This past Sunday marked my fifty-eighth anniversary on this planet. As birthdays go it went all right; a far sight better than has been the unfortunate norm the past several years. Skipping the gory details, suffice it to say the acronym ASB has oft been used to describe another birthday. I add that if you genuinely need me to spell out what the S stands for, you are quite the innocent little waif.

Not that this year’s birthday was entirely minus angst and anxiety, with a dash of aggravation plus animus thrown in for good nature. The days leading toward the event featured several unpleasant moments on multiple fronts, this coming to a head one afternoon when a workplace incident left me quite angry and not a little frightened. I was not a happy camper.

Related to this, it’s sadly noted a lot of people I deeply care about have been wading through some deep mire lately. Relationships, employment/financial struggles, you name it. With no disrespect meant to the divine, it has been one of those times when individually and collectively it has been wondered aloud whether God is out on an extended cigarette break and His answering machine isn’t accepting any more incoming messages. People, good people, are hurting. Bad.

Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, the mountains would obey their command to move. Many of us have faith, yet it seems as whoever may be ordering the mountains about as of late has decreed they fall on top of us. When you are angry and scared; when you keep crashing into dead ends in your job search, when your love life consists of striking out before you can so much as emerge from the dugout, when your loved ones (as Terry Scott Taylor so brilliantly put it) mounted up like eagles but now are dropping like flies, when you see the loudmouth cretin down the road luxuriating with the gorgeous spouse and perfect kids and well lined bank account while you have none of the above … yes, you do start to wonder, even with promised eternity in Christ, what’s the deal. And, how are we supposed to deal with a bitter, seemingly endless losing streak.

Sometimes the only way to deal is burying our face in Jesus’ bloodstained robe and crying our eyes out, asking for comfort and asking Him why. We know the Scripture about how now we see through a glass darkly, but there are times when it seems like the glass is shattered and its shards are slicing us to ribbons. We just want it to end. We need tangible relief. We need something we can grab onto.

The other night, following the aforementioned afternoon when elements both longstanding and sudden were kicking the stuffings out of me, what came to me as a lifeline was a song from over forty years ago.

It was a song straightforwardly declaring faith’s fundamental, calling the seeker home to the One who loves him or her.

The song reminded me of the joy I once knew as a new believer, bursting with love and joy and terrible naïveté about how in so many things not only did I not have the answer, I most likely didn’t so much as have the question right.

It reminded me that through the years, through the high and lows, the doubts and fears, the anger and tears, as well as through all the moments when I felt God’s presence in every fiber of my being, Jesus had remained faithful.

The song reminded me that even in the hurting times He has been and is there, His seeming indifference an illusion belayed by the truth that this, too, shall pass even though in the immediate it hurts like hell.

It reminded me that there is an ending to all this, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with whispering, “Come quickly, Lord; I’ve had enough.”

The song reminded me to trim my sails and turn my ship to the Lord.

It was quite the pleasant early birthday present.

I’ll take it.

Had a bit of a health scare yesterday. Prepped for my closing shift; set out the door for my daily dose of public transportation thrills … and had to turn back toward home a few minutes into my usual twenty minute walk, as shortness of breath and overwhelming fatigue took center stage. Most unusual, in that I’ve never had the slightest trace of asthma. Caught my breath and a bit of energy some time after very slowly walking home, but definitely not how I’d planned to start the day.

Thinking back on it, I’m still not sure what set off the incident. What it accomplished was reminding me of a few facts, one being that I’m now entering the season of life where one need be mindful of family history regarding heart attacks, namely the plentiful nature thereof. Obviously it wasn’t one, given how I’m presently present, but still. Faithfully take your blood pressure medicine (I do) and watch the stress (okay, so I’m batting .500).

Without either becoming morbid or frantically running around like a moron trying to accomplish all my life goals before lunch tomorrow, it’s good to have a sense of urgency regarding what needs to be done. Have I chatted with that friend lately. Have I both told and shown those I love the love I hold for them. Am I actively fulfilling the Great Commission to tell others of Christ’s love in word and more importantly deed. These things I can do; indeed, these things I must do despite my rumbling bumbling stumbling fumbling humanity. If these together are not the central theme, life is an unbalanced gyroscope.

This ties into why I constantly beat the classic Christian rock drum. It’s not a job; I haven’t seen a dime for writing about it since my last paying gig freelancing for a music magazine in 1994, and I will never sell enough copies of my book to recoup expenses, let alone earn anything. Rather, it’s because I have to. It’s my obligation. Everything else, including (gasp!) politics, runs second.

Yes, it’s irksome when I see writers who, all false modesty aside, can’t hold a candle to me endlessly promote themselves while receiving lavish praise for their latest two bit entry in the great conservative new media circle jerk. They don’t change anything. They don’t influence public policy. They do precious little education save for the truly uninformed. That said, it is what it is, to resurrect that extraordinarily overused expression of some years ago. Far better to do what it is I am called to do, letting others deal with the consequences of their own actions.

There are times when we need a reminder – say, a health scare – taking us back where we need to be and back to what we need to be doing. I can’t change the world. I can’t, or at the least haven’t to date, convince nearly enough people to listen to and actively support music designed and dedicated as God’s language. But these things I can do: what I’m supposed to, and what I am able to do. So may it ever be.