Sunday, March 27, 2016

For the Easter Season...

Χριστὸς ανέστη, y'all. Of course, my Greek brothers and sisters won't be saying that till their Easter, on May 1. But it's as true now as it will be then.

Greetings.  I am taking a look back here during the Easter Season to post a song or two - some, my own, and some, not - that reflect the joy of the season.

I wrote this song over fifteen years ago, and recorded this with my friend Ben Lynerd at Holy Trinity Church, Chicago.  It's rough, but I still enjoy Ben's fun improv on the piano.

It's meant to be a conversation between (don't ask how I got this) the gossipy town barber and his customers.  He always has news to share.  This morning, as it turns out, he has some pretty big news...

I would love for you to post some of your favorite songs, hymns and spiritual songs that focus on the celebration of Easter.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A “New” Old Song, Unearthed...

You know that feeling of total despondency when you lose something that is totally irreplaceable?  Hopefully, this feeling is replaced by one of acceptance.

You know that feeling of ... wow ... when the thing just shows up again one day, in the last place you'd expect to find it?  Well...

Back in 2009, as my family and I were preparing to end a two year period of living and teaching in La Paz, Bolivia (at a wonderful school known as Highlands International School - yes, this school is definitely HIS!), I wanted to leave them with parting words.  I chose the words of the Master Himself, from several passages of Scripture (which I am currently too sleepy to look up).  I wrote a little ditty and recorded it with my friend and fellow teacher, Victor Aguilar.  He played djembe and I played guitar and sang.

I recorded the song, and put it on CD for everyone.

For everyone except myself.


Over the past six years, we have moved a couple of times, decluttered, sorted stuff, organized, disorganized, and reorganized.  In all that time, every effort to find this song (and others I composed and recorded while in Bolivia) was in vain.

Until today, when I happened to be looking around in the SD card on my Chromebook.

The same SD card that was in my clunky old, now rather dead computer from Bolivia.

So, when I listened to it today, alternately cringing and smiling, questioning this note or that, and tapping my feet the whole time, I decided it was a good idea to share it.

My dear old school of Highlands International School - as well as my many other beloved old schools (Mt. Ulla Elementary, Trinity Episcopal School, and Third Creek Elementary) are all at the beginning of a new school year.  At my current school, Socrates Academy, we begin on Monday.  This song is a benediction, a prayer, for all these schools, and for your school or your kids' school.

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.  And may the peace of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - be with us all, now and forever.  Even when school gets a little too crazy!

(Oh, and here's where you can go to see the lyrics and learn the chords to play!)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Songs for a Holy Lent in 2015 - A Meditation on Psalm 119

As we embark on the first full week of Lent, I thought it would be a good idea to include some songs for the Season.  Some will be mine, some will not.  Some will be old, and some will be so new, they are not even finished!

I know myself too, too well to promise a post every day.  However, investing more time in both people and in spiritual disciplines (like weekly Lectio Divina, culminating in songwriting experiments) is going to be a large part of my Lenten experience this year.  Therefore, I hope to share whatever it is I come up with.

To get things off to a good start, I am sharing an oldie and a goodie.  From the collection of songs I wrote and recorded between 1995 and 2004 (the most fruitful season of creativity of my life so far), this is "A Meditation on Psalm 119".  Great thanks to my dear friends, vocalist Gwen Camera and flautist Jennifer Atala.

I chose this because it came up in my very random Google Play mix while I was baking with my mom the other day.  It made me smile to hear the lovely vocals and flute, and it felt appropriate for the beginning of Lent.  Here you are.

If you would like to play along, here's a link to the lyrics and chords.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Praise to the Lord the Almighty" and "Ah, Holy Jesus"

Despite the fact that my slow pace through a MACT at Gordon-Conwell has taken up what's left of my creative juices these days, I have managed to mess around with some old hymns.  The first, one of my favorites that I had somehow neglected for about a decade, I have simply attempted to jazz it up a bit with some slight changes to the traditional melody and some syncopation to make it a little funky.

The other, is a hymn that - I am ashamed to say - I have never really heard (I mean, I've heard it, but never heard it) till just the other day at a Maundy Thursday service.  I loved the tune, but kept thinking, "I'd love to try my own tune with such a rich text and odd meter."  So, the next day, on a friend's porch swing, and way too early for my voice to be recording anything, I came up with this:

If you want chords or anything for these, please feel free to comment and let me know.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflections on Church History before the Reformation

Okay.  This is not exactly a songwriter-ish post.  Don't care.  My blog.  My rules.

Today, I finished lectures for a class at Gordon-Conwell Seminary: Church History to the Reformation.  Thursday, I take the final.  But I digress.

As I was taking out the compost tonight, I was pondering what the take-away is for me on the sweeping history of the first millennium and a half since Jesus Christ invaded the world with His Kingdom, gave His life for our salvation, and bodily rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father, changing everything.

The take-away, I think, is this:

The Church is a story of beauty and horror - selfless acts of love and atrocities committed in the name of Love, humble servants and demagogues, sublime words of praise and heartless words of condemnation - there really can be only true Hero of the Christian Faith.  Jesus truly, as it says in the letter to the Colossians, holds all things together.  Paul may have had no idea when he wrote that, but I think he was prophesying about the Church as well as the universe.

It is a miracle that, to this day, a Body known as the Church (splintered though it may be, but I think many divisions are healing right before our eyes), still exists, still shines the light of Christ on the world, still is learning, slowly but surely, to love.

While may look to the mess that is the Church as a reason to reject Jesus.  I think it's the mess of the Church that makes me trust Him more every day.  Any other group that's this horribly battered, scarred and ashamed of its past, would have packed it in long ago.  But Jesus never gives up on His Church.  He once redeemed Her.  But He keeps on reforming, reclaiming, reshaping and repairing Her, preparing Her to be - not a horrible mess, but a radiant, spotless Bride.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Still breathing, so, not too too late...

It's summer.  I'm a teacher.  I've no excuse for not starting this thing.

To be honest, I've been wrestling with what I want this blog to be, and what the realities of life stick me with.

I want to be a guy who posts a great hymn every day, with a neat and tidy pdf of sheet music attached, complete with melody (traditional or new), lyrics (duh) and guitar chords.  Kind of like the utterly amazing RUF Online Hymnbook or the Hymn Fake Book, published by Hal Leonard.  There are great hymn sites out there, but not nearly enough that give folks a simple chord progression + the melody.  I would like to add to that.

I also want to include ponderings (like this one - see below) on church collects and Scripture passages and such.

Last, I want to make this a vehicle for me to ponder (and perhaps get feedback for) songs under construction.  I'm a Creative Commons type, so I don't mind a little songwriting wiki action.

But today, I'm simply going to finish this bit of whining with some thoughts on what I prayed today from the Divine Hours.  This prayer manual (online and in book form), serves as a modern breviary (prayer manual) that basically uses Scripture, hymns and ancient liturgical prayers to draw us into the presence of God.  Oooh, boy.  Good stuff, that.  I'm forever indebted to my buddy, Cory Aldrich (aka the Bald Man) for introducing it to me back in the day.

Anyway, as I was praying, the "Request for Presence" for today was Psalm 90:14:

Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;
So shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

Suddenly, a picture formed in my mind of a heaping, satisfying, sustaining meal to start the day.  But this meal on which I was feasting was God's loving-kindness.  Knowing His deep, unfathomable love for me at the start of every day is enough (should be, shouldn't it?) to make each day a day full of joy, peace and confidence in the Lord.  Jesus fortifies us with His loving-kindness at the beginning of each day, so what could life possibly throw at us that could top that?  I am full, and fat, and happy in Him!


Another, more songwriter-y bit I came across was the Refrain, a verse that is repeated throughout the litany.  Today's Refrain was from Psalm 56:10, and I was simply blown away at how - even translated to the English - it has rhythm and some pretty sick assonance that translates easily to songwriting.  This bad boy would be quite at home plopped, word-for-word, into a song:

In God the Lord, whose word I praise,
In God I trust, and will not be afraid,
For what can mortals do to me?

Is that not just the badness?  Can you not just picture [place favorite worship leader here] lifting up those words in song?  Right now, my imagination has Mandisa singing them, but then I just saw her in concert last night.  :0)

Chau for now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Today in Worship - Shai Linne's "The Glory of God (Not to Us)"

I need to start sharing some interesting things going on in worship - both in our Sunday morning services and in our community group.  Some amazing things are happening!

Our church tries to embody blended worship in a really unique way that touches both our reformed heritage and the urban/arts district in which we worship (and many of us live).  The liturgy does not shy away from some daring combinations of ancient and modern, and the results are sometimes uncomfortable but always challenging and edifying.

One thing that I love is that we recite a different creed every Sunday.  Sometimes, it's old school (a scripture passage, the Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed, Te Deum, excerpts from the Westminster or Heidelberg Confessions etc.), sometimes it's created by that week's liturgist, and sometimes it's taken from current bold professions of faith that brothers and sisters around the world (and across traditions!) have proclaimed.

Today's was a new experience.  Pastor Howard printed the entire text of a song by Christian hip-hop artist Shai Linne, a name that - sadly - I had never heard before today.  But our entire congregation, young-old-black-brown-white, were saying these current rhymes with all the conviction that we give to the ancient creeds of the faith.  Because these truths, though wrapped in new words and phrases, are older than time.