Well, as most of you probably gathered by now, Kyle and I were in FL for 8 fabulous days. :) From the pictures I posted on facebook and myspace, you would think we were down there on vacation. Truth is, for 5 out of the 8 days, I was singing my heart out.
First Alliance Church in Port Charlotte, FL, brought me down to be their guest worship leader for their Celebrate Recovery program and for their 3 Sunday AM worship services. How they found out about me was really cool. One of their church members and CR leaders is David Kingsbury, and he is a former student of Hebron Colony. Apparently, while he was up at Hebron, I came and sang. (I think it was the week prior to my dad's heart attack. Crazy how that's like a marker, but it is.) He went back down to FL and he told his worship leader that they had to have me. And so, there ya go.
I had an absolute blast. Leading worship backed with a live band and vocalists was freakin' awesome! I want to do it EVERY week! And for the first time in a very long time, I had my confidence back. And it was also really cool to go in to a place where I had been talked up a bit, and then blow them out of the water. :) I had a 3 hour rehearsal on Tuesday night for the Friday PM service, my first trip to DISNEYWORLD on Wednesday, another 3 hour rehearsal on Thursday PM for Sunday AM services, lead worship on Friday PM followed by a 45 minute concert in the cafe, went jet skiing on Saturday, then lead worship for 3 (technically 2) AM services. (I sang the special music during the 8 AM service, but lead worship for the 9:15 & 10:45 AM services.)
In October '07, they kicked off their "Celebrate Recovery" program, which was started originally at Rick Warren's church out in CA. Celebrate Recovery is basically a time that those coming out of addiction, or even still suffering with it, can come as they are and be a part of worship, small groups, and then a great fellowship. It is the coolest thing. It's like a combination of the Bridge and Hebron Colony. My heart was broken at hearing some of the stories of the people that attended the service that night, but my heart rejoiced in knowing that God was working on them in mighty, mighty ways. (Seriously, some of the testimonies would make your jaw drop, but I won't go into detail on this. Just ask me some time, and I'll be glad to share them with you.) The night that I was there leading worship, they recorded their highest attendance EVER with 196 people present! That's so awesome! To be such a young program and to already be that successful...well, that's just God moving and working among a willing people. Too, too cool.
And of course, Sunday morning ROCKED. Well, except the having to get up at 6 AM part to get ready and start warming up. Having to sing "Redeemer" at 7:45 AM is not for the faint of heart. And then, I had to sing it like 4 or 5 more times within a 3 hour block. Lord only knows how many times I had to sing "Redeemer" during rehearsals and warm-ups. I can sing that song in my sleep now. But man...having a live band backing you...there ain't nothing like it. It is so freeing! I'm just going to have to take it down a slight notch when I do some other churches that aren't so "casual" in their worship style. :) I'll have to pull out more of the soaring ballad, Sandi Patty type stuff. ;)
They are wanting me to come back later this year, so I hope that comes together. The people were awesome, and Kyle and I fell in love with FL. We're really missing it especially went temps are dropping below the freezing mark. I mean, I was on a JET SKI last week going 40mph across the water and looking at dolphins swimming alongside us. HELLO?!? Who can't get addicted to that?? I want my own jet ski. :) We did not see any manatee while we were there, but we'll see some the next trip. Gotta save some stuff. I totally want to go back to Disneyworld though. I have to see Mickey Mouse again. And plus, we want to go to MGM as well. But dude...those are NOT cheap tickets. However, our tickets were paid for through the kindness of someone in FL. They wanted me to go to Disneyworld since I had never been, so they made sure we would be reimbursed for our tickets. :)
I had lots of people come up to me after the services and concerts and they all said very nice things. You know the typical, "wow! what a voice!" or "God has certainly blessed you!" or "You sang that better than Nicole Mullen!" or "I hope I can sing like that in Heaven!" or "Do you give voice lessons?" (The answer to that is "no".) But one lady came up to me and took me by the hand, looked right at me and said, "Yes, you are talented. Yes, you do have a great voice. But the most important thing was that when you were singing up there, I saw Jesus. You allowed yourself to be His instrument and speak through you." I was speechless, and I choked up. That is what I pray every time I go up on stage or whatever. I never want it to be about me. I really and truly do want it to be Jesus that they see up there. Yes, the attention is great and hearing my voice come through the sound system (especially a really good one) is awesome. I won't deny that. But if after a service someone can come and tell me that they saw Jesus and were ministered to, then that is what it is all about. I can sign as many autographs as the next person; sell more albums than anyone else; but unless God has spoken to them...unless I have let myself be the willing instrument...then it is all in vain. There are hurting people in and outside of the church that need to hear the message of hope that only Christ can bring to them. I want to be that willing instrument that He uses. Truly, this gift is his and not mine. He could take it away from me in an instant and it would be no more. But while I have it, I want it to be used for His glory.
So, that's Florida in a nutshell. And oh...they have GREAT fish sandwiches. ;)