guitar Company in the early twentieth century.

I poured over stories of the legends of early Gibson mandolins from the 1920’s and before and read about how they were sold for $60,000… $85,000… even $200,000! Why, Bill Monroe’s 1924 Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 was sold at an auction for 1.1 million dollars! Every mandolin that is built today is trying (with computers, machines and complex algorithms) to mimic things Lloyd Loar figured out with a chisel, some sand paper and his exceptionally sensitive ear almost a hundred years ago. They are simply some of the finest instruments ever built and in the right hands, they absolutely sing!

A while back, my friend Pottsy told me that his mom had a mandolin in the attic that was really old and he wanted me to come look at it. I asked him about it and he didn’t know much… just that it had been his dad’s, and before that his great granddad’s. I asked him how long it had been since someone played it and he had no idea. I went to his house expecting to see a busted up pile of toothpick-like shards in the general shape of an instrument, but what I saw was something else entirely… right in front of my face was a Gibson F-4 mandolin from 1911!! And here’s the kicker: it was perfect. Barely a scratch was on this masterpiece of luthiery! I picked it up in awe. I mean, the strings were rusted like crazy, but otherwise it was immaculate. I grabbed a pick and warned Pottsy that it would sound terrible because the strings were impossibly old and had to be worn out and totally detuned. Then I strummed it…

It was still in tune! Amazingly… impossibly, it was in tune! The tone was so aged, warm and rich! I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that this absolute treasure was just sitting up in the attic as silent as a stone when it was made to sing! Pottsy said, “What should I do with it?” I said, “Well, you can probably sell it for a bunch of money, but whatever you do, put some new strings on it and listen to it sing. This thing was made to sing!” In Isaiah 43 the Lord calls us “the people I formed for myself that they might proclaim my praise.” We were also made to sing! The point of the human being is to declare the praise of God… it’s what we’re for and what we’re supposed to be about! Have you been sitting in an attic somewhere silent as a stone when you were made to sing?! It’s time to do what you were made for! Tune your heart to sing His praise and let it fly! You were made for this!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I’m about to leave home for nine days. I’m not going to see my wife and my kids for nine straight days. There will be nine days of kisses and laughter I’ll miss out on… nine days of crayon drawings I won’t see, story books I won’t read and bedtime songs I won’t sing. I’m about to get on a bus with over 60 high school kids and eight adults and drive pretty much all the way across the US through the night. It will be uncomfortable, cramped and tough. It will also be lots of fun, but this is a scary trip for me. This is my sixth time to take high school kids to a week of Young Life summer camp and this trip will be more spiritually daunting than the others. That seems off, right? I ought to be getting better at this and more comfortable with all that is involved with a week of evangelistic camp, but I’m more frightened now than ever before.

I have one of the biggest cabins I’ve ever had… 13 guys to myself. On the one hand, this is extremely exciting and I am fired up about the opportunity to be in the lives of all these guys, but on the other hand, it’s a lot of dudes and I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of them don’t know our Lord in any way! When I look at the names of the guys in my cabin, I feel totally overwhelmed by the task ahead! I usually go into camp with my target on a couple of guys, maybe three or four at the most who I just know are lost and need the Lord. As I look at my list, my crosshairs contain nine or ten guys!!! Whew! It takes me a while to simply write all of their names down in my journal as I’m praying! As I look at what’s coming, I’m asking myself, “How am I going to make it away from my family for so long (especially as my family keeps getting bigger and more fun all the time!)? How am I going to do on that road trip physically? How is my body going to do at 9,000 ft.? And how in the world am I supposed to love on and pour into 13 guys in just 9 days and really connect with them?!? How in the world can these 10 lost boys be found?!?”

Recently I have been reading the Psalms of Ascents, which contains Psalm 120 through 134. These were the songs the Israelites sang as they journeyed three times a year to Jerusalem for the festivals God told them to observe there. These were their pilgrim songs they sang to praise the Lord, getting their hearts ready. They were the comfort songs they sang to fill each other with peace during the often dangerous journey. And they were the memorial songs they sang to remind themselves who they were, who God was and what He was doing in their lives. Today I read Psalm 127, written by Solomon, which says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” And my heart was pacified as I remembered that I am not responsible for saving these boys, God is building this house. I am not the one who protects my Christy and the kids, God watches over our little family.

As I was spending time writing out my prayers early this morning, I was praying for Christy and I was thinking a sentence that went like this: “Lord, please help her to…” but instead, without meaning to, I wrote this: “Lord, please help me…” I was praying for her, but instinctively my hand wrote, “help me…” This is what I’m learning from the songs of ascents. It’s what I’m learning as I go into yet another Young Life camp and it’s what I’m learning as I get older and our family keeps growing… that is, I am weaker than I used to be. I am less capable than I once was. I need more help everyday than I did the day before. I need God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth to help me.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Here's Anna hard at work on some awesome drawings (which follow the post...)

Answering the Question

For a couple of years now our kids have actually been sitting in our church services as we worship. In the early days they were always in the nursery, which was appropriate because they were either sleeping, eating or crying like crazy and those aren’t really the things you want going on during worship (although you can always find a few sleepy heads doing the open-mouthed, jello-necked head bob). At one point when Anna was two-years-old we tried to bring her into a service, but she couldn’t handle seeing me up front playing the guitar and Christy up front singing while she had to remain seated with her grandparents… she lost control completely and we decided that maybe a few more months in the nursery wouldn’t hurt.

Nowadays Anna and Norah both hang out in the worship service, dancing and singing when they know the words and not losing control at all. It’s awesome. There is one part of the service that has become sort of a favorite tradition of mine where I make eye contact with both of the girls and we exchange ludicrously sappy and outrageous smiles. I love that part. Sometimes it happens right before the music starts and sometimes it happens during Tom’s announcements, but it nearly always happens and Norah has started to do the sweetest thing… When I catch her eye and we smile our cheesiest smile, she signs “I love you” to me. You know, where you stick out your thumb, index and pinky fingers, which means “I love you” in American Sign Language? Well, when she makes eye contact with me during worship, she sends that sign and I send it right back to her. It has become our little tradition, and I can’t tell you how it makes me feel that she takes that moment to tell me that she loves me!

This morning I read one of the sweetest passages in all of Scripture. I’m sure you’ve turned this page many a time, but consider it again… John 21. The resurrected Jesus had already spent time with all of His disciples together two times before this and had already had a one on one meeting with Peter. Now He met them all in Galilee. Peter and the boys were out fishing and had spent all night catching nothing. A voice called out to them from the shore saying, “Got any fish?” When they answered, the voice said, “Try the other side of the boat.” When they obeyed the voice, the nets were full of fish and they knew it was Jesus! They hurried to the shore (Peter jumping out of the boat and swimming) and He was already cooking breakfast. When they finished eating Jesus asked Peter one question three times…

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” When I read that question this morning, it hit me that my day today is all about that question. He’s asking me, “Lee, do you love me?” And He’s not just asking me three times, but many, many times, over and over again all day long He will be asking me this question. Everything I do today is an answer to that repeated question. Every conversation, every glance, every reaction, every prayer is my answer to His tender question, “Do you love me?” All day long He’s trying to catch my eye and in everything I do, (just like Norah) I want to smile back at Him with all I’ve got and send up that little sign that says, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you!”

This first one is of Christy and me with baby Jack in his mom's lap:

This one is of me and my guitar:

And here we have a bird, a frog, a duck and a blooming lily pad on a pond:

Cluster Map