Friday, January 22, 2010

The hour I first believed...can happen a number of times in your life.

Just this week, I was telling the story of how I hooked up with my first college band as a drummer. I had played guitar for years, but took an interest in drums on a suggestions by none other than the son of Don Williams (who?). Donnie Jr. and I were in school together back in the day.

One Friday evening while in college around 6:30, I cruised over to Frat Row to watch the band he played for start setting up for an 8:30 start time. About an hour later, their drummer reappears from a mysterious hiatus, and he's completely tanked. Apparently, he had been helping with making the party punch and took it upon himself to personally make sure each bottle of PGA was safe for consumption. Even the best drummer might find it difficult to play while projectile vomiting on all fours repeatedly,so I was pressed (kicking and screaming) into my first performance with about a half hour crash course through the set.

I was hooked. Not necessarily by the performing part, but rather by the satisfaction of using my marginal musical talent to lock in with other musician to make good music.

Fast forward to a few years ago when an old college-band drummer was invited to play with our church's Praise Team. I was petrified. Drummers are constantly (and rather obnoxiously) pounding out beats and rhythms with their hands and feet, which I had done through nearly every church worship service from my seat in the congregation for years, but being a part of leading worshipping service? I just didn't feel worthy.

The Praise Team was in a bind, so I agreed to sit in one Sunday morning on a few rather mellow songs. The first one was in something called 6/8 time, and I didn't have a clue as I fumbled trying to force a 4/4 time square into a 6/8 round hole. Disastrous. But thanks to a super talented band leader with quick thinking and subtle head gestures, we worked through the song despite my rough start. I didn't get the same euphoric feeling following that first set at church that I had experienced back in college. Why?

After attending several practices and playing a few more services, I moved into the drummer's spot full-time. Honestly, I still wasn't comfortable with my role and felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility, which I believe hampered my drum playing. Also, there had always been a bit of a controversy over the contemporary music played during praise and worship, which I'm sure is completely unique to our church (eye roll).

About six months after becoming the full-time drummer for the Praise Team, I witnessed something during a song that truly changed my attitude. The song was Chris Tomlin's version of Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone, and as I glanced over at the band leader like I often do for cues, I noticed he was singing and playing with such conviction as tears streamed down his face. His back was to the congregation, so I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who saw this. That's when I realized, he's singing as if no one else is here and it's just him and Jesus. Wow.

I was overcome with the Spirit that day, and I instantly had a complete new outlook on my role behind the drum set. I wasn't playing, good or bad, for the congregation...I was playing for Him.

Several months later, we were asked to play that same song at the funeral of a good friend's mother. The service was conducted at our church and the place was full. There were people from a number of different churches, as well as, no church at all. As we built the song up to the forceful middle section, I could feel the tears flowing...

My chains are gone. I've been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns.
Unending love, Amazing grace.

There's always a danger when getting lost in a song while playing in front of other people, but I didn't care. I knew that my friend's mom...because of grace...was with Jesus. I became overcome with joy as I pounded out the beat and at the thought of one day joining her...all because of grace.

As Christians, we use words like grace, faith, joy and mercy on a regular, if not daily, basis. But the true implications behind those words are...well...completely overpowering. I know like you, I've bellowed out the staple song Amazing Grace hundreds of times in church, and I've even during a few of them recognized the wretch I truly am. A wretch that is completely worthless without that amazing grace.

Grace is the word that most makes me look so forward to drumming for Him one day for all of eternity...if He wants me to.


Brett Barner said...

I feel more and more I learn more of what grace is about. Sometimes I think I have it down, then next thing I know, I learn even more.

Great post, Tony

David said...

Good post Tony.

All worship is beneficial, especially the kind that gets inside where we commune with our God in such a way that it seems like it is just the two of us - that is the most amazing.

And dude, if you are playing drums in eternity, I hope He let's me play guitar with ya so I can stand on your bass drum shredding for the King!

Michelle said...

If only we all understood what wretches we were...our faith wouldn't be so weak and our belief in God would be evident in our walk. Because we truly don't understand our wretchedness sometimes, we've become like the children of today's culture with no appreciation for what that grace has truly done.

~ Jan ~ said...

My encounter with Grace.

My cousin, Connie, opened my world to Jesus and I made a commitment to Him in 1981. By 1994, Connie was diagnose with cancer. We stood on the promises of God for her healing. Particularly, verses describing unwavering faith that can move mountains or how believers, agreeing on anything they ask, will have it done by our Father in heaven. Yet, after 18 months, Connie died in June of 1996.

Six months prior and for awhile after Connie's death, I kept hearing, "My grace is sufficient enough for you." One day, while mourning her death, I cried out to the Lord, asking why He didn't heal her. Again I heard, "My grace is sufficient enough for you." I grew angry because, in my opinion, His answer wasn't sufficient enough for me. Frustrated, I yelled out, "What do you want?" Deep within my inner man, I heard Him speak.

As with Job, God began with questions. "Did Connie tell you she heard Me say I would heal her? Did anyone get a word of knowledge that she would be healed?" Through tears, I answered, "No."

Next question, "Remember John the Baptist?" How could I forget - I just finished a study on him, so Matthew 11:1-6 came to mind. He continued, "While John was in prison, he heard of the miracles I was performing, so he sent his disciples to ask if I was the true Messiah. Do you know why John asked this? He thought if I were the real Messiah, I would free him from prison. Now, do you remember my answer to John?" I did.

John's disciples returned to the prison and told of all the miracles Jesus was doing, confirming that He was the true Messiah. Yet, Jesus didn't save John from his beheading. Instead he tells him, "Blessed is he who isn't offended by Me."

I could understand Jesus not healing Connie - after all, He wasn't walking the face of the earth then, but it seemed so cruel to me that Jesus, in such close proximity to John, chose not to save him. I ranted for a while and again, God spoke to me. "Jan, like John, the results you hoped for weren't met. Though you have faith, it's weak. You're basing your belief, My love for you and My very existence on what I do or don't do. I tell you the same thing I told John, You're blessed when you don't lose faith or become offend because I don't respond the way you hope." This was hard to hear.

"My grace is enough for you." Again with the grace thing, I thought. OK Lord, explain. "Because of the deep, past hurts by others, you have a hard time trusting Me. You long for the assurance that only I can give, but assurance to you is seeing tangible proof - My assurance is My grace."

God was revealing my heart and had my attention. "Go on", I encouraged. "If several prayers are answered, you think, 'Surely the Lord is with me.' However, if a request like the one for Connie goes unanswered, you begin to doubt Me and your faith gets weak, waiting for the next manifestation to boost it. When you base My love and your faith on anything outside of My grace, it will cause doubt and confusion". I was beginning to see the spiritual lesson.

"My grace is unearned favor. My love for you is unearned favor. Your very salvation hinges on the dependence of My unearned favor and your faith in Me to carry it out. Without being grounded in My grace, you become a slave to the emotional highs and lows of faith and doubt. My grace offers stability and freedom. Assurance is no longer dictated by your circumstances - whether full of blessings or in need. It is My eternal grace that validates you, not the temporal things seen with the eyes."

Again, As with Job, God never answered the "why" questions concerning Connie. They were secondary to the fragile, spiritual state I was in, needed to be addressed and corrected. Truly, His grace is sufficient enough for me.

Be blessed,

photogr said...

Beautiful thoughts Jan.