Leading Worship and being in a non-Christian band

Man, I wish I had some theological explanation for why or how one can do this, but I don’t.

In fact, I don’t know why God has given me this opportunity, or at least allowed me to participate. Things were going well. I’ve been leading worship for about a year now, plugging away Sunday after Sunday, and working on improving my skills as best I can.

Then, I get the invite to jump back into the secular music scene.

A few years back, I had walked away from that whole lifestyle to focus on my family and serving God. I told myself, ‘you can’t serve two masters,’ and that brought some reassurance to my decision.

But, what if God is not making me choose? What if, I can have my art and express myself by making music to the best of my ability with guys I love? And, what if I can still serve Him by leading Worship services and being a part of His kingdom work?

I don’t really know how this plays out, or if it will work at all. I’m just doing the best I can with the gifts he’s given me, and that will be enough for now.

Find us at:

http://www.soundcloud.com/momentsnw

@momentsnw

Why God loves you, even when you fail

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)

That’s why. Plain and simple.

I think sometimes I over-think it. Sometimes, I wanna formulate my relationship with God based on my understanding of myself and His character.

Asking God to love you less is like asking a train to deviate from its tracks; it is simply impossible to change the course of His magnificent love headed directly at you, and all because of Christ.

Try as you might, this unstoppable force charges ahead, unwavering and unrelenting in its pursuit. How mad the love of God for us!

On the other hand, we know this earth to be full of dry road. We know the arid hearts of people, and the rugged terrain that is a result of sin, filling the landscape with nothingness and death. No locomotive on earth could power through such conditions without solid steel tracks forming a solid foundation, removing boundaries and taking the vessel to reach places it could not before.

So it is with Christ’s sacrifice at the Cross. It is through His divine work that the track was laid for salvation; without it, the plains and peaks, mountains and valleys, and each corner of the land would remain dead and lost, longing for life.

As we approach Easter, be encouraged by the fact that Christ laid down His life and laid down the tracks for God’s redeeming love to save you and me from sin and death, and no more can you change that than you deviate a train from its course. After all, the tracks are solid and grounded, forever holding place and never wearing down.

Pedalboard/Rig update (and what is Lent anyway?)

So… I haven’t posted on here in a while. Life is busy.

But I thought I’d share a bit on the current iteration of my board.

Guitars (Classic Vibe 50s Tele – 4 way switch, FSR Tele with Fender OV Pickups, Gibson Les Paul Classic) > Morley Volume Pedal Plus> Boss TU-2 > Paul C Timmy > GFS Greenie > Fulltone Fatboost V.3 > Danelectro Cool Cat Trem> TC Electronic Flashback X4> Empress Tape Delay> Strymon Ola> Strymon blueSKy> Amps Vox AC15C1 (Weber Blue Dog)/Vox AC30C2/Mesa Express 5:50 2×12

It seems I’ve redone my board/rig quite a bit in the last few months. I’m trying to reduce the excess in stuff and just have quality things that I enjoy creating music with.

So let’s review the new additions!

TC Electronic Flashback X4 – Just a fantastic piece of delay. The layout is familiar (having owned a DL4 and DelayLab), and super simple to operate. You just plug in and play, and despite the lack of ‘fine-tuning’ options, I really like the sounds coming out of it. I also used the TonePrint app to beam in some Echoplex TonePrints, which sound really lush and full. I particularly like Andy from PGS’s EP TonePrint. Built like a tank, switches feel sturdy, and the looper is super intuitive.

Empress Tape Delay – Super warm, warbly, and yet clear delay. So far I’m digging how I can get anything from washed out tape to dotted eighth rhythmic stuff. And so many switches!!

Strymon Ola – Technically this is a chorus pedal, but I really love the Vibrato mode. This is running after my delays to give it some ‘spread’ when I want it to.

Strymon blueSky – Hands down the best reverb I’ve ever played. From subtle to cavernous, this pedal delivers.

Mesa Express 5:50 2×12 – Switchable down to 5 watts, four modes, two channels, smaller/lighter than my AC30. A beast of amp in a medium sized package.

Now that we are right in the middle of the Lent season, a verse came to me that I wanted to share. I know not everyone observes Lent, but we do, and it can seem like a great big burden. However, I think there’s real value in taking stock of one’s life and seeing where we can be more giving of ourselves.

“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own”

(2 Corinthians 8:3, NIV)

Here Paul is commending the generosity of some church members who had funded his missionary travels, but what I think stands out is the fact that he notes they did this entirely out of their own free will. No one is going to make you observe Lent, and if they did, what impact would that have on your life? You would be likely to grow bitter at the thought of the word.

And yet it can be a beautiful picture of worship when you say, ‘OK, Lord. I see I have __________. I could do with less or without this, and I am glad to give it up for you.’ To be honest, I haven’t even really made a Lent commitment, I just know I’ve not been taking care of my body lately, so my intention was to cut out some junk food and sweets, and to instead treat my body with reverence for God’s creation. Am I doing it 100% right? No, but that’s not the point. The point is I’ve identified an area where I need discipline, and Lent can be the perfect opportunity to offer that to God.

Blessings in this season to you all!

Why lyrics make a difference (and the arrival of the new Telecaster)

This week, as we plan to launch a new church campus, I have been listening to a song we plan to introduce Monday morning. In conjunction with that, I have been reading through the book of Acts, as that is the intended book from which our pastors will be preaching for the next few weeks.

The song we are doing as a special music is called Promises, by Sanctus Real. It’s really a great song, and I enjoy a lot of their stuff. They seem to have found a groove, a way to gel with each other that shows through the songs they write, the way the guitarists interact, and the overall quality of music. It’s the kind of stuff that happens overtime, over a million rehearsals with the same four dudes over and over again, hashing out who does what and how they do it.

One of the lines in the song says, ‘let His Word be your strength.’ Hmmm. That’s a tall order. Especially since this week has been more stressful than I can put in words, between planning the weekend’s worship, an influx of new students on my case load, trying to be present at home and with those who are closest to me. However, there have been times when I’ve found myself getting irritable and in my head hear, ‘let His Word be your strength.’ And not in a cheesy, Kirk Cameron kind of way (sorry, Kirk. I really do like Fireproof). But instead in a ‘are-you-gonna-do-what-you-said-you’d-do-and-press-onto-His-word?’ kind of way.

Spinning your wheels isn’t fun when you’re trying to live a life worth living. And I know all the effort I can muster from within me can’t earn my way to Heaven, but if I am to proclaim Christ is my Lord, I better accept the fact that others will know that to be true by the way I treat them, not how eloquent I can sound on Sunday morning or this blog post. So in those times of irritability, I founds myself hearing those lyrics and really processing what my next move was. If I believe that Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples (John 13:35),” how then should I handle it when my son isn’t listening very well? How will I handle conflict at work, or with my wife? Do I really allow His word to be my strength? Or, is that just a nice lyric to sing on Sunday morning so that everyone thinks how cool I am as a Worship Leader, and how edgy it is that I pick songs I’ve heard on the radio?

My prayer this week is that I really do allow His word to empower me to treat people the way Jesus commands us to. Not in a fake, guarded way; and certainly not in a way that substitutes works in the place of loving others. Rather, I pray that it gives me the strength to love my family, even when times are hard. To love God above all else. To be a good friend, employee. and servant, even when I don’t feel like it. That’s when lyrics can make a difference: when they point your attention that place you know God has called you to, but you’ve somehow managed to turn away from.

On a slightly different note, this week I received my new Telecaster 🙂 Here’s a brief review I did!

Per Fender Customer Relations (who are awesome by the way):

The serial number you have provided corresponds with an FSR Standard Telecaster w/maple neck in Butterscotch Blonde finish manufactured 08/2013. The factory specs for this specific model are listed below.

Model Name: FSR Standard Telecaster® (Butterscotch Blonde)
Model Number: 014-0112-(550)
Series: Standard Series
Body: Ash
Neck: 1-Piece Maple, Modern “C” Shape,
(Tinted Gloss Urethane Finish)
Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5” Radius (241 mm)
No. of Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)
Width @ Nut: 1.650” (42 mm)
Hardware: Chrome
Machine Heads: Fender®/Ping® Standard Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines
Bridge: Vintage Style 3-Saddle Strings-Thru-Body Tele Bridge
Pickguard: 1-Ply Black
Pickups: 2 Hot Standard Tele® Single-Coil Pickups (Neck & Bridge)
Pickup Switching: 3-Position Blade:
Position 1. Bridge Pickup
Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups
Position 3. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
Colors: (550) Butterscotch Blonde,
(Polyester Finish)
Strings: Fender Super 250L, Nickel Plated Steel,
Gauges: (.009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042),
p/n 073-0250-003
Unique Features: Reverse Control Plate,
Black Dot Position Inlays,
Vintage Styling,
Black Plastic Parts
Source: Mexico
Accessories: None
U.S. MSRP: $699.99
INTRODUCED: 2010
DISCONTINUED:
DISCONTINUED COLORS:
COMMENTS: FSR for GC in 2010

My brief observations are this:

* Literally this thing is unmolested. I bought it from a fella on Reverb.com who states he played it twice, and I believe him. Plastic still on the neck pickup and pickguard. I got it at a total steal of a price too!
* It’s weighty. Not Les Paul heavy, but a substantial slab of wood.
* The neck feels fat in my small hands, but plays like butter.
* I absolutely LOVE the three barrel bridge. Comfortable to rest your palm on, great tone.
* The pickups are HOT
Perhaps hotter than the Vox CoAxe humbuckers in my SSC33. They drive my AC4C1-12 effortlessly, but I am going to lower them a bit to tame them a little. I’m not a HUGE fan of overwound pickups, but I’m sure it’ll take a little tweaking before I give up on them. I may eventually go the route of some 50s voiced Alnicos… maybe.
* Some buzz intitally, but I think that’s a setup issue. After I gave her a proper restring and a setup, it was totally gone.

The story is I sold my 72 Deluxe to raise a little bit of cash to pay off some debt. My wife and I are young, and we have what I’d consider a very little amount of debt, but I feel partly responsible because I know some of it was due to my buying/selling/trading of gear. Plus I’ve been drooling over these BSBs for about a year now. With that said, I was able to buy this, a hardshell case from a dude on my local CL, and still have some money to pay down on debts.

Do you remember what it was like to want to grow up?

I do.

There was excitement in the air. Every day was a new adventure, a new island to be discovered, and we were happy to sail the seas of uncertainty in friendships, piling schoolwork, and the possibility of someday growing up.

Now, I am 27, married, and a father. I can say I’m pretty well grown. However, there is still that part of me that longs to keep growing, to keep reaching for the sun and to keep pursuing the things that make life worth living: God, my family, music, writing, etc.

When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be a writer. And a drummer. And a rockstar. And a psychologist.

Oh, the wonders of youthful indecisiveness!

VOX AC4C1-12 Review… sort of

Below are some videos of the newest addition to the AC4 line, the 12″ speaker-boasting AC4C1-12.

Having owned all three versions of this amp, the AC4TV, AC4C1-BL, and now this little guy, I can honestly say that Vox nailed it this time.

The bigger cabinet and speaker make a WORLD of difference. Better bass response, tone controls that actually make a difference in your sound, and cool looks to boot.

Pardon the iPhone camera video quality, but I wanted to get these up ASAP.

I lucked into getting one of these 15% off, meaning I walked out with it at $298. Being a Worship Leader who mainly plays electric, this is a lifesaver of an amp. Portable, toneful, and just plain awesome.

GRAB ONE OF THESE WHILE YOU CAN!!! 🙂

You may have a problem with Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) when…

* Your wife/significant other knows your gear is not a permanent fixture

* When you don’t have a wife or significant other because you spend your time buying, selling, and trading things

* When your worship pastor sounds consistently good with the same guitar week after week, and you wonder why you can’t achieve the same with a constant rotation of things you’ll keep for one weekend service

* When you convince yourself you are done with humbuckers, but fiddle endlessly with your EQ to make your Strat sound more like a Les Paul

 

In all seriousness, I am beginning to think I need to send an end to my tone quest. There will always be that next item.. that next change that will make me sound like… well, me. Yes, different gear achieves different tones, inherently. Much like the in-between positions on a Strat, or the grit and grind of an SG with P-90s. However, most of the time I just sound like me, and that is a good thing. In fact, it’s a great thing.

I would rather sound like me than be consumed trying to sound like Jimi at Woodstock. First, because only Jimi will ever sound like Jimi. And B) I happen to like having my own sound.

With that said… here’s the newest addition to my stable:

More P90s than you know what to do with

More P90s than you know what to do with

What is Pentecost anyway? (also, why boost pedals rock!)

As I get ready to celebrate Pentecost this weekend with my family and my church, I felt like I have been a little more eager to learn about this Christian holiday. Historically, Pentecost was the day when the Holy Spirit came down on a group of believers which included Peter and the other 11 disciples. Acts 2 chronicles the event, including a sermon by Peter which led to the conversion of about 3,000 people.

This week I’ve also been blessed by having two new pedals on my board, the Xotic Effects EP Booster, and the Fulltone Fatboost V.3. Prior to this, I had been running a few overdrives to push my amps just over the edge of breakup (coincidentally, this ‘edge of breakup’ is guitarist talk for a secret, mystical tone place that exists at just the right combination of pre-amp and power-amp tube saturation).

The EP Booster is the first version, which has a bright and bass boost dip switches inside the casing. Overall, this is a great ‘on-all-the-time’ pedal. It’s hard to describe what it does, and once you leave it on for a while your ears will adjust to the change; so much so that when you turn it off, you’ll notice a big difference. I’m running this first, before my Paul C. Timmy and GFS Greenie (tube screamer clone). 

The Fulltone Fatboost is just fantastic. Despite the word ‘fat’ in its name, it retains a great deal of clarity, and I like being able to control the gain, treble (cut), and bass separately. This is after my drives, for a volume/gain boost to make leads stand out. However, with just the EP and Fatboost on, I get some seriously huge clean tone. I mean, ‘bigger-than-Justin-Bieber’s-12 year old girl fanbase’ big. 

All that to say that, while I’ve had a great week gear wise, I’m happy to note the following things:

               What Pentecost isn’t:

* guitar pedals I’ll likely sell/trade a year down the line (us guitarists are pretty predictable like that)

* fancy setlists, productions, or post-modern Church services

* a Hallmark holiday (seriously, no Pentecost greeting cards?)

* an excuse to play church or pretend to be nice to people you don’t like

             What Peter said about Pentecost:

After appealing to the crowd about the authenticity of Jesus’ claims and identity, the people ask a big ‘What now?”. In Acts 2:38-40 we hear this honest response: “Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!” (The Message)

* Pentecost is about changing from a stagnant place of being stuck in sin or legalism

* Pentecost is about receiving the Spirit and the character fruits He brings: Acts 2:44-46 “And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God.”

* Also Pentecost is about being in community with the people you (truly) love, celebrating that God’s Spirit loves everyone, even those people we can’t seem to see past our own self-centered existence to like.

* Finally, Pentecost is about praising God! And not just this weekend, but every day! Make every meal a celebration, praising that God sent His son to die for you, so that you may receive His righteous and Holy Spirit. 

All in all, I’d say it’s been a great week, and I plan to do some serious celebrating this weekend. How about you? 

The truth about the Electro-Harmonix Hum Debugger – A review of sorts

In simple terms, it works.

Playing electric guitar at church is a challenge. In a church of just over 300 in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, there must exist a balance between traditional and contemporary. In other words, you won’t find me climbing on top of the piano and wailing on the solo of ‘November Rain.’

However, the biggest challenge, especially if you play anything with single coil pickups, is battling the hum that comes from electromagnetic interference, old wiring, fluorescent lights, rheostats, etc, while still maintaining a good, basic tone.

RCD1

See, bad tone DOES exist. I mean, there’s a graph on the internet that proves it.

Enter the Hum Debugger. Mind you, I have tried countless things, including shielding and proper grounding to get rid of said hum, all to no avail. To my humble ears, there is a slight change in tone, but the payoff is a hum free signal. I highly suggest that you still properly ground and shield your guitars, but a stomp on this bad boy takes away that nasty hum. On the normal setting, you may hear some hum leftover, with little to no change in tone; the strong setting yields a little more change in tone, but squashes all the hum.

 

So there you go. On, the hum is gone. Off, the hum comes back. I am not sure how or why, but EHX has a real answer to the hum problem.

ehx

My obsession with VOX everything

In April of 2012 I left my band to fully give all of my musical gifts to my church’s Worship Team. Playing in a pop rock band, and being in the spotlight in the Portland, OR area led me to make some really poor choices, which almost ruined my relationship with my then-fiancee-now-wife, and most importantly, with God.

love playing live. Perhaps more than any other activity I have ever experienced. However, I love God and my family more, so the choice had to be made.

Fast forward a couple of months – Up until then, I had been using a Fender USA Hot Rod DeVille 2×12 and an Egnater Rebel 20 with my friend and then-bandmate Ryan’s VOX 2×12 cab loaded with Wharfdale speakers. I took an honest look at my setup and felt unhappy. Sure, it was great for venues, but a bit impractical for a congregational setting. It was then that God took me through the following journey in search of the right amp:

* VHT Special 6 (Can’t stress how awesome this amp was, I am just partial to combos for practical and tone reasons. This would be a great practice amp for someone looking for a hi-gain sound)

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 1×12 (In essence, this still had too much shear, deafening volume for my uses. Awesome cleans. Glassy, bell-like bluesy tone).

Fender Excelsior 1×15 (Ok… this amp was just…. interesting)

VOX AC4C1-BL (A step in the right direction… had it not been a faulty unit)

Laney VC30 2×10 (No low end. Period).

Peavey Classic 50 4×10 (I always wanted a Tweed 4×10, until I realized how much of a nightmare it is to carry it, even in a road case with wheels. Plus, 50 watts was just serious overkill for me)

Fender Tweed Blues Junior NOS (Now, here was what I had been looking for! Cool looks, cooler tone. A set of JJ’s from http://www.eurotubes.com (including a JJ 5751 in the preamp) and some elbow grease, and this amp has been a main staple for me since).

VOX AC15C1 (One of my favorite amps to play. It is just a bundle of tone rolled into more tone. the Celestion Greenback is my favorite speaker to this day. Sweet, smoky, and inefficient, but 100% awesome).

VOX AC4TV modded (When I first go this, it was begging me to tinker with it. I replaced the speaker with a GWS Vet 10 and a JJ ECC83 preamp, and an EL84 in the power section. Much better now!)

Finally, my pride and joy….

* VOX AC30C2 (Everything you’ve ever heard about the AC30 is true. Vox stuffs ’em with magic tone dust and sweet chime comes out. It is just a phenomenal amp, which I got at a phenomenal price). This amp too got the JJ treatment from the folks over at Eurotubes.
FINALLY – I always wanted a goldtop with p-90s that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Enter the VOX SSC-33 – Perhaps the most versatile guitar I have played in a long time. The CoAxe pickups are dead silent, even at church with the rheostat lights dimmed, and they have a master mode switch to go from ‘clean’ (single coil) to ‘lead’ (p-90ish). Truly, they are percussive, powerful, and flat out awesome; these pickups have their own thing going on. The neck is substantial without being ‘chunky,’ and it looks fantastic.
Lastly, I recently acquired a VOX DelayLab – Being a fan of delay, I had previously been the happy owner of a Line6 DL-4, modded fully by a Portland local. While it was a fantastic pedal, the lack of a dotted eighth subdivision was a killer… I eventually traded it out for a Digitech TimeBender, which was a great digital pedal, but sucked in the analog modeling side of things. Finally, I landed on the DelayLab. Dotted Eighth subdivision? Check. Digital BPM readout? Check. Tasty modulation? Check. DL-4ish layout and awesome looper? Check and check. Needless to say, this one is a keeper.
I will do more detailed reviews of the things I still own as I get time. For now, I continue to battle with what a lot of guitarists struggle with: being content with the things I own. My wife supports me in my quest for tone, and I love her for that, but she is also helpful in reminding me that there are better things in life than merely things in and of themselves.
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Luke 12:34OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I sort of feel like this is what my tone comes out as.