Saturday, August 30, 2008

first time ever riding a bike...

ok, so this happened almost two months ago, so I'm a bit late in blogging about it. That said, I took some pretty funny video that day to go along with the story, and friends and family have been bugging me to get it up online, so...

Here's the thing... my son Conner had been riding this thing called a Rolli-Rider since summer of last year. It's an old-school looking, hand-made bicycle of sorts with no peddles aimed at teaching kids how to balance on two wheels. I didn't realize that the website claimed so plainly that "When old enough to ride a bicycle, training wheels will not be necessary." Anyway, so he'd gotten pretty good at the Rolli-Rider a few months ago when I started talking to him about learning how to ride a bike... "Conner, one of the most important things you need to know about learning to ride a bike is that you're gonna fall down. It's part of the process. You need to be able to pick yourself back up and try again until you learn..." I would say, relishing the life-lesson Daddy moment I was soon to experience and pass on to my son...

Well, in true Conner fashion, and in line with the claims by the Rolli-Rider folks, I was completely robbed of my dad moment with a phone call from my wife exclaiming that he was riding his bike. :) I had gotten home within about a half-hour, our camera being charged the whole time, and took the following footage, laced with my 4-year-olds casual bicycle riding and one-liners. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm huge in singapore...

Boy, I wish I were on compilations with this kind of company in America :) ... check out the names here with me on the front cover of this record! (you may have to click on it to see a larger image)

The funniest part? That my name is actually listed before Sarah McLachlan... awesome. :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

worship confessional (8.24.08)

this weekend was one of those crazy weekends for me when I have an engagement out of town on Saturday, but I drive back Saturday night for Sunday a.m. services. Of course, we have Saturday night service as well, so it makes for an odd weekend for the whole team in many ways. Ryan, the Associate Music Director at MSC, takes over as worship leader in my absence. This weekend I was in Urbana, IL (more on that in a later post) and we drove about 3 hours and 15 minutes back to STL, arriving at about 1:00a.m. If you know me at all, you know that even though I get up at about 5:45a.m. on Sundays (and only on Sundays) I am rarely in bed earlier than 1:00a.m. on Saturday nights... so this shouldn't be a big deal. Unfortunately, I had way too much caffeine on the drive home and couldn't get to sleep. So I was running on just under 2 hours of sleep on Sunday after a nice 12-hour excursion to IL for a festival.

That said, it was actually a great morning... especially considering. Wasn't sure my voice was going to come around, but it ended up coming all the way back for worship and it didn't really leave me until Sunday evening and into Monday. It's all good, though, it'll be back again for rehearsal on Tuesday night. Anyway, the setlist was strong this week--in my opinion, anyway--as we closed our 3-part Olympic series with a bang:

Your Grace is Enough - Matt Maher
Give It All Away - Aaron Shust
Holy is the Lord - Tomlin and Co.
Break Through - Tommy Walker

feature tune - Olympic Song by Andy Gullahorn

Happy Day - Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon

I'm gonna re-iterate a couple of things I'm sure I've already said about a few of these tunes... first off, 'Give It All Away' is a great congregational tune if you haven't tried it. The bridge is awkward in terms of being singable and so we just skip it, but the rest of tune is really strong. It's a bit of a departure from a lot of the other worship stuff we do in terms of melody and form, so it feels fresh in our worship sets. 'Break Through' is just plain great... it's an incredible song, and, as I often do, I took a moment during this song to just encourage people to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit. I invited everyone to welcome break through in their hearts--if not theirs, then those who really needed it at that moment--and to really believe that it can happen right there in that moment. So many people going so many different emotional directions right in front of you, you know? I just wanted everyone to pause and contemplate how vast God really is, and that he's capable--even right at that moment--of breaking through addictions, crumbled relationships, financial burdens, pride, arrogance, any of the myriad of trials facing all of us. If you haven't tried this tune in your services, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a keeper.

Anyway, our feature tune was a tongue-in-cheek musing by songwriter Andy Gullahorn--a genius in terms of songwriting if you ask me. It's a simple little ditty about get so wrapped up in the Olympics that you convince yourself, if only for a day, that you're heading there in four years yourself to conquer the world and get a medal of your own... clever as usual from Andy, and hook-laden. Went over well, I felt. You can check out Andy's stuff on iTunes, and I highly recommend it.

I'm posting this confessional in collaboration with other Worship Leaders as a part of Fred McKinnon's Sunday Setlists

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

worship confessional (8.17.08)

Tough weekend at MSC, as we lost a special young nineteen-year-old girl to a fatal single-car accident on Friday. She was to turn 20 on Saturday, and our church--young as it is--had literally watched her grow up as her and her family have attended for virtually the entire nine-year life of our ministry. Couple that with the elation that comes with the 30+ baptisms we were celebrating at our Saturday services, and you certainly end up with a strange dichotomy of emotions--and maybe the very essence of the Christian walk.

We've been talking about the Olympics, and the feature tune this week was among the toughest we've ever tried to pull off--more on that later. As we began services on Saturday, we knew the weekend was going to be tough, and I really feel as though we did a great job in worshiping right through the emotional duality in the room. We called it out before we even got started. Just before we sang, I just wanted to name the reality that we were facing. We were staring untimely death and undeserved new life in the face simultaneously... wow. And we worshiped. The setlist, solidified and rehearsed long before the tragedy befell us, was eerily poignant:

Forever - Chris Tomlin
Blessed Be Your Name - Matt/Beth Redman
The Least I Can Do - M. Roach

feature tune - Running On Ice (Billy Joel)

I Stand Amazed - Passion arrangement
All Because of Jesus - Steve Fee

'Blessed Be Your Name' is among the most sung modern worship songs in the country, and most of know that it really shines in the face of tragedy. This weekend, the simple repetitive declaration in the bridge absolutely sucker-punched me... You give and take away | You give and take away | my heart will choose to say | Lord, blessed be Your name. When all was said and done, we simply gave God glory and honor as we attempt to do every weekend, and it felt like the absolute appropriate response to both facets of our emotional state. God is good.

As for the feature tune, Billy Joel's 'Running On Ice,' the piano part alone makes it one of the most difficult songs we've ever tackled--especially considering I played it and I'm not really a piano player. I practiced for hours this week, mainly just trying to nail-down the intro and a ridiculous transition into a quick piano interlude. We recorded some little sound nuggets and artifacts as tracks that we played along to which gave it a little bit more flavor of it's 80's origin, then added some filtered video a la A-Ha's famous 'Take On Me' video. It certainly didn't look like animated charcoal drawings in our version, but it was a cool effect. Of course, all of this came crashing down at the 11am Sunday service when a mute was inadvertently pushed on the channel that contained our click-track. The video started--and restarted--several times (without the click in our ears) before we finally decided to jump ship on the video all together and use our regular metronome. This meant we were going to play it w/ no tracks, which wasn't that big of a deal until we realized half way through the first verse that the video was still playing up in the booth, and now the little sound nuggets and artifacts were bursting through the mains at random times with no rhyme or reason... yeah, it pretty well fell apart. But, the tracks were eventually muted when the video eventually stopped, and we somehow pushed our way through the tune and survived the service... with a few compliments on the feature tune, even :) Ah, nobody's perfect... and technology had it's way with us at 11am this Sunday. If nothing else, we learned something.

I'm doing something new this week, and I'm posting this confessional in collaboration with other Worship Leaders as a part of Fred McKinnon's Sunday Setlists

Monday, August 11, 2008

worship confessional (8.10.08)

We got the refreshing opportunity to attend a small start-up church here in Belgrade, MT yesterday. It was called 'Connect Church' and has only been meeting for about 6 months. Solid music, good teaching and a warm, welcoming congregation. Kinda reminded me of our early start-up days back in '99 although their meeting space was quite a bit more intimate than what we had... those were the days!

Heading home to St. Louis tomorrow a.m. early. Look forward to leading on my home turf again for a while! :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

creation shouting His praise...

wow... a city boy like me spends a couple days at Yellowstone National Park and is left speechless... I've been absolutely overwhelmed by the vastness, mystery and beauty of His creation over the last couple of days. Here's some video I took at the brink of the Upper falls... also check out the photos I posted on my myspace page.

Friday, August 8, 2008

worship confessional (8.3.08) -- from the road

So you may have already seen my post regarding my Alaska trip... as much as I enjoyed the trip, I was actually not even on vacation. I was brought into Cordova by the folks at Cordova Community Baptist Church as the featured guest of a small worship conference. The conference consisted of several evenings of worship, teaching, etc. in addition to some songwriting workshops and culminating in CCBC's usual three Sunday services, all in which I was asked to participate. So this week's confessional is a story of sorts... bear with me, as I feel it's worth telling. :)

Ok, so I arrived in Cordova last Tuesday afternoon, around 1pm, which in my hometown of St. Louis was already 4pm. I had left my house for the airport in St. Louis at roughly 12:15pm the day before, with only a five-hour hotel stay (from midnight to 5am) in Seattle to break-up the five consecutive flights I took to eventually land in Cordova, so needless to say I was tired. As I landed, I quickly discovered just how remote Cordova actually was, as the airport couldn't have been more than 2,000 square feet total and my cell phone, though it said it was roaming, was completely useless. I must confess, as Donald and Gayle picked me up and we headed into town, my smile was a bit painted on and optimism wasn't the first emotion I felt. Boy did God have a lesson to teach me this week... :)

A brief view of my itinerary will communicate the truth that, while I certainly had loads of time to explore Alaska, I was also working a ton. My week basically looked like this:

Tuesday night: arrive (1pm), rehearse with band (evening)
Wednesday night: 7pm - CCBC band kicks off conference, followed by music and testimony (me)
Thursday night: 7pm - lead worship, followed by teaching on worship
Friday: meet with select band members for songwriter workshop
Friday night: 7pm - Concert at CCBC
Saturday: 9:30am - songwriter workshop followed by listening session.
12pm - rehearse with band
3pm - memorial service (I'll discuss in a moment)
Sunday: 9:30am - first service
11am - second service
6pm - rehearse with band
7pm - third service

Ok, so I had a lot planned in the evenings, days basically free. I'm alone in Cordova, AK, a small town of under 2000 or so, and I have no family, no cell phone, no Starbucks, slow-crawling 512K "high-speed internet"... woe is me. It got worse. Gayle sweetly offers me a calling card number so I can try to get a hold of my wife from the hotel room later. My wife is supposed to be calling me to let me know that she got into Montana safely with my 4-year old son and has absolutely no way of getting a hold of me. I find out early the next morning when Carolyn (my wife) returns the message I left on her phone at almost 2a.m. the night before (it wasn't quite midnight in Cordova) that my family's trip to Montana was far less than smoothe, and I had no idea 'cause I wasn't able to check messages. Thankfully, they made it, they were fine, and I just wanted to be with them...

Then God really began to step in. Gayle, Donald, Piper, and everyone else there had already been wonderfully nice and hospitable, and in the process of their tireless efforts to make sure that I saw a bit of Cordova and experienced a taste of life as they knew it, I began to really connect with these people. Add to that the unfortunate--but eerily timed--passing of the long-time Sr. Pastor of CCBC (and father of the current pastor) and now I find myself smack dab in the middle of a grieving community in the Body of Christ. I was asked to attend, and in fact play a small musical role in, the memorial service on Saturday. Afterward, a game night at the Pastor's house ensued and we stayed up until almost 1am, enthralled with one another's company. In five short days, these folks had truly become my friends.

By this time, the reality of the over-the-top hospitality, the continued interest in my life and family, the overwhelming willingness to share their lives with me, and the realization that God had ordained this week of my life far before I walked on this earth really began to tug at my heart. As much as I still wanted to get back to my family, I was truly going to miss these people--and if I didn't screw it up by missing the miracle of this moment--they may miss me, too.

I submit to you all that in that week in Alaska, while a 'worship conference' was held, the Body of Christ shared a victory. We laughed together, cried together, lived together and loved together in a way only God's children could. Without prompting, Gayle bought my son a Cordova coloring book... Pastor John shared with me that one of my songs in particular would likely always remind him of his father's passing--in a good way... Piper and I shared a great talk over a cup of coffee while walking back to the church in the misty Cordova air... Donald and I shared stories over lunch and later, breakfast in a local restaurant... searching for bears at almost 11pm--still dusk in Alaska... roasting hot dogs and marshmallows across from the first glacier I'd ever laid eyes on... the blessings can scarcely be counted.

... and I was paid to come in and bless Cordova. HA... thank You, God. Thank you, Gayle, Donald, Piper, John, and all at CCBC.

The setlists really don't even matter so much, do they? That's what I call a worship conference.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

back in 'the lower 48...'

... that's what they call it in Alaska. The lower 48... makes enough sense, I guess, but I'd admittedly never heard it before. In fact, I've come up with an entire mini-dictionary of terms and phrases--some of them Cordova specific--that I learned for the first time in Alaska. Just to give you a little background, Cordova is remote... far more than I thought it would be when I left St. Louis last Monday. And I'm not just talking no Starbucks remote, I'm talking Fedex NextDay gets there in 4 days remote. No roads lead in or out of Cordova, AK, it's only accessible via ferry or plane. Ok, so here's my mini-dictionary:

Out the road - this refers to a specific road heading out of Cordova, and it basically just means you left Cordova to go to the glacier, hunting, fishing, or whatever else is on the one road that leads out of Cordova (but not actually to anywhere else)

Going outside - yeah, seems simple enough in St. Louis... means outdoors, right? Nope. In Alaska, it means leaving Alaska :)

The lower 48 - I already discussed this one briefly... you can't really refer to us as 'the states' when you're in Alaska, since it's one of 'em. So this makes a lot more sense, especially considering Seattle is virtually 'the South' to them :)

Calving - this is actually a real word that refers to the breaking off of large pieces of ice from a glacier... and the resulting waves can cause a bit of danger on the opposite shore!

Copper River Salmon -
any other salmon is not really worth discussing in Cordova, and you shouldn't be as naive as I was and think that 'Alaskan salmon' is even remotely the same thing.

That's about all I have for now... Gayle, Donald, Piper, John, or any other of my new friends from Cordova, AK, you're more than welcome to add any I've forgotten via a comment!

You can check out quite a few pics from Alaska on my myspace page if you'd like, and I'll surely blog further about my time in Alaska in the next few days, so check back!