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

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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…

So I don’t forget to let you know, my talented bro-n-law has released a c.d. The official release is this Friday. It should really be incredible, and better yet, it’s free. On top of that, my band is opening, and debuting some brand new material. Doors open at 7:30 PM. We do hope to see you there!

In case you didn’t know about this, if you haven’t followed their career very well, it’s worth checking out:

Honestly, production-wise their earlier work doesn’t have the ‘teeth’ I wish it did, in hind-sight – I actually prefer live versions of many of those songs off of their debut. And yes, if you have at any time in your life been a Jars of Clay fan, the consistent quality of their output means that there are surely fan favorites that are not included (I’m still in shock that the songs “Good Monsters”, “The Eleventh Hour”, “Collide” aren’t on here). However, if you’re already a bit more familiar with their work, and want a wee bit more ‘bang’ for just a little more ‘buck’, you may want to look here:

No, not ALL of these songs are ‘essential’, but it is a very solid collection.

That’s enough ‘reviews’, though.

I remember the Summer after my Junio year in college when a friend of mine (who was also their good friend – I think he was in the studio at some point with the band for all of their first 3 or 4 cds) pulled out a little demo called “Frail e.p.” and asked us to listen. At the time it didn’t really strike me as fantastic – we had been working in the studio on our first c.d., so we were feeling pretty over-confident about ourselves – but they were a good band, and pursuing some of the same ‘edge’ that my band at the time, Set on Edge, were toying with. We (both bands) were still playing coffee-house style venus (shortly there-after we would move up to ‘bars’ – they would move up to ‘stadiums’), so we talked on numerous occasions about doing shows together. In fact, at one point our drummer told them they might consider “opening for us sometime”. In hindsight, that’s quite funny. Through a strange set of circumstances involving one of the their sisters, two singles on their debut full-length ended up being produced by Adrian Belew, the lead singer and one of the guitarists of King Crimson, from whom – oddly enough – I had purchased an electric guitar just a couple years before (he lived in Cincinnati at the time). Belew’s touch took Jars of Clay’s sound into top 40 land, and one moment we were making phone calls to still try to finalize pulling together an elusive gig together, the next minute Jars of Clay were the opening act for Sting (you may have heard of him?), and totally in a league of their own.

Since then I’ve bought all of their c.d.’s, and I’m proud to say that they’ve done some really fine work. On occasion I’ve slipped back stage – some of them vaguely remember me. I’m fascinated also by how – in spite of how different our ‘careers’ have been, how our ‘theological journeys’ parallel each other very closely: the signs of that in their songwriting may be one of the reasons I’m still drawn to them, as they always seem to speak to me where I am. As it goes, the world moves on – times change. The largest audience Set on Edge ever had in one room was 3,000, and we only sold a little over 4,000 cd’s in our time – Jars, let’s just say, has done far better.

Sometimes it’s odd to look back over your life – not bad, but most definitely odd. That said, pick up one of these two discs. I think you’ll be very glad that you did.

It’s official…I have a new favorite corporate worship song…

“EVERY DAY” from Sovereign Grace Music’s forthcoming c.d. COME WEARY SAINTS

Thing is…there are a few more from that same c.d. competing for the #1 spot!

I’m also LOVING “HEALING IN YOUR WINGS” & “THROUGH THE PRECIOUS BLOOD” – they are tied for a close 2nd…

What fantastic melodies…creative chord progressions…powerful, Biblical lyrics!

I’m a happy man!

What’s also interesting is how closely this c.d. follows the book I’ve been blogging again – SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.  It’s almost as though this c.d. could be it’s soundtrack.  Strange.

Man, what a GREAT last couple weeks for blogging!

First, Sovereign Grace Music has announced their newest c.d., COME WEARY SAINTS.  They’ve put complete audio online to sample, and though it’s quite a bit darker than most of their material (the theme of the c.d. relates to God being sovereign in our adversity), I am particularly excited about the new songs “Every Day” & “You have always been Faithful”.

Milestone Worship has added two more installments in their Songwriting for Worship series: Reci-Tativ & Aria, & The Singability Quotient.

In a similar vein, I was excited to find an entire teaching series on Worship Songwriting from the IWarSchool.  There’s definitely some good stuff there.

Rich Kirkpatrick dispels the common myth that “Worship with hymns is more theologically rich than with modern music” as part of his excellent WORSHIP MYTHBUSTERS series.

Speaking of hymns, Tim Challies reviewed a number of great new resources for those worship leaders looking for a fresh take on hymnody.

And lastly – entirely off the subject of music/corporate worship (though the author of this blog is an EXCELLENT songwriter, himself) – Stephen Altrogge posted a very convicting blog called WHAT ARE WE REALLY TALKING ABOUT? – it’s all about calling sin ‘sin’, and not candy coating it and making it sound acceptable.  Good stuff.

Amen.

Friday Blog Love

February 22, 2008

Happy Friday! Just thought I’d spread some blog-love around before the weekend.

My friend (and one of my ‘bosses’, though that sounds so harsh & authoritarian), Fred McKinnon, has posted a pic of our new auditorium. It doesn’t represent the full room, but you can get a feel for it. I’m EXCITED!

I just discovered a very cool older post over at Fundamentally Reformed called THE RISE OF THE MODERN HYMN MOVEMENT, as well as a newer follow up post; MODERN HYMN WRITERS. Mandy, you should enjoy this. Being in a songwriting kick, myself, I found it fascinating.

One of my few living heroes, Tim Keller, has finished his new book THE REASON FOR GOD. Along with N.T. Wright‘s SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, this may be one of the best apologetics for the Biblical faith for post-moderns written to date. Good stuff.

Rich Kirkpatrick recently posted a very though provoking blog in his ‘Worship Mythbusters’ series entitled WORSHIP IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT.

I’ll be taking a much-needed blogging break until March 3rd.  Until we meet again!

Amen…and OUT.

Given how many ‘secular’ (I don’t actually BELIEVE in a Christian/Secular distinction, but I sometimes use it for the sake of simplicity) artists I talk about here, you may wonder why I mention them so often on a ‘Worship Blog’. Two words:

1. EXCELLENCE

2. CREATIVITY

God is great. He deserves our best – the ‘first fruit’. That is worship: giving God our best. Worship music – and all music made by Christians, which should be an act of bringing glory to God – should be original, inspiring, and – at least in some sense – cutting edge. This is one of the reasons I have been so convicted as of late to write new songs for worship, and to develop my craft as a writer: God deserves it.

God is also the creator, which is to say, He is the most creative being in the universe. We’re created in His image. Jesus is restoring us to that perfect image of God – our creator God: the creative God. Though there has been great headway made in this are the past few years, it should be the NORM, not the exception, that Christian be leading the pack in making music that is both excellent & creative, rather than creating more mediocre rip-offs of musical genres that are long passe to the culture at large.

Believe it or not, I listen to about 90% music that would be considered ‘Christian’ (as in, the artists either profess faith, and/or are on a ‘Christian label’ – whatever that means, and/or sing songs with messages primarily about Christian things – don’t fool yourself into thinking that all 3 of those must be in place in order for an artist to be labeled ‘Christian’ for marketing purposes, though), most of which is what would be called ‘worship music.’ Artists like Matt Redman, Eoghan Heaslip, Steve Jones, Jeremy Riddle, & the Sovereign Grace team encourage and inspire me: their songs are fresh, Biblical, challenging, and frankly I NEED that – I need to drink from that well. But they have their influences, and I only receive those musical influences distilled – watered-down – when I step into the stream at it’s end. I find it FAR more helpful, and far more challenging for me as a musician and a writer, to wander up-stream to it’s sources.

For instance, if you want to be the next Delirious stop sitting in your room trying to play “My Glorious”, and don’t even bother thinking you’re cutting edge by learning a U2 song – pick up My Bloody Valentine‘s LOVELESS (yes, those are GUITARS). Learn “Only Shallow” or “Loomer”, which inspired U2 to make their classic “Achtung Baby”, which then inspired 1,000s of clones in both Christian and Secular markets, even many ‘worship artists’. Besides, if you can work your effects and manipulate your guitar to sound like My Bloody Valentine, you will have no problems pulling off tunes that could tie Delirious in knots if you worked at it.

Similarly, if you want to explore the dreamier side of Brit-pop as a songwriter or musician, you may want to pick up “Serene Velocity” – an anthology by Stereolab, even though you’ll understand less than half the words (much of it is in France), and what little you’ll understand will primarily be political pro-socialism garbage. Yes, ahh – the music: a blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Chamber Pop, 50’s Lounge, Vintage Electronica, and ‘Krautrock’ – I THINK it fits somewhere in the ‘Rock’ category, but that’s debatable. I personally discovered a few of their early EPs as I was discovering the whole 4AD & Shoegazer music scenes in the 90s, and they had a long-term influence on my use of counter-melody and syncopation in many of my own songs. Here’s a good, balanced compilation of their tunes from the beginning until now. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking to expand your palette, here’s a good place to start.

And please, let’s not be derivative – good music should open our mind to the almost endless possibilities we have as songwriters and musicians…push yourselves. Remember: He deserves our BEST.

So, I’m apparently finding it hard to keep up.

A couple of the Saint Lewis band-members had been nagging me to check out a few new worship artists, saying that they were ‘over Hillsong United’, and were now listening to Planetshakers and Generation Unleashed.  I didn’t think anything of the comment until today I stumbled across both bands on iTunes and thought I’d give them a listen.  WHOAH!  How’d I miss this?

Honestly, I’ve not yet listened all the way through, nor have I inspected their lyrics (I don’t introduce new material that is unScriptural or terribly unbalanced, no matter how good it sounds), however my interest is most definitely peaked.

Here are both bands latest available releases from iTunes.

From what little I’ve heard, I think I like Generation Unleashed better than Planetshakers, but that could easily change.

So, have any of you heard (or heard of) these folks?  What do you know?  What do you think of them?  Why have you been holding out on me?  Please comment this one…

thanks

Last night we played “Alive” by P.O.D.

Aaron ‘rapped’/sang the verses and I sang the choruses.

Given the tiny amount of prep that went into, it REALLY sounded pretty good.

I love our Youth Group.

In other strangeness, I’ve been writing a new Saint Lewis tune, which is almost finished. I re-read the lyrics after returning from INSIDE OUT and realized that they almost exactly parallel last night’s teaching by Jon…confirmation that God is doing something VERY specific among us right now. Good stuff.

Yesterday was one of those ‘highlights’ for me – a day where, from morning till sundown, I felt as though my every step was perfect.

In the morning I went to church and led the Rush Hour (Jr. High Youth Group) band, including a brand new guitarist who had never played with us before (apart from a rehearsal), and it was GREAT. Not only was the worship time intimate – the youth in the room seemed engaged, and during the quiet moments I could hear voices from every corner of the room, but the band sounded great, especially the new guitarist. I love leading worship, but even more-so, I love seeing young musicians ‘get it’, both spiritually and musically. It just lights me up to see a kid step up and DO IT, and do it well, even! It was a good morning.

After church, I spent the afternoon in the studio with my wife singing background vocals for my brother-n-law’s forthcoming c.d. (for whom my wife is the booking agent, so if you’d like him to play somewhere LET ME KNOW). He’s working under the name McKendree Augustas, and the new tunes are sweet. I’m excited to hear the final product, which should be mixed later this week.

Finally, in the evening, I got to open for David Herndon at his c.d. release party. Given the nature of the songs he was playing that night, I decided to be ‘Set on Edge‘ for the evening, instead of ‘Saint Lewis‘. I usually rely upon a group of excellent musicians, but instead focused on spicing up my acoustic parts a bit and did it solo. I not only felt very good about the performance (there was a great audience there – I’d guess 300+ showed), got many compliments, and sold a few cds, but also got in a number of great conversations, and for me those conversations/relationships is what good music really comes down to: a conversation between me, the listener, and God.

Yesterday was one more day that makes me consider doing some really crazy things to enable every day to be like that. The thought of one day leading others in worship, training musicians and worship leaders and seeing them step into their own, writing songs that move people’s hearts and the heart of God, playing live, and recording – well, that just sounds like Heaven on Earth to me and leaves my head spinning.

Yesterday was a good day. 😉

I’ve always enjoyed conferences. I come away from them rested (even apart from getting no sleep, oft-times!), encouraged, challenged, and just plain excited, with a fresh of vision of what I can do and how things can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to take your whole team to a conference? Unfortunately, that’s just plain not feasible, given the complexities of people’s schedules, and financial issues. So a few years back I began putting on my own ‘mini-conferences’ for my youth group musicians, and those interested in one day being on the team, which I call ‘Youth Worship Workshops’. They’ve done well for us, not only in giving the youth a new vision for our team and a new passion for worshiping God, but also as essentially ‘try-outs’ to discover and invest in future talent which will slowly be integrated into, and one day replace, the current team. If you’re a worship leader an interested in doing one at your church, here’s the basics of what we do: Read the rest of this entry »

I’m a strong supporter of independent musicians and songwriters, and though these old friends of mine aren’t quite as ‘independent’ as they were when we first met, I’ve really been listening to them a lot recently and wanted to spread the joy a bit. Read the rest of this entry »

I take great joy in tracking down new worship songs, as it provides for me new opportunities – fresh words – to worship God with privately, and sometimes new tunes to guide our youth upon a path towards seeing God more fully. Here are a few of my more exciting discoveries over the past few months: Read the rest of this entry »

So, here’s the proof. I know I’ve been SAYING that Saint Lewis is recording a c.d. for ages now, but TODAY I HAVE PROOF. Please visit SAINT LEWIS’s myspace page and listen to song #2, a VERY ROUGH, and quite unfinished demo of my original song “You Came Running”. The only thing that we’ll be keeping from this version are some of the acoustic guitars and the drums, but it’s enough to get a sense of the song’s vibe. The vocals, electric, bass, and etc are all ‘scratch’ tracks, but the band will be coming over this next week and putting the finishing touches on this song, and others. So, here I stand – baring it all it it’s rawest form. I pray this song, even as it now is, blesses you. Thanks for listening.

Towards the end of my freshman year in college I went on a retreat with our local Campus Crusade for Christ at Ohio University. That weekend I became friends with Steve Rieske. Read the rest of this entry »

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” —1 Peter 5:5

What a wonderful night! First, God had been convicting a number of us leaders on the importance of humility and unity among our team, and we – in our prayer meeting before INSIDE OUT – leaders began to set forth a vision for the evening: humble dependence, desperate thirst and hunger for God’s Spirit, and repentance. Then we prayed, with the call to not leave the prayer room until we’re really ready. God showed up. Heather, our ‘Vocal Coordinator’, went into much greater detail in her latest blog: Broken Things. I think the key for this night was that ‘worship’ began long before the music or singing – an important lesson for all of us. Read the rest of this entry »

4 A.D.

December 7, 2007

During one of my recent times randomly surfing around iTunes looking for new music (as I am prone to do), I stumbled across an incredible set of compilations from one of my favorite bands in college: Cocteau Twins.

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently was chosen to review a Christmas c.d., but I’ll have to be honest with you: I’m not a really big fan of Christmas music. There are a few artists/albums which I enjoy, such as Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels, Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs, and Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas, but generally I find Christmas music either stale and overused, or just ridiculous and annoying. In light of those critiques, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God become Man – though not a spotless gem – is indeed a breath of fresh air, and has been spinning almost continually since I received it over a week ago. Read the rest of this entry »

I realize that this is a bit late in the game, as this c.d. had come out a couple of months ago, but I can’t pass on commenting on it. Read the rest of this entry »

For those who missed it, please read part 1 first – at least the intro – before diving into this blog. Otherwise, here are 3 more:

The One I LoveREM
Blood & RosesSmithereens
Prayers for Rain
The Cure Read the rest of this entry »

After re-watching the REM video from yesterday’s blog, and due to recently starting to record a new c.d. with my wife as Saint Lewis, it really made me step-back and personally reflect on the songs that have really had a long-term impact on my songwriting Read the rest of this entry »

Sojourn Community Church

Holy smokes, where in the WORLD did THIS Worship c.d. COME FROM? Read the rest of this entry »

I wish I had written this…

September 24, 2007

I do wish that I had written this, not because I agree with every word (though he makes a few good points), but because I’ve passed through this phase and understand where this man is coming from. I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are a great number of folks that feel this way (particularly many men) within our congregations, and we need to keep in mind that this is a segment of the folks we are ministering to as well. So, here you go ‘worship leaders’: I am not in love with Jesus by John Stackhouse.

p.s. – you need to read through the responses as well.

Today I heard Jennifer Nettles’ newest song on the radio while driving in to work. At first I didn’t recognize her voice (she’s the lead vocalist of Sugarland), but was immediately taken with the song. When I heard her name, however, a huge grin came across my face. You see, I remember when Jennifer was one of ‘us’ – not a ‘rock star’, but a struggling musician in the dingy rock-clubs of Athens, GA. At the time I was new to town, and ‘the new guy’ at the Flagpole music journal. There was a c.d. that had just been released that was so terribly un-hip that no one at the Flagpole would touch it with a ten foot pole: Soul Miner’s Daughter “The Sacred & Profane”. The staff there encouraged me to tear it to bits, and sincerely – it was bad. However, in the midst of the average musicianship, mediocre songwriting, revolting sexual imagery, and poor production there was a shimmer of something beautiful: there were moments where the lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, showed a spark of life that suggested something more. Read the rest of this entry »

Jared Wilson over at GospelDrivenChurch has just posted this very interesting interview with Brian Doerksen.  Be encouraged to read it.

As a songwriter I’m influenced by many different things. In fact, as a Christian, often I find myself quite surprised by what I’m drawn to write about, which at times has me second guessing myself. For instance, is it okay for a Christian to write a song about sex, like Vigilantes of Loves’ catchy ditty “Love Cacoon” or the Prayer Chain’s (though it was penned by members of the Choir) intensely moving “Bendy Line”? The mere fact that I linked those two songs will, for some, open a whole bag of worms, though both were written by self-professed Christians, the first by an a former elder at my last church – while he was still an elder there – and the later by one of the producers and writers of a huge amount of the contemporary worship songs we sing today, such as “God of Wonders”, to name only one. Yet, there is an entire book of the Bible on love-making, so it’s not un-Biblical to do so, is it? What about ‘murder’, a topic that Pedro the Lion, at one time one of my favorite bands, has composed multiple records on? Or what of ‘war’? Or, what of the time I was in a more traditional church where there was a reading of Psalm 137, where-in the last line is “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” Is such appropriate content for a Biblical song or movie? If proper context were given, could possibly a ‘corporate worship’ song be written – in good conscience – around such a Scripture? Remember 2 Timothy 3:16: “ALL SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” – if so, can it not also be good for use in worship? Read the rest of this entry »