Thursday, November 5, 2009

All I need is Money

This morning I am writing from a hotel in Brandon, Florida. By next week this time, I will be back at work at New City Fellowship, so we jumped in the car (that's an exaggeration; more like 'we eased into the car.') and drove here to meet with Paul Richardson.

Paul is an old friend from CCM days, who now lives and works here at his own business, Path of Palms film and audio production studio.

Long story short, Paul has shown a desire to work with me on my vintage products and he is also acting like I should record some new material. My master tapes are all here, and he is going to show us some remixes from Mourning Into Dancing this week. He has also already digitized my Faith Takes a Vision album, and that is what you are getting when you buy it from or as a download at or itunes.

And speaking of my web site, Paul and his staff rebuilt the site and made it a Google Checkout store now. It has improved our sales noticeably. The video performance of "I Belong to You" found on my new site is one that was shot by Paul at a Church of God convention in Atlanta 2 years ago.

So Paul is slowly becoming my most active business partner. Which brings me to today's entry title. I have so many good ideas, so much good music, strong emotional and spiritual support from my employer, NCF, so much talent to draw from, and so little money.

I remember hearing about my fellow musician friends doing daring and risky financial moves in order to advance their careers. I have read and talked about grants that are available for art and music projects. I have even already gotten a grant myself for a worship conference I directed.

So with God's help, it's time to go after the coins.

I'm going to talk to Paul today about the church's music web site and the potential for sales there. I'm going to apply to the Institute for Christian Worship for funding for NCF's cross-cultural music resources. And I'm going to stop acting like I can't do anything without money.

We'll get the money.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cross-cultural Heaven

On Thursday of our northeast tour, we visited Bill and Barbara Edgar in Philadelphia. Bill has been encouraging me to write a book, even though he and I know that there are a lot of books out there on worship and music.

As I have been outlining the book I would write, I have thought about the title, "I'll take you there: Diversity in Music and Worship". The line from the 1972 Staples' Singers song kind of sums up my experience in a cross cultural church, where the worship service brings together many of the elements that make us so. In a sense, it is the calling on the musician to take the congregation there.

So few churches in this country are committed to cross-cultural worship, that I am thinking and outlining the arguments for such a congregation. There are the familiar ones about unity, reconciliation, and justice. But the one I hear said when a black church comes to visit our church with choir and pastor pulling up in a charter bus is simply, "this is the way heaven's going to be."

That statement is based on the passage in Revelation 7:9, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."

If this is true, why are not more churches striving to be inclusive in their music and worship? Is it just too hard to blend here on earth with all our cultural differences? Or is there actually going to be layers of sound around the throne, with each culture praising God in its own way, but none actually singing the same thing?

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce, paints a picture of heaven where everything is strong, and substantive, and plain people are beautiful. Don Piper, in his book 90 Minutes in Heaven tells of singing that blends together all styles and eras, but he didn't see different races and ethnic groups in his vision of glory.

I live in Tennessee; maybe cross-cultural worship is common in, say, San Francisco or Boston. Uh, I don't think so.

I know a place
Ain't nobody cryin'
Ain't nobody worried
Ain't no smilin' faces
Mmm, no no
Lyin' to the races
Help me, come on, come on
Somebody, help me now
I'll take you there

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tour Highlight #2

I played a concert two Sundays ago at Abbott Memorial Presbyterian Church. Old friends Steve and Mary Smallman were there. The concert was sponsored by Pastor Paul Warren, and he did a fair amount of promotion to other area churches.

The church is located in an old neighborhood in Baltimore that has characteristic urban atmosphere-- old buildings, bumpy streets, graffitti, and almost empty churches. Paul and his wife Phyllis have been at Abbott for 12 years, and the congregation finally believes they are serious. They have fixed up the manse next door where the Warren's have been living ever since they came.

The concert was in a dignified classic sanctuary on a really nice Yamaha grand piano that the church purchased shortly before the concert. The turn out was modest, which I remember from years of travelling and doing Christian concerts in the niche market of a niche market. I know Paul was probably disappointed that more old friends didn't pack into the house, and he planned a benefit offering for brother Andy's AIDs ministry in Ethiopia.
But this evening reminded me, and not really negatively, of the rich experiences touring the US, Canada, and parts of Europe, playing night after night for crowds just like this.

We went to Steve and Mary Smallman's for the night, and they are an intriguing family. Steve is a good musician, songwriter, and teaching elder in the PCA. But right now, he is doing, yes, film making.

Steve seems to be having the time of his life, and success is written all over his face. Mary and he have two gifted sons who are in college, and Mary and he are the closest of friends. Steve flies to interesting places with film crews, and is currently employing 10 scruffy young computer and camera geeks. It warms my heart to see committed Christians doing art on the cutting edge, and doing it for the kingdom, too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our first Marriage Seminar

Last Saturday Beth and I attended our first marriage seminar. Beth suggested it as part of the sabbatical, and we found a Gary Chapman seminar online called "The Marriage You Always Wanted" and we registered for the Fredericksburg, VA weekend since we would be in that area on the 17th of October.
We're really glad we went! At right was a book we won, and do you know why we were the recipients of this drawing?! We were the longest married couple at the event. It was astonishing, since there were several couples there that were obviously as old as we. I guess it is an indicator as to how many remarried couples there are.
We are now on chapter 3 in this book and it has been very helpful (I won't say...stimulating.). One thing it recommended was that we share our sexual histories, and we talked about our childhood, our parents attitudes, our teenaged awakenings, and our college courtship. We laughed at our similar books in high school that amounted to romance novels.
We are thankful that, for all the awkwardness of the WWII generation on the subject of sex or even public display of affection, our parents obviously enjoyed one another outside the bedroom. One of the important ways to have a mutual enjoyment of sex is to have a strong relationship in other areas of life. How our parents behaved prepared us, for better or for worse, for our own view of sexuality.
Dr. Chapman is a pro. Every moment of the seminar was used wisely and thoughtfully with good video support and ample reference to his many books for further study. His most famous work is "The Five Love Languages." Neither of us knows what ours is, but it's probably going to come out in our conversation now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We are churning up the east coast on the second trip of my sabbatical. I planned and planned the stops to make, the places to stay, and the mode of transportation as well as the approximate cost. Fortunately, there were two performances that each paid $500 which will help with the expense.

What a blessed time! From the beauty of the Shenandoah autumn leaves, to the quaint history of Dover, Delaware, we have tasted of the grace in quiet times, stimulating times, and spiritually envigorating.

On Sunday we worshipped in the AM with Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, home to Bob Kauflin, music director, and C.J. Mehaney, founders of the Sovereign Grace Churches. Bob and Julie welcomed us to their home where we caught up on our lives as musicians. We have been acquaintances since the 80s when Bob and Julie travelled with GLAD.

The worship service had a very young band, and the songs were contemporary praise songs in the style of the dominant culture. The noticeable thing about Sovereign Grace songs is the content-- much more theological than, say, Paul Baloche. After the service, Bob met us and took us to the store where he loaded us up with books and CDs.

The next day, we met for lunch at the inner harbor in Baltimore with Bob. We talked about many things, but mostly the idea and the logistics of getting New City's music up online. Bob said that was first funded by the ministry, and now pays for itself. His albums cost $15,000 to $30,000 to produce. It was very encouraging, especially his interest and obvious respect.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thoughts on Hair Pieces

So I'm thinking about being bald as a man in my fifties. I had thick hair when I was young, and up until I was forty or so, I wore my hair full, even with a receding hairline. Now I wear it very short like Jason Statham, and I find it to be a natural part of my life cycle to be bald. I use Jason Statham as an example, because he does not have his head shaved like bald men do, who want to be hip looking.

Which brings up the subject of hair piece wigs for men. What does a man have to think to get a hair piece? Is he advised to do so by a secretary or publicist who says that his face will be stronger and more effectively framed by a clear hairline? Is he trying to look younger? Some men with hair pieces have gray or salt and pepper hair pieces (wigs). Does that make one look younger? Have these men gone to shrinks or counselors who have told them to get a wig to feel better about themselves and to be more confident?

Well, I feel confident because I don't have a wig. I believe that a bald man, with his hair cut trim, shows greater confidence in the normal genetic fact of hair loss, and confidence that being bald is a normal part of aging and growing more mature, and finally, that it is a God-given part of one's appearance. To wear a hair piece is to contradict the shape of one's face, one's age, and one's very physical appearance.

What is it like to wear a wig? Do you have to powder your head first? Does it fit very snugly so that it won't fly off? Does it make you sweat? Does it become a natural feeling like wearing glasses or a woman wearing a bra?

Do you take it off at night? Do you worry when you have to go out on a windy day? Are you concerned when you might be put in a position of revealing your baldness, like when you're going camping with friends? Is it maintenance free, or must one wash it daily and dry it with a soft special towel? Do you keep it on a styrofoam head on your dresser?

Is the feeling that someone is looking at your head and staring at your false hair a source of anxiety or do you wear a wig because you don't care what others think?

Now, I know, everyone would rather keep their hair. I was in the entertainment business, and I saw my hairline receding with dismay and disappointment, while friends of mine who were accountants kept tight, strong hair lines. Why did I have to lose it when having a youthful appearance was obviously important in the pop music business? I knew two members of Petra, a rock band, who got wigs, including the founder of the group.

Well, I guess I'm not a candidate for a hair piece. "Ah, but you're thinking about it, so you must be considering it," you say. Uh, nah.

Ten Cool Things I did ths week:

1. I got a haircut.
2. I actually mowed the back lawn. My shoulder is at the place now where I need more activity to build it up.
3. Beth and I went to see Dr. Shah, my rheumatologist, and I let him draw some fluid out of my thumb joint. Just the thought is kind of cool.
4. I bought a 29-key keyboard to go with my new slim laptop that NCF gave me right before the sabbatical. With music software on the computer, I can do MIDI work anywhere with the Axiom 25.
5. I fixed one of my gutters that was hanging low.
6. I drove to Saint Louis with Beth and we visited Kirk and Sarah and their kids.
7. In Saint Louis, we went to see the arch and pretended to have races in the grass with Sam, Kirk's boy.
8. We went to NCF-STL Sunday morning and I played keys for Kirk's praise band.
9. Sunday evening was a brief concert set at Covenant Presbyterian Church. The music director, Kathy Chappell and I had talked about having a choir as part of the set, and some 50 singers showed up! She conducted two of my choral pieces, "Who Can Separate Us," and, yes, "Death is Ended." "Separate" was not soulful, but rich and smooth. Kirk played, too, and we were compensated generously!
10. We had lunch with college classmate, Tim Belz. Tim is a constitutional lawyer and he took us to Citygarden, a new terraced area downtown Saint Louis with multiple sculptures.
11. I continued to read "The Gift" and to dwell on the esoteric life of being an artist.
12. I reformatted Windows XP on Beth's computer and reloaded her drivers and software. Now she's got Adobe Flash!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Computership

I seem to have skipped a week of my sabbatical; I should have made an entry last Monday, and it's Friday night. But it's been a good week and a half of getting some reading done, writing two songs, and working on Beth's laptop to get it up to speed.

I had the special experience last Sunday and Monday of preparing for a recording session by finishing a new song I had an idea for, but the session on Monday made me sit down and work on it with the intention of completing a recordable, presentable tune for my children's album.

This song is tentatively entitled "That's What I want to Be" and is a series of verses about professions that kids would identify with. First verse, "I want to be a firefighter," second verse, "I want to be a veterinarian" and third verse, "I want to be a ballet dancer," and so on. Each verse then includes some short phrases summarizing that job's experience.

As my grandchildren grow older, I see them responding to my music-- my playing, but also to my songs. I want the song to take the listener through a series of jobs with the goal of being what God wants me to be. Some of the jobs are performed in front of people and others are quiet, unassuming jobs like a high school crossing guard. Ultimately, the children will sing "I want to be a lot like Jesus."

Songwriting is easier now in some ways-- I have written enough to know how to craft one, but it's harder in that I am no longer writing for concerts or recordings. If I were in Nashville, or at least tied into the publishing business, I might be writing songs for other people. Finishing the sketch of this new novelty song was envigorating!

I hae also been working this week on revising my course for Westminster Theological Seminary's winter term 2010. The course is called "Music and Worship in the Changing Church" and the church is definitely changing!

When I started teaching this 5 day, 2 credit course, the two major renewal movements of recent years were Charismatic worship, springing out of the 1960s and 70s Jesus Movement, and then the Church Growth trend started by Willow Creek Community Church and Bill Hybels in the suburbs of Chicago in the early 80s.

Then the return to liturgical worship was defined by Robert Webber in 1984 in his book "The Canterbury Trail" in which Webber describes why a
more Anglican approach to worship had captured the yearning of so many for authenticity. The last time the course was taught it included a brief discussion of Orthodoxy and the music of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

But now, there are two major new branches of worship to be addressed in our concise course and they are looming large in the minds of seminarians far more than Willow Creek. One would be the Emerging Church, and the other would be the PCA's own phenomenon, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York. Both are fascinating, and both have strong artistic treatments in their forms of worship.

Then the continuing maturing of contemporary hymnody through the ministries of RUF hymns, and the examples of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend has encouraged so many in the Reformed tradition and beyond.

This course is getting bigger, and needs to be streamlined!

Finally, the church gave me a laptop to take with me on my way out the door in August, and now I can sit in my Lazyboy with a computer on my lap, and write in my blog like my daughter does! I've been trying to figure out what is wrong with Beth's 5-year-old lap top, since it won't load Adobe Flash Player, and no videos show on her machine. I'm about to embark on the dubious task of reloading Windows XP and starting over with her HP pavilion zd7000. Sigh.

Cool things I did this week:
1. I have been very successful with my physical therapy, and I have regained 90% range of motion.
2. Beth and I went to visit Dick and Debbie Blackman, and got to laugh, read and pray with them.
3. We bought one of Maria Cardillo's photos at the Clotheline Art Show.
4. I started "The Art of Worship" by Greg Scheer.
5. I had breakfast on Saturday with Gary Hicks and we talked about his new challenge of being let go by Christ United Methodist Church

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Few More Years

This past week brought a unique opportunity to record with another Christian musician. It reminded me remotely of the days of making albums in Nashville, and hiring various players to make cameo appearances.

This time it was Buddy Greene, pictured at left with Dana, my local friend and engineer, and myself.

Buddy has never been a friend, only an acquaintance, with whom I have had brief contact when he recorded my song, Rock of Ages, on an album of his a couple of years ago. When Dana and I were talking about the song In the Stable on my current children's project, I was wondering where I could find a harmonica player, and Dana suggested I call up Buddy. He was enthusiastic and even respectful, calling me one of his "heroes."

Last week, Buddy was driving through to Atlanta for a gig, and stopped off for a couple of hours to add his part. He does not read music, and had to learn each line by ear. He played a chromatic harmonica which enables one to play more like a jazz or soul musician. I was really pleased with the result! The song turned out like a light samba, and Toots Thieleman has recorded a couple of Brazilian albums with harmonica as the lead instrument.

Buddy gave me a copy of his current release, A Few More Years. It seems to be on his own lable, Rufus Records, but it is packed with great musicians and singers from the Nashville scene. The content of the album is much like my Blue Believer release from the mid 80s. He recently lost his father and another close friend, Jerry Reed. The songs are all about heaven, hard times, and God's grace for the struggle. Looks like I have a new friend!

Ten cool things I did this week.

1. I bought a new watch, finally.

2. I finished a song for the Distribution called "Mama Don't Cry." We'll rehearse it Wednesday night and I find out if they like it.

3. I did an SATB arrangement of "Child of Bethlehem" for the Cono Christian School choir. They have recorded several of my songs, and the director, Andrew Belz, asked me to arrange that one specifically.

4. I have all but finished D.A. Carson's book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. I wanted to read up on the latest renewal movement in the church in preparation for teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia next January. This book could take up an entire blog entry.

5. I got a haircut, finally.

6. I put together a large order of CDs for our web customers. All 13 of my albums are available on our web site, and when folks order one of the vintage CDs, I burn, print, and assemble each one. Tedious, yes. But without current recordings and touring, this is a way I keep the artist fires burning and keep profiting personally from my art. We recently changed web masters, and the new site is getting lots of hits and orders are flowing, recession or not.

7. Beth and I went to Franklin, TN on Sunday to attend two churches there. It was cool to get in the car and drive through beautiful Nickajack.

8. We visited "The Gathering," an ostensible emerging church that meets in a movie theater. I say ostensible because the service included the following conventional worship elements

  • praise band with praise songs
  • opening prayer
  • announcements, ugh.
  • an OFFERING.
  • a 30-minute sermon with bulletin outline

The speaker was older than us, and the crowd at the 9 am was mostly senior-aged (meaning our age). Although he had a shaved head and groovy goatee, he used a standard thematic preaching technic, with proof texts and everything. He has apparently been a guest on national TV, and has a book. Woo-hoo, emerging schmerging. Nice things about the Gathering

  • very comfortable seating, with cup holders, and Starbucks
  • the band was very good, c'mon this is Nashville.
  • the message was relevant, well conceived
  • friendly

9. We went to Christ Community Church in Franklin for their 10:45 service. It was fascinating to attend two contemporary churches with trendy leadership in one morning, and to see slight variations.

  • CCC makes no apologies about being a local body with ecclesiastical and koinonea goals.
  • The Gathering was super-inclusive. You could go there and not have to do anything.
  • CCC's band was twice as good and the songs were tear-eliciting joyful passionate expressions of worship and grace
  • Scotty Smith used a thematic approach, too, but he spent the entire sermon on a major question of Apologetics, "Why do Christians claim to be the only way to God?" It was very well done.
  • CCC attendees were young families, mixed with boomers. Kids everywhere.

10. We went to Sunday dinner with Bob and Laticia DeMoss, who are members at CCC. Bob has been a friend since the 70s, and is now a writer. Times are tight for them-- for sale sign on the house, Bob is limping with a bad hip, having had one replaced already. They have 4 children and Laticia is a joyful trophy of love and grace. Bobby is a lucky man to have her and the fam God has given him.

11. We started reading the Bible and praying after supper. No schedule, no duties, why not?

12. This morning we trimmed back one of the overgrown bushes in front of our house. The weather was warm, the job was manageable, and it is good to be using my arm again for physical labor.

So my sabbatical is giving numerous opportunities to breathe deep the breath of God. That is one reason I wanted to blog it. Sometimes we intensely motivated people want to see that we are accomplishing something with the time we have been given. It is extremely helpful to look back over the week and see all that we have been able to do and to be.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Testing my Faith

It has been a week of sober exercise. After my first week of physical therapy, we went to my orthopedic surgeon's office Monday for an exam. I came out disappointed, discouraged.

After a short examination, he declared that I was not progressing as he had hoped. Dr. Dorizas is direct and candid, and this exam was no exception.

The previous week had been hard going to physical therapy every day and feeling the sharp pains of stretching and wrenching. But overall we felt that progress was being made. The physical therapist was serious, but encouraging about the prospects. Even he was surprised by Dr. Dorizas' prognosis.

Now we are at the end of the second week, and the physical therapist gave me Sunday off, or rather he gave himself Sunday off. I'm doing my exercises, and hoping for the best. The shoulder is a complicated joint, and once it has been damaged or messed up, it seems to have a mind of its own as it struggles to function in its myriad moves.
Meanwhile, ten cool things I did this week.

1. Chatted with Jim Drexler and Andrew Kane Sunday evening during the Methodist church fire. Neighborly chats are always cool.

2. Spent Tuesday through Thursday entertaining Beth's brother, Dick, and his wife Suzy, and two teen-aged daughters.

3. Exercised every day to strengthen my shoulder.

4. Had a brief grave side service at the National cemetery for Dad. Katie and fam, Dick and fam, Mom and Beth.

5. Ate dinner with Knutson's and Moore's at Lupi's.

6. Made pancakes from scratch Sunday night.

7. Went to Mt. Canaan Baptist Church Sunday morning. Music was great. Piano, acoustic drums, and bass, along with choir and praise team. James Elder is the musician, and maintains a low profile at the keys. I would love to talk to him about how his choir is so healthy and happy.

8. Walked with Beth in the mornings.

9. Monday afternoon, finished the vocals on In the Stable. Buddy Greene comes through this Wednesday to add chromatic harmonica.

10. Watched a cute movie about an 80s rock star and his love child played by Charlotte Church.
Dick brought it. It's called "I'll be there."
11. Assembled a jigsaw puzzle of the world. It was relaxing cool. We bought another one of a Disney artwork, but haven't made much progress.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Ten cool things I did this week.
1. Monday was the day that Mary, Nikki and I met with a small group of Bryan College worship leaders and their coordinator, Jessi. It was cool to sing with them, talk with them about diversity, and then go to lunch at Herman's. They loved the women on my staff. I got great people I'm privileged to work with!
2. Then I finally called Aaron Messner, chaplain of Covenant College, and he agreed for our music department to plan and direct Friday chapels this year. Cool! This means that we will be paid to diversify Covenant's worship life. It also means a more structured return to a Gospel Club at Covenant. And it means a little extra money for Mary and Nikki.
3. Andrew Russell was still in town Monday, and we had coffee at Pasha. For three hours I asked him questions and shared with him the vision for musical development at NCF. He is very focussed on music as a career path, and his personality and vocal chops, combined with basic piano chording, just might push him in the right direction. He left town pumped and ready to come back in December to a half-time postition.
4. Truly one of the coolest things I did this week is to have a manipulation of my adhesive capsulitis under anesthesia. OK, this is not fun or painless. But the result of this surgical procedure is to put me on the path of healing and restoration. I have been optimistic and upbeat all week because of it! I'm also going to physical therapy every day, including today, the Lord's Day.
This week I started building a calendar at Google Apps. A google calendar means independence from a Daytimer, as more information is stored in the cloud. Cool.
5. Through the convenience of Comcast On Demand channel, I've been watching the first season episodes of "Mad Men." The media has suddenly jumped all over this series that is available on AMC. This is superficial cool.

6. The Distribution is a band that several of my NCF friends have formed. Carl Cadwell is the keyboardist, and he has sent me several .mp3s of potential songs for them. This week I worked on "Mama Don't Cry" and it's taking nice shape.

7. We went to Books-a Million on Saturday evening, and bought 2 jigsaw puzzles. Beth's brother, his wife, and 2 teen-aged daughters are coming to visit his mother next week, and we're gambling on puzzles for the girls. After we bought them, we immediately set about assembling the one that is a map of the world. We're still working on it Sunday morning!

8. I'm reading a book called "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church." D.A. Carson has written a critical review of the latest trendy effort at retooling the modern, or post-modern church. Danny Mitchell, our new associate pastor for youth, has taken some courses on Emerging, so he's going to show me some other books that may be more sympathetic.

9. We went to North Shore Fellowship's 11:00 service, which is in a larger building up the hill on Tremont St. Dave Hess, a former jazz piano student, plays there and is on part time staff. David and Ellie are also serving in the praise team.

10. We went to Mud Pie for coffee and to read the paper after PT on Sunday before going to church. What an unusual experience.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nairobi revisited

In 2007 I was part of a missions trip to Nairobi. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance, having heard about Kenya and its charms from several friends who had gone. They said that the music there was unforgettable, dynamic, mesmerizing, worshipful, and never ending. Our church's historic commitment to cross-cultural mission has always been hand in hand with a special love of Africa.

Well, the trip was led by Brian McKeon and he finalized the team as a music missions team. There would be 6 singers, 3 musicians including myself, and Brian as team leader. We would be going as a music praise team, with the additional component of music education and daytime assistance with Saint Lazarus School in Kibera and the Overcomers by Grace ministry to handicapped Muslims. As I corresponded with Meta, the music director at NCF Nairobi, it sounded like a full schedule of schools, seminars, and churches. When I asked about tech support Meta said via email that they had good equipment and a semi-pro sound person in their church who would assist us.

The last time we had taken a music missions trip was 10 years prior when MTW missionary Hugh Wessel sponsored a tour of southern France and we took 13 NCF singers and musicians to Europe. It had been a dream tour. The travel, housing, sound, and repertoire was coordinated by us with support from the European team, including a French sound company that preceded us to each venue. We laughed and sang and saw the romantic beauty of southern France from Aix-en-Provence to Paris even. With this as a background, we anticipated a more strenuous experience in Kenya, a third world country, but we were optimistic that our music and our people would be loved and joyful.

The trip was longer, though, and Beth and I did not look forward to a 2 and a half week separation. We also were not agreed on the effectiveness or even value of short term missions trips.
Well, I digress. My point today is that Beth and I sat down and went through all the pictures, the itinerary, and the souvenirs I brought back. As we sat and went through each day, I put the photos in order-- ones taken by me, David, and Brian. As I looked at the memory of this unforgettable time, I told stories and described the people we had met, and the ways we had been used by God.

This was not the first time we have talked about the trip, but Beth said this afternoon that she had never gotten the whole picture of the Kenya trip. There was a palpable change in her appreciation of the last missions trip I have taken, with the good and bad.

Because I'm on sabbatical this week, we are able to peel back layers of our lives and fill in important missing pieces in the puzzle of our lives together. I'm thankful for the blessing of this 3 month leave!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It is fantastic to be taking some time off work, and in the process dealing with some of my physical constraints! I haven't felt this hopeful, this relieved, this healthy in a long time.
The month of July has been fun at work-- Anthony and Mykayla were good, cheerful workers, the Hope singing was energetic and authentic, and the two fly dates I took were encouraging to the max.
But the weakness in my knees, wrists, and shoulders, and even my neck, made me feel like a prisoner in my own body.
My left shoulder has been diagnosed as having adhesive capsulitis or "frozen shoulder." It began in February 2008 with throbbing pain, soreness, stiffness, and night pain. The doctor told me what it was and that it usually took 2 years to get over. The scond phase was a diminishing of the pain, but continuing stiffness and limited range of motion. The third and final phase is a return to a normal condition. However, the range of motion may lessen if not treated.
This Tuesday I had a "manipulation under anesthesia" by a new doctor whom we are really loving named Jed Dorizas, an orthopedic surgeon. After a pain block was injected, I was put under and when I came to, my shoulder had been stretched far enough to break the tissue that was freezing it, like scar tissue.
Today I started my physical therapy and the therapist was very encouraging, and I was elated. After all kinds of dire warnings about pain and recovery, the session went very well, and it did not include what I would call bad pain.
After suffering discomfort and sharp limitations at work and at night, we are finally bringing this thing to a positive end.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sabbatical Leave

My church, my employer, has offered me a 3 month sabbatical. Since I have worked there 7 years, they figured I needed the time off. It is a great relief not to have to worry about schedules, people, and songs for 14 more weeks!

Unfortunately, I have been having some pain in my hands, legs, and shoulders that has precipitated some medical necessities this fall during the first several weeks of my leave. Although I would rather not have to do this during these precious days, it's better than having the weight of the job plus the recovery from frozen shoulder manipulation.

But enough of that. Here's ten cool things I haved done during this first full week.

1. I called an asphalt company to patch our driveway. No conclusions yet, but, hey, I had room in my mind.

2. I went to Greyfriars' coffee, sat down, and drank a coffee out of a real cup while reading a novel and listening to Bach's Violin Concerti.

3. I went to a movie on Thursday night with Beth. Julie and Julia.

4. I read the first chapter of D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. I even highlighted some.

5. I purchased Rock with You by Rod Tempterton at Musicnotes, and created a new 2 page chart that is perfect for weddings.

6. I got an MRI on my neck. This is cool, only because it is part of treating my maladies. Otherwise, it was claustrophobic.

7. I played a wedding and the reception for Hannah DeMoss and Merrell Johnson. This was a test, since Merrell's family is black, and a lot of the music was soul music.

8. I walked every morning with Beth.

9. I sat on the deck and had lunch with Beth.

10. I went to Belk and bought two pairs of cargo shorts.

I hope to blog more during these months, so get ready for more cool things!

About Me

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I am a person who is perceived as youthful, although I am in my late 50s. I play and sing music, and it tends to keep me in the culture, like a lot of young people do. I am a "high I" on the DISC Behavioral Test, which means I'm optimistic, enthusiastic, a team player, and I motivate others toward goals. I don't like exercise, but I have a high metabolism, so I don't tend to be overweight at this time in my life! I have recently been doing moderate exercise and physical therapy for a shoulder condition.