Monday, November 26, 2007

Do It Now

I spent much of the Thanksgiving holiday in the car this year. Wednesday before The Day, I drove to Louisiana from Houston to pick up my Mom. My brother, Mike, met me somewhere near the halfway point for the “handoff”.

A couple of weeks ago, I had taken a motorcycle ride over to visit Mom on one of those beautiful fall days that seem to come later and later here in Texas. It’s about a 6-hour ride, but, honestly, I love it. It’s great for my head, my heart and my perspective. While I was there, I asked her if she wanted to come to Houston for Thanksgiving. She hasn’t been here in a while and I thought she might like the trip and the change of scenery. I told her I’d come and get her and bring her to Houston. Her response was, “You’d do that?” At the time, it didn’t seem like that big a deal.

So Mike and I worked out the timing – we hit the rendezvous point about 5 minutes apart. I know it’s a guy thing, but after driving 3 hours or so, we both felt pretty good about pulling it off with such relative precision.

Mom is in her middle eighties and still lives alone in the house where I grew up and where we all lived as a family. Dad passed away in 1997. Right before he died, he told me “Your mother won’t make it a year after I’m gone, you know?” While things are not easy for her, she does just fine at her own pace.

Her body is weak and frail. She walks with a walker and moves very slowly. But her heart and her mind are strong. She smiled a lot all weekend despite the physical challenges and the fear that comes from being out of your comfort zone. Houston and its busyness are a far cry from small town north Louisiana.

After a good Thanksgiving Day, I was taking her back to the hotel and the sky near the Galleria area began to light up. It was the grand finale of the lighting of the Christmas Trees on Post Oak Boulevard – an annual tradition here in Houston. We were far enough away to not be cornered by the thousands of people in the heart of the action. I pulled into a parking lot and turned the car in the direction of the fireworks. She loved it – “oooo” and “ahhh” just like a little kid. More smiles and thanksgiving. Mom knows how to be thankful.

I took her back to Louisiana on Friday afternoon. That morning, we had jumped into the shopping scene for what we thought would be a quick stop to buy her some clothes. The Mall on the day after Thanksgiving – something I have taken an oath against and sworn never to do. I broke my oath this time for Mom.

She was overwhelmed by the crowds and thrilled by the excitement of Christmas shoppers and all the decorations.
The vendors that occupy the center aisles of the mall found her to be easy prey with her slow gate. But she smiled and giggled at them all with their silly wares - Not one thing she couldn’t live without, but she let them make their pitch anyhow and slowly strolled away.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been thinking I needed to drive through Louisiana, get Mom in the car and take her to Nashville to spend some time with her Great Grandchildren, Sam and Gabe. So far, it hasn’t happened and it occurred to me while making these drives over Thanksgiving, it might be too tough for her to do. I don’t think she could make the trip now. The stops, getting in and out of the car – things that most of us take for granted and do without thinking, my Mom finds difficult. Her legs are weak as are her hands and arms. Her feet don’t work so well, either. She’s a trooper, though and doesn’t like being a burden. She doesn’t mourn the fact that she can’t get around the way she used to. But I do.

I wish I had been more attentive to her waning health. I’m not going to beat myself up over this, but I would encourage you, this Christmas season, to do the things you’ve been thinking of doing and do them now! Push some other, more pedestrian things to the back burner – you know, the things that no one will remember next summer much less for a lifetime. I think my Mom will remember her trip to Houston for Thanksgiving for a long, long time. She told me she thought she’d never get over here again. So, take a deep breath, do a little planning and prioritize the things on your list. Put the life memory – type stuff at the top and those fruitcakes and toys and trinkets near the end. Remember your kids might like playing with boxes as much as playing with toys. Maybe, having some of your distant, aging loved ones around will be the stuff of lifetime memories for you and your children, too.

Stay thankful – always.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nobody Has to Teach Us How to Cry

I watched the news last night and saw the tremendous sadness in the faces of those affected by the cyclone in India. So far from here, their stories neatly contained in an electronic box in my living room, it was difficult to feel the depths of their pain. The interpretations coming from the reporter all said the same thing. “This man lost everything and everyone. His entire family is gone”. Pictures showed the destruction but like most cases of major catastrophes, the images that flash by in seconds show little of the real scope of the devastation. The helpless feeling in me lasted only about as long as the news report.

But I couldn’t forget this. There were so many tears. The language that I couldn’t understand became clear because I know the meaning of tears. Nobody has to teach us how to cry. It just comes. It can be brought on by loss, sadness, grief, pain, fear, and anger. It just happens. Tears can be a common bond between worlds, between people that will never ever come in contact with one another.

God puts empathy in our hearts. He creates compassion for those around us in need. While we might not be able to be a shoulder for someone in India to cry on, we can show compassion, love and patience for those in our lives right now. The Bible encourages us to weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh.

Nobody has to teach us to laugh, either. I was around a fifteen-month-old little girl the other night. She was so cool. Smiled a lot and didn’t cause much of a fuss at all. She was happy and obviously didn’t realize the stock market was in trouble, that gas prices continue to soar, that Christmas shopping was about to begin and I haven’t done anything! She laughed instinctively at nothing. I didn’t have to sit and point out to her “See, this is funny”. She just laughed.

It’s Thanksgiving. In our lives there is a lot to cry about and hopefully, there are some things to laugh about, too. While those two things come naturally, we do have to learn how to be thankful. Sometimes it’s just takes a subtle reminder that there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’ve had holidays where I couldn’t wait for them to pass. Then I just decided to say “Thanks”. Find the time this week to thank God for simple things – everyday things. The list is endless. It just might comfort your aching heart and dry those tears. And maybe, in the middle of saying “thank you” you might have a good laugh or two.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

No Agua?

The question is not so much “What if we ran out of water?” but “What if there was no such thing as water?” Think about it. What if God had never created it? Try and imagine your life without liquid. It’s crazy.

The first thing I do every morning is drink a glass of water. Coming in a close second or third is taking a shower. Then off to make coffee, maybe boil some water and make oatmeal for breakfast. Yesterday, I washed some clothes and ran the dishwasher. When I drove to the post office, my windshield had some specs on it (don’t get me started on my obsession with a clean windshield…I’m workin’ on it!) so I pulled the lever on the steering column and washed it off. Oh yea, then I had to put some gas in the car. It’s starting to look a little dirty, so I’ll probably go the car wash this afternoon. I haven’t been feeling too well this week so I went to the doc and one of the first things he told me to do was to drink more fluids.

What if there were no such things as rain? We wouldn’t have anything to talk about!! The weather report would practically be the same every day. He wouldn’t even have to say, “It’s going to be dry again today” because we wouldn’t even have a word for “dry”. That would be like saying “There will be air to breathe today”. Duh.

There would be no oceans. Would the charm and excitement of “living on the coast” be lost if there was no coast - nothing but land stretching into more and more land? Would New York, Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles, or Seattle be less inviting and romantic if they occupied the same kind of terrain as any other landlocked city in the world?

I went to the headquarters of Living Water International here in Houston on Tuesday to meet their staff and share a few minutes of devotional thought with them. I had been introduced to LWI at a gala event last month – gala, now there’s a really manly word. Let’s just say it was a really nice dinner with a lot of people at a big ballroom at a nice hotel. There.

I don’t think I could adequately describe what LWI does around the world so I would encourage you to visit their website. But in a nutshell this is it. LWI sends teams of laymen and technicians all over the world to drill, repair and maintain water wells. They provide fresh water to people that have no access to such a vital element of daily living. While we might take for granted turning on the tap and getting a drink, much of the rest of the world has no understanding of such a luxury. Buying water in bottles (from France??) at the local gas station would be a strange concept for sure. The cost of such refreshment even boggles my mind. I still don’t understand how bottled water cost more per ounce than gasoline. Something is economically askew.

Unclean water is the major cause of disease and poverty in many countries. The cost of drilling and maintaining simple wells is amazingly low. They have also developed a simple filter that contaminated water can be poured through – it comes out clean, much like the process of ground water seeping through the layers of soil, sand and rock then reaching aquifers below the surface of the earth. LWI and their supporters are angels of mercy in these communities. The wells are the central focal points of life in many of them. These wells are the most obvious indicators of a vibrant, healthy and growing local culture.

Along with the obvious benefits of the wells providing a healthy water supply for a community, LWI also teaches the locals citizens how to maintain the equipment. It helps give them ownership by giving them responsibility.

Because the leadership, from the founding of LWI to present day, came from a spiritual burden to help the world, their hearts for Christ move them to share His Word as they go about putting action to their faith and conviction. When Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10 -

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

He was most likely referring to a cup of, not only cool water but fresh, cool water. In that day, a valuable refreshment for sure.

Be thankful for small blessings. Around the world, the definition of the “small and large” of such blessings is very different. We all have much to be thankful for. I hope your Thanksgiving season stretches far beyond the dinner table next Thursday.

Bless you all.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Flight of the Vespas

I’m spending some time at one of my favorite coffee places this weekend. No, it’s not a Starbucks. I’m not a coffee snob and I really like Starbucks but I have friends that are seriously “anti” (One of the anti Starbucks crowd refers to them as “four bucks”). Honestly, if they ever get to “fourbucks” for a simple cup of black, I might have to re-evaluate my java preferences.

Where was I?

Oh, yea. So I’m looking forward to just leaning back in the crisp morning air with a hot cup to read the paper and do a little people watching when it became clear that I was walking smack dab into some kind of club gathering. As I looked around, the parking lot and all the spaces in front of the shop were filled with bikes - and not the kind you peddle.

I’ve enjoyed riding the powered two-wheel machine since the early 80s. My parents were wary of motorcycles as most parents are and probably should be. Growing up, I was barely allowed to look at them, much less touch or ride one. My cousin, Eric, from Florida had a big black Honda. When we would visit, I would circle the mysterious machine parked in the garage but, as far as I remember, never sat on it and certainly never went for a ride.

I bought my first motorcycle in the early 80s. It was a Yamaha Virago. I don’t know exactly what a “Virago” is but if you jumble the letters around, you can come up with some pretty funny combinations. (I’ll confess that I don’t know what an “Impreza” or “Elantra” is either) I later moved on to the American made Harley and have never looked back.

I remember riding my first bike to Louisiana from Houston. My Mom and Dad had no warning that I’d made this purchase. They didn’t know who was riding in circles around their house in a leather jacket and full-face helmet with the dark shield. When I stopped on the driveway in front, my folks came out with arms folded and smiles on their faces.


I took my coffee and found a seat in the middle of the action. After a few minutes, a young man stood up and announced that the ride would begin soon. He gave a few instructions and people began to suit up with jackets and helmets as they made their way to their rides.

If you’re imagining roaring, made in the USA V-Twins coming to life under the rough hands of intimidating bikers, you’re a little off.

This was the flight of the Vespas. I smiled.

What amused me about this whole scene was that the atmosphere was pretty much exactly like a big motorcycle rally. Only the rides were different. The riders wore leather jackets and helmets with patches and decals expressing their personal political, social and moral leanings. There were custom paint jobs and personal touches that made each scooter unique. These riders had found camaraderie.

As the time came for them to leave, I wondered how they would all get on the street at the same time and how they could possibly merge into traffic moving at speeds that would probably demand full throttle from the scooters. While groups of 5 or 6 waited their turn they goosed their little engines leaving those of us watching bathed in Vespa exhaust fumes. Another smile. The noise was kinda cute.

People long for community and we all desire fellowship with people on common ground. The common ground might be need for expression. The common ground might be simply “need”. Growing up in church, my heart always leaned toward fellowship with other believers. But outside the fellowship of the church, there is still a hunger for togetherness. Of course, those of us inside would prefer that those outside simply come in. It’s much easier that way. That way we don’t have to go outside into the world filled with Vespas and Harleys or whatever else might make you cringe.

But to love God is to love people – people made in His image. To love God is to set aside our preconceived notions about what a certain group might be into or how they might feel about “Us” or how they might feel about “Him”.

Richard Foster wrote…
Those on the outside see only loss in following Christ. They miss entirely the great freedoms: the freedom from a stifling self-absorption; the freedom from a plotting and scheming one-upmanship; the freedom from the insecure systems of this world. And so much more.

Get outside your comfort zone this week. Do something or go somewhere (Let Him lead you…don’t just go!) this week that might make you a little uncomfortable. Read something that you don’t agree with – something that might make you ask some questions of how you live and what you believe (At the very worst, it might give you some insight to the lost world around you). Knowing all the time that our God is Steady, Immovable, All-Knowing, full of grace and mercy and able to keep us wherever we go. This is a great world, a fallen one of course, but what a tremendous place our Lord has given us to live, to see Him and to love those around us.

Pray – Love - Smile


Friday, November 9, 2007

Hot in the kitchen!

On Monday of this week, November 5, I spent the afternoon in Culver City, CA. Now this is one bizarre story.

A few months ago, I got an email via from a guy named Keith. It was very nice and he said he had been following my music for a while. Said he actually ran sound for me back in 1991. Honestly, I don’t remember. The way he told it, he was running the monitor board right off the stage, I asked him to make a change, he made it and I said “beautiful” or something like that. He remembered feeling good about being able to make it sound like I wanted it to sound. What a memory!

Anyway, Keith said in his email that he was the head audio engineer for a television show on the Fox Television Network called “Hell’s Kitchen”. He said something to this effect “I don’t know if you watch stuff like this or not…” Well, it’s like this – Yes, I have seen the show and actually find it pretty entertaining. I told him the “beeping” of words that are still, thank the Lord, are inappropriate for primetime television is pretty annoying but I realize they are trying to protect our delicate sensibilities. I appreciate the effort though it’s pretty hard to not know what they’re beeping. I mean, come on. Right?

So Keith and I email a few times and he says if I’m ever in southern California, give him a heads up and let him know. He invited me to come by and watch a taping of the show.

So seeing that I was in Dana Point, CA for the Luis Palau conference, I planned to stay over an extra day and check this thing out.

They were starting to shoot the 5th season on Monday. I found my way to the address Keith had given me – hoping this was real. We talked on the phone as I walked up to the building and there was Keith. He greeted me and we went into the soundstage. Once inside, I signed in and put my signature on a short document that basically stated that I would not divulge anything about the show and so on. So, I won’t be doing that!

I was given a visitors pass and went into the audio room (one of several). There, Keith and I had lunch and talked. I was immediately comfortable with him and his friendly staff.

You can’t imagine how many people it takes to pull off a show of this magnitude. Mind-boggling. Keith has a staff of 18 under him doing everything you could imagine (and more than a few things most of us would never think of) to record everything for the show. I won’t go “techy” on you, but I’ll just say there were lots of things going on. Mics and cameras everywhere.

And by the way, Keith loves Jesus. God overwhelms me with his imaginative use of His children. Here is this guy in a very unusual (or really maybe not that unusual at all from a real world sense) environment. People from all kinds of backgrounds working together to produce a modern day reality show for a major television network. And here is a real missionary right in the middle of it in a very important respected position. I could tell, just being there for a few hours, that he had the admiration of all around him. And besides that, he knows what the heck he’s doing! He’s not pretending or posing – he’s a real pro! Keith has worked on feature films and numerous other television series. Still, his first devotion is to the Lord.

Someone wrote, “We work the field of souls together you and I.” This story is exactly what I had in mind in writing that song. All of us, doing exactly what God put us here to do – some behind the scenes, some in front, some in conventional ministry, others “in the world” but not “of it”.

I’m thankful for how God uses you and me. Do what you’re here to do. Go!

Monday, November 5, 2007


Monday November 5, 2007

Well, I’m still in California. I see why people like it out here and I see why folks are so fit – you never want to be inside just sitting around! Even when it’s cloudy, like it’s been every morning, it’s still beautiful and comfortable outside.

We wrapped up the Luis Palau conference yesterday about noon and I am staying over until tomorrow.
The conference was a huge success and lots of new people were introduced to the inner workings of the ministry. Most of them plunged in with both feet to be partners with Luis and his team.

Their vision for reaching the world with the Gospel is extremely energetic and passionate. Luis is one fired-up guy! If you were ever near one of his “festivals” I would encourage you to bring your kids of all ages and spend some time there.

There are surfers in the chilly Pacific. They are there at 6 AM every single morning. Yes, it’s Monday. Do these people work?? They might be asking the same thing of me! Anyway, the surfers are fascinating to me. I really don’t get it so I don’t want to be too critical because maybe some of you do get it.
But really, they float for hours waiting for a wave, ride it for a few seconds, bale out and wait for another, ride that one, etc, etc. I’m sure I’m missing something and they would probably not get some stuff I like.

They might watch me hit a golf ball, track it down, hit it, track it down – well you get the idea.

Or they might watch me ride a motorcycle and say “Man, that’s really dangerous. Why do you do that?”

So live and let live.

It was odd to see them out there every morning. Yesterday, Sunday, I chuckled and thought “Boy, when I was a kid, you went to church on Sunday and if you didn’t go, you sure didn’t go out (although surfing wasn’t an option in northeast Louisiana) and let people know you weren’t in church!

I used to drive by a country club on the way to church in Houston. Every Sunday, there would be carts full of people out playing golf. I couldn’t help but think, “They should be in church”. Some thought patterns are just hard to break. Then, churches started having Saturday night services…man, Saturday night services have taken all the fun out of being judgmental! Maybe the surfers went to church on Saturday night – maybe the golfers went with them!!

Anyway, it sure takes the pressure off to expect and assume the best whatever the odds or whatever the real truth is. God loves people!

May He help me love them like He does.


P.S. I think I’m going to have a very good story to tell you tomorrow. Going somewhere pretty fun today in Hollywood

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday November 2, 2007

I woke up today in Dana Point, California. I flew here yesterday from Houston to be with the President’s Council for the Luis Palau Association.

Luis Palau is known around the world as a man of God, a brilliant evangelist and a man who is unafraid to address any part of the culture with the loving truth of Christ. I’ve known him and have worked with him for years. In the beginning, I was a part of some of his crusades. They were held in large arenas that would seat from 10 to 15 thousand people. A few years back, Luis transitioned to a festival format that has been wildly successful.

The ‘CityFest” model draws hundreds of thousands wherever they go. The Luis Palau Association sends in a team to live in the host city for a year prior to the event. It’s a remarkable plan that involves the cooperation of churches of all evangelical faiths.
By the time Luis hits town with the some of the most well known names in Christian and popular music, the place is ready to rock. God has blessed this man and his team.

I’m here to share with a small gathering of his warriors. The inner circle that holds Luis up in prayer is here along with some of his major supporters.

It’s not often that I leave Houston and come to California regretting the weather I left in Texas. Right now in southern California, the smoke has yet to clear from the devastating fires that have burning for weeks. There is a lingering haze. But still, as you can see, not a bad place to land for a few days.

I’m so thankful for the new ways of communicating with all of you that have been so supportive. The new website is off and running and already, a mass of people have gone on to buy both of the new records. Thank you all!

Have a great weekend.

November 2, 2007