Tuesday, June 12, 2012

catching up

over the past few weeks, i've realized several things:

leading people in worship is a very comprehensive pastoral task... much more than just playing songs well.

i don't spend enough time writing anymore

i really love my son!

i've been in the midst of preparing a worship practicum/internship/seminar with my good friend Aaron Leeds, the worship pastor at Triangle Community Church, and i've been re-reading Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin with another good friend, Forrest.  in both of these circumstances, the immensity of the calling to lead people in worship of the Creator has been working to churn a lot of thought in my mind, but i haven't really decided what forum to express these thoughts... maybe here, after all.  Although i intended to largely post stuff related to the WeddingSongs project, maybe i should stretch the blog into a more general songwriting/theology space.

that said, i don't spend NEARLY the time writing that i used to, even a year ago.  part of that is because i read too much... well, maybe not too much, but more than is necessary to stimulate good thought.  i've caught myself reading for the sake of escapism a couple times recently, and that's not particularly helpful.  i'm probably going to take my guitar on vacation with my wife, and just play around, hang out with her, and try to relax for a day or two.  we'll see how that works out...

while my wife and i celebrate our anniversary (5 years) together, we'll be leaving our son with some trusted friends... but i don't know if i can handle it.  I've really grown to love the routine of getting him up in the morning, and spending time with him when i get back from the office before he goes to bed.  how weird will it be for those days we're gone...?

anyways, here's to some more frequent postings here...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the story of 'To Unity'

in honor of the birth of Laura Kate and Andrew's son, here's the story behind the song i wrote for their wedding!

i had the privilege of playing with a great group of musicians while in college and grad school.  Casting Shadows was a band that formed from an opportunity i had to record some songs i'd written; when offered the chance to go to the studio, i decided that i needed the help of the worship band i was blessed to lead with, and we ended up writing songs together as Casting Shadows after that session.  my friend David Phillippi played bass for CS and laid down a track for WeddingSongs - 'Awake.'  Jon Pritchett played electric guitars, and now he is a Doctor (while still shredding guitar with Visio Dei church in Raleigh). Matt Epler played drums, and still plays with me at LiFT and when i get random opportunities to lead worship out and about. Laura Kate Harvey Lupton played keys and sang lead/harmony vocals, and i'm glad that she and her husband are back in the Cary area for a short time before they head to Colombia on mission.  Maybe we'll write another few songs together before too long!  Part of the Lupton family's call to Colombia is equipping the local church to write and sing songs for worship.

LK gave me the opportunity to write a song for her wedding while i was still pretty new to this wedding-songwriting thing, and i was very grateful to craft something for a close friend.

with LK and Andrew's song, i really began to finalize the types of questions that i ask a couple for whom i'm writing.  i like to know how they describe each other - what phrases and key words that come to mind when they think of their future spouse.  i also ask how they first met, and if there is a moment they can recall when they first decided that they loved the other... those are often potent memories!

Andrew is a theologian, and they are both very Jesus-centered people (as all Christians are called to be - these two live it out well!).  What started to come across to me, particularly from Andrew, was the weight of the gospel that he felt in this process of getting married, and the joy he took in knowing that he was picturing the gospel, and manifesting the image of God by pursuing marriage.  This started to sound like very trinitarian language to me, and that got a few thoughts rolling around in my head...

turns out that LK loves the mountains of East Tennessee, and Andrew is a mountain boy, and he actually proposed on a mountainside.  I'm pretty sure that's an obvious set up for a song, so i took a cue from this scene and included it in the chorus of the song.  The chorus and verses continue on in a fashion that i hope was meaningful to Laura Kate, who was a music major at CU and has music in her soul - the movement of melody, harmony, and unity in music seemed to me to be another picture of the Trinity.

and, LK being a songwriter, i asked her what she had written for/about Andrew and she was gracious enough to lend me the bridge of this song (the last part here), from a poem she had written.

here's the lyrics!

You opened your mouth, and sang of home
I was already singing the same tones
My voice caught in my throat as you showed how you love me
My ears ringing with the melody underneath

The music of these mountains 
Is sweeping me away 
From melody, to harmony, to unity 

So I’ve opened my mouth to sing with you
This harmony draws out a melody more true
I’m surprised by how uniquely I hear both parts
But I feel the deeper resolution in my heart

Together now we sing of this mystery
A symbol of the trinity, unity in our diversity
I in you, and you in me
One voice, one life to glorify one King

The music of these mountains 
Is sweeping me away 
From melody, to harmony, to unity 

I love you not like lighted candles melting at their leisure
But like the fire that heats the stars
which know not quench or darkness
I love you, not by right of merit, deed or birth
I love you by the lavish grace of Him who loved us first

Monday, January 9, 2012

the story of 'Have I Told You'

there are a few songwriters who have been able to make me cry.

Derek Webb, Justin McRoberts, Andrew Peterson, Sanctus Real, Ben Shive, and Andy Gullahorn.

if you have the time, you should definitely check out their music. Derek's song Lover is from Jesus' perspective to us, and it moves me every time. Justin's song Safe, and two of his songs for his father, resonate deeply with me. Andrew Peterson's The Good Confession hit me like a punch to the gut when i was in a period of doubt about my faith. Sanctus Real's Lead Me is a powerful reminder to husbands/fathers that caught me by surprise on their last album, before it was an overplayed radio single. Ben Shive, who tours often with Andrew and Andy, has a mastery of melancholy/reflection in song form, and his The Ill-tempered Klavier was moving as a whole.  I'm digging into his new album The Cymbal-Crashing Clouds and the accompanying book of poetry/essay.  Andy Gullahorn's songs are a mix of tongue-in-cheek humor with deeply insightful metaphor, and he has the most songs that have moved me to tears, i think - More of a Man, Give it Time, and I Haven't Either, just to name a few.

this is a necessary intro to the story of Have I Told You - a song i wrote for my wife over 2 years ago.

i am heavily influenced by whatever i'm listening to at the time, and these songs by Andy Gullahorn in particular had been weighing heavily on me when it came time to write a song for my wife for our 2nd year of marriage. Give it Time was the most fresh on my mind, and so i was seeking to capture the emotional weight of this song with the combination of the clever way Gullahorn uses personal illustration in the verses of his song...

I really do have a hard time (sometimes) telling my wife how much i love her, and i realized that i never want to go 24hrs without literally saying it to her while also (hopefully) showing her. from this thought process, i arrived at 'have a told you today that i love you,' which i felt like was a pretty strong chorus thought, so i then worked backward to the more 'personal' verse stuff.  we were still 'newly-weds,' and Sarah was still in school at CU... so there's some of the context.

i was very pleased with how Sarah responded to this song, and it's probably my favorite song on the album to play.

here's the lyrics:

strange voices greet me as i awake
you forgot to turn of your radio alarm today
a little late, i hear you moving for the door
3 unused outfits spread across the floor...

have i told you today.. that i love you?

piles of dishes greet me as i enter the room
whatever you cooked smells wonderful, and so do you
i don’t mention that the trash can overflows
but i have a habit of telling you things you already know

have i told you today that i love you?

no room to sit, for all your papers, books, and clothes
and you look up at me with a tear drop on your nose
you say you’re overwhelmed, 'sorry it’s a mess'
i say 'come here' and pull you to my chest

have i told you today that i love you? 

did i mention that i trust you?
did i mention that i cherish you?
did i mention today how beautiful you are?

have i told you today
have i told you today
have i told you today, i love you.