Thoughts About Alaska

I’ve been telling folks at my church that the days and weeks have been running together lately. Part of this is because it’s summer, and summer days tend to be less remarkable somehow than days through the rest of the year.

The main reason I feel my days are running together is because in the last two weeks I’ve had the blessed opportunity to minister to children in Anchorage, Alaska, and at my church during our Vacation Bible School.

Myself and three others comprised our mission team tasked with working in Alaska with GraceWorks Alaska. This is an organization whose sole purpose is to minister to impoverished children in public parks around Anchorage and the surrounding areas.

Our team was assigned to Kanchee Park, a small public park near Central Baptist Church in Anchorage, where our team was housed for the week. We had anywhere from 10 to 30 school-age kids and parents every day. We fed them, played games with them, told them Bible stories, and just spent time getting to know them.

Many of the kids were latchkey. They came from various degrees of poverty. Many wore the same clothes day to day. And yes, some were hard nuts to crack. But a few of them had soft hearts in spite of tragic stories.

I had the opportunity to give the gospel twice – once during our park party on Tuesday evening, and again on Friday. I gave the Bible lesson on Friday. The whole week we talked about Easter and what it means. On Friday, I used my family’s set of resurrection eggs to go through the Easter story. Since it was our last day in the park, we handed out gospel tracks while we were packing up. A couple of the kids recognized the cross in the tract as the cross in the egg we discussed.

Although no kids that we knew of accepted Christ while we were there, I have to believe that those kids will remember this summer, and the group from Nevada came to the park, fed them, and loved on them. Lord willing, I’ll get to go back.

It’s easy to be so laser focused on our particular ministries that we fail to notice other needs, other tasks for the kingdom that God in his sovereignty can use us to accomplish. I feel like I learned to be more mindful of those around me and their particular struggles and needs. I pray I don’t forget that. I pray I don’t focus so intently on the people that come to my church that I forget about the vast majority of people that do not.

All people are souls that Jesus died for. All people matter. May that grip me in the days ahead.

Gone Home

This morning on the way to the gym, I passed a video board. I pass it every morning. It usually has ads for attorneys, car lots, and grocery stores.

But this morning, it had a different ad.

It had a picture of Billy Graham. And the caption, “Gone Home.” Continue reading “Gone Home”

Rest In Peace?

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.

I have seen this quote many times today. The day when Billy Graham indeed passed away. And I have seen well-wishers say, “Rest In Peace.”

I have often wondered why believers make such a statement!

Billy Graham is in the presence of the King. He is NOT resting. He is basking in the glory of the God he served so well in this life. And while he now knows a peace that is impossible to achieve in our sinful world, he needs no rest.

Not anymore.

Monster Rig Simplification

Back in the day, I had a monster guitar rig.

Well, I thought it was monstrous.

When I started playing electric guitar, I had three main influences…

  • Nuno Bettencourt, of Extreme
  • Eddie Van Halen himself
  • John Petrucci, of Dream Theater

Much of my philosophy on tone and style of play came from these guys. But Petrucci playing was, hands down, the reason I wanted to play guitar.

My first real amp was a Marshall Valvestate 2X12 combo. I needed versatility in tone, but couldn’t afford a Triaxis/Simul 2:90 rig like Johnny P. Plus, I think all players go through some trial and error in the beginning before their style and ability reveals the kind of gear they should use.

I traded the Marshall in for an ADA MP-2 with a MicroTube 100 power amp. Later, I added an Alesis MidiVerb for reverbs and delays. Other units swapped in and out, but that was my core sound for about twenty years.

A few months ago, I sold it all for one pedal, and I’m very glad I did.

There are a lot of haters against Line 6 in the guitarist community. And I get it. Does my HD500X sound exactly like a Marshall stack? No, not exactly. Does it have the features and options of an AxeFX or a Kemper? No.

Does it come darn close for $500? All day every day.

Still, I firmly believe that I could plug into that old Valvestate today and still sound like me. Amps and pedals are just tools.

I primarily play while leading worship, so I really only use two sounds – clean and dirty. I use a sparkly Metallica “Unforgiven” clean sound, and my dirty sound is EVH’s pedals running into a Line 6 Epic amp (which doesn’t actually exist, and I LOVE that. It’s like my signature model.)

Bottom line: I sound great, and I can carry my rig, guitar, and cable bag in one hand. Can’t beat that.

Do I miss tha Monster? Yeah, occasionally. But the pros outweigh the cons.

Here’s a video of me leading at my church from earlier this year. Judge for yourself. 

What is Ordinary?

I don’t live an exciting life.

I recently heard a sermon where the preacher said that it is easy to get discouraged about your life, job, and diet if you spend too much time on Instagram.

See, in that little square glowing world, everyone’s life looks perfect.

Not real, but perfect.

And I’m susceptible. If I’m not careful, I can get the impression that EVERYONE has EVERYTHING better than me. And that can bog a guy down.

Trusting a God that is not visible and that sometimes can even feel distant is not always easy, either. God IS worthy of our trust and our faith, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy when (it feels like) nothing is happening. 

(it feels like) Momentum has stalled.

(it feels like) Giving up is an option.

We don’t feel the movement of the earth hurtling through the Solar System at thousands of miles an hour either. Doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in dramatic fashion.

I know that I know that I know that God loves me and is for me. Even when I forget.

Embrace the Journey

I have been learning lately that a Christian’s journey through life is full of peaks and valleys. And that this is by design.

There are many reasons why we may go through tough times in life. Maybe we are meant to learn from an experience for which we do not yet understand the cause. Perhaps we don’t see the blessings in disguise -at least, not yet. Or maybe we are going the long way around a disaster waiting to happen. 

Always, God is looking out for our best interests.

In Exodus 13, God chose to lead the children of Israel the long way around the Philistines so that Israel would not be discouraged at the sight of them. Israel did not know the Philistines were on the shorter, more convenient route. But God did. And he cared enough for His people to lead them in a way they didn’t understand, but that was ultimately better for them.

I’m sure you’re like me. You find yourself in situations that do not make sense. Where you can’t see the purpose, much less the finish line. Though I still struggle, I’m learning the importance of embracing the journey as part of the blessing. Because I worship a God that is bigger than my circumstances, and a God that loves me enough to see my anger at Him when I fail to see His providence, and to forgive me.

Weekly Mind Dump 041517… Not So Much

Isn’t it funny that, when you say you’re going to do a weekly post about everything that happened during the week, you get so backed up with actual things going on that you aren’t able to keep track of everything well enough to make a concise blog post about it?

(I have no idea if that first sentence made sense, or if it is, in fact, a sentence.)

Hopefully, regularly scheduled content will reappear next weekend. There is a lot going on, and I will do my best to keep track of it all so I can share it next time.

Weekly Mind Dump 031617

It has been an eventful week. Here is this week’s #nocamowmd…

  • My daughter, Lydia, got to sing Francesca Battistelli’s Giants Fall at Blue Grass Baptist School’s talent show. She did AWESOME! So proud.
  • My church, LBT, is finishing up as sermon series called I Am a Church Member. To wit, I read an interesting supporting article recently.
  • I filled out my bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament and, as of this writing, it has been a mixed bag so far. I think there are going to be a lot of busted brackets out there before the weekend is over. #BBN
  • I got to rent and watch Doctor Strange for the second time. I saw it the first time in 3D, and I have to say I prefer it without the 3D effect. The only 3D presentation I ever saw that I felt enhanced the experience was the movie Avatar. 

Got a busy weekend ahead, so I’m posting this a little earlier than I likely will in the future. Feel free to comment or ask questions on Twitter @jonwellman #nocamowmd.