Not who I used to be...

Ever taking the time to look back over your life? Ever thought about where you used to be, and then realize where you are now in comparison? When is the last time you just sorta took inventory of your life, looking for those things which need improvement, and taking note of those things that have already been improved?

I hope to be someone who keeps things constantly in perspective. I never want to walk blindly in this life, unaware of who I have been or who I am becoming. It's amazing how different situations and circumstances in life influence and direct that person that we eventually become. Even as I say that "who we become" just seems like such a foreign idea, like trying to touch even the closest of stars. At what point in life do we stop and declare"This is who I've become"? "I am who I was meant to be!" Seems to me like we will, until the day we breathe our last breath on this earth, always be becoming.

Meanwhile, the process continues. And what a process it is. I am finding that the road to who I am becoming, the road to maturity, the road to adulthood, the road to being a good husband, the road to being successful in my work, the road to being a good father (one day a long time from now for those of you who are thinking Karen and I might be expecting....not yet!!!), the road to life lived as Christ intends it is a painful road full of bumps, blowouts, breakdowns, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns!

I think I must be at a significant point in that journey for some reason! And by significant point I mean I am hitting some serious bumps on this stretch of road. I am at a point where who I am becoming is completely different than who I used to be, and who I am now is not who I want to be in the future. Those things that for me used to be so black and white are now being challenged and changed into this fuzzy, unintelligible gray. The areas that I used to feel most confident in, now seem to be my area of greatest weakness. I'm not talking about foundational things. There are things that will never change in my life, and in the foundation of my beliefs. But the more life I live, the more complicated some things seem to get...such that it is hard to find a real place of rest. In younger days, it seemed like there were plenty of times where life was OK, because I had it all figured out....or maybe because I didn't have to have it all figured out yet. Those days are seemingly no more, not in this place of my life.

Yet at the very core of my doubt, disbelief, struggles, and shortcomings, I know....I have to know... that who I am becoming depends on less of what I make of myself. Who I am becoming really depends on how much of myself I am willing to let go. And yet I am so persistent and adamant about doing this myself. I will change. I will try. I will work. I will bend. I will become.

I am weak. I am small. I am shortsighted. I am stubborn. I am torn. And on this stretch of road, I just need to surrender the wheel (yep..that's right.....God has been my copilot...not my pilot....that'd make a good church sign.....hmmmm). I am in desperate need to have Christ-in-me become my Hope of Glory again. I am in deep need to once again abide in Christ, and HIM in me.....for apart from HIM I can do nothing...I was nothing.....apart from HIM, I am becoming nothing.

God, you made all of the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother's womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it!
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the road of everlasting life. Psalm 139:13,16,14,23-24

On Sunday night, I watched a story on MSNBC about a preacher named Carlton Pearson who was a Pentecostal preacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'll lay my judgement on the Pentecostal style of worship, and their beliefs to the side for now, save the fact that I will say that I believe that there are plenty of Pentecostals, and people from tons of various other denominations that will go to heaven. And there are plenty of Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists and people from other denominations who will not go to heaven.

But I digress. This preacher was on TV talking about his new message that "God gave him" that he is now preaching. The message? Hell isn't a place that we go after we die, apart from God. Hell is a place on earth that we can experience at any time, numerous times even. The moral of this message? We will experience Hell in this life on earth, but when we die, everyone will be united with God in Heaven. God will not send or allow one person to go Hell. Everyone is saved!

Now, I must admit that as I watched this guy talk about this my first thought was "HERESY of all HERESIES"....and to save you from any angst while you read this blog, I still believe that very thought! HERESY it is! But here's what I really don't get! This guy had a huge church in Tulsa....I mean a megachurch that would give upwards of $600,000 a week in "tithes" and "offerings" (and I use those words loosely for this context). Pearson drove a Mercedes Benz, had a huge house in a gated neighborhood, carried clout in evangelical societies, and even had high political connections.

Since preaching new found message, Pearson has lost everything. He lost his church, he lost his fancy car and house, he lost his closest friends and his standing in the evangelical circles. All because he chose to no longer believe there was a hell. Why would a guy who had everything give it up for this radical (and heretical) message? I mean I can understand someone like Joel Osteen watering down the truth and preaching a feel-good, health and wealth, don't-worry-be-happy kind of message for the sake of tickling the collective ears of his superhuge church (not that I in any way think that is right!) But to preach something like this and lose it all......I don't get it. And Pearson's reason......according to the report...was that he couldn't stand the thought that his backsliding grandparents would really go to hell after they died!

As I watched though, I realized that though he gave up his standing presently, I don't think that will be the case very long. I believe his message will catch on. I thought, as I watched this report, of all the people in the world looking for an answer to the pain and hurt they have experienced in life....and to hear someone say "Hey, that's what hell is....but no worries, when you die, no matter what, you will be with God in heaven". I thought of those people who have been burned by church, or who have given up any thought to consequence of action so they can live the way they want, or those people who openly despise God. This is good news for they can live as they please, and still have great reward in Heaven with God. Man?born good not bad after all. Sin? Not an issue! Holiness? Think nothing of it.

All the while the blood of Jesus.....the grace of God......CHEAPENED. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoffer "cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone." Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin."

I am reminded of this verse -

"For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The Big Game

And a big game it was. For those of you who were in a hole on Saturday evening, the Georgia vs. Alabama was a hot one! 4 quarters of ever-so-close play followed by one very quick overtime resulting in a huge Georgia Bulldog win! As I posted before, Karen and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to the game. This was our first experience at Bryant-Denny Stadium, or any other stadium other than Sanford Stadium (or Doak-Campbell Stadium [FSU] back in high school). It was quite an interesting experience to say the least, not only to be in a place with such a football heritage, but to be in the minority, rooting for the opposite (and might I add winning) team. Our seats were on the 20 yard-line on the west end, which basically means that we were surrounded by Alabama fans. There were a few Georgia fans above us, and below us, sprinkled throughout, but we were vastly outnumbered. I'll never forget the guy who sat in front of us. Right after Georgia scored on their first drive of the game, Karen and I politely went crazy, and the guy in front of us turned around with the worst look on his if to say.....well I can't say what the look was as if to say, so use your imagination. All in all the Alabama fans were cordial enough to us, and even congratulated us after the game. However, there are a few observations I'd like to make about Alabama fans in general (*please note that I use in general, so as to identify that these observations aren't applied to every Alabama fan, just the ones we sat around on Saturday).

1. Alabama fans take their football very seriously. They do have a unique history, what with Bear Bryant and what not, but come on, every school (at least SEC school) has a place in football history in some way or another (well maybe not Vanderbilt...). I appreciate their place in that history, but we don't have to go overboard with it.

2. Alabama fans shout "Roll Tide Roll" to every thing. "Sweet Home Alabama" and some other song by the group Alabama (note the connection) are two of the songs that we heard on Saturday accompanied in specific parts by a loud and collective shout of the slightly overused war cry. And by slightly overused I mean utterly obnoxious. If I hear "Roll Tide Roll" one more time I think I'm gonna either throw up or hit somebody.

3. Alabama fans are much like the tide in their fanship. When things are good, they are extremely loud (tide in). When things are bad, you could hear a pin drop (tide...out). Seriously, the first half was deafening. However, after one tiny touchdown run in the first quarter, and everybody seemed to immediately pout. This was probably magnified by the fact that we were the only ones cheering when Georgia did something good. You know that is a really odd feeling, almost like I should have apologized for cheering....but I didn't. And you should have heard it when the winning touchdown was scored...I mean it's like someone just turned the mute on a TV. They were shocked, and Karen and I were watching for a replay to make sure we really did scored. It wasn't until the guy next to me said "Welp, that's the game folks" did I really realize we had won. I mean I thought he caught it, but I wasn't close enough to tell if he was inbounds or what. So anyway, when we did finally discover we won, we jumped up and down and what seemed like an empty stadium (sound wise anyway). It was odd, and I felt kinda I didn't prolong my own celebration. Karen and I both decided that we still feel a little celebration deprived!

4. Alabama fans feel a close connection between themselves and their much that they are on a first name....nay...initial only basis with the guy. The constantly were shouting "Come on JP!" or shouting a bemoaning "John Parker" (for those of you who don't know, the Tide's quarterback's name is John Parker Wilson). Though I know our quarterback's name is Matthew Stafford, you don't hear me yelling "Hey, great job Matty boy!"'s just Stafford in my vocabulary!

5. Alabama fans will never give a coach a break, due in large part to their continued worship of Bear Bryant. If I heard the Bear's name mentioned once, I heard it a thousand times.....followed by something like "he's still spirit" or "he's the best coach that ever breathed a breath of air" or "blah blah blah blah blah".....because I just had to start tuning it out. A great coach he was...but not God! Poor Sabin, he may do some great things there, but if it is short of a National Championship within the next three years, he can forget it. He's gone! They won't be satisfied!

6. Alabama fans are surprisingly least in our section. Save the one ugly look we got, no one threw anything at us, yelled obscenities, or beat us up! This is a good thing! And as I mentioned before we got congratulated by several pouting Alabama fans. Of course there were those who threw things at our players, but I have a feeling those weren't adults!

7. Alabama fans are rather whiny. This may be based on the one guy who sat next to me and said over and over in a nasally cry "Come on BAMA". Hey dude, get a tissue and stop using my sleeve. Everything is gonna be alright I promise.

8. Alabama game traffic is.......what's the word........HORRIBLE!!!! There was an estimated 125, 000 people in and around the game (93,000 ticket holders, 30,000 other lurkers who found joy in sitting outside the stadium......maybe they don't have a house...with air conditioning, and a comfy chair like I do!?!?!) We got in our car at 11:15 (giving 20 minutes for some of the traffic to clear out) and got home at 3:30 a.m. What on any other day is a 2 and 1/2 hour drive took us 4 hours and 15 minutes. Not really interested in doing that again. For the record, I still made it to church at 6:30 a.m. lead 2 services in musical worship, and then crashed on my couch for literally the rest of the day.

9. Alabama is a place where everyone should attend a game at least once. If, for at least, no other reason than to prove or disprove my assessment. It really was a cool place to be! It is a neat stadium, and it is always interesting to see how different teams and fans present their fanfare!

In conclusion, I'd just like to say HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!

...not really sure when it is to be released....if fact it's not really a record...more just recordings. I spent the greater part of the day this past Friday locked in my bedroom with just my computer, my guitar, a couple of microphones, an amp, a bass guitar, some headphones, and a bunch of various and sundry cables, trying to work on some songs. Back in August Clay Wood and I put down some rough tracks of guitar and drums. So I went back and added some lead guitar, bass, and vocals. In a shade over 4 hours I had a rough cut of one song to show. By rough, I mean very rough, but I am pretty excited about where it is headed, and the new ability I have to lay some stuff down, and then lay some other stuff over top of it to hear how it all sounds together (rather than just listening to it all in my head as I have been doing previously!) The next step is to send it back to Clay for any changes in the drums, and let him put the beat down to a steady click. Then he will send it back to me and I'll finish it up.

All that to say that I had a blast on Friday, just working on music. I loved working on the guitar tones, attempting to play bass, and trying to be as creative with the vocals as I could! It was a jolly ol' time I'll say. My one question at the end of the day was "after all this work, what will I ever do with all this stuff?" It's not like I have a band, or places to play. And while I am quite fond of the songs I have, I am not by any means convinced that I have the next big hit. I guess I am sort of left with the question "Are these songs meant just for a creative outlet for me? or is there something in the future that I've yet to come across that will bring clarity to these songs?"

In any case, I fully intend to have another full-day session at Studio-del-Matt and lay some more funky tracks down for everyone's listening pleasure (and by everyone I suppose I mean me, Karen, Clay, and anyone else who comes within earshot of my computer).

No I am not selling tickets (well unless I get an unreasonably high offer), but somehow in my head I could hear the scalpers outside the stadium yelling about the tickets they have to illegally sell. That moral dilemma there is another issue for another day!

This post is to rejoice and lament the fact that I have two tickets to the Alabama vs. Georgia game this weekend.

I rejoice because I get to go the game...and the tickets were free....well to me they were (thanks friend!)
I lament because it is in Tuscaloosa, and I will be rooting for the away team.
I rejoice because I get to go with my wife.
I lament because the game starts at 6:45, and last weeks game was a 4 hour game, starting at 5:45 and people from our town didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. What does that mean for us this week? I'm guessing 2:30 or later!
I rejoice because I am still young enough to stay out all hours of the night.
I lament because I have to be back at church on Sunday at 6:45 a.m. to get ready to lead worship.
I rejoice because it will be tons of fun.
I lament that, though I am no fair-weather fan, I am afraid our dear Bulldogs just don't have it, and will probably not win.
I rejoice because I haven't gotten a single pick right in my College Pick-em's on ESPN and I will hopefully be wrong on this game!
Not to mention that game day will be at this game....of course I have no intention of getting there that early, but at least it is a huge game....probably as big a game as I have ever been to.

Now I just have to pray that I don't get beat up. I'm wondering if Alabama fans would get mad about a person wearing black (you know, so as not to flaunt the UGA colors.)
Methinks I shall wear a Georgia shirt underneath my black shirt in the case that we do win, wherewithin I will let the bulldog colors fly!

In closing, GO DAWGS!!

Master of Suspense

So perhaps they are not that old-timey, but they are definetly before my time. The movies about which I am speaking were made by a certain Alfred Hitchcock. I spent the better half of my evening last night glued to the AMC network watching 2 and 3/4 of Hitchcock's masterpiece's. And masterpieces they are. The movies we watched were "The Rear Window", "The Birds", and "Rope." While I am by no means a film critic, I have to say that these movies were brilliant and had to be before their time, even with the slow-moving plots and less than stellar special effects. Hitchcock truly is the master of suspense, as my wife and I sat hand over eyes, waiting to see what would happen, only to be mostly left to our imaginations as to what really took place.

My favorite of the night was "Rope." The filmography of this movie was tremendous and the plot was so strangely twisted yet so elequantly played out. I sinced that the movie's ultimate goal was to provide social commentary on a Post WWII society, but then again I could be way off. James Stewart, who also starred in "The Rear Window" was phenominal as usual.

If you've never sat down to watch one of Hitchcock's movies, I would highly recommend you do so! You'll be entertained, and if you're like us, a bit spooked! If you're interested, AMC is having a 7 nights of Hitchcock through Saturday night!

Back to the Blogosphere

So I tried to do this a couple of years ago, without much success. However, the time has come for me to rejoin the blogosphere (at least that's what they used to call it). I read several blogs, and am quite entertained by the opportunity to take a glance into other people's minds. So here is my feeble attempt at giving you (whoever you are) a glance at my mind (get ready to be unimpressed). I'll try to stay on top of things and post as often as possible. In any case, thanks for checking it out. Welcome to my ignorance!

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