Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My transformation from community

The other day I had couple of friends ask me to explain what the re:create Conference is all about and why I keep going back.  The easy thing would be to answer with things like, in my first trip to Franklin, how we got to worship with Michael W. Smith, and got to see  Meredith Andrews, or how I got sit in a room with 20 other people at EMI and receive an EP in a hand drawn brown paper bag from this new songwriter Audrey Assad, and how blown away we were by her song "Winter Snow".  How my second trip to re:create saw things like Gungor performing his masterpiece, "Beautiful Things", and a songwriter circle that included Kristian Stanfill.  I could even tell them about how the third year was even more incredible because we got to see Ed Kowalczyk perform a private concert for us, or Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb," and one of the most moving times of worship I have ever been a part of, when we got to meet the 1211 band from Gateway Church in Austin Tx.

Any one of those things would have made re:create the most incredible conference I have ever been to.  But as great as they were, they were not the most meaningful and transformative part for me.  It is becoming a part of the re:create community that has changed me, moved me and maybe saved me and my ministry.  You see, the last 6 months of my life have seen some of the lowest times that I have ever experienced. If had not been for my re:create family, I can honestly say I might not be in ministry today, or even worse.  In April, my mother passed away after being in the hospital for a few days.  It was an incredible blessing to know that there were people from all over the world praying for her.  The night before she died, I was able to show her text messages and Twitter DM's from Texas, Oregon, California, Canada, Tennessee and even Cairo of people praying for her.  It lifted both our spirits.  After her death, I was held up by the prayers and thoughts of my re:create tribe.  I got emails, and texts of encouragement as I prepared to speak and sing for my Mother's funeral mass.

This past summer, I entered into what was the worst time of depression that I have ever experienced.  It got so bad that I wrote out my resignation from the ministry on more than 2 occasions, I had no energy, and at one point, I didn't get out of bed for almost 2 days.  I felt like I was going insane.  I was afraid to tell my wife, because I knew that I couldn't lose her, or it would only get worse, even though she new something was wrong because I was taking most of my depression on her.  It was then that I reached out to a few of my tribe, asking for prayer.  Immediately I heard from all of them saying that I was covered in prayer.  I spent several hours on the phone with a friend that I have become very close to.  After a few days of crying and very open conversations, I went to a doctor and was able to get on some medication that has helped me get back to some semblance of normal.  All of this came about because I got to sit at the same table as Bill, or sitting next to Jim, or being introduced to Chuck over the phone, or hanging out and talking to Brent and Tam over an incredible steak, or praying with Jan before she went to one of the 100 countries that she ministers in, or getting to cry when we finally saw and heard that Mark was OK on Skype during a crazy time in the Cairo.  I have been transformed by the friendships and relationships that have been forged during the last 3 years at re:create.

All of this happened because of one man's love for broken, creative people.  And for that Randy, I will be forever grateful.

I say all this to ask you this.  Where are you finding transformational community?  Where do you go to be cared for?  Do you go?  Have you found transformation from a community that you are a part of?  This is my story, but I want to hear yours.  Add a comment below, or email me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The State of My State

It's Friday, and here I sit in my Doctor's office, waiting to see him. One month ago I came to him because I was struggling with the bluest period that I had experienced in a long time.  I felt like crap, I had (have) gained a bunch of weight, and I wasn't doing my life as a husband, father, friend and pastor very well. Over the previous months, I had been an organizational, and emotional mess. I couldn't keep my thoughts together, I was forgetting things, and had a general malaise that was taking me over. Several times in the weeks leading up to my appointment, I had written out, and thrown away my resignation. I was in a very low place.

I leaned on my wife, my sons, and a few close friends, but even that didn't seem to be helping. After a few, un-Louis like conversations with people that didn't deserve them, I called and made an appointment with my friend, who is an Internist. I sent a note to my Pastors, letting them know where I was in my emotional state, and that I had an appointment to see about it. The response I got was an encouraging, loving show of support for getting the help I needed. This is, for some of those in ministry, a refreshing change from what some of my friends have experienced.

When I saw my doctor, he prescribed a new drug to add to the other medicine I was taking.

Today, as I sit here, ready to check in, feeling 2 months better, I know that there are multiple reasons for my better "state". First and foremost is the support of my family. They have put up with my crazy, told me that I was still the father and husband they loved, and were just present for me. Second, the prayers of my pastors and friends both from my church, and from all over the country that I have grown to love and count on, and third, and the part I want to encourage you to, is that, if you are struggling with depression, go see a Doctor. Let them help you.

*Warning. The following is a mini rant, and you are welcome to skip down to the next paragraph without repercussion.*

In his book, "Leading on Empty", Wayne Cordeiro says that often times, well meaning, yet totally not helpful Christians tell those of us dealing with depression to:
Confess your guilt.
Pray more.
Find a new church (Seriously? Go where you have none of the friends, and support mechanisms that you currently have, and get even more depressed because you feel even more alone?).
And, my personal favorite, "You just need more faith."
This last one, I was actually told. In the midst of one of the Bluest periods of my life, one in which it took all the faith I had just to stand up, I was told that God wasn't helping me because I didn't have enough faith. WRONG. I was being held up by God and being pointed toward the help that I needed through a Physician.  I couldn't have gotten through some days without the faith that God would still be God, and that He was holding me, pushing me and sometimes carrying me.

I say all that to say, if you are struggling with depression, please tell someone you trust, ask them to pray for you, and go see a licensed physician. Your family doctor would be a great place to start. You can get through it. Will it go away forever? I don't know, I haven't finished my life yet. But I can say that it can get better. After a year long struggle, I am getting better, with prayers, friends and medicine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thank you...

Thank you is a word that I am really good at saying. I have a ton of people that I serve with every day that I am very intentional about saying "thank you" to as often as possible. This comes very easy to me, because I am genuinely thankful for what people do for the ministry that I serve. I make sure that I meet one on one with at least one member of my team each week for coffee, breakfast or something. I enjoy being with them, and letting them know that they are more important to me than just for their skill as a musician, technician or singer.

I think I do thank you's pretty well... As long as I am on the thanking side and not the receiving side. I was recently on the receiving side of what was possibly the most extravagant thank you I have ever been a part of. About 6 months ago, a family in our congregation lost a family member suddenly. Our worship team was asked to play for the funeral, and we were told that the family wanted worship just like on sunday morning. After we did that, the family said thank you to all of us, saying, "we don't know how to thank you." we were honored to take part and received their thanks graciously.

That is not where the story ends though. About a month later, I was talking to the dad in this same family, and he asked me, "When does the band worship?" I told hime that a lot of times we worship in rehearsals together. He said,"no, I mean when are you guys LEAD in worship?" I couldn't Answer him. He told me that he wanted to come to rehearsal Thursday night and asked if that was ok. I said of course, and was not surprised to see him that night.

What happened next was an incredible, extravagant act of love and gratitude. When rehearsal was over, he came to me with tears in his eyes, and said I want you guys to get to worship like we get to. I want to take you, and your band to see Hillsong United in 3 weeks in Nashville. I will take care of everything. You guys just show up here at 5pm.

Well, needless to say I was speechless (which for those of you who know me...).

20 of us showed up that night, to find a big coach bus waiting on us. When we got on the bus, there was home made chicken salad sandwiches, brownies, soda and water. We were greeted with a huge smile from both the man and his wife. We got on the bus, and we just got to be together as friends. We got to take part in an amazing 3 hour time of worship and praise from the very front down on the floor. I was exhausted when we got back on the bus.

That is when the most incredible part of the night happened. The man stood up and told us that he was so moved by the time of worship that happened at his son's funeral, that he was moved to action. He said that he was going to make it his family's mission to make sure that the worship leaders in our church were able to get to worship. He said that we spend all week, every week preparing and praying so that our congregation could worship, and he wanted to give something back. That was his thank you to us. The gift of worship. The gift of the presence of God without having to worry about anything but God. No cables to check, no new songs to learn, no set up or tear down.  Just worship.

As I sit here, tears come to my eyes, not because Hillsong United was so amazing, not because the bus was so comfortable, but because we were given such an amazing gift of thanks. God taught me something in that moment. Accept this for what it is, a gift of thanks. Do not rob them of the blessing of getting to thank you for what you do. Thank you God for the gift of thanks.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I may be old...

I read a fair number of blogs written by senior pastors. Pastors of huge mega churches and small churches. Pastors with big staffs and little to no staff. I have noticed lately that I am seeing a lot of them talking about pouring into their young staff members by spending 1 on 1 time with them, mentoring them and teaching them to be better leaders. I love this trend. The only way to have great leaders in the future is for them to spend time with great leaders.

When I was in training as a Surgical Assistant, the montra of the surgical training program was, "See one, Do one, Teach one." This is a tried and true training method for several reasons. You learn by watching someone who has done it before, you learn by doing, and you learn by teaching someone else. This is great for the one being taught, and the one doing the teaching. In a teaching hospital, there are the young ones and the old ones. There are very few in the middle. This is not the case in ministry. Church staffs are made up of young, middle aged and older ministers and leaders.

I say all this to say, I may be old (ish), but I still need to be taught and mentored. Those of us in the 40 - 50 year old range need the same kind of mentoring. Part of the call of a senior leader and really, all ministry leaders is to shepherd, pastor and set up for success, his or her staff, no matter how young or old, no matter whether they are seen as senior leader material or just the one who is just good (or even just ok) at what they do.

This is an important lesson for all of us in ministry. For those of us who lead teams, we need to remember that just because that member of our team has tons of experience and is really good at what he or she does for the ministry, it doesn't mean that they don't need to be poured into as much as the newbie that needs to be trained from the ground up. Pour love into them all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not just a friends and family plan

Who gets your grace? Why is it that we can be so ready to extend grace to people in our family, people in our community (church or otherwise), even that guy who just stole our parking spot that we have been riding around the mall parking lot looking for for 20 minutes, and yet the minute someone gets on television and is accused of a crime, they are suddenly not worthy of grace any more.

Over the last few months, I was horrified to watch the media, and the world, call for the conviction of Casey Anthony. On the day the jury came back, horror turned to nausea. Not Guilty... Let the flame war begin. I watched as people called for Casey's death, beating and re-trial. The thing that bother me the most was the writings of people who wrote how they couldn't wait for her to die so she could spend eternity in hell.

The other story that came out of the Anthony trial was that Casey Anthony was beyond redemption, unlovable by society, and most shockingly, unlovable by God. This hurt me to my core. This is, in my opinion, in no way the way we, as followers of Christ should feel and act.
At what point did we become a people who can flippantly talk about another human being going to hell? At what point did we become a people that are blinded by indignant rage? At what point in our lives did we become a people without grace?

As a people that believe in the redemptive grace, who the person is should not matter at all in our ability to offer grace. We are not called to offer redemptive grace only to those we like, or to those who think like us or look like us. Grace is not a Friends and Family Plan.

I have a question for you. Who is beyond your grace. Who is that one person that screwed up so bad, that there is no chance for redemption? Post it in the comments below.

This post is part of a group of posts for The People of the Second Chance called Never Beyond. Please join in the conversation at POTSC.com POTSC is a group of people that believe in radical grace for all.

Monday, January 31, 2011

New set design

Greetings friends,

I wanted to share our new set design, and a little about how we built it. The set took 4 days to put together, and is built entirely out of over 200 cardboard boxes. They are stacked and glued together along the upstage wall which is 36 feet wide, and as high up as we could reach, which is 24 feet from the top down to the deck.

The longest part of the build was actually putting the boxes together, the bulk of which were put together by my son Andrew and a volunteer named Rose (a very sweet little Italian lady).

Here are a few pics from the box party.

My friend Butch brought an industrial glue gun and over 6 hours, we stacked the boxes. Here are some pictures during the build.

After all the boxes were stacked and glued, my son Aaron and I set about lighting the stage. We used 6 LED panels, and 4 bars. They are inexpensive American DJ fixtures, but they work well in our space, and besides, use what you have, right? Aaron did all the programming and I focused and helped mix color. Here is the final set look. I am really pleased by how it came out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

8.17.10 6:30am

Today is Jenny's birthday. I can not explain how much being married to her makes me a better man. She puts up with me a lot more than she should, and that is a gift. I hope today is a great day for her.

Last night when we came home after class, Jenny found a recliner in her office. It was from her sons for her birthday today. She is always looking for a comfortable place to read, and they saw it at goodwill and bought it for her. Those boys love their momma.

Happy birthday my love...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday report

Today has been a pretty amazing day. It started with worship this morning. Any Sunday that we get to do a baptism is a great day, and today didn't disappoint. When we baptise a a child from our children's ministry, they bring all of the kids down, and stack them in front of the stage to watch one of there own get baptized. After the baptism, the kids usually file out during a song. Today, they lingered a little bit. I think it was because they knew the song. It was amazing to see them sing along with us. Have you ever seen a child that was mesmerized by something, and they couldn't break away from it? That is what they were like. They were singing and smiling, drawn in by worshipping.

I also started being the regular host for our 11 o'clock traditional service. I really enjoyed the service, and getting to see people that I don't get to see very much. I am really looking forward to being in there more consistently, for several reasons, mostly because I like being around the people, and being a pastor that takes call for pastoral care, I want and need to get to know the people in that service.

After lunch, I went to our local hospice facility to see Brenda Killabrew and her husband Martin. Brenda has been battling cancer for 3 years, and is at the end of her fight. She has fought valiantly, and Martin has taken such good care of her. It was an honor to get to visit with them, pray with them, and just listen. In our time together, Martin shared that one of Brenda's favorite songs was "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)", and asked me to sing it for her at her funeral. It is always an honor to be asked to sing at a funeral or memorial service. Her suffering will end soon, I look forward to her service, and celebrating her life. I enjoyed our time together today very much.

Bishop William Willimon says that, as worship leaders, one of the things that we are called to is the pastoral care of the congregation, both in and outside of the worship service. I believe this whole heartedly, and relish the role. More about this later this week.

It truly was a great day.

later kids...