Monday, December 24, 2007

Hope for the Holidays

Okay, Kids. This will be short and sweet, but extremely important, so please pay close attention.

I have a sister who is raising four kids by herself and is having a really hard time supporting herself and her kids. She, like the rest of my family, is very stubborn and even more proud. That means she doesn't like to ask for help. Ever! That's why I'm asking for help for her.

First, I ask that you pray for her. Her name is Rahnee (sounds like "Ronnie") and her kids range in age from 13 to 1 1/2. She needs as much prayer as you can muster, and prayer is free.

Second, she needs encouragement. My hat's off to all single mothers. I can't imagine the level of difficulty and commitment it takes to be a single mom. If you are a single mother, I ask God for a special blessing upon you and your children. My your blessings overflow from his gracious hand. If you want to give her and her daughters some encouragement, let me know and we'll work out the details.

Third, if you have the financial resources to reach out and help her, I know she would appreciate your help in that regard. She works two full-time jobs, but that simply isn't enough. She needs financial help. If you are able and willing to help in that way, let me know and we'll make it happen.

Finally, pray more. Prayer changes everything. God is faithful to his people when we seek him diligently. My sister needs your help. She needs your prayers and your support. She's too embarrassed to ask for help, and she would freak out if she knew I were writing this plea for help, but I refuse to let her suffer anymore, as long as I have anything to do with it. Do the right thing. Search your heart and give my family some hope for the holidays.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Friday, November 16, 2007

BRASIL: day 1 - Vamos! (Let’s go!)

[October 29, 2007] Let the madness begin! We left Nashville today on a two-week tour of the beautiful land called Brasil. I'm a little skittish about this trip for some reason. Maybe it's because my roommate (Zac's wife) Lacey didn't get to come with us (please pray for her a lot). Maybe it's because I'm leaving all my friends and family behind for a couple weeks with very little, if any, contact with them. By the way, I really miss you guys way more than you know. Maybe it's because we've been on the road in Louisiana for most of the past week and we're not used to being gone so long, or to being so continually busy. Whatever the reason, it's gonna be a long, trying, fun trip. I know God has some amazing things in store for us this time around.
We have had a great trip so far. We got back from Monroe, LA around 9:30 last night and did a little last-minute laundry before sleeping in our own beds for the first time in six days. We got up this morning, re-packed, ran errands, and then met at the studio so we could all go to Chili's for a great lunch together. After lunch, it was off to the airport for the smoothest check-in we've had in the more-than-two years I've been with the group. We sat in the gate area for a couple hours before boarding our plane to Atlanta. To pass the time, Byron led a short "airport devo" to help us focus our minds on our goals for this trip. The rest of the time was spent on the phones or the iPods or the computers or whatever other fun stuff we could find to occupy our minds.
After our 35-minute flight to Atlanta, we grabbed a quick bite and got on our plane to Sao Paulo as we said our goodbyes to those closest to us. As I write, we are nearing the tenth and final hour of this overnight flight. We have a very busy day ahead of us full of meetings, interviews, driving, and no sleep. Since I don't sleep much on planes, this will be a tough day for me. I've already started taking pictures, though, and I hope to write daily to keep you informed about us.
I'm watching my first Brasilian sunrise and it's breathtaking! This is gonna be a great trip. Thank you, Jesus!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 2 - Oi! (Hey!)

[October 30, 2007] This day has been among the longest of my life. Once we landed at 6:45 AM (that's 3:45 AM CST), we breezed through customs and picked up our luggage from an uncomfortably busy conveyor belt. We met up with our contact people (Saulo, F.H., Simval, and a few others) and drove to our first of four radio and television interviews. It took nearly two hours to drive across this city of 14 million people, and we found out later that we only drove about 20 miles.
After sitting around for a long time and perfecting our game plan several times, we went in and hit a home run on Brasilian national tv. Keith even sang some with us. Post interview, we had the pleasure of meeting Anderson Ramos, our opening act and translator for each concert here. He's a great Brasilian Christian who now lives in Richmond, VA. He's a lot of fun so far.
We ate lunch and did a press conference at the restaurant where lunch was. We were scheduled for another interview on a tv show but there was some wait time. They took us to the top of the building where the restaurant was, maybe 20 stories high, and we took pictures of each other and the city. Sao Paulo is huge!
We finally got to our hotel for a little rest before going to dinner and our fourth tv show of the day. The show lasted somewhere around two hours and started around 10 PM. Since the majority of the show was a debate over taxes (something the people of Brasil don't have much of a say over) the audience was about as drained and tired as we were. We had been on a plane all night and only got a couple hours to rest after doing three interviews, lunch, pictures, and rode in a van...a lot! We were pretty much exhausted! God kept us awake and alert enough to finish the day, though.
It's very late now and I'm very tired. Tomorrow will be busy but not as taxing as today, or so we've been tole. Let's hope we were told right!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 3 - Churrascaria (Brasilian bar-be-que joint)

[October 31, 2007] Today started off with a bang...or some type of explosion any way! I am pretty sure I ate exactly the wrong thing yesterday because my stomach was not at all happy with me when I woke up. What `s worse is that I didn`t realize there was a problem until it was way too late. In order for me not to get graphic, let`s just say my tummy is not happy. No bueno!

We met in the lobby around 11:30 this morning and left for lunch around noon. Saulo and the crew took us to a churrascaria, a brasilian bar-be-que restaurant, and we ate our weight in meats (about 20 different cuts) and a monstrous salad / food bar. I have to say I was sad to have woken up sick, but that didn`t stop me from eating very, very well. After lunch, which ended with a beautiful dark chocolate mousse cake, we went to our first of two interviews for the day, stopping on the way to get me some indigestion meds. The hour-and-a-half-long drive took us away from metropolitan Sao Paulo to a biblical institute where we did both interviews for radio and tv. They took us on a tour of the building after the interviews and we sang a couple songs on the fly for the employees there. They prayed over us and we headed back to town so we could get to the airport for a flight to Campo Grande (pronounced Gran-je). We ate a quick bite and parted ways with Saulo and the crew until we return to Sao Paulo in a few days. We, including Anderson, boarded the plane and had a smooth flight to Campo Grande. Upon our arrival we were welcomed by a happy mob who gave us gifts of t-shirts and cds of themselves, Grupo Familia, and we did a quick interview followed by pictures. Once we finished up and loaded our luggage into the van, we went to our hotel. It`s 12:45 AM now and we have a pretty early morning ahead of us. More interviews before the first concert. It`s bedtime. I need my beauty sleep. Hello melatonin! Let`s make that happen. Nite, nite!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 4 - Concert no Campo Grande (Concert in Campo Grande)

[November 1, 2007] I`m feeling much better today. Thanks for asking. My tummy still cramps up a little but I`m okay. Good thing I feel better, too. Today was our first Brasilian concert.

We woke up pretty early after a late night and went to a tv studio near our hotel for the first of four interviews. This was a Seventh Day Adventist radio station and the people there were just as warm and friendly as ever. It seems that most of the people are working with are Seventh Day Adventists and are some of the sweetest people we have had the pleasure of working with. We took some pics after the interview and then went to a different studio where Grupo Familia records a lot of their music. We did a couple tv spots there, after which we got to hear an unfinished cut from their upcoming album. It rocked my face off! It had a little bit of a Blood, Sweat, and Tears sound to it. Great work!

From that studio, we went to a local tv station where we met up with Keith and Sharon. They got to sleep in a little bit. We knocked that interview out and went to another tv studio to put another one down. It was finally lunch time so we went to a restaurant that is owned by one of the people responsible for bringing us to Campo Grande. And it was good.

We had a few hours of down time at the hotel before heading to the venue for sound check. After working out a few tech kinks we retreated to the dressing room where we worked out a few song kinks with Keith and Cory Martin (who is doing an job, by the way). Zach Wilson led our minds in devotional and prayer and, after Anderson sang a few really nice songs, we took the stage. The crowd of about 1000 loved us...maybe a little too much!

After the concert, we were ambushed in the lobby for pics and autographs. Madness! Pure mayhem! We had to be herded out of the lobby like a flock of sheep. It was insane!

So we packed up and went back to Multiplus restaurant where we had lunch. Since the concert started at 9:00 PM, we didn't get to dinner until midnight or later. The best part about the whole day is that we get to meet in the hotel at 3:30 AM to leave for the airport to catch a 5:00 AM flight to Goiania. That gives us two whole hours to shower, pack, and nap (if we so choose), before we are to be downstairs ready to go. It's tough being a superstar...especially when your tummy hurts! Poor, poor, pitiful me!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 5 - Bom Dia (Good day - pronounced bon jeeah)

[November 2, 2007] I guess today could be a continuation of yesterday. We left our hotel at about 4:00 this morning to head to the airport and it really wasn't a long flight. I think it only took an hour to get here, same as Sao Paulo to Campo Grande. Since we hadn't really slept yet, we were really not ready for the reception awaiting us as we arrived. At 7:00 AM local time (we changed times from Campo Grande) there was a gathering of about 20 - 30 "paparazzi" waiting to welcome us to their state and city. Those of you who know me and know how grumpy I am in the morning after a full night's sleep can imagine me dealing with a gang of strangers wanting pics with me after a 30-minute nap overnight. Really it wasn't so bad. I took the pictures, said hello, acted politely, and eventually got to the van. As we headed to our hotel we learned that we wouldn't have to do a morning full of interviews and such. Just rest, lunch, one short interview later, and dinner...with more rest.

We had a bit of a mob scene happening on the way to the hotel. As far as I could tell from the cramped van, there was at least one car full of people and a motorcycle with two people on it that followed us to the hotel taking pics and video the whole time. When we got there the rest of the mob had either met us there or followed us, but they managed to get a short interview out of us that went to 150 cities in the area. Then we slept. We slept until lunch (about four hours) which we ate in the hotel. Then we slept a couple hours more until our interview for the day (it was supposed to be two but one group never showed up). We had more down time and then it was dinner time. They took us to a brasilian pizza parlor where the pizza was delivered to each table by hand, a la churrascaria, and we took slices off the tray as they offered them to us.

They took us to a rehearsal of local gospel chorus Agape (emphasis on the first syllable, not the last like English). They sang a couple songs for us and we sang a little bit with them. They sounded incredible! I'm noticing how seriously people here take music. It's like it's a part of them. Sound familiar? After taking a few pics with them, we came back to the hotel for the night. Some of us went up to the roof for a few minutes to notice how big and beautiful this city is. I really love it here, but I'm definitely missing home...and you. Wish you were here!

This is craziness. We haven't even sang here yet and people are treating us like we hung the moon. I just want them to see Jesus in all we do, not us. Please pray for the people here more. Today was a good day. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better. Don't forget, it's "FREE HUGS FRIDAY!!!"

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 6 - Estrella de Rock (Rock Star)

[November 3, 2007] I'm not cut out for the "rock star" lifestyle. Don't get me wrong. I love people and ministry, but I just can't handle having people in my business all the time. I do understand that people in Brasil truly love us and just want to be near us. I also understand that the people here idolize us when they should be idolizing Jesus. How can we get that point across?

We had a radio interview at about 8:30 this morning and then a t.v. around 10:00 that lasted about 40 minutes. Then we had lunch and went to Wal-Mart...yes, Wal-Mart in Brasil. I got a couple shirts but I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Anyway, we came back to the hotel for a rest and then went to the local Seventh-Day Adventist church for an informal, unofficial interview and mini-concert (There were several people who couldn't afford tickets to tomorrow's concert so we sang a few songs to try to encourage them. The promoter asked for one or two. We sang six or seven.). After that, we went to a very large shopping mall (Yes, I went to the mall. No, I didn't like it.), and back to the hotel for the night.

Now, in every instance of us being in public today, we ended up either taking pictures with people, signing autographs, or both. Even at Wal-Mart were there people ambushing us for a pic. I never expected to sign autographs at Wal-Mart, and especially a brasilian one, but it certainly happened today. In a city of four million, it's bound to happen...I guess. There was potential for all kinds of trouble at the church. Before we got out of the van we were told to stick together and move quickly, not stopping to take pics or sign autographs, because we may not make it into the building. There were people standing in the street waiting for us to drive up and get out so they could try to touch us. Some of them almost got run over. After we finished performing, we took a few special pics and signed some autographs for church staff members and such. They told us the same thing going out because they knew we wouldn't make it out of the building for hours if we didn't hurry. That's no way to be. We can't be a blessing if we can't be around the people. At the same time, we can't be around the people when they mob us because someone is bound to get hurt and we definitely don't want that. It also doesn't help that our faces were on posters hanging in the mall. We couldn't eat our meals without stopping for pics and autographs.

I know it seems like I'm complaining a lot but I'm such a private person that I felt awkward all day with these strange situations. I just need a good night's sleep and a great concert tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 7 - Concert em Goiania (Concert in Goiania)

[November 4, 2007] Yep. It's official I'm not cut out to be a rock star. We had a good concert with a great turn out. The 1700 available tickets sold out and they managed to squeeze an extra 500-600 people in the room. Each of them wanted pics and autographs and some wanted us to marry them! It was so crowded that I got claustrophobic...a lot. I mean people were everywhere all the time. It was hot too. The air conditioning was off because of an electrical fire a few days ago that got into the air vents. When we arrived at the venue people ran us to us to take pictures. When we got to the dressing room there were people waiting with stuff to be signed. We had to ask people to leave so we could get dressed, or have our devo without distractions, or even have any personal time at al. It was a mess. Pure insanity! I didn't like it one bit. Maybe some of the other guys like it (Zach Wilson, Allen Brantley) but it's not for me. I guess I've grown too accustomed to being in the road in the U.S. where we show up, set up, perform, take a couple pics and sign a couple autographs, take down, and leave, and people don't go crazy over us. No hassles, no privacy invasions in the dressing room, no threat of security guards who are such big fans that they misplace their priorities and stop doing their jobs...or do too much and not give us privacy.

Okay, I've been complaining too much. We have seen some cool stuff. For instance, Agape and Anderson both opened for us. They all did a fantastic job and we were proud of them. The crowd was all juiced up during the concert which provided a big energy boost for us. Even though we keep having frequency and feedback issues with the sound equipment, we have lots of fun during the concerts. That won't ever change. And people are hearing the Word. That won't change either.

There was so much chaos after the concert that they had to herd us off to a little "cage" area with tables so we could sign autographs and take pictures. Through the mass of people, a man approached me and gave me a huge blessing. He thanked us for sharing the gospel and using our voices and talents to glorify God. He was happy to have us in Goiania but happier to see God through us. It was a real ministry moment, both for him and for me. He ministered to me by encouraging me to keep ministering to others. He was an answer to prayers that the people would see God and not us. Hopefully that trend will spread and God will be exalted instead of us.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 8 - Hora de dormir (Time to sleep)

[November 5, 2007] My sleeping patterns are getting worse. Those of you who know me know that's a bad thing for me to deal with. I'm not feeling so well today. I went to bed around midnight after a very long day and fell asleep fairly quickly. I woke up, though, to go to the bathroom at 3:00 and didn't fall asleep again until nearly 4:30. We had a 6:15 lobby call this morning so I was up before 6:00. I may or may not have gotten 4.5 hours of sleep. That's really unacceptable for me, and especially after a crazy concert.

Everything irritated me this morning. People being loud, people being repetitive, people being repetitive, people repeating themselves, people singing the same annoying song over and over and over and over and people oversleeping and making us late to the airport. We did make it onto the plane after some frustration though. Zac G. had to leave his football behind and have it deflated and put on a plane to Belem because they said it might explode from the pressure. More annoyance. I was ready to punch people...but I didn't.

We took the shortest flight I've ever taken, though. Apparently it only takes twenty minutes to get from Goiania to Brasilia. We made up that time with a two-hour flight to Belem, so it kinda equaled out.

It's hot here! When we arrived at noon it was 93 degrees and humid. I guess that makes sense since we're in the Amazon River Basin. Our promoter for this concert (Martins, pronounced Marcheens) found out that we haven't been resting much so he canceled our interviews for today. Sweet!

So we rested at the missionary school where we're staying. Some guys played soccer, some swam, some slept, some caught up on blogs. We ate dinner with some of the faculty and staff, then some of our people went on a tour of downtown Belem. It has been a restful day. We all needed it. It also helps the attitudes. Those of you who have worked or lived with other people know how easy it is to get on each other's nerves. The same applies here. We are human just like you. We bicker and nag and ruffle each other's feathers and life goes on. Those of you who are praying for us, keep it up. We can't make it without God's help and your prayers only speed that help along.

Tomorrow is concert number three. Belem is home to around 1.3 million people who have no idea what to expect. All we know is that they love Acappella. All they know is that we are here. I think it's gonna be wild...again. We'll make it but it'll be tough.

Well, it's bedtime again, kids. Say your prayers and get good rest. Have a bom dia tomorrow. We'll do the same!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 9 - Concert em Belem (Concert in Bethlehem)

[November 6, 2007] Today was a long and busy day but it was a really good day. We had breakfast around 9:00 and left the compound to go downtown and sing for the Secretary of Culture for Belem. Unfortunately, the secretary had more pressing issues, so we sang for students at the Carlos Gomez Music Conservatory, a school where most of the kids are poor. Belem is a poor region compared to most of the brasilian capital cities. It was kind of weird seeing the contrast between some of the wealthier cities like Campo Grande (which, by the way, means Big Camp) and Belem. It reminded me of Ecuador where, if you have nothing, you have nothing but you find a way to survive because it's necessary. Words can't adequately describe the mobs of people on the side of the road hoping to get picked up to go to work for a very low wage. I was told the average salary in Belem is about 380 reais (sounds like ray-eyes) per month, which translates into less than $200 US dollars. That's so little! Yet, the concert tickets were 30 reais and the 2000-person convention center was sold out completely. We got to share Jesus with a lot of people and heard some great responses. It was clearly the craziest crowd we've had so far, but the love some Jesus. It was also our best performance so far. We hope it will continue to improve like it has been.

I do have a bit of bad news, though. I have suffered the loss of a dear comrade. You may have seen us together, some of you many times. We have been friends for quite a while now. We went through some tough times together but we made it out alright...until now. He may not make it this time. He was severely injured during the concert and I'm really pretty shaken up by the incident...mainly because it was my fault. See, what had happened was, I stuck my hand out to shake a kid's hand and he grabbed my Ecuadorian bracelet and broke the string, losing half of the beads that I spent at least an hour last month repairing...for the second time. I'm really heartbroken about this because it's my "Compassion bracelet." When I look at it I think of the Compassion kids we help support and it's my reminder that real people, real children are suffering more than we know.

Okay, enough with the sad talk. We had a good day and a good concert. We went to the zoo today too. Good times. Pray for my knees, though. I'm feeling a bit arthritic. Moving really slowly tonight. We be aight tho! Another early morning, and it's already after midnight. Hora de dormir!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 10 - Meio la (Half-way there)

[November 7, 2007] It's been a tough day but a wonderful night. We got up at 6:15 for breakfast and left by 7:00 for the airport. We got stuck in morning Belem traffic and got there a little late, but we made our flight. It was a bit of a long, tiring flight with one stopover, one layover, and one bad landing. In the pilot's defense, it was very, very windy and the landing strip was very, very short. He just came down really flat and kinda jarred everyone. We're all fine...although some people can't seem to stop complaining about it.

Anyhoo, we went to lunch once we arrived in Natal. At the tail end of lunch were a few news crews waiting to hold a twenty-minute press conference that we weren't all dressed for. Some of us were in shorts and t-shirts, unshaven, and exhausted from last night's concert and our short night's sleep. We got through it, though, and came to the hotel to get dressed for a couple more interviews, one of which was at a pop radio station right after a Britney Spears song. It was as weird as it sounds. It's all good. After the interviews we came back to eat at a nearby restaurant. This place was so nice and they had completely shut down, except to host us. The food was excellent and we had a great time just talking and enjoying each other's company. Now we're all back in the hotel. Some of the guys went to the beach a couple blocks away for a little while. Some went to bed (Keith and Sharon). Some worked on getting blogs caught up...and are still a few days behind. Ah well. Soon.

I needed the rest anyway. My body is starting to wear down a lot. I'm pretty sure I have a tough of arthritis or something in my knees because it's a chore to get them from being stiff so I can walk. It's tough, but I'm just as tough.

We have reached our half-way point. One week left. Keep praying. We need it!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 11 - Concert em Natal (Concert in Christmas)

[November 8, 2007] Zac spent the night sick and I've had an annoying cough all day. My knees and hips have hurt all day and Zac is still feeling yucky. In other words, we are struggling. It's been a long day and it's just now over. We got up and did three short t.v. interviews, all without Zac, in a couple hours. As a matter of fact, we almost flipped in the van on the way to the last one...a few times. We were in a little bit of a hurry. After we finished that, we went to a restaurant near the hotel, which is near the beach. They surprised us with a special roof top lunch. The view was breathtaking! Nothing but roof tops, sand, and ocean. Muito lindo (very beautiful)! We got Zac some meds and then had a few hours down before going to the venue for sound check. After sound check we sat and waited, and waited, and waited some more. The concert was scheduled for 7:30 and started around 8:30...with four different opening acts, including Anderson. The room was huge and concrete, which means it was hard to hear, and even though there were around 1000 people there, it wasn't even half-way full. Not enough bodies to soak up the sound. Plus, that small crowd was loud enough to drown us out at times. It was all good, though. We got to meet and greet with most everybody there. We got to take a couple pics with my ex-roomate, Jim Kizer's friend, Cris. She went to ACU with him. I went to a fival school. Go Buffs! Either way, we finished that and went back to the same restaurant as last night, which has been my favorite place to eat so far (and you know I like to eat). Very intimate and relaxd with incredible food. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a night's sleep. No early morning this time. Yay! Zac is starting to feel better, but still needs prayers. Same goes for my knees. Just don't forget that I love you guys and we pray for y'all before every concert. See you soon!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 12 - Regozijai! (Rejoice!)

[November 9, 2007] Here's the short version. We were in the same plane all day, got in five hours late, ate dinner, and went to bed.

Now, here's the long version. We were in the same plane from 1:00 to 10:30 PM because of bad weather, got to Belo Horizonte five hours late after stopping in Rio (which is like an hour in the wrong direction) and coming back to the airport reopened, ate a late dinner near our very nice hotel, and then went to bed. Not really much to tell about today except people were not happy.

We are some audacious people to complain about things like unscheduled stops and delayed flights. It could be so much worse. We could have not come on this amazing trip in the first place. We could have not even been in this ministry doing what we do and getting to travel and see the world. We could be dying in a hospital bed or nursing home because we can't take care of ourselves. We could be dying on the streets somewhere because nobody cared enough to help us out.

So, I'm making a new pact with myself and whomever will join me. I will not complain anymore while I am on this trip. Jesus said, "Do everything without grumbling or complaining." I encourage those of you who are chronic complainers to take one day, maybe today (or tomorrow if it's too late in the evening today) and just try not complaining. I know it will improve your mood, which will improve your day. Complaining won't solve anything. It only raises your blood pressure and speeds up the aging process (gray hair, balding, ulcers, wrinkles, etc.). So, the next time you start to complain, remember there are people who have it way worse than you and they aren't complaining because Jesus told them (and us) not to.

Tell you what. Instead of complaining, let's find things to rejoice about. Zac is feeling much better today. That's a start. What else? My knees don't hurt much at all. Yay for that. So, here it is. Today I will rejoice because I'm alive, well, working, and a child of the King. What will you rejoice about today?

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 13 - Concert em Belo Horizonte (Concert in Beautiful Horizon)

[November 10, 2007] What a great time to take a "no complaining" pact. There were so many things I could've complained about, but, thank God, I choose not to. Instead, I kept my attitude positive and am going to bed happy.

We got to sleep in this morning, which was awesome. We ate lunch at the same restaurant we had dinner last night. It's amazing how a place is transformed when there are no huge crowds of people and booze and plumes of smoke billowing all over the place. After a very tasty lunch, we had a couple hours down before we left for the venue. I took a nap.

When I woke up I had no voice. I had been dealing with some sinus drainage and that annoying cough for a few days, but I didn't realize it would affect me so suddenly and drastically. I was fine when I fell asleep thirty minutes earlier. I had my first big choice of the day. Would I freak out and try to fix it myself or would I trust God and relax, knowing it would be okay? I chose the latter and I'm so glad I did. I went on vocal silence, except when I had to talk for the interview we did, and for sound check. The interview was a little weird and a lot silly, but it was fun and we knocked it out pretty quickly. Sound check was a little longer than normal but we made it through that too. After a shortened rest in the bunk houses we used for dressing rooms, which were a bit of a walk from the auditorium, I shared yesterday's blog with the gang. I never had anyone formally join me in the pace, but I did get some good feedback and the morale was better when devo ended.

So, we changed our batteries in our mics and monitors, only to realize that they were the wrong type (non-alkaline) and we had to scramble to get them changed again before going on stage. We made it, though. Some monitors were lost in the ordeal, but the audience loved us and we loved all 1000 of them. God gave me the voice I needed and then some. The concert went well (even with technical difficulties) and the promoter had dinner served for us at the venue before our thirty-minute drive back to the hotel. Zac and I have been cutting up and having a good time tonight. Now it's bedtime, and I'm so happy because I've kept a good attitude all day and it has paid off. It's midnight. Lobby call is 4:15 AM. Good night!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 14 - Concert em Porto Alegre (Concert in Happy Port)

[November 11, 2007] 4:00 AM is early, especially after going to bed at midnight. Either way, that's when lobby call was and we made it. We got to the airport on time for our 6:30 flight. Stopped in Rio...again. It's just about as pretty in the daytime as it is at night. The airport is nice too. We spent a couple hours there, mainly sleeping, and then it was off to Porto Alegre. By the way, it's really kinda funny seeing seven hand carts being pushed down the sidewalk at 5:00 AM. It's such a slow, half-dead, pitiful procession of luggage-toting zombies.

Anyway, we went to churrascaria number five. These places are doing some amazing things with food. It seems that I may have found a new favorite churrascaria dish. Roasted pineapple! I don't know how they do it, but they cut the skin off and roast it with cinnamon and sugar, and it's amazing! I can't even describe how good it is (and you know it's good if I'm blogging about it). If you haven't experienced it, you really should as soon as you can. If you have, I'm so proud of you!

Moving on, we hung out at the hotel for a little bit, then went to the venue for sound check and concert. We had all kinds of problems tonight. Bad frequencies, trouble hearing, batteries dying, potty breaks (or the need of them), quiet audience, and all kinds of other fun stuff. It was great, though. God delivered again and gave me a voice for the night. I did pretty well at not complaining. It's tough when I'm so tired, but that's the game. I'm fine.

After the concert, they set us up in a smallish room with sliding glass doors, our own "glass case of emotion" for all you Anchorman fans. They filtered people in and out for pics and autographs. It was kinda weird, but kinda fun too.

We got done there and now we're back in the hotel with some pizza, getting ready for bed. We may get a full six hours of sleep tonight! That's money right there. Much better than 3.5. Two more concerts left and then we come home! Outstanding!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 15 - Concert em Sao Paulo (Concert in Saint Paul)

[November 12, 2007] It's been another blessed day that could've been ugly. We got about six hours of sleep then found out we could've gotten seven. Our flight was canceled because of delays so we got moved to a later one. Flying into the domestic Sao Paulo airport is a trip! It's in the middle of a very populated, very busy area of the city. You're flying over so many buildings and highways. It looks like you might tap the wheels on the top of a high-rise hotel or apartment building and, all of a sudden, there's a runway. So freaky, but so cool!

We got to Sao Paulo around noon and immediately went to lunch. Simval took us to a vegetarian restaurant in which the owner was advertising the concert. After lunch, and singing a quick line for the owner and the quartet he sings with, we got to rest at the hotel for a few hours. The only problem was that Zac and I didn't know what time to be ready to go, so we were late. It's okay, though. The venue was just around the corner from the hotel. We only had time for a short sound check and then devo. Familia Soul, from Sao Paulo, opened for us, followed by Anderson. They all were fantastic! So was the crowd.

We had a blast during the concert. Afterward, pure chaos! People running up with stuff to sign and then getting mad when we didn't look up from signing to take pictures. That went on for at least a good hour...and a half.

We finished up there and most of us went to bed. Zach and Cory (who is now known as "Marcheens") hung out with some local folk until late. We get to leave a little bit later in the 9:00! Mais um (one more) concert! Curitiba, here we come!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

BRASIL: day 16 - Ultima Concert em Curitiba (Last Concert in Curitiba)

[November 13, 2007] The madness is finally over! It has been a great trip, but it's time to go home. We had a great day today. We left Sao Paulo around 11:00 this morning and we arrived in Curitiba around noon. We ate lunch at another vegetarian restaurant where we met the promoter of the entire trip, Juvenal. He's a super sweet, kind man and we were honored to meet him. We owe him so much gratitude for bringing us here. After lunch, we rested for a few hours and then met across the street from the hotel at the auditorium for sound check. The concert went off without a hitch. The crowd loved it and we did too. it was Marcheens' last concert with us, as well as Anderson's. It was also Corey Callis' last concert to do lighting for us. We hope to get to work with all those guys again very soon. it was a pretty emotionally-charged night.

The coolest thing happened after the concert. As we were being led to the meet-n-greet area, I heard someone yelling "Peanut! Peanut!" There are only a certain few people who know me as Peanut (love y'all and miss y'all so much!), so I was a little confused. I looked over and found the person yelling and gave him a high five. I didn't recognize the guy but he introduced himself later. He said "I know Lori Beth from orphanage. My name is Ruy!" I was in shock a little bit. It was the coolest thing to meet someone who knows someone I'm so close to. It's such a small world. Last night I met the sister-in-law of one of my friends in Portland, and tonight I meet someone who knows my Peaches, Punkum, and Priscilla! Good times!

So after meet-n-greet, we went to the pizza restaurant next door to our hotel and ate a great meal. We hung out for a while and then it was bed time. This is the first blog of this trip that I didn't have to write in my notebook first. Praise God for that! Saves me a lot of time and effort.

Tomorrow, shopping in Curitiba, flying back to Sao Paulo, then Nash Vegas, here we come! I can't wait to talk to you guys again. I can't wait to sleep in my bed again! I'm gonna get a little rest now. I love you and miss you and hope to see you very soon!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Teach Us To Pray

Prayer. Such an integral, essential activity as part of our relationship with God. At the same time, such an easy activity to forget or forego in our daily itenerary. Why is that?

Maybe it's that we have so many other things going on that we put prayer off until later. Maybe we don't know how to pray. Maybe we simply forget. Maybe you're like me and get lazy. Whatever the reason, most of us are stuggling in the prayer department, myself included.

So, what is prayer? Prayer is simply a conversation between ourselves and God. It may seem a little one-sided at times, since we don't always get answers right away, but it's a conversation nonetheless. It's not limited to when we wake up in the morning or go to bed at night. Neither is it limited to worship services when someone gets up and prays on the behalf of the congregation, after which the crowd responds with a hearty "Amen." It's not limited to times when our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed, either. It's just a conversation. Those of us (in typical American culture) who have (or had) good relationships with our parents know that we don't have to bow our heads when we speak to our folks to show them respect and love. It's the same with God. He gives us every opportunity imaginable to talk to him. We don't even have to speak aloud. He knows our thoughts, and if our thoughts are prayers, he still answers us.

Matthew and Luke both give instructions and examples on prayer. Luke sets the instructions up with a request from one of Jesus' disciples. He says, "Lord, teach us to pray..."(Luke 11:1) Now the context of this request implies the word "how," as in "Teach us [how] to pray." I like to look at it differently, though. Leave the implied word out of the sentence. "Teach us to pray." A lot of our problem is that we just don't all. Some of us need to be taught to pray before we are taught how to pray. I often need a reminder to pray. I know how. I just don't do it when I should. Sometimes I need to be taught (or retaught) to pray.

When your entire world comes crashing down around you and you don't know what to do or where to turn, that's when God is saying "Talk to me. Tell me about it. I'll fix it if you let me." Whether it's the porn addiction you just can't kick, or the ungodly relationship you have no business being in, or the drugs that have you by the throat, or the dirt you heard about "Jimmy Sue" that you just can't keep to yourself, or whatever it is. That's God saying "I want to hear from you. Please, just let me work in your life. I can make it all better for you. I've done it before for so many others. It's your turn. Take your turn. It's time for you to be blessed." That's God teaching you and me to pray.

Of course, Jesus gave us a great example of how to pray. I'm sure we have all heard it, and most of us have said it, a thousand times. "Our Father, who art in Heaven..." Some call it "The Lord's Prayer" and some call it "The example prayer." Whatever you call it, you know that it's what Jesus instructed us to do. It's not so much about how you do it, or the words you say. It's a matter of your heart. Let your words to your Heavenly Father be from your heart. If your heart is happy, then rejoice and praise God. If your heart is heavy, then lament and call out to God. If your heart is angry, then wail and cry out to God. He knows we struggle and that it's not all puppy dogs and rainbows for us. Take David, for example. His psalms are a mixture of all those emotions, and then some, and God heard his cries and answered him. Need another example? Try Job. He prayed for his kids when they had parties, just in case they had done something wrong. When Job was struck down with painful sores, after his kids were all killed and he had lost everything he owned, he told God how he felt. Obviously, he didn't feel any joy, but because he was faithful to God, he was healed and given more than he ever imagined. Jesus did it too. The night before he was captured and crucified, he prayed, telling his Father he didn't want to follow through with the pain and the death. He knew, however, that he had to do it because it was God's will. Turns out that Jesus had done the right thing by talking to his Dad because he was raised from the dead three days after he was buried, and he's in Heaven getting ready to take us home with him!

Pray because it is your custom. Pray because it is a part of you. Pray because it is what you do. Don't expect immediate answers all the time. God answers every prayer and he answers them when he is ready to answer and how he wants to answer. There is no such thing as an "unanswered prayer." Maybe God says "No. I have something else in store for you." Either way, he always answers.

So take this opportunity to some praying. If you're not the praying type, right now is the best time for you to become the praying type. If you are, right now is the perfect time for you to increase your conversations with Dad. Whereever you are, just talk to your Father. He will listen. He will answer.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've been feeling a bit down lately. I'm not really sure why, though. Maybe it's because my life has become mundane. I get up in the morning, I go to a job that I'm not so sure about, I sing, I go home, I sleep a few hours, I get up in the morning... You get the idea.

Maybe it's because I've forgotten what it feels like to be happy...or is it contentment that I seek? Maybe I'm just not having my daily hug quota filled. Whatever the case, I've been pretty depressed for the past several weeks and I don't like it. It's not the everyday, run-of-the-mill depression. It's more like the can't-get-happy, forgot-how-to-smile, lonely-in-a-crowd, thinking-bad-thoughts (though I would never do anything about them) type of depression. The kind of depression that makes you want to crawl into a hole, curl up, and never see the light of day again. It's pure misery. I insist on being alone as often as possible. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I am normally a very private person. However, when I get invitations to go places and I don't want to go, I always have an excuse handy. That's no way to be. Don't worry, though. I'm okay. I've been through much worse. It's just a phase I have to go endure and I will rise victorious. Please don't be overly concerned.

I was reminded of something last night that might be a life-saver to someone. A very special friend told me about how she and her friend went out and smiled and waved at people. A random act of kindness (r.a.k.). A simple gesture that can have monumental results. She told me about how several people waved back, or at least threw a nod their way. There was an older gentleman who grinned really big and waved as though he were waving at his grandchildren. I firmly believe that in that moment his day was brightened. Someone showed that they cared enough to be kind to him. It's not difficult to smile at someone or give a little wave. I heard somebody say recently that when you're feeling down you should encourage someone else who might be feeling down. You improve your mood when you improve the mood of others. God blesses those who bless others. That's how easy it is. No strings attached. No fuss. No muss. Just simple acts of kindness. Try it sometime. Maybe it'll improve your mood. Who knows? It could even make you smile...which will definitely improve your face value. :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Current Mood: frustrated

Okay, kids. I'm about fed up with money. I am in a terrible position with this money thing. I can't realistically get a good second job because of my ever-changing schedule, but I can't afford to live without a second job because I work for a ministry that doesn't pay very much. I know, some of you think "he's in Acappella. He gets paid pretty well." Yeah, not so much. I am not at liberty to discuss how much I get paid but I can tell you that it's not a lot. This is not a matter of whether or not I should be paid more from my current job. It's not even about my job or anything like that. It's about people who want my money and how I have nothing to give them.

Yes, I'm in the middle of a temporary financial setback but that's not the entirety of my issue. I am sick and tired of seeing all these people who have so much money that they don't know what to do with it or how to act. For example, Why are people like Michael Vick and Adam "Pac-Man" Jones in so much trouble with the law and the NFL? Because they got some money and started acting like they have no God-given common sense. They know better than to act foolish. Pac-Man knows he has no business in a wrestling ring. Vick knows dog fighting is just plain wrong. And would somebody please tell me why people like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richey are famous for doing nothing but being rich, spoiled, obnoxious, selfish little girls? Perhaps it's our fault as a society. We praise the rehab princes and princesses because they are "trying to get their lives together," while they walk out of the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars rehab centers straight into their favorite bar and night club to get all juiced up enough to go for a nice, unsafe, drug-and-alcohol-influenced drive down the PCH into some innocent bystander's When will it end? How many people have to die for these folk to wake up and understand that there are more people who need the simple things in life that we americans constantly take for granted? How many cars, houses, restaurants, strip joints, designer clothes, or whatever other useless items of garbage do we need just to be happy or feel important? There's so much more to life than money or stuff. That's what we so often forget. IT'S JUST STUFF!!! We can't take it with us when we die. Even if we could, we couldn't do anything with it. It would simply go to waste. Wow. It's overwhelming to think how money (and life) gets squandered. Now do you understand my dispute with money?

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Family Ties

I had the priviledge to visit Portland, OR over the past weekend and it is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. I got to spend time with some folk that I really care about and met some new folk that I have come to care about a lot too. To those of you whom I got to hang with, even for just a little while, you're great people and I have every confidence that your lives will be richly blessed.

There was one momentous event that I will always remember and I want to share it with you. For the first time in my recollection, I got to spend time with both of my remaining brothers at the same time! I know that sounds weird and messed up considering how much I love and respect my family. Anyone who knows me knows that my family means more than almost anything to me. So I called my oldest brother, Bobby (Bob) and we, along with his son, Nathan, his daughter, Jennifer, and my dear friend, Aleisha, went to my other brother, Robert's house. We all spent time talking about our lives and our other brothers who have gone home and our careers and I learned so much. I learned how much my brothers remind me of my dad. Robert looks and sounds a lot like my dad 20 years ago. Bobby speaks and acts just like my dad always has. I also learned that Robert and I have a lot of the same musical taste. We both love Tower of Power! He has (or at least had, at one point) everything they ever released. Now, that's a collection!

We had a great time together and then it was over. Nate, Jenn, Bobby and I had to go our separate ways so we said our goodbyes and told each other we would keep in touch. Robert had one slightly peculiar request of me before it was all overwith. He asked me to pray for him. That made me really happy. He wants to be the righteous man I know he can be and I'm so proud to be called his brother, regardless of his past or anything questionable that he may have gone through. So, my request for you is to join me in prayer for my brother, Robert, as well as my sister, Rahnee (sounds like Ronnie), that they can see Jesus in all their circumstances and rely completly on him to lift them up.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Monday, May 28, 2007

Musical Taste

So I heard an interesting question the other day and I finally came up with an answer to it. The person was asking what kind or kinds of music another person liked and the second person told the first. Then it got interesting. The first person asked a very simple question, a question with only one word but a miriad of answers. "Why?" Person number two was dumbfounded, much like I would have been, and couldn't come up with a good answer. I got to thinking about it and came up with my own answer. Now, if anybody asks me that question, I can answer them truthfully and quickly. See, I love most every kind of music, but I love it for different reasons, each reason unique to the genre, but some overlapping styles.

I like jazz for the creativity.

I like classical for the musicality.

I like rock for the energy.

I like r&b for the emotion.

I like gospel for the message.

I like country for the stories.

I like bluegrass for the reality.

I like world music (reggae, afro-cuban, indian, etc.) for the rhythmic qualities.

I like drum & bugle corps, marching band, etc. for the intricacies.

I like a cappella music for the purity of unaccompanied voices.

I like hip hop for the beats.

I like soul/funk for the groove...and you know I like to groove!

I like different types of music for different reasons, but one thing is common. I like music because God gave me a talent and a passion for it and I want to use it to glorify Him in all I do. So, what do you like about music?

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


We found my sister! Upon some good advice from some dear friends, I called her local police and had them do a wellness check on her. I found out that she just had knee surgery on Friday and is recovering now. In fact, she just went back to work today. Keep praying for her and her kids because we're not out of the woods yet. Thank God she's safe, though.
Also, keep praying for the Freeman family.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Monday, April 30, 2007

In need of your prayers

Hey guys, there have been some crazy things going on lately and I need to share them with you. First of all, my sister, Rahnee (the one in my pics) hasn't made herself available in quite some time and I haven't heard from her since April 6th. I've tried calling but can't get an answer and now her phone isn't working. She has 4 kids that she's raising by herself. She may be perfectly fine but she may be in trouble. If you're a praying person, and even if you're not, keep her and my family in your thoughts and/or prayers. I just want to know she's okay.

Also, I found out that one of my former students took her own life today. Her name is Kaylana Freeman and she was a student at Canyon High School. I'm not giving details, partially because I don't know them, moreso out of respect for her and her family. Please pray for her family and friends to find comfort in this tragedy. Kaylana was such a beautiful, talented, sweet, pleasant person and I will miss her terribly. Pray as though your life depended upon it.

What do you like about music?

So I heard an interesting question the other day and I finally came up with an answer to it. The person was asking what kind or kinds of music another person liked and the second person told the first. Then it got interesting. The first person asked a very simple question, a question with only one word but a miriad of answers. "Why?" Person number two was dumbfounded, much like I would have been, and couldn't come up with a good answer. I got to thinking about it and came up with my own answer. Now, if anybody asks me that question, I can answer them truthfully and quickly. See, I love most every kind of music, but I love it for different reasons, each reason unique to the genre, but some overlapping styles.

I like jazz for the creativity.

I like classical for the musicality.

I like rock for the energy.

I like r&b for the emotion.

I like gospel for the message.

I like country for the stories.

I like bluegrass for the reality.

I like world music (reggae, afro-cuban, indian, etc.) for the rhythmic qualities.

I like drum & bugle corps, marching band, etc. for the intricacies.

I like a cappella music for the purity of unaccompanied voices.

I like hip hop for the beats.

I like soul/funk for the groove...and you know I like to groove!

I like different types of music for different reasons, but one thing is common. I like music because God gave me a talent and a passion for it and I want to use it to glorify Him in all I do. So, what do you like about music?

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The following statement is not meant to be boastful whatsoever. I have been blessed to be quite the world traveler lately. For those of you who are new to my world, I have the honor of traveling around the country and the world singing praises about the God I adore. I am part of a music ministry called Acappella. It's so much fun to get to travel to (some) new places and meet (some) new people and share the good news that Jesus loves you and me and he died to save us from ourselves, wipe away our sins, and take us to Heaven for all eternity! (Wow, that felt really good to say!) On a regular basis, we get the priviledge of feeding the Bread of Life to those who are starving for the Truth.

There comes a time, however, when those of us who feed need to be fed. It just so happens that now is one of those times. It also just so happens that one of the members of our ministry, Allen Brantley, is starting a new role in his life as husband to Kim Lancaster (yes, Keith Lancaster's daughter) and we won't be performing for a couple weeks. Keep them in your prayers, by the way. Since they decided to have a small family wedding that doesn't involve me, I decided to come home to Texas for a couple weeks and recharge my battery. I've already seen several friends and plan on seeing more soon. I also hope to see my dad this weekend. Pray for him too. He turns 88 at the end of this month. I get to see my "other family" next week and I'm way excited about that. To top it all off, I get more quiet time so I can read my Bible more, pray more specifically and purposefully, and let my body recuperate from the beating it's taken the last few months. Acappella is not a high-paying job (contrary to popular belief) which means I have to have a secondary form of income to make ends meet. Until recently, I waited tables at a restaurant. I have just begun working for a nursery as a vendor to a specific home improvement store. The hours are a little more flexible and I control when I work. The pay averages out to be quite a bit better than where I was because my schedule only allowed for me to work mainly lunch (and servers don't make great money at tip them nicely when you get the chance) and I was still worn out by the end of my shift. There were plenty times I went home with less than $20 after a 4 or 5 hour shift. That ain't no good. But I digress.

All I'm trying to say is that rest is good and we should all try to rest when we get a chance. It's basically good stewardship of the bodies God loaned us. If you loan someone a cd, you want them to take care of it and give it back to you without damage. Although our bodies will get damaged and eventually give out, God wants us to take care of them and offer them as living sacrifices (I mean, our body is a temple, right?). That includes eating right, exercising, cutting back on the smoking and drinking, and anything else that promotes good health and is considered being kind to your body. So take care of yourself and get some rest when you can. You'll thank yourself later.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

EUROPE: Day 1 (Well on my way...a.k.a. Getting there)

I just got back from one of the most amazing trips I've ever been on in my life and I wanted to share each day with you while we were there. Unfortunately, I never had internet access after the second day. Fortunately, I was able to write about each day and save it on my computer until I got back. So, that's what you are about to read (should you accept the mission). Hope you can get something good out of the different posts. I tried to be as descriptive as I could without giving away too much. There is an underlying theme to all of the blogs. Let's see if you can find it!

And away we go!
I'm going to try to do something I've never done with my blogging. I'm going to attempt to write a new blog entry for every day of this 10-day mini-tour. I hope it's as entertaining for you to read as it is for us to experience.

It's been a wild ride so far, and getting here has been the bulk of the excitement. We met at the Nashville airport at 11:00 Saturday morning for a 1:25 PM American Airlines flight to Chicago (to be followed by a 3.5 hour layover and then a 9 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany). I always say "It's not a trip unless something bizarre happens." Well, it was a trip from the time we got to the airport because our flight to Chicago was cancelled because of bad weather. We were re-routed to New York City, however, on a flight that would leave Nashville at 3:55 PM, putting us into LaGuardia at 7:05 Eastern. We would then need to get transportation from LaGuardia to JFK, check into Singapore Airlines and fly to Frankfurt. The fun part was that we would leave JFK at 9:05, a two-hour window to land, get our bags and equipment, get to JFK, check in (to an international flight, mind you) and be ready to go... Yeah... No sweat.

Before we left Nashville, a couple of us started calling around and trying to find transportation so we could just meet them at baggage claim and go. We had big plans. It was gonna work. So we get on the plane and we sit and wait for the pilot to push back so we can get there. Things start looking ugly (wouldn't ya know it). One of the gauges on the plane is not working properly, but come to find out, there's no problem. No problem at all, except that it has to be signed off by a licensed mechanic. He's not on the premesis yet. And so we wait.

Fast forward to 4:45. We're finally taking off. Yay! Now all we have to do is get to our connecting airport, checked in, through security, and on the plane in an hour and twenty minutes. Oh goodie! (What do you think we were doing in the meantime?) Hello, Doubt. Our lovely flight attendants had very little faith that we would make that flight (and we were starting to believe them), but they hooked us up a little bit. As we were exiting the plane, one of the flight attendants gave us 3 vouchers (and made some well-timed phone calls) to get us 3 Lincoln Town Cars to take us to JFK. We got packed into the cars (barely) and sped off. (I love New York. You can drive like you are in the middle of the Indy 500 and, if you look important enough, not even get pulled over.) So we get to JFK at 8:20. Forty-five minutes before take-off on a six-hour international flight. We hustle up to the counter and, wouldn't ya know it, the line is empty! By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that I had been praying for a mighty work to happen so we could make this flight. He'd done it before, He could do it again, if He wanted to. So we check in (and for the second time that day, didn't get charged for our equipment being over weight) and literally run through JFK to get to a long security line. We can see our gate from the security line, it's not far away, still we can't get to it. This can't be happening! From the moment we stepped foot into the airport, they were calling for people to board the plane to Frankfurt. By the time we hit security, it was last call. Nerves were overreacting, tensions were rising, complaints were flying. It was so scary. We finally get through security and high-tail it toward the gate.

Remember how I prayed for a mighty work? And remember how God answers prayers (even those from we who doubt)? Well, He did it again! I was the last person on the plane and we arrived in Frankfurt just before 10:00 AM local time.

It reminds me of Romans 8:28 where it says "God works for the good of those who love him." It's so good to be loved and cared for by a God who is madly in love with us, regardless of how we feel about Him. So I'll end this by saying that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Pray for us!

Peace, Love and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 2 (Frankfurt, Germany)

So we got to Frankfurt and found our way to our hotel which isn't very far from the airport. We took a train to the proper exit and got to the hotel (across the street from the train station) to check in. We slept for a few hours and then went out to explore Frankfurt...on foot. We ate and fellowshiped and enjoyed the scenery. It was great. That's all for now. I'm being rushed off of the hotel internet. More tomorrow! Pray today!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 3 (Florence, Italy)

So we got to the airport when we needed to, but once again, complications slowed us down. Thanks to the weight charge difference, we ended up having to deal with a difficult situation that I can't really talk about right now. Long story short, we ended up getting on our plane...barely...but we weren't the last people on. After running through a fairly crowded Frankfurt airport and cutting in front of some nice German people, we got through a slow security station and ran to the bus that was waiting for us. Problem was that there was no driver. I guess that's a good thing because another group or two of people got on the bus after we did. The bus took us to a pretty small plane, along with several other people, including a basketball team.

We got to Florence where we met our first promoter, Robbie Shakelford (head of the HUF program) and went to the Harding University, Florence (HUF) villa. We spent some time meeting people associated with HUF and then we went to our housing site which was the Florence Bible School located a few minutes from the HUF villa. After we got our stuff put away, Robbie took us to the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks Florence. What a breath-taking view! We could see the majority of the city from there. We got to visit a nearby church and listen to the monks do vespers (Gregorian Chant - very soothing, especially when you haven't slept much in the previous couple of days). We capped that portion of the day with some wonderfully tasty gellato (YUM!).

Next, we returned to the school so we could clean up and change for our first European performance. We went back to the HUF villa and sang for the 40 college students and probably 25-30 other local folk (and a couple of American parents). We sang off mics and it was a super-fun 45 minute concert. We had a great time hanging out with the Harding students and eating and fellowshipping with them.

We finally got to go to bed and sleep for a full 6 hours or so (wish it could've been longer, but that's the life of musicianaries).

Keep the prayers going up!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 4 (more Florence)

Today I felt more surreal than I have felt in a very long time. It started as a normal day. We woke up early and went to an elementary school to sing for some of the students there. After that, we met up with Tracey Patterson, our outstanding tour guide who is an assistant to Robbie (HUF director) and a great southern girl. Some of you may even know her. A few years ago, she attended regularly the Crossbridge Church where Gary Brantley (Allen's dad) is the preacher. Anyway, she took us to the Accademia museum where we saw several important pieces of art including one of the most famous sculptures ever created -- David. It was everything I imagined and so much more. I can't really describe what it felt like to be in the presence of such greatness in the field of art and history that is known world wide and has been known for centuries. It was truly amazing.

After that, we had lunch at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant and it was some of the best food I've had in a long time. Then we went to the Uffizzi museum and saw lots of important and beautiful art. That was another great experience that can't be described. We had lots of fun there and took pictures where we could. I hope to share some of them soon.

We left the downtown area and went to the Florence Church of Christ to set up for the concert. It was a fun concert in an intimate setting. The inside of the church building was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome and it was a beautiful building. The acoustics were crazy! Several of the HUF students who were at last night's concert were present at tonight's concert too. They loved it and we love them for that.

After the concert, we ate and fellowshipped together. As we ate, I met a few Texans. Some were HUF students but there was a couple who had 3 small children and the wife grew up in (of all places) Gruver, TX. Gruver is a tiny town of about 1000 people (if that many) in the Panhandle of Texas about 100 miles north of Amarillo. She knows people I worshipped with in Canyon before I joined Acappella and moved away. I'm pretty sure her maiden name is Lanita Burnham but don't ask me what her married name is because I can't remember whatsoever.

We had a great day. Tomorrow, Rome! You've got to pray just to make it today!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 5 (Rome, Italy)

We woke up early this morning because we had to be at our bus stop before 7:00 this morning. For those of you who don't know me, I have a confession to make. I am one of the grumpiest people on the face of the planet in the mornings, especially when I haven't had much sleep, and even moreso when I am woken up before I want to get up. Needless to say, it was a very long morning. We had to catch the bus, though, so we could get on our train to Rome. It was a very nice train filled with working stiffs as well as high-class business folk. Tracey, Jordan and I went to the bar car and got cappuccinos. I woke up a little bit and became less of a grouch. Now we could start our day.

We got to Rome and caught taxis to our hotel, the Hotel Tiziano. It was super-nice. After we got checked in, we went to the Vatican City. That's an amazing place. We got to walk through the "city" and see all the sights that led us to the Sistine Chapel. It's true. Michelangelo was an unbelievable artist. Words can't really express what it was like to be there and see the painted ceiling first-hand. It was unreal. We kept walking and finally got to St. Peter's Basicilica. What a work of art. The largest church building in the world and we were standing right in the middle of it. It's amazing to see the result of what man can imagine and create, but it's even more amazing to see what God can create, which is so much more than we could ever imagine.

After spending some time there, we went to this cool little "Disney-esque" tourist attraction called "The Time Elevator" which gives a brief history of the foundation of Rome. If you've ever been on a Universal Studios ride or anything similar, you know what I'm talking about. Big movie theater screen with moving chairs that gives you that nice queasy feeling when you get up. Cheesy, yet surprisingly satisfying.

Then we went back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff and took taxis to our concert site which was a school with a small auditorium. Once we got situated and set up, I had the biggest surprise of my trip. My dear friend, Silvia Manfredi, came to see me! She's a clarinet player who lives in Genoa, Italy and was in Rome for an audition to play in the army band. Unfortunately, it didn't work out this time, but pray for her so her next audition will be much more fruitful. Anyway, I was so excited to see her and spend the rest of the evening with her after the concert. We had a great concert and the small room was packed with Roman people and their neighbors. After eating with the local church members (from the Church of Christ in cool is that?), Silvia and I caught a bus back to the stop nearest to the hotel so we could spend time catching up after nearly two years of not as much as hearing from each other. We got there just in time for her to catch a taxi to the train station for a 6 hour ride home (which left at midnight) so she could get to work the next morning.

After Silvia and I parted ways, Tracey took the guys and me to see another historic Roman sight. The Pantheon. It's absolutely gorgeous at night. So majestic. So regal. So we left there and went to the Fountain Trevy which was even more beautiful. Tracey says it's her favorite place in Rome, especially at night. Quite the spot for romance. If you're ever in Rome with the one you love, go to the Fountain Trevy at night. You'll never lose that special someone that way (unless you do something to mess it all up, which is a whole 'nother story for a whole 'nother time).
We left the fountain and walked back to the hotel. It wasn't a long walk and it was a beautiful night so we took our time. Now it's off to bed late for an early morning.

We are seeing more sights in the morning before going to the airport to head back to Frankfurt. Pray, pray, pray!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 6 (more Rome, more traveling)

I have hereby decided that Rome is the most amazing city on the face of the planet (at least that I have seen, anyway). This morning we woke up and had a nice breakfast in our hotel. After breakfast, Tracey took us walking to a nearby park where it is believed that Brutus and his friends betrayed and killed Ceasar. The ruins were covered up ages ago and were rediscovered some time around the 1920's. We left there and went in search of true Roman history. On the way, Tracey took us to some great places including the museum dedicated to Marcus Arellius. We didn't go into the museum because just behind it was The Forum. We went down some stairs and were standing in The Forum where the Roman Senate did all their business and where Ceasar ruled the world. Next to The Forum was a small prison where it is believed that Paul and Peter were incarcerated. We got to go inside and look around for a moment. It was really interesting to think that some of the original Christians, some of the men we pattern our love for Christ after, some of the men who physically walked with God stood in the same place I stood today.

We walked through The Forum, taking lots of pictures as we went, and there it was. The thing we'd been waiting to see for this entire trip. The structure of structures. One of the most amazing man-made wonders of all time.


It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen with my own eyes. I touched it with my hands. It's very real. Yes, we took plenty of pics there too. It was extremely surreal. Imagine it being built by men way before things like cranes and trucks and electricity were ever even thought of. It was truly the greatest work of man-made art I have ever seen.
Once we were able to peel ourselves away from there (and after I almost got hustled by some guys dressed in Roman soldier costumes), we headed back to the hotel so we could get to the airport and catch a plane back to Frankfurt. We said our goodbyes to Tracey and got in our taxis. Let me take a moment to say that Tracey Patterson is a blast and a half and her fiance is one fortunate man. She did a great job of showing us around Rome and Florence, as well as interpreting for us and really doing whatever she could to make us feel comfortable and well-taken care of.

So we got to the airport and got checked in with no problems whatsoever (for the first time this entire trip) and had about half an hour to sit and eat before boarding the plane. We flew Lufthansa Airlines back to Frankfurt where our new promoter, Phillipe and his son Jonathan met us with a large van. We drove for about an hour into Heidlberg where we stopped and found an authentic restaurant to enjoy a hearty meal. We were about an hour-long drive away from Seebach, France so we headed that way so we could get to our hotel and sleep.

At this point we have gone almost the entire day with no problems traveling whatsoever. That changed quickly. We got to the German - French border which is about 300 meters (approx. 5 miles) from Seebach. The border was closed. That's right. They closed France! Figure that one out. We had arrived just a few minutes too late to cross the border there, so we ended up driving 30 miles down the river which took us nearly another hour to find another border crossing and then we had to find our way to the hotel. We finally found it and now I'm going to go to bed.

It's been an amazing journey so far. I can't wait to see what happens the rest of the trip! Keep praying!!!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 7 (Seebach, France)

We've spent so much time in big cities that I almost forgot what it was like to be in a small town. Seebach is a very small village just west of the German border. Actually, the town is surrounded by Germany on 3 sides. It's a quaint little French village, though. Phillipe was nice enough to let us sleep in for the first time in a few days and it felt glorious! When it was time for us to leave, we found out that European eating schedules are precisely what they sound like, schedules. In Italy, food was programmed into the schedule and we ate when we were supposed to. We quickly found out that there are only small windows in which you can eat. There's breakfast, of course, and lunch. After about 1:30 or so, you can't eat at a restaurant or get food at a supermarket until around 6:30 PM. They stop serving food after 9:00 or so. After that, you're out of luck, and especially in a small village like Seebach. I said all that to say nothing was open except McDonald's at the time we went to eat. Guess where we ate. Yes, I got pics there, too. ("Ya know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Paris? A royale with cheese." Name that movie.)

After Mickey D's, we went to the concert hall to set up our sound equipment. Come to find out, we didn't have the right power conversion system for that venue, so we used what they had. It's interesting to see us doing a concert with wired mics instead of our normal wirless ones. Such is life. We ended up doing a great concert with a pretty full house (I was told around 580 French and German people). They even asked us to do two separate encores!

Between set-up time and sound check, we met up with a professional tour guide named Don. Don is originally from Canada, just north of Toronto, but now resides in France and doesn't speak English very often. He and Phillipe took us to an old World War II bunker that the French people in that area defended their border from. It's amazing to think of that area 60-70 years ago as a war zone, but that's the way it was. Beautiful country. Lots of farm land for cattle raising. We spent the rest of the day with Don, even after the concert for a short while. He was a complet joy to work with and we are so priveledged to have met him. He is a choral conductor and a professor of music. His 280 member choir sings all kinds of music but he places his emphasis on gospel and liturgical type music. It's his ministry and we pray that God will bless it to its full capacity and then some.

Okay. Bed time. We have a 6 hour drive ahead of us in the morning and have to get up early. I need my beauty rest. Did you think to pray today?

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 8 (Montreux, Switzerland)

My trip has been officially completed today. I mean, we've been to Florence, sang for people of all ages there, seen priceless art there and in Rome, Saw the foundation of what was once the most powerful city in the world. I even got to see my dear friend whom I haven't seen in ages.Well, today was the capper for me. We drove into Montreux today and I learned that things in Europe are much different than in the States. For example, I went to get a refill on my drink and learned that it cost about three bucks American for about 8 ounces of Coke. That's insane!

That's not what made my trip complete, though. You see, Montreux is known for this little event called the Montreux Jazz Festival. The festival is held in a few different venues, one of which is Stravinski Hall . Some of the world's most innovative and timeless music legends have played that stage. Names like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, and now Acappella. That's right. We played Stravinski Hall, home of the Montreux Jazz Festival!!! We performed on the same stage as Herbie Hancock and Tower of Power (one of my favorite bands of all time) and I know this because we signed a giant book afterward that was started last year and we found Herbie and T.O.P. back-to-back in the same book. My hand has written in the same book as Herbie Hancock?! Are you kidding me?!

I don't remember much about the concert except that it was packed on the ground floor with close to 1000 people who called us back for two encores and wanted more. Too bad we ran out of songs. There were people from all over at the concert. We even had guests all the way from Spain who flew in just to see our concert! What an amazing experience. God is way too good to me. I'll never fully understand why.

Tomorrow, the final concert of our tour, Zurich. Oh yeah, Phillipe told us that the Winterthur concert got moved to Zurich, so that's that. Pray today, tomorrow, and always.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 9 (Zurich, Switzerland)

Last night was not nearly as short of a night as we've been dealing with as of late, and that made us all very happy. We didn't leave the Hotel Villa Tuscane until 10:00 this morning. Phillipe took us to the church where he and his family worship (I never really found out the name of it. I mean I saw it once, but I didn't write it down or anything and I don't remember the real name of it, so I'm not gonna try to share the name because it's French and I forgot...that was a really long run-on sentence) and we sang a few worship songs during their communion time. It was very special singing in a church building that was built about 250 years ago. We were privileged to share the Lord's Supper with the people of Vevey (just outside of Montreux) and then we shared lunch with the Meyer family at their home. I can't describe the beauty that surrounded us while we were at their home. They live in the mountains and to step onto the front porch means that you will witness the power, majesty, beauty, creativity of the God who gave us life and, in spite of ourselves, gives us mercy and grace. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

After lunch, we drove to Zurich which took just over 2 hours. Though Bern is the capitol of Switzerland (and we drove through Bern), Zurich is the financial hub. As a matter of fact, we drove down one of the wealthiest streets in all of Europe while in Zurich. Our concert was held in one of Zurich's most famous landmarks, the Grossemunster Cathedral. I really had no idea about the Grossemunster but it's in most of the pictures and postcards of Zurich (it's the church with the two steeples). Many a tourist visited the church building as we were setting up and checking sound and I think that drew more of a crowd for us in the long run.

After sound check, we walked to our hotel, The Hotel Alder, which was a five minute walk...through the red-light district! It was a little scary, and a lot exciting to know that the gospel would be shared in (or at least very near) the red-light district of a financial powerhouse of a European city. So we took a few minutes to clean up and change, then we walked back and prepared for our concert. The place was packed! All of the seats on the main floor were occupied and there were several people in the balcony. All in all, there were around 750 in attendance and it was just a special night. During intermission, Phillipe asked us to add some of the worship songs we had sung this morning for the second half of the concert, so we went to the middle of the room in the midst of the people and sang two of our favorite worship songs, "Covenant of Love" and "Worthy is the Lamb." That was my favorite part of the concert. Although most of the people didn't sing along, I felt like we were fortunate enough to lead God's people in true worship. The feeling was amazing.

As before, we were invited to sing two different encores and I think the crowd was just as encouraged as we were when all was said and done. This was a great way to end this tour. It was also the end of Ryan Smith's time on the road with us as sound man. He's been on the road with us for several months now, but is going to work full-time in the Acappella studio and continue to be a part of this ministry. Though we will miss him on the road, we look forward to adding Byron Sommerdahl and Corey Callis to our "road family."

We fly home in the morning. I'm excited to be back, but I will miss all the friends I've made here (or the ones I've caught up with) and the beautiful places that define Europe. What an amazing experience this trip has been! Pray for our safe travel back to the states and that God will do a mighty work in Europe and bring more souls to him.

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

EUROPE: Day 10 (On my way, on my way, on my way home...)

The last early morning for us for a few days and it feels nice! It's been an incredibly long day, though. We had to be ready to go at 7:00 this morning, Swiss time (1:00 AM in Texas) so we could get to the airport and get checked in on time. We made it with no problems and plenty of time to do some last minute shopping. Phillipe got us there and took good care of us, making sure we were all situated before he left. We will miss him terribly, but we look forward to the time when we get to see him again. Keep him and his family in your prayers. He's a great man of God.

The flight from Zurich to Dallas is way long! After spending about eleven hours on the plane, we landed in Dallas at about 4:15 this afternoon. We went through customs, claimed our bags, rechecked our bags, and had over 2 hours to wait before getting on our plane to Nashville. We landed in Nashville at about 9:40 tonight which, after doing the math (and if you know me, you know how I feel about math), meant that we spent over 18 hours getting from our hotel to our own beds...Jordan calls it a "thirty-hour day."

What a day! What a trip! What an experience! I doubt I will ever forget the way this trip has changed my life. I will try to share that later (after I've had a chance to rest and reflect) but it's bed time now. I hope you've enjoyed this trip as much as I have. Just because we're back doesn't mean you can stop praying, though. Pray without ceasing!

Peace, Love, and Chocolate

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day 2007

Alright kids. In the spirit of this wonderful occasion we call Valentine's Day, this one's gonna be short and sweet.

Brace yourself.

You ready?

Okay, here goes.

Erase the hate and share the love. Though it's easier said than done (at times), it needs to happen.
Your assignment, show someone you love them. It's what Jesus would do, and he seems to know a thing or two about love.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get after it!

Peace, LOVE, and Chocolate


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Me: New and Improved

"I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed." The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the emeny, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear." - Dr. Bob Moorehead

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Rom. 1:16a)