highlights of the day

Wow, so much goodness happened today. It’s hard to select a highlight, so here are a few:

Kim went out to breakfast with a friend who was in town for Leadership Advance. That meant I got to stay home and fix breakfast for Charlie. He and I ate omelets and played until Kim came home to take Jase to get some 6-month-baby shots.

A bunch of the folks from Team XStream loaded the van and headed to Millheim. We drank coffee and ate sammies at the Inglebean before walking over to visit Brandon’s cats (Carl and Carl Jr.) I love hanging out with the folks who are shaping the lives of Calvary’s teens. Our team is growing, and it’s good.
Team XStream at Inglebean

Tonight was Lilly’s winter concert at State High. This concert featured the Cecilian Singers (11-12th grade ladies), OMA (Only Men Aloud 11-12th grade men) and the Chamber Singers. As expected, the music was phenomenal, and Mr Drafall once again selected a number of pieces that find the origin in Scripture. I love listening to his choirs perform. It’s almost like going to worship!

After the concert, we hung out in the lobby with a few families that we’ve grown to know and love over the years of shared theatre/choir experiences. It was fun to laugh and catch up with them. Two of the other parents were celebrating birthdays today, and Kim’s birthday is tomorrow. I think we missed an opportunity to go out and celebrate, but I don’t know that the day could have handled much more excitement…

off to a good start

Last weekend Kim and I took most of our adult volunteers away for a weekend to pray and plan, to train and build relationships. We believe that the heart of every good ministry is a great team, and we’ve got the makings of a great team working with us! Krislund was a great retreat venue. We got to play/think/strategize/teamify on their Initiatives course, experience some of the vertical adventures of their high ropes course, and spend a solid weekend with some high-capacity leaders. We prayed a lot, talked about ministry priorities and strategies, and enjoyed worshiping together. A fire pit gave us a great setting for some late-night chats, and some real bonding happened!
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We kicked off the new XStream year tonight, moving back to Calvary’s building. Some of our friends from 242 (Grace Prep/Stepping Stones/Centre Church) joined us for worship and prayer. Tonight was GOOD! I saw lots of new faces and some folks who were away for most of the summer, as well as most of the peeps who hung out with us at the Barn all summer long. After a good time of worship, I led students through a prayer exercise–ask them about it! I called it the Five Fingers of Prayer.
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We’ve got a great year of ministry ahead of us, and we seem to be building momentum. From a dynamite team to some enthusiasm among students to building relationships and rapport with parents…I believe that God wants to do something special in Happy Valley this year, and that it’s got something to do with teenagers. I can hardly wait to see what develops.

this is what we do

Ali Great WallAli Bruce shared a little bit of her story tonight. She’s a former youth group kid (she was in Kim’s small group for 5 years!) turned leader who has just returned from a 11 month/11 country mission trip called The World Race. You should watch some of her videos or read her blog. I choked up several times just trying to introduce her tonight! Parents, you should do everything you can to get your daughter to come hang out with Ali. She’s going to be helping us work with young ladies at XStream.


Jake hikingWe also added an intern to our team this week–Jake Nold is back for the summer. He’s recently changed his major and is thinking about youth ministry, so he’ll be spending time with our senior high guys as part of our leadership team. I couldn’t be happier, and I know that the young men he rubs shoulders with are going to be challenged/encouraged to grow in their faith.

I was speaking with a dad tonight at the close of our time tonight. He was thanking me for spending time with his son (which is one of the perks of my job!) I pointed to the young men who are volunteering with our high school guys and bragging on them a little bit when it hit me–AC, Brandon, Collin, and Jake are all products of Calvary’s youth ministry. They’ve had other quality people speak into their lives at various points, but all of them have been part of our youth ministry when they were in middle school and/or high school.

And that, my friends, is what we call a WIN where I come from!  These young leaders are passionate about their faith, growing in their leadership skills, hungry for the presence of God, wanting to be challenged and equipped to serve, believing that God wants to use them to shape the next group of students following in their footsteps.

Parents, you will be glad to have your sons and daughters spending time with our team. I know that I am!

Here’s a video clip from our worship time tonight.  We went with the Acoustic Army!

metro worship goodness

Tonight was another city-wide youth group gathering, and we’re gaining steam!  The worship was sweet, Pastor Zac challenged students to actually TELL the good news (as opposed to simply letting their lives speak), and we had several more youth groups join us. My buddy Jarrod and his group hosted us tonight, and the room was buzzing with students! And my wife did a fabulous job creating some interactive prayer stations to help students connect with Jesus.

I’ve said it a thousand times or more, but I love it when the Church gets together to worship, pray, and focus on God’s word.  And if we can reach this generation with the gospel, if they find the life that Jesus has for them, they can change the world!  The first batch of Jesus followers left that kind of legacy; why can’t this one?

I’m praying for some sort of catalyst, something that ignites a revolution of love and grace and truth and power like we have never seen.  I’ve read that many of the major revivals have started with the youth of the region.  O God, would you burst through here in our town?!

From the Day of Pentecost, there has not been one great spiritual awakening in any land which has not begun in a union of prayer, though only among two or three; no such outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined.—A.T. Pierson, quoted by Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p112

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!

like father, like son

Levi and I got the chance to lead worship tonight for our student ministry.  We had a blast! Folks were singing loudly, clapping, dancing around…it was fun for us to get to play together.  My buddy Kevin took this picture of us during sound check:

photo courtesy of Kevin Sliman

photo courtesy of Kevin Sliman

Check out our faces–identical!  And the funny thing is that I’m pretty sure that it’s the same face that my mom makes when she’s concentrating on her music.

I love the fact that my kids get excited about playing music in church, that they want to be part of our worship team.  Team Sublett has always been part of the set-up team for our church (we’ve met at the high school and the State Theatre) for years.  We’ve tried to raise them to see the importance of serving, of being connected in ways that give back and contribute to the cause.

And I love playing and singing, leading worship with my kids.  As a dad, that’s a pretty big highlight.  Even if we do look like we just licked a lemon!

just about go time

So many things are at the launching point…

The children are nestled all snug in their beds, alarm clocks set for BJWU (before Jesus wakes up) so they can join me ’round the table for some family Bible time before school. That’s one of the things that I am most looking forward to about the start of another school year. I love the fact that we start our days together, in God’s word. I hope that God uses that time to shape our hearts.

Levi is a senior. Yeah…3 kids in high school, 3 in middle school this year. We’ve pretty much got a youth group in our house. I am excited and hopeful especially for Levi. I think this could be a great year for him. He is growing into a fine young man, with lots of promise and potential. I hope that he shines this year.

Youth ministry is about to kick in to full-swing at Calvary. We have meetings for parents and students this week for both middle school and high school. We have a lot of work to do–building teams, personal invites to students…I can hardly wait!

There’s a crisp feeling in the air tonight. It’s actually felt like football season for a couple of weeks now. While no one really cares about the NFL preseason, our fantasy football league draft was tonight. I wasn’t even paying attention, so the auto-draft feature kicked in. I had the first pick, which means that Adrian Peterson is a proud member of the Houserville Hamsters.
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Penn State students have returned to town. There’s no food left on the shelves of the grocery stores, Walmart is stripped of all housewares, and you have to exercise great caution when driving downtown lest you run over a wandering freshman. On the upside, attendance at midtown doubled yesterday! Yep, there are lots of college students who want to worship Jesus.

PSU football coach Bill O’Brien stopped by the Blue Band camp the other day. Check this out.

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.

bees led me down the rabbit hole

I spent a good portion of the day in The Rabbit Room.  It’s Jonathan’s fault.  He was a year younger than me in high school, so I suppose the same holds today.  He was a sharp young man then, witty and creative and dapper, to boot.  I rediscovered him some time ago, and the years have only deepened his wit and wisdom.  I have no doubt about his dapperness, though I haven’t seen him in person.

He wrote this–a painful tribute to his foray into beekeeping.  You should read it now.  I’ll wait.  That was my invitation down the Rabbit Hole into the Rabbit Room.  Be warned–you may not surface for hours.

I read and read and read.  I listened to (and am currently listening to) Rabbit Room Radio.  I paused and pondered.  I made a second pot of coffee.  I pulled out my guitar and my journal.  I listened to podcasts.  Then I read more–pages and pages of articles that stirred my soul, made me think.

Here’s something Jonathan wrote titled Where Babies Come From: The Gospel Uses of Comedy:
There’s a deep pleasure in the gospel that nobody talks about very much, and it is the pleasure of saying, “Oh, What a fool I have been! I was so sure I knew how this thing was going to turn out. I shaped my life around a foolish assumption that the world was telling me the truth about itself and my place in it. I was so wrong! Halleluiah! I lived in fear of things that had no power to harm me! I thought I had to exert my will and get my way! But now I don’t have to anymore. Halleluiah!”

I haven’t seen or talked to Jonathan since I graduated (and that’s a long time ago.)  As I listened to him read some of his words today, I could picture him just as we were back in high school.  I imagine that we would spend a good portion of our time today discussing life, family, good books, and faith, as we both seem to hold those things in high regard.

If I lived near Nashville I would hope to find myself in some of those same creative circles, doing life with folks who are committed to telling The Story in new and compelling ways.  That sort of community seems to be life-giving, doesn’t it?

I wonder if we could start something like that here in Happy Valley…

give me a song to sing

I’m not a songwriter, but I think there are songs inside me.  I’ve been singing new songs to the Lord as part of my time with him.  I don’t know that they’ll ever see the light of day or be heard outside of my office.  But I like singing my songs to Jesus.  Most of them come out of something that I’ve read in the Bible, and most of them are just little snatches of songs.

Every once in a while I catch something in a Psalm that feels like it could be a song. That’s not unusual, since they’re all songs.

Here’s what struck me today, from Psalm 62:

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.

I like how the first verse is a declaration, while the second is sort of instructive for David’s soul.  Then he closes with a bridge written for the body, for the corporate worship gathering.  He moves from self to inner self to collective…and he’s singing the gospel, the Good News of salvation that comes from a God who redeems his people.

That’s a song worth singing.

Hey, look what I found on the youtube!