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JFH Staff Blog | July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Girl

Sooooo, I've been a little intimidated about starting this up. I guess at first I felt like I had better have something groundbreaking to say every time, otherwise they'd kick me off for sure. But, looking around I found a friend of  mine on here and he seems to be getting by just fine with day to day stuff plus the occasional epiphany, and that’s just my style so I'm gonna give this my best try.

Wendy, and I just rejoined the guys from a short radio tour. We were hanging out with radio peeps all over the country and got a chance to get to know our radio rep Steve a lot better. Its funny how some of the best people seem to hide in  the  woodwork until bam, your like "Wow, this is one of the funniest guys ever, and I almost never knew!" Anyhow, we are currently driving down from Oregon to Hollywood, CA in  our awesome RV, AKA Larry Paradise. 

I have to say the Pacific Northwest is by far my favorite part of this beautiful country of ours. I just really love being here. Who couldn't love a place where there are forests made up almost entirely of huge Christmas trees?  We have been crossing the country for several weeks now and we have had the opportunity to meet countless new people, and hang out with some of our best friends as well. Festival season may be a sweaty and dusty  time, but the  people make it well worth it.

All of this ride time has given me license to read like a fiend and I have been loving it. I started a new series, and also discovered an amazing book, which turned out to be on the best sellers list and apparently everyone and their brother knows all about it. Its called The Shack, and it looks and sounds like its kind of creepy, but inside its one of the coolest books I have ever read. Its been waking up my spirit in a way. Sometimes I feel like inside of me there is all this energy or something like magic, but when I look around its like magic doesn’t happen here on earth so I feel lonely. But this book is helping me see that that energy is the Love of God, and He's going to bring that power back to earth through me and all of His children.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Humility is not a four-letter word.

Here I sit in my “office” (it’s really just an extra room upstairs in my house that desperately needs a bright coat of paint) about a week into the release of my debut album, and there is so much going through my head and my heart. I will attempt to share some of it with you. First things first: I am SO excited to have a finished record in my hands and to know that it’s reaching many of you too! This is the first time I’ve had an album release nationwide, and it’s amazing. Dreams do come true, friends. If that’s all you take from me today, take that, because it’s true. 
 
I visited my local Target a few days after the album came out to see if they had it in stock. When I got to the media department, I found the Christian section (small as it may be) and scanned the headings for my name. When I found it, I literally squealed. I let out a second squeal when I saw that there was only one record left! Pretty cool. There was a girl next to me checking out the latest Toby Mac or Tomlin record, and I thought maybe she would notice my squeal, look at the picture on the cover, look back at me, and ask, “Is that you?” Oh, but she didn’t. Nope. Not at all. It didn’t hinder my excitement, but it did make me think.

Humility is not a four-letter word, friends. In fact, it’s a really good word. It’s scary to write this to you because God doesn’t let me write about or talk about or sing about things He doesn’t first make me walk through…and continue to allow me to walk through. For example: I played a CD release show in Orlando the day after my album came out, and over 1,000 people showed up! You don’t understand—this has never happened before. I was thrilled. But I think God allowed me to play my very next show to 70 people just to remind me that it’s not about the size of the crowd. Oh how I wish it were easy to remember that. 
  
I wish every day that the call of God was easier to walk out. I wish I loved traveling as much as some people I know. I wish I wasn’t such a homebody—such a domestic diva who would rather bake cookies and pick out rugs for my new house than get on an early morning flight to go to a city I’ve never been to before. But if all of life were perfectly satisfying, when would I take time to talk to God? If I was 100% fulfilled by my life, I would be so self-sufficient that I wouldn’t need Him—or at least, I would think I didn’t need Him. 
  
I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy or get satisfaction out of what I do. I absolutely LOVE making music and sharing it with people all over the place. I have been enormously blessed, and I am beyond grateful for the call of God on my life. What I’m trying to say is that even when you are in the will of God and are doing exactly what He’s planned for you to do, everything is not a bed of roses. Or as I usually say, everything is not cake and ice cream. (I don’t know where I got that expression from, but it’s entirely possible that I made it up. You can use it if you’d like.) I love my job, and God has equipped me for the task at hand, but I am still human. I still bleed, and I still hurt, and I will never stop needing Him more than anything else. 
 
I’m also learning, through all the changes taking place in my life right now, that transition is a way of life. Change happens. We’re never completely ready for it, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s in the transition that we detest that God celebrates the growth that, if we let it, is taking place inside our hearts. Hallelujah!
 
So no matter where He has you right now, friends, try to shake off the hurriedness that wants to grab hold of you, and remember that the season you’re in is not a mistake. He will take you to the next place when it’s time for the next place. Live right now with all the fervor you can muster, and expect great things to come. 
 
I hope this wasn’t too all over the place. I told you I had a lot on my mind! J Keep it real, friends. See you soon! -FB

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Thoughts On Thoughts That I've Read Recently

Well, first off, i truly meant to update this blog during the middle of the tour with ruth and nevertheless, but i deleted my myspace account and lost my login info.  luckily, john sent it to me via facebook.  (in fact, if you have a facebook, look up matt lott in the mississippi state network and add me as a friend).  so, here i am again.  let's see, what's been going on....well, summer festivals, mini tours with amazing bands, and more summer festivals.  that was the majority of the make-up of my summer and now something else has come along and consumed it.  The Dark Knight.  yes, i've seen the movie 3 (yes, 3) times so far.  and i might see it again, i'm not sure yet.  it's so good.  but me being a comic book nerd, it naturally became my movie of the year and maybe even my favorite movie ever.  the last time i saw a movie multiple times in the theatre was probably the original spiderman.  i'm definitely a spiderman freak, so that movie kinda made my life until that point.  but the DK just kinda put all the others to shame.  if you haven't seen it, you should.  it's a great film to check out.  anyways, that's the update for me, but i want to talk a little bit about some recent entries that i've read on the site, one in particular.  not long ago, an awesome guy name matt johnson wrote a very insightful and intriguing blog entitled, "why can't they all just say it?"  well, i just wanted to voice my opinion (which is exactly what it is, so for you that don't agree, it's fine.  agree to disagree. :), and maybe provide a little bit of what i feel i've learned about this issue as of late. 
 

to begin, lets go back to the days of when i was "on fire for God" in my local youth group.  growing up southern baptist, i was raised in a conservative church that wasn't too keen on many styles of music.  regardless, i somehow (my amazing dad) got ahold of an audio adrenaline cassette tape (don't censor me) and was officially hooked to "christian" rock.  soon i was into dc talk, bleach, and other bands that made a huge impact on me.  the biggest impact was probably made by a little band called relient k.  i was working in a lifeway christian bookstore at the time, and i had indispensable christian music resources at my fingertips.  some of my favorite bands in high school had been blink 182 and new found glory, so to have a band like relient k (and others...ace troubleshooter, mxpx, philmore, switchfoot, and a little hangnail) that was a great pop-punk band as well as an outspoken christian band was a big deal to me.  they were a big influence on me.  i'll never forget how i heard the name of jesus about 700 times on the anatomy of the tongue and cheek and thought it was the coolest thing ever.  not long after that, dave and i started our band, freshmen 15, and we sounded exactly like relient k / blink182 / nfg.  it was awesome.  i remember getting super convicted if we didn't directly reference God in our songs, and feeling like that verse that said, "if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you," would be written all over my forehead at the great white throne judgement one day would be the certain outcome.  so, if for some crazy reason anyone actually has a copy of that cd (you'd probably be living in mississippi if you did) you'll hear direct references all through it.  this was the way that i thought every band should be, all the time.  if i went to a concert and the slow anthem that flat out said "God" or "Jesus" was not played, i'd leave disappointed and with a little thought in the back of my mind wondering if the members of the band were starting to forget that whole "christian" thing and just be plain ol rockstars.  i remember talking badly about and looking down on bands with just a little judgement whenever i would read or listen to interviews and i didn't hear what i thought was obvious evidence that that band or that member of a band was a christian.  but if i ever went to a concert and heard what i wanted to hear from that band, then i would leave elated and sure that they were going to heaven and making a huge difference in this world by proclaiming their faith from stage and not caring who was listening or what they thought about what was said.  afterall, the real christian bands (more of the ac/chr stylistic crowds) based their whole concerts around offerings / altar calls / and intense church camp like experiences that would often times encourage me to rethink and sometimes even doubt my own faith and feel a deep need to get my life right with God in whatever way i could think of that wasn't perfect.  (it seemed like there were always a hundred and fifty things that came to mind).  this was the way that every christian band was supposed and needed to function like.  and if they didn't function in this way, then you could be sure that my friends and i were certain to be talking about the ways that they could "fix their witnessing problems."

i've been in a touring band for about 4 years now, and i have to say that i was wrong.  i was most assuredly and very obviously wrong. 

i've come to realize that being that way toward any band (any person) is judgemental and WRONG.  for in the same measure that i judged those bands, i was judged.  i didn't go around talking about God constantly in class, to my friends, to my family, and much less to random people or crowds that i saw in the mall or walmart or on the street.  sure, i wore a christian t-shirt when i did mission projects and when i was in church, but i also wore christian t-shirts when i would be out with my friends or by myself doing things that would definitely raise questions concerning my faith or where i stood.  yeah, i prayed and led sessions at the campus bible studies and when i was an intern/kind of interim youth pastor at my church in our college town, but i also said / thought / did things that i should never have done when i was everywhere else.  who was i to hold these bands in contempt when i saw them play?  who was i to walk away from the relient k show thinking "man, i sure am glad they played "getting into you" tonight, if they wouldn't have...well, they'd probably just be in this for the money." who was i?  i was a judgemental "christian" that was holding up a standard on others that i couldn't even hold up myself.   i was wanting to hear them scream "jesus" to justify myself and my faith because they were a cool band and that meant that i was a cool person and that my faith was cool.

the fact of the matter is, Jesus never set out to be cool.  Jesus never set out to be loved by the masses.  And most importantly, Jesus never set out to be accepted and honored by the religious people in His day

Jesus set out TO LOVE, not to be loved.

I personally believe that we as Christians are too judgemental, not only on those that are outside of the church (which we were never called to be or do) but moreso (and freakin MORESO) to our own brothers and sisters.  there are many verses in the bible that speak against this very thing (ex. James 4:11-12), and yet, we sit in judgement on the lives of our brothers and sisters everyday.  If someone does not share their faith exactly the way that you expect or want them to share it, there is no reason to say that they're not doing it correctly or even wonder about their relationship with God.  truly, the only two that can know a person's relationship with God are that person and God.  i can tell you all day long that i'm a christian, i can show you through my works, i can pray with you and for you, but in the end my relationship with God is between Him and myself.  i guess that's why it's a relationship with God, and not just a religion.  it's a gloriously and mysteriously personal thing. thankfully, God has given us the holy spirit who will never leave us, guides us, and teaches us.  this is one of the most personal things about our relationship with God.  God with and in us.

its a sad thing to be in a "christian" band and feel the pressure to mention the name of Jesus or be shunned and questioned by your crowd.  as if we in the crowd were the ones that any band had to stand in front of for judgement, iike it's our rightful place to have the need to feel "impressed" by a certain band and their cunning use of the gospel in front of a crowd of professing believers.  "cunning use of the gospel."  whatever happened to the good news for all people?  it's a sad day in the church when we will do such a weighty and god-like thing as judging another person, a brother or a sister, for merely the words that they say, or worse...do not say.  it's a sad thing to be in a band, and know that you will more than likely sell more merchandise in a church if you say jesus or give an altar call, because that's what the crowd wants you, expects you to do.  it's a sad thing to know that you will be paid more if you play a worship set along with your own music in a church or camp, because it's an acceptable and safe style of music that has been deemed worthy by the church.  it's a sad thing to know that we have made the worship of our God a "style" or "genre" of music.  an industry.  a multi-million, perhaps even billion dollar INDUSTRY.

it all boils down to the band's own convictions about where God has called them to be and the people that they feel called to reach.  One band feels called to be a "light in the darkness."  GOOD.  One band feels called to be an "encouragement to the body of believers."  GOOD.  In the end, it is not a person that reaches someone else, it is God who reaches out through that person.  He reveals Himself, and He calls the lost to Himself when He sees fit and in His own time.  We are simply called to love others and be the messengers of that love that God gives us.  The love that He gives us is more than words, more than a song, it's love that reaches into the lives of people and accepts them without question or requirement. 

i do not think it is right in any way of us as a christian audience to hold our personal convictions over either type of band's head.  you cannot know the personal convictions of a band or its members unless they share that with you themselves.  some bands like to do this from onstage, and some do not.  neither should have their very relationship with God judged because of that.  many times, what it truly boils down to is a personal preference of music style.  it's hard for some to understand how a band that only screams or does pig noises could possibly be reaching anyone for Jesus.  because "if i can't understand it, then how can anyone...right?"  certain styles of music speak volumes to certain people because that's the style of music they like.  that's their personal preference.  and many times, in the harder, more metal, rock, or what have you crowds, straight up throwing out a three point plan of salvation from stage will land you a listening audience of zero.  how can you be a messenger when no one listens?  some people can only be shown love in small incremints because they have a hard time trusting others because of past hurts and failures. some people have to hear more than words to listen.  we as a church have done a great job of slmplifying the gospel so that we think we can explain it to anybody on the street, while at the same time doing a very poor job of showing the love of Christ by meeting the physical / emotional / practical / relational needs of those same anybodys on the street.  and those people don't want to hear more words.  they don't want to hear more evidence from archeological records that "prove" the existance of God.  they don't want to hear about why they're wrong for being pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage, pro-democrat, pro-republican, pro-environmental friendly, pro-war, pro-peace.  they want to SEE someone in their lives who will LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE. they NEED to see this, or they will never be able to listen.  our words have become our walls.

and who is this that will love them for who they are and tear down the walls to get to them?  Jesus. 

and who are the ones entrusted to literally be the hands and feet (not just the words of judgement)? We are.

We are called to love and accept everyone for who they are.  Because it is not us who changes people.  It is not our words.  It is not our actions.  In the end, it is and can only be God.

He works through our poor examples to reveal Himself to this world.  why?  i'm not very sure, you'll have to ask Him. ;)

after reading over all of these things, i'm sure that many will deem my points moot.  after all, being in Wavorly is my job.  i have a part time job, working at Pac-Sun in our local mall when i am home, but for the most part, Wavorly is my source of income.  we have a  song that has had pretty decent success on the radio, "praise and adore."  a song that started out meaning something different to us, but turned into something that meant many things to many different people.  why is that? i don't know.  i can only say that by the grace of God our band gets to tour all around the country and meet tons of amazing people.  some that have a personal relationship with God, and some that don't.  we as a band have learned that God loves each equally, and is no respector of persons.  and we're happy to know that we don't have to be respertors of persons, either.  all we have to do is love those people for who they are, and then watch God work through situations and songs and miles and everything else imaginable to get to those people.  to literally use whatever He can to get into their lives and reveal Himself in someway.  we've learned that people aren't cars or appliances with problems that can be identified and fixed, but that people are gardens that need tending, weeding, watering, pruning, and harvesting.  and we serve an amazing gardener who knows our hearts because He made each and every one of us very special in His own sight.

also, i am not claiming that no band has used the word "christian" as a launching pad or to make money.  i guess that is something that has happened, something that is still happening...maybe in places we don't realize.  what i am saying is that maybe these bands that don't say Jesus from stage are just convicted against doing such a thing, and these bands don't want to use the name of God as a selling point in any possible way.  maybe they don't want to misuse the name of God.
after all, you cannot serve God and Money, and sometimes when an industry sees a cross, they're also seeing a dollar sign.

thanks for you time,
-matt

p.s ... when a band that has toured mainly in christian venues but then starts playing in more general or "secular" market venues, they are more than likely NOT doing it for the money.  clubs and bars do not pay nearly as well as churches.  and it's much harder to make a name for yourself in the general market than it is in the "christian" market.  think of the "christian" market as a pond, and the general market as all of the oceans combined.  the only way to make decent money in the general market is to be huge, like gold or platinum huge.  for real.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Getting Adjusted....

It's a super weird feeling getting adjusted to any new way of life. Before becoming a recording artist on a label I had already been married 5 years, 1 toddler down and working a full-time grown up job.  Next thing I knew I was traveling more and more playing music and winding up in some majorly surreal situations. It’s funny because most every artist I meet while out at these events I still feel more like a fan than a peer. When you are a newbie like me you spend most of your time trying to stay afloat than feeling like people should know who you are or care for that matter. That’s just where I am right now – a new artist and I’m very ok with it.

 I just returned home from Seattle where I was involved with some label fun and hanging with some extended family. To be sipping a coffee in downtown Seattle in the morning and at home with your family in Florida the same day exhilarating. Oh yeah, before I forget I better mention that the dudes from Hawk Nelson, Run Kid Run and  Cameron w/ Jaymes Reunion are all stellar individuals. I saw Christ in all of them at some point along the trip and nothing inspires me more than those moments.

This trip really hit home on how awesome it is to be able to enjoy God’s blessings in my life. I didn’t ask for any of this nor do I deserve it. Once again I was reminded that I can’t compete against these bands. Compliment yes but not compete. We are all in this together and when is unison we are a sweet blessing to Christ and each other.
After all my music obligations were complete I hooked up with my cousin and went cruising through Seattle on 2 sweet BMX bikes. It helps so much having an insider’s help on where to get the best coffee in Seattle and the worst BMX dirt beating. Somewhere along our trek my cousin thought it was a good idea to take me to this BMX Park under the interstate (MADE OUT OF RAW TIMBER)
If you are ever close to this particular interstate please for your own safety do NOT go under the interstate. If safety is not something you are looking for in this life than at least wear a suit of armor.  While I was running over to see if my cousin was alive after flying over a huge dirt mountain head first it all became clear…
 
I LOVE THIS JOB!!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Can't They All Just Say It?

Well, I anticipated doing another blog long before now, but this appears to be a busy Summer for me. After getting home from Creation I've been running. A whole month has passed already! That's crazy. Last weekend I went to a local music fest that featured Seventh Day Slumber and Disciple. Probably like three months from now I'll get around to doing a blog about that, haha. Starting tomorrow night I'm playing bass for our conference's family camp. Ten straight nights can get grueling after awhile, but I'm ready to go.

Enough with the chit=chat, the real purpose of this blog is to discuss something that happened the very first official night (we were there the night before) of Creation. That night featured Flyleaf, Skillet, and Switchfoot. I left Switchfoot desiring a little something more. I don't know what that something was, but it was missing. Skillet were pretty amazing. Tight is the word that we kept using to describe their show. Musically, emotionally, lighting, pyro, etc. were all just very tight. I tell ya, you haven't lived until you've been in a crowd so big that you could pick your feet off the ground and you wouldn't fall because you're stuck in all the people!

However, Flyleaf opened the night. I've got their record and have been enjoying it. I was excited to see what their live show was like, but I guess I wasn't really expecting a lot. For those of you who are unfamilar with Flyleaf, get out from under your rock! Haha, Serously though they're not a band who typically tours with other Christian bands. I know what you're thinking, "Oh... one of those."

"Those" are happening more and more in Christian music. Cries of "sell out" and jeers of "they're just in it for the money now" have been hurled in their direction. Often times when asked in interviews, they seem to skirt around quesitons of faith (or at least in the interviews that everyone seem to gravitate to). Unlike their counterparts, Flyleaf can't claim that they found big success in the Christian market and then jumped over, but I've heard them accused more than one time of using their "so-called faith" to help boost their album sales to a gullible Christian market. Harsh, but I've heard it.

About halfway through their set at Creation, Lacey of Flyleaf started to talk about how awesome this event was because they don't get to play for "you guys" (meaning the Christian market) very much. She then started to share about how their call was to be a light in a dark place, so that's what they're doing. I got to admit, it brought a tear to my eye! There it was. How can you argue with that?

I know that some bands  most likely do it just for their careers. Maybe I'm just not reading the right interviews or the right questions aren't being asked, but it would seem to this humble JfH staffer that if more bands who opted to go the secular route and  felt called to do so would just be open about that fact, there'd be a lot less questions.

Regardless, how about some straight answers. If this helps your career and that's your motivation, that's cool with me. This is what you do for a living. All the same if you're doing it because you feel God has called you to share your message with an audience of people who don't know Him, why not be open about it? Personally, I'm more apt to support a Christian band in the secular market who shares their purpose.

Now let me say this, I know some bands are open about their intentions and purposes. That's cool, but for those who don't... I'm tired of shifty answers that skirt the real issue. I'm tired of reading of a band saying something that completely contradicts something else they said.

Why can't they all just give a straight answer?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Your Heart Needs A Song...

It's no secret that living the Christian life is difficult. Most of us experience dry spells and "why God?" moments in our lives -- some more frequently than others -- and we often find those times where God seems distant or altogether silent.

I was thinking this afternoon about how God speaks differently to everyone -- even how He might use a song to touch my heart when I need it most, but use a completely different song to reach someone else in a similar way. Like, for me, being a guy who got into Christian music as a young teen in the early 90's and was touched greatly by a band's ministry like Audio Adrenaline's, I have often been reached on a different level by their music. So, for me, God's often reached my heart through a song like "Tremble" (from their 2001 album "Lift") in a much deeper way than - quite honestly - anything I've heard from your usual worship leader artists (I don't necessarily fully grasp why that is). So here's the point of this blog -- I enjoy reading every comment made on here and I was wondering today what is a song that you really feel God uses to move your heart and spirit? If you can pick one song and jot it down here with maybe an example of a situation of how God's used it (if you're up for that), I'd love to hear it and I'm sure others would to.

...And if you get a chance, check out "Tremble" by AudioA (although the punks on iTunes made it an "Album Only" track... which is lame. But most of the rest of that record is pretty excellent too if you want to spring for it. "Glory" is probably one of my all-time favorite upbeat worship songs.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vacationing From Rock Music...

Hello friends.  We have been spending a lot of time on the road these days.  We just got done w/ a couple Colorado shows after being on tour for the last 6 months and Remedy Drive is going four separate ways for a week.  I'm spending some down time in Chicago with my extended family, Dan is backpacking in Colorado, Philip is going climbing and Paul is heading to India.

I never thought a vacation from rock music would be something I'd ever look forward to.  Since the first time I heard a guitar solo, the idea of playing music for a living really moved me.  In my book, it’s the best job in the world (other than demolition – they say people in the demolition business have an even a higher job satisfaction rating then doctors – prior to being in the band, my brother Philip and I demolished a garage – it was rewarding).   

So, it surprises me after playing 65 or so concerts in three months and making an album with a record label - that I'm not more satisfied and content.  In doing all this work I love that I am reminded that it is not rock music that validates my existence.  It's not vacation either.  It reminds me that there is something more substantial in the universe that can sustain the needs of my human heart.  It is not the songs we write or the plans we have. It is something else.  There is something more.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fran-ces-ca Batt-is-telli

Hello JFH bloggers!

Let me first say how excited I am to meet you. My name is Francesca Battistelli. I know, it’s a tough one. Let’s try it together: Fran-ces-ca Batt-is-telli. Lovely! What’s your name? _______ You can fill it in here, or just say it out loud. Or perhaps I’ll meet you on the road and you can let me know you introduced yourself in this blog. Ha! Well now that we’ve gotten the introductions out of the way, let me say thank you to those of you reading this slice of my life. Hopefully that’s what these blogs will be—slices of true, honest life. The good, the bad, and everything in between.

I think today's slice is mostly good. I went to see a show last night that really inspired me. I've lived in Nashville for over a year now, but I can probably count on one hand the number of live shows I've seen since living in Music City. Crazy right? Well I have some new friends who are really into supporting local musicians, and I've caught their bug. Last night's show gave me a shot of musical adrenaline. I feel like I could write 100 songs today. And for a songwriter, that's a little more rare than you might think, at least in my experience. I've learned that songwriting is a skill that is learned, just like computer programming or algebra. Yes, yes--it's more than just a skill. It requires an enormous amount of creativity and most would argue inspiration too. But what I've learned after a year in Nashville is that if I sit down to write--inspired or uninspired--I will write. And that's a good thing! It is in the discipline of writing that the inspiration comes. And thank God it does. Still, when I hear heart-wrenching, well-crafted songs like I heard last night, I start itching to grab my guitar or sit behind the keys and pour my heart out in a million new songs. And that is invaluable. So today I am more grateful than ever that I get to do what I do for a living.

I’ve been playing and singing and writing songs since I can remember, but it’s only been a year since I’ve been doing it full time. I graduated with an English degree from the University of Central Florida last year, and I’ve been making music exclusively ever since. Praise God! I wrote about 30 songs last year for the album, and only 11 made it (obviously...who wants a record with 30 songs?!). But since we moved out of album-mode, I’ve spent more time on the road and less time in the writing rooms the past few months. Now, don't get me wrong--I love touring. There's nothing like connecting with an audience and with individual people after shows. I love playing music live and seeing what God can do in that kind of charged atmosphere. But deep down, I am particularly attached to songwriting. I think it's because I've always loved the Psalms. I turned 23 this year, and every year on my birthday, my mom reads the Psalm that coincides with that year. This year it's Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." That's only verse 1, but there is so much packed into this piece of Scripture. The Lord is my covering, my protector, my guide. I won't lack or be in need because He will always provide. Wow. I could write a song about that.

What is it about music that strikes a deep chord in all of us? No matter who you are—poet, artist, lawyer, accountant, stay-at-home mom—I know there is a song that moves you. Some piece of music that absolutely tears you up inside, in a good way. I know it’s true because we’re all the same. God created music as a form of worship—it’s passionate, it’s intimate, it’s personal. I’ve written songs about the most gut-wrenching emotions and moments in my life. They haven’t all mentioned God’s name, but songs, for me, are worship no matter what they’re about. Obviously, that’s not true for every musician in the world. It’s evident that plenty of artists are making music for their own glory. So what distinguishes the worshipers from the non-worshipers? I believe it comes down to this verse… “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). David was an imperfect sinner who was anointed King of Israel because he had a heart after God. I think I've always loved the Psalms because they are true slices of David's life. (I know, David didn't write all 150 psalms, but he wrote a lot of them, so I'm focusing on him. It's my blog, I can do that. Ha!) He wrote about his frustrations, his despair, his trouble, and his great joy. But it always came back to his heart. His heart was captured by the Lord, and no one could rip it out of God's hands. That's what made him a worshiper, even when he was writing about the dark and difficult places in his life. Because truly, it's in those places that God meets us in the most tender and personal way. And the songs that come from those places are usually the ones that minister the most.

So be encouraged, my friends. Love God, love people...love music that comes from hearts that are ablaze for Christ. Here’s to more slices of life! -Francesca

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'd Love To Hear Your Thoughts

Hey There,
First off, I'm kinda new to this whole "blog" thing, so please have mercy on me as I develop my sweet blogging skills.

My name is Michael, I play in a band called "Above The Golden State" (I apologize for the shameless plug).  We're a new band on Sparrow records with a self-titled album coming out July 22nd.  Just look for the huge bear on the cover!
If you haven't heard of the band or myself, no worries!  I'm just a dude who loves and follows Jesus. I'm stoked to be on this "adventure" as I'd like to call it, to write, record and share songs.  It's a rare thing to get to do, as well as a huge responsibility. I’m very excited to see what God’s plans are through ATGS in the coming years.

As of now, it's super chill.  We're starting to book more and more shows as well as getting ready for a Fall tour with Starfield (a favorite band of mine).  So I'm doing stuff like ordering T-Shirts and working on the live show.
We’re all spending most our time serving away with the Church (Solid Rock), writing new demo's for the next, next album, hanging with friends, doing summer stuff like wakeboarding, surfing, and soccer, not to mention what I’m dong right now, hanging out at coffee shops using the internet to get work done and blog to you all!  Life to the fullest! We all live in Portland, Oregon.  The sun doesn't shine too often, so these summer months are epic! Go ahead and ask me any questions you have.  I love talking about life and God, music and whatever.

My big question to any and everyone, is how do you see God moving right now, either in your own life, or in your church, or perhaps just in general?


Here’s my answer:
It’s really cool to live on the West Coast of the United States, specifically in Portland.  I’m beyond blessed to be apart of the church here, and the movement that God is orchestrating.  It goes beyond just our college group “The Way” every Friday night, where young men (including myself) and women are letting Jesus radically change there lives, following Jesus and being obedient to His will.  It’s gnarly, and it’s happening!  If you don’t believe me, come visit and be apart of it.
I can list off a lot of life changing books, bands and films that are coming out of this area, but I’d like to name just one at the moment.  We just had a man named Mike Erre come to our church and teach last Sunday.  I knew him already from a book he wrote called The Jesus Of Suburbia.  I read it last Summer, and it's still impacting my life!  If you haven’t read it, please put it on your list.   His teachings have really hit home for me, and it was rad to meet and hear him speak in person.  Just another dude who loves Jesus!

To conclude, I'm being radically challenged to begin living my faith in Jesus.  I've been deceived by "the world" and culture, but also I've been deceived by "the church" and church culture.  Going to church, and being the church are two totally different things!  I'm learning what it means to be the Church, the body of Christ, living, moving, loving, hurting, growing and everything else that goes along with it!

I look forward to hearing from you all and hopefully getting to meet you while out on tour with Starfield this Fall!

-Michael

Random info:
Currently listening to the new Coldplay and "Summer" by Jon Foreman and reading The Shack by William P. Young (A Local Friend).  This morning I read Psalm 18 and finished 2nd Tim. (more thoughts to come) Tonight I'm going to my first Yoga class ever.  Pray for me!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Oh! Clarity.

As a guy who tends to need direction when it comes to venturing into the scriptures, I often default to laid-out devotionals for my quiet times with God (I'm a pretty indecisive person). However, the daily devotionals I use are rather lazy... lumping Saturday and Sunday into one thing known as "The Weekend"... cause apparently we only have quiet time with God one of those days (Saturday? Or would it be Sunday... cause that's our "fun day"?). Anyway, all joking aside - in reality, I've been finding a lot of my time from day to day lately -- sitting at a desk, lying in bed trying to fall asleep, driving, blah blah blah -- has involved  relentless ponderings where I've felt  a bit restless with such musings. I've been feeling a lack of clarity in my thoughts.

So on Saturday, I defaulted to opening up the scriptures to a "random" place to just read and soak it in (a point is coming, I promise!). And I have to admit that one of my favorite books in the Bible is James. It's one of those meat n' potatoes books where you're bound to get some real good instruction and thoughts to chew on -- and a good, needed slap in the face from time to time.

I opened to James chapter 1 where I'd previously highlighted verses 2 through... something... but I'd continued reading past the yellow scribbles to verse 8. The whole passage is as follows:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. - James 1:2-8 (NIV)

I love it. The thing that hit me this time, specifically, was "the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault" - and man, I just always feel at "fault" for something. But the fact that I need to pursue petitioning for wisdom in asking perhaps why He's letting my mind be a bit overloaded lately, struck me. I'm not seeking Him enough. He may just be trying to get my attention... or patiently waiting for me to stop trying to figure things out on my own and come to Him for wisdom and guidance. To ask Him not "why" but "what" - what does He want me to learn? Or maybe he's seeing how much I can take before I truly learn to heed his call to "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." It's not easy to do... especially in such a GO - GO - GO society.

Sorry if there isn't a lot of coherence in these thoughts. After all, I am praying for clarity. :o) But I was jazzed by the passage in James and I hope some of you maybe can be encouraged -- if not by my ramblings exactly, but maybe in just the thought of knowing you're not the only one who may be feeling a little lost in the wilderness for a short time. :o)

 

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