February 8, 2004
Hello musicians, precious to God. It's almost six months since the last FMO newsletter. Thank yous go to many of you who have written or called to say you miss hearing from me. Now I have to confess that it hasn't been a lack of inspiration. I've had the gist of a message since the first week of September, but I've made one excuse after another rather than just "pull the trigger". Since I have run out of excuses, I will share the message with you, dear musicians.
For starters, the original message, had I written it when I was first given it (as I should have) would have been called "Everybody Needs a Name. Everybody Wants a Title." Lately I was thinking of calling it "Performance Anxiety". You see, I was enjoying sitting down at the keyboard and sharing these messages and the feedback I got was at least 90% positive. When it wasn't positive, I figured they had a problem. Well, I find myself with a message like "Everybody Needs a Name. Everybody Wants a Title," and instead of sharing it and moving forward, my engine collapses and I'm hesitating day after day thinking God will give me another message. Guess what. He hasn't.
I was afraid. Chicken. Yellow. Scared. What if people didn't like my message? Wouldn't people be offended? Wouldn't people I thought were friends publicly denounce me? You see why I wanted to retitle it "Performance Anxiety"?
Performance anxiety comes (from the nether regions) when we begin to concern ourselves with whether or not we should do something based on how it will make us appear and what other people will think. PA kills. Precious gifts are buried because of PA. Sometimes people talk about what's the best song ever written, the best play, movie, or painting. When PA takes over, the best songs, plays, movies, paintings don't happen. Fear cripples creativity. It's only through faith in God that the opposite can happen, and I've seen creativity cripple fear. If God gives you a message, share it. If God gives you a song, sing it.
Now, I'm ready to share the message God gave me.
The Bible tells us we're supposed to esteem other people more highly than ourselves (Phil 2:3-4). The world tells us we're the most important person in the world, or we're nobody, whichever lie satan can get us to believe. Most of our childhood, especially once school starts, we're told what we can become if we just cooperate with the program. Early on, children become branded as losers or winners. They adopt heroes, often entertainment figures or professional athletes, and hope someday they'll be important, too.
Usually the path to being somebody requires one to go to college, and then to graduate or professional school to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, dentist, veterinarian, or psychologist. You never meet a seventh grader who says, "I want to be a salesman." In our society, salespeople are thought of as being obnoxious, dishonest, greedy, phony. I should know, because I wound up becoming a salesman and learned a lot about life and people in the process. I struggled for years, and became disillusioned several times when other salespeople became more successful than me while playing fast and loose with the truth. It was only after I decided to get out of sales, and began to put more honesty and time into my relationship with God that He put me in a sales job where I was able to earn the money I'd always heard a good salesman could make.
Back in the mid-eighties, I was a part-time mailman attending a local church in Pottsville. To supplement my income I delivered pizzas for Domino's, did telemarketing, and tried selling various items such as vacuum-sealed foods, water filters, and coupon books. Because I delivered mail, I knew who got the porn magazines and who got the Christian mags. One of my customers had a Christian bookstore, so I visited him and his wife, Irene, who were in their mid-sixties. Stan had started a Full Gospel Businessman's Fellowship International (FGBMFI) chapter in the area, and since I was a former hippy druggie and now a respectable part-time mailman, he invited me to be the speaker at their chapter. I played some tunes and shared my testimony and had a good time.
A few months later, a couple of my friends at church started talking about their experiences with FGBMFI. Both had recently come to the area from other parts of the country. I told them about my friend Stan, and before you knew it, the four of us were meeting to talk about how to start a chapter in Pottsville. We booked a hotel restaurant and contacted lots of people inviting them to come hear a speaker who was a former gangster. Since my two friends were new to the area, my wife and I did all the calling and inviting, and we had about a hundred people turn out. We made sure to have each man sign a register with their name and address and phone number.
Everyone thought the meeting was a big success. The ex-gangster talked about how he had killed lots of people and spent time in prison where he found the Lord. I think back in the eighties the more people you had killed, the more drugs you had ODed on, the more times you had been in a mental hospital, the more banks you robbed, the more people wanted to have you speak at their meeting.
After the meeting, my two friends from church decided we should get together with a fourth man, who owned a car dealership in the area, to draw up a charter and nominate officers, a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. Both my friends were engineers, so our committee was two engineers, a car dealer, and a part-time mailman/ pizza delivery driver.
On the night we were scheduled to meet, there was a huge snowstorm. I had been delivering mail that day and was invited to stay with Stan and Irene. The town I worked in was twenty-two miles from Pottsville, and the road home had some big hills, so I was grateful. I assumed the meeting would be postponed, but when I called the friend who was hosting the meeting, he said they were going to go ahead with it.
The next day I heard about the meeting. The two engineers had nominated themselves to be president and secretary, the car dealer was the vice president, and they had nominated a local chiropractor to be the treasurer. They threw me a bone by asking me to be the "worship leader".
I used to lie awake at night wondering why other men had better jobs than me while words like failure, underachiever, lazy, loser, screw-up, and misfit flitted through my mind. All the while, God loved me and valued me, and told everyone who would listen to think of me, David Benrexi, the part-time mailman, as more important than themselves. Did they listen?
About fifteen years later, I walked away from a sales position where I was earning $3,000 a week. I was selling books to Christian bookstores and churches. I loved the books and I enjoyed selling them. I believed in the value of the items I was selling. I treated people with respect, esteeming each person more highly than I did myself. I knew my "success" was God-given, not a result of my superiority, or because I worked harder than anybody else.
I did drug and alcohol counseling for a couple of years, and have been doing music full-time for almost two years now. Within the church I am still dealing with a world full of engineers, car dealers, chiropractors, doctors, lawyers, the same caste system. As an "ordained" minister (a nebulous term) I get to witness firsthand the idolatry based on a person's name, position, or title on a daily basis.
I responded to a well-known organizations mail shortly after my ordination in June of 2002 by using the title "Reverend" in front of my name. Now whenever I get a call for Reverend Benrexi I know who it is. I don't introduce myself as Rev Benrexi. I'm David. That's all I'll ever be. I'm just as good as you, but I will treat you like you're better than me, even if you treat me like crap. That's because my Daddy loves me, and I want to please Him.
Back in the late 80's I attended a concert for one of Christian music's best known performers. So well known, he doesn't even need a last name. He was extremely popular with "the youth" and I had to withstand a fierce stampede when they first opened the doors at Hershey Park's 10,000 seat arena. Toward the end of the program he offered a free video if you signed up for his mailing list. It was one of those deals where you get the first one free, and then each month another one comes for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling. "You may cancel at any time and the free video is yours to keep." Just for fun, I signed up for the mailing list, using my dog's name. Leo was a golden retriever that we had in our family for fourteen years.
A couple of weeks later, a video for Leo Benrexi, with a postcard to send in to buy other items, or to cancel, if you didn't want to get any more videos at twenty plus a pop. So I checked the cancel box and about a month later a video arrived for Leo Benrexi with an invoice for around $25. I was in a quandary. I didn't want to call the performer's organization and say I was Leo Benrexi, and I sure didn't want to pay for the video. Since I worked at the post office, I asked the postmaster about it, and he said I could keep the video, because I hadn't ordered it, and that I should cancel my membership, again. I did. And the next month I got another video which I returned as "refused". After that, I got numerous invoices for $50 with threats of legal action. I offered to return the videos which I didn't especially enjoy anyway. After a few months, I didn't get any more letters from them.
Over the next few years, Leo, my dog (!) got all kinds of offers--record clubs, life insurance, business opportunities, youth conferences and many appeal letters from an assortment of organizations. He died in 1994. I got a letter for him just a couple years ago from a Christian version of Columbia Records, with a come-on letter from the same performer I'd seen in Hershey Park back in 1986.
The Christian world is full of stars who market their products, whether it's singing, speaking, dancing, teaching, or whatever. Whenever I visit someone's web-site I am likely to be reminded that they are more important than I am. Phrases like "sought-after conference speaker", "internationally known prophet", "a dynamic voice on the cutting edge of today's youth", "author, lecturer, and acclaimed recording artist" flow like wine at a wedding. I can't remember there ever being so many doctors back in the early days of my twenty-four year adventure with God's Son.
"Brothers and sisters, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you a man who is recognized every where for his amazing insight into the development of the modern school of biblical interpretation, a great yet humble man, who has devoted more than fifty years of his life to serving the Lord, a Doctor, Pastor, Bishop, and Apostle, His Eminence, Sir Leo Benrexi. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)
I was at a Christian Bookstore the other day, where I get a 20% discount as a full-time minister, and they were selling a book by a very famous author who claims that he receives messages from God through a dolphin. I'm sure you've seen the book--"The Porpoise Driven Life".
Anyway, success in God's eyes is very different from success in the world's eyes. The world can't give it to you, but God can, and He wants you to have it. You can't have it without obedience. Now that I have obeyed God and shared this message, I feel a whole lot better. Whatever God asked you to do that you may have pulled back from, that you have been putting off, take a tip from one who knows. Procrastination is a slow form of suicide. Just do it!
Here is a song called 'Cheerful Giver' about our idolatry. I hope you enjoy it.
Sometimes we try to raise money/ When we really need to repent/ We think that the truth of the gospel/ Boils down to dollars and cents
Chorus: We all want to live in a nice house/ And wear clothing that's in style/ god loves a cheerful giver/ So when you pay me, be sure to smile
I know how to make an impression/ I teach it at my seminars/ My books they are selling like hotcakes/ At all of the Christian bookstores/ I don't even have to write them now/ They pay just to use my name/ Because it's my name people are buying/ And money's the name of the game (chorus)
I know how to lead worship/ Till the people are piled on the floor/ I've played these songs so many times/ Still they keep asking for more/ Seventeen bucks for a CD!/ Is a bargain, don't you agree?/ To know that you're getting great music/ And the privilege of listening to me (chorus)
Listen to this song at http://www.mydaddylovesme.org/real/wag_07.ram
I thank you all who didn't delete this message. I don't take your love for granted. I thank God for you. Your feedback is extremely welcome. We need to esteem others more highly than we do ourselves, as a people. I welcome the opportunity to tell you how important you are to me.
As always, if you'd like to share anything I've tried to give with someone else, do it. If you want me to promise never to write to you again, and you've been a Christian for at least five years, and make at least $25,000 a year on your job, and you attend church at least three times a month, and you brush your teeth at night, and you're not addicted to drugs, please send your notarized request signed by at least two witnesses along with the $50 my dog owes for the videos to the address listed at the web-site.
Remember, we're musicians. We travel to the beat of a different drum!
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