Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What’s Wrong with Us Lutherans?

“I just don’t understand us Lutherans,” she said to me. “We’re so polite and reserved. I’m 67 years old and full of rhythm and drive. Your music made me want to get up and sing and dance, but we all just sat there!!”

That happened at our concert in Shawano, WI last night and it has been a common theme expressed after each of our concerts. One woman said it succinctly to me, “It was a great concert. I’m just sorry we’re so Lutheran!” No apologies needed because we’re grateful of the chance to share our ministry. Still, we can’t help but wonder what keeps our Lutheran fannies glued to our seats and our arms politely in our laps when the Holy Spirit is trying so hard to inspire us to stand/move/act. You know, this is not really about concert behavior, it’s a metaphor for life!!

Despite the woman’s lament, the concert last night in Shawano was a great experience for us. The crowd was more into it than she perceived. It was our biggest crowd so far and, thanks to Gary’s sister, they already knew our music well. They were already roaring their approval before we finished our closing number (Changed)! What a great concert! What a great crowd! Like Jackson Browne sings, “you can sit there and watch or you can thrill us, too.” Shawano, you weren’t nearly as much the stoic Lutherans as you thought. You thrilled us! O.K., so you didn’t stand up and sing, “Oh, won’t you staaaay, just a little bit longer...” but we can live with that.

Preston had the thrill of the tour when a former drummer of The Grass Roots (big time rock band of the ‘60s and ‘70s) complimented him on his work behind “the kit.” We’ve also been asked to consider playing a feature spot at a Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Festival in Marion, WI next August. We’ve got to think and pray on that one.

In another monumental breakthrough for the band, we’ve got Christie STANDING behind her keyboard now, just like Paul Shaffer on the David Letterman Show! She looks good back there. Next, choreography!! Oh, I’d better be nice to her or she’ll hit me with another water bottle!! You’ll have to ask her about that one!

To our friends and family back home, we’re tired, sore, road-weary, and a bit homesick, but still enjoying ourselves doing the ministry you have sent us to do. The message of Christ’s love for his children is being shared widely in this region through the gift of music the Father has given us. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel these next few days.

Quote of the Day: “Two rights don’t make a wrong... wait a minute... the other way around!” (Kathy, intervening in a sibling dispute between her sons after five hours in the van, which abruptly dissolved the spat into laughter.)

Muffed Lyrics of the Day: “In the depths of the loneliest valley ... I have come to dwell ...” (Me getting my Voice of the Shepherd verses a little shuffled ... the song ISN’T supposed to be so depressing!!)

Suggested New Verse for Gary’s Trust in God: “How can I see my words, when the lights go out on me?” (When all the concert lights went out briefly due to a bumped switch ... Fast thinking sound/light chick, Laura, got them back on quickly so not a beat was missed.)

Medical Status: Lans at 90%, Kathy’s back is no longer spazzing and simply aching now, Penny’s bruises/scrapes/cuts are healing.

That's it for now. Heading to Bethel Lutheran in Madison to unpack and set up.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

GraceFlock Re-emerges!

Well, you probably wonder where we disappeared to these past couple days. Our blog faltered because of the lack of available internet access while on the road and because the primary blogger got wiped out with a wicked head/chest cold with fever. The life on the road is tough and I spent any spare time lying in fetal position fighting the aches and chills of the disease. Great timing, eh? My goal is to not infect anyone else on the trip, but the likelihood of that is low! Pray for our health.

Anyway, we've made it through three concerts and a worship service in the past three days, each of them successful in their own way. Glencoe was special because it brought together some friends and family of Lans' past. The poingnant moment for Lans was meeting his godfather, Rev. Paul Rothfusz, who recently has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Gary's hometown (Amboy) was extra special because we got to see the place for which White Church on the Hill was written. We had a great family gathering/meal before the concert. Doing a concert in a small, old church was a bit of challenge, but we perservered! Thank goodness for extension cords. Oh, and by the way, air conditioning in Minnesota is NOT a luxury! Uff-dah!!

The next morning (today), we conducted a special worship service in the hometown of Christie Pederson. Coming from a family of 13 kids, the pews were filled with excited and joyous Quam relatives, among others. We were clearly an anomaly for the congregation because, while they were grateful for our musical offerings, they seemed quite preoccupied with the new sounds emerging from the front of the sanctuary. We enjoyed a delicious meal with the congregation afterwards. It amazes me how contemporary Christian (Lutheran) music crosses so many generations these days. Our music touched congregants of all ages.

We finished the day playing a concert at the church of our beloved friends, Karen and Jeff Pahl in Rochester. It was preceded by a workshop (which Gary conducted so I could sleep off the virus - thanks, Gary!!) which was attended by respresentatives from several congregations in the area. Again, there is clearly a desire to learn how to do contemporary worship in Lutheran congregations.

The concert tonight was one of our best ever. My voice held out for most of it, and the rest of the band was spot on. Oh, there are always a few bobbles, but we're really getting this concert thing down. More importantly, we're getting the Lutherans inspired. Tonight, I even saw one person in the audience raising BOTH hands in celebration as we played our final song. Imagine that! Lutherans raising their hands in joy! I smiled and winked at him!

We have met so many new friends and rekindled old friendships on this trip, that it's hard to express it all. The grace of God runs deep through this area and it is reflected in the genuiness and love of the Lutherans of the Upper Midwest.

BTW, Karen and Jeff (and Victoria) all say, "Hi!" They're having a wonderful time in the frozen (yeah, right) north of Minnesota. Tomorrow, Shawano, WI - our longest site-to-site drive of the tour. Seven down, five to go!

Quote(s) of the Day(s): "Being on tour is a lot like life." (Karla, recognizing that the fun part goes so fast and the hard work lasts a long time.)

"May I spit?" (Kathy to Karla as they were sharing a sink for primping and brushing teeth before the Rochester concert.)

"I give up. It was a lot easier the first time. Beginner's luck, I guess." (Laura, after trying to back the trailer into position.)

Medical Status: Lans (head/chest cold from hell), Kathy (wrenched back muscle and knot on the head from Lans pulling the van door on her), Penny, countless scrapes, cuts and bruises on her hands and legs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Minneapolis Moved

Hello, Friends! We're firmly in the routine now, after having finished our second concert last night. We were at St. Matthew's Lutheran in Columbia Heights and, although the crowd was small due to a whole bunch of community and church activities already underway, they made up for it in enthusiasm and hospitality. We even had our first mosh pit, although the entire pit was only about hip-high! Several of the crowd were Rothfusz relatives, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. It was a special treat to have them there. An extra special treat was the appearance of Liz Heller, one of Gary and Chris' musical and Christian inspirations from long ago - the woman who married Chris and Gary. Waaaay back in college days, Gary and Chris (and several others) were supported financially and spiritually on a musical tour around the west coast. Although the years have slowed the lovely woman, Liz and her husband were there in the front row, singing along with us during the concert. It was a moving moment for me and I'm sure Gary and Chris feel the same.

The ministry we are doing is working. Last night, the Music Director of St. Matthews bought our song books and asked if she could start using our songs in their worship. "Yes," I replied, "that's why we're doing this!!" We had a nice long conversation about how hard it is to find contemporary Lutheran praise music that has "meat" to it - not just shallow praise songs. The same thing happened the day before at First Lutheran in Alexandria, where representatives from at least seven other churches from the area attended our workshop and the concert. Someone even came from New Ulm which is in southern Minnesota. There is clearly a thirst for contemporary worship in the Lutheran church and we are helping to satisfy it.

It's hard to explain the energy we feel when the concerts start. The setting up, taking down, and traveling wears us out (most of us took naps on the church pews yesterday), but when the concert starts, the Holy Spirit enters the room and we come alive. That's the only way I can explain it. Now, if only the Holy Spirit would help us remember our words, chords, bridges, tempos and breaks better... but, hey, we're not complaining. That's just the picky musicians in us. God is definitely at work here.

Finally, I want to publicly thank Sue Field for her efforts in making our trip to St. Matthew's a success. She took on the bulk of the advertising, coordinating and even cooking (with help from husband Matt) for the event. Without her selfless efforts, we would not have had a place to play last night. Thanks, Sue!!

Quote of the Day: "You've gotta stop talking so much!" (Karla to Lans after last night's concert.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Down...

What a wonderful night!! We played our first concert at First Lutheran in Alexandria, MN last night and it was an awesome experience. Having not played together for a week and a half, being rather road-weary, and wedging a one-hour workshop into the mix before the concert, we felt quite ragged, but the audience responded well. (Karl, we received many comments about how energetic and dynamic we were. You'd be proud of us!)

We had well over 100 in attendance, with many of them attending the workshop ahead of time. This is a growing and vibrant congregation, as attested by the amount of activity in the church when we arrived. Our hosts were great and we all slept like rocks! Now, on to Columbia Heights for our next concert. Gotta go!

Quote of the Day: "Hey, I nailed (the bass riff), it was the rest of you who were wrong!" (Brandon)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

They Made It!

At long last, the western and eastern flanks of GraceFlock joined up and had a great reunion at the Rain Forest Cafe in the Mall of America. The girls were a little punchy and very tired, but otherwise safe and sound after their long trip pulling the trailer. My regret is that we didn't get to see Penny doing the "happy dance" when they pulled into the hotel. (We won't tell you that it was the wrong hotel and she tried to retract the happy dance - oops, guess I just told you.) Karla has had the video camera running for parts of the trip so we should have excellent, if not blackmail-worthy, documentation. We're thanking God for their safe travel and asking the same for Frank, Gary and Chris on their travels. I'll check in with Frank this morning because we think (and hope) he busted it all the way to Alexandria yesterday.

Going to grab some breakfast this morning and hit the road for Alexandria. Today is Tour Stop One!! Got your GraceFlock Summer Tour T-shirts yet?

Quote of the Day: "Rain Forest Cafe! Rain Forest Cafe! I'm sooo tired! Rain Forest Cafe!" (Karla)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

North to South to North Travels

Some of us are still working today (Tuesday) while the rest of GraceFlock is driving north. Not that I'm missing a 1,000 mile drive! Tomorrow will be Christie and my traveling day...... 3:25am wake up call for me! I'll be flying to Atlanta from Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 6:10am and then to Minneapolis by 11:30am. Christie will be on an earlier flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis and should meet me at my gate. Then we meet my sister, Bonnie, to pick up her car and drive to Alexandria. And the day will just be starting....with the 5:30pm workshop and 7:00pm concert. I hope my guitars and everything else will be there because I don't have anything with me other than dirty clothes from my meeting in Grand Rapids!! I just hope I don't pick up the dreaded airport/airplane cold or other illness. No time for that! See you all soon! Gary

GraceFlock Tweets!!

Hey, with the help of my socially-connected son, GraceFlock is now tweeting on Twitter!! I know, I know, do you REALLY want to know what we're doing every second of the day?!?! I'm assured EVERYONE is doing it, so it must be the cool thing to do (as if that justifies it). You can follow us on twitter.com/graceflock. We're also on Facebook.

We Found Minnesota!!

The western flank of GraceFlock (i.e., those coming from Oklahoma) arrived late last night in Minneapolis and will await a portion of the eastern flank later today. We'll reconnect at the hotel, stay the night, and then hit the road for Alexandria in the morning. In the meantime, say a prayer for that eastern flank (Penny, Laura and Karla) as they meander across IL, WI and into MN today. Frank is out there somewhere, too, making his way all the way to Alexandria where we'll meet up with him on Wednesday. Somewhere in all this, Gary and Chris will show up in Alexandria on Wednesday, as well. Sounds like a well-oiled machine, doesn't it? We hope so!

Thanks for all the comments and prayers of support. They have been felt and really help! Keep 'em coming! (For those who have never posted a comment before, be patient. I've got to "approve" each one before they get posted, so it may take an extra day or so, or at least until I can get to a WiFi connections.)

Quote of the Day: "Are we there yet?" (Every member of GraceFlock at some point these past two days.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On the Road!

Here we are, Laura, Penny, and me, Karla, on the road to Minnesota! We are stopping in Manchester, TN for the night, and we thought we would share these pictures with you! Love from the road!

Giving Thanks for Our Base

James' wonderful comment on last Thursday's blog reminded me to recognize and celebrate those who have helped GraceFlock become the successful ministry for the Kingdom. Yes, there are eleven of us who have been blessed with the ability to get away from work/family/home for a week and a half to participate in this tour. We would be woefully remiss, however, if we didn't recognize those of our band family who were not able to join us and who have blessed us in our development as a band. James, Robin, Karen, Mark and Sue, we will carry your spirit with us on this trip and we are so grateful for your love, support and talent these past several years. We'll miss you, but you can know that you are part of this tour just as much as we are. Thank you!!

We also need to recognize and thank David and Miriam Beecher, the ones without whose help and encouragement eight years ago, GraceFlock would never have happened. Who, besides God Himself, would have known our "experiment" in the Fellowship Hall would have led to this?! What a blessing both of you are to us and our congregation!

O.K. The clothes are packed (mostly), the instruments are loaded, the sound system, lights, chords, CDs, songbooks, and myriad extra equipment has been packed in. We're ready to go. Rumor has it that the first group of travelers will leave on Sunday. We'll eventually all meet in Alexandria, but the next three days will be on the road in some form (from Georgia, Oklahoma, and Michigan - long story). Keep us in your prayers!

Quote of the Day: Let this life I live be all for the glory of You! (hearing this song right now as I'm sitting in Burger King and using the free WiFi connection.).

Friday, June 19, 2009

T-3 Days

Three days until the road trip begins.

Not much to report today. The Rothfusz family attended the funeral of Esther Kuhlman, Kathy's mom. It was a beautiful service and a celebration of the life of a special woman. Her faith and influence has stretched into several states and generations. What a gift from God she was!

Talked to our printer today. Sounds like the GraceFlock songbooks will be ready for sale starting with the tour next week. One book for "Alive in the Lamb" and another for "Living Gifts." This will (finally) get hardcopies of music into people's hands for them.

Quote of the Day: "This tour is going to be COOOL!" (Preston)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Unexpected

Sunday night, GraceFlock performed its kick-off concert at our home (Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran) to say thank you to all who have supported the band as we prepared for our tour. In that concert, we unveiled a new song called "Sinking Sand" in which we are reminded that God IS in the unexpected, even when it isn't OUR plan. The next morning, Kathy received "the call." Her mother, Esther, had passed away unexpectedly that morning. The news was hard to hear. The Rothfusz family has been blessed to know, love and be loved by Esther all our much of our lives. Her passing has a shock to us all. She and her husband, Herbert, who passed away a little over a year ago, were an unending source of strength, wisdom, love, joy, laughter, and faith in the lives of the Kuhlmans, Rothfuszes, Conns, McFarlands, Klumpps, Guilianos, and everyone else who came to know them. It will be a hard couple days saying good-bye to the matriarch of the Kuhlman family, but we rejoice in knowing she has been reunited with her beloved husband and the two of them are basking in the comfort, peace and love of their Savior, Jesus Christ. We all have that to look forward to. Esther Kuhlman is "Alive in the Lamb!" Praise God!!

As you probably surmised, Esther's passing has resulted in a slight change of plans for the GraceFlock Summer Tour. Because of the timing of the funeral in Oklahoma, we've had to postpone the Newnan, GA concert. Pastor Barb was completely understanding our predicament, as four of the nine band members were going to be unavailable. We've also had to cram about six days of tour preparation into 36 hours, so if we're a bit disorganized on the tour, you'll understand why. After the funeral, the Rothfusz arm of GraceFlock will join up with the band in Minneapolis on Tuesday, where we'll stay one night and then head to Alexandria for our first concert.

Our intent is to post a new message on our status and experiences on this blog while we're on tour. Check in with us to see what's going on!

The songbooks (one for each album) have been sent to press and should be ready for the tour. I've got to give a huge THANK YOU (and a couple margaritas, perhaps) to Karl Dietmeyer and Kathy for their expert editing of the 30+ songs included in the songbooks. They cleaned up a whole lot of "messiness" Gary and I created in our songs. I also want to thank Penny (and husband Kevin), Laura, Karla, and Frank for their help in loading up the trailer with our gear. It was an interesting puzzle to solve, but we did it. We're officially packed for the tour!! Woo-hoo!!

Quote of the Day: "Will it look funny for three girls to be driving a truck pulling a Boy Scout trailer" (Penny). Which reminds me, another huge THANK YOU to Troop 181 for graciously loaning us their trailer - new tires and all! It was a perfect fit!