today marks the day that I was born - 32 years ago. today also marks the day i've decided I'm kinda over the whole birthday thing - a few hours ago.

i had a chill day. no work. led worship in the morning for some local campus ministry leaders. then had lunch with our "son", Paul.

the day got better when we found out Jodi is already 2cm dilated! (though she's not due for another 2 weeks.)

and then a little better when I had dinner with some good friends.

all in all a day I enjoyed. but also a day i'll probably soon forget - like so many other birthdays (except that day my friends in Raleigh scared the crap out of me with a surprise party - i yelled so loud i scared them).

more blog-babble soon.


warning: uncool pictures

sometimes hipness is what it ain't - tower of power

at the request of some friends and family, I've posted some pictures of our baby's room. deduct 5,000 cool points now.

but in being uncool, I just might be cool. I mean, the less I care about being cool, the more cool I am, right? right.

call MTV. we wanna be on Cribz.

glider and changing table. baby crap shall be experienced here.dresser. and a good look at the paint job. designed and painted by Jodi.


rough worship experience #2

setting: womens' ministry house where we were invited to play for their weekly prayer/worship gathering.

the scene: although it's a womens' ministry, they invite both men and women to their weekly meetings. we definitely seemed to be the loudest worship band they ever had. and we were obviously a bit different stylistically than what they were used to (as the speaker politely stated, "we certainly appreciate the... heart with which you sing your songs....").

what went wrong: there was no major turning point or event per se. just an overall creepy vibe. worship went fine. many of them were raising hands and worshipping pretty well. there were a few people praying in their 'prayer language'.

the weird part was at the end of the sermon. there was a female "prophet" who had been invited as the speaker. when she was nearing the end of her talk, she invited people to come up and have hands layed (lain?) on them for prayer. there was loud tongue-speaking - into microphones - without interpretation.

what followed were events that bordered on crowd manipulation.

she pointed people out in the small gathering of 30 or so people. asked them publicly to come forward because they needed prayer. she spoke out a specific prayer she felt the Spirit prompting her to pray for. but as she prayed, she'd push - hard - on the person's forehead, almost forcing the person to lose their balance and fall backward. if they resisted, or did not fall, they were gently rebuked for not surrendering enough.

as if rehearsed, there were folks waiting behind those being prayed (preyed?) upon, in order to catch them when 'slain.'

at one point, the speaker pointed me out. my heart raced as I rose from my seat to step forward. i was relieved to find that she was just asking me to be a 'catcher' for a tall fellow in the front row whom she was planning to lay hands on. she placed her palm firmly on his forehead and applied pressure. he stepped back with one foot to catch his balance. she pushed farther until he backed up far enough to sit back down in the chair he'd just been sitting in. my catching abilities hadn't been needed after all.

my issues/disclaimer: i believe in spiritual gifts. in teaching, healing, prophecy, laying of hands, and yes, in tongues (although the latter is biblically the least of these gifts). i've witnessed what i believe to be the orderly and wonder-full occurrence of tongues with interpretation. although I can't think of a biblical reference for it, i've seen numerous people 'fall out' during intense times of these gifts. and I will never claim to be someone with the authority to decide whether these events are truly of the Spirit or not.

i do know that sometimes i get filled with awe at these events, and at others, i get filled with bad vibes.

what i learned: i found myself having to counsel my band members a bit after this service - to make sure they weren't totally freaked out. I found myself guarding my language, and asking them to guard theirs in remaining respectful to the people we'd witnessed participating in this spectacle.

our downfall as Christ-followers begins when we start to think we've got it all right. when we think our way of worshipping and living out our faith is the way. what seems most important to me right now is maintaining more a sense of fear and trembling - NOT pride - as we discuss worship service style in the Church.

i'm absolutely positive that a typical worship service from the Acts-era of the Church would look/feel entirely foreign and uncomfortable to us, as compared to our contemporary/modern services.... it would freak us out - and vice-versa.

humbleness is key. in fact i insist that we pray, even beg, for humility as we approach this concept we call a worship service. there's a really good chance that when we meet up with Jesus again, he'll give us a pat on the back and say something like "nice try. you gave it a shot. you're covered though - let's go."

let the hate mail cometh.


rough worship experience #1

i don't usually back-blog. but for the anonymity of the group I'll be discussing below, I wanted to wait until ample time had passed.

setting: young adult service where my band and I were asked to lead worship.

the scene: we set up in a large auditorium. one that could hold at least 2,000 people. it was an evening service, so we didn't expect a huge crowd and that was cool with us. we got their huge/incredible sound system fired up and were playing pretty tightly together in sound check.

what went wrong: when it was time for the service to start, there were about 12 people present, including leaders. picture it: gi-normous room. big sound and visuals. itty-bitty group.

we were ready to start and the sound person wanted us to wait a second. there was dead silence. I said "big room!" into the mic, laughing.... not even a sound or even a chuckle was made.

we led worship and were really feeling it. getting into worship like my boys are good at doing. no major mistakes or trainwrecks - always a blessing. so as I start to look out at the small gathering toward the front of this auditorium, I see blank faces. nothing. just apathy.

only 1-2 of them would continue clapping, even after I asked them to clap along. nobody raised their hands to worship - even during some of the more worshipful songs. and a few had actually sat down. i specifically recall a person slouched back in his auditorium chair, the side of his cheek perched on his fist, and a completely flat expression while we were worshipping.

this person was easily the most apathetic of the bunch. and he was one of the lead pastors.

my issues: i've led worship before where the congregation was less than excited to have me as their worship leader. and our sound is pretty specific, stylistically. so I'm a grown-up and can handle it if not every group we lead is ecstatic to have us. for some reason though, this got to me. in fact, i was infuriated.

i was a little bitter because the leaders didn't care about the situation. because we felt no sense of welcome as visitors. because they seemed they weren't even remotely interested in worshipping, let alone in having us.

i should also acknowledge that i was paying my band to play, and i didn't get paid for the service - and i definitely didn't sell enough CDs to cover my costs. nobody apologized for, or even acknowledged the fact that i was "in the hole" for that gig financially. not even a love offering was suggested for us. that might have contributed to my bitterness as well.

what i learned: not every worship set will be a great one. even if my band and I do our very best, and are actually getting beyond playing to where we're worshipping. i shouldn't expect to be recieved warmly at all times or to have people excited about worship. and I shouldn't take myself so seriously (that is, I can take worship seriously, but not myself).

this isn't a scientific theory, where I can take it to different environments and try to recreate a specific response. it isn't a formula. it's people and their God. and most of us worship differently from each other - in a good way. I should value that and not be bitter.

finally, I should be more prepared. not just prepared to play, or prepared spiritually to worship. but prepared to engage people more. from that point on, I began to prepare little stories or brief explanations of songs from life experiences. most of them funny, all of them short. when stuff like this goes down, I've got a little trick in my back pocket to help me disarm them. yes, disarm.

this group needed to be disarmed and i wasn't ready for it. they had their guards up and i let them stay up. i'm more ready now. thanks for humbling me Lord. thanks for making me grow.


our best advice

Jodi and I have been talking about something over the past few months.

what if we took the best 2 or 3 things we've learned lately and told all our friends about them? what if we made it simple, so that people could follow the advice easily? and what if we made it so that all our friends can give us their best advice too?

our hope is to pass this wisdom on to you, our friends, so that you are able to learn from our recent shortcomings and (sometimes) bad decisions. we're hoping to keep this thing going. so feel free to blog or comment with any tidbits of advice from your universe....

so here it is. our best advice:

1. don't move to Arizona.
2. don't buy a Volkswagen.
3. don't get a PhD.

runners up:
-if you're in or around pittsburgh, go to one or all of the following: the O (best fries), the Beehive (best coffee), Quaker Steak & Lube (best wings), and Primanti Brothers (amazing sandwiches)... just go.
-don't use a moving broker - or any moving company that isn't national and reputable.

i know most of these sound really negative. but we felt that you, our friends, should know about them. each one has a good 2-hour story behind it. so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

and remember, let's keep this thing going (e.g., can anyone say "don't plant a church"?). blog, comment, email... go ahead.