We had a wonderful Easter this year. We’ve been celebrating Easter in our backyard for over 30 years now (way before we had a backyard to celebrate in) because we believe that nothing is worth celebrating more than the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15).
Easter was especially meaningful for me this year. It started with our Ash Wednesday event at College Avenue Baptist Church called “Journey to Golgotha,” which kicked off the season of Lent, the 46 days leading up to Easter, during which I try to observe each year with a fast of some kind and time for reflection and spiritual discipline. This year I read a surprisingly good book by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) titled Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection which unpacks the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. My brother Jim sent me the book as a gift and quite honestly, not being Catholic, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a sitting Pope. But this book was rich, touched my heart and gave me numerous insights into the Gospel narrative, harmonizing the four Gospels to provide a thorough commentary on the last week of Jesus’ life before his ascension.
Easter Sunday was a great day at church. As I usually do on Easter, I put on a coat and tie to wear to church. I know it’s old school (hardly anybody at church wears a coat and tie anymore) but for some reason I just feel like Easter is a day worth dressing up for. After I got all spruced up, our 4-year-old grandson Jack took a look at me and shouted out, “Mommy look! Grandpa’s a … MAN!” We got a good laugh out of that.
Marci and I volunteered to sing in the Easter choir (our worship pastor needed a few extra voices) and it was really great to look out at a full sanctuary while singing classic Easter hymns like “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” and “Christ Arose.” After the choir performed the song “Redeemer,” Marci and I took seats on the front row and listened to our pastor, Carlton Harris, who delivered an inspired Easter message on Matthew 16:13-20. Right in the middle of his sermon however, a cell phone went off nearby and in horror we realized it was in Marci’s purse. She fumbled around trying to find it, but it just kept on ringing … loud. I wanted to stomp on her purse and make it stop but I couldn’t reach it. Finally she found it and turned it off. After the service, Marci apologized to Pastor Carlton and thankfully he was very understanding and kind to her.
After the sermon, the choir and orchestra and other members of the congregation performed the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I’ve always thought that this was was (and is) the greatest piece of music ever written so I was a little nervous about trying to sing it. Usually I just sit (stand, actually) and listen and am always moved to tears. I’ve always wanted to sing it, however, so I decided to give it a try. I went to choir rehearsal on Wednesday night and discovered that I had no idea how to read that music. Since the choir seemed a little short on tenors, I decided to be a tenor. But the Hallelujah Chorus is an incredibly complicated piece of music and during rehearsal, I felt like a musical moron. I couldn’t find my part at all. So I came home a bit embarrassed and humbled.
The next day, however, I decided to see if there wasn’t some way I could learn that part by Sunday morning. I searched the internet and happily discovered a YouTube video which had the Hallelujah chorus with the tenor part only! I downloaded it, put the audio on my iPod and listened to it about 50 times Friday and Saturday as I worked around the house. Actually it was really cool to be getting ready for Easter with the Hallelujah Chorus playing over and over in my head.
I was still a little unsure of myself during rehearsal on Sunday morning … but during the actual performance at the end of our worship service … I nailed it. Hallelujah indeed!
We headed home right after church and finished getting everything ready for our guests who started arriving around 12:30. Most didn’t leave until 5:30 or so. there was lots of good food and good music and good fellowship with people we love. It was a happy day, perfect for celebrating the happiest day in the history of the world.
When I was two years old, my father made a recording of me on a 78 rpm record. I have no idea how he did this, since I don’t remember that he ever possessed a recording device that would make 78 rpm disks. Nevertheless, I do have a disk labeled “Wayne at age 2″ which was given to me by my mother in a box of old photographs and other memorabilia from my childhood.
I wasn’t sure exactly what was on that record until last year when I had a studio in town transfer it to CD. As I listened to it, I must admit that I got a little bit emotional. What I heard was my mother prompting me to sing the old gospel song “He Lives.” I had heard stories about me singing this song at a very early age, but I had no recollection of it. So this recording was a revelation to me. So, with Easter on the way, I thought I’d post it here with deep thanks to my mother and father for not only teaching me a song which I still sing to this day, but also for teaching me about Jesus who indeed “lives within my heart.”
Here’s a short promo video for the short term mission trips that we are doing this year at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. Marci and I will be leading the trip in June to Mexico (I talk about it a little on this video) and if you would like to go, we’d love to have you.
I’ve been reading Garrison Keillor’s latest book Pilgrims and as he usually does in his books, he makes me smile. I was reading at home this week and my wife Marci heard me chuckling out loud to myself and asked “What’s so funny?” I said, “It’s just a funny part of the book.” She said, “Read it to me.” So I read this passage to her:
(I should explain that the book is about a group of Lake Wobegonians who go on a one-week tour of Rome. At this point in the book they are eating pizza together at a sidewalk cafe. Marjorie Krebsbach, the tour group leader, is doing the talking.)
“The first time they served pizza for hot lunch at school, it was sort of like fried silage with chunks of boiled owl, and anyway none of us were used to it and by the time school was over and we went to confirmation class, we were full of gas. I remember kids sitting perfectly still in their seats, no leaning to one side or the other, but now and then some gas would escape and sound like a bassoon solo and we’d all smell it and look around and scowl so everyone would know it wasn’t ours. We were trying hard not to laugh, and when you try to hold a laugh in, it will explode on you, sometimes in the form of a fart. Which happened to me. I had my cheeks clamped shut and I was afraid this fart could explode and I would load my pants. And then Pastor Tommerdahl asked me to stand and read today’s scripture and I said, ‘Could I please go to the toilet first?’ and a couple boys busted out laughing and I stood up and read the verse about Pentecost in Acts, the second chapter, it says ‘And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.’”
“And I exploded. I boomed like a cannon and two big strands of mucous shot out of my nostrils and hung here like spiderwebs and I covered my face. The smell was horrible … “
I could barely read because we were both laughing hard, with tears streaming down our faces. I don’t know why farts are always so funny, but we were just howling as I read through these couple of paragraphs.
While we were laughing, I noticed a twinge of pain in my face during the laughing spell and for some time afterward I could feel it. It was the aftereffects of the Bells Palsy that I had gotten back in August. Bells Palsy causes the muscles in your face to go numb and atrophy and it takes a while to work those muscles back into shape. What I realized during our laughing episode was that the muscles in my face that I use to laugh hadn’t be exercised in a while. So like other muscles in my body that suffer from non-use, they hurt a bit when they do get used.
So it’s made me think: I’ve been trying to get exercise for the rest of my body; maybe my face needs some exercise too. Heard anything really funny lately?
Who or what is the most powerful influence on teenagers? Who do teenagers look up to most as role models? These questions (or questions similar to them) have formed the basis for dozens of studies on teenagers that have been conducted over the years. The issue of teen influence is heavily researched because marketers are well aware that teenagers control an estimated 300 billiion dollars per year of discretionary income. They also know that if you can sell a teenager on a brand or product while they are young, there’s a strong likelihood they will remain loyal for the rest of their lives. That’s also one of the reasons why I believe so much in youth ministry. Lifelong disciples of Jesus are more often than not called while they are teenagers. That was true for me as it was for a number of Jesus’ original twelve.
So another study on teen influence has been conducted (this one by the Barna Group) and the results of that new study were just released. The good news for me is that I won’t have to revise any of my teaching notes on this subject anytime soon. Well, I may need to update the clothing styles on the kids on our graphic at the right, but otherwise, everything stays the same.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been teaching and writing that the most powerful influences on teenagers are not (as some might suppose) the entertainment media and same-age peers. The primary influences on teenagers are (1) their parents, followed next by (2) their extended family (grandparents and other close relatives), then (3) caring adults like teachers, coaches, youth ministers and others who care enough to come alongside them in some meaningful way. This was not only true for me personally but it was confirmed by several studies that were conducted almost thirty years ago.
What’s interesting about the more recent studies on this topic is that researchers now assume the dominant position of parents in the pecking order of teen influence. That was not always the case. David Kinneman, who conducted the Barna reseach, explains that “parents were left out of the assessment because so many teenagers—particularly younger ones—have high regard for their parents or feel compelled to list their parents as role models. Previous research shows that mentioning parents is almost … automatic.” So the question teenagers were asked in this study was “Who, besides your parents, do you admire the most as a role model?”
Their answer? The most commonly mentioned role model according to this new study is a relative, most typically a grandparent. Next on the list—you guessed it—teachers and coaches. Way down the list (after people they know personally) come celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, musicians and the like.
When asked why they chose who they did as role models, teenagers responded by saying that these people “are always there for me” or “are most interested in my future.”
Who influenced you most when you were a teenager?
Slacker.com is a great internet radio station offering just about every genre of music for free, 24 hours a day. I listen to it on my computer in my office and also on my phone (Android).
Slacker is based here in the San Diego area. They contacted me several years ago and asked to serve as a music consultant for their bluegrass station.
From what I understand, that’s what makes Slacker different from other internet radio stations like Pandora. Each Slacker station is professionally programmed by someone who really knows something about the genre. It’s not programmed by a computer.
You can, however, create your own station by using Slacker’s computer. Just enter the name of your favorite recording artist and Slacker will create a customized radio station with music by your favorite plus others who are similar. You can skip songs you don’t want to hear or play songs over and over. It’s pretty cool.
Slacker is free, but the free version includes commercials. Pay a small fee and you can get rid of the commercials and do a few other things that you can’t do on the free version.
The bluegrass station is a sub-genre of Slacker’s “Country” station. Check it out and let me know what you think.