Monday, April 23, 2012

Songwriting & Recording Lately

I've posted a few Facebook and Twitter status updates lately that I've been writing again.

While I've been immersed in music, worship, and church planting for the last 15 years, much of my creative efforts have been spent more on effective leadership, discipleship, and ministry rather than my personal love of songwriting.

I've been a songwriter, developing my craft since I was at least 16 years old. Even at that age, I was fortunate enough to gain experience performing my own original music at a small restaurant in my home town.

In my college years and beyond, I took it further by joining forces with another skilled musician and we formed the band Turning Keys. Our claim to fame was opening for Flock of Seagulls a few years after their heyday.

It was around that time I became a follower of Jesus and it took me a while to explore what that would mean for my art and identity. Of course years later, God has used those skills and talents while developing new ones in leading worship for His people. I learned how to play and lead a band in a live worship environment.

So with this break in paid ministry, God has stirred up those creative juices for songwriting again. I've been working on recording a few standard worship songs in the studio, as well as writing some new songs as well. While we are still mixing and mastering these, here are a couple preliminary audio clips I hope you enjoy.

Listen to these links and more at my SoundCloud demo set.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Wait" Versus "Go"

During my week in the hospital in mid-February, I was struck by the thought of how easily we take our health for granted. I thought and prayed, "If only I could become healthy again, I would be able to do so much for God. I would seize the day."

The idea of standing on the sidelines has always seemed especially absurd to me, and yet I suddenly felt as though I could have, or should have, done more.

I guess I have always been a "take the world by storm" kind of guy and being incapacitated only intensifies the natural desire in me to risk it all for Jesus.

The biggest, most important steps I have take in my life have been steps of faith following Jesus into the unknown; leaving a full-time, well-paying corporate position to pursue ministry; moving our family to Helena, Montana, what seemed like the "ends of the earth" at the time; announcing our desire to follow God on an adventure to plant a new non-traditional church in a place where traditional churches thrive.

So now I look in retrospect at the last eight months since we closed the doors of Encounter Church. Andrea and I were sure God would open specific doors quickly and whisk our family away to another part of the country. The first couple of weeks we visited an amazing ministry, a new church plant in South Jordan, Utah, and we were sure we would plug-in there. I Skyped extensively with church planters and ministry leaders in Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts, Virginia, and California (not to mention several opportunities right here in Montana). In three separate trips, I met with a number of church planters doing amazing work for the Kingdom in Seattle.

  • Met with ministry leaders and led worship at One Community Church in South Jordan, Utah — a unique ministry in a stronghold of the Mormon faith.
  • Talked with Healing Place Church doing amazing ministry in El Paso, Texas.
  • Considered moving to Springfield, Missouri with another church planting friend.
  • Made an East-coast connection with Sovereign Grace Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Was considered for Area 10 Faith Community in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Considered an inner-city ministry at The Pathway in Tacoma, Washington.
  • Talked extensively and led worship for Emmaus Church in Bothell, Washington.
  • Met with and talked about joining two other different ministries in Auburn, Washington.
  • Been invited to be a part of starting a new church in Omaha, Nebraska with a friend right here in Montana.
  • Made a connection with River City Church, another new church plant in Missoula, Montana.
  • Began discussion with a church planter, planting Element Church in North Phoenix.

From all these connections and more, we've felt a desire to go forward — but not yet a call. The pieces are just not coming together financially, geographically, or socially to facilitate that big step in to our new life adventure. Leaning on my passion and experience, I have been seeking to connect in some area of worship arts, and yet I have been offered positions in missions, youth, and discipleship. The cost of living has been an impediment in some areas, as well as the abundance of non-paying ministry opportunities. We've had to weigh a quality of life working full-time secular work and burning the candle in order to squeeze in some ministry. Is this what God has planned for us?

For eight months, we have been ready to "go." We have been ready to immediately follow His call. And yet God's response has been "wait."

How does a man of action wait? And why is it so difficult? I recently heard Charles Stanley explain that "waiting on the Lord" often means "trusting in the Lord" and vice versa. The natural man in me, the experience in me, the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the adventurer, the barbarian in me says "GO NOW." But it even troubles me now that my spirit says "WAIT" — His Spirit says "WAIT."

So here we are. Helena, Montana has become a crossroads for us where we've experienced much joy and pain. Like the apostle Paul, we are held back from moving forward. And as we long to leave, we have also become obedient to God's will at this time. We continue to ask Him for the grace to trust Him much more that we already do, to stay somewhat planted when we desire to soar like eagles.

So for now, I continue in my job in the Copy & Print Center at Staples here in Helena. I am interviewing for both graphics and ministry positions over the phone and on Skype. I am making new connections with ministry leaders and church planters in places like Missoula, Omaha, and Phoenix. If you know of a ministry needing an experienced worship arts, former lead pastor, passionate team builder, and disciple maker — be sure and let me know. It may be the opportunity that God is orchestrating so that He can allow us to go.

But for now, we trust and wait.
Profile & Resume (Ministry)

LinkedIn Profile (Ministry)

Encounter Church (Ministry)
LinkedIn Profile (Graphics)

Indeed Resume (Graphics)

Portfolio (Graphics)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Miracles & Healing

For many in our local sphere of connections, you probably already know the challenges we've faced since mid-February — specifically, my health setback. At this point things are much better, so I am able to share with a positive outlook.

In mid-February, between working at Staples, applying for jobs, and investigating ministry opportunities, a seemingly small bump formed at the top of my back near my neck line.

I was checking out a friend's church plant here in Helena on that Sunday, visiting my physician on Wednesday, and landing in the emergency room and finally the hospital by that Saturday. That small bump had grown to become a painful 6-inch oval area threatening to unleash infection into my bloodstream. It had become a staph infection.

I was admitted to the local hospital here in Helena and immediately treated on heavy duty intravenous antibiotics. By Monday, MIRSA was thankfully ruled out and it was decided that the best course of action (although not my favorite) was to physically remove the infected tissue by surgery.

Within days, the infection was better and I was discharged by Thursday with large wound in my back/neck that was 7-inch-wide by 1-inch-deep. For three weeks at home, I received daily nurse visits to pack and treat my wound.

During my home hospice, I was unable to return to work and our family began to face a number of financial challenges for medication and insurance, as well as our daily needs.

We had immediate prescription costs of $600, our furnace stopped working needing $300 of repairs, one of Andrea's teeth had become infected and she required a $1000 root canal.

It was all too much. Both Andrea and I broke emotionally. As God often does through our brokenness, He was gracious to us through our friends, ministry connections, and a couple local congregations.

We were humbled and brought to tears by gifts we can never repay. And while we are still struggling, God continued to provided for us through some means we could never have anticipated.

After being out of work for nearly four weeks, my wound was beginning to heal. I was strong enough to return to the Copy & Print Center at Staples and begin paying back what may be about $12K in medical bills. At this point, we are still not sure what we will owe when all is done, but we are grateful that my Aetna insurance through Staples became effective just the Sunday before I was admitted into the hospital.

Now in mid-April, I am coming up on nine weeks since I first visited my family physician regarding the bump. Last Saturday was the first day that we did not pack and dress the wound and the gaping hole in my back that seemed like it could never heal has amazingly grown closed and is beginning to scar over. It feels like a miracle.

But perhaps the miracle is this — that God loves us, you an me both, to care for and sustain us regardless of our failures. He does this not only in times of hardship, but in every moment, through every heartbeat, and every breath.