Friday, November 26, 2010

A Concept of a Concept of God

First, watch this:

Did you catch the idea that these guys are running with?

"He doesn't want to be a concept to you, He wants to be your father."

God as a concept. How long have we viewed HIM like this? It's funny, because we Americans all have or still do, and yet refer to HIM as HE. I think I'm realizing more and more each day, each month, and each year that God is. He is a being outside of my control, objective to what I believe, and set apart from my thoughts about who He is. I have lived under a deceived state of mind for too long believing (in the back of my mind and in the deeper parts of myself) that if I decided not to believe in Him then He wouldn't exist. How selfish. How typical of a human, and an American human at that - that I would go so far as to say that I decide whether God exists, and His realness is dependent on me. The world does not revolve around me, and I'm finally seeing it clearer.

He is real - no doubts there now. But He is also a person. Though one can hardly refer to Him as such; infinite, everlasting, omniscient, omnipotent. Who is this King of Glory indeed?

Man so what in the world - my actions can affect our relationship. Just like a human relationship! Not talking to Him for a while creates a sense of distance! Who would've thought!

Today marks the 6th day that I haven't had a full, good, rich time alone with Him. That's a long time. That sort of distance is huge between two who are in such an intimate relationship, not to mention the fact that Biblically He's been wanting to hang out with me non-stop and half the time I've ignored it. Not to say there haven't been parts of the past few days where we've talked or hung out a bit. But not much.

If I view Him as He is - a 'person', I must see that I'm not the center in our relationship and that I should not determine how much or little we will talk or hang out. If anyone should it's Him. I love what Jimmy Seibert says, that we're like a married couple, in which two imperfect people must change to adapt to each other, except in this case, He's perfect, so we're the only ones needing adjusting! I need a lot of adjusting. I have faults that cannot be cured but by time with Him. He changes me. How convenient. Thank you God.

Thank you God that you are the alpha and omega - that you made me, and that you'll have the final say in my life too.
Thank you God that my life and who I am does not depend on me but on you, and I know that I can trust you.
Thank you God that although every good thing I come up with is as a dirty rag to you, you give me YOUR righteousness.
It's outside of my control and you know what? I'm completely okay with that. You have YOUR way, I won't have MINE.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I am getting inspiration from United Pursuit's new cd live at the banks house...I really think it would be absolutely awesome and sick to do something very similar. Collaborate with a few other musicians and get some songs together. Really the key would be to get the right percussion and string elements right. Not to have too much but to have some unique sounds. Acoustic guitar, simple & clean electric guitar, piano (preferably real), violin, cello if possible, some kind of drums (maybe a ride, high hat, low tom, and snare?), more percussion stuff - tambourine, shakers, woodblocks, random objects - djembe, harmonica, accordion, mandolin, banjo, xylophone. brass or woodwind instruments maybe. french horn...trumpet...clarinet or flute. I'm thinking outside of the box a bit. some kind of bells?

Write new songs, revamp old ones, and do a few normal ones. Get a set-list. practice once or maybe twice. encounter god. as much or as little music as it takes. maybe it would be a capella for a while. who knows!

Maybe all of this could happen eventually, but to get SOMETHING started would be crucial. A few nights with just acoustic and maybe 1-3 other elements. we'll see.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I wonder why our culture believes education is so important. I think that we value it because of our country's (and most countries') standards. To get a good job and to have influence in society, you need an education. In both the secular world and in the church we find that education is paramount in how well you can do. Why is it so important; why have we, as the american culture, created these standards that so stress the idea of education? Do we glorify knowledge? Do we fear the results of uneducated masses? Do we think that knowledge is power?

I don't disagree.

Education is vital.

But I wonder if it is as important as we think...

I casually drove up to my apartment, hastily turned into the parking lot, crookedly parked in the oversized spaces they give us, and thought: "I need to check all of my grades." The next thought was "I wonder if I'm doing badly." The next thought was "Why does it matter if I do well?" The next thought was "So that I can get my degree." The next thought was
"Why do I need a degree? Weren't Paul and the Acts saints mostly common and uneducated men?"
I believe that I have stumbled upon a fallacy of our culture: the idea that education is the key to our ultimate destiny as believers.
Look around and you will see this in everyone. The aspiring pastor goes to seminary. The hopeful missionary is an international studies major. The musician gets a degree to...get a degree.

I don't know what I'm saying, but I just know that if our focus is right - if our focus is on Christ, and our intent in obedience to Him, and our attitude in pleasing him, we will have different values.

Christ's call for each of us to make disciples of all nations beckons not primarily to the uneducated mind but to the obedient heart. It does also beckon at the educated mind, but my point is that His criteria for leadership and His measure for success lies not in how much we know but rather in how much we are willing to sacrifice. Will you be obedient to the Father until death? Will you truly take up your cross - not to lay it down again - and follow the Righteous one?
Will you be faithful in the small? In the unimportant, according to cultural standards?
Will you live kingdom values? Will YOU find satisfaction in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father?

I'm tired of aspiring leaders going to seminary to think their lives away, pastoring some church that gives American Christians a place to sit on a Sunday morning. We have created these standards for being "ordained" and for being fit to preach on a sunday morning, when the real standard in the body of Christ is character, obedience, and faithfulness in the little. We do need seminaries that teach truth and empower others to make change, but we also need to keep ourselves from the temptation to walk back into the garden to eat more of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil!

I frankly don't care for the knowledge of good and evil. I want the tree of life. I want the life of God in me for others.

We do need education. But more importantly we need a relationship with the father through Jesus Christ. Without that; without spiritual strength and character, our education is but an ugly coat we wear to cover up our inadequacies. We need Jesus. THEN we can handle the knowledge. Through Christ our education finds meaning and purpose. Through Christ, we can do something.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tasteful Guitar Playing...In Regards to the Recipe

Note: This was written over a month and may be scatter-brained.

Fellow guitarists,

So many times when I am playing guitar I have a sense of what "should" and what "shouldn't" be in the mix as far as guitar sounds. This morning I was thinking about the fact that everyone (every guitarist, every musician) has a unique set of "should" and "shouldn't-s", and I figured it might be beneficial to some if I shared mine. All of this is coming from 5ish years of experience playing guitar in churches, both good and bad experiences, as well as many conversations with musical friends, attentive listening, and lots of online reading and research. I don't have THE way as far as playing guitar, but God has given me a very keen ear for what sounds good and what doesn't. So take it as you will!

The most important element of music, ESPECIALLY worship music, is dynamic. Wikipedia says that,
"In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic (staccato, legato etc.) or functional (velocity). The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics. Dynamics do not indicate specific volume levels, but are meant to be played with reference to the ensemble as a whole."

I think that says very clearly what is encompassed in musical dynamics. If you have heard me talk about guitar playing or music, you will know that I am very passionate about dynamics. The reason behind this is simple: I believe that dynamics are (from a macro perspective) fundamentally more important than how fast you can play, how skilled you are, and how well you know your guitar. These elements are obviously all crucial to guitar skill, but without an understanding or more importantly a good ear for dynamics, these other things will come across wrongly and abruptly.

When I refer to dynamics in worship music, I am referring to multiple aspects of the music itself:

1. The overall dynamic of a song (including tempo and what kind of song it is)

2. Drum dynamics and how every instrument relates to the drums

3. Guitar effects dynamics in relation to the song and the band

4. Guitar playing dynamics in relation to the song and the band

I will explain more on each of these soon, but first I want to delve deeper into the various types of dynamics and models of dynamics that exist in guitar playing.

When playing guitar in a worship setting, there are many factors in play. First of all, and of utmost importance, is training yourself to be in-tune with the Holy Spirit, being open to what He is doing, and learning how to join in with your playing. This is a different subject. I've learned a lot through experience. Maybe I'll write about that another time.

Second of all, and of critical importance, is learning how to be on board with the worship leader and in sync with the band. It's particularly important to have an idea of what the worship leader wants, what they're looking for, and what they like. One primary role of guitar playing, after all, is supporting the worship leader wherever they're going. And how do you know how to do that if you don't know where they're going? I've been in many a situation where either I don't know the worship leader well, or don't know what they're looking for, and though the song may go smoothly, it loses so much impact from not having a single focus! I'll be building the song up when he wants it quiet, or I'll be playing softly when he wants me to be building the song.

Third of all, and also very important, is understanding the song. When covering a song, whether it's by hillsong and has been done a billion times, or is off world mandate 2010 and is fairly new, you want to get to know the song. Going into a song blindly can be beneficial SOMETIMES, if you're wanting a unique, original take on it. But, for the most part, the musicians who recorded the songs played certain parts for a reason...not by accident. I know many guitarists and musicians differ in opinion on the subject of staying true to a song's original version or making it "your own." My personal opinion is usually to try to stay true to the song's original feel. I almost always stick with the original guitar part, maybe varying subtle things, changing it every now and then, changing effects, or adding in small parts, but keeping the main melody intact. It was written that way for a reason. This also is subject to what the worship leader wants...whether he wants it like the cd or a fresh take.

Many times it's good to vary it according to the situation. If you're playing a song that could either be really hard hitting or really pretty..but you're playing it during offering or communion...maybe tone it down. But if you're at a lifegroup leader retreat where everyone's fired up and ready to go...I say let loose and go for it. You also must be aware of the situation as it relates to your band. If you're a 4 piece, maybe you shouldn't throw in all of the cool lead parts in the chorus and instead play some good inverted power chords up high to keep it driving. And if you have 2 guitarists and 2 keyboards, think of what will cut through the mix and add something to the huge sound your band probably (hopefully) has.

Here are the different dynamic patterns I see in guitar playing.
1. Soft --> Loud

2. Low --> High

3. Slow --> Fast

4. Staccato --> Legato

5. And usually a combination of all of those.

1. Soft to loud refers to the actual volume your guitar+effects+amp is putting out. This is influenced mainly by velocity of picking, pickup selection, and effects. I find that when I'm wanting to play softly at the beginning of maybe a really quiet and pretty song, I'll switch to my neck pickup to take off some treble, take off most or all overdrives, and pick really lightly. Maybe even fingerpick. On the other hand, if I'm trying to play loudly for a solo in a big song, I'll switch to bridge pickup to cut through with lots of treble, turn on all overdrives, add delay and/or reverb, and pick really strongly.

2. Low to High refers to both pitch and location on the neck. This is a pretty standard model I commonly use. It works simply: as the song builds larger, guitar playing goes higher. A great example is the song Came to the Rescue, off United's United We Stand album. It begins softly with a fairly low guitar part. It builds into the chorus with a similar and slightly higher guitar part. The second verse starts a little lower, and the second chorus is slightly higher. Then, for the instrumental going into the bridge, it goes up to the 12th fret for a really high guitar part. At the climax it moves even higher.

3. Slow to Fast refers to picking/strumming speed (and can also involve delay). This is a less conscious model for me. If I play by this model at all, it would probably involve something like picking quarter notes in an intro or verse and speeding it up to 8th notes in a pre-chorus. It also is seen in the fast dotted 8th delay...though that's just FAST. no slow.

4. Staccato and legato refers to fluidity...softer parts are usually very legato, and the dynamic is raised when playing more staccato notes because they stand out. This isn't too prevalent in guitar.

All of these influence dynamic in a cohesive manner. None of these elements exist separate from the rest. Usually in my guitar playing, I simultaneously increase volume and pitch. But remember, all of this is subconscious! It's innate in my playing because I have devoted myself to learning to add as much as possible to a song.

If you've ever sung in a choir you will have heard of the term blend. It is crucial in voices and singing but also applies with guitar. There ARE times where a simple melody should ring clear above all other instrumentation. That's tasteful. But for the most part, your guitar part should blend/mix well with everything else. No one likes hearing a ridiculous jazz solo in the verse of a song. If there's singing, stay out of the way. That will save a lot of trouble. One thing I like to do is play a winding melody, always very simple, through the verse amidst the singing. It will rise and fall, and I will play something different and distinct in between the phrases of the lyrics. So what you hear is words, lyrics, singing, and then a space that is filled with a melody from guitar that carries you into the next phrase. It is pretty and it makes things smooth.

This brings me to a very, very important key in guitar playing. Simplicity. For the sake of everyone, including yourself, make things simple. Beauty is often found in simplicity, even moreso than complexity WHEN the dynamics are done well, the playing is confident, and the instrumentation fits. I often play VERY simple, very EASY guitar parts. But they sound beautiful. Why? I'm not showing off. I'm not trying to make something more than it is. I'm accepting that good tone and a few CONFIDENT notes will sound much better than a lot of muddled noodling. People can hear and understand a simple melody. It's usually hummable and rememberable. That is a great quality to have. Many times in more prophetic worship settings, there is room for people to join in this melody and sing it. Even add lyrics to it. No matter what, if you're listening to the holy spirit, these melodies will not be your own. They will be from Heaven. And they will be powerful.

A balance is found between showing off and shining through. Attitude of the heart. Rarely do I go crazy on a solo. For one thing, I usually can't. But it wouldn't be right of me in most situations because it would draw the attention to me. If there is an appropriate moment where this in fact draws attention to worshiping Jesus, do it.

Ultimately the main things I can offer are these:

1. Keep it simple.
2. Use delay sparingly.
3. You must learn to enjoy the simplest guitar part to be ready for anything complex.
4. Feel it, don't think it.
5. Build the song up...make it epic...
6. Worship Jesus, fix your eyes on Him, and ask for more! You have not because you ask not!

Hope this helps. I have nothing good to offer apart from Jesus, so God I ask that you would send you practical wisdom to rest in my friends as they read this! I pray if anything you've given me is of use to them, that it would pass to them. Let my friends exceed me in skill and creativity so that people may be blessed and we can give our BEST to the King who deserves it ALL!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Never Thought I Would Need to Remember Those Sights or Those Sounds

If you haven't heard that song you are missing out.

I've been nostalgic for approximately 2.5 hours now...ever since I saw The Rocketboys play at Common Grounds, I haven't been able to stop thinking about the past. It started out as I thought back to several different times I have seen them in Abilene...some of the best times. Downtown, a sense of mystique combined with an old-fashioned feeling of danger, like one of those classic black and white movies where men wore fedoras and women always dressed up. Dark, but lit by citylight, and noise coming from the small coffee shop. Walking by and smelling the smoke of the Abilenean scene, and feeling the warmth of a tiny, intimate, christmas light lit room. Glancing back at the waterfall, the smoke shop, and the fire escapes before hearing it: Delayed guitar notes, playing a simple 2-3-4 progression. So simple, yet so moving...moving to a putt putt course from the 70's...enjoying the music almost as much as the new friendships and company that accompanies them. Leaving the front line totem pole view to converse on artificial green. Feeling things changing...opening up - maturing. Finishing the night at starbucks, a simple conversation in the warm summer air.

I could follow that trail all the way through lakes and driveways, unites and beltways, but I don't think that ended, I don't remember it being fun at all.

Mornings, distraught beyond belief, forcing myself to go to school in grief, and breaking down. Another song for another time, this time coming from what an outsider would guess is 49 years old. This time, I cried.

And following the trail further I find myself back again in time, crying to yet another song...this one more heavenly focused, as I remember that He loves us. A small town, and an even smaller building...the cramped yet cozy worship nights that happened there, and the awful allure of people from another school and place. I remember once wishing on a star, yes, my star it was. And as the river flowed, with it came a flood of bad choices, indiscretion, and mistakes.

Yet I find that in hindsight, some of these memories appear bright. They appear beautiful, as if the Creator God who intended them from the beginning knew it would happen and purposefully painted a masterpiece out of them. Yes, my failures turn out for my good. But still, I digress...

Moving now in the present to my pictures to see what else comes up, I find that much of my life has been spent in attempts at being someone...someone I was not at the time, but slowly have become in a beautiful process. I see more pictures that bring to mind more painful situations...dresses and suits and a gazebo...calculators with segmented art and a lonely gorgeous drive west...the feeling that I was made for more than what I have been saying to the person I last messaged...guilt but forgiveness. Shame but covered with new honor.

I stand redeemed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Morning

when I was spending time with Jesus, He told me to write out every good thing I've received because he died and rose again. Here is the list (which is only 30 minutes worth, so if I had the time I'm sure we would all see that I'm hardly scratching the surface of all that He has done for us):

Because Jesus died and rose again...

I grew up in a family that loves me.
My parents raised me well.
I went to church.
I found friends who love me for me.
It's okay that I'm not cool as the world deems cool.
I don't have to be afraid.
-Of people.
- the world.
- future.
- unknown.
I don't suffer the punishment I deserve when I fail.
I have a purpose and destiny in life.
I have life in death.
I don't need to feel guilty or shameful for all of the bad things I've done.
I am released from the need to compare myself with other people.
I can experience love.
I can receive love.
I can give love.
The only approval I am concerned with is God's.
I have freedom to do good things.
I am holy.
I am pure.
I am righteous.
My lack is replaced by His sufficiency.
I finally have a family.
I'm no longer just an orphan.
I can follow Him.
I have been given access to living water and the bread of life.
I am significant.
I can know and have a relationship with God.
I am no longer ruled by emotions.
I am accepted regardless of faults or flaws.
My ways of thinking, acting, and behaving that I couldn't escape were instantly broken.
I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
I'm comforted.
I have rest.
I don't have to strive or work.
I'm healed.
My heart can be healed of all of the emotional wounds it has.
Life can be, for me, as it was always intended to be in the beginning.
I have inside of me a joy that is totally separate from circumstance or emotion.
I have inside of me a peace that is totally separate from circumstance or emotion.
Nothing at all, ever, can separate me from the love of God.
I will never be put to shame or disgrace.
I can see supernatural things happen in the natural.
I can be a part of incredible, supernatural, impossible occurrences that happen every day.
I can multiply what I have received so others can have it too.

Thank you, God.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who I am

Who I am.

I met with the University Scholar Dean, Dr. Smith today. He was both charming and challenging, understanding yet unwavering. He helped me more in 15 minutes than any of my advisers or career counselors have done in hours upon hours. I mentioned my current major, and he firmly rejected me initially, saying that I wasn't made for the program. Of course he communicated it graciously, as is his kind, but still believed that I wasn't made for the program. He described the program as emphasizing thinking. Lots of thinking. It's not pre-professional. This is where I went wrong in thinking. I guess the thing I was hoping for was a program that could get me experience and knowledge in multiple fields, but I just don't know what my focus is. I don't know what I want to end up doing.

On one hand I want to step up to this challenge, to do whatever it takes, figure out how to join the program, and jump all in. But on the other hand, I am turned off.

What would Jesus study?

The thing is, while I see the value in a liberal education, I don't want to succumb to the temptations of thought. Yes, we need to think about faith and life, yes we need to not blindly accept things, but the neither the disciples nor Jesus were highly educated, and look at all they accomplished. I feel like faith can easily be weakened by thought, by a focus on thinking and analyzing and philosophizing. I made my choice, I committed to following Jesus and trusting His word as my ultimate authority. I can't break this commitment, this covenant that I have forged in blood. And it almost seems that to focus my next three years on thought and logic would break this covenant in a way.

Ultimately, I am to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
Ultimately, my calling is to be obedient and to make disciples.

So how can University Scholars aid me in this endeavor, this holy charge, this divine mandate?

God has also given me a mind to steward.

When Dr. Smith asked me what my SAT scores were, I replied that I am a National Merit Scholar Finalist. His countenance changed as he realized that I was serious about what I was talking about. He put in balance two ideas:

1) Bringing me in to the program to test me, grow me, and kick me in the butt academically and
2) Making sure that I am not changing myself, the desires in my heart in order to get into a program that will mold me in a different direction than I need to go.

So, which side do I fall on? Do I need to pursue this opportunity, or do I need to find something else to do?

I don't think that what I want to do requires a degree of ANY kind. Involvement in church planting, college ministry, or youth ministry depends only on faithfulness in what I'm given. Jacob's job would require experience, but I don't know if I would need to necessarily have the same experience as him to do something similar.

I guess it all comes down to the voice of God.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Real God

I met a guy named Gus.

Most of my Baylor friends came to Abilene with me this weekend to hang out and to see Switchfoot. We came back late Sunday night (tonight) after the concert. On our way back from Abilene to Waco God showed yet again that He is who He says He is.

Praise God for Lauren Keenum's small bladder.

We stopped at a convenient convenient store in Comanche, TX to relieve ourselves..and as we were about to go in someone in my car said something about telling the employees about Jesus. Sweet! I decided I'd go talk to one of them and see what happened. As I walked in, a Native American dude was chilling by the counter hanging out with who I soon found out to be his girlfriend who was working. I came up to him, said hi, asked how he was doing, and then...introduced myself. why? I don't know.

Gus and I made small talk about what he does in Comanche and where we're each from...the conversation was going so smoothly, because he was such an open and nice guy. He had tattoos on his arms and looked like he could easily be in a gang of some sort but he was one of the coolest, nicest, most genuine guys I've met. As we talked he explained how he actually used to live in Abilene, where he started going to the clubs. We talked about that (he assumed I did that kind of stuff as well) until I explained how in Abilene, you either grow up in an extremely conservative environment, or a dark one. I told him how I was raised in church and raised not to do that kind of stuff and how it was so different. This proved to be the answer to my silent prayer that God would turn the conversation towards something spiritual; there were a few times where I could have easily left with a "good to meet you, have a great night!"

But instead, he talked about how the churches he went to stifled him and made him feel controlled. I explained that I felt the same way when I was little, and wanted to rebel, but that it's not about rules and about 'going to church' but instead about a very real, tangible God who wants a relationship with us. I explained that I can hear his voice, that I follow Jesus, and shared the gospel. We talked for a while going on different tangents and crazy stories he had...he told me he died 4 times. He died twice of pneumonia; right when he [should have] died he suddenly got better and lived. Once he was with friends riding 4-wheelers and in a freak accident he got run over and [should have] died. I explained that God was clearly after him, loved him, and asked him what that made him think about life and his purpose for being on earth. We talked about that and I encouraged him.

Later he talked about how he is into parkour, and recently blew his knee in an accident jumping somewhere or doing something crazy. He couldn't parkour anymore or do anything crazy...couldn't even run! So I asked if I could pray...I said "I believe God can heal you, I've seen him do it." so he agreed to let me, I prayed just a simple prayer, like "Jesus please heal his knee, and I release healing and release your kingdom into his knee right now in the name of Jesus. Thank you God. Amen." I stood up, asking him how it felt.


"What do you mean, better? How much better?"

"Dude it feels fine!"

"WHAT? Like 100% better??"

"Well I can feel the bones moving around and it still feels funny but almost!"

I was amazed. His knee shook and trembled like crazy as soon as I put my hand on it...I just couldn't believe what I was feeling!!! I asked to pray for it again, prayed a quick prayer, asked him to test it out one more time, and walked with him down an aisle and back to see if it was fully better.

It was.

I had him do things with his knee he couldn't do before. He was speechless and so stunned, and didn't know what to do. Honestly I didn't either!!! I just told him that God clearly is real and loves him, and what I was saying was real.

He was basically undone...and after I shared the gospel with him several times, we had to come to a decision. I asked if he had a personal relationship with Jesus, but he didn't give me a clear answer. He didn't know the Lord, I'm pretty sure...and when I asked him if he wanted it, he didn't really...he wanted it later, for when he and his girlfriend have their baby. He wanted a better life for his baby than he had..and so he would want to know God then. I explained that it's there for the taking now...but he didn't go after it. But as I left I encouraged him, he thanked me, asked for my number, and I just pray "Lord Jesus, PLEASE let him call me soon!!!!"

Praise God!