Thursday, September 24, 2009

GPS (G-d"s Positioning System)

"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)

Jenny and I recently purchased a Garmin. We bought it in Los Angeles during the week of orientation for my daughter's freshman year at college. We thought a "global positioning system" would come in handy on our trips to California for both ministry opportunities and visits with Misha. Now we can navigate our way through any city or state... (while also making it possible for any overarching authority in the country to keep track of us; but I digress!)

The system is helpful, especially when it is not safe to attempt reading a map while driving. A calm and confident female voice tells you where to go and, if you miss a turn, simply says, 'recalculating.' She never yells at you or calls you an idiot or scolds you for not listening to directions. She is the perfect driving companion.

She does have one shortcoming, however. She doesn't think; she only tells you what she's been told.

During our most recent trip to the east coast we told our GPS the address of an old friend in Annapolis, Maryland. We had an engagement in Delaware and thought it would be nice to visit her on our way back to New Jersey where we were staying, as we often do, at Jenny's mother's house. We typed in the right house address but the wrong town and, upon realizing our error, corrected it. No big deal. Our GPS girl (whom an acquaintance dubbed "Garmina") got us there, and we enjoyed our time with our friend, spending the night in her lovely home.

The next morning, I stumbled out of bed and my own internal GPS said, "GO FOR COFFEE!" I headed into town, certain I would find a Starbucks or something similar somewhere along the way. I drove a while and, before arriving in the heart of Annapolis, I hit heavy traffic. Frustrated, (and still coffeeless) I headed back the way I came. In the early morning pre-caffeine mental muddle, I overshot the street I thought led back to the house. Further frustrated, I stopped to turn the car around and...voila...directly in front of me was the green, white and black of a Starbucks sign! I sighed with excitement and whispered a little thank you heavenward for divine non-Garmin guidance.

With joy in my heart and a latte in my hand, I decided to let the GPS lead me, since I was unsure as to how to find my way back. I tapped and tapped until I found the proper address and started to drive, so proud of myself that I had figured out how to operate my new device and could count myself a citizen of the 21st century!

Garmina dutifully told me to turn right on a street, the name of which I recognized. So far so good. Then she directed me to a road I didn't recognize, but I figured she knew better and was taking me an alternate route. From there she led me to a freeway and, I have to admit, I started to wonder what she was thinking. One highway led to another...and another...and another...and before I knew it, what should have been a five minute drive had become a half hour journey with no end in sight. Needless to say I was not happy with my girl's decisions and I told her so! (She didn't respond.)

FINALLY...she told me I was arriving at my destination...and I did. Amazingly, it was the correct house number and street name...but the WRONG TOWN! Then I remembered. She was reading the pre-corrected information we had given her. She was only doing what she was told. I apologized to her for questioning her decisions, admitted my mistake, sheepishly punched in the post-corrected info, and away we went.

I was embarrassed and flustered and concerned that Jennifer was anxious as to my whereabouts (since I had not taken my cell phone.) To calm myself down I started to flip through radio stations, hoping to find something interesting. I went from one to another and as I did, I heard some music that sounded vaguely familiar. As I listened, a pleasant enough voice began singing: "You have shown me Your paths, Oh Lord. In Your presence is fullness of joy! In Your right hand are pleasures, in Your right hand are pleasures, in Your right hand are pleasures forevermore, pleasures forevermore!"

I was shocked! I exclaimed (to no one in particular), "That's my song! Who is singing my song? I never heard this before! Someone owes me money!! (Sorry about that last one...but I thought it.) Then I realized...IT WAS I WHO WAS SINGING! The song was "Pleasures Forevermore" from my first album, "I Call You Friend." I didn't recognize myself because, even though I've been writing, singing and recording for decades, I had NEVER heard myself on the radio! This was the first time...EVER!!

I continued to listen to the station, (which turned out to be "Family Radio"), and hurried back, hoping Jenny wasn't upset with me and reflecting on what had just occurred.

Had I not gotten lost, I would not have heard myself sing on the radio. I hope it doesn't sound self-indulgent but...I was kind of excited to hear it! In spite of a frustrating and confusing morning, I wondered if that incident had been the finger of the Lord, tapping me on my shoulder. I don't want to read too much into it but, sometimes I think He does that; just to let us know He's there...just to let us know we're not least not really!

Garmina succeeded in returning me to our friend's house. Jenny was, thankfully, still asleep. And, as I enjoyed my early morning latte, I quietly marveled at the thought that G-d could care enough about someone like me, that He would send me a delightful surprise out of the middle of nowhere! When I thought I was hopelessly lost...He let me know I was mercifully found! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...(even when it comes through the radio.)

Or perhaps it was just a crazy, random coincidence. Who knows? Whatever the case, I know this: He DOES show me the path of life and in His presence is fullness of joy! My ride back to my friend's home was a joyful one and, when I related my tale to her, we had a good laugh.

As a matter of fact, I think we need to laugh more in general. We are not lost. He knows the way we take, even when we make mistakes and find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. It's good to have a GPS girl to help us when she can...but it is our G-d who will lead us home!!

Yours on the journey,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Many years ago, when I was living in New York City, my friend Ann Ault had me play a song on the piano. It was called "Charity" and was based on something called "The First Letter to the Corinthians." I had no idea as to what "Corinthians" were, (though the actor Ricardo Montalban had done a commercial for a car that featured "fine Corinthian leather." Letter or leather, this young Jewish man from Cleveland was clueless!

Little did I know that the words of "1 Corinthians 13" were written by another Jewish man named Saul, a rabbi from a placed called Tarsus; a man who became known to the world as Saint Paul. His ancient writing had been put to music by a modern fellow named Kenn Gulliksen. I had no idea who he was either, but I recall liking the piece.

Fast forward a year or two, and Ann has led me in a prayer of commitment to Yeshua (Jesus), I am part of a congregation called "The Vineyard," Kenn Gulliksen is the pastor, and I am singing songs based on passages from the pen of men like Saint Paul!

Fast forward even further and I am in California with Jennifer Yaffee, a girl whom I first saw at the Vineyard and married a little while a later. Twenty-five years have passed since we wed in Los Angeles, had a daughter, Danyel Misha, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee to raise her. There, in what is sometimes called the "buckle of the Bible belt," she grew into a lovely and loving young lady who has, in spite of her earthly father's many faults, a heart that seeks after the heart of her heavenly Father. For eighteen years I have been nothing but pleased with Misha; now I stand amazed as I watch her do her best to please Him!

And now, Jenny and I are the proud (and nervous) parents of a college freshman. As part of her application to the university she attends, she auditioned for their women's chorus and was accepted. On her first day there, she joined the other young ladies in performing a song for ALL the proud and nervous parents who would, that evening, leave campus--- without their child. (In our case, we left our one and only!)

So, the time has come to let go---and to hold on tighter than ever---in prayer---and in love. That is the one thought, the one emotion, the one truth that seasons everything we are experiencing in this new---and unfamiliar season. In a world of uncertainties and unknowns, this we know and of this we are certain: we love our daughter, she loves us--- and G-d is the author and perfecter of that love.

The rabbi/apostle said it well:

"Love...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13: 7+8)

As valedictorian of her high school class, Misha chose as her theme the words spoken by Yeshua in response to a question as to what was the greatest commandment:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might, shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Matthew 22:37+39)

We could not have been more blessed than we were on our daughter's commencement day when she delivered that moving speech. That same blessing attended us as we listened to her sing on the day she commenced her college career.

Along with the precious daughters of the other assembled parents, Misha sang words which have now become very familiar to her sad/glad dad; the words from "The First Letter to the Corinthians." The composer and the melody were different than the ones to which I had been been introduced so many years before. I had liked "Charity," the first rendition I had heard of 1 Corinthians 13. This new version was life to my soul!

A well known phrase from a song by the group "First Call" goes something like this: I don't know what the future holds but I know who holds the future. Amen.

What more can we ask, Jenny and I, than that our treasured daughter begin this new phase of her life---and ours---with a declaration of the transcendent and permanent power of love! When all has been said and all has been done, love is what remains---love is what abides.

As I write this, we are still in California. Soon we will return to Tennessee and the house which was Misha's home for all but one year of her of her young life. We will miss seeing her off to school in the morning and kissing her good night. We will miss her going out with us, hanging out with her friends and launching out into every new activity we had the privilege of sharing with her these many years---which passed much too quickly!

Should it be on your heart to pray for our family, we would so appreciate it.

In that spirit, we thought you might appreciate hearing the song that brought comfort to our trembling hearts that day we began our farewell to Misha---at least for a while.

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
(1 Corinthians 13: 13)

Thank you, again, for listening.