What Playing Guitar Taught Me about the Spiritual Life

An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.

What Playing Guitar Taught Me about the Spiritual Life

(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.

I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.

  • I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
  • I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
  • I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.

I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.

Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.

If We Knew What God Knows

If we knew what God knows, we would choose to wait for His timing rather than push Him to act now. God made His creatures to live in dependence on the Creator. As such, we wait for the provision.

If We Knew What God Knows

(Photo via ooomf.com, by Tyssul Patel)

As much as we hate it, dependence demands waiting. Refusing to wait amounts to independence and even rebellion from the one who created us.

Insisting on instant gratification (even for good things) minimizes and overlooks the infinite worth of God’s sovereignty—a wisdom that sees beyond the next five minutes. Or the next five years.

Are you waiting for God to do something in your life?

If you knew what God knows, here’s what you would do.

Who is Guarding Your Great Wall?

I just returned from a trip to China with colleagues from Insight for Living. What a vast and beautiful country—and so much potential for ministry. While there, several of us got to visit the Great Wall.

Who is Guarding Your Great Wall?

(Photo: By Hao Wei from China. Flickr. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I was amazed at how vigilant the wall builders were to ensure the safety of their country against potential enemies. (See some of my pictures below from my Instagram Feed.) Of course, history reveals that a guard allowed the enemy to enter through a gate and compromise the wall’s security. 1500 miles of wall compromised by one traitor in the gate.

In our spiritual lives, we have that same traitor.

A Lesson from the Round School for Squares

My first high school had round buildings with pie-shaped classrooms. The hallways circled the buildings’ perimeters. The campus looked as if spaceships had landed in San Antonio.

A Lesson from the Round School for Squares

(Photo: Holmes High School in San Antonio, image by Slay Engineering)

Students from other high schools referred to ours as “The Round School for Squares.” Nice, huh?

For fun, we would play a joke on new students who asked for directions: “Yeah, just walk down the hall and turn left at the corner.” They would circle for hours.

Sometimes that’s how it feels in our walk with God. He points the direction and we walk and walk and walk. But we never turn a corner.

The Blessing of Being Average

You’ve probably noticed, but very few people attain stardom status in life. That’s probably a good thing. Solomon’s words, “money is the answer to everything,” come from an earthly perspective (Ecc. 10:19).

The Blessing of Being Average

(Photo by Photodune)

Among the rich and famous, so few find satisfaction—even in their success.

For some reason, it seems uncommon for exceptional lives to handle success well. Perhaps because success ranks just as much a test of character as does poverty. Maybe more.

True success is not a result of giftedness, but of character. (Tweet that.)

Have you ever considered the blessing of being average?

It may surprise you.

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

(Photo: Zach Vega. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.

Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?

Then it struck me. We do the same with God.

My Biblical Encounter with a Russian Prostitute

I discovered there isn’t time to ponder your reaction when propositioned by a prostitute. Your first response is your response. It happened to me in a Russian hotel.

My Experience with the Bible and a Russian Prostitute

(Photo: St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. By Soerfm. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I went with some missionaries to Moscow to help train national pastors. On our first morning, I headed to the hotel lobby to meet our team. Stepping out of the elevator, I scanned the lobby for others in our group. I saw no one I knew.

A small group of ladies at the bar sat and chatted with each other. All of them, that is, except one. This one very attractive woman was smiling and staring—straight at me.

As our eyes met, I suddenly remembered someone told me that prostitutes sat in the bar, looking for customers. This woman kept smiling and then leaned forward—and a literal chill ran up my back. I can still feel it. I froze.

At that moment, I heard three very distinctive words in my head.

2 Helpful Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

This morning the national news was downright depressing. Political corruption. Religious hypocrisy. Sexual (dis)orientation. I confess, sometimes it’s tough to see God working in the world.

2 Helpful Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

(Photo by Photodune)

We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?

We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:

  • God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
  • God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).

These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?

How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world?

Why Your Perspective Requires Both Eyeballs

I sat in the front row of my 8th grade math class and squinted at the chalkboard. A total blur. I had to face it. I needed glasses.

Why It's Important to Use Both of Your Eyeballs

(Photo by Photodune)

I’ll never forget the moment I put on my glasses for the first time. WOW! A different perspective entirely! I had no idea the details of life I had missed. They were there all the time, but I literally could not see them.

Glasses and contacts made a huge difference. Trees had leaves. Shapes had sharp edges. Colors were more vibrant. And, oh yeah, I could see in math class.

That worked great for about 35 years. But now I have another problem. As my eyeballs have aged, they have given me 2 choices:

  1. I can see far away (with my contacts).
  2. Or I can see up close (without contacts).

It was one perspective or the other—until my optometrist gave me a really weird solution.

You and I have the same challenge spiritually.

How to Get Your Roots to Reach Deep

After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.

How to Get Your Roots to Reach Deep

(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.

Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.

That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.