I learned to play guitar on my Dad's 4-string ukulele in the mid-70's, because in that day and age everyone wanted to play acoustic guitar. I also wanted to learn so that I could someday lead singing and worship at Quaker Lake. When I began working at camp, my guitar was an Aria that I purchased at the Music Barn in Greensboro. I loved that guitar, but it was stolen out of my car one night when I was packing the car to move out of an apartment for the summer. I needed to to replace it quickly for camp, so (not having any money) I bought an Applause. The Applause was a cheap version of an Ovation, with a rounded fiberglass back and steel neck. It was perfect for QLC because it was indestructible. My buddy Jay Osborne once dropped it off the roof of the lodge and did no damage. I also didn't have to worry about it when I travelled. It was, in many ways, a perfect youth ministry guitar. However, it was not a great instrument.
After my arrival at FUMC-K in 1994, my guitar became more important. I was leading worship at youth every week. I was helping lead an alternative worship service on Sunday mornings. I was recording songs with Hollywood. I wanted a new guitar, but I just could not afford one. Word got around that I needed a new guitar, and one day I found a note and a check in my mailbox in the church office. Sam Lupfer and Craig Lewis (and it seems like maybe one other person) had given me a financial gift with which to purchase a new guitar. It was an amazing act of generosity. I used the gift to purchase a Washburn, a beautiful instrument that could also be plugged into sound systems for use in larger rooms. I was thrilled. The Washburn became my all-time favorite guitar. Leading singing in Kissimmee was a true blessing, and my new guitar became a faithful companion.
In 2002 I was living in Tampa and decided to get a second guitar, so I bought a Alvarez. I began to use it more and more, and eventually the Washburn became a back-up. I still loved to play it, but it was now second-string. Around that same time I won a Baby Taylor guitar from the Jars of Clay website (it was a collector's item), and it became my travelling guitar. Suddenly, my old friend was third-string. The Washburn sat in it's case, unused, for a couple of years.
When my ministry ended in Waycross and we moved back to Tampa in 2007, money was very tight. I took the Alvarez and the Taylor to the local Guitar Center and sold them. I hated to do it, but it was what had to be done at the time. Once again, I was left with my Washburn- the one that had been such a gift from God back in my Kissimmee days. Once again, my old friend was the guitar that kept me company during some very long days. It is still my only guitar.
That guitar has been with me on sweet summer nights on the porch of the Betsy B; it was with me in Spanish Wells, at the Ocoee Inn (see picture at top) and on many a Ski Trip. It was with me every week in the youth room of FUMC-K, leading (often along with Darin Miller) the glorious singing that took place there. And now it is with me in my home in Tampa, bringing hope and comfort when things seemed darkest. That old guitar is still a dear friend.
Not many will admit it now, but most everyone from my generation who learned to play acoustic guitar was inspired by the late John Denver. His classic This Old Guitar (see video below) expresses many of my own thoughts, especially the closing verse. The lyrics are below:
In my case, I loved to sings songs WITH all of you and FOR Jesus. Thanks, Sam and Craig. Your gift was far greater than you could ever understand. And to everyone who ever sang with me, keep singing praise to the LORD. Enjoy the video.