A handful of images from my first two days serving the amazing leaders of the underground campus movement.
[Locations, names and keywords withheld].
A handful of images from my first two days serving the amazing leaders of the underground campus movement.
[Locations, names and keywords withheld].
Tomorrow morning at 3:30am, I begin the long voyage to China. I’m excited to see a new land, one which I’ve read so much about. But I’m sad to be leaving my family, and will miss deeply.
For the interests of security, my mission will remain simply that I’m going to encourage leaders dedicated to shaping China’s future.
I’ll be back on the 24th, eager to see my wife and kids, and to share all the exciting news from the trip with those nearest me.
“Souls or I die.”
Thanks for lifting me and my team up.
Eight years ago, my new-found friend, Wayne, and I decided to embark on a mutual dream of forming an Inklings group of our own. But distance was not our friend, he being in Maryland and I being in northern New York. So rather than a weekly gathering in some local pub, we decided upon meeting for a full weekend at a locale halfway between his home and mine.
The result has been a faithful convergence on a poetic (if not sleepy) Pennsylvanian town or city for the last eight years. And what a blessing it’s been for both of us. The mutual camaraderie is immeasurably valuable, as are the long talks concerning writing, plot and character development, theology, doctrines of the faith. Not to mention the verbose amount of gregarious guffawing we engage in.
And threading through it all are the continuous clicks of our laptop keys as we work on our next stories for the world to read. Wayne is working on a new supernatural thriller series called GHOST, while I’m very close to announcing the title and release date of my newest work, codenamed TSR.
Here’s to Inkblots everywhere who enjoy fellowship and the pursuit of the intellectual.
This shot of “new believers cards” collected during tonight’s altar call at the BCY event in Syracuse, NY says it all for me.
All I desire for 2013 is more souls won to Jesus. Keeping that at the forefront helps put everything else in perspective.
I was honored for the opportunity and privilege of sharing the Gospel with some amazing teenagers who heard heaven’s call to wake up and walk into the light.
Happy New Year everyone. Let’s endeavor to esteem and promote Jesus this year more than ever before.
I wish international travel was as easy as stepping through a wardrobe. But it’s 2012. So planes must suffice.
22 hours later and we’re home.
Thanks to our wonderful hosts on this week-long journey: Sylvain & Line Freymond, Bedig & Rebekah Nassanian, and Doug & Merrie Gresham. We cherish you all; you are valuable to the King and the Kingdom.
For now, Jennifer and I are back among our children, our patch of earth, ensconced in the Thousand Islands, and planted once again among our people.
Malta is beautiful. Historical. And rather magical. Full of new discoveries, old realities, and precious friends.
Here’s the evidence by iPhone.
[A worship-painting by Brigitte Schacher]. atelier-du-rivage.ch
A smattering of notable images from our time here in Yverdon.
Jenny and I are off to Switzerland for the annual Discerning the Times Conference in Yverdon, about an hour outside of Geneva. We’re excited to see dear friends again, and honored by yet another opportunity to pour into the nations. I recently told a close friend, “As long as God keeps asking us, we’ll keep saying yes.” From there we head to Malta.
Please keep our children and our travels in your prayers. Stay tuned for pics and updates.
I just got in late last night from Europe.
But as a Christ-follower, having one’s life spent on the welfare of others is one of the greatest blessings imaginable.
Speaking and leading worship at the Radikal For Jesus youth conference in northern France is always inspiring. I’ve rarely attended a more spiritually-free gathering anywhere in the world. Nations represented include Scotland, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, Congo and Switzerland.
I managed two quick stops in Madrid and Brussels on this trip too. Always great photo-ops.
Among my favorite moments were the messages, the 4-hour long worship sets, 1 planned baptism and 15 spontaneous ones, and celebrating my 10th year of working with Church Without Walls in Longwy, France.
Here’s my trip in pics.
I’ve decided to move my creative energies from daily blogging – a habit which began last July – toward a few more demanding projects that need my immediate attention.
I still plan on posting regularly, but the frequency will be determined by availability netted from progress made in other areas.
This daily-run, which has been the most consistent writing of my life, has been a tremendous benefit personally, helping me grow in my use of words and in articulating my thoughts. Likewise, I believe many of you, my faithful readers, have been encouraged in some way.
In staggering my posts, I hope to craft even better content, giving each piece the time it needs to be written. Likewise, I’m moving into some seasons of renewed productivity that will demand the best of my creative energies.
To name a few:
• Finishing and formatting The Berinfell Prophecies Book 3
• Pursuing 3 new possible restaurant openings
• Launching of Sprig Records studio and record company
• Recording Jennifer’s next full-length album
• Writing and producing for New Life’s first live worship album, as well as CHB’s next project
• Completion of book 1 of my new upcoming series, as well as development for books 2 and 3
I also plan on taking considerable time off in the next few months to enjoy summer in the 1000 Islands. This will include a lot of time sailing on the river with The Hopper Kids, and Jennifer and my first “kid-less vacation” in 8-years.
For those who faithfully read here, I’d appreciate your investment of prayer into everything listed above; your support and encouragement mean a great deal to me.
Here’s to seasons of rest, and renewed productivity.
The best is yet to come.
UPDATE 05.22.2012: I will honor the free music incentive for anyone who contributes through the end of the Indigo Eligibility Period of this campaign, dated Thursday, June 14th 2012.
I’m not sure the last time I asked my readers to give money to something.
Unless the shameless plugging of my books counts. Then I’m über guilty.
This week I’m asking 100 of my readers to contribute to the future of one of the most amazing families I know: Ron & Val Sykes.
When I say one of the most amazing, I mean most amazing. I’m probably not permitted to share everything I know about their insanely selfless actions, as they’d be frustrated with the limelight. But it’s true.
From sacrificially purchasing and giving up real-estate for the benefit of others, to being constantly on-call to teens in need, to having children of their own who beautifully require unusually high amounts of love and attention, to wearing more than one full-time hat in a church with part-time pay, Ron & Val exude the selflessness of Christ in a way I’ve rarely witnessed.
And I’m honored to call them friends.
Almost ten years ago I was in need of a bass player. When asked, Denis Johnson Jr. replied, “Well, he’s actually a concert pianist, but he can play a mean bass, too. Give Ron a call.” Within a few gigs, he’d endeared himself to me and became my go-to man for all things low end. (Meant in the basst of ways). Little did I know Val would also travel with CHB to put music in motion with her worship dancing.
Where’s the plea for money you ask?
Ron and Val are taking a much needed hiatus from the demands of life in Rochester, NY to spend 1 year at IHOP in Kansas City. I believe it will be an incredible time to invest in their children, distance themselves from a city that constantly gets their best, and spend time ministering to the Lord and his people in a truly artistic way – Ron as the consumate musician, Val as the ever-elegant dancer, and both as pro-family heroes of the faith.
So I’m asking you, one of my heroic 100, to pick one of their smart Perks Packages and invest in this Godly family. Watch their video. Read about what they’re doing. If you’re a young person, ask your parents to come over to the computer right now and pray about what your family can contribute. I know Jennifer and I are.
Be one of my Heroic 100. Invest in real people affecting real change for the Kingdom in the earth today. Heaven is watching, and God doesn’t blink at what you sow.
As a special gift to the first 100 people that give to the Sykes at any level, I’ll send a personal mix of acoustic worship songs performed by Jennifer and me that we’ve never released. In fact, they’ll be recorded just for The Heroic 100. You’ll need to email me here once you’ve purchased your Perk Package on their website.
Thanks for reading. Thanks more for investing.
Today wraps up my third and final day of posting notes taken from the worship song writer’s workshop I sat in on with master song writer Brenton Brown. Of his three points, this was his shortest, but poignant nonetheless.
In fact, I’ll leave it worded exactly as he delivered it.
Sometimes writing a song is like trying to fill out a crossword puzzle. Which I suck at. The puzzle says, “Name a five-letter word for a flat service.” After drilling my brain for hours, I decide there simply is no such word. Then in desperation I walk around the house asking people, “What’s a five-letter word for a flat service?”
Man, what didn’t I think of that? Because I wasn’t really dedicated to hunting the word down. I just wanted it easy.
Stop rhyming the last word in a stanza with praise, and name, and grace – there are other words out there that work. Please hunt them down! Work at it!
This is a continuation of my 3-day series on notes taken from Brenton Brown’s workshop on worship song writing at CMS in Buffalo, NY.
Songs are short. They use 100 words to make a point.
What’s the main point of your song, and the reasons (sub clauses) for the main point? How tightly argued are the successful songs you know/write? The reasons behind them?
How well a song is received is determined by how strong and concise an argument it makes.
To lead people in prayer you need to give them a clear prayer.
Find out what’s not being said doctrinally around you. Because you’re actually responsible for teaching them doctrine in your songs. And even more severely:
People remember your songs long after they remember your sermons.
Ask your teaching pastor where your church is lacking. Writing worship songs shapes the way people think about the Lord – it’s a teaching role.
The first gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to communicate with people in their own languages. Likewise, how are you pursuing trustworthy communication?
Writing a worship song is composed of three core elements:
1.) Have something worth saying.
2.) Say it in a way people will understand.
3.) Say it persuasively.
Don’t waste one word.
As you come out of a verse, just before you sing the chorus to a song you’re writing, say, “And that’s why I want to say…” Then you’ll have your chorus.
The song Here I Am to Worship has 11 sub-clauses to support the reason to worship right now.
Repetition also serves as a type of sub-clause.
Example: let my life revolve around you, be my focus, be the center, be the most important thing in my life. All saying the same thing, just different ways of saying it.
The Koran is not allowed to be translated; meanwhile Pentecost opened up Biblical (and dangerous but potentially powerful) re-interpretations.
David Wilcox (folk music writer) tries to fill 3 legal pads with a single theme of thought.
Storytelling worship songs are difficult to write, and not popular in pop music (almost exclusively in country, however). But they’re extremely effective. To work in worship, they must encompass a universal theme (Example: I Coming Back To The Heart of Worship: first the music faded, then You searched deeper, now I’m coming back, etc).
Universal themes are essential. During a particular songwriting competition we held back in England, we had one great entry that had a bogus ending: “God you’re amazing / Your power is awesome in the place / You heal your people / And my cousin Dave.”
How to chose your topic? Yes, some songs flow Pentecostally and just “happen” to us; but others we must labor over. Start to think about your songs as you would a sermon: it makes it easier. Like Alister McGrath said about writing sermones, at a certain point in writing a song you’re going to have to study.
Lastly, try lowering your goals as a writer. For example, yes, everyone wants to write a collection of songs in a week that are worthy of recording on a CD; but how about just vowing to write one good song a year – one song you’re really proud of and that stands on it’s own. Now that’s a solid goal.
I had the privilege of sitting in on Brenton Brown‘s workshop on “worship song writing” this weekend at the CMS event in Buffalo, NY. He’s known for writing such memorable choruses as Your Love Is Amazing, Lord Reign In Me and Holy Holy Holy.
Aside from appreciating Brenton’s ability to articulate profound truth with effortless means both with regard to Christianity and in teaching song writing, he’s also an extremely personable man. The first time I ever met him, we were sitting in the VIP trailer at Creation, talking about South Africa, Boy Scouts and family. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him; only later would I piece together just who he was.
His points on song writing for churches were profound enough that I felt lead to share them here over the next three days. I hope his words are as inspirational to you as they were to me, and that my notes do his talking points justice. I’ve taken the liberty to expound in places in the hopes of capturing what he was saying and eliminating the “chicken scratch” mentality of the moment I wrote this in.
Enjoy. And write well.
Our goal is to help a large group of non-musician people who don’t normally sing at all to worship the Lord with music.
We need to write songs that are easy enough for a large group of diverse people to sing, but interesting enough that people will want to sing them again.
This thing is art. It’s elusive. And songs are like hums:
You don’t find hums, hums find you.
-Winnie the Pooh
To get “found” by a song, you need to find head spaces that inspire you. This is because we’re essentially playing when we make music. It’s important to be in a playful mood when you write. The other head space we write from is pain, brokenness and desperation, and I don’t recommend actively looking for that one.
What things make you happy? What seasons where you most prolifically writing in? Take 30-seconds to think of these things and seasons in your life.
My wife tends to know what mine are better than I do; I love to be around water and to surf. She has always notices that I’m happier when I come home from surfing, and grumpy when I’m not. So she’ll kick me out of the house on occasion to go surf. I tend to write a lot of my songs while I’m sitting on the water. It’s a good head space for me. These are your fishing holes. Find good fishing holes.
Fishing also has a catch and release element to it. You must work an idea until it’s “done” and then put it away. Let’s songs gestate and mature. This practice ensure only your best stuff will come out. If a melody keeps popping back out and getting stuck in your head, it’s a keeper. If a particular lyric or phrase won’t leave you alone, it’s a keeper.
Stephen Covey talks a lot about the Scarcity Mentality and the Abundance Mentality. The Scarcity Mentality says, “Hold on to the precious, few songs you’ll ever get, and don’t share them with anybody, especially don’t share the credit.” The Abundance Mentality says, “There are plenty of wonderful ideas out there that I’ll discover. I need to share them to bless other people, and to let my ideas get refined, regardless of who gets credit – I’ll always have more.”
Write with the door open.
This open door policy will help gain outside perspective. Anyone can critique a song; my mom can tell me when something sucks. But asking other writers for objective input will build your songs.
What’s makes you feel good in this song? And what makes you feel odd in this song?
Remember that when you’re writing a worship song for people to sing, you’re actually contributing to an ongoing conversation between God and his people. What do people need to say to God? (Prayer). And what does God need to say to his people? (Prophetic).
Take 30-seconds to think about the 3 favorite careers you’d love to have. It’s in these personal states of “favorite” that we find the same inspiration to write out of as artists.
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