Archive for the 'personal' Category

Teaching, Preaching

Pastor Tim allowed me the privilege of teaching today at PUMC‘s traditional service while he’s taking a much deserved vacation with the family.  You can hear a recording of the message here.

I love Powell Church, period.  In so many ways the Lord has used these dear people to heal my heart and restore my hope in and for the church, but one of the chief ways by which the Lord is doing this is through Tim.  Pastors who will share their pulpits with the choir director are few, and even fewer when the choir director doesn’t have a seminary degree.  Thank you, Tim, for believing in me and for giving me room to grow and learn!  I am humbled by the trust you put in me.

Where the Lord is surprising me in all this is in how much I enjoy teaching when given the opportunity.  It feeds my soul in new and fresh ways to sift through a bible passage and craft a message around it.  I don’t know what it all means (if anything!), but I’m learning that this is a much-neglected plot of ground in my heart, ready for plowing and planting.  Who knows what God has in store?


What a Croc!

The Croc

The Croc

I love my Crocs.  The Lovely One hates them and thinks Crocs should only be worn by three categories of people:

  1. children who don’t know any better,
  2. adults within the 4 walls of their own house and not planning on seeing anyone for the day, and
  3. adults in mental or correctional institutions.

See why I love her so much?

Last week I popped a rivet on my right Croc while racing JP at the playground, and because I love my Crocs life got a little gloomy for a while.   The Lovely One smiled and said, “Oh, that’s too bad….”

But–oh, joy!–guess what?  The Croc people provide replacement rivets for free.  This thread at set me on the right path (click here for the form), and a dozen rivets are in the mail to me right now.

Sweetness.  I love my Crocs even more because the company takes care of business!  And because they gave me a reason to go to their website, I’m picking out my next pair already….

When I grow up someday

Back in the summer of 2005 I spent a week in Los Angeles with Stan Endicott, mentor extraordinaire for worship leaders and pastors across the country.  It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about me, leadership, and how churches work.

One afternoon we spent our time together talking about career and life pacing, and he wrote the following on the whiteboard:

20’s     Find your passion.

30’s     Get really good at it.

40’s     Do it.

50’s     Teach someone else to do it.

60’s     Start over.

This list came to mind this morning because 1) today I qualified for the “Do it” bracket by virtue of my age and 2) I often feel like I’m operating in the “Start over” bracket.  

Where are you in this list?  Does your life look like this?

On Conferences and Jubilees

I’m in Nashville for the rest of the week, attending the Tennessee Music Educator’s Association annual conference in conjunction with the All-State band and chorus clinics.  Ostensibly I’m “chaperoning” 3 of my kids who made All-State choir this year, but that’s akin to holding my yard accountable for growing grass.  They get a cursory check-in from me just so I can confirm they’re still alive and the lawn’s not on fire.

Last year this conference saved my sanity–I was in the throes of my first semester teaching high school chorus and not certain I’d survive the experience.  Getting away from the choir room and hanging out with fellow chorus teachers (many of whom were my classmates at UT back in the day) was so helpful and so refreshing.  It refilled my hope-bucket!

It reminds me of many, many Arts Conferences at Willow Creek that kept me in the game during my worship pastor days, so much so that I have to wonder if the main value of these conferences isn’t the content so much as the environment.  Being away from what’s “normal,” whether it’s schedule- or duty-wise or simply being in a different city, may be all it takes to reset the system back to hopeful joy in the “normal” flow of life.  

It’s a sabbath, a jubilee for people who don’t normally do sabbaths or jubilees.

I miss my normal, but am still so glad to be here.  Let some other people do the teaching for two days.  Let someone else lead the worship at Powell Church on Sunday.

I will simply rest and receive.

Until Monday….

100th post, or how to blow an entire afternoon

So I log on to write a post on something completely different and interesting only to discover that Vaguely Familiar already has 99 posts, and that the next one is the BIG one.  And if you didn’t know, the usual and customary thing in the blogging world is that the content of one’s 100th post should be limited to a list of “100 interesting things about me.”

As if the other 99 posts weren’t already all about me, anyway…

I’ll play along:

100.  My middle name is Paul, as is my dad’s and firstborn son’s.

99.  I visited the Soviet Union as a tourist in the summer of 1987 after graduating high school.  Just in time for it to go away forever.

98.  One of my earliest memories is playing the innkeeper in my preschool’s nativity play.  I had one line:  “There’s no room here,” and I blew it every time.  I remember that Casey Thornton played the donkey.

97.  I married my wife 14 months after meeting her.

98.  I refer to my wife as The Lovely One while blogging and twittering.  Not that she needs anonymity, but it’s more polite to address royalty by title.

95.  I just mis-numbered item 96 as “98.”  Well, I think it’s interesting!

94.  I have an engineering degree and can count backwards if I set my mind to it.

93.  Generally, I’m not allowed to paint around the house.  The Lovely One allowed me to roll the 2nd coat for this weekend’s bedroom project, and I didn’t mess it up (I think).

92.  The first movie I saw in a movie theater was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”  The Davises had to take the pickup truck to the theater because it was snowing like crazy that night.

91.  I don’t listen to music recreationally or on the radio.  It hasn’t been relaxing since I learned how to listen critically–my mind automatically begins analyzing and transcribing whatever I hear.

90.  The last movie I saw in a theater was “Four Christmases.”  

89.  I have decent music skills mostly because I was sickly and asthmatic as a kid.  Going outside at all was problematic, and besides, my little brother was WAY more athletic than me.  Playing outside usually resulted in either an asthma attack or being humiliated in basketball, tetherball, somersaulting, bike racing, ping-pong, etc….  

88.  Practicing the piano or trumpet usually resulted in praise and questions about why my little brother couldn’t be more like me.

87.  My little brother is still more athletic than me.  I’ve been ok with it for 2 years now.

86.  Since becoming a high school teacher, my sleep schedule has been completely messed up.  I wake up without any assistance at 4:30 am and fall asleep around 9 pm.

85.  I once lost 30 pounds doing the “Weigh Down Workshop,” which has the simplest premise possible:  if you weigh too much it’s because you eat too much, period.  Not “too much fat” or “too many carbs,” just “too much.”  If you only eat when you actually feel physical hunger and stop eating when the feeling goes away, you lose weight like crazy.

84.  My greatest aspiration while in high school was to attend the Air Force Academy and fly F-16s.  The asthma thing shot down that idea like a heat-seeking sidewinder at close range.

83.  I make a mean grilled-cheese sandwich.  Real butter in the pan, real cheddar on the bread, and garlic salt.

82.  I get more nervous teaching a class of 25 beginning chorus students than I do leading worship for 600+ adults.

81.  My greatest fear in high school was that I’d grow up to be like my dad.  My greatest fear now is that I won’t.

80.  5 books that changed my life #5:  A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLauren

79.  5 books that changed my life #4:  Worship Evangelism, Sally Morgenthahler

78.  5 books that changed my life #3:  Men and Marriage, George Gilder

77.  5 books that changed my life #2:  I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Josh Harris.

76.  5 books that changed my life #1:  Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, Barbara Brown.

75.  I attended a Christian school (Tri-Cities Christian) run by a consortium of independent Baptist churches in the Kingsport area from the 5th grade through the 9th grade.  Women must wear dresses, men must wear their hair short, rock and roll is of the devil, the Pope is the anti-christ, and despite appearances to the contrary, Baptists really are the happiest people on the planet.

74.  My eldest son attends Christian Acadamy of Knoxville, and even though I know it’s not the same as Tri-Cities Christian School, I still get scared for him.

73.  At the beginning of this school term I invited my chorus students to write down their final grade and turn it in.  Three students actually gave themselves B’s.

72.  Last time I cried:  January the 4th, while reading this article.  Thanks, Dean.

71.  Favorite special-occasion restaurant:  Ye Olde Steak House.

70.  I still have my pastor bona fides, and will officiate at April Love’s wedding this spring.

69.  Best marriage advice I ever got:  “When your wife isn’t happy about something, it’s your problem, and likely enough to be your fault.  Don’t sit back passively and expect it to get better.”

68.  I once took a summer’s worth of cello lessons, and a year’s worth of banjo lessons.

67.  One thing I want to do before I die is play Tevye in a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof.

65.  Favorite normal-occasion restaurant:  Calhoun’s.

64.  The most fancy thing I’ve ordered at Starbucks is Chai tea.  Most of the time it’s a grande Pike Place Roast with cream and 2 Splenda’s.  Why mess with that?

63.  The nastiest thing I’ve eaten is balut.  I tried it and finished the whole thing while in the Phillippines on a mission trip in the summer of ’91.  Serious mind-over-matter skills required.

62.  At West High’s holdiay chorus concert this past fall, I completely forgot to set out my conductor’s podium on the stage, and had to conduct the first set with my music sitting on the floor.

62.  I just noticed that I accidently skipped the number “66” in this list.  I repeated number “62” on purpose, though!

61.  I like to listen to Joel Osteen preach.  People who mock him and make him out to be a spiritual lightweight really irritate me.

60.  My dad grew up in Louisiana, so my favorite Christmas meal is seafood gumbo.

59.  I proposed to The Lovely One in Hyde Park, London.  It was the first Sunday in Advent, 1997.  She said yes.

58.  I almost didn’t propose to The Lovely One on the first Sunday in Advent, 1997.  We had an argument that afternoon and I pouted for a while before wising up and popping the question anyway.

57.  I come by my analytical nature honestly–my dad has a PhD in Chemical Engineering, my mom has a BS in Chemical Engineering, and my little brother has a BS in Mechanical Engineering.  We’re geared to be gear-heads.

56.  I grew up on a 16-acre mini-farm where dad kept 5-6 head of black angus cattle for most of my childhood.  Saturday was always steak night.

55.  I can’t roll my tongue or trill my r’s.  I can flip the r’s, but trilling is out of the quesiton.

54.  My mom can wiggle her hears.  Without touching them.

53.  My ears don’t do anything special besides grow hair in all the wrong places.

52.  The Lovely One can flare her nostrils at will.  Just ask her to show you–it’s a guaranteed laugh from me every time.

51.  One year for The Lovely One’s birthday I got her a pedicure at a local spa, and actually joined her for the fun.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

50.  Favorite Christmas gift this past year:  2 books in the Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series.  From the Lovely One, of course.

49.  I just finished my 3rd year teaching in Knox County Schools (the first 2 came before I took my first full-time worship leading job at Fellowship Church).  When the paperwork is complete, I’ll be tenured!

48.  I understand why tenure exists and why it’s important, but I think the school system would be better off without it.

47.  One year I decided to skip Valentine’s Day.  I wasn’t angry at The Lovely One and wasn’t trying to hurt her, but I was tired and figured it wouldn’t hurt to punt one year.  I won’t test that particular theory again.

46.  I tried my hand at insurance sales for 6 months in 2007.  I could sure enough sell insurance, but couldn’t make money to save my skin.  One of the top 5 bad decisions I ever made (trust me, there’s a lot of competition for the top 5 in that list).

45.  I used to cut my own hair.  In grad school money was scarce so I decided to take the time to figure out how to do it and kept at it until it wasn’t too embarrassing.  Handheld mirror, electric trimmer, scissors, and comb.

44.  The last time I cut my own hair was the haircut I gave myself right before leaving for London with The Lovely One (see item #59).  It might have been too embarrassing, after all.

43.  Best work advice my dad ever gave me:  “Sometimes you have to get up from your work and go home, not because you’re done, but simply because it’s time to go home.  You’ll never actually get done with work.”

42.  I used to be a fundamentalist in the classical sense.  Now I’m not sure what I am, but I am sure I’m not a fundamentalist.

41.  Greatest fast-food weakness:  Bojangle’s chicken and biscuits.

40.  My first DTR conversation with The Lovely One was more like a monologue, with me proposing that she and I intentionally spend time together “to see if God would have us get married.” 

39.  My second DTR conversation with The Lovely One was also like a monologue, with me proposing that she and I actually get married.

38.  The first time I kissed The Lovely one was after the second DTR monologue.

37.  I’m still amazed that she said yes.  I know, I know–most of you are, too.

36.  The first album I bought with my own money was New Edition’s debut (and self-titled) album.  The second was Petra’s Beat the System.

35.  My most frequently recurring nightmare over the past 8 years:  I’m guest-worship-leading at a church that is some strange combination of First Baptist Kingsport, Fellowship Church Knoxville, and Calvary Baptist Knoxville (building features from each, random people from each, etc.), but is located in Colorado.  I’m late getting to church, running into the building only to find out that they’ve changed the set list at the last minute because someone got the dates mixed up and forgot I was coming.  The band assures me that I know all the songs anyway, and they’ll follow my lead.  I’m introduced to the congregation, cheered, and left to wait for the first lyrics to appear on the screen so that I can start the song.  And in the silence I wait, and wait, and wait….  

34.  I haven’t had a nightmare since I started teaching high school.  I suspect I’m not getting a whole lot of quality REM sleep these days!

33.  I have a weakness for a computer game called Civilization.  If there’s a copy in the house, it’s a problem.  Right now there’s not a copy in the house.

32.  Someday I’d like to learn to knit.  I think it would do wonders for my psyche.

31.  The job I remember most fondly was my bagging gig at Kroger while in grad school.  It came at a time in my life when I desperately needed to learn lessons in humility and service.

30.  The Lovely One and I took a wonderful trip to Yellowstone back in the summer of 2002.  We drove from Chicago straight out to Estes Park, spent a couple of nights in a cabin there, then up through Jackson Hole and into the park where we camped for 5 nights.  We had to stop the car and gawk at the first buffalo we came across.  Actually, I had to stop the car…

29.  I’ve only been in one physical fight that I can recall–8th grade, and my buddies and I were teasing a classmate who was sitting with his girlfriend.  He’d had enough, and rushed up the bleachers at me for some reason.  I gave him a well-timed shove, he fell back and figured out that nothing was going to come of it, and that was that.

28.  I’ve read every last one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.  It seems my dad bought them while he was in college and kept them for years.  I discovered the stash while in high school and devoured them over 2 years.

27.  My favorite pop artist while I was in high school:  Howard Jones.

26.  I’ve been to Normandy and walked among the white crosses and stars of David in the American cemetary there.  Being an American is both an honor and a responsibility.  Everyone should feel the weight of our legacy.

25.  I was quite addicted to watching TV in my early childhood.  Our TV went on the blink in my 6th year and my dad wisely refused to have it fixed.  We went without one altogether for 8 years.  I learned how to read and play outside in those years.

24.  Lately I’ve become a fan of Tommy Emmanuel.  He’s the quintessential artist who absolutely loves what he does.  Joy flows from him when plays.

23.  I have a great dog.  He’s a Jack Russel Terrier, and his name is Biggens.  He’s seriously old.

22.  I like to play the “what I would do if I won the lottery” mind game, and look myself in the mirror and ask myself just why I can’t do those things without winning the lottery.

21.  I’ve never seen an episode of 24 on TV, but love watching the complete seasons on DVD.  It goes a lot faster when you don’t have to sit thru commercials and wait a week to see what happens.

20.  Nothing pleases me these days quite so much as coming home and seeing Elijah drop everything to run to me, screaming “Dada!  Dada!”

19.  I wish I were more thankful and appreciative.

18.  One of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen is the Blue Man Group in Chicago.

17.  Favorite broadway musical:  My Fair Lady.

16.  I’ve taken to shaving in the shower instead of at the sink.  No shaving cream or mirror, just bar soap and feel.  It gives me some extra time in the hot water.

15.  For as long as I can remember, my mom has made me a strawberry cake for my birthday.  It’s crazy-good and makes me feel very special.  There was one year when an ill-advised girlfriend called mom and told her that she’d handle the strawberry cake that year, and mom for some reason consented.  The girlfriend was gone within a month.

14.  This coming April, I’ll celebrate the completion of my 40th trip around the sun.  I estimate that’s something like 34 strawberry cakes.

13.  I didn’t know I could sing well until my senior year in high school.  The choral director found out from the band director that I’d taught myself to play the trombone over the summer, and he dragged me over to the chorus room by the ear and made me audition.  I made the top ensemble (the best 12 singers in the school).  None of my buddies believed me until they came to the concert.

12.  I’ve had two nicknames over the years.  Most recently, I was simply “B” while at Fellowship Church.  Before then, I hung out with a cadre of folks who all had alter egos based around the 100-acre woods characters.  I was “Pooh.”  Our manic-depressive friend was “Eeyore.”  Really.

11.  Best hamburger in town:  Litton’s, but you almost can’t get there from here.  Gridiron Burgers in Turkey Creek is adequate consolation.

10.  I love projects, especially if it involves building something.  Two summers ago it was the playset in the backyard.  Most recently it was pulling up the ugly tree in our front yard.  Something in me needs to see tangible evidence that I actually accomplish things in my life.

9.  Once I gave a talk to the College Class at Calvary Baptist titled “Worshiping God Without Ticking Off Jesus.”  The premise was that there are certain things that drove Jesus crazy, and those things show up in our congregational worship as often as not.  The kids loved it.  If I ever write a book, I have the title already.

8.  I can’t do anything half-way.  I’m either all-in or not even in the room.

7.  When I try to do something half-way to protect myself from disappointment, I get crazy and depressed.

6.  Going to see a movie in the theater is for me as much about the popcorn as it is about the big screen and sound system.

5.  My favorite joke:  Q:  What does DNA stand for?  A:  National Association of Dyslexics.

4.  I am abysmal at telling jokes.  People laugh at my telling of the joke and to deflect the uncomfortable silence after I blow the punchline.  They rarely laugh at the actual joke.

3.  I am funniest when poking fun at myself.  Self-deprecation somehow comes easily for me….  I suppose I have a lot of material with which to work!

2.  I am not allowed to dance in public unless it’s restricted to swaying back and forth.  It’s just too weird when I go freestyle.

1.  Favorite Dr. Suess quote:  Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.

Done!  Thanks for hanging in there!

Back in the Saddle Again (again)

I’d forgotten to mention that Powell Church streams video of the contemporary services on its site, including last Sunday when I led the worship.  You can watch it by clicking here.


  • 13:00–I break my D string and have to lay down the guitar for the rest of the set
  • 15:20–during my setup for the offering, I say to the visitors “This service is not for you” in an attempt to excuse them from the offering.  Brilliant.

Other than those two wee issues, I think it came off well!

Back in the saddle again, if only for one Sunday

I didn’t mention it at the time (or since), but Greg asked me back in Novemberish to fill in for him in Powell Church’s contemporary service.  He needed to be in Taiwan (check the link for details on his blog) and would need coverage Dec 28 and Jan 4.  I took the Jan 4 slot.

And it went well (discounting a broken string, but that’s how it goes).  I had dreaded the experience because it would 1) mean a tough morning doing the contemporary and traditional services, and 2) I hadn’t led worship with a band doing contemporary-style music in a long time, and wasn’t sure if I was up to it.

The surprise came on Saturday night as we were working through the opener “Seasons of Love” and I looked at my long-time friend Amy at the piano and said, “Dang, it–I miss this.”  There’s something about running a band rehearsal, feeling our way through a worship set that just thrills and energizes me, and I’d forgotten how that felt.  It was a good experience, and I’m sure to miss it.

Here’s the set (I’m covering for Greg, so I ought to follow through Greg-style, no?):

  • Opener:  “Seasons of Love” (from Rent)
  • All Creatures of Our God and King (Davis arrangement)
  • Everyday (Hillsong)
  • Love the Lord (Lincoln Brewster)
  • Enough (Tomlin)
  • Closer/Communion:  Take My Life and Let It Be

I especially loved having folks who attend both services come up after the contemporary service with puzzled looks on their faces, saying, “I had no idea you could do both!”  

Who knew?

Tweet, tweet….

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