Archive Page 2

14
Dec
11

Playing together…not just at the same time

I taught private drum lessons for many years.  Like any instrument, unless you plan to play by yourself and (in the case of keyboard and guitar) you intend to only play by yourself forever, it is important that you also learn to play in an ensemble setting.  Not only playing at the same time, but together.  In the beginning, so many garage bands start out sounding like an orchestrated train wreck…mostly because each of the players is concentrating more on playing all the hot licks he/she knows rather than listening and learning to be a part of a single (unified) ensemble sound.  With everyone playing all of the time, there is no clarity and the overall sound is always too loud and too busy.

As this relates to drummers, it means that your first 3 instruments are the kick drum, the snare drum, and the hi hat.  Tom-toms and cymbals are unimportant, because your first job as a drummer is to hold the band together.  Simple, basic time patterns on the drums are what hold a band together.  More toms and more cymbals don’t make you a better drummer.  Practice with a metronome (and stick with it!).  Metronomes don’t lie.  They keep a steady beat, never going faster or slower.  Practicing with a metronome will force you to learn and understand what it means to keep a steady tempo, and you’ll hear when you rush or drag because the metronome doesn’t lie!

The two most important fundamental factors that will make you a good drummer are: 1) the ability to keep a steady tempo,  and 2) the ability to draw consistently good, uniform tones from each of the instrument…that is, knowing how and where to strike each instrument in order to get the best response from that instrument every time you hit it.  Please understand that there’s a LOT more to playing drums than it looks like from a distance.  And having more drums/cymbals/other doo-dads doesn’t make you a better drummer.  That just proves you spend more money on toys.

If you want to test yourself, try removing all of the toms and all of the cymbals (or maybe all but just one 🙂 for your next practice session.  That will force you to listen to yourself and to work on getting consistent tone from the kick, snare, and hi hat (also the one optional crash cymbal).  Practice with a metronome.  Play for long periods of time ( 5-7  minutes ) at a time, to test your patience.  I promise it can only HELP your drumming.

Last thing: Remember that in the ensemble/band setting, you are the conductor and rhythmic foundation.  If you don’t have your act together, the band will always struggle rhythmically, and will probably not last long as a unit.  If you do your job, then the rest of the guys probably won’t be asking you to move on.  Also remember:  less is more – there is always room for more.

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12
Dec
11

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

I used to like Burl Ives. Really, I did. I anticipated the Christmas season with great fervor and started each season off with Emmy Lou Harris’ “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’.” The impetus for this Christmas unveiling when I was a young adult was the first cold snap when I had to light the pilot light in my furnace. I would stand over the grate in the floor and as the heat rose up, I would sing along with my Emmy Lou Harris Christmas album at the top of my lungs. It was glorious. It was always the first Christmas song I played; it was always the first Christmas song I heard each year. I controlled how Christmas was doled out because years ago, merchandizing had not started cramming it down our throats. I was very selective with the music and reserved it for the Christmas season only, the one and only exception being this annual personal heater lighting ceremony.

Now I’m afraid if I hear Burl Ives sing “Holly Jolly Christmas” one more time, I will pummel the next five shoppers I see. The song brings out the Scrooge in me. I don’t want to buy gifts anymore. I don’t want to be within ten miles of a mall or even the grocery store with the incessant sound tracks playing. I just want to be with my family and friends. And most of all, I want to worship the Christ Child. The Savior of the world. My Savior, my God and my friend.

It is our job as worship leaders to cut through this squandering of Christmas. To put right the aberration of the purity, the simplicity of the story of “God who came to live with us.” We may be tempted to entertain the people as they walk in the door for their twice-a-year trek to church. We may be tempted to stick with tradition and not dig too deep into abandoned worship. We may be tempted to go easy, so we won’t scare them off.

But what do you think those shepherds did in that stable? Do you think they sang some four hundred year old song about the promised Messiah? God was laying right there in front of their eyes. Angels were splitting the sky open with their celestial praise; the glory of the Lord filled the atmosphere. I think they were dumbfounded with a standing in awe kind of praise that erupted in earnest and spontaneous thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure it was not very holly jolly at all. I’m pretty sure it was profound.

Don’t get me wrong. Christmas is light-hearted too. The Light of the World banished sin and death and brought us new life. We absolutely need to celebrate the birthday of the King. Throw Him a party! Dance and sing! But do it from a place deep in your heart that screams out “I love You! Thank You for coming to save me!” Then take time to usher in the Holy Spirit, the Wonderful Counselor, the One who heals and comforts and reveals all truth. And be contagious about it. Drown out the sounds of the world that tells us we can buy Christmas. Drown out the lie that we can “have ourselves a merry little Christmas and all our troubles will be out of sight.” Minister to someone whose circumstances contradict any hope that their Christmas will be holly jolly.

The bottom line: Worship this Christmas. As you sing the words to those traditional carols, full of truth, full of theology, full of life, MEAN them. Spend time with your family reading prophecy and its fulfillment. Spend time with people that need your faith, need your spirit, need your joy. Make the season holly jolly for real.

05
Dec
11

Our Eternal Joy

Worship is not a fad but an eternal practice. Worshiping on earth is like practicing for heaven. I’ve talked about heaven a lot over the years. Jokes and stories about seeing loved ones are common parts of every day conversations. We don’t have a lot of word pictures of Heaven in the Bible, so there is some degree of mystery about what Heaven will be like. Heaven is really beyond our imagination and like nothing we have ever experienced. What pictures we have in Scripture include sitting around the throne adoring Jesus – the One who got us there!

John, in the book of Revelation, described the most sensational worship experience in history. The time, date, and place are yet to be determined. Notice the focus was not the method of worship or even the worship leaders. The band, sound, and style are incidental. Worship is focused on the most worthy Lamb of God! And He is the focus of our worship now, too. How much relational tension in churches would be bypassed if the Lamb became the single focus! My friend, Dennis Jernigan, wrote a worship song that captures this sensational worship experience in Revelation.

We Will Worship

We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King of kings We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King

And with our hands lifted high, we will worship and sing. And with our hands lifted high, we come before You rejoicing. With our hands lifted high to the sky, when the world wonders why, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King…oh, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King. Dennis Jernigan

Read through all of Revelation 4-5 if you want to enjoy a great personal worship time. John described the worship this way:

“And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Rev. 4:9-11)

“And every created thing which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:13-14)

What a picture! Can you imagine the scene in Heaven? Worship is the natural response to someone we adore. We cheapen worship when we try to guilt or manipulate people into being excited about Jesus Christ. Worship is so much greater than manufactured experiences. Worship is discovering who Jesus really is face-to-face. Authentic excitement follows that great discovery. God longs for us to worship Him unashamed, unhindered, and unforced. When we are truly with Him (Revelation 4-5), we get to that incredible place.

Christian musician and worship leader, the late Keith Green, once asked the question, “Will we be bored in Heaven?” In his article, he made a powerful and convicting observation:

“The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us.

If you don’t like worship here, you’ll be miserable in Heaven! You will be bored stiff! We will adore the One who loved us first for eternity. Revisit these great passages that reveal who Jesus is. Reconsider where you are in your relationship with Him. He will ignite a new flame of passion for Him when you do.

 

 

Excerpts from the book “Will You Worship”  by Ray Jones with Dino Senesi

Available at http://www.cbcmusicstore.com Dec. 17

30
Nov
11

potential in people, not programs

I’ve seen this happen a hundred times and have been a willing participant in it as well:

A person comes up to you and says they play an instrument or sing. You instantly do that thing where you think you can tell by the way they are talking if they are any good or not. You tell them you’d love to hear them sometime and tell them more about your program to see if they’d be a good fit. You do one of the following:

1) take their number and lose it on your desk later,
2) tell them to call your office with the less-than-thrilling idea of a screening,
3) tell them to find you on Facebook and then you lose their message amongst the hundred that are already sitting in your message box,
4) have them play or sing fairly quickly for you right there on the spot and instantly realize they’re either ready for your program or they are not,
5) kick yourself realizing you need a program or a system for finding new players and singers,
6) repeat a combination of 1-5

Trying to find people who would “be a good fit” for my programs (services, choirs, orchestras, bands, etc.) can be a very dangerous dead-end street. If we are constantly focused on the potential in our program, we will only be building the kingdom of our program, and not the Kingdom of God. What about the potential of that person that came up to you? What if we shifted our focus and investment to instantly seeing potential in people instead of programs?

If we don’t have a place for people to go who have potential but are not quite there yet, how do we ever expect them to get anywhere? We send them away thinking they are going to come back six months later magically better and ready to be able to hold their own. No wonder most of them never come back – we never offered them help.

The disciples didn’t have it all together when Jesus invited them to follow Him around. In fact, they were a glorious mess. But Jesus saw the passion and potential in every one of them, and He knew that if He just gave them a place, if He just gave them a chance to learn from Him, they would grow. Never once did Jesus think about the gravity of saving the world and think, “Nah….these guys can’t cut it.” He let them follow along, fumbling a bit here and there, putting their foot in their mouth every once in a while, but they kept learning…so they kept following….and they kept learning…and kept following…do you see the cycle?

The most important students in my band development program are not the students who are already playing main stages here in our venues. They are not the ones who have the best equipment plus the ability to use it well. They are not the ones who can play blindly without charts even if I transpose on the spot. I love all of my students, but the most important students are the ones who aren’t ready yet.

The most important students are the ones who are working hard every week in small offices with coaches just learning how to sight-read rhythm charts and keep up with a song. No lights, stages, or loud amps – just hard work. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing yet, but they are learning more and more every week. And when it’s time, their coach will tell me “They’re ready,” with a big smile on their face. But those students have to have somewhere to go, and somewhere to grow. Those students have to have someone who see potential in them and believe in them enough that they will create a place where that development can happen.

They’re the most important people in my program because they are the future of The Church. Long after my programs are gone, long after I’m gone, there is a good chance these students will be somewhere in the world leading worship. If I’m really going to walk the talk and be a Kingdom Builder, I cannot see every player through the filter of the holes I need to fill in my program. I have to trust God to fill those holes at the right time. I have to have a season where maybe I don’t have a player who can pull off leads like John Mayer.

I have to get my focus off the vision of a stage that sounds perfect and instead have a vision of people simply making it to the next step in their development. Jesus never asked me to turn every student into a professional player. But He did ask me to see them like He sees them, and to help train them and disciple them and give them a chance to connect to Him in worship through their talents. And I’m finding at the end of the day it’s a much better view from up here.

21
Nov
11

Walk in My Shoes

I had a 5th grade girl in the recording studio last week, and like me, she is a tiny little thing. We had lowered the microphone to its shortest possible level and she was still straining her neck to have a straight shot at the mic. Not a good position to lay some vocals. I quickly looked around the room for anything she could stand on. A chair would be too high. I didn’t want her to sit on a stool. And then the answer hit: “Peyton… would you be willing to stand in my shoes?”

My wedge heels were the perfect height to raise her up. I took a picture of her singing in my shoes. It was pretty neat. But the more I thought about it, I realized that there was a deeper meaning. As she sang, I began to pray “Lord, let her voice be strong like mine as she grows. Let her heart be turned toward ministry. Let her see my example and walk in Your ways.”

In children’s ministry, God gives us tiny little hearts to mold. Tiny little beginnings to turn into big futures. Tiny little talents to develop into huge gifts for the kingdom. I am always looking ahead, trying to discern where God may be leading each child I have the opportunity to work with individually.

There is a young man whom I “discovered” from the thousands of kids in Vacation Bible School one year. He was not involved in our Kids Choir program. But in the midst of the congregation that week, his enthusiasm and passion kept drawing my eyes. I convinced him to try Kids Choir that fall. Now he has recorded with us on two Kids Choir CDs and is continuing his worship leading with our new middle school choir,  Ignite. Andrew says that his goal is to “take over Ray Jones’ job” one day. Makes me laugh, but I don’t doubt for one second that God will indeed use him in ministry in a big way. Just last week, I called his mom to see if I could try his little brother Matthew in the studio. I needed a young voice and had never recorded a five year old before. She said “Well I’m glad you didn’t talk to Andrew first. He has already been working with Zoe on that song.” She’s three. Andrew has already taken upon himself the task of leading and teaching others. He walks in our shoes.

Our new middle school choir led worship a few weeks ago and I was moved to almost wracking sobs, overwhelmed by the Spirit of the Lord in the room. As the dancers made the lyrics of a great worship song spring to life, I marveled that every single one of the girls grew up in Kids Choir, every single one was prepared to a professional level because they had been led by a masterful dance teacher whose heart of worship is evidenced through the choreography she creates. They dance in Phaedra’s shoes.

Our youth choir Puresound will lead worship this weekend. They are led by a young woman who grew up at CBC, that sang in Kids Choirs and the Youth Choir that I led, that I taught voice and piano to for six years. She walks in my shoes.

Thank you Lord for this awesome privilege! Thank you for the Peytons and the Andrews and the Kristens that you give us to mold. Help all of us see that our lives are the textbook they are reading, and help us to follow consistently and passionately after you.
“Step by step You lead me, and I will follow You all of my days”
Rich Mullins

15
Nov
11

Lessons from the dance floor

Had you told me 6 months ago that I would develop a love for swing dancing, I would have laughed out loud.  Here’s what happened. I’m just as shocked as you are.

I have been trying to find something to do for fun that isn’t music related, something new that I haven’t tried, some way to meet new people. I overheard a friend of mine mention that she had been going swing dancing every week, and I had thought maybe I’d give it a try. Now I have grown up being very self-conscious of dancing for the most part. Just because you are a musician and have rhythm doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a good dancer, and I’m a pretty good case of just that.  But I figured I’d give it a try.  Why not?

Being a worship leader, I am most comfortable on stage with a guitar in my hand. That’s my “safe place.”  Not that it’s about being on stage, because we all know that it’s not – but that’s my sweet spot, it’s where I feel in control, it’s where I basically know what I’m doing most of the time.  I found out rather quickly that the dance floor was the exact opposite of what I thought of a as a “safe place” the very first night.

I went to the lesson before hand, learned the basic steps, and proceeded to stumble my way through the entire evening attempting to let other guys lead while I attempted even harder to follow. It was a hilarious mess.  I had the basic steps down after a couple hours, but that was about it.  But I had fun, which was really strange to me.  And so I went back the next week…and then the next week…and the next week….and before you know it, here it is a month later and I am triple stepping, doing tandem charleston, and a bunch of other crazy dances that I have never heard of.   And I have to say, after practicing and trying and being willing to learn, I’ve actually gotten the swing of it.  Pun intended.

Here’s the point – when I’m swing dancing, I am totally out of my comfort zone – I can’t lead. I wouldn’t have the first clue as to what to do.  I am used to steering the ship, and there was an internal squirm the first night –  where is my microphone?!?  A monitor?!?  Something!! Can I just jump on stage with the band instead of dance?!?  Swing dancing forces me to follow.  In fact, if I don’t relax my frame and allow my partner to literally push me and guide me with his hand, it is one huge mess.  To take the obvious metaphor even further, I am not even supposed to look down, I am supposed to keep my eyes on my partner for the most part.

We get so used to being large and in charge on stage, sometimes I think it’s good to humble ourselves and do something that challenges us to follow and not lead for a change, and maybe learn something new.  Sometimes I get so headstrong in what I am capable of doing, I forget to relax and trust God’s leading – He is trying to nudge me along, but if I don’t let Him lead I only end up messing things up for the most part.   It makes sense to try and look down and focus on trying to figure things out, but the Word says to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust His leading first.   If we would just do that, we might find some other “safe places” in life that we never knew existed.


09
Nov
11

The Little Things

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the grandest of gestures that make an impression in our lives and on our hearts?  The unexpected stuff that catches off guard and brings undeserved joy to our day is the best!

Over the years of working with teens, it’s been my practice to send each member of our youth choir a birthday card from all of their choir leaders on their special day.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that they receive “real” mail in the mail box, which is pretty rare for all of us these days, or the hand-written note I include, or just the fact that they feel thought of and celebrated, but the response always amazes me.

I have received emails, texts, phone calls and even thank you notes from students and parents alike…for a birthday card…crazy, right?  Such a small thing, but God has used it to touch the hearts of our kids.

Since our enrollment has exceeded over 200 at times, this practice is sometimes overwhelming in the midst of the dozens of other things on my “to do” list.  I admit, at times, I’ve considered giving up this custom to free my time for “more important” tasks.  Each time that thought has crossed my mind, the Lord quickly reminds me of the impact I’ve been shown that this has had, and possibly some I may never know.  To this day, it’s my weekly task to see that this happens, in obedience to His urging.  After all, really, what could be much more important than lovin’ on these kids?

So many little things, like learning and calling our students by name bless and build relationship.  After all, God knows our names.  Can’t we strive to do the same no matter how many there are?  Believe me it’s not easy, but it lights up their face, especially when you run into them outside the walls of the church.

Even now, God reminds me of some of the “little things” He’s done for me and how, only I, really, fully understand what it meant to me at that moment in time.  It can be unnoticed by others, but deeply profound to me.  God is so specific in speaking to our hearts, even in the most subtle of ways.

The Word says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I believe we can show love, change a heart, an attitude, a belief, heal a hurt, encourage, give worth…all by one small act of kindness.   Let’s all ask ourselves, “What’s my “little thing” today, and who might it touch?

 

Sherry Owen is the Founder & Director of Puresound, CBC’s high school (formerly 7th-12th grade) youth choir.




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