In Season and Out of Season

Be ready in season and out of season. This exhortation to the young preacher Timothy was a reminder to always be ready to share good news. It was the reason one of my preaching professors, the Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry-Brown, wanted us to learn "hermeneutics on the feet." Be ready. Remember, pastor, you never know when you'll be called on to share a word of good news or when the message you have prepared is no longer the word that needs to be preached that day. Be ready, pastor. The same holds true when, as I'm doing now, you do most of your preaching with a guitar in your hands. Be ready, musician, because you are more than just a performer. A friend recently shared this quote from Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division and member of the piano faculty at Boston University. It is directed to those majoring in music. If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student...
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All Good Things

It started with an off hand remark. I feel like I'm on A Prairie Home Companion. And so in 2010, Southport Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) launched The Front Porch Worship Series. Every August they would stir worship into the same pot as old time variety radio shows. A house facade adorned the chancel, complete with porch. It was ingenious, and fun, and the church had just the right combination to pull it off. Now, at the conclusion of the ninth season of Front Porch Worship, the time for saying goodbye has come. Southport Christian Church has become Tapestry Church. They have sold the building that has been home to their ministry and will be moving to a new mission field. This Sunday, August 26, will be the last worship service for this community of faith at 201 East Epler Avenue in Indianapolis. It will also mark the end of the Front Porch Worship Series. As one of the originators, as one who loves this community...
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The Role

Since returning home to central Kentucky a little over a year ago, I have been sharing music regularly at a couple of area restaurants. Providing music in a restaurant or cafe setting is different than performing music for an audience from a stage. The musician takes on a different but important role. One night, after sharing music at a local restaurant, I left in a hurry, and the manager did as well. In the hustle, I left something behind. Dropping by the store the next day, I had the chance to talk more with the staff of the restaurant. One gave me what I considered a high compliment: "We get more positive responses to you, I think, than anybody else who plays here." That tells me that I understand my role. I've noticed. Occasionally, patrons will be attentive to me---I do tend to get the attention of children who are fascinated---but generally folks are not focused on what I'm doing. From time to...
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Turn the Knob

Deb and I enjoy stopping for a meal at Wallace Station, a restaurant near our home, from time to time. We enjoy the food, and they do a nice job with gluten-free dining. The quaint, rural setting contributes a lot to the Wallace Station experience. Located on Old Frankfort Pike near Midway Road in Woodford County, Kentucky, patrons can enjoy their meal inside, or when the weather permits, eat outside on the spacious deck. The restaurant is housed in an old general store building, built in the early part of the 20th century. The hardware on the front door reflects the age of the building. The door knob only operates in one direction. Which way do you turn it? That entirely depends which side of the door you're on. Wallace Station helps you out. As you step onto the porch, a small sign over the knob reads, "Turn knob to the left." Sure enough, give the knob a counter-clockwise twist, and the door...
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300,000 Miles

On a Sunday afternoon near Midway, Kentucky, the odometer on my Toyota Camry rolled to 300,000. The event provided the opportunity to think back on all the places that car has taken me. Deb and I bought it new in March 2005, and it has proven to be reliable transportation for right at 13 years. I did the arithmetic. I've averaged 23,000 miles a year in that car. We've seen a lot of highway together, a host of different destinations, journeys, and reasons to travel. When we bought the car, I was just beginning to serve in regional ministry. I was in Georgia then, and the work took me to churches across the state. That Camry has carried me to congregations in Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming. With those congregations I shared joy, heartbreak, frustration, and celebration. In many of those congregations, I sang. Up and Down, Hither and Yon The Camry and I have been near sea level and above the timber...
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Community, Therapy, Healing

Last Friday, I had the privilege of recording a segment for an upcoming episode of Overtones, a one-hour radio program hosted by my friend and fellow University of Kentucky Choristers alum, Renee Collins. (The program will air on Monday, March 12, at 3:00 p.m. on Lexington Community Radio.) The program was a tribute to our former teacher, professor emeritus Sara Holroyd. Ms. Holroyd will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky at the university's commencement on May 2. Sara Holroyd fueled my love of group singing. During our conversations, another Chorister alum told the story of sitting in rehearsal with painful sinus congestion. As she related the event, Ms. Holroyd was demonstrating a technique and sang a note in a high register. The frequency was, well, just what the doctor ordered as it cleared up the congestion. Healing with Music That story launched conversation about the ability of music to heal. The documentary film, Alive Inside, demonstrated music's ability to awaken...
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Somewhere Listening

From time to time, when people learn that I'm a minister, we will get to talking about church, and they may say, "I'd like to hear you preach sometime." This past Sunday (January 21, 2018) I was honored to bring a message to South Elkhorn Christian Church in Lexington, Ky. They record the sermons, and so if you've wanted to hear me preach, here is an opportunity. Give a listen to Somewhere Listening....
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Happy New Year: 2017 in the Rear View

This morning, my Facebook memories reminded me that just three years ago, Deb and I welcomed the new year from our new home in Colorado. At the dawn of 2018, we're anticipating the new year from our new home in Kentucky. The past few years have been, in some ways, chaotic. Since 2012, Deb and I have moved three times. Interim regional ministry in the Disciples of Christ took us first to Oklahoma for two years, then on to Colorado, where I served the denomination's Central Rocky Mountain Region. Then in January through March of this year, Deb and I made the transition to Versailles, Ky. Kentucky Back in my home state of Kentucky, my information systems and ministry experiences merged into work for Suran Systems, a company that produces database software for churches and non-profits. Returning home has generated a lot of opportunities to renew friendships and to play music. I have been blessed to play regularly at some Lexington area venues. Deb...
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Voices in Harmony, Hearts in Unity

Occasionally, I get to spend a weekend immersed in music, associating with other musicians, sharing, and receiving. This past weekend the SongFarmers Gathering at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, offered just such an opportunity. The weekend reminded me of the importance of group singing, uniting our voices in harmony. It reinforced my belief that as human beings, we are never more closely united than when we sing together. Using that most ancient of instruments, the human voice, draws us together. Songfarmers are members of the Woodsongs Front Porch Association. The annual gathering brings us together for workshops and performances. I participated as a member of the Front Porch Association and had the opportunity to offer performances on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, but I also participated as a member of the Sara Holroyd Singers. Sara Holroyd Singers The Sara Holroyd Singers are a group of University of Kentucky Choristers alumni, people who traveled to the Shaker Village in the late 1970s...
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Gathered to Remember Dale

The room was full. And loud. People had come out to a karaoke bar in Albuquerque that evening to remember one of their own. He was also my brother. Dale Phelps had passed away at his home a week earlier. He had gotten very sick very fast, and his rapid decline caught us by surprise. As our sister Sue would say, though, as sick as he became, he never lost his “Daleness.” Dale's love of singing was part of what made him who he was. It was a rare occasion when the two of us got together that we didn't pick and sing some of our favorite old gospel hymns. While our dad was living, we would have a nice little three-piece string band. During a stretch when Dale's life’s circumstances pressed him particularly hard, he found refuge and relief in singing karaoke. So it was no wonder that, when he moved to Albuquerque four years ago, he sought out places to sing. During his...
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