Posted February 25th, 2011 by admin with 2 Comments
After much computer/hard-drive trouble I’ve finally managed to do a quick (i.e. – 45 minutes from beginning to end) mix of our live rendition of Mark Altrogge’s excellent Christmas song, “Christ the Lord is Born Today”, as originally recorded by Sovereign Grace Music. It’s been one of my Christmas favorites since it was released a few years back, so I was excited to finally get to introduce it this Christmas. I could spend all day fixing things but instead I’ll just let you hear it “in the raw”. Sadly, Fred McKinnon‘s dulcimer part was only recorded in the house, so it is barely audible on the recording. Still, I hope it blesses you. Thanks for writing wonderful, Christ-centered songs, Mark.
Posted February 22nd, 2011 by admin with 6 Comments
I’ve been blogging for a WHILE. I can’t pinpoint the exact date (that would take too long to research), but I’ve got online evidence of my blogging since ’05, but have actually been keep an online journal since more like late ’02/early ’03. I would probably have a significantly greater readership if I hadn’t moved my blog around every couple years, and deleted a couple of the early ones – at one time I had 3 different blogs at the same time – but that’s neither here nor there: this is where my blog is now, so here I shall place my thoughts.
Two weeks ago I attended Re:Create11 – a small “un-conference”/think-tank for “early-adopting” creative leaders – in Franklin, TN, and I have already written some about it. One thing I quickly noted, however: the sort of people who attend Re:Create understand the significance of social media and are on the cutting edge of the trends. Blogging? I didn’t meet a soul there who hadn’t been maintaining a successful blog for years. Twitter? Old school, essential communication tool. Facebook? Hardly worth mentioning – much like owning shoes in the USA, why even discuss it? “Wow, you own shoes?“/”Um – yeah? Are you alright?“ We were playing with using barcode scanner aps for social/networking purposes, and studying future uses of holographic projection technology for ministry purposes. Seriously. That’s just to say, if you didn’t have at least a blog and twitter you nearly felt scolded. And rightly so, if you’re hoping to in any way impact culture.
Here’s the deal: blogging, as I see it, and most anyone I’ve ever read would seem to agree, is about community. No, not THAT Community – I’ve not even seen an episode. Anyway, Contrary to the opinion of some, “community” does not mean “clique” – in fact, it means the very opposite. A community is open, and inviting – not a “circling of the wagons”. When I think of someone who is impacting “the community”, I’m not saying that he/she is simply having their neighbors over for dinner – I mean that they are OUT THERE – touching people they might not have otherwise come in contact with. Likewise with blogging. At Re:Create11 I met “friends” – for the first time – that I’ve known for 5+ years via our blogs! And they didn’t surprise me in the slightest: I KNEW them already, even though we’d never met. It’s so exciting to see technology being used to create genuine community.
So, why do some people make it so hard? Why have a blog if you aren’t going to make it easy for others to comment on it? Why the cliques, only commenting on people’s blog that you know in real life? If you are part of a genuine “community” (erm, I mean “clique”) why don’t you just call them and talk instead of writing a blog? And why why why oh why do people use Blogging platforms that make it HARDER for others to interact, rather than the opposite?
Believe in genuine community? Great – the internet is here to stay. Create a blog. Read and comment on mine. Let’s be e-friend. You are more than welcome to have fellowship with me, and take part in my “community”. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet you at the next Re:Create. Until then…
So be it…
Posted February 19th, 2011 by admin with 2 Comments
I’ve been thinking about – and doing a great deal of – songwriting these past few months. One of my favorite books of all time is Paul Baloche‘s GOD SONGS. It’s an excellent resource on songwriting for worship, especially regarding the technical aspects of the craft, and admit it: it’s hard not to like Paul, and the writing is as engaging as he is. I encourage all worship songwriters to buy a copy and read it.
I’ll admit it: I love the “technical” – I probably lean into the technical side of things to a fault by natural inclination. I like the idea of “working” to craft and shape a song – that comes very naturally to me, and I see its importance emphasized again and again. Yet, personal experience leaves me in a conundrum.
Out of the hundreds of songs I’ve written (I started writing at 7), 3 have had any sort of ‘lasting impact’ – I don’t dare call them hits, but I hear about these 3 often enough that they stand out from the rest. The conundrum: none of them were ‘work’ in any sense of the word. They just fell out naturally. Sure, the technical knowledge was in the background – I’ve done the ‘work’ of a songwriter, honing my craft, and learning the rules (mostly so I could know when and how to break them, but still, I learned them), but these songs just poured out as the result of something essential to powerful songwriting: EXPERIENCE.
I can sit down and choose to write a song about something, and it can be a GREAT song, but if it doesn’t come from a place of genuine experience, people can tell. Not everyone will notice, especially if you’re just writing a pop song to entertain the masses – ear candy doesn’t matter much, but if you’re trying to write a song with depth, and it doesn’t come from genuine depth, I can that you are lying to me. A good many of other people can tell you’re lying too.
So, the vital key to songwriting? Experience life. Feel real emotions, and write when you are so overwhelmed with joy that you just want to lie on your back and laugh – write when you are so broken that you cannot lift your pen – write when your soul is so cold that the words “revive my heart” are not just cool words, but a cry of desperation. Don’t worry about the song’s structure or rhyme. Don’t worry about whether anyone else will like it – don’t even worry about whether or not anyone else will hear it. Write it for YOU. Because you have to. That will be the song – whether it reaches the world or only your circle of friends – that will impact lives.
If you want to write songs that touch lives, LIVE – don’t run from the pain that relationships bring – embrace the risks and thrills of living life maybe one step closer to the edge than you’re comfortable with. I think God enjoys knowing that life was LIVED – safety is so over-rated. True life IS the life of faith: putting ourselves out there for God to use in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed of – knowing that we might take a few scars in the process. That’s a life that’s worth singing. Want to write a worship song: experience God. Encounter the aspects of God’s nature that make you uncomfortable. Pray hard prayers. Live a life that may make others think you are a fool. God will meet you there. The encounter may devastate you. Now it’s time to write worship songs.
I admit it, I’m no expert. I won’t be writing a book on it anytime soon. I don’t have publishers breathing down my neck. I do know what moves me, and I have a pretty good idea what moves others: a life well lived. So LIVE! Trust God with the results.
So be it. Amen.
p.s. – then send me the demo. I want to hear it.
Posted February 14th, 2011 by admin with Comments Off
I still remember penning this song. I already had “the ring”, but we had broken up, so I spent a great deal of time at night simply looking at it – observing how light refracted so beautifully to create that “sparkle”. Eventually, my thoughts on the beauty of a mere diamond because words on paper about the one I had bought the diamond for: simple beauty, yet masterfully complex and beyond fully knowing – just like that diamond. My band at the time, the 3rd line-up of Set on Edge, happened to be playing a gig at the Murray Hill Theatre that night, and I had managed to somehow wrangle her into going. I dedicated this song to her. I still dedicate this song to her. Life has not always been easy, but I couldn’t have managed any of it without her, and the beauty she brings to my life.
Recently I dug this song up, originally written and recorded in ’03, and began re-tracking and re-mixing parts of it.
I love you, Cyle Augusta Lewis! You sparkle like diamonds!
Posted February 13th, 2011 by admin with 6 Comments
I just got back from a whole week of being challenged, inspired, and enlightened by some unique, high-impact creatives, making a load of new friends and even ministry partners, and listening to some wonderfully creative music performed live by Nashville’s best (and Austin’s best, among others).
Yes, I just returned from Re:Create 2011. I liken it to not just drinking from a Fire Hydrant, but drowning in the pool of water left behind after the hydrant exploded. It will take months to process it all.
Instead of attempting a full review or run-down of the week, I’m going to make it simple: these are just a few of the high-impact quotes I took note of over this past week.
“Effectively communicating the Word of God is the primary difference between a dying church and a growing church.” – Donnie with AudioEthics. I am reminded of the Scientific evidence that shows that most of our communication is non-verbal. That means that our mouths can be speaking truth, while everything else about us is lying, or at least miscommunicating. Donnie introduced us to cutting edge and future technologies that may aid us in better communicating the Gospel in our context.
“Failure is the price tag of success…” – I can’t even remember who spoke it, but I find it encouraging because I’ve failed a LOT.
“People have their best days & do their best work when they are allowed to make PROGRESS” – Randy Elrod. We discussed this for quite a while afterward. Those we oversee: do we allow them to grow – do we create an environment where they can see personal growth, and welcome that growth an use it to strengthen the Body of Christ, instead of feeling somehow threatened. I have seen both sides of this first hand: I have one friend in particular who is an amazing worship leader/pastor, but lacks administrative skills. In spite of how incredibly he did his “job”, he was let go because of his lack of administrative skills. That church lost far more than they gained. The better option, especially which such a gifted worship leader, would be to find someone who is excited about administrative work and shuffle those aspects of the job – as much as can be handled by another – to the administrative person, and let the creative work be masterfully handled by the creative! I know churches that operate this way and the individuals within the church outshine – and have a far greater impact – than most, that’s for sure. I know not every church has the resources for this, but always explore how we can enable those alongside, above, and under us WIN and continue to grow in their giftings.
“Above all, trust in the SLOW work of God… accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete…” – Patsy Clairmont. Patsy was brutal. One second, an adorable old lady – as eccentric as the come – with the room in stitches, then she’s drop a line like the one above on you. When I look over the past few years of my life, I must admit that this rings true. God’s timing is not my timing. Then she later added, “How recently has your heart heard ‘and for this you were made’ as you were working/serving/living?”, likely the most encouraging quote of the week. I know where I am when I’ve heard it most. That puts a smile on my face.
“If you are going to survive and fulfill your God-given calling, you must learn how to handle criticism and overlook offenses.” – Michael Hyatt. I can’t think of any way I can unpack that – it stands on it’s own.
“If it’s God-inspired dreams that He’s given you, they will never fit in your checkbook and never fit in your calendar.” – Dan Truett Cathy. Not only do I believe this, but I believed Dan when he said it, because it was the one moment in his lecture that he teared up. He’s clearly lived this. I’m living it right now. Good stuff.
This by no means covers all of ReCreate11. The late night conversations with fellow creatives, the coffee-dates, the lunch/dinner chats with blogger friends I finally got to meet face to face, and the encouraging moments with Randy, whom is hard not to love. On top of that, everyone providing “content” was approachable and not only open to conversation – they expected dialogue! It’s not often I’m given the opportunity to converse with these caliber of high-impact professionals, especially not all in one place!
Thank you, God, for ReCreate. I hope to go again.