Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Did you cry?

I found myself this morning thinking through the redemptive work that the Holy Spirit brings about in our hearts and how we can so quickly control and contain it. Without getting all theological about it (I have a friend who would love to "debate" me on this I'm sure) I find it very very easy to stop the Holy Spirit's work in my life. I do this by "hardening my heart" either purposely as a defense mechanism or subtly through something I'm holding onto that drives a wedge between us. This can be something as simple as "I don't want to think about that right now" or complicated like being too busy. Yet ALWAYS - and this is James specific here - certain triggers knock my heart wide open even if only for a second and give God the ability to paint over a blemish or two (or more) before I curl back up and continue on what I was doing.

For you that trigger may be different, but for me that trigger is (surprise, surprise) Music. Not all music mind you, but some music. I'm not so naive or bold as to say that music always has the same effect on everyone, but I believe music does have a strong propensity for that result, especially in the right circumstances. There are a couple of songs particularly that do this to me and one of them I'm singing (God willing) this Sunday. We'll see if I can make it through without tears.

What's funny to me is that most of the time I'm quite emotionally detached. I've had professional training in Emotional Intelligence (I do have a day job) and it's trained me to be pretty aware of how I'm feeling at any given point in time. I observe myself to be sensitive and empathic but I'm not generally sympathetic. In other words, I'll hug you and offer/provide support if you tell my your father died but I probably won't tear up. It probably wont effect my emotional state but it would definitely effect my actions with you. See Empathy - basically things don't generally prompt an emotional response from me but I do perceive and recognize the emotional response of others. In addition to the sadness example, I don't really get angry either.

So it's interesting that, knowing that about myself, I have these triggers that do open me up. And did I mention we're singing one of them Sunday? Will you cry with me?

The significance of this morning and the reason for me thinking through this is that the ministry weighs heavier on us sometimes more then others and one of those times is now (and I'm not even a full timer). I found that when my heart is unguarded and I'm singing at the top of my lungs putting all the invisible weight of what's around me into the sonic pressure produced by air ripping past my vocal chords, I became sympathetic. I cried for a friend.

In a way, and here's my point, that was God telling me that our job as worshipers is to allow Him to change our hearts and to prepare ourselves for the change that will bring about in our person, albeit usually we limit that to a temporarily situation. I don't think I'll suddenly be a sympathetic gushy person and cry during Titanic but I do think the Holy Spirit rearranged some things and that we got so close that I felt God grieve over something. It was music that unlocked this and while I won't say that every shiver during a building chorus is from him, I also refuse to say it isn't.

What's your trigger? And do you think that you should spend more time around it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Southern California

My heart and prayers go out to all the residents of Southern California during the wildfires.

I was actually down in San Diego on Monday, I hadn't heard yet about the wildfires and had been scheduled on an o-dark-thirty flight from Seattle to San Diego. I sat in an isle seat on a mostly empty flight (it's usually mostly empty at that hour outside the summer months) and didn't look out the window much. When I did it I thought the thick blanket of smoke was the typical morning marine-layer that can cloud up San Diego in the morning. It would have been terribly nice had the unnamed airline I was flying on thought to warn everyone "You know, you're flying into a disaster zone right???"

Anyway, I learned the state of affairs quickly once on the ground and began the process to make my way home. I had a ton of work to do and didn't think to snap any pictures from my cell but I can say that the blanket of smoke was tremendous. Even as far south-east as the airport is from the witch fire (the largest). It was difficult to see the downtown buildings from the airport and normally visible distant hills were nothing but a gray mass.

I know quite a few people down there none of whom have thus far lost their homes but many others have. You're all in my prayers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Good little read

For those interested in doing more digital sound production. Musician's Friend ran a pretty basic but good article on recording... See it here.

In the news

Line 6 unveils the new Pod X3 Live. At first glance of the features, it sports a bigger screen and more buttons, enabling it to be even more confusing on stage, as well as external routing options. I joke but it looks interesting. If you don't have a pod and are considering one, it might be worth looking at, but I'm skeptical of it being much more then brushed aluminum, "race car inspired looks" (as compared to the Pod XT Live). The bigger screen would actually be nice, more then once I've looked down, perplexed at what I'm seeing on the tiny screen of my XT Live. The routing controls I don't know about. I use some routing tricks in my current setup, but it's all inbound and the pod is in the mix on only one "side" of the rig.

So this gives me a chance to digress into guitar setups. I use a Taylor T5 routed into a Radial Engineering Switchbone. The switchbone has three outputs, one for a tuner, and two "sides" where the signal can be switched between or optionally sent out both. I've been happy with this setup for a worship setting because it allows me to switch between acoustic and electric sounds very quickly, without the need to change guitars. This REALLY helps transitions and lets us get a little more "free" with the types of songs we want to play for a given week. On the Electric side I route the signal sometimes through a Radial Engineering Tonebone (tube dist) but to simplify an already easy-to-poke-fun-at pedal setup I usually go straight into a Line6 Pod XT Live. On the acoustic side I go out into a Line 6 Echo Park before hitting a tube preamp and into the PA. The Pod XT is big so combined with the other pedals it can look like a huge pedal board but it's really not. I often run both sides simultaneously with some soft chorus-ey clean electric sound on a stereo delay then a straight acoustic for punch. (try this on Majesty by Delirious, it sounds awesome)

This may sound complex and while it's not a "simple" setup, it's actually not that difficult to deal with. There's no WAY I'd add anything to it (and I've been tempted) because it's just enough to be flexible without getting in the way when I need it most. Bottom line, stay away from TMP syndrome (too many pedals) because you'll find yourself focusing on stepping on 15 different buttons between songs and drawing people's attention to yourself. Try and stay out of their way. I'll admit, this is easier to do when using a modeling board like the X3 or XT or whatever because you can pre-program your settings during the week then make minor tweaks when you hear it through the PA. And lastly, anything your setup can do to help you with transitions will be worth its weight!!! Seriously, I feel so much better after a Sunday that has had good transitions and kept people's attention on worship rather then what I'm stepping on.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Modern worship

I've come to a realization over the last couple of days that there is a gaping hole in the current landscape of artists pelting us with Christ-centered material... Very little of it is applicable for corporate worship. Ok enough big words, what I mean is that as a Worship leader (who considers himself to be more progressive and "modern/alt-rock'ish" in nature) theres a pathetic selection of music out there relative to other sub-genres in the big bucket of "Christian music". I think the space is smaller then most worship leaders realize and is dominated by a couple of bands.

To clarify, the space I'm referring to is the modern alt/punk/rock genre that people predominately between the ages of 15 and 25 listen to (almost exclusively) and adventurous 30+ year olds get excited to hear without calling it their favorite type of music. Saying alt-rock or punk may conjure images of fast moving guitars, etc but it can be slower and still have that same feel so I'm not scoping my observation by tempo. My observation as of late has been that there are very-very-very few songs in this space that can really be used as "worship" material. I listen to my 16 year old sister listen to music and there's some great stuff but it's all abstract and story like and not really singable in a worship service. I love it and find myself wishing I could do that one so I give it another listen then realize that no, it's great music but won't work come Sunday.

I should back up further too and say that my criteria for considering something for a typical Sunday is that it must lead people quickly and directly to worship. I've found in my own experience that if people are sitting there trying to find meaning and relation to an inspiring story-song then their attention drifts to their own relation to the song and away from God. That or 50% of the people get it, think it's cool but don't really sing it, and the other 50% of the group thinks "Dang my coffee's empty and I don't really get this song anyways". In other words unless it's clearly about/to/for God and easily singable (not 127 miles per hour) then it really just gets in the way and directs attention to the worship team instead of where it should be. It becomes a concert. I'll still do these songs from time to time but only if there's a purpose. Then it's usually the last song that ties in with a specific message. At that point I'm acknowledging that we're bringing people from a direct worship to a more thoughtful contemplative transition, blah blah blah, anyway...

So back to the point... We're lacking a lot of material that appeals to EVERYONE, including the up-and-coming in our midst. Any band that starts capitalizing on this and doing it well stands a good chance of being the next ubiquitous name in worship music not to mention probably having a lot of fun for a very long time. As for me it just tells me I need to finish one of the 20 projects spinning around in my head and play it for my sister.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hi Nobody, I'm Somebody

So here I am, writing my first blog post to nobody, watching every other word get underlined by the spell checker (without whom I would be completely shunned in the business world) telling you things to make you think I'm somebody. I'll be linking this to other people who have been gracious enough to promise me they'll link back (we'll see if they still do after my first post) so I'll tell you a bit about myself. I lead worship for TurningPoint Community Church in the Kent/Auburn area of Washington. I have a day job and it's not at all relevant to music.

I guess I should get to the original point that got me thinking about the topic of my first post and actually the title of my blog. Finding worship in everyday life. I'm reading a [very short] book by David Crowder called Praise Habit. It's an interesting albeit brief conversation about the praise opportunities we encounter and typically discard in everyday life. Ok, it's a bit more abstract then that but it's caused me to think in that general direction. I actually let my everyday life affect my weekly selection of songs quite a bit and I'm starting to think that's backwards.

Seeking...: The Fathers Song
Recently, Josh (who is a friend of mine and Associate Pastor at TurningPoint) blogged about the soundtrack of life and that crossed some wires in my head with what I've been pondering over (see prior paragraph). What if music is always playing around me and I'm so absorbed in everything going on that I can't hear it anymore. I used to hear it... I was one of those kids who, unembarrassed (another red squiggly), would walk down the street humming and making up words to a song I'd never heard before but somehow knew. But the music isn't there anymore. It is but I can't hear it over the noise and if I try and silence everything else so I can hear and try singing along I've forgotten the words. Occasionally I remember, but I'm rarely in a position where participating in said music is socially acceptable so I let my social position dictate my hearing and then my week chooses the songs. Not that refraining from singing random things during a stroll through the mall is really a problem I want to "solve". I'm just starting to pay more attention to the music of God's creation around me.

That is my intent for this blog. To journey through the weekly life of a worship leader and offer random thoughts on Music, Worship, Church (from the perspective of the not-on-staff worship leader) and whatever else crosses my mind on the topic. But enough for now, I have to go silence the music my cat is making while begging for her third dinner.