On Crowder (A Work of Gratitude)…

During the summer of 1999 I spent my Sunday nights driving over to Santa Cruz to attend a worship gathering called “Graceland”. I had just finished my freshmen year at Pacific. The second half of that year marked the beginning of serious involvement with campus ministry (through InterVarsity) and for the first time in my life, on my own, I was really wrestling with Scripture and Jesus, and what they had to say about my future.

I was beginning to grow in an awareness of a number of things including: the reality that I did not want to do dentistry. also, something was happening, kind of underneath the surface, in the church and in my generation.

I had no language or way to really quantify any of those feelings, but something was stirring and it involved a new way to think about and approach the church.

On one of those nights at Graceland (the predecessor to Vintage Faith Church, led by Dan Kimball and Josh Fox) a strange-looking, skinny dude from Texas stood up to lead worship. He and the band he brought with him played “church music” but this was not like anything I’d ever heard or seen before. It was loud, it was loose, it was improvisational, and, and here’s the kicker, it sounded like the music I liked to listen to.

In other words, here was a band that I might go to bar or a club to watch play songs about girls instead leading me into the worship of a God I was beginning to surrender my life to. As much as I admired Josh Fox’s ability to lead worship, this was completely unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before.

The David Crowder Band has gone on to accomplish many great things in the last 12 years, they’ve grown to epic proportions and their influence has been tremendous. So, I feel like they are the one thing where I can say “I was there before…”.

DCB has been with me ever since. Their first album “All I Can Say” was copied on a tape and passed around our IV worship team…that album contained a song “Make a Joyful Noise/I WIll Not Be Silent” that became an anthem of sorts for our community.

Their first “major album”, “Can You Hear Us,” became the soundtrack to a senior year filled with difficulties: the death of friends, breakups, fires in the dorms, graduating and saying some of my first big goodbyes. “Our Love is Loud” became the new anthem. Shortly after the dorm fire, I think it was a week later, someone heard about a free concert he was doing in Livermore for a college group there. 5 of us hopped in a car and we were off. Best show ever. Crowder gave me a hug afterwards when I explained some of the stuff going on back on campus.

“Illumination” is, in many ways, one of the inspirations for this blog. Every time I listen to that album I think of my first summer at Mount Hermon, driving to and from Monte Vista, and going to the only Passion event I’ve ever attended. I went because my good friend, Steve Comer, was running lights for the show. Crowder and Giglio talked about raising money to do a free show in Boston. They really wanted to go there because they had a passion (pun intended) for college students and there were 250,000 students in Boston. This was the first time I had ever heard anything about this and I remember thinking: “I need to go there.”

“A Collision” is still the best album front to back of all time, in my opinion. Musically it is a thematic master piece, and theologically it is up there with any of the best books I’ve ever read (I mean, read this). From that point on, Crowder’s been operating at a different level, not only from other worship leaders, but from other musicians, period. I could go on and on about this album. Bottom line: it is incredible, it’s as close to perfect as an album can be.

“Remedy” became the soundtrack for Durango, and I wore that cd out driving to Albuquerque and back.

“Church Music” is a genius concept album, and Amy and I enjoyed singing our lungs out in a New York club on that tour.

Which brings us to the end. You can read more about “Give Us Rest” here and here…all I will say is it is the perfect ending to an amazing run.

Back to the beginning. The first time I saw Crowder, some things were stirring inside of me that I had no language for…years later I can explain it all, I can see the conversations and the books and the lectures and the conferences that have helped provide context for all the change that has taken place in me, in the church, in culture.

But back in 1999 I had no idea about any of that. I only knew something needed to change…both in me and how we communicated Good News to those around us. Crowder absolutely tapped in to that stirring in my soul and opened it up so something new could come in and take root. His music gave expression to that stirring.

We’ve been inextricably intertwined ever since. And while it’s sad to see them go (and even though I’m sure there’s still more to come in one form or another), I feel nothing but gratitude for these guys.

So, thank you DCB. Thank you for making great music (and it really is great music, not just great worship music), for building cathedrals we could step in to, for leading us in worship.

In the end their own lyrics express the genius of what they did so well:

And I’m trying to make you sing//From inside where you believe

Like it’s something that you need//Like it means everything

And I’m trying to make you feel//That this is for real, that life is happening

That it means everything//I’m just trying to make you sing

Updates Abound

Just sent my sister, Beth, off on a train to Virginia. She came out for a visit and to check out two Dietician programs at Beth Israel and Mount Auburn Hospitals. We rocked Boston hard…a free Harpoon tasting, a tour of the ICA, program check out day, Angela’s Cafe (Rino’s was closed this week), McGreevy’s with friends for the Niners game, REUNION, and some good chats around the dinner table. We are not so secretly rooting for her internship process to lead her out here!

Amy’s sister, Stacey, arrives on Thursday…a permanent move! We are excited to have some family move closer and, even more, we are excited for this new adventure for Stacey.

Boston University starts class tomorrow and UMASS-Boston gets it going next Monday. It’s go time! I am looking forward to many things this semester, but perhaps the thing I am looking forward to the most is the leadership development plan we are putting into action. In particular, Amy and I are prepping (see pic) to spend 10 weeks with 7 prospective leaders at BU reading this and talking about this and this. I CANNOT wait to get started!

Quote of the Week

Actually, two quotes…

As a staff we’ve been reading through Stephen Lutz‘s excellent book College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture. I met Steve at the first Leadership Network Leadership Community for University Ministry last fall.

His book has been a great resource…it feels like Sojourn in a book. Among other things, he also provides some great material and reasoning behind the importance of campus ministry.

For example: “It may be an understatement to say that ‘perhaps the most important mission field in contemporary America is the college campus.’ [quoting David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis] Higher Ed students make up nearly 7 percent of our national population (20.5 million undergraduate and graduate students according to 2006 census data). But because these people grow to be leaders in every sphere, the impact they have on the world far exceeds their numbers…College ministry is the most strategic mission field in the world today.”

Perhaps, he overstates the case, but I’m with him!

As important as Campus Ministry is, it can be overwhelming…how does a team of 7 staff and 25 student leaders reach 250,000 students (in Boston)? If you include our Providence team, how does 9 staff and 30 student leaders reach 350,000 students?

Seems daunting.

I’ve also been reading a biography of Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 “Miracle” Ice Hockey team that won the gold medal. You might have heard of this before.

I find a lot of inspiration in that story, and here’s a quote from the book that sums up that inspiration perfectly:

“An imaginative tactic, when executed by a team totally committed to it, can upset a vastly superior opponent.”


Ordinary Time

I had the privilege to speak at REUNION this past Sunday on Luke 9:28-50. A lot is going on in the text, but I stumbled across something new (to me) in the process of preparing.

In the Catholic Church (and other “high” church traditions that use a liturgical calendar), the season, or period of time, in between Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter is called:

Ordinary Time!

Which is awesome. Literally, this has some Latin root tied to the idea of counting a period of time, so it really refers to how many Sundays there are from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday.

It’s also grown to refer to a general down-swing in the Church Calendar. Advent and Lent are High (or Strong) seasons, and the time in between is Ordinary.

This is fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, there’s something to recognizing the natural rhythm of highs and lows in life and building that into the church calendar.

Second, as a “clergy” I respect the recognition that ministry in High seasons needs to be followed by a slower pace for a time (like summer is for Campus Ministers).

But I also think there’s a part of us that views High Seasons as better. We like the spectacular and the exciting but dread the mundane and the regular. Or, to use the Luke text as an example, we want to stay on the mountain and avoid the “real world” full of stubborn demons and quarrelsome people.

Now, check this out. Each season has a symbolic color…these can differ depending on traditions, but, the Catholic Church, for example, uses violet for Advent.

And it uses green for Ordinary Time.

Green which represents, rebirth, new life, even resurrection.

How awesome is that! Perhaps it’s the moments, the seasons, the periods of time that feel the most like drudgery, like a fight, that seem mundane and unspectacular that are the fertile ground for something new, for a resurrection.

It’s Good…

Things that are good:

  • A team that gathers together to plan, dream, read and talk about Scripture and good books and what excites us about the Spring semester
  • The privilege and honor to speak about Jesus and Scripture and Resurrection with our community
  • That feeling of good butterflies, of anticipation, about a new year, and new semester and a plan that might be a little crazy, that might fail, but feels spirit led
  • Risking together
  • Students who are raring to go and who have been working on plans and dreams over the break and who can’t wait for school to start, so we can get going

This is going to get interesting…


Welcome to the New Illumination Dilemma!

Starting Monday, January 9th I will be experimenting with a new Monday-Friday format. Should look something like this:

  • Mondays…Sojourn/Ministry Updates and pics from the last week
  • Tuesdays…Reflection Pieces
  • Wednesdays…Quote of the week, or an opportunity to share something that I’ve been struck by in my reading
  • Thursdays…Link shares/interesting stuff out there on the web
  • Fridays (weekends)…Family updates/Stuff Amy and I are doing

So, there you go. Make sure you update your blog rolls, your favorites in your browsers, your RRS feeds, whatever you’ve been using to follow the ID and start coming here…

Thanks for reading!