Archive for the ‘worship’ Category


Together we praise, together we love, together we praise.

August 21, 2009

Imagine you are at Starbucks, (or Peet’s or wherever) and you are in line waiting to order your favorite mix of coffee and sugar, when then the guy behind you starts singing. You don’t think too much of it, and can’t quite make out the song but you don’t turn around. Then someone else in line joins in, along with a couple of people seated around the tables. Now it’s just plain weird and you are looking for the hidden camera.

 And yet, every Sunday, we come together, and we sing. Why? It is normal in our culture for people to consume music. It is normal in our culture to see people with headphones on, listening to a song only they can hear and walking to their own beat. What’s abnormal is for us to share music, to participate in it together. And yet, every Sunday, we come together and we sing.

 Here are some genres of music listed on the iTunes store: alternative, blues, Latin, hip hop, electronic, reggae, country, R&B, pop, rock, soul, classical etc.

 And yet, every Sunday we may give up our music style of choice and sing songs together. Can’t we just praise God on our own? Ps 92 says “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High”. Can’t I just do that in my car? We all like different music anyway, what’s the point of coming together and singing?

 As a church we state the importance of caring for one another and we give effort and energy dreaming about how we will love our community well. We hear sermons about serving the poor. These things are easier to discuss than actually achieve.

 But here’s a beautiful reality: when we have a foundation of consistently joining together in praise, we can accomplish anything together. When we sing together, when we praise together, we enter into a shared experience. This experience is not about the style of music, whether it’s classical or rock, or even whether or not I have a voice. It’s about the space we enter into together, a space where we are reminded that there’s a bigger story than our own, His story, and that this world doesn’t revolve around us as individuals, but around God. This is a space where music and praise moves from “mine” to “ours” and from observation to participation. We submit our individual voice to the collective voice of community, and in the process we learn to submit our individual actions of love and service and combine them in a multiplied expression that has a greater impact on each other and the community.

One of the beauties of community is how we carry one another. Maybe today I don’t feel like singing. Maybe today I don’t feel like I can even lift my head or open my mouth to utter a word of praise. Maybe it’s all I can do just to drag myself to church. But in community, my brother and sister to my left and behind me and in front of me can sing for me. They express to God what my heart longs to but cannot do on my own.

And maybe today I can’t see past myself to love another or serve someone. But my brother and sister reach out to me and lift me up and their example spurs me into action.

Together we praise, together we love, together we serve. It’s a gift, it’s beautiful, and I honestly dream that we continue to gain much, much more of the shared experience of living life together and praising together.


The “feeling” of worship.

August 3, 2009

 I confess as I write this, I don’t have this figured out by a long shot. I hear or read these kind of statements A LOT, and it sounds proper and Christian like to say things like “Worship is not a feeling”, or “We should seek God not an emotional high”.

Then the other part of my brain and experience says to me, that there is a “feeling” and “emotion” connected with experiencing the presence of God. Maybe that’s just me? Does it make it not real or cheapen it somehow if I have some sort of emotional high either in a church service or in my car or in my home? Can we experience a strong emotion or be moved to tears devoid of an actual interaction with the Holy Spirit? Sure. And we should definitely check ourselves constantly to make sure what we are “seeking” is truly Christ, and not just an emotional experience. But can we have strong emotions and be moved to tears because of being hit with the truth or reality of His presence and who He is. Of course! And if I’m being truthful, (why is it scary for me to say this) I LOVE THE FEELING!!!

I believe it is not my place to judge the experience or heart or motivation of a worshipper of Jesus Christ. As a worship leader, it is my role to encourage people to praise Him, to seek Him, to honor Him, both in a 20 minute time block on Sunday morning, but also with their lives at all times. But I am not scared of the emotion, or feeling that can be associated when it is based on the truth of His presence and reality. I can worship God; when I’m depressed, when I’m elated, when I’m joyful, when I’m full of sorrow, when I’m frustrated, when I’m mad, when I’m optimistic, when I’m cynical, when I’m filled up, when I’m empty, when I’m feeling deep, when I’m feeling shallow. I don’t have to turn into some sort of emotionless robot to truly seek God. Do I? Isn’t where I base my emotions the most important thing?

 Psalm 126 1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,[a] it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.


Weekend Worship Awards July 26th edition

July 27, 2009

Side effects from reading weekend worship awards may include dry mouth, leaky ears, parched eyes, and floppy underarms.

Should not be read in conjunction with working or driving or sleeping.

No cash value for any award won. 

Awards chosen by an official member of management team at Sunset Presbyterian Church, but not voted on by any other member of said team.



You knew this was coming, but really, who was that guy on acoustic guitar with the GQ haircut??  He sounded a lot like Tyler Braun, but 24 hours later he remains a mystery.



This award goes to the player who most brings the soul, the passion, the funk, the edge to a service, and this week it has to go to Rhett Lee.  Several times during the morning I thought “Wow!!! Rhett is BRINGING IT!”



In addition to a thousand details running in her head at any given moment…she still manages to bring her smile and heart to the platform and sing in the worship choir.  Nice job Janet Fraser.



Me, trying to do announcements.  It’s kind of like watching my two year old try to jump.  She gives it a great effort…but her feet never really leave the ground.



Goes to Steve Schroeder and Laura VanderGiessen, who served both in the morning and the 6pm as well.  (along with Janet and some crew!)



I have two.  Looking out and seeing tears all over the congregation and hands raised throughout worship in both services.  And anytime I took the mic away from my mouth and heard the worship choir belting it out.



12:10.  Didn’t want yesterday to end.


Sincere thanks to the entire team.  Just a sweet weekend, from Thursday all the way through.  I was most encouraged by a strong sense several times that the Holy Spirit was doing His thing and we were along for the ride.  Those are some of the most precious moments we can share together.  Thanks for being such an awesome group of people to serve with.




Weekend Worship Awards 7-12-09

July 12, 2009

The following awards are voted on by session, executive session and select members of the Troutdale City Council (You may have seen them on public access cable, channel 11)

If you won an award below please know it has a cash value of .00000000000001 of one cent, so please just keep the award for your own enjoyment.


Best Howard Jones impersonation(s).  This award goes to Phil and Nick, both of whom may not know who Howard Jones is, but he usually had about 9 keyboards in his concerts and somehow played them all. 

 Most consistent action

Goes to my dad who seems to leave his glasses on the bass amp every single time he plays, and did so again. (I’ll get him this week dad)

 Best glasses

Speaking of glasses, Julie Reid won this award on Thursday with her pair, but failed to wear them again on Sunday which almost disqualified her from the award.

 Flying Blind

Goes to William, who did not let playing in a virtual black hole let him skip a beat from the platform.

 Most Creative

Goes to the vocals on Potter’s hand.  Our use of words with a combination of molding, using and filling kept the congregation on their toes and engaged throughout.

 Coolest Silhouette

Goes to Sam, who looked really really cool with the back drop behind him.  I know for a fact he wasn’t even trying to win this award, but you earned it nonetheless Sam.

 Best Makeover

Goes to Wayne, who showed more skin on his face than we have seen in a while.  Good look Wayne. 

 Best last minute changes

Goes to Janet, who improved our set and flow greatly and caused us to have to think on the fly more than usual.

 Best use of a non working mic.

I’m not sure anyone has won this award twice in one morning until now.  Way to go Mike Giering!!  A new record.

 Awesome job Andrea and Julie and Tyler on your leads, great vocals this weekend.  Thank you Susannah Mars for giving it your all on that song which was a HARD song!!!  Thanks Phil for all your extra work playing such a key part in that song coming together.

 We definitely had some interesting moments in the flow, which is really on me, I should have made sure Ron was more informed on the flow for both services.  Mental note for next time.  But overall felt like it was a great morning with some really great moments. Thank you so much for all your effort, dedication, heart and soul you put forth each time you serve.  Thank you also every behind the scenes person who does all the technical work to make the morning fly and does all the hard technical work to complete the morning. 

 Until next time friends. Have a good Sunday.


Weekend Awards Father’s Day Edition

June 22, 2009

The following awards are real and recognized in Troutdale by me and certified by official electronic email transfer as well as posting to an official Web Log.


New guy award.  This one was tough, really tough.  I think what made it so challenging is there were two new guys, Dustin and Steve.  In the end it was a split decision. 

Thanks to both of you for bringing it, and joining our team!  Can’t wait to have you back.


Best drama/skit/sketch  Even though this one was easy because there was only one, I have to say I was SO impressed with the how well you all acted!!  Ben please have me over sometime to watch a football game.  Loved your passion.  You all put in some work not only memorizing but in your delivery, and it showed.  And it really helped break up Ron’s sermon in a good way and keep people engaged.  Nice work Daphne and Dania on that script.


Hardest on the equipment  I keep wondering why this should be a reward, seems counter productive.  This one goes to Dustin for almost breaking Ben’s record for pulling the aviom down.  One more Dustin and you would share the title.  But you will have to wait a while it looks like to get another chance at it.  Maybe you can win it while you are on the road, keep us posted.


Best Janet impression  This week goes to Carrie, who stepped her game up in a big way and did so many behind the scenes actions to keep things movin.   Thank you Carrie.


Moron Moment Goes to me, for forgetting in the nine that I was supposed to release to welcome and greet not Ron, and basically looking like, a moron, immediately qualifying me for this prestigious honor and securing my victory.


Best sound during an offertory.   I actually got to sit in the congregation during May Our Praise.  This one goes to Ryan Barmore.  The mix from where I was sitting was like my favorite mix at Cold Stone.  Half coffee ice cream, half cake batter, peanut butter, oreos, and fudge.  Now transfer that to the mix I heard on the platform.  It was that good.  And now I have to go to Cold Stone.  And relive that analogy.  It will symbolize and honor and really bring authenticity to this award.


Special mention goes to Laura VanderGiessen, Kristin Hopper, Travis, Chris Goodell, Ed Stillwell, Tyler Braun, Phil Van Dyke, The entire Kuskie Clan, Ushers, Debbie, Carolyn, and all the tech team.  And my mom.  It takes an army of people to do what we do each week.  Thank you for making it such an awesome experience, and thank you for serving, you are appreciated more than you know.   Have a great Monday.





Weekend Awards for Sunset Worship Community

June 15, 2009

Hey all,
Welcome to the weekend awards. The following awards are real, and serious, and recognized in the State of Oregon by me and certified by official email transfer.

MOST IMPROVED OUTFIT This award goes to Bob Thomas, who wore a shirt with a basic definable color this week. Bob you sounded SO good on Hear Our Prayers and as usual delivered it with heart and passion as well.

PLAYING ON YOUR BIRTHDAY AWARD This one was tough, but I ended up giving it to my dad John McKenney, who did in fact play on his birthday. Way to go John. And nice work on the cool bass part on the time has come. I wanted to put some sunglasses on you in that moment.

BEST JANET IMPERSONATION This award goes to Carolyn, who is a faithful volunteer who does whatever she can to help each week, with such an awesome attitude!

BEST LOOP AND WITTIEST COMENT AWARD Combo awards are rare and should be treasured. This one goes to Rhett Lee who submitted the best loop AND made us all laugh during our sharing time as usual.

FIVE PLACES AT ONCE Goes to Travis, who was everywhere this weekend doing everything, in the midst of some wacky stuff going on in our sound system.

SMILE AWARD If you have ever seen the Ramblin Rod show, you know what this award is about. This one goes to Bethany, who always has a beautiful authentic smile and lights up the platform whenever she is on it.

MEMORY AWARD This one goes to the choir, who had to remember verse three and four of Come Thou Fount several times, without lyrics, or with the wrong lyrics, and pushing through it sometimes just by willing the mouth to move open and shut regardless of actual words coming out

COOLEST PRELUDE Holy cow that was awesome. Matt and Randy and Rhett hit it out of the park, that was just, cool.

There are SO many other awards that could have been given, but policies and by laws restrict more than 8 being handed out, and I don’t want to discredit or hurt the award process so I’ll stick with the rules.

Choir and Orchestra, THANK YOU SO MUCH for an awesome year! We love you and appreciate your time, talent and heart and what you bring to Sunset!! You have blessed us!

Thank you band and singers, who still amaze me that you pull off two services formats each week! That is no small feat.

Thank you tech team, who work your tail off behind the scenes, putting in so much effort for a large time block each Thursday and Sunday.

And thank you prayer warriors, who hit the front lines of battle for us week in and week out. Priceless.

Praying for you all this morning, that your relationship, your communication, your prayer life with Jesus will deepen and come alive on a new level this week.



Sunset Season of Service (Or Sunset Season of Worship)

June 12, 2009

This morning I sat in my office about to go through the motions of the tasks at hand.  God stopped me, and forced me to look at Him for a while.  It came in the form of this link to a short video called “Awe Factor”.  (When the page opens, click on the Videos option and choose “the awe factor of God”.)  

 Just watching and hearing about God, a snapshot into His bigness and I was moved to worship Him in my heart.  It was a moment I was desperately in need of and a moment for which I was so grateful.

 In thinking through what to write about this week, I thought it was a good time to write about Sunset’s Seasons of Service.  It seemed appropriate to let you know about all these wonderful areas to serve in and to make an impact in our community as well as the lives of hundreds of people.  And the opportunities are wonderful.   But I realize now I want to let you know what I believe at my heart level.  I believe serving is really worshiping… and worshiping is really about responding to God’s greatness.  We have to start there, because then our response comes naturally, freely, and overflowing.

 So I guess what I’m challenging you to right now is make sure you are stopping to look at God and His greatness, whatever/however that happens for you.  You know how He has wired you, you know what speaks beauty to you and where you see or hear Him the clearest.  Go there… do whatever that is… immerse yourself in Him.  And when your soul is moved, when He sets things in context, when He sets your heart on fire and you think you are going to explode if you don’t tell someone or do something, then check out this link to find out about more ways Sunset is reaching out this summer as a family and in response to our God and Creator and Savior.


Can you plan out the Holy Spirit?

December 11, 2008

 2 teams of average talent level take the floor at the start of the basketball game.  1 team has practiced, prepared, discussed a game plan, gone over scenarios, and trained hard for these next moments.   The other team has never discussed a thing, don’t know each other, but are wearing the uniforms and they are going to give it their all.   Which team are you betting on?


2 sets of parents are raising their children.  1 couple just takes life as it comes, handles each situation in the moment, and they never discuss beforehand what they value, what is important, and what they hope to impart to their children.  The other couple seeks to be on the same page, to be preventive in their approach as best as possible, and to be united in their messaging to their children to maximize their efforts.  Which parents would you like to have?


Two couples come to the end of their working days, and retire.  One couple has planned out their stocks, bonds, 403b’s, 401ks etc.  They have developed a plan to handle what comes next.  Another couple had lived paycheck to paycheck their whole life, and never discussed any sort of financial plan.  Which couple would you like to be when you retire?


These situations may seem black and white to you.  In most cases in life, planning is looked at as prudent and generally a great idea.  Being a worship leader for four years now, I have been in many conversations where the feeling is that planning a worship gathering is somehow unspiritual and limits the Holy Spirit’s ability to work in people’s hearts.


I understand the conversation, but whole heartedly disagree with its basic premise.  The Holy Spirit in my opinion is not limited by good planning.   Far more important than how long a song or announcements or a talk takes or doesn’t take,  is the heart of you and I, our desire to honor God, to seek His presence, and to love Him and one another.


There are realities that churches face that are just a fact of life. Parking, Sunday school, people’s attention spans etc.   These things take planning to some extent to coordinate, but does that make it somehow unspiritual?  Is Sunday morning the only time the Spirit desires to work and move?  Can He also do it during a basketball game, in your parenting, or how you handle your finances?

So what do you think?  Can you plan out the Holy Spirit?




Let Your Love Go

May 30, 2008

Hope that is hidden is selfish. Love that is held back is wasted.

In track my favorite race was the 1500meters. (100 yards short of a mile) In a sprint like the 100 yard dash, it’s easy to give it your all, to go all out, because its short and the race is going to be over in seconds. In the 1500, it much harder to give it your all for the whole race. It is easier to find times to hold back. The worst feeling at the end of any sporting event or whatever it is is leaving knowing that I didn’t give it my all, that I could have given more.

When it comes to serving at a church, sometimes I leave with the same feeling, where I know I could have given more, where I know I held back. What do I hold back? Love.

I love Jesus, and I love worshipping Him. I love His creation of music and the part it plays in bringing Him glory. I love technology and the part it plays in bringing Him glory. I love His church, His message, His people, and His community.

So what I am tempted to hold back every Sunday, (let alone the rest of my week) is that love. It’s vulnerable and scary to fully engage, to fully enter the moment, to fully give myself away emotionally in whatever I’m doing. It’s easier to hold some back. Jesus didn’t do that, He didn’t hold back, He invested Himself fully in whatever moment He was in. And here’s the thing, when I don’t invest fully, people feel it. Love comes out in the way I treat people, love comes out in the way I worship. There is a noticeable difference in our offering of praise on Sunday or our service in the community throughout the week, when I hold back love. When we let all our love go, for God and for people, we encourage the community to love more.

Let your love go.


Musicians and "church" music

May 19, 2008

Today I met with one of the musicians who plays at Sunset, Randy Johnson.  Randy has played at Sunset for years.  He is an amazing piano player, who has a background in jazz, gospel and many other styles as well.  He has given an amazing amount of time and energy and love for this church.  His brain thinks on a higher plain than most musicians I know, his ear for substitute chords and progressions other than I, IV, V sometimes leave him a little bored and unchallenged playing a lot of the songs we sing. 

It is an interesting topic when it comes to music and the church.  There is a high priority in recent times on "singability", songs that  are "accessible" for the whole congregation to join in on.  Get too complicated particularly on a song where everyone is singing,  and the argument is that while you may engage some, particularly musicians, you can lose a lot of people at the same time who just want to identify with the melody and lyric and sing there heads off.  These songs still need excellent musicians, who can play in tune, in tempo, with dynamics, with passion, with excellence,  listening to one another etc.  Many of the current songs are built though and identified with reoccurring simple themes from the piano or electric guitar.  Again its not that these songs don’t need good musicians to play them and play them well.  When they are played with mediocre players, most people, even non musicians know something is "off".  But often times musicians who like to be challenged in music theory while they play, feel trapped and limited with the sound or simplicity of some current worship styles and songs. 

What do you think?  Do you think overall current music has been too dumbed down in the church and that it is hurting the church?  I personally don’t.  (obviously there are exceptions but on the whole I love the direction of where a lot of main stream music for the church is heading)  I think the challenge is for these awesome musicians, who the church needs desperately, including ones as amazing and smart as Randy, to find ways to take their musicianship and breadth of experience to bring as much life, energy and passion into some of this new music as they would playing a song that had 5 impromptu key changes or maj 7th chords with a sharp 11th around every corner.   What say you?

By the way, I just read this post to Allison.  Not only did I have to reread it to her because she zoned out as soon as I said I, IV,V, but when I was done, she let me know that this post was incredibly boring.  (I asked for the honest feedback) Hopefully not as boring as some current church music :).