Tag Archives: Children

Transition

Earlier today, Gretchen and I stood up in front of the church and announced that I would be stepping down from my position as Worship Leader at Christ Community Church.

A Little History

About 9 years ago, I was the worship leader for a small church plant in the Inland Empire. It was not a good experience. The leadership was not supportive, our relationship with the pastor was demeaning, and when we left we shook the dust off our feet. I had no place to go, no obvious means of income, but we had to get gone.

We bounced around for a few months, moved to Burbank, and then out of nowhere I got an email from Doug Scholten, the pastor at CCC. Their worship leader had left with two weeks notice, and Doug was scrambling to find an interim who could hold down the gig for a month or so while they looked for someone to take the position. We met, it went well, and I agreed to cover the gap. Mother’s Day of 2003 was my first Sunday at the church.

As they looked at candidates for the position, they asked me if I was interested. I kept saying no – I wasn’t interested in a church gig, I didn’t want to get back into that mess.

After 6 months, Gretchen and I realized that we did, actually, really want to be there. The people were warm and welcoming, the position was well-defined and well-suited to my abilities. More than that, Doug was the kind of pastor that all church musicians hope for. He respected music and the arts, was willing to try new things, and was able to step back and allow me to do my job. I submitted my resume, and they hired me as the Worship Leader.

Some Highlights

In my first year at CCC, Doug asked me to preach. It was the first time I had been asked to preach anywhere. It was an overwhelming and awe-filling experience, and one that I came to both dread and relish.

We have a seasonal choir at CCC, but most of the choir lit wasn’t appropriate for our group. I started writing and arranging music for our choir, and as I’m sitting here looking at my scores folder, over 8 years I’ve written or arranged 30 pieces of choral music for this choir. There’s nothing quite like the relentless necessity of Christmas and Easter to force you to build a catalog of work!

Good Friday has become a tradition of experiential risk-taking for us. One year we created an immersive environment with 30 laptops projecting photos and videos, and live-blogging stations for people to record their reactions. Last year we booked a string quartet to play a meditative concert of challenging contemporary music. The path from “What if we …” to “Let’s try it!” was well-worn.

A few years ago, we added a Classic service at 8am on Sunday mornings. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea initially, but it has become the perfect way to start the out the Sunday haul. Instead of jumping right in to running charts, setting tech, rehearsing the band, I get to start the day by sitting quietly and playing through two hymns with a small congregation. It’s a brief meditation for me, and has become one of my favorite things.

In the time I’ve been at CCC, we’ve had about 12 students from APU come through and play with the team, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for much longer. It’s been a place where some of the things we talk about in class can be worked out very practically, like a “lab” extension to the lectures.

Both of our children were born and then dedicated at CCC. I love that we gather around and lay hands on new parents, commissioning them to the ministry of parenthood.

The Transition

In the last few years, Gretchen and I have been feeling a strong pull to find a local church. We love many things about CCC, but the drive is 45 minutes on Sunday morning, and an hour and a half during rush hour. The time and distance mean that we can’t be part of the community of Christ Community Church. Our kids can’t be in the children’s choir, Gretchen and I can’t be in small groups or make it out to social functions.

We believe in the mission of the church. We believe that it has the power to change lives and communities. That power, though, is worked out through the relationships within the church, and between the church and those in the community around it. If you’re only present for Sunday morning, if you are forced by time and distance to stand one step removed from the other people in the congregation, then you might be “going” to church, but it is impossible to participate in the transforming power of church. You can’t serve the mission. You can’t be served by the mission.

So, we starting praying and looking for a chance to make the transition to a local church.

The Road Ahead

February 27th will be our last Sunday, after which I will step down from my position as worship leader. March 6th I’ll begin leading a small early morning chapel service at a large church in the Irvine area. It’s a traditional music service, with piano and organ, along with the occasional string quartet and guest soloists. It’s early in the morning, and so I’ll be home in time for us to find a 10:30 service at a local church, where we can attend together as a family.

There are many things we will miss from the last 8 years, but there are also some things we’re looking forward to.

We’re looking forward to sitting together during a worship service.

We’re looking forward to attending a small group or bible study together.

I’m looking forward to being that guy every worship leader dreams of, who walks up after the service and says “Hey, I’d love to sub on the worship team sometime if you need someone to cover keyboards,” and then can actually play!

I’m looking forward to a smaller scope of responsibility, to a simpler service. I’m looking forward to Easter and Christmas being seasons of joy, instead of dread.

The seed that was planted with the hymn service at our church has blossomed. I’m looking forward to playing music from the deep and rich tradition of the church.

I’m looking forward to volunteering for things … or, saying “no” to things!

Leaving Well

There are so few times in Church when we are able to leave well. It seems like most transitions happen because the church is unhappy, or there is conflict with the leadership, or character issues, or because someone leaves for a better gig, or more money, or … anyway, we as a church have a bad history of ending ministries well.

This is a good transition. Hard, but good. We are leaving a healthy ministry behind, we are leaving with the blessing and goodwill of the congregation, and we are leaving for the best of reasons.

This is a good thing.

The End of Childhood

I may be 30 something. I may be a wife and mother. I may have graduated from college, graduate school and have my own business, but just this last week I had to face the end of childhood.

After almost 40 years, my parents are selling their house. My childhood home. The only home I ever knew until leaving for college and starting out on my own. It’s the home where all my memories are from. The place where I brought friends home from school, so we could play dress up in the playhouse in the backyard. It was the place I first learned how to ride a bike, roller skate and put on makeup. It was where I learned that matches hurt if you let them burn down too low, that crayons melt in the heater vents on the floor, that you can slide all the way down the steps on your stomach to save time if you don’t feel like walking. This is where I helped my dad almost build a doll house. This is where I cried over my first crush, where I got ready for my first dance, carved pumpkins, learned to cook and had slumber parties. This is where I learned to drive, had a curfew and late night talks with boys. This is where I proudly brought friends home from choir tours so they could have a restful night at “home” and hot fudge sundaes. This is where Mike nervously asked my dad for my hand in marriage and where I spent my last night before becoming his wife. It is home.

Weiss House

But this period of my life and that of my parent’s life has come to an end. And it’s okay. Actually I was in the party that encouraged them to do so. It’s not as if my parents are settling for anything less than what they’ve known. They have an incredibly gorgeous home in Northern Washington on 10 beautiful acres, complete with 3 ponds, a horse pasture, wine in the making and a forest to get lost in. A grandkids’ paradise. Oh yeah, and a new playhouse that kicks the old playhouse’s butt.

But this past week I’ve been nostalgic. I came up to the Bay Area for the week with Sophia, to help my parents pack. Now, many of you readers have actually been to my parent’s home in Oakland and know that this is no small task. As I have said, my parents have lived there for almost 40 years. My parents, especially my mom, are what you call “collectors”. They have incredible antiques, and more collections than one can count, or would even want to. My mom is an entertainer, and has all the dishes, service wear, linens, and centerpieces to go along with it. This past week has been exhausting, but gratifying. I accomplished a lot. I got to go through memories. I got to throw things away! (Something I’ve always secretly wanted to do ☺) It’s been an emotional time for my parents, who are not only moving their lives, but having to make difficult financial decisions along the way as well. It’s hard to have painters, realtors, stagers and more come in and tell you all the ways that your house is imperfect or not quite right for the cliental who will want to buy it. It slowly starts becoming a building and less and less your home. It slowly starts becoming some one else’s home, even though you don’t know who that might be yet. And that feels weird.

Then there are all those projects that are finally being done, that you just never had the time or money for. Now you get to see them through, for someone else. Oh well.

Having Sophia with me was great. True, she could unpack a box just as quickly as I could pack it. But man, my parent’s house was a paradise for a curious 20 month old. She had a great time exploring. It helped rejuvenate my mom and dad to have her around. Nothing like taking a break from hauling boxes to zerbert a little tummy or help color the boxes in the living room with crayons. I loved watching her explore my old toys, my old haunts. I loved bathing her in the same great bath tub that I used to sit in with my sister Heather as our dad would sit at the doorway singing old 20s songs on his ukelele. I laughed as she discovered the joy of dropping coins through the slots in the railing up stairs just to watch them land on the steps below. I loved watching her climb up on the big couches and chairs and just sit and look at her books while the hustle and bustle went on around her.

I needed this time. I needed to let go, to say goodbye. I needed a chance to sort through life, memories and unnecessary necessities. In saying goodbye I could be excited for what is ahead for my mom and dad, and for my own kids. I’m glad I could have this week with Sophia here in my childhood home, even if I’ll be the only one with the memory of it. I’m excited that she and peanut 2 will have new memories in Washington, of adventure and family. I know that home is where my family is, not just this structure. I love that my family has become more than my mom, dad and siblings. I love that Mike and I have a chance to one day have our own home to help build memories in. That my own children will have to go through all my junk and ask me why I kept it all. I’m excited for all the life there is ahead of us. I can let go of the past 30 years without losing any of the memories. I don’t need the building to help me hang on to those. I don’t need all of my childhood toys or old letters to help me recall the love and compassion that was shared under this roof.

The Zaky

No, not this Zacky. But this Zaky.

Apparently, it’s totally swell to let some plushy stuffed hands babysit your kid.

“The Zaky: an ergonomic pillow that simulates the weight, touch and feel of the hands of a caring parent.”

All I know, is that kid is gonna rack up some serious therapy bills over his lifetime…

Especially when I figure out how to make the hands move via remote control.  Maybe I’ll just call the Rubik’s Cube robot guys. They seem like a fun bunch.

A Valuable Lesson

Vandals!

I work in a small office in North Hollywood. We source and custom fabricate vehicles for the film and television industries, as well as operate a race team. Today, I was walking by the front door and noticed 2 kids standing on the sidewalk outside, in front of one of our transport vehicles: A custom-built Freightliner Semi Truck we use to transport our race truck. Their back turned towards me, they seemed to be hovering over the front fender of the truck, paying close attention to something.

Then I saw it. The overspray from a paint can.

I burst out the door, and collared the kid holding the paint. His friend wisely hot-footed it down the road at an estimated 130 MPH. My fresh catch started to squirm and get free of my grasp, asking me “What the #%$% are you doing?!?!”. I just hauled him inside the office and locked the door behind me.

I sat him down in the main office, and said, “You know what you did. I know what you did. Now you get to make the only decision you’re going to make for a while: Do you want me to call the cops, or do you want me to call your mom? Choose wisely.” (I actually said this, and almost laughed out loud. C’mon – who quotes Indiana Jones movies to 11 year-old vandals?)

He replies, “No one! I don’t want you to call no one!”

“Kid. I told you your only options, now pick one.”

“Fine. Call my mom.”

“Cool. Now give me the number once. If it’s the wrong number, or no one answers, I’m calling the cops. No second chances.”

He recites a phone number. He recites it slowly and perfectly monotone. I know it’s the right number…

I call his mom. She’s a single mother, and she’s at work in Los Angeles. There’s no way she can leave work and come pick him up. She’s very apologetic about the situation, and agrees to pay for the damages. Fortunately, we have a guy who works here who paints/fabricates/stuff here in our shop, and he’s able to remove the paint without much effort…She’s thrilled, and thanks me profusely. I recommend that she send her son to our office/shop next week for a few days – we’re gonna have him work it off. She agrees, so next week we’ll have another employee. The kid spoke to his mother on speakerphone (by this time, every employee in the office is hanging around to see the outcome) and she laid into him. Honestly, if I was that kid, I would have rather dealt with the police than his mother….which brings me to something else…

The entire time I was dealing with this, I was actually very nervous. I only realized after the fact, that my hands were shaking. I know what that kid was feeling. When I was his age, I was doin’ my fair share of vandalism. And stealing stuff. And crashing stolen cars. And eventually, seeing the inside of a Juvenile Detention Facility. (The facility linked is brand new – I stayed at the old one.) I remember EXACTLY what it feels like to be collared; nervous with terrified anticipation, and completely paralyzed with the fear of the punishment my apprehender would bestow. Remembering the rumors you heard from “friends” about their experiences with The Law. Knowing there’d be no more Nintendo, playtime, friends, desert – or in my case, good ol’ fashioned freedom. Not grounded, mind you. But locked-the-eff-up.

I feel your pain, kid. I really do. I know how badly you wish you could turn back time – just for an hour. With just an hour of your life back, you could have refused your friends taunt to spray metallic gold Krylon on the side of someone’s vehicle. I know you’re on your way home now, and you’re breathing fast and shallow. You are trying to calm yourself down by scripting the scolding you’ll receive from your mom; convincing yourself that You’re wondering if the people that caught you are really going to make you work in their shop for a week.

Well kid, they are. You’re going to scrub and sweep and polish and clean and dump garbage until you go crazy. But you know what? it sure as hell beats crying yourself to sleep behind a locked door on a metal bed, feeling like you’re a million miles from home. I guarantee it.

Three Things I Thought, But Did Not Say, To The Cranky Old People At Islands Casual Dining Establishment, This Past Saturday

One) Yes, I brought my 10 month old daughter into a casual dining establishment to eat, and yes, she does travel with a lot of accessories, including a stroller the size of a hummer. I apologize if my fumbling navigation through the main traffic area of the restaurant interrupted what was obviously a deeply meaningful, special meal out for you both. At 12:30 in the afternoon. On a Saturday. In a mall.

Two) My daughter is one of the most joyful people I know. She laughs and smiles, and it causes the sun to shine brighter, and birds to sing in perfect, 4 part choral harmony. I’ve seen her turn ex-convicts and hardened IRS auditors into cooing and gushing buffoons with just one gap-toothed grin. So, please understand, when she stands up on my lap, and looks over the top of the booth at you, and smiles and laughs, she’s not trying to insult you. I only say this because, well, you looked insulted. These are her happy noises. If you would like to hear her full gail, 5:30 PM raging meltdown, so that an accurate comparison can be made, I can arrange that. And let me just add, as a side note, that if you are incapable of experiencing joy at the simple laugh of a smiling child, then something is seriously, tragically broken inside of you. You should maybe get that looked at.

Three) Dude. We’re at an Islands. I can understand how you might be deeply offended if I plopped my daughter down and started feeding her mashed squash and Cheerios while you were enraptured by Thomas Keller’s brilliant culinary offerings at the French Laundry. But come on – Islands? The waiters are wearing Hawaiian shirts and trying to get you to buy fruity passion tea drinks. Their specialty is called the “Big Wave Burger.” If a dad and his daughter can’t have a messy, laughing, joyful lunch together here, then the world has gone mad.

So, cranky old people sitting across from me at Islands, I’m sorry that you missed out on catching my daughter’s infectious joy, which is her mother’s great gift to her. My gift to her, on the other hand, will be writing pithy sardonic blog diatribes.