Tag Archives: connections

Reunions… Dreamscape and Beyond

Dreamscape back then

Dreamscape back then

This past weekend a ten-year dream of mine finally came true. I got to join up once again with the guys from Dreamscape, the band I played in during my college years. In the mid-90’s, we were all high school and college-aged guys with the whole world in front of us. We worked hard at our music, played all over the Annapolis area, and had the time of our lives. We became the best of friends and the best of combined musical talent. Looking back, those were definitely the “wonder years” of my youth.

Leading up to Friday night, the five of us spent a lot of time hashing up memories of the band days– the events that led to the creation of our band, crazy gigs we did, songs we used to play, people we remembered, etc., etc. And while it stirred up a lot of joy to recall those stories, it led us to the realization that we’re far gone from being the kids we were back then. While I don’t consider myself “old”, the experience elucidated the fact that indeed we’re all getting older.

However, the first hint I was given that perhaps we’re no longer the young guys we used to be came from my daughter, of all people. After the band agreed to get together, practice, and do a show, I got very excited and gleefully broke the news to my family. I thought they would be elated! But immediately, my oldest daughter began to laugh…I was crushed!

Disappointed, I asked her, “What’s so funny?”

She replied with an innocent smile, “Daddy, you all are old!” Hmm… That was a sobering dash of cold water. Needless to say, I tried to not ponder that thought for too long.

the guys from Dreamscape

the guys from Dreamscape… now!

Well, after a few months went by and a handful of practices, the Dreamscape reunion finally happened, and in a nutshell, we had the time of our lives! Playing music with guys who were my dearest of friends and listening to the cheering of the crowd who came to see us was simply electric.

Another nutshell word to describe the evening: surreal. Here were the five of us from Dreamscape, after eleven years, playing all of that familiar music in front of many familiar faces, some of whom we hadn’t seen since high school. It felt like deja vu. I looked around and found  that not only was the evening a band reunion, but it also shaped up to be a high school reunion of sorts, too.

And then somewhere in one of our sets of music, it hit me… My daughter was right. I am getting older.

I realized that when we were ten years younger, we got together to have parties, concerts, gatherings, hang outs, and all of that. That’s what young people do. But what do older people do? They– and now, yes, we in their company– have reunions. Reunions are all about the joy of nostalgia, memories, recreating former bonds, and reminiscing on the effects the years have had on us. Young people don’t do that, but older– dare I say old!– people do it all the time.

So would I take part in another reunion like this again? Absolutely! In a moment’s notice I would. There are few pleasures in life that surpass the deep satisfaction times like these grace upon their participants. Yet as inspiring as the music was, the experience went well beyond notes and instruments. It was the human bonding that struck deep chords within me. If for nothing else, the hugs, the smiles, the surprises, and the conversations were well worth every one of our efforts to put on that Dreamscape show.

Late that night as my wife Blairlee and I drove home through the rain, Blairlee fell asleep, and in the quiet of our ride home, I got to thinking. I began to understand why people who are maturing in years look forward to things like heaven. Older people don’t see heaven primarily as an escape from life’s pains. That’s how young people tend to view heaven.  But heaven, properly understood, is a reunion– a reunion with God and with those who have gone on before us. Even in a noisy bar setting where my band played and people knocked back drinks through the evening, as people shared the joy of their reunion, perhaps way down in their souls, God continued to do some tugging, whispering to us all, “If you think this reunion is great, I have an even better one in store for you, if you’ll only listen, believe, and follow me.”

The Apostle Paul, always keenly aware of heaven’s imminence, once told an ancient church,

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

I love this passage. It’s comforting, beautiful, and quite powerful, too, especially if we can draw ourselves to believe the promise Paul points to. This, after all, is what all our earthly reunions foreshadow. Paul paints a picture of the Great Reunion in which both the dead and the living are caught up together into one final, eternal gathering. And it’s all made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus, who gave his all that we would never be estranged from God and from one another ever again.

What could possibly be better than to know that God has provided a way for us to never be parted from himself or from one another, even beyond the shroud of death?

Looking at life and eternal life this way, I have an even greater desire for reunion now. Call me crazy or maybe too far gone, but I pray that one day Dreamscape and all those people who came to see us would be reunited again one Final Day. Only this time, the music we play will be in praise of the God who made us, loves us, and died for us. And our hands would be clasped together and with the Lord’s nail-scarred hands in a great celebration of God. And this time, there would be no one to yell at us, “All right, it’s time to close up and go home!” For our Lord would be the host.

The food and wine would be served from his own banquet table, and the party would never end…

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Real Connections in a Networked World: A Sabbath Day Reflection

Living in a small town like Laurel, no matter where you go, you’re apt to encounter a whole plethora of people. While it’s not quite the size and movement of a city, I definitely meet large numbers and a diversity of people all the time. I’ve also got the small town blessing of regular neighbors and friends whom I frequently see. On my Sabbath day today, I went out walking with my son Jacob while praying one of my favorite prayers, “Lord, show me where you are at work right now. Allow me to see where you are and what you’re doing.” I pray this in keeping with Jesus’ words about himself,

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does… (John 5:19-20a)

Striving to be like Jesus, one of my daily goals is to look for the activity of God around me and to join in.

So, as I walked along, I began to notice a pattern with passing by people I don’t yet know. There was either minimal eye-contact or maybe a muttered “hello”. But very little effort was given by either of us to genuinely connect. Have you ever wondered why this is? In situations like these, my first inclination is to avoid striking up a conversation with a stranger. I can do it, yes. It’s something I’ve trained myself to do, but it’s not my gut impulse to give a cheerful, “Hey, how are you doing? Where are you headed today?”. Part of me thinks I should be more open to them; after all, I bear the good news of Jesus Christ, something they need. Shouldn’t that be worth the effort?

And yet while we’re hesitant to connect with a stranger on the street, many of us could say that we’re highly networked with numerous people, many of whom we don’t know very well, if at all. For example, I’m active on Facebook, write this blog and through them, have conversations with people I’ve never met before. As a pastor in my community and a part of a larger United Methodist connection, I network in cooperative ventures with hundreds and hundreds of people, some of whom I barely know.

Networking, especially on Internet social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Xanga are all the rage. So it’s ironic that with all of these virtual connections, so many of us find ourselves feeling incredibly lonely. It astounds me that someone can look at a computer screen filled with scores of “friends” while looking at all of their contacts listed on a Blackberry and still, at the end of the day, feel isolated. It’s happened to me before…
Circle of hands 2 lowSo as Jacob and I walked on a path along the Patuxent River here in town, I saw something I had never seen before in all my times up and down that path. A Laurel police cruiser was actually driving on the pathway! I pulled Jacob’s stroller over to let him pass, but he waved me on and then rolled his window down.

“Hello there! How are you doing?” I asked.

“Just fine,” he said. “I saw you have some precious cargo, so I thought I’d let you all pass by first.”

“Well, thank you! This is an interesting, out of the way beat you’ve got here, officer,” I said.

“Ahh… I’m just making sure there’s no trouble down here. We had a stabbing recently nearby between two homeless guys, so I’m just trying to keep this area safe for folks.”

“Well, thanks,” I said. “I probably know who they are. I’m the Senior Pastor up at First UMC on Main Street, and we do a lot of work with our homeless population.”

And on and on we went, back and forth, probably for ten minutes or so. We talked about both of us needing to get in better shape and the safety of our community. After we said goodbye, I walked away grateful for the opportunity to get to know this man and wondered how my church could do more to honor and thank our local police department. But it all began with an open “hello” and some neighborly conversation. I only wished I had more time to talk with him. And I wished even more that I had slowed down enough to talk to some others I passed while out walking.

I think God answered my prayer by reminding me that most of us in this transient,  fast paced, highly mobile, digitally networked world are starved for meaningful relationships. For all the same reasons, we’re not so certain how to keep strong the relationships we already have. No wonder the divorce rate is high. Our children are increasingly acting out and growing up far too quickly. We fill our emotional gaps with multimedia stimulation. More people are prone to addiction and mental illness.

To a degree, our culture will always suffer from these things because we are fallen creatures. However, these diseases have risen to pandemic levels as families, communities, and churches cease to be the environment where people find their personal moorings. The real connections of family, community, and Church continually remind us who we are and whose we are. Otherwise, we drift into a morass of loneliness and existential crisis.

God also reminded me to do one more thing: slow down. Take the moment to just to talk and listen with people. Don’t worry so much about time and obligation. Make space for people, for anyone– strangers and most especially the people I’m closest to. Think of every opportunity I have to speak with someone as a gift from God. For we never know just how a person, each made in the likeness of God, could turn out to be among God’s richest blessings.

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Filed under Spiritual Growth and Practice