This is a recent addition to the set list of our dance band, The Beltway Rockers...
"Valerie" (Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse)
This one was written by Dave McCabe Russell Pritchard Sean Payne Abi Harding Paul Molloy Boyan Chowdhury.
Which is three more writers than chords in the song... but you know what? This one is just crazy fun.
When it works it just works.
My daughter (Evangeline, a VERY precocious 11) and I have taken to affectionately calling each other "Weirdo."
Probably not the best nickname for that stage of life for a young lady, but we say it with love.
LOVE YOU WEIRDO...
And we laugh, because it's funny. And as Sigmund said correctly, we "laugh because it's true."
But one of the things that I suspect is odd about me is that I hear music in my head. That comes in various forms... stuff I'm working on with our church, or our dance band that will someday play out again post COVID, or things that I've heard that captured the reptilian part of my brain by hook or by crook.
Sometimes it's music that hasn't been written yet, that's mostly pretty bad, and is mostly for my ears alone.
One of the internal manifestations of this for me is that when I wake up in the morning, it is almost always to an internal soundtrack and it sort of becomes the opening musical score for the day. It normally follows me around for a bit and then I get distracted by a dog, or a phone call or la Chupacabra on the interwebs.
And it can be literally anything, from Holtz, to MoTown to "You Are My Sunshine" - pretty much anything in my subconscious seems to be fair game.
I tracked this for 10 days or so, and for no particular reason, I'd like to share with you... The Music in My Head. It will be a motley collection, that I promise.
Here we go!
Up first is this one...
"The Shadow Proves the Sunshine" by Switchfoot and with a bit of fortuitous fun, they did a COVID version of this one from their respective homes. Enjoy!
“Without music, life would be a blank to me.”― Jane Austen
Excerpts from dialogue between Greg Johnson of the Surge Community Church and Laura Hill of Annandale Bible Church, via Facebook Messenger, May 6, 2020. Links were subsequently added.
Hello. I'm Greg Johnson, a leader with the Surge Community Church that meets—when allowed!—at the State Theater in Falls Church. "E" Eric Reiss directed me here for possibly making contributions to a relief fund organized by Gustavo Pacheco of Annandale Bible Church. I'd like more information on this relief fund, notably how to safely contribute. ...
Praise the Lord, good morning Greg! Yes, Pastor Gustavo set up a Venmo for contributions to our community. If you're in Falls Church, then you are surely aware of some of the needs that our church encounters. But God is faithful!! Look how he directed you, out of the blue, to us! 💞🙏. Would you like me to send you the Venmo QR code? Would you like to connect to Pastor Gustavo? What needs does the Surge have right now?
Please forgive me for caution, but I've not met anyone from ABC--nice handle!--so I've some questions:
1. I think I can use VenMo. But if we want to send an old-fashioned paper check, to whom should it be written (Annandale Bible Church? Iglesia Biblica Annandale? ...) and to what mailing address?
2. How are needy people or providers identified and prioritized? (Galatians 6:10, Matthew 25:35,...)
3. How are needs met? (money gifts, grocery cards, food or other tangible gifts, rents paid to landlords, ...)
We have at least $1200 in an initial gift. We meet in Falls Church and thus want to give to the Falls Church area. But currently our small congregation is mostly from out of town....
I can answer some of your questions. We have a small adult congregation and a relatively large student/children's congregation. Thus far we have given bags of food and necessities, set aside first for our families and the rest distributed via the parking lot at Braddock Elementary and dropped off in the Fairmont Gardens apartments (where most of our kids live). We work closely with the Parent Liaison at Braddock and we also have a close pulse on the students and the Parent Liaison at Woodburn ES. (we were recently were able to purchase a small laptop for a student at Woodburn who missed the school distribution). The parents and families have reached out to us, the children's church teachers, directly to ask for more food and provision. They have only a Safeway within walking distance of the apartments, and I've yet to see any available toilet paper there! So we'll check the church first and if there is no available funding, then we just go shopping ourselves to provide for their needs. God is so very faithful, and He has indeed supplied all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Thanks! That's the kind of info I wanted. "God is good all the time. All the time, God is good." ...
... But if the Lord can use me, He can use anyone. Ps 40:2 "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps."
Imagine what life would be like if we only did what was “required.”
All duty, all the time, without ever reaching for “the extra mile,” never going “above and beyond,” never giving “110%” as it were, always “phoning it in.”
Imagine writing only in cliche’ with never any original thought or communication.
I’m serious. Picture it. Take a moment and imagine that world. Your work, your relationships, your play without innovation, without any striving for more, where we keep our kids alive and our bills paid and sink into an ever increasing landscape of grey and muted tones. It’s a place where the volume always gets turned down. Or worse, when it internalizes. Where we do just enough to not be fired. Or divorced. Putting in just enough effort to not be left completely alone. To give just enough to stop people noticing our lackadaisicality.
What an awful, mud covered, tasteless, lifeless, boring, joyless, foul-smelling reality that one would be.
Generosity isn’t just about money. Though some folks right now could use your help if you’re able - click here for COVID-19 support. It is about time and heart and intention. It is about a life-long stance of giving more than you take and being more than a mouth breathing collection of particles swirling around like a lump. That’s more for me than for you by the way.
Real generosity is an internal position of the soul.
And it’s one that we desperately need to be healthy… and one that we desperately need to find any sustainable sense of righteousness or joy. We need to strive, to lean, to push, to climb, to give, to risk and to get back up after falling down again.
Generosity isn’t just about money. That’s a symptom and an expression, but not the heart or central urge. It’s about giving gifts of time and gifts of attention; gifts of the cherry on top; gifts of the great conversation. Those things cost us something, but the returns are legendary. Think about the landscape of where you are right now. In context, in relationships, in life. And do this for me, would you?
Don’t be afraid. Decide to not be afraid.
No really. Stop being so afraid of that new thing you’re thinking of, and all the trouble it will be and if you fail it won’t be worth it and Netflix is calling you to fix a plate of nachos and check out.
Don’t mishear what I’m saying. A life well spent will frame and rest and will protect margin with both hands. You will find greatness in rhythm and groove. It is also necessary to take a day off and enjoy your vacation.
But don’t forget to say “no” to the cruise control and put the pedal to the floor occasionally. Go for it!
Because Generosity, in our dreaming and execution, in our friendships and love, in our work and play… in our inside and out… is Necessary.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (emphasis mine)
A sweetgum tree that's on my walk to work provided these prisoners of war. If only as easily we could contain their tiny look-alikes.
Death, suffering, quarantine, and lost income are no causes for smiles. Yet it is also true that laughter increases infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells. Martin Luther wrote, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.... The devil is a melancholy spirit, and cheerful music soon puts him to flight.” Thomas More similarly stated, “The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.” In Proverbs chapter 17 we have, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
God is our mighty fortress,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
And so, we won’t be afraid!
Let the earth tremble
and the mountains tumble into the deepest sea.
Let the ocean roar and foam,
and its raging waves shake the mountains.
A river and its streams bring joy to the city,
which is the sacred home of God Most High.
God is in that city, and it won’t be shaken.
He will help it at dawn.
Nations rage! Kingdoms fall!
But at the voice of God the earth itself melts.
The Lord All-Powerful is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come! See the fearsome things
the Lord has done on earth.
God brings wars to an end all over the world.
He breaks the arrows,
shatters the spears,
and burns the shields.
Our God says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me.”
The Lord All-Powerful is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
In a church building of my youth, we kids had Sunday school in the basement. Above the piano was a painting of Jesus. To the right a sign admonished: "Be still and know that I am God." So I sang quietly. Later I figured out that Psalm 46 directs "be still" at boisterous heathen nations, not boisterous heathen boys. Indeed, a pile of Psalms incite, "make a joyful noise!" Wish I'd known sooner.
Upstairs over the foyer door leading to the sanctuary was the line, "Enter to worship". Over the foyer door leading back outside was a companion line, "Depart to serve". This pair bothered me. Wasn't it called a "church service"? Why not have identical reminders both ways? "Worship. Serve." Love God, love people.
Some people post little scripture quotelets around their homes. I've seen this in a couple of bathrooms.
Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.
This is a great reminder in these times. Even greater is the entire sentence. Peter's point is not that if I talk to God, I will feel better. The point is not to feel powerlessness against a virus nor against government. Nor ought I become cynical about idiots, including my unprepared self. Considering what the future holds, I need neither shiver nor shrug.
This promise activates in humbling myself before God, before the God who cares.
1 Peter chapter 5:
Clothe yourselves, all of you,
with humility toward one another,
for “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore,
under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
casting all your cares on him, for he cares for you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful.
(In the original Greek writing, "Be sober-minded; be watchful," is just two words: "Nepho Gregoreo." When I get too flippant, you have a duty to admonish me: Nepho Gregoreo! Nepho!)
Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Resist him, firm in your faith,
knowing that the same kinds of suffering
are being experienced by your brotherhood
throughout the world.
And after you have suffered a little while,
the God of all grace, who has called you
to his eternal glory in Christ,
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen,
and establish you.
To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
This week I've been called on the phone by old friends who have control issues. They hope that as in the past I can talk them down from their agitation or talk them up from their despair. OK, that's flattering myself. They really want me to be still while they vent. "Two ladies brushed by me at the grocery!" "I'll go crazy if I can't get out!" "I have no income." "I don't know, I just don't know!"
People more than ever find something humbling every day, every hour. Rather, the path through scary times to "the proper time" is to feel humble under the mighty hand of God.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew chapter 10,
"And do not fear those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who
can destroy both soul and body in hell."
James chapter 4:
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,
and He shall lift you up.
2 Chronicles chapter 34:
"Because your heart was tender
and you humbled yourself before God
when you heard his words
against this place and its inhabitants, and
you have humbled yourself before me
and have torn your clothes and
wept before me,
I also have heard you, declares the Lord."
Daniel chapter 10:
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel,
for from the first day that you
set your heart to understand
and humbled yourself before your God,
your words have been heard."
Paul, in Romans chapter 8:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
One of the best things that ever happened to me was suffering with a chronic illness for years in my 20’s.
As a kid, I was incredibly healthy and active. That translated into some amazing memories related to high school sports, with success, failure, perseverance, camaraderie and even a short stint as a college athlete. It also translated into a lot of joy. I found joy in movement, joy in focus, joy in discipline and joy in results.
Like my namesake Liddell, I felt His glory when I ran.
That all changed at some point.
I got sick. And it was much worse than you think. It messed up my life somewhat in every measurable way, but it wasn’t all that “bad.” And there was really nothing to be done, other than take vitamins and ride it out. It was more irritating than life threatening.
It was a drag on the ticket, a monkey in the wrench, a something in the ointment or soup that turned out to be a fly. I could still function… but there was a lot of fatigue and coping and trying to sip around the stupid fly. I had about 3 good hours a day, then I was exhausted. Life became more about tying my shoes and less about dreams of greatness. And it just didn’t go away. This cycle continued for months, and the months turned into years.
The amazing thing about this chapter, was that, at a few months in, I became a caretaker for someone much sicker than I was. And even in my limited experience and exposure to woes of health - it made me better. Don’t read “saint” here, I was even more selfish then than I am now. But I was a little more patient, a bit more compassionate, more understanding, more proactive, more responsive, more perceptive, and more loving. I was a little more all of these things, simply because, to some extent, I knew what it felt like to truly feel bad. To feel trapped. To feel diminished. To feel like this is never going to end. That lesson became a hammer for me, and if I didn’t beat back the darkness to the thundering of a glorious soundtrack… I did strike a blow here and there.
It wasn’t the sickness that was a blessing, the sickness was an obnoxious guest that overstayed his welcome. But it brought an entire range of blessing as a set of unforeseen consequence in me. Suddenly, I had this amazing filter on the world and a visceral realization of how precious health really is. It was a change in perspective, and very much a change of heart. It simply made me a better human, and one that was much more willing to be generous in practical ways for someone struggling with health issues of their own. I needed to learn how to be helpful in times of helplessness and how to be truly encouraging when the light in the room was set too low. I needed to learn how to let go and just sit with someone. I needed to learn how to listen.
Right now our mitigation of the corona virus feels like a pall. It’s a fog overlaying the landscape, a plate filled with action, inaction, over-reaction, with a side of devastating economic consequence.
My ridiculously optimistic message today is about the upside. And there is an upside. Here it is:
- We will value community more than we did yesterday
- We will continue to take steps to protect the least of these
- Toilet paper will finally get the appreciation it so richly deserves
- Our priorities will be a bit healthier
- We will better recognize how fragile life and security really is
Like most things, this too shall pass. Corona virus will come and eventually, it will go. It will.
But starting now and even more then, we will have the opportunity to be more than we were: more grateful and more graceful, more selfless and more good, less isolated and more loving in ways that matter.
It’s not a given. But this experience has the potential to make us better family members, better friends, and better people. We have a beautiful window to upgrade our communities with a healthier perspective on the important things of life. Instead of just being infected with a new bug, we have the chance to do something quite cool.
We will step into a positive viral movement that will spread in much the same way. Close contact. Social interaction. Groups of however many people we can cram into a room for something good. Infecting each other shamelessly with joy and community and good ideas. If we can remember the lessons we’re learning now, if we take time to be intentional with life and relationships... over time and in the long run...
this sickness will be a blessing.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.