oh but he’s at a fun stage

I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I’m going to hold on to this as long as possible.

Charlie wants to go with me everywhere I go. Today that meant riding out to Spring Mills to pick up the truck, hanging out at Josie’s end of the year rugby picnic, then immediately over to the church building for another round of worship team rehearsal.

The truck is back on the road and running well. Last week my buddy Andy and I replaced the brakes and rotors, but I got something misaligned, and the right brake was squealing. So the good folks at Bierlein Automotive tweaked it and threw on two new tires to make it all road-worthy.

The picnic was a blast. We got to hang out with some of the fabulous rugby parents while the girls chattered about the season. Charlie was more interested in playing in the creek and on the playground. But can you blame him? He’s got the soul of an Adventure Guy growing inside him, and I want to feed that.

Since he handled last week’s worship team rehearsal so well, I thought we’d try it again. He was a trooper. He spent about 30 minutes chasing a wiffle ball around the room, swinging righty and lefty (mostly lefty!) and driving the ball the length of the room. It was pretty fun to watch. He was even able to connect with a couple of Happy Gilmore swings, running as he approached the ball and swinging as he ran.

He’s asking me to spend some time with him tomorrow having an adventure. I’m not sure that I can pass that up! We may have to find a little trail or creek to play in…

my shadow Charlie

Charlie has been my little sidekick for some time now, so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to tag along to worship team rehearsal tonight. He’s pretty quick to jump in the truck to ride along for any and all errands, picking up kids from rehearsals, or impromptu trips to the store.

But I wasn’t sure how he’d do at the church while I spent a couple of hours setting up, rehearsing, and tearing down. That’s kind of a long time to an almost-4 year old boy, especially close to bedtime.

I shouldn’t have worried. He crushed it. Plus he got to chase a dog around the worship room, entertain a baby, and work on his worship dance moves.

I should’ve snapped a picture, but I was too busy laughing at him. I love that kid…

where do I sign up?

crowd at eisenshower

This past Sunday was incredible! All the Calvary worship gatherings met at Eisenhower to cap off our OneByOne Initiative series. This is so much more than a building fund drive or a capital campaign; we’re talking about resourcing the vision that God has placed on our hearts for Happy Valley and beyond. And Sunday’s worship gathering was sweet!

More than 1600 people filled the lower tier of Eisenhower.  Calvary’s brass set the tone with some wonderful prelude music, followed by a worship team comprised of musicians from various worship teams. Everyone had the opportunity to turn in a commitment card for the OneFund, as well as a rock that they’d personalised.  And Kim had Ronnie sing a powerful new Kari Jobe song, complete with readers from multiple generations.stones

But the kicker for me was Dan’s sermon. I generally think Dan’s messages are as good as any other preacher in the land. I’d just as soon listen to Dan speak as download anything from any of the big guns out there. But this week was something else.

What would you preach on a Sunday when you’re asking people to commit to give for the next 2 years? Dan preached about the stoning of Stephen from Acts 6-7. You can watch it or listen to it if you missed it. When the dust settled, I found myself choking back tears and wanting to sign up to join Dan’s team for another 15 years of trying to impact the next generation with the good news of Jesus.Stac worshiping

I love my church, and believe that our best days are ahead of us…but maybe not too far ahead!

Sunday’s a-comin’

This weekend promises to be a significant one in the life of Calvary.  Not only is is the last Sunday before finals–which means a bag filled with goodies for every student to help them through the week–it’s also a weekend that we’re combining all of the Calvary worship gatherings.  Instead of us meeting in 4 locations for 8 different worship gatherings, all of us will be meeting together at Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State’s campus for one mack-daddy of a worship time.

I’m part of the worship team, and we met tonight to rehearse the songs and spend some time in prayer.  I am excited about the songs we’re singing, and even more so by the thought that so many of us will be worshiping the Lord together.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the fact that we’re a multi-site church.  But there’s something special about getting all the Calvary family together once in a while.

And I LOVE the emphasis that we’ve been placing on our OneByOne Initiative, especially when we talk about doing a better job of reaching the next generation.  My heart has always been for the middle school and high school students in our town.  That’s a big part of why I asked to be Calvary’s youth pastor again.  I believe that we could see a tremendous move of God in our town among the teenagers.  That’s what I’m praying for, what I’m working toward, and what I am expecting.  God wants to do something new here.

And the seeds of that are being sown right now.  I can’t wait for Sunday.

my favorite part of Sunday

This past Sunday was a pretty remarkable one in the life of Calvary.  As we kicked off our OneByOne Initiative, we gave away $25,000.  Yep.  Gave it away, sort of like a reverse offering.  Everyone who attended one of the Calvary gatherings received a packet of info about the OnByOne Initiative, which included an envelope with a $10, $20, or $50 to use to bless someone in our community.  We’re already hearing some pretty sweet ideas of how that money is going to be used.  But that wasn’t my favorite part of the day.

Pastor Dan showed up to preach live at the 11:15 worship gathering, which was an unexpected treat.  But not my favorite part.

I got to do the voice-over for a video we used.  Not my favorite part.

Hands down, this was my favorite part of the day.
Every Sunday that I lead worship, Charlie shows up between services to sit with me, play a little guitar, sing into the mic (it’s off!), and hang out with his daddy.

Isn’t that what a worship gathering is really about?  Thanks to Mike Leach for snapping the pic of us.


use what ya got

Having spent most of my adult life in youth ministry, I’ve learned the value of improvising and adapting.  You won’t always have the budget to buy the gear you need, so you might have to figure out a way to make things work.

Like these guys

Getting it done with minimalistic beauty and diesel fuel.

I hear these guys might be playing at the winter retreat…

the easy way out

I have a lot rolling around in my head and my heart.  I had a great day, full of meetings with people, wrestling with various aspects of my new role at Calvary.  We’re still working out the kink and nuances.  I’m not ready to declare that I have all my ducks in a row, but today was a good day.

With that in mind, and because I want to get back to a book I’m reading, here are some delicious links for you.  Much like sausage, only digital, and lower in fat.  Yes, I know that it’s not as touching as a picture of Charlie eating an ice cream cone, with Meyer Dairy Maple Walnut dripping down his belly, him laughing cause it’s cold and messy.  I know…

Stephen Miller‘s new book Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars is a great read.  I started it this evening, and I want to get back to it.  Halfway done, I know that this is one I’ll be coming back to, using to help us shape our worship teams at Midtown.  Clear, compelling, accessible and challenging.  I give it 5 sausage links.

All About Worship collective 6.  I’ve been telling you about this great service for about a year.  Since 2011 they’ve released 6 compilations of new worship songs.  I like some better than others, but that’s personal preference at work.  The songs are theologically sound, dripping scripture, and culled to be helpful to the local church and worship leader. You can’t download sets 1-5 but you can get on this train now for future downloads.  5 out of 5 snausages.

A freebie for the guitarists out there: How to Use a Capo.  Chris for Canada has written a sweet little ebook that he’s giving away to bless us guitar pickers.  Thanks, Chris!

So this took a lot longer than I anticipated.  But I’ve shared some great resources with you.  Now I’m headed back to the Stephen’s book.

i need a banjo plucker

A simple glance through my posts would tell you that music plays a pretty big role in my life.  We’re a musical family, from top to bottom.  My mom is one of the best piano players I know.  She can hear a song on the radio, walk over to the piano, modulate up or down, and play it like she wrote it.  Kim’s dad (and grand-pap) has been part of a Southern Gospel quartet forever; I was in the group for a few years myself.  Kim will probably clobber me for telling you, but she plays a mean saxophone!

This spring has been remarkable on so many musical levels.  From the selections that the school choirs are doing to last night’s Godspell, from leading worship for midtown at the State Theatre to some family jam/worship, from the beginnings of some songs to the hope of some epic worship nights with folks this summer…I am pumped for this summer!

I’m thinking that I want to try some different things this summer.  I’ve got a buddy (Caleb) who has the connections to pull together some version of a Tower of Power.  I’ve been wanting to set the Bluegrass Band loose for a long time.  So I need a banjo plucker!  There’s got to be a few pickers and grinners around midtown, right?  Somebody help a brotha out…

And for your listening pleasure, I submit the following:

if I had my druthers

have you ever heard that saying? Maybe it’s a Georgia thang.  It means that if I got to choose my preference, my way…if I could pick, this is what I’d do.

While I find my attention drawn to a pretty diverse and wide-flung set of attractions/passions, there’s a part of me that always comes back to leading people in worship.  It’s been part of the way I lead and pastor people, part of the way I teach and shape their hearts for as long as I have been in ministry.

Lately God has been bringing some wild-eyed and wondrous worshipers into my life.  There’s a buzz in the air, and a freshness to faith.  I’m starting to hear these young men and women talking about Jesus in a way that’s captivating.  They’re getting together to pray and seek God’s face, to sing unscripted, unbridled, uncharted songs.  It’s not neat or clean or polished.  But it’s good.  It’s real.  It’s authentic and inspiring and life-giving.

Worship flows from hearts touched by the love of God.  Worship is the response of a heart that has been forgiven, redeemed, transformed.

I’m hopeful that new songs will come out of this–songs that express what God is doing here and now, songs that capture the essence of a movement of God, songs for us, by us.

I don’t know that anything we write or sing will have lasting power, but I believe that there are songs in my heart that need to be sung.  They may not be the masterpieces of Lennon-McCartney (dadgum creative geniuses), but they’ll be real.  They’ll be mine.  And that’s something…

are you tired of simple worship songs?

Kim’s parents made the trek to Happy Valley this evening for Levi’s Master Singers Concert.  I know…you think your high school choir was the bomb-diggity.  I thought my musical background was pretty good.  Then I heard Levi’s choir crush songs like this and this.

When I was in high school I sang in a program called The Senior Showcase.  I was in the choir that did a big gospel number based off Galatians 6:9 (that was fun!) and I sang 2 solos: Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be the Day and Ronnie Milsap’s Lost in the 50’s Tonight.  Thankfully there is no video of that night–our video camera ran without a tape in it!

Tonight the Master Singers sang a wonderful mix of ancient and modern songs, some in languages we don’t even speak.  They sang them with emotion.  They sang them with authority.  They sang them with flair. Congratulations to Mr. Drafall and his staff, the students, and all who were involved in tonight’s concert. It was a gift fit for the season.

Interestingly, the choir director (Mr. Drafall) selected several pairs of songs for this program with the same title–same title, same text, different songs altogether.  My favorite was simply titled Alleluia.  No, not the one from Shreck. This one:

One simple word, repeated over and over and over…I’m sure that most of you know that the word is taken to mean “Praise the Lord” and you’ve likely heard songs with that word included in the lyrics. The piece by Ralph Manuel is so very different from any that I’ve heard, but I immediately was aware of the fact that tonight I heard some of the best voices in praise of the Almighty. I don’t know if most of them know that they are singing praise to God, but I am…

One of the knocks on contemporary worship songs is that they’re too simple, too simplistic, too repetitive…I don’t know what your take is on some of the simple, repetitive songs you may have heard in church. I realize that there is a world of difference between classical music and cheesy early 80’s Christian choruses. I’m not likely to pullout the old school chorus books or the overhead projector this week at midtown. But the intent is the same. The goal of the songwriter is to help people encounter God, to sing praise to the Father God who loves us. While I don’t want to go back to singing repetitive choruses in church, I do want to continue to examine and look for ways to help us encounter the God who is worthy of praise.