This is not a drill

At my church our value and mission statement talks about how we ‘welcome without exception’.  This past weekend this statement was put to the test.  As a congregation we voted on whether or not to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) community; one that explicitly welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  This vote was a true test of our mission statement and a timely moment to find out who we are as a congregation.  In a time when there is a lot of uncertainty for minority groups and emboldened hate crimes are occurring, knowing that my local congregation passed this with 95.2% of the vote brought tearful elation.

The results of a different vote the week prior brought me confusion, concern, and disappointment.  As someone who believes that the number one priority of every nation should be moving away from fossil fuels, the whole US election cycle was a disappointment.  The debates did not have any direct climate change questions and the topic was touched on for less than 2 minutes.  It appeared as though something that is incredibly important to me had virtually no prioritization with the candidates or moderators.  I empathize with Trump voters and agree that a shakeup in Washington would be beneficial.  It would be great to see term limits for politicians and having less “Washington insiders” in leadership roles.  To me, the views documented by Trump on his own website and his treatment of humans created a scenario where the ends would never justify the means.

The president elects website indicates that he intends to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands for fossil fuels and “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”  I think it is generally understood that there is no such thing as “clean coal” and I truly cannot imagine any scenario where increasing our production and use of fossil fuels will be a long term benefit.  Despite being white, heterosexual, male, Christian, and born in the US, I am afraid of the president elect.  I can only imagine how an undocumented lesbian tree hugging minority must be feeling at the moment.

This is a critical moment in history in my opinion, one of those moments where I think about a futuristic conversation with my children and grandchildren asking me what I did to protect human rights as well as the habitability of our planet.  While I have day dreamed many times recently about moving off of the grid and completely escaping the society that seems to be gaining a voice, I realize that I need to help shape it.  I need to Testify.  One other great thing happened at church this last Sunday was a well-timed sermon that I strongly encourage you to give a listen to, you can skip to the 9:03 mark and go from there.  It is important that we as a society, as human beings with compassion, and as citizens of this planet recognize this opportunity to Testify and stand up for ourselves and others.  We need to ensure our elected leaders understand that they were actually elected to follow (the will of the people).  The wonderful and timely sermon concluded with a great rendition of Leonard Cohens’ Hallelujah which of course only added to the tears already rolling down my face.

Grace Abounds

When I was in about 4th or 5th grade, I recall everyone in class needing to pick out an instrument for band. We needed to take a test first to demonstrate our skills of reading music and such and then the results of that test would be used to “help” steer you towards an instrument of your choosing. The gymnasium was filled with instruments for students to walk around and check out and teachers to help answer questions. I remember wanting to play the drums and being told my music test score was not high enough to qualify for the drums. Somehow I ended up with a saxophone, quickly realized I was not as passionate as KennyG and three weeks later when my dad started talking about wanting to buy it to save money on the monthly rental, I returned it and retired my musical career. To this day, I am convinced the fact that I was not qualified for drums was a conspiracy that many young boys with dreams of beating a drum faced that day. My good friend Chris, played the drums so I will need to ask him how that came to be. But, his whole family was musical and most played together in a band, like a modern day alternative Partridge family. In hindsight, perhaps he did score better than me on the music test.

Music has always been important to me. I used to have battery powered speakers taped to my ten speed handlebars for bike rides. I would use my Eye of the Tiger cassette and other inspirational rock music on a mixed tape to keep me peddling. In middle school I spent a little time listening to Stryper and other Christian Rock bands but my musical tastes have varied widely over the years. Currently I ear bud up for yard work, and use a Bluetooth speaker playing my favorite playlist for garage work, home projects, cooking, and even showering. Recently, I have noticed that the bulk of my favorite music has multiple vocalists, frequently both male and female. I am not sure what significance that has (if any), just a random observation.

As my own kids reached confirmation age, we switched to Wednesday night church service which has been a blessing for numerous reasons including lazy Sunday mornings. One of the other benefits was a pleasant surprise, the presence of a contemporary Christian Rock band at the Wednesday evening services. The band (called Grace Abounds) is led by Jared who is a cross between Tim Mahoney, Martin Zellar, and a spiritual granola bar. Sari, who plays keyboards and has strong vocals ironically looks and sounds more like (Microsoft) Cortana than (Apple) Siri. It is clear that the entire band invests a fair amount of time to optimizing the delivery of their musical gift to the congregation. Last night’s service was an emotional one for me, I showed up dealing with some personal disappointment and was quickly provided perspective by a story from one of the parishioners about some significant struggles she has faced which led in to a powerful homily. Primed with emotion, as Jared and the gang broke into a powerful rendition of what I presume was Todd Agnew’s Grace Like Rain, I was overcome with emotion and wept somewhat uncontrollably. I was not crying out of self-pity or personal sadness, it was from the alignment of the beautiful music, empathy for others, and gratitude. I left the service feeling motivated to do more, give more, and be better.

This is not the first time music has had a powerful impact on me and will not be the last. Music can be a real motivator for me and capturing and maintaining that positive energy is always the challenge. Thank you Grace Abounds for sharing your talents and inspiration, you are part of what motivates me to look forward to church.

As you conclude reading this, please take a few moments to thank someone who helps inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in you.