songwriter

These Are a Few of My Favorite...Indies

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.53.31 AM I keep finding myself in conversations where people are lamenting the shortage of good music in the world and asking for recommendations. Honestly, there is SO much good music being made. You just have to know where to find it.

At our house, we listen to just about everything in terms of genre, and we find our music by word-of-mouth, Noisetrade, Spotify/Pandora/iTunes Radio, mainstream radio, and great online curators like Under the Radar Radio. We love it all, and our playlists tend to lead or follow our moods and activities.

Okay, and we also disagree. Often.  In fact, my personal favorites happen to be on Toby's "most loathed" list. That's okay. It is what it is.  I can play OTR as loudly as I want when he's not home to avoid the groans, grimaces and "this is the WORST" comments.

So, I'm not going to give you everything, but rather focus a few of my favorites who are a little (or a lot) lesser-known. Because nobody needs me to tell them about "this band called Mumford & Sons."

(Several of the artists I have included need no introduction, either, but just in case they're new to you. Also, I'm leaving off music that I can't in good conscience recommend to your kids.)

Treat yourself & your people to new music during these long winter months & find joy in supporting some under-discovered artists!  

p.s. Some of these albums will be included in a giveaway happening here next week! Drawing 3 names from orders placed in November & shipping music, books & a signed Christmas greeting. 

So, here we go.  Artists - and one of their well-loved songs - as a jumping off place for you.

 

My Most Played Over Past 12 Months:

Sleeping At Last - "In the Embers"

Over the Rhine - "All My Favorite People"

Andrew Belle - "Pieces"

 

Extremely Gifted Singer/Songwriter Friends:

Jessica Campbell - "Time"

Nick Flora - "Lost At Sea"

Sara Groves - "It's Going to be Alright"

Andy Gullahorn - "I Will"

Ellie Holcomb - "Magnolia"

Jenny & Tyler - "Song for You"

Shelly Moore - "Tie That Binds"

Cindy Morgan & Andy Greer - Hymns for Hunger

Eric Peters - "Where Would I Go"

Jill Phillips - "It Will Pass"

Rachel Stevener - "Holding"

Carolina Story - "In the End"

Nicole Witt - New Album Coming!

 

Quiet Music to Play Loudly

Sanders Bohlke - "I'm Gonna Make It"

Future of Forestry - "Pie Jesu"

Kye Kye - "Peace Song"

Milk Carton Kids - "Michigan"

Salt of the Sound - "Where Do I Begin"

Waterdeep - "Not Looking Good"

 

Good Guys w/Big Talent

Colony House - "Glorious"

Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - "Live Forever"

Josh Ritter -"Bright Smile"

Judah & the Lion - "Rich Kids"

 

The Josh Garrels Category

Josh Garrels - "Farther Along"

 

New Discoveries

Jason Barrows - "Voyagers"

Kaleb Jones - "Hold On Tight" - p.s. I met Kaleb in a coffee shop on Thursday, fell in love with his music & voice, and 4 days later he was singing on my upcoming Covers album.

 

Young Artists I'm Excited to Work With/Watch for These:

Emily Sage Dempsey - "Grow"

Jansen Hogan - Album Coming!

Elle Michelle – "Sleepy Heart"

Jana Gilmore – "Stay With Me Til Morning"

Taylor Leonhardt - "Sunday in the Park"

Jess Ray - "Better"

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your loved ones.  These colder months can be hard, which for me means I have to work harder at the practice of gratitude. May your list of gifts be ever-growing.  I'm thankful for YOU.

love,

christa

FEED YOUR SOUL - Release Day!

christa wells feed your soul album I may start crying if I’m not careful.

I mean, we actually did this.  Nine months ago, I trembled my way into a Kickstarter campaign and asked for help making another record.  Who am I to ask so much from  others?  But I did.

Songs and substance were beginning to well up again, and there didn’t seem to be a way to get them out on my own.  This simply would not have gone forward at that time without a communal effort.  And you guys stepped out of shadows with so much joy & gratitude (!) it took my breath away.

And here we are.

Today was the official birthdate of “FEED YOUR SOUL,” an album of 12 new & original songs that begins with vanity & self-sufficiency and ends in authentic love & community.

I did not know where I was going with these songs at first.  I didn’t know how they would fit together or what umbrella they might belong under.  They terrified me, honestly, and I was often certain they were miserable failures.

But you’ve begun to take them out of my arms and carry them with you.  And I’m finding out from you that the course was right after all and the work worth the labor pains.

So, world, I humbly present “FEED YOUR SOUL,” bashfully placing it at the foot of the mountain of good things.  Hopeful it belongs there.

And if you agree it was worth the effort...maybe you'll tell somebody?

Two Ways to Show Your Love:

  1. Itunes/Amazon reviews & ratings…It really helps an album to have lots of good words written about it.  If you have 5 minutes…?
  2. Give a copy or copies away…to your neighbor, co-worker or blog-readers

The world needs music-lovers as much as music-makers.  It never escapes me how much I need you.  Humbly grateful you’ve chosen to be here in this moment with me.

Love,

christa

Making the EP: Part Uno

As you may remember, I was in Nashville again a couple of weeks ago, this time to lay down the vocal tracks for the 7-song EP I've been working on.  These months have been so full, I actually didn't even have all the music together when I arrived, nor did I feel super solid about the songs I did have.  As I am not a speedy songwriter, but a linger-over-it-for-days-or-weeks kind of writer, I really was just trusting that God would bring the music in time.  And He did (no, I don't say God writes the songs, but He definitely inspires the good ones).  I've never done it this way, but I have to say the two songs that were written that week just might be my favorites on the album. Anyway, here are some of the highlights of the first day or two.  More installments in the coming days.  :) (You'll have to double-click the link, bc embedding isn't working today!)

Christa Wells: Making the EP, Part Uno

A Thousand Things: Live from Outeredge Stage

Inspired by two very special ladies (Angie Smith and Beth Edwards), as well as John Piper who wrote that in every thing He does, God is doing a THOUSAND things.  Sometimes, just telling your story can start a chain reaction, and we may have no clue what's going on...

Sea

I realize I’ve been away from this writing place several weeks, and I’m tempted to feel guilty for not following my own weekly regimen.  Especially since watching Julie & Julia last night.  But then I remind myself that I am, afterall, a songwriter who does some blogging and not the other way around.  So…thanks for sticking around when you don’t have to and when nothing new is showing up for weeks…

Sea

We don’t live near the sea. In the three years since our last visit I’ve thought of it little, Content with grass and pines, gardens and topsoil.

Afterall, it’s good to be home.

Now that we’ve returned, I’m humbled to know: Neither my absence nor lack of remembrance Affect the life of the sea.

She exists without us; Her magnitude is not even slightly diminished. Waves roll in From places under the sun we’ll never lay eyes on. Her roar continually fills our ears-- A “white noise” that surrounds us all and depends on no electrical outlet.

She has no need of me.

But watch those children slice and kick the foam, Squeal as she slams their shins in play and We turn backs to the crash, try to keep upright, Even as we laugh at the fall.

I was pleased for a while simply to feel sand sink underfoot Stand guard at the shore and count heads.

It’s easy to stay put.

But when the time came, I grabbed board, and friend, And we waded against the push Leaned hard Into the current Got ourselves deep and Removed. We felt privileged, Small and strong. I thought we might stay out there forever.

It’s heavenly to float.

And a momentary pleasure. The sea doesn’t ask approval But swells and swallows according to her own purpose And when she lifted and catapulted our bodies We could not but submit We could only lay down and close our eyes As we rode galloping water steeds all the way Back to the shallows.

Transported by the tide.

Wild wet-haired creatures rose up laughing, whooping, exhilarated-- Dripping, sand-scuffed, ecstatic.

And I realize— It’s home to be alive.

Where deep gladness and deep hunger meet...

It’s obvious she has the bug.  She is 6 and can’t keep from it.   Small brown fingers push the sound from the ivory and I watch her do what I do.

Play.  Evaluate.  Try a new way.  Repeat.  Build a pattern, wonder where it must go next.

She is emotive.  Sometimes loud.  Often tragic (her favorite song being Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”).

She pulls words from the air as she goes.

”Wheeeeeeeeen will you coooooooooooome, will we eeeeeeeeever be togeeeeeeeeeether agaa-aa-aain…”

Then suddenly she sweeps into a rhythmic dance number, shoulders pulsing as she pounds and sings lyrics that may or may not match:

“Jesus, you died, uh-huh, you died for us, Jesus, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah!!”

I say:  I love this, but you really need to practice your lessons now.

Swiveling toward me on the bench, her smile and eyes light up like fireworks: “But I LOVE it!!!!  It’s SO MUCH FUN making up songs!!!!”

I can’t stop my grin, overjoyed to have this in common with her.  To hear her say it out loud, the feeling I know so exactly.  It is SO MUCH FUN.

I’d choose songwriting over many things.  I’d choose a day at the piano over a day at the pool.  And I like the pool.

I'm still finishing Paula Rinehart’s book, Better Than My Dreams, which I can’t recommend highly enough to every woman I know.  In it she quotes Frederick Buechner:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness

and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I knew early on where my deep gladness was, but I did not know it would intersect anyone’s hunger.

Have you seen the intersection? Realize how you have been asked to participate in bringing food to the poor in body and in spirit?

We're like the disciples of Jesus who saw 5,000 hungry people but had no idea how to feed them.  They forgot, like we forget, that it all begins, not with what we have, but with what the Father has.

And what He has is the power (and desire) to make a feast of our crumbs.

We cannot satisfy anyone.  He will satisfy.

Our part is to run like children with the kite of “deep gladness” we feel when we do what we were designed to do.

I begin by seeing.

I begin by seeing (I'm a visual learner).  Feeling waves roll in, scales fall, the earth shift slightly underfoot…how have I lived this long and not known this?

A secret overlay becomes visible and wheels turn…scaffolding is erected on the interior walls of the mind, frames hung, phrases chalked alongside, and I start the climb...

In tenth grade, a skinny, self-conscious girl, I sat at our hand-me-down piano and felt things I couldn’t identify, longings I couldn’t name.  We had moved back onto American soil as I entered 9th grade.  I hated most everything about our new home.  Mostly I hated everything about myself, and managed to feel both invisible and painfully conspicuous all the time.

Maybe that’s where the first song came from.  Maybe I couldn’t write about the experience of a sad teenage girl, because writing it seemed even more boring than living it.  Instead, I imagined a conversation with a homeless flutist on an unnamed street, who talked to me about his life – the losses and disillusionment.  (The flute wasn’t silent, so I’m not sure how that ended up in the lyric.)

Back then I wasn’t thinking that the homeless street musician might reflect something of my own experience.  Not consciously.  Later, high school and college literature classes showed me how to search beneath top layers and seek out subtle connections between people and circumstances.

Now I make an effort to listen and watch.  That’s where the writing begins for me.

I begin by seeing.  What a mountain has to do with faith…what medicine and children have in common…how my grandmother and I are one…why repentance feels like dying but makes us free…

*And you?  Tell us what you see?*

living in time...

Great songs are born when they are born.  Great books are read and digested slowly.  The tide of spiritual understanding ebbs and flows to a rhythm we can’t force.  There is a time for working the earth and a time for letting it rest.  Relationships and households require awesome amounts of time and energy.

Email, telephone, doorbell break in and disrupt flow.  Children need, always.  My “lizard brain” (www.sethgodin.com) sabotages my creative efforts.  The mere knowledge that I’m responsible for preparing and recovering from three meals a day can cause panic.

Where is the time, Lord, to do what You ask of me?

My pastor one day says, “God gives us enough time to do the things we are called to do.”

I’m comforted.  I think, maybe the things I manage to get in are in fact, those things I’m called to do.  And the things that never happen – the songs I don’t write – just weren’t meant to be.

One thing I know: I don’t want a rushed life.  I don’t choose to be hurried.  I won’t be a sighing, frowning, huffing person complaining about “the busy-ness.”

At least, I don't want to be...

So I set, and reset, my eyes on things unseen, things invisible, undying and of infinite value—and in that I’m better able to create space for us to live beautifully moment by moment.  I won’t achieve perfection this way, but I hope to walk in peace.

I like that idea – holding eternity in a temporal world.

what it means to be "Held"

(This was originally a "page" on my former blog...since I don't yet have a place for it in this new blog format, I thought I'd share it again as a "post.") I'm sure I have it documented somewhere, maybe on a piece of notebook paper, but I can't recall it.  I do know it was several years ago--several years before Natalie Grant released it--when I first heard the stories which prompted the lyrics that became the song called "Held."  Because I am still being asked the background of that song, how it came to be, I thought perhaps I should write a little something about it.

I could talk all day about the three women whose lives I so greatly admire, who so inspired me and continue to mentor me in one way or another.  But for now, I'll briefly introduce each one and tell you how they participated (unknowingly) in this song.

Patti

Patti had been a widow for less than five years when we first met.  And she was only about 4o-years-old.  With three young daughters.  My first encounter with Patti's family was when I heard her then 10-year-old daughter sing...wow.  Her raw talent and beauty were stunning.  We soon met her other two daughters who were equally remarkable and we thought: How is she doing this??  Patti had only had a year to prepare for her husband's death.  And her husband, by the way, was young, tall, handsome, strong, athletic, intelligent, devoted and successful.  How does this happen?  Toby and I fell in love with Patti's family instantly...here was a woman who had lost her HUSBAND, the FATHER of her very young children and she was still LIVING.  She was transparent in her grief and questions and struggles and she was determined in her faith.  She shared her heart and her story with us over dinner, coffee, in the swimming pool...I particularly remember her talking about the idea of us "giving" everything over to God, except for some unspoken "sacred" parts of our life.  We mean to say: "Of course, you won't ask this of me."

Vaneetha

Vaneetha was already a survivor before the tragic death of her baby boy.  She had contracted polio as a baby and spent her childhood in hospitals around the world.  She continues to live with the effects of the disease, but when I met her she was (and still is) a beautiful, vibrant wife, mother, friend, leader.  A handful of months after we met, but before we became real friends, her infant son, Paul David, died from a heart defect that had been treated at birth.  Paul was doing remarkably well and had just been celebrated at a church-wide baby shower, when he died unexpectedly in the night.  The first verse of "Held" refers to Vaneetha and her son, Paul.  She has always spoken to me about how knowing sorrow has allowed her to also know joy...and about the strange reality of feeling God's presence most keenly in the moments of deepest grief.

Sherry

Sherry is my mother-in-law.  She had mentioned her daughter Erica to me at different times, but I remember one conversation in particular when she talked about Erica's birth and death in detail.  She spoke through tears about the pain of carrying a child to term and then having to let her go without even getting to take her home from the hospital.  She told me about the still, small voice that spoke to her in the delivery room, saying: You have to choose how you will carry this loss after this moment.  You can choose bitterness.  Or you can choose to let me wrap you up in peace that can't be explained and that will lead to hope.  You can choose to trust that you are not alone, and that everything you suffer here will someday be redeemed.

This conversation with Sherry eventually helped write the third verse.

Other words from these women became the second verse, taught me that no person of faith since the beginning of time has ever lived without suffering.  In fact, they said, those who are students of Jesus have been promised that we certainly should expect pain and suffering in this life.

BUT.

But.  In the middle of that heartache.  At every lonely, dark, lost moment...the Truth.

That in those moments, even then, especially then...we are held, held up, held together, by the the One who has walked here and knows the pain, and who also holds all of time, every story, my story, your story, the Greatest Story in his hands.

Every word was chosen with loving care, because I didn't write this song for a market, or a record label, but for those three women.  I wrote it and recorded it with my old 8-track and made a cassette copy for each of them.  Before I even had a publisher.

What has become of "Held" has meant a whole lot to me.  It has meant something to many people--maybe to you and your story.  And it has meant a great deal to Patti, Vaneetha, and Sherry--to see their stories used to minister to so many others is an affirmation that John, Paul David, and Erica lived and died for at least this purpose...there is so much we can't see or fathom.  But at least this one beautiful, healing thing exists because of them and is part of their legacies.

you can do a lot of things...

“You don’t HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.”

She was 16-years-old and said it with a comical grin, referring to my dilemma over whether or not to feel obligated to patch a small hole in my skirt.  She’s a free spirit.

I have never been as free as I want/could/should/will be.

Her hair changes shape and color frequently.  Her opinions are strong, independent and well-supported.  She sees through people and things.  She was intimidating to adults when she was only 14, though she was almost always laughing, smiling, and teasing.

She had no idea that such a small, impromptu comment would linger and replay in my mind over the years. She probably had some idea that I have never really believed it.

My functional belief has been more like:

“I have to do a lot of things, and I can’t do just anything.”

I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I’m not implying we should follow every impulse without concern for our motives or the effects on others.  Freedom doesn't equal self-indulgence.

But wow, we put a lot of bogus expectations on ourselves (and others) that have nothing to do with the pleasure of God.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10, NIV)

One of the works to which I’ve been called is the creation of music.  Simple.  At the same time, I’ve been entrusted with a rather large family, as well as church and neighborhood communities.   You have been entrusted with works, good gifts, and responsibilities.

If you'd take a second to name them and then scroll down your mental list of expectations you put on yourself within each category...my guess is that most of us have too many things on that list.

We bury the beautiful, simple purpose (simple: make music, share music) in extraneous details and become passive participants in our own daily lives.  We aren't choosing anymore. We're swept up in a current of amplified priorities and task lists that come largely from what we think the rest of the world thinks we should be or do.

Because of the current, I forget to play the piano...

I forget to look my family members in the eye and listen...

I forget to give thanks...

I forget to laugh...

I forget that God is sovereign over my vocation and that drivenness is not a fruit of the Spirit.

I forget that as far as this life on earth goes, the present moment is really all we have.

Here's the truth.  There is no one right timeline for bringing a baby home, or releasing a record, or posting a blog, or running a half-marathon.  I don’t have to choose one approach to writing or one style of music or one way to interact with people.  We don't have to make anything happen.

There is no “right” house size or style of decorating.  It doesn’t matter whether my mother likes the color of my walls (LOL sorry, Mom) or whether my countertops are formica or granite.  There is no condemnation for having zero functioning towel rods hanging in my house.  It.doesn’t.matter.

In her song, "Conversations," my friend Sara Groves sings,“The only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way He set me free…”.

Because of this, I can wear a skirt with a hole in it, and leave it that way.  I'm free to not think about it.

I am free to do (or not do) a lot of things.

Book Giveaway!

**IF YOU RESPONDED TO THIS POST, WOULD YOU PLEASE SEND YOUR MAILING ADDRESS TO:toby@christawellsmusic.com ? We'll get your copy of the book in the mail to you -- Thanks so much!

I've talked about this book before and now...Artist/Author Ron Kelsey has graciously sent me 50 copies of his book, Reflections of Generosity, to give away!   Sgt Kelsey began writing these essays while serving in Iraq, and developed a vision for using art to encourage healing, restoration and peace within the military community and beyond.

I plan to deliver 40 locally to active duty military families. I would love to mail out 10 copies to some of you!   Comment on this post for a chance to receive one of these lovely softcover books.  (Winners will be selected at random)

I was privileged to participate in the opening of the first ROG art exhibit at Ft. Drum, NY, last August, and also at the book release at IAM Encounter 2010. The song I wrote in honor for the event will be available for download in June at the launch of the new Reflections of Generosity website.  It's been a real privilege to get to know other contributing artists and see Sgt. Kelsey's vision continue to grow.

Read more about Reflections of Generosity here.

Also, if you missed the free song download earlier this week, scroll down to the last post...

This Old Dress

My favorites are 6-year-old skirts from TJ Maxx, one of which has a gaping hole in the top layer, soft t-shirts, and a dress from Old Navy whose elastic is stretched to the point of irrelevance.

I’d wear them every day if I could get away with it.  (I nearly do.)

The idea is to not feel seams or fabric or cinched waists.  Freedom Fashion.

Aren’t you, like me, tempted to make a whole life out of seamless, worn out threads? Free from irritants, or challenge,  or the discomfort of the untried?

Just think of what we could have avoided already…

trembling, red-faced auditions, failures, and rejections,

friendships that demand  that extra bit of patience or effort,

churches that challenge us to turn our theology, our souls, inside out,

painful conversations, confrontations, confessions…

There are songs we would not have writtem.  And dreams we’d not dream of dreaming.

Because the beauty of stretched skin demands a cost, yes.

But the beauty of stretched skin is a roomy radius of motion that makes the old comfort feel like a paralysis.

We thought we were free when we felt no rub.

But freedom is found in the ability to stretch limbs, reach high,

move joyously without (or through?) fear.

To dance life.

It involves some boundaries and many blisters.

But blisters soften.

And even an old dress was new once.

In case you missed it before...April 17th, Wheaton, IL

Join us at Wheaton Bible Church on April 17 to find out about Masterpiece Project, a uniquely intimate setting for young artists to explore issues of art and faith and build mentoring and peer relationships. (And have fun, of course!)


masterpiece promo from David Vosburg on Vimeo.

  Masterpiece Invitation

Masterpiece is incredibly close to my heart. 

I was once a very lonely teenager, despite being in the middle of a large and loving family. Although I didn't yet identify myself as being an "artist," I didn't identify with other established groups at school, either. I didn't play a sport and was pretty shy--didn't volunteer for student council or anything like that. And I had no idea why my music-making should ever really matter beyond my own pleasure. 

If the intimate environment of this week-long summer camp had been available to me then...a place where I could be mentored by adult artists of faith, where I could get to know other young people who were wired towards the arts, and where I could find encouragement as I practiced the various art forms...I cannot begin to tell you what that would have meant to me. 

But if you come to be with us on April 17, some of our students can tell you firsthand. If you are in the Chicago area, please come. I'll be there, along with internationally renowned calligrapher Timothy Bottsand author/art historian Daniel Siedell (God in the Gallery).  

CLICK HERE to read my blog post on Masterpiece Project 2009: Flow.

CLICK HERE to read my blog post on Masterpiece Project 2008: Genesis Eternal.
 

mirrors...

I choose a mirror in a warmly lit room, early evening, lipgloss fresh.  

I choose a mirror that tells me how uniquely fair and lovely I am and agrees with my opinions.  

I choose a mirror that believes I am the best thing since sliced bread.

Not only that, but I ask the mirror constantly what it wants from me:  

What will please you?  Can I make you laugh?

I do not serve the mirror.  (I think I do.)

In truth, 

I serve my ego whose song is: Yes, you love me already.  

    But maybe I can make you love me more?

     Maybe I can be "special" and

     you will will love me a little better than the rest, 

     and that will mean more than your 

regular love.


Dancing and juggling and laughing and nodding are exhausting habits.   When life becomes more complex, they are not only exhausting; they are impossible to do well.  

When I cannot do it well, I feel desperate, despairing, angry.  Now people and circumstances are in my way, wrinkles in my cloak of perfection, and judgment is everywhere.

All shiny surfaces point accusing fingers, whisper disappointment.  


These demands I have demanded, now demand too much of me.


So this morning, I crawled to the river in the early light of dawn.

 and there I saw reflected

        a person I had not seen before 

    but instantly recognized

        a person obsessed with mirrors, ready to be free

    i went in with clothes on

    came out dripping 

    smiling at the knowledge that 

    I am no best thing!    (strange, sweet release!!)

    but I am some thing

    something Loved.

Psalm 37:3-4 

Trust in the Lord and do good...  (not: Trust in your abilities/goodness/good looks and be PERFECT.)

Delight yourself in the Lord...  (not: Delight yourself in people's approval of you)    

Trust in the LORD and do GOOD...DELIGHT yourself in the LORD...! 

    

    

The Book Basket...

So little time, so many great books. 

People often ask how or where I find time to read. Normally, I squeeze it in late-night…almost every night, no matter how the evening was spent or how late it is, I read by flashlight before falling asleep. Honestly, it’s my little treat, right up there with morning coffee. 

In case you're looking, here are a few from my recent stack: 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery)

"On the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant."

This philosophical piece of fiction, translated (very well) from French was so delightfully fresh and interesting. The beauty of the language was itself worthwhile, and I’m keeping it handy to spur some song ideas. The chapters alternate between the voice of a homely residential concierge and a suicidal 12-year-old resident of her building, both of whom possess far more intellect and sophistication than anyone realizes (which is the way both characters want it). Enter elderly Japanese tenant...This would be a great book club book…if I were in a book club. 


Deep Church (Jim Belcher)

"When we become more humble in our beliefs, we are willing to see that our own denominatins or traditions do not have a corner on all truth..."

My pastor handed this to me to help answer some questions I’ve had concerning the traditional church and the emerging/emergent church movement. The author has spent time in both circles, has real friends in both, and is now pastoring a PCA church in California. He proposes there is a third way, and the possibility of real, peacemaking dialogue between the two camps, and is attempting to shed light on some misunderstandings. Excellent so far. 


Better Than My Dreams (Paula Rinehart)

"The struggle is a door, and inside God waits.  If you are willing to walk through the portal, you find what you could not experience deeply any other way."

My friend brought me an autographed copy of this book by her counselor and friend, Paula Rinehart, who lives here in Raleigh. This book is for every woman who has been disappointment in life and needs to hear how she can meet God in the gap that exists between her ideals and her reality. Very well-written but accessible, easy to read. 


Little Bee (Chris Cleave)

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl."

I’m in the middle of this painful, eye-opening story of a Nigerian refugee whose life intersects tragically with that of an upper-middle class British magazine founder/editor. Chapters alternate between the voices of the two, and although the actual events are fictional, it stirs up new awareness of the violence we all know really is out there and prompts examination of our own willingness to sacrifice for others.

*Note: Contains bad language & R-rated situations.  Since writing this post, I've become less enchanted with the book because of an adulterous relationship that has become too much in the foreground.  


Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

"All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it."

Not a late-night read…I have to do this one early morning or while traveling. Started this a year or two ago but didn’t have the “bandwidth” for it at the time. Now I’m chewing it slowly , underlining and pondering. It requires a lot of mental attention, but is so provocative. If you’re doing crosswords to stay sharp, maybe try reading a paragraph a day of this book instead. 


Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens)

"Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day."

Like Chesterton, I find Dickens requires more of me than I can typically muster at 11:30pm with a flashlight. But since my little girl gave it to me last year for Mother’s Day, I really want to read it. And Dickens is always worth the effort in the end. I’m not that far into it, but so far so good. 


Love Walked Among Us (Paul E. Miller)

"Being loved gives you the freedom and resources to love."

We have been doing a study based on this (See Jesus) and also attended a seminar with its author, Paul Miller, a couple of weeks ago. It’s so simple and so profound, and gets you to really pay attention to the marvelous way Jesus had with the people he encountered. What we know but haven’t really paid attention to in so much detail is Christ’s intentional “incarnating” with people…seeing, feeling and then acting in a balance of compassion and honesty. In the workshop, we each sat in the “hot seat” and let the group observe our interactions. It’s shocking how unaware we can be of our own failure to balance the two.

You're invited...

 Masterpiece Invitation

Masterpiece is incredibly close to my heart. 

I was once a very lonely teenager, despite being in the middle of a large and loving family. Although I didn't yet identify myself as being an "artist," I didn't identify with other established groups at school, either. I didn't play a sport and was pretty shy--didn't volunteer for student council or anything like that. And I had no idea why my music-making should ever really matter beyond my own pleasure. 

If the intimate environment of this week-long summer camp had been available to me then...a place where I could be mentored by adult artists of faith, where I could get to know other young people who were wired towards the arts, and where I could find encouragement as I practiced the various art forms...I cannot begin to tell you what that would have meant to me. 

But if you come to be with us on April 17, some of our students can tell you firsthand. If you are in the Chicago area, please come. I'll be there, along with internationally renowned calligrapher Timothy Bottsand author/art historian Daniel Siedell (God in the Gallery).  

If you aren't able to join us, please watch the video promo I posted last week, and tell a young artist in your life about this tremendous opportunity.

 

More of what matters...

Yesterday I shared a brand-spanking new song with our church body, Christ Our Hope.  It's called "Everything Moves But You"--I had written about the elusive quality of our dreams and all the things we want more of.  Later in the afternoon, I drove to Durham and had the extreme pleasure of making music with Wade Baynham and Dale Baker for the Emmaus Way worship service.  We sang about love.  

And we sang about the deep Love of Jesus.  

By day's end, I was exhausted and...exhilarated.  It is an enormous privilege to be given opportunities to collaborate and create and share artistically.

About 16 months ago, I was walking on a beach in Jupiter, Florida, thinking about the music I was preparing to share with a precious body of Jesus-followers there.  

I walked alone by the waves and prayed.  And somewhere inside that 20 minutes, I felt a distinct compulsion (for lack of a better word) to record the songs I'd been writing during the previous months. I'd been considering the possibility, but only tentatively.  I was reluctant to ask that kind of sacrifice from my family without any plan or an outside group backing the project.

So.

I addressed God directly, and said, "Well, you're gonna have to tell Toby."  :)

The next afternoon, in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, Toby brought up the idea and said something to the effect of: Yes.  You have to do this.

I had no idea what I would do with the project when it was finished.  (I had done next to nothing with the Rogers/Wells Project in 2006.)  I'd been very comfortably songwriting and not performing (except on occasion) for quite some time.  But I had a sense of God assuring me that I really didn't need to know what was next; I just needed to do this thing.  

That is what "trust" means, afterall?

Well, that was 16 months ago.  The past year since we finished recording "Frame the Clouds" has been an adventure, and I've been forced out of most of my comfort zones, which is, of course, a great way to grow as a human being. ha-- It has stretched me and delighted me, and I believe this is true:


I'm being given more of what matters and must work to cut away that which doesn't.  


More...


More knowledge of my own strengths and weaknesses.  

    More clarity on where I belong, where my songs resonate.

    Newfound comfort in my own skin...with my voice as a singer and writer.

More willingness to risk failure.  More willingness to risk "success."  

    Greater interest in other people and their stories...More gratitude for my family and friends. 

More excitement about music itself and its God-given capacity to provoke change.

    More peace with my own unconventional relationship with the music business.  

    More pleasure in working as an independent artist.

More Awe of God.

    Heightened awareness of inequities on earth and of my own undeserved abundance.



 

And Less...


I'm sorting, as I'm sure you are, constantly through my inner "mess."  Cutting out the damaged...and the damaging.  Following the questions and uncertainties.  Realizing bad habits, mixed motives, spiritual idols.  Waste.

Isn't that great??

It's important work, this sorting business, and to know I'm not the only one at it really brings me some kind of joy.  

I imagine us sitting on an old front porch after dark.  Warm summer air, stars hung high, and we're shucking corn and singing about our weariness, crying and laughing over the the days behind and the prospect of tomorrow.  Isn't that something?

More community.  More Truth.  More Christ.  

The only thing we can pursue that will. not. move.