Urbana18 Communion Message

This was a proud a moment in my Urbana18 journey (and career, once I learned that the likings of John Stott had once led communion).

I was more nervous about 10 minutes of celebrating communion in front of 11000 people than playing drums for about 8-10 sets! And communion was to be the last talk of the conference so I had to wait all week in anxious excitement.

I was honored to lead communion and felt a sense of God’s peace and presence. I was asked how I felt after leading: “I felt like myself”.

The message has continued to nourish me. I’m still trying to understand who Jesus is and what it means to remember Him. I’m in a place of seeking where it’s dark so being reminded that not all things are understood or explained from the outset is comforting. Communion has become a “God cares” reminder.

Urbana 18 Recap

URBANA18 Recap

What does it mean to be a faithful witness in a culture that is experiencing so much disruption?  In a church era that is seeing decline and losing influence? In some ways, these were the questions that Urbana aimed to address.  Using the book of Revelation, speakers used its message of Jesus Christ as the Faithful One to convey how God is seated on the throne, ruling and reigning.  

Having an image of God as the model for Faithful Witness gives us a way to give our lives over to Christ Jesus in all circumstances because we know that in the end, all things are made new by his power, authority, and redemptive love.  

It’s in this context that we’re compelled to be a faithful witness in our own settings and purposes so that we might know Christ and make him known.  

WORSHIP

Worshipping and attending the conference with close to 11000 attendee’s was a gift.  While I’ve played drums on big stages, it was the hospitality offered by all the InterVarsity volunteers and team members that most touched me.  Their encouragement, support, and volunteering truly blessed the worship team. The stage managers, production directors, and traffic control volunteers were the real heroes.  It’s the volunteer crew of about 1000+ people that make the conference so special.

The student and attendee’s showered the worship team with love and support.  After the first full day, we fell in love with them and it turned into a mutual partnership of worshipping and communing together.  

We received the following feedback (paraphrased):

  • Worshipping in multiple languages was a powerful expression of all tribes and tongues praising Jesus.
  • Many shared how the worship team seemed like a family on stage and was unpretentious off-stage.  I think that’s because we spent so much time with each other off stage learning to “remain in Jesus” and be as competent as possible on the stage.  We grew in love for each other and that spilled onto the stage.
  • Many long time InterVarsity staffers and directors said it was the best worship experience they’ve seen at Urbana!  I had text messages after the first day with feedback that it was the best start they’d seen. They also said it was some of the most competent musicianship they’d ever had.  
  • The team was praised for how leadership was shared on the stage.  While Eric Lige was our worship director, he had a vocal director, two music directors, a production engineer, sound engineer, and chaplain.  Each singer lead a song or two from the main stage. It was never one single person who dominated the stage.
  • From a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural perspective, we did at least 6 different languages.  We had people asking us how we could go from contemporary Christian music to jamaican music at the turn of a song.  We really did a wide array of styles and languages to capture God’s work around the world.

BAND CHAPLAIN

I’ve been playing the drums since I was a kid and got really serious in my 20’s.  I’ve played at large church and conference gatherings, on TBN, and have done a few albums.  This experience at Urbana was definitely a highlight. What made it deeper was serving as the band chaplain.  Throughout the year, I built a relationship with the members and listened to their hopes, struggles, and fears.  We talked about their roles and their personal lives. We had people who lost loved ones, hospitalization, and new babies!  People had family issues, ministry challenges, and personal struggles that we prayed through.

Getting to be a drummer and chaplain was the perfect job for me!  I was able to express myself musically and also be a shepherding presence.  

I tried to focus the band on Jesus as the prize–that in January, we were still going to get up, go to our regular jobs, and our hearts were to be turned towards Him as the Faithful One.  Mountain top experiences are very periodic and fun in nature. But most of our lives are lived in the valleys of life. That’s where we learn how Jesus will never leave or forsake us

COMMUNION

When I was asked to lead communion, I didn’t realize who had been leading it in past conferences.  My friend Cory Willson quipped that I’d be sharing the same stage and role as John Stott! I was really nervous after that.  

It come about that the person who was going to lead communion didn’t feel comfortable because she was not fully ordained yet.  Out of respect, she bowed out. The program director knew that I was a chaplain and commissioned to do so. They had conversations about who should be the celebrant and my name kept coming up for reasons I’m still not sure about.  They heard the work I was doing with the worship team and felt that the attendee’s would know me based on the coverage I was getting on the stage.

I submitted my communion homily and it was approved.  I rehearsed it on the big stage the day of and then waited.  It seemed like eternity. I was more nervous about ten minutes of speaking than hours of playing.

When I got up to the podium, the attendee’s cheered and were supportive.  I proceeded and when I got off the stage, my phone blew up with messages from friends watching online or in person.  I was so overwhelmed by their love and encouragement. People asked me how I felt. I told them, “I feel like myself”.

THE STATS

Here are a few telling stats:

  • We rehearsed as a band for at least 24 days.  
  • We rehearsed each song at least 20 times each.
  • 24 hours of studio time
  • 6 straight days of dress rehearsal
  • One original song written that will be a hit (Faithful unto death-Weep no more)
  • Traveled to Orlando twice, Wisconsin, St. Louis, and Pasadena for rehearsals or conferences.  
  • Urbana was streamed online and about 5000+ were watching
  • We played about 7 different genres (latin, black gospel, contemporary, r&b, etc)
  • I facilitated about 20 devotionals for the team.
  • Close to 11000 people attended Urbana

Here are some links to the conference:

https://urbana.org/urbana-18/general-sessions (video sessions)

https://urbana.org/urbana-18/photos

https://vimeo.com/309327755 (original song we wrote for the conference)

Search instagram #urbana18

THANK YOU

I’m deeply grateful to Bill Hoehn, Bob Hoehn, and the people at Hoehn Motors for their support and giving me the flexibility to be a part of this conference.  They made it possible for me to do this.

I’m grateful for the worship team and all the work everyone put it.  It was gift to see them all shine! It was a great learning experience for me and learned a lot about music, multi-ethnicity, team dynamics, and about own self.  

I want to thank Una Lucey Lee for trusting me to celebrate communion and for all her encouragement throughout the year.  She is a force to be reckoned with. 🙂

I also want to thank Ruth Hubbard for her constant support.

Lastly, I’m grateful for Christina and my boys.  We made a family decision to do this and they supported me 100%.  Oh, and I’m grateful for Ernie and Lindsey LeDuc. He’s my basstie!

I imagine that this team will be lifelong friends and that we’ll conspire together in the future!

Barbara Holmes on the human task

“. . . As I see it, the human task is threefold. First, the human spirit must connect to the Eternal by turning toward God’s immanence and ineffability with yearning. Second, each person must explore the inner reality of his or her humanity, facing unmet potential and catastrophic failure with unmitigated honesty and grace. Finally, each one of us must face the unlovable neighbor, the enemy outside of our embrace, and the shadow skulking in the recesses of our own hearts. Only then can we declare God’s perplexing and unlikely peace on earth. These tasks require a knowledge of self and others that only comes from the centering down that Thurman advocates. It is not an escape from the din of daily life; rather, it requires full entry into the fray but on different terms. . . . Always, contemplation requires attentiveness to the Spirit of God. . . .”

Barbara Holmes

Understanding Male Depression in Midlife Crisis Stage

Hitting my 40’s has wrought up some deep feelings that I imagine many men feel but aren’t aware of. I think it’s important to pay attention to this stage of life. It’s trying to gift us, if we can do the hard work.
 
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“In its essence, the midlife crisis is part of a life stage. Sooner or later, as one ages, a time comes when one engages in a process of reassessment. It’s a time to explore and test new choices, generally evoked by a deep pessimism about one’s present existence or future prospects. This pessimism emerges in full force when youth is over and maturity starts to take its place. One becomes discontent about one’s lot in life and begins to believe that what is left is not going to be much better…Men in their midlife crises are usually unaware of being in a crisis. They think they are just making natural changes. And, even if they feel depressed, irritability ity and dissatisfaction usually mask it. They gripe a lot, but don’t see it as a crisis time when they are doing some deep soul-searching.”
Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression

Depression and Mid Life Crisis of Faith

“For the majority, the midlife period may mean a crisis of faith of lesser proportions. You question your values, but there is no risk of abandoning one’s faith or family. You struggle to ignore your disillusionments, and your spirituality may suffer a little, but you plod on hoping that all will come right in the end. What is needed here? Hang on. This, too, will pass. Pray for a deep sense of understanding of what is going on within your spirit. Periods of doubt are normal for humans who “only see through a glass darkly.” Remember, this is your crisis not God’s. God hasn’t abandoned you. This is a time for Him to do His finest work in you, if you cooperate.”

Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression

During this period of time, we need a spirituality of “hang in there”.  God will never leave us or forsake us.  Our values, senses, and beliefs are being refined.  Hold on!

Learning from Monks about Work

“When a recent Pew survey asked what gives Americans a sense of meaning, thirty-four percent mentioned their careers—making this the second most common answer after family. As theology scholar Jonathan Malesic writes, in the United States, finding meaning through work is a concept that has been closely associated with Christianity. But Christian theology may also offer reasons, and methods, to make work less central to our lives.”

https://daily.jstor.org/what-monks-can-teach-us-about-managing-our-work-lives/

We express our humanity and image of God-ness through work (co-creating).  The Monks were creative about work and saw it as a penitential, but also looking for ways to keep the monasterary running.  They also wanted to make time for communal prayer so they came up with effeciency type of tools to carve out time.

A Spirituality of Curiosity

I wrote this in my daily reflection journal:
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Today, after sitting in prayerful silence, I felt much more grounded and open to listen, be curious, and ask questions.
 
When I proceeded to do my marketplace rounds, I was much more inclined to listen, be curious, and ask questions of those I serve. I didn’t rush, over-talk, or offer too much counsel. It was enough to listen and wonder with them…
 
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The word “curious” comes from the latin word cura which could mean to care or cure. It is also used for priests! My work as a shepherd is to be “curious” while I listen to others. “Tell me more about this…” “I noticed you said…” Every phrase, word, feeling, thought….be curious! I believe the Spirit works through curiosity.

Aching for Greatness

I’m not yet fully convinced of this truth, but I’m convinced it’s what my work is:  that my greatest accomplishment will be to claim my belovedness and live it out.  It’s the work of hearing, receiving, and claiming the words spoken over Jesus as the Beloved One, as my own.  

Ministry has its trappings:  Am I good enough to care for others, is my care good enough, is my presence and care making a difference, is so-and-so better at it than me.  These voices of shame, pride, and fear choke out the voice of belovedness, causing disruption and ache.  

Fear, shame, and pride can take their toll, breaking the spirit and heart of a person.  It makes us focus on our own willpower, shortcomings, or lack.  These voices cripple a person to the point of depression, hopelessness, or resentment.  This year, I’ve had to confess these voices to God in hopes of touching the hem so that I may be rescued.  Sometimes all I can do is simply confess and cry out for mercy.  

The ache for significance, greatness, and accomplishments is real.  Because we are made in the image of God, we long for greatness.  But we don’t get to greatness without death/burial/resurrection.  We don’t get to greatness without first hearing and living out the words of belovedness, that God is already pleased with us, loving each part of us.  

Can I claim this truth to the point where it alters my life?  When I’m searching for guidance, discerning next steps in my life, the one work I can count on is claiming this deep truth:  I am beloved by and I belong to God.  I want and need to hear that in the core of being so that it shapes what I say and do, how I am and how others experience caring presence.  

Dear friends, I want you to hear this: what is said of Jesus is said of you. I know this can be hard to affirm. You are the beloved daughter or son of God. Can you believe it? Can you hear it not only in your head through your physical ears but in your gut, hear it so that your whole life can be turned around? Go to the scriptures and read: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand from all eternity. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you in your mother’s womb. I love you. I embrace you. You are mine and I am yours and you belong to me.” You have to hear this, because if you can hear this divine voice speak to you from all eternity, then your life will become more and more the life of the beloved, because that is who you are.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment

When I hear this voice of love, it is not only for me to revel in.  This voice of love and belonging compel me to share and bear witness.  It’s a cup that gets poured out in joy.  The movement will lead outward towards the blessed presence of others, proclaiming with them our belovedness.  This work will cause us to reflect the divine life of Jesus, the One who renews, restores, and redeems us all.  

God’s Delight and Discernment

“God will use all your decisions, changeable and unchangeable, for your ongoing growth and development. There is nothing you can do to prevent God from bringing good out of the raw materials of your choices and the resulting circumstances. God can write straight using crooked lines.”

– Larry Warner

Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus: Christian Discernment as a Way of Life

I had forgotten about God’s endless grace, mercy, and faithfulness. It’s not a “pass/fail” deal, with God looking down and approving/disapproving. God delights in us and can use our limited capacities to work. It gives me more boldness to dream and try a few new things.

We do our best to discern how the Spirit is leading–working through scripture, discerning how God is already at work and joining Him, having community to process with, and lots of prayer.  There are times when I move forward and others when I feel paralyzed.  But God taking delight in us…that’s a game changer.  The stress and pressure are off the shoulders.  The anxiety of “am I doing the right thing” (after we’ve done the discernment work) is lessened when I remember that God specializes in taking the raw material of my life and transforms it for His good purposes (Phil. 1:16, Romans 8:28).   Even if I make a “wrong decision” that didn’t pan out, God will work toward growth and development through the process.

Larry’s last line reminds of the poet J. Cole’s song, Crooked Smile.  He has this line that reminds of God’s redemptive work with our crooked stories and smiles:

They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still

J.Cole, Crooked Smile

We ain’t picture perfect in our decision-making, but we worth the picture.  There’s One who takes Delight in us, period.

Roots and Storms

When life gets crazy, what habits and practices do you turn to for grounding and rootedness?  Storms will come and shake us up.  No doubt about that.  

Sickness.
Finances.
Dark nights of the soul.
Relationship stress.
Lack of direction in life.

What or who do you turn to for help and grounding?  When you’re in the storm, we may get rattled but we can turn towards our roots that help us make sense of what is happening.  

ROOTS

For me, faith, friends, and family are a source of rootedness in the middle of the storm.  And I’ve misfortune this year.  I’ve had to turn to my three F’s (LOL!).  When I’ve felt overwhelmed and lost, I’ve reached out as best as I could.  

The other day, I was lying down on the floor, symbolic of Psalm 23 (He makes me lie down in green pastures) and was transported to a field.  I felt the wind, the brush, and the Presence.  Just then, my son bursted through the door and says in his teenage voice, “Dad, what are you doing down there!?”  I told him, “I’m praying, duh!”.  LOL!

A storm had just hit our family and I needed to be reminded that the Lord is our Shepherd and that we lack no good thing.  I then reached out to friends and family for prayer and shared with them my struggles and feelings.  I felt the Presence of the Shepherd with me through my faith, friends, and family.  They helped me return to my roots.  

During this Thanksgiving season, may you return to your roots that have helped you through the big storms.  May we be able to say thanks and give our friends and family the gift of embrace, as they have to us.

Peace