When Things Are Crazy

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately. The last couple of weeks were incredibly full leading up to a worship conference my church hosted for our congregation and other Anglican churches in the area. It was our first time doing this, a great “dry run”, and something we’d love to offer regularly. I hosted the main sessions, led music and rehearsals, taught two seminars, led the Saturday evening service, and did the music for that service and a Sunday morning service too. I was tired. But it was a good tired.

And now my wife, Catherine, and I are preparing for baby girl #2 in a matter of weeks. Our daughter, Megan, is coming up on 17 months old, so our house is about to get even crazier. But it’s wonderful.

In the midst of all the craziness of the last few months and the next few months (years? decades?) God has been teaching me a couple of important things:

Pray without ceasing. This used to seem like a high and lofty command. Pray all the time? Impossible. Who would want to hang around someone who never stops praying? How would I get anything practical done? What about when I’m eating a burger?

But I’m realizing this is actually a very comforting and refreshing command.

My days can be a bit crazy. Emails, Easter planning meetings, moving my office, baby sonograms, turn in receipts to finance office, choose songs, get home in time to help with Megan’s bath/nighttime routine, etc. Here’s what I’m praying in little snippets all throughout the day: Lord give me peace. Help me to know how to phrase this email. Give us wisdom about what time to hold services. Help me find that pizza receipt. What songs should we sing this Sunday?

Your days look different, but they can be crazy too. And it can be hard to find time for any prayer, much less a long prayer session, and certainly the entire day. But it’s easy to pray without ceasing when the prayers don’t have to be long. Who said our prayers have to be long? They don’t. It’s easy to pray when we can just pick up where we left off, stop attempting to sound impressive or pious, and remember that because of Jesus we have access to our Father – at all times. In the midst of your craziness and busyness, offer real, short, heartfelt prayers. It will help.

Laugh. A lot of the things we can get stressed out about in ministry wouldn’t seem like such big deals if we just learned to laugh at them.

In the last 5 months I’ve had three different offices. My first office got converted into more nursery space, my second office (which I was only in for 4 months) turned out being a better fit for one of my colleagues who helps with the choirs and orchestra, and so now I’m in my third office in 5 months. I like this one the best, but it’s been an awful lot of disruption.

And this past Wednesday, after I had taken Monday and Tuesday off to recover from the conference, I spent a couple of hours in the morning putting together a little loveseat for my office so I can have meetings in there. It turned out being incredibly ugly. So then I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon disassembling it and re-packaging it and mailing it back. I didn’t get an awful lot more done that day.

And in the past I would have gotten pretty stressed out about this disruption and backlog of work it created. But actually, it was kind of funny. I had a good time trying to figure out how to assemble it without a manual, along with our AV director Andrew. Then we laughed about how ugly it was. Then I amused myself and some others on our staff by attempting to somehow fit it all back in the box in which it came. You’ve never seen so much packing tape on the outside of a box.

I could have either stressed out about it or laughed. I chose to laugh. And I think that was a better decision.

What things do you allow to stress, burden, bother, and irritate you? Here’s a tip: look for the humor. Things are funnier than we realize they are most of the time.

Turns out that praying without ceasing and learning to laugh will make your craziness not seem so crazy, make you more Christ-like (do you think the little children would have wanted to run to a serious, up-tight guy?), and help you be more effective. At least this is what I pray is happening in me.

The Wisdom in Having a Back-up Instrument Close By

Every worship leader who plays guitar dreads the moment when his or her string breaks in the middle of a set. It usually happens at the worst moment – either right at the beginning of a set of songs or on the song you’re playing the hardest.

I’ve written before on how to handle this awkward moment but I wanted to underline one point: the wisdom of having a back-up instrument close by.

A back-up guitar
If you play guitar, I strongly encourage you to have a second guitar tuned-up, on a stand, close by just in case you need it. You might not need it 9 out of 10 Sundays, but you’ll be awfully glad you went through the work of setting it up when you do feel that awful sensation of a string popping and twanging.

(You can fit two acoustic guitars on one guitar stand if you buy a double-guitar stand.)

If you don’t own two acoustic guitars, maybe someone in your church has a second one lying around. Or buy a cheap-ish one. Your back-up guitar doesn’t need to be very nice. It just needs six in-tune strings.

If you’re leading with a band
Switching to your back-up guitar can be pretty smooth if you can rely on the band to keep things going while you take the out-of-commission guitar off and put the new one on. I would wait until a new section of the song, motion to the band to keep it going, and switch guitars then. Most people in the congregation won’t notice. If they do, they’ll think you planned it.

If you’re leading on your own
If I break a string and need to switch instruments, I’ll wait until a new section of the song and say something like “let’s sing that again with just our voices”. Then I stop playing, make sure they start singing the next section, and then step back and switch.

If you happen to play piano also
Oftentimes when I’m leading by myself, instead of setting up a second guitar, I’ll just make sure there’s a piano or a keyboard close by with a mic. That way if I break a string I can just hop over to the piano.

This happened a few months ago at a healing conference my church hosted. I was in the middle of the song “Holy is the Lord” by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio when my D string popped. I waited until after the bridge to move over to the piano. You can hear what it sounded like here:

In that moment when my string broke, I was very glad I had asked our sound engineer to make sure the piano was set-up and there was a microphone there. My strings were new and I didn’t think they’d break, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Handling Awkward Moments – A Medical Emergency

This past Sunday at my church, I was sitting in the congregation and listening to the sermon, when I noticed an individual stand up and walk towards the back of the room. I thought it was an odd time for this person to leave since the sermon was almost over, and I also thought it wasn’t very discreet since they were sitting directly in front of the preacher!

About 15 seconds later, a huge gasp arose from the back of the room as this person proceeded to faint, fall onto the laps of a couple people, and end up lying on the floor.

Thankfully, we have several doctors and nurses who attend our church, two of whom were sitting within arm’s reach of where the individual fainted. We’ve also prepared for this kind of incident by installing emergency 911 buttons at our sound desk, and training our ushers how to respond. This person was taken to a hospital within minutes and released that afternoon, but it was still a huge disruption to the service.

It’s impossible to know when a service might be interrupted by a medical emergency. But it’s good to think through how you should respond. Bill Haley, one of our associate pastors who was preaching, handled it like a pro. Here’s what he did:

Don’t pretend it’s not happening!
Bill recognized he has lost the attention of the room, and that someone needed help. To continue with his sermon would have been futile and foolish. He could pick up his sermon later, but he had to address the emergency first.

Ask if there are any doctors in the room
Bill was in mid-sentence when the person fainted. After hearing the loud gasp and seeing that someone had fainted, he immediately said: “are there any doctor’s in the room?” Seconds later, an ER doctor and a handful of nursed were at the person’s side. Bill had the advantage of a microphone, and he used it well.

Once this individual had medical attention and 911 had been called, Bill said: “let’s pray”. He led the congregation in praying for the person until they were being carried out of the room.

Slowly get back to where you were
After this person was taken out to the lobby, he reassured people that he would update us on their status at the end of the service, encouraged us to keep praying for her, reminded us that God was in control, and slowly transitioned back into his sermon.

Recognize that the dynamic in the room has changed
I had planned to follow Bill’s sermon with Enfield’s arrangement of “Crown Him with Many Crowns”. Knowing that people were still shaken up and distracted, we changed the arrangement on the fly to be a bit more laid back and less aggressive. To follow a medical emergency with a rock version of a hymn could have been perceived as insensitive and jarring.

One thing that Bill did that ended up adding to some of the confusion was to ask intercessory prayer team members to go lay hands on the person who had fainted. This resulted in too many people being around, and required the doctor and nurses to tell people to go back to their seats. Next time, I’d ask people to extend a hand towards the person from their seat, but to leave room for the professionals to do their job.

I may never have to deal with this particular scenario again, and you may never face this kind of “awkward moment” in one of your services. But when you’re dealing with a group of people standing up and singing for long periods of time, a variety of ages, 52 Sundays a year, and just plain old odds, it’s most likely going to happen someday.