A Morning Spent in the Back Office

This morning I got to spend in “the back office” for the first time in forever. And it was excellent!

As a fourth-string drummer, I rarely get called upon to fill in in worship and praise bands, especially since our own church’s praise service disbanded about four years ago. But Jerry was desperate, clearly, for he had reached out to see if I could sit in with the band at Old Bridge Church for their 11:11 worship service today. And what made it even sweeter was he also invited my daughter Sarah to play and sing along. The picture above is from rehearsal; Sarah is the guitarist off my left crash cymbal.

It was challenging: none of the songs were ones I knew by heart, and several I hadn’t heard before. (I clearly need to broaden my playlists.) But we made it through, God was praised, and no one threw rotten fruit. So I call that a win.

I truly love drumming in praise worship. I love being a part of bringing praise to the Lord, in perhaps inspiring those in the service to experience God’s presence, and generally to be able to share the experience while helping be a part of creating it, if that makes any sense.  And so when I was invited to be the drummer for this spring’s Emmaus men’s walk, I was thrilled.

It has certainly occurred to me that there is a significant risk that once I join the pastorate this summer, occasions like this one will be even rarer than they are today. And there’s a piece of me that mourns that. Oh, sure, it’s still possible I’ll get to play in worship. Who knows. But as any regular activity, as something part of my ministry? I have a harder time seeing that happen.

Drumming isn’t the only thing that will change, and perhaps disappear, once I am licensed this summer. It is an entire season of change that I will be coming into, and doubtless other facets of my life and ministry to date will change, will fade, will even go away entirely. And yet I take comfort in knowing that despite it, God will be praised. Maybe I won’t be the one behind the kit anymore. But it’s never been about me–or at least, it shouldn’t have been. It’s about the four hardest words in English: Thy will be done.

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Adapting to College Boy

As described last time, our oldest has left for college, and I wanted to share an update of where things stand. Right now, I’m working my way through the stages of grief at not having him around anymore.

In these first two weeks, we’ve FaceTimed with him twice; the first time we caught up with him in the basement of another dorm “hanging out with my friends.” Well that didn’t take long. The next time, he was in his room with his roommate. The first time, he was monosyllabic–maybe didn’t want to be too expressive around his new friends. The second time, he was laughing and much more the young man I’d expected to hear from. But overall, clearly, he’s enjoying himself and off to a solid start in many respects. And yes, true to form, the only texts he’s initiated with me have to do with…money.

We’re still getting used to not having him around. It’s quieter, even though he often hung out in the basement anyway. My food bill collapsed. It’s easier to make a menu of dinners when only three have to agree on the meals.

But the silence still screams at me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen something funny in social media that I know he’d react to and went to call out, “Hey, D, come take a look at…oh.” It’s not being able to share the little moments of everyday life that I think bothers me the most at this point.

College Boy

This past weekend we moved our son into his freshman dorm at college. Our baby boy, our firstborn, is now College Boy, and we’ve found our world changed to an even greater degree than we’d imagined.

Of course we’d been getting ready, or so we thought. We’d been planning for college literally since he was born, and pointing him on this path since he began school. He’s been gone many times before–mission trips, Scout camp–and I thought I was ready for what this would feel like.

I was wrong.

I think what surprised me the most was the size of the hole that’s been left in my heart. The experts say that the most stressful life event is the death of a spouse; having a child move off to college isn’t even on their top ten list. But I can avow that this week has been one of the most heart-wrenching in the last several years. Of course, I love my son; my problem is, I actually like him, too, and I miss having him around. I’ve enjoyed being able to share something with him on the fly. That’s not as possible now.

We got him moved in, and managed to say our goodbyes without drama. Made it out to the car just fine, and even made the four-hour drive home without a problem. But when we got home late at night and I headed upstairs to bed, I saw under his door that he’d left his room light on. Grrr…so I opened the door to turn the light off.

And now I’m in his room. And there on the bed is what was his most beloved stuffed animal since first grade, sitting forlorn, waiting for a little boy who will never return–because he’s all grown up now. That’s when I lost it.

“Behold,” says the one who sits on the throne, “I am making all things new.” And I know this is natural, this is part of the progression of a healthy human being as he separates and starts his own path. But I also know I’m still selfish enough to want one more game of catch, one more Daddy-David Day, one more driving lesson, one more…everything. This is a glorious time, and we do celebrate it. But I’m also selfish enough to mourn what I’m losing, to miss what I don’t have anymore. And so my struggle right now is how to set that aside, and keep my eyes on the promise of renewal and growth that Christ brings. That’s going to be my challenge for the next few weeks.

Creatures of Habit

The line between a something that’s a habit and something that’s part of your character is a thin one. There are many things I do regularly: is brushing my teeth a habit, or part of my character? Well, the action is a habit; the character bit is taking care of myself. How about mowing the lawn? I do it habitually, but the character piece is keeping the house up to standards.

How about the stuff that’s not so good? What do my bad habits say about me? If I have a glass of wine with dinners, does that make me an alcoholic? How about my sins: when I get selfish or thoughtless, or worse, does that define me?

Paul reminds the church at Rome that the answer is NO. We are no longer defined by our sins, as new creatures in Christ.

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. […] Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:14-15, 24-25a)

Nonetheless, we are such creatures of habit. And when we’re taken out of our routines, the changes can make it hard to take up those habits again. Take vacations, for example. Normally, I use some of my morning commute as prayer time; it’s become my routine, my habit. But on vacation, my habits are rearranged: I’m not commuting, so I lose that time I’ve set aside in prayer. I have to make a conscious choice to pray at other times in the day, which is awkward at first because it’s different and outside my comfortable habit.

God understands us better than we give him credit for. He knows each of us, individually and intimately. He understands the power of our habits, and how difficult it is for us to break our bad ones. Fortunately for us, he has given us the possibility of new life in Christ, who can make all things new within us.

If you’ve ever tried to break a habit on your own, you know it’s not easy. The good news is, you don’t have to: You were never meant to bear your sins beyond the cross. Jesus can come into a life and, where the habit has been too strong, he is able to break it and fulfill his promise of new life. Now if that’s not good news, I don’t know what is!