Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A week ago (Sunday August 16), I was at Chapelwood in Houston to lead worship. My friend Sarah Fuselier was there to sing with me and it’s always so good to sing with her. She’s a pro that knows how to sing with her heart and knows how to worship.

Right after the service was over, I drove east on I-10 on my way to DeQuincy,LA for a concert there. We all met at the high school theater/auditorium, proceeded to get everything set for a 5 PM door (6 PM start time) when, at about 4:50, the sound system called in sick (i.e. shut down, nothing, bupkus). I can’t say enough about how proactive and positive everyone was! The pastor made the call to load everything up, head to the church and set up there. So many questions – so little time.

The sound crew and all the volunteers did their thing to perfection and I was actually ready to go, sitting in the green room at 5:40 having some fruit and hot tea! Amazing!

We started on time and it was a tremendous evening. Many thanks to First Baptist Church of DeQuincy, Mel Yorks and all the staff for having me there.

I drove home on Monday morning just in time to have a couple of hours to throw things together for the flight that evening to Chicago. Meg with me, we got to the airport in time for a 3:45 flight to O’Hare.

Sue Olsen met us there and drove us to the hotel. Sue is on the development team for Bible League (Soon to be known as Bible League International . . . they work in over 60 countries) and she set up the week’s activities.

Tuesday morning at 7, we were in the lobby to meet Sue for the ride to the Bible League headquarters. We had several meetings with different folks from the staff of over 100 and then, at noon, I shared some songs at their focus meeting of all the staff.

Bible League is well known around Illinois and especially Chicago land but not so well known around the rest of the USA. Let me encourage you to get to know them and their work. Bibleleague.org is there home website. They’re constantly updating and are in the throes of some major changes. I’m thankful to be able to represent them from time to time in concerts.

The two concerts in the Chicago area were well planned, well executed and well attended. I’m thankful for these opportunities.

Bible League is not a Bible distributor. I could go into detail about their incredible ministry but my wife had the best example of what they do and how I could describe how they do what they do.

Which would you choose? If I asked you if you could play the guitar and you said, “No, but I would like to learn” which scenario would you prefer? (A) I hand you a guitar, wish you well and leave you with it (good luck, Godspeed,etc.) OR (B) I hand you a guitar and tell you “I’m going to stay right here with you, teach you how to play, meet you every week until you can play so well that you could teach someone else to play.”


Which would be the best method? Which would be the best use of our time? Which would produce the finest player and the best results?

That’s what Bible League does. They put over 19 million copies of the Scriptures in the hands of people all over the world last year alone. Also, in 2008, they trained (through local churches around the globe) over a quarter of a million people to teach God’s Word.
Churches and Church fellowships grow from the Bible study groups. That, my friends, is follow-up!

We flew home to Houston on Saturday afternoon. And yesterday, Sunday August 23, I spent the day with South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX. Two morning services starting at 8:15! I could tell, as people started arriving for that first service that this church was alive and well! The energy of the people was tremendous.

Last night, I asked my friends Jeremy Good and Rankin Peters to join me along with Nathan Wells running the sound. It was a blast to play with these guys again – the second time this month. After doing hundreds, and maybe into the thousands, of concerts solo, I really enjoy having musicians of this caliber on the platform beside me.

So now, I’m on a track to prepare for departure on Tuesday, Sept. 1, for the Philippines. I don’t ask this casually and I know and trust that many of you will actually do this with me and for me.

I need your prayers for this trip. I would ask you to pray for health and strength, for protection and safety, for joy in the middle of it all, that my eyes will be open (both physical eyes and spiritual eyes). Pray for my wife while I'm traveling, for her peace and safety. I’ll try to keep you apprised of all the action as time and foreign time zones and access will permit.

I’m thankful to all who read these notes.

Blessings to you


Saturday, August 22, 2009

When do people think anymore?

I could say I’m worried about the next generation but I know that would probably induce a yawn from you followed by a couple of keystrokes taking you on to the next item on your surfing agenda. Wait! Wait!!!!

I’m not worried about the next generation so much. First of all, I try to NOT worry these days about much of anything. Read it in a Book somewhere.

I guess the reason some people worry about young people is that the media has such a presence in their (our?) lives and such pointed impact on everything they think and do. I’m not worried about the music they listen to. I hear songs now that I listened to back then. I had no clue as to the meaning of most of it. I just liked how it sounded much to the quiet dismay of my parents (See, this is nothing new at all). I do get a little concerned about the free access to visuals that weren’t there before. The lines of propriety were crossed a long, long time ago. Parents have to step up, step in and use the “off” button.

I’m not worried about fashion trends or how short shorts are or how mini the dresses are. Ever fly Southwest Airlines in it’s early days . . .yikes! Again, parents have to stand between boy/girl of the house and say in their best King Jimmy English “No wayeth as long as thou dwelleth under my roof (roofeth?)”

And I’m not so much worried about this as much as I simply wonder where it will end up. Well, that followed by lots of prayer.

The heat index in Houston was over 100 again today. Welcome to our summer. The heat has forced most of us to abandon a lot of outdoor activities lately. The AC has been pulling overtime most of the season.

But today, I vowed to take on the sunshine and spend a few hours on two wheels. No, not the pedaling kind of two wheels, the motorized version. My bike has been sitting a lot this year. With two surgeries that took a toll on my core strength and power (the doc wasn’t crazy about me trying to manhandle an 800 pound motorcycle), my ride has mostly been idle.

This morning, after breakfast, I pulled down the basket of car/bike wash towels, ventured into the dark recesses of the storage room outside to find the right soaps and waxes, etc, pulled out the hose and began the pre-ride ritual.

People ask me, “Why do you always wash your bike before you ride?” Well, first of all, I don’t want to ride around on a bike caked with dust and grime, and second, it’s kind of hard to wash it after the ride. Exposed engine parts tend to get a tad warm after a few hours. A cool spray of water on a hot engine . . . well, why tempt fate? So to answer the question, it’s a strange mixture of vanity and wisdom.

After the washing and the drying and the waxing, I hit the starter, thankful that the weeks off and the summer heat hadn’t done a number on my battery, and off I went. Yes, it was hot! But, man, I love to ride. It does something to me – for me. I’ve written more than a few lines of lyric and melody on the back of my bike.

Back in 2003, Harley Davidson celebrated their 100th Anniversary. That was the year I bought this black Electro Glide Ultra Classic. It’s one of those big daddies that has a radio, CB (wow, remember those????), CD player and all the other goodies. Sometimes, I touch the power button on the radio and tune to a classic oldies station. There’s something about riding and listening to CCR or Foreigner.

But today, the audio system stayed off for the whole ride. No talk stations arguing about who’s gonna win the Superbowl (oh, sorry – do I have to pay to write “Superb…?) or what’s gonna happen if the Astros don’t do something fast, or some public radio car care comedians messing around with the heads of their listeners.

Just good time to think, to pray, and to watch and listen.

If you’re thinking something profound came from today’s trip, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It didn’t. Nothing long forgotten came back to me. There was no George Costanza moment, “I just remembered where I left my retainer in second grade!”

I just rode and thought and prayed. Not the kind of prayer you’re taught in Sunday School. Just a conversation with the Father. A line or two here and there followed by the silence and the waiting. It was like spending the day with your best friend – some talking some listening, some just being together. The thoughts that came during the waiting were sweet. There was an innocence that doesn’t often show itself in this culture of noise and busyness.

So when do you take the time to just think?

When my kids were young, boredom would sneak up on them like a summer cold. Out of nowhere, in the middle of what you would otherwise think was a good day, one of them would declare, “I’m bored.” I don’t know when I first resorted to this tactic, but I remember using it often – even through those difficult high school years. Whenever one of the boys would declare boredome, I would make them go to their rooms – not out of punishment – sit on the bed (no sleeping, no listening to music, no talking on the phone) and just – think.

Without fail, within a half hour, sometimes less, they would emerge, ready to tackle some project, something they’d wanted to do but had forgotten all about. It just took some time to remember and reclaim the passion for that treehouse, that game deep in the closet, that model that never got assembled, that . . . whatever it was. It just took some down time – some time to think.

I’m concerned (evangelical-speak for “worry”) about the creative void that will almost certainly occur in the near future because people aren’t thinking, they aren’t dreaming and using their imaginations. While I was riding today, I passed dozens of runners in all parts of the city. None of them were running without headphones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people listen to music! Duh. And I certainly don’t know what goes on every minute of everyone’s day. But everywhere we go, people are occupied with their cell phones, their ipods, their blackberries,etc. It’s not only that we’re missing interaction with each other, we’re not taking time to watch what’s going on around us, we’re not listening. Sometimes there’s need right beside me and if I’m not careful, I get so occupied with my stuff, I miss it. Who’s to know what direction a day might take – for that matter a week or a lifetime – if we just pay attention to something outside our own realm.

Wow….this soapbox is beginning to wobble.

Turn something off today. Walk away, even if it’s just an hour or so, from your iPhone, your blackberry, your cell phone. (It bothers me to feel the way I do if I happen to get in the car only to find myself a whole MILE from home with out my phone!!! Wimp. Take on the world sans phone once in a while.) Resist the urge to enter the family room, the kitchen, the bedroom, that hotel room, and automatically turn on he tv set.

Maybe someone should figure out how to charge for quiet. Then we might consider it a prize to be treasured. But ‘till then, try a free moment of solitude and silence and enjoy.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I miss some things.

For forty-five years, I had perfect eyesight. I could see road signs and read them, sometimes, before anyone else in the car even realized there was a sign. I could read small street signs in neighborhoods – even at night and, therefore, always appeared to know where I was going and seldom got lost. I could read the fine print in menus even in darkened restaurants – you know, what else comes with the dish you’re ordering, the “automatic 18% tip added to parties of six or more” or “some of our dishes are cooked in peanut oil” (a warning that, if not heeded during my youngest son’s early years, could have spelled disaster) or “pipe and cigar smoking prohibited.” You know, stuff like that.

Now, unless the lighting in a restaurant is something akin to a tanning salon or a futuristic space vehicle approaching the surface of the sun, reading glasses are absolutely required as I enter eating establishments – unless I want the menu read to me like a child. “Whoa, go back. What was the third thing you said . . . the tilapia?”

It usually takes me mere seconds, usually after I sigh a heavy sigh - mourning the loss of perfect sight, for me to realize how blessed I was to have all those years unfettered by glasses or contact lenses (I still don’t see how you can touch something to your eyeball!!). I’m aware that the minor inconvenience of having to remember glasses is absolutely nothing compared with some of the obstacles millions of people face every day – those that have lost their sight completely, those who are losing their sight noticeably every single day. It’s petty to complain.

But we all have to launch from our own pad - with our own experiences, good and bad, as a foundation. Our memories, our assets and liabilities are unique and, frankly, it really doesn’t help much to lessen the impact of our own loss to constantly try to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s a good reminder and a good journey-correction device to do so, though. Keeps you in touch with reality and gives you some big-picture perspective.

A man at my church lost his wife a couple of weeks ago after a nine year battle with that horrible disease, that intruder, that malicious perpetrator that, if it doesn’t kill, often the treatment does. Cancer. She was in her 50s. I asked him how he was doing Sunday after church. “One day at a time,” he said.

I still miss my father. He died over 12 years ago and not only do I miss him, nobody and nothing can ever take his place. His presence is lost to me.

I’ve had to put a couple of dogs down over the years and the subsequent quiet and physical void that’s undeniable and immediate is stunning. But it’s nothing like losing a family member. Or is it? To people that keep humans at arms length because of some pain inflicted upon them by said humans, the loss of a pet can be devastating.
Again, we all launch from a different pad.

Some of my friends have lost the innocence of their early years. The ugly side of life, the disappointment that inevitably comes with relationships, the loss of focus on a career or a noble ambition that seemed so clear a couple of decades back. We’ve all lost some of that.

Wow. So you just wanted to read something uplifting, huh? Some “Tweet” of inspiration in 140 characters or less?

Well, if you’re reading this, you’re breathing and God is not done with you.

And here’s a real “guy” bit of advice on how to get over it.

Get over it. Stop dwelling on the past. It’s gone.

How do you do that? When your mind starts to drift toward some morbid memorial of things lost, put something else on the screen. Like shuffling photographs when they come off the printer, look at something else.

“Wow, that’s a bad picture. Let’s put that in the back of the pile – or maybe in the shredder!” OK, here’s a good one. Look at those colors!”

Here’s the point. You have to learn from your loss. Learn to deal with it in a healthy manner. Learn to trust that God is real and that He’s got His eye on you. And that anything we hold to in this life has an expiration date on it.

Is it possible that daily reminders of loss are just ways of telling us not to get too attached (or at least to keep our attachments within some eternal perspective) – to anything! To keep a light grip? Even on the wonderful blessed stuff - like love and those that come with love? To remember that we are passing through and that eternity won’t be cluttered with things that die? To not be overwhelmed with the piles of things that were supposed to make our lives easier and are just making us more anxious?

Our vacation time at the cottage this year was the most peaceful, simple pleasure. The cell phone didn’t work much at all. The only internet connection was a dial-up service that forced you to just . . . sit . . . there . . . and . . . . . . wait. It was beautiful. And, remarkably, the sun just kept coming up and when we returned to the busy life of the city, everything was still churning as if we’d never left. In a lot of ways, we weren’t missed at all.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself to breathe. I find myself, literally, holding my breath, getting done with the things that must be done! I don’t want to live this way. And I pray everyday for the wisdom to pursue things that matter, things that are eternal, while surrounded by the noise of things that don’t. I pray that I’ll revel every day in the love God has poured all over me – with Himself, with family and friends.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Catching up

Well, where did we leave off?

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written. What was a lazy summer suddenly got very busy.

Most recently and most memorable – we spent a very relaxing 8 days in Canada in July. I was four weeks past the final round of surgery (which was textbook, thank God – most literally). Retreating to the cottage that’s been in Meg’s family since the early forties is a real vacation. Not like those trips where every minute of every day is filled with activities. You know the kind – a vacation where you come home needing a vacation. Yeah.

We flew to Buffalo then took the scenic 5 hour drive north to the shore of Lake Huron. The alarm had gone off in Houston at 3:30 AM so by the time we arrived at the cottage, we were spent. I think I slept about ten hours that night. The temp in Houston this summer has been brutal! We started having 100 degree-plus days in June and it’s kept up for most of the summer. So the high 50s of the Canada nights, the piles of blankets and the general easy, laid back vibe of the place, put me into a beautiful coma-like state of sleep I rarely get at home.

By the way and as an aside, the home office, while convenient, can be a nagging pest. It never goes away and it’s difficult to get away from. Computers, musical instruments, studio gear calling out “Touch me, use me!!!!”

Ahh….back to the cottage..

Our schedule, if you want to call it that, was something like this . . .

*Get up whenever you feel like it
*Coffee whenever you want, wherever you want – patio by the water
or in house.
*Read by the lake
*Talk by the lake
*Fish in the lake
*Stare at the lake
*Walk (exercise) if you feel like it
*Or ride bikes (pedaling – no motors)
*Lunch by Joanne (always beautiful, simple great food)
*More patio time – Repeat steps three through six
*Whatever . . . read, tv, talk, laugh, quiet . . .

Repeat daily

We got back to Houston feeling refreshed and thankful to have such a tremendous getaway.

Last night, I played a concert at our home church here in Houston. It was part of a concert series they started a few years back. On the stage with me were three of Houston’s finest musicians. Over the years, since I play most of my dates solo, adding other players to the mix has been a little stressful, but not last night.

Jeremy Good is a tremendous jazz pianist/keyboard dude. I hired Jeremy to come to Houston years ago when I was on staff at a church here – he was my main accompanist and has been here ever since. He played vintage Fender Rhodes and synth. Rankin Peters played upright and electric bass. So musical, Rankin drops it right in the pocket and goes with the flow like few others I’ve seen.

And finally, my longtime friend Sarah Fuselier sang backup. I can’t tell you how talented she is in a forum like this. You’d have to hear her! And if you get the chance, hear her!!!

After the events of this year, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to stand on a platform and have a voice to sing these truths about the grace, the mercy, the unstoppable love of our Father. My voice is tired today. When I ran into my friend Tom at church a few minutes ago, he asked me how I was doing after last night. “Voice is really tired,” I said. “Well,” he replied, “You weren’t . . . . shy.” I still want to sing like I’ll never get another chance.

This is a busy month. This weekend (August 16th) I’ll leave after church and drive to DeQuincy, LA for a concert there Sunday night. I’ll get back on Monday and we’ll leave Monday night for the rest of the week in Chicago.

Bible League is a ministry based in Chicago and I’m doing three concerts for them to raise awareness of their work. You can check the calendar at the website for more details.

On September 1, I’ll leave to fly to San Francisco and from there, will go to the Philippines until September 10. This is a radio promotional trip with the folks from Bible League. We’ll all appreciate your prayers for this long journey.

Right after I get back from the Philippines, I’ll be in Colorado Springs for the weekend for Compassion International and their gathering of international partners and leadership.

After that….who knows . . . stay tuned.