Squeeze.

How many of you Worship Pastors/Leaders out there, are beginning to feel the squeeze?  How many have this increasing level of anxiety that shows up, all so subtly, and takes hold of your blood pressure, sanity, peace, heart-rate, and more...till December 26th?

This is my calendar for this week.  Notice Tuesday and Wednesday.  More and More, the weeks are starting to look like this for me.  Yesterday was our yearly, Christmas Events planning meeting.  And, as helpful our staff has been about not loading me up with the bulk of the burden (which has been the case in years past) I am still feeling a bit of pressure.  And, it's only October.

As a Church with a Preschool in it, every year they have a big Christmas Event in our Worship Space.  Which means, = clearing the stage//running tech support, etc...

Then, our Children's Ministry has a big production.  = Clearing the stage//tech support, etc...

And, a Community Christmas Tree Lighting, Christmas Cafe (which we are attempting to pull off Behold The Lamb of God, and which we have already been working for 2 months on) and Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.  On top of our Advent Conspiracy series benefitting Hope Unlimited.

How am I going to get this all done, and not come out of Christmas, completely spent?  Anyone else feeling the squeeze?  I think I am better prepared heading into the madness, than in years past, but I can feel the tension.  It's palpable.

 

 

Deep In The Jungle

Took this hike into the jungle on an island on the northern tip of Sumatra.  Guns N Roses played in my head (Welcome to the Jungle) as we crossed the river rock headed for the waterfall.  Then, we came upon it, sheer splendor.  After a refreshing dip in the pond at the base of the waterfall, what else would we do other than climb the thing?  So, that we did:

Worship Recap 5-22

Sunday started out with a bang.  I knew when I woke up that we still had songs to put into ProPresenter ("My Father's World" and "Beautiful Savior").  2 new songs for 1 service.  Generally, I wouldn't do more than 1.  I find that there is definitely a threshold that each church has to how many new songs you can introduce.  I know because in my first year here, I did 30.  That was a little much, but they were barely doing Hillsong, and hadn't even heard of United's "United We Stand".   So...for yesterday, 2 new one's.  But, most people probably have heard "My Father's World" before, just not the way I have it arranged.  At least, that was my justification.

That, and One Sonic Society's "Beautiful Savior" was just too good to pass up.

So, I woke up and went straight to the Keurig.  After 1 cup, and a quick shower, I hustled up to church.  1st thing every Sunday is making an air pot of coffee for our team.  I like to think of myself as a servant to our volunteers.  Love on them.  Serve them, and keep doing it over and over again.  They are giving their time.  The least I can do is give them coffee.  The least.

Then, I sat down and opened up the Word.  The Psalms are a wonderful place for early Sunday morning.  Yesterday, Psalm 50, 53, 60 and 75.  Part of my read through the Bible yearly plan.  And yes...I'm a few weeks behind.  Don't judge me.

After reading, hopped on the iMac and started putting in the lyrics.  At 7am, the volunteers start rolling in.  Time to get busy.

After a great rehearsal, we took a short break before coming back and doing a technical rehearsal.  The tech rehearsal is critical.  Things have gone so much smoother since implementing this practice.

Here's what happens.  The Tech Team get's in place and sets up the room with our Preservice conditions.  House lights up, stage lights down, iTunes rolling our preservice playlist...and then we walk through the service with everyone.  The band and singers, and the Pastors, included.  We will do the service as if it was the real deal and it usually takes around 30 mins.  We cut out the preaching and the extended prayer time.

In times past, I have heard us call the the 1st service our "warm up" service.  Our "trial run", and usually, we treated it like such.  Transitions were sloppy, dead and awkward stage time, etc... There was a much higher potential for awkwardness in the 1st service.   (I'm sorry if you are one of the victims of that-hopefully we are doing much better now).

Anyways...after Tech Rehearsal, we had about 20 minutes before the beginning of service.  I love not being rushed on Sunday morning.

We started off with "The Highest and Greatest" by Tim Hughes, and "Bless The Lord" by Jeff Deyo.  Love both of these songs.  Great declaration in the chorus of "Bless The Lord".  "I will worship You, I will praise Your Name forever...", good stuff.

Then after a quick time of meet and greet, we did "My Father's World".  Hope to record this someday.  It's a catchy revamp of the old hymn.

We then did a welcome that on video and moved to a time of honoring the graduating seniors.  It was a wonderful time.  We coupled that with our prayer time that we call Stand In The Gap.

After that, we did 2 more songs; "Beautiful Savior", One Sonic Society and "Your Great Name" (and I am not sure who wrote this song, the first version I heard was from The People's Church in Franklin, TN. But I am LOVING this song right now.  So powerful an expression.  Fresh worship for our Church, great melody, this song has it all.

Then, Pastor David came up to break a wonderful message on what we pass on to our Children.  It was convicting for me, no doubt.

A wonderful, stress-free, worshipful Sunday.  Lifechange happened.  People me the Lord, and for many, for the first time ever.  Praise God.  What better way is there to start the week?

Believing In Others

For most of my life, I have lived by the mantra, "if I want something done right, I have to do it myself".  I am not quite sure why, because my Dad used to tell me I couldn't do ANYthing right.  I was always getting thumped on my head, and called stupid by the very ones that loved me.  I just didn't measure up, I felt that at least.  Perhaps, that is why I have struggled with perfectionism over the course of my adult life.  Sort of a defense mechanism for the inept.  "I'll learn to do it perfectly so no one makes fun of me, I can't handle being a disappointment". The D word.  No doubt, one of my biggest fears.  As a people-pleaser, the last thing I want to do it disappoint people.  Seriously, that is the worst thing imaginable to me.  So, I have become proficient at many things, and my job here has catered to that.

Here are some of the hats that I wear/have worn in the past:

Worship Leader

Worship Pastor

Service Planner

Graphics Dude

Video Guy

Mac Tech Support

Lighting Guru

Equipment Procurer

Stage Designer

Stage Seter-uper.

Etc...I'm sure something will be added to this list pretty soon.

One of the casualties of living this kind of a life, is my department's growth.  It becomes very hard to give something away because I believe that I can do it better myself.  For instance, after some crazy late Saturday night event, we needed to switch the stage around for Sunday.  A friend of mine (someone MORE than capable of setting up the stage) offered to do it in the morning at 4am.  I went to bed nervous that when I showed up, there'd be so much to do.  He surprised me.  At 2am I received a text from him with a picture of the stage, totally set up.  I rolled over in my bed at 4am, and got 2 more hours of amazingly restful sleep.

Or, when we hired a video guy, who is MUCH better at video than I am.  I had trouble turning that over to him though.  Something in me just cringed.

But then he surprised me.  Did great video, and I didn't have to do it.  Freedom!

Recently, I realized something from a comment that my beautiful wife made.  I realized that I also was like this at home.  Like...I had the drop on creativity.  Like I was the only artist among the family.  I never intentionally communicated this, in fact I truly don't believe this.  But my wife told me that she felt like I didn't believe in her.

Crushing.  How could I make her feel like that?  Grief, sorrow...disappointment in myself.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  My wife is amazingly creative, and has proven herself over and over again as of late.

  • For our 10 year Anniversary, she made me something amazing.  She spent about $12 total, and blew me away.  The sheer thought that went into making this enormous, candy covered, sweet message filled greeting card - had me speechless.  And to see the spark, and excitement in her eyes when she delivered it to me, priceless.  I fell in love with her all over again.
  • Then, during Easter weekend this year.  We did a Dora the Explorer meets Blues Clues skit for our families of young kids.  This was a major undertaking, and included many, many people.  In addition it blessed many, many people.  The amazing thing...it would NOT have happened if it wasn't for my Vanessa.  She wrote the script and directed it.  GREAT JOB baby.

I do believe in her, wholeheartedly.  And now, I am working on living life with these new principles driving me:

  • "Prefer the other".  - I got this from Bob Kauflin's book "Worship Matters".  It a principle that makes your team believe in themselves.  When someone comes to me with an idea, and it's not awful, seek to prefer that idea to my own.  This practice has not just built ownership in my team, but also grown me personally.
  • "Give it away".  - Not sure where I first heard this.  But, we become the bottleneck in any work flow situation, when we are the only person who can do a certain thing.  In addition, it's selfish and ineffective leadership to not be training someone to take your place.  I am learning to give my job away, and thereby train folks and pour into them, instead of hoarding and skills that I have.
  • "Everyone likes someone who gives them gum".  - Thank you The Office.  Be the guy who blesses others.  Who goes out of my way to compliment other people, and show appreciation.

I have a lot of work cut out for me, because when life is hectic and crazy, it's easy to forget all this, and not take the time to pour into other people.  But I have lived long enough thinking "I'll have to do this on my own".    Besides, didn't Christ remind us that we can do NOTHING apart from Him?

 

Struggling

Struggling today.

The To-Do list invaded my sleep last night.

After Easter week (70+ hours worked), and a day of meetings yesterday, and...trying to find time to take a day off this week (to make up for our Good Friday holiday) I don't see how it can all get done.

And yet, the discipline is to breathe deep, before I begin the work.  For me, that means pushing against that urge inside to GO, GO, GO, and spend time in the Word first.

Today, the Psalms.

Perhaps that's the best place for me to be.

Worship Recap - April 10th

Week 2 of "The People Jesus Misses Most".  Have I mentioned before how much I love this series?  I am currently reading "The Hole In Our Gospel", and this series echoes so much of what I am reading.  God is doing some serious renovations in my heart and I love hearing it preached from the pulpit.   Normally that is.  Yesterday was somewhat of an anomaly.

Rewind to Saturday.  My severe grass allergy wreaked havoc on my sinuses while watching my little girls play their first soccer game.  I wouldn't have missed it.  Although, every year this happens.  The fields themselves are the problem.  There are no trees around an miles of grass.  Throw a relentless spring wind in the mix, and you have me inhaling grass pollen with every breath.  This was Saturday morning.

By Saturday night, I was miserable.  My eyes wouldn't stop itching and watering.  I woke up Sunday with them glued shut.  That's a cool feeling.  Now normally I don't take any medicine (especially an Anti-histamine) on Sunday morning for fear of the side effects.  With anti-histamines, they make me hoarse.  Not good for the singer in me.

It literally took me until the 2nd service for my voice to properly warm up.  I didn't feel great, my in-were malfunctioning, my sinuses moved into my left ear and rendered it un-usable; all this was going against me.  But, I love how God is.  When we are weak, He is strong.  When we are strong, we run the risk of doing it without Him.  So, in many ways, it's great to be weak, and needy when coming before Him on Sunday morning.  We gathered for prayer in the green room, asking Him to fill us.  And that He did.

The songs we sang were:

Living For You

Glory To God Forever

What A Savior

Stronger

Forever Reign

Please Come Home - an original from my buddy Wes.

We ended this service singing a plead for the lost to please come home.  We did it at the front of the stage, 2 guitars (Wes and I) and just us singing.  It really was a beautiful moment.  Lots of great feedback about the song, and the service in general.  And what was funny, my perspective was totally off.  I was in a fog the whole time, thinking "this isn't hitting home for people".  How many times do I need to learn that lesson?  You can't judge how people are being moved by the number of hands being raised. You just can't.

 

Worship Recap...April 3rd

I was totally excited about this last Sunday.  On Wednesday of the week before, we changed the title of the new series that was to launch, from "Search and Rescue", to "The People Jesus Misses Most".  Normally, this would be a catastrophe, but thankfully there wasn't much work that had been put into "Search and Rescue".  No meeting, no progress.  We hadn't scheduled a real planning meeting (which is abnormal for us) about this series so Kevin (Creative Arts Director) and I hadn't done much.  In other words, we were completely open to the idea of changing the series 2 work days beforehand. The idea was, who are the people around you, that need Jesus the most.  You pass by them everyday, the ignored, the hurting, the lost, the lonely, the homeless, the poor, the marginalized.  The text for this week was Luke 10 - The Good Samaritan.  Considering what God has been doing in my heart over the last year I was ready for Sunday.

Up early, ready for the day.

Call time on Sunday's is 7:00am.  We usually rehearse from 7 - 7:45am, do a technical rehearsal from 7:45 to 8:20 or so, then pray and take communion together (band and tech people) at 8:50am.  Service starts at 9.

Well, this Sunday started like all of them.  But then I got a text saying that key figure wasn't going to make tech. rehearsal.  No worries.  We needed the extra time to practice.  So...we took it.

Service started and it went so well.  Great transitions, powerful worship, and truth preached.  God was glorified.

But then, everything changed in the second service.

I broke a string during the first song (2nd week in a row of breaking a string).  From now on, it's all Mediums on my guitar.  I always play mediums, except that I wanted to brighten my tone, so I tried lights.  Didn't expect to be breaking strings.  Lesson learned.

Then, during our prayer time, which was to be followed by "From The Inside Out", a comedy of errors ensued.  First off, the click in my Aviom was on the entire prayer time (5 mins of quietness).  This creates 2 problems.  1 - I am afraid the congregation will hear it.  2 - It drives me crazy.  Literally.  So, I turned around to the drummer and mouthed the words "Turn off the click".  He didn't understand.  So I tried this, "Click...off".  Well, he interpreted that as "Count us off for the next song" - But the Pastor was still talking!  After 2 click of his sticks I mouthed "NOOOOOOOOOO" to prevent the band from coming in.  Whew...he got that.  I decided to let the click stay on.

Well, then the lead guitarist started playing the intro riff to "From The Inside Out".  I tried to get his attention and say, "not yet".  I have this thing about giving the next song away to the congregation during a prayer time.  I believe it can be a distraction from what they are supposed to be doing at that time.  Like..."Yes, I love this next song"...taking their attention away from what God is doing in the moment.

Well, he didn't look up, and I couldn't get his attention.  So...I let that go.  But now the drummer who witnessed this whole thing, was really confused.  He was holding up the sheet music to that song.  I'm thinking, "what's he doing"?

After the service, and after it all played out well, I learned this from the drummer:  He thought the guitarist was about to play the wrong song because he could see the guitarists music stand, and "From The Inside Out" was not on the stand.  And, then he saw me mouthing something to the guitarist, which he interpreted as me saying that he was on the wrong song.

By the grace of God, we all came in at the right time on that next song, and it was a great time of worship.  But I was VERY distracted by that whole thing.  Hindsight, it was funny how messed up all that was.   Has that ever happened to you when leading worship?

Lessons learned from Sunday:

- Communicate CLEARLY.  The little things need big attention sometimes.  Like...what are we going to do musically during the "turn around and shake a hand" time or the "prayer time".  Things like; when does the band exit the stage, and when do we come back in?  We need to be VERY clear about these kind of things so that we don't mess up communicating as it's happening.

-Technical Rehearsal is key.  I am not sure if you have one or not, but it is essential for us to have a successful first service.  We actually step through the whole service up until the message.  Then, we step through the after the message part.  It give our tech volunteers time to see how the service will play out, before doing it live.  It also gives the band and vocalists and idea of the "little things" before being faced with it while people are watching.  :-)

By the end of the service, Pastor Jerry brought the Word.

The songs we did on Sunday:

Better Than Life from Travis Cottrell

You Are Good from Lakewood

From The Inside Out by Hillsong United

Came To My Rescue by Hillsong United

Holy by 1211 Band.  <-----a WONDERFUL song to bridge with Communion, which is what we did.

 

 

Staff Retreat Week

The very title of this gives me a little apprehension, if I'm honest. Staff Retreat. Staph Retreat.

For me, the apprehension comes because my  schedule is getting hijacked for a few days.  In fact, yesterday afternoon I sat down with my computer, phone and Bible, and began to work on the Podcast from yesterday's services.  Most of the time I begin staff meeting trying to eek out some of the things that MUST get done.

Then...the gentle voice asking us all, "to unplug from technology during this time...to breathe, and breathe deeply of this time".

Serious?  Was that comment directed at me?

Yes.

But I don't want to.  I'm almost done exporting, can we start 10 minutes late?  I humbly shut my laptop, frustrated and try focus in.  It takes awhile, but eventually I begin to breathe deep of the moment.  "God, if I can't get anything done that I want to get done, then....help me accept that". My prayer sounds like this at this moment.

Then something happens, and God begins to work.  As we discuss, and open up, and spend time in the Word, and...breathe, God does amazing things.  The first of which, is setting my heart at ease.  And my prayer changes.  "God, if I can't can't get anything done that I want to get done, let it be because I am getting things done that YOU want me to get done".

Funny things happen when you open yourself up to that.  Heart change, and crystal clarity.  A mighty slamming on the brakes that kinda jars everything in my life.  Like, everything that wasn't fastened tight, goes crashing to the floor, and God slowly begins to rebuild.  This is what Staff Retreat becomes for me.  A necessary HALT!  Refocus, redirection, recommitment.  And for this, I become so grateful for.

In addition, there are somethings that are benefits to this kind of schedule hijacking.  This forces me to consider ONLY that which is necessary for Sunday morning to happen.  Everything else falls to the cutting room floor.  It can wait.

I am looking forward to day 2 of our Staycation version of Staff Retreat.  Yes...we are staying in town spending each night at home with the family.  Good stewardship driving that decision.

Today, we are meeting at a very cool room at Westland Baptist Church.  I'll post pictures later.

So...can you relate to this apprehension?  Does it ever get worked out?

White Space

So much talk in my life in the last few months has been about MARGIN.  Creating margin in our services (room for the Holy Spirit to move), creating margin in our budget (room for the unexpected) as well as margin in my calendar.  For the most part, that has worked, and you know what, when you plan for the unexpected, your day/week/service/budget doesn't get hijacked.  For the most part, we Americans pack as much into our day as we can possibly eek out.  And, then when it doesn't get done, we're disappointed by it.  I am guilty.  I have learned this lesson the hard way, no doubt. But occasionally, a week comes that is packed with meetings.  Very little white space, very little time to knock out the to-do list.

So, my prayers this morning are intentional.  I WILL stay grounded, and not let my stress level impact my relationships.

I love making time in the morning to spend praying for the day/week/budget in my life.  That's margin, and the benefit of it.

Naturally, looking at this week, and then trying to catch up from being gone for a week, my Re:Create 2011 review might take a bit longer.

Hang in there.

It's coming, and it will be SO worth it.  Well, I hope so.

John