Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Easter!

What a wonderful Easter!
I'm stuffed with Easter dinner and Easter chocolate, and that happy kind of tired that comes from a long day of singing and socializing.

Favourite songs of the morning:

- Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble
- In Christ Alone
- Mighty to Save
- Jesus Christ is Risen Today

The beautiful flowers in this post were part of the glorious Easter decorations at our church. What a contrast to the starkness of The Stripping of the Altar. You may recognize the large wooden cross from my Maundy Thursday post.

An empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Lyric: Because He Lives, by Bill and Gloria Gaither

Happy Easter!!!!!

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ


Lyric: "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

This afternoon, we were invited to sing our Hymns and Their Stories program at a seniors home in Richmond Hill.

We were set up with a good crowd in an intimate room. The audience smiled and sang along. To celebrate Holy Week, we did a special set of songs, including "O How He Loves You and Me," "Because He Lives," and "In the Garden." Gerald sang the classic "Were You There" acapella - just beautiful.

After the concert, we spent a lot of time chatting with the staff and residents. They just loved the music, but it was more than that. It really felt like a time of worship. Several people thanked us for the 'service.'

I was going to try and find a evening service today to celebrate Good Friday, but between last night and this afternoon, I really feel like I've worshiped.

I'm in waiting ... I'm ready for Easter ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

Cross in the entrance of St. John's York Mills

Maundy Thursday remembers a night that started with ordinary things - food, water, friends, and dirty feet.

Our worship service tonight was simple and powerful. We participated in a ceremony of foot washing, and shared Holy Communion. The sermon reminded us that Jesus showed love to his friends, right up til the last moments he spent with them. We sang hymns of worship. And as the Gospel was read, we witnessed the powerful ceremony called The Stripping of the Altar. Each piece of decoration is removed from the altar area, preparing us for the starkness of Good Friday.

I sang Keith and Kristyn Getty's "Gethsemane" during Communion, and led the congregation in "Go to Dark Gethsemane."

As I reflected after the service, I thought about the intimacy of Maundy Thursday.

Good Friday is very public - the trials, the walk to the hill, the crucifixion. In each of these acts, you can feel the push of the crowds, you can hear them yell "Crucify."

But not Maundy Thursday.

Jesus meets in a room with his friends. They walk to the garden, singing. Jesus asks a few friends to wait for him while he prays alone. A kiss on the cheek...


Ready for Friday...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: Max on Life by Max Lucado

Max Lucado's latest book is subtitled "Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions." Drawing on letters and inquiries he's received over his years as a speaker and pastor, Max attempts to answer questions on the topics that concern us most: God, pain, family, prayer, peace, conflict, sin... you name it, it's in there. Each answer is brief (generally just one page), but full of insight and wisdom.

I love Max Lucado's writing. It's like you're sitting in an cafe, having this very open, casual discussion with a brilliant mind.

I would call this a purse book or possibly a bedside table book. You won't sit down and read it in one sitting, but it's good to keep with you when you need a quick page or two of inspiration.

Side note: My Dad has also published a review of this book! You can read it here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday!

Our day started with a vibrant Palm Sunday service at St. John's York Mills. Despite the snow, we gathered on the front steps of the church to welcome people, playing songs with acoustic guitar and mixed percussion. The best was "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna!" We played a vibrant mix of djembe, gourd, maracas, and various shakers, complete with an 8-bar instrumental breakdown. Great way to start the morning!

In the service, we had a true blend of worship team, handbells, choir, and organ. The music reflected the triumphant nature of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem.

This evening, we were scheduled to just sing one song at the Gathering service, but due to Monique's laryngitis, we were called in at the last minute to lead vocals for the service. It was kind of neat to just stand and sing with Gerald, sans guitar. The team was chock full - percussion, 2 guitars, piano, keys, bass, violin, and us on vocals.

For the first part of the service, we combined readings and music to tell the story of Holy Week. But the highlight was the baptism of Max. Max has been attending the Gathering for several months and has played keyboard on the team. He gave a testimony about the experiences that lead him to choose baptism in our church. The whole event was moving and beautiful.

As an intro to the baptism, we sang our new Agnus Dei. It was such an honour to have our song as part of this special event.

And now, we are officially in Holy Week. The journey has begun...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Infinitely More is on Facebook!

We've just started our new Infinitely More band page on Facebook!

If you're a Facebook member, please visit our page and click "Like." And we'd love it if you'd please share our page with your friends!

If you're not a Facebook member, you can still visit the page and take a look around.

Here's our page:

To start us off, I've added a photo album of our recent Worship Team Workshop.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: "The Sacred Meal" by Nora Gallagher

Of the books I've reviewed so far, this is definitely my favourite.

Part of The Ancient Practices Series (edited by Phyllis Tickle,) I expected The Sacred Meal to be a fairly academic book, and to my pleasant surprise, it really wasn't.

Nora Gallagher weaves history, tradition, and memoir to explore Holy Communion. Her writing is effortless, full of imagery, and at times, poetic. Even though she explores the practicalities of this universal practice, she keeps the ultimate story of Communion to be a personal one. How does Communion affect you, today, and in these circumstances?

In reading other reviews of this book, I found it interesting that a lot of reviewers would have preferred a more academic approach to the topic, and that's definitely a fair opinion. I guess, for a lifelong Christian like me, it can get easy to fall into the sameness of Communion. Nora's book reminded me that everything I do pre-altar can feed into my Communion experience, and likewise, my Communion experience can feed into everything I do in 'real' life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Video!

Yesterday, I wrote about our performance of Isaac Everett's Psalm 130. Thanks to Rev. Tay Moss, we have a great video from the service.

I've decided to use this video to kick off the new Video page of our Infinitely More site!

Please visit to see the new video!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Emergent Psalter

One of the things we love is receiving a cool creative challenge.

This week, we returned to Church of the Messiah where we were asked to sing Psalm 130 in the style of The Emergent Psalter.

The brainchild of composer Isaac Everett, The Emergent Psalter introduces a new musical style to the ancient art of singing the psalms. Isaac has written a simple, singable refrain for each psalm, and it's up to the musician to create the musical setting for the verses. On his podcast, he meets with different musicians who improvise until they create something they think works. The same refrain could be used to create a psalm setting that is gentle and reflective or urgent and rocking.

Since we were singing Psalm 130 in Lent, we decided to keep it simple but with intensity. For the verses, Gerald riffed on the guitar, while I did mixture of singing and speaking. Luckily, we got a great video of it, so I'll post a link to that tomorrow.

In this same service, we also performed The Wood Song, which we rehearsed last week. It went really well, and the addition of the extra voices and violin was a real pleasure.

This evening, we played for the Gathering at St. John's, which was awesome. We're nearing the end of our Lenten musical themes, and as we sang the final lines of Mighty to Save, I could feel Easter rumbling underneath, ready to break forth...

He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of Salvation
He rose & conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Hymns & Their Stories

A small sample from my collection...

Tonight, we presented our new program: Hymns and Their Stories. We designed the show to be used in seniors homes (which was our venue tonight), but really, it could also be used for any kind of gathering that needs a light, 60-minute musical presentation.

I love collecting hymnals, and I love finding the stories behind my favourite hymns. It was that love that inspired Hymns in the Key of Grace, and it was also the inspiration for this new show.

Tonight, we sang lots of favourites - "Be Thou My Vision," "How Great Thou Art," "In The Garden," and "Amazing Grace." We told the stories behind their creation, and encouraged lots of singing along.

We knew we'd hit the right note after the show, when staff and residents alike stayed behind to share their own favourite hymns and stories. If you'd like to bring Hymns and Their Stories to your seniors home or event, feel free to contact me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Church of the Messiah & The Gathering

Our busy weekend continued this morning with an awesome service at Church of the Messiah. We love visiting Messiah because they're very open to all kinds of musical voices. This morning, we lead most of the music, but we also had organ and choir for certain pieces.

Messiah's beautiful Sunday school room. The mural spreads around the room and over the ceiling.

For the Kyrie (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy), I decided to try something different. I took a very traditional setting, shifted the metre a little, and turned it into a round. I lead from the centre of the church, directing each side in their part. It sounded so beautiful!

After the service, we met with Laura and Betsy to rehearse for next week's service. Betsy has chosen an Indigo Girls song that she thinks will resonate with the congregation. The four of us will trade off on the verses, Gerald will play guitar, and Betsy will play violin. I think it's going to sound great.

Betsy and Gerald rehearsing for next week.

This afternoon, we met for the Gathering service at St. John's York Mills. Our friend, Susan, had originally been assigned to piano for the night, but when she showed up with her guitar, it changed everything. She's a great guitar player, so to have her and Gerald playing together was just awesome. Susan is also a songwriter, so after the service, we took some time to share some of our songs with each other. It was a great way to end a musical weekend!

Gerald and Susan, trading axes.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Worship Team Workshop - Sharing Break Forth

As you may remember, this past January, Gerald and I flew to Edmonton to attend the awesome Break Forth conference (You can see photos of our experience here.)

Our church generously provided some financial assistance for the trip, so as a thanksgiving, we organized a Worship Team workshop today to share some of the things we learned at the conference.

We started by sharing the basics of Break Forth - the enormous crowds of worshipers, the amazing speakers, and the freakishly cold weather. We gave the highlights of each class we took, and shared a few nuggets of information that we felt would be interesting or useful to our team.

Then, Gerald and I took turns teaching on one specific topic. I loved what Paul Baloche taught about our role to "minister to the Lord" and the practice of personal worship. I played a clip from one of his training DVDs that addresses this exact topic, and shared my notes and thoughts from the workshop.

Then, we broke the crowd into small discussion groups of 3 or 4 people. Each group was asked to the following 2 questions:

  1. What is one thing you do Monday through Saturday (ie: not going to church) that you consider an act of worship?
  2. Thinking outside the box, what is one new thing you could try that could weave more worship into your everyday life?

After 15 minutes, we regrouped, and each group shared one or two ideas that they found particularly interesting or inspiring. The discussions were spirited, and it was awesome to hear some of the new ideas.

After a short break to refresh the coffee and grab more snacks (it's a church event - of course we ate!), we gathered for Gerald's talk on songwriting. We don't have a lot of active songwriters in our group right now, but we have a lot of people who are interested in songwriting, so we're excited about nurturing and developing this in the team. Gerald based part of his discussion on Brian Doerkson's class "The Agony and the Ecstasy." He talked about the writing process, the challenge of writing songs that actually minister to people, and the power of a great idea. There were a lot of questions and some great discussion. Gerald shared our dream of starting a Christian songwriting group, where we could meet together to share songs, learn new skills, and encourage each other to write great songs for worship.

All in all, it was a great experience, and the feedback was very positive. I'm hoping to get some photos soon, so I'll let you know when they're up.

Searching for Spring...

Two days ago, it snowed.

On Tuesday, it might snow again.

So I'm celebrating signs of spring...

Tulips growing in my parents' backyard.

Sedum that survived the snow in our garden.

The seasonal aisle is selling grass seed instead of ice salt.

The only time of year I'm happy to see weeds in my garden.

Mom has put up her spring wreath,
a reminder that Easter is just around the corner!

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,

Song of Solomon 2:11-13 NIV