Sorry to miss a few days on the ole blog. Peg and I took the kids camping this week. I am also in the process of changing my internet provider at home and don't have a connection right now, so I'll get all your comments moderated and posted hopefully this weekend.

We went to South Beach State Park in Newport, OR. We spent the day on the beach Tuesday and God blessed us with the highest temperature on record for that day in Newport. It was clear and beautiful. Then it rained the next two days! That's Oregon for you.

We went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is awesome if you've never been there. The boys loved it. Huge aquariums with sharks and fish and crabs and all that cool oceanic stuff. And we ate at the original Mo's restaurant on the old bayfront. It's a hole in the wall with like six tables and a "please seat yourself" sign, but the chowder was awesome as is true at all the other Mo's I've been to. And we went to the public docks on the bay where the sea lions hang out. They are huge!

Luke and I went on one of our "midnight" hikes (actually we got back about 11:30p). We hiked the trails in the park out to the south jetty and then down to the bay. Then we decided to walk across the bridge. It's a pretty cool bridge, and even more fun to walk at night. The wind was blowing and we were up VERY high.

On the way back a lady in a minivan stopped and asked us if we needed a ride. I think she thought I was a kidnapper or something. She asked Luke if I was his dad. I'm glad he said yes! We were only about 30 walking minutes away from camp, but it was late and she was worried about us.

So I asked Luke, "You know that you are NEVER to take rides from strangers, right?" He said "Yes", and then we got in the van. What was I going to do? It had started to rain and this nice lady pulled over to give us a ride. Turns out she is a music director for a Disciples of Christ church. Wierd.

We had planned to be gone for half an hour or so, but it had been about 90 minutes by this time (did I mention that the bridge was cool?) So while we were late, and since I forgot to bring my phone with me, Peg had been worried and praying to God that we would make it back soon. Then at the same time this Christian lady pulls over to give us a ride and gets us home 25 minutes sooner than we would have made it walking.

Just more evidence for me that God uses people. How else was He going to answer Peg's prayer and get Luke and I home sooner? I guess He could have sent the Angel of the Lord in a flaming chariot, but that would have scared Luke to death. And I'd be like, "God, did you really have to go to all this trouble? We're only a half hour away." So He found a lady to give us a ride instead. God has a pragmatic side I guess. Why waste energy on a chariot of fire when there's a perfectly good minivan going right by?

"Now you know Luke, you should never take rides from strangers UNLESS they're in a flaming chariot."

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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High School Poetry

One single tear in the oceans of life
One single stone on the mountains of strife
The oceans I'll swim and the mountains I'll climb
Its only a grain on the beaches of time

One single blade in the fields of esteem
One single thought in a lonely man's dream
Through fields I will walk and from dreams I will wake
In drifts of depression its only a flake

You have your own path, so climb your own stairs
I shouldn't expect that my cross you should bear
My stairs descend, but in time they will rise
And the wounds will be healed that were caused by my lies

My hope is that your stairs will rise just as mine
That the oceans you'll swim and the mountains you'll climb
That you'll walk through the fields and awake from the dreams
And find light once again in another sun's beams

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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Celebrate Recovery

OK, back to serious bidness.

We had our first Celebrate Recovery orientation tonight. I was very happy with the turnout (12 all together). We prayed and watched the DVD and asked questions and prayed. I feel blessed to have that many serious prayer partners covering this ministry.

We are looking at a 90+ day ramp up toward launching the ministry. We're going to take the first month to continue praying about our involvement, praying for the possible leaders, praying for the people who need to come.

One of the key foundations of CR is that EVERYBODY needs recovery. We have all been hurt, and we have all hurt others. CR is not a ministry you hide in the basement or in a back room. It is for the whole church. I am really excited about how God might use this at Our Place. If we are faithful and follow His voice (as best we can), my gut tells me that it will change all of us.

Another cool aspect is that I have a really good feeling that we will not have to swim upstream with this. Our Place is already a place where people feel comfortable to come as they are. I can remember more than a few times where I have smelled alcohol on someone's breath or looked into bloodshot eyes and could tell someone was intoxicated at church. That says a lot to me. It tells me that people feel comfortable coming to Our Place no matter where they're at or what they're struggling with. I'm glad that is the case. We will not have to struggle too much to make the church inviting to hurting people. It already is to a great extent. So we are building on a good foundation there.

If you would, take a minute to say a prayer for the Recovery ministries at Our Place.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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Star Wars Trivia

Have you ever played the Trivial Pursuit Star Wars edition? It's weak. Here's some trivia for you, Trilogy style:

What kind of droid is R2-D2?

What staff like weapons do Tusken Raiders use?

What is the name of the medical droid that aided Luke Skywalker on Hoth?

What is a dewback?

Who is Snaggletooth?

What race is Greedo?

Where did Han Solo run into a bounty hunter BETWEEN Episodes 4 and 5?

The Millenium Falcon is what type of spacecraft?

What is another name for the Blockade Runner?

Name Lando Calrissian's assistant at Cloud City?

Okay, enough for now. Some of these were pretty easy, so if you have some harder ones, leave a comment.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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More Freedom

Here's another Freedom Band clip. This is an old gospel number, with three-part backing vocals and a bluesy/r&b groove. I think I'm the first "ah". We used to have the nickname, the "Wizards of Ahs", because of our backing vocals on numbers like these. I've tried over the years to incorporate stuff like this into the worship at OP, but somehow it just never comes off in rehearsal the right way. In prison, we had a horn section with trumpets and saxes. Oh how I miss that! Maybe someday...

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Yes, I am a chess geek. Okay?! And a Star Wars geek too. So what?! Ya love me anyway!

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

Addicted to Chess

I'm an addict. One of my addictions is chess. I haven't decided if it is healthy or not. Part of me hopes that chess prevents alzheimer's. Otherwise I'm not sure what I'm gaining from it.

I have a Gameboy Advance SP, and I have the old Chessmaster cartridge. They don't make it anymore. I went to three stores before I found one. It kicks my butt! I can usually win on the first two levels, but at level 3 I only win about 5%, draw about 10%, and resign the rest. Apparently there is a huge leap between levels 2 and 3.

My weakness is the middle game. I play fairly decent in the opening. I am familiar with a couple openings, Kings Gambit, Queens Gambit, Ruy Lopez... I understand development. I get castled before the tenth move. I move my rooks to open files. I get all ready to go. And then I falter. I just can't execute a plan of attack.

If I happen to make it through the exchanges and middle play without getting behind in material, then I do pretty well in the end game usually. At least well enough to draw if not mate. But it's always the middle that kills me.

I read chess websites, rent chess movies... If you're interested, there is a documentary called Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine. It came out in 2003, and it's about Kasparov playing the IBM computer Deep Blue. Deep Blue is the first computer to beat a grandmaster in a championship style match. And the movie reveals a whole conspiracy theory about how IBM may have cheated. IBM has refused Kasparov a rematch. Why? What are they hiding?? Hmmmmm...

There is another true story chess movie called "Searching for Bobby Fischer" that I love. It's about Josh Waitzkin.

Bobby Fischer is fascinating. He may be the greatest grandmaster of all time. But Kasparov doesn't think so. And he is a genius nutcase type. He is living in exile in Iceland for breaking a trade embargo. What's up with that?

Chessmaster on my Gameboy has a library of famous games. I think there are like 140. It let's you play through them move by move to see how grandmasters play. I love Capablanca, Lasker, and of course Fischer, and the Kasparov Karpov games are epic. But half the time I don't know what they're doing.

Yeah, its a hard habit to break.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

The Freedom Band

When I was in prison I was in a worship group called The Freedom Band. It was a whole lot of fun to be in that band. It's where I got turned on to gospel and the blues. We did all kinds of styles, as there were so many different guys in the band at different times. Something about getting released from prison seemed to override a person's desire to stay in the band!!

After prison, we had a Feedom Band reunion at a coffee house in Indianaplis. A bunch of guys from the band got together and had a jam session. It was incredible to get together with all the guys like that. It was hard to get everyone together, but we had a good group that night. I miss those guys. It's so hard to stay in touch.

We recorded the session straight to two-track from a couple of room mics, and the results were not bad. This song, Don't Let the Devil Ride, is one we used to do in prison together. It's a bluesy 12-bar number with a couple guitar solos and three guys trading vocals. Sure brings back a lot of good memories. Funny to think that prison memories would be good. But they are. Prison was the best thing that ever happened to me (that is, until I met my wife and started a family). Strange, but true.


"Worship is a response to God."

At Our Place, our gatherings culminate each week in what we call "Responding Time". It is a time of personal and corporate worship, where people are encouraged to listen to God's voice and Respond to Him.

Responding Time usually lasts 20 minutes, and during that time there are a variety of ways that people can choose to respond. We have a prayer station near the front that has a large wooden cross surrounded by rugs, pillows, communion elements, Bibles, annointing oil... It is a place for people to come and pray, and to be prayed for.

There are also four communion stations located at the four corners of the room, where people can go and receive communion as they feel led.

There are also two additional worship stations, one for art and one for writing. At one, there are papers, canvases, easels and tables, with paints and pastels and clay, where people can worship God through artistic expression. At the other, there are notebooks, journals, and large hanging papers, with pens, pencils, and markers, where people can write their responses to God, be they prayer requests, praises, poems, freeform, stream of conciousness.

We also have a baptistery where people can come and be baptized if they feel led. We encourage people to make decisions for Christ during Responding Time, and to come and be baptized as part of that. Many of our gatherings each month have ended with a new baptism. It has been powerful to give people the freedom to act on God's voice as He leads them!

All the while, our worship bands create an environment of musical worship, where people are encouraged to sing, to listen, to watch, to kneel, to stand... To worship however they are led. At Our Place it is ok to just listen, or to just watch. As a worshiper, I do very little to lead or manipulate the response of the crowd. I don't want to lead, I want the Spirit to lead.

There are times where I feel it is appropriate to lead more actively, to ask them to sing, ask them to stand. But on the whole, I am less of a leader and more of a facilitator. The music is really only one part of "Responding Time". There is so much more that can happen, so many other creative ways for people to respond to God. I don't want to close doors on that by saying "everybody stand and sing".

I feel like our Responding Time is one of the ways that our church strives to embrace a more emergent theology of worship. We have moved away from the typical songleader approach to worship and have attempted to be more comprehensive. I think music still plays a huge role in our gatherings. But it is not the only role.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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Church Survey

I created a survey for our church to take. I used Survey Monkey, which is a very easy way to make an online survey.

I started the survey with a number of demographic questions (age, gender, marital status...) And then asked a short series of open ended questions. I based the open ended questions on what is called a SWOT analysis, or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. This is an analysis used by many organizations to aid in decision making, strategy formulation, etc.

I sent an email out to our database today with a link to the survey. In less than 8 hours the survey had been completed over 100 times. I was a little surprised by that.

The reason I have felt so strongly about doing a survey is that I have been a little frustrated with my own decision making process. My decision making in the past has been based on anecdotal evidence. Someone makes a comment, or someone says they have "heard" comments. That sort of thing. Then I pray about the comments, and listen for God, and try to think about a course of direction to address the comments. But that is not a very good way to make decisions! I really have no idea how many people would have similar comments. No idea how much of a problem the problem really is. Just hearsay and good intentions. But no real evidence.

So I'm hoping that this preliminary survey will at least give myself and the leadership a sense of what the real issues are. Then I plan to do a follow up survey that addresses each of those issues more in depth. That way we will have a good sense of what people are really thinking and feeling, why they have stayed, why they have left, why they serve, why they don't, what they need, what they desire, and how best we as leaders and as a church can serve them.

Of course I am under no illusion that this survey is the be all end all. It won't solve all our problems. But its a step in the right direction. One of many steps we need to take as we grow and mature as a church. I am still amazed that we are only four years old! God is good!

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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The Role of Women

Here's my take on the gender issue.

There is a body of scripture that seems to indicate that there is a difference between the roles that women and men have in the church (as well as in family, marriage, life.. but we'll stick to church). I agree that scripture teaches that there is a difference.

Now, what to do about that difference. Some churches interpret these passages to mean that women can do "nothing" in the church. These churches know their Bibles and their leaders have gone to Seminary, and somehow they have come to that conclusion.

At the other end of the continuum, some churches interpret these passages to mean that there is no difference at all. That women can have any role in a church, or even denominational leadership roles over 100s of churches. I believe that this is disregarding the Bible's teaching that there is a difference.

So, we are left with a decision. Where on that continuum do we choose to draw a line. Do we draw it down close to the fundamentalist churches who won't even let women ushers pass communion trays to men? Or do we draw it somewhere closer to those churches who say there is no difference at all?

My opinion (that's all it is), is that I would like to draw a line that gives women as much leadership and responsibility in the church as possible, that utilizes their gifts to the fullest possible extent, while still honoring the difference that scripture teaches.

So I choose to draw that line at Elder. I find no descriptions of women Elders in scripture, and I do find prescriptions that Elders be men. I believe drawing the line at Elder is the best way to give women as large a role as possible without thumbing our nose at the Bible.

My 2 cents.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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"Why?", I ask. "Why?"

"Why should the devil have all the good music?"

Larry Norman

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

Iron Maiden

Worship was incredible today. I don't know exactly why. Maybe because it was Mark's last day playing bass with us. Kind of emotional. And we did an old worship song that we never do, Shout to the Lord. Part of me doesn't like to do it because its old. But that is so wrong! Its an awesome song. I hadn't played it in at least a couple years. Its wierd to have songs like that, that I used to feel were cutting edge and contemporary... now they're like classics. Shout to the Lord is like a hymn.

I've been wanting to break out a few more hymns. We do Blessed Assurance somewhat randomly. I love that it is in 9/8! There is a song by Iron Maiden called "Revelations" on their Piece of Mind album that is actually an old hymn. Its on page 484 of the old United Methodist Hymnals (circa 1985ish). The words go:

O God of earth and altar
Bow down and hear our cry
Our earthly rulers falter
Our people drift and die
The walls of gold entomb us
The sword of scorn divides
Take not Thy thunder from us
But take away our pride

THAT IS AWESOME! Hymns are so cool. And I must admit that Iron Maiden made this one ROCK. If you know the song, you know what I mean. Is it ok for a pastor to say that Iron Maiden inspires him? They do. I wanna make hymns ROCK!

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

Fort Building

My four year old son Luke and I have been building a fort in the park by our house. We built a lean-to between two trees big enough for three or four people to crawl inside. It's covered with branches and leaves and ferns. We play firehouse and build firefighting equipment out of sticks.

Sometimes I wish I was four again. Luke asks to go to that fort everyday. He loves it there. I tell him someday someone might tear it down. I hope they don't. He just replies that we'll build a better one. That we will.

It's better than any fort I was ever able to build as a kid. I always wanted a fort like this one. Deep in the woods, big enough to play in, almost keeps the rain out (we're still working on that!). I have so much fun playing with Luke there. Even Joshua our two year old loves it. Peg cooked pizza and brought it to us one afternoon. We ate in the fort. That was cool.

What is it about boys and forts? Why the fascination? Luke would rather play at the fort than go to the playground. Something about ownership I guess. And dirt. It's like a castle, a refuge, a secret... But he invites everyone he sees to come look at it. Even old men walking their dogs. Sometimes they come. They love it too. Something about forts.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

I'm Back

It is really challenging to stay up to date with this blog. But I have been inspired by my friends Steve and Logan to get back into the swing of this. Their blogs are awesome! I could read their stuff all day long. I'll post links to them here when I get back to my desktop.

I'm in the middle of a recording project with my band right now. We've got drum and bass tracks down for about eight songs, and Russ and I did some listening today and talked about what we liked, what worked, what didn't, where to go from here, all that. Its really tough to listen to stuff objectively, when there is so much creativity and emotion wrapped up in the songwriting process. My mind goes in a million directions. How do I want it to sound, what parts need to be added, how should the dynamics flow, what should be cut, should it be simple, should it be deep, blah, blah, blah.

Most importantly, I'm really struggling with "what is the purpose of this?" "Why are we recording these songs?" What's the goal?"

One of the songs is a remake of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus". I wrote new lyrics for the verses and added a bridge, and changed the chord progression and melodies and whatnot. The lyrics in the bridge say:

So I won't look for glory, or fortune, or fame
I'll look to the heavens and call on Your name

And I was thinking about that. I MEAN that. Lately I have not been eager to make my music known. I haven't done any semi-real recording in a long time. I haven't tried to play lots of gigs. I haven't pursued much of anything outside of leading worship at church, and doing church type events. I know some people have been frustrated by that. I've been fielding requests for years now... Ken, when are you guys going to record? To be honest, I just haven't wanted to. Its a lot of work, a lot of time investment, and I'm not really sure of the purpose. I DON'T want this to be about my own ego. I DON'T want to pursue a record deal, or become a famous worship guy. I don't want to tour and play Passion festivals and worship conferences. I don't want to sell records and make money.

Because all of that would be bad for me. I know my own pride and ego would get in the way. It would start to become about me, and how talented I am, and how unique I am, and look at me, I'm a big star. Look at how God is using me. Aren't I special? He picked the right guy when He picked me!

I don't want that. So for years I've been avoiding doing anything that might appear like I am trying to seek my own success. And yet, now I am recording. And I don't know why. What are we going to do with this CD once its done? Sell it? Promote it? Shop it? Give it away? Hide it? I don't know.

What is God going to do with it? What is He going to ask us to do with it? Am I going to say "yes" to Him? I'm not even sure if He has asked us to record this at all.

What a rambling mess this post has become. I'm listening for God on this one.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

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