Thursday, February 19, 2015

winter inspiration...

So... if you've been hanging in the midwest lately, you know... this weather. i mean. negative eight, anyone? the worlds snowmageddon and historic snowfall are just par for the course around here... this picture is from a night drive through the city recently. Even though winter is always a little tough, it's kinda magical, too. Here are some things that are keeping the fire stoked and the inspiration burning around my soul these days...

- My favorite song from Brooke Fraser's latest, called Magical Machine.

- An amazing group of people I am honored to get to sing with called Clark Street Bridge. The amazing performances incorporate spoken word poetry, award-winning writers, music across all genres and an amazing group of musicians. Nothing keeps creativity burning like being surrounded by some of the best.

- Soul mate sister friends who I've known since I was twelve years old coming to visit Chicago. There's nothing in the world like good, dear, old friends to remind you where you've been, and to celebrate who you are.

 Absolutely everything Bethel Music is writing, speaking and singing over the church these days is so good, so needed and just hits home for me. Check out this video and this video. Their new album is called "We will not be shaken."

And the best nights are spent lighting a cozy fire and having a glass of wine with my love after our babe goes to bed. Sometimes we write songs (those nights are divine) other nights we just talk, listen to podcasts, or veg out with some netflix. Life is good, friends. 

Stay inspired, stay vibrant, and stay warm. Keep asking, seeking, living each day to the fullest and keep those soul fires burning with endless light from the true source of all that is good. To close, I'll leave you with a quote I just discovered from the brilliant John Claxton:

"Take the time to writeYou can do your life's work in half an hour a day." - Robert Hass

Friday, October 31, 2014

Practicing His Presence in the Poetic...

The other night, we had an incredible Band Lab at Harvest. Band Lab is when all of the worship leaders and musicians get together to hang out, worship together and do some training and learning about music and how we can keep getting better at what we love to do. 

First, we watched this beautiful short film from The Music Bed. Then Steve & the creative team came up with some amazing topics that we covered "round table" discussion style and it was really inspiring. The four topics were:

"Practicing His Presence in Private"  
"Practicing His Presence in Public"
"Practicing His Presence in the Prophetic" 
"Practicing His Presence in the Poetic" 

We had a beautiful conversation about personal worship, listening to the spirt and finding time to carve out spaces where we can meet with God and worship Him to fill up our source of strength. That led into how to we lead on stage and how much of our private worship pours into our public worship. We shared amazing thoughts on the prophetic; calling the not yet into the now. Singing songs of hope over people who haven't experienced it yet. Remembering God's promises and declaring them over our lives. Creating songs that sing about what God will do.

I wanted to share my thoughts on the fourth topic, the poetic! I'd love to hear what you think about the subject as we continue to grow as creative people and seek inspiration!
  • Songwriting and Why The Poetic Is Important
The bible tells us to sing. We are asked to praise. There is something about singing that wakes up your inner self, vibrates within you something you might not have even known was there...the soul, the spirit, the heart, the true self that so often lies dormant & dusty, waiting for inspiration. Music is truly the one universal language and songs are everywhere in the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 25, David set apart specific men to be singers and worship leaders. Singing and worship is something that God values and the people of God throughout the Bible valued. Psalm 33 says, “Sing to the Lord a new Song.” Nine times in the scriptures it talks about singing new songs and six of those times it’s a command. We create not only because God is the ultimate Creator and we are made in His image, but because God wants us to do it. He delights in fresh, creative new songs, melodies and lyrics. Our desire is for our church to sing songs that they mean; songs that tell the story of where we're at, what we're going through and how faithful God has been to us. Poetry is simply using language in a rhythmic way, or using words to evoke emotive responses. We want to find new ways of ascribing worth and worship to God and we want to tell stories in a fresh, meaningful way.

So how do we…..
  • Develop A Creative Community and Cultivate A Creative Climate?
"You are what you eat," so they say and you get out what you put in. Brooke Fraser has an amazing post on songwriting that I've mentioned before and goes more into different songwriting topics. If we are to be excellent songwriters and creatives, we must take stock of what we're surrounding ourselves with. What is the main source of inspiration for you? How do you find good and beautiful books/films/art/relationships? Take stock of your social media intake. Do you just binge on Netflix every single night or is there a well-balanced "diet" of meaningful authors, art and ideas that you're ingesting? Creativity breeds creativity. Who do you hang out with? Are you actively seeking to spend time with people who are better at your craft than you are? Not only in your own genre, but in other art forms as well.
  • Develop our Artistic Expression in Worship?
Brian Johnson from Bethel talks about using “Selah moments” in worship as the inspiration for a lot of his songwriting. In the Psalms, "Selah" is a difficult word to translate, but essentially means a time to pause and think, or mediate on something. In worship, Selah moments are those interlude times when the band takes over and you can freely sing in the spirit, or when the song ends, but the band continues to play. These are the moments to pause, listen and ask the Holy Spirit to move. These moments are when we can push the envelope in creativity and our artistic expression. Find time when you can do this alone...soaking up whatever glimpses of inspiration God might have for you. At Harvest, we do a rehearsal and then always do a run-through just like a dress rehearsal would be; no stops and exactly as you'll do it in the service. I love to use run-through as a time to go all out in my expression, physical worship and adlib-ing worship to the Lord. Why not use this time to pour out your heart, ask the Spirit to come and move and fill up the room before anyone else even gets there.
  • How Do We Songwrite Excellently?
I could talk a long time about excellence. In order to be excellent, we must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. It really is the 10,000 hour rule. Raw talent is great, but hard work wins every time. People always are asking me how do I become better? Practice, practice, practice. It's really quite simple, but you have to put the time in. When you are excellent on your instrument, it will never hold you back from what you want your sound to be. When you are proficient on your instrument you can execute whatever beautiful inspiration comes to you. If you feel stuck, take some lessons, play or songwrite with someone new, continually seek to grow in your gifting. There's the musical excellence piece, but then there's the spiritual component. To songwrite excellently for the church, Jeremy Riddle says, "If you want to be a songwriter, become a theologian.” He says that worship leaders should be just as well-versed as pastors in the word. That's convicting, eh? Read the word, immerse yourself in great thinkers, read different translations of the Bible (the Message and NLT are my go-to when I want a fresh perspective.) Let's not use this "christian-ese" crap when we write. Read poetry, think about different ways of telling the story, use a Thesaurus if you have to, but let's not settle for boring language. When you are the voice for your church, you must be writing songs that are grounded in Spirit + Truth.
  • What Is God is doing Creatively in Our Specific Movement & How can we be Authentic to Our Body?
I love talking with aspiring worship leaders or vocalists about why they love to lead worship. Inevitably someone will bring up a worship conference or a worship experience they had that moved them completely. Or they might mention Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation or All Sons & Daughters as inspiration. We absolutely should be inspired by other great artists in our genre, but we should Imitate, not Duplicate.  All great artists started out by studying someone better then them. Look to others for inspiration, but make it your own. Ask God to give you a unique voice and words that paint your own perspective for your specific context and church. Michelangelo said, "I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free." Ask God for a specific vision of what He would have for your ministry context in this next season. Then go after that vision wholeheartedly, chipping away at the pieces, being dedicated to writing songs and planning worship sets all towards that vision and see what God does.
  • How to Be a Unified Team of Artists
Artists are...well, artists. They can be brilliant, but stubborn; interesting, but self-absorbed; creative, but a little spacey. Sometimes it's hard to put creative people together and expect them to collaborate peacefully. I think the most important thing to remember is what unites us, is far greater than what divides us. If we can remember that church is not our end-all be-all forum for artistic expression or personal fulfillment; in fact sometimes worship is described as a "sacrifice of praise." If we can stay humble and put aside our egos, we can really make something beautiful happen in the church. The first thing is to celebrate our differences. Each person carries a different annointing and unique flavor that God loves to see. It’s like a beautiful fabric or tapestry and each person brings that slightly different color of thread or texture or tone that makes an incredible pattern complete. The second thing is to invite feedback. Everyone has strengths and weakness, but we’re better together when we can offer each other fresh perspectives on our craft. Find someone you respect and ask for their feedback. Build good relationships and develop a culture of honest and respectful communication. Final thing is to learn to embrace change. Trust that when God is doing a new thing, you'll want to be a part of it. Let's learn to let go of ego & insecurity so that amazing new things can can happen in our lives, in our worship services and in our church.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Metro Show

We played a really fun Chicago show a little bit ago at the Metro and one of my dear friends Alison Blunk took some photos. She is a lovely person & photographer and I wanted to share some of them… It was a really special night… always a pleasure playing a hometown show & feeling the love from all of our friends, family & fans… :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When there are dogs and music….

"When there are dogs and music, people have a good time." -Emmylou Harris. Pretty much nails it. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Autumn Updates

well, not much has happened, lately... just kidding. it's all been happening, lately! always the beautiful released, the worship CD i helped write released, there's been lots of excitement, connections & new opportunities. Between singing, playing shows, leading worship at my church & teaching, life has been full; dare i even use the dirty word busy! But, the fabric that is being weaved is so rich and beautiful and it's the stuff of hard work & dreams becoming reality. so, life is good! i thought i at least owed this dear blog an update of instagram photos from the last few months. enjoy! xo.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tour pt. 2 (more tales of travels!)

So, this has been the craziest, most incredible year of traveling! Definitely one for the books! It all started with a trip to Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar in January (with a fun layover in London), then two trips to NYC, an awesome trip to LA, getting to record my new album down in Nashville, then traveling to Spain with a fun layover in Dublin (a post on that is coming, I swear!) in June to celebrate a wedding and our five year anniversary! Then I got home only to leave again for my Always the Beautiful Music Tour!! I spent almost a month on the road, traveling to 21 states and playing almost as many shows in July alone! It was such a blast getting to be on the road, playing my songs, seeing tons of friends along the way, being inspired by different cities and different vibes, eating lots of local food, soaking up the local culture and most of all getting to meet so many new fans along the way! I posted some of the earlier tour photos here, but wanted to share a few more fun ones from the East and Southern states!

One of my favorite shows on a rooftop in NYC!

Green room selfie.

A really fun RLife LIVE event in NC.

Lots of driving mountain views.

And some pretty lake views, too!

Very patriotic.

A fun show in D.C.

Great club in Augusta called Sky City.

Final show... in Music City!!

All in all, here are the states I was in this summer: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virgina, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Which means I've travelled to this 24 states and 5 countries this year! I'm feeling so blessed, full of gratitude, stretched in a good way and also happy to be home in Chicago! :) I'll leave you with these two quotes to sum up:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller