Archived entries

momentum is not a joke

Matthew 13:12
Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

This scripture makes me feel weird. I read it and then I’m all jumbled up – on the one hand there’s a promise of blessing – abundance! On the other, disaster, as the bit that you ‘have’ becomes what you ‘had’ and dissolves like the fog that hangs over early morning.

Dangit. Jesus.

How is it that the Lamb that was slain carries the biggest knife and manages to cut me the deepest?

Jesus, I was hoping for a hug.

In striking fashion, like like bright, red paint splattered on white museum walls Jesus’ words color life. In this moment Jesus is having a private conversation with his closest friends after a really public time of teaching and story-telling. The disciples come to him and wonder aloud, “what’s up with the cryptic stories?” – a sentiment that I often share. Here, Jesus explains that those with access to him (the disciples) will have insight and understanding stacked on top of clarity, but those without, are going to continue in blindness. That’s hectic!

But like so many other things that Jesus teaches, this reality, about who has and who loses is one of those threads that runs through the woven fabric of life. The rich get richer. The strong get stronger. The Yankees keep winning. The Cubs keep losing.

Nothing in life is static. Nothing just stays the same. Either we are growing or we are dying. Hectic.

Thankfully there’s hope.

There’s no question that there are parts of life that are circumstantial, downright providential, out of our hands – the family we were born into, our spot in history, the genetic advantages that our parents passed on to us. But life is more than mere happenings. So much of life is the culmination of our own choices and desires played out, though often muted to our awareness, over days and years.

There is a part of life and abundance that is connected to pursuit.

The disciples found themselves overflowing with abundance because they pursued Jesus. He called and they said yes. Not everyone did. The rich, young ruler, for instance, received an invitation, but declined – and he lost.

As songwriters and artists we should purse Jesus, it almost goes without saying – but we should also pursue our craft. We should pursue songs and melodies and words and grooves and harmonies and rhythms and new chords – we should chase songs knowing that pursuit and faithfulness dig a well that God can fill to overflowing.

When I first started writing, it was hard. I hardly ever finished a song.

But now, having written A LOT of songs (in the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I would like to point out that most of these are not great songs, and a good many of them are really absolute junk. thanks) the melodies come easier, the words appear a little faster and the emotions that conceive the ideas that I write from seem to stay in tact, and actually remain, noticeably, in the final product.

Abundance. There’s a reason that rich people have money and great songwriters write great songs. Their desires have energized choices that have galvanized pursuits that have put them in positions to receive abundance.

Momentum is not a joke. Keep writing.

Peace!

Adam

evolution is real

Darwin wasn’t totally wrong, things change over time. Trouble is, in the church we have been taught to be suspicious, if not downright hostile towards this idea in all its forms – even when it comes to songwriting.

We resist changing any part of what “God has given”.

There is a famous exchange between a seasoned songwriter and and a newbie –

New writer performs their new, “finished” worship song.

Seasoned writer offers a few thoughts and suggests a couple changes.

New writer objects on the basis that “this is how God gave it to me!”

Seasoned writer wonders aloud “why did God give it to you in such a crappy form?”

As writers who are wanting to bring meaningful words to stammering, searching lips and melody to the monotone heart, we must awaken to the reality that flexibility and change are some of our best partners when it comes to strengthening the genetic weaknesses in our artistic offspring. Some of our songs are single-celled amoebas – but the second or third “version” / “generation” of that song might just emerge from primordial soup walking on dry ground.

I’ve learned over time that even my really good ideas can get better – even songs that I think are finished may still be in process.

Just last night I rehearsed a new, “finished” song with the band for the first time. I wrote it. Revised it. Revised again. Got feedback. Hacked this. Added that. I’ve been playing it alone in my office for the past month. I really liked it. Finished. Except that last night, with the band, I realized that the bridge, or what I thought was the bridge, was really more of a tag, outro deal. When we got to that part we all instinctively began to build it over and over – bigger and bigger – higher and higher – harmony on top of harmony – things I didn’t plan – things I didn’t arrange – things I didn’t anticipate.

This morning I like my “evolving” song better than the “finished” song I had last night.

Peace!

Adam

you are the one – glen yoder

this is a song that came out of one of our songwriting circles. it has been a huge blessing to our church. the bridge just soars!

email me if you want a better chart – wordpress seems to alter chord positions.

you are the one [Capo 4: C-shapes] (key of E)
by glen yoder

verse 1
C G F
the sun and the moon
C G F
they turn for you
C G F
and the stars in their bed
G
burn through
C
the beat of our blood
G
the walls of our heart
F G
they cry for you

chorus
GC F
and you are good
F C
you blaze through the darkness
G Am
you burn in our hearts
G C F
so come like you do
F C
bringing all of your glory
G Am (12 counts) G (12 counts)
with heaven to earth

verse 2
C G F
through all our days
C G F
we’ve seen your grace
C G F G
we’ll always seek your ways
C
our fortress strong
G
his name is the lord
F G
we cry for you

chorus 2

bridge
C F G C
through the storms you are the one
C F G C
through the good you are the one
C F G C
come what may you are the one
C F G C
who was and is and is to come

true confessions from caleb neff

Note: This week’s post is by Caleb Neff, worship leader and associate pastor at a Vineyard church in Cape Coral Florida. Caleb also has a really great blog for worship leaders, check it out here: www.uglyworship.com

In the car on my way to my first semester at college (far away from home), I made a resolution – in this new place, I was not going to change to fit in, I was not going to conform; I was just going to be myself no matter what. Needless to say, I didn’t make a lot of friends.

Being yourself, which seems like it’d come natural, is actually really hard. The road to true originality is paved with awkward mis-steps, embarrassing failures, and the judging stares of others that can’t stand anyone who would dare to not blend in.

This fear is what kept me from writing worship songs for so many years. My prayers didn’t sound very much at all like the songs we sang in church, and I was afraid of what would happen if anyone heard what was actually going on inside me. I imagined it like someone stepping up to the microphone and reading personal passages from my journal to the whole church. This is the stuff of nightmares, worse than the one where you accidentally go to school in your underwear – not exactly the place where good writing comes from.

Like most real things in life that we struggle with, there’s no simple three-step formula to overcoming these fears. It’s a process, a journey of growth in character and confidence that the Holy Spirit builds in us as we walk with Him. Along the way, it helped that I discovered a few writers like Ben Crist and John Mark McMillan that were writing worship stuff that was raw and ugly enough that I could actually connect with it. It helped that by the grace of God I landed in a community of really talented people that pushed me, and it helped that I met this guy Adam at a conference who was used by the Lord to pile some logs on the embers in me, who looked me in the eye and told me that it was okay to fail.

I went home from that conference and finally wrote a worship song. The first lines that came out were:

I often get confused
Don’t always do what I should do
I’m not smart enough to know what’s best for me
So when You need to, Lord, please redirect my feet

Can that be a worship tune? It doesn’t have holy, majestic, exalted, or glorious anywhere in it! I just wrote what I was feeling, but weirdly enough, it seemed to resound with people. We started doing that song in our church and people seem to like it. Maybe they’re just being nice to me, or maybe they gravitate to the honesty of feeling like a real idiot.

I wish I had more and better answers to help you, but all I’ve got is this encouragement: it’s okay to be your ugly self.

Therefore, get real in your writing. Sing your quiet time. Sing your actual, honest prayers. Sing the stuff that’s in your heart that would be totally inappropriate for a worship tune. The Bible is filled with stuff that’s totally inappropriate for a worship tune.

If the Lord has put something valuable in you, if he’s done something meaningful in your life, if His grace in you has had some effect, stop trying to ghostwrite in someone else’s voice. Sing what you’ve tasted. The world doesn’t need another Tomlin or Redman. Write as yourself, even if it’s a little weird sometimes. As my worship leader friend Don says, the weird must stick together or the dull will prevail.

waking up a numb heart

A person will sing when words alone are not enough. Melody is the only reasonable vehicle for emotions of a certain size. It’s why most songs are written about falling in and out of love. Those kinds of feelings just don’t fit anywhere else.

We have all had those moments – moments when the sheer joy of life hits us like a tidal wave and we find ourselves singing. Loud. In the car. And even though there’s “nothing on the radio”, we belt out a spontaneous melody. It’s absolutely foolish. People in other cars stare. But we don’t care because we’ve been hit by a tidal wave of joy, and we just ride it, till at last, we finally hit shore.

I love those moments.

As a songwriter, I live for those moments. I live to be able to “feel” life deeply. I prefer it to be joy – joy is more fun, but even when it’s something less desirable, something in the pain and disappointment category, even then, I want to feel it deeply.

Music has the power to bypass the intellect and touch the heart. Mysteriously, over time, the intellect can be shaped by this process. It’s one of the reasons that worship is so important. We all become like the things we worship. A heart that is touched in worship again and again will eventually touch a rigid, unbelieving mind.

I want to experience life deeply because I want the songs I write to be felt deeply. Compelling lyrics and melody come from compelling places – where “life” has left it’s mark on us.

I know that this is one of the biggest struggles in my life – to stay “present” – to live in the moment – to allow my heart to stay exposed and uncovered. It’s easier to just be numb, to “have boundaries”, and live life with safe emotional distances.

The numb life is the cynical life. The numb, unfeeling life is the critical life. The numb life is the jaded life, the too-cool-for-school life. I’ve found that very few songs come from the numb life. It’s too safe, too distant, too far from exuberant outburst’s of any sort. Way too far from wonder.

I’ve found that if I’m not singing in the shower or while I’m alone in the car, I’m probably living numb, and I’m probably not writing songs.

What to do, what to do?

Be thankful.

Nothing causes me to live more “present” than a thankful heart. In my life I’ve found that “numb” is often a disconnect from living with gratitude. I’ve found that I experience life more deeply, when thanksgiving is a regular part of my routine.

Thanksgiving causes me to be present and allows me to live life at a deep emotional level because,as the psalmist wrote, we enter God’s presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4) Thanksgiving aligns us with the one great truth in all the universe – there is a God in heaven AND we are not him. Thanksgiving brings us powerfully into reality. It removes all room for living life with distant, numb hearts. I’ve found that the more genuine gratitude grows in my heart, the closer I come to God, and the more deeply I experience all of life.

Peace!

Adam



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