LWLC – Final Reflection & Review

Wow.  That’s about all I can say.  Wow!  Whenever I travel (which isn’t that very often anymore) I have what I call “Wow” moments – moments when something happens or something is seen and all I can say is “Wow.”  Like when I rode my bike through the Tetons, hiked the Alps in Switzerland or the Cascades in Washington, or kayaked off the glaciers in Alaska.  Sometimes I’d turn and all I would stand in awe and the word “Wow” would come out without even a conscious thought.

This week was a spiritual “Wow” moment.  I find myself looking back over the past five days and all I can do is sit here and say “Wow”.

I figure I should start my reflection by going all the way back to the beginning of the week.  I wrote the following on the first day at Ridgecrest:

In addition to attending conference sessions, I have a few goals for the week:

1) Plan worship services for at least July, August, November, and December;
2) Plan the Christmas cantata rehearsal schedule;
3) Spend time in reflection, prayer, and personal study and communion with God;
4) Network with other music and worship leaders from other churches around the country;
5) Do some journaling and blogging.

Let’s see how I did…  In regards to worship service planning, I have some pretty concrete plans well into August and then rough drafts and outlines for September, October, November, and December.  Overall I didn’t get done quite as much as I hoped in some respects, but a lot more in others.

In regards to looking at the Christmas cantata rehearsal, okay, I didn’t do this at all, except to get the date picked….

However, number 3 on the list, spending time in reflection, prayer, and personal study and communion with God was a HUGE part of this week.  The worship services were outstanding, and my time outdoors was a wonderful opportunity to listen to him and talk to him.  I can honestly say that this week has been a defining moment in how I am viewing m y ministry.

Number four dealt with networking with other musicians and leaders, and I feel as if I made some good contacts from various parts of the country.  I met a lot of people, but spent time with only a few, but that time spent, and those conversations shared, were very inspiring and encouraging, and I found some people that I hope I can continue to converse with.

Finally, I hoped to do some journaling and blogging.  I think that speaks for itself – every post this week was incredibly long, and I didn’t even post everything I wrote!  This has definitely been a great week for getting some thoughts on paper and some others out on the blog.

So where does this leave me – or take me?  I suppose that’s the question I need to ask and answer as I end the week.  Melissa even asked me this morning on the way back from Asheville, “So how is what you learned going to change how you plan worship services?”  While it is going to take a long time to fully process everything that happened this week, one thing is very obvious – this week has renewed my passions for pointing people to Jesus.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, I believe I lost sight of the focus of worship and began looking more at how to do worship, but God used these last several days to jerk me back to where he wants me to be.  I’m redoing how I look at worship planning and design, and to start with I’m going to ask myself the question, “What is it I want people to see about Jesus?” as I plan every service.  And everything that is planned is going to have an align with the answer to that question.  But the focus will be on Jesus.

This month marks the beginning of my third year at my current church.   My first year was focused on building relationships and just letting people get to know me and getting to know people.  My second year I focused primarily on musical selection and stretching in the AM worship services.  Now as I embark on the third year of my ministry my focus is going to be on fully transitioning my choir from a performance based group to a worshiping choir, as well as doing some major emphasis on our Sunday PM worship service.  There are so many ideas I picked up this week – some philosophical and some very practical – and so my biggest struggle is deciding which ones to use!  But this much is certain – I will use some 🙂

While this post marks the last “official” post on the Lifeway Worship Leadership Conference, future posts will be heavily influenced by all that God has done in my life at the conference.  Hopefully I’ll be able to return another year to attend again, but even if I never set foot back at Ridgecrest for another LWLC Conference I have left there a changed person and a changed leader from when I first arrived.  God is a gracious, good, and wonderful God, and he deserves my highest praise.


LWLC Day 4: Worship Revolution

Some people have asked why I post a blog update every day while I’m away at my conference, and so I figured I should give an answer.  It’s really two fold.  One reason is that my church has been gracious enough to pay for the conference, so I want to post updates so that people from my church can follow along.  The second, and really more important reason, is that it is the best way for me to reflect back on over all I have learned each day and begin to internalize it… Today I’m working on doing my reflection early since my wife is coming up this evening around dinner time so we can spend the evening together, so I want to have this done before she arrives 🙂

So let’s reflect on today…  While the worship in the AM service didn’t hit me quite as hard as previous days, the message was absolutely out of this world – revolutionary would be the best word to describe it.  Mike Harland spoke again, and he started in 1 Peter but then moved over to the gospel of John.  His focus was on the interaction between the woman at the well and Jesus, with a particular emphasis on 4:24 where Jesus says those who worship God “must worship in spirit and in truth.”  Without having to summarize the entire sermon I’ll just say he revolutionized the way I saw that verse.  He said (and I agree) that when we talk about this verse as worship leaders we always talk about the two words “spirit” and “truth”.  But then he made the statement that changed how I saw this verse, but I think he’s right on here…  According to Harland the most important word in the verse is not “spirit” or “truth” but “must”.  He stated that when people see Jesus for who he is the only response they have is worship, and then he tied it to Revelation where John talks about all creatures worship Jesus at the end of the age.

If you’ve been following my blog at all this week you know that the one major thread that’s run through every session I’ve attended and every reflection I’ve done is a focus on Jesus, and Harland nailed it on this point.  He took me back to my most basic statement: worship is about Jesus.  I have served on staff of two churches in the past six years – two very different churches in style and denomination – yet in both interviews (and at both churches) I said to the staff and the members that what is important is Jesus.  “If you’re preaching and teaching and worshipping Jesus then all the other stuff is pretty insignificant.”

But over the past year or so I think I’ve lost sight of that, to an extent.  I’ve become more focused on song styles and special music and Christmas cantatas and big choir numbers and orders of service and…  You get the idea.  If nothing else, this week has served to turn me back toward my first love – Jesus – and my most basic belief about worship – it’s all about him.

Harland also reminded us that we were not called to “lead music” but called to “lead people”, and, in light of the above statement, this one hit me between the eyes.  When I first came on at my church that was one of the things I told people at church, and one of the things I consciously thought about and worked on.  But, again, in the last several months, perhaps last year, I started to loose sight of that.  And I believe it’s negatively affected my ministry.  The morning session I attended by Phil Barfoot focused on practical ideas to grow the church choir.  Several of the ones that I took away, and I plan to use this coming year, are ones that re-focus us on the people in the choir as individuals.  Doing things that honor and connect with each individual on a personal level.  And so that’s my goal for this coming choir year.

Finally, this afternoon I attended two sessions led by a minister of music named Larry Grayson.  He gave two sessions, both which were very powerful.  He shared the stories from his own life that defined who he is today, and then challenged us to create our own list of “Defining Moments” and “Defining People”.  While I am going to work on this over the next several months I can tell you that this conference is becoming a defining moment in my ministry.  There are others that I can already name off the top of my head: the night I became a Christian in 7th grade, the day I got married, going through the death of my sister, and becoming a father.  He also shared a fantastic church dream that I want to quote below.  I’m still trying to find the full context of it, but here’s an excerpt of what he shared:

We dream of a church where people find real help, experience real change, and discover real answers; where destructive lifestyles, habits, addictions and compulsions are forever jettisoned; where wasted lives are retrieved and new beginnings are launched.

We dream of a church where marriages are healed and parents’ hearts are turned toward their children; where children and youth are made strong in their ability to serve the Lord and stand for Him in a godless culture.

We dream of a church were grace is accepted and extended; where love for people springs from love for God; where joy permeates the air; where service is considered a privilege and not a burden.

Wow – that one hit me square between the eyes!

Finally, he focused on the characteristics of a worship leading choir, something I’ve been speaking about with my choir, but I have decided I need to go further on.  I’ve been able to get some resources and contacts that I am hoping will help me with this concept….  I’ll be doing a dedicated post on that idea later in the summer as I digest this more and more.

In closing, today has been another fantastic day.  The only way I can describe it is that it has been revolutionary in how I am viewing worship and my role as a worship leader.  Tomorrow is my final day here, and it is really just an AM worship service, but I am excited about what God will be doing there, too.  Now I get to look forward to one final reading session this afternoon before my wife gets here, and then a wonderful evening with her.

LWLC Day 3

Today was an oasis in a very packed week.  The day was specifically designed as a “light” day in terms of sessions so that we were done a little before 3:00.  The rest of the day and evening was left open for us to use for personal reflection, solitude, hanging out with others, or whatever we wanted to do with it.  Let me start at the beginning of the day and go from there.

As with the past two days, a major highlight of the day was the AM worship service.  Dick and Mel Tunney were the worship leaders, and for the second day in a row I found myself in tears during the worship.  They introduced a great new song they had written entitled Life and Breath, which I will be purchasing as soon as it’s available to share with my congregation.  Some of the musical sets they selected were very powerful, so I am going to steal them for my planning purposes 🙂

Mike Harland continued his teaching on 1 Peter, and today he focused on interpreting life through the lens of scripture and having an eternal perspective.  Using 1 Peter 1:22 he shared three truths for us to remember: obedience to the word (which requires we know it), pure motives that cause us to focus everything we do on Jesus, and loving others – especially those who are difficult to love.  We then ended the service with a time of response – one that was truly unique and yet very moving.  He reviewed each of the three truths he had taught on.  As he mentioned each one he would stop and ask people to stand if they felt God had spoken to them in regards to that particular truth, and at the end he prayed for everyone that was standing.  It was a very touching and moving experience.

I attended three other sessions today, one in the morning entitled “Ultimate Ideas for Worship & Music Ministry”, which gave some very practical ideas for growing the music ministry (several of which I am going to be able to implement), and then two in the afternoon.  One of the afternoon sessions was a reading session, but the other was entitled “Leading a Worship Culture Change.”  The presenter, a gentleman named Michael Adler from Alabama, talked about not getting caught up in the latest “fad” but focusing repeatedly and consistently on Jesus.  It was a wonderful reminder that I need to understand my own church’s culture as I plan worship and work to fit into that culture.  It was a great piggy-back to my session yesterday afternoon where we discussed Vital Contexualized Worship.

Then once my sessions were over I went for my hike – something I have honestly been looking forward to since I arrived.  I ended up doing about five miles this afternoon before dinner – I would have gone further, but I needed to be back in time to eat dinner before 6:30 when the cafeteria closed!

It’s amazing to see the majesty of God through the beauty of creation.  I actually took a couple of pictures with my cell phone and am including these in my blog below, but they don’t do the scenery any justice (as anyone who’s ever tried to photograph a mountain knows…)  Even in the midst of the “wilderness” atop the mountain, though, I was struck by the gift of technology I had with me.  See, I’ve been taking notes for the conference on my new iPad.  Every day they sync up with my laptop and my iPod touch.  For my hike I took my iPod with me because it tracks my mileage via a chip in my hiking boot called Nike+, but in addition to that while I was up on the mountain I was able to pull out my iPod and not only read back on my notes and reflect on what I was learning, but I also was able to read my Bible because I have it loaded on my iPad.  And not only was I able to read my notes and my Bible, but I was also able to do a little journaling and then have it sync back to my iPad and laptop!!!  Okay, very cool (I know, I sound like a technology geek).  Anyway, here is an excerpt of what I wrote on the mountain:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Gal 2:20, 6:14, 16
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Cor 5:17-19

I’m sitting on top the mountain and was reflecting on the past two days, as well as reading through the book of Galatians.  I am thinking about the cross and the work Christ accomplished through it.  I’ve been challenged this week to constantly keep the message of the cross central to worship planning.  Jesus said that when he is lifted up he will draw all men to himself.  It’s not my job to draw people to him but to lift him up and he will take care of the rest.  This week in worship I’ve been in awe at how the worship leaders are able to usher us in to his presence by simply focusing us on Jesus and the cross and then letting him take it from there – which he has!

Which is why the verses listed above are so meaningful – because of Jesus and his work on the cross I am now clean and pure and can live forever with a holy God.  More than that, though, is that my interactions with him don’t have to wait until I die. He is here with me now, today, and everyday.

This pictures were taken from where I was sitting as I wrote.
In closing, it has been a wonderful day of reflection and praise.  All week I have been confronted with Jesus and his work on the cross, which reminds me that this is what I need to constantly bring before my congregation as I lead them in worship.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for tomorrow!

LWLC Day 2: Overwhelmed (Afternoon Notes)

This is the second post in regards to Day 2 at the Lifeway Worship Conference.  To see the morning session reflection and notes click here.

After lunch I attended two great sessions.  The first was led by Mike Harland of Lifeway Worship.  The session focused on being a confident leader.  We spent the time discussing leading when there is opposition and examining how Paul led and treated opposition, particularly at the church of Corinth.  Mike gave 10 principles to remember in dealing with opposition.  Of the 10, a couple struck a chord with me:

  • #4: Godly leaders never relinquish their responsibilities to the people they lead (this is not the same as delegation);
  • #5: Godly leaders keep confidence in God and let ministry results speak for themselves;
  • #6:  Godly leaders find confidence in their intimacy with Christ and not from within themselves;
  • #7: Godly leaders lead not by vision but by revelation.

This last one really hit home, and maybe it’s because of my background and training as a school administrator and looking at leadership.  But as Mike shared his thoughts I found myself agreeing with him more.  He defined vision as something that is generated from within myself – a plan that I set forth and aspire to see accomplished.  Revelation is something that is given to me by God.  He referenced Proverbs 29:18 which is often referenced as, “Without vision the people perish.”  But he taught us that the Hebrew word translated “vision” should actually be translated “revelation”.

Not being a Hebrew scholar myself, I went and looked up the verse in several versions.  The NIV, ESV, and the HCSB all translate the verb as some form of “revelation” and not “vision”, so I am going to assume he knows what he’s talking about 🙂  The Holeman Christian Standard reads, “Without revelation people run wild,” and the ESV reads, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.”

However, the most poignant story he told dealt with an interaction he had with a gentleman at a church he once served.  Apparently after a service this guy came up and complained to him about the service, telling him all the things he didn’t like.  Mike replied by apologizing for leading the person to believe that worship was about him and not God.  He then told how he shared with the gentleman the purpose and goals he set out for worship, and through that the guy was able to eventually become a key supporter and prayer advisor to him.  Again, I was overwhelmed by how differently I would have (and have in the past) responded.

My second afternoon sessions dealt with style in worship, and it was very eye opening as well.  It was lead by a gentleman from South Carolina named Mark Powers.    Our text for study was Jesus interaction with the woman at the well in John 4.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure I agree with the exact analogy he drew from the text, but I think his point was right on. The important concepts I took away from this session were the importance of Christ Centered Worship, The Worship Report Card, Worship Idolatry, and Vital Contextual Worship. Let’s break these down…

Christ Centered Worship is pretty self-explanatory, it is worship that focuses on Jesus.  It also reminds us that worship transcends style.  This is an important, key element to remember when we get down to Vital Contextual Worship.  We started our session by having a discussion on what exactly the word “worship” means.  Mark gave a fantastic demonstration of the Hebrew meaning, which literally means to bow down, fall prostrate, and show your neck in vulnerability.  Worship begins by falling prostrate on the ground in front of a holy God.  In the time in which it was written, the word used for “worship” was a term that meant a person would literally fall before someone of high authority and beg for mercy, at which point the person could literally execute them by cutting off their head (hence the reference to bearing one’s neck) or turn the sword sideways and tell them to rise.  Again, not being a Hebrew scholar I’ll have to trust him on this one, but it sure does make for a great illustration 🙂  He also reminded us that worship is an overflow of the love we have for Jesus.

The Worship Report Card is a term he uses to remind us that worship is not about what we “get” out of it but of what we “give” to God.  David writes in 2 Samuel 24:24 that he will not give the Lord that which costs him “nothing.”  It is about what we bring to God, yet too often people (even me) evaluate worship by what we “get” from it, but that is not how God intended it.  I personally attribute this to our extreme consumer-driven mindset as Americans, but I suppose it is also a result of our deep, ego-centric nature that must be constantly surrendered to Jesus.  He shared a great quote which read, “Most matters of church growth resolve themselves when people fall deeply in love with God.”  It challenged me, again, to show people the love of God so they could be overwhelmed by it and respond in surrender.

Worship Idolatry is when we begin to insert things into our worship service that we end up worshiping rather than worshiping Jesus.  It fills in the blank for the statement, “X must be present for me to worship”.  “X” can be anything – communion, a particular song, the way the offering is taken, a particular tradition, an instrument (or lack thereof) – anything.  We then were asked the questions, “What is ‘X’ for our church?” and “What is ‘X’ for you?”  This question has me reflecting a lot on how I would answer.  I once served a church where music had become an idol for the church, and part of the job I did there was to help break down that idol (which I believe was done to a certain extent, though it will be up to other leaders to continue that work).  Often times “X” is a very valid component of the service, but when we say it has to happen in order for us to worship then we run the risk of making it an idol.  And that’s a dangerous thing to do.

Connecting this with the session on confident leadership, though, reminds me that one major aspect of being a leader is to address issues such as this and point them out so there can be healing in the congregation.

Finally, Vital Contextual Worship is the term Mark used to describe worship style, and here I think he is 100% correct.  I abhor the terms “traditional” and “contemporary” in regards to worship, and this term, though academic-sounding, is the best one I’ve heard yet.  Vital simply means that is is alive and vibrant; Contextual means that it is within the culture of the individual church (not the global church); and Worship reminds us it is focused on Jesus and giving him the worth he deserves.  This echos many conversations I have had with other music directors, pastors, and congregational members for years.  There is no one right or wrong style of worship; style is dictated by culture.  I would put forth that our “worship wars” (as they are often referred to) are really “culture wars” – a clash of cultures.  Again, I take much insight here from my work in the public school system.  I describe culture as a set of values, belief systems, traditions, and expectations. When a person enters a church and any or all of what is experienced is contrary to their cultural context they will understandably have a reaction to it.

Once we understand the culture (which helps us understand style) we can then begin to work towards changing it (if need be) or better relating to those within it.  Worship is about what we bring to God, and we have to remember that what we bring comes out of our values and experiences, in other words, our culture.  So in order to offer God suitable worship we need to create worship experiences that are culturally relevant to our attendees.  This is not about a consumer-driven mindset for culture, but it is ultimately about leading people to Jesus.  We wouldn’t expect that a preacher would get up and deliver a sermon in Chinese to a group of people who don’t speak Chinese, so neither should we expect to usher people into worship who have a negative reaction to one style of music or another.  Worship is not the end but the means, and the means must be appropriate for the cultural context of the church (on a side note, this follows the same logic as my posting on the use of Patriotic Music in Worship Services).

The evening ended with a concert/worship service led by Dennis Jernigan.  I’ll just say this about it – he has one absolutely amazing testimony.  If you don’t know it, you need to visit his website and learn more about him and his story.  While I have not watched the videos on YouTube he’s done talking about his life, he did reference them, so you may want to visit YouTube and do a search for “Dennis Jernigan Testimony”.  It was quite a powerful story.

Whew….  Now you know why I used the term overwhelmed to describe my day.  It was a full one!

LWLC Day 2: Overwhelmed (Morning Notes)

Because there was so much covered today, I’m actually going to break this into two separate posts.  This will cover my morning sessions and I’ll do a second one on the afternoon sessions.

If I had to pick one word for the day it would be overwhelmed.  Yep, that’s the word: overwhelmed.

More specifically, overwhelmed by God (what’s the subtitle of Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love, something like Overwhelmed by a Relentless God?  That sure describes today!)

After a breakfast of pancakes and sausage I attended the opening general session which had a devotional given by Randy Vader, the CEO of Praise Gathering Music.  He spoke about the preeminence of Jesus in our worship times and challenged us to keep that focus as we plan.  It reminded me of my favorite quote by Mark Driscoll: it’s all about Jesus, it’s always about Jesus, and it’s only about Jesus.  Specifically, he shared some specific guidelines to keep in mind while planning worship.  Those guidelines  include remembering that God is sovereign, Jesus is Lord and pre-eminent in history, today there is forgiveness and pardon of sins, and peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.  By planning worship in light of these truths, I can help usher the congregation into God’s presence so they can respond to him.

This is keeping the focus on leading people to Jesus.  It was (and is) an overwhelming concept to think about how it is my responsibility every week to focus people on Jesus and not spend so much time worrying about other things.  I also have to remember, though, that not only is it my responsibility but my privilege as well.  I try to remember, though I too often get distracted, that when I plan a worship service I need to constantly ask, “Will this focus people on Jesus?”. Too often I get distracted by song selections, choir anthems, special music, or the like.  What I need to focus on is leading people to Jesus.

On a related note, I spent some time speaking with a gentleman at dinner who is the director of the church music program at a prominent seminary.  He was sharing the story of a tradition they had at one of the colleges he worked at.  For their chapel services they had a Christ Candle at the front of the church.  But the candle didn’t stay lit like in liturgical churches, and it was generally lit by lay people.  The practice?  If you had led someone to Christ since the last service you were supposed to go up and light the candle before the service began.  If the candle was lit at the beginning of the service, the pastor might ask who lit it and invite you to share your story.  Now that’s a cool way to keep Jesus and the sharing of Jesus at the forefront of our minds!  Again, as he told the story to me I was overwhelmed by the idea of how rarely I would be lighting the candle at my own church if we had this tradition (or should I say underwhelmed?)

The highlight of my day was the AM worship service.  This morning’s worship was absolutely phenomenal.  Jay Rouse (of Praise Gathering Music) led the worship.  We sang some wonderful songs, one of which was Mighty to Save.  Behind Jay on the stage stood the Mississippi Baptist All State Youth Choir.  While we sang there were three boys who were just singing their hearts out to the Lord: bouncing up and down, simply rejoicing in the truth that Jesus “rose and conquered the grave, yes you are mighty to save!”  Again, I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and passion for Jesus as they exhibited it to us and it stirred me to a deeper interaction with our holy and awesome God.

Every song we sang was special, and it was such a rejuvenating experience to be in the congregation and singing instead of having to lead.  Don’t get me wrong, I love leading, but sometimes it’s refreshing to be a follower.  I’ll just end by saying it has been a long time since I have had tears in my eyes during worship.  I was totally overwhelmed by the grace of God and his love for this fallen guy and all he’s blessed me with.  It was overwhelming (yes, I know that word is getting overused…)

Lifeway Worship Leadership Conference – Day 1 Overview

So here’s the run down from the day…  Melissa and I left this morning to drive to Ridgecrest and stopped at a fantastic Greek restaurant for lunch in Asheville named the Apollo Flame Bistro.  This was one of the best Greek places I have been to in a very long time, and easily in my top 3 favorites for Greek restaurants we’ve been to…  If you’re ever in the Asheville area you need to visit this place – fast and friendly service, decent prices, and fabulous food!

Now that that’s out of the way….

Melissa dropped me off at the conference center about 1:45, which gave me some time to go through the conference schedule and make a rough plan for my time here.  They have many sessions to attend, all figured into about five different tracks for learning.  My focus for the sessions will mainly be in three areas:

1) Choral music – attending reading sessions for various publishers in the hopes of finding some new, great choral literature for this year; I have purposefully maintained a healthy amount of choir budget for the year so that I can purchase music based on what I find here;

2) Worship leading – I’ll be focusing specifically on styles and culture in worship (for both congregational musical style and worship leading style)

3) Worship planning – with a focus on team building, team growth and development, and the use of long-term planning tools.

Because today was only a partial day I only attended two sessions – one reading session with music by multiple publishers and one choral rehearsal.  Every day we will have worship services, and the volunteer choir will be assisting in leading.  I wanted to attend the first rehearsal to see if it is something I wanted to participate in.  I have not completely decided yet whether I will go back or not.  I enjoyed the rehearsal, and really enjoyed the director, but part of my reason for coming here is for renewal and I’m not sure participating in the choir will re-energize me as much as being a congregational member in the services (it’s nice to not be on stage every now and then, considering I am up there every week, not to mention it rehearses in addition to the regular conference sessions).

Two things I did particularly enjoy about the rehearsal, though.  One was just seeing how another director conducts rehearsals, which is always a great experience.  If for no other reason I may sit in on a rehearsal or two so that I can just pick up some pointers and techniques.  The other was being reminded of what it’s like to sit in the choir instead of stand in front of it.  I’m not sure of the musical training of everyone in the room, but I got the feeling many were trained musicians like myself.  We learned music very quickly, yet there were still spots we had to focus on and rehearse multiple times.  Once or twice I even found myself struggling as we sight-read through sections; I reflected on the fact that my choir members must feel the same way on certain weeks!  It was a good reminder to me that I can’t assume everyone gets things on the first go-around and we will sometimes need to stop and go over sections multiple times for mastery – and I can’t get frustrated when that happens!

For dinner I sat with three people from Tennessee – two music directors, and one of them was with his wife.  As we talked I learned that one of the music directors was also a part-time director and had been at his current church about 9 months less than I have been at my church.  I also had a fantastic conversation with the other gentleman’s wife, who was an elementary music teacher.  I shared my history of teaching music in the public schools (a total of 7.5 years), and we discovered we had many of the same views and philosophies on how music should be taught to kids and of its importance in childrens’ development.  We shared stories of various programs and initiatives we have done (and she is currently doing), and I even found out she has a school administration degree as well!  It was a nice time of getting to know some people with similar interests and responsibilities as me.

Since I didn’t get to go for my morning walk when I woke up today I decided to venture out after dinner and a Skype with Melissa and the girls (isn’t it amazing that not only can I talk to Melissa and the girls but I can also see them when I’m away!?!?!).    I began by walking to the prayer chapel and prayer gardens, which was a fairly easy stroll down the paved road.  Let me just say that the prayer gardens are absolutely gorgeous – I may spend some time there with a hymnal, my Bible, and my iPad doing some planning!  Perhaps the most beautiful prayer gardens I’ve ever seen (sorry, I don’t have a camera with me, so I can’t take pictures, otherwise I would).  After that I decided to walk the wooded trail up to the lake and back, and then I just walked a little around the campus to get somewhat familiar with it.  All in all, it was a little less than 2.75 miles, which was a good workout for the evening.  One thing that probably isn’t a good thing, though, is that I discovered the ice cream shop is actually just outside my the door – perhaps only about 100 feet away!  I resisted the urge to stop by tonight, but I’m sure I’ll have to make a visit later in the week (perhaps even tomorrow! :))

I ended by slipping into the back of the PM concert to hear the end of the Tennessee Ladies Chorus and Tennessee Mens Chorale.  They sang two songs that got to me.  One was Come Thou Fount, which reminded me of the depth of God’s grace (I’ll blog more on this tomorrow or the next day).  The second was a song entitled Let it Be Said Of Us by Steve Fry.  I was not familiar with song, but I have already purchased a congregational copy and orchestrations so I can teach it to my congregation!  I hope they find it’s text and tune as meaningful as I do.

I’ll close this rather lengthy post with the words to this beautiful song (which are Copyright 1994 Maranatha! Music (ASCAP) / Word Music, LLC.):

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion
That with gladness we bore ev’ry cross we were given
That we fought the good fight that we finished the course
Knowing within us the pow’r of the risen Lord

Let it be said of us we were marked by forgiveness
We were known by our love and delighted in meekness
We were ruled by His peace heeding unity’s call
Joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song
By mercy made holy by the Spirit made strong
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song
’Til the likeness of Jesus be through us made known