Did anybody pull any April Fool's Day pranks today? I have a daughter who's getting married in a few months. She nailed me last year. She was visiting from New York City, and I picked her up at the airport on Friday, and she was flying back on Monday which happened to be April 1st. Her flight was at 7:00 in the morning, so we had to get up at around 4:30 to make sure she arrived at the airport an hour early for her flight. Since Valentina and I have a history of pulling pranks on this special day, I thought of various little gags like having car trouble or getting lost, but I figured she'd never fall for anything that obvious. She had stuck her plane ticket on the refrigerator with a magnet for the whole weekend. What I didn't know was it was counterfeit. She had taken the real ticket and the scanner on her computer and changed her April 2nd return flight to an April 1st return flight, and I was driving the forty-five minute trip to the airport to her great amusement. When we arrived and I told her good-by, she said, "Actually my flight's tomorrow. April Fool!"
For one solid year, I dreamed of revenge. I called her on Saturday to tell her that one of my former patients at a drug and alcohol treatment center might call her. My story was that "Mike" was at a center in Brooklyn and had been kicked out for using. He wanted to find me to return some books and tapes I'd given him and make a donation to Zephaniah 3:17 Ministries. He had told the center in Brooklyn he'd be calling my daughter to drop the things off at her apartment. They had called to warn me, my little charade continued. I told her Mike's a really wonderful person when he's sober, but when he drinks he always gets in trouble with the law. An assault, an armed robbery, little things like that. I told her, don't let him know where you live, don't talk to him other than to say your dad will call him, and get his number. "Then, give me a call," I told her.
That was Saturday. Tonight, I had a friend call her at her apartment and say he was Mike and he wanted to return some books and tapes he'd gotten from her Dad (me), and that he could stop by in ten minutes. She said, "I'm not comfortable with that." He asked could he leave them somewhere, and she said, "I don't think so." "Well, I really want to bless your father's ministry,"
"Mike" told her. "What do you want me to do?"
To which Valentina answered, "Why don't you call him? His number's 1-800-April Fool!"
What can I tell you? My daughter's one smart cookie.
What kind of sick person would try to scare his own daughter like that? She told me she could smell that one coming from a mile away. If anyone has any good ideas for an April Fool gag for next year, please let me know.
I ask people often, "Are you a musician?" Try it some time. Hardly anyone will admit to being a musician. It's always something like, "Well, I sing a little. Once in a while I lead worship at church...I'm not really a musician, but I enjoy music."
What's with that? Naturally, I have an opinion. Yeah, I really do. In fact I have several opinions. That doesn't mean I'm opinionated. Don't tell me I'm opinionated just because I have an opinion. Just 'cause a person has several opinions doesn't mean he's opinionated.
You want to know my opinion? I don't care if you don't. I'm gonna tell you my opinion anyway.
We have taken something that is very normal and healthy and simple and turned it into an idol. We have taken something that comes natural and feels good, and made it into something strange and perverted. Instead of allowing the musical gift to be developed within us we are looking for a golden calf to dance around.
If you ask someone if they're a musician, and they say, "Yes. I am!" What then? Now we can tell them we don't like their music. "Let me hurt your feelings for just a minute-- You-u-u-u-u stink!!!!" It's much safer to tell people you aren't a musician, since the critics outnumber the musicians. Maybe if someone hears you singing in church they'll say, "You have a really nice voice." And you think, they're just saying that to be nice.
What's the big deal? Why not fess up. You like to sing. you play an instrument, or wish you could. What are you anyway if you're not a musician? Does being a musician mean you have an audience and they buy your records and show up at all your gigs? Do you write songs that other "artists" record and when they get played on the radio you get a royalty check? Is that the standard?
One of my repertoire of jokes is:
When I was ten I told my mother, "When I grow up, I?m going to be a musician." And she looked at me and said, "Son, you can't do both."
Or, how do you get a musician off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.
So that's my two opinions, people who are musicians say they aren't because they don't want their music to be criticized, and because being a musician or wanting to be one indicates you're a flake.
See, it all goes back to the story about the grasshopper and the ant. The ant was this hard-working no-nonsense suck-it-up strap-it-on get-it-done sort of guy.
The grasshopper was mister life of the party, the world owes me a living, eat, drink, and be merry. And as we all know, when winter came, the ant had food, shelter, a good book to read, and investments. The grasshopper was out on the street getting chased by birds and begging for morsels of food.
And we all know who the grasshopper was supposed to be. It was me, because I'd rather play guitar and sing then do my math homework or mow the lawn or make my bed, clean my room, take out the garbage, tuck in your shirt, wipe that smirk off your face, don't get smart with me!
Yes the ant was wonderful. Oh to be like an ant! Hard-working, no nonsense, suck-it-up, strap-it-on, get-it done. The wonderful, wonderful ant. While that grasshopper's partying and playing, the wonderful ant is doing the little things that make our world a better place.
Oh, such ignorance! Such prejudice! Don't they understand? Ants and grasshoppers are different. God made both. We need ants, sure. But we don't need grasshoppers to be ants. God created grasshoppers to be grasshoppers.
Here is how this poor maligned insect has been misunderstood and vilified so unjustly for all these years. The grasshopper-phobes have convinced many with their slanders that the grasshopper is lazy, foolish, and rebellious.
Lazy? Yes. While the ant, that model of decorum is putting his nose to the grindstone (where it certainly belongs), this lazy grasshopper prefers to socialize, to dance around, to play.
Foolish? You better believe it. While the ant, a paragon of virtue, understands the value of planning and working, the grasshopper just assumes he'll have what he needs when he needs it.
Rebellious? Oh, the shame of his fellow insects. While the ant, an exemplar (found that in the Thesaurus) of submissiveness, can always be counted on to complete his assigned tasks, the undisciplined grasshopper does what he bloody well pleases.
I say, RUBBISH!
Grasshoppers are just doing what ants wish they could do. While there probably are a lot of ants busting their tail to get the job done and thinking, "Why doesn't that grasshopper do some work. I'm getting tired of carrying all this weight. He should have to do something too, the lazy so-and-so," I dare say there's other ants that are thinking, "Man, I wish I could hop around like that. I wish I could fly. Look at him go! That must be cool to jump like that."
Grasshoppers aren't lazy. They're diligent. They keep on doing what grasshoppers do, which is hop through the grass. Did you ever wonder why they're called grasshoppers? You can learn a lot from nature.
Grasshoppers aren't foolish. They're wise. Which would you rather do? Put your nose to the grindstone or jump around. When writing this newsletter is something I have to do because it's my job and I have to complete my job or I don't get paid, step on me and put me out of my misery. It's a lot harder to step on a grasshopper than an ant, because ants are stuck where they are. Not so for the wise grasshopper. It's hard to hit a moving target.
Grasshoppers aren't rebellious. They are obedient. But they don't listen to fools. Sprite commercials say, "Obey your thirst." It took soda manufacturers almost a hundred years to figure this out. Grasshoppers have known this for thousands of years. I'm sure the time spent floating in an ark was much more tolerable for the Noah Ben Lamech family because the grasshoppers energetic movements kept everyone entertained. I can't imagine Ham saying to Japhet, "Check out them cool ants, bro. They ain't stopped buildin' since mornin'."
When you start to care about grades toward the end of middle school, you learn that the "major" subjects are math, science, geography, history, English, spelling, you know the ant things. Study hard, do your homework, finish your problems, get ready for the test.
Then, there are the "minor" subjects: phys ed, shop, art, health, and last but least music. This is about playing. and self-expression, and vile things like that. The grasshopper do-your-own-thing stuff.
I'm past fifty now, and I like the grasshopper things. Math is paying bills and keeping my checkbook balanced. I can use a calculator if I want. Science is knowing not to spray Windex on my scrambled eggs. Geography is using Mapquest to figure out how long it takes to drive to Akron, Ohio. History is remembering where I was when I heard that JFK had been shot (Gym class) and what I was doing when I heard that Elvis died (Washing dishes in Pizza Hut), and remembering what I thought the first time I saw my wife-to-be (Man, that woman is... wow!). English is my native tongue. Spelling is something I'm good at, but for everyone else, there's SpellCheck.
What life is really about is loving God and the people He puts in your life. Work has its place, but the ant has taken it to an extreme. Doing the ant thing can be about laziness, foolishness, and rebellion. One's job is the ultimate place to escape every challenge in life. Work a few hours and you can always say, "I'm sorry, I really don't have time today (tomorrow, next week, or next year)." Work a few hours and you can say all the "I wish I'd..." that people say when their family has departed and the sun is setting on their life. They never say, "I wish I'd worked a few more hours. My life would have been so much richer!"
Yes, I'm a musician. I work at playing. I sing to the one Who gave me the ability and desire to sing. Why did He give me that ability and desire? For His pleasure. God is not a critic. He does all things well. I'm one of those things. Do you get it?
The bible tells us that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the non-believers" (I Corinthians 4:4). School is where this blindness is taught every day. Do schools teach our young people about God? No, they're not allowed to. Like good little ants, they work hard at staying busy, because an idle mind is the devil's playground. Who said that anyway?
Even "Christian" schools put academic performance ahead of practicing love. It's enough to discourage a grasshopper.
Back in the mid-70s, there was a show called "Kung Fu" which starred David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, a Chinese-American who was raised in a Shaolin temple by the masters, Master Po and Master Khan. He learned everything about life so that wherever he went he always said the cool thing and blended into the scenery unless ignorant men attempted to beat him up at which point he would jump up and down and spin around and men would go flying in six directions. Then he would bow apologetically and have a flashback.
It was during the flashback that either Master Po or Master Khan would call him the name by which he was affectionately known during those formative years. Do you remember the name?
Are you a musician? Yes I am!
What kind of music do you play? I sing songs about love and life.
What style is it? It's Hebrew-American Calypso Reggae folk-rock pop-fusion alternative jazz soul.
Do you see how people want to turn music into a product so they can criticize it? They want to put a label on it because they can't play it. If God gives you a gift, it belongs to you. If you can give it to someone else, you won't lose it. You'll get more of it. The more you are willing to give it away, the more He will give it to you. Don't let the devil tell you, you don't have a gift. He only tries to steal what belongs to us. If he needs a hundred dollars and you only have ten, he'll find someone with a hundred. So the fact that he wants you to question whether or not you have a gift should tell you that you DO.
Now, what have we learned from that diligent, wise, obedient grasshopper?
We now understand that musicians need to play music. If someone is discouraging you from playing music, you need to take a deep breath and say, with conviction, "I am a musician. I love to play music. God made me like this in His infinite wisdom. Excuse me, I've got to go play some tunes!"
One thing that I've seen discourage a lot of musicians in the body, is when your musical gift isn't appreciated at the church you attend. We'll look into this in a very serious way next time. It's much better than it looks once you get God's perspective on the situation. Sound like a worthwhile topic? If not, tell me what is, and I could talk about that instead. We had some very excellent letters concerning "The Ham and Cheese Revelation" which I hope to share next time.
I'll close with... Don't you love that expression. I've heard some preachers go on for half an hour after the first, "I'll close with..." There's the ten-minute close, the five-minute close. Recently, I heard a preacher say, "I'll close with..." and he really did. Everyone was amazed.
Here's a song that kind of says it better than I was able to in this attempt at writing a newsletter and pulling an April Fool prank on a daughter I trained too well:
Wrap Your arms around me LORD/ Tell me You love me/ I need to hear You say You do/ Because I am in love with You/ I'm in love with You/ I'm in love with You You wash me LORD/ You make me clean/ So in Your presence I may dwell/ You've given me the victory/ Over all the hosts of hell/ You've given me the victory/ And I'm in love with You/ You've given me the victory/ And I'm in love with You I am in love with You/ I am in love with You
This song may be accessed at LISTEN NOW It's track #6 on 'Draw Near to God'. It's an awesome song!
It's okay to share this message with someone else if you think they'll still respect you in the morning. I'm sure I love everyone who has read this far. There may be days when that thought will bring a smile to your face.
Joe Friday says, "My name is Friday. I'm a cop. I carry a badge." He was an ant in school.
I say, "My name is Benrexi. I'm a musician. I carry a tune!"
"Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are. " (Nahum 3:17)
That's where musicians started using the phrase, "I gotta split! Later, dude."
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