Archive for December, 2010

22
Dec
10

with everything

“With everything, with everything, we will shout for Your glory. With everything, with everything, we will shout forth Your praise.”

That was the last lyric from the last song of the last worship set I would be a part of for the year 2010. I remember being still as the curtain closed in front of us, and even after we had the all-clear to unplug I remained frozen. I stood at my mic stand still strapped into my guitar while everyone else cleared out, and I just started to cry very quietly, not wanting to move or even breathe.

I tend to get quite reflective at the end of the year, especially thinking about my year in ministry. I was thinking about all of the blood, sweat, and tears that I had left on various stages in our church over the past year. The days when I gave all, yet didn’t feel anything, and the days when I gave very little and was blessed with so much. The days when I poured my heart out in between the lines, and the days I left my guts on stage for the world to see. I know those words sound messy, but I think it’s appropriate – worship is a very beautiful yet messy offering.

Jesus, You are worth everything I have to give, and so much more than I could ever offer. I pray that in 2011, I wouldn’t hesitate to worship You with everything that I am in Spirit and in truth, no matter what it costs. Your Word says in Psalm 15:4 that it’s honorable to keep an oath “even when it hurts.” I pray that I might worship You through joy, heartbreak, satisfaction, discontentment, weariness, happiness, brokenness, and undignified passion. I pray I would show up and step behind the mic and let You have Your way. And I pray that I would still show up and stand even taller and sing even louder when it hurts. Because You’re worth it. You’re my everything. And I can’t wait to shout for Your glory in the coming year.

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16
Dec
10

carols in the hallways….

This time of year, the songs of Christmas and the Holiday Season are everywhere!  Christmas songs and carols are playing on radio stations, over the p.a. speakers in stores, shopping malls, restaurants…EVERYWHERE.  Music is SO much a part of the traditions of the Holiday Season.  Think about taking advantage of that as you plan music experiences for your church in the days and weeks that lead up to Christmas.

Regardless of whether you have a full orchestra or a smaller group of players for your regular weekly worship services, here’s a fun idea for using instrumentalists at Christmastime:

Over the past several years, on occasion we’ve positioned our orchestra players (in small groups of 2,3, or 4 players) at various entrances, foyers, and sometimes roaming through the congregation playing Christmas carols before and in between the worship services, just as an added  dose of “Holiday cheer.”

There are LOTS of sources of published music. A quick trip to your local music supplier (either a music store or a website!) and you will easily discover titles such as, “Christmas Carols for Two,” “Carols for Three,” etc.  Look for these titles in the catalogs and listings of publishers and websites such as:

Alfred Music, Hal Leonard Music, Kendor Music, RBC Music, Southern Music, http://www.musicnotes.com and www.sheetmusicplus.com.

And most instrumentalists will LOVE the opportunity to play them.  Minimal expense (and the music can be used repeatedly in the future) and just a few available and willing players can make this happen.  And your people (players AND those who hear them) will love you for it!  Watch for the smiles on their faces as they enter your church’s sanctuary, find their seats, and get ready to worship!

Think of the places that you could set up a small group of players…audible, but just out of the flow of traffic.  Because chairs take up additional space and are less portable, ask the players to stand while they play (unless playing their instrument requires them to sit – like a cello player, for instance).  Because the people will be passing by rather than standing still to listen, you’ll only need 3 or 4 tunes to play…AND you can repeat them as much as you want – even EVERY YEAR.

Just a thought – give it a try next year.  Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed and happy New Year 2011.

Blessings to you in Christ!

Ron Blount

13
Dec
10

Easy Computer Monitor Fix

A few years ago when I was purchasing computer monitors, I went to Consumer Reports to see what they recommended.  They rated the Samsung SyncMaster 214T LCD monitor as best.  I purchased three and placed them side to side.  This setup works great with my recording computer – plenty of screen “real estate.”

Well, about three months ago, one monitor started giving trouble.  It would flicker on and off.  If I re-booted it might work for a while, but then go off again.  I went to eBay to find a replacement to match my other 214Ts.

At eBay, I typed in a search for “Samsung 214T” and I found something that was much better than a used monitor.  It was a simple kit of parts to REPAIR my monitor!  It turns out that one of the main causes of LCD Monitor or TV failure is dried up capacitors.  By replacing the capacitors on the power supply, you will give your LCD monitor or TV a new lease on life!

The kit was only $11.  It comes from a company called LCD Alternatives. http://www.lcdalternatives.com/ .  The website shows step by step photo instructions on how to install the repair kit.  I bought the kit and soldered the parts in and presto – my monitor worked like it was new!

They have kits for ANY BRAND LCD monitor or TV.   So when yours starts flickering, don’t start bickering.  Buy the simple set of parts and fix your own monitor.  Get your soldering iron out and save yourself some dough!

Until next time,

Marius

09
Dec
10

trade relevance for transcendence

I’ve been trying to crack the code on leading worship for middle school students for quite a while now. They are a tough crowd, but it’s not their fault. Middle schoolers are at that age where they are not sure yet if they want to buy in to what you’re doing. And they are also not sure yet if they are too cool for what you’re doing. Again, it’s not their fault – that’s the age and stage that they are in.

This past month I have found myself sinking into the abyss of a very mellow mood in our middle school service. I figured that if I am supposed to be “relevant,” I should meet these kids where they are in order to gain their trust when I talk to them about Jesus. So if I am supposed to meet some of these kids where they are at, that means I need to be sleepy, kinda not sure I want to be there, and maybe not caring? Really?

I decided to try something different a couple of weekends ago. I tuned out the vibe in the room, and concentrated on making sure my band was having a fun and outrageous time on stage. We did songs they loved to play, added some fun excessive outros, and planned many unnecessary breaks in the arrangements just for kicks.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing too, in fact I asked myself these questions before I pulled the trigger: Isn’t it selfish to pick songs the band wants to play, and not think about the congregation? If you’re having so much fun up there, are you really worshiping with all of that energy that could be distracting? I decided to bypass answering and just go for it.

And guess what? It worked. I don’t know how, but the students in the room saw how much fun we were having worshiping Jesus, and it started to be contagious. They were clapping without me having to do what I like to call the “desperate rally clap” behind the mic every other verse, and even crazier – they were singing. And even smiling.

I think we might want to reconsider being so “relevant” that we leave our students right where they are, instead of challenging them and taking them somewhere. We can’t drag them, but even the word “leading” implies transcendence – we should lead them somewhere, somewhere different than where they find themselves. And if they find themselves a bit too chilled out, bored, and not that excited about worship, then we as worship leaders might want to invest energy in leading them out of that funk.

My new hope is that our students can’t wait to be in our room, and when they leave not only do they feel like they’ve been somewhere else for an hour, but they can’t wait to come back next weekend.

08
Dec
10

Songs in the Key of Off

That was going to be the title of my debut recording project as a solo singer.  Why?  Because I’m NOT a singer.  Seriously.  I even have “safety glass” in my shower at home, just in case, so that if I ever break out in song and then the glass BREAKS, I won’t get hurt.  God didn’t give me a singing voice.  No natural vibrato (or UNnatural vibrato, for that matter).  From my earliest memories as a child He did give me, however, an intense interest in music.  Which developed naturally into a desire to learn more about music.  To play an instrument.  My first music lessons were on the piano.  I was not a good student (I hated to practice every day), but I did enjoy learning to play by ear. Which kept me at least patient with undergoing the process of learning all those scales (when does my thumb cross under and why isn’t it the same for left AND right hands ???).  After 3 extremely productive years of training on the piano, I discovered school band.  My instrument?  Snare drum.  The first priority? Finding a teacher so that I could learn the instrument properly for participation in the band at school.  Interestingly, the music fundamentals that I learned on the piano applied exactly  the same to the snare drum.  All the musical elements (time signatures, note values, repeat signs, rhythms) except for PITCH (there is only one pitch on the snare drum – that is why all of the notes are written on the same space on the staff) that you learn for one element of music apply for all of the other elements.  That’s one of the reasons music can be called “The Universal Language.”

Back to my story:  as I was taking these music lessons, all along the way I was aware of pop music that I was hearing on the radio and on records.  I discovered a curiosity with learning to play the melodies at first, then later the chord progressions on the piano.  When I took my records to friends houses, sometimes I discovered that their piano was tuned a little higher (or lower) than mine, so playing along with the records necessitated learning to play the song in the next key higher or lower than I’d learned it at home.  I didn’t know anything about transposition, I just learned to do it.  The songs were very simple (only 3 or 4 chords max).

I got my first drum set as a birthday present three years after I started taking snare drum lessons.  I got my first guitar a couple of years later for Christmas.  By this time, I knew enough about music that I taught myself to play the guitar.  I learned to play from chord books and from watching bands on television.  When I learned a new chord like “G7#9” I would immediately go to the piano and pick out the notes from the guitar on the piano.  Then I’d know WHY that chord was called by its name and the exact NOTES that it took to make a chord like that.

When I finished high school I was not at the top of my graduating class.  But God provided a way for me to go to college.  What was my major, you ask?!?!  MUSIC, of course.  I was also not a great student in college, but I eventually did graduate with a degree in Music Education.  A couple of years later, I felt God calling me into full-time Christian music ministry.  Because of my lackluster scholastic record to that point, I felt that I needed more education in order to be more prepared and qualified to pursue a career in ministry as a Minister of Music, Worship Leader, or whatever you’d like to call it.   2.5 years later I completed a Master in Church Music degree in Percussion Performance.  I was a much better student this last time around…and that was enough school for me (ha)!  Not everyone has been blessed as I was to receive a formal music education.  That doesn’t make me superior to them or them inferior to me.  All I can say is that, for me, it was God’s way of providing me the kind of preparation that He knew I’d need for me to do what I do, and to be able to do it for my whole career.

To this point, I’m about halfway through my 34th year in full-time ministry.  All but 4 of those years have been in Music-related ministry in churches.  Since 1983, my primary responsibilities in church music leadership have been in writing, arranging, and developing instrumental music for worship.  I have also written and arranged music for choirs…you don’t have to be a singer to do that! God has been so good to me.  That is my story…I am blessed.

The point is:  If you have any interest in music, pursue it!  Get involved in an activity that will allow you to grow and improve your talent.  Pursue Him in worship.  Offer your talent back to God as a praise offering.  Daily.  He will bless you for it!

07
Dec
10

Abiding

The concept of abiding is not very consistent with the Western culture. This is probably true because we do not understand it. When I first think of abiding, my mind goes to sitting around in a passive state of being. When truly it is the state of being in which we place our total trust in God for our every need and walking in faith to the degree that we give up our own rights so that His plan can be perfected in us.

Jesus taught this concept in John 14 when He used the example of the vine and the branches. The Vine is Jesus , the vinedresser is God the Father, and we are the branches. To abide in the vine means we draw our life, strength, and nutrition from Jesus. The Father comes along and prunes the branches of unneeded things that would hinder the branch from reaching its full potential. The branches that are not producing anything are taken away and burned. So you see, the branch that is working most efficiently gets the most attention from both the vine and the vinedresser.

You must know that everything within me wants to be in control of God’s plan for me but I also realize that God has put all the resources in my hands that I need to accomplish His good will and purpose in my life. When I choose to abide in His grace, mercy, and directives, my life always seems to get the greater blessing.

God, plug me into the Vine today and let me draw all that I need from you through your Son Jesus.

06
Dec
10

BROKEN RESTORED LOVED- Life, Diapers and doing the right thing

My 2-year-old son Joshua said “Good job Papi” as I changed his dirty diaper. It was one of those moments as a dad where I was proud of him and at the same time felt good because I was doing something right, even though it is never fun changing a dirty diaper. It also gave me a good illustration for today’s blog. Can I be real? In life, we deal with different messes that feel like dirty diapers at times. You don’t look forward to changing them, you can’t wait to throw them away, and you know that it is not the last time you will deal with them…they just stink. Sometimes in the middle of trying to clean up a mess, whatever it is, we need to be reminded that we are doing a good job and to keep on doing the right thing. Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” The truth is we all have messes. God takes our messes and makes something beautiful. A great part of that process is our willingness to continue to surrender, do the right thing and not give up. Today, you may be faced with wanting to give up. Something in your life represents that dirty diaper and you are getting pretty tired of changing it. Take a moment, breathe and trust that at just the right time you will reap a harvest of blessing if you don’t give up and continue to do the right thing.




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