Discussions of interest for worship leaders and teams

My relationship with my Father

Many of you know that my father had Alzheimers, and that I made him a “memory book” to help him keep, even for just a little while longer, the memories that the disease was robbing him of.  It worked…up to a point, and I am certain that, on some level, he enjoyed the memories that the stories and photos that I collected brought to mind. I was happy to do it, because it helped me to remember my father in the ways I wanted to remember him, which is important, as you will come to realize.

You see, while I loved my father very much…I also hated him.

Strong words, you say? How could I feel that way?

Its easy, since I have spent a significant portion of my life living a kind of “double life” hiding the deep, dark secret that my family dared not speak about.

My father began to abuse me sexually, when I was seven years old. That abuse continued until I was 16. Until I was strong enough to stop him…and I did stop him.

Do you have any idea of the pain and anguish caused by abuse at the hands of the one person in the world mandated to protect you, to instruct you, to instill in you the values that a good Christian man should have?

Do you have any idea of the questions that plagued my mind for years? It took years, and two different therapists, for Smitty to emerge with anything resembling a normal life, and yet…I did.

Digest that much, my friends. We’ll talk a little later.






October 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am back!

After years in which I visited several deep dark places, and tried to buy property there…I am back! Let me tell you…Its good to be back, and my friends, I have stories to tell.  What happened to Smitty? you are asking. Indeed…what happened to me? Well…

1) I got a divorce (against my will)

2) I lost my father (against my wishes)

3) I almost lost my mother (against all reason)

I would prefer to tackle each of these subjects separately, my friends, because each one is filled with much more than might be apparent from a simple surface view.  Stay tuned kids, and you will learn much more than you likel;y wanted to…but I am here…and I am glad you are too.


October 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What do you think?

Many of you know me as Smitty, from the Worship Community Forums, where I am a regular contributor. If you haven’t visited TWC, I highly recommend it. Its a community of Worship Leaders, and Worship Musicians from all over the world. The subjects discussed are very current, very relevant; and it is a very valuable sounding board when you have an idea about worship, or need help with an issue you might be dealing with. Recently at TWC there have been several active threads that I have been enjoying. One is about helping congregations learn to worship better. Another is about combining members of worship teams with different styles into one team. There are threads about instruments, about equipment, about A/V packages…trust me…TONS of info at TWC!

One of the threads that I have been the most interested in recently, and the one that both scares me AND makes me angry, is the thread that talks about the future of of modern worship.  

Have we painted ourselves into a corner? I have to admit that sometimes I feel like we have. If you aren’t too sure about that, head on over to google and find the vimeo video from Northgate Church, called “modern worship parody”. I laughed at it, and was both angered and saddened by it, because what it represents is simply the cold, hard, unvarnished TRUTH. If you disagree, I’d like to know where you have been worshipping in the past 15 years?

I said all that…to say this:

I believe that as Christians, and as Worship Leaders, we are dangerously close to losing whatever shred of relevancy we may have managed to cling to up to this point; if we do not immediately stop trying to prove our difference from the world, by emulating every part of the world.

What do you think?


May 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My First Fishing Trip

I have been, over the last year or so, slowly cataloging stories, memories, and anecdotes about my father. I am doing this for him, you see. My father is not gone…not in the physical sense. He has Alzheimers. I’m creating a “memory book” for him, because I want him to be able to touch his memories, and maybe hold onto them a little longer.

Probably my best memory of my father, and what used to be his favorite, was my first fishing trip.

I was seven years old, and to say that I was excited was a HUGE understatement. I was going to go fishing! For nearly as long as I could remember I had been fascinated by the mystery of fishing, and all the things associated with it. The smells, the strange and unfathomable equipment that was used, the preparation involved. I had many memories of my father coming home in the early afternoon on a weekend, smelling like a woodsy kind of mystery, looking pleased with himself and the world in general. He would be carrying all his mysterious “fishing gear”, and of course…the fish. The fish that my mother would lovingly prepare for him and for me, but would never eat herself. It wasn’t until much later that I realized she never ate fish because she did not like fish, yet she would take his catch, clean it, and cook it for him. I thought that was funny, until I recognized it for what it was…just another expression of her love for him.

 The night before the big day felt like christmas for me. I watched in awe as my father presented me with my very own fishing pole, with my very own “Creel” (the mysterious bag of the fisherman), and the crowning wonder…my very own thermos – a slighty smaller carbon copy of my fathers hallowed thermos. It was a heady brew for a seven year old. Almost more than I could bear. Not only was I going to be initiated into the mysterious rites of fishing, but I was also going to be able to not only drink coffee, but carry my own supply! Where before I was only allowed a small sip from time to time of the bitter brew, I would now carry my own supply, and drink whenever I wanted!

I went to bed that night, wondering how on earth I could be expected to sleep, only to be awakened what seemed like moments later, by my father. He touseled my sleep hair, and told me to get dressed, because breakfast was ready. I dutifully did as I was told, and stumbled into the kitchen, to find my mother fully dressed…with makeup on…cooking us a hot breakfast. I could see that it was still dark outside, and was stunned to learn that it was 4:30 in the morning! Having  just recently mastered the art of telling time, I was wearing my very first watch, and had determined the time on my own. Years later I would look back on this morning, and realize that my wonderful mother had had to get up at least an hour prior to me, in order to be fully dressed…with make-up on, and cooking.

 The drive to my fathers “favorite spot” seemed to take hours, but was actually forty minutes. After we parked the car, we hiked along the river bank for a few hundred feet, and…we were there. As dawn broke, my father was setting up my pole, and explaining to me each step of the process. He left the last magical step to me…putting the worm on the hook. I was proud of myself as I put the earthy smelling squirming night crawler on the hook on my first attempt. I beamed as dad called me a “natural”. Then he taught me how to cast. It was a fairly challenging operation, because the river (the Mckenzie, at Vida) flows pretty fast, so the trick is to cast up river, and then reel in as your line follows the current of the river down. I got the hang of it after a few attempts, and we settled in to a morning of fishing.

To this day I do not know how it happened, but I fell into the river. One minute I’m standing on the bank, and the next I’m struggling to keep mu head above water as the river begins to carry me away. I will never forget the look on my dad’s face as he realized that I was in the water, or what he did next. The thought flashed through my mind that my dad wasn’t jumping in to save me, only to be replaced by a sense of awe as I watched him sprint down the river bank, jumping over rocks and downed logs, ducking under low branches. The river was running very fast, but my dad was faster! He got ahead of me, and thred himself against a sapling at the river’s edge, knocking it down. “Grab the branches, boy!” he yelled. It wasn’t so much that I grabbed the branches, as it was that the current simply pushed me into the branches of the downed tree. I felt my fathers strong hand grab my jacket collar, and just as suddenly as I was in the water, I was out of it, wrapped in my fathers arms. I was scared and crying, and when my father held me at arms length to look at me to see if I was hurt, I realized that he was crying too. I had never seen my father cry until that day, and only on very rare occasions since. He hugged me tightly again, and then swept me up into his arms, and carried me away from that place.

I remember protesting as I watched my father carry me past the place where his fishing gear lay discarded. He carried me past without a second look. “hush, boy” he said, “I’ve got whats important”. he carried me straight to the car, and drove me straight home. I remember the look on my mothers face when we came through the door. My father told her the story. She cried, he cried, I cried. She yelled at him like I had never heard her yell at anyone, and he took it…without a word.

Being very practical, my mother sent me to the YMCA for swimming lessons a few months later, and I recall being the proudest newly minted eight year old there, because as I graduated from swim class, my father was next to me, graduating with me. You see, after serving 14 years in the Navy, my father had never learned to swim.

Looking back on that day, and the days that followed, I realized that I had been given a very precious gift. See, I learned, at a much younger age than most men learn, that my father isn’t superman. That fact didn’t dissapoint me, rather, it brought us closer, and helped me to realize that I could really be anything that I wanted to be. I had a lot to live up to, and did, but nothing like the expectations that most men place upon themselves.

My father is not superman, but no less a hero.


November 23, 2009 Posted by | In general | 2 Comments

Checking In, Part Two

I was literally at my wit’s end. Having done ALL the things I was supposed to do, I was beginning to suspect that I would never work again, and never be happy again. Just imagine, for a moment, how you would feel after:

Spending hours every day sending resumes and cover letters via computer or fax to businesses you had either found on your own , or been referred to.

Spending time and gas money driving to every business you could locate, in a hundred mile radius, to apply for whatever position might be available, often for a lesser wage than you had previously earned.

Keeping track of your progress, or lack of it, you realize that you have, in just under two years, applied for three hundred and fifteen jobs, emailed more than four hundred resumes and cover letters, been on fifty-one interviews, attended six job fairs, and had taken two classes to improve your skills. You further realize that during this same time, you have had your vehicle break down twice, you have had to replace your water heater, your dryer, your dish washer.

During this same time period, you leave the worship team you used to love, and the church you used to love…because you can’t stand the place any more. You become one of those people you used to despise…a “church dater”. You watch as your father, diagnosed with Alzheimers several years ago, suddenly begins the rapid downhill spiral into oblivion. You watch as your brother, a nice christian man with his own family, cuts himself off from you and his parents, leaving you and only you to assist your elderly parents in each and every way they might need assistance. He can’t be bothered to help out, not even a little bit.

Then…you get this email. It’s from the state of Oregon. Now since you receive unemployment insurance from these people, you can’t ignore this email. You read the email, and it is telling you about a job. This job pays very well, and you have the skills necessary to be successful at it. You follow the directions contained in the email, knowing in the back of your mind that this is the 316th job you have applied for, and finding it very hard to get even a little excited about it.

The application leads to a phone interview, which goes very well. The phone interview leads to an in-person interview, which goes even better. Two weeks after the interview, I get a phone call, and…a job offer!

Now, you need to know that throughout this entire process, I KNEW that God was in control. You can be sure that I had many questions, many doubts, many sleepless nights, and probably more than my share of worries. Deep down, though…I knew that God “had my back”.

Whats my proof?

When I return to work, on November 24th, I will go back with a raise, better hours, better benefits, AND I will be starting the new job EXACTLY two years TO THE DAY that I was laid off from the old one! God didn’t just provide me with a job, He provided me with my DREAM job!


November 21, 2009 Posted by | In general, Worship Leader Blog | Leave a comment

Checking In

Those of you who follow my blog have no doubt noticed that I haven’t been here for a while. There are reasons for my absence.

In the past few months, I have been in a fairly dark place. I have not been feeling any joy, or satisfaction in what I do. The reasons for this are almost entirely economic.  I have been without full time employment for more than a year, my wife without full time employment for more than five months. Pam and I receive unemployment insurance assistance from the state of Oregon, and I have worked a couple of consulting  jobs during this time, but the bills continue, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope that things are going to get better anytime in the near future. I have emailed HUNDREDS of resumes, filled out at least a hundred job applications, been on at least fifty interviews, and…nothing. Its more than a little frustrating. I live in Oregon, where the unemployment rate is currently 12.5 percent. In Oregon, I live in Lane county, where the unemployment rate is 15 percent.

Now, before I go any further, just let me say that I KNOW that God is in control. I know that He has a plan for me, and that His plan is far superior to anything I could ever hope to devise. I know that, and I believe that.

Couple my current economic worries with my dis-satisfaction about the worship team I currently serve on, and where I am NOT the worship leader, and we begin to shed some light into my dark place.

I am not happy, for many reasons, with where I am at. I will share those soon. For now, I just wanted you to know that I am still here, and will be here.


God Bless you all



May 5, 2009 Posted by | In general | 3 Comments

Visiting other churches, part two

It was close to four years ago that I moved back to Oregon from Washington state. I was single at the time, and looking for a new church home. I visited several churches in and around my new/old “home town”. One of the churches I visited  was a newer church, but housed in the same building as the church I was baptised in thirty years ago! I was greeted warmly as I entered the main building, and got a nice firm handshake. Another person asked if I was a coffee drinker, and asked if they could get me a cup. A THIRD person handed me a bulletin, introduced themself, and shook my hand again. Wow! this is going well, I thought to myself.

I made my way into the sanctuary and found a seat. The sanctuary, while not huge, was large enough, painted stark white, with natural wood trim. There were potted plants, and some ficus trees. The church had no pews, opting for plush chairs instead, and they were comfy. As more folks made their way into the sanctuary, the worship team went to the platform. No suits and ties, these guys and gals were wearing  jeans and shirts, casual but clean. being a musician, I pay special attention to this stuff, and watched with interest as they tuned their instruments, and then had a short “huddle ” prayer.

As they started playing, I became very interested, and was very impressed. Two acoustic electric guitar players, a bass player, a drummer, and a keyboard player, and everybody sang. The two guitarists traded lead vocals. One of these was a female. There was also a female playing keyboards. The vocals were very good, and the harmonies were tight. Both guitarists were better than average, and their playing styles complimented each other, and the music. The bass player played a good steady bottom line, but took a fill every so often. The drummer played rock solid, and the keyboardist played solid parts without being too busy.

The service was contemporary, and they played several popular worship songs, and a few that were “radio current”. I was really enjoying myself, and so was the congregation. Transitions between songs were seamless, and there was just the right amount of talking in between a couple of the songs. I had to talk to these people after the service, and find out what they did, because whatever they were doing…it was working!

When the service was over, I made my way up to the platform. I introduced myself to the worship leader, a nice guy named Chad. We chatted for a few minutes, and I asked him point blank how he was able to get the quality that he and the worship team produced. I’ll never forget what he told me.

” We have a lot of fun together” he told me, “we do stuff together away from church, twice a month. We have played together for a while now, and we work hard at what we do – we rehearse twice a week, and then an hour on sunday mornings. Most of us take lessons, because we love this.” He went on to tell me about how they audition prospective team members, and the reasons why they did it the way they did. I was impressed, both because what he said made total sense, AND because he backed up what he said with scripture.

I had another opportunity to visit that same church last year, and was pleasantly surprised to see three of the five musicians I met still on the platform. If anything, these guys had gotten even better!

Love the Lord, love your instrument, learn them both!

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Worship Leader Blog | 1 Comment

Doing the “Shuffle”, Part Three

Why are so many worship teams, at so many churches out there, doing the “shuffle”? Remember, I told you I could asnswer that question with a single word.

Vision. Vision is ALL that separates the majority of worship teams out there, who ARE NOT doing so well, with the minority of worship teams out there, who ARE. Vision, or, more properly, the  lack of it. 

Keep in mind that the vast majority of worship teams are composed of volunteers – people who aren’t getting paid to play, people who nearly always have very full lives, and busy schedules, but who play because they love it, and because they love God. I have nothing but respect for these people, and their desire to worship God and to draw others into that worship. I don’t have such high regard for those who lead them, though. Usually these teams of volunteers are led by a worship leader who is a paid staff member at the church they atend – but sometimes that worship leader is a volunteer as well.  Given this set of circumstances, it is easy to see how the “shuffle” concept comes into play. Many worship leaders simply do not want to rock the boat…any boat…for any reason. They fear pushing their teams toward excellence, even though the scriptural basis for excellence is well documented. If they demand or desire excellence, then they have to be excellent themselves, in order to avoid being called a hypocrit, and the sad fact is that there are just not that many worship leaders out there who are any better than passable on their instrument of choice. There are some, to be sure, but not nearly enough.

Because they are mediocre players, they only require mediocrity from the rest of the team, and that is exactly what they get. Mediocrity. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.

Guess what? “good enough” ISN’T good enough!

February 13, 2009 Posted by | 1 | 1 Comment

Doing the “shuffle”, Part Two

“We intend to keep one foot in the past, and one foot in the future”. On the surface not a bad sounding statement, right? But what does it mean? Think about the statement for a minute. “One foot in the past, and one foot in the future.” How does that work exactly? I mean, I own a watch, the second hand never stops moving. In other words, the future is getting further and further from the past, every second of every day!

Try this excercise right there, wherever you are at this moment. Stand still, and slowly and steadily move your feet further and further apart. Keep going, I’m trying to prove a point here. How long before you lose your balance, and fall over? Not very long, huh? Point made. “keeping one foot in the past, and the other foot in the future”  is a position, and a philosophy, that is impossible to maintain. Remember what Christ said about serving two masters?  

But wait, there’s more.

“keeping one foot in the past, and the other foot in the future” would seem to imply that where you have been is equally as important as where you are going. Now, before I go any further, I want to say this: Respecting your heritage is right and proper. Learning from past mistakes is natural and beneficial. Paying homage to where you came from, from time to time, is a very good thing to do. However, it is FAR more important to know where you are GOING, than to know where you have BEEN. Need proof? Let me ask you a question. When you drive, do you keep your eyes on the rearview mirror? Of course you don’t! It’s FAR more important – and safer! – to know where you are going, rather than where you have been.

You might be wondering why I chose to call this short series of blogs “doing the shuffle”. The “shuffle” is what I call it when I see a worship team perform at the level that the worship team at the church in question performs at – sub standard. Like they are just shuffling along. No life, no joy, no impact, no spark, no nothing! I have to tell you, the worship team at this church is not the only one doing the shuffle. I have visited many churches in the past few years, and there are many out there just shuffling along. Of course, there are also many out there with a dynamic, growing ministry. Why do some churches succeed where so many others fail? The answer can be summed up in one word.


What is this vision? More importantly, how can you find it for yourself?

Stay tuned…

February 7, 2009 Posted by | 1 | Leave a comment

Doing the “shuffle”, Part One

Okay, so by now most of you know that I approached my old church, about the possibility of doing a worship workshop for them. I told the new pastor and his wife, who is also the new worship leader there, that I would be happy to help, in any way I could. So far, so good, right?

It was at that point that things started heading south.

At first she/they want some help, and then they don’t…and then they do…and then…they don’t.

Curious as to what the thinking behind the decision(s) was, I exchanged some emails with the worship leader. I magine my surprise when I read that the vision that she and her husband (the pastor) have for that church is to “steer away from any kind of streamlining, or corporate worship” process. What was that? Steer the church AWAY from corporate worship? I read my bible, and I’m sure that my bible says that corporate worship is MANDATED.

Are they kidding? This is the same church that FIRED their worship leader at the height of the most dynamic growth curve in the churches history, growth that was due in no small part to the very man they fired. The same church that then lost more than half their membership in a matter of weeks. The same church that then hired a young and inexperienced worship leader who literally drove most of the remaining worship team, and a good chunk of the congregation, away. The same church who then replaced HIM with a young woman who was partially DEAF. The same church where the worship experience, musically and otherwise, is just pathetic, and has been for several years. I swear to you, I am NOT making this up!

When I asked for further clarification, she responded that what they intend to do is to “keep one foot in the past, and one foot in the future” Okay. That is a nice sounding sentence, but what does it really mean? I will tell you what I think it means in my next few posts, and explain why I disagree with the statement.

More to come…

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Worship Leader Blog | Leave a comment