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)

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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!