Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ease of Helping - A Reminder

I've hardly left my room this morning. For some reason I landed in front of my computer soon after getting out of bed. But that's not to say I haven't done anything. I took this morning to print some photos and write to Shailesh, my WorldVision sponsored child in India. AND I checked in on my Kiva account, added a few dollars and contributed to two micro-loans: one in Iraq and one in Palestine. I always feel like something greater has been accomplished on mornings like this. I haven't actually left my room - but through my simple ability to donate $30 at a time, I've used what I have to send love and grace to other parts of the world. It's really quite simple. I've included the links to these wonderful organizations below, and encourage you to check this out or find your own way to contribute.
Child Sponsorship at $30/month
Micro-lending for individuals around the globe. Your donation supports a portion of a loan of your choosing. When the funds are repaid, you may re-loan. It's sustainable giving.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Landlord's Spiritual Observation

My landlord, who collects the rent by noon on the first of each month, has a pretty limited understanding of exactly what it is I do. He knows I am usually not home when he comes to get the rent (but can't seem to remember that the rent check is typically right where he can find it), and that I do something that involves the church. I think a lot of the disconnect stems from his being a Romanian Immigrant - there really isn't a Christian Music Business in Romania, so the reality is that my role in support Christian artists is quite foreign to him. Not to mention that he is Catholic and, well - I just don't get a lot of work from the OTHER CCM (Contemporary CATHOLIC Music).

I tell you all of these things because I find it fascinating when he comes to pick up the rent and I am actually home. He and I always try to connect on one of the few fronts we connect upon. Most recently he commented on the fact that I seem to be gone more now that the economy is weak than I was in stronger economic days. I played this off as more the result of my primary client's recording cycle, but he pressed on and made the following astute spiritual observation:

"People, they look to Jesus when things are not going well. The Church always does better when things get rough. The pews are fuller on Sunday. I saw it during Romanian Revolution. But when things get good again, they will forget about Jesus and the Church will struggle - because then everyone will be OK and not need Jesus anymore."

Amen brother. Sad but true.

So the question I have been left to ponder is this: are we missing something as a church if we experience an influx of folks seeking refuge, and in the time that shelter is provided cannot provide enough warmth and love to create a more permanent home for these folks? Where are we not living up to the Church model provided in the New Testament if so many in need can slip through the cracks of our physical and spiritual structures?

I don't have the answer - but I think the converstaion is worth the question.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tour Busses cause Jet Lag

This may seem far-fetched to those of you that have never spent any time on a tour bus, but I think my tour bus is giving me jet lag. Being in my bunk, on the bus COMPLETELY deprives my body of any light-induced daily rhythm. No matter if I take a nap at 2pm, go to bed at 2am, wake at 4am or wake at noon - it's still pitch black in my bunk until I reach above my head and turn on the light. Only a diligent alarm lets me know that the sun should be up outside. Until I reach one of the two areas on the bus with windows, my body has no idea where it is in the course of a solar day. And to be honest: there is something incredibly refreshing about opening the door to the back lounge every morning and getting hit with some sunlight (that's usually the moment right before I realize the window is open, and I've gone to the lounge to retrieve my pants . . . ). I have no scientific proof, but I'm starting to think that tour busses cause jet lag.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Random Thoughts and Update

Insert standard "it's been a while" apology here . . . .and moving on

Many of you now know that Ashley and I are engaged. We are both very happy and excited to move forward in creating a life together. It has been inspiring to receive so many notes of congratulations and encouragement from our friends from all corners of the globe. Thanks to everyone for the messages. It's safe to say we both were flooded with love from all of you.

For a while I was convinced this is a crazy time to be getting engaged and embarking on the path of marriage; but more recently I've come to realize that this is a major life change that will bring it's own craziness to the table. I mean c'mon: we are getting married. That's a pretty grown up thing to do. There's no taking this lightly. She and I are in this together until God decides one of us has done all that is to be done here. That's quite some time: and quite exciting; and QUITE a lot to think about. It's CRAZY!

On other "life" fronts: Creation Festival: The Tour is six shows in, and I think this weekend we finally hit our stride. A series of late/short load-ins resulting from routing ending up showing us what we can accomplish when it's all on the line, and God put an incredible crew of men together to keep all of the pieces in the right place and things moving slowly. To illustrate the progress that has been made: on our first show last weekend - we finished one hour behind the production schedule. At our most recent event we arrived just under two hours before the doors were to open and completed the show just 10 minutes past when it was originally scheduled to conclude. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and I couldn't be prouder of the guys out on the road doing this tour. It's starting to feel like a family out there, and that is where the real fun begins.

And there's plenty of fun to come: next week myself, Ashley, Paul and Kevin are headed down to Atlanta to take in the U2 tour, with the added bonus of Muse in a support role. Does it get any better?! Oh yeah - the Yankees won the AL East. And Fall has arrived. These are good times. A solid balance of change, challenge and growth.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What it's Like to Finish a Tour

I don't know if I've ever written this blog, but we got home EARLY this morning (think 4am) and all day I have been struck by the little things I feel and experience that are a direct result of ending a tour. Short or long, these things seems to be universal to my experience coming back from at least a couple of weeks away.

-Where is my girlfriend and where is my brother? People = home for me
-For some reason, I always wake up way earlier than I want and I can't go back to sleep. Major bummer
-My legs hurt. Like "did I just run five miles in my sleep?" hurt
-I don't want to go ANYWHERE. I even passed on ordering a pizza.
-I need to go EVERYWHERE. There are so many "home" things to do that they all seem urgent
-There are always 1-3 tour errands left to run when you get home: it never ends when you walk in the door. That's kind of a bummer sometimes
-My right thumb hurts because I've been using a trackpad for two weeks, but not a real mouse.
-Sometime around dinner it occurs to me that the "to do" list hasn't been eliminated, the title at the top has just switched to a different project.
-I want to read everything I didn't get to read while I was gone. That currently encompasses a book on the Theory of Randomness, a book about CoDependence (wow, did I never understand what exactly that is), and a biography on Churchill.
-The quieter the house is, the better
-No offense to my artist friends, but I'm listening to music by someone I haven't seen face-to-face in the last 30 days. It's kind of an ears/mind reset
-I find myself avoiding any opportunity for anyone to ask anything of me. I need to not be needed for a little while.
-As the day winds down, I feel tired but do not want to go to sleep. I want to keep enjoying the quiet and being home.
-My bed is the best bed in the world. I like the Hilton bed on the road, but I could market the Josh-bed. It's that great.

So there it is - my experience of coming home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Shack

I’m sure most of the folks reading this blog have read The Shack. In fact, most of you have been urging me to pick it up over the last few months. Ashley’s Mom even went so far as to loan me her copy, which I am starting to think may be with Papa now. Last week in North Carolina a family friend encouraged me to read it in a way that finally broke my resolve, and since my return home Saturday I’ve worked my way through the pages.

There are two reasons I did not read the book before now. Number 1: Except for the occasional foray into my Complete Works of William Shakespeare, I never read fiction. Number 2: I try to avoid “spiritual” books (more on that later). Let me be clear though: I was never a shack-hater.

Now to the meat and potatoes: my thoughts. I confess I enjoyed it. I found it an easy read and the author gently lured me into his world of tragedy and redemption. There are some timeless themes in the text that, if the world adopted completely, would forever alter our life experiences. Plus, it’s always fun to fathom what God would say. Anyone remember the Conversations With God series?

Having said that, and playing into my second reason for not picking up the book sooner, I don’t think there is anything in the text that hasn’t been screamed from the rooftops before. While I take issue with a few theological elements, it is critical to remember that The Shack is A book and not THE book. All that we believe and all that we understand about the trinity characters of The Shack has to come from the Bible. I agree with the assertion in The Shack that religion and institutions throw a wrench in things, but we are now free (thanks to the reformation and the proliferation of literacy) to study the Bible and find what Father, Son and the Holy Spirit means to us on a very personal level; The Shack is not the place for that exploration in our every day lives.

My prayer is that as entertainment, The Shack opens the door to healing and points people to the Biblical truths that we have been handed. Otherwise it’s just entertainment. Now where did I put my book on how randomness rules our lives . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Internal Blogging

This last week had it's ups and downs. What week doesn't right? Yet as we head for Tulsa to drop the band off, I'm reveling in a sort of reflection on the week past. I've begun to try to integrate the good and the bad into my life - to allow and encourage them to exist simultaneously or directly adjacent if that is how they land on the runway of me . . . and its working. It's not so much about the good thing that happened or the bad thing that happened, but how one inspired the appreciation of the other. I can't say I've got it down yet, but there's something freeing about exploring experiences in this way.

I've got a lot to sort through for myself as of late - there's a lot I could say, but in this cyber-driven world I think I'm going to keep some things for real, face-to-face relationship. Bounce ideas off of others - disagree - challenge - insult - all the things it takes courage to do to a real person, but come with a few keystrokes of anonymity via various web interfaces. So interact with me one-on-one: I dare you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Air France 447

As someone about to embark on a trans-oceanic flight, and a novice aviation enthusiast the mystery of Air France 447 got my attention just before going to bed last night. First, my thoughts and prayers are with the families. Any airline disaster is a tragedy for the families of those on-board, but I can not comprehend of how the pain and anguish must be amplified when those you love may be forever "missing".

There is an aspect to this story that I've yet to hear mentioned on the news, as efforts focus on finding the aircraft and, I hope, the rescue of survivors. Should the aircraft be unrecoverable (due to inability to locate it or it's sinking to the depths of the Atlantic) we may never learn what actually caused the incident. Air travel is an incredibly safe way to move about the world. Airlines, aircraft manufacturers, governments, crew and ALL persons involved in the operation of commercial air traffic go to great lengths to minimize risks, broaden margins of error, and create multiple redundancies in the event of a system failure. But with each aircraft tragedy we inevitably find something no one considered. We can't think of it all, and the silver lining to these tragedies is that they ultimately hi-light a previously undetected risk and marginalize that risk for the remainder of the airline industry. But that silver lining may not come should Air France 447 ultimately be un-recoverable - adding a haunting final touch to what I can only assume is tragedy over the Atlantic.

New is Out, Old Is In

I've been in Australia the last few days. We came over for a show in Newcastle, NSW - a beautiful city whose kind people I now count as friends!

Sunday I set-up camp in downtown Sydney. Figuring it's not every weekend you end up in Australia I planned long ago to explore Australia's metropolis for a few days before returning home. And you know what - I'm not a fan. Everyone's been very nice; the city is very clean; the city is very modern, but ultimately this just isn't for me.

When I was younger - think high school and early college - I LOVED going to big cities. New York was my favorite. I loved the energy, the hustle, the bustle the ceaseless entertainment and what seemed like exotic shopping.

Now the places I most enjoy are more steeped in tradition and history. Show me a museum, or a medieval church and I'm happy for days. Put me in a country whose populace is equally divided between pre-revolution and post-revolution and I become a fascinated student of the society.

So what happened? Well - I think a city, is a city. Buildings, shows, shopping - ALL of the cities in the world have it. But history is that thing you can not build into your city. You have to weather it, learn from it, hide it, re-discover it and then put it on display for it to become an integral part of your city or nation. And that's what I like about traveling now.

To my new friend Sydney: thanks for the tour - you're young and you will go far, but for now I'm going to rely on the wisdom of older places to enrich my touring life.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Kinds of Fliers (airplane, not paper)

A friend of mine asked if I planned to write in my blog about the touring life. Well for all of you waiting, here it is. The first blog about an aspect of touring life – and this has NOTHING to do with a show.

I’ve come to the realization that there are two types of fliers when it comes to commercial air travel. There are idiots, and there are experts. That’s the only two options. No one falls between the two. I include myself. Let’s delve deeper into each.

In the idiots’ defense, most air travel idiots are not your general life idiots. Many an air travel idiot functions with ease and normalcy in his everyday life; but a strange thing happens when he first drives onto airport property and haunts him until he leaves the airport grounds of his destination. He forgets how to drive. Lane changes are arbitrary, and with little concern for the safety of others. He can’t seem to get that suitcase out of the trunk without unloading the spare tire and trying to hand it to the curbside check-in attendant who, by the way, does not represent the airline upon which the idiot will be flying today. The idiot can not see the next available check-in kiosk at check-in; has stored his ID somewhere beneath his laptop in his briefcase, and is immune to the coddling kindly offered up by the TSA agents as he invariably earns a bag check whilst simultaneously setting off the metal detector. Signs and gate numbers may as well be gibberish to the idiot, as well as boarding announcements. The idiot will always carry a bag onto the plane that will not fit in the overhead. The idiot enjoys his music, but forgot his headphones. The idiot can’t find baggage claim, and can’t understand why his spare tire isn’t on the belt when luggage does begin to spin round and round.

Most likely sitting next to the idiot is the expert, and I admit I place myself in this category. The expert is most likely a frequent flyer and is familiar with the way things work at an airport; and he can prove it because he has a story that will always one-up whatever is currently happening in your air travel experience. The expert has a favorite parking spot in the long-term lot, mostly due to the timing of the shuttle busses and the cost effectiveness of the long-term lot. The expert has, in his lifetime, worked as a TSA agent, ticket agent, baggage handler, flight attendant, jet-bridge driver, aircraft re-fueler, co-pilot, pilot, flight engineer, air traffic controller and de-icer for a MAJOR airline. He has a membership to the airline lounge but never takes guests because it is a “special place.” He has an opinion about everything, and regularly offers to perform the flight safety briefing prior to take-off.

These are the only two kinds of people in an airport; and one is neither better nor worse than the other. The magic and the ease of traveling comes, just as in life, when you know who you are. If you are an idiot, know it. If you are an expert, know it. Then, as you arrive at the airport try to subdue the overt tendencies you display as part of your natural role in air travel. Idiots take your time and be on the lookout for the next thing coming. Experts – well how do I put this gently? Experts, shut up. Together we can make air travel a more positive experience for all the idiots and experts of the world.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pendulum

First of all - a friend asked the other day if I was going to Blog about touring stuff and music stuff, and I certainly am; but I can never start something like this when I'm doing the road part of my job, so these first few are going to be just observations. By the way - does anyone actually care to hear about the road stuff? And if so, more or less than the other random thoughts? I'll take comments . . .

I've been struck lately by the pendulum of personality. In myself and others I keep noticing the extreme swings of trying to figure out who we are and how we work.

The first crest of the pendulum swing comes along when we have swung as far as possible in our natural direction and find that position to be less than useful in everyday life. For instance, if you are a person that says what you think, you might find yourself at the extreme of that swing when you offend someone you care deeply about by sharing something they weren't quite ready to hear from you. Granted, you didn't mean to hurt anyone - you just naturally say what you think.

And as a result of guilt, or a tried and true effort at learning from mistakes - we come to the opposing swing of the pendulum. Now, we find ourselves avoiding at all costs that which comes naturally to us. This reaction is probably a natural response but can be detrimental in other aspects of our lives. Now we are out of balance - trying to live our lives outside our natural strengths and exposing and wounding our weaknesses.

So we swing a little less in the other direction, then back towards our insecurities and over time we settle into a shorter swing that serves as as a well-rounded individual.

I've started to notice my swings; and the sad part is that I kind of hoped I was old enough to be past them. I feel like I know who I am - but I still swing hard sometimes and the swings themselves can be frustrating. I keep learning from them and looking forward to the day when the balance of my various pendulums swing evenly and smoothly in a controlled circle. Then again I have to wonder if I will ever get there. This life is full of curve balls and every one swings at a curve ball from time to time (get it, swings?). Maybe its a calming thing to simply recognize the swing and work with intent towards finding the middle ground.

Pendulum - I remember seeing a huge one when I was young, but never imagined it would stick like it has.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lost Art

I took off to Birmingham, AL tonight to catch a show on Jars of Clay's current tour. They are going to headline Creation Festival: The Tour, which I am Production Managing, in the fall and I wanted to observe them do their thing to generate ideas as to how myself and our production staff might best serve the Jars of Clay folks in the fall. I came out with some ideas, which I expected. What I didn't expect was to come out pondering how lame Christians can be when it comes to music.

I haven't been able to put down this new Jars of Clay record since, um, well . . . since before it was released. Top to bottom I love the message, lyrics, arrangements, textures, hooks, and most of all the intentionality of the art that I hear in Jars' latest effort. There are subtle nuances to this record that keep me coming back for more.

And then somewhere along the way tonight I started to think that the artistic element of what these guys do is lost on all but a small sector of the Christian Music Market, and let's face it a small sector of the Christian Music Market is REALLY small. Luckily, they are skilled at writing catchy hooks that play well to radio - but why, oh why is the Christian music consumer so overwhelmingly simple in their tastes? I would think an audience that acknowledges and seeks deep spiritual growth and connection with God would latch on to someone really digging into those conflicts of who we are growing to be and all that happens along that road - particularly if it entails a level of artistic merit that only serves to focus and intensify the experience. But I just feel like people miss it, and it's an absolute shame.

On a moderately separate note, there was a kid standing on the floor a few feet in front of the stage tonight that totally reminded me of myself in high school. He was a little taller than I would have been but other than that he had it all: black Chuck Taylors; bowl-style haircut; awkward sense of self-consciousness about how much he enjoyed the music; the occasional dance move that stopped abruptly when he realized what just happened;clapping when told to; jumping when told to but never too high; and of course standing at the foot of the stage when all was said and done and looking for that last little bit of connection to what just happened. I think he got it though. I think he connected to more than a beat to resist dancing to. He payed attention - he knew the words without a video screen. This kid might have a future around music, who knows. Or maybe in 13-15 years he will just be another jaded blogger. Anything is possible.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What is hungry?

Two days into my healthier lifestyle and I spent a lot of time today considering what "I'm hungry" really means. And I have two categories of I'm hungry for your consideration:

Category I: My stomach/body aches or is telling me in some way that I need some sustenance to continue functionally normally. There is a certain degree of discomfort involved. This is probably the truest of the two hungries and the one I am trying to pay more attention to in my "healthy living" efforts.

Category II: I say I'm hungry, but really I just want something to eat. I have a craving for ice cream, or normally have a snack at a certain of time of the day so I'm salivating in expectation. This might be called the Pavlov category.

That's all I really got. BUT I did blog today so that's keeping another commitment. I'm going to get some ice cream . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 1 of Fitness time - 2.76 miles and according to my friendly iPod I ran my fastest mile this morning at 9 minutes and 28 seconds. No doubt myself and friends will pay for that later today with ample whining - but it is a start. Anyone have a banana?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Music Boat, New Blog

This is a new blog site for me - the ole .Mac web hosting is going away so I have to start over somewhere and this seems like the easiest place, though honestly I don't even know the address at this point.

I'm back home from the Music Boat - an experience to say the least. Not sure a cruise is my ideal vacation, but there were definitely some fun moments. It's a good thing that last day at sea was a fairly full schedule - otherwise cabin fever may have taken over my life. It was great to spend five days with my parents and catch up with my old friend Nathan - not to mention getting to see a few performances that will become ingrained in my being come the fall.

When I got home yesterday I decided to start a few new things - and while I'm wondering if it will all pass as a phase that never played out to the point of habit - here is what's on the docket:

1. Blog more
2. Twitter - and hope to find the value in a Tweet that exceeds a Facebook Status update
3. Fitness Time - my word for work out and live a little healthier

Let's talk about #3 - it's time to start running again. And trying to eat a little healthier. I don't eat too much right now, so between a little working out and slightly better dining habits I might be able to shape up. Biggest thing for me might be eliminating Dr. Pepper from my diet. That's a huge undertaking in my life - so keep my in your prayers.

I've got about two weeks at home to get kicking on all of this. It's welcome time for sure. I value home way more than I ever have before. Love it.