Guest Worship Artist Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace

On September 13 and 14 Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will be at Covenant Life Church leading us in worship.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Here is his bio from his website:

Matthew Smith is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes brand new music to centuries-old hymn texts.  He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, whose work has drawn acclaim across denominational lines and is used in churches around the world.  Born out of a college ministry, the reimagined hymns have found wide acceptance both among college students and the church at large, joining people who desire to honor tradition with those who want a modern musical approach.  His latest album is Hiding Place.

On Saturday, September 13 Matthew will lead a free, one-hour worship seminar from 5-6 pm, and then Indelible Grace will join Matthew for a Night of Reimagined hymns from 7-8:30 pm.  A love offering will be taken during the concert, but admission is free.  Sunday, September 14, Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will participate in the Worship services at 9 and 11:15.

His music has a bluesy, earthy feel, matching his rich baritone voice well.  I particularly enjoy the Hammond B-3 strains and tube-y hollow-body guitar on his Communion Hymn: Lord Jesus, Comfort Me.

At the seminar Matthew will share his vision for re-imagining old hymn texts.  Worship leaders, songwriters, and musicians are welcome to attend, as well as any who want to learn more about what Matthew is doing.

For more information, go to the event Facebook page.  For more information on Indelible Grace, visit their website igracemusic.com.  I hope to see you there!

The Side Effects of Impatience

Today I am having a hard time figuring out what to write.  I have started several things and each one of them either needs time to settle and come together or simply needs to be thrown away.

Seems a lot like life.  When something isn’t clear I want to push through and make it clear.  Patience, however, is almost always more effective.

Impatience can have serious negative side effects:

  1. My writing may not be well focused.
  2. I may not feel peaceful about the result.
  3. I may miss important content.
  4. I may include suspect content.
  5. I may unintentionally damage relationships.

Patience, on the other hand, is always rewarded with:

  1. Peace.
  2. Clear meaning.
  3. Effective communication.
  4. Great results.

So instead of forcing something into cyberspace before it is ready, I am going to be patient.

Where in your life are you being impatient?  What would patience look like in that situation?

When It’s Time to Focus on Other Things

Every now and then we realize we need to temporarily change our priorities in order to accomplish something pressing.

Now is one of those times for me.  I have a project in front of me about which I am very excited; I hope to tell you about it sometime this year.  Presently, however, I have no time to spare in order to advance the project.

For this reason I have decided to take a break from blogging for the month of April.  I do not want to be gone too long simply because I do not want to get out of the practice of writing regularly.  On the other hand, I need to focus as much as possible of my creative powers on this project.

Throughout April I will be re-posting my most popular articles.  I have written almost 200 posts since I began in August of 2011, which I find almost unbelievable.  Please stay in touch and I hope to begin writing fresh material in a month.

Where do you need to re-arrange your priorities?

Devotions for the Artist

The word “devotions” has gotten a bad rap.  “Devotions” are often tied to boring rituals of Bible reading and long prayers, when the “boring” piece is usually the fault of the person doing the Bible reading or praying.

God is certainly not boring; he is anything but.  So how do we resurrect the practice of devotions, and how can artists make this essential discipline a unique expression of their gifts and calling?

Bible

I have had the blessing of growing up in a Christ-centered home with parents who value and pursue a relationship with God.  Since my childhood I have heard and seen them listen to and read the Bible, pray, and do ministry.

My own experience has followed theirs.  I have never second-guessed the need to read the Bible or pray, but I have often missed the opportunity devotions provide to me as an artist.

I remember many sessions of prayer and Bible reading where my mind would go wandering through a to-do list, through a movie landscape, or into a concert hall.  That is, if I had not fallen asleep already!

My dad speaks of the reality of joy in a discipline being on the other side of perseverance, but I often had difficulty finding that joy.  I seemed to get lost in the perseverance stage.

Recently, however, I have found a new joy and peace in my relationship with God, and that joy and peace has filled my devotions more and more.  Here are a few things to consider if you are looking to improve your time with God.

General Considerations

  • Find a quiet place by yourself and away from distraction.  I find it best for me to use an analog Bible (read: paper and cover book) but I do sometimes use my YouVersion app.  The less electronics the better, which will take some discipline at first.  Eventually your heart and mind will crave that silence and freedom from being “plugged in.”
  • Set your heart on knowing God.  I do not mean knowing as in going to the library, but knowing as in knowing his heart and knowing how he looks at and reaches out to you.
  • Ask him to reveal himself to you before you read the Bible or pray.  He usually doesn’t show up in a vision, but you may find your heart and mind drawn to particular words in the Bible passage you are reading.  The Bible promises that if you seek God with all your heart you will find him.

For the Artist

Here is where devotions become really fun.  The options are endless.

Just a note for the perfectionists among us: Don’t judge your devotional art harshly.  God is not looking for perfection in your relationship with him; he is looking for your heart.  

  • Write a song based on a trait of God you find in the Bible passage you are reading.
  • Paint a picture to represent your prayer to God.
  • Write your prayers in poetic form.
  • Build something out of Play-Doh or Legos to represent your response to God.
  • Rewrite a Bible passage in your own words.

Today

This morning I wrote a song based on God’s pursuing love.  That phrase set in my heart yesterday and showed up again in the Psalms I read this morning.  Since I said that God is not about perfection, I am going to post the lyrics here.  They are only an hour old.

Pursuing God

Verse 1
Love of God so great and strong,
triumphant over fear;
reigning over hope and faith
you sing salvation’s song.

Chorus
Pursuing us through sin and death
and climbing Calvary’s tree,
I will sing my whole life long
of how you rescued me.

Verse 2
Leaving heaven’s throne and crown
for swaddling clothes and hay,
laying down his kingly rights
redeeming love came down.

Verse 3
Love exchanged a golden rod
for rugged wood and nails,
set aside his purple robe
for clothes of dust and blood.

Verse 4
Love destroyed the chains of death,
escaped the tomb of stone.
Power of God and Son of Man,
your love has rescued us.

Do something artistic during your devotions and post the result below.  Remember, perfection is not the focus; responding to God is what matters.

How God Partners with the Composer and Songwriter

A year and a half ago a friend of mine asked me this question and I have been thinking about it ever since.  How does God partner with the composer and songwriter?

Electric Guitar Bridge

I’ve been writing music since I was a kid.  In high school I had lots of black and white composition books chock full of lyrics.  I was into heavy metal and I had rock-n-roll lyrics for everything.  My writing had all the fine literary style of a high school student high on emotion and experiencing the world for the first time.

I don’t know what happened to those books.  I think I may have thrown them away.

When I got to college I studied music composition as well as poetry composition, and in the 12 plus years I have worked in churches I have done quite a bit of arranging for everything from choir to rock band to orchestra.  In the past five years I have once again started writing pop and rock worship songs in addition to writing classical music and poetry.

I have a real passion for setting the written word to music.

So how does God enter into the songwriting and composition process?

Idea 1: God enters into the songwriting process through his creative image in you and me.

God is creative; he created everything.  He is the ultimate creative power.  Part of the evidence that we are created in the likeness of God is the fact that we can create new things.

For the longest time I thought as Solomon did, that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  This idea led me to a very defeatist line of thinking:  “What’s the point?  I’m replicating things that have already been.”

Solomon was wrong.  He was depressed.  If I met someone in that state of mind I would send him to a psychiatrist.

There are new things under the sun every day.

Not long ago I heard Erwin McManus of Mosaic say in relation to this passage of Scripture, “I am quite certain that the wheel was brand new at some point in time.  In fact, I think Jesus walking on water and rising from the dead were pretty new.”

When we create something new we are demonstrating the image of our Creator God.  Even someone who does not know Christ can be extremely creative and, without knowing it, express the image of God through what he or she creates.

God enters into the songwriting process by the fact that we are made like him: to create.

Idea 2: God enters the songwriting process through our minds and preferences.

When we begin to create something new there is always a nucleus of a thought, an idea that takes hold in your mind.  When that idea takes hold in your mind and catches your attention like never before, you have just experienced a taste of God working through you.

God makes new things out of nothing.  He spoke the world into existence out of a void.  He spoke the sun, moon, stars, and all things into existence out of nothing.  God breathed life into man; without God we could not draw a breath.

In the same way I believe that without God we could not think a single original thought.  When we express a new idea or thought God is revealing himself through us as Creator God.  He is using our preferences and abilities to give fresh expression to himself.

Partnering with God

We have been talking specifically about composing and songwriting, but, in reality, God partners with human beings in every single creative activity in exactly the same way.  Sometimes we twist the pure ideas he places in our hearts, and other times we hear clearly and express his ideas well.

Before you begin the day, thank God for what he has done and ask him to guide your thoughts and ideas, actions and motives.  During the day, when you begin a new project or a meeting, ask God to partner with you.  Ask him to create something out of nothing through you.

How have you seen God partner with you creatively?

How Do I Decide: A Book Review

Review: How Do I Decide: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing; Rachelle Gardner, author, with Michelle DeRush.

Rachelle Gradner, How Do I Decide

Overview

I am a newbie writer and I happened on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about two years ago.  I enjoy her personable tone and the excellent information she provides to readers of all types.  This book is no exception.

This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to cut to the chase and grapple with the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing.

How Do I Decide is an easy and fast read because the layout is spacious, the verbiage is not the stuff of textbooks, and the content is immediately accessible and valuable to aspiring and published writers.

Content

Chapter 1 is worth the price of admission for the newbie.  Gardner carefully lays out all of the terms, facets and processes of current publishing and describes them in easy-to-read language.  I have only begun to peer into the world of publishing in the past several years and this chapter brought me up to speed on how the publishing world works.

In Chapter 2 Gardner helps the reader begin to decide between self- and traditional publishing by comparing the approaches of traditional and self-publishing in each of 12 categories.  At the end of the chapter she neatly sums up the choices on each of the issues in a table for easy comparison.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the advantages and disadvantages of self- and traditional publishing in more detail, one chapter for each style of publishing.  Here I found Rachelle’s language leaning towards traditional publishing in both chapters, rather than each chapter objectively supporting one route of publishing.  Of course, I suppose that this should not surprise me because Rachelle is a literary agent.  Nevertheless, I came away feeling like self-publishing came out a little on the short end of the stick.

Chapter 3 on the advantages of traditional publishing came across very positive and encouraging,  Rachelle provided many concrete examples of how much traditional publishing has to offer over the self-publishing route.

Of the three author perspectives included in Chapter 4 on the advantages of self-publishing, Addison Moore and Jennie Nash both provided what I felt were negative looks at self-publishing.  Each has had success as a self-publisher, and that is encouraging.  Each woman, however, gave me the impression they would rather go the traditional publishing route.  I did not come away encouraged to look into self-publishing.  The interview with James Scott Bell, on the other hand, was splendid.  His ending lines, “But the pears are ripe on the tree.  Pick some,” were priceless and encouraging, even poetic.

In Chapter 5’s excellent checklist for choosing which route Rachelle restates ideas several different ways to make certain the reader understands the choices correctly.  Chapter 6 provides an extremely valuable listing of resources, contacts, and how-to sources.

Conclusion

Gardner does a great job of clearly stating the challenges and benefits of both traditional and self-publishing, even if her tone leans toward the traditional route.  Because she has worked so long in the traditional publishing world and she is now self-publishing I appreciate her perspective on how the two approaches differ.

A lot of writers are trying to decide how to publish, and How Do I Decide is just the resource they need to make that critical decision.

2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for making 2012 a great year for me!