Hear. See. Notice. Eric Johnson.

“The musical style of Eric Johnson…features electric rock instrumentation, blues influences, great musicianship, mild rhythmic syncopation and demanding instrumental part writing.”

That’s how Pandora describes the music currently filling my ears (and those of any patrons of our music store, since I’m minding the counter this evening. And blogging. It’s a slow night…)

Last weekend I saw Eric Johnson play live at the Dallas Guitar Show. It was the third or fourth time I’ve seen him in concert; the first being way back in the early 80’s at Fat Dawg’s in Lubbock, Texas, when he was just a young – and incredibly talented –  musical brat with a bad mullet.

Then again, so was I. A musician with a mullet, that is. Not even in the same league with the talent level. But oh, yes; I had me a mullet.

We sat in a small hall Saturday afternoon and watched Eric Johnson play an hour’s worth of Jimi Hendrix tunes with two other exquisite musicians who lived and breathed every nuance with him.

Watch his hands, the fluidity of his phrasing, the precision of every accent. Close your eyes and feel the simmering purity of his tone. Follow the arc of the melody he shapes, beyond just a formatted verse/verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus line.

It’s otherworldly. It’s just so much more.

But here’s the thing: I’ve watched my boys master “Cliffs of Dover” on Guitar Hero. I’ve listened to “Bristol Shore” and made note of the solos. I can crank it up loud and experience the precise execution of his craft with time to soak it all in.

And yet, I don’t. Hardly ever. Quite honestly, I’m not much interested in listening to his recordings. I don’t own any of his cds.

But I’d drive three hours to see him twice a week if it was possible.

It’s the experience. Hearing the music as I watch his fingers fly across the frets, seeing his lithe body twist and snap as he punches the beat, noticing the nod he offers to his band mates when he’s winding up the tune. Hearing. Seeing. Noticing.

It’s not a far stretch to see how this applies to life; to my family, to the community I find in my church, the working relationships at my job and the connection I feel in my own musical pursuits.




It’s how I want to live, with just a bit more intentionality and a lot more awareness. It’s what I want to create, how I want to engage. In this day of instant digital memories and mp3s you can create in your spare bedroom in 30 minutes, I want to be part of something otherworldly. Whether part of the creation process or just engaged in the experience, I want to be part of something that is more.

Do you? I mean, really; how and when does this come to you? What is the more that strikes your heart and stirs your soul?

Spontaneous Combustion

At rehearsal last night, we ran through a song that just didn’t work. So we tried it again. I still didn’t think it worked.

This thought was confirmed when the sound engineer pantomimed sticking his head in a noose to end his misery.

We ditched the song. I thought for a minute…waited for inspiration…only once since I’ve been in my current role at PCC have I pulled a song out of thin air. We plan pretty specifically and we generally stick to the plan.

But not this week.

An old song came roaring into my head that would fit the moment. I’ve got gratitude on my mind, which is odd, because these days are filled with sorrow (I hate cancer. I hate cancer. I hate cancer.) But gratitude is the theme for this part of the worship set.

And so we improvised. I shouted out some chords, said, “Just follow me – you’ll get it.”

And they did.

It’s moments like that when the joy and privilege of making music is most evident. Starting from scratch – no recording, no charts – nothing but our ears to hear and our imaginations to create.

It was a great band, and we had a great time. Because the song came out of the past – like I think the last time I played it was about a decade ago – and I don’t have a recording, I made a scratch track. Which is me using a midi keyboard, wearing a cheap pair of headphones and yelling “PLEASE TURN IT DOWN!!! I’M TRYING TO RECORD SOMETHING!!!!” It’s just past midnight and I just finished. I sent it off to the band so they’ll feel more comfortable for Sunday.

And the magic will happen.

By the way, all this will take place at the Westchester Campus. I’m heading east this week for a little movie theatre church. Undoubtedly, the Powhatan band nailed the song that we killed and they’ll have it all together. They’re going to be awesome. At the movie theatre, we’ll be making it up as we go along.

Well, not really. But it might be a very good day to check out Westchester…9:30 AM…comfortable seats…and great music…and YOU know the rest of the story!


You Make Beautiful Things Out Of Us

Several folks asked about the closing song for yesterday’s PCC services. At Westchester, Lindsay sang; at Powhatan, Elijah and Travis did it.

It’s from one of the most powerful albums I’ve listened to in several years. In it’s entirety, Beautiful Things by The Michael Gungor Band is an incredible journey through humanity, our desperate love for God and his brilliant grace.

The title tune alone is masterful. You may have experienced it yesterday in one of our services. If not, catch a glimpse here of the artists’ unique spin on an acoustic version.

And then try to get hold of the cd and experience the entire thing.

And thank God for moments of transcendental beauty.


Like Jonathan

My heart is swelling.

I’m sure pride is sinful in some way; “pride goeth before a fall” and all that…

But I am PROUD. No other way to say it.

Three of the young men pictured have been part of my life in some way since 2000, when we first moved from Texas to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. We met Steve Smith (center), his brother Jeff (fourth from the left) and Dan Prout (furthest to the right) at Fellowship Bible Church. They were awesome, intelligent young men who appreciated the challenges of living a life of faith. They loved God. They loved their families. They loved their church.

And they loved music.

Some of my very favorite memories are from summer VBS weeks, where these guys and a few others would get together to be the worship band. I got to lead with them for a few years and we had such amazing times, learning ridiculously fun songs for kids and leading them in worship every morning with crazy passion. I was privileged to have some incredible moments of worship with Steve, Jeff and Dan – the kind that sear your soul with the presence of God and leave you changed.

These guys are all amazing musicians. Gifted songwriters, good friends to one another and to others. Passionate about life and people and Jesus.

They’ve just released a really good EP. I really hope you’ll check it out. The depth of writing is excellent, the recording quality is stellar, and they’ve got some great music on this album.

You can listen to them here.

Better yet, buy the EP at iTunes here.

You might want to familiarize yourself with their music, because we’re working on getting them down here in October to be part of some PCC worship experiences. Now that will be incredible.

I can’t wait to introduce you to these guys.

I am SO proud!

Never Shout Never

I am committed to PCC – not just because I work there, but because I believe so passionately in what we do. We strive to make it a place where people can feel welcome, comfortable and safe. Above all, we want people to have a relationship with God.

We believe that relationship develops in different ways, at different rates of discovery. We believe that there is undeniable, irrefutable truth to be found in the Bible. We believe that God honors obedience, and that His precepts are set out for our good.

We don’t believe in legalism, but we do believe that God has designed a good way for his people to live.

We believe that a relationship with God should be vibrant and alive through every hour of every day of the week. We believe in transformation.

And we hope that people will come to our church in an effort to see God, to enter into community with others who are striving to follow the teachings of Christ. We hope that they’ll come with open minds and hearts; because we believe that God will meet us there, when we gather.

And we continue to believe that something happens when we meet together, something that makes “going to church” worth the effort. I caught this video this morning and found that it makes my heart happy, to hear witness of such an honest hallelujah. It makes my heart happy, even as it makes me a little sad to know that it’s sort of about rejecting church. It makes me want to strive even deeper into being creative and open and inventive enough to welcome people like Christofer Ingle (also known as Never Shout Never) into our community and make sure there’s a place for him.

Because his hallelujah helps our hallelujah, which our voices sing together. We need each other.

HT to Ben Arment for linking to this vid. Good stuff.

Sunday Setlist 10.4.09

What a day at church today.

It’s the second week of our WIRED series (if you don’t yet have a devotional book, pick one up at the office this week or at the resource table at church).
Our community sadly is mourning the loss of Charlie Green, a fine man and passionate community servant. Because his funeral would be at the high school this afternoon (also our Sunday morning home), we made a few changes to our plans and shortened the second service considerably in order to accommodate the set up needs for the funeral.
We did not bring in the incredible set that our design team put together last week; just kept things bare today, with a minimal band. We also made a last minute change to the closing song to better connect the end of the message. I have to give major props to the band, who didn’t blink when I brought them a new chart this morning. It’s an amazing gift to work with such talented people who also have their hearts in the right place.
Here’s what we did today:
Preservice: Rain Down – David Crowder This was extra special because Elijah Schiarelli emailed us a loop he created to open the song. He’s away at college, but he was with us in spirit today. Great song, great loop, great way to walk in.
Lift Him Up – Martha Munizzi Love, love, LOVE this song. Inspired by seeing Bruce Hornsby live at The National, I had a blast playing for Sandy. I think we managed to rock this song to bits. One of my ALL-TIME favorite worship pieces.
scripture As I underscored on the grand, Angie read an excerpt from Isaiah 53, originally planned to support that passage later in the message. It ended up getting cut from the message, but it was a beautiful segue into the next tune.
Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin This tune seems to be a winner across the board – singable, Biblical, true. Powerful.
How He Loves – Jon Mark McMillan If you made it to the 9:30 service, you got to hear Matt Turner lead this tune (we lean into the David Crowder version). It was awesome. We had to cut it from the second service due to time – but it will reappear in the very near future.
Thirsty During the offering time, we showed this short video during first service (due to time constraints, we pulled the vid for second service. If you were at PCC today for the 11:00 service and missed it, you can check it out here).
Worth It All – Rita Springer A great song to close the message and emphasize the point: it is worth it all, no matter what, in light of Jesus.
There are days when I really, really love my church – the experience, the teamwork, the unity, the worship we offer. today was one. Don’t get me wrong – I am always grateful for the faith community that is Powhatan Community Church. But today was unique, from the musical team to the set up and tear down crew that worked so hard, with such great attitudes.
It was, indeed, a very good day.
This post is part of the Sunday Setlist Carnival hosted by Fred McKinnon. Hop on over to Fred’s blog to find out what other churches did today…

Latching On To Who You’d Like To Be

My brother is an artist, in the truest sense of the word.  The best and worst of him flows out of the rawness of his continual search for truth, the pursuit of a high melodic calling that clings to his soul and refuses to let go.  His faith informs everything about him with an authenticity that is as questioning and doubtful as often as it is passionate and reverent.  I am prouder of him than anyone else I know.  I love him fiercely, in the manner of love that an older sister carries for her little brother for a lifetime. 

He wrote some stunning prose on his blog this week that moved me, inspired me, and challenged me to think about music and art and worship and composition and even race in a new and unique way.  Here’s a snippet:

The acoustic guitars thump and sing, fat and gray in the company of angelic harmonies and archetypal melodies. We all know this music. It is written in the celtic, anglo-saxon souls of Caucasians. We have strayed and betrayed ourselves, attempting to leverage ourselves into the gladiatorial arenas of hip-hop and “modern” music, but we need to face it.

We are mountain people. Even the most mixed breed of us is stuck with the pipes and the drums from the highlands, pounding wild and distant in our hearts. The grouse and heather cling to our thighs as we run, as we flail to flee our past.

Emmylou, and artists like her bring those pasts back to confront our empty, unanchored eyes. We have drifted, for we have forgotten who we are, and when you can’t remember who you are, it’s even more difficult to latch on to who you’d like to be. It recedes in the distance, fleeing your reaching, outstretched hand.

You can read the rest of this post here.  When you do, say ‘hi’ for me.  And tell him I’m proud of him.