Monday, December 29, 2008

Honing one's craft

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. Holidays, you know how it goes. Anyway, I thought I'd fill all of you in on a little something that I'm doing. Starting Saturday evening, and continuing until tomorrow, I am on a writing retreat. Since songwriting is a fairly significant portion of my income, sometimes I like to make time to get away and write intentionally. This is always a little weird for me because, for all the years that I've been writing songs, my primary method has been to write in response to inspiration. What I mean is that I would wait until something kind of "hit me" and then I'd grab a pen and some paper and go to the guitar or piano and work it out.

That method worked great until we started getting kids around here. All of a sudden it wasn't so easy to jsut stop everything to respond to the voices in my head.

So for the last few years, I've been trying to write more intentionally. I still get inspired, and when I am, I try to take good notes or record a little chunk of music on my nifty Edirol handheld recorder. Then later, when I get some time, I'll go back and take a look/listen to the "inspiration" and go from there. But other times I just try to sit and "listen" to what the Lord might be sitrring in me. When I can actually get time to do that, songs often come out.

And other times it's (I think) way less spiritual than that. I just think about things that I've been saying or feeling a lot and I try to build songs around those ideas. Or if I'm working in another genre -- like children's music or country or instrumental or whatever -- I just write songs around ideas that seem appealing/interesting/funny/thought-provoking to me.

And yes, you did see "country" back there. That's a long story that maybe I'll get into someday, but a few times in my career, I've actually had songs (primarily "wake up" from Big Quiet Truth and "why me Lord" from Perhaps) that have garnered some interest in the country music world. Nothing significant has ever really developed, but occasionally I'll come across an idea for a country song and I'll work on it. Think whatever you want about this, but if I "sold" a country song to a remotely successful country artist, I'd make enough money to do house shows for free for a few years. I'm not going to dedicate my life to it or anything, but my philosophy is that I write because I'm a writer. And if I open myself up to the Lord, He'll bring the songs that He wants me to write.

So that's what I'm doing for the next few days. I'm just writing. so far I've worked on 2 country songs, 2 "Christian" songs, 1 children's song, and 1 instrumental. My goal is is to finish at least one song for every day that I do this. So I'm hoping for at least 4 finished songs in my 4 day retreat. We'll see. But if you have a little time, you can pray that I'll write to the glory of God, and that great music will be the fruit.

Thanks to all of you for your support of what I do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Today is my wife's birthday. I'll post more on that later, but in the meantime, go here and wish here a happy birthday in the comments.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

To each as they have need. No, really.

Tonight at the Sunday gathering of Community Church, something really beautiful happened. It was actually kind of a weird night. If you’ve ever been to Community Church, you know that we have a lot of meetings that, if you’ve grown up in a highly traditional or formal church environment, could easily be labeled as “weird nights.” It’s not something that we try to do or anything. It’s just sort of the way things happen around there.

Anyway, tonight was especially weird for a few reasons. One, we were kind of down because the college semester has come to a close, and over half of our regular attendees are in college. Two, we had an unusual “service” because it was “member meeting night.” We needed to talk about the 2009 budget, so we just had a music/singing/worship time, and then said, “anybody who wants to stay can stay, but now we’re having a member meeting to talk about money.” That always runs a few people off. And three, it was a weird night because there were just a tremendous amount of prayer/mission needs/requests that came up.

I won’t go into all the details. There are some funny and interesting things that I could share about the way that Community Church handles things like budgets and budget meetings, but most of it would just sound like I’m bragging or trying to sound odd or something. Suffice it to say that we do things in a way that is absolutely our own and, hopefully, very biblical and beautiful. Com Church hates “business,” but we know that all organizations of any kind (and the church is, at some level, an organization, whether we hippies like it or not) must deal with various kinds of structure and administration. And we just think that, if we’re going to have to do those things, we ought to make them fun, communal, worshipful, and joyous. Have you ever heard those four words used when describing a business meeting at a church?

I didn’t think so.

Well, at the end of the meeting, after everybody looked up on the screen and saw how much money me and Scot and Thad all make, we had a short time of sharing and such. Several different people talked about needs that they had or were aware of, and people committed to help one another with their time, their money, etc.

There was one particular need that was rather close to my heart. I’ll give the brief back story.

A young woman in our church – we’ll call her Molly – has joint custody of three boys who she got to know a few years ago when she lived in their neighborhood. Molly is white and the boys are black. That shouldn’t matter for the sake of the story, but this is America, so it probably does. Staci and I have spent a significant amount of time with these people. Our kids and Molly's kids all play together a lot, and there's just a good bit of hanging out in one another's homes. We're all really close.

Molly shared some difficulties she’s been having in trying to live life as a single mother (she has a birth-daughter as well) and some of it was pretty heart-wrenching. None of it was a surprise to me or to Staci, but it's always hard to have to share things publicly. So I helped Molly articulate some of what is going on. Again, lots of folks in the church prayed for her – and her “family” – and offered ideas and help, etc.

But one really cool thing happened. This is the point of the story, in case you're in a hurry.

After the meeting concluded, everybody was just kind of milling around and chatting, etc, and Molly came up to me and we talked a little about how the meeting went and about how her week was looking as she continues to love and house these boys. While we’re talking, she just sort of casually says, “and I just realized today that I don’t really have the money to buy them Christmas presents.” Now, you have to understand that these boys have spent their entire lives in poverty, abuse, neglect, and utter despair. I can’t over-sell the drama and trauma that they’ve seen in their short lives (they are 11, 14, and 16 years old). So Molly really wanted to bless them with gifts.

Well, right as she’s saying this, another one of our members walks by. We’ll call him Jeff. Jeff is a good friend of mine and God has blessed him with lots of money. Jeff and his wife are extremely generous and hospitable. So I just grabbed Jeff as he was walking by and said to Molly, “tell him what you just told me.” It was just like that. No warning. I honestly didn’t even think it thru, you know?

So Molly tells Jeff what she told me, and he says,

“Oh nonsense. You have money. It’s just not in your wallet yet.”

He takes out his wallet right then and empties it into Molly’s hand. I couldn’t see how much money it was, but I saw some twenties and I saw some ones. It was at least $70-80, at most $200-300. Really, I have no idea. But it was just that fast and that simple.

Hey man. You have money. She doesn’t. Whaddaya say?

Bam. Cha-ching. Boo-yah. Whatever.

We don’t always have a “teaching time” at Community Church. But there’s always a sermon if you know how to listen for it.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Just a reminder for all you local BCS folk that I'll be playing tonight at the Frame Gallery at 7:30. Michael Steele will join me. Downtown Bryan is decorated for the season, so it will be a really nice and beautiful down there. Come see me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


How about that title, huh? I had two other great ones, both based upon the Ebeneezer Scrooge character from Dickens. They were "Blah-blah humbug" and "Bah hum-plug." Seriously, how have I not made a fortune in comedy writing? I'm like a creative fountain of brilliance and wit and what-not. For reals.

So, that third one, "bah hum-plug," leads me to the reason for this post.

I am not a huge fan of Christmas music, but as I get older -- and probably because I have young children -- I am starting to warm up to it a little. I think Christmas music is funny because people tend to buy and listen to singers/artists at Christmas that they otherwise wouldn't. For example, I don't listen to Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Linda Ronstadt, or Harry Connick Jr all that often, but during Advent/Christmas time, they get some serious play in my home.

Anyway, the main thing for today is to send you to some great new Advent/Christmas music by friends of mine.

Go here and here to check it all out. These are both really great records by really great people who love Jesus and will spend your money well. Enjoy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Last-minute change

Just in case anyone was thinking of coming to tonight's concert in Sugar Land/Houston, the venue and time have changed. Here are the new details:

7:30 at Meadows Place Community Center in Stafford, TX. The great Johnny Simmons will be joining me, which is always a treat.

If you want details, contact me or this guy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Behold: shows!

I've got 2 concerts coming up quick. The first one is this Friday, December 5, in Sugar Land, TX (basically Houston, for those of you who don't know Texas). The exact time is 7 pm, and the exact place is here. My good friends Billy Newhouse and Travis Cardwell are hosting/organizing the event.

The second one is next Friday, December 12, here in Bryan. The exact time is TBA and the exact place is here. Fellow Com Church members Randy and Greta Watkins are hosting.

If you live near either of these locations, or if you just like driving to see me play my songs with acoustical guitar, come on! If you need more info, email me or comment on this post.