My Thanks for Three of the Best Lessons I’ve Learned

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Do you ever just feel grateful? I think that gratitude is oxygen for the soul, similar to the effect a timely word of encouragement has on you when you’re feeling spent. Seriously, give it a try. “Count your blessings” is only cheesy because we don’t do it. When we do, we realize it actually works. God designed us to depend on one another and function in community, learning things about him and about ourselves through our relationships.

Today I was thinking about how thankful I am to be where I am doing what I do. But none of us got to where we are without a little help from people who cared enough to invest in our lives. I am, like you, indebted to many dear friends for some valuable lessons that were likely hard to learn but are now a part of who I am. Here are three.

First, I want to thank my dear friend John for teaching me to be a problem solver. “Don’t stay in the problem, stay in the solution” is what he drove into my skull over and over again. It took a while to sink in, but now I know a little bit more of what it means to take action, to move things, to get out there and DO SOMETHING to move things forward. “You can’t think your way into good living, you can only live your way into good thinking.” This wisdom has become a priceless to me.

Second, I want to thank my friend Jason for teaching me to have the hard conversation no matter how difficult, awkward, or otherwise intimidating it might be. I haven’t known many people who are better at this than Jason. I have seen him handle awkwardness, difficulty, challenge, busyness, and what would otherwise be extremely stressful scenarios in every area of life with poise, wisdom and determination. I’m hoping some of that got transferred to me from being around him.

Third, I want to thank my friend Robert for pushing me to set goals and step out and risk. You can’t always know everything about where you’re going or what you’re going to do without starting. I can say with confidence I wouldn’t be where I am today without the pushing and prodding I’ve gotten from this wise mentor. Sometimes you just have to begin, and that releases the knowledge, resources and motivation that you need to accomplish your goal. What a gift it is to have friends who will challenge you.

 

There are many others. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my wife, my parents, my in-laws, my high school English teacher or Dr. Young from my freshman year of college history class. Not to mention the countless authors who feel like they are my lifelong friends and teachers. It helps me to think about them often, to remember their faces and their names and what they did that made such a mark on my life.

Who are your people? What did they teach you? Let me encourage you to make a habit of being grateful. And if you really want to bless the people who have marked your life, share your gratitude with them in a thoughtful way. It’s the kind of habit that binds us together as a people who need each other. And it’s how God made us to be.

Shoutout: Kevin Myers

Today I’m going to attempt a seemingly impossible task. I feel there is really no possible way that I could communicate in a single blog post my admiration, love and respect for the church called 12Stone and the man “PK” whom God chose to steward it. Truthfully it may take many posts to do them justice. But I must at least try to express my gratitude for all that Pastor Kevin does for our church and what it has meant to me. Here is my first attempt (I’ll try to keep it short…).

Have you ever experienced something that made you realize you’d been longing for it for years but didn’t even know it? That was how I felt coming to 12Stone Church and sitting under the teaching and leadership of Kevin Myers. When you experience a sense of God’s favor and anointing in an undeniable way in a certain place, it makes you wonder how you have made it so long without being there. But it was a journey getting there… Continue reading “Shoutout: Kevin Myers”

Shoutout: Jeff and Anita Cantrell

If you want to meet some of the kindest, humblest, and most genuine people I know, meet Jeff and Anita Cantrell. Anita plays the piano and sings on our Flowery Branch team, and Jeff is a vocalist and plays a slammin electronic wind instrument (or EWI as we call it). They are a delight to have on the team.

I met Jeff and Anita several months ago, and found out that we had mutual friends and that our families know each other from being involved in various ministries together. Jeff and Anita led worship together at a small church in Clarkesville, GA for over a decade before I met them. It definitely shows. Both have what I like to call “worship intuition,” the ability to tastefully contribute to a worshipful experience while engaging spiritually in the leadership of the moment. This is an incredibly valuable quality in a worship team member, and one can be very difficult to teach. I’m thankful for those people who have practiced the art of worshiping well!

I want to thank Jeff and Anita for always being willing to serve and help, for being so kind and humble, and for bringing the best you have to offer every time. Your creative talent, your worshipful hearts, and your love for Jesus inspire me and make me very thankful for the team I’ve been blessed to lead.

Shoutout: Ronnie Stanford

About three years ago I organized an audition for new musicians to be part of the worship team at the college ministry at our church. I walked in the room that evening and the audio tech was already there setting up. His name was Ronnie Stanford. I shook his hand and remember thinking that he was probably just another tech guy that I would have to be really nice to in order to get him to be nice to me (and not be grumpy). I remember he looked tired like he’d already put in a full day’s work before he got here (I’m sure he did).

Fast forward about six months. I had gotten to see Ronnie around the church here and there, but still didn’t know him well. All I knew was that when he ran audio, it sounded really, really good. When the team started to come together for our campus in Flowery Branch, I was thrilled to hear that Ronnie had agreed to come on board as our tech director. Since then we have not only had a great time working in ministry together, but I consider Ronnie to be a good friend and voice of wisdom in my life. What a blessing to have someone like that as a tech director!

If you have in any way benefited from, enjoyed, or appreciated the worship experience at our church, you have Ronnie Stanford to thank for it. He knows audio. Period. He probably knows it better than anyone I’ve ever met. Ronnie not only knows how to mix audio, but he works for the company that installed our system – trust me, he knows how to drive! (The company is Danley Sound Labs – Check them out here) Continue reading “Shoutout: Ronnie Stanford”

Shoutout: Brian Jonick

Brian Jonick. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is about this guy that makes him so great, but I just know that he’s a great person and one of my best friends. Maybe it’s his quiet demeaner that covers a truly wise interior. Proverbs 17:27 says “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”

Yep, that’s Brian.

I first met Brian about a year ago when he came in to audition for the worship team as a bass player. I have this strategy for bass auditions: pick a really hard song and see what kinda chops they’ve got. In this case the song was “Salvation is Here,” which has a pretty aggressive bass solo part. Brian sauntered his way into our rehearsal and absolutely murdered that bass solo. I still remember trying really hard not to grin ear to ear at the awesomeness I was hearing. I even tried to downplay it and shook his hand afterwards and said “Yeah, I’d love to have you on this team.” Secretly I was thrilled to have him! Continue reading “Shoutout: Brian Jonick”

Shoutout: Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor is a young man who exudes humility and goodness. More than anything he’s a guy who you like to be around because he’s honest, dependable, and kind.

I met Josh somewhere around a year ago, he came to us with a group that joined us after a church plant in the area changed directions. He came to audition for the worship team as a drummer, and I could tell he was nervous. His audition went well and he was really excited to have made the team. I remember him saying how happy he was that his hard work was paying off (Josh is self-taught).

Ever since then Josh is someone that I know I can count on. He’s committed to improving and working hard, and he’s grateful to be a part of the team. I can see Josh growing in skill as a musician and as a leader. He is continuing to bring his ideas and input to the table, and I’m grateful because he has great things to say. I’m thankful to have Josh around, he inspires me to be humble, to keep working hard, and to be grateful for all that God’s given me!

Shoutout: Kyle Thrasher

I remember very distinctly the day that I first met Kyle. It was three (almost four) years ago when I was helping with the worship in the college ministry and I held an audition for new people to be on the team. There were many people who came and tried out, but only a few really stood above the crowd. Kyle was one of them.

I remember the first thing I thought was “Thrasher. Seriously? What a great name for a drummer (or any musician really).” I was kinda jealous if you really want the truth. But besides having a great name, Kyle showed a high level of skill as a drummer and definitely got the follow-up call asking him to serve with the worship team.

Fast forward a couple of years and Kyle and I had become good friends. He and I had played on teams together a lot and when the time came to open the Flowery Branch campus, I knew that Kyle was one that I wanted to ask to be a core member of our team. So I did, and I’m really glad he said yes. Continue reading “Shoutout: Kyle Thrasher”

Shoutout: Abigail (Pitts) Williams

I first me Abigail in the lobby of 12Stone central campus on a Thursday night before Water’s Edge (the college ministry at church). I remember she was helping set up chairs and I thought “Who is this girl and where did she come from?” It was like she came out of nowhere. Well, I would soon find out.

It wasn’t long before Abigail and my wife Aubrey became close friends. This is interesting because they are very different from each other. But, despite their different personalities, even to this day I think that their friendship is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They are committed, honest with each other, have survived several fights, and they add value to each other with their uniqueness. I’m definitely ok with my wife having a friend like her!

Abigail is person who is a lot of fun to be around. Her history as an actress (a very talented one at that) makes her very comfortable around people and very entertaining. We also share similar family and school backgrounds so I can count on her being on the same page with me most of the time (definitely a rare thing, especially considering the odd pages I’m usually on).

It has been a privilege to see Abigail grow over the past couple of years. Always faithful, dependable, helpful and teachable, she’s not only a friend but a great addition to our team. She has helped me in so many ways, from directing vocalists to singing anything from soul to folk to REALLY old country songs. Since I met her she has not only grown in maturity, but has grown by leaps and bounds as a vocalist and as a leader. We got to watch her step into relationship with a great guy (now her husband) Kevin, and they are both people we love to do life with. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for their future!

So thanks Abigail (and Kevin) for all you do. Keep leaning into who God has made you to do and to be and you will continue to be a huge blessing to everyone around you.

Shoutout: Jason Berry

I’m not sure how to start… There is so much I could say.

The first thing I remember about Jason is that when I saw him at the central campus he was always walking fast. This was back before I knew him and he was working in the children’s ministry. It seems like he wore a light blue tie and jeans a lot. Maybe that was to impress the kids?

When I actually got to sit and talk with Jason, I discovered that we had a lot in common. We come from similar backgrounds of being raised in the church, we had been leading worship for about the same amount of time and knew many of the same songs from back in the day (“Trading My Sorrows” anyone? Anyone?). Although I couldn’t quite place it at the time, there was an immediate God connection that happened there. Something clicked and I felt like we could communicate well, understand each other, and had a like-mindedness that was rare. God was up to something. Continue reading “Shoutout: Jason Berry”

Shoutout: Skipp and Lora Gay

Skipp and Lora Gay have been around for quite some time. I first met this wonderful couple almost two years ago through my good friend Kyle, and I am so glad to have them in my life!

Skipp is a personal trainer, and what impresses me about him is his determination and hard work. Not only does he work hard in music, but in healthy eating, exercise, and every other area from what I can tell. Always pleasant and ready to contribute, I love having him on the team.

Skipp is also very brave. He is one of the rare musicians that can, without the slightest shred of arrogance, step out and take risks to fill in musical gaps in a song. I love this attitude! It makes our team so much more personal when we have people who are willing to put their signature on their stuff. He does all of this while remaining very teachable and open to suggestions, another key ingredient to a great team.

Lora is just as pleasant to be around. I gifted musician and vocalist, she also does art and enjoys studying nutrition. I love to be around Lora because she is always honest when giving feedback, always teachable, and (perhaps most importantly) always smiling.

Skipp and Lora are the kind of people every leader would LOVE to have on their team. Who wouldn’t want a team full of positive, encouraging, and dependable people? I want to thank them for their faithful service, great hearts and attitudes, and their commitments to bring out the best in the worship experiences!

Love you guys!