I'm excited to share some videos from Stomp & Holler. This is a new children's rhythm and vocal music program I'm running (along with my wife Luanne and our friend Jeff Porter) here in Tulsa. If your K-6th grade student is interested in joining us, we'll be back February 8. Cost is only $10 for 10 weeks of instruction and a t-shirt! We're working on performance opportunities for these kids too, so if you know a place we can perform, let me know! We wanna take over Tulsa!
To start, here's one of my favorite raps... the ever-popular "Guacamole":
Here's Jeff leading a De La Soul (!) routine:
And a Congolese (I think) song:
Here are the little ones doing a "mini-stomp" routine with Miss Luanne:
And finally, here are our two big finale numbers, Katy Perry's "Firework" and P!nk's "Perfect":
I never thought of myself as an athlete. I don't watch sport on TV. I don't read Sports Illustrated. I would much rather read the entertainment section of the paper than the sports section. I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and the company. I spent most of my teenage and adult years hiding out whenever a football game would break out on the lawn or guys would start shooting hoops. It's just not my thing. I don't like it. I don't want to do it. I feel stupid and awkward.
But at 40, I've finally found my sport.
Back in February, after having lost almost 70 pounds, I got this crazy idea in my head. I wanted to run. Some friends encouraged me, I bought some shoes, I found the Couch-to-5K running plan, and I was off!
After that came the hottest summer of my life. I tried to stay
indoors as much as possible, and I was pretty discouraged in my running.
But the moment the weather cooled off, I was back out there, training
for my next race with the Bridge-to-10K running plan.
On October 1, I ran the Tulsa Zoo Run. It was a 10K, and I ran it in 57:20.
I love this sport because it's not a team sport, and it doesn't have to be competitive. It's just me and the road... and the next goal. I push myself to see if I can go the next distance. If I can run 3 miles, why not 4? How about 6? And if I can run 6, then surely I can run 7. And you know what? It's true so far... Just this morning, I ran 8.5 miles, my farthest distance yet. Now I know I'll be ready for my biggest challenge so far... the 15K (9.3 miles) Tulsa Run next Saturday.
Running is bringing a lot of joy into my life, and I am a grateful man... I'm healthier than I've ever been in my adult life, and I'm loving the challenges and the disciplines of this amazing sport. Next up, a half-marathon... and then I think I'll be on track to run a marathon sometime next year! Miracles...
With the miraculous PS22 Chorus as my model, I'm running a new program at Redeemer this fall. It's called Stomp & Holler, and it's a blast.
It's a pretty simple idea... a community rhythm ("stomp") and vocal music ("holler") program for 1st-6th graders. Kids are divided into two groups based on their ages/grades. I work with all the kids, singing pop songs like Katy Perry's "Firework" and P!nk's "Perfect." These songs have no overt religious content, but they are positive and family-friendly.
My wife, Luanne, leads the 1st-2nd grade "stomp" program, doing simple rhythm exercises and games. The older stomp kids are led by Jeff Porter, whose bio is pretty impressive:
Tulsa-based percussionist Jeff Porter has been playing and studying African music for 14 years. He studied in Cuba in 2000 and has spent a total of 8 months studying in Brazil.
He has studied with many teachers including Michael Spiro and Alex Acuna of Weather Report.He has recorded on an album with the horn players from Paul Simon's band from Graceland and legendary vocalist Emmylou Harris, and he has performed with many different bands including The String Cheese Incident, The Motet, Tea Leaf Green and many more.
His goal is to bring the spirit of the music to as many people as possible because it is really fun! He teaches mostly by using paint buckets, body percussion, and singing, but if people get super nerdy about learning all of the traditional instruments, he teaches Congas, Bata, Pandeiro, Djembe, Shekere, and Cajon!
Jeff's a great guy, and I'm really glad he's on board for this project. Check out some of his work with his percussion ensemble, The Claptet:
Jeff and I kind of did a "test run" of this program back in the summer up at Mark Twain Elementary School, where Redeemer was doing "Dreambuilders" - a rhythm and arts camp for that community. I guess this is the next step in the progression! Who knows where this will take us. I have a dream of taking these kids to see the touring production of STOMP when it comes to Tulsa in the Spring. In the meantime, we're getting the word out, running a good program and seeing what happens!
Here's the flyer that's been put up in stores and coffeeshops all around - and even distributed through all the local elementary schools:
And here's the amazing group that got me excited about this in the first place...
I turned 40 yesterday. Mom and dad are here from Indiana, and I enjoyed a relatively quiet day with my family. I'm grateful for my life and for the people who love me. I'm grateful for the last 13+ months of a new, healthy lifestyle.
I awoke to find that Luanne and the kids had recorded a song and uploaded it to Facebook. Enjoy!
My dad, my dad is having a big birthday My dad, my dad is having a big birthday My dad, my dad is having a big birthday And this is what we say...
He's 40 years old Not quite so young anymore Feeling older than a dinosaur He's walkin' through the old man door
My dad, my dad oh this is what you get For all the times you said you're younger than my mom My mom, my mom she's so happy today And this is what she'll say...
Mom, Dad and I took Emily to the orthodontist, waited for her for an hour at Starbucks, and then took her out to lunch at Qdoba.
After we dropped her back off at school, we went to the Gardner's Books tent sale, and I spent $12 and got 10 books at 2 CDs.
I spent a long time reading all the birthday greetings on Facebook. I felt loved. And then I made myself a developer and gave myself the new Facebook "timeline" profile a few weeks early.
When Luanne and the kids all got home, we had dinner at Genghis Grill and then came home for cake and presents. No, I didn't have cake. I had "cake" made from popcorn, cottage cheese, peanuts and a banana (my normal healthy snack foods). Check out my wife's creativity:
And then, to cap off a great day, I went for a run. I finished 6.2 miles (10K) in a little under an hour, and I am grateful for the ability and drive to do this at the end of my 40th birthday! (Although I have now learned my lesson about eating Genghis Grill and then trying to run a 10K within an hour...)
Thanks be to God for all the blessings he has poured out on me! I am grateful.
You can vote once every day from now until September 9! I know, I know... You have to register, and it's a pain in the butt. But if you UNCHECK two boxes, you'll never get any junk email. And seriously... this is a great photo. He totally deserves to be on Mad Men. Check out some of the other photos... Are they serious? Some lame snapshot from a Christmas party? Roman Holiday? Give me a break.
I'm on a Fiction Spree. It's like 2011 is The Year of the Novel for me or something. I started caring about critics again and reading the New York Times book review section and the Amazon "Best Of" section. Here's what I've been reading...
And of course this does not count the books I have had to read for seminary. Right now I'm reading two fascinating books for Church History. They feel more like books I want to read than books I have to read: Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity, Volume 1 & Volume 2.
How 'bout you? What have you read lately? What do you recommend?
Now: 163. Maintaining a healthy body weight for the first time in my adult life.
That, my friends, is some kind of miracle. I haven't talked about it here at all, but I have undergone a pretty radical transformation in the last year. In fact, it was one year ago today that I decided to surrender my life and my will to God in the area of food. I radically changed the way I ate. I got input from a doctor and a nutritionist. I chose a food plan. And I haven't deviated from it, not even once, for 365 days now.
But here's the deal. I don't do this on my own. It's not that I'm just so amazing and disciplined. No, I have a lot of support and encouragement and accountability from other people. And, more than anything, I have an amazingly gracious Father who loves me and wants the best for me. And as I surrender to Him every day, He gives me the strength to make these healthy choices.
Here I was back on Father's Day in 2010, pretty miserable at approximately 235 pounds (although Emily was pretty wonderful). My face says it all - and you can't even see my body here!
And here I was on May 14, after finishing the Full Moon Run in 28:10. Feeling really healthy and happy.
And here I was right around Father's Day 2011 with my kiddos. What an amazing difference a year can make.
I break my silence on this whole topic today out of gratitude. Gratitude for health and life, gratitude for the willingness to finally surrender. Gratitude for a great plan to follow and great people to walk the road with me. And gratitude for a loving God who is the Center of it all.
I haven't talked about the specifics of my plan... The internet doesn't need one more guy giving his advice on how to lose weight or get healthy. But I am happy to talk to you about it one-on-one if you want more information. You can contact me via email or Facebook.
Cardboard testimonies from Redeemer's WORSHIP::LOUD service last Sunday night. I'm so grateful for the stories of transformation that were brought into the light. Thank You, God! And thank you, sisters and brothers in Jesus, for sharing your lives with us.
Relationship destroyed by sexual abuse...
Relationship restored through Christ's forgiveness.
Dependent on alcohol...
Dependent on Christ!
Liked to rush God, to "make His plans"...
Learning to trust in His perfect timing.
Secure in His arms.
Didn't go to church, and I was lost...
I was found.
Childless. No hope for giving birth...
God blessed us four times through adoption. All of them love the Lord!
Angry at God. Hurt by Christians. Left the church...
Found by grace. Now I'm a pastor.
Lost: Daughter (16) in car wreck...
Found: Peace that passes understanding.
I used to have a very bad temper...
God set me free. I seldom get angry now.
Lost a father to suicide...
Finding peace in God.
Prayer ministry for expectant couples.
I don't have all the answers...
I follow Jesus - one day at a time.
Broken. Running from God...
Trusting God. Healed by the Healer.
Victim of attempted murder...
No more fear of death. I've been given eternal life!
Lost myself in a guy...
Found myself in Christ.
We were two...
Now we're one.
Angry and abusive...
Loving because I am loved.
Witnessed my brother killed by a car...
Found Jesus. Still healing.
But now I have a bunny!
Hiding behind a "perfect" mask...
Known, loved and forgiven "as is."
Search for love ended in abortion...
Found forgiveness and true love. Blessed with a family.
Crohn's Disease. Four years of pain, problems and pills...
Remission. No pain, no problems, no pills for seven years.
God is now the center of my life.
Best friend died in a car wreck (age 8)...
It brought us closer to Jesus Christ.
Busted ear drum...
Prayer for healing answered with complete restoration. No surgery needed.
Lost a best friend... who later had early sex...
Found everlasting friends in Christ!
My firstborn went to be with Jesus at age three...
I've got some more shows coming up here in Tulsa... Hope you can join me!
First I'll be singing with Sound Society (formerly Pandemic) for two show in July:
July 21, from 7-9pm, we'll be at Utica Square for the "Summer's Fifth Night" concert series. Details here.
July 30, from 8-10pm, we'll be at Riverwalk Crossing in Jenks as part of the Riverwalk Summer Concert Series. Details here.
And then I'll be doing a solo show (with Cheryl Bocanegra at the piano) at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on Sunday night, October 16 at 5:00pm. I'll be doing a mix of jazz, standards and show tunes. Mark your calendars!
I can't believe that I have a 16-year-old son. Didn't we just bring you home from the hospital?
Some recent photos:
Shua was recently accepted into a special program at Tulsa Tech for computer animation. (He'll start in the fall.) Anyone with connections at Pixar? That's his dream job and the reason we're constantly watching Disney/Dreamworks/Nickelodeon movies at our house.
A recent sketch:
Happy Birthday, Joshua. I love you, I'm proud of you, and I am praying for you to continue to walk with God through this life. As I often reminded you when you were small...
God made you; God loves you; God has a plan for you; God will help you.
Since I'm gonna be there, Tony asked me to do a few songs. So I contacted a few good friends, and I'm happy to announce that some of the old "Matt Nightingale Band"(Ugur Taner and Brad Ciraulo, to be precise) will be joining me to do some acoustic renditions of our greatest hits. :)
I'll be flying home to Tulsa on Saturday, so I'm already mourning that I won't get to really spend time with many people, but it's still such a gift for me to be able to come just for a night. Can't wait. Hope you can come out!
Oh, did I mention that all of this is for a good cause? Donations will be accepted at the door, and all proceeds benefiting Street Church - an amazing "church on the street" in Menlo Park. SO come bearing gifts, and expect to receive much in return. It'll be a great night.
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith. I trust in you: strengthen my trust. I love you: let me love you more and more. I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning, I long for you as my last end, I praise you as my constant helper, And call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom, Correct me with your justice, Comfort me with your mercy, Protect me with your power.
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; My words: to have you for their theme; My actions: to reflect my love for you; My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me: In the way you ask, For as long as you ask, Because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding, Strengthen my will, Purify my heart, And make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins And to resist temptation in the future. Help me to rise above my human weaknesses And to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God, And see myself as I really am: A pilgrim in this world, A Christian called to respect and love All whose lives I touch, Those under my authority, My friends and my enemies.
Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, Greed by generosity, Apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself And reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning, Courageous in taking risks. Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer, Temperate in food and drink, Diligent in my work, Firm in my good intentions.
Let my conscience be clear, My conduct without fault, My speech blameless, My life well-ordered. Put me on guard against my human weaknesses. Let me cherish your love for me, Keep your law, And come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing, That my true future is the happiness of heaven, That life on earth is short, And the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death With a proper fear of judgment, But a greater trust in your goodness. Lead me safely through death To the endless joy of heaven.
I always love the times of worship... Since I first started coming in 2001, I've been grateful for this little glimpse into the Kingdom. Many tribes, tongues and nations gather in unity and worship the Creator. It's really beautiful. Thursday night's communion service was particularly moving.
Great, diverse speakers. Where else can you hear Jim Perkins, Al Tizon, Laura Sumner Truax and Ray Johnston all in one week? I gotta say, though... I really missed Craig Gross, who apparently got a better gig - appearing on CNN that morning - and canceled us. Can't say that I blame him though...
Kris Causton and Lindsay Small were a hoot... Every day I roared with laughter. I know this loses something in the translation to video, and you kind of have to be a Covenanter to really get it, but still... Here's the first day. If you want, you can see the rest of them - plus speakers, music, etc. - here on the Covenant website.
Man, do I love my friends. Every year it feels like I'm coming home. In the crazy last couple years of my life, Midwinter has been a safe place in the storm, a place where I can always find people who really, really understand me. You know who you are, and I love you.
My workshop, "Better Together: Worship Planning in Our Diverse Denomination" was well-attended, and people were really engaged. It was so good to be together as worship pastors and leaders. Just to be together in dialogue is a powerful thing, and I think the relationships will continue over on our new Facebook site. Covenant worship leaders/planners/lay leaders, please join us! We're still deciding what to do with the hours of footage we got from the workshop, together with the five short films we made (OK, Luke Johnson and Joshua Havens made them). Maybe a DVD set? Maybe an interactive web experience? Maybe a worship curriculum?
Yes, we were snowed in. Chicago got the third-largest blizzard in its history while all of us Covenant pastors were snug and warm inside the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. I realized as I left the hotel on Friday morning that I hadn't been outside since Monday afternoon. (I must admit I'm already looking forward to 2013. We're having Midwinter in San Diego. My question: Will anyone attend ANY of the sessions or workshops?
Did I feel guilty, leaving Luanne and the kids to experience Tulsa's record snowfall and subsequent home-imprisonment? A little bit, yes. I wish I could have been here with them... But it was great to be in Chicago, too. And I'm so glad they were safe and sound. Power stayed on, they had plenty of food. I *do* think it's a little ridiculous that my kids haven't been back to school yet... We've already heard they will be out again tomorrow. That, my friends, makes NINE days in a row. Yes, you read right. NINE DAYS out of school because of these two snowstorms.
I continue to be amazed by and grateful for the Covenant... a denomination that truly emphasizes the authority of the bible and the need for rebirth through Jesus Christ... while at the same time boldly proclaiming the need for compassion, mercy and justice. This group of people practice what they preach. And as much as we poke fun of Gary Walter's "In It Together," I really experience it. And I love that we can agree to disagree on nonessentials... It's just that sometimes it's hard to see what is essential and what isn't. God, help us...
My new friend Nathan Albert put it this way in his blog, and I agree: "I realized that Midwinter is all about pastors pastoring one another for a week. Conservative and liberal; men and women; old and young; African-American, Asian, Latino/a, Caucasian. It was encouraging and affirming, challenging and thought-provoking."
Thank you, Redeemer, for letting me go to this conference. It nourishes me and prepares me for another year of serving God with you. Thank you, ECC, for giving me the opportunity tp present my workshop and making it all financially possible. I'm so grateful to be in it with you.
It's a busy time of year... Funny, I always think that "after Christmas" things will calm down a bit. I've started another online seminary class through North Park, Interpreting the Old Testament II (Poetry, Wisdom, Prophets... Job through Malachi). I'm only in my second week, but there is a ton of reading and writing. I love it, though. Even though I can't imagine how I'll get it all done, it's a joy to study the bible.
Then on Friday afternoon I'll be heading over to Indiana to be with my parents for a few days. I'll get to see my sister and brother and their families too, so that will be great.
So much is happening at Redeemer. We're in a period of looking at worship ministry and trying to discern how we can best meet the needs of our community while enabling God's people to worship in spirit and truth. I am praying for a real movement of the Spirit... Open us up to Your power, Your mission, Your desires for us, God!
So... I haven't had a lot of time to write here on the blog. I mean, can you believe I let a New Year come and go without commenting on the best music of 2010? I don't know... Maybe my priorities are changing or something. How about that.
Can't believe our son Jacob is 13 today! I love you, Jake! My prayer for you today:
Father, thank you for the incredible gift you gave to the world thirteen years ago. Jacob is an incredible creation, and I'm so grateful you chose to entrust him to us for a while. As he continues to grow, help him to see you all around him. Help him to know you more and more deeply. Help him to know how much you love him, and may he experience your presence in his life. Surround him with friends who can encourage his faith and support him in every way. Give him everything he needs and help him to be more and more like Jesus every day. Amen.