Sunday, January 27, 2013

Break Forth - Day 3

Our final moments of Break Forth were filled with 
learning, friendship, creativity, and extraordinary beauty.

The bracelets are off. Break Forth is done for another year.

We studied "Songs that Impact" with Paul Baloche, and "Taking Your Worship Band to the Next Level" and "Harmony and Improvisation" with Sheri Gould. So much incredible information, and so appropriate for where we are now with our writing and worship leading. Sheri's harmony workshop was particularly awesome. Her approach to ear training and singing harmony was really effective and musical.

I think this is the year that we've met the most people at Break Forth. So much of today was filled with wonderful conversations with new and old friends. We met people from across Alberta, learning about their churches and lives.

At October's GMA Week, we met Natalie, a singer-songwriter from Edmonton. This afternoon, she and Gerald grabbed a guitar, found a piano in the hallway of the Shaw Centre, and started writing a song. They'll finish it over skype, but they definitely started something good.

Extraordinary Beauty...
There's been so much loveliness this weekend. Talented musicians making stunning sounds. Inspiring songs. Beautiful faces in worship. Bright sunshine, and laughter in restaurants. The closing worship session ended with a rousing rendition of "How Great Thou Art" led by Paul Baloche. The band created an awesome, joyful ending, and as the final chord lingered, Paul led the worshippers in one more chorus. Thousands of voices singing "Then sings my soul..." in glorious acapella harmony. Beauty beyond compare...

This weekend has been so full for us. We've learned so much already, taken so much in, and I know we'll be feeling the vibrations for months.

Full of gratitude tonight...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Break Forth - Day 2

Today has been long and awesome and I'm so tired I popped a couple of chocolate-covered espresso beans just to write this post. I ask for grace for typos and non-sensical jibber-jabber.

The morning began with a mass worship session. There's truly nothing like gathering with thousands of believers to sing, pray, and praise. Brian Doerkson led a beautiful worship session with songs of praise, love, and lament.

The message came from Francis Chan (author of "Crazy Love") and it was incredible. Francis is funny and passionate and visceral when he preaches. The message of creating disciples was simple but so very powerful. If I was planning this thing, I would actually have scheduled him as the last speaker, because I think it would have been the perfect message for people to have on their hearts as they return home.

The bulk of the day was filled with smaller workshops. Gerald attended an honest and powerful session by singer-songwriter Kari Jobe. Kari mixed practical worship leading advice with deeper spiritual messages of living in expectancy of God's grace.

I loved my Creativity workshop by songwriter Carolyn Arends. She took us through the stages of the creative process as it applies to songwriting. So full of things that I needed to hear right now.

I spent part of the afternoon in a "level ground" worship session with Brian Doerkson. The session was intimate and casual - in a hotel conference room, with the band on the floor level in the middle of a roomful of chairs. A few candles decorated the band area. Things weren't unplugged, but only amplified as much as they needed to be. Brian has been setting a lot of psalms to music lately, and they were beautiful and artistic. I found so much inspiration in this session.

We also got to do lots of casual things today - lunch with friends, buying new books and CDs, looking at the exhibit hall, and just enjoying the glorious sunshine.

Kari Jobe leading worship at tonight's service.

Tonight's worship session was led by Kari Jobe, and I'll just get to the point: awesome and wow!! I loved watching her lead. By the way she dances around and related to the huge congregation, you can tell she's used to leading worship in a big church. I loved that she and I both lead without an instrument - just a hand-held mic and our words. I'm a fan of her voice and songs and could just watch her for that, but the thing I love the most is her passion. When she sings, she's committed to the message of the song 110%, and that commitment is more powerful than any perfect note or artful riff.

One cool thing I've observed this weekend with the worship leaders:

These are the top of the food chain worship leaders on the continent, and yet, they're not all serving in famous, mega-churches. Kari leads in a big church, but Paul's church, by his description, is mid-sized and rural. Brian leads in a church plant and Andy Park is leading worship in a house church.

I guess this reminded me that, despite what our culture tell us, the size of your congregation is no reflection on the size, scope, and scale of your ministry and/or its potential impact. It's also an awesome testimony about following God's calling. All of these guys could be making mega-bucks in mega-churches. Instead, they've asked God, "How do you want to use me?" and then said "Yes" when the answer comes.

Oh, that we may all have the courage to say "Yes"...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Break Forth - Day 1

Today was so many kinds of wonderful that it'll be hard to summarize it in just a few sentences...

Break Forth opened today with the Worship Leadership Intensive. In past years, Gerald has done the songwriting intensive, but this year, we decided to do the same workshop, and really work our skills as worship co-leaders.

Kari Jobe was on the teaching roster, but a last minute illness delayed her flight to Edmonton. Songwriter, Andy Park, filled in, and the challenges began. Andy spoke on the topics of rejecting the ego-driven lifestyle, centring your life on the Lord, and worshiping God in the wilderness. It was the kind of talk where light bulbs were going off, we were scrabbling to write everything down, and six months from now, we'll still be making realizations.

Paul Baloche kicked off the afternoon session with his trademark good humour, and dedicated approach to worship. He interspersed practical lessons on working with your band, choosing songs, and creating flow, with the deeper issues of personal worship and our pastoral role as worship leaders.

The day ended with a panel composed of Andy, Paul, and Mark Hall of Casting Crowns. It could have gone on for hours and hours. So much wisdom and practical information.

Every once in a while, the room would be invited to sing. If you want a glimpse of what heaven might sound like, check out the most beautiful moment of the day:

The conference had it's awesome, huge, opening session tonight at the Shaw Centre. Thousands of people gathered for an inspiring time of worship by Casting Crowns, and a fantastic message by John Ortberg.

I was so excited to hear John Ortberg (and Casting Crowns, of course!) and I wasn't disappointed. From the simple start of "I'm going to talk about Jesus tonight," he took us through a 2000 year journey of how Jesus and the Jesus movement has affected every conceivable corner of our world - art, political theory, education, compassion, human dignity, and even champagne! The talk was simple, entertaining, meaningful, and super, super smart.

Can't believe this has only been one day! Looking forward to tomorrow!!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Break Forth .... Ready to Begin!

The worship leaders were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of workshops danced in their heads...

Break Forth begins in the morning!!!!

The view from our hotel window...

NEW VIDEO!! Wedding at Cana

This past Sunday night, we did something we haven't done in ages - Duelling Guitars!

Okay, technically we're not duelling, because Gerald is a wicked player and would totally win against my 3-chord playing. But we did pull out 2 guitars and put together a fun arrangement of my song, Wedding at Cana. We recorded it on my first CD, Real Big Fan, in a Jazz setting, but Sunday's arrangement was a little different, and we had a great time putting it together. Our best friend, Monika, joined us on harmony.

Happily, it was all caught on video! Here 'tis:

Please enjoy, and share!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to Edmonton!

The alarm on my iPhone started beeping at 5:00am. Yes, A-M!

My father-in-law was at the door by 5:15, ready to drive us to the airport.

A smooth 4-hour flight later, and we arrived in Edmonton, Alberta!

This is what greeted us:

We're here for a week to visit friends and attend the amazing Break Forth worship conference! Thursday night, we'll head to our hotel downtown, and Friday we begin 3 long, intense days of workshops, worship, and fellowship... and lots of caffeine!  

I'll be blogging every night, and posting photos and updates at
All our Facebook content is public, 
but if you're on Facebook, we'd love your Like!

Monday, January 07, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas

Thought I'd share my 12 Days of Christmas project! 

On each of the 12 days of Christmas, 
I drew the appropriate symbol from the song on our chalkboard.
We put up our Christmas cards around the board. 

Just a little festive fun to celebrate the 12 Days! 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Happy Epiphany!

Wise Men.

Today we celebrated the final moments of the Christmas season by remembering the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus.

This morning, we led the music at St. Philip's, Etobicoke. This wonderful church has become a semi-regular haunt for us, and we love it. The staff are open and creative, and the congregation and choir are welcoming and fun to be around.

We played our own arrangements of classic carols, but also debuted our new setting for Psalm 72, and taught the congregation our new Christmas song, Sing With The Angels.

St. Philip's has some great Epiphany and New Year's traditions, like writing a blessing on the door of the church, and having the kids bash a piñata while we sing The 12 Days of Christmas. They needed a little more music this time, so we did an impromptu version of All You Need is Love, and everyone burst out in song. It was a fantastic morning!

Father Al climbing the ladder and blessing the entrance to the church with the "holy chalk."

This evening, we had our first Gathering of 2013! It was great to have a full band, including violin. We did our groovy renditions of The Huron Carol, Go Tell It On The Mountain, and We Three Kings, including soloists for each of the 'king' verses.

Rev. Anne gave a great message on grace, inspired by Max Lucado's new book (which I reviewed a few months ago) and led us in an intimate Communion. It was a beautiful, refreshing time of worship.

It's been so great to have a little time off, but today reminded us of how much we love our work and how much more of it we want to do!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Sound Check...

Here we are getting ready for the 
Epiphany celebration 
at St. Philip's this Sunday morning...

Join us if you're in the Etobicoke area! 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Winter Wonderland

We've had piles of snow over the last few days, 
so I grabbed my camera and took a tour of our backyard.

You can see the collection of my favourite shots
on our Infinitely More Facebook page: click HERE.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

May your 2013 be filled with 
peace, joy, love, and great adventures!

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Lyric by Frances R. Havergal, 
written as a greeting on her 1874 New Year's greeting cards.