Manuel Luz

Me with part of the Luz Family: Manuel's wife Deb, and daughter Rachel

It was on a missions trip to Italy in 2009, that I met Manuel Luz.  Manuel, and his wife Debbie, along with their four children live in El Dorado Hills, California.  Manuel is the Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at his church called Oak Hills in Folsom, California.  Through the ministry of Bob Kilpatrick, I with Oikeo Music, Manuel, and several other musicians, worship leaders, and technicians converged together in Rome, Italy to teach, lead, and support the ministry of worship in the churches there.

Manuel has been a Pastor of Worship and Arts for over 20 years, and most of those years at Oak Hills Church.  He is an accomplished jazz musician, composer, singer, songwriter, author, aerospace engineer, husband, and father of four.  You can read more of his bio here which tells the story of how he, an engineer turned rock star, became a pastor of worship and the arts.  With a discography of contributing to over 50 albums in his career, I was thrilled when Manuel offered to produce my album “Red Sky“.

Manuel took my words and lyrics and together with a group of talented musicians from the Sacramento area:  Kent Peterson, Steven Randal, David Holcomb, Elissa Benguerel, and Michaela Nassello, created the soundtracks that communicate each song for the album.  Guitar, cello, bass, drums, strings and keyboards come together to create the settings.  Some songs are fast-paced and full of energy, others are contemplative and peaceful.  Manuel worked with me to create both the feel and energy for each song to give it its own “voice”.  Once the soundtracks were completed, I flew down to Sacramento to record in his studio.  Three days later the recording portion was complete and the mixing and editing began.

I love to discover what another person “hears” when they listen to what I have written.  By adding their own ideas to what I have created, the songs become so much more.  That is the joy of collaborating, and that was my experience in working with Manuel in creating this album.

Beyond the music collaboration, Manuel is a dear friend that I appreciate and admire.  Those who know him and have worked with him in ministry concur that he has a gift of encouragement and invests his life in the art, and spiritual development of others.  He brings experience, expertise, sensitivity, and a heart to serve to every artistic endeavor he participates in.  I am honored to call him a friend.

Team in Rome, Italy


As I mentioned earlier, Manuel is also an author, and his book Imagine That:  Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist, Manuel Luz expresses how the relationship between God and the artist, and the artist to his art, finds it’s greatest fulfillment–in community. Our collective stories “written” in our art tell the Greater Story of our fall and God’s Redemption. I recommend his book to all artists–from painters to organizers.  You will come away with a better understanding of how your art and desire to create is not just a hobby or occupation but is an expression of the character of our Creator God.

Manuel also has a blog that I subscribe to called “Adventures in Faith & Art” where he records his journey in faith through the arts.

Visit his website:

Meanwhile on Planet Morris…

I just returned from a week in California.  The first part of that week was spent with the women of Oak Hills Church of Folsom, California, at their retreat on Lake Tahoe.  It was three beautiful days of worship, testimonies and encouragement and I was able to share in the beauty of it all.  When the retreat concluded, I spent the next four days recording six new songs for my next cd project at a studio in Sacramento.  All in all it was a wonderful week!

I have to admit that I loved the spring weather in California and the break it gave me from life here on “Planet Morris”.  When I had free time I would take long walks or sit in the sunshine.  I read books, journaled, and prayed.  I met new people and shared in the stories of some, and the prayers of others.  I was refreshed and encouraged.

But meanwhile, back on planet Morris:

The tomatoes grew gray beards in my absence and there is a suspicious odor wafting from the refrigerator.  Someone used a bath towel on the dog and hung it back up in the bathroom to become the giver of dog hairs to the next user, and now, after being reuinited with my children from a week of absence, they all are asking if they can go somewhere and hang out with someone else or do something fun.  “We’re bored!”  they say.

Ahhh, motherhood.  The attempt to be all things to all people.  I must navigate the world of video games, heroes and “Power-ups”, in order to engage in the conversations with my boys who speak of the virtual world as something to be attained.  My oldest daughter needs “girl time” and conversations late into the evening as she sorts out life and her place in it.  My youngest needs me to paint and dance with her, and engage in the life of her stuffed animals who are each facing various crisis.  My husband needs me to keep the ship afloat in his absence by managing the businesses, finances and household.

The tasks can be overwhelming and daunting at times.  Sometimes I feel like I am at the top of my game, and other times I feel like I am at the bottom of the laundry basket.  So I sneak in nap on the couch while the boys are playing with legos, and the girls are working in their own projects and I wake to the requests of hungry kids who need a snack or something good to eat…which reminds me that I need to go to the store and get some groceries, oh and deposit some checks, pay some bills, drop off some paperwork, return a few phone calls, and make some appointments.

This is life on my planet which I am sure isn’t much different from the life on yours.  As much as I would like to be the woman who “has it all” and can “do anything,” the reality is I am the woman who runs out of deodorant, loses her keys, forgets to shave her legs, and to the disappointment of my youngest– can’t remember the name of her new stuffed animal who joined our family. I’m just not “All That.”

There is no way that I can attain the “All That”status.  I have too many flaws, but the good news is that God didn’t ask me to be “All That”.  He asked me to be His.  What does that mean?

God asks me to eat from His table, receive from His hands, listen to His words, and enjoy Him.  Yes, I have responsibilities as a mom and wife that keep life running here, but my primary responsibility is to enjoy the Lord and be a receiver of His love and affection.  How else will I have any love or affection to give to another?

My job is to “Consider the Lilies”—smell them, gaze at them, wonder at them and reflect on their life.  My job is to watch the birds, build and make nests, gather food and feed their young and consider that the God who keeps their life vibrant and beautiful will do the same for me.  My job is to worship and be a receiver of the love and grace of God.

Matthew 6:25-34

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 23

 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

 5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

I’m God’s daughter first, a wife and mother second, and hopefully a friend and mentor.  I will have successes and failures, joys and sorrows, accomplishments and mistakes, hopes and disappointments.   If anything I do encourages or lifts another it is evidence of the Grace and Mercy of God alive and well here on Planet Morris, and I suspect; no, I know He is at work there on your planet too!