Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Houston Fun, and Finally a Word About a Good Friend.

It looks like today will by my last day in H-town. It has been a fantastic trip. I'm pretty sure that I passed my German test; today I will finish recording vocals on my good friend Carrie's project; I saw my wife sing a heartbreakingly beautiful performance as Belle in a 1st class production of Beauty and the Beast (a BIG blog coming about that experience...); we sang at our home church, AND we got to spend a bunch of quality time with people that we love. To top it off, I missed the big-arse snow storm that blew threw New York only to catch the most beautiful weather in the history of Houston Texas. If it weren't for the traffic, I wouldn't have thought it was Houston at all. There is nothing quite like the Houston Traffic. I think that it is the only thing in the world that can make a good Christian burst into ecstatic sentences comprised entirely of the most forbidden cuss word. (You know the one.) Adjectives, Nouns, Verbs, Prepositional Phrases and Gerunds... amazing. It is darn near Shakespearian how that word can be unsheathed in Houston traffic. Also the middle finger is in a constant state of flux while traversing the steel Gauntlet, otherwise known as 610. Okay, PG-13 part is over, but ye without sin cast the first hubcap. Yeah, you know.

But even that is good for me. It clears out the hidden anger. Nothing like an unfamiliar stress to shine a light on things that you didn't know were there.

Now, on to the spirchal, touch-feely talk.

I need to take a moment to express how truly grateful I am for the friends we have here in Houston. I've said it before but I'll say it again, our Church in Sugarland is just amazing. We wouldn't be anywhere close to where we are today (in a place where we feel confident to persue our dreams,) if it were not for the people, our friends and family at Williams Trace Baptist Church. It is an interesting Church on many, many levels. On the surface it looks like a normal, upper-middle class to wealthy, giant, perfect-family church. But the more you get to know the people the more you realize that the majority of them know what it means to be wounded, and humbled, and broken. It is a church filled to the brim with Grace. Half the church is divorced and remarried. Not that that is encouraged, but the people there certainly know what it means to be wounded and the cost of forgivness. It is a church of new beginnings and hope. That has a lot to do with Phil, our Pastor but it also has just as much and more do with the people.

I have mentioned the Holztmans on several occasions, a family that feels like our own, and someday I am going to spend a bunch of blog time talking about all the people at our church that have blessed us with their friendship, but today I want to say a little about someone that deserves a great big thank you and has always wanted to stay out of the Blog world.

Greg Stahl is the music minister at Williams Trace Baptist Church. He is a gifted musician and minster on many, many levels and can sing a high B-flat like Pavoratti, but what I feel the need to express most, is gratitude for him being a boss that was tremendously encouraging to Amber and I, and especially to me. (Me because I worked there the longest.) The whole time I worked there, Greg always emphasized my strengths and was amazingly encouraging and understanding of the other passions that I had and also very understanding of my commitment to finish my degree. When I bombed by first final exams he was there with a hug (a manly hug, ahem.) and an encouraging word. And a few years later, when Amber and I told him of our plans to leave and pursue our dreams he was not angry or hurt, instead he gave us the best encouragement at the right time and shared personal testimony that gave us just a truckload of hope.

For a long time I had a real guilt complex about being a "minister" in a church. I grew up feeling that I needed to somehow "give up" my passions, talents and dreams for God in exchange for something that I wasn't fully passionate about. (You are a "minister" in anything you do if you are a Christian.) I realized the fallacy in that thinking during conversation with Greg in his office. Amber and I were busy finishing our second CD and honestly, during the recording bliss I got a little caught up in the project and began to neglect the practicing on the Anthems for Sunday. Greg, after listening to me relive a fantastic day in the studio, in a very kind and understanding tone said this:

Greg: "Seth, that sounds terrific. I can see that writing music and being a creative writer is your passion. That is your true life's passion, am I right?"

Me: I thought for a moment. "Yes, yes it is." He didn't realize it but that was breakthrough statement for me.

Greg: "Well, I think that is just wonderful, and I look forward to seeing all that God has planned for you and Amber in the years to come, and I have no doubt that you will go far and make a big statement in whatever you do and be a big blessing to others with all those dreams. But right now, this Choir and this program at WTBC is what I'm passionate about. "This," he said pointing to the anthem on his desk, "is my passion, and while you are still working here I need you to be careful and focus a little harder on practicing the Anthem for next week." That may have sounded tense in the writing but it was very kind and in understanding tone. However, the point and needed correction was taken. We laughed and I agreed that my performance the previous night at choir practice had left much to be desired. It was less than my best and we both knew it.

In that conversation he reminded me of two things: First, that whatever I do, it should be excellent, even if it isn't my "lay-awake-at-night" dream. I knew that, but had lost sight of it for a moment, being caught up in the moment. Second, he gave me a new insight in that there are actually people that don't do the full-time-church-minister ministry out of guilt, (that sounds funny, but it was a real misconception on my part and a long story for another blog series.) They do it because they are passionate about it, like I am passionate about creating. It was incredibly liberating and I began a new journey into experiencing Grace on a new level. For that among other things, I am eternally grateful.

I've never met a person who loves what he does more that Greg Stahl and when he is standing in front of his Choir, he is right at home. Just like it is for me when I am making something up out of the clear blue, whether music, stories, or film.

So here it is, finally, a big fat thank you to Greg Stahl. Thank you, Greg for encouraging Amber and I to pursue our dreams and at the same time plugging us in to a local Body, at the best darn Church EVER I might add, and for using us in the ways that emphasized and developed the gifts that God has given us. I am blessed to be your friend and to have worked for you.

(This is a long overdue thanks, but a long time ago, when I worked for him, Greg had requested that he remain out of the Blog world. Well, TO BAD!)


Popcorn said...

Greg Stahl is a great guy. He can hit those beautiful, smooth, high notes effortlessly. And he has a great sense of humor.

Julio said...

Seth, You just ministered to me in the right time. No doubt we are ministers every place we go (we don't need to work in a church to do it). Oh, and I hate the trafic on 59, they never stop the construction!!!

Super Churchlady said...

Not to nit-pick..but you've been staying in Sugar Land - NOT Houston. And...Sugar Land misses you already.

Seth Ward said...

Julio! Great to talk to you. You are a great talent and I am confident that you and your family have a long and exciting "ministry" ahead of you. You did an AMAZING job in the musical.

Also, you should give Greg a call sometime and see about doing some special music over at WTBC. They all know you now!

Churchlady... yes, there is a big difference between Sugarland and Houston. I stand corrected. We miss you guys too!

Susanne said...

I have a favorite memory of Greg:
I was sitting in front of him while playing in the orchestra during the Christmas musical, and I realized that he was singing along as he directed the choir. He has a beautiful voice, and he seemed to be truly worshipping God as he conducted.

And last week, I was having a particularly trying morning. I almost cried during the first few songs we sang during the service. But then Greg led the choir in Beethoven's "Alleluia," and it was like magic...I was instantly at peace. Funny how Beethoven will do that! And the choir did a wonderful job. So, Greg, if you're reading this, thanks for all you do! I hope we never take you for granted.