How the Fatherless Choose a Father

Over the last few years, I have found myself writing from a place of relative neutrality. After some soul-searching, I’m not sure I quite like that. I want to give room for people to think and have differing opinions. However, in my writing, I want to share my genuine thoughts. Here we go.

This year has been a bit weird, and the weirdness continues. The presidential election has come, and we find ourselves in the throes of civil unrest and political upheaval. Corruption has been found flagrant; yet the media remains silent.

In June 2015, President Trump announced his presidential candidacy for the 2016 election. The moment I saw the announcement, I heard God speak, “He’s the one.” Amidst all the ups and downs leading up to Election Day, I had an unwavering confidence in what I heard God say. It was a bit strange because almost everyone I spoke with didn’t just disagree – they often disagreed vehemently.

It was even more strange to me when people in prophetic movements around the nation voiced their adamant opposition to Trump’s campaign. How was it that the church could not see? How was it that the prophetic voices in our nation could not hear? I had many questions.

After his inauguration, President Trump quickly got to work. Through his actions, he slowly won over many within the church who initially opposed him. I was happy to see that, but I was still concerned with what I saw.

I could write many things regarding Trump’s accomplishments during his presidency thus far, but those things can wait. My interest for this article lies elsewhere. Instead, I will tell you what I see.

The United States of America is a beautiful land full of promise. Even though she’s broken my heart numerous times, I love her with all my heart and will for all my days. Our steps as a nation have not always been perfect. We’ve been clumsy and at times naive.

But she’s learning. She’s growing. She’s maturing. She’s still beautiful.

Recently, I heard America described as a benevolent superpower. I think that’s a good summation. Although we’ve made many mistakes, our intentions have largely been noble. Americans fundamentally want to make the world a better place. We want to help people. We want to make a difference.

Sadly, we’ve often seen injustices in foreign lands before we have seen it in our own. I think it has perhaps been easier to right wrongs in other nations before having the courage to address the wrongs at home.

A nation is much like a family. There are many dynamics at play, and it’s beautifully complex. Sometimes, it’s harder to see the beauty than others, but it’s still there. Our greatest strengths are often found in the midst of our difference. Do not be discouraged. To fly requires two wings.

I have seen the absence of fathers plague this land for decades and now generations. This alone creates repercussions that far-outweigh any issue raised from any political platform.

Fatherlessness has created a bitter root in the heart of this nation toward leaders and any in authority. And what I have seen over the last four years is much like a father being introduced to a fatherless nation. The children rebel. There is no trust. They push back because their heart does not know how to receive. Bitterness and distrust causes every act to be felt as vinegar on a wound.

The role of president acts as the father to this nation. The church too easily forgets where the nation was heading before Trump. I remember a time when pastors and Christians were indicted and jailed when unwilling to violate their conscience by officiating homosexual weddings. The church was afraid to use its voice. Trump became our voice even before he became president, and our freedoms were quickly restored.

How does the fatherless choose a father? I’m not sure we know how. It is through bitterness and resentment we see. We side with whoever gives voice to our frustration. This only further solidifies the foundation of our hatred. How can anyone lead when all they bring is the furtherance of victimhood to the masses?

I have been praying since before the election. God has asked me to pray for unity amongst His people and a steadfast resolve to see God finish what He has begun. The truth is we, as the church, give up far too easily.

In the past few days, I have heard Christians endlessly recite, “Regardless of outcome, Jesus is still on the throne.” I could not agree more. However, I sometimes question if this is not a simple stale expression to escape the moment we find ourselves. Is it an excuse to give up and settle back into apathy? After all, “God is in control.”

Yes, make no mistake. Jesus is Lord. However, we have our part to play. This is not the time to disengage. There is a belief within many churches that whatever happens is God’s will. I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree.

The Bible describes the road to both blessings and curses that can come upon a nation. If a nation honors God and His ways, they experience blessings. If they turn away from God and do what He detests, they experience curses. This showcases the freedom and responsibility attached to our choices.

I do not believe God chooses leaders who support the very things He says will bring a curse upon a nation. His heart is to extend mercy and allow opportunity for His people to turn back to Him. He is a good Father and very patient.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 says we are to make disciples of nations – not only save souls. I’ve often wondered if we’ve gotten things backwards. Evangelism has sought to save souls while the church has disengaged from influencing nations. However, in discipling nations, we will save souls.

Evangelism has always been a big question mark for me. I am in no way judging people’s efforts, but I have wondered if there is a better way. It seems the church has relegated itself to a perpetual defensive approach. We wait until every governing institution has failed people and then we approach them with the Gospel. We surrender our authority and allow the government, education system, and every other industry to lead first. And when they fail people, we come to the rescue. But is that all the Gospel is? A last resort when all else fails?

Obviously, when a person is in need of rescue, it is saving grace. I absolutely love and celebrate that. But surely, it is far more than that. Is the Gospel not powerful enough to lead the way? Must we forever pick up the crumbs? Should we not work toward having more influence? I believe evangelism should look like leading from government, education, media, and so on.

Maybe, my questions will become your own. What does it look like from God’s perspective when we declare “Kingdom come”?

I don’t know if you are familiar with the prophecies about Trump. Trusted prophets across the nation and the world have prophesied Trump will be re-elected going back as far as 2007. God has spoken the same to me. The road getting there may be a bit bumpy; but perhaps, the bumps are a blessing. They’re waking us up.

The church has done a great job of becoming innocent as doves, but we have fallen very short in becoming wise as serpents. 2020 has revealed, for many, how woefully unprepared we are. If the church is to represent God on the Earth, we must recognize the season and act accordingly.

I’ve poured my heart and soul into praying for this nation for most of my life. Over the years, God has spoken many things to me about America. I refuse to give up now. On the contrary, I have more hope for this nation than ever before because I have seen where we are going.

Many I know in church have no interest in government or politics. I have never cared for politics, but I love government. For all those in the church who do not find interest in government, I would like to challenge you to look deeper. Government is God’s idea. The church is government.

If you speak with most Christians about the passions of their heart, it normally entails helping people. It’s beautiful. My heart beats for the same. But we must understand, we can spend our entire lives focused on helping those in need and not create lasting, effectual, change. In order to create sustainable results, we must influence the structures and governing agencies that create culture. That is often government.

I’m concerned we as the church have fallen into the same trap as our culture. We believe the government or those in leadership are the enemy. They are inherently evil and irredeemable. If we view government as either evil or of no concern, we lose influence within our culture because we isolate ourselves within our church buildings. The same buildings we coincidentally are unable to meet within presently because our state governments forbid it.

As the church, we must wake up and engage. It is not enough just to pray. We must do something. We can no longer complain about our government, our education system, or our police departments. If you see a problem, I invite you to become part of the solution. We are to be the visionaries who pioneer what God wants to release to the world.

Revival and awakening are coming, but it may not look like what we have thought or expected. It may look more like reformation. I believe racial reconciliation, exposure of corruption within our government, and justice will play a very large part.

Let freedom ring.


A Sentimental Mood on Double Bass, Part II

Last year at Bethel, in California, there were many times during worship sets when I thought how cool it would be to have a double bass. I’m a sucker for big band and old jazz records. As much as I love rock and roll, I have always loved the sentimental sounds of a jazzy double bass.

I began tossing around the idea of restoring the old Kay bass my grandmother gave me about 16 years ago. I researched different techniques of stripping the old finish and applying new. I figured if I could at least take care of the finish, I could then take it to a luthier to make any necessary repairs.

When I came back to Texas, in May, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish; restoring the bass was chief among them. Since I was in Texas during the uncertainties of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, it was as good a time as ever to take on such a project.

The first step was to strip the 50 year old finish brushed by my grandfather. I decided to use Blue Bear Soy Gel Stripper. I had no idea what the original varnish was or the state of the wood underneath. It took a bit of courage to take the plunge into the unknown and even more patience. But after several coats of stripper, beautiful wood grain and an 80 year old patina began to emerge.

I spent the next 3 weeks carefully stripping the old finish one layer at a time. I then began the process of sanding it down. I had to go a little deeper than normal to remove some of the sanding swirls from when my grandfather refinished it. I took it all the way up to an impressive 1500 grit. Smooth as glass.

With all that done, I decided to take it to the luthier before I applied any finish. My luthier is Lamb’s Music in White Settlement, Texas. Steve Lamb and his family do amazing work and are always patient with my long list of questions.

They reshaped the fingerboard and glued a few places around the body of the bass that over time had come apart and formed small gaps. They also ordered a new bridge, bridge adjusters, and did a proper setup with a new set of D’Addario Zyex strings.

After a few weeks, it was ready to pick-up. Now, the big job began. French polishing.

If you know anything about French polishing, you know it is both time and labor-intensive on even the smallest of instruments. To French polish a double bass is largely a ridiculous notion, but I, however, was undeterred. I wanted to do the best job I could, and there’s no sound like a French polished instrument.

After watching hours of Youtube videos, reading dozens of articles, and testing out techniques on scrap pieces of lumber, I felt relatively ready.

I figured I would learn as I went, so I started on the bottom bout to hone my skills a bit more. It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined, but I was surprised by the elbow grease required. I had to keep a sweat rag nearby to constantly wipe away my sweat and prevent dripping on the bass.

There were many days when I spent well over 8 hours working on it. I easily lost all track of time. I would only realize how long I’d been working when the sun began to set, and I needed to bring in more lighting. It was without question a labor of love, and I couldn’t wait to show my grandmother.

In the process of buffing the bass, I noticed something that caused my stomach to sink. The old crack across the neck heel had become loose. I called the luthier to tell them what had happened and see if it was possible for them to repair it before I drove back to California. They were less than optimistic.

In the luthier world, a double bass neck repair is considered the most difficult and labor-intensive project there is. They estimated it would take 6-8 weeks, and I was leaving in 16 days. It didn’t look good.

I almost decided to do the work, myself. I was just about to order the necessary tools to do the job when I began to feel the stress mounting. I stopped to pray and asked God what I should do. He told me to take it to the luthier and put it in His hands, so that’s what I did.

When I went to drop it off, they again told me they didn’t see any possibility of finishing the job before I had to leave for California. I assured them I understood but only asked them to do their best.

In the midst of all of this, the unexpected happened.

We got the call that my grandmother had been rushed to the hospital. She was not doing well. It turned out she needed heart surgery. It was touch and go for a bit. And with the added difficulties of hospital quarantine restrictions, only one person could visit her each day. But each time my mom or I spoke to her, it appeared she only had one thing on her mind – the bass.

“How are things with that ol’ bass fiddle? Heard anything from the luthier yet?” she’d ask. Each time, I had to tell her I had not heard anything from the luthier. The truth was I was a little nervous to call them. But eventually, I decided to call and find if there was any news.

The bass had been at the shop for less than a week, so I wasn’t expecting to hear much in regard to progress. Needless to say, I was surprised when the first words I heard were, “The bass is ready. You can pick it up tomorrow.” Stunned and smiling, I repeated what I heard to make sure there wasn’t a mistake.

The luthier noticed my surprise and explained he didn’t need to remove the back of the bass. Instead, he was able to slide the neck out from the front with a little steam and muscle. If you ask any luthier, that never happens. He was as surprised as I was. This was the answer to my prayer.

At the same time, we received even better news. After much prayer and a few well-placed stints, my grandmother was doing much better and on the road to recovery. She was released from the hospital and on her way back home. By all definitions, it was truly a miracle in which we are still thanking God.

My dream before summer even began was to restore the bass and see my grandmother’s reaction when it was finished. It had all looked impossible far more than a couple of times along the way. But against all odds, it was actually happening.

A few days later, my grandparents came over to my parents’ house for dinner. Soon after they arrived, she looked at me and asked, “So where’s that bass?” I led her into the piano room where it lay waiting. She absolutely loved it and beamed, “Your Grandpa Jerry would be so proud.” That moment alone was worth it all.

She laughed and played while my parents and I took pictures. Afterward, I played the old hymn “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” for her. This was a dream come true and the culmination of months of work.

I told my grandmother I wanted to name the bass after her. She laughed at the thought. I plan to carve a heel plate with her name inscribed in script, “Minnie.”

My grandmother, Minnie, stands just below 5 feet, yet chose to play the biggest instrument in the band. I appreciate the irony.

A few days later, I packed up all my instruments in my little white hatchback, and began the long drive all the way to Redding, California. I crossed the entirety of the American West with a double bass in the passenger seat of my car.

It now sits safely on its stand beside me.

This bass belonged to my grandmother and then grandfather. They both played it in worship to God. It is a part of them. It is a part of their story. And because of tragedy, its voice was silenced for almost 47 years. Until now.

Now, she sings again.

She reverberates praise to our King.

She has been restored.



A Sentimental Mood on Double Bass, Part I

The year was 1957. Eisenhower was president, the Russians launched “Sputnik,” and Elvis was king.

My grandmother, Minnie, was 17 years old. She grew up in a big family in a small Texas town. Her family loved church and music. They especially loved a local band called the Pace Family Band. The band traveled from church to church playing gosptel tunes. My grandmother’s family never missed a service.

One of the daughters in the Pace Family Band played double bass. Her name was “Bootsie.” My grandmother loved the bass and thought, “it was the prettiest sounding thing.” Bootsie was only a year older than she was. She figured if Bootsie could learn to play, so could she.

She began taking bass lessons in junior high, but she didn’t have her own bass. Years passed. She continued taking lessons, but she wanted her own bass to practice and play.

One day, she received a phone call from a man known as Brother Lewis. He was a family friend who worked at a barbershop in Whitney, Texas. He knew Minnie had been looking for a double bass for quite some time.

As things often go in small towns, the barber had a side business. He operated a small music shop beneath the barbershop. Mr. Lewis called to let her know they had just received a double bass in great condition.

The bass belonged to none other than Chuck Berry, himself.

Chuck and his band had been touring through the area. They had heard about the barber’s music shop and decided to trade-in the bass and order a new model due to arrive within a couple of days.

Understandably, my grandmother was elated. Her older brother, Harold, offered to drive her down to Whitney to look at the booming behemoth. The sun had already long since set when they arrived at the barbershop. They ventured down the stairs and immediately saw it, a 1941 Kay S-8 Swingmaster “Supreme.”

After a few minutes spent testing its resound, she loved it but explained to Harold she only had $75. He kindly offered to give her the remaining $50 on the condition she would learn to play. She quickly agreed.

They paid the barber $125 and carefully placed the bass in the back seat of Harold’s 1952 Cadillac then made the hour-long drive back home.

Minnie joined the Cleburne High School Band as a junior, one of two bassists. The other bassist was her good friend, Annette Martindale. To her dismay, the band director would not permit her to play pizzicato (with fingers). In band, she had to learn to play arco (with a bow).

She never enjoyed the sound of a bow on a bass. To this day, she relates the sound to a belligerent bear.

She learned the finger positions and techniques from her younger sister, Marynell. Once she felt comfortable, she began to play at church and left her bow at home.

Life continued on and she continued to play at church until some years later when my mother was born in 1964. She stopped playing to sit with my mom during church. After a few incidents of fellow church-goers commandeering the bass without permission, she took the bass home.

A couple of years later, my grandfather, Jerry Hanna, asked if it would be alright if he learned to play. She gave her blessing and gifted the bass to him. He refinished the bass with a mahogany stain and a polyurethane topcoat. He also outfitted it with new electric strings, a pickup system, and an amplifier.

She tells the story of the countless hours my grandfather sat in front of the record player. He listened and played along to his favorite gospel albums by The Statesmen Quartet and The Blackwood Brothers. He quickly learned the art of bass and began playing at church in 1969.

An unfortunate event happened when my grandfather was playing one day at church. A well-meaning woman knelt down to pray near the bass during a prayer meeting. Unbeknownst to her, the hem of her dress caught on part of the bass stand. When she stood up, the bass fell over and cracked the neck just above the heel. An ugly problem for any bass.

The lady was very upset, but my grandfather tried his best to console her. It could be fixed. He took it to a local shop to be repaired, and they reattached the neck with a long, beefy, bolt. Not ideal but it did the trick. The bass was back at church within a couple of weeks.

I’ve heard many stories of when my grandfather played at church. He was regularly seen with tears streaming down his face. He did not just play bass. He was a worshiper.

He played until his death in 1973.

That’s when the bass was brought back to my grandmother’s home. And there it sat unplayed in a corner by an upright piano. Decades passed as it sat in silence.

That’s when I came into the story.

I began playing bass guitar when I was about 10 years old. I had ventured toward the double bass a few times growing up, but it was mostly due to curiosity. It was a mystery to me. However, as I neared my 14th birthday, I expressed interest in the double bass to my grandmother. She decided to give it to me for my 14th birthday with the promise that I would always keep it in our family. I gave her my word. We carefully placed it inside my parents’ Ford Explorer and slowly drove home. I held it all the way.

I had dreams of restoring the bass to its former glory, but every luthier I spoke with didn’t want to even look at it. I soon realized I would need to save a substantial sum of money to have someone restore the bass for me.

My grandfather did a great job when he refinished the bass, but he wasn’t familiar with the finish for instruments. The polyurethane he used to seal the wood was too thick and rigid. It choked the sound because the wood was now too stiff to vibrate freely.

I had wanted to restore the bass since I was 14, but I knew it would cost thousands of dollars. It was set aside as a project for “someday.” But I now had more than a decade of experience building and refinishing furniture, and my confidence was slowly growing. Maybe, I could restore the bass, myself.

To be continued…



Upright Bass

Nell, the Mandolin

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When I was a little boy, my great aunt, MaryNell, introduced me to a rather peculiar instrument –– the mandolin. Often relegated to the distant fields of Kentucky or orchestral chambers, it serendipitously found its way into my hands.

It was the first instrument I learned to play, somewhere around 6 or 7 years old. Honestly, I was not a fan. It looked funny, sounded strange, and the action on the neck was rather high. It required more strength to press down the rusty strings than my little fingers possessed.

Beside the need for callous development and finger dexterity, I did not find bluegrass or southern gospel music to be in any way cool. The Gaither Vocal Band was a far-cry from the rock anthems I enjoyed. My musical preferences leaned more toward Genesis, Journey, and Eagles. However, Aunt MaryNell was undeterred.

She was an endless reservoir of encouragement. I remember sitting next to her on her piano bench with mandolin in hand. We would play through a simple tune dozens of times. At some point in the song, she would stop, smile down at me and say, “That was beautiful, Andrew. Let’s try again.” But I, in fact, knew it was not “beautiful.” Quite far from it. I was largely unable to get the chords to ring true. But that’s how she was. Always encouraging and ever-patient.

She was an amazing pianist. Her style always reminded me of the Wild West saloon scenes in movies. But we both shared a love for Jack Johnson’s music. Soon after she first heard his album, In Between Dreams, she set out to learn the song “Banana Pancakes.” It was an amazing amalgamate of musical genres. We shared a lot of laughs over that album.

In 2011, she passed away. It was a devastating loss to our entire family. She was a matriarch and a friend. It seemed surreal for a long time. I often found myself almost turning onto her street to say hello, but as if roused from a dream, I would suddenly remember. She was gone –– and the realization and emotion would wash over me again. I suppose that’s how we often find just how much of an impact someone has made in our lives; the hole they leave behind.

In 2015, I bought a mandolin of my own. I had been thinking about it for several months and decided to take the plunge. The first time I picked it up, I thought of Aunt MaryNell and all our lessons on her piano bench. I knew she would be happy I decided to play again. I wanted to honor her and her eternal patience with my mandolin playing. I named the mandolin, Nell. It means, “The Bright and Shining One.”

It’s a beautiful instrument. I was happily surprised by how much easier it was to play than I remembered as a boy. My fingers are now far stronger and calloused from decades of playing both bass and guitar.

I began practicing 2+ hours each day for several months. I found myself on a journey of unlocking the beautiful mysteries hidden inside an instrument I long ago dismissed. I was quickly falling in love. I had never thought the mandolin was a versatile instrument, but I began finding several artists who were venturing into uncharted waters. I took it upon myself to follow in their wake.

At this point, I have played at one wedding, dozens of worship sets, one studio recording, and a couple of Irish sessions. I love how the mandolin cuts through a mix with growling chops and twinkling highs. I recently had the opportunity to lead worship with a few friends at Revival Group in Redding, California. They both played guitar while I played mandolin. I absolutely loved it.

I have had several people approach and tell me they have never liked banjo or mandolin before they heard me play. Quite the compliment. I once counted myself among them. The mandolin is interesting in that way. It first appears to be a one trick pony with little to offer, but if given the chance, it surprises you immensely.

I have been wanting to make a leather mandolin strap for quite some time. I started the project almost two years ago, but time got away. I finished it early this morning. The strap has some Sheridan patterns and the name “NELL” tooled upon it. I think Aunt MaryNell would like it.

She taught me far more than some simple mandolin chords. Through her example, she taught me to love God, love people, love music, and to love life –– laughing all the way.

Aunt MaryNell, I want to say thank you for sharing your passions with me and your endless encouragement. It has all meant more to me than I was ever able to say.

I’m still pickin’.

I love and miss you.




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Yes, I play bass guitar.

For those of you who do not know, I am attending Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. Quite a big move from Texas. It’s been an amazing experience thus far. I have met so many incredible people from all around the world, and I am privileged to be taught by some of the foremost movers and shakers in the church on a daily basis. Wild.

There’s a tremendous amount I could say on any given area of the journey I’ve walked so far while being here, but there’s one area that has been an area of great intrigue to me lately.

When I came here for school, I auditioned for the worship team on bass guitar. I made the worship team and have been playing bass for the school since late August/early September. Strangely, it already seems like a lifetime ago.

I began playing bass guitar when I was about 10 years old – so about 21 years ago. Time flies. I remember loving everything about the bass and pouring myself into it. Sting was a hero of mine. However, my perception of bass changed somewhere around my junior year of high school. I was playing with some friends in a band, but I began to realize the bass player was largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

It was difficult to feel I was destined to be relegated to the background. Second-fiddle, forevermore. That’s when I bought my first guitar. I loved the bass, but I wanted to be heard and feel proud of what I brought to the table. Enter guitar, stage right.

I spent countless hours over the course of many years learning to play guitar. There were more than a couple of years when I spent at least 2-3 hours everyday working on guitar theory and techniques. I love guitar, but I always found it interesting – no matter how hard I tried, it never quite felt hand-in-glove.

Opportunities would come whether playing in churches or bands, and I always tried to introduce myself as a guitarist. But without fail, they soon found I also played bass. And then regardless of my fruitless endeavors, I was assigned the role of bassist. It was annoying.

I have often said bass is like a boomerang. No matter how far I throw it from me, it always comes back. It seemed I was never going to escape a bass guitar hanging from my shoulders. But that didn’t stop me from trying.

Over the last couple of years, I had finally begun playing lead guitar for two different churches. It was really exciting to be able to step into a role I had been working toward for so long. It was always fun but also stressful. I figured with time, the stress would diminish. And it did to some extent but never entirely.

When I came to BSSM in Redding, people would ask me if I was on the worship team because I looked familiar. I would tell them I played bass, but somewhere inside, I would feel a pang of shame. Weird. I didn’t really know why I felt shame. However, I noticed the shame caused me to quickly explain that back home in Texas, I played lead guitar for two churches. Somehow, I felt the need to show I was more than “just a bassist.”

As this happened more and more, I began to take note of what was going on inside. I felt ashamed to play bass guitar. When did that happen? Somewhere along the way, I learned that a bassist was needed but not really wanted. Countless sets buried in the darkest shadows on every stage. Soundmen perpetually turning my volume down to the point that I’m now unseen and unheard. After two decades of those experiences, I absolutely hated it. Thousands of hours of practice seemingly all for nothing.

I wanted to play guitar, specifically lead guitar – to be seen and heard. I wanted the 20+ years of hard-work I had put into music to mean something. I wanted to feel proud of what I had accomplished and proud of what I brought to the stage.

When I first came to Bethel, every time I walked on stage, I was very stressed. My identity was 100% tied up in how well I played that day. Ad nauseam. It was difficult for me to fully trust the other band members because I was bracing for their disapproval, spoken or unspoken. It’s very hard to have fun when that is the tune marching around your head.

At some point, my walls began to fall, and I began to not only trust those I played with but truly love and respect each of them. Small, subtle, changes sneak up on you without you realizing. The critical voice in my head perpetuating shame was becoming less and less apparent.

I found myself with people who celebrated me and the instrument I played, the bass guitar. After each set, smiles and hugs abound as we champion each other. It is by far the most beautiful and healthy worship culture I have ever seen or experienced. I am forever grateful for what Bethel has cultivated here.

As I spent some time with God praying into these things rumbling through my brain, I realized it was always something far deeper than just bass guitar. The Lord has had me in a process of learning to love and trust myself and resting in who He has made me to be. I don’t have to be something more or something different.

It is difficult to quantify the liberation this has brought me. With each day, I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m learning to love myself just as I am and extend grace to myself when needed. I don’t listen to the voice of shame in my head anymore. And strangely enough, bass guitar has become a symbol for this journey.

A couple of weeks ago, when I began processing this, I decided to sell the last of my guitar pedals back in Texas. The money I made from selling it, I bought a new bass microsynth pedal and power supply. I then decided to build a pedalboard for my bass rig. This was my way of saying, I’m all in.

Yesterday was my first worship set with the new bass pedal and pedalboard, and it was the most fun I have ever had playing bass guitar. As amazing as my setup is – what made the difference is I’m now playing from my heart in a way I have not done in a very, very, long time. And it’s just fun. Stupid fun.

So yes, I play bass guitar.

And I love it.



The person sitting alone


Have you ever found yourself sitting alone? Praying to God someone would say hello. Hoping someone will smile or at least acknowledge that you are there because the thought of sitting alone again without one single interaction is more than you can bear. I have.

I have felt so alone that I have driven somewhere, anywhere, just to find myself among people. And even just a smile from a stranger across the room meant more to me in that moment than a thousand words could express. There is a level of loneliness that chips away at the soul if it is left unaddressed.

The sad thing about this is that there are people feeling this all around us everyday. Whether we are at work, a restaurant, the gym, church, at home – even when surrounded by people, there are so many who feel utterly alone. They long to know and be known, but it is viewed as a weakness to express such a need. It requires an uncomfortable level of vulnerability. We are supposed to be independent. We are supposed to not need anyone. Rugged individualism.

When some brave soul ventures toward that person sitting alone and asks how they’re doing often times the reply is little more than, I’m good. Just busy. Just tired. Just something. These are nothing more than knee-jerk responses said before we even realize what we are saying. We don’t want to be perceived as weak. We don’t want to be vulnerable. We push it down a little bit more and work up a smile in hopes of seeming to be a little bit less of a mess than we presently feel.

Maybe you can relate to this or maybe not. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can all remember times we have felt alone. Regardless, this is a reality for a growing number of people. People have a need to belong. And there is no worse feeling than to realize when you need a friend, there is no one to call. There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere you belong.

In the seasons when I have experienced this, it has forged in me a deep compassion for people who feel they have no tribe, no community. I have been praying as I have tried to find how to be intentional about making a difference for these people. The statistics are abysmal, but it hits home when it is no longer just a number. It is a face. It is your face.

I was thinking today about when I have been the person sitting alone, and how I have seen those who are in conversations around me. It is easy to see they are friends who know each other well. You halfway hope they make eye contact with you and motion for you to join in the conversation. The other half feels uncomfortable being seen as the one who is alone, so you hope to remain unnoticed. I believe this is one reason why so many turn to their phones. It helps numb the awkward feelings, but at the same time, it walls us off from the connection we so desire.

Today, I saw something different. While we are looking at those around us who community comes easily hoping they will see us and end our plight, we fail to see others just like us –  alone and as uncomfortable as we are. Instead of waiting for someone to extend kindness to me, I am fully able to be the one to speak with the others who are hemmed in by their isolation.

I have done this a few times, but honestly – I imagine it would be an embarrassingly low number if I could recall each instance. But I remember how I felt each time. Whether young, old, man, woman, or child – we all have a need to belong. And I have the ability to connect with someone and let them know they matter, and I see them, and they belong right here.

I’m no longer going into new places to find those who are among their friends and hope they will welcome me into their group. If that happens, I will warmly welcome it, but instead of waiting – I will be looking for the person sitting alone. I will seek them out. I want them to know they are not invisible. I want them to experience kindness. I want them to be able to put an end to the question that tirelessly runs through their mind. Yes, you belong here. And as long as I have something to say about it, you will not sit alone again.

If you already do this, I thank you a thousand times for your kindness. If you are like me and have not approached the person sitting alone as often as you would like to say, I invite you to start today. Everything in life is about intentionality. Your smile and kind words may very well be the hope a person at the end of their rope latches onto. People are amazing. They are beautiful. They are a treasure worth your effort. Every single one of them. Embrace the awkward moments along the way. I promise it will be worth it. We can shift culture round about us and ensure that every room we walk into – there is no person left sitting alone.

Isolation ends when we each decide it ends. I choose to create community wherever I venture. Alone we crumble. Together we build. Will you join me?


My Trip Through Bavaria


What do you know about monks and nuns? Up until last week, I didn’t know anything about them. I’m still no expert, but I figure now I know more than the average person you’re likely to meet. I spent the better part of last week staying at the Templar Convent in Munich, Germany.

The Abbot over the place is Father Archangel. What a name, right? He’s a very interesting fellow. You rarely see him without his priestly garb. It’s so different from anything I can relate to that for the most part, I never knew what to say. When I first met him and he found this was my first time to Germany, and I had never seen the churches in the area, he immediately decided he would take me to see them. I ran back to my cramped room armed with two rather large awkwardly placed pianos and grabbed my camera. We set out right after breakfast.

I quickly found that Archangel isn’t the best driver. I’m pretty sure we got a ticket from his excessive speeding, and at one point, I’m pretty sure we almost took out an old lady. It looked like we barely missed her as we rounded a rather sharp corner. He didn’t seem bothered by either incident. I just kept praying under my breath. I’ve learned to do that a lot over here when I’m in the car.

As we began to tour the churches scattered around Bavaria, they all began to blend together. I found they all look a lot a like. Every time I stepped inside one of the churches, it set me back for a second. Archangel enjoyed watching my expressions. I couldn’t help but think that if man can do something like this what it must look like in Heaven.

My favorite part was always the organ pipes in the back of the church, but all of it was pretty amazing. There’s so much detail in every square inch it’d take days to really take it all in. I only had minutes, so for the most part, I just remained in a state of awe. Although, I did grow tired of the endless portrayals of Jesus as a limp-handshake kind of guy who is never seen without his mother and is always surrounded by endless amounts of flying naked babies. I mean, come on… He’s the King of Kings!

But I digress. I learned some really interesting things along the way as well. I learned what the Templars are all about. They’re an interesting bunch. They are not Catholics, and they’re quick to tell you so. There’s a lot I could say, but the thing I found most important is they love God, and they are not afraid of work. They’d put most people to shame. They are constantly looking to serve, and they do it with all they have. There’s much to be admired.

I was also surprised to find monks and nuns are real people. That may sound a bit odd, but I always had it in my head that they were a strange hybrid destined to live in solitude with no personality. I was wrong. One of the monks there is named Augustine. He is hilarious, and I found every single one of them are normal people for the most part just like you and me. They have hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. They love, they live, and they’re happy. They’re the real deal. We don’t agree on some things, but I believe there’s respect due to someone who gives up everything in order to devote their lives to serve God whether or not you agree on how they go about it.

There were a lot of funny things that happened along the way, but it would take a long time to tell all the stories. Archangel is a ridiculous driver. Add a phone call and heavy rain to the mix on mountain roads, and things get real interesting real quick. I saw a church that was built in the 6th century. Billy never can remember Augustine’s name. Most days, he referred to him as Argentina. At first, this seemed to throw people off, but as time passed, we all knew what he meant. I’ve never seen more crucifixes or statues of Mary in my life. I told some friends the only thing I can liken it to is walking into a gas station bathroom in Mexico. How’s that for a classy comparison?

All in all, if you want an accurate portrayal of the Templars and the churches in Bavaria, I’m probably not your best source. All I can tell you is it’s really something. I’ll carry the memories of Bavaria with me always.

All the best from Austria.



All Aboard!

My grandfather, Jerry Hanna, was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. He grew up in Texas, and in this part of Texas, most were either ranchers or railroaders. My mother’s family was pretty much equal parts both. So in a sense, I imagine it’s fitting enough for me to say my family built the West.

I’ve always loved trains. I grew up listening to the trains blow their whistle as they rumbled through town each night. Everything about an old locomotive is filled with nostalgia. They represent a bygone era. This town owes much of its heritage to Santa Fe Railroad, so there’s remnants of that history all about. There’s even a locomotive called “Whistle Stop” in the midst of Cleburne’s Hulen Park, and it’s the center of our Christmas parade each year.

My mom’s father was killed in a car accident when she was only a very young girl. It was an immeasurable tragedy that had a tremendous impact on our family, and the reverberations of that event are still felt to this day. I know him only from stories and pictures, but I am often told how my brother and I remind everyone of him. My hope has always been to live a life that would make him proud and further build upon the foundation of faith, family, and honest hard-work, he and so many others in my family have laid.

In the last few months, the Lord has spoken to me quite a lot about my grandfather and His desire to restore all that was lost. In the midst of this season of praying into these things, my mom gave me two very special gifts, her father’s pocket watch and railroad pin. It’s a beautiful Hamilton pocket watch that was widely used by the railroad because of its reliability. It has a well-worn patina in places from his daily use. It was with him in the accident, so it still bears a scar upon its face. The glass was replaced, and it was then put away in a box not to tick for decades, until recently.

I love pocket watches and antique clocks and so did my grandfather. He collected clocks, dogs, and high-end guns. We would have had a lot in common. He even played bass guitar. My mom has two of my grandfather’s antique clocks. One has not worked in nearly a decade while the other has not worked since he was alive. I decided to take both to a local business that cleans and restores clocks, recently. For about a month now, they have been working and chiming again. In the midst of getting all of these clocks and watches working, I cannot help but consider it significant symbolism. With each tick and chime, they seem to say, “It is time.”



Introduction to the Markets

With eyelids still heavy from a long night of tossing, I made continued effort toward finding the edge of the bed where an infernal alarm lay growing more bold in its tones with every passing second. By the time I found relief from its rhythmic, belching, rackets, my mind was already roving through the morning tasks ahead. Perhaps, today would be the day.

Sizzling water made its way through the coffee grounds and filter into an old, trusted, mug. My mind drifted here and there as I awaited the frothing sounds that signaled coffee-making completion. It’s funny. I had no desire for coffee until a trip to Tennessee, earlier this year. It has become a near daily ritual, at this point. I believe it’s the aroma that signals morning as much as any level of caffeinated jolt it may provide.

Coffee in hand, I made my way upstairs to prepare for another morning’s work. Fridays are notoriously slow in this business. Summer months tend to be as well. As you can imagine, a Friday at the end of summer does not usually elicit tremendous enthusiasm, but I like to leave room to be surprised.

I have spent most of this year studying a business within the finance industry with untold potential. But with such potential, it can be fraught with risk as well. I have found I enjoy the challenge of it all, but this summer has been frustrating. I have attempted to capitalize on the markets downtime by studying as much as possible each day. There have been days where I have worked and studied 14 hours straight, and others where I have only been able to study for 2 or 3.

The last time I wrote, I spoke at length about the importance of goals and giving yourself over to it and its process. I have been living this out this year, and though it has been difficult and required sacrifice in most every arena, I have enjoyed it. I know I will find success. It is only a matter of time.



Interrogated by the Terminator


In a distant drone, my ears began to open from a deep sleep. I forced my eyes open and quickly got to my feet. In a half daze, I crossed the dark room and blindly felt for my phone that blared it’s alarm, “Girl Named Tennessee.” The music stopped, and I looked at the time — 5:45am. With a sigh, I rubbed my eyes and muttered, “Here we go..”

We were heading back to Munich for the day to get the truck inspected. The place opened at ten, so we had to be on the road by six. We got down to the truck and as Billy played with the GPS, I fumbled with the heater. I can’t figure the thing out when I can see, so in the dark, it’s mostly a hopeless cause. I finally got some amount of heat out of the dashboard, and I settled back into my seat for the long haul back up through Bavaria.

We had went through one stau after another all the way through Salzburg when we first came to Austria, and we had thought it was because of road construction, so Billy decided to go another way in hopes that we’d make better time. We settled on a route through Wels, Austria. That was a bad idea.

We had been on the road for some time, and the heater was just beginning to really get the truck to a comfortable temperature. The dawn was gently breaking over the horizon. Mountains loomed on all sides, but they were mostly out of sight because of a heavy fog that danced all about the road.

We were hoping to find the autobahn any minute. We had been driving small roads the entire time and were not making the greatest time. We had reached a small town that’s name eludes me as the TomTom called out in his predictable British jive, “Left on the roundabout. Second exit.” We had every intention of obeying Tom’s command, but we were rudely stopped by a man with a hat that read “Polizei” and armed with an orange baton that beat against the side of the truck in quick bursts of triplets.

Billy seemed a bit befuddled by the cop’s belligerence. He turned to me and asked, “What’s he want?” I thought that was a strange question. It seemed a bit obvious as the man continued to signal aggressively for us to pull over. I could tell this didn’t look good, and Billy looked rattled. I was too tired and cold to be overly concerned, so I just sat there waiting as the man approached Billy’s window.

Billy cranked his window down, and I watched as the cold morning air swallowed the warm air I so patiently had cultivated in the last hour and a half. The morning air had a nasty bite. Texans are not made for such temperatures. I began to shake in my coat as I listened to the following conversation unfold.

He stood in a defiant manner just outside the window. He stood eye-to-eye with Billy. No words were exchanged as he emitted what can only be described as a death stare. Billy appeared to be searching for words, but none came. Finally, Billy asked, “What’s the problem?” The man in a deep, menacing, tone sounded his demand, “Passports.”

My heart sank. I knew this was bad. Billy quickly began to sound desperate and quite exasperated as he began to explain, “Sir, we don’t have our passports with us. We left them back at the hotel.” The man did not blink. He did not waver. He only seemed to stare deeper with a hate that raged black. He sounded his demand once more, “Passports.” Billy now sounded slightly irritated — never a good thing when dealing with the law. He replied, “They are back at the hotel.”

The man looked back towards the police car. His eyes met with the other officer. He then looked back at Billy. Billy began to squirm and quickly added, “But we have our drivers license from Texas.” Billy quickly grabbed both of our licenses and held them out the window for the man to examine. He took them and gave them the once over. He seemed irritated and replied, “I’ll be back.” It was like a scene from “The Terminator.” Then he walked back towards his parked car.

Billy turned to me looking a bit pale and said, “I suggest you start praying because this could be real bad.” I thought that sure was a fine howdy-do. I can think of better ways to start the day. I muttered a plea that said it all, “God, please, help us.”

The disgruntled official slowly made his way back to Billy’s window and said, “These are no good. I need passports.” Billy for the third time pleaded, “I understand, but they are back at the hotel.” The man asked, “Where is hotel?” Billy racked his brain for the name of the town and finally sounded out, “Gmunder.” The man looked like he was trying to decipher the strange-sounding word and finally asked, “Gmunden?” Billy quickly added, “Yeah, that’s it.”

The man paused for a moment and then with his baton reached inside the truck and pulled on Billy’s unfastened seat belt. Billy seemed confused. The man demanded with menacing eyes, “Why this undone?” Billy tried to explain it away that he had unfastened it after we had stopped. The man then coolly said, “Registration papers.” Billy asked me to pull it out of the glove compartment. I searched inside, but it was not in there. I gave Billy the bad news, and then he remembered the registration papers had been taken out when the truck had been in the shop last week.

As Billy  attempted to explain yet again. The man interrupted, “No registration papers?” Billy quickly tried to soften it by saying, “We have the papers. They’re just not with us. They’re back at the hotel.” The man then asked, “What are you doing here?” Billy quickly replied, “We’re heading to Munich for the day to see some friends.” The man said nothing. He only glared at Billy. After a long pause, he boomed a word that I cannot repeat, but it was obvious he did not believe us.

He passed a look that spelled hate and walked back to his car and returned after a few moments with a small paper. He handed it to Billy and in a different tone reminiscent of a predator that has grown tired of playing with his prey said, “Keep your passports with you all the time because all else is worthless.” He reached in the car and grabbed Billy’s seat belt again and said, “Here is ticket for no belt. Pay thirty-five euros, and you can go.” Billy looked confused but rummaged through his wallet and excavated thirty-five euros and handed it to the man. The man quickly made sure the full amount was there, and then he looked back at Billy and said, “Get out of here.”

Billy quickly turned the engine over and put it in gear. We were out of there as quick as possible. As Billy began to drive away and roll his window back up, he let out a long sigh. He looked over at me and said, “That was a close one right there. He could’ve kept us there all day if he wanted.” I nodded. He continued, “I don’t know if you caught that or not, but that boy just made himself thirty-five euros.”

On we went towards Munich. The rest is far-less interesting. We arrived a few minutes late due to the delay with the polizei. It ended up a wasted trip because it turns out they wouldn’t let us get the truck inspected without the registration papers. Oh well, live and learn, I suppose.

There’s the story of my first encounter with the German polizei. They’re a pretty ruthless bunch. However, I can’t blame the guy. I kept thinking I sure wish Billy was more organized. All I can say is from now on, I’m keeping my passport with me. I’d really prefer to not go through another interrogation. It was like watching excerpts from a World War II movie. Honestly, our prayers are the only thing that got us through.

“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” Psalm 108:3-5