A guy named Tim Lambesis recently hired a hitman to kill his estranged wife. He paid the man a thousand dollars and promised another $19k once he’d confirmed his wife was dead. He gave the hit man specific times that his children would be alone with him, to be sure they were safe and that he had an alibi. When it turned out that the hitman was actually an undercover detective, Lambesis was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison.
This probably wouldn’t have made national news coverage, except that Lambesis was the lead singer for a popular “Christian” band.
Shortly before his trial, the singer gave an interview and explained how he and his bandmates had become atheists throughout their years of touring. In order to maintain record and concert ticket sales, the band decided to continue marketing themselves as “Christian.” In the interview, he shared openly about his struggle to be honest and the “cowardly” way he handled it. He talked about the Christian music scene and said “9 out of 10 ‘Christian’ bands we toured with weren’t actually Christians.” Lambesis’ cautionary tale reminded us of a gross reality within the Church:
You can totally fake it.
Actually, you can totally fake it and loads of people won’t even know that you’re faking it. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between who you really are and who you pretend to be on Sunday morning. And if Christian rock stars can get away with faking it, couldn’t worship leaders as well?
When I was in second or third grade I decided to try out for the talent show.
I had an incredible plan. I was going to do a hip hop lip-sync and dance performance. I had a blue Nike beret that I planned to wear sideways. I had shoes that lit up when I busted sweet moves. I had some fake Oakley sunglasses. I had some wacky home-made Hammer pants that had unbelievable neon designs on them. I couldn’t believe how good this was feeling.
When I was a kid I used to go and spend time with my grandma in the summer. Every Sunday she’d haul me to church with her. And because I never wanted to join Sunday school with a bunch of kids I didn’t know, she’d let me sit through “big people church” beside her.
The first church I remember her taking me to was an old traditional Methodist church. With all the stained glass and the built-in pipe organ and the semi-gothic architecture, I remember feeling like I was in a castle. But that was where my excitement ended. The rest of the time I was confused by when I should be standing or sitting, and why the guy up front was wearing robes, and why everyone was reciting Scriptures together like a chorus of elderly monotone robots.
If I have to listen to the “Frozen” soundtrack one more time, I might stab my eardrums with giant icicles.
It’s my daughter’s fault. That little girl is wearing me out.
Every time we get in the car, she is slowly but surely wrecking my well-manicured Spotify account. “Because you listened to the Frozen soundtrack twenty-three trillion times,” Spotify tells me, “you might also like music from the Veggie Tales, Thomas & Friends, and Caspar Babypants.”
It blows my mind that my two year-old daughter can memorize the lyrics to all those “Frozen” songs in the first place. It also blows my mind how much she wants to build a snowman. But no matter how much I try to sell her on the finer points of The Beatles or Wilco or Arcade Fire, I still hear the same request from that little voice in the backseat: “Fwozen music!”
There’s an interesting thing I’ve observed in my children. They engage with music differently than I do. Like a quality wine or dessert, I like to savor good music. I only listen to my favorite album once a year. No joke. And if I find a new jam, I’ll wear it out for a few days then throw it on my “favorites” list and forget about it. But my kids are different. They can sing the same song over and over and never get sick of it.
I never made a connection between all this and leading worship until recently, when a boy in our congregation approached me after church.
Even for those who try and avoid celebrity gossip, the recent Miley Cyrus debacle was hard to ignore. I couldn’t look at Facebook the following day without seeing half a dozen posts about it. The Internet media had a feeding frenzy. The general public learned what the word “twerk” means. Parents and youth pastors everywhere decried the event and mourned the moral decline of our country, which is apparently “headed to hell in a hand basket.” And thankfully, my buddy Chris was telling people that “Jesus loves Miley Cyrus,” too.
So by Monday night, I figured I had to check it out. As my wife and I talked about our friends’ Facebook posts, she pulled up images from the VMA’s. At first we laughed at the absurdity.
“Well, this is the least surprising news of all time,” I said, considering the endless string of messed-up child stars that litter the tabloids, “She’ll be coked-out and checked into rehab inside six months, guaranteed!”
But as we investigated the pictures and the press coverage, I grew more disgusted. Truth be told, she kind of looked like a flat-chested thirteen year old in a toddler’s bathing suit pretending to have sex with a middle-aged Beetlejuice. The whole scene was a little nauseating. But then it hit me, and I got really sad.
Confession: Of all the songs we sing at my church, I like about five of them.
Meaning, actually like them. Meaning, they’re songs I might listen to outside the four walls of my church.
No doubt this will come as a surprise to a lot of my church-mates and friends, who see me on stage as a volunteer worship leader. Let me explain.
I had the honor of being interviewed by Worship Links – an online library of worship blogs, articles, etc. I got a chance to talk a little about my struggle with worship music:
“…worship music didn’t become a passion for me until just a couple years ago, oddly. My Venn diagrams of “Music” and “Jesus” never really overlapped much until recently. When I was a teenager I became a big music snob. I was always embarrassed by church music. I try to be honest and confessional about that on the blog and within my community. I’m a recovering non-worshiper! (At least corporately speaking.) …God has been kind, and it’s been a strange journey. I’m finally starting to appreciate worship music and its function within the church… “
A couple weeks back, I introduced you to our friends Jennifer and Gloria who agreed to help my son Lincoln with his “Buy Tangawizi a Bed” project. Since then we’ve been in touch, crunched the numbers, and I’m excited to tell you that the trip to find Tangawizi has been scheduled! Here are the details:
May 7th. Jennifer and Gloria have already booked a taxi to leave for Keekorok. They should arrive by evening, where Gloria’s friend (a tracker in the Mara) will greet them. They’ve already sent photos ahead of both Tangawizi and the photographer, hoping for a lead.
May 8th-10th. The ladies, with some help from Gloria’s friend, will search in the area for Tangawizi. Unlike searching for someone in the United States, this might be tricky. They plan to start with the schools- traveling from one to another asking children if they know Tangawizi. Granted, “Little T” (or as I like to call him, “Young ‘Weezy”) is probably not old enough for school. But between siblings and friends, we’re hoping this will be the quickest way to find him.
Once they’ve found Tangawizi, Gloria and Jennifer will buy the bed locally. This will not only save them from carrying a bed all over the Serengheti, but also ensure that the bed is adaptable for Tangawizi’s family. Beyond the bed, we’re still hoping that the token of goodwill can be a means of connecting with Tangawizi’s family and community, and supporting them in the long-term. If there are immediate needs that Jennifer and Gloria can identify, we hope to take care of them promptly, as Lincoln has already raised more than enough to get Tangawizi a bed (see below.)
May 11th. The ladies will return to Nairobi. Lord willing, they’ll have been successful in the search.
Gloria gave us a break down of expenses for the trip:
“Prices are for Jennifer and myself together for a total of five days, travel there, travel back, and three days search. Based on the exchange rate of 85…
- Car rental from Nairobi to Trans Mara and back and all the traveling while there: 17,500/= ($205.88)
- Fuel: 18,000/= ($211.76)
- Lodging: 8,000/= ($94)
- Food: 5000/= ($58.82)
- Interpreter from Swahili to Maa (mother tongue of the Masai): 3000/= ($35.29) – We will hire a Masai when we get there.
Total: 51,500= ($605.75)“
And because I couldn’t resist: “Finding Tangawizi, getting him a bed, documenting the trip, and connecting two little boys from across the world: priceless!”
Lincoln has already raised $833.84 to buy Tangawizi a bed. Out of the extra funds raised, we want to (1) take care of any additional resources Tangawizi’s family might need, and (2) of course, pay our extremely generous couriers for offering to spend five days seeing this through. It’s worth mentioning that neither Jennifer or Gloria has asked us to pay them for their time. But for as kind as they’ve been, we want to offset costs they might incur for not being home for five days. If you’d like to connect with Jennifer and Gloria and help them reach the sick and poor of Kenya, you can help fund them at Project Agape Love and New Territory Ministries.
In twenty days these ladies will set out for Keekorok. That is exciting to type. We plan to have Lincoln draw a picture for Tangawizi and write him a letter. I’ll be sure to post both of them before the trip. Stay tuned!
We have more people to thank than we can even remember at this point. For everyone who’s donated, prayer, and spread the word…we thank you deeply. The more people have gotten involved, the more fun the story becomes. If you’d still like to get involved, you can do that in one of a few ways: (1) Sign up for updates in the “words & music” field to the right. I promise I won’t spam or send pics of naked Japanese people, and you can unsubscribe at any time; (2) Donate via PayPal at email@example.com. All extra funds will go to pay Jennifer and Gloria and buy essential resources for Tangawizi’s community; (3) Spread the word; (4) Pray. The truth is, finding Tangawizi in three days might be very, very difficult. The current rains in Kenya could also delay the trip. There are plenty of things that could go wrong. But I hold on to hope that God has something up His sleeve, and I’m confident our prayers will make a difference. All honor and glory and praise to God.
I was talking with a coworker earlier today about this whole whacky buying a bed situation.
“You know, children have a tendency to train our eyes to see the world in a different way,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.
The more I hang out with my kids, the more I’m convinced they know a few things that I don’t, or that I’ve forgotten. Somehow we grow up and lose our sense of imagination, excitement, and wonder. Somewhere along the line we adults “grew up” and got burned from helping someone. So we just sort of quit.
But when we hang out with our kids, the side-effect is that we start crawling around and playing flashlight hide-and-go-seek again. We buy stuffed rabbit puppets and watch cartoons and buy ridiculous pink outfits. And the same is true with helping people. There is some sweet spot with a kid’s age- somewhere between them crying all the time and them getting sent to the principal’s office- where every kid has uniquely sweet moments. I’m convinced that I need to recover some of that.
So that’s why I’m doing my best trying to keep up with the documentation. My son is inevitably going to look back at the things he’s done in his life. When he looks back on this moment, I hope he can see himself as a kind person who does kind things. There are a lot of things Melissa and I wish for our kids. But if this moment became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Lincoln, we’d be the proudest parents alive.
The Scriptures use the word “Father” to describe God an awful lot. I have a friend who has a hard time making sense of that, because her father is so disinterested in her. Lincoln & Harper’s definition of the word “father” is going to be shaped largely by my actions. That’s a lot to live up to. It makes me really aware and anxious about my failures as a dad. But it also inspires me to try and reflect the kindness of God through my actions. I Hope that when my kids hear “God is like a father,” they’ll sort of get it.
The other reason this particular event is important to me is that I made a promise. I shook a hand. Even if that hand was a three year-old’s who would likely forget the next day, I feel like I should try my best to make good on it. I’ve broken small promises to my son before. One time I said I’d play trains with him on Saturday morning. But I’d stayed up so late Friday night that I just wanted to sleep in and let him veg-out in front of cartoons. I shudder to think that Lincoln’s trust in me is wearing thin when I do stuff like that.
Melissa and I made a resolution to become more responsible and dependable this year. Here’s to making good on that resolution…
Parents, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. The older my kids get the more I realize how much my actions affects them. A wise man once said, “It’s easier to build strong boys than repair broken men.” Any advice on how to do that well is appreciated!
After putting out the word that we’re searching for Tangawizi, we’ve received a lot of emails and messages similar to this one (from a missionary in Kenya):
“Interesting. A few observations here.
‘Tangawizi’ is the Swahili word for ‘Ginger’ … as in ‘ginger ale.’ It is almost certainly a nick-name, not a true given name.
Kekerook is in the Maasai Mara, which is the northern tip of the Serengeti. We do have some staff out there in that area, but finding an individual child with no more than a nick-name would be quite difficult, I’m afraid.
So, they have quite the task ahead of them, I’m afraid…”
The obvious had eluded me, but my wife caught it.
“Wait…’Ginger’? Is Tangawizi a girl?!?”
It would make a lot is sense when you consider what we know about Tanagawizi. After all, there is a pink blanket in the picture, and the shorts sort of look like a skirt. Lincoln’s grandma has resolved to just calling Tangawizi “Little T.” Many apologies to the Tangawizis of the world who we’ve been ignorantly calling a “boy.”
Unfortunately, none if this helps much in the search. Our friend April explained in another email:
“When we were exploring the possibility of establishing a child sponsorship program (in Kenya), it was so difficult to figure out which of the kids were boys or girls. And sometimes their names were very tribal/African so it’s not like I could guess well either!
They shave the kids hair and because of the poverty the kids wear whatever clothes are available to them. Some of the teenage boys in one of our homes was wearing pink girly pajama pants with pink crocks because that’s all that would fit him and then you’d have little girls with superman tees on. It’s sad…SO, I understand the aspect of ambiguity. Unfortunately, that makes it more difficult to track down.”
So that’s more bum news. The ambiguity of Tangawizi’s name and gender are going to make the search significantly more challenging. You can’t just scoot around southern Kenya with picture, saying “have you seen this child?” (Especially if you’ve seen Terminator II…)
Thankfully, we also got a huge piece of good news.
Melissa and I have a friend named Jennifer who works as a chaplain in Nairobi, which is about 150 miles from where we think Tangawizi lives. The same day I posted about searching for Tangawizi, Jennifer emailed us and offered to deliver the bed. Amazing. She also asked if she could document the process. Of course!
To add to the good news, it turns out Jennifer’s best friend Gloria knows her way around the Mara (where we think Tangawizi lives), and has a friend who knows the area and the language (Swahili.) Both women were touched by Lincoln’s quest, and believe God is building an incredible story between two little kids on different sides of the world.
So while the search may be difficult, we’ve got two willing participants. We’re excitedly working on some details with Jennifer and Gloria. We’ll update the progress of the travel plans as soon as possible. Stay tuned…
If you want to take part in the story, you can do so in a few ways: (1) follow the blog to see what will happen with Jennifer and Gloria’s journey to find Tangawizi. (Sign up via email in the “free words and music” field to the right); (2) donate to the fundraiser via PayPal @ firstname.lastname@example.org (all donations will go toward the bed + travel expenses + Tangawizi’s community); (3) Spread the word via email, social media, and good ol’ fashioned storytelling; (4) Send us any information that might be helpful in locating Tangawizi. We’ve spent a lot of our free time int he last week Googling, MapQuesting, and trying to gather info. But between our family, jobs, and school our free time is pretty limited. Any info helps. Plus, who doesn’t like to act like a stalker/fake Google private investigator?