Archive for November, 2010

30
Nov
10

You Heard My Cry

I was talking with a lady and her son after choir practice a few weeks ago. It was their first time at rehearsal. She was very excited and couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was. Her son, on the other hand, was not as excited. He was feeling like he was at an old folks convention for crazy singers. You see, we are an excitable bunch on Wednesday nights. I wanted him to know that the excitement came from us being  grateful believers. We are happy to be there because of  what Jesus did for us. When I asked him his age, he quietly said, “twenty five.”  I immediately felt the Holy Spirit prompting  me to tell him my story.

 

“Here Lord?  In the middle of a crowded hallway with people everywhere? OK.”  Without hesitating, I said to him, “when I was  your age I put a gun to my head.” The look on his and his mom’s face told me that I needed to explain quickly what this had to do with choir. At the same time, a choir member that I’ve known for 5 to 6 years standing with us said, “I didn’t know that JD.”  So this is why I felt it was time to share my story of redemption (short version) with all of you. I hope it gives some of you hope and an idea of why I am so excited to be here.

Thirty-five years ago, I left the Marine Corps with one goal in mind: I was going to play rock-n-roll and make it big. Well, I didn’t make it “big,” but I sure did Rock & Roll. I got to experience the feeling of huge concerts with big name acts as a front band. If you want to know the truth, it was no big deal. During that period, I fell into the trap of that dark life style. My darkest moment was on a hot August morning in 1982. I was tired of the person I’d become. I was not a rock star – instead, I became a selfish drug addict with no future. I put a gun to my head that night several times. It was a 4 to 5 hour spiritual battle for my soul. I cried out to the Lord. “… He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy  pit of destruction, He set my feet on the rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God….”  Psalm 40:1-3 .  Well as you see, God won and now I am serving in the most amazing place.  Singing the most amazing songs that bring so much joy, peace, and comfort to me and the thousands that hear them.

What does it have to do with choir? Well, a lot…for some of us. Because that is a place where we can serve our Savior and  “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart  to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 . If you’re feeling like God can’t use you, come visit us here at CBC and see what he’s doing with some that thought the same at one point in their lives. He heard our cry.

“Giving thanks to You,Father, who has…translated us into the kingdom of Your dear son, in whom I have redemption through His blood , even the forgiveness of sins.”

29
Nov
10

stop before you start!

For the past year, we’ve been test-driving a new worship program with our 3rd-5th graders on the weekends. We made the jump from having a live band to leading with high-energy tracks. It took a while to work out the kinks, but we’ve discovered a couple of key factors that seem to have contributed to our success. You’ll be relieved to hear they both involve stopping something and not starting something.

1) Stop looking for an incredible singer and look for a firecracker instead.

I know this sounds crazy, but having someone with an incredible voice isn’t nearly as important as having someone up front who is energetic and loves working with kids. You can have the best singer in the world leading worship for your elementary kids, but if they can’t be larger than life on stage they will lose their attention right off the bat.

Keeping younger kids engaged in some manner is crucial if we’re going to teach them how to worship. Retrain your brain to stop going to the list of volunteer musicians for resources and instead try and tap into parents and volunteers already in place in your elementary programs.

2) Stop looking for a dance team and just do hand motions.

When we first started this new program I was trying to find people who could handle choreography and basic dance moves to liven things up, and I was headed down the wrong street. The rubber met the road when I was left to come up with our “dance moves” on my own. I have no dancing capability whatsoever, so I reduced things to very simple hand motions and basic movements, which seemed to go over very well.

Kids don’t need to be entertained by crazy dances on stage. Having simple hand motions that every kid in the room can do is much more important for overall involvement and engagement. If the average kid can’t keep up with you, then simplify your movements.

I am learning the value of debriefing my programs and seeing what I can stop doing to be more effective as opposed to what I can start doing. I wish I could regain the hours I’ve wasted trying to stir up new ways of doing things instead of taking time to evaluate processes and programs. Sometimes just a shift in energy and focus is more valuable than trying to start up something new.

23
Nov
10

Broken Restored Loved….and Thankful

There is always something to be thankful for…no matter what situation you are in.
I once a heard a story about a man who would walk miles to work each day. The weather was brutal at times and he worked at least 12 hours a day just to make ends meet for his family of 8. One day, he was walking to work and just couldn’t take it anymore. As he complained and even told God how angry he was, he passed a huge beautiful home and noticed a man sitting on the porch smiling. This was a picture that he would never forget – not because the home was beautiful or that there was a nice car parked in the driveway…but because the man sitting on the porch was paralyzed.

He never complained about walking to work after that day because he realized that God had blessed him with the ability to walk. Sometimes our situation seems like it is the worst situation on earth, but the reality is that we can always find something to be thankful for.

In these next few days we are going to enjoy family, food and probably all end up wearing our stretchy pants on Thanksgiving Day. Take time to thank God for all that he has done in your life. Take time to tell the ones that you love thank you. Don’t just thank them with a text or a facebook message but call them, write them a hand written letter. Make moments and live a thankful life even beyond Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving! May God bless you and your family.

18
Nov
10

Adapting Marching Band selections for worship

WHAT DID I JUST SAY – Adapting Marching Band arrangements for use with an instrumental group in a worship setting?!?!?!

Yep, you can do that!  There is a wealth of material out there that has been written for marching bands.  There is so much of it that there are even arrangements of traditional songs and hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and other songs of a general nature. There are also arrangements of Christmas carols and patriotic songs…new charts as well as classic concert band and orchestra library selections that have been transcribed/simplified/adapted for marching bands.  The scope of musical voicings and other concepts of marching band arrangements are much more concise, but less elaborate, than full concert band and orchestra.  The pieces tend to be much shorter – most are no more than two minutes in length. Also, they are written to be playable and sound good with any size group – in easy key signatures and time signatures.  The woodwinds are usually written in unisons and octaves, and the brass are (usually) written “in the staff,” which means they’re in the most powerful musical range of their instruments.

So, how do you ‘adapt’ a marching band piece for a church orchestra?  Well, it takes a little bit of effort, but it can be done.  And the payoff can be 100% worth the effort. Here’s what you’ll need to do: 1-replace the drumline and multiple percussion parts with a drumset and rhythm section that consists of keys, bass, and (optional, depending on the style of the song) guitar (acoustic, electric, or both).  If you have string players in your group, you’ll need to write parts for them.  The easiest way to do that is to have the violins play a flute part (if range is a problem for some of your younger players, you may need to write in octaves or just write the line down an octave), the violas play a 2nd or 3rd clarinet part (which you’ll have to transpose) and the cellos can play a trombone 3 part.  This will give everyone a part to play in the quickest and least labor-intensive manner.  If you can’t or don’t have the time to do the writing yourself, contact a local public school or college band or orchestra director and ask them to help you find a writer.

These days it has been getting harder and harder to find fresh, new, and interestingly written literature for the church orchestra.  The process written above hopefully will help you in that quest. The same adjustments as above can be applied to a concert band piece to make it suitable for church instrumental group.

Blessings to you as you minister the praises of His Holy Name!

Ron Blount

17
Nov
10

“Without Him”

Two weeks ago, I made an unexpected trip back to my hometown because of a funeral. I had not been in north Alabama in two years, and it felt like a step back in time. From singing an old Mylon LeFevre tune at the funeral (“Without Him”), to attending choir practice at my aunt’s church, to listening to two of my aunts and my uncle rehearse their gospel Bluegrass music for a ‘singing,’ I felt like I was 8 years old again. A real treat was hearing two of my cousins sing with their dad on an old recording. When I was a kid, singing along with them taught me how to harmonize and to sing without vibrato, and put a love in my soul for Jesus deeper than words can convey. I can still remember my granddaddy leading the hymn singing in his little country church. I can still remember my momma swapping parts with her sisters. The simple shaped note hymns and gospel songs are a very real part of who I became. It’s all mixed together with the piano lessons and later the downtown church youth choir, then college music education, then seminary. But the passion was instilled early on. “Without Him, I could do nothing. Without Him, I’d surely fail, Without Him I would be drifting like a ship without a sail.”

This makes me realize how important Kids Choir is. Aside from the music, drama, and dance, we have the privilege of forming the spiritual foundation for our kids. I really can’t remember any sermons, but I can remember every word of the Baptist hymns I haven’t sung in 25 years. If I teach a child a song, they will remember it. But if I teach a child to worship and to live a life of worship, they will have the ability to be in the presence of Jesus in good times and in bad. They will have a love of Jesus deeper than words can convey. And it’s hard to rebel against a God that you love. As a teenager, I tried. But I wasn’t’ very successful. Because the truth was, ‘Without Him I could do nothing, without Him I’d surely fail, without Him I would be drifting like a ship without a sail.”

As I researched the history of this song, I realized its main claim to fame was the fact that Elvis recorded it. Even pop icons still acknowledged God back in the day. It’s a tough world out there now. Our kids have no viable role models. It’s up to us to be the driving force of what shapes them musically and more eternally, spiritually. It’s up to us to teach them that singing songs is nice, but worship is life-changing. It’s up to us to be a part of rescuing them from making wrong life choices. It’s up to us to help them to fall in love with Jesus. Because “without Him, how lost we would be.”

16
Nov
10

The Benefits of Worship

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:3

One of the many lasting benefits of worship is found in this verse. God gives us this song of praise so that many will see and hear and trust in Him. For many years, I heard that worship was not a tool for evangelism…that it was too horizontal and unbelievers simply would not get it. The truth is, that on the first day I did public ministry, I brought my guitar into the city jail and sang worship songs to the inmates…then I gave the gospel as a 14 year-old boy. Seven of the thirteen men gave their lives to Christ. I did not understand at the time, but I now know that they had come underneath the canopy of God’s presence through worship. It was in His presence that they heard the truth of the Gospel and surrendered to His call in their lives.

Now every time I go to do an evangelistic event, we make sure that there is a song of praise being sung to the Lord so that His presence will fill the place.

15
Nov
10

Broken Restored Loved- “Courage Food”

We all know what fear taste like. Fear in an audible form says, “I’m not sure I can do this,” “What if I fail?” or “I don’t know what the outcome will be if I do this, so I won’t,”…the list goes on and on. Sometimes it’s just a feeling, a knot in our stomachs that if we let it, will paralyze us and keep us from the one thing we all have deep down inside of us, and that is…COURAGE. The truth is, along with the “fear voices” we also have “courage voices.” The volume on each depends on how much you are feeding each voice. If you feed your fear, then it will be louder and more times than not you will not hear courage. If you feed courage, then you will most certainly drown out the voices of fear. So here is some Courage food for you today…God told Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Paul told Timothy: “God has not giving you a spirit of fear but of sound mind, power and love” (II Tim. 1:7). Phil. 4:13 says “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” What more do you need if God is with you and you can depend on His strength?
Whatever you are faced with today, start feeding the courage inside of you with Gods word, surround yourself with positive people that will encourage you to be everything God created you to be, and stop letting fear paralyze you. God has so much more for you! Courage+God with you= You can do this. GO.




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