From Whence Beauty Came

A culture that values beauty, values life. One of our goals as leaders should be to teach the appreciation of beautiful things.

When we see significance in the complexity of creation as well as in the self discipline of creating, we esteem art to a place of tremendous influence.

Where media was but a mixture of molecules and actions, it is now an expression of something divine, testifying to the life which brought it to bear upon the sole of the recipient.

If a people can learn what is beautiful by appreciating what makes something lovely, that people will embrace the subject from which that beauty came more freely.


And then God.

New Video: Loving You Out Loud

I’m so thrilled to announce Jennifer’s first live video on her new YouTube channel. The song “Loving You Out Loud” represents one of my favorites in her new repertoire, reminding the listener of the joy of first-love and all that comes with it.

Jennifer’s been working so hard on her music over the past several years, and it’s finally time to start releasing it for the world to hear. While her new record is in progress with Sprig Music, we thought we’d start sharing some of the songs as we wrote them: personally and intimately from our home in Clayton, NY.

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I do.



Making Time for Creating

Tonight, my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson arrives at our home for a three day writing weekend that we call a Writer’s Bootcamp. We’ve been conducting these annually for the past nine years. Usually, we write, talk, write, eat, drink, write, use the bathroom (separately), talk, write, and then pass out, only to awake the next morning and do it all over again, with the goal of pounding out as many words as is inhumanly possible.

One thing that I’ve learned about the creation process is that it requires me to be intentional. When I was younger, making things just seemed to “happen.” I had loads of free time, and proximity to all sorts of amazing tools. And loads of free time.

(Did I mention free time?)

Today, as creative a soul as I am, producing tangible art—whether books, records or designs—only happens when I make time for them.

Here are three tips that’ve helped me:

Book It

Appointments are typically for people, not for “making things.” While people got premium space on my calendar apps—complete with descriptions, reminders and a courtesy text message if I’m running late—projects normally didn’t. Somehow I treated it as a second class activity.

If we really want to be intentional about creating, we need to treat time frames for our creative disciplines like appointments with people. Schedule the time on your calendar, write a description about what you want to accomplish in that time frame, and set up alerts if you’re late (treating them like text messages that say “You’re late! Get in here for your meeting!”).

Guard It

Merely setting planned time aside for your creative activities, whether professional or pastime, isn’t enough. I would never entertain ducking out of an intense marriage counseling session to help someone with the office printer. But I’m OK with stopping a design session to help someone tape up a box?


All those those people and their tasks are important, just not right now.

Once you’ve scheduled time, keep yourself accountable to it by telling any interruptions to your creative appointment, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a meeting.” Most everything can wait.

Guarding these times includes turning OFF your mobile phone and restricting browser usage (if you need it open at all) to pertinent tasks only. TV, music (if it’s a distraction) and company can also be things that breach your guard.

End On a Cliffhanger

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my novel writing career was ending my day’s work when I’d finished a section that had a natural finale.

Big mistake.

Don’t end when it seems right, end when it seems wrong. Call it a day right in the middle of your favorite scene. Favorite color choice. Favorite chorus. Call the session when you’re truly inspired. This not only means that you’ll resume your progress sooner, but ensures that you’ll start back up with zeal. You’ll be eager instead of reticent.

What are some things you do to schedule, guard and inspire your creative disciplines?

Happy creating,


Raul Midón

Raul Midón live

Yesterday, we discussed what good art is supposed to do, and the fine art character sculptures of Stéphane Halleux and his new animated movie.

Here’s some more inspiring work by multi-disciplined musicians Raul Midón. I really don’t want to say anything else. Just come back here and comment when you’re done watching. I’d love to know what you think.


Mr. Hublot

Mr Hublot Stéphane Halleux 3

Art is supposed to capture your imagination. It’s supposed to awaken your childlike sense of wonder, or, at the very least, convict you that you may have lost it. It’s supposed to portray the world as it could be.

At least, good art is supposed to.

I fell in love with Stéphane Halleux’s work years ago while traveling through Luxembourg. His real-life character sculptures are nothing less than astonishing. Crossing lines somewhere between steampunk and neo-modern, I’m not only fascinated with his use of materials, but the fact that he can get his creations to speak—to tell stories just by standing there.

As I wrote about yesterday, in daring to create a team around his work, Stéphane has taken his art form to the next level, venturing into the realm of computer animation with writer and director, Laurent Witz, and co-producer, Alexandre Espigares, of ZEILT Productions. The two trailers composed for his new movie, Mr. Hublot—based on one of Stéphane’s most beloved characters—are endearingly spectacular.

Who’s an artist whose work speaks to your sense of wonder?


Mr Hublot Stéphane Halleux 4

Fun with Procreate (iPad)


Grass Forrest Mite (GFM)

I recently heard about Procreate for the iPad care of @sidmohede on Instagram. While he and I are both on staff at our churches—mostly for music and communication related endeavors—we also share a similar past in being groomed for Disney’s animation department back in high school. God had other plans, but that doesn’t mean the gift died.

After recently completing a large-scale painting for my wife on the occasion of her birthday, I’ve felt the bite of the drawing/painting bug again. It’s a different creative outlet than I’m used to, and provides an inspiration boost amidst regular activities, as well as a cathartic repose from day-to-day demands.

Procreate is definitely an incredible app, allowing extremely true-to-reality “feel” in blending, dynamic layers and effects, and a myriad of palettes. I quickly decided it’s my new go-to app for visual pen creation on my iPad.


TSR Fan Art

This permanent page is dedicated to all the amazing artists out there who love Aria-Prime as much as I do. These are their works, representational of their dreams of the far-off world above the cloud-floor.

If you’re an artist and have an image you’d like to submit, please email it to me here. There is no guarantee your art will be posted, there is no financial compensation for your submission if it is posted, and you maintain 100% copyright of your work, giving me the rights to publish it here on this page.

Fly or die,


1 Banth by Caleb B

Why Limits Provoke Success


Have you ever walked into a room that needed to be cleaned so badly that when you looked at it, you just stood there and couldn’t move?

The task was that daunting.

I’ve found the same emotion when presented with a “limitless canvas.”

As creators , the infinite world of possibilities is what we all dream of being presented with. But, in fact, it can be the most daunting, paralyzingly perplexing scenario of all.

If anything is an option, how do you decide where to start? And if any result is acceptable, how do you define when you’re done? These are the questions I find most creators are plagued with, no matter the medium or context.

Sure, unrestrained creativity sounds exciting. And in certain aspects, it is. But placing limits on our actions can actually more liberating than we might think.

Take, for example, the sheer joy expressed on a child’s face when you tell them they can paint a picture using only his fingers and the three colors you set out in front of him. Or a telling a writer she can pen anything, but using only 1,000 words in 60 minutes.

While it might seem the creative process has been restricted, the limits have actually interjected a much-needed element to the creative process: challenge.

The reality is, as humans, we do much better with limits than we do without them. Creation without challenge is an exercise in lethargy. It might be argued, in fact, that the presence of a challenge ignites creativity. It brings out the best in us.

Time frame.


Word count.

Time signature.



Ensemble head count.


These all force us to be more creative within the parameters than we ever would be without them.

So the next time you don’t know where to start, try putting limits on your process. You might find it more liberating than your logic suggests, as disability always promotes capability.


I’m curious. What are some of your favorite creative limits that have helped you produce some of your best work?

Freebies: TSR Banners and Wallpaper

TSR Large Rectangle 336x280

Who doesn’t like free stuff?

I thought it’d be fun to give away some desktop wallpapers, which incorporate some of my drawings from my notebooks with the book’s graphic design. The result is 5 different wallpapers that you can dress up your computer with to show your Kili-Boranna spirit.

And if you want to go a step further and tag your blog or website, you’ll also find a full range of banners (including HTML code for the true geeks among you).

Check it all out here.

If you want a wallpaper or banner that you don’t see, let me know. I might be able to make it for you.

Thanks for all your support in prepping for this book’s launch into the skies above Aria-Prime.

Fly or die,


Jason Rodgers Pedalboard and The Bike Chain Link Method

Like any good guitarist, I’m constantly tinkering. Learning. Getting inspiration. Then tinkring some more. While my DIY briefcase pedalboard “Nedrick” certainly had its charm, it wasn’t exactly heavy-duty, nor was it expandable.

Then my good friend and guitarist Jason Rodgers pulled a fast one and made me a wooden, one-of custom pedalboard of his own design, aptly named “Dawn Treader.” Aside from feeling quite surprised and incredibly grateful, I had a decision to make: what pedals did I want on this board, and how was I going to get them on?

First off, I knew I wanted my simplest setups for both my Taylor 816-CE (acoustic), and for my Gibson Black Beauty and my Samick custom strat (electric). I also knew I wanted space later on for a volume pedal. So for my acoustic run, I used a BOSS TU-2 (which I always use as a hard mute, especially when dealing with slow or inexperienced sound engineers), and my tried-and-true BOSS AD-5 acoustic modeling pedal (balanced or unbalanced). For the electric run that goes to my VOX AC-4, I used my favorite overdrive, the Fulltone OCD, my favorite delay, the Strymon Timeline, and another TU-2 that I use after the Timeline, as she tends to put out some faint, psychedelic nuance even when bypassed.

Like most guitarists, Velcro has been my staple. And I knew it’d be so easy just to slap on three thick strips of Velcro or 3M’s heavy duty, outdoor, rough surface variety. Of course, I was used to the wobbly pedals, the sticky residue, and the missing pedal that disappears with the inevitable kleptomaniac, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Then Jason mentioned “the bike chain link method.”


Bike chain links have two small holes that a 6-3/4 wood screw or 6-32 machine bolt fit perfectly through. And they’re just the right length to clear most effects pedal chassises.

The idea seemed like it would take a few resources I didn’t have (like screws, a bike chain, and a bike chain tool), and it would take more time and planning to execute. But the results seemed appealing: rock-solid stability, anti-theft benefits, and – appealing to my slight obsessive compulsive disorder – incredibly clean. I had to try.

I used:

• 6-3/4 wood screws (box) – $3.00 (You can chose to use 6-32 machine bolts and nuts if you want to. I chose the simpler route of screwing right into the board, but I will most likely move to bolts/nuts if replacing the pedals in the future).

• Bike chain link tool – $6.00

• 300-link bike chain – $4.00

• 4 – 1″ narrow hinges (for OCD pedal) – $4.00

• Coaxial staples – I don’t remember the cost, as I’ve had this box for a while.

• Cordless drill – A good one is expensive. Unless you already own one because you’re a homeowner or a contractor, save your wrist some carpal tunnel syndrome and go buy one. These little screws can be killer.

Taking the chain apart was fairly self-explanatory; the tool allows you to drive the cotter pin out of each link. But take your time, and rest your thumb, as this takes some pretty good hand strength.

Next came laying out my pedals. I’d advise connecting all your 1/4″ guitar cables and power chords when setting them. Without this, you’ll get a false sense of how much room you’ll need. As a result, you’ll very easily put pedals too close together and block audio and power jacks. Use a pencil to make tick marks on the board along the edges of each chasis, then take off all the cables as they’ll just get in the way for drilling (except those that do need to be connected due to unavoidable proximity issues).

Backing out screws on each pedal should be done carefully, as these screws can be hard to find duplicates of if you strip or mar them. Once out, put a chain link in place, and drive the screw back in – again, being careful not to damage the screw or over tighten. At this point I also removed all the rubber feet from the pedals so the links and screw heads would sit flush on the board. (The exception was the OCD, as its screws mount from the side, so I didn’t use links, but rather I used hinges. The hinge pivot point was actually further away from the chasis bottom, so I kept the rubber feet on as these didn’t play a factor in the mounting process).

The pedals then went on the board with 6-3/4 wood screws. If you think you’ll be swapping pedals out more, I’d suggest using 6-32 1″ machine bolts and nuts and drilling straight through the board, as they’ll be more secure long-term. If I ever swap out pedals, that’s what I’ll use (especially since the current screw holes will have less integrity the second time).

Once my pedals were all properly installed, I decided to mount an electrical power strip on the left side. Most power strips have screw holes and slide paths on the bottom; my version had four holes. I also chose a power strip with a recessed power switch on the side, not the top, as I too often bump the top-side ones and power things down inadvertently. The power strip feeds my Strymon Timeline (which needs its own proprietary wall wart), and the guts of an old BOSS BCB-60 pedalboard that I used to power everything else. (Eventually I’ll be updating this power rig with something ore legit, like a Voodoo Lab PedalPower 2).

Now it was time to hook all my cables back up, weave the power lines between the boards to keep the surface clean, and then use the coax staples and 6-3/4 wood screws to organize everything on the underside.

I used one 14″ zip-tie to hold my giant Radio Shack 9v wall wart to the board (which feeds the BCB-60 guts), and two Velcro strips to bind the extraneous lengths of power lines.

The result is a completely solid pedalboard that I can shake and flip, and not a single thing budges. I was shocked to realize I could plug a 1/4″ guitar cable into a pedal with just one hand. (Meaning, I didn’t need to brace the pedal with my free hand). Toe-tapping a tempo into the Timeline, or slapping the TU-2’s for tuning felt solid and accurate. Nothing budged an inch.

Approximate project time was 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not bad at all for a busy guy like me.


Totally solid. Secure. Safe. I’m a new bike-link convert for sure. It’s super clean and visually satisfying, allowing you to see more of your pedalboard’s face.


More labor intensive than Velcro. If you like to experiment a lot, and/or you don’t have your preferred pedals down pat, this system could drive you nuts. Carry a screwdriver in your gig bag or guitar cases: you may need to make adjustments on the road.

Hit me up in the comments section with questions, suggestions, references, or shout-outs.

Happy music making,


Bike chain, bike chain tool. Use paper towels to remove machine oil that comes on the chain.

Separating the links; takes some elbow grease.

Two different kinds of links: exterior flat, and internal with slight flange dimple.

Replacing native screw on the bottom of my Strymon Timeline. Use extra caution when working with these native screws; they can be tedious and expensive to replace.

Bottom of BOSS TU-2 with bike chain links.

The Fulltone OCD screws together on the side. Decided to use 1″ narrow hinges.

Decided to use 1″ narrow hinges for the Fulltone OCD.

Dimpled links going on my BOSS AD-5.

An ariel view of my dining room carpet work space.

Overview of final assembly; OCD will eventually move above the Strymon to give way for a volume pedal.

Side view with power strip and old BOSS power supply I stripped from an old BOOS BCB-60.

OCD with hinges.

Back side of my “Dawn Treader” Jason Rodger’s custom.

To control electric lines,I used coax staples, but removed the nail and used a 6-32 wood screw.

Overview of underside.


Gallop Amps


I was at a friend’s 50th birthday Saturday night in PA, and one of his best friends flew in and surprised him from Las Vegas.

Nice friend.

Don Gallop is a church planter, something I respect highly. And as his tent making, he builds custom, one-off amps. As we talked more, I realized this guy can model any board out there, or build to whatever idea you hear. What a gift! From super quiet circuits, to fat and dirty, he can dial it in.

I was totally amped(!), and thought – shoot, if we’re going to buy amps anyway, why not buy a custom build at a fair price, and support a guy who’s planting a church in Vegas?

Now that’s money well spent.

Pass it along.