Last evening my wife and I spent a couple of hours hanging out at our local coffee shop; sharing our favorite holiday drink, reading, and conversation. A guitar player provided his own renditions of Christmas carols with a classical and personal twist. It wasn’t a surprise he was there. He plays there often and his wife posted on Facebook his schedule. The gift for me was two-fold: listening to his amazing talent (a successful business man who just loves to play the guitar) and the story of how we met twenty-five years ago.
In the mid-80’s I arrived at a very traditional Lutheran church in Southeast Michigan with the charge to “revitalize” – their words, not mine – the congregation. I had served as pastor of a successful, cutting-edge church in Milwaukee, so the opportunity to provide the same modern flair and edge seemed like a “piece of cake.” With youthful exuberance and cockiness I began to introduce a contemporary style to this traditional setting. Come to think of it, I really didn’t introduce it; probably more like forced it.
One of the wholesale changes I made was the way we approached the children’s and youth programs. I suggested we rock the boat at the first Vacation Bible School. The first components we introduced centered around an odd concept at the time: “FUN.” Nothing is worse for a kid to have to endure a summer “school” activity for hours and not have any fun. We intentionally amped the energy, the games, and even the music.
It was clear to me that the last component would hinge in the hands and talent of a shoulder-lengthed-haired teenager. As an introvert he had a good sense of humor. Rumor was he could make a guitar “rock.” I asked if I could come to his house to hear him play. One spring evening his parents welcomed me into their lovely home and after some pleasantries I found myself in a teenage boy’s room lined with posters of his favorites “rockers.” In the corner were his amps and his favorite possession. I expected to hear a kid play five chords on an acoustic guitar. Instead I got a mini-concert; much more than I bargained for…in a good way.
“Andy, how would you like to play guitar for VBS?” I asked. “Really?” he quizzically looked at me, “Sure, I guess so.” This interchange reminded me again of The Power of “ASK.”
That year, Andrew Hively rocked-out at VBS and to the shock of the leaders, we decided to let him rock-out during the Sunday services. Paramedics were on stand-by as this organ-only, highly traditional congregation got their first taste of a guitar during their sacred gathering.
I became a true fan of Andrew that summer and for the past twenty-five years have watched as he served in bands of every size and composition. One can always tell that behind his subtle riffs and amazingly sharp chord progressions is a highly talented musician. When given the opportunity for solos, people marvel.
Last night, at Uptown Coffeehouse, with my wife across the table, and Andrew Hively providing the best guitar music one could imagine I journaled in gratitude. I was grateful for life and the journey. I couldn’t imagine a more comforting setting. As I looked up and saw Andrew, now with teenagers of his own, I was grateful that he said “Yes!” years ago.
What if…we stepped into the possibilities of just making an “Ask?”