Monday, July 31, 2006

SONGWRITING: back to the drawing board

...some more thoughts on songwriting - once you start to get your head (and heart) around the idea of someone critiquing your songs, the next big thing to hit you is rewriting!!! When I first started out, this was a foreign concept to me! I thought that the way the idea arrived was the way it SHOULD stay, as though I might ruin the thought that God had given me. Thanks to friendships with people like Brian Doerksen, I learnt pretty quickly that we are responsible for crafting the original idea into something that others can use... the idea by itself doesn't make a good song. So, if you are looking at your song today, and you're thinking that the chorus might need a tweak, or the words are almost right - get a friend to listen to it and see the bits they notice that they think others will find hard to understand, then take it back to the drawing board - I'll meet you there ;)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

SONGWRITING: learn to love critique

I was thinking it could be fun to explore some songwriting stuff together - so, here is my thought for today.... 'learn to love critique'. It can be one of the most difficult parts of songwriting (apart from actually getting off the ground with a song in the first place :) We are all human, and we all feel it when someone says they don't like what we've written - so it might seem a little crazy to actually seek someone out deliberately to tell us what they don't like about our songs...BUT, it's the best way of taking a song forward. Because we've written the song, we understand how it's meant to be listened to, and exactly what every word is meant to convey, but everyone else who listens to the song, doesn't have the benefit of that insight - we have to let them in our heads - or maybe a better way to put it, we need to make sure the song speaks for itself. When you invite someone to critique your stuff, they'll help you see the bits that don't quite communicate as clearly as you thought they did. They'll let you know if the melody is hooky, or if it needs to be stronger in places. They'll help you see where you need to narrow your focus, or where you need to enlarge what you're trying to say. Especially if you are writing worship material that you would love to see others sing, having someone critique your stuff until you're pretty sure that you've got it in the bag, will take that song you're working on, and give it a whole depth you would have otherwise missed. Take courage, the best songs are usually birthed out of that next rewrite :)

Monday, July 24, 2006

don't forget to breathe

I was writing to a friend this morning, and telling her about how wonderful sabbatical was... Earlier on this year Alan and I and the kids went to America for three months. We decided that we needed time together as a family without the pressure of running the church (even though we love it); that we needed space to hear God more clearly again, time to think, space to grow. It was one of the most amazing things we've ever done together!

We're home now as long as we were there. The difference is that the last 3 months have rocketed by - real life happens in fast forward! The sweetness of sabbatical was the chance to catch our breath - to savour everything. Whilst I know we can't all just drop everything and head off for that length of time - there's such a need to build in time - it might be a 2 day break here and there, it might be an hour in the morning everyday... it might be something you need to revisit, the same as me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

get your juices flowing

I've been spending a little time writing songs again - it's always a time for discipline (with two kids it's mad a lot of the time); of setting time aside to think through melodies, craft lyrics, mull over motives and themes. I want to encourage you, as I encourage myself too - spend a little time every day 'pumping the well' first - allowing your creative juices to get flowing first. 'The Artist's way' is a great book - not a Christian book (by Julia Cameron) - but brilliant in getting you to switch the editor in you off just long enough to get some stuff on the page. She talks about doing 'morning pages' - writing whatever comes to mind, just to start writing. The way I've used this in the past is to go for a walk by the sea and write down what I can see. It always ends in worship! I'm not trying to write songs, or anything really, just trying to describe what's around me, and not tweak and change before I've created. It's one of the most helpful things I've found along the way.

Monday, July 17, 2006

forgiveness awaits

I just had the opportunity to speak in church last week - we looked at the cross again... For those of you who live a little further away than the causeway coast, there's an mp3 of it on my website (you can use the link on the right of this blog)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

thinking outside in

It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve started to really understand that church is meant to be looking outward - that our lives are meant to ‘be’ the great commission - that we get to become disciples as we make disciples. Everything I’m reading in the Bible at the moment just deepens this conviction in me. Jesus was way more inclusive, and a lot less picky than I am when it comes to choosing who to ‘let in’ on the glorious secret of redemption, and the wonderful life of community that is the church. A few months back I was reading the story of Cornelius in Acts, and it hit me in a whole different way. God chose a man to be the first of a whole race (the gentiles) to be ‘let in’ in a magnificent way. When I’ve read the story before, I’ve assumed that I would have thought very highly of Cornelius if I’d been Peter - he was, after all, a God fearing man who looked after his household well; a man of good reputation. I hadn’t thought of him as a commander in the occupying army! God isn’t on their side is He? I hadn’t thought of him as someone who worshipped in the wrong way - having grown up in Northern Ireland, I’m very aware of perceptions when it comes to this particular hot potato! - He didn’t even really know who he was worshipping (he had no idea about Jesus yet), but he was headed in the right direction, and the truth is that God knew who he was. What really struck me was that he was in pursuit of the Father even though he wasn’t yet in possession of all the facts... I realize that for all I think I ‘know’, I’m just the same - I am in deep need of the Father to show me others who I have not noticed yet (or worse, already discredited) who He sees and knows. He might just want to use me to be the one to let them in...

It was something I read

I’ve been learning a lot about leadership recently - I think it’s something I’ll always be trying to understand better - and what a fascinating subject it is too! A wonderful book that I’ve been reading whilst on this quest is called ‘Now, Discover your strengths’ (by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton). Something I read really challenged me - the premise of the book is that all too often we focus on our weaknesses, and spend all our energy on managing what we can’t do. The authors turn that type of thinking on it’s head and ask us to think about focussing on our strengths instead - what are the things that we are good at; that energize us when we do them; and that we hit near perfect ‘performance’ in every time. Whilst it mentions weaknesses, and offers some ideas for helping us not be tripped up by them, it strongly argues the case for changing our perspective completely and embracing what we were made for.... rather than be average all rounders, we might just be able to become really excellent in one field or another - what an exciting thought if we could catch hold of what that might mean for us (and others) in our own spheres of influence! Here’s a quote from the book that really hit me, “building on your strengths isn’t necessarily about ego. It is about responsibility”... I’ll leave it with you.