Category Archives: Personal
Last week Marci and I were finally able to take a week off and go on vacation, something we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years. Last summer we were stuck in a local hotel most of the summer (with people who were vacationing here) and I had a bout with Bells Palsy. All that to say that last summer wasn’t so great for us, vacation-wise. So we made sure to plan at least a week this summer to do something fun.
As we were considering options for our vacation week, we got the crazy idea of visiting our good friends Gary and Georgia Bell who moved to Belize (Central America) earlier this year. I checked on flights and the airfare wasn’t too bad so we decided to throw caution to the wind and just go. We had no idea what we would find in Belize (other than the Bell’s) since we had never been there before, but it sounded like an adventure.
And it was. We booked a first night hotel room on a Belize island called Caye Caulker. The island is small, reachable only by water taxi, and there are no cars on the island–only bikes and golf carts. We stayed at a nice little hotel and enjoyed the island atmosphere. We even went snorkeling with stingrays and sharks swimming all around us.
After a couple of nights on Caye Caulker, we headed to a place called Placencia which we heard had the best beaches in Belize. We took the water taxi back to Belize City, rented a car (a real clunker as it turned out) and drove about six hours to a wonderful hotel called The Inn at Roberts Grove. We stayed there for three days and just took that time to relax. We didn’t do any sightseeing at all but just stayed put and enjoyed the beach. This being the off season for tourism, we literally had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic.
After our time in Placencia, we drove our sputtering rental car to San Ignacio, an major inland city in Belize close to the Guatemalan border. Our friends the Bell’s were gracious hosts. We loved staying with them even though we found the heat and humidity somewhat suffocating. They have a very nice home by Belizean standards but it was not air conditioned. Thank God for fans.
Gary Bell has been a dear friend of mine for many many years. As a high school student, he attended a Campus Life Club that I led back in the 1960’s. Ten or fifteen years later, his graphic design firm was hired by Youth Specialties. When I started Understanding Your Teenager in the early 90’s, Gary did all of my graphic design work. He’s a talented guy and a committed Christian.
For several years, Gary has served on the board of a mission organization called Sparrows Gate and in January, he and his wife Georgia moved to Belize to work with children. They opened a children’s center in downtown San Ignacio called “Kid’s Corner” which offers homework help, tutoring and lots of fun activities for kids who need a place to hang out after school. They are also helping Sparrows Gate set up a mission home base for short term missionaries who come to serve in Belize. After visiting with them and seeing what they are doing first-hand, we are even more impressed with the work they are doing and amazed by the sacrifice they have made to pursue this call of God on their lives.
San Ignacio is also a wonderful place for tourists to visit, so the Bell’s gave us a tour of the area. We visited Mayan ruins (archaeological sites) and an Iguana preserve. We ate in some very nice restaurants and truly enjoyed spending time with our wonderful friends.
Sometimes when you plan a vacation like this one, there’s no way to predict how things are going to go. “The best laid plans …” and all that. But this trip definitely lived up to our expectations. As they like to say down there, Belize is unbelizable.
If you would like to see more photos of our trip, click here.
Just returned from another Huck Finn’s Jubilee in Victorville which is how I have spent Father’s Day weekend for the past 20 years or so. I have been involved with this event either as a performer with my band Lighthouse or as the main stage emcee or both. I also serve as a consultant to the show’s producer (helping with talent selection) each year and I host the Sunday morning chapel service which is where my two worlds (ministry and bluegrass) collide in a big way.
The festival went great this year with a large turnout and great weather. The idea of going to Victorville in June sometimes scares people away because they think it’s going to be too hot. But we have had moderate temperatures and cool nights for several years in a row now. The music was wonderful with outstanding performances by the likes of Sierra Hull, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Rodney Dillard (of the Dillards), NewFound Road and Roy Clark. It was also great to spend the weekend with my wife, daughter Amber, and our three grandkids Nick, Maddie and Jack. They all had a good time.
I’m always amazed and a bit conflicted that I get to live in two completely different worlds. Throughout most of the year, I’m a pastor, serving on a church staff, doing rather mundane (yet significant I hope) ministry tasks. But on a weekend like the one I just had, I’m not a pastor but a bluegrass music insider, radio personality, stage announcer, friend and colleague to some of the most talented musicians on the planet. I’m amazed by it all and grateful to God that I get to do this.
But I got a quick return to reality when I got home Sunday night. The water supply to our home had been shut off by our neighbor because of a pipe break at the water meter on the street. I spent all day Monday getting it fixed and somehow strained a muscle in my back in the process. But the repair was made, the water is back on and except for the sore back, life is pretty much back to normal. See you next year, Mr. Twain.
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.”
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?
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.
My sister Mary Rice Hopkins has been writing, performing and recording outstanding children’s music for several decades and now she has her own TV show which is aired weekly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Personally, I’m not a big fan of Christian television (or any television for that matter except for football games) but here’s a program I can recommend wholeheartedly to you and your family (and I’m being totally objective!) Mary always amazes me with her talent and passion for serving children and families with the kind of entertainment that teaches important life lessons and the truth of the gospel. It’s fun for me to watch her having so much fun with this new ministry vehicle.
Here’s a video clip posted on YouTube promoting recent episodes of Mary’s TV show: