Monday, May 10, 2010

Making A Difference

So it all began over lunch at Downtown Disney, in Anaheim, California. The folks from 89.7 KSGN (Bryan, Brandi & Steve) invited myself, Raymond, and Jadon to meet with them as they shared their vision for the station's annual pledge drive. You see, KSGN is a listener-supported radio station, meaning they don't have any major sponsors air commercials, like Coca-Cola or VONS, etc. By avoiding this kind of support, the station is FREE to air their current, faith-based, line up of music and commentary. So they depend on their listeners to financially support the station...thus keeping them on the air!

The artists at the table all had music featured on the station. Jadon has had music on KSGN for sometime, while Ray was fairly new with his "Happily Married" song entering the airwaves just recently. I land somewhere in the middle, with my song "Love All Over The World" entering the KSGN rotation in January of 2009. The station has since added a 2nd song of mine, "None Compare", and both songs continue to find their way on the air to this day! I'm telling you, the folks at KSGN are awesome!

Their vision was simple, "we want to have a tour of the inland empire (Southern California) featuring all three artists..." The tour would allow the station to give the gift of free concerts to their listeners, while offering the station a new platform to communicate their financial need. You see they usually have a "pledge-drive" or "friend-drive" on the air where they encourage listeners to call in their pledge of support. This runs for a few days and is bathed in prayer as the station believes God to move on the hearts of the people and provide....and keep them on the air!

Now each artist would donate their service to the tour and promote the heck out of it to get people in the doors. The people would receive each artists' very best, fully produced, LIVE concert, all for FREE! During the evening's event, a small message to communicate the station's need would be delivered and pledge forms would be on hand. After praying about who they would have communicate this need at each event, the station asked me to do it. I was humbled and thankful. You see, the station has done so much for me, that I was excited to finally be given an opportunity to give something back to them! YES! Thanks God!

After a few weeks of logistics and conference calls, we were ready to start KSNG's Making A Difference Tour! First stop: Chino Hills, California.

Arriving early to sound check and set up the artist booths, we had no idea how many would attend the evening's concert. The hosting church set up to prepare for the masses... just in case. They emptied their book store, and filled it with chairs, in addition to the extra seating in the main sanctuary. As afternoon turned to evening, it was obvious by the long line outside that the church would fill up fast. The doors were opened at 6:30 PM and the room was filled in minutes. Then the bookstore area filled. So the church moved quickly to create an overflow area just outside the main entrance with chairs and speakers feeding the LIVE event outdoors. This area quickly filled as well.

As we gathered in a back room to pray, there was a sense of anticipation as our eyes beheld the kick off of the tour. As soon as our "amens" filled that back room, Raymond and his band took to the stage.... he was amazing. My set would follow, as a three-piece with Chris on an acoustic guitar and Stevo on the cajon. After I closed my set, I stepped up to the mic and began to share. I felt lead to share some of my personal story before giving the concert-goers a glimpse into the KSGN vision and purpose. The crowd seemed very responsive as I extended an invitation to prayerfully support KSGN financially. Jadon closed out the night with a smooth unplugged set that united everyone in worship.

After the event, the people surrounded the artist area where all three had booths set up. This was definitely my favorite part of the night. Meeting the people up close and personal. Hearing their stories, testimonies, and comments on how God is using the music in their lives. It was a roller-coaster ride of drama and victory, smiles and tears and new-found friendships. Our friends, Scot and Amy, manned the table and worked so hard addressing the needs of each person. Making sure that everyone had their attention. They were amazing.

We closed the evening by packing everything up with a chill in the night air. The first tour-date was now behind us, and His presence was evident. With hugs and words of thanks, we made our way home.... only to do it again the very next night.

The tour's 2nd stop was my home church, The Rivers Edge! For obvious reasons, I was especially excited about this stop in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Not only was this my home, but it was centrally located in an area I had ministered in for years. The evening promised to be a reunion of sorts, as friends, old and new, would come out to worship together. The folks at the Rivers Edge worked hard to prepare for the evening's event. Having moved into the building recently, this would be their first major event under this roof. It was exciting!

Once again, the three artists loaded in gear, and set up booths.... all indoors. Our friends at C28 also set up a booth, and of course KSGN's booth was up with their huge logo on top. In addition, the kitchen was buzzing with preparations of hot dogs and snacks, along with a coffee booth. The hustle and bustle in that room was contagious, and everyone wanted to be doing something.

Just like the previous evening in Chino Hills, the people started lining up outside early. I was told the line stretched around the building! With Lucky in charge of the security and parking details (OneLite Ministry), he waited for the green light to open the doors. Word spread fast in the main sanctuary that they were about to let everyone in.... sound checks were completed for all artists, everyone was in place, we were ready. The people came in like a flood! The huge 17,000 sq ft area was immediately filled with concert-goers. Night two of the tour had officially begun.

With an estimated crowd of over 1,000 people, the evening was power-packed. High energy and intimate worship were delivered from the stage as all three artists brought a full-band set to the people. A highlight of the evening for me was worshipping with everyone during "None Compare" (see video clip above).

And of course I'll never forget the support that came from all the youth at Bloomington Christian School. They filled the area in front of the stage with their "ra" tattoos and some of them even made their own "ra" t-shirts! It was awesome! My special thanks goes out to Principal Steve Avalos for getting the word out to the student body!

As that first weekend of the tour came to a close we were exhausted. We had met some amazing people and enjoyed some of the best Christian music has to offer. We felt so blessed!

The tour continued the following Friday evening in Riverside, California with the folks at Living Word Christian Center. Let me start by saying the 'green-room' was awesome, with an aerial view of the stage and sanctuary. Sweet! Once again the evening found Scot and Amy setting up the "ra" booth and of course James K. was work'n hard loading in our gear and setting up for sound check (did I mention what an amazing blessing this guy was to us?). Our friends Liz and Tony showed up with pizzas and cake in hand....which we quickly inhaled before sound check :) Thanks for the pre-show grub you guys!

The evening was off to a great start as we gathered for prayer in Pastor Edgy's office. Me and the guys were the first to take the stage. It was LOUD in that room! Oh boy! But the people were into it. With Stevo on the bass, Tom's amp turned to 11, and Chris's kick drum right behind me.... it was time to make some noise :) Several young people rushed the stage early on... and I immediately recognized some faces from the previous tour dates in Chino Hills and Rancho. And some of the BCS kids were out there again too. "Very cool guys!"

Our 2nd-to-last song was "None Compare". I knew in that moment that God was speaking to someone. I could feel His presence.... as a peace fell over the room in the midst of worshipping men, women and children. I could have stayed in that moment all night. We closed out the night with "Give Your Life To Jesus" (SweetHomeAlabama). After playing this song for the last 15 years... and God still uses it to reach people. By that time half the building had left their seats and filled the front of the stage and the aisles. It was definitely a great way to close out our set.

After speaking with the crowd for a few minutes, Raymond's keyboardist delivered a couple songs (solo). I was really impressed with his sound check.... this dude's got skills! Raymond and his band weren't far behind and took the evening to a whole new level and he ministered to the people. They were completely focused on his LIVE performance, as we watched from the green-room upstairs. I am definitely a Raymond Gregory fan peeps!

Once again we found ourselves meeting new friends after the concert was over. So many wonderful people... it has left us speechless. And everyone has a story. A journey they're on. And a sincere desire for more of Him. Humbled? How can you not be, when God uses you to speak to one of your brothers or sisters? And of course I LOVE getting them to grab a picture with me! Did you catch that? I want MY picture taken with THEM....not necessarily visa-versa :) Amazing people out there in Riverside... and we all loved Pastor Edgy! "You rock brotha!"

The final night of this leg of the tour brought us to Corona Friends Church in Corona, California. We were on sight for less than 15 minutes before a guy names "Mike" stopped us and asked if there was anything we needed. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt that identified all the church's volunteers for the evening. Mike was so helpful! He saw that our EzUp-canopy had died and quickly offered us another one and an extra table for our booth. He was awesome!

As we navigated through the obstacle course that was our pre-concert logistics, and after the fire alarm was dealt with (oh yeah, did I mention the fog machine activated the fire alarms?) a few of us gathered in a storage room off to one side of the stage for prayer. Jadon lead us before the Lord and we moved forward with expectation. The evening had its share of challenges, so I knew that God was going to do something powerful in the lives of the concert-goers. With limited time for my sound-check, as Bryan O'Neal held the doors, I opened the evening's event with an unplugged set with Chris and Stephen. I felt the need to worship God. To sing to a break through for someone there. To give Him a front row seat and invitation to move freely in the room. It was almost like I was unaware of the people in the room, as I focused solely on Him.

For the fourth time during the tour, Raymond delivered a beautiful set to a captivated audience. I followed Ray with a short history on my journey with Christ, and a brief vision-casting of KSGN's ministry for the people. That was followed up with a smooth and powerful set from Jadon. I'm really dig'n his melodies and vocal performance. Good stuff!

The night ended like all the others with a sea of people walking through the artist booth area. Did I mention how amazing the people were that we met at all the concerts? :) Well, Corona did not disappoint, as one after another people came and introduced themselves to us. Posing for quick photo, grabbing a cd... they were so kind and encouraging to us! I had the opportunity to speak with one young man for a few minutes. He asked me questions that required an answer on the spot about my journey before coming to Christ. I felt as if God was setting us up to meet and speak. There was a calling on this young man's life. I also meant a little guy that brought such a smile to my face. He was so happy and full of energy. We snapped a picture together and then I decided to return some joy his way. I gave him a cd... and a t-shirt: which he promptly ran to the restroom and put on :) He asked me to sign it for him and I obliged.

Here's a fun fact: I was approached by not one, but two law enforcement officers who wondered if they had arrested me in my years before coming to Christ :) Anythings possible. One said I looked familiar. How cool would that be for God to allow me to minister to the officers/deputies that arrested me? Whew! And the very last person I spoke to on this leg of the tour was a very kind women... with a weight on her shoulders. She had a child who had gotten into some trouble, and my brief testimony had gotten her attention. Without going into detail, I will just say that I felt drawn to her plight and will be reaching out to child in the hopes that God will continue the good work He has begun there.

Remember what I said about all the challenges we were facing in getting things going for this particular concert? It turned out to be true.... God was indeed getting ready to move in the lives of people. Once again the enemy failed to derail or distract us from the calling on our lives.

So, the Making A Difference Tour is on a short break as Jadon, Raymond and myself continue on with our individual ministries and bookings. However, we will once again join forces next month (June) as the ministry of KSGN continues on June 26th at Harvest Christian Fellowship (Pastor Greg Laurie) in Riverside, California. We may also be stopping at YOUR church! That's right, 89.7 KSGN is having a contest and the winning church will have the tour stop by their main sanctuary! Details at

Whew, that was a long one! Now I remember why I don't blog to often ;) I'd like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone at KSGN and to all the amazing people who came out to these events. I hope to see you ALL in June! Be sure to tune into 89.7 on your FM dial while in So. Cal. or listen in online at today!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Left In The Rain

During a recent string of LIVE dates in Northern California, my friend Scot and I found ourselves at my first stop: Golden Hills Outreach Center in Antioch, California. It was pouring rain outside.

As we approached the front doors, there were already people outside, waiting to get in and out of the cold. The center provides hot meals for the homeless and needy in the area, each and every day. They are not a shelter, so there are no overnight accommodations, but it's a warm place to get out of the elements for a short time, and fill a hungry stomach.

We were quickly greeted by the Pastor that oversees the ministry operations there, and he offered us a tour and pointed me in the direction of the sound system. It was a simple room, filled with long tables and chairs. Nothing fancy, just a chow-hall set up for a buffet-style meal.

After my sound-check, we followed the Pastor across the street to another set of store-front buildings that the church (Golden Hills) utilized for other aspects of this ministry. Mostly for reaching younger people in this sometimes forgotten segment of mankind. It was there that were joined by a few other gentlemen for prayer. As we went around the room, making our petitions know to God, I could feel His presence heavy already. My anticipation started to grow as one after another each man prayed.

Following the final 'amen' we walked through the cold and rainy streets back to the outreach center where the service was about to begin. As soon as we walked through the doors, I could see the people shuffling into the room, and out of the unkind weather outside. The Pastor opened with a word of prayer, and introduced me. As I picked up my guitar and pulled the microphone forward, the people were still coming in. I was reminded that God's word notified me, "whatever you do unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me." The least of these? In today's society these people would have been considered the 'least'. Most of them were homeless, living on the streets, while others lived in the local neighborhood made of up of small, tattered homes with worn paint jobs and over-grown or dead lawns. I silently thanked God for the opportunity to be there. Knowing that no honorarium or love offering would come out of this night. No monetary gifts, only Kingdom expansion. I smiled and proceeded to address the crowd.

They were hungry and distant. Almost unaware of my presence in the room. No doubt a response to the current plight of their lives, seemingly filled with misfortune. I could almost hear their thoughts of being tired, lost, cold, hungry, forgotten, hopeless... and perhaps thinking they would be better off dead.

As I strummed the chords and sang to the familiar melody of Bob Dylan's "Knock'n on Heaven's door" I could see their attention shifting toward the Hispanic-looking-Hawaiian seated before them... me. As the song ended, they filled the room with their applause and whistles. I proceed to play "Give your life to Jesus" to the tune of "Sweet Home Alabama". Their excitement grew, and I had their undivided attention. At this point, I turned my attention, and theirs, upward, as I began to worship God with "Open the eyes of my heart". When I reached the break-down, they followed me into a chorus of, "holy, holy, holy..." And there we were, singing unto the Lord...together.

"Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee...." I had no money to offer or material items of any kind, but what I did have, I offered unto them: my testimony. They listened intently. I could see by the looks on their faces, it could have been their story...just short of the victory and deliverance. Some cried as I recalled the acts of a little old lady named Rose Gunn, and others bowed their heads in defeat as I spoke of my battle with addiction and incarcerations. Their were women glancing back at their male companions as I walked them through my choosing of drugs over my own children. Something was happening in the room.

And then I reached the point of closing... and decision. In response to the calling God has placed on my life, with audiences big and small, and with a Gospel message that was authored by someone who is no respecter of persons, be they rich or poor.... I extended an invitation to meet Jesus. To call upon Him and believe in Him. To surrender ones life to Him. To accept His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. To be embraced by Him. Then I walked away from the mic.

One by one they came. Many with tears in their eyes. I quietly began to pray, and thank God for the work He was about to do in that room. And still they came. Making their way down the narrow aisles filled with chairs and bodies, not swayed by the obstacles in their way, knowing they had to come forward. I waited on them, patiently.

We prayed together and jointly called upon the name of the Lord. It was glorious.

I hugged each and everyone of them, as the volunteers began to bring out the food from the kitchen. Many began to fill their plates, while others made their way to me with words of thanks. Everyone of them had a story to tell. It was heart-wrenching to listen.

At one point my attention was on a young, teenage boy. He did not come up to the front for prayer. He had anger painted on his face, and sadness in his eyes. He was their alone. I asked called to him, "hey, what's your story?" He motioned me out the backdoor of the building, as if to say, "I don't wanna talk in front of everybody here."

He had a rough exterior, no doubt the result of having to survive on the streets with many that are bigger and much tougher than he. Violence runs ramped in the streets, and children are often the victims of their peers, and fall prey to the homeless adults around them. He told me that no one in that room knew what real pain and despair was. He said he didn't know about a god that would allow all of this pain. He said, "....but you're cool." Then he proceeded to tell me his story, that included: his brothers all being killed by gang violence; his father in prison; his mother mentally disabled; and the recent death of his uncle in Afghanistan. His uncle was the only thread of normalcy in his life, as far as relationships were concerned. And after his passing he found himself on the street. I offered him a moment of compassion, and then asked him, "so what now?" I told him we could talk about all the drama and misfortune over and over, but that would get us nowhere. He quietly considered my question and comments.

Before I knew it, I realized that I was surrounded by 'the least of these." They all wanted to speak with me... to tell me their stories. I gave the young boy my phone number and told him I knew people in the area that could help him off the streets. He assured me he would call. Then I turned my attention to a gentleman, 50-something. He told me his story about how he and his son ended up on the streets, as he motioned to a teenage boy standing near-by. And then another come and shared, and another. Both my friend Scot and I found ourselves speaking with all these people. So much time had passed that we didn't even notice the outreach center close its doors and lock up for the night. And still more were waiting to speak with us.

The last two we spoke to was a teenage couple. The boy told us about his upbringing and how he was kicked out because of a disagreement with his stepfather. His girlfriend was living with him at the time, and now they were both homeless. Trying to apply for state aid, and attempting to keep her in school, they were both living on the streets. The rain was coming down. As I looked at them, I realized that they looked just like my own teenage children. They were polite and soft spoken. Well mannered, and educated. The looked clean and groomed. My heart broke as they continued to tell us their story. We were all crowded under an awning, trying to stay dry. I told them about City Team Ministries and how their were resources out there to help them. I gave them my number and told them to call me.

After Scot and I prayed with everyone, we made our way back to the car. We had to walk a little ways, in the rain, to get to the parking lot. It was really coming down as I threw open my door and jumped in to avoid being soaked. The rain fell heavy onto the windshield in front of me, and distorted my view, so I couldn't make anything out. Just the rain and the glare of the streetlights before me. As we pulled out of the parking lot, with the wipers now going back and forth, I could see all of our new friends going their separate ways. But where are they going, I thought to myself. Again my heart was hurting as we turned the heater in the car up a notch, and the teenage couple disappeared in the rear-view mirror. I quietly prayed again.

Many made decisions for Jesus that night as they came forward in the service, and many others reached out to us in the cold of night on the backside of that building. And still others never said a word to us, just sat in the room, ate their meals, and left.

Join me prayer friends for each and every person who heard my voice that night. That God would protect, deliver, and have mercy on them. That He would extend His hands of grace toward them, and open doors for them that lead to newness of life. And that those who took my phone number would call one day, as I wait.

That night only two men left in the protection and warmth of a vehicle, heading to the serenity of a home. Everyone else left in the rain.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome to my world....

I'd like to welcome you to my latest step down the information super-highway: the wonderful world of blogging. Join me as I travel deeper into the 21st Century.
Dare I enter yet another arena of communication that takes us further and further away from the need for personal contact? If I don't I may never have the opportunity to speak with some of you. It's time to catch up with the Jones' and take advantage of this "e-world".

Although I am not a complete stranger to blogging, I have never sought out a home base for my blogs, or had the desire to make it a constant in my life.... until now.

I'm in a season where more and more of you are picking my brain, and I thought this would be a great outlet to 'download' the data from within... for you, your friends, and the world to hear. Who knows, it may be therapeutic, although I'd be hard-pressed to find something to replace the peace that comes from fishing a flowing river or a calm lake as the sun comes up on a new day, while humming the melody to a song I've never heard before. Ahh, my pole and tackle box are "beckoning me near."

Ok, back to reality and my motivation for "Love All Over The Web."

I'm in a place in my life where I'm stripping away all the layers of religion and man-made tradition to see what remains. All in an effort to be a more effective, Christ-like, member of mankind. To run the human race toward "the prize".... the finish line. I want to impact others with the simple message of 'love' that impacted me over 15 years ago in the chapel of a state prison. In short: I want to be used.

  • MY VOICE: To speak life, encouragement, truth and compassion

  • MY EYES: To find the need and see the best in others

  • MY HANDS: To reach out to others in my sphere of influence

  • MY TALENTS: To write and perform music with a relevant, life-changing message

  • MY EARS: To listen to the cares, concerns, and opinions of others

  • MY FEET: To travel outside of my comfort zone for the sake of others

The reason I refer to this blog as a 'journey' of sorts, is because I'm not there yet. I want to be, but I have a long way to go. My guess is others, like yourself, may be far from the mark as well. Like me, you may be wanting to make a change, but find yourself distracted by this thing called 'life'. I'm convinced that 'love' is the missing link. I'm convinced that 'love' is enough to accomplish the listed items above.

You may, or may not, have guessed by now that I am a man of faith... a believer.... a Christian. Before you click away from my blog because of a bad experience you might have had in the past with a 'christian', or an overbearing parent who hypocritically crammed the Bible down your throat, or due to a long list of unanswered prayers or "why did He let that happen(s)", I selfishly ask you to hang on for just a moment longer. The latest YouTube craze or TMZ celebrity dirt will still be there when you leave this page... or at least I hope so!

I'm on a journey to find out who God intended me to be. With a slew of emotions, feelings, and choices in this world, who is it He wants me to be. A fake, robot-like, blind follower? Or a man who feels, falls, fights, and finds Him in everyday, every circumstance, every struggle, and every victory? My guess is the latter. You see I'm convinced that God is still in the business of loving people like you and me.... no matter what... "not willing that any should perish..." I believe that He is all-knowing and not at all surprised by my shortcomings or repeated mistakes. I'm convinced that He loves me despite the parts of me that are contrary to His Word. He loves me. And like any other loving father, He loves me through the storms... through the bad choices... through the selfish decisions... patiently waiting for me to get it right. And what does 'getting it right' look like? I think it looks like me loving people... just as they are.... just like He does. When I have mastered this type of 'love' I'll be there.... hitting the mark.

So, you can follow my journey here to cheer me on, or to laugh at me. To pray for me or to shake your fist at me. Or you can click away from this page, never to return, and continue on in your journey far from this blog. Whatever you do, I hope you won't let me or anyone else keep you from giving God a chance. Don't let my mistakes, or the mistakes of others, keep you from calling out to Jesus and saying, "If you're really out there.........................!" He loves you.

Well, this was way tooooo long for my first blog! Sorry about that guys! Welcome to my world....