Being on facebook has really triggered some old memories. As I have reconnected with friends from elementary school, I have been thinking more about my childhood than I have in many, many, many years. Last night I sat down at the piano and was messing around and recalled the very first song that I ever wrote. I had not thought about it in years and cannot find it anywhere.
The summer that I was 16, I had the incredible opportunity to spend the summer in Russellville, Arkansas, at a music camp for gifted musicians. Not being in band, it was the first time that I had really been involved deeply with other musicians. There were several benchmark moments in my life that summer at camp. But last night I was remembering a friend who could see straight through my facade and taught me what a friend really was.
Douglas was an incredible trumpet player from somewhere in south Arkansas. We immediately connected as musicians, probably the first time that I had ever experienced that weird chemistry thing that musicians have together. We were thick as thieves, very instantly best friends. We were absolutely inseparable for the entire summer at camp. He was my first African-American friend, which in Arkansas was a big deal at the time. He was a hands-on lesson that the ethnicity of friends is not important. Douglas was the first person that I ever met who had an extraordinary spirit of discernment and was not afraid to tell it like it was. I was doing a great job at that time in my life of pretending to be a follower of Christ. He very literally one day sat me down and said something along the lines of "You are the biggest hypocrite I have ever seen in my entire life." He was right of course, since I had never even made a decision to follow Christ and was just being fake. He was refreshing and real.
Our big project at that camp was writing and performing a song for a panel of judges. I guess it was American idol before there was such a thing. The top three songs were then performed in front of a live audience on the final night of camp. I wrote my first song, based out of Ps. 46 and Is. 43. "God is our refuge and strength, therefore we will never fear. Even if the earth shakes and the mountains fall into the sea. Do not be afraid, for I have called you by your name and you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you. For I am he Lord, you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Not the lyrics to the song, these are the verses the song was based on, since I cannot find the song, I cannot remember how it went.) Last night God was using these verses to remind me about who He is and what kind of stuff He is capable of doing - but that is a blog for another day.
Because I am a big chicken, Douglas helped me write out a trumpet accompaniment for my song so that he could stand in front of the judges with me - so I didn't have to be alone. We won the contest and performed our song in that huge auditorium on the closing night. It was one of the greatest highlights of my life.
Douglas and I kept in touch for awhile, but I gradually lost touch with him as I grew up and went away to college and for a time pursued other interests besides music. However, that summer I learned the value of a friend. A friend is somebody who stands next to you when you are too scared to stand alone. A friend is someone who knows your faults, confronts you with them, and loves you anyway.
I appreciated God reminding me of these things last night. And I am deeply blessed with good friends. I am glad that Douglas was only the beginning.