Saturday, July 18, 2009

Middle of the Night Reflections

I'm not sure how wise it is to blog at 3:41am Eastern Time in a hotel room in Nashville, TN when you're 4 hours from home, worn out as can be, and blurry eyed from a lack of sleep over the past 8 weeks...but I'm gonna do it anyway.

The past couple of days have been phenomenal for me, and really in unexpected ways. I have heard from God from guys in worship leadership positions that really spoke to my heart.

Regi Stone said "It's gonna rain" and introduced me to my new life verse, Zephaniah 3:17:
"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

The "It's gonna rain" thing I'll have to blog about later, but let's just say it's about God raining down his goodness on you when you've been in a real scary dry spot.

Travis Cottrell said "How big do you need God to be? Well, that's how big He is!" That is really simply profound.

Tommy Walker said "The devil will try to steal your calling. Your friends, family, choir, and even YOU may have given up on you, but God hasn't."


I mean WOW.

I'm going to be vulnerable here for just a moment and admit that the devil HAS been trying to steal my calling from me. He has been trying everything to derail me from what God has asked me to do. My self esteem has been attacked, my purpose has been attacked, my usefulness and effectiveness has been attacked, and my joy has been attacked. I have been especially discouraged at what's been happening in my ministry over the past few months.

It seemed like at Easter things were going really well and then **poof** it all seemed in my eyes to unravel. My choir of 75 began impersonating a choir of 35. Not cool devil, not cool. My weight has skyrocketed, even after losing 40 pounds last year. Yet again, not cool devil, not cool. My asthma got worse and I developed a painful umbilical hernia...hello...I'm a singer and a bagpiper...REALLY not cool.

I look over the empty choir seats and question why I haven't been able to express how beautifully awesome God is to those choir members enough to inspire them to show up and do what God called THEM to do. It is ESPECIALLY discouraging when I walk onto the platform and see 11 choir members sitting in the congregation, staring me in the face (which happened Sunday, by the way). That is a HUGE tool satan uses against me.

I had come to about an inch away from giving up on me as a full time "professional" or "paid" minister, before God spoke to me through these 3 men of God. Now I've got a lot to think about on my 4 hour ride home in my little pickup truck. I know it's not about me, it's about what God can do through me, but lately I have felt as useless as the filthy rags I know I'm made up of.

But I am reminded that God is big, HUGE, omnipotent...and He loves ME. Little ole, dirty, sin stained, useless-on-my-own-me. He wants to use me. What a thought. I don't want satan to steal my call like He's stolen my joy. I want to reclaim that in the name of Jesus.

God hear my prayer tonight in this empty, lonely hotel room in Nashville. Forgive me for allowing myself to become beaten down by my own sinful nature. It is MY fault for taking my eyes off of you and believing the lies satan has been telling me. You are the great One, the Rock, the Love, and I know You love me, and tonight I claim that love again for my own. Heal my broken heart and restore me to usefulness for You again. Please use me to touch the lives of others and to help point them to Jesus. All I want to be is a giant roadsign pointing to Jesus. Help me in my failures Lord to be more like You. I love You, I adore You, and I am sorry for sinning against You. I claim the blood of Jesus again today as I have every day since You first saved me. Cleanse me, renew me, and use me. I am and forever will be Your child.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Regi Stone

Just another quick update on the conference.

I've known about Regi Stone for a few years now. He's the worship leader at Christ Church Nashville, but more than that, he's a gifted songwriter, and a fantastic Christian. I've sat in on two of his classes this week, and right now I'm burning the battery up on my iPod with his newest project "Everything". For those of you in my choir, Regi can be heard singing the solo on our demo of "End of the Beginning", so yeah, he can also wail.

This guy is humble and is really being used of God in many ways big and small. Check him out at

I'll write more later. Right now I have to get cleaned up because I'm singing with the Christ Church Choir in a concert in just a couple of hours! Man I love it when I can be a singer instead of a director. **sigh**

Travis Cottrell is the BOMB!

Okay, now I'm impressed. Here at the Christ Church Music and Worship Conference there are hundreds of worship leaders from all sorts of denominations (mostly all evangelical and some pentecostal), and artists from all walks here, not to mention the "Voices of Lee" (incredible a capella group from Lee University) and the Christ Church Choir itself. But who brought the house down AND led everyone to the throne of God?? The Southern Baptist's very own Travis Cottrell.

If you don't know who he is, he is the former Worship Pastor at 2 Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville and is currently the Worship Pastor for the Beth Moore conferences. Check out his website at

Consequently, he also gave the best seminar today. Tomorrow I get to hear from Tommy Walker, who wrote one of my all time favorite songs "He Knows My Name". This should be great.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christ Church Music & Worship Conference

As those of you in my choir now know, I am in Nashville at the Christ Church Music & Worship Conference. I tried to keep that under wraps because the last several times the mice knew the cat was away, they indeed did play, averaging only 15 in attendane out of 75. I think my little experiment worked though, because the initial report from last night is that we actually had better attendance last night than we normally do. Well done choir!!

So far I've attended sessions with Travis Cottrell (the worship leader for the Beth Moore conferences), Regi Stone (Christ Church's worship leader, and the composer of many songs we sing, including "Power in the Name of Jesus" that I sang with our choir a few weeks ago, "Let Your Holy Rain Fall Down", and "O Magnify The Lord in Me" just to name a few), and Landy and Joy Gardner. Landy directs the Christ Church Choir and his wife Joy has appeared on many Gaither videos, and was female vocalist of the year (I think in 1977).

The Q&A with Landy and Joy was especially interesting. It seems that even the mighty Christ Church Choir has problems with faithfulness. It makes me sad that the choir that inspired me to start directing choirs is starting to dwindle, but in a way it's a relief because I really thought I was the only choir director having MAJOR issues with choir members being TRULY committed. Let me tell you, it really depresses even the most veteran and successful choir directors when only half your choir shows up week after week. It only depresses them more when the common response to that is "Oh, that's just the way it's always been around here." It was also interesting to note some of the problems they have that we don't, and vice versa.

When God saves a soul, He immediately calls that person to serve. Every last one. No exceptions. Period. Not later, not after training, NOW. The mode of service may change over time, but we are all called to serve in some capacity NOW.

Serving in a choir situation is hard. I won't lie to you and pretend it's all fun and games to try and fluff up the membership numbers. No, it's HARD...DARN HARD, and it takes commitment. It takes ZERO commitment to just show up when you want to, when it's convenient, when you feel like it. There have been many days in my past when I just didn't "feel like it", but went anyway. That is called OBEDIENCE, and that is what God calls us to. In the Bible He doesn't encourage us to do the best we can, He INSISTS that we OBEY Him, regardless of the circumstances.

What has God called you to do? Has He called you to be in your church choir? If He has, then please be faithful to that calling. If you are in town, and can walk, you should be in church. If you (faithful choir member) can show up to church, and can talk, you can most likely sing, and you SHOULD. I know there are days when you don't feel like it...hey, I get it, I REALLY do. But God didn't say to serve Him when we feel like it. He said SERVE and OBEY...and be blessed.

And see, that's the key. We forget that the blessing comes through obedience. The annointing comes from faithfulness.

God is not going to bless disobedience.
God is not going to bless unfaithfulness.
God is not going to bless mediocrity.
God is not going to bless luke-warm worship.

God will bless obedience!
God will bless faithfulness!
God will bless our best efforts!
God will bless passionate worship!

If you are spiritually dry right now, and I mean dead dry like a crunchy dead leaf in your backyard in the middle of December, then the solution for you is simple:

1) Ask God what He wants you to do.
2) Shut up and do it, and do it obediently, consistently, faithfully, and passionately with love, then repeat.
3) See the first part of number 2.

I know this was a hard blog posting to read, but I wrote it for me, not you. If something struck a chord with you, then hey, I wrote it as an open posting for me, perhaps God is trying to tell you something.

In closing, here's one of my favorite quotes:
"Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hyde and Heddle

Every year I attend the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC. It is one of the largest gathering of Scots in the United States (and probably the world for that matter), so needless to say I really try to never miss it. If you've never been to a Highland Games, you really should do yourself a favor and check one out. I recommend three that are within driving distance of East Tennessee (click on the name for their websites:

I know there are more than those three, but those are the ones that seem to get the best reviews. The one at Gatlinburg is far smaller than the other two, but has a nice, homey feel to it. I've never been to the Stone Mountain Games, but EVERYONE says it is the nicest one. They have a seperate grove in the woods for the Clan Tents, and usually they have some sort of military tattoo, which is cool.

But the Granddaddy of them all is Grandfather Mountain, "America's Braemar". I'm not going to post about all I saw and did there, but I will tell you that it's big fun when the Meadows-side campground gathers all the pipers and drummers and "invades" the Across-the-street-side campground. What insues is the world's largest marshmallow fight, and then an impromptu concert by the pipers and drummers.

David Ross, my favorite historian and author was brilliant as usual, and my only regret is not getting to see more of him. I did manage to video about 80% of one of his presentations though, which is great. Albannach, an intense Scottish Tribal music group of a piper and several drummers was also great, but I only got to hear them do a couple of numbers.

The highlight of this year's games, as usual, came almost as a fluke. Every year I like to visit the tent of Hyde and Heddle Leatherworks. Ron Gray is their master artist, and I wear one of his leather bracelets EVERY day if you'd like to see some of his handywork. Just as every year I went by his tent Saturday night before the concerts and saw his wife working on some leather goods with a needle and thread, and asked if they could repair a sporran I had recently purchased. Not only did Ron repair it, but he actually improved the sporran's design on the back so that it would last longer. He did it in a very timely fashion, and charged VERY LITTLE for the work he did.

As I was in the tent I noticed a neat mug holder that matches my bracelet that attaches to your kilt belt, so I picked that up. I also found a really cool little wooden whistle that plays a full octave to add to my collection. I learned the full scale in about 10 minutes, as it's very similar to an ocarina. I also picked up a NICE black belt that Ron's associate made (I'll update this blog with his name after I can find his business card. He was a great guy too, and also a Southern Baptist to boot).

But off to the side on Ron's workbench was the most beautiful piece of leatherwork I've ever seen. It was a "Rob Roy" style sporran (more of a pouch than a useless decoration). The shape, design, and coloring were absolutely stunning, and I knew I wouldn't be able to afford it, but I also knew that would be MY sporran for the rest of my life. It was unfinished, but still more beautiful than any sporran I had ever seen. After a short phone call (as they have to be on top of the mountain because of sporadic cell phone signals...hello Verizon...Can YOU hear ME now???), I convinced Traci that I had just found my lifetime sporran. She agreed I could get it, so I immediately ran back to the H&H tent and told them I wanted it. It was a STEAL at only $55!!! Most CHEAP sporrans are around that price. To get a hand made sporran like that could easily run upwards of $200 or more.

Well, I had the honor of watching Ron finish the sporran's back part, which was really cool because now I can tell my kids I actually watched the maker make my sporran. If you are into leather stuff or if you need a new bracelet, belt, or sporran, do yourself a favor and drop a line to Hyde and Heddle Leatherworks. You won't be disappointed! I'll add pictures in a later post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Office Disaster

Uhm...yeah. My office. My sanctuary. My...junkyard.

For those of you that don't know, my office was used as the church office's closet for almost a year before I took it over in October 2007. Since that time I haven't had any down time where I could reorganize and clean up the mess. Well, today it stops and I am the trash terminator. I am throwing out junk with vengence, and relocating worthwhile materials where they belong.

The thing about it is that I am still in full-on busy mode with other things to take care of, plus the new guy just moved in next door and he's cleaning his junk up too (though we made sure to keep his place as empty as possible during the last move). Therefore, my office is in the "it has to get worse before it gets better stage".

So if you come to my office and can't find me, just dig...I'm sure I'm in here somewhere.