Monthly Archives: June 2004

death sucks

I know I’ve been slacking last week. Instead of blogging, I finished reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. What a horribly sad story. Good, though. When I get my hands on books like that, I just can’t put them down. Then, when I finish, I have a hard time finding something else to read because the writing was so fantastic, few things can measure up.

I’m trying to read 2001 at the suggestion of my sister. Let it be known that I pretty much hate Kubrick movies, but I’m hoping the A.C. Clarke novel will be much better.

Holly and I are driving to Wichita today. Her 70-something, spunky grammy was re-married about 5-6 years ago to a great guy named Will. He now has cancer that is in a bunch of his vital organs. He tried a round of chemo earlier when they first found it, but then when that didn’t do anything, he said that was it for that. No more chemo. And he started preparing to die. Over Father’s day weekend, he told Holly’s mom that he didn’t think he was going to make it to his next birthday. That’s July 1st.

I guess I’m kinda scared. What do you say to somebody that you really like and respect who you know isn’t going to be here much longer? How am I supposed to act? Do the rules of propriety or manners have any weight or importance anymore? Isn’t it stupid to say, “I’m really going to miss you.” But, that’s all I know to say.

I’ve had two people that I was very close to die in my life so far. One was my friend, Tim. The other was my dad. They both died within about 5 months of each other about 10 years ago. Both died suddenly: Tim in a freak accident and my dad had a stroke. That kind of mourning, when it sneaks up on you, is shocking and difficult and I don’t want to go through that. But this may be worse. I like Will a lot. He’s made grammy really happy and she’s lived through some marriages with some real jerks. Not only that, Will and I both married into the family and I think we connected with each other more than anybody else other than our respective spouses.

I don’t have any answers and I’m not even sure I know the questions. But that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next two days. Like I said, death sucks.

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Posted by on June 28, 2004 in Uncategorized


It’s good to be home

Well, we made it. Holly and I hit the road from Lake Tomahawk at right about noon on Saturday and made it home by about 9:40pm. Ugh. I hate road trips like that.

Our friends, Jeff and Lisa were here when we got here and we all spent today doing church stuff.

I’m pooped. Tomorrow, I plan to take the rental car back and not much else. I’d like to go see SAVED! but it’s not playing anywhere in NW Arkansas! ARGH!

Anyway, it’s good to be home. That’s all I know at the moment.

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Posted by on June 21, 2004 in Uncategorized


letter from camp…

hello, mudder

hello, fodder

greetings from camp

way down in Texas…

I sweet-talked the camp secretary to let me online to check email, so I’m leaving a short blog, too.

It’s crazy muggy here. I think Holly and I are going to like the way Arkansas feels when we get back. We’ll be heading back tomorrow by about noon, so we’ve got a long trip.

It’s been good. We’ve been able to play with a great band all week and I’ve been reading Grapes of wrath in my (abundance of) spare time. Yesturday, I got to play on a “Blob” that they have out in the pond. I’ve seen them before, but have never had the pleasure. It was fun until I landed smack on my back. ouch. Plus, after blobbing somebody else, it seemed like an aweful lot of work to crawl across the thing to get in position to be blobbed myself…

Anyway, more blogging will commence when i get home.

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Posted by on June 18, 2004 in Uncategorized


knowledge of good and evil

I’ve read a book in the last year that presented a concept that just keeps bouncing around in my mind. Very simply, it’s just the idea that as man evolves, socially, mentally, technilogically, etc, his felt need for God, or any supernatural or beyond for that matter, diminishes.

This seems to explain so much to me. It seems so obvious, that for all our achievement and technological advancement, in some ways, it’s worse for us.

I can’t imagine living without a computer and the internet, but 10 years ago, very few people were online. Now, it’s stranger to find somebody who’s NOT online.

Communication flows freely, right? And yet, now, we just have new and different ways in which to misunderstand and miscommunicate with each other. Sounds like progress, right?

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Posted by on June 12, 2004 in Uncategorized


Blue Like Jazz

Two of my friends have been reading a book called “Blue Like Jazz” and have been telling me that I should.

I started reading it on Sunday. My friends weren’t a-joking. Very interesting and refreshing after staring at this blog so much as of late.

We’ve got a big weekend starting today, and then we’re leaving on Monday for the next week to a camp in Texas.

We thought this was going to be our first camp in like 12 years to not go to a single camp. Then a friend called like 3 weeks ago because the guy who was supposed to do music at this camp had to back out last minute. My friend, T, set it all up and found me a band that will play all week. He assures me they’re good players and good guys, so that should be fun.

Anyway, this is a random blog to just start new conversation. 🙂

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Posted by on June 11, 2004 in Uncategorized


wow, i’m tired of typing…

So, all of those last (horribly long) posts were simply to set this up. More than anything, I wanted to dispel some seriously misguided notions of why I’m doing what I’m doing (or not doing as the case may be.)

So it comes to this: Why should the church or church people support what I do?

First, I whole-heartedly, unabashedly, vehemently believe that the church should support art that is not overtly “christian art”. In history, if you were to investigate the great works of art in music, painting, literature, sculpture, you’ll find that 9 times out of 10, it was the church that provided the resources for those works to come about. Do you think J.S. Bach was concerned with terms of “sacred” or “secular”? He wrote great Masses for church and little ditties about beer. How did he make a living and survive? The church.

Seriously, the distinctions of “Christian Art” and “Secular” art have only been around for like maybe 50 years. By Christians making that distinction and separating themselves from the arts and producing their own “sanctified” art, they’ve lost nearly all influence and sway in the art of our culture. By losing that influence in art, Christians have lost major influence in the psyche of our culture. It is imperative that the Church start supporting true, great, art before it loses all of its voice in contemporary culture.

There are books and books written on this topic and I’ve written too much of a book already. If you’re interested, here are a number of books that I’ve read dealing with this topic directly and indirectly. All of them have directly influenced my personal philosophy of faith and the creative individual.

“Art & the Bible” by Francis Schaeffer (short (two essays) yet huge book in terms of my personal philosophy)

“Addicted to Mediocrity” & “Sham Pearls Before Real Swine” by Franky Schaeffer (Francis’ Son) (These two books by Franky deal with the above topic most directly)

“Crossroads” by Charlie Peacock

“Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle

“Roaring Lambs” by Bob Briner

Do I consider myself a producer of great art? Well, the artist himself can’t really say that with any authority, now can he? However, I do know that I’m very proud of some things that I’ve written. I have seen my art connect with and touch people both inside and outside of the church walls. I’ve seen a couple of my songs (gypsy heart, oh geppetto) really move people wonder toward…something; and I think it’s to something beyond what our mortal senses can give us. That, to me, seems like something that the church should be willing to support.

As to SW’s challenge(s). I think that I have been very up front and authentic with my supporters. I don’t know how to express to you that if you have had these questions of if I am worthy of church support, I have wrestled with the questions so much more than you have. I take it very seriously. And the fact that support is still there, compels me to believe that I am doing something that I’m supposed to be.

That being said, to be honest, what goes on between my financial supporters and me is none of your business. It’s between them, me and God. Do you think I tricked them into giving their money to me? That is, unless you are one of those supporters. In which case, I strongly believe it was/is your responsibility to call/write me personally to discuss your concerns.

Ultimately, I don’t believe that I can be held completely responsible for how I am always perceived. One’s perception has a lot to do with his/her own personal hang-ups, desires, convictions, prejudices and maturity. I have tried (in excess) to explain who I am and what I’m trying to do as best I can in this medium.

To put it simply: No, SW, you’re wrong in your perception of me. Your PETA illustration and was not only poor in its analogy, but it was just plain wrong in it’s assumption.

Furthermore, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you were able to look at the content of the web-site or blog objectively in the least. In fact, I think that your confusion and disillusion occurred when your pre-conceived (if misguided) ideas of me conflicted with what you found on the web-site.

Please understand that I’m trying to tell you this with no malice. Frankly, we may not agree. I’m ok with that because I’ve considered these issues and questions way more than you have and I’m very confident in my convictions of who I am and what I’m doing. I may not always get it right, but that’s what grace is for.

Finally: I welcome any and all comments and contributions to this topic. However, I don’t think my blog is an effective medium for discussion. For this reason, I would request that any comments/responses made concerning this topic would be posted at the provided msg board. (I’ll try my best to keep the pornbots at bay. Please email me if I miss any. And let’s be careful out there, people!)

I’m really tired of typing out my life philosophy and want to get my blog back to waxing eloquently of important things…like blowing gigantic soap bubbles…


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Posted by on June 9, 2004 in Uncategorized


The AZ tour

I want to write just a little bit more about “christian” gigs and “church” gigs by telling you about the 18 day tour that Holly and I took down to Phoenix and back the last part of November.

On this trip, we did concerts for a number of churches and we played gigs for a number of “secular” coffee houses. Almost all of the gigs fit pretty precisely in the respective descriptions of the different kinds of gigs that I described in the previous to posts.

The churches were very complimentary and generous with their financial support and their encouragement. We sold lots of CDs at the church gigs and I think people were honestly encouraged and exhorted by what I had to say.

The “secular” gigs were pretty poorly attended. We played in Flagstaff, Albuquerque, and Phoenix, where nobody knew me and very few cared. I sold very few CDs and the performance fee we received was maybe $50 if anything at all. At the same time, I got to play them. The few people who were there any given night, heard my songs, maybe checked out my web-site later, a couple people bought CDs.

Here’s the kicker: For the most part, I sang the same songs at all of those gigs. Now, at many of the “secular” gigs, I had at least 2 hours to fill, so there were, understandably, a lot more covers. At the church gigs, it seemed appropriate to sing a couple of my older songs that the lyrics are specifically directed to church folk. There were a couple of instances on the trip when we led worship in church settings. But, the core of the selection of songs I took to all of those venues was made up of the same songs.

I talked a little more in the church gigs. People were attentive and interested in what I had to say. Because it was pretty apparent that we were all on the same page, in our mutual relationship with Christ if nothing else, it was appropriate to discuss my faith openly, to share openly how those songs came out of me; what I was thinking, how they are informed by my life and faith and struggles therein.

Did I talk less at the “secular” gigs because I was ashamed of my faith? Was I afraid those 2 or 3 people who were listening might not like me? Give me a break. All I wanted to do was keep those people listening and trying to get some more people to listen too. That’s all that singer/songwriters want; for people to hear their songs.

Those same songs that encouraged and exhorted and connected with the “church” folk, found their way into ears of the folks in the “secular” venues that I would never expect to show up at a church concert to hear. The same words and the same glimmers of truth that I have sought and wrestled with were expressed in the way they were conceived; as songs simply trying to find listeners.

I’m a songwriter/musician who happens to be a Christian. I’m not an evangelist anymore than any other Christian who happens to be a truck driver or banker or plumber, telephone operator. The fact that I stand in front of a microphone and sing my songs for people doesn’t give me any more right or responsibility to be trying to “save souls” than any other believer.

As a Christian, I am called to be salt and light to this world. How are we to be salt and light? How am I to be known as a Christian? By my songs? By my words? By my abstaining from illicit sex, drugs, alcohol, movies, rock music? Will they know I’m a Christian by my going to church on Sunday, by reading my bible everyday, by praying at meals, by telling people at every opportunity that they need to convert so they can go to heaven like me? Will they know I’m a Christian by my successfully removing myself from “secular” venues and only singing to people in church or in places where “opportunities for conversion” are apparent? Sorry. Wrong Answer.

Like Jeff already pointed out: They’ll know who we are by our love. (Jn. 13:35)

I just went back and found where Jeff quoted that, and realized that he’s described my endeavor quite well. I consider him a close friend and admire him in many ways, not least of which in his knowledge and understanding of faith and the bible. For anybody (still) reading this, I’d encourage you to check out his comments posted under the blog on 6/5 entitled conversation over… or his post on the bulletin board called “Anonymity vs Face to Face” which succinctly describes Pauline principles which closely reflect why I do what I do now.

I also want to thank Jeff for his observation of what has happened in my “secular music career”. I have made so many friends and built so many great relationships with so many people, which if I had kept to my “church venues” would never have developed. I’ve never hidden my beliefs from these friends, but have allowed them to know me and my beliefs by how they influence the way I live my life. I’ve had a number of very interesting and honest conversations with these friends about life and faith and belief. Can’t you agree that building and cultivating those relationships would be more important as “ministry” than anything I could ever say or sing into a microphone?

ugh. There were a couple of other things I wanted to say regarding this, but this is too long already. I hope I’ve made my position clear.

Nope. Not done. I think I’ve got one more entry that needs to come out…

Coming up next: Church Support (I think it might be shorter.)

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Posted by on June 9, 2004 in Uncategorized


"God vs Fame"

“God vs Fame” or

Here’s what it was/is like performing for “church gigs”:

At the church concerts that we were used to, we’d usually be at a church for Sunday morning services. We’d do special music and/or lead worship that morning. We’d usually have lots of opportunity throughout the day to visit with people at lunch or at a fellowship dinner. Being at the church that day and giving a “preview” on Sunday morning was the bulk of my responsibilites of “promoting” the concert. Sure, I’d send posters and pictures and that sort of thing ahead of our arrival, but in booking us to come do our thing, the minister or music minister knew that I was counting on them to talk it up and get people interested in coming to the concert that night.

The concert itself was usually just over an hour. I’d play my original songs for an attentive, interested audience of anywhere from 50-200 people. Even if they didn’t know me, they showed up because they trusted the minister or music minister to provide at least acceptable programming. They were usually friendly, and engaged. They listened and laughed at my stories and clapped heartily at the end of songs. On really good nights, we’d have friendly banter going on between audience and stage.

It’s pretty much a captive audience. Many came and listened because they had a pretty good idea where I was coming from and for the most part agreed with what I had to say. At the end of the concert, the audience would happily take up a “love-offering” to help us continue what we were doing. After the concert, there was often a dessert social where people who’d experienced the concert would come up and encourage and compliment me, buy CDs, tell me they were excited to be able to say “I saw him when….” They’d tell me stories of their own and tell me how some particular song really encouraged or touched them in a particular way. They’d buy CDs and sign my mailing list to where at one point, I had well over 1500 names. We’d come back to churches and always be greeted by people that remembered us from before and treated us like old friends.

Here’s what it’s like performing at a “secular venue”:

I take the posters wherever I think they’ll be noticed by people that might be interested. I email my list of about 60+ names that are local that have signed up over the last 2+ years of playing every month locally. I try to tell everybody to “come out” and “bring your friends” because I know that, as a performer, it’s not only my job to entertain, but it’s my job to get people to the show up and (hopefully) those people will buy drinks and food enough that will continue to justify the venue manager’s letting me play there again.

On a really hopping night, 50-75 people might come and go through the doors of the coffee house during the 2 hour set with maybe 15-20 folks actually coming and staying just to hear me play. Many people walk in during a song, cross right in front of the stage between me and the audience, buy their drinks, and walk back out right in front of the stage without a glance my direction as I’m singing. Sometimes, people just happen to be hanging out at the place, and sit and visit or play games and don’t really pay attention to how loudly they laugh or how distracting their winning a round of Uno can really be. Eventually, these visitors/game players get frustrated enough with trying to talk over my singing that they pack it up and head out, never thinking twice about passing right by my tip jar and CD display. All of this is going on with the coffee machines making their horrible noises all night long.

Most people don’t even pay any attention to what I’m saying or singing, let alone actually think or care about it.

Now, I will say that I am so thankful for everybody that intentionally shows up. There are a number of people who come out on a regular basis, actually pay attention to my stories, and sing along with the songs they know. Once in awhile, some folks get up and dance. There are a few faithful who really do encourage me and enjoy my playing and are always trying to be attentive and are generous to our tip jar. Sometimes, these faithful few do a lot in encouraging “newbies” to come out, tip generously, and buy their own CDs.

The point is, if I were really seeking fame and the adulation of the crowds, it was much easier to feel really loved and appreciated by lots of people when playing the “church gigs”.

Next up: True stories from the church/secular tour!

(the point is coming….)

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Posted by on June 9, 2004 in Uncategorized


"God vs Mammon" or otherwise known as "foldin’ money"

Here goes…

I’ve started responding so many times and keep starting over. There’s so much that I want understood and I can’t figure out how to say it all without writing some kind of thesis or something.

(one other thing: I’m going to be posting a number of what look to be long blogs. 1) I’m sorry, honestly I didn’t open this can of worms, but I’d like to be very clear and honest about it. 2) You might want to save comments till after it seems I’m finished so as not to set me off on tangents which will just slow us all down. Believe me, there will be time for Q&A later.

God vs. Mammon

I feel the need to explain some things to make a clearer picture.

First, what it was like when my “playing out” was dominated by “church gigs”:

For at least 3-4 years, we were booked probably about 45 weekends out of the year and 7 or more weeks (usually 10 wks) of leading worship at camp every summer.

For at least the last couple years of that kind of schedule, I could ask for (and mostly receive) at least $500 to be at a church and/or lead worship on Sunday morning and then do an hour long concert at the church that night. Sometimes churches just paid this out of budgets, sometimes they took an offering and wrote me a check for whatever came up short to get to $500. (In the “biz” we call this a “guaranteed offering”)

We also usually did really well selling CDs, too. I had Vagabond Dancing, Fall on Me, and Trying to Climb the Wisdom Tree for sale, and would usually make a package deal for all 3 for like $25 or 2 for $20. At church concerts, I think it’s safe to say that we’d average selling at least 15-20 CDs a weekend, which translates into at least another $200. (I’m being very conservative with this, because it seems like we usually made more like $300-$400 in CD sales.)

When we’d lead worship for camps or retreats or revivals or whatever, I’d be able to clear at least $500 and many times it was more like $750-$1000. We didn’t usually sell quite as many CDs at camp, but would usually sell between 10-20 for a week. (This included telling kids that if they wanted a CD, they could take it with an envelope and send us a check after they got home. You wouldn’t believe how many checks we’d get at the start of camp season the following year when mom’s got out kids’ camp stuff and found this envelope and got the story. I just always figured if they wanted the CD, I’d rather that they had it. We never paid any attention to whether they sent us money or not. But, I digress…)

All this adds up to the fact that we were able to pull in roughly $2000-$2500 a month for “performance fees” to live on, and we usually saved CD money to help pay for the next CDs or equipment purchases or promotional spending.

Now, this is what money is like “playing out” in “secular venues”:

I play out maybe once or twice a month. I make $50 from a venue and I put out a tip jar that usually pulls in another $50. I played just last week and we were really surprised and excited to find that we’d actually sold 5 whole CDs that night. A good night would be 2 or 3 CDs sold and a normal night would be about 1 CD sold.

Once in awhile, we’ll get asked to do something special like an end-of-school teachers’ picnic that we played for a couple of weeks ago. We were very thankful to receive $300+tips+CDs+ some good food. I wish this kind of thing could happen more.

About a month ago, we (me, Holly, and James) got to open for a big-name Christian band. We didn’t get paid anything, but we sold almost 20 CDs.

That brings the grand total to an exceptionally good month of these “secular gigs” bringing in less than $500 including CD sales. Even if I were able to bump up the bookings to playing out 3 or 4 nights a month, I still don’t think it would make it past the $500 mark.

Believe me when I say that if I were mostly concerned with money, I would never have given up the “sweet-money gig” lifestlye that I was living.

Stay tuned for: “God vs. Fame”

Coming soon…

(sorry, this is just the first installment. ie: I’m not done yet.)

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Posted by on June 8, 2004 in Uncategorized


name calling and other misunderstandings…

Sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to this; it’s been a busy weekend.

However, this blog and this thread of conversation have never been far from my mind. I’ve thought a lot SW and what he/she is asking me. That’s caused me to be doing a lot of self-evaluation. Also, simply because of human nature, I couldn’t keep myself from spending a lot of mental energy on wondering who SW might be.

Now that I think I finally have a clearer idea of the questions/concerns SW is bringing up, I really appreciate and welcome the opportunity share my thoughts and ideas about them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time at the moment to address those things on the blog.

The one thing I wanted say quickly is this: I think that a number of people have been upset by SW’s comments because they seemed to be an attack on me. Consequently, some of my friends, who may know me a little better, or may just have a clearer picture of me and my music, in coming to my defense have made SW feel attacked and defensive.

Believe me when I say I’ve read all of these comments a lot! And I really don’t think SW was attacking me. Neither do I, because I know these people, think that Jeff or T-Rev or Kenny or anybody else were actually attacking SW back.

SW, if you knew Jeff Miller, you’d know that some of the wacky things he says/types are just because he’s wacky. I realized that if you didn’t know him, some of the stuff that he typed might seem really aggressive. Just like SW’s comments seemed kind of aggressive to me (and others) simply because I (we) don’t know (or know we know) SW.

Honestly, it seems to me that most (if not all) of the animosity all around stems from SW’s anonymity.

Now, I’m not saying that to say, “Reveal thyself!” I just want you (SW) to know that I really welcome conversation on this particular topic. I know that you feel that if you would have contacted me privately, even in email, where I knew who you are, I’d be mad. Honestly, I don’t think that is the case. I also think that the anonymous post is what caused the most defensiveness in me.

argh. I’m out of time. I’ll write more later.

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Posted by on June 7, 2004 in Uncategorized