When I’m out on the road with the Dynamic Catholic events team, I’m often asked two questions, “How long have you been doing music?” and “How did you end up working with Dr. Allen Hunt?” I have an elevator answer for both questions. The answer to the first is, “I started playing guitar as young child and never stopped.” The answer to the second is a bit longer. It is the story of how Allen and I connected when I was leading worship for a Men’s Rally in Vero Beach and how that relationship grew into the opportunity to travel and play music for Allen’s events. But if I’m being totally honest, I’m fudging just a bit on my first answer because the truth is that I nearly gave up professional music all together.
Let me explain. I was not raised Catholic and I was not born into a family of musicians. I don’t mean to imply anything negative. I’m just stating a fact. My parents supported me as I developed my musical talent; but the family dynamic in which I was raised was extremely skeptical of the music business. Furthermore, my parents were pretty conservative and have a deep Christian faith, which they worked diligently to instill in my brother and me. During my childhood the current Christian music industry was virtually non-existent. There were no Christian radio stations. Praise and Worship music was years in the future and the Jesus Music movement was in its infancy. In many Christian churches there were serious debates as to whether or not guitars should be played in church at all. As a guitar player, there were only a few professional avenues open to me if I wanted to play for a living…country music or rock. Let’s just say that my parents demonstrated little enthusiasm for me to explore either option. Aside from the itinerant lifestyle, the prevalence of alcoholism and recreational drug abuse was something they wanted to protect me from…and rightly so.
Nevertheless, I was playing and singing a lot in a variety of places. People would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would respond, “I want to be a professional guitar player!” They would grimace and say, “That’s nice. What do you plan to do if that doesn’t work out?” I began internalizing the message that music was fine for now but eventually I would need a plan B…unless I was willing to put my body and soul at risk in the secular music industry.
I might have survived that pressure and moved to Nashville had I not made a very serious mistake. When I was sixteen, my musical mentor Charlie Bush passed away. I was grief stricken and angry because his influence was huge in my life. I was also angry to discover that virtually no one knew who Charlie was outside my little town. It was a shock to me. The mistake I made was judging that Charlie’s life was somehow a failure because others did not recognize his talent. In the years leading up to my graduation from high school, I became convinced that I was risking failure too if I pursued my musical dreams.
When I graduated from high school I did my very best to relegate the music part of my life to hobby status and find a career. But outside of music I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Nothing felt quite right to me and life kept moving on. I met and married my wife. I went through RCIA and became Catholic and we started a family together. I still had the dream of becoming a professional guitar player but it seemed like the opportunity to make music in that way had passed me by.
Somehow, I came to the realization that if I could not play in the way I dreamed then I could be the best player wherever I was planted. So, I began to seek out the small opportunities where my talents could be put to use…the very first place was the music ministry of my local parish. So after years of dreaming, I had come full circle and was playing in church once again.
There is a great quote from a book called “God Songs” by Paul Baloche, and Jimmy & Carol Owens. “We’ve been asked occasionally, ‘How do I break into Christian music?’ The answer to that is, breaking and entering is illegal, but if you diligently prepare yourself to be the best you can be and accept the small opportunities, the Lord may surprise you by breaking down some doors for you and placing you where He wants you.” (p.188)
My success has been accomplished by being prepared to be the best I can be and accepting those little opportunities to serve. By learning to serve well in that capacity I was asked to take on more responsibility. Step by step my opportunities grew. It wasn’t long until I realized that dream I had of making music full time was a reality for me; and, I did not really understand how it happened.
Jesus says in Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you must be a servant.” (NLT) This teaching is what Charlie clearly understood and I did not. I had judged him to be a failure for not attaining the trappings of success while overlooking his overwhelming generosity to me. He poured out his life into mine. That’s just who Charlie was to everyone he knew. Ironically, I was following my mentor’s example and I didn’t realize it at the time. As St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us, greatness comes from doing “small things with great love.”
Thank you for being a part of my journey. I hope these thoughts will inspire you to find small opportunities to serve others and to do small things with great love. For further inspiration check out my latest CD “Start a Fire.”