Fathers Day with Huck Finn

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.

 

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Mission Accomplished

I just returned from a wonderful week of ministry in Mexico with 25 College Avenue Baptist Church parents and their kids. We built a very nice new home for a poor family and we conducted four days of Vacation Bible School (VBS) in two separate villages involving more than 150 children.

Since I joined the staff of CABC as Pastor to Generations, this mission trip has been a dream of mine. I’ve participated in dozens of mission trips with youth groups over the years but have always felt like something was missing from them—namely the involvement of parents. Even though I believe in youth short-term mission trips and the powerful impact they can have on kids, I think they fall short just a bit. Typically when teenagers return home from a mission trip, their parents rarely understand the significance of what their kids experienced. (“Now, if you’re through changing the world, how about cleaning your room?”) I exaggerate here, but not by much.

So this family mission trip to Mexico was something I was really looking forward to doing for a long time. There is much processing and reflection that still needs to be done but so far there is a feeling of euphoria that makes me want to think this has been somewhat of a high water mark in ministry for me. Watching moms and dads serving together last week in Mexico was absolutely thrilling and I’m so looking forward to seeing how God will use this experience to change those families forever. One parent told me that his family has already decided to start serving meals on a regular basis at a local homeless shelter.

We arranged the trip through YUGO Ministries and stayed at their Ensenada Outreach Center (EOC) near Estero Beach. They set everything up for us and provided us with supplies, meals, the program for the week and very nice accommodations. One parent commented that she felt a little bit guilty staying in such a nice place while serving the poor. I understood completely what she meant but reasoned that since our trip was only a week long, it was such a blessing to have our needs provided for by YUGO so that we could concentrate on meeting the needs of the people we were there to serve. It’s a great introduction to the mission field and a wonderful ministry that YUGO provides for churches and individuals who want to be challenged and stretched.

The only negative of the week is that several of our people got sick. I don’t think all of the sickness was Mexico-related however. We were doing ministry during the week jointly with another group of families from Memphis, Tennessee, and apparently one of their families came to Mexico with the flu. (We started calling it the “Y’all Flu”). Fortunately, it was not too serious and did not hamper our efforts too much. But it’s never pleasant to be sick while you’re far away from home.

I posted some photos which I took on my Flickr page. Since I spent most of my time with the VBS team, they are mostly photos of our VBS activities and lessons. You can view them here.

If you would like to go on our next trip, just let me know! We’d love to have you.

 

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New Leadership for Youth Specialties

Youth Specialties is the ministry that Mike Yaconelli and I started back in 1968 to provide resources and training for people who do youth ministry in the church. I don’t think the mission of YS has changed much since I left in 1994 or since Mike died in 2003 but the leadership continues to change. After a few years as part of Zondervan (Harper Collins), it’s now in the hands of YouthWorks (headquartered in Minnesota). The “world headquarters” of Youth Specialties is still in El Cajon, just a couple of miles from my home, but that may change since Tic Long (who has served as president of YS for the past couple of years) is stepping down and passing the baton to Mark Matlock who lives in Texas. Tic just accepted a position at a local church in town as executive pastor.

I don’t know Mark real well, but I’ve had a few conversations with him and I like him a lot. He seems to get youth ministry–that’s it’s not it’s so much about being relevant as it is about helping students become lifelong followers of Jesus. He a smart guy, a good communicator and he’s highly regarded among youth workers from both sides of the theological aisle. I think he’ll be very good for Youth Specialties and its future.

Here’s a video that YS released recently to introduce Mark.

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A Positive Spin on the Ten Commandments

I have often talked to parents about the importance of writing family mission statements or family creeds to help pass faith from one generation to the next. Many children grow up in Christian homes not really sure about what their parents (or they themselves) believe. Last month I wrote an article for our church’s parent newsletter on that same topic. Here it is:

In the book of Deuteronomy, parents are instructed to “impress” the commandments of God upon their children (6:7). What does this mean? The word impress in the original Hebrew means to permanently fix or brand, similar to what takes place when a farmer brands his cattle.

So how do we brand the commandments of God on our children? Obviously we aren’t supposed to tattoo them on our children’s bodies. Our goal is to brand them on our children’s hearts and minds.

Let me suggest one way to do this. We can teach the commandments to our children not as a negative list of things they shouldn’t do (“shalt not’s) but as a positive list of things they get to do as members of your family and as followers of Jesus Christ. You might even want to rewrite the Ten Commandments especially for your family as a mission statement or creed. Here’s an example:

Our Family Mission Statement

  1. We will love and serve God, who first loved us and gave his Son to die on the Cross for our sins.
  2. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
  3. We will be ambassadors for Christ and share his love with others whenever we have the opportunity.
  4. We will devote special time every week for worship, prayer, reading Scripture and serving others.
  5. We will love and respect our parents, grandparents and others who care for us, teach us and provide for us.
  6. We will live in peace and harmony with others, forgiving those who wrong us rather than hurting them or seeking revenge.
  7. We will remain sexually pure and faithful in our personal relationships.
  8. We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we do.
  9. We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we say.
  10. We will be thankful and content with all that God has given to us.

Of course the best way to impress these things on your children is to live them out consistently at home every single day. I guarantee you … they will be impressed indeed!

 

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The Future of Bluegrass

In my recurring posts of youth in bluegrass music, I present the The Mizzone brothers, Johnny, Robbie and Tommy from New Jersey. They range in age from 9 to 13 and call themselves the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys (from a verse in Psalms). Pretty amazing stuff.

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Easter 2011

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.

If you would like to see some more photos of our Easter celebration (taken by Tom Cunningham), click here or on one of the photos on this page.

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He Lives

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.”

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Our Four Grandchildren

Here’s the latest photo of our four grandkids. Layla was having a bad day but she begrudgingly let us get the shot.

Nick, Jack and Maddie with Layla on top.

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Anatomy of a Bluegrass Band

This video clip seems to sum things up pretty well.

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Rice Family Photo Op

Guess where we took our family this week?

L-R: Layla, Janna, Maddie, Corey, Amber, Jack, Grandpa, Grandpa, Nick, Nate, Tamara.

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