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“My old heart that loved sin died 2,000 years ago.”

I was mentoring a friend through a bible-study designed for people with addictions (settingcaptivesfree.com,) and that phrase jumped of my computer screen and pierced my heart. It was a reflection on the famous words of St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20.)

This was a common theme of St. Paul. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person have been absolved from sin,” (Romans 6:6-7.)

A dead person has been absolved from sin! We are freed from the sting of sin and death because we already died—2,000 years ago with Christ! St. Paul exhorts us, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

This song, “2,000 Years Ago,” is a celebration of that great truth.

Thanks to Andrew Laubacher on guitar and Dan Bozek on bass. And special guest was Tim Hepburn, my former drummer who now plays with the kickin’ Celtic band, Synthian. It was fun to play with him again.

And here’s the obligatory pitch: I’d love to record this song on my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I need your help! Visit my kickstarter page and help if you can. You can preorder the music, get an autographed copy, get an exclusive t-shirt, even get your name in the CD!

I’ve been thrilled with the donations this past week. We’ve passed the half way mark and are almost at $6K of the $9K goal. The fundraising ends July 31st, and if I don’t hit the target, I’ll get none of it. So please, donate if you haven’t yet and spread the word to people you think might be interested in supporting Catholic music.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have supported the project so far! Enjoy the song!

This song is based on the simple spirituality of St. Terese of Lisieux. It features Andrew Laubacher on guitar and Matthew fox on the violin. I’m actually impressed it came out as well as it did—I just used the iPad’s built in mic and it’s pretty clear.

I tried to record it in my backyard but it was too windy that day. So right after doing a Saturday AM set with a youth conference, Matt, Andrew and I went to “Kelly’s Garden,” which is just outside the student center at Franciscan. Kelly Roggensack was a sophomore who died in a car accident on the way back from a cross-country track meet. I thought it was a fitting place for this song.

I’m planning to record it for my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I’ll be honest—I’m getting a bit worried that it might not happen. I’m half way into the kickstarter campaign with less than a third pledged, and there hasn’t been a lot of new activity the past week or so. Not being able to publicize this at the conferences has been a significant fund-raising blow.

But God is big. And I am, well, small. Or at least, I’m trying to be. If you haven’t yet made a contribution to the CD project, you can do so HERE (I also uploaded a new promo video which does a better job describing the project.) Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.

I want to be a flower in Your garden, I want to be a star within Your sky
I want to be a member of Your body, I want to be a singer in Your choir 
And I want to be just one word within Your story, I want to be faithful to Your call
Oh, to be a single note within your symphony! Father, teach me how to be small. 
 
And still I try to compare, worry about who’s better than me
I see others as competition, You see us as community
Am I diminished by the beauty that’s around me or am I part of Your great tapestry? 
Meek and humble of heart, meek and humble of heart…
 
Sometimes I think that the world revolves around me
And it’s all about me being the best
Then I’m reminded You’re the hero of this story
I am the damsel in distress
If I seek You will You take care of all the rest? 
 
Oh, to be a single note within Your symphony!
Who am I that You should care for me at all? 
Yet you tell me to be part of that great litany
Is to be the least of all
Teach me how to be small
 

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It was the summer of 1994 when I first set foot on campus at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. I had been hired to speak at a Steubenville Youth Conference, something I hadn’t even heard of until a few months before. At that time I had been playing concerts and working at an improv comedy club in Orlando, Florida, “The City Beautiful.” So pulling into the polluted air of “The City of Murals” was quite a shock. “I could never live here,” I thought.

And somewhere up in heaven, God laughed.

That was the first summer Steubenville had two youth conferences. Other locations for youth conferences hadn’t started yet. I was there to help a group of students called the “Work Crew” (which later became “Young Apostles”) and do some comedy to lighten the mood of the weekend. I and another friend dressed up like friars—I was Brother Steub, he was brother Ville, and together we were Brothers Steub and Ville. We kept saying things like, “Back in Vatican I, before there was a sequel, we didn’t kneel on grass. We knelt on broken glass! And we loved it!” Oddly enough I got asked back the next year. And the next. And I’ve been involved in youth conferences in almost every different role a guy can do (speaking, hosting, entertainment, giving workshops, speaking at men’s sessions, I even spoke at a women’s session once, and leading music)  for the past 20 summers. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

That first summer, I heard our blessed Mother speak to my heart while I was praying the rosary. She told me to drop everything and move to Steubenville. I didn’t hesitate—I knew God’s will was always the best. I thought it was to do youth ministry, but God had even more planned for me. I completed my Masters in Theology and met my wife, who I married in the campus chapel in 1997. And after 7 years of youth ministry in Latham, NY, Franciscan asked me back to be a part of the faculty to teach about two things I was passionate about: Scripture and Youth Ministry.

I took over the music ministry for the on campus conferences in 2005. Once again, it was something I never expected to do. I had done plenty of concerts before, but lead an entire weekend of worship? I had spent the previous years hosting conferences and really enjoyed doing that. But once again, I knew God’s plan was the best, and I’ve been so grateful to play music that has blessed tens of thousands of people!

This summer the conference office wanted to audition a new worship band and asked if I wouldn’t mind hosting the conference instead of playing it. I love doing music but I was thrilled to have a chance to host again—I hadn’t done it in eight years. And by God’s providence, that was the first conference that my oldest son was attending. Jon Niven (the musician for that conference) invited me on stage on Sunday AM to play one of my “classic” songs: Behold the Lamb, the theme song from 1997. For me, it was the perfect ending for that weekend, and a great moment of nostalgia as I thought about the 20 years I’ve been blessed to sing and speak from that stage.

I few years ago, I got over the shocking revelation that I had been doing ministry longer than all the teens in the room had been born. I don’t feel old at all—I feel young. I love sharing the love of God with young people, using every talent I’ve been blessed with.

I got asked a number of times, “which do you like better, hosting or leading worship?” Do I have to choose? I’m thrilled to do them both. But I have to admit, there is nothing more exciting for me than to tell people about how Christ died for them and be the person who gets to invite them into a deeper relationship with Him. I had a chance to do that this summer, and I’m grateful for the friendly folks at steubenville.org who caught it on tape:

I know that many people are blessed by the Steubenville summer conferences, but I can’t imagine anyone more blessed by them than me. Praise God!

When I first started typing the description of the video, I wrote, “I think I did a good job playing with myself.” And then I fell over laughing.

All of my great-grandparents are from Ireland and I’ve always had an affinity for Celtic music. The style of accordion that I play is heavily influenced by that genre. And while there’s a bit of that Irish style in a lot of my music, I never went all-out until I wrote, “Let This Be A Church Again.”

A few years ago, a “Church Brew-works” opened up in Pittsburgh and my wife really wanted to go. The Catholic Church had been decommissioned (is that the word for it?) and they turned it into a restaurant and bar. The place was packed, probably more packed than it had been on Sundays. I felt really uncomfortable while eating there. It was all legit, of course. The restaurant hadn’t done anything wrong—in fact it probably helped the diocese by purchasing the building. But in the big picture, I felt like we had lost something.

I had that same feeling when I was asked to speak in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I spoke at a college that renovated a chapel for it’s lecture hall. It felt so right to preach the Gospel there… it was if the walls themselves were urging me on, rejoicing to hear the message they were created to echo. It was a powerful experience. That’s where the idea for the song first came from. I jotted down a few lyrics then, but the song was left unfinished for a while.

Then last month I went to a Reliant K concert that was in a place called the “Altar Bar,” a renovated Church that featured a very extensive drinking selection and some pretty loud music. And though Reliant K is a Christian band, the line up of the other artists who were going to preform there in the next few months were anything but. That’s what pulled the trigger for me to finish the tune.

“Don’t get me wrong by the tone of this song.” This song isn’t so much to slam pubs as to hope for a world where there are so many faithful people that have to turn bars into Churches instead of the other way around. But that won’t happen unless we first change our hearts.

If you like this song, please help me record it by donating to my kickstarter project, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” Thanks again to all who have pledged money so far. We’re almost 30% there!

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Here’s a song that will be off the new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” It’s called “Never Been Disappointed” and it’s based on Habakkuk 2:3, “For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.”

I recorded it at the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, June 2013. I asked Meg, a staff photographer, if she could do video, and she said, “I’m not used to it, but I’ll try!” It’s me on accordion, Andrew Laubacher on electric guitar, Kevin Mahon on percussion, and Dan Bozek on bass. Not pictured are Amanda Enriquez and Emily Mislan on background vocals, and Matthew Fox on violin. They were off to the side.

Though there’s hand percussion and the recording will feature a full kit, I think song represents the “sound” I’m going for on the CD. Hope you are blessed by it! If you haven’t donated yet, please help make this project happen by clicking HERE, and if you have—thanks, and spread the word!

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Last weekend I had the chance to worship with two thousand teenagers from across the country to came to Franciscan University for the first summer youth conference! It was an amazing weekend, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!

For those of you who were there, I’m praying for you. To have a strong spiritual life, you can’t rest on the “high” that you felt from spending the weekend with so many other people your age—you’ve got to dive right in. To help with that, I created a 40-day devotional called, “40-Day Spiritual Workout.” You can get it as a free iPhone app HERE, or you can buy the book HERE. You’ll also be able to sign up for daily emails through steubenville.org—that’s still under construction right now but hopefully will be available soon.

And for those asking about some of the new original music I played this weekend, it’s off my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” which I’m fundraising through kickstarter.com. Please help me by clicking HERE.

On Sunday (hence me wearing my Sunday best,) Keith jumped on stage with his camera and caught a little bit of  us playing “Days of Elijah.” Hope you enjoy!

YouthCon005Last weekend, the Steubenville Summer Conferences began with the Catholic Charismatic Conference, and tomorrow over a thousand young people will come to campus for the summer’s first youth conference. People who went to the conference last weekend asked me about the new music I played, and people coming to the youth conferences have been asking what I will play, so I hope this blog will satisfy both those questions.

At the Catholic Charismatic Conference, here are some of the newer songs:

“Whom Shall I Fear? (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin

“Great I Am” by Jared Anderson

“Consuming Fire” by Tim Hughes

“Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher

“Christ Has Risen” by Matt Maher

“Our God” by Chris Tomlin

“Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle

I also played, “Never Been Disappointed” which is off my new CD project, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” You can CLICK HERE to find out more about that.

This weekend, I’ll be playing all of the above, plus a few more key songs:

“One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)” off of Passion’s “White Flag” CD

“Lord of Lords” by Brooke Fraser

We’ll hit the “classics” that we usually play: “How Great is Our God,” “How He Loves,” “From the Inside Out,” “Days of Elijah,” “Marvelous Light,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “No One Like You,” and other songs like that.

And then there’s my stuff: “The Lord Is,” “Little Guy,” “Always You Are Faithful To Me,” “Open Wide,” from the CD “Everybody’s Got a Song to Sing;” “Heart of Jesus,” “You Came to Me,” and “I Shall Be Healed,” from the CD “I Shall Be Healed;” and a few new songs—”Never Been Disappointed,” “Thesaurus of Praise,” “Prince for a Pauper” from the new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.”

Any summer requests? Leave a comment! And please say a prayer for the Steubenville Summer Conferences—God does great things through them, and I am honored to lead worship there!

20130607-201541.jpgFriends, I’m proud to announce my newest CD: The Gospel Accordion To Bob Rice. Or at least I’d like to announce the idea of it.

It doesn’t yet exist. I was planning on recording it a few months ago, but then the medical bills came in. Some were for good reasons (new baby girl Rice arriving July 15th. Hooray!) Some, not so good (Bobby broke his femur and requires additional surgeries. Ack!)

So I asked The Lord what to do about this lack of money/desire to record a new CD. And I decided to put the project on Kickstarter.

For those of you who don’t know that that is, Kickstarter is a website where I can raise money for this project. I need $9000 to make the CD. If I can raise it, I can do it. But if I can’t raise all of it I don’t get any of it. The Kickstarter fundraising ends July 31st, so that’s how much time I have to do it, if it’s going to happen at all.

I planned on doing this over June and July because I’m in front of a lot of people through the Steubenville Summer Conferences. But unfortunately, I only recently found out that Franciscan has a policy of not announcing any fundraising efforts from the stage (I totally understand why.) So for those of you who wondered why I didn’t say something about it at the conference… well, now you know.

I feel very peaceful about this. If it happens, that will be great. But if it doesn’t, that’s also cool. I think there’s some pretty cool tunes that will end up on it… but do you want to hear any of them?

If you do, CLICK HERE TO GO TO MY KICKSTARTER PAGE. There’s more information about the CD, and I’ll also be adding demos of the music as I make them.

Thanks for your help and your prayers!

Last weekend was the first high school youth conference of the summer. It’s something I look forward to all year. The first half of the weekend was amazing!!! And then…

Allergies.

So on Saturday afternoon I went for a run. That’s right kids—you can’t get this kind of a physique without constant exercise. It was super hot out and I pushed myself (because why would you spend time exercising and not push yourself?) It felt great. Came inside, had a glass of water… and sneezed.

Oh fudge, I thought. But I didn’t use the word “fudge.” (Not a big fan of fudge, personally.)

Another sneeze. Then another. Then another. I went into a sneezing fit that lasted for about a half an hour.

This happens to me a few times a year. The last time it happened, interestingly enough, was at NCYC. Coincidence? (The writer shrugs.)

I tweeted my plight and the twitterverse was helpful with their prayers and advice on all things sinus. I tried it all. I then tweeted:

I barely made it to the team dinner, where I spent most of it lying down on a row of chairs with an ice pack on my head (it was more like an iceberg. I asked for a cold compress and they gave me enough ice to chill a keg.) My good friend, Jackie Francois, was so concerned for me that she took a picture and posted it on the internet, because that’s what good friends do when someone is suffering.

My allergy attack calmed down a bit as I headed over to the field house where the conference was. My nose was like a slow dripping faucet all night long. It’s times like those I’m glad I have a beard because it acts as a natural sponge for my sinus excretions. Too much information? (The writer shrugs.)

The evening itself was an incredible experience of God’s grace. Or I was high with all the sinus medication I was on. I’d like to think of it as a “both/and.” I felt much better by Sunday, as you can see  below (this pic courtesy of Stephen Lanahan, who was kind enough to also tweet that I was one of his favorite professors.)

That’s right people, bow tie and sneakers. Did I mention I play accordion, too? Hard to imagine I even got a date, let alone got married. The headless giant I was talking to was Jim Beckman who did a great job hosting the weekend.

All in all it was an incredible conference experience. I just hope I’m more conscious for the next one 🙂

If you were there last weekend, comment on your favorite part. I’d love to hear about it.

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An empty stage. An empty field-house.

That’s all about to change.

This weekend is the “Charismatic Leaders” conference at Franciscan University, the first of nine conferences the University offers each summer (four of those are youth conferences.) I’m blessed to lead worship for all of them with an amazing band made up of students and alumni. Over the next two months, we’ll get to play to ten to twelve thousand people playing music that ranges from sacred Church hymns to contemporary Christian rock.

It’s been a busy week getting everything ready, but the mics are hot, the guitars are plugged in, the drum kit is in tune (yes, drum kits need to be tuned,) and the monitors are balanced. Now all we need is an audience… many of whom are already on their way here.

You can expect to get highlights from all the conferences right here on my blog, as God always speaks to me a new way every summer, with every conference.

I’m really excited!