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between the liner notes

Ricardo: Enjoying 'Unmerited' Favor

By Jennifer E. Jones
CBNmusic Producer Do you believe in the theory of "Six Degrees of Separation" – that everyone on the planet is connected through six people they know, maybe less? If not, you should meet Ricardo. I bet he knows somebody you know.

When we met in Denver last July, we quickly discovered that his wife knows one of my childhood pastors. We immediately began to list all of our mutual acquaintances. His publicist laughed and said, "This happens everywhere we go."

Maybe it's that winning smile or his towering stature that's easily 6 feet tall, if not more. Either way, Ricardo's one of the friendliest faces in Christian music, and the man and his debut album, Unmerited, are making a big impression.

"People are starting to recognize that we're not just a fly-by-night thing and that we really are worshippers," he tells CBNmusic. "We really do love Jesus."

It's obvious for anyone who spends a moment with Ricardo or picks up a copy of Unmerited. It's 13 tracks of spirited praise and worship with a contemporary feel and a lot of heart.

"This record is called Unmerited because it's by His grace that we've been saved," he explains. "I'm blown away by the response. I’m blown away that what was in me -- whether it was written out of hurt or praise or worship -- is actually touching people."

All this attention has made for many surreal moments in the Arizona native's life. His album and first single "I Call Your Name" began climbing the charts after debuting in May. Suddenly his face was on phone cards and posters. His good friend Israel Houghton, worship leader for Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, asked how Ricardo was handling all the press. "I said, 'Israel, I'm a dad. I'm a pastor. I'm a worshipper.' He said, ‘People will tell you what they think you should be. As long as you remember who you are, the rest is easy."

He humbly jokes that he's far from paparazzi stalking his home but he has learned that his less-private lifestyle is part of the sacrifice of being a "music missionary".

Today, his mission field takes him far away from his home stage at First Assembly Dream Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he is the worship pastor. While he travels and leads praise and worship for much larger audiences, he still finds time to make it back home in time for Sunday service.

Since he pours out of his soul several times a week, how does this minister get ministered to?

"Our youth pastor, Dan Brodeur, says, 'The sign of a good worship leader is how they worship when someone else is leading,'" Ricardo recalls. "His kind compliment was, 'Ricardo, you worship.'

"It gives me an opportunity to lift my hands. I don't have to worry about my keyboard, my guitar, or the choir singing on key."

Ricardo didn't need six degrees to get connected to Jesus. All he needed was a few free summers and an invitation to go camping with Young Life.

"When my family stopped going to church, I would go to Catholic Mass. This is about 7th, 8th grade. By my freshman year, a friend of mine invited me to Young Life, which is a non-denominational Christian organization that's for high school kids," he says. "[At the time], I didn't know what that was but I knew that his sister had just gone camping in the Nevada mountains. She was just beaming and glowing. I thought something about this seems really cool. A ropes course, motor bikes, sailing, horseback riding – things I'd never experienced in the Catholic church.”

Ricardo and his friend went faithfully for years and during his senior year, Ricardo accepted Christ. "I walked that aisle, so to speak, and my life has never been the same since. It's the easiest decision I've ever made but the hardest to live out."

That aisle led him to being a pastor leading worship then to a music artist selling records. Ricardo uses that as a platform to draw people in and lead them to Christ. "Some people say it happened over night but I've been playing for years and I've been singing since I was five years old. We've never pursued the music on its own. We've always pursued Jesus."

Got comments? Drop me a line.

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