Monday, July 28, 2008

Lost and Found

I once left a really nice 5x Resistol Black western hat in a cab in downtown Tokyo. As he pulled away, I saw it on the back window of the cab. (Almost the same hat as the white one shown here hanging on the top of my China Cabinet.) If you know me, you know I have hat's everywhere.

Well this morning at church I had a new worship song land in my brain at the end of the worship set, and during the sermon on James 4, I took notes and wrote a new tune and number chart for it.
I got home excited to lay it down on computer in the studio, only to find no lyric sheet in my bible. Well I double checked my clothes, and my bible, and the car. No luck - no paper. Well what do you do then. Praise God for the opportunity to find the lost song/sheep. I got back in the car and drove back to church, hoping to find the paper in the parking lot where I parked, or in the sanctuary stuck in a pew.
Not in the lot or in my pew. The church was dark. I stood in the sanctuary in frustration and then saw a 55 gal dumpster in the corner from the janitor.
What are the odd's, and how much gum and coffee will I have to pour through , I thought to myself? I walked up to it in the dark and there on the very top of a full dumpster was my little 3x6 note sheet. Excited I drove home, skipped the Twins/Cleveland game and did a quick demo of this new song from Sunday. I should have called it "I once was lost but now I'm found", but "Reign Forever" was already written down. Hope you enjoy the rough draft, I'm off at sunrise to play a round with old friend Dan Johnson from E.C.C. Grip-em and Rip-em. Gloooooory.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Set Me Free

Ok, To be fair, I'm putting a photo of someone else's child up today. Let me introduce you to Slammin Sammy. The blue eyed mini Rick Barron in the flesh. What a precious boy. I cried the first time I saw his picture. Funny how you can be that happy for someone else's lack of sleep.... (just kidding).
Well today I've uploaded a quick demo from the house here of a song written last year called "Set Me Free". No not a "Sting" cover. Although I'm a year in production on "Praise Stills The Enemy" I'm got just about enough tunes to do a record of worship filled C.C. songs. I feel the choruses are very worship filled, but I've changed the verse style up enough that I feel a lot of the songs would be better done as specials or offering songs. Yes that's the title of the project I'm whirling around. "Songs of Offering" or something like that. The Irish song from a few weeks ago would be on it also. Hey who know's these might just be fine worship songs, since the verses to "Awesome God" are rarely ever sung in worship....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Said a King to a King

The photo today has nothing to do with the blog other than it was taken a few weeks ago in Pequot Lakes MN, while camping and fishing with my youngest son Jordan. I can admit that mosquito nets are wonderful and I wish we had them growing up :) is a link to song written over a year ago. I wrote it with a friend for M.L.K. weekend. Hope you enjoy the open arrangement.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Recording and Re-Chording

Praise Stills The Enemy

The link above should open a mp3 player of your choice.

The blessing of writing and recording is the process.
No matter the music style or form, it is always a long and arduous process. And old friend and studio owner Steve Weiss once said, "you never finish a record, you just give up on it".
Well on the "Praise Stills The Enemy" recording, I was able to cut rhythm tracks on 6 tunes last fall as well as put brass on three of them at Fuzzy Slippers studios in St. Paul. MN
Since then I've taken the recordings home and begun recording the overdubs and vocals in my home studio. (free studio time:)).
My studio is a 14 year old Mac tower and a two channel interface without any good plug-ins. This however can not stop my creative ideas from becoming music.
My desire for this project was always to make it a confessional praise project with small and large choir options. All the lyrics are written to get the worshiper repeating biblical truths that help them get into a state of praise. All for the purpose of being inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

Musical style is always a big issue. * Who do you try to reach and make happy with your musical style and arrangements. Well today the "U2" sounding guitars with drum loops is the popular sound on the radio with almost all new worship artists under 40:).
Well, my heart on many of these tunes was to combine R&B, Gospel, Africa and pop with "Chicago/ BST" horns. (This pretty much eliminates radio folks, but I'm not living for radio any longer :)!)
In my early Christian music days on Light Records, "Andre Crouch and the Disciples" were on the same label. I was slain by that vibe back then and wanted to kinda get a little of that style. Paul Simon and "Graceland" was also a watershed record for me and "Make a Joyful Noise" kinda goes in that direction.

Well all I have left to record on these first 6 songs is (Brass on three) and line singers as well as large choir on all of them. (Thank you Lord for the right people). Then it's "mix" time (ouch) and art work time. (Did I say "all")

In the mean time, above is the link to the last 3 songs in the 6 song medley (did I forget to say this was recorded like "Confessions of a Worshipper" without any breaks between songs).
Hope you are finding this day full of ah-haa, smile filled, thank you Jesus moments.
Just reflect on all God has brought you through up to this day, and how He has always been there "on time". Remember He is more interested in our character than our comfort.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gotta Serve Somebody

"It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody".

Dylan wrote this on the "Slow Train Coming" Record. Still is one of my favorite old CC Records. That does remind me that I've not gotten a copy of it in CD yet :(.

Well that line is so true today. Yup, you gotta serve somebody. In life and death, you will be serving someone.

Well there are many kinds of serving. Military, Religious Mass, Sports, Food and Drink, Prison and Political.

Well I had someone as of late ask me what my purpose in church was as a music pastor. I said it was to lead people into the presence of God where the Holy Spirit could have its way. I was then told in a very authoritarian tone that I was there to "serve" the Sr. Pastor. This has made me think for a few days about this issue, and how it's affecting the church and it's effectiveness and standing.

I've said for years that I'm not a respecter of people. Doesn't matter who they are or what they've done. We are all the same in God's eyes, and cherished the same. There are a handful of men and women in my life that I have held in high regard and am honored to have met or worked alongside them, but never have I put them on a pedestal and become one of their fans. There is a world of people who serve and donate and follow others as "servants" and fans, making idols of those who usually didn't ask for it, but find if difficult to say "no" when it benefits them. (Hey that's human nature). Most of this happens in R&R, Sports and Religion. Ok, there are now a few on the "Food Network" who have reached this status also.

Why do people do this? Especially believers?

In job's we have employers and we have responsibilities to do what is needed to accomplish our job descriptions. This goes for any secular or Christian position.
In our government, there are positions where men and women "serve" at the presidents discretion. In this case the word "serve" is used in a special meaning, for only the president chooses who will be in these positions, and he and he alone can hire and fire for any cause.
This is more like the leftovers of a Monarchy or Dictatorship.
For a waiter, to serve is to get to a client what is needed as quickly as possible, in order to make as big a monetary reward as possible, at the end of the service.
In the military, you serve your country, but answer to your DI or superior officer and then up the chain.
In ministry, we serve Christ and Christ alone. We put our trust in He and He alone. We put our faith in He and He alone. He is our Lord and King. We've been paid for with a price. No man gets this position of honor but Him.
All ministers co-labor and serve the same King. Yes there are "positions" and leadership positions that have to be in place for any ministry to function. Paid staff have support staff and volunteers serving Christ under their leadership. We all have jobs to do, but we only serve Christ". All the apostles called themselves servants "doulov" of Christ, not of men. Doulov from Deo "to be bound to". Not to other men as bondslaves but to Christ and for Christ.

1401 doulov doulos doo’-los

from 1210; TDNT-2:261,182; n

AV-servant 120, bond 6, bondman 1; 127

1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
1a) a slave
1b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men
1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
2) a servant, attendant

A great problem has developed in the church. It's not new, just a new twist. In the early centuries people prayed to statues and religious leaders. Putting their trust and answers to their prayers in men. Men have always wanted leaders. Israel wanted a spiritual leader. God told the prophet repeatedly to tell Israel that "Jehovah" is their leader and king. Well the rest is history from Saul on down. Today, we still look for leaders and kings in the greater church.

In the worship ministries, the importance and position of worship leaders has changed so much in the last 30 years. I believe John 4:23-24 is finally coming true for the greater church. The value of worship (yes musical worship, not just breathing and speaking) for the greater church has begun to move into higher places. How exciting. Yet still those that lead in that worship are no more or less important to the church than the usher, other ministers or volunteers.
We are all there serving Christ to love the world unto Him. Fulfilling the great commission at home, work and through church.

The problem remains that church folks have begun serving men and not Christ. Unknowingly desiring acceptance through mens praise, they have begun treating co-laborers as more than co-laborers. Over time this creates a host of problems. The same problems that money can create. I'm not saying all ministers "ask" for this but if they don't shut it down, it can blow them up and make them very vulnerable for moral and ethical failures, as well as create an atmosphere for burning out and hurting fellow servants and families.

A few years ago I remember a mega church pastor I know saying one day. "I know that I'm supposed to lead in a loving way, but if I raise my voice and demand things, they get done immediately, I don't have to explain myself, and there are no questions asked afterwards." He was admitting it was not Christ like and was wrong to demand this kind of service, but since no one questioned him, or called him on the carpet about it in his senior staff, he naturally developed this kind of leadership and didn't see the permanent damage done to scores of heart felt servants and staff. No one lost their job by going with the flow, but they have ended up compromising their allegiance to Christ for job security.

I've spent a lot of time not as a minister, but as a friend to folks who've been burned out, chewed up and spit out by ministries. Everyone one.... Everyone I can think of was a result of man pleasing. Taking the service of Christ to "the service of man". One person I met with said
"I loved this minister. I served him for 13 years and helped build he and his wifes ministry. Then when I finally questioned some behavior I was put aside and dumped." Well, I told that person that it was 1/2 their own doing. They began serving man and not God.. Very few pastors can say no to servants who adore them and are willing to do anything they ask 7 days a week. And considering how difficult it is to find people to serve in the first place, is it any wonder it's hard to say "no" to someone who is giving all their time to your vision.

It is however ministers and pastors (including myself) who must make it clear to our flocks teams and servants that it is Christ they serve, not us. We are human, we will fail them, we will hurt them and we will have to ask for forgiveness. None of this will we do on purpose, but do it we will, and it will be done to us. This is the human condition, and lord keep us humble enough to admit our mistakes to those around us (when we are made aware of them) and ask for forgiveness so we don't destroy our flocks. This certainly goes for our families as well.

In the movie "The Bucket List" Jack Nicholson is a self made billionaire. Morgan Freeman gets into Jacks personal life in one scene and Jack's character goes postal. "I've made a billion dollars in business from the ground up. I've dined with royalty and had phone calls from presidents. What do you think you can do for me".

Power over people and wealth create a combination that is taylor made for the enemy of our souls to exploit. Didn't satan use this tactic with Jesus?

In non-profit circles the word "serve" is used for a job done for eternal compensation, for a cause one believes in.

If you feel called of Christ to serve, (and you should) then here's a few points to pray about.
  1. I serve Christ and Christ alone. I may labor beside you and in your ministry of service, but it is Christ I serve and to His voice and Word that I answer and decide from.
  2. I will not be asked to put ministry over and before my family. If I am, I am not the right person for this position to serve.
  3. If I am offended or wounded by someone I am serving alongside, I will talk to them about it and first realize they are human before they are Christian. I will secondly remind my self that I'm serving Christ, not them, and He is the only one who will not fail me in life. If they are a leader above me, then i will pray for wisdom on how to address the problem. If we can not settle it scripturally, then we will use the elders and deacons to try to solve the problem without separating.
  4. If separation occurs, then I will pray for wisdom on how not to let it happen again, and then move on.
  5. Don't take a job of service in any ministry without asking a list of questions to the ministry head. And yes, ask the big d"Red Flag" questions you have written down and don't want to face later on your way out again.
  6. Don't ever hide anything from any ministry you desire to serve with. You will be found out and you will be the wounded one looking for a justification.
  7. Ask what the ministries position is, on letting people go. Staff and volunteers.
    People are more important than jobs. Flocks are more important than the price of their wool. If a person is let go from a ministry, there should be follow up, closure and excitement for each parties spiritual and natural future. This is not Wal~Mart.
  8. Before you take on a role of serving alongside any ministry or department of a ministry, look at the leaders. a) How do they treat their wives and children. b) How balanced are their wives and children. c) Look at the fruit of the spirit. do you see it in action in their daily lives. d) Do they lift themselves up from the pulpit or do they lift up others. e) Do they use their lives as object lessons or others.
  9. Is Christ a part of their normal conversations away from church?
If your position is in worship?

  1. Are your pastor and pastoral staff ardent worshipers during worship services?
  2. Do they worship outside of the church walls.
  3. What are the top 10 CD's in your Sr. Pastors worship collection?
  4. Are your worship pastor and or leaders true worshipers, or are they christian singers and song leaders or are they christian rock stars?
Watch your emotions, and pray for wisdom as to why and who you grab the baton to run the race with.

Serving Christ is the highest call of all. Every believer is called to it. For those called to lead others in a church setting, may we be double sensitive to "His people over Our visions", for there is more rejoicing over one "returning" than 99 who have it all together. For it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Da 4th

(Took this photo at a Fridley parade in 2002)

In Saint Paul MN there is an island on the Mississippi that is used for various functions. On the 4th of July, it is used for "Taste of Minnesota". This is a party with food vendors from all the restaurants and "Carnie" vendors. Mixed with three stages of music from children to christian to cheezy 80's bands like Bay City Rollers, BadFinger and a 100 others that can be booked for under 20k.
Well it's kind of like a Mini State Fair without the "all you can drink milk, local TV stations doing live broadcasts, and 4H arena.
It was my daughters Anniversary so we met her, her husband and our granddaughter at the "Taste" for the afternoon.
At the christian stage we heard a Brazilian Praise band. Well actually I heard a lot of metal drums and piercing vocals without ever understanding one word in 20 minutes. Expensive sound system and high end FOH board was not enough to find a way to make the music understandable and balanced.
Then we heard Darnell Davis and Remnant. In-spite of the horrible mix, we listened and praised up a storm with the most authentic black gospel group around. I'm always refreshed to hear and see them.
What struck me was how difficult it was to have a Christian event in a secular environment with a carnival all around, and have any chance of the Holy Spirit reaching through the distractions to the hearts of believers. Jesus really needs to the be the focus in events where He is called to, or it can look like a freak show of people raising their hands and praising God while non-believers cruise by saying "yup, there are those wacky christians I don't want to be like. Raising hands and praising God (should) be part of a worship experience, but not really meant for non-believers to gawk at and mock.
Well in all of that someone may have been praying for someone else to come closer to Christ and may have invited them to the event as a "soft sell". That event (like going to a starbucks) could certainly have been used to bring someone, one step closer to Him. Certainly the organizers who charge 50k to use that space don't care about that. Just show them the money and don't offend the city.
What both Jane and I were taken with is that we both do not enjoy massive crowds any longer.
10's of thousands of people packed together like cattle, eating bad food, while extremely overweight women are seen everywhere wearing clothing that look like they were painted on them and gang bangers cruise around looking for trouble with the gang task force tracking them down and kicking them out.
We got home that night and vowed to find a way to not have to do those kinds of events again unless it has solid ministry attached to it and an end game.

I wonder how tired Jesus grew of crowds in the few years of His ministry. Of course after ministry times with crowds he went away to pray and get filled back up by the father, there are not any out front references as to how He felt about crowds.... I'm sure the needs of everyone coming to see him and not the local Hebrew Rock Band kept Him focused on the task.

We came home and finished the night by burning up the standard $40. fireworks box from Sam's Club. You know the one. They have names like Mortar Steel Burning Fire, Butterfly Nights and Cosmic Showers yet they all look about the same and burn for 30 seconds at a height of 6ft.
You have to ooh and ahh at each one for the sake of the kids, but you again are reminded how much packaging and names sell a product.

Just before packing it in Jane, Jordan and I took a midnight stroll around the neighborhood. We watched all the fireworks shows in our neighborhood, commenting on all the illegal ones that were being blown off by intoxicated adults. All in all, (like Christmas) most of what the day was about went un-noticed to most all but the veterans, service men,women and families around the world.
We thank them for their service and protection of our nation.
I'm proud to be Christian, living in a country called America. It is not a Christian nation but it is one steeped with religious traditions and laws that make it generally possible to exercise our faith without obstruction. Lord have mercy on us and help us to be more like Jesus in all we say and do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To Much Time Between The Water

(Photo taken after 5 hours of climbing stream banks in WI)

So I have this old friend Mark. He owns the best electronic repair shop in the state. We talk Fly Fishing and Fly Tying every time I see him. Wellllll, Mark's been through a lot in the last 10 years and as a result he had to quit wearing waders and hiking ie: no stream fishing. metal rods in his leg, and interferon treatments for some rare disease. It's tough to give up your passions. Well we finally went East of Elsworth WI yesterday and fished the early morning hours from the "Rod and Gun Club" entrance on the Rush River. Hiking a mile or so up and down the river banks through 6ft itch weed and mud to get to the "good spots" is part of the fun of fishing for weary trout. Well by 11 AM we were back to the truck and had a few "browns" thrown back to the trout god. Over coffee we reminisced about the last few years and when he asked me when we fished last, I said "3 or 4 years ago". He said it had been over 10 years. As we talked it was clear that much time had passed. Life is to short to let that happen with friends. So today I purpose to recall friendships that I have let slip from doing things we used to enjoy to do together. Do you have friends you have let slip through the cracks? Make a list and call them. They may need your friendship or your prayers OR without knowing it, you might need theirs. It might also get you out doing some things you used to love to do before life got crazy. And don't forget to tell them how much they mean to you.
And then as we were leaving Mark said, This is the first time in 4 years I've fished this water and the first time in many years I've been able to put on waders and hike the stream beds without being on my back for days. The joy in his face as he spoke. The light in his eyes.
Ahh yes I said to myself. It was worth planning a time to drive a few hours to be with an old friend.