God Came

You have seen the title before. It is the title of our latest CD. Our Christmas CD. So, it has been marketed, e-mailed and e-mailed, posted on webpages, plastered on posters, and made its presence known in various retail locations across upstate NY and various other locales in the good ol’ US of A.

But they are not just catchy commercialism. Not simply marketing genius.

They aren’t even really my ideas. πŸ™‚

Yes, I wrote the song “God Came” way back in 1994. And yes, we recorded the CD this year, and it is AWESOME (one more shameless plug there…)

But that’s neither the beginning, nor the end of this wonderful story.

All month long, we presented the amazing truth of how God loved us so much that he decided to give up his role as King of the universe and be born as a baby, grow up and give his life for us. We should have died, but instead, our King gave his life. Incredbile. Too amazing. Incomprehensible.

And it is. But, Paul prayed this:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.

Attainable, yet unattainable. A goal within reach that we will never fully reach. How can that be? Paradox. But paradise. A love that goes beyond what we could ever experience from anyone else.

Let me try to reveal it further.

Eph 1:4-5 says, “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.”

Before he even made the world, God had planned to be born in a barn. Before he spoke the cosmos into existence, he was thinking of YOU. He knew that we would leave him. He knew we would choose our own way, that we would need help to break free from the bondage of sin. He knew that we couldn’t do it on our own.

So, he emptied himself (Phil 2) of all his rights as God and became like a servant. Like one of us. So that through his sinless life, and his victory of sin and death, we could live the life that He had planned for us… even before he made the world.

The part we most often miss in all of that is how God did it. I don’t mean the deep theological discourse on the propitiatory ramifications of the salvific events on Golgotha. (I did learn SOMETHING at Bible college…) I mean we miss his joy! He actually WANTED to come. He wanted to be held in a young mother’s arms. To be fed by her. To have his diapers changed by her. To grow up in the awkward body of a adolescent. To hear the taunts of the other kids. To feel the pain of a scraped knee. To know the hurt of words thrown carelessly around. To even know the sting of death. (Some think he lost his father, Joseph, at a fairly early age.)

Knowing all of that… it says that this plan, “gave him great pleasure.”

That blows me away.

We all know John 3:16. It’s at all the football games. It’s graffitied on overpass bridge supports on the highway. It’s memorized by anyone who’s ever been near a Bible.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.

But what does verse 17 say? Something rather important, wouldn’t you think? Following the verse that sums up all of human history? It has to be at least close in significance. Yet, when I ask the question of any group of believers, the hands are much more sparse than for the previous verse. πŸ™‚

God did not send his son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

How often do we thank God in amazement for his gift of salvation, our ticket to heaven, but then as we continue in our life, we begin to fear failing him. We feel we must continue to improve, or risk losing his love. Perhaps in some sort of celestial dog house. On God’s bad side.

But Romans assures us this is not the case. God’s love toward us – his non-condemnation – is not a once, so-we-can-get-in-and-turned-around kind of love. It is constant. It is for all time. It was long before the world was formed. It was even while we were still his enemies. Listen to the following lines from Paul’s letter to the Romans…

Romans 3:23-24

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grave through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Romans 5:7-11

Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for someone who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God through the death of his son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.

Romans 8:1

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:31

What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

Romans 8 continues to say that we can never lose God’s love. We never did anything to earn it. God doesn’t love me because I am such a good songwriter. Or a singer. Or a web-page builder. Or a good husband, father, son, brother, neighbor…

That’s not why he loves us.

God loves me just because he made me. I was messed up. I still am. But he knew he could fix it. He came. And it gave him great pleasure.

That is the story of Christmas. God became man. The eternal lived in the temporal. He lived just like we did, yet was faultless. And in that way, he paid our way to eternal life.

Jesus said, “And this is the way to have eternal life, to know you the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

That’s it. His offer is good to any who would accept it. Life like it oughta be. With the one who invented it.. Made right by that same one. Made perfect.

The bumps will still come. Death still has a limp grasp on us. Just look at the catastrophic death that people are dealing with in Asia from the tsunami disasters. People will still lose their jobs, their spouses, their houses. But God came. He proved once and for all that he loves us, by not only coming to endure life in a messed up world, but by willingly dying for me. For you.

If God is for you, then who – or what – could ever be against you?

Think about these things as we close 2004. Think about his love that surpasses understanding.

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.

Stories From a Hectic Month…

We had quite a December! 21 concerts in 22 days. Thankfully 2 of those were canceled. But at one point, we had 11 concerts in 8 days. That’ll be plenty, thank you very much! πŸ™‚

BUT, with all of that activity, comes plenty of blog-fodder… πŸ™‚

So, in a year-end sort of way…

BEST LINE

This one already made the blog page… so, click here to open the blog in a new window.

WORST ATTENDANCE

We had an event at a familiar place, where we have played quite often, and are always warmly welcomed. We were very much looking forward to our evening there. You can usually expect 50-100 people there. It was a good Sunday night event.

Well, as we were setting up, the senior minister and we were talking a bit, and he referred to some recent poor attendance at events such as ours. I thought nothing of it, as I mentioned above, our events had always been great with this church, and I wasn’t really expecting anything different…

Well, by 7:05pm, there was a total of 9 people in the building and 5 of them were us! πŸ™‚ Add the senior minister, the sound guy, and two elders who were there to help out, and, you have the entire compliment! πŸ™‚

I think that may be the first time we have ever had NO ONE show up for a concert at a church πŸ™‚

But, it turned out great, actually. It’s always good to catch up with old friends and see how God is leading in their lives. We had a good chance to chat, and at the end of the evening… instead of a “love offering”, they sent us home with a LARGE rubbermaid tub full of FOOD! Even a frozen turkey! Amazing!

BEST ATTENDANCE

Probably our best attended event in the Christmas season was on Christmas Eve. We were in North Syracuse, NY, helping with a decent portion of their service. We had left a bit late, trying to get lots done before we left. We were trying to get there at 5:45 for a 7:00 concert, but we strolled into the parking lot at around 6:03pm.

Much to our surprise, at that early hour, the parking lot was full! It looked like everyone was there! My first thought was predicated by an unnerving event earlier in my Christmas Eve history… allow me a quick flashback…

[CHR EVE, 1998 – Victor, NY] I was the college age minister for a church in upstate NY, and for the Christmas Eve service, was singing a song along with my then quite pregnant bride, somewhere in the middle of the service. We arrived to our quaint little old country church building about 1 hour before showtime… and MUCH to my amazement then, as I came in the room to set up my guitar… EVERYONE was already there. And not only were they there… they were in their SEATS!!!!!

The most odd part about that? The seats faced the door where you came in. πŸ™‚ So, I waved… and went up on the stage to set up my guitar. πŸ™‚ (What else could I do??) πŸ™‚

[We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…]

SO, you can imagine, I was amazed, but not too concerned. A bit weirded out by the passion exhibited by these Christmas Eve die-hards, but not concerned. πŸ™‚

BUT, I was proven wrong. I checked the sheet with all the info for that night, and sure enough…

It said 6:00pm. πŸ™‚

So we had over 300 people waiting for us to arrive. Our best crowd. Under very interesting circumstances. Again, I think that is a first for us as well. We have shown up late for an event or two, but due to inclement weather or other events beyond our control… never just had the wrong time! HA HA!!!

MOST FUN

Now, not really wanting to exclude anyone or seem ungrateful for any of the fun that we had at any of our December events… I still thought there was one day that stood out to me.

On Dec 18, we sang at a WALMART! It was our second one… it was “our” WalMart. We sang in the WalMart in Newark, right in the area where people walk in. It was just fun to see people’s faces light up, smile, cheer up, and enjoy the season as they came in to some smilin’ faces singing live music. We saw a few folks we knew there, and we also were seen by lots more who knew us. πŸ™‚ (That’s always interesting…)

But overall, I’d have to say that was a most excellent day!

EARLIEST DAY!!!

Without a doubt, singing for the K-8th graders at East Palmyra Christian School was our earliest gig. It felt like another TIME ZONE. πŸ™‚ We had to start at 8:30am so we had to be there BEFORE eight o’clock AM. That is too early. πŸ™‚

BUT, even with the early start, this was a close runner up for most fun. The kids were great!

MOST BAND-A-LICIUOUS!

As many of you know, when we perform live, it is usually two voices accompanied by only an acoustic guitar (or keyboard of some sort). Well not on Dec 17th! Crosswinds hosted our sort of CD Release Party for God Came. It was a blast! So fun to play with such amazing musicians. May I mention them here?

(Of course I can! It’s my blog page!!!) πŸ™‚

E. Guitar: Mike Muscarella (our amazing guitar man!)

Bass: Ben Schoenfelder (now becoming a basic regular! and also amazing!)

Drums: Todd Haschmann (a fill-in who is welcome ANY time!)

We basically played right through the CD… and the amazing thing was, we had no rehearsal! Those guys are THAT good! So fun!

It was…

BAND-A-LICIOUS!!!

===========================

Well, there are probably more stories, but I have one more blog I would like to type to end this year. So I will close this one, and begin the next.

Thanks to any of you who were at those events (or NOT in the case of the WORST ATTENDED one…) It was a pleasure to celebrate God’s love with you. And to have band-a-licious fun. And to drink Wassail. And all the other fun stuff. Thanks for a great Christmas season. πŸ™‚

Apple Upgrades

I was finally able to upgrade Jen’s old iMac G3 computer. It was a gift several years back from some friends of ours, and has served us quite well. It has now been wiped clean and reformatted as Ian’s computer! That’s so cool. We set up a little computer station with Ian’s new G3 iMac and Alex’s upgrade, a PowerMac 6500. Both computers have ethernet, so I networked to two for file sharing and printer sharing. NICE!

SO, here’s a run-down of the current Apple computer status of our house:

1st Floor

β€’ Jen’s eMac 1.25Ghz G4 256MB 40GB Combo (NEW!!!)

β€’ Alex’s OLD Performa 6216CD (old faithful!)

2nd Floor (The boys computer station!)

β€’ Alex’s PowerMac 6500

β€’ Ian’s iMac G3

β€’ ethernet network, epson stylus C42 ink jet

3rd Floor (My OFFICE!)

β€’ PowerMac G4 Dual 500Mhz 160GB 512MB SuperDrive

β€’ PowerBook G4 1.25Ghz 512MB 80GB SuperDrive

β€’ All-In-One G3 Mac 288MB 4GB Multi-Media Ports (TV Tuner)

β€’ Collectables (Apple IIc, Apple IIgs), Parts (another All-In-One G3)

In addition to the shifting of computers, we also have a super cool wireless network happening here, sharing internet, files and even printer wirelessly between all the newer computers! Awesome!!!

I am having fun… can you tell? πŸ™‚

A New & Improved NFL?

This year, the NFL is a little messed up. There are tons of teams that are really not good, who stand a great chance of making the playoffs! AND, to top that, perhaps there will be a team (or two?) who DOES NOT make the playoffs at 10-6… (INCLUDING our beloved Bills.)

I was reading an article that made me think… isn’t there a better way? And, I think I have come up with one!

(Hopefully someone from the NFL reads my blog…) πŸ™‚

WHAT IF…

We keep our AFC and NFC conferences for season play, rivalries, etc, etc… BUT, for the playoffs, it’s more like the NCAA tourney. There are brackets, and teams are selected by their overall record. This year, 10 of the top 14 teams (records) are from ONE conference… the AFC. SO, in my scenario, the BETTER teams would be in the playoffs, because conference does not matter.

What I propose is to take the top 14 teams, giving the top 2 a one-week bye, and home-field advantage in their bracket throughout the playoffs. Then, the others are spread out to play according to their season record, not by conference.

Here’s what it might look like this year… (if we take the current top 14 teams, in order of alphabet if tie-breakers are unknown)

NFL Top 14

1. Pittsburgh (14-1)

2. New England (13-2)

3. Philadelphia (13-2)

4. Indianapolis (12-3)

5. Atlanta (11-4)

6. San Diego (11-4)

7. NY Jets (10-5)

8. Buffalo (9-6)

9. Green Bay (9-6)

10. Denver (9-6)

11. Baltimore (8-7)

12. Jacksonville (8-7)

13. Minnesota (8-7)

14. Seattle (8-7)

THE BRACKET

Click Here for the Bracket (in a new window)

That scenario has some great games in it that would never (can’t) happen in the current playoff structure… allows for the best “final four” … especially if seeded right. Seems like a winner to me. Would be fun to see the Bills with the 8th best record in the league get a home game against Green Bay in the first round. And the Superbowl would be (hopefully) the best two teams. (If I wasn’t such a homer, it would be Pitt/NE, the 1/2 teams in the SB)…

Wouldn’t that be better?

Hopefully Paul Tagliabue is reading this…

πŸ™‚

Money

This December has been abundantly “profitable” for us. I don’t like that word. I don’t like all of the baggage that goes with it. Any of you who know me, know that I am certainly not in it for “the profit” in any sort of way. But, unfortunately, money is necessary.

Well, we actually had in the past couple days more money than we knew what to do with! Haven’t really experienced that in a long time (or perhaps EVER?) So I was talking with Jen about the surplus and what we could do with it… it was a couple thousand dollars… and within 5 minutes I think we had plans for about $40,000…

πŸ™‚

There is never an end to the need for money. Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about the supply of money. Our Father loves us and will supply all we need. The part that gets us a bit squeemish is the schedule upon which said need-supplying is done. I sometimes wish we always had an abundance. It was fun to have all our regular bills paid and have such an abundant surplus. But we saw quickly how little security there is in our apparent abundance.

We now have a little over $100 in our checking account. We “spent” the surplus in about 24 hours. πŸ™‚ We paid our mortgage for next month plus some extra and paid down a bunch of credit card debt. And, were able to purchase something that Jen has been wanting for a loooong time. (That will last a lot longer than the current one we have).

And you know what? I am almost happier to see the familiar skimpy account balance than the larger number. I do not want my confidence to be in the abundance of my checking account, but in the abundant love of my Father. Really. $2000 goes fast. But His supply never ends! That does not always come in the form of money (believe me, THAT is true!) but it always comes. We have never been in need beyond what he could handle. And I believe we never will be.

So, it was fun for a moment to see 4 digit figures in our bank account, but our true joy is in the abundant love of our Father. May you know that today, too.

This Is Not Because Of Your Singing!

We received a card in our P.O. Box yesterday (that’s our “basic mail”) that had no return address label. I did see it was post marked Toledo, OH. I was trying to figure out who it was from as I opened it.

Inside was a Christmas card, which contained two one-hundered dollar bills! And the only thing written on the card was:

“This is not because of your singing!”

πŸ™‚

When I first read it, I smiled… and I thought, that’s cool… just a little encouragement from an admirer who wanted to give us a gift…

Then I thought… “Hmm… NOT because of our singing… does that mean this person HATES our music (singing), but really wanted to give us some money… so, they thought they’d be SURE to let us know that it has NOTHING to do with our singing???”

Perhaps.

Well, whoever you may be… thanks for the Christmas gift. We have been careful to notate in all of our accounting places that it is in fact…

NOT BECAUSE OF OUR SINGING.

Thanks. πŸ™‚

Wheeeeeeeeee!!!!

Wow. You know, I have often mentioned here on this blog how busy we are. We just really, really are.

That is about to change. We are restructuring some things in life. Learning from past choices (not bad choices necessarily, just choices…) and deciding to do things a bit differently.

On Tuesday morning, we were performing our 13th concert in a 10-day span. That’s a lot. And while most were completely worth-while… I am glad that only happens one month per year… and we’ll definitely keep it that way. πŸ™‚

We are currently scheduling our FL tour for 2005… it is an annual thing, and is definitely a pleasure… but our last tour kinda wiped some of our touring energy out. πŸ™‚ SO, we’re planning a 2-3 week tour instead of a 5-8 week tour. That will be fun, but also jam-packed! Stay tuned for details.

The Christmas concerts have been a blast. Played at 2 WalMarts, with a couple Santas, at 2 malls, in a coffee shop or two, some church dinner concerts (harder to sing after such meals….) a Christian school (at 8:30am!!!) and a few others in between. Has all been great. God has even blessed us finacially in a few unexpected spots.

But we’re tired! Whoa! I was singing in the mall on Tuesday and found voice had a mind of its own! πŸ™‚ We have three more events this week, and then we have a week off until the next gig. That will be some nice recovery time. πŸ™‚

So, if you are reading this and are in the Rochester, NY area, check our calendar, and come see us!

More in a bit…

We Love Our Bills!

If you are a Buffalo Bills fan, you have to be excited! We haven’t had a winning team since 1998, but this year we are already 8-6… with a fairly good shot at 10-6! Wow!

Unfortunately, they could still very well miss the playoffs!

There are five teams fighting for the last 2 playoff spots. 4 division winners get a spot, and 2 teams get into the playoffs as a “wild card”. New England has clinched our division, and Pittsburgh theirs. Indianapolis and San Diego have clinched theirs as well. Then you have the Jets (10-4), Ravens (8-6), Jaguars (8-6), Broncos (8-6) & the Bills (8-6). Unfortuately, we lost to all of those teams, and the only team we could end up tied with, but ahead by virtue of a tie-breaker would be the Jets. So we need to win both of our last two games, and they would need to LOSE both. Even then, at least two of the other teams would have to lose at least one game.

SO, it’s certainly not certain… but it’s been fun anyway! They have won 5 in a row, and 7 of their last 8. (The one loss was in New England.) They have scored over 33 points in the 5 wins. And a bunch of points have come from “trick” plays and special teams plays.

They’re just FUN! πŸ™‚

So… watch out NFL… here come the Bills!

8 Years

Today is an anniversary. 12/23. Not all that significant… but perhaps it is? We have now had an account with our bank, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust, for 8 years. Since 1996.

Yes, that is mostly insignificant, but just thought I’d pass along that little bit of trivia. And, a recommendation of a cool local bank who is small enough to still treat customers like people. That’s fun.

Wow. 8 years. That means I have lived in Rochester for over 8 years. Nice!

I’m old.

πŸ™‚

McDonald’s Makes You Fat

Can you believe that?! McDonald’s food will make you fat!!! Really! I’m serious!

πŸ™‚

We watched the movie SuperSize Me with some friends a couple weeks ago, and it was actually pretty funny. The whole idea is that a guy who is in very good physical shape wanted to see if he could prove that McDonald’s food is bad for your health, so as an experiment, he decided to eat nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 straight days!

A very funny premise… πŸ™‚

So, the movie is about more than that… just showing how unhealthily we Americans eat. Not just McDonalds, but public schools and just fast food in general. It not only makes us fat, but creates all sorts of other health issues as well, and even makes us tired, slothful, and just not feel good in general.

And that’s all true.

I don’t agree with the films ultimate conclusions, that McDonald’s (and restaurants like it) are the reason we are all fat. That’s just crazy. I am definitely on the side of PERSONAL responsibility. The film idea stems from a lawsuit filed against McD’s, where two girls sued because McDonald’s food makes them fat. WHAT?!?!? πŸ™‚ Ummm… EATING the food makes you fat. I think I could probably get fat on carrots, if I ate enough.

Well, maybe not carrots.

πŸ™‚

But the point is, why MUST we always blame someone else? We all have the choice as to what we will do, and won’t do. The lawsuits suppose that it is not the individual’s responsiblity to choose wisely, but rather, the corporate entity to choose FOR the individual what they should consume. That’s a bunch of mularkey! (That was in honor of our innovative head coach here in Buffalo…)

(Footnote: speaking of Mularkey and the Bills… did you know that they snapped a VERY long losing streak on the road by eating CHEESEBURGERS. Yes, McDonald’s cheeseburgers have now helped them win 2 in a row on the road, and probably another to come here in Cincinnati on Sunday. So, see? They’re not ALL bad…)

America is definitely fat. I can’t even believe it sometimes when we are in a public place, how MANY really overweight people there are. We blame it on McDonald’s, we blame it perhaps on our employment (not enough excersize), we blame it on genetics (fat genes and the like)… we blame everyone but ourselves.

Sorry. I know that choosing wisely is hard. I do not always choose wisely. Sometimes it can be rare that I do. BUT, my choices are mine, and I accept full responsiblity.

The consequences of that are varied, but I do believe responsibility stops with me.

The funny part is, the person that I am ultimately answerable to has already accepted that, and has made me without fault in his eyes. Eph 1 says that God’s plan from before the beginning of time was to make us holy and blameless, without fault. Even if I’m fat, God loves me. Even though it’s my fault.

So should I eat McD’s for every meal, every day? Nope. I may be faultless with God, but I will be FAT from burgers. πŸ™‚

Choose wisely, as wisely as you can. Trust God to take care of the rest.

And, can you pass the fries?