Monday, December 31, 2007

Changes in 2008

Just about everyone re-evaluates when a new year rolls around.  So, the next couple of posts will be some coming alterations in 2008 for both the TBC worship arts ministry as well as me personally.  Stay tuned.  Once it's out in the public - it's kinda like committing yourself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Report #27: Cuddle Up Folks

My wife asked me to get the fireplace going after all the Christmas stuff was done. So cuddle up folks...I didn't even use wood or a match for this puppy.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hope I Get My Car Out

If no one sees me in 3 weeks - you know why. Here's my car from the office window in the middle of the snow storm.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Report #26: Channel 13 Article & Video

Here is a link to both the article and video that Channel 13 did on the Light Show.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Report #23: Light Show Drums

Want to know what it's like to play drums at the TBC light show? Thanks to Thad Lockard for showing us on YouTube.

Christmas Report #22: 4,000+ Came to Light Show

A quick estimate of 4,000+ came to TBC's three night light show.  Average of 100 cars X 15 shows X average of 3 people a car gives you 4,500 people.  However, some had to be it's more like 4,000.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Report #21: 580 Radio Light Show Interview

Here is a link to stream audio from the WIBW 580 AM talk radio interview about the light show.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Report #20: TV Interview This Morning

Click here for the interview that was taped this morning by KTKA Channel 49 (CBS).

Tomorrow 580 AM talk radio WIBW will do a short interview on the light show as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Report #19: KSNT 27 News Feature

KSNT 27 News came to the TBC campus for an interview. They will run a feature on the evening news tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm and 6pm about the light show.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Report #18: KTKA 49 News Interview Thursday AM

KTKA 49 News will air an interview that will be recorded Thursday AM on their morning show about the light show. Just a short 3 minute thing. And here's some video they shot from last week's dry run.

Christmas Report #17: KLOV Interview on Friday

KLOV Radio called today and we did a short phone interview over the phone about the TBC light show. They said it would be a part of their upcoming podcast and air on radio this Friday.

Christmas Report #16: Video of Light Show

OK, folks. It's finally here. There's video of the light show available. Simply go to the Christmas webpage and use the video and links there. There's both news footage and a quick sample. Here's the link.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas Report #15: Finished Result

Here's a photo of last night's dry run. Got some tweaking to do - but no crash and burns. We'll try to get a video up and running sometime soon. Or catch the video posted on the most recent posts linked here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Report #14: Radio Interview

Tomorrow morning (Thursday around 9am), I'll be in the KMAJ 1440 AM Jim Cates Show studio for a short interview about the light show.  Tune in.

Christmas Report #13: Tri-Light-Strand-Twister

John makes another innovative device. A tri-light-strand-twister. It saved us hours of work on the 50 ft Christmas tree that has three different colors and has 8,500 lights itself.

Christmas Report #12: Timpani Up the Fire Escape

The timpani didn't fit into the room via the interior doors. So up the fire escape it went!

Christmas Report #11: The Roof

Want to see what the roof looks like with almost everything plugged in. Check out the picture (click on it to enlarge - phone camera quality).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Report #10: Foundation Gridwork Up

The foundation grid-work went up on Saturday thanks to 11 guys (Josh Harris, Chris Sabes, Jim Welborn, Jeff Woelhoff, Bill Riphan, Jerry Hedstrom, Bryan Hedstrom, TJ McDaniels, John Bowes, Matt Lockard, Casey Moore). Check out the video to see some of the work.

The guys who master-minded the hanging grid-work was Jerry and Bryan Hedstrom - master builders from Topkea. The have an incredible shop just north of Topeka. Also, thanks to my father-in-law, Richard Varner, for pointing me in the right direction with good suggestions of what material to use.

Don't forget Derek Taylor and Kevin Beck who were 'on call' just in case we needed the help on Saturday. Appreciate your guys' availability!

Christmas Report #9: CAD Light Deisgn

If you are curious as to what the lights 'might' look like - check out the CAD drawing. Click on it for a larger version. The CAD drawing is the result of hard work by Matt Ottman, our resident electrical engineer. He's also figured out the electrical loading plus distribution. We will need 12 circuits 20 amps each. Matt, thanks so much for using your skills and talents to benefit the body on this one. Thanks for being the brains behind the vision.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Christmas Report #8: Trimming the Tree

What about the trees in front of those 2nd story windows? Thanks to Rick Wenger for professional trimming the trees in front of the windows on his own time and when it's the first snow of the year in Topeka, Kansas.

Man it's getting cold. Glad I'm toasting inside looking out the window at Rick. Stinks to be you. You'll get an extra set of trimmers in heaven for this one.

Christmas Report #7: Two Women & Extension Cords

Went to Walmart again and picked up a few extensions cables (see cart in picture). Then headed over to electronics to pick out a monitoring radio. Two gals in electronics helped me with the radio, but asked what in the world I was doing with my cart of cables. I explained. They became so curious that they ASKED ME to return to the store with more information about the light show. They want to come and see it. If you go to Walmart - say hello to Francis and Amber. They even checked out my whole cart at the electronics check-out. That was nice!

While you are there, please thank Rezaul for loading all the cables into my car. I now have a Target 6 list.

Amber and Francis in electronics at Walmart.

Rezaul with a great attitude loads the car with me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas Report #6: E-Invitations

What to invite a friend? Send this this link to check out the event...

Christmas Report #6: Time Left

In case you really wanted to know, here's what's on my computer desktop. No pressure.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas Report #5: Looky What John Made

Looky looky what John Crouse made for the light show! He had no manual or plans. He simply engineered them. Way to be innovative John!

That snowflake is 9' tall. Check out the angles on the star. Those aren't easy to make.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Report #4: Rhythm Rehearsal

OK, I was prepared to do some serious work tonight in syncing up the musicians and locking in the parts. But the musicians are doing phenomenal! It really is incredible how the music is coming together for this.

So tonight we rehearsed the following...

3 keyboards (piano, strings, auxiliary)
1 oboe/mallet
1 drummer
2 electric guitars
1 bass guitar
1 aux percussion (sat in to design parts)

We had the musicians turn around and not look at each other and play with the click-track monitor to test out our theory of the band playing together but being unable to hear each other or see each other. Worked like a charm.

A big thanks to Joel Davidson for creating the click-tracks to the 3 tunes and suggesting to play with recordings. Not only did he create the click-tracks (which work beautifully) - he did a great job in retuning his Variax guitar and adding a fifth doubling effect on his electric setting to "virtually" play off the top of his fret board. That's innovative.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas Report #3: Fertilizer

This morning I hit a local store again to pick up some more things for the Christmas light show. While I was there, I thought I'd pick-up some insulation and lawn fertilizer as well.

I decided to do the self check out because I didn't have a ton of things. While I was in the check out, I felt something hitting my feet. I look down and there it was...

The fertilizer bag had a hole in it and it was dumping out all over my feet. How embarassing! Then I turned around and saw even more tragedy behind me. The fertilizer had left a pretty good trail behind me in every isle that I walked down.

"Clean up in isle (throat clear) errr...isle one through twenty."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Christmas Report #2: Christmas Strings

My wife is playing a big behind-the-scenes part in this Christmas event. Not only did she pick up 70+ candy canes from Walmart (previous post), she is also encouraging me to work late and be with the kids herself. Not only is she doing this - she wrote all the keyboard and string parts from the recordings for the light show. I am so grateful that I have a wife who is a part of ministry life - and doesn't want any credit. So I'm giving her credit here. Thanks Lisa, for being a big part in making this come together!

So we had our first & last string sectional rehearsal this past Saturday. The parts Lisa transcribed were right on! With a few minor adjustments - the strings will fall into place nicely. Kudos to the strings to playing in Db (kringe) on the one selection. Strings and guitarists hate flat keys - and Db is about as bad as they come. The key will work great for vocal range and the mood the song fills.

Looking forward to a great window spectacle from the strings. Those bows will look great in the black light!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas Report: Walmart is Officially Out

Yes folks. Walmart is officially cleaned out of them. Topekans will not have any candy cane lights this year because we have all 75 of them. Here's a pic of our trunk. Thanks to my beautiful wife for picking them up, getting the strange looks from patrons, and answering people's questions - "what are you doing with those - it's not even Thanksgiving yet."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Christmas Vision Cast 2007

If you missed the Christmas Vision Cast video this past weekend at Topeka Bible Church, then here it is again. It's scary. It's risky. It's gonna be fun. It's gonna be effective. God help us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving Up My Cruise

The Bible says when someone tried to pay for David's sacrifice of worship to God, David's response was -- "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24)

What would be considered a sacrifice for me? I'm not talking about small stuff here. What would be an enormous sacrifice? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much God has blessed me. What are the things I cherish the most in my life - and would I be willing to give them up for God?

It would be like working for 10 years to save up for a cruise to the Carribean. I would have to save for the trip. Arrange my schedule. Save up vacation days. Setup arrangements for the kids (ok, Lisa usually does this - she's the saint). A big sacrifice would be to say a day before the cruise - you know, I'm not going on this cruise. I'm going to give it up, even though I paid for it in many ways, and give it to someone who deserves it more than I do.

Isn't that what a part of worship is? Giving up something I thought had cost me a lot for a God who deserves it more than I do. He's worth it. In fact, He owns it to begin with.

Got to be honest here. I'd have a hard time giving up that cruise. I'm so American.

God, help me to really worship You. Show me ways that I've cheated You by being selfish and self-serving. Call me out for the times I thought I ever deserved anything - because compared to You...well, You deserve it all. I don't deserve anything because I owe my life to You.

DISCLAIMER: No goods or services were provided by Royal Caribbean in exchange for the contribution of this blog.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Healthy Boundries

Someone once shared with me the ABCs of maintaining a pace for a ministry in the long-haul. Here they are...
  • ATTITUDES (positive ones)
  • BOUNDARIES (healthy ones)
  • CONNECTIONS (strong ones)
It seams that I typically do OK with attitude and connections - but boundaries are the some of the most difficult margins for me to keep.

One of the boundaries that my wife and I have set in our life is Thursday lunch together. It's every Thursday. It's always at the same time. It's at the same place - my new favorite Burger King just 1 block down from TBC (although an occasional McD's is really nice). I don't schedule any other lunch appointments.

I've been tempted to schedule a lunch on Thursday because right now things are about 2-3 weeks out for lunch meetings. But the boundaries I set that contribute to the connection with my family is most important. It's a margin that I simply cannot skip. Thursday is a long day. Not just for me - but for Lisa too. Leave home at 8am and return at 8:30pm. I know in the corporate world this would get high marks on sacrificing self and family to contribute to the corporation's bottom line.

At the end of the day, if my family doesn't survive - I'm of no use to any organization or ministry. My family has to be the most important ministry. And we have it easy right now. We only have an almost-3-year-old and almost-1-year-old. We don't have the sports, school, music, dance, and other extra stuff to deal with. My boundaries will need to shift in the future. In order for my margins to stay the same, I'll need to kick-out other 'not-quite-as-important' activities that I might currently be doing (like blogging, reading RSS feeds, music groups, etc.).

Messing with Thursday lunch with be messing with unhealthy margins in my life. With Christmas execution/planning at its highest point right now, I need to maintain a healthy boundary/margin so that my highest priority (family over ministry) stays intact.

God, You want my family to be more important than the church. Help me to put the laptop away, the smartphone down, and my task list in my pocket when my family needs me the most. I want to model the relationship You have with us for my family. I can't do that if they get the leftovers. Help me to examine accurately if leftovers are served. I want to give You and my family the best choice first.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Offending People with Names

I've offended people in many different ways. One of the biggest ways to offend someone is to forget their name after meeting them once or twice. Since I'm terrible at this, I've used a little help for myself. I have to - otherwise I wouldn't be able to know anyone out of the mass of people on the weekends.

I'm going to share the secret with you. I use a help to remember names. Why do I use it? Because names are important to us. They identify who we are.

I use a 3rd party software program on my Treo smartphone by Mapletop called "SuperMemo 2.0." It helps me learn 10-50 time faster people's names. Apparently it uses a proven scientific method in constant development since 1987 using repetition spacing algorithms. It can also be used as an easy way to memorize your own facts, numbers, foreign languages, etc. I simply type in a name and the context I've met the person, and it will begin to test me. For example, I would type in...

NAME: John Doe CONTEXT: met at Burger King in line when he didn't have any money, he's there every Tuesday

In a nutshell, the program 'learns' the names that I don't know best and tests me more often on those names. It keeps score for me so I don't have to recall which names of people I don't know. It magically knows to test me on the names that I've gotten most wrong over time. If you wanted to learn other databases of 'useful' (subjective) information, here is a sampling at the following link.

1. Multiplication Table through 10x10 - If you still do not remember 5x7, 8x6 or 4x9.
2. Multiplication Table through 20x20 - Learn not only 7x8 but also 8x15, 7x14 and 15x17 by heart and throw away your calculator
3. MS Excel Shortcuts - Use your keyboard instead of mouse to speed up your work with this spreadsheet.
4. MS Word Shortcuts - Speed up your work with this text editor using shortcuts like Ctrl+L, Alt+Ctrl+N, etc.
5. Braille Alphabet - Learn the alphabet used by blind people for tactile reading, invented by a young French boy.
6. Chemical Elements - Are you sure you still know what is Sb, Mo or Ag? And what symbol is used for antimony, gold or potassium?
7. Morse Code - International - Learn the international radiotelegraph alphabet used worldwide.
8. Morse Code - American - The original code as created by Samuel Morse and used in American landline telegraph.
9. English Proverbs - All that glitters is not gold. Every cloud has a silver lining. Honesty is the best policy. Did you know that?
10. English Idioms - More than 1,000 phrases that make no sense when translated word for word and must be learned by heart.
11. English Vocabulary - Over 5,000 English words with their meanings and example sentences.
12. English Irregular Verbs - Present form, past tense and past participle of the most often used English verbs.
13. Basic Spanish - The most common Spanish words, with verbs and other words that tie together sentences.
14. Intermediate Spanish - Some 1,200 Spanish-English word pairs.
15. Advanced Spanish - More than 2,600 Spanish words in 30 categories.
16. Human Body in Spanish - Names of parts of a human body in English and Spanish.
17. Basic French - A starting point for new learners of French. Almost 700 word pairs including basic French irregular verbs.
18. Intermediate French - Some 1,500 cards with French vocabulary and sample sentences.
19. Basic German - Over 200 words in German. Learn the directions, days of week, numbers, or basic verbs.
20. Intermediate German - 700 German cards for intermediate English speaking students of German.
21. German Irregular Verbs - Present form, past tense and past participle of the most often used German verbs.
22. German Business - English-German cards about accounting, finance, management, employment, etc.
23. German Christian - Words useful for reading the Luther translation of the Bible.
24. German Computers - English-German vocabulary about hardware (e.g. cables and printers) and software (e.g. cut, paste, save).
25. German Finance - Financial terms with their explanations in German language.
26. German Materials Science - Technical terms used in fields like ceramics, metallurgy or plastics.
27. German Travel - Vocabulary related to all forms of transportation or about hotels.
28. Scientific German - Basic vocabulary for all fields of scientific work.
29. German-Latin Medical Terms - Latin terms for German speaking medical students and doctors.
30. Basic Japanese - Basic vocabulary, phrases and counting in Japanese language.
31. Japanese Verbs - Cards with Japanese verbs in romanji with their different grammatical forms.
32. Japanese Adjectives - A set of Japanese adjectives (in romanji) and their translation in English..
33. Japanese Time - Time and dates in Japanese romanji and in English.
34. Spanish-Japanese - Spanish to Japanese database of vocabulary and phrases.
35. Russian - Over 1,000 English-Russian cards in four categories for intermediate or advanced English/Russian students.
36. Basic Turkish - Nearly 500 basic words in Turkish language.
37. Basic Swedish - Phrases and words in Swedish organized by topics.
38. Advanced Korean - For English speaking learners of Korean or for Korean learners of English (great for TOEFL, TOEIC or other tests).
39. Esperanto - Learn this easy international language and join the millions of Esperanto users worldwide.
40. Lotus Notes Quiz - Multiple choice quiz for Lotus Notes exams.
41. Phobias - Names of pathological fears of spiders (arachnophobia), heights (acrophobia), closed spaces (claustrophobia), or the like.
42. Internet Acronyms - Not sure what RTFM, BTW, YMMV, TIA or ROTFL means? This list of more than 1,100 internet acronyms will help you.
43. World Capitals - Capital cities of the world countries and major island plus their population, currency names and ISO codes.
44. US States - Abbreviations, capitals and nicknames of the fifty states of the USA.
45. Musical Scales - The Major scale and its notes as well as the Modes.
46. Black Jack - The basic strategy for playing single deck blackjack.
47. Mega Memory - Support database for Kevin Trudeau's system for memorizing long numbers.
48. Micronutrients - Common micronutrients, their sources, side efects and deficiency states.
49. English Football League - More than 1,000 cards for fans including team nicknames, home grounds, wins and more.
50. Aviation Flashcards - A set of 3 databases for the FAA Airmen Knowledge Test.
51. ICAO Alphabet - International Civil Aviation Organization codes for the English alphabet.
52. Technician Class Amateur Radio - Technician Class (the first one) Amateur Radio License flash cards.
53. General Class Amateur Radio - General Class (the second one) Amateur Radio License flash cards.
54. Extra Class Amateur Radio - Extra Class (the third one) Amateur Radio License flash cards.
55. Inventions and Discoveries - Inventions, discoveries and events with their dates, inventors and their nationalities.
56. Science Facts - Various interesting scientific facts in several categories (e.g. Beaufort windspeed scale, metric prefixes, etc.).
57. Tree Names - Latin names of some fairly common trees.
58. UK Roads - Road numbers for some regions in the UK.
59. Guitar Chords - Learn the basic guitar chords with SuperMemo.
60. Musical Terms - Over sixty musical terms like Andante, Adagio or Allegro and their meanings.
61. English Musical Vocabulary - Musical terms for learners of English interested in music.
62. Academy Awards - Movie fans can find Oscar lists of the Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress here.
63. Aikido - Japanese-English Aikido glossary for 7th through 5th Kiu examinations.
64. Karate White Belt - All the moves, terms and katas for the White Belt in Karate, Goyju-ryu Style, Meibu-Kai School.
65. Basic HTML - Over 150 basic HTML commands for web authors.
66. Financial Phrases - Almost 6,000 cards with financial phrases, terms and abbreviations.
67. Templates - A few sample SuperMemo category templates for your inspiration.
68. True-False - Sample database that shows how to prepare true-false quizzes in SuperMemo.
69. Multiple Choice - Sample database that shows how to prepare multiple choice quizzes in SuperMemo.

Now if it would only allow me to magically take a snapshot picture of their face! That would be great.

Isn't it great that God knows us (Jeremiah 1:5) - including our name. Names are important to God too. Why else would he change people's names in the Bible to reflect their new spiritual condition? It's because names are important to God too. It's why we know the 12 disciples by name. It's why we have names for God.
He Knows My Name Words and Music by Tommy Walker © 1996 Doulos Publishing I have a Maker He formed my heart Before even time began My life was in his hands Chorus He knows my name He knows my every thought He sees each tear that falls and He hears me when I call I have a Father He calls me His own He'll never leave me No matter where I go

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Stage Shouldn't Change a Thing

You've probably heard it all before. Worship isn't about music. Worship isn't about raising hands. Worship is a lifestyle. It's giving God the worth He's due with our entire life - at every moment in our life.

If this is the case, then there's an important question to ask myself. Do I worship God off-stage just like I do on-stage? Do I sing the same songs? Do I say the same prayer? Do I make the same physical motions?

If not, why not?

If I'm real on-stage, it should be a mirror of my life off-stage. The stage shouldn't change a thing. What you see on-stage should be what you get off-stage.

God, help me to be who I really am on-stage. The stage shouldn't matter. Show me when the stage is changing how I worship You. Show me how to ignore the difference of location.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is He Really Worth It?

What an incredible past weekend of worship at TBC! It was so good to back away from the mic and let the massive vocal group take the lead to pound out the vocals. Great modern vocals cut thru on the chorus of every song. It was a breath of fresh air to have the orchestra on after the summer too.

What amazed me most about this past weekend? No one. Not one complained about the sacrifice it required. Hmm.

It's a sacrifice to come at 7am, 7:15am, 7:30am (or at 6am for Nat). It's a sacrifice to get the kids up early. It's a sacrifice to go hungry while you are singing. It's a sacrifice to worship when you are groggy. It's a sacrifice to sing when your voice isn't warmed up. It's a sacrifice when you had to lug your instrument out of the house, into the car, into the church, setup, warmup, store your case, store your instrument between services, pack it up, lug it out to the car, and lug it back home again.

Yes, God loves our worship when it costs us something. Read 2 Samuel 24:24. David didn't accept a free ticket to worship his God. We shouldn't either. If it doesn't cost us anything, why would God be honored with it? Kind of like if a stranger gave me flowers and said, here these are for your wife. If I gave them to my wife, she'd be happy - until she found out I never went out of my way to honor her. She'd be honored if I thought of it on my own, went out of my way, paid money for them, and then presented them to her.

To the millions of worshipers every week, God love your sacrifice of worship. Not only is is a sacrifice, but it's a privilege and honor to bring it to Him. He deserve the extra mile.

He's worth it all...and more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Christmas Event Hint #12

Hint #12: Some people like musical chairs, but these we'll use windows.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Christmas Event Hint #10

Hint #10: Three stories up on the south.

Christmas Event Hint #9

Hint #9: It takes place in 15 minutes.

Christmas Event Hint #8

Hint #8: There's a 5,000 seat capacity.

Christmas Event Hint #7

Hint #7: It'll happen in the dark.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hot Air Ballons and 2 Year Olds

"Everyone was filled with awe." That's what the Bible says in Acts 2 about what happened when the first believers gathered together. It must have been a time of wonder and transformation!

It must have been a little bit like what our 2 1/2 year old son, Joshua, experienced when he saw hot air balloons up close for the very first time at Topeka's Huff and Puff event. The beauty. The power. The enormity. The gentleness.

Joshua held on tight, but his eyes were wide open - taking it all in. He wanted to stay glued, but wasn't sure it was OK to go closer. Check out the video of him.

When is the last time I stood in awe of God, just like our son Joshua did with hot air balloons?

God, remind me with a healthy fear of who You really are. You have ultimate power over my life and death - yet You care for me as a friend. I stand in awe of You. My words will be few - because who am I to say anything to You or about You?

Let My Words Be Few

Chorus 1
And I'll stand in awe of You
Yes I'll stand in awe of You
And I'll let my words be few
Jesus I am so in love with You

Verse 1
You are God in heaven
And here am I on earth
So I'll let my words be few
Jesus I am so in love with You

Verse 2
The simplest of all love songs
I want to bring to You
So I'll let my words be few
Jesus I am so in love with You

CCLI Song #3040980
© 2000 Thankyou Music
Beth Redman | Matt Redman

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Christmas Event Hint #6

Hint #6: They'll never come through the door.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Christmas Event Hint #5

Hint #5: There's be lots of electricity in the air.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Christmas Event Hint #2

Hint #2: There's definitely a Sonic quality about it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How to Be Fast and Perfect

Someone once told me, "Anyone can play a guitar like Phil Keaggy, it just take them longer to get there."

After hearing Phil in concert, I want to shake people who make comments like this and say, "You don't know my limitations. My brain is not like his. My coordination isn't like his. My dexterity isn't like his." Regardless of these excuses I make, it's true - I can play (almost) like Phil if I'm willing to put in the time.

Here's the secret. Time. Musicians have long struggled to learn how to quickly become close to perfect in singing or playing an instrument. There's a fundamental problem with the word quick - because it fights against quality. Quality almost always takes time.

The mistake many musicians make is that they want to play that riff or sing that lick like their favorite artist right away. It's not fast food. It's a gourmet meal.

So what do you do? Slow down! Play/sing it hear perfect slowly. Work up to it. If you start making mistakes, you are going too fast. Look at the picture above. Musicians should strive to stay in the upper quadrants. As soon as you fall below the middle line, you are going too fast. Many musicians make the mistake of hanging out in the lower right quadrant (where the red X is).

What about my spiritual life? Any correlation? Do I want to become a man of God too fast? Am I willing to pay the price in time to be the man of God with character He desires? Or do I simply want to not try because it is unattainable. Without God's help, it is impossible. With God's help, a willing heart, forgetting the past, and future patience - God help me refine my walk with Him.

Am I willing to pay the price?

Philippians 3:13-15 (New International Version)

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nelson's Go to Another Church

Last weekend, my wife and I worshiped at a different church. We went to Elmbrook Church (Brookfield, WI). Elmbrook is #66 on 100 Largest U.S. Churches of 2006 and is #15 on America's 25 Top Multiplying Churches (according to What was our experience like? Here are some of my notes...

  • The worship space seats 1,800
  • The facility is 90,000 sq.feet
  • They had enormous flat screens in lobby (put they were off?)
  • They used clear, large, simple, and graphically unified signage
  • Message theme was "knowing the Lord of jubilee"
  • The bulletin/program cover themed with series, had limited info (featured info only), and was designed for first time guests in mind
  • The worship band (bass, acoustic, acoustic drums, piano/keybrds, four vox (pno,guitar, plus 2 vox)/, auxillary perc)
  • They opened with singing a "performance" song of "Majesty" five-minutes before the actual start time, lyrics were displayed on two large screens at this time, few worshippers in the house sang during this time, there was no welcome before this, the worship leader invited us to stand and sing on 2nd chorus of the song (I kinda liked the slow 'ease' start)
  • There was a 10-5 second transition btwn first two songs
  • Second song was "Come, Thou Fount" traditional lyrics with a different middle chorus, "sing praises to the lamb, who for my peace was slain, sing praises to the Great I Am" (enjoyed the variety, ancient/future feel)
  • All graphics on song lyric projection fit the semon theme
  • Hip-hop praise kids dance troup was introduced with a disclaimer, claiming to redeem this style of music/dance, dancing was appropriate, they wore jeans and purple T's, although this element didn't seem to fit the theme of the worship gathering
  • The middle school pastor came up immediately to seque to a welcome to to the "Brook" (nick-name for the church), he featured a kick-off to ministry called Tuesday Night Live Sept 11, announcement for everyone (men, women, children), followed up with a table and booth in lobby after worship, total time was 3 minutes
  • They used IMAG (image magnification during worship, but not during songs), used shadow behind text, used a font other than Times New Roman or Arial, was easily readable
  • After announcement, the worship band went immediately into next song, no invite to sing right away, but then did invite to sing on 2nd chorus (again, nice way to ease into the song), "Here Am I" song "take my voice and let me sing, always only for thee," invited to stand at second chorus
  • No jeans on stage (except for hip-hop element), all khaki pants, all untucked shirts
  • Song by Fernando Ortega "...when the morning falls on the farthest hill, when dark trials come and my heart is filled" (nicely done, performance element)
  • Worship leader setup a audio/video report from the Senior Pastor in Nirobee, stage was setup with message illustration objects for drama during this video (good time to do it)
  • Followed with prayer by middle school pastor immediately after video, "let's pray" is all he said, it's all that was needed at that point
  • Worship leader asked ushers to come forward immediately following prayer and began the next song "let my words be few"
  • Worship leader began almost...each song as a solo
  • Worship leader simply said "you may be seated" following the song (I liked the limited 'gabber' following the songs and introducing them)
  • The audio EQ wasn't set right on pastor giving the message, however it was corrected in the first 1 minute to be better, volume was always fine, just EQ
  • The pastor began with a common story about "duel citizenship"
  • Following the common story scripture read
  • They used a video lowered third when reading scripture --- "Luke 20:20-40, page 744 pew Bible"
  • Prayer after scripture reading
  • The pastor used illustration objects on stage (telescope/future, golf clubs/hobbies, crib/family, wedding cake/marriage, drinking fountain/work, school desk/school, piggybank/finances)
  • When the pastor prayed, the video screens went to a blank graphic screen with message themed graphics
  • He told a riveting story about an usher who found a seat at a tent meeting for a young Billy Grahm, who then turned his heart to Christ that evening, this usher is an unknown kindgom builder, so who influenced the lives of millions (Billy or the usher, or God?)
  • Worship leader followed message with "I Surrender, All to You" copyrighted by
  • The word (solo) was displayed on screen when it was just one person singing from the front and the worshipers listened
  • The Senior Pastor came back up and closed the worship gathering, he gave a special welcome to guests, featured a special evangelistic event on Sept 14, Lee Strobel, he deemed it an evangelistic event for co-workers/friends, brochures available in in the lobby following, he then featured (for a second time) if you want more info on Tues Night Live to hit the table in the lobby
  • Pastor invited people to stand, and he closed in prayer- band played final chorus instrumentally of final song
  • I met the worship leader following the worship gathering. His name is Matt DePreist, one of 5 on their music staff. They used CCLI Song Select leadsheets. Matt said they have a variety of music each week and that I'd want to come for a month to catch the real Elmbrook music culture.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Most Difficult Musician Job

What is one of the most difficult jobs a musician is ever asked to do?

Leading worship with music.

Why? Because of...

1. Volunteer/unpaid musicians
2. Only one rehearsal
3. Rotating personnel
4. Changing set lists
5. Unfair comparisons to recordings
6. Differences in music reading ability

Allow me to explain...

UNPAID MUSICIANS - Most musicians aren't paid to play the right notes. They are volunteering because they love to worship using music and have a passion to lead others in worship. (By the way, I'll take an unpaid musician's passion to lead in worship over a musician who's paid for the gig who doesn't have the same passion anyday. That's why I consider volunteer musicians as 'unpaid staff.' They are that important!)

ONLY ONE REHEARSAL - Unpaid/volunteer musicians have one rehearsal to pull things together. Most professional artists have many many rehearsals prior to a tour. Most symphony orchestras rehearse until they know the music like the back of their hand.

ROTATING PERSONNEL - The rotation of musicians often changes from week to week. Most professional artists stay with the same musicians. When they do call a sub in, they already have the music down cold (otherwise they wouldn't be a good sub).

CHANGING SET LISTS - The music set list changes once a week. Most professional artists stay with one set list that they can tour with and repeat over and over again.

UNFAIR COMPARISONS TO RECORDINGS - Other worshipers are comparing the music to a recording they've heard. Often times the unpaid musicians are expected to reproduce musically what has already been done on a CD. And the front of house audio engineer is expected to reproduce a CD-like mix for worshipers. (Remember, a FOH audio engineer can do one of three things; make you sound like you really do, make you sound better than you really are, make you sound worse than you really are.)

DIFFERENCES IN MUSIC READING ABILITIES - Some musicians read music and others do not, makes communication more interesting. Most professional artists work with the highest caliber of musicians who both read and improvise at the highest of levels.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Intimidating Worship

I've been asked, "So how do you feel when you know 'so-and-so' is in the audience." When we learn who the other worshippers are, sometimes our mind plays tricks on us. How differently would I prepare for dinner if I knew Mr. President were coming for dinner, as opposed to my best friend? Why do I bring out the best china, silver, and make sure all the kids' toys are picked up just when Mr. Significant is about to arrive?

When it comes to gathering for worship, does it really matter who the other worshippers are? Sure, I need to be mindful of who else is worshipping with me so that we can craft an opportunity for those who've gathered to worship. Remember, worshippers have come for the same reason I give the worth due to our God Almighty.

I shouldn't be intimidated by a famous person who came when they really aren't my audience anyway? The One who created me is my only audience. Famous people aren't my audience, they are fellow-worshippers. After all, I only have breath because God Himself allows it. Approaching Him should be the most intimidating of all. Famous people tend to not have the ability to give me life or death. My audience on the weekend does - He's the One who created me.

God, we worship You regardless of who our fellow-worshippers are - no matter how significant or insignificant we may be in each other's eyes. You hold us significant in Your eyes. Help me worship You instead of being worried about the other worshippers who've come to do the same.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Select Musicians

What are the things I look for in musicians and other volunteers who I consider unpaid staff? Assuming they are believers, I tend to boil it down to three major things: Availability, Attitude/Heart, and Ability. The order they are in is important as well.

AVAILABILITY (the most important)
What season of life does God have you in right now?
Are you available for rehearsals and worship gatherings?
Are you able to be at rehearsal for its entirety?
Is your family OK with the sacrifice to volunteer?
Is this something God wants you to do (or something YOU want to do)?
Do you have the time to prepare for ministry in advance and sharpen your skills if necessary?
Do you attend church to worship off-stage when you aren't scheduled?

ATTITUDE/HEART (very important)
How big is your heart for pointing others to God?
What are your passions?
Do you really want to do this?
Do you care about where/how you serve or simply that God uses you?
Is your heart attitude the same on-stage as it is off-stage?
Are you willing to serve in any capacity, or just the position you'd like (servanthood over stardom)?
Are you a team player and encourage those around you when leadership isn't around?
Are you teachable and willing to try to learn new things?

ABILITY (least important)
What talent/skills has God given you?
What have you done to hone the skills God has given you?
What is your vocal (range, tone, color, blend, vibrato, etc.)?
What is your instrumental skills (technical, endurance, tone/color, rhythm, steady beat, etc.)?
What are your music reading skills (none, chords, written, limited, advanced)?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Stage Fright

Last Sunday was "youth Sunday" and Stephanie (youth intern drummer) asked if I got nervous. I replied, "Yes, just about every time."

Here are some things I get nervous about:
1. What if the projection screen fails?
2. What if I forget the chords or roadmap?
3. What if I lose it emotionally?
4. What if what I planned doesn't really lead people in worship?
5. What if I say something inappropriate?
6. What if I start in the wrong key?
7. What if I sing off-key?
8. What if I forget where I am in a song?
9. What if I give the wrong cue?
10. What if my life isn't what I am on stage?
11. ...what if...

There's something missing from the list though. Where's the, "What if I try to do this without God?"

It's those times that I should be most concerned. I think I can do it on my own strength and without God's help. Just maybe if I have all the lyrics memorized, chords down, techs in the loop, roadmaps setup, perfect audio mix, etc. - just maybe things will go "perfect." Yes, be prepared. Yes, lead with confidence. But I need to be fearful of taking the stage on my own. I'll screw it up without God.

Next time I'm asked if I get nervous, maybe I should reply, "Yes I am. I'm worried because I DO feel like I have everything under control." That's what I should be nervous MOST about. Not the secondary stuff.

God, You are my ONLY audience when I lead worship. I don't want to worry about getting things right for the other worshippers. I'm not there for them. We are here for You. I want to worry about getting my life right for You alone. The music doesn't matter - my life does. Help me be worried about what matters MOST - pleasing You, honoring You, and not getting in Your way.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Worship Mistakes

Last weekend we all enjoyed a little Hotel CA revision to highlight the move over to the College Ave facility. OK, maybe not everyone, but you have to admit the two guys with lighters downstage were a nice addition (not my idea, but was a good one). For those of you who weren't there, I'm not kidding about the lighters.

Then we turned around and wow'd the crowd again by starting "Rock of Ages" in the wrong key. OK, I shouldn't say 'we' because it was really ME. In the third worship gathering, I began the intro vamp in Ab. The rest of the band came in correctly in A. It sounded horrendous. I could read the faces of the worshippers - "a train wreck is coming."

So what do you do? Ask yourself a split-second question - how big of a mistake is this?

If it's small and only the musicians, techs, or a handful of people recognized it as a mistake - then simply keep going.

However, if it's a big mistake, the best thing to do is to admit it, give permission for people to enjoy the mistake by make light of it, and draw the attention back to God by admitting that we are finite beings worshipping a perfect God. Then try what you were doing again.

As one of the musicians prayed at our rehearsal - "we don't want to share the stage with You (God)." When we make a mistake, be human enough to admit it. It means that God owns the stage - and mistakes are a good reminder of that. Point people to God with the mistake by being authentic with it - don't be fake and cover it up if it's a big one (everyone already knows).

God, thank you for the good reminder that You want me to be the REAL THING on and off stage. Help me have the desire to give You my best (You deserve it) but humble to admit that my best will ALWAYS fall short of what You deserve...and sometimes what others expect. Help me be OK with that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Formula for Worship

When our daughter Kayla was born, she was an angel for the first 2 weeks. After the 2nd week, she went ballistic. She wailed for hours on end. We couldn't figure it out. She was more than collicy - she was downright in pain.

We finally figured out that she wasn't ready for the real deal. She wasn't ready for formula. Not even soy formula. Nope, Kayla wanted the best - $9 a day special formula that was already broken down for her. In fact, she still takes it today.

What was the problem? We weren't meeting her where she was. We tried to give her what she needed, but at a level that wasn't correct for her. We had to figure out the hard way that she needed something different than what we thought she needed.

When it comes to worship, our daughter Kayla taught me a great lesson. Before I expect worshippers to worship, I had to meet them where they were at. Most people walk in to a worship setting not thinking about God, were busting their tails to get there, or talking with their friends they haven't seen since last week.

The first words utters, the first song sung, the first images worshippers experience will do one of three things - point eyes to God, turn their eyes away from God, or have no effect. It must meet the worshipper where they are -- then point them to God. Grab the attention, then give attention to Whom it's due. If I don't first meet them where they are at, I'll be in for choppy waters ahead - just like our daughter Kayla.

It will cost something to meet worshippers where they are at. It would be easier to serve Kayla the same food the rest of the family eats. It would save us time and money altogether. But it costs us something to meet Kayla where she's at. Remember, it will cost us something to meet worshippers where they are at. It was cost us thinking power, time and people resource, and, yes, it will require us to spend a little extra cash too.

Be mindful when you craft the first element in worship. It will set the tone for the rest of the morning. Remember to figure out where most of your worshippers are at before they worship.

God, give me wisdom in knowing where the worshippers are at before we begin. Help me craft a time that points them to You - not me or anything else. You, alone, are the One that deserve the attention. Help me to learn how to point our eyes to You.