I DON’T KNOW……..

The last couple of weeks I’ve been woodshedding(practicing for you non-musicians) my bass and singing some music in preparation for a special service at a friend’s church next week.  I haven’t played or sang these songs in many years and several times, both alone at home & even rehearsing them with others, I’ve found myself (emotionally) barely able to get thru them.  In my mind I’ve even said to myself…”What’s wrong with you? You’re a professional!!”…..In my 30yrs of being a professional musician, I have played many songs that emotionally moved me. However, I think this is a different thing.  This morning I read this Henri JM Nouwen devotion shortly after seeing a picture that triggered some memories of a bad time in my life.  Regrettably, I think that pic & those songs reminded me of the wounds that I so often tell people that I’ve moved passed, yet they haven’t fully healed.

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I’m unashamedly a champion of PEACE & LOVE and I believe in healing, restoration & forgiveness.  There was a time when I had an answer or at least an opinion on anything that people wanted to talk about. Often I would have a knee-jerk reaction or comment that I would also often have to retract.  Because of that, in recent years when a situation or subject takes me by surprise,  I get quiet and either just don’t say anything or simply reply “I DON’T KNOW”.  I really try to listen and learn as much as I can but I’ve become so comfortable with I DON’T KNOW”.   When the consequences of my bad choices several years ago severed the community that I was in, I was crushed. Rather than blaming someone else or dragging others under the bus with me, I chose to take the high road and take the consequences like a man and own it.   I don’t curse those that cursed me, I have no desire to seek revenge or “pay back evil with evil” but I won’t lie and tell you that I’m at a place that I’m ready to bless them either.  My life is different today than it was back then, some better(my wife that truly loves me for better or for worse, my kids that continue to travel with thing called “being an adult” with honesty and realness, true friends that have stuck by me regardless of my stupidity) and some not(still estranged from that community). With that, how do I get passed all this baggage?   I DON’T KNOW!!  I’m just gonna continue to trust that God has a plan, keep playing my bass, keep putting one foot in front of the other, continue to be a champion of PEACE & LOVE, continue to love people right where they are, regardless of whether we see eye to eye or not and finally, look forward to the day that I get to that place where I can HONESTLY(not lip service) bless those that curse me.  Thank you for letting me be transparent.

Peace!!
Ranj

“People Get Ready”

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Billy & Strummer

 

This morning I woke to the following Facebook post that my brother Billy’s best friend Strummer(Mark Michael LePianka) tagged me in.

Billy visited me tonight and told me to ‘get ready; the kingdom is coming.’

I was working upstairs in the WTKX-FM production studio at the old location on 111 N Baylen Street in Pensacola. Everything about the floor plan was the same; the window placement, the view of the unfinished parking lot on the side of the building, the warm glow of electronics. But it was all modern, more so than any building I’ve ever been in.

When I came downstairs the overnight jock was running a pre-recorded interview with two locals. I was familiar with everyone, at the same time, I couldn’t tell you their names. It seemed strange that the :90 minute program was all music. There were no live breaks. But hey, it wasn’t my show and I’m not the program director.

I told the boys we had gotten their recording from Nancy and they seemed genuinely enthusiastic about that. Billy walked in about two songs ago. It was natural having him in the room. Even at this late hour.

The on-air studio itself was bigger, spacious There were oversized couches and everything was mic’d for a live interview, but there were no breaks. We all talked while the songs played in the background. And the overnight flight went on.

When Billy got up to leave I opened to door to the street and I was conscious it was him. He looked stronger, thinner, like Randy after having lost all that weight. That broad smile. My brother was standing right in front of me alive and fit.

As we stepped out the door and onto the street, I said, “We need to talk.” He spoke as we moved across the street together saying ‘he had to go’. Something about ‘another place he had to be’.

He told me to “Get ready; the kingdom is coming”. I pulled him in close for a warm embrace goodbye and asked him what I should do to be ready? He said, “Everything we have is in Jesus.” As he stepped back he looked me in the eye, “and it’s more glorious than you could ever imagine.”

I read the post over and over today and each time I read it, a flood of chills & emotions would come over me.  The detail in which Strummer described the room, the gear, the length of the program and the furnishings was just like the way Billy would describe it and that made me smile so big.

The two things that really grabbed me were  1. Billy was “Alive and Fit” and 2. ‘Everything we have is in Jesus and it’s more Glorious than you could ever imagine”. I’ve thought about that a lot today.

Our culture is obsessed in every aspect of life, Knowledge, Health, Politics, Careers, Social Media, Etc, Etc, so much so that we become tunnel-visioned and sometimes unable to see the proverbial forest for the trees. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say, I think learning and knowledge is great but I also think we over complicate things. Billy’s message to Strummer, Me and to us all is simple..“EVERYTHING WE HAVE IS IN JESUS…..AND IT’S MORE GLORIOUS THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE”!!!  It’s got nothing to do with what church you attend, what translation of the bible you read, what kind of music you sing, what political party you belong to or whether or not you’re even affiliated with a political party, who gets elected to the white house. It ain’t about any of that. Billy’s message is the same message that Jesus told His disciples “FOLLOW ME”. I AM NOT a member of a particular church congregation, I’m not a republican, a democrat, a liberal or a conservative.  What I am is a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend, a musician, a champion for PEACE & LOVE but most of all, I am a FOLLOWER OF CHRIST and His teachings and my role is to be an example of Christ’s life, it’s just that simple.  I look forward to the day that I get to see my brother Billy again in that place where there are no more struggles, tears, sickness and sadness, ALIVE & FIT & HAPPY. In addition, when I see Billy, I would love to see EVERY ONE of my friends and loved ones there too. So, in the words of the great Curtis Mayfield classic….

People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
FAITH IS THE KEY
Open the doors and board them
THERE’S ROOM FOR ALL
among the loved the most

PEACE & LOVE to you all my friends!!!

Ranj

Your Beautiful Scars

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I’ve been a musician most of my life and my hands are how I make my living.  My wife Jan & I were driving to spend the afternoon with some friends the other day and as I looked at the scars on my right hand, I commented that in the last few years I’ve had 4 major surgeries on that hand.  She then made the comment “Satan really wanted to destroy your gift but he didn’t win”.  I got to thinking about that and I was reminded of a song that I recorded a few years ago called “The Healing Has Begun“. My favorite verse in the song was….

“There’s a world full of people dying from broken hearts
Holding on to the guilt, thinking they fell too far
So don’t be afraid to show ’em your beautiful scars
‘Cause they’re the proof, yeah you’re the proof
Oh, the healing has begun”

Scars most often are vivid reminders of hurts, injuries, painful experiences or painful seasons in our lives.  Most of us don’t like showing our scars.  We do our best to hide them from people.  Some people cover them with tattoos. Others may use clothes or makeup. Emotional scars are a little easier to hide but they often manifest themselves in bad behaviors or addictions. They can also become identities for some of us. As I was reminded in a devotional by my favorite author Henri JM Nouwen….

Stepping over our wounds

“Sometimes we have to “step over” our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on. The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there. Then we become the “offended one,” “the forgotten one,” or the “discarded one.” Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them. It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on.”

2016 is still very new and my prayer for you all AND ME this year is that we ALL would not be ashamed of our scars but also that we won’t be identified by them.  Let them “be the proof” that God has healed us and that we truly can move on and  KNOW that WE ARE THE BELOVED OF GOD and His love for us is UNCONDITIONAL!!!

PEACE TO YOU ALL!!!
Ranj

“The Song Remembers When”

I have been thinking about my brother a lot in the last few days and how deeply my love of music was influenced by him. Billy loved music more than ANYONE I’ve ever known. Back when we were teenagers, he would go to the record store (anybody remember those? 😉 ), buy the newest release from the latest band and he would tell me “I think this is gonna be the first single, second & third” and he was right on the money EVERY TIME!!!  Before corporations like Clear Channel took over all the radio stations and started force feeding the general public with their “musical propaganda”, I used to tell him, “Bro you should be a program director like Andy Travis (WKRP in Cincinnati). I think he would’ve been BRILLIANT!!

I say WITHOUT HESITATION that my brother Billy is the reason I love music like I do, why I chose to pursue a career in it and why my “taste pallet” is so eclectic.

One of the highlights of Billy’s musical experiences and the last before he passed away was getting to sing on Don Henley‘s Cass Country record. (this is Billy & Don in the studio that night)IMG_0536

 

For me, music has a way of transporting me emotionally & mentally to past times, either happy or sad, that I was experiencing at any given time of my life.

 

Every time I hear Foreigner‘s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” off their 4 record, I remember the girl I was dating when it was popular.71V+ZSwbMNL._SL1103_

 

When I hear “You Don’t Know What You’re Missing” off Andrae’ Crouch & The Disciples “Live At Carnegie Hall record, I am immediately transported to 1974 on Chimes Way in Pensacola, FL on a Sunday evening with Billy & my cousin John Noski, playing that record WIDE OPEN and ordering pizza from “The Pizza Wagon” 🙂91V5Efiy9rL._SL1500_

 

Hearing Kenny Loggins‘s version of “You Don’t Know Me” off his Alive record reminds me that I sang that version to my wife Jan when we first started dating. ❤ 51Uyvt1V25L

My favorite line from Get Over It off The EaglesHell Freezes Over record is “I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass” :-p  When I hear that line, I smile and think of the moment Billy first played that record for me 🙂  719VbjkhxkL._SL1060_

 

I can’t hear Laura Story‘s Blessings without thinking of my dear friend Maurice Carter and my very first missions trip to Japan where I met some very special and dear friends.71OEZyLhJpL._SL1050_

 

My first artist gig when I moved to Nashville was with Trisha Yearwood.  I think her song The Song Remembers When” really sums up what I’m trying to say here. I pray that the “soundtrack” of your life helps you “remember when”. If that memory is good, hang on to it and keep remembering it. If it happens to be a sad memory, then thank God that He helped you make it thru that difficult time.

 

PEACE & LOVE to you all!!!

Ranj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE IS A VERB

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1 John 4:20-21

“If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: LOVING GOD INCLUDES LOVING PEOPLE. YOU’VE GOT TO LOVE BOTH.” (The Message – MSG)

1 Peter 4:8

Most of all, LOVE each other as if your life depended on it. LOVE makes up for practically anything. (The Message – MSG)

 

As I was read the Bible passages above this morning, I was suddenly struck with grief & sadness at how, as Christians, we have moved so far away from this basic principle of our Christian faith.  In this age of the internet and social media, we have access to a plethora of  information that is online and we (YES I SAID WE BECAUSE I’M JUST AS GUILTY AS THE NEXT PERSON) are so quick to take that information as fact because someone or something told us its true without even researching to see whether or not it is true.  Then once be make that assumption, like it or not, we begin to form our perspective prejudices.  in short, WE JUDGE AND WE SPOUT VENOM & HATE. 

 

I grew up in a Full Gospel, Protestant background and therefore didn’t practice saying “Common Prayers”.   I was “taught” (not by my parents but the community I was raised in) that because those prayers were memorized and didn’t originate with me that “those” prayers couldn’t really be that sincere (YET ANOTHER PREJUDICE and completely untrue). As I’ve continued to grow in my walk with God, I’ve come to realize that in times when I can’t quite find the words in my own prayer vocabulary, these common prayers seem to pierce my soul very similar to how God’s word pierces my soul, even when I’ve heard a particular verse HUNDREDS OF TIMES.   Hmmmm, now there’s a “coffee talk” thought to ponder….discuss :-). 

 

One of my favorite “common prayers” is this one that we say at my church before taking Holy Communion.  Most merciful God, WE confess that WE have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what WE have done, and by what WE have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; WE HAVE NOT LOVED OUR NEIGHBORS as ourselves. We are truly sorry and WE humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on US and forgive US; that WE may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name.  Amen

 

Growing up, I don’t think I truly understood what “love your neighbor as your self” really meant.  I’m still learning it.  However, what I’m finding out more and more is that to really love my neighbor as myself is to constantly look at that person and/or situation thru the lens of God’s GRACE, MERCY, FORGIVENESS & LOVE.    We ALL screw up on a DAILY basis, we ALL have different likes, dislikes, political views but without LOVE, our first reaction to any of our differences is going to be judgement.  “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” Matthew 7:1-2 (The Message-MSG).     Today, let’s all decide to put down the weapons of judgement & hatred and pick up the seeds of Christ’s PEACE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS & UNDERSTANDING and truly LOVE our neighbors (OUR ENEMIES, those that oppose your political views, those that live a lifestyle other that ours, THOSE THAT HAVE HURT US, those that WE’VE HURT, you fill in any other) as ourselves. 

 

PEACE, JOY, GRACE, LOVE & BLESSINGS to you all!!!
Randy

#30DaysOfThanks

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I’ve be watching Facebook, Twitter & Instagram this month and I’ve seen several people’s post about their “dislike” of the whole “#30DaysOfThanks” tags and the like. The posts are usually some version of “We should be thankful EVERY DAY and not just around Thanksgiving”. While I am in agreement with that statement, I have to ask MYSELF & those that dislike the #30DaysOfThanks posts, are we truly being thankful EVERY DAY???  I can only speak for myself and say that I am guilty of letting days and even weeks go by without GIVING THANKS  for all that God has done for me and in me.  Again, I can’t speak for anyone but myself but I tend to get so wrapped up in what I think SHOULD be happening to me or for me that I forget the AMAZING THINGS that God has done in my life.  I think that is why its so important to set aside a time, or SEASON if you will, to remind us ALL of how blessed we are, regardless of the hardships, trials & troubles of this life. WE ARE BLESSED AND SHOULD GIVE THANKS EVERYDAY!!!

Seasons & Holidays are on the calender to REMIND us of what we tend to forget in our everyday busy lives. New Years Day could be celebrated EVERY DAY because everyday you wake up is a NEW BEGINNING (“HIS MERCIES NEVER COME TO AN END, THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING” Lamentations 3:22-23).  We should celebrate JULY 4th EVERY DAY because we live in “THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE”.  EASTER should be celebrated EVERY DAY because Christ rose from the grace. (“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6). CHRISTMAS could be celebrated EVERY DAY because Christ came to save us (“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21).

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is, YES we should be thankful EVERY day but I also think we should take SPECIAL DAYS, SPECIAL SEASONS, SPECIAL HOLIDAYS, SABBATHS if you will (days that are set aside and HOLY/different than the norm) that help remind us to be THANKFUL for what we have and for what we have been given. They are also days that help us to put aside our PETTY differences and become ONE, one Nation, one church Body, ONE FAMILY and LOVE with ONE LOVE, the way God created us to LOVE.  

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

PEACE, JOY & GOOD WILL TO YOU ALL MY FRIENDS!!!!!

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Forgive as you’ve been forgiven


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“Jesus Is Persecuted”

“Jesus, the favorite Child of God, is persecuted.  He who is poor, gentle, mourning;  he who hungers and thirsts for uprightness; is merciful, pure of heart and a peacemaker is not welcome in this world.  The Blessed One of God is a threat to the established order and a source of constant irritation to those who consider themselves the rulers of this world.  Without his accusing anyone he is considered an accuser, without his condemning anyone he makes people feel guilty and ashamed, without his judging anyone those who see him feel judged.   In their eyes, he cannot be tolerated and needs to be destroyed, because letting him be seems like a confession of guilt.

When we want to become like Jesus, we cannot expect always to be liked and admired.  We have to be prepared to be rejected.”

Henri Nouwen

I received this devotional in my email this morning as I do every morning.  After reading it, I caught myself taking a deep breath and realizing that this is sometimes a VERY hard pill to swallow.  We know that if we confess to be Christian, we’re are called to BE LIKE HIM.  In addition to feeding the hungry, sharing healing with the hurting, that sometimes means being treated very NON-CHRISTIAN by the very ones that are supposed to be our Christian brothers and sisters.   WE’VE ALL SINNED AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD(Romans 3:23) and we’re COMMANDED to forgive even as we’ve been forgiven of our transgressions.  We’re ALL covered by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross but NOT everyone that calls themselves Christians will be in the same place in their walk.  They may not always be willing to give grace & mercy.  However, when that happens in our lives, our response should be to PRAY & ask God to show MERCY, GRACE & FORGIVENESS to all those that speak evil against us because they really don’t know what they are doing.  Pray that God will OPEN THE EYES OF THEIR HEARTS and let them see the people around them as He sees them, FORGIVEN, REDEEMED, COVERED.

I hope you all KNOW that no matter what you’ve done in your past, CHRIST IS BIGGER THAT YOUR PAST and His word promises in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for YOU,” DECLARES THE LORD, (can YOU hear Him saying YOUR NAME?!?!?)“plans to prosper YOU and not to harm YOU, plans to give YOU hope and a future”

PEACE & BLESSINGS TO YOU ALL!!!
Ranj