Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Ridge Concert

I spent the past weekend with the staff and congregation at a church in the Dallas area called The Ridge.

Friday night we gathered at the home of a friend of mine who is a member of the church. They are new members there and are diving in with both hands and feet. I haven’t played an intimate home gathering like this in a while but there I was – perched in front of the fireplace in their living room with the staff and spouses sitting around me.

We had a tremendous dinner and great fellowship that night. I always smile at the fact that, here we are, relative strangers to each other but “family” in God’s embrace. It gives an instant kinship that was especially warming during this time of year.

Saturday night, I did a concert at the church. It’s not a big place – a few hundred seats at the most. The church is set just off the entrance to a beautiful neighborhood full of nice, comfortable homes. Driving through the development, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people might find a church home at the Ridge. I wondered how many were still looking for something more than the life they were living.

The weather turned bad during the day of the concert. The wind blew 20 to 30 miles per hour and the temperature dropped dramatically. By the time we got up on Sunday morning to do the two services at The Ridge, the gauge in my car said it was 26 degrees.

Back to Saturday - there was a wedding in the church that Saturday afternoon. With the show scheduled to start at 7:30, I was a little nervous about how little time we would have to reset the stage and do a good soundcheck. Hearing that they were going to be out “by 6:30” didn’t help. I know how long things take to get ready for a concert and this was going to be tight.

I wrapped up the soundcheck at 7:25, rushed back stage to have a few minutes alone, ponder the set list, pray ( by now, after all these years, I’m aware that you can never wait until right before show time to get “prayed up” and prepare. If your not ready by then, you have to deal with the stresses and consequences) and change clothes.

It was a good night. The room felt like it was filled with good friends. There were people that had been listening to my stuff for years and years. They felt the warmth of the memories of time passed and enjoyed the new songs that I hope will become touch stones of the here and now.

Sunday morning, after venturing off in search of a big cup of black Starbuck’s stout, I pulled into the parking lot around 8 AM to rehearse with the worship band for the two morning services. It was great to sit in and just play with the band. Joey is the worship leader at The Ridge, so he took the lead. I played piano and sang along. It enjoyed being a part of the team for a day.

Driving toward Houston Sunday afternoon, I felt great. It had been a good time spent there in Dallas. I have lot’s of friends in D. Some new, some from a long time back.

About 15 miles north of the town of Fairfield, traffic came to a complete stop. I mean the kind of stop where people were getting out of their cars and visiting. We sat there for about a half hour. I’m always curious as to what is going on up ahead that can cause this kind of stall.

You know, you sure don’t want anybody to be hurt up there, but most of us can’t wait to see why we’ve been sitting for so long on a major federal highway. I’m beginning to think that two lanes of highway between Dallas and Houston probably aren’t enough. Would somebody get on it and take care of this?? Thanks.

When we finally started moving and eventually passed the scene of all the trouble, I saw that it was an 18 wheeler that had burned down to the wheels! Guess everybody was alright. But everybody had to take a look.

After we passed the accident site, I-45 turned NASCAR! I mean everybody dialed it up a few notches to make up for the lost time. Again, the two lane thing is not working! But, thank the Lord, I arrived home safe, tired but satisfied and grateful to be able to do what I do.

One more encouragement to SIMPLIFY this Christmas. Most of us take one more shot at this tremendous season and THEN declare "Next year, we'll do this different. Less stuff and more of the things that last - the things that mean something". Then the next year rolls around just as the debts of this year are paid and , again we vow to make a change. Folks, time is flying. Nothing is sure except His precious love and His hand upon us - wherever we are. Put your foot down and make some changes now.

This would be my last concert for a while. My next date is in mid January in Ruston, Louisiana.

I hope I can get out more in ’08 and see a lot more of you. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your prayers and support.

Keep smiling and let up on yourself a little. The pressure won't go away by itself until something blows or until you turn down the heat or take some aggressive action against those things that are tearing you up.

I wish you peace and joy this Christmas.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

No Way Back To Mayberry

Might as well weigh in on this – seems like everyone else has.

First of all, I love baseball. Always have. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get past “batboy” age to the place where one actually got to play in every game and hit against real pitching. We didn’t have pitching machines back then.

Batboy duty was better than nothing, I guess. I mean, I had a uniform with a number, but I think it actually said “batboy” on the back. Geez. But in our cozy little corner of the world, everybody knew everybody else, who your mama and daddy were, and generally, how old you were. Most folks probably knew I wasn’t old enough to be playing.

Batboys picked up bats near the plate during the games, kept the equipment in order in the dugout and took the good natured abuse of the older kids. Batboys also got a free hotdog with the rest of the team at the end of the game. It never occurred to me that some kid’s dad actually bought the hotdogs (probably didn’t set ‘em back much for a couple a dozen dogs…maybe 25 cents apiece). The end-of –the-game dogs were the best.

The highlight of the batboy season came during the final game. I remember getting in the batter’s box and taking swings off a real pitcher. It was cool.

I still love baseball.

Sometimes, on a nice spring or summer evening, I’ll get on my bike (the kind with a motor) and ride in the country around Houston. Seeing lights from a field in the distance always makes me want to turn the wheels in the direction of a game. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s kids playing or adults trying to convince themselves that, with just the right break, they could be in the big leagues.

I just love the game.

But the innocence is gone now. It’s been gone for a while.

The announcement that came on December 13, 2007 was shocking for some. Some of the biggest names in major league ball were on the list of players accused of using performance enhancing substances. Sure, it’s disappointing but not all that surprising. The pressure to perform, stay on the active list, make a pile of dough before your body says “enough” must be incredible.

I think we all have to be careful and not judge so quickly. It’s easy to be critical and judgmental when the dream of being a professional athlete is in your rear view mirror. “Objects in mirror are really farther away than they appear!”

Honestly, all we have to go on is what reports and reporters tell us. Much of it, if not most of it, is probably true. I don’t know. I don’t let it effect my day that often. While it’s sad, there are lots of other more important things to get worked up about. I’m sure you have your own list.

I’ve met a few big league baseball players, a few NFL guys and an occasional player in the NBA. But I don’t know Barry Bonds or any of the other guys named in the Mitchell Report. Their private practices will probably never be able to kill my love for my favorite sport. I’ll still enjoy watching players run down fly balls that would be out of reach for mere mortals or watch hitters put their eyeballs on a rawhide sphere coming at them from 60 feet 6 inches away at 90 miles per hour and make solid contact.

Some of the guys don’t come off as very nice or friendly in post game interviews and so we come to our own conclusions about them – whether they would be the kind of people we’d like to hang with. But that’s all most of us really know of them. I’ve tried to reserve judgment in most cases and simply try to simply believe the best unless I have evidence to the contrary. It helps keep things in perspective.

One of the things I thought as I heard the report being read was this – there might be a payday for some of these guys down the road. It’s not really clear what price their bodies will exact for the abuses that seem to be so widespread. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I hope they all get to see their grandchildren grow up.

So the innocent age of Mayberry is gone. The real Andy Griffith was quoted as saying “I’m not as good a man as Andy Taylor”. Who is?

This is a fallen world and we are flawed people. There are too many things that bring despair and cause us to breathe a heavy “I’ve had it” kind of sigh.

I hope you find the light of Christ in your sights today. He who came as an innocent was exposed to the worst the world had to give – the blame for all the sin on the planet. And yet remained innocent and forgiving.

I hope you find reason to believe in innocence and good today and I hope you are enjoying the sweet purity of this Christmas season.

Wayne Watson

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I spent the past weekend with some dear, long-time friends in Fort Worth. I’ve known John and Jan Lee since I was 15 years old. Neither one of us actually added up the numbers and verbalized how that dates our friendship - but we all know.

John is the music of minister at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth and they invited me up to join their choir and orchestra for their annual Christmas music presentation.

I sang some Christmas songs off the new “King of Kings” album and a few off “One Christmas Eve” that was recorded in 1994. I forget how moving Christmas music can be – especially to sing! I get to do these songs a few times and a few different locations each Christmas season and, I have to tell you, some of them still choke me up every time.

The trend to try and keep the music current and relevant seems to get put on the back burner at Christmas. All kinds of radio stations from rock to Christian contemporary play Christmas songs from artist like Paul McCartney to Bing Crosby to, well….me.

The local Christian music giant in Houston, KSBJ is playing a tremendous variety of music this season – as long as it has the word “Christmas” in it. I think it’s great and probably reaches an audience that otherwise might never tune in to hear normal contemporary worship and other types of Christian music.

As a writer and singer, these traditional songs like “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “ O Holy Night” and “The First Noel” inspire me and make me want to get better at writing things that are deep – things that will last way beyond my lifetime.

I’m thankful that we still gather together at Christmas and sing these songs. I’m sure some people think they’re corny and frankly, some of the stuff we hear and sing along with is corny. But it’s Christmas and it’s fun and it moves us all at the same time.

Thanks to my friend John and the church at Fort Worth for allowing me to be a small part of their special Christmas celebration this year.

I hope you all are able to push back the urge to try and buy yourself a merry little Christmas – and just have one!