Rediscovering life in my guitar

July 2, 2016

It’s not the gift, but what you do with it …

— Joelle Chilcott 

Great words from a beautiful woman. It’s one of the main reasons she lets me have music time. She’s been one of my biggest fans ever since we were teenagers. Every note that I play is dedicated to her. Even the songs I write to Jesus, I think that God lets me share them with Joelle because He knows just how much I love her. Its also one of the reasons why she lets me get musical instruments and equipment. She seems to like to see what kind of music I will make from it. 

This year, Joelle gave me a really special birthday present. I could be shallow and say that it is a multi-effects guitar processor, but the real gift that she gave me was far beyond the processor itself. What she really gave me was the gift of hearing my guitars for the first time in a long time in a way that I have been longing to hear them. It reminds of my first combo tube amp. It was a black Traynor 50 watt combo amp that was so full of life. I felt like I lost that feeling when I foolishly got rid of it. And now, it’s like I am feeling that life once again. Feeling those vital signs of life between the guitar and my fingers that is beyond what the ears pick up. It’s what the inner senses pick up the moments you play. It’s the kind of life that keeps me up all night playing with excitement. And at my age, and with our current situation, it takes a lot to get me to be able to play all night long. This is the real gift. 

This gift has given me a renewed desire to reinvent myself when it comes to playing guitar. For years, I feel like I have just been relying more on my computer and plug-ins to make certain guitar sounds, and I definitely don’t get it from a solid-state amp. Sure, the main source of the guitar sounds came from my POD. However, there was a point where I was wondering if I was playing through the POD, or if the POD was playing through me. You may be wondering where I am going with this. Not knocking down the PODHD500 as it was an amazing device, and the sound coming from it is phenomenal. However, many will agree with me that this is where it ends: the sound. Again, you probably think I am just rambling, and I probably am since this is my blog. However, what mean is that it has the sound, but it stops short of the feel. To me, playing guitar is more than just how it sounds. It’s about how it feels, just like I tried to describe it above. And with that new life comes a new desire to react and interact with my playing. It sings when I play it soft and it screams when I hit it hard. I think that is the thing that keeps me playing all night. I was doing everything from fingerpicking notes to whole chukka-chukka-wukka-wukka thang. 

This need to feel is affecting the music I am writing as well. I find myself using a little less distortion in order to let that feel of the guitar come through. Am I becoming a guitar romantic? Perhaps. Now that I feel like I have discovered life in my guitar all over again, I want to grab it with both hands and squeeze as much out of it. 

I’d rather be the rabbit

May 23, 2016


Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
James 4:13‭-‬15 NASB

Rabbits run around and live for 8 years.
Tortoises do nothing and live 150 years.
Lesson learned… I WANT TO BE THE RABBIT!!

Why do I want to be the rabbit?

That’s simple. The rabbit, while at first glance doesn’t appear to live that long, has a better quality of life. The tortoise is just existing. I’ve tried living the life of the tortoise. It’s not as fun as it seems. Other than going to work to do the obligatory, it would seem that after coming home, I would just sit around and wait. I’m almost wondering what I was waiting for. Was I waiting for the next great and wonderful thing to come my way? You know,  that wonderful thing that is supposed to be so fantastic, that it never comes. And yet we sit there waiting. And I’m not even talking about doing something while I’m waiting. I mean just sitting there doing nothing but wait. Or, am I just waiting for the promise of tomorrow? A promise that is never kept because tomorrow never really comes.

All things considered, I’m tired of the broken promise of tomorrow or the great thing that isn’t. I have life happening right now. I want to experience that type of life even to the point of if I die experiencing it. Let’s face it. There is no promise of tomorrow. Heck, the next five minutes have no guarantees either. So, why should I be under the delusion that a long life is the key? Funny how the argument to this is that if I live longer, I can do more. So really, what you’re saying is that you can do more if you live longer, but you are alive right now and you are doing nothing? How contradictory is that? How is what you are doing called living? It’s not. I’ve been there.

I don’t know how much longer I have on this world. I could be blessed with the number of years a rabbit has, or I could have a third of a tortoises life to live out. Only God knows. He’s keeping count of those years. Here’s what I do know, however. I’m going to live those years pushing myself as hard as I can. I intend to push myself mentally, pushing my mind into new limits and capabilities learning. I love to learn. It seems to keep me feeling childlike in thought. I also intend to push myself physically. I intend to push my body beyond boundaries. I intend to surpass the limitations that seemed to be holding me back. I will discover the strength that I truly possess. In mind and body, it will be about giving that much more when I have nothing left. It will be about reaching out to Jesus to have the Father fill me with the kind of strength that can only come from God. And if I die in the process, I am happy that I will have died doing what I set out to do and never backed down. There’s a Klingon proverb that goes, it is better to die in battle than to live in shame. For me, the shame is not doing what I have set out to do.

Nick Menza was the the drummer for Megadeth on their Rust in Peace album. He died on stage of heart failure, at the age of 51. I just had my 53rd birthday. Yeah, I am sort of sad that someone like him passed away so young. Does his death scare me because we are so close in age? Not in the least. Nick died doing what he loved. He died sitting at the drum kit rocking his heart out. I’m willing to bet that he died happy. Yeah, he died. But, you know what? He also lived. I want to live. I want to die while in the act of being alive.

I want to be that rabbit.

Life’s moments and Pina Coladas

April 28, 2016


So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
— Psalm 90:12

Joelle and I are wrapping up our week long getaway to Cuba to cover off all of the heavy decisions that we need to make for the next twelve months, given that this may be all the time left for Joelle and I to be together. Of course, God has made the final decision long ago as to the numbering of our days and for all we know, it could be longer. Or, it could also be shorter. And we’re only talking about Joelle. Who’s to say that I wouldn’t get stung by a jellyfish and drop dead at the beach before we even make it to the plane? Bottom line is that we have no idea as to how much time we have to live. The doctors told Joelle that they felt that they were generous telling her that she had twelve months to live. Only God, in my opinion, has the ability to turn twelve months into twelve years… or even more. And I am not going to be foolish to say if it is God’s will. If God turns months into years, isn’t it safe to say that He had already determined this? Only God can say to the doctor, “No! You are wrong. I have already determined that she is going to live this long. Not a day more and not a day less.”

However, the determination from the doctor has done one thing. If it is indeed true, and let’s face it, God uses doctors in His purpose, that Joelle has twelve months to live, then this is what we have determined to do: LIVE! We are down in Cuba making the decisions about what needs to be done once Joelle is no longer able to function. We are covering off everything including what would happen when I die. We’re making every painful decision that we can think of down here in paradise. And every time, I am toasting these decisions with a Pina Colada. Don’t worry, my church going friends and pastors: many of them have been alcohol free. The point is not the alcohol anyway. It’s more like the sweetness symbolic of the relief that follows the bitterness of having to make such decisions in the first place. It’s the reminder that we have made the decisions and now it is time to live.

It’s been said many times: live each day like it is your last. Even Jesus said that worrying about tomorrow doesn’t add a minute to today. God knows how long we have on this earth. God knows when it is time to come home. Does it make us think? It should! Does it make us lament over the time we have left? It should not! Sure, Joelle and I had plenty of dreams of growing old together and yes the news from the doctor makes me cry and sometimes go “it’s not fair”. But, aside from the fact that nothing is of our own design, God knows the full truth to our existence and has numbered all of our days. It could be less and it could be more. We don’t know. And since we don’t know, we should just live in this moment because it is the only moment we have.

And in this moment that I have been writing this, there is a tall cantina of Pina Colada poolside waiting for me. Time to live this moment with this cantina.

Empty Return

April 2, 2016

I got home from Alberta on Wednesday and I have never felt more empty. I felt like Joelle and I came home to nothing. This is starting to convince me that our lives are no longer in Ontario. We knew that one day we would move out west to be with our daughters and their children. I just expect to be as driven as I am now. It feels like nothing else really matters. It almost feels as if nothing is keeping me here and is making the decision easy.

It’s funny because I know that my current job at BlackBerry has been nothing short of an exercise in faith. I am always of the belief that God brought me there and kept me going there in the hard times. However, I am starting to think that God did this for one reason: to show me how much He loves me and takes care of me. It’s not about the job or me. It’s about God and nothing more. And if God is starting to pull my heart out west, then His direction is best. Not to mention that everything that I have been seeking in this job doesn’t seem to be for God’s glory. It seems to be for my own glory. I remember being angry about not getting promoted to senior developer even though I believe that I deserved it. If anything, I am just about giving up on that because I don’t believe that it is in God’s plan. And with the wanting to go out west to be with my children out there, it’s starting to feel like there’s nothing holding me back here. In fact, things like my job make it even easier to break away.

Of course, if HR were to read this post in my blog, the flight risk alarm would be sounding in their heads. All I can say is that it is not happening all that soon. Something like this takes time and planning. Joelle and I have started to put together a five-year plan to get things into place for moving forward. The circumstances for going sooner would be if things like my job were indeed threatened, or if the doctors determined that there is nothing more they can do for her. The latter would be a far greater reason, as I would want her to spend as many days with her daughters and grandchildren out there as she could. I would never want to rob her of that. As far as I go, I am in God’s hands and whatever happens is up to Him. All I know right now is that there is nothing here.

Nobody’s Fault

February 1, 2016

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
— John 9:1-3 ESV

It has been a while since writing something. Admittedly, things have been hard, mainly because I have been looking for answers as why Joelle is suffering so much with her cancer ordeal. Not that I felt like I deserved any answers, but any sign would be greatly appreciated just so that I could not only have some assurance that there really is a reason for Joelle and that it works out for God’s purpose and that it is good for all of us who do believe in God’s salvation through Jesus. After all, the past months have been nothing more than staring down the eye of the hurricane in depression. If anything, it started to make me wonder if I had any type of relationship with God. It made me wonder because I felt like He wasn’t answering any of my prayers. I started wondering even more about this as I was going through a bible study as it talked quite a bit about our relationship with God. It seemed each chapter felt more and more painful as I went on. One part of the study talked about the Holy Spirit speaking to us through prayer, the church, circumstances and scripture. If anything, it really felt like nothing was happening through the first three and I started to think that nothing was happening through the fourth, until recently.

My son, Josh, who happens to be visiting his grandmother, loves to give me what we call the latest “meme-isms”. In other words, all of the crazy things that his grandmother tells him. Sure enough, he doesn’t disappoint this time around. Aside from the usual ” you’re being brainwashed” shtick (to which I managed to give him a decent comeback for), she dropped a new one. She said that one of Joelle’s friends gave Joelle cancer because her friend was jealous of Joelle. Aside from the fact that this has to be one of the most comical things I had heard; I mean, let’s face it, if people got cancer because someone else is jealous of them, there would be no one on this planet. Everybody always wants something that someone else has. Show me someone who is never jealous or envious, and I will show you their tombstone.

However, I will be the first to admit that I often wondered if I may have been part of the cause of Joelle’s cancer. Let’s face it, I am not the greatest person to be around. I can be very stress inducing. Plus, I have had many times where I fear waking up one day and Joelle would no longer be there. Add that all up and I am sure that there is something that isn’t good for Joelle there.

Funny thing happened though. Out of nowhere, I thought of Jesus and the rabbis discussing whether the blind man or his parents sinned, causing the man’s blindness. This all came to me as I was talking to Josh. At that moment, I had to look up the scripture verses and give them to Josh. I told him to read them to his grandmother. I told him to tell her that Joelle’s cancer is nobody’s fault. Joelle has this to reveal God’s Word glory and to show what works from God will come out of this. Even more than revealing this topic Josh, it was revealed to me as well. Joelle’s suffering is not a punishment for anything I did. It’s not even a punishment for anything she did. In fact, the Bible never says if we will suffer. It says when we suffer. And, it is not a case of whether we deserve it or not. In fact, it states in the Bible that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. And we suffer, so that you the glory of God can be revealed.

I didn’t come up with this on my own. There’s no way I could have in this case. The number of scripture verses is overwhelming. Being able to put this in context can only mean that God really is hearing me and is answering me. He answered me in scripture. I’ve only heard this piece of scripture once or twice in the past 20 years. The fact that it stuck out over everything else I have read and heard over the years feels miraculous enough as it is.

Does this ease the suffering? Heck no! Everything is just as hard as it was before God answered me with this piece of scripture. It doesn’t mean that anything will be easier either. However, the one thing that it does do is give me some hope. The hope that at the end of all of the suffering, God is waiting for us. The hope that Jesus is walking beside us with his arms around us. The hope that God will continue to answer my questions and prayers through scripture. The hope of peace.

2015: Here’s what I really think of you

January 1, 2016

I won’t sugarcoat any of this: The year 2015 sucked.

I never had a year filled with so much suffering in it than 2015. If anything, it felt like 2015 put a noose around my neck and tied it to the bumper of a pickup truck dragging me 80Km/h over a road of broken glass, only to crash into a lake of iodine. And the worst of it is that I’m still feeling the pain after it all has happened, just waiting for the scars to take over so I can heal from all of this.

If anything, it’s hard to ever remember what happened January and February because it got eclipsed by March by tearing the quadricep completely off of my knee, requiring emergency surgery followed by 10 weeks of not being able to walk. I was imprisoned by a 7” drop floor living room. I had to use my arms as legs at times. I felt useless and a burden. Yeah, I will admit that I am walking better now than I have for the last 10 years, but it wasn’t a picnic getting to this spot. Even to this day, I am practicing my physiotherapy and I have been using my exercise equipment as a healing device. I’m probably one of the only few people that do not use it as a fancy coat hanger. But it’s because of the determination that I am not going to let myself be beaten by this injury. In fact, I would use this injury to make me that much better than I was before. But, getting to this point involved a lot of physical pain. The battle was between my determination and the pain that would attempt to stand in my way.

Not to mention that I was burden to Joelle. She had to wait on me hand and foot and do things for me that I never would have asked. I felt totally useless as I was unable to do things for myself in those 10 weeks. And yet, she was there for me. My injury was just as hard on her as it was on me.

And then when we think we’re just about out of the woods, hoping to carry on with our lives, Joelle is diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. I felt like I was emotionally knocked down on my ass. It’s was like the nightmare that I was hoping to wake up from, but it seemed every day I woke up into the same nightmare. Watching her suffer with chemotherapy has been nothing short of emotionally draining, especially when I am trying to be strong for her, only to wind up losing it by the end of the day. Emotionally enduring her surgery wasn’t any easier as there were so many rocky roads up to today. I often reached times that I couldn’t contain myself and had to just get into the car to escape. And even watching her endure a few more rounds of chemo is draining. I have too many “why” questions and I have had so much anger and hurt this year over it because the answers feel so elusive to me.

So, as I stand here with just a little over a couple of hours before new year, let me tell you 2015 what I really think of you. 2015, I hope that you rot in hell. I hope that every memory of you burns up like tissue paper in a bonfire, so that nothing is left of you but ashes and a scar. You can’t leave my life quick enough and knowing that you will move further and further away in my rear-view mirror so that nothing will be left but a dot is the only comfort I have in the last couple of hours. As much as Joelle and I would love to celebrate your going away and slam the door on your ass, Joelle is unable to stay up and watch you leave due to the fact that chemo has drained all of the energy from her. That does not give me any cause for celebration. Perhaps, the three most painful words of 2016 will be “Happy New Year” as I watch you take your last steps. However, I was stand guard here making sure that you go and take all of your pain with you. The only gift I hope 2016 brings me is the ability to forget what a bad year 2015 was.

Darkness in the Festival of Lights

December 6, 2015

Once again it is Chanukah and all around the world, we all celebrate by lighting candles on our Menorahs, eating latkes (very yummy potato pancakes) and give presents. And this time, I really have no desire to celebrate. I originally lost the desire to celebrate Chanukah after my father died when I was a child and spent almost all of my teenage years and my twenties raging out at God over it. Mind you, I went through the motions when my kids were young as my hurt wasn’t fair to them. Mind you, having found Jesus, we mistakenly wound up putting our Jewish celebrations on the shelf, at least until Joelle studied and wrote papers on the Jewish feasts.

Truly, I have to credit Joelle for getting us back on track with all of the Jewish celebrations, including Chanukah. Her renewed enthusiasm gave me a reason to celebrate. Even more so, we were having something to share with our grandchildren. They know more about being Messianic Jews than our kids really did. We would all light the candles and join together with our kids out west using Skype and we would all recite the Chanukah blessings. Between Joelle and them, I really felt like I was starting to have a reason to want to celebrate Chanukah again.

Until recently…

Watching Joelle suffer from cancer and all of the effects of chemotherapy and surgery has finally started to take its toll on me, especially after the last emergency visit to TGH. By Friday, I could barely keep a straight face in the office at the end of the day and people were noticing that I was finally starting to break down. I managed to rush out of the office in time to let it all out in the car on the way home. If anything, all I really wanted to do was sleep and do nothing else. Even after 11 hours of sleep, I felt like I wanted more.

Honestly, I have no real joy, or at least joy that I am experiencing, for this time of year when we are supposed to be feeling joyful. Even with all of the lights in our neighbourhood, everything feels dark. I have no desire to celebrate without my best friend by my side. She helped make the occasion bright. She lit up the room on Chanukah. A thousand candles couldn’t take away the darkness in the festival of lights while she is in the hospital.

The only hope I have right now is the one true light: Jesus. I do pray that he hears my voice and our suffering and shine his light on us this year, especially where we are physically, emotionally and in some cases spritually unable to. I pray that he will take his place upfront and center in my Menorah of Life and will shine his everlasting light on us and drive away the darkness.

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