I struggle with a “Utilitarian” tendency. By that I mean I tend to evaluate everything by the criterion of “usefulness.” When I choose a book to read, I ask myself: how will this be useful in preaching, leadership or providing spiritual direction? When I look at my schedule, I look at the maximum ways to be effective and efficient. When I spend money, I am looking for the most useful item at the best price. Naturally, there are many commendable points to this approach to life. It has been very satisfying in many ways. But every virtue has another side. And usefulness can shortchange the “lighter side” of life.

One of my life lessons has been learning to lighten up, have fun and relax. That’s where Sarah is God’s amazing gift to me. Sarah brings the sense of wonder to life. She’s playful and is always looking for ways for us to enjoy the goodness of life and God’s creation. Sarah is very wise and responsible, but she doesn’t let “usefulness” smother playfulness. One of the ways she has tried to support me is by encouraging me to get back to playing guitar. Playing guitar was a formative part of my early Christian life. Shortly after accepting Christ, I was asked to join a “folk choir” being formed by high school students at my church. I joined and soon found myself presenting music in church, touring with several Christian productions, and leading music weekly for what we would now call “Young Life Club”—with over 600 kids! I wrote songs and often played weekly in coffee houses, where I would share my testimony and simple teachings. Even when I was first ordained, I would introduce my teaching sessions by leading a few songs. But then I became a senior pastor… and I played less and less. It could have been our growing family, or my doctoral studies, or being far less active in youth and student ministry, or having other staff primarily responsible for music. But I also stopped playing for my own enjoyment.

I hardly noticed I wasn’t playing until we moved to Kansas City. There I got involved with our young contemporary worship team. My interest in guitar and in some of the new “sounds” in contemporary music awakened. And Sarah bought me a new guitar!

Then God called us here to Trinity, and I began to ask Rodger Carey and Tim Austin and Jake Hill to show me how to play certain songs and lead solos and jazz chords on guitar. And off we went. Somehow I invited myself into Tim and Rodger’s group, The Fabulous Edsels. (I still wonder if they were just humoring “the pastor”!) And now, for over six years, we have been playing together – and it has been extremely useful in helping me relax and have fun!! It helps me to remember that while God called us to work, he also commanded us to rest.

See you in church.