Archive for July, 2011


Can God Use Me?

I was 14 year old when God called me to ministry. It was on a Sunday night in August, 1969. Mr. Whitehead, a deacon at our home church, came to me that night and invited me to do a ministry with him the following Sunday afternoon. He said, “Jones – if you’re going to be in the ministry, you need to meet me here Sunday at 2 o’clock. Bring your guitar.” When I got there, I asked him, “where are we going?”  He mumbled, “we are going to jail.” When you are young in the ministry, you start out at the nursing home and the jail. In the nursing home they can’t hear you, and in jail they can’t leave…both are a captive audience. Sorry, bad humor.

This was the first time that I had been to a jail. As a young teen, I was pretty intimidated by the circumstances, but I was willing to go and sing my three little songs that I had prepared. When it came time to preach, Mr. Whitehead – with no advance warning – announced to the inmates that I was preaching. Wow!!! My first sermon was 11 minutes long and I told themeverything I knew about God. When I asked them if anyone would like to accept Christ, 7 out of 13 said yes. God taught me that day that it was not about me. God took the feeble words of a 14 year-old kid and brought hardened criminals to the cross.

As I left the jail, I was on a spiritual high because God taught me a valuable lesson. If God can use a 14 year-old kid that knew nothing, He can use anyone.

Yes, God can use you today and everyday. Make yourself available and God will surprise you with how much you can do for His kingdom.


Contemporary Keyboard in Worship

Playing keys in a contemporary worship band is a paradox.  The more background (private lessons, experience playing a keyboard in a band with at least two more instruments, and playing a keyboard while you and/or someone else is singing) you have in playing acoustic piano or an electronic keyboard the better.  But once you get started playing with a group, you’ll discover that the simpler and more concise you play your part, the better you’ll sound in the group AND the easier it will be for the group to play with you.  Private lessons are a definite plus.  Lessons teach you where you put your fingers on the keyboard and how you go up and down the keys.  Otherwise you’re limited to the “hunt and peck” method, just like typing on a computer with just a couple of fingers on each hand.  If you haven’t had the blessing of private study, but you’ve already begun to experiment with playing on a keyboard, no worries, you can still benefit from some lessons with a qualified teacher.

One of the nicest things about learning any element of music on any instrument or voice is that all music is universal – if you learn the basics of music on a keyboard and then take up the guitar, everything you learned about music on the piano transfers to the guitar, or the clarinet, or voice, or percussion.  And in 4/4 time, a quarter note gets one count…no matter if you’re singing that quarter note, or playing it on the piano or the flute or the snare drum. I started with piano lessons.  Then when I began to take lessons on the snare drum, I discovered that the music fundamentals that I learned for the piano were the same basics that I needed to know for the snare drum…and the rhythmic studies that I learned on the snare drum helped me with my understanding of piano music.  THEN as began to learn how to play those “fun” chords on the guitar, I could go back to the piano, pluck one string on the guitar at a time and discover what the notes (pitches) were in…say, a C7#9#5 chord. It all works together!!

So…if you’ve had some piano lessons and you want to begin to play keys in a worship band…go for it!  Here are just a few of the beginning musical concepts that you’ll need to play contemporary keyboard:

1) When you’re playing a melody (in an introduction, interlude, or solo passage) on the keys, keep your accompaniment (left hand) SIMPLE (play fewer notes) and do NOT overplay the sustain pedal.  An electronic sustain pedal tends to run all of the notes together and, all too often, ruins the clarity of the instrument.  LISTEN with a critical ear to yourself playing with the group.  In a group, the keyboard is not the center of attention…only a part of the total sound.  If your “runny” sound begins to draw attention to itself (BECAUSE it is runny!), then you’re interfering with the total sound of the ensemble.  Go easy on the sustain pedal.  In faster tempos or more rhythmic songs, you might even experiment with playing without using the sustain pedal at all.  Scary, huh?  Then work on your keyboard chops.

2) When the keyboard part you’re playing is part of the rhythmic accompaniment (in other words, you’re playing chords), keep your rhythmic patterns SIMPLE…say, just play quarter notes in the right hand and bass notes (with a simple rhythmic pattern that either doubles or accents the electric bass part) in the left hand.  If there’s a bass player in your group, you hardly need to play your left hand at all…let the bass player cover the bass notes.

3) Learn to voice chords in all of their inversions.  What is an inversion?  The easiest way to remember inversions is this:  To begin with, most chords have 3, 4 or (sometimes) 5 notes.  A C chord is a 3-note chord, called a triad, and is made up of 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones in the scale.  In the key of C for example those notes would be C, E and G .  Those notes are also (not coincidentally) played with your 1st, 3rd, and 5th fingers. In the fundamental position, the thumb of your right hand plays C, E, and G, with the C on the bottom.  That same chord can also be played with the thumb on the E, the 2nd finger on the G, and 5th finger on the C…OR you can play it with the thumb on G, 3rd finger on C, and 5th finger on E.  The left hand plays a C bass note, regardless of the chord position played in the right hand.  There you have it.  That’s how to play a C chord on the keyboard.  Now all you have to do is to learn all of the other chords in the key of C…then move on to the key of G (one sharp) or F (one flat)!

4) Here’s a great thing to know:  you hardly ever need to use more than 3 fingers in each hand to play contemporary keys.  Most chords in the right hand can be voiced with no more than 3 fingers.  And the left hand almost always plays either one bass note, octaves, or (sometimes for power chords at the “big places” in songs) you can add the 5th in between the outer notes of the octave.

Not as hard as it sounds…remember a G chord is a G chord, no matter what key you’re playing in.  The difference lies in learning the SEQUENCES of chords (how each chord leads to the next chord) and voice leading (using the different positions of chords to smoothly flow from each chord to the next, rather than jumping from one chord in its fundamental position to the next chord in its fundamental position).

Wow…what a truckload of information in just those 3 points.  Confused?  When you actually see these points I’ve written above PLAYED on a keyboard, it makes much more sense. It’s really not as hard as it sounds. After you get used to creating chords on the keyboard, learning them in sequence, playing the bass notes in the left hand, then moving to songs in different keys, you can learn it! So many of the elements and concepts of music are just about numbers…the 7 notes in each scale, intevals (the distance – in steps or half-steps – from any lower note to the note immediately above it) and chords (three or more notes played at the same time) built on the interval from the bottom note to each note above it (ex: a triad in the fundamental position is made when you put your right thumb on the name note of the chord (thumb on a C for a C chord) and then your 3rd finger on the third note (an E) and your 5th finger on the fifth note (a G).  Then just shift your fingers and move upward to the next position of the chord (E,G,C) and so on….

Yes, it takes time and PRACTICE.  You need to get used to hearing the different voicings of the chords and feeling the way your fingers fall on the notes.  It’s worth the practice to be able to give your talent back to the Lord in a worthwhile musical setting.  And don’t overlook any opportunity to get alone with some who can teach you how to do it.  A teacher, sometimes yes, but not always:  when you hear someone play anything (a song, a musical style, a time signature-like 3/4 or 6/8 or any other non-conventional groove) ASK THEM ABOUT IT – say, “How did you play that?”  In most cases, people will tell you stuff like that.  You can learn ANYTHING, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME…AND, You’ll have so much more FUN playing music…AND you’ll become a competent contemporary keyboard player – I guarantee it!  Give your talent back to the Lord as your offering of praise.  He will bless you (and bless others through you)!

“Give to the Lord the glory He deserves.  Bring your offering and come into His courts.”  (Ps 96:8).


my believer-er is busted.

I had one of those conversations this morning where it was just as amazing as it was painful. I was sitting across from a woman who I greatly admire and respect who is walking some of the very same roads I am walking, and is just a few paces ahead of me in some respects.

She has every reason not to believe. She’s been burned, she’s seen signs and visions come to pass, and lives in a society that says the stats are stacked too high against her. She said God recently challenged her by telling her she wasn’t praying expectantly anymore. Everything she said after that was a blur. I heard it all, but it was swimming around in some pretty heavy emotions that I was starting to have to interface with as she was talking.

I guess “praying expectantly” brings to light the idea that sometimes when we pray, we’re not expecting anything we are praying for. That hurts my heart, mainly because I know it hurts His heart. I can’t imagine how many prayers I’ve prayed without really expecting anything….it was more like wondering…and wondering if God is going to do something is not the same thing as expecting Him to do something. And now that I think about it, hoping falls a little short of “expecting” too. Expecting is for those really bold, brash people who have the audacity to believe such things could happen. But not me. That would be impolite. And rude. And demanding. And assuming.

How contrary to how the mind and heart of a daughter of The King should work.

I am in a season where I think my believer-er is busted. Don’t freak. ”Oh my gosh, the worship pastor doesn’t believe anymore. Gasp!” It’s not beyond repair, but it’s seen it’s fair share of dreams, visions, scriptures, lights in the sky that spelled things out, and numbers that flashed frequently enough that it had to have meant something. I want to cover my eyes and ears sometimes because I am afraid I will believe something that won’t happen. Yep. Something’s busted. And the fact that I have the Holy Spirit within me to recognize that it needs repair is a really good thing.

The problem is I have to believe. If I have the Spirit of God living inside of me, I really don’t have a choice. I know what you’re going to say, I do have a choice. But I beg to differ. My heart can try to not believe, but my heart is inextricably tied to Jesus’ heart, and it cannot be divided. It might bleed and struggle, but at the end of the day the only way my heart can find peace is if it aligns itself with the heartbeat of an all-knowing God. And that alignment comes with expectantly believing that God is who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do.


A Servant’s Heart

“Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Luke 4:8)

Life goes fast. I’m going through this time right now where I am realizing I am actually a grown up. I guess I thought it might feel different or I would have this great “growing-up” moment. That didn’t seem to be the case. I felt like I blinked and “bam!” I was a real adult.

One of the things I am learning is that life doesn’t always come like you expect. I always thought I would go straight into full time ministry. Instead, God called me to the public school system. (Ouch!) One of the biggest lessons I have learned through this is that God calls you to be a servant…everywhere! Being His servant is not glamorous or prestigious or even revered by other people. It can be…but it usually isn’t. Serving God through every situation means being Jesus to the difficult people around you. God is calling us to serve Him even when we don’t feel like it. He will change your heart once you commit to doing everything (and I mean everything) for Him.



For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

For those of you that have ever experienced rejection, defeat, words of discouragement, verbal or physical abuse, depression, fear…today’s blog is for you. I have experienced all of these at different times in my life. What I learned about love from my earthly father distorted my view of a father’s love for years. I spent years trying to prove to those around me that I was good enough, but no matter how hard I tried, I always came to the conclusion that I wasn’t good enough. Sound familiar? This root of rejection went so deep.

When I gave my life to Christ in 1996, it was the beginning of me realizing that God, my Heavenly Father, had adopted me and paid a great price for me. My worth was enough that He gave His son to die for me. I was created in Christ Jesus to do great works, I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and the biggest realization was…I was LOVED no matter what I did. I could not do anything to change the love God had for me. This love that never changed was now changing me. As I look at my relationships now, I am reminded everyday that I don’t have to prove my self worth, I don’t have to be afraid of rejection because I have been accepted, I can love without fear because I am LOVED fearlessly.

You are LOVED and there is nothing you can ever do to change How much God loves you.

Here is a free download and video “LOVED”


Cubase is a great Nuendo Substitute

For the past ten years, here at Studio CBC we have been using Steinberg’s Nuendo as our main recording software.  We have tried Pro Tools, but Nuendo’s summing bus sounds better.  (We mix “inside the box” – meaning we do not use an external hardware console in the mixing process.)

When it came time to set up another room for recording, we could either buy another copy of Nuendo or buy Steinberg Cubase.  It turns out that Cubase is a great substitute for Nuendo.

Cubase was originally developed in the 1980s as a MIDI-sequencing program, and is the older of the two applications. Nuendo was introduced to the pro audio market in 2000.
The difference in price between Nuendo and Cubase is substantial. In 2010, the cost of purchasing a full version of Nuendo 5 was $1,800, compared to $500 for Cubase 5.
The principal difference between software packages lies in their functionality. Cubase is geared toward composers, musicians and producers wishing to create and record music. Nuendo has an array of exclusive features that make it an ideal choice for industry professionals working in audio post-production.
So we bought Cubase and tried it.  Turns out it is completely compatible with Nuendo.  You can open a Nuendo project in Cubase, and vice versa!  If you are a student or a teacher you can get the “academic” version for about $265 !  It’s the same as the $500 version.

Try it – you’ll like it!


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