Friday, September 10, 2010

You Gotta Serve Somebody

I remember my freshman year in college I played it like most other greeny freshman. I church-hopped every sunday, picking out congregations like treats in a candybar aisle, going with whatever suited my taste and particular mood on a given sunday. I'd get up after a few short hours of sleep and a long night of Halo and say, "Cool. So where we gonna go today?"

At this time I had been playing guitar for a couple years but I was definitely a hack. Total hack. I knew a few songs and I could could play chords and strum in rhythm just fine but when it came to being creative or writing lines you could forget it. You would think the thought would cross my mind, "Hey, the Vineyard has a good worship team and they know music, why not serve with them and get to commit to a solid group of friends and believers and at the same time improve my craft, get better at guitar, and who knows, maybe even begin to write songs and lead worship?" But no, of course not. That would make way too much sense, not to mention require some responsibility.

I continued in my flaky, immature, irresponsible, church-hopping ways throughout the extent of my freshman year. However, when I became a sophomore I decided in my heart that, come what may, I was going to commit to going to the Vineyard full time and call it home. It amazes me to think back, I showed up one evening to worship practice with my gig bag and metallic red, Mexican-made, Fender Powerhouse Strat, total newbie-hack guitarist. But Adam let me on the team anyway.

A few years later, something changed. I begin to round some major corners on the guitar. Things started to sound different. Multiple people were coming up to me after church telling me how much they loved what I was playing. After this something flipped in my mind and I continued getting better and soon I started writing songs.

My point is that everything I know about music, everything I'm able to play, everything I've done consequently came simply from one thing: serving. For the first few years I never even worked very hard at guitar but regardless I made some major breakthroughs and even became a solid guitarist and it actually came from nothing more than just showing up every sunday and playing. (Sure, after I made major improvements I actually started to become serious and work and hone my talent, but the initial big jump was just from showing up and being available.) Thats it. Now, I'm a solid guitarist, I write songs, I've released a solo EP, I help lead worship at the Vineyard, I have a song on the upcoming Embers album and will probably have a song on the next one as well.

Two things: one, if I hadn't decided to commit to the Vineyard none of this would have happened and two, there is a huge part of my destiny I would have completely missed out on. At this point its hard to imagine myself void of the role that music plays in my life, being a serious musician and songwriter, but none of that would have happened if I hadn't found a place where people would not only give me a chance to serve but they would pour into me, teach me, encourage the gift, develop it, and finally, give me a platform to use it.

Serving will not only please the Lord but it will further your own skills, vision, goals, ambitions and quality of life. So grow up. Find a place. Get in there. Commit. Serve. In the end, you'll be better for it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Domingo Dabela

I was 18 years old; naive, a bit of a whippersnapper and a-lotta-bit of an idealistic. But I had an experience with Domingo de Jesus Dabela that I will undoubtedly remember until the day I see him again. It was nearing the end of my high school experience when a friend of mine invited me to go to Nicaragua in the upcoming summer. Well, why not? I thought. Sounds like a good idea to me.

I remember we were out in a particular dirty section of some random town of which I will never remember the name. The trees seem to sag a little lower, the dust seem to lie a little thicker. The simple houses, many with dirt floors, were spaced together along the rough streets in that Latin-American fashion. The air was thick and humid and the sun glazed our foreheads with perspiration. For a time, I was alone enjoying a cold soda and I looked across the way to see an old man walk out from a side street. He walked slowly, spotted a large rock on the side of the road and sat down.

I've always had a fascination and respect for old people. Maybe because of the stories. I love stories. When I see a head full of gray hair or old hands I think of how many stories they must have in those callouses, how many stories are wrapped in the years they've seen. Their faces seem a little wiser and their eyes a little deeper. Like maybe the more things they see the deeper their eyes become, filling with time and memories and the space of things lost and things won, stretching all the way back through the recesses of their mind. I saw this man and I just really wanted to meet him, talk with him.

I went and sat down beside the man. His darkened skin from the years of sun was set around dark eyes, his hair gray, his shoulders were sure and extended into weathered hands. He spoke slowly and he had a kind disposition. This was my first trip to Latin-America but I've always had a knack for languages and somehow I had picked up a decent amount of Spanish in my little time there that I was actually able to have a fairly cogent conversation. The depth of conversation that proceded however was nothing short of a miracle. With my English to Spanish book in hand, the conversation took its turn and I began telling him about the Lord and asking him questions, (most of which were simple yes or no questions). Slowly, the conversation began to build and gather momentum and I could see light and hope were filling his dark eyes.

The next thing I knew the man was bowing his head and asking the Lord to take over his life. Later the man found a translator so that he could speak to me more in depth. Through the bilingual woman, he told me how he used to have a wife and family and threw it all away to alcoholism. His brokenness was obvious but his countenance was soft and open. Then, with tears in his eyes he told me he would never forget my name because I led him to salvation and that one day he would see me again in heaven. My eyes filled with tears and I became weak and almost fell over in the street. We parted ways and of course I've never seen or heard from him again. It was all a bit surreal... the kind of salvation experience you read about in the scriptures. I haven't raised the dead, I haven't seen blind eyes opened or limbs grown back -- not yet (and I'm sure I will), but I did watch a man step from death to life as sure as anything I'd ever seen before. And I know, beyond a doubt, that I will one day see Domingo de Jesus Dabela again. In heaven. Just like he said. And he will remember me and I will remember him.