Friday, December 26, 2008

Mr. Bassman, Play Me A Song

It has been fun to watch our youngest son, Ben enjoy playing the bass guitar and the bass (arco).

Here are some fun recent photos! (The hair is!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas From Billy Graham

I find it amazing that an organization as large as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association must be - would still have my wife on their mailing list.

In March of 1989, she was privileged to be one of the featured soloists at the Greater Syracuse Billy Graham Crusade at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. I will never forget that evening because I had the incredible honor of sitting with and visiting with George Beverly Shea as well as sitting on the platform and meeting the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham.

I will also always remember that experience because Karla sang at that crusade as she was pregnant with our middle son, Matt. He is now 19 years old!

So, this Christmas - some 19 years later - Karla received a Christmas card from Dr. Billy Graham with the following note -

"Having just celebrated my 90th birthday, I am deeply grateful to God for the ministry He entrusted to Ruth and me for so many years, and to each of you who have prayed for me and my family so faithfully."

May God's gift of Jesus Christ fill you and your loved ones with unspeakable joy this Christmas and througout the coming year.

Billy Graham

(yes, I know it was not personalized, but it still means everything to us that we received it!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Faith vs. Bravery

Anyone in ministry knows and relates to this statement -

[I have a friend who is dealing with a very difficult situation in their life.]

Well - I do - I have a friend who is dealing with a very difficult situation in their life.

This week, when I reminded them of the depth of their faith (which is evident to all and immense comparatively speaking), and that their faith in God would help them get through this difficulty - their response threw me.

They said, "I know I have faith - I'm just not brave."


All week, I have been pondering that comment. How can that be - to have faith, but not be brave? Are we to assume that just because our faith is deep and strong, that we can't still be afraid? What does it mean that we are fearful and filled with faith? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

I know - I am supposed to have more answers than questions, but right now - and particularly in this situation - I must admit I have more questions than answers.

I do know this - my friend is counting on me (and many others) to "pray them through" this situation. I think my prayers will begin with, Lord, help my friend to be brave......

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

63 Years

Every June in our worship services, we recognize and honor those couples who have been married for 50 years or longer. I love that we do that. Our younger couples who are either engaged or recently married get to see a real life picture of marriage.

This past Monday - December 8, my mom and dad celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. I am amazed at that. Imagine the things they have witnessed and experienced "together" in 63 years!

So, congratulations to Wilburn (WJ) and Alice Ruth Worley - thank you for being a tremendous source of inspiration for so many!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leadership In Tough Times

Author, writer Gordon MacDonald always seems to come up with right words and thoughts for the right time and moment.

He has done that again (at least for me) with these words from a recent article he wrote in Leadership Journal entitled, "No Time To Cower".

Here is an excerpt:

The worldwide economic crisis seems the most immediate challenge. Worst case scenario? Many churches will not survive (it's happened before). Christian schools and seminaries will gasp for air; some will suffocate. Parachurch and missions organizations will find themselves in a Darwinian struggle for funding. Theological ideas built on prosperity, American superiority, and asset accumulation will be severely tested.

Wild times lead people to pursue spiritual realities. Look for an uptick in prayer, spiritual friendships, greater curiosity about what the Bible says about life's priorities. Wild times humble the arrogant and acquaint us with the struggles of the poor. Compassion and generosity take on a new meaning. That's not too bad.
There are two possibilities here. One is that I simply don't know what I'm talking about, and it's full steam ahead into business-as-usual. The other? That these conditions do indeed call for a courageous response like Foch's approach to turbulent times: "I attack." A bold advance.

That's what I pray the Christian movement will do. Not retrenchment! But a bold advance involves dramatic change: in leadership, in ways of doing Jesus' work, in innovative new thought about the meaning and impact of the gospel. Again, I say: attack!

What could that possibility mean to people of spiritual influence in these days?

Several experimental ideas:

1. Let's go back to the Bible and rediscover what godly people said and did when the sky was falling in their generation. New insights, possibly?

2. Let's make sure we have something substantial to say to those who are victimized by this economic tsunami: those losing their jobs, those who thought they were economically secure in their old age and discovered they aren't, and youth who might be fearing that there's no dream out there for them.

3. Let's reappraise our priorities of generosity and make sure that the giving-dollar goes to efforts that advance Christian ministry in enduring and deepening ways. Enough of the silly ways the Christian-dollar has been raised and wasted.

4. Let's think repentantly about how a lot of us have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a global financial system that was largely based on greed and falsehood. Lots of Christian organizations are crying about what has been lost because of this flawed financial system. But we ought not to forget it was that same system that helped those organizations get a lot of what they had. What goes up often comes down.

5. Maybe it's time to seek new ways of doing Christian service, ways less dependent upon money and bricks and mortar and more dependent upon unadulterated spiritual power. The early Christian movement, it seems to me, knew a lot about this.

6. We need to ask ourselves if we have any kind of message rising from the words and life of Jesus that would be significant to those in our larger world who thought they had a better way than Jesus' way. Revival time?

Confession: I have never been a great proponent of "revivals" because too many of them (the modern ones anyway) seemed contrived. But maybe—just maybe—we're at the brink of a real one.

If you wish to read the entire article - go HERE

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chasing Cool

I just finished writing an article on worship for a newsletter that will be included in a choral music mailing that I am told will go out to some 7,000 churches sometime in January. I am humbled and honored to have had that privilege.

One of the things I wrote about is the importance of investing in next generation worship leaders.

I have begun a weekly lunch meeting with a 20-something guy who is gifted and called to lead people in worship. The more time I spend with him, the more I learn. I have no idea if I am helping him, but I know he is helping me. One of the things we always talk about is being authentic. The age group of people he leads in worship each week can see through a person immediately. They want real. My friend tells me that he and his team always want to be careful not to "chase cool". In other words, it's really not about being cool - it's about being honest, getting to the heart of the matter. The answers we need don't come from being cool - they come from being broken.

My week would have been complete just to have my regular lunch with my 20-something friend, but I got a bonus this week. I got to also have lunch with a good friend who is older than I am - someone who invests in my life as a person who has walked before me.

He is smart, funny, articulate, and passionate for God's church to make a difference in the Kingdom. He is always such an encouragement to me. He loves to tell me stories of the past, but is just as excited about today and the future. After our lunch, he was headed to a local hospital where he volunteers on a weekly basis to simply sit in the waiting room and minister to families who don't have anyone there to sit with them, talk with them, pray with them. One can only imagine the stories he has to tell from those experiences.

I look back on my two lunches this week with these two men - the huge age/generation gap between them - and I ponder the difference they make in my life.

I thank God for relationships that enrich, that challenge, that encourage, that bring fulfillment to our stress-filled lives.

I pray, too that I would always resist the urge to "chase cool"....

Friday, November 14, 2008

24 Days

I will always remember Father's Day of this year for two reasons:

1. It was my son's first Father's Day
2. I had the privilege of hearing one of my favorite preacher's final sermons

On June 15 of this year, while on my sabbatical, I attended Brentwood United Methodist Church (a few blocks away from my church) to hear Dr. Howard Olds preach. Dr. Olds had cancer, and he would be retiring two weeks later - knowing his death was eminent. Even on that Sunday, you could tell there was a stronger sense of urgency in his failing voice and energy level.

He preached his final sermon entitled, "Don't Stop" on June 29.

He died 24 days later.

This past week, I was finally able to obtain a copy of that sermon, and I listened to it.

Go HERE and do the same.

In October 2006, I blogged about what I was reading at that time - Gordon MacDonald's book - A Resilient Life. Since writing that book, he has been asked to speak at various gatherings of (of all things) worship leaders and pastors.

He challenges those who listen to him to plan and lead as if it were the last time you will plan and lead. I can't help but think about Dr. Olds.

He knew, and he did......

Monday, November 03, 2008

Painting With A Friend

Part of my weekly "ritual" of things to do during the high school football season for the past few years has been to help a friend paint this Power F on the football field of Franklin High School for their home games.

My friend got the job because of his creativity, and he does the painting of the school's "logo" for several high school football fields in the area.

Since my middle son played on the football team the past two years and my youngest son now marches in the band at Franklin, I wanted to keep doing it if I could.

This season, my friend has been through some pretty rough physical stuff with stomach cancer, chemo and other treatments......even to the point of him physically not being able to do the first Power F of this season because he was so sick. (we did the best we could without his direction and inspiration!)

Getting to help my friend paint the Power F this season has been rewarding in a different way. He seems to value that time more than in the past. I sense that in the conversations we have had. Even in the seemingly meaningless duty of painting a high school football field, I get to know and appreciate my friend in a deeper way.

Maybe this week, we should all take a few minutes to value the conversations that come our way.

For me, I am glad that Franklin has at least one more home game this Friday so I get to paint (and talk) with my friend!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Tough Week

Some weeks it seems like we tread in deeper water and for longer and extended periods of time continuing to believe and hope that the life-line will bounce up against us any moment now, but it doesn't.... so we keep treading.

Deep levels of very real pain and grief surround many of my friends this week.

We have had 20 funerals in 43 weeks at our church, and it's not just death that has made for a tough week.

I think of Matt Redmon's song, "Blessed Be Your Name".
"You give and take away, Lord, blessed be Your name"

Yesterday, I had to submit a report for basically what I have done this past year - along with reports from those who work with me in my area. As I reviewed my co-workers reports and then prepared my own, one word came to mind. Exhausted.

Shouldn't other words have come to mind? Satisfied, Excited, Hopeful, Fulfilled, Joyful, Grateful........

Truly, at most times, I am all of the above, but this week - nope.....just not there.

I met a young, energetic worship leader this week who made the comment to me, "shouldn't the church be a hospital?" Among other things, it certainly is, and this week for whatever reasons, we are seeing our share of hurting people who are in need of healing.

I can't help but think of part of yet another song lyric that describes this in great detail -

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

(thank you Phill McHugh and Greg Nelson for writing this)

I think the "private pain" part of that is what gets to me. People simply do not know what to do with the stuff they carry around with them. They feel afraid, they feel alone, they feel ashamed, they feel sorry for themselves, they feel anger towards others, they feel as if they have no hope, they can't be real with anyone for fear of revealing their private pain.

I think my new friend is right about the church being a hospital except for this one huge difference - when a person goes to the hospital, their pain is no longer private. Doctors, nurses, specialists, surgeons, etc. can't treat pain they don't know about. When we go to church, our pain most often remains private. We know God knows our pain, and we desperately want Him to help us - heal us, but we can't let the person seated next to us know we are hurting.

That makes me sad - I have to wonder if this is the way it is supposed to be?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pirates Reign!

OK - if you can't get a good laugh at yourself, then what's the point?

This photo is completely ridiculous! Please allow me to explain.

I have been asked to speak at a conference this summer, and the people who asked me asked for a photo of me for their promotional piece.

I did not have one readily available, so I asked our graphics guys at church if they could "crop" a recent photo of my family and make it work.

One of our guys sent this photo to me today with the caption, "is THIS the photo you want me to send?" What he didn't know was how "timely" this "photo-shoppedversion" is!!

1. Ben has spent alot of his time this week re-programming (for fun) one of the main songs from "Pirates Of The Caribbean" - you should hear it!

2. My grandson's first birthday is the day after Halloween, and his party will be at my house and it will involve - you guessed it - pirates!

So, as much as I would love to send this photo to the folks who have asked me to speak at their conference this summer - I will refrain - even though I REALLY do want to send it!

(man - what I wouldn't give for this head of hair!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Mystery Worshipper

I can't believe I read THIS in the Wall Street Journal this past Friday!

What's next - Personal Seat Licenses and Parking Passes?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Worship Survey - May God Help Us All!

Our church's mission statement is "Connecting People To Jesus Christ through Worship, Discipleship, and Service."

This year, we decided to conduct church-wide surveys with our Sunday worship service congregation for each of these (3) areas of ministry. We started with Discipleship, then we had a survey for Service, and finally, on September 14, we conducted a survey on Worship.

The Worship Survey had the following questions:

Worship has to do with the style of music.
Worship happens only on Sundays.
Worship is the #1 priority of a follower of Christ.
Worship includes tithing.
Worship is demonstrated by the way I spend my time and resources.

(all of the above offered answer choices including strongly agree, somewhat agree, agree, not sure, disagree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree)

then, on the back of the survey, in addition to the age range and gender box to check, you could write your name (optional) and then there were two really interesting questions with space to write in your answer:



I am now in possession of 468 pages of answers to the above two questions. That's right - 468 pages. (I feel like Congress!)

I have perused these pages over the past 24 hours. I am quite frankly stunned....actually, kind of numb even.

I told a friend today that God is working overtime with me right now because I don't know what to do with what I am reading.

Please understand - I don't for even a brief moment believe that the efforts of the ministry that God has called me to lead, and the magnificent people with whom I serve on a weekly basis are incapable of messing up or even being misunderstood, but
I have never for a moment questioned our motive - NEVER.

And now - after reading many, many of these comments, I guess I just didn't have any idea that there were:

1. people seated in the congregation each Sunday who felt as strongly as they do about things I/we should and should not do as we attempt to lead people to worship and honor God each Sunday and beyond the walls of Sunday services

2. so many who when given the opportunity to "voice their opinion" were so blunt in "voicing it" - while at the same time remaining for the most part - anonymous in their comments.

Me blogging about this is not some lame attempt on my part to solicit pathetic responses of "I am so sorry for you" or "I can't believe this" or "don't let that get to you", etc.....

I am blogging about this because I am deeply disturbed by what I am reading.

And don't begin to tell me I am overreacting.

We are talking about the worship of God Almighty here. The Creator of everything there is. Don't you dare minimize His greatness by telling me in a survey what YOU think we should or should not be doing so that you can feel better about yourself and YOUR church.

Worship is not about us - never has been - never will be. Worship is not about whether we sing your favorite hymn or your favorite chorus. Worship is not about the temperature in the Worship Center on Sunday mornings. Worship is not about whether you got a "rush" out of Sunday or not. Worship is not about how many times the choir sings or the orchestra plays.

I am grateful for many in our congregation whose response to how genuine worship transforms them gave answers and evidence of their true understanding of why we gather each week in that room.

We gather to boldly, respectfully, and reverently proclaim that God is greater than me and therefore worth everything I can offer to Him. That means that I come regardless of the songs, regardless of the leader, regardless of the "presentation" to find a way to make sure God knows that I love Him and choose to serve Him above any other god in my life. I come to confess that I mess up everyday in my attempt to live my life for Him, but that does not change what I bring to Him - even in my brokenness, I come before Him to make more of Him than me, my circumstances, and my feelings.

Maybe this survey is a wake-up call for me. Maybe this survey is of the devil.

May God help me sort this out as I stay the course in leading people to encounter the greatness of God.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy 16th Birthday!

Today we celebrate 16 years with Ben Worley!

It's never easy being the youngest of (3) brothers, but Ben has his own style and his own way about him.

Here are ten things I love about Ben:

1. His laugh
2. His loudness
3. His sarcasm
4. His self-taught ability to play the upright bass (arco)
5. His self-taught ability to play tenors (quads - those 4 drums you strap to your body in marching band) and march while playing them
6. His love for God
7. His love for people
8. His love for his brothers
9. His creativity
10. His convictions

Happy 16th, young man - God did good when He made you, and Mom and I are grateful He entrusted you to us......

Friday, September 19, 2008

Letter To The Next President

This summer while on my sabbatical, I attended one of my favorite churches - North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA. Through the years, getting to know North Point's pastor, Andy Stanley has been enriching to my life to say the least.

On this particular Sunday, Andy was in the middle of a very interesting series entitled, "Letters To The Next President". Now before you think he was walking that ever so volatile line between politics and religion, fear not. He knows better.

His 3-part series was a look at leaders in the Bible, and how the way they led impacted those who followed. He then asked the great question - if you could write a letter to the President, and you know He would read it, what would you say to him?

I highly encourage you to click HERE, then find Andy's letters - He wrote (3).

My favorite is the one with the darker brown envelope - entitled:
From: Andy
To: The Next President
Subject: Beyond Approval Ratings

I am still working on mine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Praying Friends

I receive a weekly e-mail update from a person I have never met. I continue to do so because he consistently includes quotes from various authors on the subject of worship and theology that are always an inspiration to me.

He is obviously a very intelligent, compassionate, and Godly man - based on what I know of him through others who actually know him personally.

Recently, He became ill with cancer, so now each week he gives a brief health update at the conclusion of his regular inspirational updates.

I have noticed two things about this that impress me:

1. He always lists the quote BEFORE his update - that tells me what someone else has to say about worship and theology is more important to him to communicate to his list of recipients than how he happens to be doing physically that particular week.

2. He always begins his health update with "Dear Praying Friends"......

I so love that.......after all, what other kinds of friends would a person want?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my father's 86th birthday!

For all these years W.J has lived and contributed to so many people's lives in a variety of ways. He has done so in what many would call "the old fashion way" - hard work, determination, and caring for others.

His dry sense of humor, his quiet spirit, and his work ethic have always impressed me, and anyone who knows him.

As a child, I remember him working 12 hours @ day - 7 days a week at the Gulf Service Station. I don't know how he did it.

Together we have built many things in and around our home. They are constant reminders of his ability to use his hands to create something of value. I love "constructing things with wood", and that love comes directly from him.

My favorite of all time is this deck that we built 20 years ago (in the summer of 1988). The people who now live in this house probably don't realize how special that "work of art" is to my family, but I will always remember that experience!
(Good grief, I hope I can build something like this when I am 66 years old!!)

So, thanks Mr. Worley for being around for 86 years. You are a really good man, friend, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

(The photo at the top of my post was taken a year ago. He is with my sister's grandson. I love this photo and the expressions on their faces!)

Friday, September 05, 2008


This week, I have been confronted with what seems like more than the average volume of suffering among friends and colleagues. (I won't touch this subject matter related to what we all have experienced this week by watching the RNC!)

I know I work in a very large church, so the odds (of many, many people around me dealing with most every kind of suffering known to humans) are very, very high.

We are singing a song in choir right now called, "When I Don't Know What To Do". It is an incredible Tommy Walker song. Karla told me after choir rehearsal that someone asked her during that song if she thought anyone in that room truly had ever been at a point when they literally did not know what to do?

Think about that.

I ask myself have I ever been at a point in my life when I literally did not know what to do?

We seem to always have an answer for everything, don't we. If we don't, then we find a way to worry or fret thinking that will help.

We pray prayers that seem to never be answered. We are impatient with God, our family and friends, and most often ourselves. We doubt. We whine. We might even seem comfortable at times in our own self-pity. We can't imagine anyone suffering to the degree that we are, and yet we know there will always be someone who is "worse off" than we are. (Does that really help anyone when we think that?)

(If you're still reading - stay with me - I think I have a point that I am taking awhile to get to!)

Scriptures tell us everything we need for every situation - yet, we still suffer in very real ways.

We are intelligent, resourced, blessed with more than any of us deserve to have, and we wrestle with our guilt (caused by feelings that are in the back of our mind) that it still is not enough because whatever it is that is causing our suffering is real -it's painful, and it just won't go away nearly soon enough.

We don't want to admit that suffering is indeed a part of this life or if we admit it, we surely don't want to wear it like some badge of honor. We also don't want to succumb to the pit of despair and depression that suffering can very well lead us to.

(I want to very careful in this next statement)

I believe that what is very real pain and suffering for someone I know might not be the same degree of pain and suffering for me. It very well could be much worse. It also could be much "easier" (if I may use that word respectfully).

It is about perspective.

I meet regularly with a close friend who reminds me of things I need to be reminded of. Today, he told me this - "Suffering is not a competitive sport."


The next time we are in pain, and we suffer deeply over something whether it is for brief moment or it has lasted for years beyond our comprehension - may we resist the urge to judge or compare our circumstances with those around us.

Instead, allow those around us to help us, love us, and walk with us as best they can so that even in our suffering, Christ is made much of.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

For those of you who read this entry and you have small children - be encouraged.

For the longest time growing up, I was not sure just where Ben Worley would "hang his hat" so to speak. He was active, creative, fun, entertaining - all those things kids are and should be. The only sport I ever thought he might be interested in was soccer, but it was way more about running up and down the field and bossing people around and that became boring after awhile.

All of this was good, I might add.

It wasn't until just a few years ago, he started hanging with some friends and they started a band - a band which needed a bass player. I was thrilled. Everyone needs a bass player. There are never enough bass players in the world.

So, Ben takes lessons, becomes a pretty darn good player, and go figure - makes the Franklin High Marching Band as the bass player in the pit.

I am still wrestling with a bass player in a marching band. (they just didn't do those things in my days!)

Well, when marching band season ended, and someone talked him into auditioning on "tenors" or "quads" or whatever you want to call those (4) drums you have to strap onto your body and play in perfect time/rhythm while moving around.

He did just that with the Winter Drum Line, and practiced on his own for hours a day - never having to be asked by anyone to discipline himself to practice faithfully.

That led to his auditioning for this year's FHS Marching Band - not as bass player, but as drummer boy on the "tenors".

The photo above was taken at this year's band camp, and tonight Ben Worley will march with these drums strapped to his body for the very first time at a Franklin HS football game half-time show.

I would have never guessed that years ago as I watched him run up and down a soccer field and boss people around - that it would lead to a different kind of "running up and down" a field bossing people around! (drummers always boss people around!)

My video camera will be rolling......

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Films and Living Legends

Tonight I had the privilege of co-hosting a pre-release screening of the new film about Billy Graham entitled, Billy - The Early Years.

You can read all about it HERE

It was a neat experience to not only view the film in it's very rough, unfinished form, but then to hear from the film's producer, Larry Mortorff and Billy Graham's daughter, GiGi.

Several special guests were present for the screening including Michael W. Smith and Melinda Doolittle (who perform the closing/credits song for the film).

For me, personally, the highlight of the evening was sitting next to my dear friend, Bill Graham (Billy Graham's first cousin) - former staff member at my church and current 30+ year member of Brentwood Baptist. Bill is a treasured friend..... quiet, funny, endearing, and in love with life. He has a very unique "cameo" appearance in the film. Not only is he the person shown at the very beginning of the film and the very end of the film - walking.......he also plays the part of the older Billy Graham near the very end of the film - and yes, if you blink, you will miss him!

Tonight, he showed me a photo taken of him when he was 15 years old. He is holding Franklin Graham in his arms. What a photo!!!

Mark your calendar - October 10 - go see this film - it is a sweet and sincere attempt at telling a very important story of the how it all began for a man who simply desired to follow the call of God on his life - and through the years, thousands would come to know Christ because of this man.

In the words of his daughter - "Who could have ever expected all of that from a simple farmer from North Carolina?"

Isn't that just like God?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21, 2008 - What A Day!

I'm not sure I can do justice attempting to blog with words and photos to describe this day.

The short version:

1. We took Matt to college (Samford in Birmingham, AL) today.
2. We returned just in time to attend Open House at Franklin High to meet Ben's teachers
3. Seth had a great friend say nice things about the film he is making.
4. Elliott's latest video is beyond hilarious and entertaining.

The Worley boys just keep bringing great joy to this world!

Here are some photos of the "taking the boy off to college" experience!

The Journey Begins - (literally as the sun was coming up, I drove behind his loaded-down Jeep)

Matt's Dorm Room Desk - (God, please make this boy study!)

Matt's Bed - (creative comforter made from his t-shirts by his grandmother!)

His First Official Day Of College - (standing in front of his dorm)

God only knows what is next. For today, I can't find enough ways to express my gratitude to God for allowing me to experience the incredible joys of these young men and where they are in their journey. College, high school, parenthood - all just trying to find their way and make their mark for the glory of God.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Front Porch Photo

Why do "first days of school" keep flying by?

It is truly hard to believe we only have one left on the front porch for first day of school. (our tradition each year - first day of school front porch photo)

Granted next Thursday, we will find a way to capture some kind of photo of Matt on the campus of his new "home" for the next however many years, but I really am still trying to figure out when these little boys grew up?

I love Ben Worley and his gigantic personality that manifests itself in so many beautiful and entertaining ways. (would I have ever thought about wearing bright green pants to school?) The words that come out of his mouth and the creativity that flows from him are only exceeded in quality by the depth of this kid's love for God and people.

My life is blessed with 3 amazing sons and now an incredible grandson. We get a couple of more years with a "front porch" kid around the house before he heads off to God knows where.

I guess then I will have to beg for front porch photos of Elliott!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Couldn't Help Myself

This is a legitimate cover of a choral collection songbook.

In my profession, I see hundreds of these on an annual basis. Most of them make sense and are based on either a very well-known song included in the collection or based on the actual name of the musical.

When I pulled this one out of the box, I laughed and couldn't stop.

First of all, I get it, so that's not my issue.

I guess I was just a bit shocked that someone would use this terminology.

Might one assume that a publisher would publish a book entitled, "Difficult Songs For Fat Sundays"?

(Hey, it's late and I'm tired, and I have bored you to tears with blogging about South Africa!)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cape Town - Some Photos

Here is a "visual" taste of our trip!

Nashville Airport waiting to check-in......

Shane "get me off this plane right now"........

Boggs and Shane doing sound check.......

Doug and Doug - (maybe all tech guys should wear hard hats?)

Capricorn Building - (one of Living Hope's newest buildings - also, the location of a new church plant in that township)

The Gang At Cape Point - (yes, that's G-boy in the middle!)

Guys - In Studio With Lana - (11th grade CCFm Music Maker "winner")

Guys - In Studio With Mxolisi - (singer/songwriter/guitarist - CCFm Music Maker "winner")

Guys - In Studio With "Tabernacle Of Love" - (CCFm Music Maker "winner")

Old Castle Brewery - location of Dockyard Studios where we recorded the "winners"

Doug and G-boy - (Gordon, our driver became a part of the gang!)

"Deadliest Catch" Ship docking - (just kidding - actually, it certainly is a ship that could be used in that show - it was docking in Hout Bay where we had dinner on Monday evening)

Crazy Carry-On - (I named this photo because this guy carried this "stick" on the plane as we boarded in Cape Town to return home, but they confiscated my bottles of water that were sealed by the merchant where I purchased them in the secure area of the airport - go figure!)

Gang At The Team House - (when you stay at the Team House, this is the obligatory photo-op!)

Gang With Team House Staff

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cape Town - Final Day / Travel Home

I am sitting on the floor in the gate area at JFK Airport trying to remember yesterday since we just cleared customs after having been on the same plane for (18) hours. Actually, besides dealing with ridiculous check-in procedures in Cape Town, the trip home was rather painless.

Our final day in Cape Town was bittersweet as you can imagine.

John Thomas came over to express his gratitude to us for our work. (We were the ones thanking him for allowing us the privilege of being with him and all the work he and his incredible team are doing.)

G-boy took us to the Waterfront (huge mall, etc....) so Doug S. and Shane could buy d'jembes - (sp?). G-boy knows his way around Cape Town unlike any person I have ever traveled with! He took us exactly where we needed to go to get the things we wanted to purchase.

It was difficult to say good-bye to the Team House staff and everyone else we worked with. G-boy was really sad to see us go, and we felt the same about not being able to spend anymore time with him. I look forward to seeing him again next time in Cape Town.

Thanks for your prayers for our trip. When I get home, I plan to do one final "Cape Town" blog featuring photos and captions.......

If you have been reading this, and have not been on one of our short-term partnership mission trips to Cape Town, I urge you to prayerfully consider it. I am fairly certain that Avril will want us to bring two separate music teams next year.

I can't wait to see who God brings together for those trips....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cape Town - Day 6 - Tuesday - August 5

This morning, we took the tour of Living Hope and all their related ministries.

Mike Talley did a great job condensing what is normally a much longer tour to accommodate our schedule. I realized today that no matter how many times I hear about and witness first-hand all the ministry areas where Living Hope is involved, I am stll moved and humbled at the challenge of ministering to so many people in such dire need.

From Masiphulelele where 50,000 people live in horrible conditions - to Ocean View where people were forced to move there by the government years ago, and are still angry for it - to Muizenberg where Living Grace feeds at least 100 homeless every day at noon - to Capricorn where Living Hope has just built a new building and Fish Hoek Baptist is planting a new church there - to Overcome where the government made the land available to anyone who could establish a “dwelling” to do so, and 6,500 “shacks” were put up in (3) days by people needing a place to “dwell”. The conditions are as you would imagine - horrible.

In the midst of this overwhelming reality of poverty, HIV-AIDS, oppression, and despair, God is moving in and through the people of Living Hope to do just that - bring hope to people. The Health Care Center (formerly known as the Hospice - the name was changed last year when 92% of the people who were admitted to the Health Care Center were walking out!) is an example of how God is moving and working to heal people’s diseased bodies. Next door to the Health Care Center is the Living Hope headquarters (so to speak). After touring all the other areas, we went upstairs to see the newest of ministries - sewing and computer training. We entered a room where (5) people were sitting at computers learning skills, and at least (10) women were sitting at sewing machines being taught how to sew. Job skill training is so important for people living in these surounding townships.

After lunch at The Team House, and a brief bit of down time, we headed up the West Coast to a community called Melbos. Tonight, we led a one-night, condensed workshop for a small in number, but very large in response group of people from a fantastic church called, The Fellowship. This church is yet another church plant of Fish Hoek Baptist (King Of Kings Baptist Centre). The pastor, Rob Lucas is a larger than life wonderful man who completely captured our hearts.

Boggs and Shane led a time of worship that was nothing short of amazing. I continue to be in awe of how God is using these two men to lead in Kairos on Tuesday nights at BBC. Michael is way more than a gifted worship leader in terms of his musicianship which is extraordinary. Tonight, he revealed more of his heart, his sensitivity to the moving of the Spirit in the room - it was a beautiful experience of worship that seemed perfect for the time and place and people present.

Following the time of worship, Boggs and Shane taught a class on vocal technique combined with some general worship leading concepts while Doug and Doug had the audio guys in the back talking shop about audio ministry. Then, we came together to watch both groups function as they would in a worship setting on a Sunday. The church’s worship leader, Ryan is a “surfer boy” - no kidding. The dude is evidently quite the surfer. He is also a really good worship leader. He got up with his team and led while we gave encouragement and some simple suggestions here and there. The people present love to worship. The church is exploding in growth. They have (9) prayer meetings a week. They would not let us leave. We arrived at 6:00pm and we finally got away around 9:30pm.

On the hour drive back home, the majority of our conversation in the van centered on how God had moved in our midst tonight. It was strange because going into tonight, we really did not have a good sense of what would happen. None of our previous teams had ever done a one-night workshop. Avril could not be with us this evening, so we were “on our own”. Boggs said it best in the van coming home - “God’s presence is a gift” - tonight was truly a blessed gift........

Monday, August 04, 2008

Cape Town - Day 5 - Monday - August 4

Another perfect day in Cape Town - weather-wise, of course.

We had the joy of spending the day with our good friend, Matt Allison. (Karla and I first met him in July 2004 on our first visit.) Matt is a multi-talented individual - artist, songwriter, music business guy, studio owner, and quite the recording engineer. (He just finished engineering a project involving some of the biggest names in music here in CT - all coming together to honor Nelson Mandella. The project will be mixed in NY this week - evidently will be quite a big deal when released here in the next few months.)

He owns a very "vibey" recording studio called Dockyard Studios in the heart of Cape Town. It is nestled on the 3rd floor of what is evidently a very well known building in CT called Old Castle Brewery. Matt is such an entrepreneur, and he did great finding this location and making his studio a wonderful place to work.

We spent the day recording the (3) CCFm Music Makers Workshops "Winners". We chose these (3) from the (36) people we critiqued on Saturday at the workshop. (This whole "recording the winners" is an important element of our mission and purpose for bringing music teams to CT to help develop local talent so that hopefully these artists can have their songs played on Radio CCFm sometime in the future.)

Our first guest was Lana Fredericks - an 11th grade girl - precious, innocent, and what a voice! She sang "On My Knees" - recorded by various artists including Jaci Velasquez. We recorded her to a pre-existing track. We will bring it back to America and replace the pre-existing track with a brand new track. She was so thrilled to get to sing in the studio - her first time. Her mom was with her, and I pray this was an experience she will never forget.

Our second guest was Mxolisi (Kolisi) - a 29-year old singer, songwriter, guitarist who recorded his original song, "Always". The basic guide track that Shane and Boggs created was amazing. After Mxolisi recorded his vocal, we recorded him playing Boggs' guitar. Already we have a great track upon which to build. Mxolisi was also so thrilled to be in the studio - a first-time experience for him as well.

Our final guests were a 5-voice group from a church about 90 minutes from CT. The name of the church and the group is "Tabernacle Of Love". They sang a beautiful worship song entitled, "God Is Here". The song is one of those ballads with a "Brooklyn Tabernacle" feel to it. The group was there with their worship pastor and a few friends - again, a first-time experience for them. (Based on this group and the fact that our drummers workshops this weekend were led by a "kid" from their church, I think I need to visit this church sometime in the future!)

At the conclusion of each session, we took pictures, and we will be sending them back to these folks (via Matt Allison) in the weeks to come.

Once we return to America, we will get to work on completing these tracks and making them "presentable" for radio use here in CT.

I have always loved the "studio experience" because at the end of the day, you almost always come away with a great feeling of accomplishment. You have something to show for the hours spent, and usually it is something creative, something that did not exist that same morning - at least not in the form that it is by the end of the day.

I know this - there are (7) people living in the surrounding communities of CT tonight who had the experience of a lifetime today - an experience that brought them joy, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and a genuine sense of hope.

That may be a perfect day in CT after all........

Cape Town - Day 4 - Sunday, August 3

If there is such a thing as a perfect day (weather-wise) in Cape Town, today was that day. The fact that it was Sunday made that all the more wonderful.

We worshiped this morning at John Thomas’ church - Fish Hoek Baptist (also known as King of Kings Baptist Centre). Worship was led by Melissa Shaw and team, then after viewing a 6-minute DVD on the gospel outreach that will be going on at the Olympics in China beginning this Friday, we prayed for the Olympics. I guess I never thought about praying for the Olympics, but considering the hostility in that country towards believers, it certainly opened my eyes to the upcoming “all the eyes of the world on Beijing” and the importance of praying for God to somehow be honored even through that event.

John preached a wonderful sermon on knowing the specific will of God in our lives. I am always challenged by his sermons. During his message, he spoke of recent UN statistics on HIV-AIDS released this past week, and once again, the largest populated area of the world infected with HIV-AIDS is South Africa. There’s certainly something to pray about.

After worshiping at KOK, we proceeded down the road 5 minutes to the township of Masiphumelele. Many of you who read this have been to Masi. One can never forget their visit to this township - a community of many thousands living in horrific living conditions, extreme poverty, with HIV-AIDS, drugs, prostitution, crime, and little, if any hope of any kind of life outside this small world of despair.

On the main street of this township is a small Baptist church. Inside this church you will find maybe a hundred believers gathered for worship which begins promptly at 11:00am, but really doesn’t get “started” until about 11:20am as more people arrive and the music/worship gets more energetic, passionate, louder, and infectious. I love this church, and I love their choir - always have - always will.

They used an overhead projector to help their people evidently learn a new song. It was in Xhosa, so I did not know the English translation. Doug Sarrett had one of the (3) new fancy hand-held digital recording devices with him - (we bought them to bring here to use, then leave them with CCFm Radio so they can use them for remote interviews, etc.....but they are incredible for music as well) - and he recorded all the music in the service. I can’t wait to bring these songs back and give them to Steve Hindalong to consider using them on the Masi Choir CD project that we are working on. (Steve is the producer of the CD)

We did not stay for the sermon because Pastor Diba primarily preaches in Xhosa, so we would not understand him.

We left Masi and headed towards Cape Point - (Table Mountain National Park - where you can visit the southwestern most tip of Africa).

On the way, we stopped in Simons Town (probably one of my most favorite places anywhere in the world). We ate calamari by the ocean, and walked around on the main street where there are buildings there built in the 1800’s. Simon’s Town is where the South African Navy Headquarters are.

Further south, we stopped to view and enjoy the penguins, then onto Cape Point. It was a perfect day to view Cape Point except for one minor issue - gale force winds. No joke. There were warning signs up all around. The winds almost knocked me over several times. It was crazy!

We got plenty of great photos/video of baboons, and enjoyed the time of leisure after two intense and long days.

Dinner tonight at The Team House was great as usual, and Boggs, Shane, and Sarrett were in rare form even for them. They had everyone almost spitting out their food or snorting it out their nose - these guys are ridiculously funny! G-Dog and Jakes joined us for dinner and the fun!

Afer dinner, G-Dog took all of us except Shane (he stayed back at The Team House to begin working on the tracks we will use to record the (3) winners of the CCFm Workshops from this weekend) to Mike & Pam Talley’s house to be able to access the Internet since as of this writing (Sunday night), our Internet service has been down since Friday morning!!

We had a great visit, and returned to The Team House to get back to work on tracks. it is now 12:55am, and I can still hear Boggs and Shane working away - these guys are great - I am not sure our new South African friends we will work with tomorrow truly understand the quality of professionals they will be working with. It really does not matter if they understand that or not - what they will walk away from the studio with at the end of the day tomorrow is a greater sense of hope and encouragement that their gifts matter, and that some fun and energetic guys from America care about them and want to serve them in whatever way they can to encourage and support them - even if we may never meet again this side of heaven.

Cape Town - Day 3 - Saturday - August 2

We keep getting up when it is stil dark, and leaving in the dark. I hate that only because the view from The Team House is so stunning in the daylight.

The drive to and from our workshops venue is over Table Mountain, so that view even in the early hours of the morning is sensational.

We started our morning today with breakfast at 6:45am and we arrived back at The Team House at 11:00pm.

As best I can, here is a capsule of our long day:

Avril drove us today to give Gordon (or G-Dog or G-Boy as our team has affectionately named him) a break from driving. On our way to our venue, Doug Sarrett asked Avril what most South Africans think of Americans? Her answered stunned every member of our team. Without hesitation, she responded with “they think Americans are right up there next to God”. In other words, they hold us up in extremely high esteem. It was sobering, humbling, and just another wake-up call to remind us of why it is so important that we come to this place and offer ourselves as servants, teachers, and missionaries. (Please don't read into my last comment any hint of arrogance or "they really need us over here" mentality.)

Just after Avril answered that question, we stopped in a township called Capricorn - another area of living conditions that are just not anything that any human being should have to live in. At Capricorn, we picked up 4 kids who have the most amazing story. All of them have become a part of a music outreach program called Mobile Music Academy where a small team of volunteer music teachers go into communities like Capricorn and teach kids music, positive self-esteem, and most of all, that Jesus loves them and He can give them hope even in the most hopeless of situations. This truly incredible program was the brain-child of a Belmont Student named Chris Dorsey who spent his summer working with Avril and team at Living Hope and developed this ministry on wheels.

When they got in the van with us, Avril had us all introduce ourselves to get to know one another, and immediately the kids began to sing songs they have learned. Avril told me privately that they didn’t know any of those songs before MMA came to them this summer. All the kids have also become Christians this summer. Only one of the kids lives with their biological mother. Avril wanted these kids to experience the workshops today as well as have them sing in tonight’s concert. (more on that later)

Our day was full of workshops and critique sessions. Boggs worked his butt off leading worship, then two guitar seminars, followed by two songwriting sessions, then he and Shane “hosted/m-ceed” the concert this evening.

Doug D (or double D), Sarrett, Shane, and myself split into two separate teams and between us listened to (36) different people sing/play in a room while we “critiqued” them. I can’t begin to write adequately about this experience, but know this - these people are immensely talented, fearful, and very discouraged. We did everything within our power to build them up, encourage them, and push them to keep doing what they are doing and not give up. These people don’t want record deals - they want hope. They want someone to believe in them - to believe they might have something to offer to God with their talent.

Near the end of our critique sessions, Mauritia walked into mine and double D’s room - she walked directly up to our table (most stood as far away from our table as possible), and proceeded to say the following:

“I don’t know why I am in here because my singing sucks. I just really need your help. Will you help me?”

How’s that for an introduction? She proceeded to open her mouth and sing acappella an old song called “In Him I Move”. I had never heard this song, but the song stunned me, and her sweet, innocent, lovely, and engaging voice filled our church classroom. It took all I had to keep it together as she ministered deeply to my soul.

When this beautiful 11th grade girl finished, she stood there, and we were all silent for a minute until I broke that silence with a question......“Why do you think your voice sucks?”, I asked. She replied, “because my friends tell me so.” My heart broke even more. I told her to get new friends - honest, I did. Double D and I proceeded to lavish every possible word of encouragement we could. She then proceeded to ask a series of vocal technique questions - she was SO hungry to learn. I pray we planted seeds of perserverance and encouragement in this young girl. She was and is so deserving.

These are the kinds of stories that take place when we bring music teams to South Africa.

Tonight’s concert was (according to Avril) one of the best she has ever been a part of. We had (12) local artists perform, including the kids from Capricorn - the people loved every moment of it. Boggs and Shane were great hosts, and it was a fitting conclusion to our weekend of workshops.

Our drive home was over-the-top silly.........during our past few days, G-Dog has been teaching us phrases in Afrikans. One of those is how to say, thank you. It sounds like “buy a donkey” - honest.

So, tonight as we were approaching a road-block where every car was being checked for either DUI, drugs, and/or if the vehicle was stolen (that should tell you about the neighborhood we spent our weekend in), the guys suggested several different phrases that G-Dog should say to the officer as he checked his license, etc.. I suggested he say “buy a monkey”. I was so tired, I did not even realize what I said - I thought G-Dog was going to pee in his pants. He could not stop laughing even as he pulled to the officer.

The rest of the way home, we exchanged lines and phrases and utter sillyness - mission trips bring this out in every team, but most especially with this group of guys - my goodness, I have never laughed so hard....

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cape Town - Day 2 - Friday - August 1

My apologies that I have not blogged - our accommodations' internet service has been down since Thursday night. I will try to update as much as possible in this and subsequent posts.

Day 2 - Friday, August 1 - Quote - "4 Seasons In One Day" - Gordon, our driver.
Today's weather was interesting and warranted this quote - from clouds and cold weather to hard, side-ways rain to beautiful sun and warmth - all in one day - the first day of August.

Our first day of workshops at Belhar were really good. Boggs and Shane opened the day leading praise & worship. I had forgotten just how responsive the people of Cape Town are in worship. We all agreed - oh how we long for the passion, emotion, and energy of these people would somehow "spill-over" onto our congregations.

Boggs and Shane led (4) consecutive sessions on Vocals. These two guys were magnificent. They are an amazing team. Everyone was talking about their classes - why not - they are skilled, compassionate, sensitive, and just downright funny!

During these (4) sessions, Doug & Doug led (4) consecutive sessions on Audio. They had the perfect size group with which to work because it allowed them to be on stage to observe as well as most all fit into the tech booth to observe and learn.

The thing that always fascinates me about these workshops is how God moves works throughout the day - and if we are listening and paying attention and being sensitive - we adapt and change accordingly.

Today's final sessions were a perfect example combining the vocalists with our tech group to emulate a SundayAM sound check/rehearsal and a "sample" worship segment. It was wonderful to watch everyone learn from each other.

Since Gordon (our driver) lives in Belhar, Avril (our host and sponsor) drove us back to The Team House with stops at a music store and Pick-N-Pay (grocery store). The visit with Avril was fantastic.

side note - no one on our team wants to sit up front in the van because of the strangeness of sitting on the side where Americans sit when we drive - except the driver sits on the right side over here and drives on the left side of the road.

Dinner at The Team House tonight was relaxing, and we had nice visit Jakes as well. She is such a great Team House host because she is genuinely interested in the teams who come over here.

I have laughed heartily and often with this team that God has assembled. Sarrett, Shane, and Boggs are relentless with non-stop humor. I thought Jakes was going to fall on the floor tonight when the 3 guys got on a roll. Laughter is amazing medicine.

Today was another reminder of the incredible work and influence that Radio CCFm has on the people of Cape Town.

An unexpected moment today was a visit with Pastor Timmons - the pastor of the church that is our host for the workshops. He has been pastor of this church for more than (15) years. He is warm, personable, humble and engaging. When asked by Avril, he told the story of how their church building was built. It took them 15 years because it was built totally on faith by the members of the church – spending most every Saturday literally constructing the building one section of it at a time – debt-free. He told me how they borrowed power from a neighbor’s house using a long extension cord, and borrowed water from another neighbor’s house when they had to mix concrete.

What a testimony to this community, not to mention of people’s faith and the body of Christ coming together to build a meeting place for the people of this community to gather to worship God.

(note – for those of you who have been to John Thomas’ church, King of Kings Baptist Centre, this church in Belhar is a slightly smaller version of King of Kings – and just as nice on the inside).

Since I am at a friend’s house using their internet service, I need to close for now.
I hope to catch up on blogging tomorrow........

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cape Town - Day 1

I so wish I could upload photos, but our internet connection is limited, and we have been asked to not upload photos - I may have to break that rule in the next few days simply because words don't tell the whole story.

This was a good day for our first full day in Cape Town simply because it was relaxed comparatively speaking related to what our next (4) days will be.

We moved into the Team House today and met Jakes (Jenny Cate). She is a delightful young woman who manages the Team House. I think she may have thoroughly enjoyed being the only woman among our "band of all male misfits". Not to mention that the lethal (humorously speaking) combination of Michael Boggs, Shane McConnell, and Doug Sarrett - well, the poor girl just doesn't have a chance! Maybe the personality balance of the more reserved Doug Diamond and whatever there is to describe my personality combination gives Jakes a fighting chance against this particular team.

Our driver while we are here is Gordon Jacobs. Gordon grew up in Cape Town and knows his way around this entire metropolitan area of more than 4 million people in astounding ways. He has already realized that he is trapped in a combi for too many hours each day with this small in number, but relentless in non-stop humor group.

We visited a large music store today to borrow a synth keyboard for our recording sessions on Monday - well, actually, we have to prepare the tracks on Sunday evening. Doug S. of course had to have a t-shirt, but they could not find one, so they promised him one when we return the keyboard on Tuesday.

After the music store, we went to Logos Assembly of God Church in Belhar - a rather poor community of about 15,000 in the heart of Cape Town. This church is the site for our weekend music workshops that we will be leading. The small church staff and a few volunteers from the host radio station were so excited to have us and help us prepare for tomorrow.

On the way to the church, we passed a the oldest township in Cape Town - called Langa - where more than 45,000 people live in conditions that no human being should ever have to live in.

Tonight, we were treated to a beautiful and relaxing evening at the home of John & Avril Thomas - our gracious hosts and the visionaries for so much of what is going on down here and why our church has made the decision to partner with them in their on-going fight against poverty and HIV-AIDS, and their efforts to do whatever is necessary to bring true Hope to people of all ages. Tonight was a vivid reminder of why more and more people need to make the trip here to help these saints in their efforts.

John & Avril had invited many of their worship team members from their church to be there, as well as BBC missionaries here at Living Hope - Mike & Pam Talley and Danielle Schneider. It was an incredible evening of food, fun, getting to know new folks, re-uniting with friends I had met from past trips here, and probably the highlight of the evening was hearing Avril tell everyone there about our entire itinerary while we are here - no notes - she had the whole thing memorized down to every single detail - astonishing.....then, we prayed together. It was powerful, and I can't wait to see what God will do these next few days.

Thank you for praying - it makes all the difference......

Oh, and I have to remember to blog about my visit tonight with John Thomas as he elaborated on his recent visit to not only the White House, but his 25 minute visit with President Bush in the Oval Office. Know this - God used that visit in ways that are already beginning to be made known, and John talked about some additional things that are in motion as a result of that that made me almost break down in front of him - honestly, I just sat there with my mouth open.....

(Here's just a taste of "some" of those things - President Bush's Press Secretary, Dana Perino is coming to Cape Town to do volunteer work at Living Hope for a brief period of time beginning February 13 of next year - how's that for God working in people's lives? There is SO much more!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Arrival In Cape Town

Our team arrived here in Cape Town around 5:30pm local time this evening. (That's 10:30am Nashville time). We were supposed to arrive around 4:00pm, but we were delayed out of New York's JFK Airport for two hours.

I like the travel itinerary of JFK to Dakar (for re-fueling) to Cape Town. I did not like the Delta jet that we were on. Anyone who has traveled even one time internationally knows about those small, but important amenities that make a 16-20 hour flight more bearable. Two of those are in-seat screens with on-demand viewing of tons of movies and TV series and multiple meals. Delta offered neither.

Now I realize that being a mission trip, one should not complain about such things, so consider this an observation more than a complaint. I am told Delta is upgrading all of their international jets to accommodate the in-seat screens.

Regardless, the trip was rather uneventful except for a flight attendant who wanted to know if I was from Kiawah Island (my hat) because she was from Charleston, SC. Go figure.....

We walked off the plane here in Cape Town to 58 degree weather, cloudy and windy.

Customs was a breeze, and Gordon, our combi driver greeted us along with two members of a current large team here from California. We loaded our stuff in the small trailer and headed to this lovely place called Sundollar where we are staying for this one night until The Team House is vacated tomorrow morning.

Our dinner this evening consisted of cauliflower soup and some kind of egg dish - interesting meal after being on a plane for 18 hours. Shane and I chose to compliment our tasty meal with a Yum-Yum sandwich - (that's South Africa version of peanut butter)

I then left the other members of the team here at the Sundollar while I went to the Team House to meet with a few members of the California team as they told me all about what they had been doing these past two weeks. I will elaborate on that in a separate post.

I forgot how much I love The Team House - it will be great to move there tomorrrow. In addition to that being on our Thursday agenda, we will set-up for our workshops at Belhar, and then have dinner at John & Avril Thomas' home tomorrow evening.

Thanks for praying for us - getting here is a fairly big deal, and getting here in good spirits is even a biggger deal.

For now, I need some sleep, so more blogging tomorrow......

Sunday, July 27, 2008

5 Guys To Cape Town

This Tuesday, this ragged excuse for a music mission team of guys will be leaving for one of my favorite locations in the world - Cape Town, South Africa.

This will be my fourth trip to this beautiful city. When I think about how this whole music mission partnership/relationship came about, I continue to marvel at how God works to bring together people from literally all over the globe to accomplish His work.

I hope to make the time to blog periodically during my time there. We would appreciate your prayers as we go to lead music workshops with some of the most talented, but completely under-resourced people we will ever meet.

I know I speak for Doug Sarrett, Doug Diamond, myself, Shane McConnell, and Michael Boggs when I say "thank you" for praying - we know how desperately we need it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Miss My Sabbatical

Yes, I admit it openly - I really do miss my sabbatical. Who wouldn't?

Here is what I wrote in my journal this morning:

Lord, it's hard coming back from sabbatical.

the pace
the volume of work
the tension of balancing what's important with what's not
the fear and anxiety of not being able to keep up
the frustration that seeps into my personality as a result of all of the above

it's so much easier to be quiet and still when I am not working
i'm a much nicer person to be around when all of the above is not consuming me
I am convinced as I was writing this, God led me back to a chapter from one of the books I read when I was "not working" to remind me of the following:

"without a rich theology of labor, we'll have an impoverished theology of rest"
"before we understand God's rest, we must understand the Lord's work"
(The Rest Of God - Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath - by Mark Buchanan)

God reminded me this morning of my calling, and while much has changed in "how" I do what I do each day, the "why" I do it has not.

There is alot more to this than what I have written this morning......

I must keep pondering this, but for now - well, I have to get to work!

Friday, July 04, 2008

4th of July

It's fun to look back through the years to see how we have celebrated Independence Day.

Growing up, my parents always took me and my sister to the 4th of July Picnic at the tabernacle behind the Immanuel Baptist Church in Kyle, Texas. The church where my parents and grandparents worshiped. It wasn't the 4th of July unless we went to this picnic at this tabernacle.

Maybe that picnic influenced me more than I realized because years later, I would want to have a picnic of my own - in my own back yard - invite hundreds of my friends (that would be choir and orchestra members), and we would eat, play music, set-off fireworks and celebrate our freedom. We hosted that party/picnic for many years until we couldn't manage the crowd because we could not park all the cars!

July 4th of 1990 will always be memorable for me because we had just moved into our house here in this amazing neighborhood that celebrated the 4th with their own parade and bar-b-que. When we moved in, we were not aware of all of that, so I just remember watching the parade (at least 200 yards away) from our bedroom window as we painted the inside of our bedroom because we had so much work to be done on our new home.

All of this came back to me yesterday for some strange reason as I waited for my two youngest sons to pick out their fireworks to help us celebrate yet another Independence Day 2008!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Camp

There is something about summer camp that always gets me.

For years of summers, I have watched my sons go off for a week away from their parents and return different from the way they were when they departed for their camp destination.

All of these camps must have had some kind of life-transforming and/or life-shaping experiences because even now Seth (my 24-year old) spends most of his days creating both hilarious and meaningful videos for some of the best camps offered this summer -and he even gets paid to create them!

Our two youngest sons returned today from our church student camp. They are both different young men - it really is that visible - even on the outside. Who can imagine what has happened on the inside. Certainly God knows - after all - He did it.

I love this photo of Matt - it was taken two weeks ago at Windy Gap in North Carolina while he was attending Young Life Camp.

If I created a caption for this photo - it would read, "ahh, now, this is summer camp!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

29 Years - Lost and Found

This post is an admission of negligence and grace.

One evening sometime in the month of April, I came home from work and did what I always do - I removed my watch and my wedding ring, slid my wedding ring onto my watch band, connected the watch band and then..........

For the past 60-70 days, I have been in search of my lost watch and wedding band. I have (as they say) turned things upside down in search of it. After looking everywhere possible, I finally confessed that I was afraid that I had somehow "thrown them away" in a bag of things brought home from Target or somewhere.

Who knows? All knew was I was not happy about losing my wedding ring after 29 incredible years of marriage.

So, one afternoon on my sabbatical, Karla and I went shopping for a replacement wedding ring. As I entered each store, the conversation began with me announcing "I made it for 29 years before losing my wedding ring". That usually brought about a very willing sales person to offer ridiculously expensive replacements.

My how rings have changed in 29 years!

Well, on the afternoon of June 22, 2008, I purchased my new (replacement) wedding ring - see photo!! Karla loves it (that's all that matters), and now my ring finger no longer feels naked, and that's a good thing.

So......all is well......until tonight......

I was searching for something else that was lost (not nearly as important as my lost wedding ring), and guess what I found? lost watch and my lost wedding ring!

So, now the dilemma......keep the new one or wear the old one?

At this writing, that decision has not been made, but I am still in shock that I actually found this lost wedding ring.

God extended grace to me - yet again.......

Friday, June 27, 2008

One Month

On May 27, I "officially" began my sabbatical. I am not going to elaborate on the past 31 days in this post, but I am going to quote from one of the many wonderful books that I have been reading.

I read this quote on the plane home from Chicago yesterday. It hit me in the face as if I turned my head right into someone's left hook.

The book is entitled, The Rest Of God - Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath - written by Mark Buchanan - pastor and author (3) books.

What he wrote on page 147 is what nailed me........

"As I left for sabbatical, many people in my church wished me well. They told me they'd miss me, that they'd be praying for me, that they hoped I came back refreshed. And then they usually said, "You deserve this".

I don't. I can think of all kinds of people who deserve it: a single mother who works three jobs to ensure her kids have a decent home and good clothes; a couple who have been clocking twelve-hour days or more six days a week for many years, trying to keep a small business from sliding over the edge; a tradesman who never has time for a holiday when the work is on and never has money for one when it's not; a millworker whose shifts change like the clouds so that he's seen the inside and out of every hour of every day and now never quite sleeps and never fully awakes. I can think of all the people who do their jobs faithfully and capably, even though they die at it a little every day. I like what I do, and I have not worked half as hard as half of these people, and few will ever be given the luxury of a sabbatical.

No, I don't deserve it. It's pure gift, like being born in peacetime and not war, like being forgiven, or kissed, or told you have beautiful eyes. I never earned a minute of it. I don't deserve a scrap of it.

But I feel obliged to the people in my church who have allowed me it. Obliged, not to come back smarter, or thinner, or more eloquent, or more studied up, though all that could help. The obligation I feel is not to pay them back. These things don't work that way, on some barter system where the church trades several months of leave in exhange for shorter, pithier sermons.

The obligation I feel, rather, is to come back restored."

God bless Mark Buchanan, and I thank God he wrote this book

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Taking A Walk With A Legend

I have to admit that I seldom take walks. I either jog or do nothing. Shame on me.

Last week, I had the extraordinary privilege of taking a walk with arguably the most respected musician/arranger/orchestrator of our time, but more importantly, a true gentleman, husband, father, grandfather, and genuine friend to many.

What a joy to simply take a walk with and converse with Ronn Huff.

Besides being a true genius of an arranger and orchestrator, this man is a deep thinker, he asks hard and great questions, and he expressed a sincere interest in my life and my career. He is quiet and determined. He is passionate and sensitive.

I treasured our time together in ways I will never be able to adequately articulate, and I pray we will have more "walks" in the future.

Here is what was written about Ronn when he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame (3) years ago:

"Being inducted as a non-performing member of the Hall of Fame, Ronn Huff’s legacy is well-known to anyone who has directed church choirs in the last 30 years. While minister of music in a Denver church he arranged and published two highly successful books of hymns, "Celebration, Music for Festival Choir" and "Celebration II." But his arrangements and recording of Bill and Gloria Gaither songs into a 1973 musical called "Alleluia, A Praise Gathering" brought national prominence and was the first religious recording to receive an RIAA Gold Album certification, selling over a million records and books. A Christmas work called "His Love, Reaching," a collection of early Praise and Worship songs entitled "Exaltation" and a series collaboration with the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma are among the successful church music publications he authored. Huff claims to be an arranger, not a composer, but his work is found on many recordings, both sacred and secular. In the past two years alone his name appears on and arrangements are heard in the recordings of Faith Hill, Charlotte Church, Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Jewel, Martina McBride, Allison Krauss, Sandi Patty, John Michael Talbot, Keith Urban, George Strait, Clint Black, Lonestar, Boston Pops, and The American Boy Choir. Until recently Huff held the position of Pop's Director for the Nashville Symphony, but a battle with Parkinson’s Disease has limited his activities in recent years."

While these credits speak to the amazing accomplishments of Ronn, you would never know any of this from a simple conversation with him. He would rather talk about his family, his faith, and ask questions about you, your family, and your faith.

If I could only take more walks like this one!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Time and People.......

Two very important ingredients of life, and I am realizing during my sabbatical that I am pretty horrible at both - I don't build in nearly enough margin of time with regard to anything I do, and I don't spend nearly enough of the 24 hours in a day with people - especially people with whom I enrich their life and (as I am discovering on my sabbatical) with people who greatly enrich my life when I give them my undivided attention.

I spent the day on Wednesday in the beautiful city of Baltimore, Maryland. (Since Karla and I are such NCIS nuts, I loved seeing signs on the interstate for exits that Gibbs and crew are always talking about in the TV show).

I was in Baltimore for one reason - to meet with a new friend, worship pastor, author, and one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He gave me an entire afternoon of his time - something I will always treasure because even though I don't build margin into my time, I know what it takes to "give up" an afternoon with someone - especially someone you hardly know!

So, realizing I did not want to waste one minute of this man's time, I wanted to make sure I got to where I was supposed to be "on time".

He asked me to meet him for lunch at a restaurant (47) miles from the Baltimore airport. By my Google Map calculations, it would take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes (depending on traffic) to get from BWI to my lunch destination. With my plane arriving at 10:30am, there was no way for me to have enough time to rent a car and get there on time, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be late to the beginning of an afternoon of conversation.

So, I took a cab - yes, a cab - 47 mile cab ride! What an adventure as my cabbie drove 80 on the interstate (not wearing a seat belt) while glancing often at his portable Magellan he would hold up with his right hand. I was strapped in holding on for dear life. We left BWI at 10:45am. We arrived at my lunch destination at 11:15am. He certainly got me there on time - 45 minutes early! Talk about margin.......

Oh, and yes, it cost a fortune!

Fast forward to the end of my amazing afternoon with this fine and gracious colleage. (I knew I was not taking a cab back to the airport, but was not sure of my options, and quite honestly, I was not about to fret over them while immensely enjoying the company of my new friend.)

So, not surprising to me, my new friend offered to drive me back to the airport. Well, that was not an option because I had already imposed by taking up an afternoon of this man's time - the final straw could not be a 2-hour (in traffic) round trip for him just to get me to the airport, but to give you one more reason to understand what a great guy this man truly is - he would have done it without thinking about it.

I asked him about the Metro - (rail train public transportation). He looked it up on-line, and we landed on a most adventurous (and lengthy) itinerary of two different trains, and finally a city bus to get me back to the airport. (margin, sweet margin)

So, I took the red train, then the green train, then a 30-minute wait for the city bus at the last train station to get me to the airport - I finally arrived at BWI having spent 90 minutes watching the scenery blow by me, rushing through dark tunnels, loving the smell of the city bus, and enjoying the heck out of watching people - all at a total cost of $7.60.

You gotta love public transportation.........

Margin, margin, margin - it allows you to enjoy this beautiful world that God created!