Posts Tagged ‘Pastor Mike



28
Apr
09

Mac haters

Okay, I have a mac. A MacBook Pro to be specific.  I bought it in November.  I bought it because I have been exploring new audio platforms to use for recording in the studio and macs have a great reputation for stability.  I wasn’t ready to make the jump from my beloved Sonar-based Windows x64 (Vista Ultimate) setup but I was in the market for a new laptop.  So I figured that I would get the laptop and learn the whole mac world so if I ever did make the leap over to something like Logic or ProTools for my audio recording, I would only have one learning curve (the software) not two (the software + the system).  So far I have been very happy with my decision.  The initial learning curve was a bit steep but once I learned a few things, I can say I love my mac.  My experiment has worked and I am happy I made the decision that I did.  

I have discovered something interesting along the journey.  The world is full of mac haters.  Since getting the mac, I have been in a variety of settings with it: church meetings, business meetings, client meetings, interviews, Starbuck’s, my friends house, my studio, etc.  In most, if not all of these settings I get a myriad of interesting comments.  These comments come out right about the time I pull my shiny silver macbook out of my backpack.  They all are some variety of “oh, a mac guy.”  It is said with derision and disdain.  It is said with a smirk.  It is said with a knowing sarcasm that implies “here a guy who thinks he is better than all of us.”  The most interesting comments come from IT guys.  They utter “oh, a mac guy” but this is said with a tenor of “you just made my job harder you jerk.”

Funny thing is, having a mac has made my life easier and more productive.  Compatibility with all systems, networks, wifis, etc has been a breeze.  Case and point: I needed to print some stuff at church and I just unplugged the USB cable from the printer and plugged it into my mac and no sooner than you could say “oh, a mac guy” the driver had loaded and I was printing lead sheets for the worship team.  I was so impressed with this I started plugging into printers in every home and office I visited for about a week.  It worked every time, like a really neat magic trick.

(Here is a good place to address the 3rd category of people which are other mac users who utter some version of “oh, a mac guy!” with delight and a sense of “I’ve got a friend in the world” – call it instant-community – kind of like when you find out your boss is a believer.)

I have never had a problem connecting a peripheral, or to a wifi network or LAN, opening up a Microsoft document or Microsoft formatted file.  On top of that I never shut the thing down, it’s “always on” so startup and shutdown takes as long as it takes me to open or close the lid, screen management for projection is a no brainer, the battery lasts like 4 1/2 hours, the blue screen of death is non-existent, everything is super fast, and Office:Mac actually works.

I have come to a conclusion.  The reason mac people love macs is for all the reasons above and more, but I figured out that the thing works so well you never actually learn anything about your computer.  I am serious.  I think the reason mac users love macs is because they don’t have to know squat about a computer to make it work, they just don’t know this, but wouldn’t really care even if they did because they are more productive than you.  

That said, people who use Windows based computers have to actually know how a computer works.  Here’s the rub for mac users, if something goes wrong on your PC, you can actually fix it yourself – for cheap.  I have built more PC’s from scratch than I can remember and all of them are still in play in someone’s home (or recording studio) today.  And it’s easy to upgrade and modify.  For mac users, if something goes wrong, it’s a trip to the Mac store and I hope you paid $349 for the extended warranty.

So it’s funny, the mac haters hate macs for reasons that are not based in reality and the mac lovers love macs for reasons that would actually make the Windows people happy.

Okay you weigh in, do I have a point?  🙂

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11
Apr
09

Destinysong

A year ago today I was rejoicing in a successful evening of Easter services (and preparing for more on Sunday!).  I rejoiced in the opportunity for believers to celebrate our Savior’s resurrection and those who made first time decisions for Christ.  It was by far my favorite Easter program I ever had the fortune of participating in, let alone to lead.  (For video of that service, check out the videos section of this blog.)  It was a weekend of rejoicing for all God had done, and continued to do in many ways in our lives.  This weekend we have a different kind of milestone to celebrate.  God is so good.  A few months ago, a very Holy Spirit inspired couple asked a simple question to Dina and I, “when will [we] build the studio?”  Little did we know they were planning to mobilize this effort.  See, it has been a dream of mine to have a professional recording studio located right in our own home for many years.  We have built 3 home studios (2 in basements and 1 in a bedroom) and have produced several projects out of these studios (and actually ended up with a few good ones).  But I always wanted to take it to the next level.  The first time Dina and I drove onto our property here in the Black Forest we saw a detached and oversized garage and the first words out of our mouths were “that’s where the studio will go.”  Well here we are some years later and the dream has come true.  In the most unlikely of times and under the most unlikely of circumstances, inspired by our amazing friends who have sacrificed in a huge financial way, propelled by big vision from the Lord for change in the world, and seen to fulfillment by a small group of believers who still believe in miracles, Destinysong is now a reality.  Today, Dina, Julian, Jasmine and I put the finishing touches on the studio and officially moved in our first bits of gear.  I stood in amazement that God would bless us in this way.  And the elation I felt one year ago in the fullness of how great an Easter Celebration could be, is only eclipsed by my utter astonishment at how the faithfulness of a few can birth a vision into a reality.  I have been posting pictures on the Destinysong website for the past 3 months to show the progress of the building project, and as soon as the weather clears, I’ll snap a few more of the beautiful, final product.  Check out our website here (or click on the link in the sidebar) and I pray that all of you are blessed as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow!

31
Mar
09

CompassionArt

Okay so is it just me or does anyone else feel the drought in new worship music releases?  The “latest” worship albums I have been spinning are all from last year.  So do yourselves a favor, stop what you are doing right now and go out and get the newly released CD “CompassionArt.”  This CD was totally an unexpected pleasure to acquire.  To give you a framework for it, this project is the vision of Martin and Anna Smith (Martin being of delirious? notoriety).  The idea is to get some of the best worship songwriters in the world together (Martin, Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, Matt Redman to name just a few), link people up in two’s and three’s and see if they could whip up some righteous new worship songs (my verdict is they succeeded).  Secondly, get in the studio and have a bunch of these same songwriters and some cool guests (Kirk Franklin, Leeland, Any Grant, etc.) record a full blown album that sounds great (again, my verdict is they succeeded) and have all proceeds go to charity (and yes, this means ALL proceeds including an agreement with CCLI to not bank off of church play).  This album was a pleasant surprise and I recommend it to anyone.  Go get it!

On another note, the aforementioned delirious? just released a live CD/DVD project recorded on their tour stop in Columbia.  Just watching and listening to these guys I always am amazed at their humility and talent and how much they have paved the way for all modern worship over the past 15 years.  If you have never truly experienced d: this is certainly a good starting point.  That said, it’s a bittersweet offering since it’s likely their last.  Martin and Stu have decided to focus their efforts on future CompassionArt projects and so they have announced the band will shut er’ down at the end of this year.  Sniff sniff.

09
Mar
09

U2 “No Line on the Horizon” Album Review

Okay so today I went to R&R Coffee here in the Black Forest and got a cup of Forest Mist Dark Roast (a signature blend…mmm), then I went next door to the Post Office and mailed back a washing machine part we didn’t need, I went to PetCo and bought some fish for my tropical tank, and I went to Target and bought the new album by U2 on CD.  Not a bad set of errands.  PetCo’s doing 5 for $5 tropical fish, R&R Coffee has a self service on drip that is less expensive and better than anyone around, and Target had the CD on sale.  The only thing I didn’t get a deal on was the washer pump (waste of shipping $!).  Can’t win em’ all, but in the process I got the new offering from one of rock’s most enduring bands.

First I will say that listening to Bono sing is worth the price of admission alone no matter the quality of the album.  What is that price you ask?  iTunes carries it for $9.99 album only or $17.99 which includes an hour-long movie featuring the music of the band as a part of the download (by Anton Corbjin who is the band’s favorite photographer).  Not bad.  If you prefer hard copy (and for those who lament the lost pleasure of album artwork who doesn’t?) Target has it on sale this week: album alone is $9.99 as well or you can get a cool deluxe edition for $21.99 which includes the album plus a poster, a mini book, and finally a download of aforementioned movie.  If you really want to go crazy you can get the whole thing bundled with DVD version of the movie for $64.99.  $9.99 seemed like the right choice for me although I will admit I had the deluxe edition in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Okay so with a 30+ year history behind them, who doesn’t like U2?  It used to be if someone said U2 was lame folks would give them the luxury of personal opinion, but today saying U2 is lame is like calling Bob Dylan a two-bit horseshoe farrier. Yeah, you would be called crazy.  Here’s my overarching assessment of their output over the years: they consistently outshine every other alternative band in history but they run out of gas 75% through almost every release.  It’s true.  I mean, you really have to be a major fan of their creative muse to like “Mothers of the Disappeared” for example (from “Joshua Tree”).  But 75% of U2 is 100% better than 99% of the artists in the world so who’s complaining?  If we have to suffer “Please” we still get “Do You Feel Love” (from “Pop”) or if we have to endure “Peace on Earth” we still get to revel in “Kite” (from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  All that to say I always expect to enjoy most of a new U2 album, but plan to be bored or let down by a chunk of it (kind of like a new Hillsong release or the skillets at Village Inn).

For this effort they ran through a series of producers (big names like Rick Rubin) and finally landed with three guys who have consistently delivered for them over the years: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and a few by Steve Lillywhite.  So expect the album to have some sounds that hearken your favorite U2 stuff from previous years.

I scanned a review that said something about U2 getting criticism for their last album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” because they didn’t risk enough on it and this album was theoretically a response to that critique but I don’t hear it.  It sounds very much like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” era U2 which is not to say it’s bad, I just don’t get the whole exploring-new-territory thing.  U2 on this album sounds like we would expect U2 to sound.  Anthemic, bluesy, and pulsating (all that’s missing from early U2 is the passion).  That’s why we listen to them over and over right?  U2 is a sonic soundtrack for our lives.  Our lives in the car, in the kitchen, on the bike, at work, on TV, gosh you can place U2 just about anywhere and it plays well.  So expect the familiar and that’s okay, well better than okay, it’s downright good.

“Get on Your Boots” was the first single released (to mixed reviews) and I was excited because it sounded like a band that was in fact looking to reinvent.  But as track #6 it sounds oddly out of character with the album up until that point.  The new fresh sound comes only after familiar territory.  Funny, as I listened the first time as each track came on it sounded like a different U2 album from the past.  I wonder if this was intentional by the band. Almost a retrospective without being retrospective.  I actually spent a little time linking each song to a previous U2 work, but I will spare you the list due to the length of this post.  Try it yourself, it’s fun.

As a leadoff cut “No Line on the Horizon” is a dud.  The title suggests that the band is looking forward with no boundaries which implies uncharted waters.  Can anyone else hear the blatant nod to “Until the End of the World” in the guitar riff?  That’s from 1990 and it’s funny because that song was written for a movie soundtrack where they were supposed to try and write in a style of where music would be 10 years from the writing.  They should have started the album with “Magnificent” which really shines as a classic U2 groove and overarching melodies.  Still, like a good road trip, this album gets better as it travels further and explores more.  That’s a first for U2 with me: I enjoyed the 2nd half more (One exception is “FEZ-being Born” which is out of place and belongs at the end of the album or somewhere else).  “Unknown Caller” has a rare Edge guitar solo, which was very refreshing to hear.  “White as Snow” is hauntingly beautiful (and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that the melody line to “O Come Emmanuel”?).  Bono is in good form with his wink-of-the-eye one-liner lyrics (“gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy”) and the album just sounds great sonically.

So in summary, if you like U2 you will like this CD; I do and I did.  It doesn’t break new ground but it’s everything we want in U2.  Not bad for $9.99.  I can listen to it over and over again too and probably will (can’t recycle that coffee and get the same bank for the buck now can I?).

On a final, Christian worldview note, I will say that it was refreshing and nice to have Bono singing about his faith so positively on the last album, but unfortunately there’s not a ton of that going on here.  We get that old 90’s style of faith from Mr. Vox.  It’s a sardonic and slightly jaded religiosity that filters though.  I recall seeing him wearing one of those “COEXIST” hats on TV last year at an AIDS rally.  Is Jesus still the only true way to salvation for Bono or does he now espouse the ever so popular one-world religion that prevails these days?  In “Breathe” he sings, “St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine.”  Seems he hates religion, but then again don’t we? At one time Bono and the Edge wanted to abandon their careers in music and become pastors, but that was over 20 years ago. It’s almost as if when he says “stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” in “Stand up Comedy” he’s singing to himself, the Bono-Christ.  I am happy that my faith remains unshaken.  Why don’t you all pray for Bono when you finish reading this, okay?

07
Mar
09

Coldplay a Guitar Influence?

Okay so I was casually listening to the album “Parachutes” by Coldplay and something jumped out at me that I never really noticed before.  The main riff and guitar solo in “Yellow” seems to be the template for almost every single contemporary worship guitar solo that has happened ever since.  Now when one thinks of guitar influences, most especially in the last 10 years, certainly Coldplay doesn’t jump to mind.  (In fact, I wonder if there has even been a major guitar influence in the last 20 years.  A friend of mine was explaining that Matthew Bellamy from Muse is a big deal but unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the major leap I think that all electric guitarists are secretly hoping for.  But that’s just me.)  Nevertheless in “Yellow” that solo is the style that every electric guitarist in the modern church has had to either a) learn or b) doesn’t know anything else exists.  It’s the 8th note, two tone (think 2 strings), all downstrokes, just north of broken sound, with delay on it.  Yeah you could say that came from the Edge, and it’s pretty obvious that Coldplay’s biggest influence is U2 (by admission from the band, but then again they also claim Delirious? is an influence.  But hey, Delirious? is most influenced by, you guessed it, U2).  I have heard “Yellow” many times and never put 2 and 2 together until this last listen.  It was released in 2000 and became a bona fide hit (#5 in UK) and it broke the band to a worldwide audience that embraced a new fresh sound (that sounded like u2 and Delirious? but that’s a niggling detail for anyone under 18 at the time).  Okay so to wrap up:

1) Most Christian guitarists and Christian artists I know listen to and love Coldplay

2) “Yellow” is one the band’s most popular songs and has this guitar solo/riff in it

3) Since 2000 most modern worship has guitar solos that sound like “Yellow.”  

You listen to the song and tell me what you think.  But prior to 2000 if modern worship even had a guitar solo, it certainly didn’t sound like everything coming out of Hillsong and the Passion guys.  Weigh in!

02
Feb
09

The Future of Music

CD sales have dropped.  A friend of told me that the #1 selling CD in the US last week only moved 63,000 copies.  This is insane when you figure that not too long ago hard copy CD sales could exceed 2 Million on the first week of release of a popular artist’s latest recording. 

According to marketingcharts.com “Enders forecasts that overall music sales in 2009 will be half the level of the peak of the CD boom.”

I quote the IFPDI Digital Music Report 2008: “Tens of billions of illegal files were swapped in 2007. The ratio of unlicensed tracks downloaded to legal tracks sold is about 20 to 1.”

The Economist on January 10th said: ” In America, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the volume of physical albums sold dropped by 19% in 2007 from the year before—faster than anyone had expected. For the first half of 2007, sales of music on CD and other physical formats fell by 6% in Britain, by 9% in Japan, France and Spain, by 12% in Italy, 14% in Australia and 21% in Canada. (Sales were flat in Germany.) Paid digital downloads grew rapidly, but did not begin to make up for the loss of revenue from CDs.…”

I wonder what this means?  Is it that paid music is gone, or at least going?  Or is it that music is going?  I do not think it’s music.  Since music was invented by God for His purposes, maybe God is just taking it back.

God has a purpose and a plan for how He will use His creation to further the Kingdom.  We need to be willing to be used by Him in this new global revolution.

My friend put it this way: “People still want music, just the format will change. I really feel that the Lord is almost holding something back from our understandig at this moment, but it will be revealed shortly.”

More to come…

18
Jan
09

When all Around Has Fallen

One the best songs ever written is “When All Around Has Fallen” by Martin Smith of delirious?  This song has ministered to me over the years on many occasion.  Music has a unique quality in that, even when we are not open to it, it has the power to pierce through our human walls and drive an emotional lightening bolt or even act as warming honey to our hurting souls.   Sometimes, even at the most unsuspecting of moments, music calls and draws us out from the darkest places.  But just as powerfully, it can take an emotional and spiritual high and, just like lift to a bird or airplane, raise us up even higher than we thought possible in a magical kind of way.  It is no wonder I have come to the conclusion that music was created by God, for His purposes.  It is a supernatural thing.  

The song “When all around has fallen” acknowledges our human frailty, but also honors the true faithful.  (The line “you used to be a king here” makes me think of the times when we find ourselves on the mountaintop, and we live there for some time, there creeps in a sense of ownership and appointment by God.  Yes, God does use man to accomplish His purposes, and chooses to promote and to cast down.  This is a radical concept and reality that affects us all.  But I have seen that some people focus on the “anointing” a bit too much, often in my experience, to the point where they are looking and seeking for an anointed person, and when they find that person, they lift them up.  They feel compelled to tell that person how anointed they are and they lift that person onto a pedestal.  This can create in a person like myself a strong sense of obligation to fulfill those people’s needs and expressed desires.)

Martin Smith has a way of being open and honest in his lyric writing.  Often times I feel as if I am getting a peek into his personal journal when I listen to his music.  That certainly goes for this song.  It expresses in a profound and deep way the things I have walked through the past few weeks.  Today I was on my way back from a lunch with a dear friend and local worship pastor and I put this song on.  I stopped by our regional park and just sat and listened to it and let the words minister to me.  I’ll admit, any song that has a Jesus perspective in it sometimes comes off as irreverent to me.  I often think, “who is man to think he can identify with Jesus?”  But since I have been through a personal tragedy of lifetime-changing proportions, I am just now beginning to understand what Paul refers to in Philippians 3:10 as the “fellowship of his suffering.”

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”

This past year contained the most shocking surprise of my life; that of betrayal.  I never thought the things that transpired were possible to happen to my family and me.  But for some reason, God allowed this to happen.  I praise God that in times like this we can turn to Jesus and he will lift us up, carry us, and give us the peace that passes all understanding, reminding us that the really important things in life are unchanging.

When All Around Has Fallen

When all around has fallen your castle has been burned
You used to be a king here now no one knows your name
You live your life for honour, defender of the faith
But you’ve been crushed to pieces and no one knows your pain

Come, come lay your weary head be still my friend
Come, rise I’ll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, rise with me

When tomorrow has been stolen and you can’t lift your head
And summer feels like winter your heart is full of stone
Though all your hopes have fallen your skin is now your only armour
Wear your scars like medals defender of the faith

Come, come lay your weary head be still my friend
Come, rise I’ll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, come lay your faithful head, be still my friend
Come rise with me

Written by Martin Smith ©1995 Curious? Music UK




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