Archive for September, 2011


Another day, another rehearsal

It’s Wednesday and we are gearing up for another rehearsal. Working with kids mean that you work with a lot of stuff. CDs, t-shirts, lesson plans, CD players, keyboards, song sheets – you name it, we are probably carting it around. Because we have so many kids, we are bringing a lot of stuff to a lot of different places. I like to think of it as the not-so-glamorous part of Kids Choir. It’s easy to get lost in the details of setting up classrooms and hauling carts across the building.

Here’s a little secret: it’s the mundane, repetitive, set-up type things that make it easy for a volunteer to walk into your room and teach a class after working eight hours that day. It’s those signs that you set up outside of the classroom door every. single. week. that put parents at ease when they drop off their child to learn about praise and worship. It’s those crayons inside the bucket you took the time to replenish that make a fun, welcoming activity that starts off the hour just right for the kids around you.

Kids Choir is about praise and worship and teaching children to bury the Word of God in their hearts. Don’t let the smallness of your task diminish the eternal impact you are making on the next generation.

Cart on!


Make a List!

Time management – how do we get it all done?  THAT is the Question of the Ages!

I remember an old episode of the television series “M*A*S*H” in which Major Charles Emerson Winchester (the THIRD) tells someone “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”  That may work if you’re a hermit or if you’re the only one in your world, but for the vast majority of the rest of us, we are like the Egyptian mummy, we’re PRESSED FOR TIME (okay, I’m sorry…I couldn’t resist 🙂

I’ve long been a student of the art of time management…and I still don’t think that I have it figured out.  But I keep trying!  I have purchased (and thoroughly read) several books on the subject.  There is one recurring theme in everything that I’ve read: MAKE A LIST. Put everything (big project, little project, single task, multiple tasks that all relate to a theme, etc) and that means EVERY thing on that list.  Yes, priority and urgency are issues, but don’t waste time trying to organize everything in order of importance.  Write EVERYTHING down, as you think of it, and as you complete each task on your list, cross it off.

Each time you complete a task or project, cross it off your list and give yourself a little pat on the back.  You did it – you planned and accomplished that task.  Enjoy your moment of success.  When your list gets to the bottom of a page and you need to add one more item, start a new page.  Put that item first on your next page, then carry over everything on the previous page that you haven’t yet crossed off.

Use a dry-erase board (or a chalkboard if you’re still old-school 🙂 for your office wall, at work or at home.  Writing down a task or a goal forces you to see it each time you look at your list.  Seeing it constantly reinforces the need for you to get it done.  THEN there is the satisfaction of knowing that you have reached a goal and accomplished it.  That’s a huge boost to your self-confidence and your sense of self-achievement.

In our work, most of us are continually faced with multiple responsibilities with multiple deadlines. When you go into any meeting, knowing your own progress in your pursuit of your goals (and being able to report your progress if asked pays HUGE benefits in terms of your self-confidence and the appearance that you give to your superiors and co-workers.

Distraction is one of Satan’s most effective tools to distract us in our pursuit of God’s purpose for our life. He (Satan) uses defeatist thoughts (“I can’t do that,” or “It’s no use,” or “there’s just not enough time to do that”) to keep us from living in the victory of accomplishment…even of the very littlest things in life.

Remember:  We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).  Ask God to help you order your life today.  Make a list and get started crossing things off!  Then you can tell Satan to go sit on a tack!  Have a blessed day today in Christ!


the underdog.

I played soccer in high school and right before any huge game we would all get together to watch one of the Rocky movies. And every time we saw him take down that huge 40-foot tall Russian in Rocky IV, we thought to ourselves, “everybody thinks we’re gonna get killed, but we know we can do this!”

Whenever you start a brand new program or implement a new system, everyone is watching to see if you can actually pull it off. Some folks are excited to see what God will do, and some folks will think you are absolutely crazy for attempting such a thing. But you know something they don’t.

When God gives you a new vision for something, remember that you are the only one He has anointed with the grace, strength, and that certain strand of fearlessness that borders on insanity to carry the vision out. And while it is your job to cast the vision to your key leaders, there is a reason no one else will ever really see exactly what you see because God gave you the vision – not them! But that’s why they need you in the first place.

I am about to start a new training program for students who want to develop their skills when it comes to playing in a worship band. We are providing an environment for students to learn, plus we have rehearsal deadlines to meet since we are backing up our youth choirs this year. I’ve got 29 students and 12 adults spread out between 2 portables. That’s a lot of teenagers with instruments in their hands. Now I have a plan, but some might think it has disaster written all over it. I couldn’t be more excited, because I can see it working, and it is glorious, loud, fun controlled chaos. God wired me with not only the vision, but the grace and anointing to handle such a three ring circus.

At the moment I do feel a bit like Rocky staring at a really tall Russian dude, thinking – “hmmm..maybe everyone’s right. maybe I am about to get clocked in the mouth!”

But I know that when God gives us a vision, He doesn’t ever drop the ball. Me getting knocked out is not part of His plan. I might find myself on the mat a few times, but I know if I keep the vision before me I will always get back up.


writing music parts that are easy to follow and easy to play

Players and singers can only be expected to adequately read, understand, and replicate (either in rehearsal or performance) the printed music that they are given if it is written well (musically), laid out proportionately (on the page), and has all of the information that they will need for performance.

Here are some pointers for page layout that will save you some headaches and help your your music look like you know what you’re doing as a composer/arranger:
1. In page layouts, spacing is everything. Remember, if they can’t read what you wrote, you can’t expect them to sing or play it like you want it played. Spread everything out, especially the measures that have a lot of notes or big words in them in them.

2. Try to lay out the parts with all musical sections (verse, chorus, bridge, interlude, etc.) starting at the beginning of a line…like a new paragraph.

3. Repeated sections should also open at the beginning of a line and close at the end of a line. if there are 1st and 2nd endings, they should appear at the end of the line (if they will both fit) OR the 1st ending at the end of the line and the 2nd ending beginning the next line.

4. A measure with a dal segno sign (looks like a dollar sign with a dot on each side) should appear at the beginning of a line and the D.S. al coda measure should be at the end of a line. A coda (and the coda sign – a big O with a plus sign in it) should start at the beginning of a line.

5. If possible, always show a tempo (beats per minute, or bpm), so that the player can estimate how fast the song will be played. Also include a word or two that indicates the style of the song: “driving rock,” “worshipfully,” “power ballad,” etc.

6. After you’ve written the parts, go back and look at each of them and ask yourself, “If I were the player, do I see on this part all of the information that I need?” and “Can I read it easily enough to effectively and comfortably execute the notes, rhythms, and expressions?”

Usually the mark of an experienced arranger/composer shows in his/her handiwork with their parts that the musicians have to play.


I’m okay! I’m okay. I’m okay?

About two months ago, I led worship for CBC’s middle school and high school camps. On the second day of the first camp, I decided to ride a mountain bike through the trails on the campground with some of the guys. I stumbled upon every twelve-year-old boy’s dream: a steep hill. How could I resist? A bike, a really steep hill…how could this be anything but a blast?

Well, I was right. It was a blast! There was, however, a minor hiccup in the fun. No big deal or anything, I just hit a bump going 25mph or so and flew over the handlebars, landed on my shoulder, and tumbled 45ft from where the bike stopped.  No biggie.

Once I caught my breath, we all laughed at how amazing that was. It had to have been pretty funny watching 200 pounds of man flying that far through the air. I’m okay! I’m okay. I’m okay?  Suddenly, I realized that something was wrong with my shoulder. It felt funny, like it was drooping a bit. Then I realized I couldn’t really move my arm much.

Uh oh.

Off to the emergency room. You know it’s a good injury when the doctor and the x-ray tech are staring at the display on the x-ray machine with wide eyes and open mouths. It was my collarbone. Snapped it like a twig. The doctor also said I bruised the ribs on the left side of my body, and that all of the muscles on the left side of my torso would be in constant spasm from the trauma. Awesome.

Fast forward.

It’s Saturday, the second to last night of high school camp. The pain has gotten worse each day since the accident.  We finish our first set of songs and I’m in a pretty overwhelming amount of pain. I’ve always felt like I had a pretty high threshold for pain, but at this point I was sure it was too intense to play the final set. We got back up and I made it through the first song and most of the second. The pain was so intense at this point that my body just stopped working. My legs buckled and I hit my knees. Curled up into a ball and weeping from the immense pain, I knew I couldn’t go any further.

The students and band continued to worship. One of our students came and put one hand on my back. The other, he lifted in the air while he continued to worship. A moment later, it happened. The immense pain was replaced by the immense weight of the Spirit of God in the room.  All at once, the students, adults, and band began to hit their knees. There was worship, then quiet reverence. Nobody moved. Nobody left. Over two hundred of us sat there, enjoying the presence of the Spirit, some for the first time.

It was in this quiet reverence that He whispered something to my Spirit: “I don’t need you to be ‘on your game’. I don’t need you to play the right chords or sing the right notes. I don’t need you to pick the right songs. I don’t need your talent. I don’t need your skills. I need you to say ‘yes’ to Me.”

I broke.

Too often, as a worship leader, I’ve tried to create this moment. I’ve tried to create it with the perfect song or the perfect set list. I’ve tried to create it within the confines of my own skills and abilities. Wow, what a small box to ask God to operate in.


I have already forgotten the pain I experienced that night. However, I haven’t forgotten the weakness I felt. I don’t ever want to.  In my most profound weakness He showed me His incredible strength. It is an experience I will never forget.

God, continue to show me my weakness. Continue to teach me to surrender to You. Help me to say yes to You. Help me move out of Your way.


new level, new devil.

One of my favorite preachers says “new level, new devil;” and I suppose that is where I am finding myself right now. Like when you start a new level in a video game and you haven’t figured out all of the traps and tricks yet, and you are getting your tail kicked, and burning through all of your lives in 5 minutes. You know you can figure it out eventually, but it’s a harder level, and at first you are yelling at the screen saying “dude, no fair, there is no way I can beat this level.” But we know what happens. You eventually get it, and you beat it. Sometimes after 100 tries. You have new moves, new skills, and new weapons – which is good, because you will need them more than ever on the next level. Because there is always a next level. And it is always more challenging than the one before. Until the game is completely over.

I know as worship leaders we shouldn’t be surprised when we are attacked, especially on the day of or hours before we lead. You would think I know the drill by now, and I do, but the game has changed a bit and I am in need of a new drill.

Usually the drill is this: the day I am leading, usually a few hours before, I start to feel a certain weight. It’s actually a physical feeling, and at times I can feel it pressing in pretty heavily. And then little things here and there happen that seem to challenge my reactions and emotions. I do my best to stay focused, remind myself my battle is not with flesh and blood (people) but with the enemy, and I just keep moving forward, keeping my mouth shut, only opening it in prayer or to rebuke the enemy when it gets really heavy. I stay fairly quiet during those hours except for those 2 things if at all possible.

And then I get on stage and about halfway through the set I can feel it break off. The heaviness leaves and the enemy gives up. I go home breathing a lot easier and completely peaceful, and a little tired. That’s one level I’ve been playing over and over again, because I feel pretty confident there. But I guess I accidentally cracked some code or moved up some elevator, because I am on a new floor, and I am getting my tail kicked. I am disoriented and losing my weapons, much less learning how to use new ones.

I don’t think it’s any accident that the armor of God is depicted as just that – armor. There are chinks in armor. And I am figuring out that’s why it says in Ephesians that even after you have it all on, after you’ve done everything else, you still have to stand. Almost as if suiting up doesn’t always mean you won’t escape unscathed. Because of those darn chinks.

Lately the weight has been accompanied by personalized arrows aimed directly at those chinks. The enemy knows our weaknesses, and everyone’s chinks are in different places. And honestly, they don’t even feel like arrows. They feel like bullets from a machine gun. They are extreme and they hurt, attacking everything from small worries to huge things, going so far as to question my place in my calling, or in ministry. They incite tears and sometimes panic. Again, this is not coming from flesh and blood, but straight from the enemy. And I also know that I have control over how much I let those things hurt me or worry me. But I haven’t figured out that trick on this level yet. Because the weapons are new. The bullets are different. New level, new devil.

Recently, it was so heavy that for the first time, sitting in the service during the message waiting to go up for the last 2 songs, I thought, “this is too hard. no fair. there is no way I can withstand this.” I’ve never thought that before, and have never been tempted to meditate on it – which I didn’t, I at least figured out that feeling the pressure of that thought was okay, but meditating on it was not. It was no accident that about that time in the sermon, our pastor started to speak scripture directly related to the power of the Holy Spirit, and the counter advances of the enemy.

When he started to speak those verses out loud, I felt a shift inside my Spirit. I knew there was about to be a victory in the room, and went up to do the last songs. And the very moment I sang the first line of the song I was leading, it broke instantly. And the enemy ran. And the power of God was so strong in that room, the enemy knew he didn’t stand a chance. It had nothing to do with me or some awesome song. God needed to do something *through* that song in many different hearts. The spiritual multiplication of what would happen during that song was too big of a number apparently and the enemy was not happy.

So I had the “a-ha” moment. That moment where you go, “oh, that’s why I was attacked all day.” It has nothing to do with me being important or good at leading, and everything to do with me being an open vessel for God to work through. Because honestly, I just open my mouth and put my hands in place on the guitar and assume the stance, and God really does everything else. I wish I could describe what it feels like.

I thought that was a level that I had completed. Nope.

Today was more of the same, if not at a higher velocity and pressure. I am still not good at this level, so I am still letting the bullets rip too deep. I’m human, so I’m learning. But man, these things are firing so fast.

The other thing I’m learning is that more often than not, as the leader I am the only one that is absorbing the weight of the attack. Not because I’m some strong awesome person, but because God has called me and appointed me to do this, and it comes with a price. And most of the time as leaders we have to absorb 90% of the attack because the rest of the group doesn’t have the same grace that we do. And you don’t have to be the leader in charge to feel it – maybe you are leading a certain song that night that the enemy does not want sung. Or maybe you are about to have a conversation with someone that God will use to change a life. It’ll happen. And you will have a grace and strength on you that the others won’t have at that moment. But they will have their moments too.

At least today I figured out that I was in fact on the same level, so I had a little more of a heads up that tonight was going to be amazing. And it was.

We tried “Beautiful Things” in its entirety tonight, and I’m not even sure what happened. I didn’t even sound like myself, my voice was different. The band sounded different, better than ever – powerful yet very delicate at rare moments that we didn’t even rehearse. About halfway through the song, God started unlocking hearts in the room. One by one. I could feel it. And all of a sudden it was worth it. And all of a sudden I realized the difference between today and last Wednesday – the thought of ”I can’t handle this anymore” never entered my mind. Not once.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still bleeding and weary from this day. I haven’t figured out the recovery process yet on this level. It’s a bit messy and lonely. Doing what I know to do, staying close to the Word and close to people, doing the next right thing, putting one foot in front of the other. Watching an episode of Parks and Rec and laughing just like normal. And maybe going to bed early.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this level and I don’t want to fence myself in with my own words in that regard. This is all I know: I’m not the strong one, God is. I accept my weakness in order to receive His strength. I am not enduring this to receive blessings, because truth be told, they don’t always show up soon – I’m enduring this because I love Jesus, and it’s the very least I can do compared to what He endured for me. And no matter how much those bullets hurt, no matter how long it takes for me to learn the discipline of not letting them touch my skin, it is always, ALWAYS worth it. Until the game is completely over.

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