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The Beach Balls Of Doom

September 22, 2009

Christian_Beach_BallsI had the best day I’ve had in a long time yesterday. But to understand why, you need to know that of all the commandments in the bible, the one I’m the most guilty of breaking is the one about taking a day of rest. Especially these days on account of the new record releasing. So much to do… a lot of plates to keep spinning… I could tell that I was feeling the burn from the schedule I’d been keeping because my crankiness had a hair trigger and it didn’t take much to send my attitude off the deep end. I’d like to think that I’m usually very pleasant under normal circumstances 🙂 (smiley face employed to depict my generally pleasant demeanor).  But by the end of this last weekend, my mood took a darker turn.

For starters, we did two outdoor festivals. Now, I’m often asked why I don’t play more outdoor festivals, and while I know they are a lot of fun for concert-goers, I try to avoid them since they tend to be challenging for a guy who does what I do. Festivals have kind of a social gathering/party kind of atmosphere, and it’s hard for a guy with an acoustic guitar and penchant for earnest storytelling to achieve the desired kind of intimacy that gives my work the best chance at connecting. I need four walls and a hushed low-lit room to coax people’s hearts out of their myriad hiding places. Maybe I take myself too seriously by expecting such a level of attention, but this is the kind of environment that I seem best suited for. Deep connections are always the goal. Without that, I’m always suspicious that I’m wasting the time of everyone involved.

Both events were youth-centered outreaches, which is totally cool, and which Sanctus Real and even Phil Wickham are well suited for. But get a guy with an acoustic guitar up there trying to talk about the virtues of weakness, God making sad things come untrue, and serving the poor, etc. and watch me flounder. It’s especially hard when there’s a group of kids in the back hollering “you suck!” about 30 seconds into my first song (Taya took care of them). Or when someone throws beach balls into the crowd for people to bounce around in front of me when I’m singing lyrics like:

“In Rwanda’s killing fields
Forgiveness blooms and heals
As the power of love reveals
The Kingdom come today…”

Or:

“The Son of God woke in the ground
The angels laid the soldiers down
To bring the King His crown
I believe!”

POW! – a beach ball bounces off the end of my mic stand and all of a sudden I’m back in the eighth grade wearing ill-fitting gym shorts and playing dodge ball.

The truth is, I just can’t compete with a beach ball. I mean, I try to be funny and tell jokes and stuff, but in the end the beach ball will always win.

So… I got a little grumpy about it. On stage. It didn’t help that I’d had a video chat the day before with my boys that left me feeling homesick and wondering if this work I do is worth the price we pay for it. Most times the answer is yes, but I start to doubt when I’m being heckled by teenagers in the back row or the beach balls start flying…

Taya was back at the sound-board shaking her head at me, with a look that was pleading with me to not say something awkward and grumpy from the stage. I managed to restrain myself for the most part and just snuck in a snarky little comment before my last song that went something like this: “hey, how would you like it if I came to your workplace or classroom and bounced a beach ball around while you’re trying to work?”

Kind of funny, but kind of grumpy and miserly too, I know. The supplier of the beach balls didn’t mean any harm, I’m sure. Everyone’s just trying to have a good time, I should lighten up, I know. And I know it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself when I play the “missing my kids at home” card. But all this to say that though these things are normally not that big of a deal – par for the course kinds of things, really – on this particular weekend they put me in a bit of a funk. The beach balls became larger than life – looming, symbolic rabid scapegoats for everything that is difficult and disappointing; giant beach balls of doom like the one that nearly mashed Indiana Jones in the opening sequence of Raiders Of The Lost Ark… Nipping at my heels, threatening to crush me at any moment…

I grumped about it afterwards on the bus for a bit, and seriously began considering a change in vocation. Again. But then I recognized that I might be a little burnt out and shouldn’t make any rash decisions.

Phil Wickham is a pretty positive guy and hanging out with him is good for me. He’s always helping me look on the bright side and count my blessings. I used to be very much like that, but lately feel more like that 70 year old guy who yells at people for walking on his lawn. Clearly I needed some rest.

So when the bus pulled in to Toledo, OH at 4:00am and we drove to our friend’s house 3 hours away in Clare, MI, our heads hit the pillow at 7:30am and we slept til 1:00pm on Sunday. With a mixture of panic and relief I discovered that I left my phone on the bus and, cut off from the rest of the world, I took a day off with my favorite person in the world: Taya. Our friends were away on a trip so we had the place all to ourselves.

Taya and I anonymously went shopping at the local grocery store to get the fixin’s for tacos. When we got back I played guitar for pleasure – wow, how long has it been since I’d done that? Years? – for a couple of hours on the couch while Taya made some fresh guacomole. Then, with our tacos, guac, and pineapple salsa we sat down and watched TV for like three hours. We watched three episodes of Flight Of The Conchords followed by one of my favorite movies of all time: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, an artful film that to me always feels like a good dose of marriage counseling – to know the worst that you could feel about a person and then choose to love them anyway… isn’t that the most challenging and beautiful part of marriage?

And then, off to bed early. I even got to read some. What a great day. I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t have to be anybody. I got to be a bump on a log, vegging in front of the TV.  I’m not sure this was entirely what was meant by the commandment to observe the Sabbath, but I think I was in the ballpark because it felt like exactly what the Doctor ordered.

This morning I got back to work, but my head was clearer. The weekend of shows became less about beach balls and a small group of disruptive kids in the back and more about the kindness with which I was received by those who attended, those who talked with me after the shows sharing their stories with me and generous words of encouragement. I found several kind remarks on my facebook page and in my inbox from new friends who attended the events. Maybe, by God’s grace (again!), my songs connected after all. I thought of the kids who were sponsored through World Vision who might not have been otherwise. I counted my blessings for the friendships I get to have with cool guys like Phil and Matt, Pete, Chris, Dan & Mark from Sanctus Real. I smiled thinking about Phil teaching me some new chords…

And I called my kids who were doing pretty good, too. I get to see them next week when we fly home for Gus’ birthday. I can’t wait. Maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought. And maybe those beach balls aren’t as big as I imagined, either. For all the ways they burdened me and felt like they carried the weight of the world in them, maybe they were only full of hot-air after all.

Dare I say it? I’m even looking forward to getting back out on the tour this week. And what’s more it looks like there aren’t any more festivals on this leg. See, I’m already counting my blessings again.

I’m also already looking forward to my next day of rest…

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2009 6:10 am

    You’re my hero.
    seriously.

    also: i am trying not to be angry that Phil is not going to be at the NC show. :[ I haven’t seen him since 2006 & i love him!

  2. Dianna permalink
    September 22, 2009 6:13 am

    Thanks for reminding me that for the beach balls in my own life to be a big deal, I have to give them air…

  3. Olivia permalink
    September 22, 2009 12:04 pm

    Aww, that’s kinda rude =( I’m turning 14 on Thursday, and I love your music. ❤
    But I'm glad you had a day off 😀 That sounds like a well-deserved day for you! Glad you enjoyed that.
    Maybe my family can go see you on tour, you have two days in Texas. 😀
    God bless~

  4. Kaitlyn permalink
    September 22, 2009 1:25 pm

    I agree with Cherylyn. Your honesty blows me away all the time. Thanks for not throwing in the towel and just taking a day of rest. Or you would have had one ANGRY young adult. 😉

    I’m also bummed that I can’t make it to see you in North Carolina. Super huge bummer. One of these days I WILL fly to see you.

  5. September 22, 2009 5:44 pm

    Jason – prayers for you. just wanted to offer a word of encouragement… to say that I understand your frustrations… and to say that, while I wasn’t there, I’m sure there were plenty of folks in that crowd who were just as frustrated as you with the disrespect.

    A pastor I worked with once told me, “you are responsible for the preaching of the word… you can’t hold yourself responsible for its hearing.” Keep using your gifts for God’s glory.

  6. September 22, 2009 6:31 pm

    Once you quoted a pastor friend who said, “It’s hard for me to trust people who haven’t been broken”…I would venture a guess that the beach ball kids haven’t yet been broken…they are “blissfully unaware” of pain and brokenness.

    In some ways I envy them…some days I think I’d love to return to a state of innocence…in other ways I pity them because they haven’t yet experienced the richness of God’s grace that arrives in moments of desperation.

    Deep calls out to Deep…thanks for sharing the depths of your heart with us.

    When we see that your broken vessel holds water it gives us “God confidence” – hope for our own broken lives.

    ~deb

  7. Jared permalink
    September 22, 2009 7:58 pm

    Jason I know that it sounds kinda harsh what happened to you at that outdoor concert I can relate alittle to that scenario, being a worship leader for a bunch of roudy youngins it would be a long story to explain my scenario. But just know if one person in that group got an uplifting and a certain excitement stirred up in them by something you said or sung to them. It was just so worth it. I love your music dude keep up the good work!

  8. John permalink
    September 24, 2009 3:21 am

    Hey Jason, I was there, and yes I could tell you were not at all happy about the beach balls. I wasn’t thrilled with them either because I really was trying to get into what you were all about. I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I was the first guy back at your table. We chatted briefly and you signed the CD I purchased. I asked some lame questions about what kind of guitar you play, how long you’ve been doing music professionally. Anyway, I have been playing the CD over and over again in my car driving to work and home and have been totally blown away by the depth of the lyrics. I literally cried listening to “For the first time again” and “Fade with our Voices.” And was immediately uplifted with “Help Me, Thank You.” The other three artists that night were enjoyable, but YOU ministered to me. I had never heard any of your music and consider it a real blessing to have met you even in the midst of the beach balls. I know how hard it is to be in ministry confronted with or surrounded by people who only want to be entertained.

    Do not grow weary in your well doing!

  9. CindyC permalink
    September 25, 2009 1:43 pm

    Hey Jason. Hang in there. I love your music. I listen over and over…it speaks to my soul. I heard on the radio you were going to Ardmore, OK, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I don’t go to concerts, just buy the CD’s, and when I heard you would be there, I said “I want to go!” I hope to get to see you sometime. I will keep buying the CD’s. Take time off the enjoy the more simple things in life and to relax and re-charge. I also would not like a beach ball bounce in my face, very distracting.

  10. September 25, 2009 5:44 pm

    So kind of all you guys, thanks so much for your kind words.

    I have an update that I thought you might think is interesting: Last night I played another tour date, and the local radio station was doing a drawing for prizes at the top of the night. I was grateful when the name I heard drawn was actually someone I knew! I would later find how grateful I really was when he came to me at the break and showed me the prize he’d been given (by the local Christian radio station mind you) – a beach ball! Thankfully my friend had read my blog and I think it was God’s mercy to me that it ended up in his hands instead of an audience member with… er… less discretion.

    • September 25, 2009 6:27 pm

      If that is not a God-birthed perfect ending to this story, I don’t know what is. Then again, maybe its just a beginning for this story… There’s a message worth singing about here! Peace to you.

  11. Amy permalink
    September 26, 2009 9:38 pm

    Hey i was at the show with the bech balls. I thought it was soo rude that they even brought those out, that was the place for them to be! I completly agree that you said that about how would youlike it if… that was amazing! I really enjoy your music, so thank you for being amazing! 🙂

  12. September 30, 2009 1:42 am

    Jason,
    I came to the illumination festival that weekend, and in all honesty, I was really there to hear Phil Wickham’s music. But that is the beautiful thing about concerts, you go for one thing, and leave with so much more than you imagine. What I left with? The encouragement from your words and lyrics, a great cd, and a refresher of where I’ve been in my life and how I am called to serve. I apologize that you had to experience those beach balls (I was pretty disappointed about that too), but you really came off very gracious despite that conflict going on inside. Jason, I am the type of person who goes to events early and stays late, to experience the whole thing. Especially when it is fellowship and worship. I am so thankful to have heard your set and now I have some really inspiring, new music to praise God with! Thank you! I just want to encourage you in your music; there really are people listening out there, God is just trying to challenge you. Also,thank you for your little speech about world vision. My family has a “sister” we support in Bangledesh and I plan on supporting, on my own, another child once I graduate college. When you talked about going to that community in Africa and having them surround the minibus, my imagination was immediately immersed back to this summer when I was in Zambia. Truly powerful stuff! Keep on keeping on, and God Bless.

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