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.

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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? 

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.