Another story from the road…

Ed. Note:  Jerry, our Rock-n-Roll Czar, looked particularly tired this week at actionchurch.  When I asked him about his gig the night before, this is the story he told me.  Sometimes God “shows up” in even our most disappointing and trying times. 

A few days ago I noticed the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light came on in the bus. Right at that point I should have taken it to the garage and had it checked out. I didn’t do that. Instead, I checked the oil and water, filled the levels and thought I had corrected the issue. Friday comes and I hop in the bus and head to Oak Orchard in Delaware for the weekend. The ride down seemed fine and I did not notice any different noises or problems. After the show on Sat night as we began to pack up for the trip home, I started the bus to cool it off for the ride and I could hear the belt starting to squeal. Right at that point I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew if the belt broke, I would be stranded. My only thought was to get back home to PA. So, off I went. I listened for the sound of the belt getting worse and hoped it wouldn’t. But as you might have guessed by now, it did. As each mile passed and the belt screeching got worse, I began to pray “God, please just get me some where that I can pull off safely. It was right about then that I felt the belt break and everything got eerily quiet. The battery light came on; the check engine light came on, the temp gauge started to move and in a few minutes had reached the RED zone. That’s when I saw the sign that said Chesapeake Service & Rest Center 4 miles. “God please let me get there,” I said. I kept rolling and kept praying. Even thought is was 2:30 in the morning on I-95 driving a bus that was in serious trouble, I didn’t feel alone. I was talking out loud and felt as if I had a passenger riding with me. Then I was at the entrance ramp to the truck center, I had made it. I also realized at that point I had NO BRAKES or STEERING. I got stopped and turned the bus off. The smoke and steam rolled out from under the hood and chassis like it was on fire. The attendant at the truck stop came out and said “are you on fire”. No just really overheated. The serpentine belt had broke. “Ah” he said, “you aren’t going anywhere now” I laughed and said, “you’re right”. He went on to say, “you seem to be taking this all pretty well” I thought about it for a second and said, “It could always be worse”

I called my wife Ruth and she seemed to be waiting for the call. She answered right away and said, “I’ll leave right now to come and get you”. After watching the sun come up, I lay down in my bed at 6:00 AM Sunday morning and was glad to be home. Later that day we would go back to the rest area and get the truck towed back to good ol’ PA. The tow truck driver said, “you know, it’s good you broke down when and where you did, cause if it had been somewhere else it could have been much worse” Right then it hit me! Our next trip was New York, 4-½ hrs. away. The entire band would have been with me. We would have missed the show, let people down, the band’s name would have been trashed and we would have lost a lot of time and money not to mention still having to tow it home and get fixed.

God was doing the planning. God got me to the rest area instead of breaking down on a back road in Delaware. God made it possible to get home. And God knew that even though breaking down at 2:30 in the morning is not much fun, it was better now than later! GOD KNEW!

As for me, I learned to pay attention the lights on the dash. I learned it can always be worse. I learned that we are never really alone. And most of all, I learned that if we “Let GO and Let GOD” things work out for the best even though we may not see it at first.

I’ll get ready for our next show, our trip to New York and “another story from the road”.

Killing me with kindness..

I have often thought, “if only people were nicer to one another, the world would be a better place”. And although I still believe that in theory, I wondered, can you be too nice?

I work in a small office, which is located in a much larger office area. There are three of us in my area. We nicknamed it “Area 51” because no one really knows what we do all day in here.

We talk about all kinds of stuff and on this particular day, we were talking about music and singing. It was at that point, one of the ladies I work with told me she was singing at her church on Sunday. Now I am all about music. Listening, writing, performing, helping out and supporting others. So, I told here I would stop by to hear her sing.

I got there a bit early and took a seat in the back of the sanctuary knowing that I was going to slip out right after she was finished singing. I wanted to just blend in and not draw any attention to myself. At least that was the plan. As people came in they seemed drawn or duty bound to come back to me and welcome me to their church. The first lady was very nice and welcomed me with a handshake. She was quickly followed by three other gentlemen, two other ladies, an Elder and the guest Pastor for the day, all who asked my name, was this my first time at their church, where did I usually go to church and how glad they were to see a NEW face in the crowd. By now I was a bit on the defensive side. When I told them I went to actionchurch, they were unaware of the name. When I went on to explain, “It’s the church that started in Fat Daddy’s Bar” they looked surprised and didn’t know quite what to say. I followed up by saying “mysterious ways Hun”!

Just about then the music started and everyone went to his or her seats. As soon as the first chord rang out on the guitar and piano, everyone stood up; hands rose in the air and began to sing along with the words on the screen. Side note: That would be cool at actionchurch, a room full of people singing “Momma Told Me Not To Come” in unison. Anyway that went on for 5 songs in a row. These folks were really getting into it. Then I could hear a man talking in a different language, “could he be speaking in tongues?” I thought to myself? One young woman was so inspired she began to do an expressive dance in the side isle of the sanctuary. All of these things were very powerful and very sincere! For me it was all just a bit overwhelming. I was thinking, “am I that out of the spirit or what?”

After the last song, and while everyone was still standing, I slipped out and headed toward my car. It struck me that worship can be very different from church to church and you can have a very different worship experience in each church you attend. The point to all this is not to bash any church or to put their worship style under a microscope. It’s simply this; we never know how someone is feeling when he or she walks into actionchurch. Are they excited, scared or nervous? Do they know anything about the bible? Does a rock band opening the service and a guy in jeans and a T-shirt delivering the message put them off? We Don’t Know! (Only when he’s wearing an Argyle sweater!)

So before we kill them with kindness or completely ignore them for fear of coming on too strong, try to remember your first time in a new church and how you felt. Maybe a smile is enough to say It’s OK no matter who you are or were you came from!

So you see there really is no “right way” to worship! You want to learn more about who you are? Visit other churches, worship with them and take a walk outside your comfort zone. You may find something you were missing or you may click you heals together three times and say, “there’s no place like home”.

Look around…


An interesting thing happens when you allow God to open your eyes; you begin to see things you missed before. It’s kinda like Men In Black part II when Will Smith is trying to explain to Tommy Lee Jones that he was a special agent working with aliens and then Jones begins to notice everything around him that he had over looked before. Over the years I have interacted with many people either through my music store, the recording studio, car shows, church or playing in various bands across the country. I feel privileged to know as many
people as I do and blessed by the number of people who know me. It was  a conversation that the following story came to my attention. I won’t go into who told me this story, but I know it is true and thought you might enjoy it as well.

The “Round the Clock Diner” is a popular place for Sunday diner and it was a bright sunny day when this story unfolded. A man and wife had come from church and were seated in the diner causally talking about the morning message, who was at church and the fact that they had nothing planned for the afternoon but to just relax and enjoy the day. The wife noticed that a car had dropped off a man who was obviously having trouble walking and getting out of the car. He had some kind of bag with him and he just leaned up against a post outside the restaurant. The couple finished their dinner and as they left the diner, they passed the man who, upon getting closer, appeared to be homeless. Something caused the man and wife to stop and ask, “Do you need any help”? The man  leaning against the post answered “I need to get my things from the shelter and try and get to a place with no steps”. By now the couple could see that the man was injured and his 400 plus pounds didn’t make his movement any easier. “There are some shelters in the phone book”. “I’ll get the numbers for you”. The couple thought that would be the end of the issue. “I’ve been to all of them and they won’t take me because I am hurt and can’t go up steps”. The man and wife said they would have to go home and look into what could be done, but he would come back and let the man know what they had found. As they got in the car the wife asked, “what are you going to do”? “Try to help him” was the reply.

About 20 mins later, he pulled back into the parking lot and saw that the man was still in the same place as when he left. He was a little surprised that no one else had offered to help. This was Sunday and the diner was full of people. He
approached the man and asked his name. “My name it Steve”, he said. “Well Steve, have you eaten anything today”? Steve said they he had not. He had bought some things at the convenience store but was saving it until later when he really got hungry. With the man’s offer, they both went into the diner and had lunch, well Steve ate while the man watched and wondered how someone could get into this situation. After a few moments he asked, “How did you become homeless”? Steve began to explain that he had been a very successful truck driver and had a nice home, wife, cars all the stuff this world tells us we need to be successful. On a normal trip, a car cut him off and he made the split second decision to either, hit the car with the two small kids in it or head for the guardrail and hope for the best. He chose the guardrail. His truck was destroyed and he was very seriously hurt. He was in rehab for years trying to walk again. During that time he gained a lot of weight, his wife divorced him and his medical bills took everything he had.

The man spent most of that afternoon taking Steve to get his things from a shelter in Lancaster and then to the bus station in York. He bought a ticket to Knoxville TN, where Steve said he had family and he wanted togo there. As Steve gathered his stuff and got ready to leave he told the man how much he appreciated what he had done for him. He said that he knew Jesus loved him and  that somehow he would take care of him. The man was quiet for a moment and then asked, “How did you know that”? Steve quickly replied, “I prayed that God  would send someone to help me and then he sent you”. They both smiled and the man got into his car and pulled out of the bus station.

At that point, I realized that we had been talking for a long time as he shared this story. We smiled and as we went on our way he said, “It’s amazing what you can see when you look”.

As I see it…

Jerry and Steve playing at actionchurch
Jerry and Steve -ac allstars (Photo by Ashley Z)

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in the fall of 07’ there was a slight breeze blowing and I was driving to see an old friend. Jake Jones was the soundman at Fat Daddy’s & The Tourist Inn. As I walked into the room he smiled his familiar smile and we started to catch up on what each other had been doing since we had talked last. Jake began to explain that he had been hired to run sound at Fat Daddy’s on Sunday mornings for a new start up church. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said, not knowing if he was pulling my leg or not. In all the years I had known Jake, I had never known him to talk much about church, so when he told me this story I was intrigued to say the least. He backed up his statement by telling me there was a story in the Sunday paper and I could check it out for myself. After I got home I looked for the paper and sure enough there was a story about a guy holding church services in Fat Daddy’s.

The next morning as I sat in the church I had been attending for over 25 years, I kept thinking about this new thing called Action Church. At my church I tried to be involved with things like special services and anything music related. I guess my style just didn’t fit with the conservative folks and it wasn’t long until I found myself asking why am I here? I’m pretty sure God has a purpose for me and I’m really sure music has a part in all of it but just not here, just not at this church. After going to the same church for that long, it was not an easy decision to just say “enough” and leave. I kept thinking that it must be something I’m doing wrong.

The newspaper story I had read gave the name of the guy doing this venture. I thought I’d call this guy and see if he needs any help. I was thinking if God wants me to do this, I get a sign somehow. So I called this guy Don Record and we agreed to meet for lunch at my favorite deli. (That’s really the name of the place “My Favorite Deli”, in Emigsville). When I walked in and looked around I saw this guy in painters paints looking around like a puppy in a pet store window. (Are you the guy…are you the guy…) I said, “Are you Don”, “yea you must be Jerry”! We sat down and he began to explain what Action Church was going to be about. I liked what I heard. A place where anyone could come, bands to open the service, doing stuff for others, church in a bar.

After a while he asked what I did and I explained my background and how Jake and I had played together in a band nearly 25 years ago and that for the past 15 years I had been in the media industry working with TV and music related projects. I had also been a musician and record producer for the past 30 years. I offered to do some promotion for the upcoming “test drive” and see if I could generate some attention for this wacky idea of church in a bar. It was go time! I wanted to see if this was what God had planned for me. Now after opening my big mouth, I had to deliver? I was excited but scared. Promoting a band or singing artist is one thing and I knew how to do that, but this was different, this was “church in a bar”

Calls were made, press releases written and emailed out and we waited. Sunday came and there were two TV stations and both local newspapers there to cover this “event” The band was loud, the music was great and Don gave a message that moved me. I had my answer; this was where I was supposed to be! Since that day over a year ago, I have seen people come to this “church in a bar” who may not have gone to a conventional church. I had a great sense of peace and accomplishment knowing that God had allowed me to be involved and to use my gifts to help someone else. I was helping myself in the process!

Several months later, Don had mentioned that we were out growing Fat Daddy’s and we needed to try and find a place that would allow us to continue the same format but offer more space and room to grow. God tapped me on the shoulder again, “I may know a place,” I said. “Let me check it out and get back to you”. My best friend is a guy named Steve Perko. I had managed his daughter Amanda for 8 years in the music business. We had traveled the road and ended up in Nashville (that’s another story for another time). During that time Stephen, Steve’s son had gotten very interested in having a nightclub. You see when Stephen wasn’t playing in Amanda’s band or his own (he’s a great drummer), he would set up shows in the garage we rented to store the tour bus. This went very well and before long, there were plans to build a new club. By now you know it as “Club 19” and after some talks, it became the new home for Action Church.

Over the past year Action Church has given me a place to serve, a sense of purpose and has taught me many lessons. The most important is, “It’s never about ME, it’s always about GOD”! Don, Michelle, Josiah, Garrett, Bill, Dave, Stephen and so many others accept me just as I am, and that’s a great feeling! It doesn’t seem like it’s been a year, it feels much more comfortable than that. It feels like home!