Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stick To Your Guns

Once upon a time, in the far-off land of Southern Ontario, a young 20-year-old musician (that would be me) left his “secular” band and – within a matter of days – was recruited by a Christian rock band. There were promises of being the opening act (and possible touring) with another up-and-coming Christian band, which for me felt like confirmation that I’d made the right decision.

After a whirl-wind month of rehearsals – including the panic-stricken feeling, just days before the Big Gig, that there was no way wed be ready in time – we gave an adrenaline-infused performance. The audience responded enthusiastically. The band we hoped to tour with gave us wide grins and thumbs-up. Whew – we did it!

We decided to throw ourselves a party the next night to celebrate. I doubt most of us got much sleep after the concert – the adrenaline rush was significant. But when I arrived at the party the following evening, things went quickly into some unexpected directions.

Our keyboard player showed up with a car crammed full of alcohol. I enjoy a pint of good ale as much as the next musician, but our keyboardist drove a behemoth-sized land yacht, and the trunk was packed-t0-the-rafters with canned beer. We were all of legal age, but it was clear that getting [insert favorite slang for inebriation here] was the intent.

When I expressed my reservations about a Christian band getting “hammered” (the trendy phrase in 1982), I wasn’t prepared for the response I got – or the vehemence. Disturbed, I went looking for our band leader, the guitarist who’d recruited me. He was in the basement, trying to get to “second base” with our female sound tech.

I’d just left my so-called “secular” band – playing “worldly” music in “worldly” places where people got drunk and then fornicated in the bushes (according to church legend) — so I wasn’t impressed to find the same dynamics in a “Christian” band. Frankly, my secular band mates had higher standards.

I spoke up at our next rehearsal, and was again met with hostile “who do you think you are?” defensiveness. And so ended my first foray into Christian Contemporary Music.

Fast forward one week, to a truly comical cluster of phone calls, proving yet again that God is faithful and also has a great sense of humor:

The telephone rang while I was in mid-explanation to my sister about why I’d quit the band. I answered and discovered the caller was a drummer from a different Christian band. Theyd heard (a) about my other band, (b) my reasons for quitting, and therefore, (c) wanted me to audition for their band — that evening. 

“Do you know a good singer?” the drummer asked. Well, yes, but she was in the band I’d just left, and I didn’t feel right about trying to “steal” her … The drummer said he understood and gave me the address of their rehearsal space.

I hung up and began explaining to my incredulous sister what had just happened. The phone interrupted a second time. “Hold that thought,” I said to my sister. This’ll just take a second.

The caller was the afore-mentioned singer. “I’ve been thinking about what you said at our last rehearsal. I phoned the guitarist a few minutes ago and quit the band. I really enjoy working with you. If you hear of another opportunity, please let me know.”

“We’ve got an audition in 30 minutes,” I replied. “I’ll pick you up in 10.”

We passed the audition, and a third phone call came two weeks later – from the band we’d hoped to open for. Word had reached their ears about my quitting the first band – and why. They wanted to adopt my new band as their opening act.

A few observations from that comical but encouraging season:

  1. My tendency to dig my heels in and stand my ground goes back a long way. And it can (often) be contrary to popular opinion, even among Christians.
  2. You often pay a price for having convictions and standing by them.
  3. Not every situation has a happy ending, but you stick to your guns — regardless of the cost — because it’s the right thing to do.
  4. God sees. And it’s His opinion that matters.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Give Me Oil In My Lamp ...

Six months later and still nothing, huh?

I guess life got busy, post-Tijuana ...

Maybe a little lantern illumination will help – as a metaphor, possibly? I did recognize the old camp song lyric in the post title. I’ll bet it represents foreshadowing, or maybe some arcane clue to medieval profundity.

“Medieval profundity” sounds lame? Or was it “arcane” you didnt like? Either way, don’t blame me – just trying to spark some dialogue here.

So ... radio silence, it appears. We can check back later. You got time for a coffee?

Friday, March 18, 2011

When Questions Become Weapons

Have you ever been attacked with questions? Assaulted with interrogatory intent? Badgered into changing your mind, brow-beaten into accepting a new paradigm, or railroaded in a new direction that you instinctively mistrusted?

Have you experienced Questions As Weapons?

I remember the first time, many years ago, when Wendy and I were accosted in our own kitchen by a multi-level marketing stormtrooper. I don’t know if all MLM shock troops use the same methodology, but this guy knew how to use questions — an escalating series that you felt compelled to answer in the affirmative on pains of looking subhuman — in order to manipulate his beleaguered prey into signing on the dotted line.

Fortunately, Wendy and I recognized his sleazy methodoly and were able to escape with our skins intact. But make no mistake, this guy used Questions as Weapons. It was manipulation masquerading as sales; an appeal to greed hiding behind the smiling façade of “helping you achieve your life goals.”

We once knew a pastor who used questions — deliberately vague, but incendiary enough to sow doubt in the minds of other leaders — to undermine people whom he’d decided were in his God’s way. If another leader voiced the occasional objection to the pastor's thinly-disguised slander, he would counter with, “I never accused [insert name here] of anything. I only said I had some questions ...”

And it worked, every time. After all, it was only a question. No harm, no foul, right? Except that the intended reputational damage had been done, and holding the pastor accountable for spreading innuendo was impossible. Again, the question had become a Weapon.

And, of course, perhaps the earliest recorded time when a question was used as a weapon — with devastating consequences — would be in an idyllic setting in ancient Mesopotamia, where the following drama was enacted:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden (Genesis 3:1)?’”

Questions can be fantastic tools: to learn, to investigate, to evaluate, to sift. We grow by asking questions – indeed, discernment demands that we question – but not all questions are created equal.

Some questions seek knowledge and understanding; others are asked solely to gather ammunition.

And — let there be no doubt — questions can also be wielded by snake-oil pastors salesmen as manipulative Weapons.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

AWOL (Away With Out Leave)

I havent heard anything. Have you heard anything?

Nothing? I guess that means none of us have. Keep in mind – moving from Mexico back to Canada isn’t like a trip to Starbucks in Playas de Tijuana. Customs clearance at both the American and Canadian border, itemizing each and every box on the moving truck ...

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: they came to Mexico with two cats and they’re taking home three. Plus a Mexican mutt that a coworker gave them. Hope their vet issued antirabia certificates for each animal – I’ve heard purgatory is more forgiving than San Ysidro’s secondary screening area.

Okay, there’s no point in all of us waiting around. Let’s take turns checking for new blog posts. If you see or hear anything, let me know. I’ll do the same for you.

Hey, nice “wanted” poster, by the way. How many copies did you print? Cool – let’s blitz the whole blogosphere. Maybe that’ll smoke him out.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

¡Adios, Tijuana!

Three years ... to the day ... after I first stepped foot in Tijuana, we embark on our nomadic trek back to the Great White North.

Time flies, as it is wont to do. A life-changing season in our journey, with a kaleidoscope of memories to match.