Saturday, June 23, 2018

Personal Log 6:23.18

I tweeted this yesterday & wanted to clarify that it was not directed at anyone currently; it was something I had remembered from around ten years ago:

If there's one thing I've learned in ministry over the last 30-40 years it's this:
Don't yell at your volunteers. Why?
They're "volunteers".
They're unpaid people who could be doing other things w/ their time & talents or serving elsewhere.


I think it was 2007 or 2008 & I was playing guitar on our worship team. We had a full team back then, about 9-10 people on the platform each Sunday & 2-3 in the sound booth; it was, in some ways, the golden era of our fellowship w/ a pretty good percentage of people serving & serving joyfully.

We were having some sound issues at the time as we had a brick sanctuary & sound was bouncing off of the walls, even w/ several tectum panels plastered everywhere & w/ a full worship team on every Sunday you had vocal frequencies clashing w/ instrument frequencies & it was a sonic nightmare. The worship leader, of course, had to be heard & had to be able to hear both herself, her instrument & the other vocalists; that's just the way it was… everyone else was secondary & that was understood. We had ditched monitor wedges for in-ear monitors to eliminate platform noise, which in some ways, helped the overall mix. However, there were countless times when many of the musicians simply weren't turned up, both in the mains & in their personal monitor mix. This happened week after week.

Many people commented to me & to the other musicians, “well, we saw you playing but didn't hear you playing, all we heard was the worship leader”. After a while the mix got a little better but it was a rather frustrating time as the musicians just couldn't hear themselves & the sound guys appeared to not be doing anything about it, whether they were under orders or just incompetent is still a mystery to this day.

Well, after about 8-9 months of this nonsense I was ready to explode. One Sunday morning, during worship, I was called to play a couple of guitar solos & when the time came for them I couldn't hear a thing; the in-ear mix was terrible so I jerked the earbuds out of my ears & tried to play w/ the house mix, which was just as terrible. I couldn't find my place in the song(s) & on one song, I was playing in the wrong key. That song set was a disaster & I was more than embarrassed after the worship service ended. I wasn't just personally embarrassed, I was embarrassed for the team, for the fellowship & how everything lacked any resemblance to excellence; we had collectively fallen far short of that. 

I stormed past the worship team & went to the sound guy in the booth & gave him what for. I was so mad, so frustrated & when I got done w/ him I went to the men's bathroom & washed my face w/ cold water for about ten minutes, trying to calm down as I was physically shaking. In the meantime, the man overseeing the Sound Ministry popped into the sound booth to check on things & the sound man relayed what had happened. Naturally, the overseer wasn't happy & hunted me down, we met in the foyer & yelled at each other, almost coming to blows, the tension was really thick. So here was the pastor preaching his sermon in the sanctuary, blissfully unaware of the royal rumble that was brewing in the foyer. 

The overseer was seething, “Don't you ever talk to one of my guys like that again, ever!” That was the last straw for me, I should have just went to my car & drove home but I stood my ground. I said, “You wouldn't drive a car if you can't see, how am I supposed to play if I can't hear? This is nonsense, nine months of this & nothing has changed, it's gotten worse! What's the point of anyone but the worship leader being up there? We're not heard & we can't hear! It's all noise!” 

We were both red w/ rage & he said, “Don't yell at my volunteers! If you have an issue, you come to me, not them! If you can do better, you run sound!”

“I can't play & run sound at the same time! Are they the only volunteers in this building? Do I get paid? No! I'm also a  volunteer & I get yelled at plenty! Don't ever let this happen again, you've had months to fix this thing, fix it! I will hear or I won't play!” & we backed away from each other & I walked around the parking lot for a few minutes then left. I later e-mailed leadership & resigned from the worship team, packed up my gear later in the week & attended the following services for the next few months. 

In hindsight, I didn't handle that well; in fact I handled that completely wrong. Shortly after that, a couple of the sound guys left the fellowship & eventually, after much prayer & some other circumstances/reasons, I did also.

I've changed a lot since then... 

I share this story because this week, in prayer for the music & sound ministry, the Lord brought this event back to my memory. I had yelled at some volunteers & it had affected the fellowship. There was a better way, a more mature way, a more graceful way, of addressing the issue(s).

Fast-forward to the present, where the Lord has brought me back to this very fellowship which has new leadership & a much smaller music ministry team. In an ironic twist, I've recently been asked to serve temporarily in the sound ministry! So in the past couple of weeks I've been in the sound booth, serving, volunteering & I've gained a new perspective on this, on ministry as a whole. 

I heard someone say, “Well, Jesus yelled at His disciples” but Jesus didn't yell at them for serving. The majority of people are volunteers, they're volunteering their time & their talents to serve I appreciate that fact more & more. From the coffee ministry to the welcome center to the greeters to the ushers to the children's ministry to the music ministry to the sound ministry to the men's ministry to women's ministry to the visitation ministry to the social media ministry to whatever ministry, they're all volunteers & I never want to take anyone for granted or yell at anyone again.

Yes, there's excellence.
Yes, there's ongoing training.
Yes, there's a learning curve.
Yes, we're all human & mistakes will be made.  

 I'm honored to serve & grateful for a lesson learned, even one from ten years ago...    

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Personal Log 6.12.18

Everything in life is a choice.

You choose to love or you choose not to.
You choose to believe in God or you choose not to.
You choose to believe God or you choose not to. 
You choose to accept Jesus or you choose not to.
You choose to believe the Bible or you choose not to.
You choose to walk in/by faith or you choose not to.
You choose to serve or you choose not to.
You choose to bless or you choose not to.
You choose to wake up early or you choose not to.
You choose to exercise or you choose not to.
You choose to eat healthy or you choose not to.
You choose to study the Bible or you choose not to.
You choose to hone your skills or you choose not to.
You choose to engage or you choose not to.
You choose to change or you choose not to.
You choose to speak life or you choose not to.
You choose to edify or you choose not to.
You choose to worship or you choose not to.
You choose to budget your money or you choose not to.
You choose to budget your time or you choose not to.
You choose to ask for help or you choose not to. 
You choose to speak out or you choose not to.
You choose to shut up or you choose not to.
You choose to forgive or you choose not to.
You choose to move forward or you choose not to.
You choose to enjoy life or you choose not to.
You choose to criticize or you choose not to.
You choose to compromise or you choose not to.
You choose to let go or you choose not to.
You choose to be social or you choose not to be.
You choose to be vulnerable or you choose not to be.
You choose to be offended or you choose not to be.
You choose to be excellent or you choose not to be.
You choose to be obedient or you choose not to be.
You choose to be overwhelmed or you choose not to be.
You choose to be lazy or you choose not to be.

All things can be boiled down to free will, to having & making choices that will affect not only us but others on this planet. 

We've all been given the same amount of time, the same 24 hours since the dawn of Eden. Life is short & granted, not everything is work, work, work; there's rest, there's enjoying nature & hobbies & the fruits of our labors.

In talking w/ many friends I ask them about their lives & what's going on, sometimes their answers exhaust me. I think to myself, “how can anyone cram so much into their lives?”, I mean they wake up, go to work, go to school/sport functions, go to college classes, go to church classes, come home & eat, collapse into bed, rinse & repeat. You know what though? That kind of life is a result of their choices & what they choose to prioritize. 

Jesus sacrificed His life for us, but one way He modeled sacrifice before He went to the Cross was in getting up early & praying. He chose to sacrifice sleep to connect w/ the Father. He chose that for us. This is something that we've been talking about in the our Men's Meetings: choices, priorities, sacrifices, what is consuming our time, our day, our thoughts...  how often are we choosing to prioritize Bible study & praying? How often are we choosing to turn off the pc, phones & tvs that consume much of our time & lives?

There's nothing wrong w/ a little entertainment or even a power nap, Jesus was known to take one here & there; there's nothing wrong w/ supporting your kids sports activities, there's nothing wrong w/ higher  education, these things in of themselves are good but an over-busy life is not. 

I've heard countless excuses as to why people aren't involved, as to why they're not honing their gifts & talents, etc & to be honest, they're all just excuses, it's what they choose to prioritize in their given 24 hours. For some it was their choice to get married, their choice to have kids, their choice to browse online for hours & hours at night… for others, it was their choice to stay single, to master their instrument or their craft, to devote a certain amount of time for prayer & study & ministry… 

We're all different, we all have different lives & therefore different priorities but it doesn't change the fact that our choices, whatever they are, create either excuses or results & each has their respective consequences or rewards. 

We all have time but we all don't necessarily make time, everything in life is a choice... 


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Personal Log 5.12.2018

I heard the birds this morning.

Last night I slept w/ the window open & I woke up around 5 am, just laying there praying & the birds were chirping in their usual pre-dawn ritual. As I laid there I was reminded of just a few months earlier: we had a brutal & long Winter, it was cold & one particular morning I got up early to shovel; in fact it was around the same time: 5 am. The wind was blowing & as I was shoveling I kept pausing between the gusts. Yep, I heard right: there were birds chirping.

Most birds go south for the Winter but here in Michigan we have a species of birds that remain here all year long; how they survive is a mystery to me but God takes care of them somehow. 

I thought about that Winter moment this morning as I lay in my warm bed, the cool air massaging the room. I thought about how those birds use the voice that God gave them, it doesn't matter if it's warm weather, cold weather, good weather or bad, they use their voice.

Just this week in one of my walks I heard some geese flying overhead, honking their way north.. I also heard some seagulls in the distance & yesterday, I saw a pair of turtledoves & they were cooing to each other. A myriad of voices, all being heard... 

It's just a natural thing for creatures to use their voice yet for many people, they're afraid to. Many are afraid to speak up, to say anything, to use the voice that God gave them. For some it's a fear issue, for others it's a confidence issue:
  • What if someone doesn't like what I said?
  • What if someone is offended?
  • What if someone challenges me?
  • What if I can't answer or debate them?
  • What if I stutter or my mind goes blank?

We're all different & wired differently. I personally know some musicians who have no problem playing in front of 5 thousand people but freeze up in a coffeehouse setting… there are people who can really open up in a small group but can't speak in front of the congregation… there are those that that can't articulate on the fly but can post beautifully loquacious & coherent blogs… there are those that refuse to engage in political discourse but silently speak w/ their vote at the polls…

Your vote is your voice, if you don't vote you're letting someone else speak for you.   

Sometimes it's comparison that cripples a voice. I knew of a singer on my worship team several years ago that struggled w/ comparison; she didn't sing like another woman on the team & that bothered her, it crippled her voice & I told her, “Use the voice that God gave you. God gave her a certain voice & God gave you a different voice, she's using hers, use yours. So you don't sing like her, sing like you.” 

In my lifetime I've run into the same thing w/ other guitarists & guitar students; they try to play like famous guitarists & I tell them, “Are you them? No? Then don't try to play like them, develop your own style, your own sound & you'll be in a world of happy.” For many musicians, their instrument is their voice.

I Corinthians 15: 39-41
“Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.”

I don't tell people how to vote.
I don't tell people what to preach.
I don't tell people how to minister.
I don't tell people what to say.

I do encourage them to somehow find an expression for the voice that God gave them & like the birds in the dead of Winter or in the dawn of Spring use that voice in the good times, in the bad times, in every situation.

Be heard.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Personal Log 4.14.2018

I've been seeking the Lord more lately regarding my passion, my purpose & also why He brought me back to my fellowship… it was a good service last Sunday, I really enjoyed it. Every once in a while it's great to have a short sermon, just short & to the point, I tend to retain more when that happens & I'm not the only one.

After service there was an all-ministry meeting & though I'm actively involved in the Men's Group the man overseeing the MG was heading up the Ushers/Greeters meeting so everyone broke into their groups & I had nowhere to go. I looked around & everyone had their place & I felt so out of place so I snuck upstairs to the Music Room I've been working on, buried my face in my hands, just crying & praying, “Lord, I know You brought me back here for a reason. I feel it's music, I have such a heart for the musicians in this body but no one seems to be interested in recording, they're either too busy or personal things come up & I'm frustrated; this is my heart & it's breaking… maybe I made a mistake. I don't normally ask this but if I'm on the right path, send someone up here to confirm why You called me back here...”

Two minutes later I unburied my head, wiped my tears & took a deep breath then the worship guitarist poked his head in, “Hey” he said, “have you got a couple of minutes?” I said “sure” & he played three acoustic instrumentals for me that he had written. I encouraged him that we needed to record those because they were good, really good! I'm not going to force things w/ him, he's got a full-time job & a full-time family but I'm going to keep encouraging him & when he's ready to record, I'll help him. I feel if we can get some songs from the musicians recorded on a CD it'll spark other musicians in the fellowship to record… but recording isn't the only thing that the Lord has been drawing me to; social media is the other. 

Personal interaction & ministry is one thing, 
social media interaction & ministry is another; 
both are important. 

I've got a couple of personal recording projects I'm working on at the moment & though I've been on there for a few years, lately I've really been getting serious about Google+, they have something called Hangouts, which is a chat/video feature, like Skype but much better: Hangouts also had an option called Google Hangouts on Air, which allowed Google+ users to broadcast video calls live on YouTube but it has now been moved to Youtube & is called Youtube Live & this feature has gained traction as a free way for organizations to conduct online seminars/webinars, create teaching videos, etc. So I'm considering doing some personal Acoustic Concert Hangouts/Youtube Live stuff & I've setup my fellowship's Music Room for the same thing, perhaps once a month we can record some jam sessions up there & it may draw musicians to our fellowship, who knows?

Regarding social media, I do feel that many fellowships really underestimate the power & the reach of social media. Jesus went where the people were & today, many people are online.  Yes, many do attend a fellowship & many are active in their community, but few have the ability to combine all three. 

Right now I'm personally focused on Google+ & Twitter… I think my fellowship could benefit from tapping into a handful of social media platforms for exposure, ministry & outreach; that's something else I'm praying about too... 


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Personal Log 3.31.2018

In a split second, a large chunk of my life was lost…

On Good Friday, rather early in the morning, I dropped my WD Passport External drive. It slipped out of my hand & hit the carpet. At the time, I didn't think much about it but a little later I plugged it into my pc to work on some files &… nothing. It didn't register, it didn't read it. I plugged it into another pc & again... nothing. So I immediately did a little online research & found that once this external hard drive has been dropped it's pretty much a lost cause; there's internal damage that can only be fixed by a professional & then, it's “iffy”. The cost for sending it in & having it fixed runs into several hundred dollars (a couple of reports have it at 4 digits) & I just don't have that kind of money right now as 98% of my money is tied up in investments.

I wouldn't have lamented the loss of this drive if it hadn't contained several hundred audio files of recording projects but more importantly 30+ years of genealogy research... countless & rare photos... videos of my beloved & departed grandmother singing (which was a rare event)… genealogy charts of several family lines dating back hundreds & hundreds of years… information of events & adventures that my ancestors experienced… all lost. 

The sense of loss is beyond profound… 

Several times yesterday I almost broke into tears as I was wandering around, not sure what what to do but I kept reminding myself that in the light of eternity, it's really nothing. Everything in this life is temporary. 

Everything will eventually burn. 
My favorite pc will burn.
My favorite DVD's will burn.
All my guitars will burn.
My car will burn.
Everything we as humans value will burn.
This earth will burn & make way for a new earth.
Everything is temporary; everything...

I kept saying to myself, “at least I'm not Job”. Job lost more that I ever did: his farm, his house, his family, everything that he had invested in & that he valued was gone in one day & my loss of a simple external hard drive w/ years of research cannot even come close to that.

So now I start over, somehow, some way & I'm not even sure where to begin. When a huge chunk of your life has been wiped out & erased, yes there is loss but things happen, life happens & how we respond reveals our perspective & what we truly value...

2 Corinthians 4:18 AMP
"So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable"

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Personal Log 3.15.2018

This is Thursday morning & I'm still thinking about my pastor's sermon on Sunday; it was basically about contentment in the Lord & it really resonated w/ a lot of people that I talked to afterwards. It was a very timely message & something that I've been dwelling on the past couple of years or so = 'just being content in the Lord & my station in life.

I'm in my 50's & still single. I'm not ashamed of that, that's just the way it is. For years & years I prayed for help, I prayed around 30 years for a wife & nothing happened. Year after year I watched my friends, classmates & brothers get married, raise kids, enjoy their grandkids & it always seemed like I was left behind, left out, forgotten, the odd wheel, etc. It was awkward all those years at my family reunions & get togethers, “are you married yet?” was the perennial question asked & it got to the point where I dreaded going & eventually quit showing up for a few years & boy that taught them! 

But like I said, in the last couple of years I've learned to be content: really, truly, spiritually, Biblically content in the Lord & in life. Yes, it would be nice to have a female friend I could go to church picnics w/ or to a cafe or party every once in a while, it would be nice to have someone I could talk to but right now, it's okay that I don't. I'm content in my singleness & to be honest, I just can't see myself being married now; I just can't…

 I Timothy 6:6
“but godliness with contentment is great gain.”

godliness = eusebeia:
  • reverence, respect
  • piety, holiness

contentment = autarkeia:
  • a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed
  • sufficiency of the necessities of life
  • a mind contented with its lot, contentment

gain = porismos:
  • acquisition
  • source of gain

I love breaking verses down in the Greek & Hebrew...


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Personal Log 3.8.2018

One day a week, a random day… I don't ask God for anything, I call it my “fasting from asking” day. I spend the entire time, from around 4 – 4:30 am 'til bedtime in thanksgiving & praise. There's nothing like 5 am when the day is fresh & quiet & it's just you, God & your cup of coffee. The solitude is amazing & on these days, as I go about my day the “times of refreshing” become very real & tangible in a chaotic world.

I like to think that God looks forward to those days like a parent who loves it when one of their kids just drops in, not asking for money or help but simply because they want to spend time w/ them.

God knows what I have need of & in Christ Jesus, He's already supplied those needs so I thank Him that He's always taking care of me. I meditate on the Lord, meditate on Scripture, pray in tongues, grab my guitar & just praise, I thank Him throughout day but I refrain from asking for anything. There's six other days of the week for supplications & requests but on this particular day, it's all about thanking, it's all about praising, it's all about resetting, it's all about Him... 

He's already blessed me, He's already anointed me, He's already supplied my needs, I'm complete in Him & sometimes, on these random days, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Father, I love You” & that's enough.