The Mercy of God

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Though I’ve been delinquent in updating the site, Outside Da Box and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are doing a great job by creating new videos every month to help teens understand a different element of the Catechism, and I’ve the honor of writing the majority of those scripts. I really loved this last one they did. It’s a “whiteboard” video about how to go to Reconciliation, and the emphasis is that it’s not just about confessing your sins—it’s about what you do before and after that is equally important. I hope you’re blessed by it!

But one of my favorite scripts ever brought to life was the “Palm Sunday” video I wrote for Outside Da Box a couple years ago. And since that’s coming up this Sunday, it seems a good time to re-post that as well.

Feel free to share these around the Interwebs! And have a blessed Easter!

Eros and Agape in Disney’s Frozen

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Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 6.19.20 PMThe Friday of Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a “movie” day for us. This year we split the family: 12-years-old and over went to see the new Hunger Games, 11-years-old and under went to see Disney’s new animated movie, Frozen. Having seen Hunger Games already, I took the little ones to see Frozen.

I really enjoyed the movie. It had some great music and the look of it was beautiful. But what stunned me was the message that the movie conveyed.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s some SPOILERS. Sorry, no way to talk about the ending without giving the ending away. And the ending came as quite a surprise to me!

Let me recap the story: it’s a tale of two sisters, Elsa and Anna. Elsa has the power of ice and snow (hence the film’s title, Frozen.) When they were young, Elsa accidentally hurt Anna with her power, so she kept it (and herself) hidden from her sister so she wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Anna, who doesn’t remember the event, wonders why her sister becomes so distant, especially after their parents pass away (being parents in a Disney movie is like wearing a redshirt in Star Trek.)

They become teenagers. Elsa is to be crowned queen and the castle is opened for the first time in years. Anna, young and eager, meets a handsome young prince and immediately falls in love. She wants to marry him! At this point I was rolling my eyes, thinking, “yeah, that’s a healthy relationship.” Thankfully, Elsa agreed and wouldn’t give her blessing. Emotions get high, Elsa’s power goes out of control, everyone realizes she has this power (some think her a witch) and off she runs into the frozen wilderness. Her sister goes to find her.

In the adventures that follow, Anna’s heart get’s frozen and can only be healed with an “act of true love,” which Anna thinks must be getting a kiss from the prince she wants to marry. And if that’s what happened, it would be standard Disney fare.

Because Disney movies are generally about eros. That’s a Greek word for romantic love, the love between husband and wife. Snow White is cured by a kiss from the prince; Sleeping Beauty is the same. Most Disney movies end with a marriage and the romance between the male and female protagonist plays a central role. Actually, the majority of stories told today focus on eros. Our society seems to think it’s the highest form of love.

But Jesus told us otherwise. When He spoke of love, He used the word agape, not eros. When He said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34,) He used the word agapeAgape is the highest form of love. It’s not about emotion—it’s about self-sacrifice. As Christ Himself said, “No one can have greater love (agape) than to lay his life down for his friends” (John 15:13.) That kind of love isn’t often shown.

Which is why I almost fell out of my seat at the dramatic conclusion of Frozen.

Anna was about to die. Her “true love” was running toward her to give her the saving kiss she thought she needed. But her sister was in danger. Instead of waiting for the kiss, she ran to her sister’s aide and sacrificed her life to save her. And that’s the act that heals her heart. It wasn’t eros that was “true love,” it was agape!

I looked at my six year old daughter. “Wasn’t that amazing?” I said.

“Yes,” she answered. “I loved the snowman! He’s funny!”

Okay, so maybe six-year-olds don’t get the difference between eros and agape. But someone at Disney did. And I’m so glad they decided to make a movie that shows that true love is more than just a feeling—it’s the laying down of your life for another.

And the snowman was funny, too.

BTW, the new CD is available (and so are some old ones!)

BobRice-TheGospelAccordiontoI’m pretty stunned I haven’t made a bigger deal of this. My new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” came out a week before Thanksgiving, but with NCYC, Thanksgiving, the last week of school, and now I’m at parish mission in Hiawatha! Iowa, it’s just occurred to me that I never really did much to let you all know that the CD is now available! I can’t express my gratitude enough to the 113 people who made it happen by supporting the project on Kickstarter.

You can purchase a physical copy or download the MP3s by going HERE. And for the rest of this month, you can download the MP3s for just 5 bucks! (You can also pay twice as much at the iTunes store by going HERE.)

But wait… there’s more!

The past few months I’ve gotten a number of emails and Facebook messages asking where people could get copies of my earlier two CDs. I was happily surprised that for people who supported me on Kickstarter enough to get a second CD, the most popular requests were for “Behold the Lamb” and “No Other,” my first and second CDs.

CD-BTLNOSo they are finally available as downloadable MP3s! And I combined them into one album so you can get both CDs for the price of one. Get them both for just $9.99 by clicking HERE. Sorry, they’re not available as physical CDs, just downloads.

You can get also the double CD on iTunes HERE, but I’m a little ticked at iTunes right now, because they’re selling the CD for $19.99!?! Apparently when I said it was a double CD they automatically charged it twice as much as a single CD, but that was the whole point of me putting it down as one CD in the first place! And there’s no way to change it. Very frustrating.

Ah well, at least they’re available for those who had a copy back in the good ol days and it got melted in the sun, left in a college dorm room, or stuck in the car CD player (those are all actual stories I’ve heard in the past few weeks.) So take better care of them this time, all right?

It’s really exciting for me to make available the new as well as the old. I’m just grateful that people still care to hear the music I make. You are all a great blessing to me.

Enjoy the music!

The Little Ukulele Boy

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 4.02.37 PMDid you know in Hawaii that the story of “The Little Drummer Boy” is re-told as “The Little Ukelele Boy?” Probably not, because I just made that up.

But if there was a story about “The Little Ukulele Boy,” it would star Kyle Heimann.

Kyle is the answer to the question, “Who did that amazing artwork on your latest CD?” He’s also half of the dynamic duo of POPPLE, a wonderful Catholic evangelistic ministry that travels around the country sharing their gifts and talents to bring others closer to God. Simply put: this is a guy worth supporting.

Kyle is doing a Kickstarter project to raise some money for a CD that would feature his ukulele playing—and he’s very good at it. If that sounds interesting to you, and you’re able to support a really amazing guy, then you can check out his page by going HERE.

A Great Advent Book for Kids

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 3.40.47 PMI don’t normally do this, but sometimes you come across something too good not to share. And when it’s made by people you know, that makes it even more special.

Theresa and Charles Pobee-Mensah just wrote a book together called, “Bible Characters for Advent.” Some of you will remember Charles because he played bass for many years at the Steubenville Conferences with me. I bumped into him a few weeks ago and in the normal chit-chat about what’s been going on lately he mentioned this book which was just coming out and that he’d give me a copy for me and my kids. I didn’t know what to expect… I mean, I knew he was a great bass player, but a children’s book author?

All I can say is, wow. This is a fantastic book!

The book is called, “Bible Characters for Advent” and it looks at 25 people from the Bible that played a major part of salvation history. Simply illustrated and insightfully written, “Bible Characters for Advent” is written like an Advent calendar, focusing on one person per day. That makes it a great read for people (like me) with smaller kids. I can slip it into their evening bed-time stories and still have time for Dr. Seuss. Each person is described very simply, with only a few sentences and a big picture, so it’s easy for little kids to grasp.

But’s its genius lies in how the authors tie each Old Testament person to Christ. For example, when it talks about Joseph being sold into slavery, it states, “When Jesus was on earth many people treated him unkindly to0, but Jesus always forgave them.” Or when the book talks about Elijah it mentions, “Like Elijah, Jesus performed many miracles and reminded people to turn their lives back to God.”

St. Augustine wrote that, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is unveiled in the New.” “Bible Characters for Advent” does a great job of showing, in a fun and simple way for children, how everything in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ—and isn’t that what Advent is all about? I think if St. Augustine wrote a book for kids, he would have written something like this. And that’s the highest praise I can give any book :)

It was just released over a week ago and you can get it at Amazon HERE, where you’ll also see it’s gotten a bunch of 5 star reviews, so I’m not the only one who likes it!

I’m fasting from myself

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20130607-201541.jpgWhen people ask me about my music, my usual joke is, “I’m a big fan of me. I have all my CDs.” The truth is that I rarely hear my own music unless 1) my kids ask for it, or 2) it comes up on my iTunes shuffle. But there is a third category: unless I’ve just recorded it and I’m in the process of mixing it. Then I listen to it all the time.

Well, I’m happy to say this week I approved the final mix and today it’s off to the manufacturer. My 15 year old son is happy about that too, because when I announced it at dinner he commented he was getting sick of it. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? Hope he wasn’t expecting to get a car for his 16th.

Seriously, though—I don’t blame him. The last week was focused on adjusting small things that make a big difference to me but probably not a huge difference to others. Were this purely a commercial venture I would have said, “it’s fine” at the first mix, with the attitude, “nobody will notice.” But for me, it’s art. It’s prayer. And it’s worth all the effort I can give it.

But a time comes when “the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.” I realize I’m listening way too closely and I’m just looking for things to tweak. I play it to some friends I trust who say it sounds great. So I hit the “send” button.  And then I fast from listening to it.

Because all I want to do is listen to it. After all, some of these songs have been in my head for many years! It’s amazing that in these few short weeks they’ve come to life and sound as good as they do. But in about three weeks, numerous boxes from Disc Makers will arrive at my doorstep. I’ll open the box, and there will be the project I’ve put so much time, energy, money, and prayer into. And I don’t want to be sick of it by then. I want to have a similar level of enthusiasm as someone who supported the CD through Kickstarter or picked it up at an event that I played at, who rip off the cellophane and put it in their CD player or listen through their phone. To put it simply, I want to share in that experience with everybody. Because previously I’ve been listening to how prominent the bass levels are or if I should add or remove a harmony to a song. But then, I’ll just listen to the music.

I don’t have a specific date yet but we’re on track for the first or second (more likely the second) week of November. I have a gig in El Paso on November 15th, and that will be the first place the disc will be available. Hopefully it will be up on iTunes by that time, but Apple doesn’t give specific dates to independent artists like myself.

It’s coming. It sounds awesome. I looks amazing. And I am filled with gratitude for all those who supported this project. 

Crazy. Busy. Good. (With cool video at the end!)

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Life. Is. Crazy. But in many ways, crazy good. Bobby just got out of surgery yesterday for his leg. Those who have followed by blog might remember that in February he broke his femur because of a weakened bone. So they put a rod in his leg to augment it. Not fun, but we’re grateful that the surgery went well, and thanks for all your prayers.

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I’ve also gotten back on the road. I had the chance to speak to the youth ministers in Arlington and Richmond. I shared the Gospel with the folks at St. John the Apostle in Virginia Beach, VA and at Holy Spirit Parish in Kennewick, WA. And I spoke at a men’s conference in Greensburg, PA. Hello to everyone I’ve seen over the past three weeks! It was a blessing to be with you!

School is back in session, and I LOVE teaching at Franciscan. But that keeps me busy, as you can imagine.

“The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is getting nearly done and it sounds AMAZING. I can’t wait for you all to hear it! Thanks to the over-the-top generosity of my Kickstarter backers, I was able to fly Katie Rose from California to help with the vocals. What a difference she made! And it’s always fun hanging out with her.

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Aidan is over two months old and is COMPLETELY adorable. If you doubt me, take a look:

And, in all my spare time, I’m still writing video scripts.

 
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This is the latest video in the VCat series, “Forgiveness of Sins.”

I wrote it as a spoken word piece and originally I was going to be the one doing it. But then someone knew of Fr. Anthony, a priest from New York who also does hip-hop. When you see how well he does it, you’ll laugh thinking of me doing it! He owned the material so well, my first impression was that he must have ad-libbed some of it to fit his style and personality. But then, as I pulled up the script I wrote, I realized that it was almost verbatim to what I had written.

I was pretty humbled by that, as I’m sure this guy could improv stuff better than I could write it (and you can hear some of that at the end of the video.) As always, I’m just grateful to be working with the amazing people at Outside Da Box who make such great films.

So life is crazy busy, but also crazy good. Hope you enjoy the video.

I Got By With A Lot Of Help From My Friends

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IMG_2935Regular readers of my blog (as well as Facebook friends and Twitter followers) know that for the past two months I’ve been fundraising for my newest CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” It ended at 11:59 PM last night and the final total is $12,275—over three thousand more than I had originally asked!

The word “grateful” doesn’t seem like it conveys enough emotion for how I feel right now, but it’s the best I can come up with. Other words: jubilant, humbled, thrilled, excited…

By hitting the $12K mark, everything I could have hoped for the CD is coming true. Better musicians. Extra songs. Upgraded packaging that will include a lyric booklet. This went from the “CD I can’t afford,” to “the best CD I could ever make!”

And it’s all because of your support. People gave big and small, posted links to the project on their Facebook and Twitter pages, told friends about it, and prayed for it’s success. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I should probably add, “overwhelmed” to my word list.

I feel like the steward at the Wedding of Cana. My wine had run out. And so Christ showed up and gave something even better than I could have done on my own.

I’m so excited to get into the studio and begin to share this music with you. But I know that for most of you, you weren’t supporting a project. You were supporting me and my family. And that’s what makes this “success” so special.

So again, from me and my family, thanks.

Psalm 95

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 8.59.18 AMThis is the one “true” accordion song off the upcoming CD. What you hear is what it is (except I can play it better—it was a challenge to do a good take between napping baby, loud kids, etc!) Just a boy and his accordion, praising the Lord.

The words are from Psalm 95. Those of you who pray the Liturgy of Hours know that it’s the standard psalm to start the day. It is so rich in it’s imagery and message. It doesn’t just praise God and submit to His guidance, it begs that we wouldn’t be like the hard-hearted Israelites who saw all of God’s works and still wouldn’t obey. No wonder the Church prays it every morning!

I always have great reasons to sing a psalm of joy, and one of those reasons is that last week we made the minimum goal of $9,000 for the Kickstarter campaign to fund my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” It’s going to happen! Currently, the project is at $10,400, which really blows me away. That means I can fly in my good friend, Katie Rose (who sang with me on “Nowhere Else To Go” and “I Shall Be Healed”) to lend her incredible voice to the CD. At $11,000 I’ll be able to add more music, and at $12,000 I’ll be able to add a lyric book to accompany the CD, which would be very cool.

The campaign ends one week from today, so if you’d like to contribute, you can do so by going HERE.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this project happen. You did it! And now, let’s praise the Lord…

Hey, Youth Ministers!

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SowerLast week was the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference and it was such a joy to see people from America, Canada, England, Ireland, and even Australia come together to celebrate the faith and be equipped to pass it on more effectively.

Of course, the group I got to hang most with are the youth ministers, and my gratitude for all of you who endured the difficult schedule. It was a blessing to share what little time I could amid the numerous workshops, worship music, and baby at home.

The conference made me realize that I’ve been a bit deliquent on putting articles I’ve written for the “Sower Magazine” on my website—hadn’t updated that since last year! So here are the most recent ones, and if you’d like a full list of articles, you can check them out HERE.

“Proclaiming the Bad News to Teenagers,” April 2013. Talking about hell can pose a challenge for those who work with young people today. But if young people don’t understand the horrors of hell, they can never appreciate what Christ went through to bring them to heaven. Or to put it another way, the Good News isn’t really good unless the bad news is really bad.

“Thinking Win/Win with Your Volunteers,” October 2012. Attracting volunteers to your ministry is a daunting challenge, but it can be done. One way of doing that is to think “Win/Win.” A ministry that is as concerned with the positive experience of its volunteer as it is with it’s ministry to young people becomes a dynamic and enticing environment that attracts both youth and adults alike.

“Will You Love Me?” April 2012. When St. John Bosco famously said, “Love, and they will follow you anywhere,” he wasn’t talking about relational manipulation. He was speaking the truth. Teenagers, then and now, desire true friendships and respond to real love. One thing is sure: postmodern teenagers feel more than they think.

“Not Young Adults, but Emerging Adults,” January 2012. What is a “young adult?” Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, suggests the term young adult is a misnomer. He proposes we call this age group emerging adults.

“Saints and Superheroes,” October 2011. Movies and stories about superheroes are all the rage with young people today. As catechists, we can use those stories to point them to the real superheroes—the saints.

In other news, the Kickstarter campaign is going great! Thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve gotten past the minimum goal and are pushing towards an even better product. More on that (with new music video) tomorrow.