Tag Archives: worship

Hope & the Youth of Today

This morning my 10 year old daughter had a bit of a melt down because she only got 88% for mathematics on her recent progress report, not a grade, but a progress report. It was strange, because when I was a kid my parents would probably have done a dance if I got an 88% at anything, but for my daughter this was unusually low.

While it may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it was a big deal to her, and thus it also is to me as her father. So we consoled her, we will help her and encourage her and do our best to enable her to reach her full potential, because my wife and I love her more than anything, that’s what parents (should) do.

This was right before I got in the car to head to Dallas where I would be leading worship this morning at The Lord’s Hand & Hearts ministries. It is a homeless outreach that feeds people’s bodies and souls, I have been leading worship there on occasion for a couple of years now. While I was in the car the thought came to me (you can decide how) that what I just experienced is exactly what God experiences with each of us.

When we fall or stumble, when we get trapped by our habitual failings, He doesn’t get mad at us, He loves us and He comforts us. He will be there for us to help us do better in the future. He feels our shame and tells us it will be ok. He has bigger and better things for us to come, if we will trust Him. 

At Solomon’s Porch today (the name for LHH’s Saturday Gathering) the message was delivered not by the pastor, but a group of young volunteers. 5 or 6 of them gave powerful testimonies, thought provoking, inspirational testimonies. Each of them had been through something and with the help of Jesus had come out of the other side and were moving in His kingdom to make a difference in the lives of the homeless this morning. It was truly beautiful, heart warming and soul filling.

I see a lot of “older” people (probably my age lol) complaining about millennials and the youth of today. From what I saw today I can assure you there the future is in good hands. Sure there are some less then stella people in that generation, just like every generation that has ever walked the planet. These children of God, just like my daughter this morning, have lessons to teach us all, directly or indirectly,

I’m not sure exactly where I was trying to go with this, I just felt the need to share a morning in the spirit. A light went back on inside me today, just like it did for several of the guests this morning.

Hope is a good thing my friends, hold on to it,

May hope, peace and love light your way today 🙂

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Songs of Praise

I will sing the praises of The Lord at all times

Not just in sunshine and good times

I will praise him when I suffer

For I know He will use it for His glory even though He did not bring it

 

I will cry out to You

Not only in times of anguish but to glorify Your name

To celebrate the victories that you provide

 

The Lord is good

His love endures forever

Thank you Father for Your never ending mercies

Guide me, Mold me

Make me more like Christ everyday

 

Wrangling Time & Making Music

One of the challenges we bloggers face is time, if you stick at it for any length of time, there will come a period when having enough time to write your blog become sparse. That goes for any form of creative expression, unless you are fortunate enough to do it professionally. I have been through one of those seasons recently but fortunately have managed to maintain enough creativity & will to continue to create to at least bring you some poetry fairly regularly. I think that is the key to getting through these seasons, intentionally keeping your desire to create at the forefront of your mind. Then, even if it is not as often as you would like, or the lengthy deep thinking post you were hoping to write, you will still find enough time a few times a week to create something, at least that is how it works for me. This life is amazing when you take the time to look around, inspiration is everywhere, from a warm cup of coffee to a cold rain drop, beauty & creative inspiration is just waiting for you to cease it.

What has been keeping me busy this time? I’m glad you asked J early in the summer my beloved daughter asked me if she could play soccer this fall.  Overjoyed I said yes, this is something I had been hoping for since she was born, but consciously had not pushed the game on her. I wanted her to find her own love for the game, if she were even to like it at all, the last thing I wanted was to be the Dad forcing his kid to play the game he loved. So, to cut a long story short, she is playing soccer now & I am coaching her team. We practice 2 nights a week, those days I don’t take a lunch break to make sure I can leave early enough to get there, then they play their games on a Saturday. To add to that, the itch to put my boots back on has become too strong and so for the first time in 7 years I too am playing soccer, practicing once a week & playing once a week. So, while it is for a good & very enjoyable reason, writing more than a few poems has not been possible recently & will probably remain a struggle until mid-November.

Now for all the Brits who might be upset as me calling the beautiful game soccer, don’t fret, my adopted country has not got to me quite that badly yet 😉 I use the name for ease of translation, but also I know & understand it’s origins. You see, the word soccer does not come from people who refuse to call anything other than the NFL football. Back in England during the mid-1800s when rules were being set for the various codes of football, the 2 most notable games that came out of that were Association Football & Rugby Football. In order to differentiate between these 2 new and popular codes, the terms Soccer taken from AsSOCiation and Rugger from Rugby were coined. Rugby of course down the road split again into Union & League – the proper version 😉 So, now when someone asks you about soccer, you can be assured that it is actually a piece of Victorian English slang & not an offensive American misnomer.

Another down side of being so beautifully busy is that after trying to call myself out to get back into recording music, I have barely had time to do anything with it. Although I did acquire a new acoustic guitar, a PRS (SE) Angelus, which is a beauty of an instrument, I should write a review on it or something soon. I took a couple of vacation days at the start of last week, to rest & unwind, the plan was also to use them to record some music. I made a start, but not much progress, the first day I did nothing, the 2nd day I recorded a scratch track for the next song I will be recording & started to work on the drums. Unfortunately I appear to have never considered how the drums should sound for the track. Between trying to get the tempo right & finding at least a foundation midi file to me to mold I lost a bunch of time & got a headache. Still, it is a beginning & my goal is to have it done by the end of the year. Not exactly a tight deadline, but it is at least realistic! This will be the first song I record with Cubase 7.5, I recently took advantage of a significant sale & upgraded from Cubase Essentials 5 to the full & newest version. The initial impressions are very favorable & I am looking forward to really getting to know it.

Today I had the privilege of leading worship at Solomon’s Porch the weekly homeless ministry put on by  The Lords Hands & Hearts. I didn’t get to do it in September due to my coaching commitments so it was a real pleasure to be there today. I actually met a volunteer there who is a music producer & he invited me to go to his studio sometime to see what we could create together, which I found very exciting (& slightly scary). Unfortunately with everything else that was going on there on the day we forgot to exchange info, still, it was a nice boost that someone like that had good things to say about me. I am sure I’ll see him again soon, I should probably start writing some music, or putting some of these poems I keep writing together into songs, that was always the plan anyway.

So there you have it, I’ve been busy but in a good way, life is going swimmingly & for the first time, maybe ever, I feel like an effective time wrangler, not someone holding onto a piece of driftwood on the ocean of time. It’s almost like the peace of God has filled me up & despite all of the “me” that tries to get in the way, His love and supernatural joy make me realize that “it is well with my soul”.

Be blessed my friends & make time to create, what you have to day. No matter how brief is beautiful and important.

Here’s a video of the aforementioned song that I am working on. I did it in a hurry for you so please excuse the clipping. I wrote this at the beginning of the year. The song is supposed to prompt the listener to ask them self the question of where do you turn when  things are going wrong. I believe having a good answer to this question is the key to a happy life. For me it is Jesus, what is it for you?

The idea for the final sound is to be fairly folksy but more Americana than full on Mumford & Sons. The initial idea for the song came to me while listening to Breathe Me In by Jared & the Mill. I was driving in the car with my family at the time & had that annoying thing of having to try & remember what had just happened in my mind until I got home. Next time I’ll just have my wife write the lyrics down or something lol. I have really been enjoying the recent resurgence in acoustic folk / blue grass type music. This was my attempt to write in that style, I feel that lyrically it is one of the best songs that I have produced.

Here is the Jared & the Mill song for you to enjoy

Music Update

The thought came to me recently that I have not given much of an update on my music recently. My newer readers (welcome & thank you by the way!) may not even be aware of the musical side of my life. From the outside it may appear that there is not much to share but I have actually been really busy musically, just not in the way that I had anticipated when I first wrote about my intention to record some past songs and share them, in addition to writing new music.

shedding while shreddingThat project initially went fairly well, I recorded a few songs, was slowly learning the process (it’s not as easy to do well as it may sound) and enjoyed sharing them on here.  2013 ended with a renewed commitment to learning to play the guitar better. It’s not that I can’t play well already, but there are some musical ideas that I get in my head that are much more in the Vai or Petrucci territory than the blues rock style that I play. If I am ever to realize these ideas, unfortunately I need to study a lot of theory & practice even more. That all came to pretty much a grinding halt in January when I had a great conversation which resulted in me volunteering to lead worship once a month at a Christian homeless ministry.

Leading worship has been an absolute dream come true, in so many ways. The only down side (if you can call it that) is that most of my musical free time has been dedicated to practicing for worship, not recording music. Not really that big of a deal, more on that later. As I wrote in my first post I was incredibly nervous when I first lead worship. Since then the nerves have gone away and I have slowly been finding my voice and comfort zone.

I hear music well enough to know that I don’t sound bad, I can hear that I am playing and singing mostly in tune yet it is feedback from others that really lets you know if you are doing ok. I have done it 5 times now and every time I have had nothing but positive feedback. It is really, really cool when after leading worship someone tells you they felts the presence of God during worship. One person told me that she felt I should be writing my own worship songs, something I have a great desire to do, yet somehow it has not quite happened yet (I am assuming this is His timing, not mine). I say it has not happened, I do have 1 actual worship song in the works and several songs that while not what you would call corporate worship songs are songs that are directly inspired by my relationship with Jesus & what He has done in my life.

I am not sure exactly where (if anywhere) leading worship will go, it is my intention to enjoy doing it for a good while though. Not only do I get to use my gifts to honor Jesus & hopefully lead others into a worshipful experience. It is also great therapy, the fears that I had of musical rejection are slowly dissipating and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It can be very intense at times, I’ve found myself shaking afterwards, not from nerves but from what I believe is a real connection with the spirit in the moment, I guess it could just be adrenaline but if it is it is unlike anything else that I have felt before.

The slight regret currently with my music is that it is still a very solitary adventure. Don’t get me wrong, great music, music with real emotion, can be made on your own. It certainly doesn’t take a full band to lead people into worship either; I really enjoy doing it on my own. However music is just better when it is a social event, it would be very exciting to get to lead worship with a band one day, with vocal harmonies an option. What I am going to do about this I have no idea. I have no desire to join a band and play bars etc, and as comfortable as I am getting, I don’t feel anywhere close to confident enough to want to try at my church. The band there is made up of professional musicians, great people, but slightly intimidating, besides, the band is full and they have a network of incredibly talented musicians to fill in for vacations already. Maybe I’ll look at having someone join me every now and then while leading worship at Solomon’s Porch.

Outside of worship it would be fun to make original music with people again. Somehow I need to find some folks who want to meet up only when it’s convenient & make original music together, simply for the pleasure of making music. Why do people always want to turn music into a second job or some commercial adventure? I mean, if someone wants to pay me to make music, I’ll let them, but that will never be why I make music. It is an expression of the soul and even more so, when done right, it is an expression of absolute love & worship to the Father.

As far as recording goes, I have recently been working on 1 song which is as close to being done as I am willing to spend the effort on getting it. It is a song I wrote way back in 1995 when I had been playing guitar for just over a year. The challenge I am having with it is do I want to share it on here or not. The original idea was to share everything, just because. However, while it is as good as I can get it, it’s just not very good, so do I share it anyway? Musically and lyrically it is coming from another place than where I am now, do I want to share that? I don’t know.

I probably shouldn’t care, I should just share it as part of the very slow documentary of me learning to record music, even music that oddly enough I don’t like anymore. I do remember being very proud of it when I wrote it.  I suppose letting my light shine should not just be when I feel I have something good to shine, if I am to encourage others to let their light shine, I should probably share when I make something that is more meh than awesome, in a way that might send a better message than only releasing things I think are really good. I still don’t know.

My next recording project after that song will be a song I wrote at the end of last year, this song I love, it is probably my favorite of any song that I have written. I am toying with the idea of documenting the whole recording process. Maybe that will help me to do it quicker than just messing with bits here and there. Maybe I could get tips while doing it.

As for the actual process of recording, for now the 2 real struggles I have when recording are the drum tracks & vocal Eq. As a guitar player my knowledge and understanding of drums, tempo and structure is just not very good. It is a common guitarist problem unfortunately, we are usually off in our own little world playing by feel instead of rules J It should be easy, it’s not like I am actually playing the drums, I am just selecting the drums set, mixing & panning & then picking the best midi loop from the ezdrummer selection. I suppose I could learn how to actually program the midi well myself so that the struggle to find a part that fits would be easier. I always seem to get close enough (maybe with a little modifying), it just takes ages. Unfortunately the drums are the first thing you need to do with a track & the process is a real momentum killer for me at the moment.

As far as EQ’ing my vocals, it is hard for me to get them to sound the way I think they should. The challenge I have too is that I don’t know what is lack of doing it right verses equipment limitations verses that’s just that way I sound & I need to get over it.

So that’s the year in music so far, I’ve bought some new music to listen to and also, attended a couple of concerts that I failed to write about; The Hendrix Experience was guitar nirvana & Jesus Culture was one of the most powerful evenings of worship that I’ll probably ever be part of. I need to get back to writing about music more often; somehow it keeps me more focused on my favorite pastime.

Worship leader?

You know how it happens, you ask a question, you have a brief conversation and before you know it, you’ve volunteered to do something completely out of your comfort zone. Well that’s what happened the 2nd Saturday in January when I was helping out at the Solomon’s Porch homeless ministry. There were a couple of really cool songs they played over the PA that I wanted to know the names of so I could learn them for my own entertainment. Somehow that conversation led to me volunteering to lead worship at some point in the future. Now I could be all coy and pretend that this outcome was a complete surprise to me, but if I’m honest I knew that the conversation I was having was going to end this way. Sometimes as a believer you just know things are going to happen in a certain way, usually because God has told you. Fortunately the idea of doing this had been in my mind and on my heart for a while, probably a year or so. God’s timing was just right though and so in the healthiest period of my life came the time to do something completely out of my comfort zone.

Previously when I had considered being involved in worship music with an audience, the idea was only ever to be playing guitar. I’ve said previously on here that one of my great regrets was never having played in a band publically. However, in that I have no great desire for a 2nd job (try finding a good band that doesn’t want to turn it into that), or to spend my weekends in bars anymore, I figured that worship might be the best / only way that I’ll ever get to scratch that itch. So my idea was, one day I’ll grab onto my Stratocaster and play in a band while someone else sings, hopefully get the chance to play a bluesy solo or something. That was my idea, nothing grand or anything, but that was it. However it seems that my idea was not THE idea, not God’s plan.

One of the great things about publically sharing my attempts at learning to record music is that it has helped me, somewhat, with my alarming lack of confidence with my singing voice. As I’ve started to sing more, I’ve started to find my voice, that might sound strange but previously I always found myself doing an impersonation of someone else when I sing. When I sing today, unless I’m doing it on purpose, I sing with my voice, using my voice more has opened up my range more too, it turns out I can actually sing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to quit my day job, but I can hold a tune which is kind of cool.

So on to THE plan J Saturday March 8th, the day I made my debut as a worship leader, just me and an acoustic guitar. Not so sure I’m comfortable calling myself that, but that is what I did that morning. It was a strange experience leading up to this moment. This is something that has been in my heart, something I have talked to God about, something that I know He wanted me to do, I knew that in my heart and in my head. However despite knowing that God does not give us a spirit of fear, I have had a heck of a time sleeping this week, nervous, anxious, excited, a mix of all of them. Friday morning struck with the whole “what am I even hoping to accomplish with this” attack from the enemy. Which while discouraging, what really a valid question, why was I going to do this? The voice within, the counsellor spoke to me and it all made sense. For all that God has done for me in my life over the last 10 years, what more fitting of a sacrifice could I offer to Him, to show that I truly trust Him, than to publically sacrifice my fears. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear in general. This was not about me, this was about telling my Father that I truly trust Him. In the process, hopefully I could give some people an enjoyable time with some live worship music and help to set the atmosphere of worship to help people allow God to do the work on He can in their hearts.

We got to Solomon’s Porch at around 0830, the first thing that struck me was the amount of volunteers there. God bless spring break, all told there had to be over 70 people there to help, I’ve been there when there were maybe 25 or 20, it was amazing to see so many people wanting to love those less fortunate than them. There was a youth group from a church in Texarkana there whose pastor and their worship leader spoke some wonderfully encouraging words to me and prayed with for me before I went out to play. It never ceases to amaze me how God will place just the right people in your life at just the right time, these wonderfully genuine, new friends were just what I needed at that moment.

And then, it was time. There was no turning back, no running away, I had to trust God and go do what He had called me to do. The truth is I was shaking a little at first, my voice was a little quite at first & thank God for not only His amazing grace, but the wonderfully familiar song amazing grace. I opened with that song for no other reason that it is so comfortable to play and sing.

Funny thing with the set list, when I first agreed to do this, the thought was to play 3 or 4 songs right before the sermon. Usually they have breakfast and then the clothes ministry, bible study follows that right before “church” then they wrap up with lunch. When I emailed to confirm this week I was asked if I wanted to play for about an extra 45 minutes prior to the bible study time as well as lead worship. It’s a good thing I had been playing more than the 4 songs I had on my heart for the “worship” time. So in a mass panic of extra practice this last week I showed up ready to play up to 13 songs, some more polished than other but pretty confident in all of them.

When I got there and saw the army of volunteers, I also discovered there were some folks there who were also ready to sing. Their loving respect for the work I had put in was awesome, so we decided that I would play the time prior to the bible study and one song during “church” time before handing it over to their team who would be giving most of the service anyway. (I put church in “” as in truth, the whole time is church. It is a gathering of God’s people doing God’s work, it is Jesus in action, it doesn’t get more church than that, but to specifically point out the Mercy Seat Church part of the ministry, I figured that would work).

So I started to sing and play & you know what? I wasn’t terrible, I got over my nerves and by the end of it I had really enjoyed myself. There were moments when I was just lost in the music, playing for an audience of one & I think it showed. Some of my friends who were there to serve didn’t know I was going to be signing (I had kept it quiet, not wanting to make a big deal out of it, silly really), they all had wonderfully nice things to say to me afterwards, in fact everyone did, it was just really nice. I’m still not about to quit my day job 😉 but I will be singing the praises of the living God in south central Dallas on the second Saturday of the month for the foreseeable future. And so the journey continues, my wonderful walk with my redeeming Father. Thank you Jesus, thank you for it all.

 

Apparently this is my worship face  🙂

worship face 2

 

These are the songs I played.

 

Amazing Grace, my chains are gone

You Never Let go

Furious

Beautiful Things

This is Amazing Grace

My Redeemer Lives

Christ is Risen

How He Loves Us

 

10,000 Reasons

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