Thursday, July 21, 2011

When am I "home"???

Outside there are toys laying around, a towel on the front walk, trash cans in front of the Garage, yes, the same cans our HOA sent us a letter about. The front yard is getting thick and green, it's about time, and the Aspen tree is growing another foot this year. It is cool outside, like, 67 degrees cool. Here in Colorado, even in a community like ours, where many outside lights are left on, you can see a blanket of stars at this time of night.

The feeling of familiarity is comforting. The custom paint on the doorway and the pictures of our little dancer in the foyer make my house seem more like a home. It's after midnight and I am checking on the kids. They left lights on upstairs and my 14 year old is not in her room. I am especially interested in my 16 year old, she just flew in from Nashville today and is very tired, I will go "tuck her in", but don't tell her I said that. I go downstairs to the basement where the temp. is like 15 degrees cooler, which feels awesome to sleep in. My 11 yr old son and 14yr old daughter are falling asleep on the couches in front of a movie. My 16 yr old is very asleep in her own beed after being gone nearly a week, I'm sure she is happy for that. My 10 yr old lady is sound asleep in her own bedroom with the radio cranking and the closet light on. The baby, my 4 yr old, is also very asleep in his bed with 3 blankets just in case. They are all accounted for, lights out, up stairs, thank you Jesus.

The garage was open, so I must turn off the lights that I hung, make sure the garage door closes and get in the house. All is good. When inside and locked up, I head to our beedroom. The wife is sleeping so I grab my laptop, put in a mindless movie and a book I want to glance at before bed. All my stuff, in my room, with my wife, on my tv, near my dresser and the other things I have become so used to having. It has been since 2003 that we have lived here. Tme has made this a home for us. Love and friends have made it a home. Life experienced each day inside this home, life as a family, has made this a home. As I walked back in tonight, I walked into a home, not just a house. Thank You God for the gift of a home, the RamFamHome!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Surprise of Church Music

It was Wednesday Morning in Colorado. The sun was warm, but with a crisp chill in the air, especially for this Florida-Boy. After a two day drive I was exhausted, really tired. As we entered the morning conference meeting, I lost track of the church elder and two missions pastors who were my new friends and travel companions. A light offering of bagels, donuts and coffee made me hopeful that a Wednesday Workshop with a bunch of pastors would somehow be worth my time, then, in the background, music began.

This is just a church, so what could you expect? A somewhat subdued crowd of mostly men from different parts of the country filled the room that day, how great could the "church music even be". So, with food in hand, looking for a comfortable chair to wait out the music portion of the meeting, I began walking to the back. To my disappointment, while I sat, everyone else stood. Man, I wanted to rest, what are they standing for anyway?

Over the next 8 to 10 minutes I figured it out and moved from low expectation and engagement to complete attentiveness and passionate worship. What had happened?

God's Presence happened, great music happened, great worship happened, great worship leading happened. God, as I soon found out, really did "inhabit the praises of his people" as the scriptures say, even in Colorado. But, why so unexpected and why so profound?

Let's be honest, we develop a love for music and music styles when we are between the ages of 10 and 25 years old. Every radio station and music marketing team knows this. And guess what, when falling in love with certain styles and sounds, it was not church music at the top of our list. Actually, there is usually a huge separation in our minds between the music we enjoy 6 days a week as a normal part of our life and the music we listen to on Sunday. With these facts in mind, most of us already have a preferred music style and we must admit, "it ain't church music". 

So when I answer the question above about why was my experience that day so unexpected and profound, it was not because devoted Christian people came together to learn or sing songs to God. It wasn't even that they were standing up when I wanted to be sitting down. Really, it wasn't even the fact that these people, from all walks of life, all seemed to be engaged with this music and worship at a level I was not expecting, even though all of that was cool. It was in fact that "the music was great, the leading was great and the delivery was amazing". Anyone can play music, thousands of churches today have a stage full of high quality musicians playing and singing popular and modern worship, but I have to admit, this was different.

What was funny was my later conversation with one of the band members and a sound tech. The morning session that went on for at least 45 minutes, throwing all thoughts that a church audience can only pay attention for 22 minutes. Actually, it seemed that well over 80% of this crowd, really engaged the entire 45 minutes of worship; praying, worshiping, dancing, bowing, kneeling, lying, raising hands, clapping, singing and apparently just loving Jesus along the way. Sounds like a Psalm I read once. Anyway, back to my conversation with the band member and tech guy, they talked to me about the quality of the leader, his practice schedule, his personal conviction about quality, standards of worship and standards of living as being most important. We discussed the fact that he was not even a musician, but a Pastor who led musicians. We talked about practicing enough to be able to do recordings in one-take with very little dub overs, which is amazing. The one thing that stood out the most to me was how these two admitted that this kind of music was not personally their favorite style of listening. They talked about varieties of music styles they loved, but came back to the purpose of the church, the mission of Christ and His Church and how the music style and delivery I was witnessing has been built to help facilitate that, rather than follow the personal likings of any one leader or band member. This was confirmed by the fact that the Sr. Pastor and staff really were not musical at all, and that they directed very little of the worship ministry. Rather, that the Sr. Staff made it their job to shared passionately and consistently about the vision God was giving them and how that meant something to the local and global Body of Christ. It was obvious that this worship service was a result of that vision and that calling from Christ to reach the World, not a talented artist or worship leader and his personal opinions about how music and worship should happen.

Back to the beginning: I finally stood with everyone else. I laid down my breakfast. I listened and watched first. I was a Worship and Outreach Pastor at my home church, which is why I was at this Missions Conference with a missions team from Columbia. I was amazed by several things during the next 8 - 10 minutes I had mentioned above. First, the quality was such that they could have been playing a CD. They could have actually pushed "record" and made a CD, they were just that tight. Second, they talked very little, yet people from all different walks of life seemed to go with them in worship. Third, most of these song were not the popular songs on the modern worship list for that time, they were home grown songs, with one or two popular songs mixed in. Fourth, they were not using music or chord charts, there wasn't a music stand in sight. Fifth, there were technical glitches that morning, a surge in the subs was obvious at a few points in worship, but no one seemed to notice. Lastly, the communication between band members, the way the leader directed, the use of different instruments at different times, the lack of full ensemble singing, the dynamics from full praise to intimate, vertical worship; these were all very noticeable to me as a somewhat trained worship leader of 8 yrs. However, as part of these observations, I noticed the most profound part of the whole thing. It seemed that the 800+ other men and women there did not pay attention to these details. Rather, it as I looked from row to row, chair to chair, looking for those who were not engaged, it seemed that each person was having a personal worship encounter with Jesus with extreme and intense focus on Him. As I moved from being an observer to a participant I too began to weep in the presence of God. Not because I'm a sensitive guy, I'm not, just ask my wife and 3 daughters. It was because I encountered a God who made me speechless and a love that broke my heart for holiness and a wonder that blew my mind. All of this within the next 30 minutes of worship.

How, how did this happen for me and so many others. It was the music, it was the band and leader, it was the style, it was the delivery, it was the quality, it was an obvious blessing upon the service, favor from the Lord and whatever X-Factor quality this ministry had working for it, in the end, it was all of it, not just one thing. And somehow, since that day in 1996, that worship has now been heard, sent and used around the world several times over. Hundreds of countries, hundreds of churches and thousands of leaders have been born through this worship. Just a local church, with a local band of brothers. Computer techs, software guys, pastors, salesmen and college students, not professional musicians, together Changing the World for Christ.

Personal Commentary: In our present day and time, Entertainment has become the food for the flesh, we spend billions each year as a country feeding our music and media appetites, most of them developed outside the church at a young age with very little regulation as to content or results of years of partaking of it. Discipleship, as the primary call to action from the mouth of Jesus, has nearly become a lost art and practice. And Quality in the church music scene, especially with the X-Factor qualities that make the worship music I talked about above work best, have all but taken a back seat to tradition and good ideas from well meaning leaders & musicians. Therefore, I as a believer, husband and father, has a problem. How do I get some help making disciples of my kids? How do I enjoy this walk with passion? Where does music come into play? Well, as a reaction, when I see a good thing and when it helps me accomplish God's call on my life and that of my family, I have learned to go with it. Not to go with my personal preference, but to follow the favor of God to accomplish God's will on this earth and to move away from "maybe that is good" to "wow, that is great" in the music world. Partly because, as a father I understand that music helps to develop belief systems, ideas and opinions. We as a people listen to music more hours in our life than just about anything else. Studies support the impact of music on the human mind, body, soul. Therefore, in the RamFam we have used music to help us grow in the Lord and to disciple our own kids. Eli, for instance, runs around the house at four years old, not singing the theme-song to Sponge Bob, as funny as that might be, but to the latest Jon Egan or Toby Mac song. Likewise with the mix of music and drama we have the same approach. For example, each year we see an Easter Production at a local church. Not a boring play with finger puppets and outdated music from a portable radio. But, something very high quality, very interactive and dynamic, with the Truth of the Gospel clearly at the center. It is 60+ minutes long with songs, drama, dancing, lots of people and lots of monologue directed at children. In the midst of it all my four year old son, Eli again, picked out a phrase, the only phrase he can recall and say aloud right on cue. The phrase is, "A Sacrifice Had to Be Made".  It is the phrase said by the narrator just before the part where Jesus is killed on the Cross. Eli says it over and over, with of course, no concept of what it means or why it is significant, but with a seed of Truth planted in his heart to develop and grow. Which as a father who wants to raise a boy to be a man and not a Sponge who has no purpose in life, I'll take this direction any day of the week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My wife does not think I have a blog. Actually, I have no followers at this moment. I appreciate the blogs of many others and only have time late at night to discuss my ideas or thoughts, so I think for a while, this will be my secret.

For now, I will have to pass on blogging....and actually see my wife before we go to sleep. BR

Sunday, February 14, 2010

HONEST THOUGHTS 2010

After I flew to Florida to help with my Grandfather's funeral and to be with family I more and more seriously think about my last days, and the last days of my father. I don't want to be sorry I missed certain things. I surely do not want to have missed the love of my life and the joy we should share together. The truth is, I have her in my life now, I just want to be very careful to appreciate her and to have fun with her.

I want to spend time on the beach together. I want to travel to great locations around the country and abroad. I want to cruise the oceans, taste foods I've never eaten, climb mountains I've never seen and fall in love all over again at each experience. The truth is, we, my "good thing" and I, are getting older. We already hear our bodies talking back to us and see signs of "maturity". Does this mean we should slow down or stop dreaming together, no way. It means, to me at least, that we should not listen to the news, our friends, family or whomever would discourage us from staying young and doing all the things we dream of.

When I add the thought of my kids to the mix and even extended family, I think they also need the blessing of being more than mediocre. I believe they need to see us struggle with live, even when it feels like too much and to see us make each other a priority. And, not just the boring everyday version of each other, but the exciting and adventurous side of each other. The version that we fell in love with those first few months together.

For Shanna and myself, we have talked about going to other cities and other countries. I'm not sure HOW to do this, but I am sure we would love it. We value sharing the experience together, so to go and work all the time or to go and be alone, that is not the plan. To go and have the amazing blessing to experience the new adventure with the person we love most, that is what we are after.

I am getting too tired to continue, so maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile, Shanna if you read this, know that it is my hearts desire to share my everyday and every experience with you and to see you smile. I love you, Happy Valentines Day....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

WHY THIS BLOG, WHY NOW.....????

There are many reasons a person may journal or blog. I am beginning this personal blog to help me chronicle thoughts, feelings and events that are significant to me and to do it so that my kids, family and friend might read and understand. I DO NOT believe that my experiences or ideas should be followed by all, however, at this point I would rather leave my thoughts behind for others to glean from than to trap them in my mind or to forget them all together.

Why "The Father's House" -- Because when I think of a safe place to rest, grow and gain wisdom, I think of a home, my Father's home. For me, that really applies to my Heavenly Father, who accepts me in and gives me a home, even though I am a spiritual orphan with a wicked heart. To me, "The Father's House" represents the place God meets with me and brings me life and success. In Christian scripture, the idea of God's House of the Father's House comes with many benefits that are not understood by most.

If my thoughts can be a contemporary picture of life for someone and can help to navigate readers away from trouble and toward success, then the time invested is well worth it. For now, the time is late and my eyes are falling to sleep.

2010 - Seriously!

WHAT GREAT FRIENDS WILL DO - Tonight, on my couch, in my house, with my wife and kids nearby, I experienced something rare. I experienced the powerful love of a friend who offered to pray for me. With no regard for time or tiredness, my dear friends and mentors from Alabama prayed over my family and I, spoke words of encouragement and insight and did more than give their opinions. While others pray for us and encourage us, like my Mother and Stepfather, who also support us in our parenting, activities and financial challenges, most do not. We recognize how difficult life can be for us all, so to have great friends to show this support is rare and frankly, an undeserved blessing that I am deeply thankful for.

NO MEDIOCRE LIFE - One author wrote: "Excelling at being who you are, where you are, with what you have, is to do in now, while you can. Here you will commit to being ruthless with time, patient with the process, and determined to finish well." I like this quote because it does not say I must "do something" to be more than mediocre. Rather, it points out that I begin by just "being". When I have learned the art of excellence in my "being" who God has created me to be, then the potential in my "doing" will be much greater.