I have probably been to more summer camps in my life than anyone else reading this blog. In my former life (as a kid) I tagged along with my family every summer as my dad spoke at different camps and conference centers all across the United States. We traveled thousands of miles, starting off in my home state of Florida and sometimes traveling as far away as Portland, Oregon. Over the years our summer stops included camps in Texas, West Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico.
In my current life (as a musician) I still get to travel to camps every summer. Leading praise and worship for a bunch of screaming energetic teenagers is one of the highlights of my year. Not only do I get to participate in wonderful times of praise and worship and hear some of this country’s top speakers, I also get to experience some of the world’s longest zip lines, climb some of the highest ropes courses, and ski behind some of the coolest boats. It’s an awesome job!
One of my favorite camp activities is “blobbing.” If you have been to a summer camp in the last fifteen years, you know what I’m talking about. It’s kind of an X-games version of jumping on a trampoline. Someone sits or kneels (or assumes whatever posture the lifeguard will let them get away with) at one end of a partially inflated giant airbag while someone else jumps off a platform at the other end, lands on the airbag and launches the first participant into the air – and hopefully into the water and not onto dry land. Fun and excitement are added in the form of tricks that are performed while that participant is in midair. I love to launch – and I really love being launched! It’s the only event where I can experience big air without encountering big hurt.
So, anyway, how can I give this physical activity some kind of spiritual significance? Well, the other day as I was climbing the platform to launch a 70-pound middle schooler, I noticed how meticulously my blobbee was preparing himself for my assault. I snickered, and then began to taunt him, realizing that no matter how carefully he tried to secure himself or how conscientiously he adjusted his balance, sooner or later he was going to land in the water.
It reminded me of a lesson God had been teaching me about my walk with Him: No matter how prepared I am for the onslaughts of life, sooner or later, something or someone is going to knock me off balance and send me flying out of my comfort zone. It’s not a question of “if” – it’s only a matter of “when.” But preparing myself for the upcoming difficulties can determine how well I will land.
I have noticed that if I start on my knees, when I am being “blobbed,” I can do more tricks and enjoy the journey more than from any other position. And if I face the blobber, I can anticipate the bounce, and sometimes I can even land back on the blob instead of being tossed into the water. The same is true in my spiritual life. The best position for me to be in when I encounter Satan’s attacks is on my knees. Colossians 4:2 tells me that I need to stay alert. It says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
I’m not much of a reader. I wish this wasn’t true. But, for me, reading books is a lot like eating vegetables. There isn’t anything about it I enjoy. Yes, you understood that correctly – I don’t like ANY vegetables. Just ask my wife! But believe me when I say, “I wish I liked vegetables.” It would sure make eating healthy a lot easier and much more enjoyable. Fortunately I have found an alternative that seems to work for me. Every morning I chug a V8 (low sodium of course). It’s not that I enjoy V8, but through the magic of a blender I can down an entire day’s vegetables in about 8 seconds. It’s kind of like a veggie bronco ride! I fully grasp that this isn’t as nutritious as eating fresh, real vegetables, however, it’s certainly better than not getting any greenage.
As for my dislike of reading, well, I have a metaphorical V8 for that as well. Books on tape! Actually, it’s books on iPod, but the latter really doesn’t sound as good. Being a full time musician I spend countless hours on the road. Perhaps one day I’ll have a bus driver, but for now it’s usually me sitting behind the wheel of my overstuffed Honda Element. Rather than scan the dial every time the signal fades or risk growing painfully tired of my current CD collection, I’ve decided that listening to books on tape is a great way to keep my drives interesting.
My latest digital book purchase was Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path. I listened to most of this book as I returned from a festival in Ohio to my home in Nashville, TN. During this drive Andy pounded home one of the simplest, yet most profound points I’ve ever heard. He said, “Our destination is determined by our path! “ Think about it. Where we end up is a result of the direction we choose.
It sounds elementary, and it is. However, I find myself living as if this principle isn’t true. For example I’m not incredibly out of shape, however, I would love to get back the six-pack abs I had as a college athlete. Right now I’m about 15 pounds away from that goal. And, although I’d really like to end up at a destination that includes those abs and doesn’t include my 15 extra pounds, the path I’m on won’t ever lead me to that destination. My average diet and average workout routine will NEVER result in a better-than-average physique. The same principle can be applied to my guitar skills. I would love to become an amazing guitar player – the kind that can melt both faces and hearts. However, if I continue along the path I’m currently on (practicing maybe an hour a week), I will never reach that destination.
Perhaps the most important life application I took from Andy Stanley’s book deals with my relationship with God. I desire a destination where I’m so close to God and so tuned in to His voice that He is able to use me in incredible ways. I hope that one day people will trust me to give godly counsel on some of their most important decisions. I would love to be defined as a man “after God’s own heart”. However, I now realize that if I am ever going to arrive at that destination some things need to change. My current path of luke-warm passion, apathetic prayers, and sporadic scripture reading will NEVER get me there.
I’m ready to change some of the paths I’m on. Are you?
A paradox is defined as something that is “contradictory, inconsistent, or opposite.” For example, the statements “War paves the way for peace” and “Freedom requires limitations” are paradoxes. We have trouble processing them. Our minds can only wrap themselves around so much – they like it when we keep things simple. Therefore, when it comes to truth, we narrow things down to two sides. We have right, and we have wrong. We have black, and we have white.
So, when scripture points out the different characteristics of Jesus’ personality, it’s easy for us to be confused by what appear to be paradoxes. For example, Jesus was perfectly strong, yet he was perfectly gentle. Ultimately he displayed these competing qualities simultaneously on the cross. We also read in scripture that Jesus was the “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). I understand how a person could be full of grace – they would deal with others with tenderness and forgiveness. I can also understand how a person could be full of truth – they would know the difference between right and wrong, and would stand for what was right regardless of the consequences. However, it’s hard for me to imagine how someone could perfectly pull off both of these traits at the same time. Can’t tenderness and truth get in each other’s way? Aren’t they sometimes too paradoxical to co-exist? Yet, when Jesus is the person being discussed, the possibility makes perfect sense.
In 2007, I released an independent CD titled, They Need Love. The twelve tracks deal with many different aspects of the Christian faith. However, the theme that ties them all together is found in the title track, “They Need Love.” It states that we should love a world of strangers in the same way that Christ did. We should love without question, without hesitation, and without an ulterior motive. And, if we love before preaching and pointing fingers, a platform to share Christ will eventually and naturally arise.
In February of 2009, I released my next indie CD, Stand For You. This CD actually caught the attention of INO records. They renamed it and released it nationally under the title, More Beautiful You. I understand and agreed with the reasoning behind changing the name. However, I think the original title was a better description of the theme behind the music. The album deals with standing up for the truth. Truth is always narrow. By definition it has to be. We claim that Scripture is filled with truth, and we are commanded to stand up for that truth no matter what happens. And while standing for a narrow truth we cannot waiver, even if others are offended by our actions. Jesus never buckled when he challenged the Pharisees’ practices, even though he often upset them.
So, aren’t the themes of these two CD’s contradictory? Isn’t it a paradox to say we should love others before ourselves, and then to insist that we should stand for our beliefs even when they might be offensive to others? Perhaps the more we learn about Christ, the more the seemingly disparate messages of the two CD’s will make sense. “Lord help us to trust you even when things don’t make perfect sense. Allow us to be so close to you that what we once perceived as paradoxes become possibilities.”