VIDEO: Turning Pro

What Do You Do When You Belong to Two Cultures?

For years I struggled in life. I was torn. I was drawn to one culture, but I was a part of another culture.

A childhood in suburban America gave me a deep love for the beauty found in independent rock music, in skateboarding, and in the modern Western mythology found in films, art, and comic books.

But the people I belonged to were the people who follow God, His Word, and profess faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Yeshua (Jesus). And when you’re part of a people group, a culture grows up around it.

One culture was beautiful to me, but it lacked truth, the other culture was based on a solid foundation of truth, but it lacked beauty. I longed for both – beauty and truth, but they were hard to find.

Over the years, I learned to play the guitar, and I used it to express songs that were already forming in my mind. My love for bands like Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Guided by Voices, and the lesser-known Polyphemus influenced my music style.

I started playing in bands, playing shows, and I made studio recordings. But every attempt to fully embrace my art and culture made me feel like I was walking a tightrope, like I was treading in a world where I didn’t belong.

Being in a rock band exposes you to all kinds of things. Maybe you can imagine things like substance abuse, promiscuous behavior, and generally rebellious behavior.

Those things weren’t the really big issues. If they were around, they were only hinted at. And whenever there was a hint, I made sure to run the other way.

What was prevalent, however, pervasive even, was a brooding sense of self-pity. A focus on one’s self. A wallowing in an emotional state that kept you in a sort of immature stasis.

Every song you wrote, every guitar riff you play, are yours and yours alone. They’re immeasurably valuable, and no one can have them but you. You are the god of your art. And everyone should worship you.

That is just plain wrong. It’s a wrong way to treat your fans, your band members, your friends, and your family. And it will leave you lonely and alone.

After years of this kind of living, I became sick of it. I just wanted to do what was right in life. I wanted to make a living, care for my family, and not be immature any more.

I tried. I shut down my record label and distribution. I hardly played any more shows. I got a job in an office somewhere. And I was unhappy. I had no vision.

After a while, I longed to play music again. So I reasoned with myself, “if no one if listening to my music, if no one is seeing me play live, should not at least someone benefit from my music? What if I spent my time making music for God, could He at least benefit from my music?”

I decided to ask to play worship music at the 24-hour house of prayer worship center run by my in-laws. The music plays for 24 hours a day there, seven days a week.

The time is broken down into 1-2 hour blocks, called “watches”. I asked to take a 2-hour watch every Saturday night. So, every Saturday night, myself, my wife, and a handful of friends would make music in the worship center.

There was a challenge. I felt like I was walking the tightrope again, but this time it was different. The pressure was to create beautiful music, but that also encouraged people to worship God. Music that wasn’t about me or my feelings.

Now, there are plenty of songs like that out there, plenty of hymns and worship songs. The problem is, I didn’t write those songs.

I wrote a whole bunch of other songs, so what do I do with them? Can I not play those songs during my worship time?

I decided it was time for some new songs. So I wrote a couple. Some were better than others. But one of the songs had the greatest effect on myself. It encouraged me to worship. I remember playing it on one of those Saturday nights, completely spent. I let everything that was in me out.

But aside from that moment – a defining moment for me – I haven’t played that song all that much. In fact, I’ve been writing and rewriting the lyrics for years, just trying to get it right.

Here’s my current version of the song, currently called “Turning Pro”. The title is inspired by Steven Pressfield’s book of the same name. Also, it’s inspired by the following passage from Psalms 16:

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11 [NKJV]

It’s about making a choice to serve God as your life’s occupation.

Lyrics to the song above:

You, You talk in rhymes
a thousand times
and wind blows chimes
and people spend
their dimes in vain

You took our pain
You bring our rain
and make it plain
when You explain
how we should live

Oh, how we live
and learn to give
it’s positive
that nothing gives
with Your embrace

To know your face
to fill a place
with a grace
the human race
just wants to know

So hear we go
with steady bow
to be a pro
at bowing low
unto Your throne

You, You know my name
You took my shame
and stay the same
while we proclaim
how great You are

You’re never far
our guiding star
with my guitar
I’ll go to war
to crown You king

And thus we sing
with everything
just like the king
who took a sling
for one good throw

So hear we go
with steady bow
to be a pro
at bowing low
unto Your throne

To be a pro
at bowing low
unto Your throne