Wednesday, September 26, 2007

pensieri nel passare...

...which means "thoughts in passing", in Italian. I don't really speak much Italian, mostly just musical terms. But I hope to go there soon, probably Rome. We want to celebrate our 25th anniversary (next year) in Italy. Because we think that would be really cool. What follow is a stream-of-consciousness spiel:

This seminar thing that I'm attending, which I mentioned previously, is alternatively interesting and then sometimes not-so-much. Which reflects not in the slightest on the presenters and their program so much as it reflects on my perceptions of how applicable it is to my vocation. The quality and content of the teaching is quite commendable. At the end of it, Lord willing, be a Certified Church Consultant. We had reasonably engaging sessions today on demographics and marketing. And one guy, Bob Adams, conducted a very interesting overview of contemporary myths and trends relating to megachurches, emerging and missional type churches, multiple site and multiple venue churches... Okay, I know that may all sound very boring, but it wasn't. Bob is a really smart guy who has compiled a lot of bonafide research about such things and he presents it very well. I was pleasantly surprised that some of my personal notions about these things were actually at odds with the facts. Who knew!?!? Learning is good even though my brain is now tired.

I have eaten twice now at my favorite Mexican restaurant en todo el mundo. Danal's Mexican Restaurant is on O'Connor Road, a couple of miles south of Hwy 183, down the street from Irving High School (from whence Nancy graduated) in Irving. I took a picture but can't get it online at the moment. When you are in the D/FW area, you must eat there. We always do. Once, after driving all night straight through from Indiana on the way to my in-laws house in Hillsboro, we stopped at Danal's in the early morning and waited in the parking lot until they opened. I hope to go at least one more time before I leave on Saturday. It is not fancy, but it is just the best Mexican food anywhere. The tortillas are made fresh on-site daily and the warm salsa is like none other. Everything they make is great, but I recommend any of the enchilada dishes.

After attending Gateway Church's 10:30 AM service on Sunday morning, I went straight to the big gun show. My brother-in-law, Steve Hockett, is an antique firearms dealer and one of the best gun shows in Texas is the semi-annual one at Market Hall in downtown Dallas. It was a lot of fun, hanging out with Steve and his friend, One-armed John. There were some amazing guns for sale and show, both old and modern, of every size and description. There were a couple of interesting museum-type displays, too, including an impressive collection of large calibre antique machine guns. Another booth had a terrific display of some 2 dozen vintage Kalashnikov AK-47's, modified, in various versions, and collected from all over the world. And there were some gorgeous, authentic, old Cowboy gun collections. It was great. Guns are cool. I am going to have to go shooting more when I get home.

Last Friday, I visited one of my friends here, Buzzy Murphy, of Murphy's Music. Buzzy has a great music store. He is a customer of mine, I've known him for years, I graduated from high school with his big sister, and his family has had a music store in Irving since just after Texas declared independence from Mexico, I think. Any way, business-wise, I take care of him and he takes care of me. I had brought one of my guitars with me on this trip to practice, but when I got here I decided I wanted some type of small, personal headphone practice amp device. So I called Buzzy and then stopped by so that he could make me a crazy deal on a Boss Micro-BR digital recorder. It's a tiny little thing, but the Micro-BR makes the perfect personal practice tool, with it's built-in drum machine, excellent guitar tone, and (really basic) 4-track recorder built in. It also plays and records mp3's, and will even do "time-stretching", which means you can load in, say, Stevie Ray's version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and slow the playback speed way down so you can play along with it and learn the tune. It was cheap, it sounds great, it is smaller than a Louis L'Amour paperback, and it is very shiny. I am pleased.

That is all...I've got to get to bed. Today was long, tomorrow will be longer.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gateway Church - New Live Worship Album Recording

Friday night, I attended the live recording of a new worship album by Gateway Church, located in nearby Southlake, which is just north and west of the D/FW airport, not far from our offices in Grand Prairie. I was there at the invitation of the worship pastor, Thomas Miller, who has been a friend for some twelve years or so, since we served together in the music department at another church.

Gateway is a rapidly growing congregation in a rapidly expanding section of the D/FW Metroplex and I have a number of friends and co-workers who work or attend there. Under Thomas' direction, Gateway Worship has assembled an excellent cadre of musical and technical talent.

This CD/DVD will have a number of new worship songs that will feature several emerging worship music writers and performing artists. In addition to Thomas' inspired singing and leading, there were top-notch vocal performances by Kari Jobe, Walker Beach, Zach Neese, David Moore, and others. Kari Jobe has a powerful, richly beautiful voice and a very mature musicality that belies her age. She is especially good at the slower, ballad-type songs, which every professional singer will tell you are typically much more difficult to sing than uptempo pop or rock-style tunes. Thomas, Beach, and Moore handled most of the rock-and-roll leads, but Zach Neese sang lead vocal on just one tune, that he wrote, that I liked a lot. Excellent vocal work, compelling lyrics, and a distinctly different sounding song, stylistically, and it really stood out.

The instrumental performances were all solid and well-delivered, with a minimum of solo features. I would have liked to have heard some more guitar shredding, actually, and there was room for it. But then, that is clearly a personal thing with me, and I have no complaint with anything I heard. Everybody sounded very, very good, tight and rehearsed, but clearly not intimidated by the pressure of the live recording vibe. Lots of good sonic textures, layers, and rhythmic complexity - very thoughtful and creative arrangements. The drum sound in the room was excellent and both drummers played very well. The bass player was really fun. Reserved in demeanor, but his six-string rig provided some amazing, room-filling, low-end presence.

The two choir ranks, probably totalling 200 voices strong, really added to the energy and power of the songs, too.

One of my favorite things, though, came in the middle of the evening when they stopped the recording and Thomas invited their senior pastor, Robert Morris, to the stage. He gave a short, thoughtful devotion, lead us into a time of prayer, and then the serving of communion to the worshipping audience. Really special and something I wouldn't have anticipated.

This will be Gateway's second release on Integrity Records. They have some "industry buzz" going on, so there were some music industry notables around, including Don Moen. The church has a top-notch professional technical staff and a lot of the audio and video production tasks were done by their own folks, staff and volunteers. There were some outside pros involved, too, naturally, and a couple of truckloads of state-of-the-art recording, camera, and production gear.

It was a profound blessing to be a part of this worship event. My heart was lifted and I was encouraged by the whole experience. I flew in a couple of days early just so I could take it in, and I am very, very glad I did.

Like a whole 'nother country...

Today I am blogging from Texas. I am here on a business trip, having flown in yesterday morning to visit our home office, the corporate headquarters. I spent the afternoon there, visiting old friends, meeting new friends, and getting some work done. I am fortunate to work for a really good company and with some really great people. Mark Bradford, my boss, is one of the very best men I have ever known. For 15 years he has been a mentor, friend, and a premier example of what it means to live one's daily life with faith, integrity, humility, and intelligence. And no, he doesn't read my blog.

I am here primarily to take part in a training and accreditation seminar next week in Arlington sponsored by the National Association of Church Design Builders, which is an industry trade group that, obviously, focuses on the specific needs of churches in the construction of worship facilities. This is a sizable slice of my company's business already and it looks like thsi will be a worthwhile affiliation. At the end of the week, if I behave myself and pay attention, I will be a Certified Church Consultant. That, and about $3 will no doubt entitle me to my vente Americano, black and hot, at the local coffee shop, but still, it looks like the NACDB may provide some good leads and networking opportunities. I have accumulated a number of such "credentials" over the years, and they are largely meaningless in terms of really impacting what I do. But I remain open-minded and optimistic, because one cannot always judge the future by the past. Only time will tell whether or not this was a smart move or simply 4 days out of my life that I'll never get back.

Regardless, it is fun to visit Texas, land of my birth, the crucible of my formative years, the backdrop for the first couple of decades of my adult life, etc., etc. I could go on an on about how the Dallas/Fort Worth area has changed so much over the years. It has been one of the most dramatically expanding areas of the country for several decades, now, but in the 8 years, more or less, that we've been gone it has really just gotten crazy. There are whole towns and cities that used to be on the periphery, like Grapevine, Lewisville, Flower Mouond, Mansfield, and Southlake, tht are now fully immersed and integrated into one sprawling, amoebic organism of commerce and community. The traffic is pretty terrible, but I am kind of enjoying the death-race aspect of it, so far. Roads that used to be two lane country highways are now congested six lane arteries into and out of various concentrations of industry and residential regions.

I am especially enjoying seeing the great diversity of international cultures, merging and contrasting - something I have always appreciated about this area. This makes for an amazing mixture of eclectic art, great food, interesting music, and fascinating personal interactions.

It is a great place to visit, but I'm glad I don't live here. I like living in rural Indiana.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MBPYNHO: Erin Lang

I hate linking to myspace, because it is an ugly place. Nevertheless, in my relentless efforts to share Music By People You've Never Heard Of, I offer here a link to Erin Lang's myspace page whereon she has posted some wonderful songs to listen to. Spare and warm, with a very engaging and beautiful voice.

Check her out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


For the last fortnight I had this feelin' in me gut...I ken'd the time was nigh, but I was unbecertain of its exactitude.

The one and only day in which piratical sailor talk is not only permitted, but encouraged. So, avast there and have at ye.

Hollywood Goes To War...

Not me. And I really enjoy movies. New ones, old ones, popular ones, obscure ones, chick flicks, westerns, war movies, documentaries, martial arts, drama, comedy, silent, and movies with subtitles...movies are lots of fun and a great form of entertainment. But count me out with regard to this fresh, steaming pile of modern war movies that is about to kerplop into our local cineplexes.

First, I can't stand movies that preach at me. Even the ones whose message I agree with inevitably become grating before they are over. And I don't see any in this batch on the near horizon that even come close.

Secondly, when was the last time you saw a Hollywood movie with a controversial contemporary theme that actually got it right? I've seen the trailers for some of these movies and read enough of the pre-release info to know that the filmmakers intentions are to use their own brands of shock and awe, of blood and gore, of emotional extortion to cast America into the worst possible light. Do I really need to go see these movies to know they suck? Why do I want to spend money enriching and empowering the people that make movies like this? Guess what, I don't. And I won't.

Thirdly, as fun as movies can be and as highly artistic as they occasionally are, when they are burdened with such heavy-handed idelology and that relentless enlightened activist vibe, they just don't work. They lose the groove. The last thing I need is for Hollywood to be trying to tell me what it is I should think about anything. They don't add to our understanding or give us, they suck it clean out of you heart and head.

I hope Hollywood loses millions of dollars on this whole batch.

I can't wait to miss these on cable, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

In love with Jesus...or not.

"Today our congregation was asked to sing, "Jesus, I'm in love with you"-a line that shows up, in one permutation or another, in several songs that occur frequently in our worship leaders' rotation. Well, I didn't sing it. It's wrong, and I try not to sing wrong lyrics."

Bill Kinnon's blog, achievable ends, which I am reading daily now and will blogroll momentarily, points to a prickly little essay about modern worship lyrics with the above opening statement by Professor John Stackhouse of Regent College in Vancouver. I'm not prepared to agree with all that Kinnon or Stackhouse say, but I think together they make an interesting and useful point. I'd enjoying hearing more discussion of the topic. As a worship leader, I confess that I have sung lyrics like he describes and have felt some vague discomfort from time to time, although not necessarily for the same reasons.

Dr. Stackhouse, whose most recent book (which I haven’t read) is entitled Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender, also writes this interesting bit:

" gives me the homoerotic creeps to declare that I am "in love with" another man. And I don't apologize for saying so. A gender lens is interesting here, for a lot of men feel as I do (many have told me so), while many (not all) women seem to love telling Jesus that they are in love with him. I saw them, swaying with closed eyes and waving hands in the air this morning, singing exactly that. Maybe, indeed, they are in love with Jesus. But they shouldn't be."

I am no Greek scholar, but it is no secret that the word “LOVE” in a New Testament biblical context usually refers to the Greek words phileo, the warmth of emotion shared among friends, or agapao, which is a love founded on esteem, admiration, and an active sense of high regard for someone. The common noun form, agape, is, I believe, the most frequently used derivation and communicates affection, good will, love, and benevolence. Love’s sexual side, eros, appears only twice in the early Greek translations of the Old Testament, and does not appear at all in the New Testament. So, obviously, it does not inform discussions of or expressions of worship in any general or specific Christian context.

Dr. Stackhouse’s point seems to rest on his notion that the English language syntax utilized in the construction “I’m in love with Jesus”, necessarily refers to eros. That’s quite a stretch, in my opinion. It may well be bad poetry, but to strain so at the semantic nuances between “to love” and “to be in love” strikes me as being overly pedantic. Academically, it is a tenuous point at best, but if it makes him uncomfortable, then I agree, he shouldn’t sing it.

Poets, lyricists, and wordsmiths of every stripe have always stretched language and syntax in search of finding connections or creating new expressions. Though that is their function, their calling, and their art, it doesn't place them beyond the reach of criticism and the scrutiny of their peers. Sometimes the art is bad, without a doubt. And Kinnon's point at the end of his post about how bad lyrics lead to bad thinking about God is a very important one.

I encourage everyone to go read all of both posts referenced above.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


There are few blogtivities (which is a new word that I just made up) in the virtual world more pointless than directing attention to a blog entry by the inestimable Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame. Not a bad thing to do, just unbelievably redundant, because, if Glenn has already linked to it then, ergo,, I mean literally everyone... probably already knows about it.

Nevertheless, I have emailed this excellent little article written by Glenn for the Popular Mechanics website to several people today, so I figured I might as well post it here as well.

I am in complete agreement with the observation that, as our lives generally become more technologically advanced, and as the traditional social institutions of marriage and and responsible parenthood pitch and roll queasily on the roiling seas of cultural decline, that people have lost touch with some of the basic, important life skills.

What is more important? Being able to set up a wireless router or being able to change a tire? Knowing how to start a campfire or finding just the right avatar for your Second Life persona? Knowing how to shoot a .22 accurately or figuring out how to post video to your blog?

All of these things can be worthwhile, but we need to remember that implied in the use of the term "virtual", so often used to refer to things related to computers, video gaming, and the whole online lifestyle, is the opposing and complementary term, "actual".

My point is simply, again, that we need to make technology work for us, not against us. It needs to integrate into our lives in a useful, creative, and empowering manner. It needs to serve us and make our lives better, and not suck the energy, time, and motivation out of us.

Saturday, September 08, 2007



This weekend is our church's Fallfest/Friend Day celebration. One of the cool things I get to do this weekend, in addition to hosting a Blogging 101 demonstration table tomorrow, is to perform another spoken word piece, not unlike the one I blogged about back in February. I am doing it for the offertory.

This time I am using a slightly expanded version of the poem (it's not a poem, but I don't know what else to call it) that I posted here. For the musical underscore, I am using an edited version of Beat Pharmacy's tune, "The Monkey's Wedding" from their album Earthly Delights which sounds distinctly irreligious and, in fact, thematically has absolutely nothing to do with my poem. However, the percolating techno groove, with the hardcore funky wah-wah guitar part, the dreamy piano and muted jazz trumpet, captures a vibe that just seemed to fit. I did it for tonight's Contemporary service and it was reasonably well received (and by that I mean there was clapping). I will do it both for both Contemporary and ReMix services tomorrow.

So far, I haven't been able to wrangle the resources necessary to post original, homegrown videos to my blog. We'll see if that's going to be possible this time. If you are into techno, be sure to click on the link above and go to Beat Pharmacy's website. You can hear some great stuff there.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Saving the Music Industry - It's about the art.

"The music business, as a whole, has lost its faith in content. Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it's no longer about making music, it's all about how to sell music. And there's no clear answer about how to fix that problem."

This is an excellent article by Lynn Hirschberg, published in the New York Times Magazine that disects the problems in the music industry that I've written about here previously. This discussion is folded in and around a very insightful feature focusing on Rick Rubin, one of the very best, most successful, and visionary music producers in the last 20 years. He is an interesting man.

This piece actually holds a glimmering promise of hope, along with a sobering promise of inevitable change.

h/t ArtsJournal/Daily Art News, whose free online subscription I highly recommend.