Tuesday, June 28, 2005

at the playground

My whirlwind trip to NY for the Billy Graham Crusade was quite an experience. Backstage was buzzing from the middle of the afternoon on, as Charles Shumer, Mayor Bloomberg, and Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived. Our set--about 20 minutes--went great, playing for an estimated 70-80,000 people spread throughout the park. Afterwards, Dan introduced Dr. Graham, and the rest of us scurried to the other side of the stage to be seated for his sermon/invitation. We looked up and realized the Clinton's were a couple rows up, and just started laughing at the paradox. Cutting through any politics and such, there was a sweet, genuine love present between them and Dr. Graham. That was a great glimpse of the Gospel--not getting lost in judgement and emotion/passion, but realizing how people have loved well in the midst of great trials and failures to live up to expectations...sin at the bottom line. As they walked off stage, Bill waved to us and said "You guys rocked tonight". A bizarre night indeed.

I'm in the studio (Playground Studios) with Ben Phillips, Jason Bradford, Phil Symonds, Matt Stanfield, and Jimmy Jernigan for a record Jason is producing. We had a full day yesterday as well, and we're trying to finish 11 songs in 2 days. I went to college with Jason, but haven't seen him in 5-6 years...somehow worlds continue to collide. Tomorrow I'll be back at Paul Eckberg's house/studio playing some upright bass on a record for Christopher Williams.

Tonight we are hosting our neighborhood group again, and I'll give a report (promised from before) soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

a little upright and done

I finished up studio work for the week, playing the upright bass on a couple of songs today. The artists--Greg Adkins and Kevin Lawson--provided some good songs, and Paul Eckberg and I hopefully added something to them for the better. I hadn't joined Paul in a rhythm section in quite awhile. Its so great to be surrounded by some solid drummers here in town.

Speaking of drummers, I get to play with Joe this weekend as I hit the road (actually the sky) for a day with Jars...we're going to New York City for the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade. I'm thankful for the opportunity and look forward to giving a report from this one. I'll have a 6am curbside call and 4:45am (EeeksternST) lobby call included, but those are minor technicalities:)

We've hosted our neighborhood group for 2 weeks now, and had a delightful time Tuesday night digging deeper into Romans 1:1-17...more on this soon. For now I must go...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Big small world

I'm tracking some bass on a couple of projects this week, both produced by good friend and fellow Normalite Andrew Osenga . His solo records are fantastic, and he's been playing with the band Caedmon's Call for the past couple of years. In his spare time he produces and writes songs, among other things. Though we grew up in the same town, about 4 years separate us in age and we didn't really know each other until he came to Nashville...its a big small world after all.

I received some special treatment for Father's Day yesterday, sleeping in an extra hour or so (I'll take what I can) and waking up to a hot breakfast made special for me. We went to the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the river from our side of town into the downtown district. Sam loves to look at the train, boats, football stadium, cranes and miscellaneous construction vehicles, and talk to the strangers walking by. The rest of the day he tells everyone about this experience...especially the fire department boat.

Back to playing bass and making music one note at a time.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

thinking on Africa

Jena, the director of Blood:Water Mission, is in the midst of a 5 week trip through Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa primarily). As I have been reading the frequent updates, I wish I were there. Since that's not the case, I try to think long and hard about the words she shares. I invite you to do the same, as I share one of her latest stories...

"greetings from kenya! my last few days in kisumu were wonderful. i was able to visit all wells already built by blood:water funds and then visit the projected sites for this upcoming year. i spent a considerable amount of time with people who have really been affected by AIDS. i would have hour-long conversations with orphans and widows and people who had the courage to tell me that they were hiv positive.

joseph is 14 years old. he's very quiet and a little unsure of himself. he was 8 years old when his parents died from AIDS. he and his little brother are being taken care of by his 80 year old grandfather. joseph goes and collects water twice in the morning before school and then twice in the evening after school. he cooks and does all the domestic responsibilities to help his ailing grandfather. his grandfather weaves baskets and tries to sell them to support his two grandchildren. if he is lucky, he makes 70 shillings in a day (about 90 cents US). joseph has white scabs all over his arms and legs. they come and go, and he's had these ones for 3 weeks now. I imagine he is being affected by the filthy water that he drinks – or he, too, may be hiv positive. joseph says he is quiet and often spends his time thinking about his parents. i asked him what makes him smile. he said he can't really think of anything - and he doesn't like jokes. older kids beat and punch him often and he wishes that they would stop. i asked joseph what he would do if he were given a lot of money. "i would go to the hospital. and then buy a shirt (his has been worn daily for the last 2 years) and some food." joseph wants to be a doctor, but he will never be able to afford to go on to secondary school.

i followed joseph and his grandfather to their home. it's a hut made from mud mixed with cow dung. the floor is dirt. there is one single bed for four children. so two sleep on the floor and two sleep on the ground. the grandfather sleeps in a separate shelter - much worse than the other. the place is horrible. our dogs in america live better than joseph and his family do here. my heart just broke.

i went with joseph and some other children and women to walk with them to get water. we walked to a small pond that was filled with mud, filth and brown icky stuff. i'm not kidding you, i'm a pretty adventurous person, but i wouldn't have been comfortable to even step foot in the pond -- let alone drink the water. i filled my big yellow bucket, put a cloth on my head and placed the bucket on top. i raised my arms to hold on to the sloshing bucket of disease-filled water and proceeded to walk with the women and children back to the village. It was hard. it helped me appreciate the women and the work that they do...even for something as worthless as dirty water. it just makes the urgency for all of this so much greater when you're here seeing the horrific conditions. the amazing thing is this: with blood:water funds, i imagine we will be able to provide joseph and his community with a new well this july. please pray that money comes through ($3000)."

May God be glorified for His work in His kingdom yesterday, today and until the end of the age.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Eternal Sunshine

My travels finished up this morning as I returned by bus from Pittsburgh, PA. And its good to be home! I've had a lot of fun playing live, but I am happy to be back in the routine of family life. I will be heading up to NYC with Jars in a couple of weeks for the Billy Graham crusade in the Bronx--where he started half a century ago. That will be a thrill.

Last night we watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on the bus, which I had not yet seen. It delved into some intense questions of the soul, and was pretty mentally involved throughout. Definitely not a romantic comedy or silly comedy of Jim Carrey's past (for any that were wondering). The movie focused on a narrow field of characters and their struggles with relationships, regret, love, and peace. In any relationship--true relationship, whether friendly or intimate--one must die to the annoyances and frustrations of the other person. There must be an "I care for you even still" present, or else the doors swing open and closed and true, sustaining relationships are never built. I'm anxious to look at the review and group questions on Critique's website as I sift through my perceptions and those of other people.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


I'm home from the whirlwind journey, from Nashville to Birmingham, AL to Lafayette, LA to Nashville (playing for the Grand Ole Opry) to Washington, D.C. and back home...all in 5 days. God is faithful and gracious in it all. I had so much fun with Little Big Town, getting to know the others in the band and playing live shows again. We have a 20 minute slot at the river front park during the Country Music Festival here in town this week, which will be crazy and bring out the crazies for sure. Don't worry, I haven't bought cowboy boots or anything:)

My D.C. experience is still settling in my mind; so much to process while holding on to the excitement of each conversation. We (Blood:Water Mission) are blessed to be surrounded by such a broad range of friends who are tremendous advisors as well. I am overwhelmed and thankful for this.

Please pray for Jena Lee (our director) and Joel Wickre (board member/water specialist) in Africa after reading her brief report from Kenya below. May they be bold in the Gospel and humble in themselves.

Hello from Kisumu, Kenya...

i have only been here but three days and it feels like a month has gone by. the days have been packed with so much, and i have something like five minutes to write an update.

the last two days have been a complete gift - to re-visit the communities that i met in august and to see the change in their communities because clean water has been provided for them by
blood:water's donors. they worked hard as communities to make sure that they were a sustainable and responsible group - and so much has come from it. there was much joy - with dancing and singing and beautiful celebration. it was humbling and overwhelming to realize
that change really can occur when we work together and allow God to move in incredible ways.

this trip has been much harder than the last two. i am actually living in a village with our friend and partner, benjamin. the culture shock has been quite strong despite the fact that i have spent so much time here before. i guess the reality of bugs and going to the bathroom in
a hole and eating really tough meat and no electricity and bathing with a bucket and not much of a mattress... it's all so good as atticus finch has encouraged us all to walk in another man's shoes. i will never be able to truly understand what it means to live in extreme poverty, what it means to lose so many family members to hiv/aids... benjamin's brother died of aids last week. but i can admire their strength and persistence in the midst of the struggle. it's so real. it's so terrible and there's still so much that needs to change here.

i'm being summoned to go. we will be back in the villages today to visit the new sites for proposed bloodwater work. i am well. i am tired, but thankful to be here. god has humbled me in so many ways. thank you for your prayers.

i hope to be back on again soon,


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

many hats

The garden/landscaping hat: We took advantage of the long weekend to work in the yard on some major projects. We've been trying to remove many of the weedy vines throughout the yard and especially congregating in the old garden area and along the fence. Some of these weed trees--about the diameter of a quarter in the trunk--have vines reaching several feet deep and many feet to the sides. We've often referenced the scene in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, thus giving us some of these troubles (working the soil). Anyways, we were able to clear the area and level it out enough to put plastic down and solarize the ground over the next couple of months. Supposedly the weeds will be killed and the soil, once tilled, will be ready to grow grass after we seed it this fall. The frustrating yet beautiful thing about gardening and working the soil is that everything is a process and takes planning as well as patience for the fruits/rewards. No wonder it is often used as an image for describing faith.

The Blood:Water Mission hat: I'm working part-time 20 hours/week--donor relations coordinator, officially--and I've had lots of work to accomplish. It seems like I just barely catch up and then get overwhelmed with more things to do. I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. Sunday and Monday for a conference (the One Table Conference), including workshops and some promotional events for BWM. Our director, Jena, is heading to Africa for 3-4 weeks on Saturday to follow up and research in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa...this is thrilling, yet puts a lot on our plates to maintain the day-to-day while she's gone. Please pray for her and Joel, our resident water expert, as they travel and spend time with our brothers and sisters in Africa.

The bass hat: I played on a Jars song that will be on a soundtrack for "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" last week. This month provides some opportunities that will take me on the road a little bit. I'll jump on a bus to play a couple of shows with Jars this month, in Hershey, PA and in New York City (Billy Graham event). Also, I'm playing 3 out-of-town shows with the country group Little Big Town, including one in Birmingham, AL and one in Lafayette, LA this weekend. We have shows at Country Music Fest (FanFare), the Grand Ole Opry, and the Wild Horse Saloon here in nashville as well. I look forward to the travel, but only in the small doses and will greatly miss home. God has provided these opportunities and I am able to do them without sacrificing the in-town priorities. I also have some days in the studio throughout June and am growing in this regard.

The writing hat: This one's unfortunately taken low priority while other things come together, but I've written another piece for the Relevant 850 email newsletter...I'll post it here when I have a finished draft. I'm finding that reading and writing go hand in hand, so I'm trying to get more reading in as well now that transition seems to be settling down. My unusual travel time this month will hopefully help in this regard.

Ok, there are other hats, but I'll stop here for now. Blessings, grace and peace to the glory of God.

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