Monday, May 17, 2010

The Story Behind Naming My Son Keane

Last May I drove with my soulmate and music lover Marisa to our nations Capital to see Mat Kearney and Keane in concert. With the GPS guiding the way and tunes coming thru the iPod it was a lovely drive down the highway to our first destination of the night, Ebenezer's CoffeeHouse, which is part of National Community Church, started by Mark Batterson, author of Wild Goose Chase and Primal.

It is a crazy cool coffee house with great coffee and free wifi! Seriously they need to franchise it and get one in PA.

Making our way from Ebenezer's to Constitution Hall was no easy task in the midst of DC traffic, let alone finding a parking spot.

We found a garage that was closing but the guy said it as ok to park there anyways. (That will come into play later...)

Mat Kearney opened before Keane, and drew the audience in for heartfelt show. It was a special night for Kearney as he released his new CD "City Of Black & White" on that day as well. Watching him tell his stories of faith and friends by means of guitar and solid band behind him, it was as if I was watching a young Bruce Springsteen about to break through. As he closed the set the crowd stood to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.

I've been to a lot of concerts, I have never seen that happen before.

We then made our way to meet him and get an autograph and a picture. It was chaos as the crowd surrounded the singer/songwriter, we pushed through the crowd and got our autograph and picture, and even a little more. I thanked him for a great show and said keep writing great music, and he was very humble and gracious.

As I shook his hand I said God bless you, and he looked me in the eyes and said God bless YOU. It was one of the loaded statements, that communicated much more than words. I can understand why God has blessed him.

As my wife and I were buzzing from meeting Mat, Keane was about to take the stage. It was a brilliant show, and being third row from the stage, just added to the amazing experience. Thanx Ris ;-)

I think what really separates some bands from others is playing with passion and love for music, and these Brit boys have it.

Following the show we decided to hang around and try and meet boys from Keane. After all its my wife's favorite band, and we've seen them numerous times, but never met them. We hung out by their tour bus, and the crew was very accommodating and allowed us to hang around to meet the band.

Tim was the first to come out and was so kind to take pictures and sign autographs and even take time to talk to the crazy fans. We got a chance to talk with him and thanked him for a great show he asked if we were musicians (my wife fav part of the story) and we talked about music. So flattering to hear an accomplished musician ask us that, very flattering indeed. We told him of the time that we drove to Kansas City to buy a Piano (Yamaha CP-70), the same piano he uses in the band. That particular type of piano is very hard to find today. We also met the rest of Keane, Richard the drummer, and I talked about drums, music, sports, and social justice, we seriously got along like good friends (or as the say the UK Good Mates). Tom came out, the lead singer, and Marisa was totally star-struck, it was pretty cute to see.

We made our way back to the parking garage at 12 am-ish in the morning, was shocked to see the garage...closed...steel gate and all, with our vehicle in sight, but out of reach. I reached in my pocket to make a phone call, and wouldn't you know, my cell phone is dead. Marisa had her phone fully charged, but fully charged and in the car. We saw a security guard from the local college, and asked if there is any way to get in the garage. He said you can use your ticket, to open the gate, but like Marisa's phone, that was also in car. Staying cool of course, we asked if there are any hotels around. He said there is one about a mile away, and gave us directions.

Getting ready to walk to the streets of DC to a hotel, he said he could give us a ride. And just call us in as college students from the campus. That was fine with me! We made it to the hotel, and wouldn't you room at the inn. The security guard was nice enough to wait and made sure that we found a place to stay, he told us of another place and we made our way inside. I asked the bellhop, who was an older gentleman, if they had any rooms. He said they had possibly one, and he asked his nephew who was behind the desk about rooms for us. They were sold out as well, but they had one room, it was a conference-room with a bed. We took it! It wasn't that bad at all, even had a TV in the room with the bed. I really started to get an idea of what Joseph and Mary went through. They charged us half price, and we had a nice, safe, place to spend the night.

I got up first thing in the morning to pick up my car in the garage. I walked in, and they asked me for ID and what I was doing, I told them that we got locked out of the garage last night. He said just take the car and have a good day. I didn't pay for parking, but I did pay for a hotel, not exactly an even trade, but Im not complaining. I picked up Marisa, got some Starbucks, checked out and made our way back to York, PA thanking God his grace.

The interesting thing, is that the Security Guard, the Hotel Bellhop and Manager, as well as the Garage Attendant were all clearly foreign, and probably of a different religion. And they all treated us with compassion and sense of brotherly love. As a Christian, it was humbling for me because how often do we treat the Muslim, the Homosexual, the African-American, the UnChristian different than how we treat someone else who believes likes us and looks like us. I want to treat people the way those men treated me that night.

One prayer that has made it to the front of my list, is a pray for favor. As Christians, we need to have favor with the world around us. Abraham and Sarah had favor with Pharaoh, Daniel had favor with the government of his day, and Joseph and Mary had favor with the Inn Keeper. What would the Bible be like if these pillars of faith did not have favor?

Since we felt God's hand strong on our lives that night we wanted our son to have that same blessing be said of his life as well. So we named him Keane, which to some may mean a brilliant Brit-Pop band, but to us it means a life marked by the unusual and unexpected gift of favor.

(Left, Me, Marisa & Mat Kearney at CD Signing)

(Right, a giddy Marisa, Tom Chaplin of Keane, and Me after the show in DC)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ordination = Humbled

I am still reeling from the spiritual tidal wive that was this past week. (Baby dedication blog coming soon). I was ordained with the Assemblies of God, and Im still trying to figure out how I slipped thru the cracks and was able to be apart of such a progressive movement. (I actually got ordained with 23 individuals 3 of which were women...very cool)

The ordination service had more of an impact on me than I realized, for my wife as well. Marisa said it felt a lot like our wedding service. One reason may be because the same church that we were married in was the same church that I happened to be ordained in, Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill. (Same worship leader too)

To be honest its really hard to put the night even into words. My wife's grandfather prayed for us, and I was buckets. The words he prayed and how he prayed touched me deeply. Both of my grandfathers have passed on, so I claim my wife's grandfather as my own. I look up to him so much, I love the conversations we have too. I never got to talk to my own grandfathers, one passed before I was born and the other only spoke Italian. So this was very special for me. He is very special to me.

My childhood pastor came up for the ordination service too. He has been in ministry a long time. He prefers not to attend many of the Penn-Del District events, but he told me that he wouldn't miss this service for anything.

He told me he was there because of me, I replied, Im here because of you.

He never gave up on me. When other pastors have in the past, he didn't. I am in ministry today because of the influence he had on my life.

I was congratulated by my college's president (Don Meyer of VFCC one of the most sincere men I have ever known) I also saw professors, former pastors I used to work for, and some new pastors who have I come to know and I respect a lot.

It was a very strange "This Is Your Life" kind of moment. (Yah its an old show but a good one)

I felt loved. I felt honored. I felt humbled.

I was absolutely blown away by the support that I received from my family, my church and my friends. Growing up in Philly I lived in one house, but I changed schools a lot. I never had the opportunity to make solid friends. Today I am blessed with some of the greatest friends I ever had. Friends who came out and hugged me and stood by me thru this process (and stood by me thru some other really tough times too).

I am reminded of the quote from one of my favorite movies, It's A Wonderful Life...

"Remember no man is a failure who has friends."

I never really knew it meant before,

I know what it means now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Students Praying 'Nuff Said

Getting up at the crack of dawn is not fun. However, usually once I am up, hit the shower, and hit some coffee, it is worth it. (The sky always looks amazing before 7am)

Case in point, this past Thursday. I was up extra earlier that morning, following a long night but good night for my ordination (that blog coming later), to meet some TLY students and their friends to meet at Central High's flagpole for the National Day of Prayer.

Why is that prayer always seems to be more powerful in the morning...?

It was worth it to get up and pray with the students.

One by one students began to gather and we had a pretty good group. I remember one year for See-You-At-The-Pole, hardly any one showed up. No one was seeing anyone at the flagpole that day. This day was different.

It was encouraging and powerful to hear the students pray.
To pray for each other.
To pray for their teachers.
To pray to be real and not ashamed.

I actually chucked when one student actually did pray that, "Lord help us to be real so that when our friends ask us why we were at the flagpole so earlier we can be honest with them."
That is what Im talking about! Honest prayers from a generation who wants to other to be real but sometimes has a hard time being real themselves.

Another student actually made a video and really tried to get the word out to the school campus. The video never got approved to be shown. But word did get out.

These students planted seeds that will make a difference tomorrow after all these students could've very well gotten a few extra Zzz's that morning.

I did, when I was a teenager I never went to SYATP I never got up early for the National Day of Prayer. (I was a Christian too)

These students did.

As a youth pastor I try teach these students the best I can, but today I learned from them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Preaching To The Homeless

This past Friday I had the opportunity to speak at a local Rescue Mission in York, PA. It was an amazing night. We took our youth worship team to lead and minister thru a human video. The students were brilliant, sharing their gifts and love for Jesus in a very different environment then what they are used to. Some of the girls got heckled walking into the mission too.

This was definitely not church.

But the Holy Spirit still showed up.

It was my second time speaking at the rescue mission. The first time I spoke I will be honest, I did not put a lot of effort into the message. It was a message I spoke before at a nursing home. Yeah, you can see where my heart was. (I am not a fan of recycled messages either)

The first night I went was still moving, just to be able to serve food to the less fortunate and give back with some of our youth and other members of our church is such a high. However...I got convicted big time. Not because of the high, it was legit, no drugs here. I got convicted because I looked at the Mission as people who did not deserve my best as a Pastor.

God spoke to my heart, in the only way He can.
"Be yourself and put the effort into it like you would if it was a sunday morning."

That hit me.

I prepared differently this time. I spent they day preparing my message and studying the scriptures. I spoke about Rocky, I spoke about Jesus, I spoke about "Going The Distance."

I rolled up with a projector and my MacBook Pro ready to rock some multimedia. Hey, God said be myself, so I felt safe to bring the techno goodies.

I think they dug the Keynote presentation and the movie clips...but I think Holy Spirit did more than my Mac ever could.

There was a solid response to the alter call.
One person actually responded to the call of salvation.
His name was Kevin.

After the message, he came up to me and shared that his father passed away last year and his sister passed away this year. He continued to say that tonight he saw the Light. Amazing.
I got to sit down with him later on during the meal (spaghetti and meatballs never tasted so good).

I learned a little more about Kevin and he shared that his wife is Assemblies of God but he is not (maybe that will change). He is unemployed and a New York transplant looking for a job. We talked about Italian food, he calls the sauce, gravy too. See Im not the only one. It's definitely a Philly and New York thing...ha ha. We were definitely getting along like two pizans. We had a good time.

It was worth it putting the time into the service for the Rescue Mission.
It was worth it for Kevin.