Precious People – Thelma Edge, My Nana

I just wanted to thank everyone who visited or played a part in the services for my Nana, Thelma Edge, yesterday. We knew that it was the middle of a workday, in the middle of COVID, and far away from those of you who don’t live in “the center of the universe” (Pacolet inside joke). So I’m sorry for those of you who may have wanted to attend but couldn’t — we all extend our love to you and greatly appreciate your love for us and for her. Having said that, the turnout of so many sweet friends and family just blew us away. The flow of new stories, smiles, hugs and encouragement never once stopped and kept us all together with a community of “family” that might not necessarily be tied together by the bonds of blood and marriage — but were clearly tied together by the bond of love.

From the morning family gathering at my mom and dad’s house, with us all eating hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee that Pam Easler stuck past the healthy foods police ( you know who you are and I love you for it! ) — and talking about so many things that either made us laugh or cry. Like the very deep conversations with Debbie Ford Cromer, Patra Ford, Lynn Davis and Butch Davis about how there are seasons of this Christian walk that will truly stretch our faith and have us in places where we don’t have any answers for “Why?!!!” but we have God with us to see us through. Like deep and hopeful conversations with Betty Hutt and Vicky Polk we can have about the gospel, the all sufficient power of the blood of Christ, grace instead of works, and the hope we can find in the Lord when coming to Him with hard questions about chronic disease, suffering in the world, addictions, overdose, and even deep despair and suicide. And even the laughing about how different and unique our perspectives might be on “our own funeral services” or hilarious stories about Nana and Bill or the family and all of our quirks and general craziness. Some family stories stay safely within the 4 walls of the family homes, ha!

And the gathering and receiving of friends — oh my goodness! There are far too many stories and names to even begin to list them here. But the running theme throughout was that in “the Pacolet we know and love”, we are all family — that you are a “cuz” not just because of immediate blood or marriage, but because of the love and community — and so many times we laughed and encouraged each other knowing that we truly are all related as family — regardless of name, Job, position, address, area code, income, race, language, etc. Pacolet and Brown’s Chapel church and that white house on the hill on Cleveland Street seem they might always be Home, might always be the center of the universe, might always be my closest glimpse of what heaven might be like from this side of the veil. Not because of any big fancy houses, not because of streets paved in gold, not because of health, wealth and prosperity — because your early eyes will not see those things in Pacolet. But because of something that is truly rare, precious, and of eternal value — souls touched by the hand of God, birthing a community that lives one another. I had so many “favorites” that I got to hug and tell them one more time that I love them — and that is priceless.

And the service! I have always loved the pure worship that Steve and Wanda Wall have brought through the choir at Brown’s Chapel, because of you have heard me talk about wisp before — i always will say that the heart of the singing is so much more powerful than the polish. But not only was there such heart in the worship — it was for my ears like God had polished it into a fine gold arrow. And that arrow somehow pierced me so accurately and deeply in my innermost heart, but instead of striking me dead, renewed my heart and restored my hope. Ralph and Sherry Jett and their families have been at the very heart of the Brown’s Chapel church and to have them lead off and then everyone in attendance join them in the last verse of “How Great Thou Art” was so powerful that it was as if the earth shook around my very soul. And the beautiful encouragement of Wanda Wall singing “What a Day That Will Be” reminded me of how much sweeter that day becomes for me as more loved ones depart this temporary place for our “Forever Home”. And Ralph’s very real, very transparent, very intimate message to our family was for me as if Christ Himself spoke from the lips of his messenger EXACTLY what each of us needed to hear to comfort us in this time. And Chip Coleman’s compelling retelling of Nana and Bill’s testimony of hearing the call and following was exactly what was needed to stir both the believer and unbeliever to action. And Floyd’s Chapel has so many memories for me and we are grateful to them as well. Afterwards, I walked through to see so many name on stones that I either knew personally or at least knew the families — and paused at several where wonderful memories sprung up from the grave into my consciousness.

Spending time together afterwards, then traveling the familiar roads to see these places from my childhood once again was a special blessing. It is easy to get busy with work and responsibilities and look up, and another generation has passed by and another steps up to the plate for their time at bat.

At these things, we always say “We need to get together…” and we get busy again and we forget. This time I want us to get together not just because of a wedding or funeral. I’m thinking that something in May where we set a date, have food, encourage others to bring food and/or just themselves, and just celebrate family, community, a people that “love one another” where everyone is welcome. Maybe you’d be interested in joining us too?

Facts are only a Google, Siri or Alexa away. But Wisdom?

People know how to find many answers. These days, facts are only a Google, Siri, or Alexa away.

But what about wisdom?

What about those things that go beyond written books that the ears and eyes and senses of an apprentice can watch in awe and receive from a master of his craft?

What about those things to go beyond trades and talents and speak to the deeper, political, philosophical, even spiritual things of life and eternity?

Have you sat quiet enough in your mind to listen for the teacher’s voice that is not your own?

Have you sought out to find this “God” that others speak about, that many worship, that people see fit to pass down generation after generation in tradition and ceremonies?

Where have you gotten all these wise sayings? Whose spirit speaks through you?
Job 26:4 NLT

And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”
Job 28:28 NLT

Where’s your God now?

When we are in a deep dark place of hurt, it is quite natural to consider things like Job did:

The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the wounded cry for help, yet God ignores their moaning.
Job 24:12 NLT

As I’ve watched the disease of Alzheimer’s steal from my grandmother for years. And as I watch parents lose their children. And as I watch the rich be frivolous with their money while children and widows suffer and starve in this world. And as I watch natural disasters bringing pain, death and destruction. And as I see families impacted by sickness, death, chronic illnesses, hunger, poverty, oppression, injustice, pain and suffering in this world. Who other than the cold hearted can ignore such things that are undeniably around us?

And when it hits close to you and affects someone that you love dearly — or even you personally — what does faith look like in this moments?

“Though You Slay Me” and “It Is Well With My Soul” are two of my favorite Christian songs. They don’t have the typical “raise your hands and bounce” of today’s Sunday morning mega-rave gatherings where “everything is health, wealth, and prosperity”. They speak to a season of suffering, of loss, of faith stretched beyond what can be endure by mere men to where we must rely on God alone — even in that moment where the question from the accuser screams inside our heads, “Where is your God now?”

It is in these places of suffering that idols are revealed and that the veil of this temporary place is torn back to reveal eternal and spiritual things to us. Imagine a child going to school and taking a test for the first time who is horribly afraid of a low grade on a standardized test — while a teacher’s goal is to determine where they can focus their time teaching to best fit the needs of the child for a rounded and comprehensive understanding of all objectives. Imagine a child experiencing an immersive virtual reality game for their first time and being truly terrified that they might fall to their death or be killed — while a loving parent assures them that there is nothing to fear. Imagine a hard working parent choosing to consistently sacrifice a few hours of sleep for years on end to obtain a degree that will open doors for them to better provide for their families.

It is easier for us to see both sides of the coin in the familiar situations that I described — where we must learn to trust that there is a greater purpose than what we can see and feel in the moment. But what about when life truly demands of us whether or not we believe that our God is faithful and true?

I’m not saying this so you’ll hide in the corner sobbing about how you’ve let God down yet again. Some very cold hearts that are far from God might need the ground to shake under their feet like that to wake them up — but you are here reading a Christian blog, so let’s skip past that trap of shame and get right to faith and trust.

Do you trust God in the hard places — because that’s going to be where you need Him most!

And when you’re in that truly hard place, it is going to feel like doubt and suffering — but it has the opportunity to be surrender and spiritual growth.

When everything cries out to us, “Where is your God now?” — we don’t have to win that argument.

When all evidence makes it look on the outside like the enemy is winning — we don’t have to win that battle.

When what lies ahead is clearly more than we can bear under our own power — we don’t have to speak to the burden.

Are there times that a student might feel like the teacher ignores their groanings about having to take a test — but the teacher isn’t truly ignoring them? Yes! Are there times when our not getting the answer we wanted in the moment we wanted it is good for us? Yes!

Lord, if going deeper was easy, everyone would rush to step out of the boat and walk upon the water. And if it was easy, those who stepped out wouldn’t sink and need your rescue. But this trusting in you isn’t so that our own strength can be put on display — but that our weaknesses can bring glory to you revealing your power. And trusting in you doesn’t profit our lives or the lives of others if it is just a one time statement of faith instead of a daily walk. Lord, for all these things, we need you. You are near and not far. You are here, and your victory is complete. You have called us by name, and we believe, we surrender, and we will trust you by the power of your Holy Spirit that you promise us. For the sake of your honor and glory and in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, we boldly come into the throne room of grace with these prayers. Amen.

SONG: These Imposters Sleepin’

https://voisey.app/u/sparklecityhop/voiseys/jPVMyFom0i2aTBymAWmj

This is a collaboration that I did with @lilsleepy202 over a beat laid down by @kayda72 called “ANARCHY” on the Voisey app.

My goal here was simply to add a “hype” layer that complimented yet contrasted to her rapping. I was definitely inspired in my style and FX choices by Anthrax and Scott Ian, as I listened to them a lot when I was younger.

Hype Layer Lyrics

Ah yeah...
Rock Star
Rip it up lil sleepy
Come on thug git down
You betta listen hear
Yeah
Whatcha gonna do
Whatcha gonna do
Whatcha gonna do
What you gone do
When they come for you
While you sleepin
Ha ha ha ahhha
Think you a rock star?
Ha ha!

This was recorded on my iPad using an iRig Pro I/O digital interface and Garage Band to interface into the Voisey app. I used a Shure SM7B microphone along with a TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme for all of the vocal effects and processing. I used preset 22 “Thicker” with some slight adjustments to delay decay and reverb. I also made post processing adjustments for additional compression and auto tune within the Voisey app.

Contemplations

Lilsleepy’s lyrics focus on what it really takes to be a rock star and how imposters don’t measure up to the real. In contrast to her name, you can see that lilsleepy isn’t lazy in her rap game. That’s part of why she shines and her productions are on top. She works, she invests, she pours herself into this thing. It isn’t just a passing hobby for her. It is a passion and it is her voice to share a message with the world.

If you know me much at all, you know that I’m going to make this about Jesus, right? Jesus was the rock star even before Anthrax. A man who lived a life so truly clean that it made it clear to all that the religious people were just filthy, judgemental hypocrites. A man who taught with authority a provoking message that is so contrary to the ways of selfish and prideful men yet somehow humbly claimed himself to be God! A man who was persecuted, executed, and laid behind a huge rock — only to rise up like a star into the heavens.

And yes, there are imposters when it comes to religious people who imitate like they know about this Jesus cat — but there are also the real. And if we believe what this Jesus told us — that imposter vs real makes a huge difference not just in this life but for all of eternity. So we don’t want to be caught sleeping on that.

Shine bright rock stars, or one day you will get down (on your knees) after you’ve been laid down and find yourself in what lies beyond the veil of this life.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31‭-‬46 ESV

SONG: Therapy

https://voisey.app/u/sparklecityhop/voiseys/gUau9rP3Wc4I03UrqQP1

This is a collaboration that I built from scratch based on the beat called “Therapy” by LR2Productions on Voisey.

The track that I’ve put together is about the many layers of our persona as it pertains to mental health and therapy. It isn’t meant to be catchy or popular as much as provocative.

Many of us who enter a therapy office unawares expect to sit back on the couch, maybe talk a little bit, but primarily expect the therapist to “do the work”. So layer one is all about that detached involvement — even though we’re making the decision to be there, it’s still a transactional perspective where we are paying the person in front of us to do something for us.

At some point, we are faced with the reality that for anything profitable to happen, we must actually choose to speak about the deep things that really matter. But before that happens, there is fear, lack of trust, and what seemed to me to be this inner little puppy whimpering. So this layer has no words, just the whimpering.

The third layer represents our basest and most animal instincts that usually contribute to those most hidden problems. I felt that sex is easy for most to understand as an animal instinct, and how this layer sexualizes the idea of someone “working on their head” seemed an apt approach to this layer. There is no thoughtful dialog in this layer, just a repeated pumping back and forth of the same sexualized phrase. There is not even a crescendo of activity towards a climax, but just a consistent trancelike abandon into the repetition.

The final layer is one of contemplative confession. A consideration of what it might actually mean to fling open the doors and let light shine in on those innermost shameful, frightening or hurtful things. It is meant to be a little creepy, because that is how we feel others must think us to sound if we would truly confess such deeply hidden things.

Part 1: Thicker Therapy Office
————————————————-
Gonna sit right back

Sit right back, right back on this couch right here

Watch you do yo thing, and work your therapy

Get inside my head, inside that head o mine

Work my head and do your therapy


Part 2: Whimpering Puppy
——————————————-
*whimpering


Part 3: Popeye n Olive Sex Therapy
————‐————————
Baby Work that head,
Baby Work that head for me


Part 4: 156 Up Tube Confessions
——————————————————-
I have these thoughts

These thoughts that I shouldn’t have

These thoughts I know are wrong

The preacher calls it sin

The police calls it law

The judge calls it guilty

Now I’m trapped

Trapped in this prison of my mind

A trap of my own making

What if I tell

will they think I’m crazy

Will they put me away

Technical Details

This was recorded on my iPad using an iRig Pro I/O digital interface and Garage Band to interface into the Voisey app. I use a Shure SM7B microphone along with a TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme for all of the vocal effects and processing. Part 1 used the default preset 22 called “Thicker” with a few subtle tweaks. Part 2 used the default preset 28 called Tinkerbell as is. Part 3 used the default preset 29 called Popeye n Olive as is. And Part 4 used the default preset 156 called Up Tube.

Contemplations

When I consider “Therapy” in light of the gospel — I’m reminded of the passage in James chapter 5 about confessing our sins to each other:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:13‭-‬16 ESV

The various translations of James 5:16 put it in perspective that confession is “to each other”, “to one another”, etc — not just to God, not solely to a priest, but to each other. And it states it as a cause and effect. Do A, so that B will happen. And this section is not just a book of wise probabilities like we have in Proverbs where it is wisdom learned and shared through the ages about patterns and consequences in this world. This passage is about faith, promise and fulfillment. So we can take this as prescriptive medicine so “that you may be healed”.

Therapy in its most effective form is is obeying this precept laid out for us by the Word of God — confession that leads to healing. The fact that even nonbelievers see benefit in therapy should be no surprise — because God sends rain upon the fields of both the proud and the humble, upon the rich and the poor, upon the wise and focused man with map firmly in hand and the drunk fool stumbling lost through the dark as well. And like the rain, therapy can be a benefit or a hassle.

Lord, help us past our distancing ourselves from the blessing of truly confessing to one another. Help us to go deeper and be healed and to not fear or avoid or bury these things. These things are not hidden from you, nor are they too big or heavy or burdensome for you to take off of our hands, Lord. Help us to trust you, even when it means trusting others too. Amen.

Faith Goes Deeper

Faith goes far beyond a ritual we practice daily for self enlightenment and the gaining of wisdom so that our lives might go better. Otherwise, religion would be worth no more than a course on finance, math, science, history, etc.

Theology might be the study of our attempts to understand and align our own thoughts and ways with the ways of God. But faith goes beyond that — to trusting Him when his ways go far beyond what our limited reasoning and perspective can process and comprehend.

When we read and consider Job, we inevitably encounter Job 13:15a. Which seems to me a beautiful parallel sentiment to Matthew 26:39.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
Job 13:15a ESV

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39 ESV

And we encounter Job that seems a sentimental pair to Matthew 27:46.

Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?
Job 13:24 ESV

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 ESV

Faith isn’t learned or revealed on the mountaintops or in prosperity, but it is on display in the valley, in the fire, on the cross, in the darkness. This truth of how God is glorified through our weakness and His strength and by our failures and His victory is a mystery that the mind of a proud and successful man cannot probe. Only a humble and contrite man can approach and unlock this scroll, and set to flight the freeing wings of faith, and deliver a peace that passes understanding.

When dealing with real pain, suffering, loss, and hurt — we see through these examples that we can come to God with our questions and even our complaints and our requests. But faith will allow us to seek His face not just solely with our pleas for His hand to move to free us from it — but with our surrender to accept and trust that He is still working for our good even when we can’t see it in that moment.

A favorite song on this topic: https://youtu.be/qyUPz6_TciY

Moments Together

I loved worshipping tonight at 4 Points Church’s Christmas Eve Eve service. Even as I sank into deep, intimate and personal worship — with people of all ages in attendance, I could appreciate that there were so many people in different places in that moment. Some youth in awe of what was happening around them, some children too young for their attention to hold out, some adults making it through another obligatory appointment on their busy holiday schedule, some worn and tired from a hard week, some trying their best to put on their best smile, some like me not really knowing which way is up but hopeful for an opportunity for God to show up.

As I was contemplating the deep things of communion, my young daughter was more captured and curious and inquisitive about the details of the moment — the little wafer and what it represented, the way the wax melted on the candles, when we were supposed to do this or that.

I laughed at myself for almost having to come out of the transe-like state of worship to answer her questions or help her understand the experience. But instead of being frustrated that my worship was “interrupted” or that she didn’t already “know how to act” – I realized there was a great moment for me to be right there by her side “in her moment” with her exactly where she was — instead of far away in my own.

And it reminded me that’s exactly the Christmas story — Emmanuel — God with us. God came to us and made Himself accessible to all of us exactly where we are.

Thank you Jesus! I love that the gospel isn’t just a “some day I’ll get to spend eternity in heaven with God” story — but is an “I get to spend this moment now with God” reality. And I love that this truth helps me value and appreciate putting aside “my moment” to appreciate someone else’s. I find myself much richer for doing so.

Hero

I heard someone recently say that one of the hardest lessons that we have to learn is that we are not the hero of everyone else’s story. It reminds me to not think myself too important or valuable in the lives of others, and to appreciate those that do enjoy me being a character within the book of their lives.

As I read Psalm 22 this morning, I am tempted to internalize this Word of God and try to make it about myself. I read the first few verses and think about how challenging this season of life has been in many ways:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
Psalms 22:1‭-‬2 NLT

I even find myself playing the victim in my own mind as I read and contemplate the Word of God, considering what has been hard or troubling or difficult. It’s almost like I think of “heroes” like David in the Bible and I want to interject myself into the story — making it a first person movie about the hero that I could be rather than a revelation to me of my God who loves me.

And when my perspective is self-centered, when I let myself become the hero or the villain of my life — it truly does feel like He doesn’t answer — not because He is far away, but because I am turned away from Him. He is the hero, and we are truly the ones in need of rescue. “He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

As we continue reading Psalm 22, it should become evident that this story is not about us. There are lines in this Psalm that we can associate with and contemplate and understand — but some verses go far beyond our common experienced. Not many of us can see all of our own bones or have had our hands and feet pierced and our clothes gambled for. We also begin to realize that this is not just another Psalm by David telling of a dark time in his own life where he had to rely upon God yet again to see him through. No, this is clearly a Psalm inspired and written long before Jesus’s birth to tell of the Messiah to come, and for us to look back at in awe and wonder.

It is good that there is much to the Word of God that I can understand and comprehend through shared experiences and commonalities — because even though God is Almighty and His ways are higher than ours, He reaches down from heaven in beautiful ways to be close and not far — that is the very point of the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, Lord, come be the hero of our story — and help us to not be the villain of anyone else’s story today. Help us to love and serve each other and bring YOU honor and glory. Amen.

Associated Reading:

  • Psalm 22
  • James 4

Awestruck

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:16‭-‬17 NLT

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Psalms 8:4 NLT

How often do we really consider what it means to be chosen by God? To be considered and cared for by Almighty God, creator of the heavens and the earth?

How self absorbed and deluded would I have to be to imagine and make up a scenario in my mind where an all powerful, Almighty God of all of the universe and all of eternity past and Stritzinger future chose me and cares for me specifically and uniquely? Doesn’t it sound like the most narcissistic thing that a person could claim about themselves if we consider it from that perspective?

Yet, those of us who know this to be completely true are humbled by it, not puffed up or inflated or hard hearted and proud of such a claim — we are softened, awestruck, overcome by peace and grace instead.

It is truly the work of God.

Saved from Self

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21 NLT

I remember how exciting it was when I discovered being naughty — when I felt that rush of pleasure that came from getting away with something that I knew that I shouldn’t be doing. It was a rush, it was a thrill. It made me feel in control and empowered in a way that just following the rules simply didn’t.

Yes, my sin, even the temptation to sin for me was pleasurable.

So who would want to be saved from sin if it is pleasurable? This is a valid question that many will ask when they encounter what looks to them to be the “confining rules of religion”. They hear people preaching about this law and that law, and the long list of “what religious people are against” and it’s easy to miss anything lovely or beautiful about “a couple thousand year old story some people wrote down a long time ago”.

But while sin is pleasurable for a season, it always bears a higher cost than the temporary pleasure that it first baited is with. It can wrap its tentacles around us, and before we realize it — is dragging our life down into the dark depths as we slowly suffocate.

It is an age old story that holds true in every life. And at some point, we will need to be saved from ourselves.

Today, I’m not only grateful for the Christmas story, not only grateful for being saved from the consequences of sin, but I’m grateful for having my eyes opened to see sin and temptation for what it is – a thief.

Thank you Jesus for everything.