I’m flying high from a successful defense of my dissertation yesterday. Literally, I’m flying on a plane home from England as I’m writing this. And by the way, that is the proper use of the word “literally” because 1) it is not a metaphor or exaggeration and 2) I wrote it down.

I guess I have to be picky about my language now because, well, I have a PhD! Honestly, for most of my life I never thought this happen and some things that happened in the past few months really made me concerned that it wouldn’t. I knew the process of getting a doctorate would be a lot of work, but didn’t expect the emotional rollercoaster that it became.

The lowest point in the journey came just a few months ago, in January, when I thought I had submitted my final draft. I had mistakenly thought the dissertation was to be 60,000 to 100,000 words and that examiners preferred shorter dissertations over longer ones. My different supervisors read various chapters at a time but nobody saw the whole thing until I put it together and sent it out. It was a little shy of 60,000 words. I immediately got an email asking where was the rest of it, and did I know it was supposed to be between 90,000 and 100,000 words?

I was on a plane to Florida when I got that email. I began to cry. After working four years on this, how was I supposed to come up with 50% more content? Plus, I had some pressures at Franciscan (at the time) that meant I needed to be finished by MAY.

Though I tried to be prayerful throughout the whole process, that was a moment of true surrender. I thought of the young boy who gave his five loaves and two fish to Jesus. On its own it wasn’t much, but Jesus did something incredible with it.

Over the next six weeks, I lived in my office, working crazy hours. I often went to bed praying that angels would keep typing for me while I slept. I was blessed to have a number of speaking events that let me hide in a corner and continue to write. Numerous friends comforted me with words of encouragement and constant prayers—I can’t tell you what that support meant to me! By early March I felt like the dissertation was really strong, better than it had ever been. I checked the word count… 95,000 words. An incredible blessing from God!

My supervisors signed off on it, but warned they didn’t think it was quite ready enough. There are a number outcomes for the defense of a British PhD: the award is given right there, the need for minor modifications (three to six months), the need for major modifications (six months to a year), the need to resubmit and try again, the granting of a second Masters degree (with its own category of minor and major modifications), and complete fail. Obviously, the last three categories are the nightmare (I had that nightmare more than a few times). My supervisors suggested to expect certainly minor and likely major modifications. I wasn’t so concerned about potential minor revisions—we had been cautioned since the beginning that a very small percentage of students gets away with a direct award—but the major ones could keep me busy for up to another year!

Another different thing from the British PhD system is that, unlike PhDs in America or much of Europe, you defend in front of strangers, not the people who helped you write the dissertation. They think this makes the defense more rigorous, as there could be some bias with those who know you and have already given input on the thesis. (This is not at all to suggest that American and Europe PhD defenses aren’t extremely difficult! But I think the way England does it is far more terrifying—and my friends with PhDs from the US agree.)

So yesterday I found myself at a moment I had envisioned for the past five years—the defense of my dissertation. That morning I prayed in the Sacred Heart Chapel that Blessed John Henry Newman had built (pictured above). I offered Jesus my loaves and fishes, knowing it wasn’t much but it was all I could do, and prayed He would do something amazing with it. Then I prayed a rosary, not to ask for help, but in thanksgiving for what I knew God would accomplish. He didn’t bring me this far to leave me.

I was escorted into the meeting room, met my two examiners, and we talked about my dissertation. The time flew by. They pressed me on a number of issues, but overall seemed satisfied with my answers. It was a really amazing conversation with other scholars about my work. I actually enjoyed myself!

Then I was told to leave while they discussed. My supervisors were in the other room, with my wife, all eager to hear how it went. I said I thought it went well. Dare I hope for minor modifications?

I was asked back in and was told the incredible news: award directly given, no need for modifications. “Congratulations, Dr. Rice.” I was so stunned I had to ask him to repeat it. My supervisors were shouting for joy. It was an incredible moment I will never forget in my life.

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One of the great blessings of that moment were I the people I knew were there with me in spirit. One of my closest friends sent me an email before my defense: “Know that as you sit and begin to present – the sudden calmness you will feel rushing over you – is the love and faith of so many people who hold you in prayer.” That is exactly what happened.

So know you can call me Dr. Bob Rice, an achievement that happened through a lot of hard work, the support of friends, but most of all through the providence of God. I pray (and have confidence) that God will use this to continue to further the Kingdom. To Jesus be all the glory!

Jesus has risen from the grave! And so have I!

Yes, this has always been true in the spiritual sense, but “resurrection” has meant for more me this year. As many of you know, I’ve been toiling away at my dissertation for the past four years, and more intensely this past year, and even more intensely these past few months. In January I submitted what I thought was my final draft—but apparently it was way short of what it needed to be. So since then I’ve been spending every extra hour in my office and every minute of the day focused on writing the dissertation.

I’m thrilled to share that on Holy Wednesday I offically submitted the dissertation. It was strange waking up on Holy Thursday and realizing there wasn’t anything else I could do about it. By the time Easter came around, I felt like I was alive again.

This process has caused me to strip away things in my life, one by one. It began with things I enjoyed but didn’t need to do (like this blog). Then it moved to things that were more important but not immediate, like working out. I cut down social time with friends until I barely saw anyone these past few months. With the exception of watching the new Star Wars a couple of times I essentially stopped going to movies or watching TV, and any book I read had to do with my studies. By the end, even time with family had to be cut back—a painful choice! But I was comforted in knowing that 1) I was doing this for my family (keeping my job, promotion, etc.) and 2) it was only temporary (though it didn’t feel that way!).

The one thing I clung to and that got me through was prayer. “Seek first the Kingdom of God” was my mantra, especially as I was continually tempted to ditch Mass or prayer time to squeeze in a few more moments to finish a thought or read another source. I was certainly not perfect in that focus but that, above all, is what got me through.

Now that the dissertation is behind me, I feel like I can breathe again. I’m spending more time with my kids. I’m hanging out with friends (the first Geek Night of 2016 was last night). Started running (though my brain thinks I can run farther than my body agrees with, at least for now). I’m catching up on all the emails I’ve not been answering these past months (sorry if I owe you one). And I’m watching Daredevil on Netflix with my boys without feeling guilty about not studying. Life is good!

Thank you for all your prayers during this time. I’ve got one more hurdle: I’m defending the dissertation in England on July 2nd. However, things are out of my hands now. Not that they ever were! That’s something I’ve learned through all of this.

I’m alive again! Hallelujah!

Well, you know you are too busy when “blog about summer” stays on your to-do list until you realize it is October already! Hard to believe time has flown by.

If you’ve been watching my tweets and Instagram, you might have amused yourself playing the game, “Where in the world is Bob Rice?” Since last May, I’ve gone coast to coast in Canada (Vancouver and Halifax), Southwest, Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast in the United States (Phoenix, Spokane, New Hampshire, and Florida), lots of singing in Steubenville (played 8 summer conferences) and even got to do a gig in Glasgow (Scotland). I have some fun trips coming up, too.

I know that sounds like a lot. Okay, it is a lot. People often ask how I do it all. My honest answer is that I’m not sure what I’m doing! I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to share the Gospel in so many places. I’m energized by seeing great ministry done in so many places in the world—these are experiences I bring back to the classroom and teach from. And I’m blessed the extra income supports my ever growing family and lets my wife be a stay at home mom.

Looking back on the past few months, the word that comes to mind is gratitude. Sometimes I am just plain stunned that I get to do what I do.

If you could spare any prayers, I’d appreciate them toward finishing my doctorate. It is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done, and even more challenging with a busy teaching and travel schedule. If you have wondered why the blogs have been more infrequent this past year or so, that’s the culprit.

If I got to see you this summer (or September), know that I pray for all those I get to share my gifts with every day! I hope something I said (or sung) might have helped you grow closer to Jesus Christ.

(The attached picture is the summer conference band, an amazing group of men and women that I was blessed to be with! From left to right is Catherine McManamon—lyrics projection, Nick Scanlan—vocal and rhythm guitar, Andrew “Alob” Laubacher—vocals and lead guitar, me, Taylor Tripodi—vocals, Dan Bozek—bass, Katy Blythe—vocals. On the bottom are James Roman—drums, and Andre Villeneuve—piano, sax, and flute. Though Andrew and Nick have moved on to “life”, hopefully the rest will be back to make music next summer!)

Over the past few months of travel I’ve gotten to talk to three different couples who have dealt with infertility. One couple just adopted a baby; the other two were praying about it. Infertility is a difficult cross for a couple to bear and I think many times we (as a society) are insensitive about it. It is very easy to ask a couple struggling with infertility the question, “Why don’t you adopt?” as if that was the simple and logical thing to do (regrettably, I think I’ve said something like that in the past).

My perspective on this radically changed a few years ago when we adopted our son, Joey. In our case, the question people asked was the opposite: since you have kids of “your own” already, why are you adopting?

Wondering why a couple struggling with infertility isn’t adopting a child or why a couple who has biological children is adopting reveals an underlying societal assumption that adoption is a consultation prize for people who can’t get pregnant.

But I’ve come to understand that adoption is a calling, regardless of being fertile or infertile.

I am grateful that Jennie and I were called to adopt Joey as he is such a blessing to us. And my prayers go out to all those who are discerning adoption (and I pray that more would be open to that call).

“In love (the Father) destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved” (Eph 1:5-6).

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. 

 

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.

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.

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As I write from New Hampshire in my parent’s house (vacation time with my family,) it’s hard to believe it was just a day ago I was playing the final song of the summer at the Defending the Faith Conference.

The final conferences of the summer are always a high point. Wednesday to Friday was the “Applied Biblical Studies Conference,” and Friday to Sunday was the “Defending the Faith Conference.” Both were a tour-de-force of some of the best Catholic theologians, apologists, and inspirational speakers in the country. Participants ranged from all over the world (even a large group from Australia!) and the numbers were higher than ever.

While I love the energy and enthusiasm of the young people at the Steubenville Youth Conferences, I’m always impressed by the passion of the adults at the other adult conferences. These are men and women, living in the world, trying to be seed for the Gospel in the culture. They come hungry for fellowship, for worship, and for insight on how to live their faith more boldly in a world that is often against them. It’s a joy to lead worship for such amazing people!

For those that went, thank you for all you do. And a special thanks to all those who went out of their way to thank me for the music. It was my pleasure! Jennie and I were also very touched how at every adult conference this summer (and even some of the youth!) someone came up and gave us a boy baby gift!!! That’s what I truly love about the Steubenville summer conferences. It’s not a room of strangers interested in a similar topic; it’s a family reunion united in faith.

Some have asked about the music I played at the conference(s), and you can find that information in an earlier blog I posted here. 

Also, there’s just two days left to support my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” I’m just $180 away from being able to add another song to the project, and another $1000 away from being able to include a lyrics booklet with each CD! That would be amazing. If you can help, you can learn more about it here.

God bless you all!

HSY2 19It’s been an amazing few weeks for me and my family. If I could sum up what I’m feeling in one word, it would be: gratitude.

I just finished my fourth and final youth conference of the summer. I always struggle to find words to express that experience: awesome, life-changing, unforgettable. Even though the theme and the content is consistent, every weekend is unique. The teens are different each conference and the group takes on its own “personality.” Some like to rock. Some are more contemplative. Others are hesitant but then they jump in.

IMG_2362These past few weekends gave me the opportunity to see a lot of amazing young people who are trying to boldly live their faith. I love taking pictures and signing autographs, but it’s the small conversations with someone who has been really touched by something I’ve said, sung, or written that warm my heart and encourage me to keep doing what I do.

One of my most special moments was when I met three teens who made me this amazing t-shirt! If you can’t see, it’s got the “at the intersection of Catholicism and culture” sign from my blog, a bow tie on the neck, and “Between the Savior and the Sea” at the bottom. On the back it says, “All for the Love of God,” has their names, and they also wrote “35 Day Spiritual Workout since 2011!” So thank you Jenny Schmid and Sarah and Michelle Sherman for such a thoughtful gift. I’m thrilled to have blessed your life!

Speaking of the 40-Day Spiritual Workout, I’m told that almost ten thousand teens have signed up and are doing it right now! That’s amazing!!! I’m praying for all of you who are growing strong in your faith through it, and so grateful that something I did is blessing so many.

You never know how what you do can impact somebody. I was blown away when I was being interviewed by Mark Newman, the founder of Cross Roads Radio, when he said that my music was one of the major inspirations for starting that station! Wow. (If you haven’t checked them out, you really should! Click HERE for great music.)

Since I’m on the topic of music, I’m thrilled that my kickstarter project for “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is 87% there! It’s been fun to play the music live (new video coming tomorrow) and get such great feedback. I feel pretty confident it’s going to be successful and the thought of creating a CD debt free really blows me away. A few months ago I despaired that it wasn’t going to happen (the money I had saved up had been eaten by medical expenses.) And now, thank’s to the goodness of God and the generosity of folks like you, I’ll get to record music that blesses lots of people. Especially my family!

But the music is only as good as the musicians and I’ve been blessed all summer to play with not only amazing musicians but incredible people: Andrew, Amanda, Andre, Dan, Emily, Kevin, and Matt. They’ve also been super helpful with creating the music videos I’ve been posting every week to promote the album. Thanks guys!

Not only do I play with amazing people on stage, (see how much I have to be grateful for?) I also get to hang with some of the coolest folks in Catholic ministry. Some are friends I’ve been connecting with for years, others are new friends I look forward to doing more ministry with in the future. I was on the phone with a friend of mine who used to speak at conferences and is now full time in homeless ministry. He said, “I don’t miss speaking at youth conferences, but I do miss the community of it.” Though I travel around the country throughout the year preaching and singing, I’m usually the main event. The conferences are a cool time where I’m part of a great team of people who do the same thing I do. It’s really special, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

IMG_2364As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is my 20th summer doing youth conferences. They have been a source of God’s blessing for me. That’s what brought me to Steubenville in the first place, where I met my wife, got me involved in national ministry, and now I work here! If you would have told me 20 years ago that I was going to end up moving to Steubenville, get a Master’s degree, be a college professor, speak nationally and internationally, write books, and lead worship for over ten thousand people each summer… well, I don’t know what I would have said. It would have been more than I could have hoped for.

But all that pales in comparison to the blessing that is my family. Yesterday was my oldest son’s 15th birthday, and a week ago was my youngest son’s birthday. Being a husband and father is, by far, the second greatest blessing of my life.

The first? That’s easy. Being loved by God.

“How can I repay the Lord for all the great good He has done for me? I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 116:12, 17.)

The summer’s not done yet! I’ve got three more great adult conferences that I’m looking forward to and I’m excited to see how the “Gospel” CD will turn out. But this seemed like a great moment to praise God for everything He’s doing in my life and thank all of you who support what I do with your encouragement and prayers.

I’m so grateful!!!

IMG_2283Apparently, I have a perfect track record when it comes to calling what the gender of our kids will be. I don’t actually remember that to be true, but my family says so. So when I felt pretty strongly that we were having a boy, but the ultrasound tech was “absolutely positive” it was a girl, I figured five out of six wasn’t bad.

But the streak continues…

Labor went smoothly, and thanks for all your prayers. When the baby was born, they asked us if we had a name. We said we weren’t totally sure, but we were thinking, “Felicity Rose.” The nurses looked at each other with an confused look and  the doctor responded, “Uh… that’s a funny name for a boy.”

WHA?!?

I abruptly did some manly fist pumping in the air to celebrate my surprise son. Cheers and laughter ensued, even with Jen, which shows how much of a trooper she is.

So then the question… what is his name?

Between Facebook, Twitter, and texts messages, I think friends and family have suggested every name ever. But the whole thing was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to sleep on it and pray about it in the morning.

Well, we’ve slept. And we’ve prayed. And we are proud to announce to the world our new son, Aidan David Rice.

Here’s the stats for those interested: he was born July 10th, 2013 at 9:15 PM. He is 7 lbs. 3 oz., and 19 3/4 inches long. 

Aidan is a beautiful Irish name of many great saints. But the thing that tipped it for me was when my friend, John Magee (who is from Ireland) said that Aidan (which literally means “fire” in Gaelic) was the Irish for Moses. Not finding any proof of that on the Internet (the bastion of all that is accurate) he shared that a wonderful, holy, and sweet Franciscan friar we both knew (his name was Aidan, too,) said so. And that’s enough for us.

David was “a man after God’s own heart,” a musician, and was never afraid to be “undignified” for the Lord. I’m also friends with a guy named Fr. Dave, who isn’t too bad of a guy, I guess.

And as a catechist, I love having a son named after two of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. Moses and David  brought a deeper understanding of God to the Israelites. I pray my son Aidan David will do the same for the world.

Thanks for all your prayers and the outpouring of support we’ve received. We’re all doing great!

Well, almost everyone. My two daughters aren’t too happy with this. And then there’s all the girly outfits and dresses we bought…

I hope Aidan doesn’t mind a pink car seat.

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