I’m Still Here

Taking a little bit of a break this week, just wanted to let everyone know that I am still here.im_still_here_xlg

 

Next week should be interesting.  Some fairly poignant thoughts on roadtrips, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Lessons learned….

 

That seems to be an understatement, but we can try to make it work.  Hold on loosely to the expectations and things will go much smoother.

 

Anyway, thoughts are coming.  You’ll hear from me soon.

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Weary

I am weary.  I am worn out.  I feel like an engine that has been run at full throttle for an extensive time, pistons firing, gears turning, simply waiting for some reprieve to give it a rest.hast_ox_yoke

Nothing comes simply, it’s always a task to get things done.  If there can be a wrench thrown in gears, it seems almost a given that I will be the one to experience it.  Like the Israelites wandering through the desert for 40 years and getting nowhere fast, it seems that may be my lot in life.

Which begs the question, “What am I not learning?” of “What am I missing?”  The harder we have to work, the stronger we will be at the end, right?  That’s the way it is with physical workouts.  But why do we work so hard?  Why put so much upon ourselves?  Is that the way of things, to toil and strive in vain?

In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  The command is to come to him, so why do we continue to try things on our own.  If his yoke is easy and his burden is light, why strive so hard if things can be simpler?  Do we complicate the issues?

It’s a hard lesson to learn, giving up control.  I certainly haven’t learned it on the upside of life, I hope I can learn it on the downside.  Rest is what I need, it’s what I long for, but it’s not coming if I continue to strive on my own.  I need to trust that God’s promises are true, if I don’t, I will just continue doing things as I have always done them before.  But his track record is good, I just need to be reminded of that.

I know that I am not the only person who experiences difficulties.  Maybe you are in that place right now too, waiting for a reprieve to take a breath.  Maybe, like me, you’re trying too hard and it’s just a matter of trusting that God will carry you through.  I’m going to try it, how about you?

Roadtrips

American-Road-Trip-We didn’t have a ton of money while I was growing up, so flying wasn’t our regular form of travel.  In fact, before I graduated from college and was supporting myself, I think I had only flown on a plane twice.  Instead, we would always have the “family truckster” which would carry us around for our trips.

Those were the days before the child safety laws had really gotten strict.  Once you were out of your baby carseat, you were on your own.  The old Chevy Caprice station wagons had the seat in the way back, the cargo area, that faced the vehicles behind you.  That was my seat.  While my brother and I got along okay, I’m not sure that I have ever seen any siblings who haven’t warred over the imaginary lines that lie between them on a long road trip in a car.  Sitting separately made things a little bit more tolerable.

We had our usual trips as a family, we used to go to Lake Pleasant in upstate New York every summer.  Some of my fondest memories were from there.  I learned so many life lessons and even spent an entire summer on staff at the camp where we would regularly go.

My father went to college in Columbia, South Carolina and made some strong friendships with people in Lancaster, just south of Charlotte.  That became a fairly regular trip as well.  Back then, Mountain Dew was like the nectar of the gods to me, it was such a treat to drink, something that we only had when we were on road trips.  To this very day, I don’t think that I can drink Mountain Dew without thinking about our road trips down south.

We had friends who moved to the Chicago area and we took a road trip out to see them.  Those mid-western states are downright brutal, especially when you are younger.  It seems like an endless, flat wasteland which never changes.  While the trip was worth it, getting there was not half the fun, it was more like half the battle.

As I grew older, road trips ceased with my family, but they began to happen with my friends.  A good friend and I took a few trips from Pennsylvania (where I went to college) all the way out to Berea, Ohio.  Pennsylvania isn’t the most exciting state to drive through either, especially through the longest part of it.  We made the best of it and there is nothing like the roadtrip mix, a mix of music chosen specifically for the ride.

Not too long ago, I took a roadtrip to a meeting with 3 other people, 1 of whom I work with, the other 2 were new friends of ours.  You can learn an awful lot about people by spending a total of 14 hours in the car with them.  In some ways, that’s the litmus test to see whether or not you can be friends for the long haul.  If you can withstand that much time in a car together without killing each other or pissing each other off, I think you’re doing pretty well.  At the end of the time, God had done some pretty cool things in the friendship and I know that I learned a lot through our conversations.

As I prepare for my own roadtrip with my family, I think about how much has changed in the last 40 years.  When we would travel, we would play games, sing songs, read books, play more games, and do all kinds of other things that rarely involved electronics.  Now, it seems that the lack of a DVD player in a car means therapy for the parents when all is said and done.  Even though we may be sitting within 3 feet of each other, we create our own little worlds in which we “live” for the time that we are stuck in the metal capsule that we call a car.  Kids are engrossed in whatever movie is on the DVD player or game is on the DS.  Games have somewhat ceased and conversations are going extinct.

As I think about it, it seems that intentionality is the word.  I need to be intentional about starting conversations on the trip.  I think of Clark Griswold, an ordinary guy who just wanted his family to be together and have fun, and he would go to whatever lengths necessary in order to accomplish the latter.  To me, it’s making memories.  Every moment spent together is a moment cemented in the minds of my three children.  These are the moments that they will recall as they get older.  What do I want them to remember?  Do I want them to be excited about beating the next level in their latest game, or do I want them to feel that they have learned something along the way?  About me, about their family, about themselves, about life.

How many times have I heard from people that these moments, the formative years of my children, will only last so long?  Probably too many to count.  I need to be intentional about our time together, and that’s something that I need to do a better job with.  On a roadtrip, it’s not so much the destination that matters so much, it’s the process and the travel of getting there, otherwise, why not fly or get there faster.  There’s something to be said about soaking in the landscape as you travel.

Next week, we’ll go through North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  That’s 20% of the 50 United States of America.  Growing up, I don’t think that I knew what existed west of Virginia.  When we come home, we will be different, the road will have changed us, shaped us, but only if we let it.  If we sequester ourselves into digital bubbles, we will have failed, but if we engage this process together, it seems that the possibilities are endless.

When all is said and done, I think that there will be a lot to write about the life lessons that I learn from a roadtrip.  Sounds like a blog series to me…….

Why God, Why?

oklahoma tornadoThat’s a question that seems to creep up over and over again in the last 2 years.  My parents retired and moved close to my family.  Two months later, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  After some glimpses of hope, all hopes were dashed a few months later and nearly 6 months later, she was gone.  Why God, why?

My good friend and his wife had their third son.  There were some complications at the birth and he ended up in the NICU for the first week or so of his life, but he pulled through okay.  A few months later, he was getting sick and they couldn’t figure out what it was.  After some tests, they discovered a brain tumor which seemed operable.  After the operation, it was discovered that the cancer had spread and he died on his 6 month birthday.  Why God, why?

My father struggled mightily when he retired and losing my mother was just a portion of the total loss that he had experienced.  His health went into a steady decline.  Nearly two years after losing my mom, I lost my dad as well.  So much for retirement.  Why God, why?

Looking at pictures of the devastation in Oklahoma.  Buildings crushed.  Many dead and injured.  A path of destruction that will take a long time to recover from.  Lives forever changed.  Why God, why?

Whenever we experience difficulties like this, our natural tendency is to ask that question, “Why?”  Of course we want an answer, but would any answer really suffice?  There are certain times in life when no answer can really help, no matter how great, no matter how theologically valid, no matter how relevant it might be.

My answer, over and over again, is that the world is broken, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  Then it seems that the next question waiting in the wings is, “Couldn’t you have stopped it, God?”  Not sure I have a good answer for that one though.  Do we expect God’s intervention every time something bad threatens us?  Do we expect that the world will be a completely safe and harmless place?

Answers fall short.  I can’t bring myself to blame God, but I know that some can.  Some may claim that this is the reason they can’t believe in God, how could a loving God allow this to happen?

What’s one of the first things that we hear about though?  It’s about those who are dropping everything that they are doing to lend a helping hand.  It’s about those who are giving of their time, resources, and money to aid those who have lost everything.  It’s about those who have found a way to reach out and love on those who have experienced loss.  In my mind, that’s where God is in all of this, he’s right there as people come alongside other people in love, care, and concern.

Bad things happen in life, but how do we respond?  If it happens to us, do we experience others who come alongside us?  If it happens to others, are we the ones who drop what we are doing to lend a hand?  Maybe, God is there all along, we just haven’t been looking hard to see him.  Maybe he’s right there alongside the broken, the hurting, the wounded, and the weary.  Maybe he was there the whole time.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (The Message), “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

What Are You Known For?

beliefs and behaviorEveryone has a gift.  Everyone has something that makes them stand out a little bit above the rest.  Sometimes, it might not be as visible as you might think.  Gifts manifest themselves in all different shapes and sizes, but they’re there.  How do we use them?

What is it about us that distinguishes us from other people?  When people meet us, what are their first impressions?  What are the things that they see in us that last long after we have walked away, long after the conversation or interaction has ended?  What are known for?

Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about this in regards to followers of Christ.  Any time that things bubbled up on the public scene that Christ followers were opposed to, you would begin to hear the murmurings.  The murmurings would turn into full-fledged press releases, or at least, it seemed that way.  People began to know us more by what we were against rather than what we were for.

The challenge here is in an age when orthodoxy is being questioned at every turn, we feel that if we don’t stand up for what we believe and stand against that which seems contrary, we are condoning that which we don’t believe.  Is that the case?  If we take no action, does that mean we are agreeing with something?  Do we have to stand opposed to something to indicate that we believe the opposite or is a viable alternative to stand for the opposite with conviction and consistency?

Honestly, I think those last two words are the key in the conversation: conviction and consistency.  We can stand against things all that we want, but if we do not consistently stand for the opposite with conviction, will our argument really be convincing?  An innocuous example.  If I say that I am opposed to the cruel treatment of animals and picket and demonstrate against all who use animals for tests or subject them to harsh conditions and yet don’t do anything to show my own compassion towards animals, how good is my argument?

Our argument is much stronger when we actually can prove our convictions with consistent lives.  If all that I do is shout on a street corner against the sins that seem contrary to my own orthodoxy and then leave that corner and do nothing different in my life to live in opposition to those sins, how strong is my argument and example?

Again, the challenge is that not speaking out against what is contrary to our own belief system seems like support or apathy.  There are plenty of “banging gongs” out there who give great speeches and then live lives that fail to support their beliefs.  If we really stopped to work on our convictions and consistency, I wonder whether our message would be heard louder and more clearly.  I think that it would.

I want people to know what I believe because that’s the way that I lived my life.  I don’t want people to have to ask what I believe, I want it to be clear by what I do, what I say, and how I live.  If my convictions are coming through loud and clear in my actions, people will know what I stand for, they will know me for these things, and it would follow that I don’t support those things that stand in opposition to it.  So, how am I doing?  How are you doing?  Are you known more for what you are opposed to or what you stand for?

What’s Your Frequency?

radioOnce upon a time, people used to listen to the radio, and it wasn’t Sirius, Pandora, Spotify, or any other digital radio station.  There were antennas and dials and you had to try to figure out how to get the station you wanted the best that you possibly could.  It was always an exercise to try to dial in the frequency.  If there was bad weather or too much wind, it would be hard to capture the station you were looking for.

As I think about trying to dial in a radio station, I think that people are not too much different.  We’ve always got to tweak the dial to get the clearest reception on a person.  It takes time and patience and if there are too many “storms” in the area, we might not be able to hear the “station” clearly.  So, we try and try and try some more until we can finally dial it in as clearly as possible.

Each and every one of us seems to have our own frequency.  We’re not like Sirius or Pandora where everything comes in crystal clear all the time, we need to be tweaked and fiddled with until the signal is as clear as possible.  Things in our lives add interference that prevents others from hearing our signal.  Our jobs or our marriages might be causing some difficulty that prevents us from being heard clearly.  Life changes and events have a way of creeping up on us and causing a disruption of the signal.  When those times come, it takes a little more effort to hear what’s really going on in our hearts.

How clear is your frequency?  How easily can you be understood and heard?  What kinds of things are adding interference to your signal?

My own experience has taught me that there are always at least 2 sides to every story.  When someone reacts in a way that seems out of character or out of the ordinary, we have to turn the dial and find out how to clearly listen to the signal that’s coming through.  There’s so much more than static there, if we just take the time to listen and hear what’s going on.

We move around so quickly that it’s hard for us to really take that time that we need to take to invest in people and dig deeper with them.  It’s not something that will happen in a 30 second conversation, we need to tweak the dial and exercise patience to find out what signal is really coming through.  My patience goes against me in situations like these, I want desperately to find another station, one that’s more easily tuned in, one that won’t take so much work, but what about the station right in front of me?  Am I dialing it in?

We will be handed all kinds of challenges in life, those challenges will produce interference in our lives, making it hard for someone to tune into our signal.  I have been the beneficiary of those who spent the time tweaking the dial to get a clear signal, I can only hope that I can do the same with others.

One Month

Yesterday was one month since my father passed away.  I was fairly occupied for most of the day, so I didn’t get caught up in excessive ponderings about what should or could have been.  I marked the date down and again realized the potential of relief that can come when someone has been sick for a while.  My approach towards yesterday was very different than my approach had been just a month after my mother died.jon tony - wedding day

In the past month, there have been numerous times that I reached for my phone to call and check on Dad.  I wanted to hear his voice and to assure him that everything was okay with me.  I wanted to know that he hadn’t fallen or had any other mishaps.  But all of that was unnecessary.  He’s gone.

Time can be both our friend and our enemy.  When we need more of it, it seems that it works against us as a foe rather than an ally.  When we work with it, it can be a constant companion to us, helping us along the way, pushing us towards promptness and responsibility.

This morning I read a quote which has stuck with me from Mark Batterson.  He wrote, “Hurry kills everything from compassion to creativity.”  Every day, that lesson becomes more and more apparent to me.  When I am in a hurry, my patience runs thin, my attitude worsens as I find myself rushing to get done what I need to get done, regardless of who is in my way.  In fact, if you’re in my way, you will most likely get run over.

This lesson become so readily apparent to me over the last year or so spent with my father.  I could never visit him while in a rush.  I could never take him out or engage him in conversation if I had to quickly move on to the next thing.  His pace slowed down which subsequently slowed me down.  And I think that was really good for me.  It helped me to realize what was important.

Of course, today, we can easily accomplish multiple things at once as we multitask our way through life with smartphones, tablets, and other technological resources.  Not only is there a need for us to slow down but also to intentionally disengage.  This is a point of growth in my life, a place that needs some focus.  It’s too easy to “just take a second” and check my email or social media, yet what am I missing in the midst of those “seconds” that I am away.

Time is not moving backwards.  We can’t turn back the clock.  I can’t have my father back, but I am grateful for the many life lessons that I learned from him, directly and indirectly.  “Ruthlessly eliminating hurry” is a noble task to undertake, but it needs consistency and accountability as well.

My dad is gone and I miss him terribly, but the lessons that I have learned can help to keep his legacy and memory alive.  Months will pass, anniversaries will creep up, and I will deal with them all.  Remembering all that I have learned will bring a smile to my face as I realize that even out of darkness, light can come.  In the midst of sorrow and pain and mourning, new days will rise.  From out of the ashes, like a phoenix, rises life.  How can I make sure to live into that legacy?  Let those lessons not have been learned in vain.

Firstborn

rembrandt-return-of-the-prodigal-son11I remember when my second child was born.  It had been two years since our first was born and we had spent those two years as a family of three, getting used to each other, learning how to live as a unit, and my wife and I gave all of our attention to our son.  There was no one else to infringe upon his time with us.  He had 100% of us.

Then, our second son came along.  While my first son wasn’t angry, or at least didn’t act it, he also didn’t pay any mind to his new little brother.  He ignored him.  Over time, he began to realize that the time which he had easily monopolized had to be shared.  He was no longer #1.  The first time he really paid any attention to his little brother, my wife had his little brother in the swing and my oldest just stopped, stared at him, and began to laugh hysterically.  We captured the moment on video, which is fairly priceless.  That was the beginning of their relationship together.

From a biblical perspective, there are plenty of advantages to being the firstborn.  The firstborn had the lion’s share of inheritance, many times being the double portion.  The inheritance would extend beyond simply finances as well, the firstborn would most likely carry on the family name and become the patriarch after the death of the father.  There were, and still are, many benefits to being the firstborn.

Among the other places in Scripture where we see the relationship between the firstborn and younger brother is the parable of the prodigal son.  If you have never read Henri Nouwen’s “Return of the Prodigal Son,” it is a must read as he takes the perspective of each character within the book.  The most eye-opening and convicting section of the book for me was the section on the oldest brother.

Sure, the younger brother squandered his share of the fortune on hard living, gaining friends who cared for nothing more than his money, but grace meets us where we are when we come in repentance, which is exactly how the younger brother was returning to his father.  But it wasn’t fair, how could he tell his father, “I wish you were dead because I want my share of the family fortune,” squander all that his money, and then return and think that there was still a place at the table for him?  There are some limits to grace, aren’t there?

It’s always funny how we are happy and satisfied with grace when it is meted out upon us, but when it comes to extending it to someone else, they need to earn it.  Why does that never apply to us?  Do we earn grace?  If we did, would it still be grace?

Lately, I have noticed that the trend of the firstborn happens in all different places in life.  People are #1 for a while, they get everything that they want, all attention is focused on them, and then someone else comes along and they are not happy with sharing.  They have done everything that they are supposed to do and then the “younger brother” comes along, is extended grace, and they aren’t happy about it.   How about me? they ask.  How about all that I have done?

Another parable that strikes a chord, or even a “grace” note, is in Matthew 20.  The workers are hired throughout the day and at the end of the day are all paid the same amount.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  But the landlord did nothing other than what he promised, he paid them all exactly what he had promised, but the ones who had done more work thought it was unfair.

I’m a second born, but there have been plenty of times that I have acted like a firstborn.  I’ve been selfish and stubborn.  I have demanded things my way and cried out “foul” when things don’t go the way that I want.  I want grace but when it comes to extending it elsewhere, I want people to earn it.  I have been the old brother, how about you?

The surprising thing to me is that some of us can go our whole lives and act as if we are only children.  Everything has been handed to us on a platter, served up fresh and on time, and when someone else comes along, cramping our style, we react harshly.  Why can’t things be the way they were when it was just me?  I guess that basic principle of sharing that we were supposed to have learned in pre-school was somehow overlooked.

I don’t want to act like the older son, it just kind of happens though.  I need to be reminded every day that grace happens, it’s not earned, it’s extended freely, otherwise, it wouldn’t be grace.  Think about it.  Check out Nouwen’s book.  Next time you start feeling lofty as if you deserved something, maybe you can remember exactly what you would deserve if it hadn’t been for God’s grace extended to you.

Broken

“Will your grace run out if I let you down?  ‘Cause all I know is how to run.Broken_glass

I am a sinner if it’s not one thing it’s another, caught up in words, tangled in lies.

You are a Savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful, beautiful.”

(from the song “Brokenness Aside” by All Sons & Daughters, check it out here)

Over and over in the gospels, it seems like the people who are most likely to respond to meeting Jesus and following after him are the ones who find themselves in desperate situations.  They’re caught in sin and ready to be stoned.  They’ve swindled their way through life and find themselves with no friends and lots of enemies.  They’ve been crippled for life and just want to make it into a pool for some supernatural healing.  They’ve experienced internal health issues and all they want to do is touch his garments.  They are broken.

What’s the opposite of broken?  Put together?  The funny thing is, if any one of us actually thinks that we’re put together, we’ve got another thing coming.  We’re all broken, it’s just a question of how well we show it.  We all have hurt and sin and darkness deep down inside, but we hide it, we’re afraid to let anyone see it.  But God sees it, no matter how hard we might try to hide it from him and everyone else.

When we come to the end of our rope and we have no place else to turn, all of a sudden, God looks like a viable option.  It seems we haven’t come very far from Eden, have we?  Up to the point of brokenness and helplessness, we think that we can do it ourselves, we can hold it all together, we can fix everything that comes our way.  The problem is, there are a lot of things that we can seemingly fix on our own which gives us a false sense of superhumanness.  Then one something comes along that is beyond our capacity to handle, we allow our superhumanness to take over and we fall flat.

What I continue to see in the Church is that it’s full of people who have managed on their own for a long, long, long time.  They’ve managed to keep everything at bay and handle all of the crises that have come their way in their own strength.  They can throw verses at the crisis, they can pray prayers against the crisis, they can cast the crisis out in Jesus’ name, and so they fail to see the need for complete surrender.  Only our own brokenness can bring us to the place of surrender, the place where we finally figure out that there’s no use denying it anymore, we really CAN’T do it on our own.

Brokenness is not as bad as we’ve cast it to be.  In fact, in the hands of the right person, brokenness can be turned around and used for good.  In the hands of God, brokenness can be turned into beauty.  After all, he makes beauty from ashes.  We rise, like the phoenix, from the ashes of what once was, what broke us down, and we rise in the power that he gives us, not in our own power.

Are you broken?  Have you handled things on your own?  How is that working for you?  What’s keeping you from surrender?  What are you afraid of?

Art and Faith

michaelangeloSay what you will about social media, but we now have access to unlimited information and resources.  Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.  How are we using the information and resources that we have been given?  Are we squandering it or are we taking advantage of what we have?

I’d like to think that I am taking advantage of these resources.  Of course, it could easily be a full time job just trying to keep up with all of the information that comes across my news feed, through my mailbox, or in the books, movies, and music that I amass on a regular basis.  But I do my best.  Learning is an important part of life, at least it is to me.  The big challenge with learning is that you can’t just leave it there, it’s not really worth a whole heck of a lot if we don’t do anything with it.  Learning needs to translate into doing.

A few weeks back, a friend posted an article on Facebook that listed some songs that gave hope for Christian music in the future.  I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, so I was not completely surprised by anything on the list, but I did discover some new music which I had heard about before but had never listened to.  Among the new discoveries was a band called Pedro the Lion, which is really the brainchild of David Bazan.

Bazan is the son of a pastor, like me, who was not really exposed to secular music until his early youth, also like me.  He wrestles a lot with faith in his music, especially his newer stuff that has dropped the Pedro the Lion moniker.  A friend recommended his album “Curse Your Branches” to me and I have listened to it with intrigue as I hear his constantly wrestling with ideas that were taught to him within the church.

I’ve posted in the past about faith and doubt as I have had my own struggles in recent years.  But Bazan’s approach is one that I admire because he opens up the door to both believers and unbelievers alike.  He gives permission to doubt while not proselytizing in such a way as to hammer the Bible over someone’s head.  His approach is different than my approach but what it does is invite dialogue, and I think that’s what art should do.

Sadly, much of Christian music has gone the way of secular music.  It’s no longer art, it’s simply selling records.  It’s not about sharing ideas and opening up the mind, it’s about finding what will sell best.  Of course, this is a generalization as there are bands that are still seeking to find ways to make good art on both sacred and secular sides of the spectrum.

Once upon a time, sacred music was the trend.  Think about the staying power of Handel’s Messiah.  It’s just good music (forget about the fact that he wrote it in a very short period of time).  Think about the Requiems of composers like Mozart, Faure, Verdi, and others.  The music spoke so loudly that you needed to hear the words.  That was good art.

Those of us who are people of faith need to get back to the place where we are artists, we are doing our best to be creative and present quality and excellence that people will want to explore our art.  We need people to stand up and take notice because they are astounded by the talent and ability that shines through.  It’s not so that people see how fantastic we are but that we acknowledge who the “giver of the gifts” is and where our talents come from.

Good art speaks to us, it moves us in a place deep down inside.  Good art has a way of communicating in ways that words can’t always express.  If its quality speaks loudly, the message that comes along with it will be heard, we will have no choice to hear that message, regardless of whether or not we agree with it.  That’s just what good art does.

I keep asking myself what my place is in this.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a song.  15 years ago, I wrote and recorded a CD, but that seems like a lifetime ago.  I remember my struggle at the time as I attempted to find places to promote it.  For those in the sacred circle (aka churches), I didn’t say the name “Jesus” enough.  For those among secular circles (coffeehouses and other venues) the religiosity of the lyrics were too strong.  In retrospect, I guess the music didn’t speak loud enough, but now, I have a challenge before me.  So, let’s see what the future holds.