I was wearing a vertically striped, white collar neck shirt tucked into white baggy jeans, hair sprayed into the perfect position that Vanilla Ice would have been proud of, with shiny braces and blue rubber bands around them on my teeth. It was the mid-90s, and I was a complete dork, but I oddly fit in with all my awkward friends in junior high.
I had just arrived with my family at my nanny and papa’s house, and they were showing us their prized purchases from yard sales that morning. My papa could really wheel and deal at yard sales, making permanent purchasing decisions over mere nickels.
This time he had purchased a red electric guitar with an amp that was almost as tall as me. He couldn’t really play it, but he thought about learning. He gently put the worn strap on over his shoulder and meticulously adjusted the amp’s silver knobs to a safe volume before he sat down to pluck out a few random notes on the higher strings.
Then he told me to try, and of course, I did—eagerly. I held the guitar in my lap and accidentally strummed the strings too hard as my entire family jumped a little from the powerful amp. I gave the guitar back to my papa.
Once the yard sale treasures were no longer the topic of conversation, I put on the retro red and sneaked away into the kitchen. I loosened the strap, so the guitar rested against my lower hip, and I looked into the reflection of my grandparent’s glass refrigerator.
There I was with such an instrument of awe. I liked how it looked on me. I liked how I felt holding it.
The guitar would eventually become the vehicle that would take me to many different stages in various bands up and down California and allow me to be a very small part of local rock’n roll history—the part that people enjoyed but seldom remembered after the bands’ stickers peeled off, t-shirts faded, and CDs became obsolete.
It would bring together different young personalities to form unique lifelong friendships and sacred memories between band mates and groupies.
It would be the tool that aided in countless private worship sessions in a teenager’s bedroom, attended only by a melancholy boy confused by a changing world as invisible angels observed quietly.
And as that boy grew, it would be the instrument that helped lead many different groups of people in holy songs until the Lord.
My nanny walked into the kitchen and saw me standing in the reflection. “You like the guitar?”
With wide open eyes and a mouth too excited to fully articulate an answer, I just said, “Yeah, I do” in a simple nod.
When my junior high graduation approached, my mom asked me what I wanted as a graduation gift. Of course, I told her a guitar.
Now that was an expensive gift for a young teenager to ask for, but my mom drove me all around town researching different guitars and prices and eventually found one used in the newspaper with a case and small amp included. It was in excellent condition and red like my papa’s.
That summer I was planning to get ahead and take a math class in summer school, but I ended up quitting halfway. I spent the rest of my summer watching Green Day, Deftones, and Collective Soul music videos on MTV, trying my best to mimic their blurry fingers flow up and down the guitar neck. My papa took me once a week in the evening to some beginning guitar lessons at the local music store.
Although my parents so selflessly bought me my first guitar and my grandparents generously paid for beginning lessons, I see music as a graceful gift from the Lord.
It’s a gift that creates a special connection with people—such a connection that it’s even used as a way to worship God.
It’s meant to be personal, authentic, raw—from the heart.
Play it passionately.
Listen to it fervently .
Sing it from within.
Use music, and use it well; it’s a gift.