Category Archives: Music

Sleepless Night

One of my favorite musical artist is Fernando Ortega. I have several individuals or groups that are among my favorites, but he is at or near the top of the list. In fact, on my iPod, I have a separate playlist, simply entitled “Fernando.”

The reasons are pretty simple. His music and lyrics are memorable and easy to sing along with. The content of his songs are saturated with Biblical content. Most of all, though, I am continually drawn to his music because of his honest reflections about life and the struggles we encounter in our daily lives. He is straightforward about his own frailty and fears. He is sincere about his struggle with and his longings for God and His will. In other words, his songs are direct and honest about the joys and sorrows of living this life and seeking after God. While it is not Scripture, it is much like reading the Psalms.

So, sometimes, when I find myself in a funk and I don’t feel like reading the Bible, I don’t feel like praying, I don’t want to hear from anyone about anything, my fingers might navigate to the playlist called “Fernando.” I did that just the other day. As I was clicking through songs, it stopped on one of my favorites, “Sleepless Night” (YouTube, iTunes). The song starts out:

Another sleepless night of turning in my bed
Long before the red sun rises
In these early hours, I am falling again
Into the river of my worries

I don’t know whether this resonates with you, but it definitely does with me. Whether our worries are family, financial, school or job-related, or just wondering what it is that God is doing in my life and will I ever figure things out, we all can get lost in a river of worries. He continues:

When the river runs away
I find the shelter in Your Name

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to Your side
There I would hide, Jesus

What a great reminder that there is a place of shelter and refuge. There is a hope in the storm. His name is Jesus. The next verse starts:

 Hear my anxious prayer, the beating of my heart
The pulse and the measure of my unbelief
Speak Your words to me, before I come apart
Help me believe in what I cannot see

Before the river runs away
I will call upon Your Name 

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to Your side
There I would hide, Jesus

Psalm 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 33:18-22 declares “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

God never changes. His Word never changes. His promises never change and God will fulfill every single one of them. However, as we walk through life, storms and trials will come. Even good times will test us, because we can lose sight of God, even in the midst of blessing. Throughout it all, though, we have a refuge, if we place our trust in Christ.

It is great to have reminders like this song from Fernando Ortega, to help bring my focus back to where it should be. But far greater still are the reminders of God’s Word. We need to continuously let His Word wash over our minds and lives, sinking our roots into His truth, and not the noise and distorted philosophies that barrage us from the world. In addition, we need the benefit of the imperfect church. We need to remind each other of these truths, and even more, as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25). None of us have it all together. Every one of us stumbles and falls. As a group, we can sometimes be a mess. But the church is a gift from God. Let’s continue to spur each other on until the day Christ returns. For there is refuge and joy in Him.

Together for His glory…

Write About Jesus

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of the annual Write About Jesus (WAJ) conference which is held in St. Louis. I had heard about the conference a few years ago, but had never gotten around to attending. As I drove into the parking lot, I was not sure what to expect. I knew absolutely no one that was attending. Since I tend to be more of an introvert, this is not exactly the type of situation I look forward to being in.

I sat in my car for a few moments and then decided to go in. As I walked in, there were already many people there. Pockets of excited people, where reunions were taking place, were scattered around the room. In other places, individuals sat quietly, by themselves, looking through their workshop book. I walked up to the registration counter and my journey began.

Everyone I met was extremely helpful. You could tell immediately that this is something they love being a part of. This is a weekend that they had been looking forward to with anticipation. At each registration stop, they made sure that I had the information I needed to get me started on a successful workshop experience.

I am not going to detail my entire journey through the weekend, but I want to give you glimpses of what I experienced. Because what I saw was of great encouragement to me. Yes, I saw many songwriters who were, and are, successful in the music world. I saw a lot of people who were excited about writing and performing. However, more than that, I saw people who loved Jesus.

As I sat in sessions and talked over meals, I listened to others talk about the ministry in their churches and other venues. They expressed desire to see God work in the hearts and lives of others. They talked of new opportunities that God was opening for them and in their ministries. Experienced and successful writers, novice writers, and all of those in between sat and talked together. There was no air of superiority on the part of those who had been doing this successfully for years. They sat down with strangers and newcomers and talked, listened and encouraged. It was truly a picture of the body of Christ in action.

The weekend was also very challenging. I had the opportunity to have a couple of my songs critiqued by more experienced songwriters. It was both a humbling and encouraging experience. They noted things that we had done well, as well as offered insights and suggestions for improvement. The various seminars were both practically and spiritually focused, refreshing and challenging.

I met a wide variety of people over the weekend. I met veteran writers, who have written songs we sing at our church and songs I have heard on the radio. I met young people, full of excitement and ability, who are beginning their ministry journey with Jesus. There were those that seemed to know exactly where God was taking them. There were others who were seeking for God’s wisdom and direction, and the future was not so clear.

It took me a while to get my bearings because a conference like this can be like trying to drink out of an uncapped fire hydrant. But I am thankful that God allowed me to attend Write About Jesus. I came away with a renewed sense of wanting to be used by God, however He wants to accomplish that. God has given me the privilege of being a part of His church and the opportunity to love and serve His people. I have the opportunity to stand up each week and declare the wonders of our God and the glory of His salvation through Jesus Christ. Through the gift of music, I get to lead others in declaring the truth of the Word of God and declaring their devotion to Him. How great is that? What a great honor.

So, my prayer today is that God will help me to grow in my knowledge of His truth. I want to grow in my devotion to Christ, finding in Him my true joy and satisfaction. I want to grow in my relationship with those God has placed in my life. I pray that God will take the gifts He has given me and help me grow in my effectiveness in life and ministry. I want to be used for His glory and to serve others, helping them to know Christ more deeply. This is really the call that God gives to all of us, regardless of what we do or what are gifts are. It is the journey of the life of worship – to love God and to love others. Together, we make up the body of Christ. And we have the greatest message in the world because we get to tell about Jesus and what He has done for us.

Together for His glory…

Recording Project Update – God is Faithful

As of Monday evening, we have completed the recording portion of the CD project at Christ Community Church. It took much longer than what we originally anticipated, but, quite frankly, I am not sure most of us knew exactly what to expect when we got into this. I know I didn’t. In the end, God has shown His faithfulness throughout the process. Please pray that He continues to work to accomplish His purposes for this project. Pray that Jesus Christ would be glorified through this project and music.

I am so thankful for the worship team at our church.  This includes everyone, not just those who ended up in the studio. We have continued to work on this project while still managing to practice and perform for Sunday mornings. Schedules have often been changed on short notice. There have been times that we did not have much time to prepare the music for Sunday morning. However, both the music and tech teams were flexible and worked diligently and served faithfully throughout the process. They are a blessing to me and to our church body.

Today is exactly nine months from the day we had our first practice for this project. As mentioned, it took us longer to get to this point than I anticipated. At first, we had planned a few practices to firm everything up before going to the studio. Twenty practices later, we finally went to the studio. We were originally set up for 24 hours in the studio. In the end, we were in the studio about 80 hours.

As we progressed through each stage, it became more apparent that it was going to take longer to complete the project the way we wanted. Travis King, the chief audio engineer from 12 Bar Productions, has been excellent throughout the process. We would discuss the progress as we took each step and he provided us with the options available to us. He and the studio have been very generous towards us. Travis challenged and encouraged us along the way. His work and input have been a blessing. Now, he has the task of editing, mixing, and mastering the work we have done. Pray that God will bless and guide him throughout this process.

In the beginning, this project was proposed as an outreach tool for the ministry of Christ Community Church. The church graciously raised the funds to get the project launched. In addition, the church leadership offered me the opportunity to use the completed project for additional ministry purposes beyond the scope of our church. I did not ask for this – they insisted that this would be the case. It is just another example of how the leadership and people of CCC have supported and encouraged me throughout my ministry here. They have challenged and supported me as I seek direction in my ministry.

As it turns out, the project will end up being jointly funded between CCC and PuddleJoy Music. When the decision was made to put in the extra recording time, I let the studio know that we expected to be billed for the extra studio time. That, in addition to the CD production costs, caused the final cost to be quite a bit more than what was originally raised. However, once again, God has shown His faithfulness in this process. Before the situation even arose, He had provided me with the funds to cover the additional cost. We had set aside money for an anticipated expense, which did not materialize. So, the money was provided for the additional project costs.

I am actually grateful to share the burden of the cost, since it will be a tool that I can use beyond the scope of my ministry at CCC. In the end, I am glad it worked out this way. When the project is complete, there will be two versions of the CD. The CCC version will be utilized by the church for ministry and outreach purposes. I will offer a separate version on my website and will also have the individual songs available for listening and download. I am excited to see how it all turns out.

God is faithful. I cannot ever say this enough. Throughout this process, there have been some struggles and I have questioned God, myself, and my abilities frequently. At each stage, though, God showed His hand. When I thought things looked bleak, He would shine a beam of light into my gloom. God frequently used my wife to remind me why I am doing what I do. She continues to be a gift from God, in more ways than I could ever count.

I don’t know how God will use the end product, but I pray it will be a continuation of how He uses small things to accomplish His great purposes (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When I hear that children are singing the songs during the week; when I see someone place their hands over their heart while they sing one of these songs; when I hear that the songs are meaningful to others – I am so grateful that God would use someone like me for His purposes.

How gracious and merciful is our God, that we, hopeless sinners, could be granted the privilege of being His children and working and living for the gospel of Jesus Christ. What words could I say that could ever express the magnitude of such a gift? Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever.

Together for His glory…