My blog has moved to http://www.SaintLewisMusic.com/ – for a direct link visit FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH.

I’ve gotten a few messages of late asking where I’ve been and why I’m not blogging…

…fact is, I am still blogging, but now my blog is HERE.  It’s still ‘under construction’, but coming along nicely… please stop by and subscribe.  As soon as I get the glitches worked out I’ll be moving the entirety of FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH to the Hope Farm site.

blessings, and thanks for reading!

Wisdom Moon – who’s podcasts have been an encouragement to me on many occasions – was kind enough to include Saint Lewis‘s song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” as the closer for the 10/8/08 edition of the ALL ABOUT WORSHIP podcast.  Why don’t you hop on over and subscribe today?

If you’d like to use “All in All (You’re all I Need)” in your own worship service I’ve attached the pdf files below… thanks!

All in All chord chart
All in All chord chart capo

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to the musical aspect of worship, or for that matter, anything musical.  When it comes to concerts I’ve performed, very few live up to my expectations.  That’s to say, when the band does not feel like it’s really ‘gelling’, I can become very frustrated.  Apparently, worship happened last night, according to others.  Here, however, is the worship-confessional I cut with our Tech guy, Chris, immediately after walking off stage.  This one is being dual-posted at both Chris & I’s sites.  Enjoy.

Inside Out Worship/Tech Confessional – October 8, 2008

It was late Spring/early Summer, sometime near my 9th grade year, not long after the locust plague, when walking outside was always crunchy, and our cars slip-sided from side to side on the pavement because we were continually hydroplaning on swarms of living insect carcasses.  It had been a dry Summer, so the numerous hummingbirds were clinging to our many feeders for survival.

Looking back, it probably wasn’t fair to the local avian life that our garage was painted sky-blue, and had so many windows.  It makes perfect sense how it had gotten trapped: garage door open wide, & a feeder hanging feet from the door filled with bright red sweetness.  

When I walked into the garage from the house, I immediately flinched, thinking it full of bumble-bees.  My recent encounter with a Bumble Bee nest, armed with nothing more than my younger cousin, and two baseball bats, had left a burning impression – many burning impressions – upon me, to say the least.  “Buzzzzzz – THWAK!”  It smacked HARD against the ceiling.  “Bzzzzz – THUMP!”  Against the window.  “Bzzzzzz – BOINK!”  Against the raised garage door.  That poor hummingbird was so disorientated by the color of our garage that it thwaked itself against everything but the wide-open garage door.  No matter how hard I tried to shoe it out the open door, if resisted my movements.  After almost an hour of struggle, it eventually landed in the middle of our empty Garage and simply gave up.

Its tiny body heaved with enormous breaths – it had clearly given up, and was giving itself over to me, likely convinced – or even, at this point, hoping – I would eat him up immediately and end this misery. 

I walked slowly up to the tiny bird, and scooped him up very gently in my hands: so small – so fragile & delicate.  It was like holding a rose petal, except that I could feel it’s breath, and it’s heart pitter-pattering like a tiny, infinitely fast motor whirring along within.  I walked outside the garage and held the tiny thing towards the sun.  It sat still for a time, simply resting in my palm, then buzzed away.

How hard we fight and struggle to make things happen, when usually the most important step is to “be still” – to sit back and let that mighty hand carry us, as we catch our breath.  Human effort can only take us so far, but the most important step towards freedom is always trusting one greater than ourselves to take the next step. Yes, often it looks and feels like death – it seems like ‘the end’, but that hand is good, lifting us towards the brightest Son, and releasing us to fly.

Ants

October 6, 2008

Some while back Cyle bought a “bounce-house” (a 10×10 ‘building’, filled with air?) for a measly $10, which I recently set up in our back yard for one of Kenimer’s (my 3 year old) play-dates.  Looking as though it may rain, this morning I zipped outside, and began folding it up to store it in our building.  While laying across the folded bounce-house, to speed it’s  release of air, a number of tiny ants caught my eye.  Moving my face closer to the ground, and straining to seem them clearly, I noted how the zipped this directly and that, as though they somehow held the fate of the universe in their ‘hands’.  For at least fifteen minutes I watched these ridiculous busy-bodies zip to and fro, accomplishing nothing of note, yet running as fast as they can to do it.  At one point I just wanted to shout, “Dude – you’re just an Ant! RELAX!”

Part of me admires the stupid bug for being so self-convinced of his own importance – for working with such passion and intensity.  Another part of me wonders how often God looks down upon us and whispers, “Dude – slow down, you’re just a human.  Relax.”

Don’t tell me it’s not possible.

Okay, gotta run – I’m really important and have a lot of really important things to do, which all must be done very quickly so I can get to all of my other important things.

;-)

Yo! I’m down wit it!

October 3, 2008

I ain’t black (but two of my nieces are), and I don’t listen to much rap, but I must say:
THIS IS DA BOMB! 

Probably the best rap record I’ve heard since High School, and it’s totally God-centered, & Christ-exalting!

Yesterday via my iPod one of my favorite Bible teachers/authors – Rich Nathan of the Columbus Vineyard – reminded me of a passage I hadn’t looked at in quite a while: “…the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes… Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said ‘Oh that we had meet to eat!  We remember the fish we at in Egypt that cost nothing…” (excerpts from Numbers 11:1a, 4-5a)

Part of me just wants to slap them – those fish didn’t cost anything BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPEND – YOU WERE SOMEONE’S PROPERTY!!!  My lawnmower doesn’t pay for it’s own gas, either – surprised?  I buy the gas, then fill it up, then USE IT.  It’s MY lawnmower – my property – so I take care of it’s needs. Idiots.  Then, I think – been there, done that.

The whole time I was an ultra-conservative, politically, that was my motivation: return to the “Good Ole’ Days”.  Too many Christians, in fact, lack a ‘Kingdom mindset’ and even their evangelism is not based on love for others and a desire for them to meet Jesus, so much as to save culture and protect what they’ve got – to keep the status quo of comfort for themselves and their families.  Sadly, the “Good Ole’ Days” weren’t “good” – they were just “ole'”, er, I mean, OLD.  

That means “past”, and let me tell you – my    memory   is   selective when remembering that stuff.  In fact, I began many years ago (still not finished, though) writing an autobiographical book which recounts some particular moments in my past which I know for an absolute fact did not occur exactly as I remember them.  My mind has dreamed about these events, I’ve daydreamed what might have been, I’ve told the stories in different fashions to different friends so many times that not even I remember precisely what really happened.  Sure, if I wanted to be ‘historical’ about them, I can pretty much piece together the solid bits with a little “critical realism” applied to my memories, but that’s no fun, so I’m writing these stories with all the extra little oddities left in – call it a study of dreams and memories, cloaked in dramatic biography.  Blah blah blah – whatever I was talking about, though…

That was all the long-winded ‘Shannon’-way of saying, if you asked yourself DURING what you now consider the “Good Ole’ Days”, you probably would complain to point to another bit of “Good Ole’ Days” even further in the past, or – if you’re a political liberal (I did that for a while, too), you point to some imagined idyllic utopia in the future, which any historian worth his weight in butter will tell you will result in something that looks like Communist China or Nazi Germany.  The road to destruction is paved with great intentions, huh?

What we have is NOW.  The only “Good Ole’ Days” that ever existed were at some point in the way distant past visualized for us as a Garden where God walked with us in unbroken relationship, and the only idyllic utopia in the future we have to look forward to is the Garden-ic moment reworked in us through God’s Kingdom come – and coming – which happens NOW, before it happens any other time – and right HERE, in our hearts, first and foremost – before it happens any place else.  It’s not a ‘return’ to what life was like 10 or 20 years ago, because the sin in people’s hearts was just as hell-bent then as it is now – the only difference was which sins were publicly acceptable (those have always changed) and which were condemned and frowned upon.

So, there you go: the “Good Ole’ Days” probably sucked too.  Stop complaining before the Lord and trying to RETURN to something that never was, and in the NOW step forward with God into His Kingdom, which begins inside of each of us – that starts with ME.

Let Your Kingdom come… let Your will be done… so that everyone might know Your name.
(Let Your Kingdom Come – Bob Kauflin)

This has been a good week.  I call it a good week because it was a week chock full of me doing what I was made to do: worship.  Yes, that should happen ALWAYS – we should all live there – but I, personally, find a heightened sense of God’s presence when I’m worshiping in community and with song.  

First, My wife & I led our church’s Wednesday noon prayer meeting.  Pulling from an assortment of old favorites like “Consuming Fire” & “Give us clean Hands“, a few newer ‘prophetic’ songs from IHOP, and an original chorus by my wife, we spontaneously led various numbers interspersed with and flowing from the prayers being offered up in the room.  I’ll be honest – I find that degree of spontaneity personally challenging (though, I’ll admit it: my wife LIVES THERE), & I was a bit unsure of whether or not we really ‘connected’ to those in the room.  I found hope in the fact that, at least from my own heart, God was worshiped, and I received a number of kind remarks about it later in the week.  That’s an area I’d like to grow in, but God graciously showed His face to us in spite of my weakness.

Later than night, we had a special INSIDE OUT Sr. High service with an extended time of worship, which I co-led with one of my youth leaders, Aaron.  His worship leading is energetic and infectious and most definitely connects with his peers, and I love to see younger leaders stepping up to the plate.  Though it wasn’t the single most passionate/expressive Wednesday night we’ve had so far this school year (there have been weeks that I wondered if we’d go ‘pentecostal’), the Holy Spirit was clearly present, and hearts were changed.  First, Aaron led the opening set of “My Glorious” (Delirious), “One Way” (Hillsong United), and a powerful song he introduced to our youth the week before – which, I might add, I’ve been pulling for since I heard the demo – “Glorious One” (Fee).  What’s more interesting, HE LED FROM THE BASS – and did it very well.  My personal favorite from his set is Steve Fee’s “Glorious One“, as it’s such a good balance of Biblical truth and personal response, packaged in a powerfully melodic chorus, yet at the same time it’s very easy to pull off (unlike his other awesome, but nearly unreplicable, “All because of Jesus”).  Later, following a time of sharing & testimonies, I continued our corporate singing by re-introducing our youth to the infamous “Healer” (which I love even more BECAUSE of the controversy: the song feels even deeper knowing the real story behind it), “Jesus Paid it All” (a favorite at our church, especially among our youth), and sent them home with a challenge, much like Fred delivered on SSCC’s night of worship, to reach our community, with “God of this City“.  Overall, it was a truly exciting night as I looked out over the room and saw a mix of indifferent (dudes who are merely there to pick up chics – at least they’re coming and hearing the Word and seeing authentic worship) and those truly moved (at least 4 groups were huddled up, praying, and in tears).  I love Inside Out and am proud of what goes on there week by week.

 

And this portion is ‘participating’ in Fred’s Sunday Setlist blog.

Lastly, I was in the rotation to lead for this past Sunday morning as well, which is always a joy.  Our Sunday AM musicians are professional, friendly, and a pleasure to work with, so rehearsal is rarely a chore (though even the best band has their moments, I admit it).  I was particularly excited to have my wife on both keys and singing alto for this morning!  Thursday night’s rehearsal was one of the smoothest I’ve ever had to date, and seemed to zip right by, and Sunday morning – apart from me forgetting lyrical phrase (along with EVERYONE ELSE) from one song – went spectacularly.  The band played almost flawlessly, the congregation was fairly responsive and seemed to be connecting with the songs (pockets folks stood and raised their hands of their own initiative), I personal felt ‘connected’ to God and our congregation as a leader.  Our set started off with Tim Hughes’ “Happy Day” – one of my personal favorites – after which I welcomed everyone to church, and dove into a 2 song set of “Your Grace is Enough” (Maher/Tomlin) and “Mighty to Save” (Hillsong).  Though I am by no means a servant of Hillsong – there is particularly much in their lyrics that I question at times – this song in particular deserves recognition and use among churches of every flavor: the lyrics are powerful proclamation and intimate response all wrapped up into one, and the melody is infectious.  I wouldn’t mind singing this song every week, personally.  After an far-more-intense-than-usual sermon by David mostly about trusting God in our current financial climate, we had communion, during which we sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” and Tomlin/Redman’s classic reworking of a great hymn, “The Wonderful Cross“.  Sadly, we ran short on time during our first service and had to cut our closing song, but for the 2nd service we responded with “Though I Will Trust You“.  If anything were to have gone better on Sunday, I think I should have considered my words more carefully – somehow, I had given what I was going to say that morning little thought, and found myself digging for the right turn of phrase at times, but I don’t think that was too distracting, thankfully.

All in all, it was a wonderful week.  Thank You, Father!

Worship Leading Marathon Week!

September 24, 2008

Yes, these are my favorites.

With Fred on vacation, I was asked to lead worship for our mid-week prayer service – my wife is joining me on keys.  That night we’re having a special night of extended worship with the INSIDE OUT BAND, then Thursday evening rehearsal for “Big Church”, then sliding into home-plate on Sunday morning!  Add in all the planning, extra home rehearsal, and minor arranging, and you’ve got a whole week of working on both of my favorite things: God & music.

This is going to be a GOOD WEEK.

Thank you, Jesus!

Pride & Phone Theft…

September 23, 2008

Sounds like a powerful new book title, doesn’t it?

This past Saturday I bought my wife’s phone back.  I got a phone call on my cell phone from my wife, Cyle, which was only odd because she appeared to be calling me from her cell phone, and yet we were both home and she was JUST outside – I could’ve heard her just as well if she just called my name a little more loudly than would be normal under not-in-the-middle-of-an-argument-like circumstances.  The voice, however, is what really threw me; “Hey, do you know this number?

Immediately I wanted to kick his… um… rear.  No, I wanted to do far worse than that.  My first impression was that Cyle was being held at knife-point in the back-yard, and I was immediately trying to figure out how to kill him, while not harming her.  Yes, I went there that quickly.

I was absolutely trashed last night and I bought this cell-phone at the gas station on Gloucester“, he said next – not even realizing that I had been planning my wife’s rescue, and his demise.

He was now off the hook, to a large degree, but I still wanted to beat him down.  I got the details of the story from him, and his tale had some merit.  I asked some facts of my wife and it appears she left her phone in our car – which was parked on the street – and forgot to lock it.  She talked to him for a few minutes, and it came to the point that he asked for his money back, at least in part.  We said ‘yes‘, sorta.

We TOLD HIM, verbally, “yes” – but what we meant was, “I’m not quite sure yet – I want my phone back, and I can’t get a new one for $20, but I’m considering all sorts of things to protect my pride in this matter, including just sending a cop over to pry it from your fingers.”  So, we called the cops, and talked through all of our options, including the possibility that he was some sort of evil conspirator, and that I would be taken hostage or jumped/mugged/killed in broad daylight in a busy parking lot when I drive to meet him with my $20 to get my wife’s cell phone back.

At the climax of this story, I drove to his mama’s house – where he was recovering from his hang-over – handed him a $20 in his yard, and got my wife’s cell-phone.  He was clearly a nice fellow, and it would’ve made a rather boring scene in an action/suspense movie.  Then I drove home, still carrying the gnawing sense that I wanted to woop on someone viciously.

Of course, this was the power of my internal sense of justice and right-doing, right?  Probably not.  It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t believe someone stole a cell phone out of a car right in front of a home.  It was that someone stole MY wife’s cell phone, out of MY car, in front of MY home!  How could they do that TO ME?!?!

Ah, world – bow to the mighty Shannon!  Recognize his greatness, and humble yourself before him, lest ye pay!

Pride is a real jerk.  You think your doing pretty good spiritually (there’s the first mistake, actually), and the next thing you know, you’re your god – the al-wussy judge of the universe, to whom all must pay their dues if they attempt to hinder – or complex-ify – your way whatsoever.

The good thing about this discover is that now I know who’s tail to kick.  Mine (some would call it the flesh).

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ to the sun your face I’ll raise
I’m diggin you a shallow grave
One hundred buzzards a’buzzin’

 

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ on your rotten bones I’ll raise
Yellow daisies For my true loves hair
One hundred buzzards buzzin’

I see death runnin from his Majesty
O Lord, where is the fear in me?
In between your praying hands
You hold the skeleton key

(Lyrics from “Heal on the Shovel” by Sixteen Horsepower)

When have you found pride slip in on you when most would feel your actions were justified?  
How do you personally war against the flesh?  What techniques word best for you?
Why wasn’t Sixteen Horsepower world-famous when they were still a band?

Important questions to consider – discuss…

Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

*GROUP RESPONDS: “Hello Shannon!

I admit it – I’ve thought that before about “Capo Users”.  I’ve gotten hand-cramps for the sake of my glorious anti-capo-dom.  I’ve forced complex songs into simpler keys, far outside my sweet-spot vocally, to massage my ego and not use a capo.  I’ve played chord-shapes that don’t ideally befit the riff/hook for the sake of being that guy who’s “better than the capo users”.  Yes, on rare occasions I used a capo, but only on open tuned guitars – the fact that I had 4 guitars on stage, 3 of which were in alternate tunings, gave me enough “cool points” to counteract the evil capo – sorta like buying “Carbon Credits”.

In ’03, however, I saw Shane & Shane live.  That dude MASTERED the guitar, and he was a capo maniac: capos upon capos – cut capos inserted at odd angles into other cut capos.  I think at one point he had to be using a capo on his vocal chords, too – Mr. Bernard’s range is pretty …well… “pretty” – in the “female” sense of the word.  Is it normal for a guy to sing soprano?  In all seriousness, I love Shane & Shane, and that show was where I realize that a capo is a tool (and not in the sense that some people may consider me one at times – oh no!  Did I just go Mark-Driscoll on you?!!).  Just like any tool, it has it’s purpose, and can also be misused.

So here’s my theory of Capo: please don’t use it as a crutch to hide the fact that you only know 3 chords – that’s sad.  Granted, if you DO only know 3 chords, and you’re asked to lead worship somewhere, I’d rather you used a capo and play well than not use one and be an obnoxious distraction.  However, let your goal be to learn the real chords, and use them when it sounds good.  However, some songs only sound ‘right’ with certain chord shapes on the guitar, and a capo is how you get those shapes.  “Marvelous Light” is the greatest example: the song is most singable, and in my opinion, grooves best in ‘B’, however if you play a ‘B’ chord shape (any of them) on an acoustic guitar to drive the song you really loose the bright, ‘jangly-ness’ of the song.  Playing a B, E, G#m, F#, & etc. on an acoustic has ‘thump’ on the low-end (which is why I don’t capo “Sweetly Broken”, though it’s the same chord progression – the ‘bottom end’ of the chord progression helps keep the song ‘weighty’), but capo to the 4th fret, and play a G-shape, C9, Em7, & etc – their is a brightness, and a continuity in the changes (particularly on the high end) that carries the song.

Therefore, I repent – or rather, I repented some time ago.  Use a capo, but not as a crutch – use it as a tool.  Use it to open up your guitar to tones that help you blend into an overall band setting, give brightness or weight to a progression, depending on the song’s ‘mood’, or even – as Shane & Shane do with cut capos – to significantly alter your guitar’s tuning in a flash (not just up a step, but from Standard, to open G, or drop D).  Used this way a capo can really open up the breadth of what your guitar is capable of.

So, “Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

Goodbye Rick…

September 21, 2008

He was the quiet one – the fellow in the background.  Sure, folks debated continually on who was more important to “the Pink Floyd sound” – Syd, Roger, or Dave – but I’ve never heard Rick mentioned.  Most aren’t aware that, like George Harrison’s impact on the song-writing of the Beatles, Richard Wright was a cornerstone for the success of Pink Floyd, not only as one of the world’s most creative keyboardists, but also as a writer, having penned – to a large extent – many of the most important songs on my very favorite Pink Floyd albums; ECHOES, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, & WISH YOU WERE HERE.

Wish you were still here, Rick

(Rick wrote most of, and sings the chorus’s of “Time”)

and one of my very favorites of all-time, which Rick co-wrote & co-sings lead on…

In one sense, I’ve not always been a musician, but in that sense, no one has.  However, my very earliest memories – sitting on an old couch in my living room in South Western Ohio listening to “Abbey Road” by the Beatles with my folks – have left me ruined for much thought of a life without it.  My lonely years as the awkward child in elementary school were comforted by the Beatles, and eventually the Police and Tears for Fears, singing to myself while swinging, often alone, on the swings at recess.  Those led to my ‘suicidal years’ – and who doesn’t want to kill themselves at least some time between 7th & 10th grade – when I was comforted and befriended by Pink Floyd, and their vast catalogue of psychedelia.  Sure, I did the ‘piano lessons’ thing for a time, but I think I dropped those by the 3rd grade.  Through it all, I wrote – I have probably a hundred pages of songs I had written – melody & lyrics – during those formidable years.  When I first turned 15, however, I was thrown into the fire…

My grandfather had been in a mental institution since forever.  I never met him.  Not too long after my grandmother’s best friend died, her widowed husband moved in with her – they lived right next door.  He played guitar – WELL!  Late one evening after I had finished my homework I took to the path behind our house and went to grandma’s.  That’s when I held my first guitar…this one:

A Chet Atkins Gretch – one of the first electric guitars to have a tremelo bar.  Even better, this was CHET ATKINS OWN GUITAR, now owned by his brother, Buddy, who was my grandma’s live-in’s jammin’ partner!  For the next year or more I ran next door nightly to learn the basics from someone of his generation: “Wabash Canonball” & “Blue moon of Kentucky”, for starters.  The infatuation with guitars took hold of me so deep that I volunteered to take over as songwriter/manager/background vocalist for a local highschool metal band with a lot of turn-over.  It wasn’t long until it was my band, and I was the lead singer and primary songwriter, when weren’t covering Bon Jovi (remember, they rocked once), Scorpions, Irons Maiden, Motley Cru, or Slayer.  Eventually we all ended up Christians, and the lyrical content changed significantly, but that’s another story.  Next, I bought my own guitar…

Mine was actually far uglier: pink snakeskin, with gold accessories.  A true glam-metal axe if there ever were one.  What I find even more interesting is the sales associate who sold me on it: at the time he was on break from his primary gig, and was simply working at a guitar shop & singing lead for the local band The Bears (who rocked, I should add).  However, his name was Adrian, and his primary ‘gig’ was as a world-famous producer, and the lead singer/guitarist of King Crimson.  Oddly enough, my musical tastes would soon shift, and that guitar played far more music by the Cure, U2, and the Church (bring on the delay!) than it ever did metal.  Odd.

Of course, this was still only the beginning…  more to come.

“Worthy” again…

September 17, 2008

Thanks in great part (in total?) to Fred, my article “WORTHY” has now been re-published online at ChristianPost.com.  Thanks Fred!  Please show some love, and drop by there and leave some comments!

I’m sorry for the lack of real content as of late.  One would think that being without a full-time job would amount to having a great deal of free time.  One would be WRONG!  Between catching up on my honey-do list from the Summer (having pulled 80+ hours a week this Summer, I didn’t do much around the house), entirely redesignig my home studio (Dear Jesus, please let me finish it up today!), and trying to start a new ministry, I’ve been surprisingly busy.  The bummer is, that leaves me not only little to no time to blog, but even less time to, well, make money.  I’m open to creative suggestions, particularly ones that involve me doing what I’m passionate about, and gettting paid to do it – namely, various combinations of God & music.

blessings!

I’ve made a mix of some of our favorite corporate worship songs at INSIDE OUT & RUSH HOUR over the past few years.  There’s some good stuff here.

“Best” Reading…

September 15, 2008

So, I did the ‘swap’ with Fred today, and reluctantly handed off Kauflin‘s amazing WORSHIP MATTERS book in trade for UNCEASING WORSHIP by Harold Best.  I devoured the intro & first chapter at church (don’t tell!!!) this morning (I’m a very fast reader) and really liked the taste of it.  Anyone else read this?  If so, what did you think?

Earlier today I responded to Fred’s blog on DISTRACTING WORSHIP, and it led me to want to ask the positive side of the question:  WHAT (corporately) ENCOURAGES YOU TO WORSHIP GOD? That could mean; what leads you to recognize God’s greatness?  What pushes you to want to live all-out for Him?  What actions, places, environment, physical expressions, phrases, etc. encourage you to focus upon God during times where the body is gathered and praising Him, and increases your personal passion to pursue Him more fully?  Okay, I’m sure you’ve got some… WHAT ARE THEY?!??

Time to get a clue…

September 9, 2008

If you haven’t yet awoken from your CCM induced stupor, it’s time to buy this, and wake up.

It’s about time we all got a clue… what a great c.d.! Creative, original, refreshing worship, indeed.,

I wouldn’t be lying if I said – which I will, and am about to – that I have checked iTunes at least weekly since I discovered it (about 4 years ago now) for literally ANYTHING by the great Australian alternative rock band, Midnight Oil.  Known best for their 80s mega-hit “Beds are Burning“, most do not know, however, that lead singer Peter Garrett is not only a former surfer, and a social activist, but also a Christian, and currently serving full-time in the various areas of the political sphere down-under.  As some have asked; “Do you remember what it was like to listen to music with a message?”  Midnight Oil were like the Australian U2 – and fans of the Cure, the Church, the Clash, or the formerly mentioned kings of Anthemic Brit-rock should most definitely explore their catalog.

A great place to start is their compilation, 20,000 WATT RSL, but my personal favorites are BLUE SKY MINING, and DIESEL AND DUST.

If you’re going to be scanning singles, check out; “Beds are Burning”, “Blue Sky Mine”, “Dreamworld”, “Underwater”, “Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers”, “King of the Mountain”, “Golden Age”, & “Forgotten Years”.  Here’s hoping that Midnight Oil return to the music business soon!  ENJOY!

So, not a dissertation today – just a question:

What ‘current’ (defined as you see fit) corporate worship songs move you to worship God the most passionately right now?  Do you have a gem that’s just ‘ripping you up’ currently?  I know that for me, “Let Your Kingdom Come” by Bob Kauflin has been my anthem for quite sometime, the Vineyard’s “All I Have“, & Sov. Grace Music’s “Out of the Depths” have really turned my eyes upward, and I can still – after over a year of using it – hardly get through John Mark McMillian’s “How He Loves” without crying, even if we sing it two services back to back!

What about you?  What songs are really moving you at the moment?

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

September 3, 2008

I just wanted to give a shout-out to all who came and and all who listened to us on 89.3FM, WECC The Lighthouse last night, either in person, on the air, or online.  We recieved many encouraging words, and – I must say – we were really blessed to have been there and hope to return again soon in the coming months!

In the meanwhile, they’ve added our song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” to their rotation, so be encouraged to give them a call (800-577-WECC) and request it when you’re in the mood.

Lastly, we were asked by a few people for chordcharts of our originals last night.  Though they’ll be on CCLI and on our own website soon, just drop me an email at saintlewis@bellsouth.net and I’ll get them to you right away.  Thanks for listening, and for the encouragement – blessings to you and yours!

appearing live on the air – tonight – on the Lighthouse, WECC 89.3 @ 6:30PM!

I’ve published a full review of Sovereign Grace Music’s “COME WEARY SAINTS” over at theWorshipCommunity.com.  Stop by and take a read!

This one is a bit different… hope you like.

John Stott on Worship

August 25, 2008

All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the Name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which account for the low level of so much contemporary worship.

Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God.

-John Stott, Between Two Worlds

Believe it or not, this is not from a book on worship, but a book on how to teach the Word of God.  Powerful, convicting stuff, huh?!

Do you go to the Inside Out / Rush Hour youth groups at St. Simons Community Church and are looking for recordings on the songs we sing?  Are you a worship leader looking for a few proven new songs to add to your set?  Do you just enjoy worship music and are always looking for something new?.  This iMix is for you:

INSIDE OUT/RUSH HOUR – greatest hits

And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

My stack of c.d.s to review has grown taller than is manageable, so in a desperate attempt to knock out some reviews, and promote a few dear friends, here’s is my ‘Triple Play’ review special!


McKendree Augustas
A View for Opened Eyes
(c)2008 

My brother-n-law – and one of my best friends – has accomplished quite a lot since he moved to Nashville a few of years back.  He’s toured with Jeff Deyo,  Britt Nicole, and is currently on tour with SonicFlood, and in the midst of the madness he still made time to write and record a debut cd worth being very proud of.

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what to compare McKendree’s sound to.  He’s got the ghostly electronics of Radiohead, the wide open atmosphere of Coldplay, with the pounding piano of Ben Folds, and the worshipful lyrics of John Mark McMillan, and at least a peripheral awareness of emo-guitar, all mixed into a creative, original, & refreshing debut.

By far the stand-out is “Beautiful“.  The melody line is original enough to keep you guessing, but still has hook.  The chorus is simple and singable.  The music builds slowly, with the addition and subtraction of instruments sometimes from one line to the next.  With the right people behind it, combined with a good music video, I’m convinced it could be a hit single – not only in ‘Christian’ radio, but a ‘cross-over’ hit.  Yes, it’s that good.

A few other stand-outs are are the two corporate worship songs; “Attention“, & “Strength to Carry On“.  Though the first verse of “Attention” is a bit hard to grasp at first, the rest of the song is the sort that a whole room of people can quickly latch onto, as is all of “Strength to Carry On“, which I’ve already led at our youth service.

There are some places that may lose the casual listener.  For one, the intro song – “Proemial” – is likely going to turn away some, particularly those not already familiar with McKendree’s more accessible songs.  That said, this c.d. is only a glimmer of what he is capable of (I’ve heard it ALL), and is a shimmering sign of what is to come.  

A View…” is well worth picking up, and will leave you wanting to hear more from McKendree in the future.

 


David Herndon
Into Danger / Out of Rescue
(c)2008

I would be lying if I said that I expected to be blown away from David’s 2nd c.d.  David & I have been friends for a few years now – we’ve sung on worship teams together, & I’ve long been familiar with his music.  Though there were a few good songs on his debut c.d., nothing there really moved me.  In comes “Into Danger / Out of Rescue“, and I must confess: my jaw was wide open during the whole first listen.  This was David Herndon?!

The melodies were memorable, the song-writing catching, his vocal delivery is absolutely convincing, and most of all, the lyrics CUT DEEP.  I was already nearly in tears before finishing track one.  “Into Danger…” is David’s “Time out of Mind” (Bob Dylan) or “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel” (Wilco) – production-wise, an alt-country masterpiece, and as far as songs are concerned, a very solid, and challenging collection that makes me proud to say “I know that guy“. 

The most note-worthy song is “Church or a Brothel“, which – by title alone – brings up issues many will be uncomfortable with, and asks questions which society as a whole often shy away from.  My personal favorite, however, is “Reflection” – an alt-country performance that, oddly enough, rings with subtle shades of mid-80s Tears for Fears, and the Police.  It’s that sort of genre-bending creativity, and the strong production value, that makes “Into Danger…” so worthwhile.

Personally, I hope to hear David pursue this direction even further, but until then “Into Danger…” has been – and will be – a permanent fixture in my car’s c.d. collection.  That’s where I keep my favorites.

 


Matthew Perryman Jones
Swallow the Sea
(c)2008 

As I’ve written about before in this blog, there was a time a few years back when Matthew & I used to occasionally play out together in the Athens/Atlanta area at places like Eddie’s Attic & the Bean’ry, and he’s the fellow who introduced me to Indelible Grace’s music (he appears on most – if not all – of their cds).  He’s a gentle spoken man, a strong songwriter, and has an absolutely beautiful voice.  

I was excited to discover earlier this week the release of his 3rd studio full-length, “Swallow the Ocean“, and though the whole c.d. has not yet grabbed me, it holds promise, and a few singles which have already probably made it into my ‘favorite new music of ’08’ list.

The first song of note, which I’ve featured on this site before,  is “Save You“, which has already enjoyed some popularity as an iTunes single, after appearing in a number of popular prime-time television shows.  The song is simple, and lovely, bringing to mind what Coldplay might have sounded like if Chris Martin had been raised in the southern USA.  My personal favorite is “Without a Clue“, which show-cases a nice piano hook, and great lyrics that look back on the romantic naivete’ of youth.  With it’s anthemic chorus, it’s hard not to note U2’s influence on Matthew’s otherwise southern acoustic folk style.

Though I’m not yet sold on the whole disc – his debut was so fantastic that it’s hard not to judge all his later releases by that standard – it definitely contains a few ‘must-download’ singles, and if my guess is right, will prove to be a worthy investment as a full-length as well.

Here’s hoping I get to gig again with Matthew in the future.

That’s all… I hope I’ve been of service to direct you towards some great new music that will move your soul.

(originally delivered at the University of Georgia WDA campus ministry)

Let me first admit to all of you — this is not an easy subject for me to write on. God’s love is a many sided thing, and as of late I have been receiving His hard love — discipline, correction, and rebuke. I have built up over the years a number of bad habits, which He is busy stripping me of at the moment, and I’m finding that rather hard to deal with. So, right off the bat, I don’t want you to think that the image of God’s love that I’m painting it all rosy, pie-in-the-sky by-and-by. Yet God’s love is real.

And yet again, I feel I have bit off FAR more than I can chew. I feel like St. Augustine when, it is rumored, he encountered a young boy on the beach that compared Augustine’s attempts to write books about God to the boy’s own attempt to pour the sea, bucket by bucket, into a small hole in the sand. This has led me to acknowledge outright that if I say ANYTHING tonight that speaks to you, it is not I. This is my attempt to pale the entirety of the Pacific into a small hole in the sand.

But seriously, I approached this subject asking myself, “How do I make this material new?” knowing that many of you will have grown up in the church, and may have heard it so many times that, sadly enough, you’ve grown cold to it. But I don’t know that it’s my job to make the truth new, so much as to remind you of it, so apart from a few new angles, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

As the third part in a series on God’s love, I thought I might quickly summarize. First, we talked about how God has shown His love for us in giving the law. He illustrated God’s love using his own fatherhood as an example. We saw that like a good father sets rules in place for my child for his protection and well being, that he might enjoy life within the boundaries that it was meant to be enjoyed, God did the same in his law. Next, we were spoken to about God’s love expressed through the prophets. We saw how again and again God’s people have played the prostitute, leaving our groom to chase after our lusts, and yet we saw how God has been faithful, working continually to call us back unto Himself.

Tonight as I speak to you, I hope along with Paul in Ephesians 3:14; “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” And in light of that, let me add — if you think you’ve got a grip on this “love that surpasses knowledge”, you REALLY haven’t yet even begun to understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Man, I do love Louie!  His preaching is passionate, God-centered, & Biblically solid, and his vision is HUGE!  For those of you who agree, I really do suggest watching this official video from the Buckhead (Northpoint) Church blog.  May God inspire you to deeper faith (and acts of faith) as watching this did in me!

Before I post my final review, I’d love to point out a few of my friend’s takes on the event:
Nate Fancher on REDISCOVERING THE PSALMS
Brad Loser’s WORSHIPGOD08 DEBRIEF
and conference host/speaker/dude, Bob Kauflin’s overviews of Craig & Thabiti’s talks, and Mark & David’s.
I think you’ll find we were in significant agreement about the conference.

If the other electives available were even half as helpful/enjoyable/awesome as those I signed up for, then this may have been the greatest conference in history.

My first elective was THE TASK OF THE WORSHIP LEADER led by none other that Bob Kauflin himself.  And our task?  To be diligent in connecting individuals, where they are, to WHO HE IS, not to encourage people’s faith to be placed in a song, an emotion, or even a worship leader, but in Christ, as revealed in His Word.  He encouraged all of us worship leaders to:
1.) value the content of a worship song more than it’s hook,
2.) adjust our arrangements & volumes to serve & showcase the lyrical content of worship songs, &
3.) use instrumental solos wisely, in order to be careful to not turn ‘worship’ into mere performance.
 
Yes – it was challenging AND convicting.  His closing statement challenged us to “never settle for having a good meeting”, because meeting with God should be far more than that.  Amen.

My second elective was WRITING SONGS PEOPLE WILL WANT TO SING by Craig Dunnagan.  Craig is an old friend of our Worship Director, Fred McKinnon, and I can see why – they have historically shared a common vision, and interests.  This was, according to Craig, the first time he’s taught specifically on this issue – I wouldn’t have known.  He shared on the priestly, pastoral, and practical heart of Psalmists, told fascinating stories about other songs & artists we’re all familiar with, and best of all encouraged us in writing corporate worship songs that are both theologically correct AND accessible.  My favorite quote from his session: “a great worship song sounds like ANYBODY COULD have written it, but only one person DID.”  O, Holy Spirit, birth at least one of those songs in me.

Next I sat in on a mass guitar lesson with Drew Shirley of Switchfoot, who is a member at a Sovereign Grace church in Cali.  He was humble, approachable, and hardly – if it weren’t for his clothes – would strike you as a rock-star at all.  Sadly, he had JUST arrived as the session began, and was a bit scattered, actually hooking up equipment WHILE teaching.  He gave some fairly simple tips, likely more helpful to the beginning guitarist than the more experienced.  I, personally, was far more blessed by his presence and his heart than by his actual lessons.  That says a lot, I think.  

Next was the most horrifying session of the whole conference: the SONG EVALUATION led by experienced successful worship songwriter, Mark Altrogge.  I entered the room to see my own song, All in All, front & center, loaded up in iTunes and projected onto the screen in the front of the whole room, which was A PACKED HOUSE! Ack!  Even with Brad & Lowell behind me cheering me on, I felt my stomach in my throat, expected it to be shredded.  Thankfully, it wasn’t – in fact, the critique was overall very positive.  Whew!

Sadly, I only attended the first part of Todd Twining’s excellent VOCAL BLENDING elective.  The content was fabulous, but I couldn’t stay awake – coffee couldn’t do a thing…I simply needed a nap.  That said, I stayed for 3/4s of the session, and took a lot home, but it would be hard to share in a blog – very practical stuff.

Lastly, the only session I found somewhat disappointing was TRAINING UP THE NEXT GENERATION OF WORSHIP LEADERS.  I suspect that was because it really was different than I suspected, and they were following so many days of great material.  One thing that struck me was something they said that echoed one of my own beliefs: “encourage all guitarist TO SING”, that way they not only are able to demonstrate worship on stage, but they are able to engage with God through the content and not simply perform, which is the temptation.

Overall, they were some excellent sessions.  Honestly, I’d love to attend another Sovereign Grace conference someday.  Kudos to them for making this one so impactful.

I present to you… my first worship confessional… well, actually my second.  I deleted the whole first draft.  I came across as an arrogant, self-centered idiot in it, which rendered me entirely incapable of editing it in iMovie.  This one is better, but still I wonder – will anyone want to watch a 13 minute worship confessional?  I can taste the sinking blog stats now…

By the way, in order to participate in Fred’s ‘Sunday Set-Lists’, the set-list for Sunday was:

WALK IN: Tell the World – Hillsong United
1.  My Savior Lives – New Life Church/Desperation Band
2.  Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall
3.  Lead me to the Cross – Hillsong United
4.  How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin (w/ How Great Thou Art)
CLOSING: Hosanna – Hillsong United 

Now, I’ll admit right off that though I’ve gotten a great deal out of his blog, and have also profited greatly from reading his books, I’ve never found Mark Dever to be a very engaging speaker.  Add to that the fact that he was given the monumental task of showing how the Psalms related to Jesus in “GLORIFYING CHRIST WITH THE PSALMIST“, I’m sad to admit that this was the session I got the least out of.  It was much closer to an “introductory overview” than a sermon, and was almost more content than I could take in during a session.  I did find one reminder encouraging, and that is that the example that the Psalms give of simultaneously acknowleging our sadness in the midst of times of suffering, while showing us how to remember God’s past goodness, and resting in the work he has done in the saints who have come before us.

David Powlison, who spoke on “ENDURING TRIALS WITH THE PSALMIST”, was almost the opposite.  I have read Powlison twice now – first, one of his own books, which I gave away before I was finished, and second in a chapter in “Suffering & the Sovereignty of God“: his is the only chapter I take exception to, in what is otherwise one of my favorite books of all-time.  That’s just to say, I was primed for disappointment.  I was wrong.  Powlison is a compassionate communicator, and easy to follow, and I took so many notes that it would be very hard to cover them all.  His teaching was laced with gems, as he taught through Psalm 28, eventually bringing three very helpful applications for us as worship leaders:
1.)  Remember the Minor Key
2.)  Slower tempos allow time to process
3.)  Allow for silence – a time for rest

The final main session I missed in order to catch my flight on time, sadly.  It was given by Bob Kauflin, and given my experience listening to him on other occasions during this conference, I have no doubt it was powerful.  My wife heard some of it online and said to me, “Who is this guy?!  He’s GREAT!”  I love the fact that Bob would most certainly take issue with that, pointing the glory back to God and saying “HE IS GREAT!

In review of the main sessions, of those I attended, be sure to not miss KNOWING GOD…, EXPRESSING EMOTION…, & ENDURING TRIALS.

Next, the electives…

One thing that made Worship God ’08 unique from many worship conferences is the content of the main sessions.  Apart from the fact that the Psalms are the Old Testament hymn-book, none of the sessions were necessarily directly related to worship as it is commonly understood: corporate singing.  Likewise, only one of the sessions was taught by an individual others would consider a “worship leader”, and that was Bob Kauflin, the organizer of the whole event.  Instead, the speakers were  primarily Bible teachers, Pastors, & even Seminary professors, all of whom were solidly evangelical, and who took their time applying serious scholarship to the text before reaching into the various areas of application.  It was like a 4 day seminary for worship pastors, and much akin to drinking from a fire hydrant.  In fact, I will likely be going over my notes for several weeks in order to process it all.

The Wednesday night main session was KNOWING GOD WITH THE PSALMIST by Craig Cabaniss, a pastor in Frisco, TX.  “Where do we get our ideas about God?” Craig asked at the outset, noting that “…our perception of God will shape our response to God.”  Focusing his attention on Psalm 33, he drew attention to the WHY of worship, and challenged us to “…respond to GOD, who He IS and what He has DONE, and not to whether or not we are familiar with or like a song“.  Craig taught with great passion, and began the conference on the right step.

Thursday morning’s session was EXPRESSING EMOTION WITH THE PSALMIST by Thabiti Anyabwile, a jovial yet passionate pastor currently serving in the Grand Camman Islands, and the author of the excellent new book “What is a Healthy Church Member?” in the IX Marks series.  Taking apart Psalm 73, and teaching through it piece by piece, Thabiti pointed out that “…we as humans are terrible at predicting the source of joy…“, later adding that all “man-centered emotions ultimately lead to despair“.  The 73rd Psalm, it turns out, is a helpful reminder that believers may be experiencing a wide range of emotions.  Thabiti challenged us “too often we lead from ‘happy’ to ‘great joy’“, not addressing the fact that much of our congregation are simply not there.  Emotions are real, and important, but we – as pastors and worship leaders – need to address our congregations, and lead worship, in a way that directs our emotions God-ward, and guides and trains people’s hearts to respond to the right things.  Emotions for emotions’ sake will lead to despair, but “when I see Him, I will be satisfied“.  I found Thabiti’s applications particularly helpful, as he encouraged us to:
1.) Avoid shallow ways of triggering emotions
2.) Address the full range of emotions in our corporate worship
3.) Teach about and address suffereing
4.) Help our people see God in  way that draws them from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

In many ways what I drew from these first two main sessions is quite similar: to lead passionately, doing all I can to put together worship sets, and lead in a way, that meets our people where they are, and merely where I think they should be.  I was also challenged to better address our congregation in a way that leads them to see God, and aspects of God, and leading songs that give them an opportunity to respond to revelation genuinely, rather than merely encouraging emotion and excitement for the sake of emotion itself.  Though it may be exciting for me to see a whole room ‘stirred up’, doing so when the emotion isn’t genuine may actually be training our people to lead the ‘train by the caboose’ to use the old Campus Crusade for Christ illustration of FACT (the engine), FAITH (the cars), & FEELING (caboose).  These were helpful reminders, indeed.

Next up, Mark Dever, & David Powlison’s main sessions…

At the very outset of the conference Bob Kauflin noted that there were, usually, two different sorts of conferences, as far as worship goes.  There were those where the worship teams pulled together sets of all the most popular, and familiar new tunes, which everyone would be familiar with, or there was THIS CONFERENCE, where they would predominantly do all brand-new, original music, so we’d have fresh, new, Scripture-drench songs to bring back to our own congregations.  In all honesty, given that the great majority of those in attendance were worship leaders themselves, we grabbed hold of even the entirely unfamiliar songs and sang them with every ounce we had within us.  I must say, it was very refreshing to be in a room full to the brim of folks who’s hearts were just overflowing with passion for God every time the corporate singing began.

Though I’ve not yet grown familiar enough with these songs to know which one’s I will choose to introduce in the various corporate worship environments that I’m blessed to lead in, here are a number of the new songs we sang this weekend that have at least become a part of my personal worship time:


From the brand-new Sovereign Grace Music c.d. “Psalms” (you can listen to these songs at this link) these songs really moved me:
“Praise the Lord”, “God Shall Arise”, & “Blessed be the One”.

From the NA Band release “Looked Upon” I was really touched by:
“God over All”, & “Nail My Glory”.  I must say that I am VERY interested in seeing Devon & Jordan Kauflin continue on as songwriters.

And lastly, from Pat & Joel Sczebel’s independently recorded “You and You Alone“:
“Trust in You”, & “You are Good”.  I’ll admit it, these recordings could be better, but those are two POWERFUL songs, and seeing them lead (with Pat’s other son, Joel’s brother, Josh) brought tears to my eyes, not only because they demonstrated how music can be both simple and excellent, but also thinking of my own two sons, and looking towards the future, and what a blessing it would be to have my boys writing, recording, and leading worship with me one day.

More reporting on the actual sessions still to come…

Though I did indeed miss my lovely wife and family, I am in a bit of conference withdrawal!

Anyone who’s been following me on Twitter, BeenUp2, or Facebook is likely well aware that I have been in Gaithersburg, MD at the Worship God ’08 Conference hosted by Covenant Life Church/Sovereign Grace Ministries, and what an experience it has been so far!

I’ve been blessed to hook up face-to-face and get to know some fellow TheWorshipCommunity members, like Brad & Lowell from Clear Creek Community Church (who have taken me in like a member of their own church family), and other gifted and friendly worship leaders like Nate from Grace Church in Chapel Hill, Tim & Joel from Mars Hill Seattle, and Ryan & Jonathan from West Coast Revival, as well as the whole Sovereign Grace Music crew, who are incredibly friendly (when Bob Kauflin glanced at my name-tag and recognized my name he proclaimed “I AM SO GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT!” then gave me a monster bear-hug… that definitely made me feel more than welcome).

One thing that really stands out about this conference is that, in spite of the foremention list of folks, this has really been a conference for the ‘average’ worship leader: very little ‘flash & bang’ or big production.  Worship has been led by real worship teams that lead on Sundays at various churches, leading mostly original songs written in-house at their specific church.  We’ve also been exposed to a WIDE variety of musical forms: bluegrass, jazz, rock, gospel, and combinations I don’t dare label, but which worked wonderfully (one team consisted of a Coldplay-esque rock worship band, accompanied by a violin & viola, drum-loops, record scratching, a black gospel singer, and a soulful blue harmonica player – oh, and they led almost soley old hymns… and for some reason, it wasn’t even that weird, in the moment).

I’ve got a great deal of content to share, but that will have to come later.  Needless to say, this conference has already been of great benefit to me, and I encourage any who have a chance to go in the future to do so.  More to come…

SOLD OUT

July 27, 2008

Haven’t blogged much this last week.  I’m trying to emotionally, intellectually & spiritually make the transition from my stable 8 to 5 week sitting in an office (ie – answering phone calls, counting large sums of money, transcribing minutes from various meetings, & mailing out fund-raising letters) & being confident that my bills will be paid from this week to next, to scheduling important future-shaping (mine & my families, and hopefully OTHERS as well… I’m trusting the impact will be that far reaching) meetings, and trusting that God can indeed work in and through our passions to accomplish awesome things, all while providing for our needs as well!  I can say this much for sure: I am beginning to truly feel ALIVE again!  Apart from developing a vision for the business/ministry I am founding, I’ve spent most of this week mixing down Saint Lewis‘ debut worship e.p., & either leading worship, preparing to lead worship, or rehearsing future musicians to help lead worship for; the Gathering Place, Team Effort, Inside Out/Rush Hour, & St. Simons Community Church.  Walking in your passions & giftings sure feels INCREDIBLE.  It’s been too long coming.

So, I ask myself… why have I put this off so long?  Why do I so seek comfort, without risk – without steps of courage?  I admit it: I am – I have been – afraid.  Today, however, I choose to walk in FAITH… sold out … committed to Him.  It feels great, and somehow even more secure than ever…

Thank You, God!

Amen…

Hold on… I’m throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at you today!

I’m cleaning off my old office computer, here are all the most interesting links I’d forgotten to share over the past few years…

A NEW SONG FOR THE NATIONS – by Fundamentally Reformed

BECOMING A BETTER WORSHIP SONGWRITER – by Bobby Giles, from the Worship Community

AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB KAUFLIN - from Mars Hill/Resurgence

IMPORTANT VALUES FOR CHRISTIAN ARTISTS – by Andy Farmer by Way of Justin Taylor

A STUDY OF PRAISE & WORSHIP – by William Duane Clark

LEADING IN THE VINEYARD – Vineyard UK

WORSHIP, THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM – John Piper

On that day I married my lovely wife, Cyle Augustas.

I personally think it was a change for the better!

Thank you for marrying me, and changing my life – I love you.

Happy anniversary!

As it won’t be long before this blog moves over to SaintLewisMusic.com (in development), I thought I’d do a quick overview of some of the more popular, and more important blogs I’ve posted here over the past couple of years. Dig around, comment, link, and just have an all-around great time. Unquestionably, my number one blog has consistently been the text of a sermon I preached last year at our Youth Group, Inside Out. It’s called A GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP, which has now been shortened into an article called WORTHY, featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com. More recently, I have added to this ‘series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part 2.

My second most popular post here is related to the first – another message to Inside Out. It’s called THE MEANING OF LIFE, and is a teaching on our created-in-the-image-of-God-ness. Yes, that’s a word – I just said it, so it has to be!

Next in line were a few posts that are also some of my personal favorites. MISSING THE MARK addresses how one’s spiritual gifts can change the way in which they fulfill certain ministry responsibilities, in particular how one event re-shaped how I think of my own. LOOKING FOR POTENTIAL is a reminder to keep an open eye for certain signs of giftedness within your circles of ministry, and to encourage those gifts. Lastly, a few posts which, though they are not yet in the ‘top 5′ as far as popularity goes, mean a great deal to me. A FEW LESSONS LEARNED is a collection of things I’ve learned about leading worship over the past few years. DOING WHAT I WAS MADE TO DO is my reflection on a nearly perfect day. Lastly, ON BEING A WORSHIP CRITIC touches upon the temptation to trash those who don’t do it the way we do. In short, we should avoid that temptation. In long…well, you should read the blog! I also did a series on Apologetics as Worship, which began with UNBELIEF: ROADBLOCK TO TRUE WORSHIP. I address the faux CHRISTIAN VS. SECULAR MUSIC distinction, a phrase I find heartbreaking (THAT’S NOT WORSHIP), and EXCELLENCE & CREATIVITY.  Some more recent favorites include WELCOMED INTO HIS JOY, FINDING YOUR VOICE, and THE MAN BORN BLIND: GOD, EVIL & SUFFERING, which seems a very appropriate read, given recent events.

If you’ve missed any of those, be encouraged to play catch up, and jump in on the discussions – comments are still open. Let’s sharpen one another.

So be it!

In all seriousness, it’ s been a strange week. Though I never knew her personally (I had seen her before, but I don’t believe we’d ever met), we had a number of friends in common, and as it has many others, her music moved me deeply. Having followed her battle against cancer this past year or so, it really hit me hard yesterday to learn of the loss of Katie Reider. Apparently, there were many others her life and music touched as well, for it was the highest number of blog readers I’ve had since I started publishing my thoughts online several years ago (on Xanga – does anyone use Xanga anymore?). My prayers go out to her closest friends and family.

On the other side of the coin, I guess you’d call yesterday “bittersweet” – the source of my new-found “fame” (though I hope, in fact, that it expresses God’s fame): I’m excited to announce that my article “WORTHY” is being featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com, an new online Worship ‘magazine’ which facilitates discussion and community among worship leaders & worship musicians who are “in the trenches”, as some have said – those who are leading their congregations in worship in churches around the world every Sunday. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and new friends, during the time that TWC was merely an online forum, and I’m excited to see it grow, and take the obvious next step into a full-blown online publication. I’m also honored to have the featured article this week. Please swing by, read it, and be encouraged to comment!

Lastly, it was a good evening because I can see the release of Saint Lewis’ “Songs from the Hope Farm” e.p. immediately on the horizon. Very late last night my wife & I were putting the finishing touches on one of her originals, and it just excites me to see this small sampler (all of these songs – albeit more professionally mixed versions – will also be featured on our full-length c.d. expected early next year) of original worship material come together, and I’ve been really blessed by the positive feedback we’ve received on many of our songs these past few months. A very limited edition printing of the e.p. will be ready very soon, but until then please stop by our website-in-the-making: Saint Lewis Music.

May God’s blessings be evident, & His Spirit be near…

Today is a sad day for earth, and a happy day for Katie.  Please pray for her family & close friends.  She is indeed a voice that will be missed.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”–these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

- 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Wisdom is knowledge lived out. The last quality of the mature Christian is this: they walk out the fruit of the Spirit – they put into practice the words of Christ – they practice what Jesus preached. When we know God intimately, meeting Him “in the secret place” – when we have that depth of relationship, the natural outworking of that is wisdom: living the life of Christ in a broken world. The mature Christian looks ever more like Christ – his life is conspicuously like Jesus, who was the Word made flesh – wisdom embodied, and lived. Read the rest of this entry »

My Bloody Valentine have reunited, are playing live, and working on releasing another c.d. Though they may not openly recognize God as the source, the depth of creativity with which they work almost single-handedly reshaped the rock scene in the late ’80s & early ’90s. I wonder if they’re up for trying that again? I hope so!

Here’s a sample of them in the ‘olden days':

(originally delivered to WDA campus ministry at the University of Georgia)

“Lucky mud?” Is that all we are? Many of you, as college student, have likely encountered the innumerable unbiblical opinions expressed concerning who we are and what we are doing here. Richard Pratt, in his book Designed for Dignity tells the true story of a young woman who had left her husband and two children for another lover. The lover had recently thrown her out of his place, so alone in a hotel room, despairing the events that had led her to where she now was, she shot herself in the head with a .38 caliber pistol. The note she left on the nightstand simply stated, “Don’t cry for me – I’m not even human anymore. Ironically, just two floors down in that very hotel was a New Age convention. The gunshot couldn’t even be heard above the din of the crowd, who were all chanting, “I am God! …I am God! …I am God!

Sometimes we hear such rhetoric from the very same individual, such as when a non-Christian professor pokes fun of traditional religion and proclaims us masters of our own fate, yet at the same time believes that we are no more than the product of chance and law, so called “lucky mud.”

Even as Christians many of us have accepted the subtle lies of the culture around us, rather than the words of the very God who created us. We believe that we are entirely sovereign over our own destiny. We believe that work is merely a chore to be put up with and is only for the sake of sustenance. We believe that sensuality is the end all of everything, and that a marriage relationship that doesn’t bring us happiness is one to be abandoned, for surely our own happiness is God’s highest priority. In some cases, Christians even believe that we can abandon the Biblical story of Adam and Eve altogether, the very story that serves as a corrective of the many things we tempted to believe concerning who we are and what we are here for, and on which Christ’s very work as our redeemer, the second Adam, stands. Read the rest of this entry »

So far we have looked at four character traits of the ‘Mature’ believer, according to the Word; becoming a ‘self-feeder’, growing to be ‘skilled in the Word’, growing in ‘discernment’, and growing ‘beyond’ the basics. Now we’ll shift over to look at the ‘attitudes’ of a mature believer, or rather, how we are to think about some important Biblical issues.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

- Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3 holds another key to Christian maturity, which I will call “attitude”, or rather the way we think about spiritual things. Earlier on in the book of Philippians Paul has already called us to put on the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5). Part of becoming more like Jesus and growing in maturity involves humbly learning from Him, and learning from others, like Paul, as they learn from him (1 Corinthians 11:1). Here we are hearing from Paul some of the thoughts and attitudes that Christ would have us to learn. As Paul clearly states, Let those of us who are mature think THIS way.” Read the rest of this entry »

What can I say?  I’ve been busy, and many of my favorite worship bloggers have gone post happy, and most of it contains GREAT content!

For instance, Milestone Worship brought us an excellent series called THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF WORSHIP PART 1, PART 2, & PART 3, as well as another thought provoking addition to the SONGWRITING FOR WORSHIP series.

I am an Offering brought us a 2 parter on worship production that I found interesting; THE IMPORTANCE OF A PRODUCER, & PRODUCING FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH.  They also added another post in the PRACTICAL MUSIC THEORY series, which I’ve found very helpful in the past few months.  Lastly, they recently reviewed a book which I am currently reading, and encourage you all to pick up as well: WORSHIP GOD.

Rich Kirkpatrick just added two more to his Worship Mythbusters series, which I read faithfully; THE ROLE OF THE WORSHIP LEADER, & EXPRESSIVENESS IN WORSHIP VERSES LEGALISM.  Both of these really challenged me.

Adrian Warnock posted some interesting content from a multi-part interview with Phatfish’s Nathan Fellingham; THE THEOLOGY OF WORSHIP SONGS, & WRITING SONGS FOR WORSHIP.

And lastly (I warned you that there was a LOT, didn’t I?!), a whole slew of other excellent blogs and resources I’ve come across since my last ‘blog-love’ post:
BETRAYING GOD IN WORSHIP
FREE SOFTWARE FOR SONGWRITERS
A FEW THOUGHTS FOR THE WORSHIP LEADER
MUSICAL QUALITY IN WORSHIP SETTINGS
and an ONLINE SONGWRITING COURSE FROM VINEYARD UK.

That’s about it for now.  I hope these encourage, challenge, and build you up!

So be it!

I first preached the following sermon at a WDA Campus Ministry meeting at the University of Georgia in 2002. I have been hoping to edit it into essay form to blog for some time now. My interest was rekindled after reading Fred’s fascinating blog on Sickness yesterday, hoping to balance some of the other writing I’ve been doing on the subject in my lengthy dialogue with the text of SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD over at my other blog. It is a healthy reminder to myself, and hopefully many others, that all-to-often we ask the wrong questions. I hope this blesses, challenges, and encourages you…

____________________________________________________________

Let me set the stage. You’re in the backyard of a single-story brick home on a hilly eight acres of spring-green grass. One acre is a garden, freshly planted, and needing rain. Downhill, East of the house is a small creek-bed lined with maple, white oak, and buckeye trees that seem to form a wall protecting a patch of newly planted evergreens nearly hidden behind them. All around edge the yard are log fence-posts, with fields of wheat, tobacco, and corn crops on the other side. This particular day was dark, and it looked as though it may storm. In the backyard among all that beauty stood an 8 year-old boy who was lonely, angry, and alienated, and just wanted a friend. He had been teased a lot at school for being weird, and many of his “friends” only kept him around as a scapegoat. Though his parents were not believers, his mom had taken him to Vacation Bible School at a local church to help teach him “right and wrong.” There he learned enough about God to come to the conclusion that it was God who was to blame for all his pain. That day, as a storm was fast approaching, that young boy held a pocketknife to the sky and screamed, “Come down here because I’m going to kill you. He waited around for a few minutes, in tears, and when he decided God wasn’t going to show he returned inside. That day he lost what little faith he might have had and began to live his life as though God did not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

1.

There are days that blow by like wind
– thick wind -
wind heavy with some lovely smell
like honeysuckle or berries in the late Spring.

And it has weight;
– it pushes and pulls,
though fast and still air-ish.
But strong air.

2.

Some days pass by like strong air;
A single man blinks
and he is called Father
and blinking in amazement,
they’ve left home.
Blinking,
his wife lies down and rests,
and he is halved by time’s quick finish.

3.

I have fought against it –
pushing, pulling, tearing at my own,
heaving against the wind as it directs,
shapes, and. . .  comforts?
And it comforts — it even brings comfort,
and I must submit to it;
arms stretched wide and fearful,
eyes closed –
I teeter on the edge of something tall
and I will be fell
and proudly so
into the arms of a strong wind
lifted and tossed about;
child, husband, father, widower, and Christ.
And I will live like strong wind
taking no thought for breathing.

As I’ve written before, I think film is a powerful medium, and we need to think deeply about what films, and what types of film, we take in, as well as be careful to think deeply about what we watch, even discuss it afterwards. As a result of my personal convictions about movie-viewing, my personal taste in movies is quite different than most.

My friend Heather has blogged two very interesting and throught-provoking discussions on movie viewing over at her blog, which I’ve been entirely unsuccessful and keeping myself out of. If you are at all interested in movies, drop by her site and dive on in!

DISCUSSION? (on Horror films)
ANOTHER DISCUSSION (on Chick Flicks)

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