One to Watch: Ryan Corn Music

A few weeks ago, I was busily lining up artist interviews for the WFRN Friend Fest that happened the weekend of June 21st-22nd, 2013. In the process of setting up an interview with Curb Record’s Oswald Brothers Band (OBB) management, I learned that another one of the label’s up and coming artists by the name of Ryan Corn would also be appearing at the festival.

“Check out Ryan’s website and let me know if you want to set up an interview with him,” Ryan’s manager very graciously offered.

Since I did not recall never hearing of Ryan Corn before, I texted my friend and assistant Sarah the website info and asked her to check out his page to see what she thought. If we both thought it was a worthwhile endeavor, we’d figure out a way to fit Ryan into our Saturday schedule.

In less than 10 seconds of listening to the song ‘Burst’, an artist I had never heard of before went from being completely off my radar to being the one to watch in 2014. I didn’t even need to listen to the second song on the website, ‘Wonderful Things’ to confirm my initial suspicions that Ryan Corn is an amazing new talent (but I listened to it anyway…and guess what? It was the most wonderful thing I’ve heard from a brand new to me artist this year!)

Sarah was in complete and total agreement.

Ryan, who was signed to Curb last September, says that “God’s really been opening doors in the past year, and I’m just trying to figure out where I need to be and what I need to do.” While Ryan came to the label with many of his own songs already written, he was able to do some co-writing for his upcoming full length project which will hopefully be released in 2014.

What I liked immediately about Ryan’s song ‘Burst’ was its light, almost whimsical quality that pairs superbly with the song’s lyrical ingenuity. Ryan admits that he has a penchant for organic, true acoustically-driven sounds and I would wholeheartedly agree that he seems to have a way of seamlessly weaving together folk and pop into something really unexpected and special.

When you take all of these elements together, what you’ll find is the fresh, appealingly unique sound that is distinctly Ryan Corn.

So, if you are one of the countless folks who e-mail me on a regular basis wanting to know who the next big thing in Christian music is going to be, I would definitely say to you that Ryan Corn is one to keep an eye on. To get a head start on the crowd by becoming a fan of Ryan’s today, and to check out the songs ‘Burst’ and ‘Wonderful Things’, head over to his website, http://www.RyanCornMusic.com; and as always, keep up to date with Spin: the Blog by getting social with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr or by signing up to receive new posts by e-mail. We will be sure to keep you posted on any new Ryan Corn news as it becomes available!

Live 4:1 To Rock Canal Days Main Stage

You know what I think is really interesting?  It’s the fact that the most successful people in the world never, ever start out on top.

For instance, Warren Buffet’s first job was a newspaper delivery boy.  Oprah Winfrey was a grocery clerk.  Even Saturday’s Faith & Family Night Headlining Band at Canal Days, the Sidewalk Prophets, started out small.   Just down the road on I-69 at Anderson University, lead singer Dave Frey and guitarist Ben McDonald started their musical careers by taping microphones to the ceiling of their dorm room and posting files to the (then) legal file sharing site, Napster.

Before the Sidewalk Prophets take to the Main Stage on Saturday night, June 8th, you’ll have a chance to see an area band with similar humble beginnings.  Live 4:1, comprised of Darlene Bush, brothers Greg, Jon, and Kaleb Krempel, Natasha Perrine, James Saunders, and Chris Kindlesparger, will bring their unique 7 piece blend of praise and worship music to the Main Stage in Schnelker Park beginning at 4 pm.

Live 4:1 began in 1996 when many of its core members were only in the 5th or 6th grade, Darlene Bush told me during an interview on April 8th.  At the time, the founding members were all part of the praise band called Next Wave at Huntertown United Methodist Church, and Bush and Debbie Krempel (the mother of Greg, Jon, and Kaleb) worked with the group, encouraging them to rehearse and sing as much as possible.

By 2004, the core members of the group felt called to make a true commitment to where they felt God was leading them.  A suggestion by a friend referencing Ephesians 4:1 (I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Ephesians 4:1  ) led to the name Live 4:1.

Live 4:1’s current project, an independent release entitled Let It Rain, has imprints of the band’s heart all over it from the tracks contained on the CD to the design on the jacket.  “This project really reflects who we are as a band and where we are at musically,” says Bush, a vivaciousness reflecting in her voice and eyes.

Musically, the band credits such diverse influences as MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Israel & New Breed, Michael W. Smith, Fred Hammond, Hillsong, and Vineyard.  The band also credits, rather fully embraces, the diversity that makes the band so unique and distinctive.

“We are from different ethnic and church backgrounds; but God created a melting pot, blending us all together to create a Christ-centered sound that touches the lives of people everywhere. It hasn’t been an easy task, especially being a young group with the view society has of youth today,” said Bush, “but we have a message we want people to hear! Although we could be in the world taking part in all it has to offer, we choose to serve God. We desire to serve in whatever way He wants us to.”

After nearly 17 years together for some of the member of Live 4:1, you might think that performing might start to become a little monotonous.

You’d be mistaken.

Actually, this summer may be one of the most exciting times in recent memory for the band for a lot of reasons.  First, nearly half of the band is getting married this summer.  (Don’t worry, they planned around their appearance at Canal Days!)  Live 4:1 is also working on new material, and talking about going back into the studio to record some new music, says Bush.

“Wherever, however He leads, that’s happily where we are going,” says Bush.

Wherever they end up, Live 4:1 remains committed to being true to the message within the music.  When I asked Bush a question I was recently asked about whether or not Christian music is as good musically as mainstream music, she replied, “I would point people to Chris Tomlin.  Steven Curtis Chapman.  Israel Houghton.  Fred Hammond.  These are artists that are all about the message, not the sound. It’s the same thing with us.  It’s all about the message.  The message is the most important thing.  I can get you bopping your head and rocking, but if you’re not hearing the message, it means nothing.  The message has to be heard, then the bopping and the rocking will come.”

Vocalist Natasha Perrine agrees.  “It has been placed on our hearts to minister to the lost and encourage the doubtful,” she said.

“We’re all about the ministry; that’s what Live 4:1 is all about.  Nothing else matters,” said Bush.

Live 4:1 will play the Main Stage in Schnelker Park on Saturday, June 8 from 4-6 pm, with a free Meet & Greet autograph session immediately following their set.

 

 

Dara Maclean Debuts New Single ‘Wanted’ Today at Online Retailers

dara maclean

From Press Release——

DARA MACLEAN DEBUTS “WANTED” TODAY AT ONLINE RETAILERS

 

New Single Goes For Adds at Radio on May 31

 

Nashville, TN – (May 28, 2013) – Fervent Records’ soulful recording artist Dara Maclean’s eagerly-awaited new single, “Wanted,” premieres today at online retailers (iTunes’ link: here) and at radio May 31. “Wanted” is produced by Paul Mabury (All Sons & Daughters, Meredith Andrews, Hillsong) and written by Justin Ebach, Mabury and Maclean.

 

“‘Wanted’ is about a universal need, speaking to the child in all of us that is desperately longing just to hear somebody tell us we’re wanted. Somebody to tell us that we’re cherished and that we belong,” explained Maclean. “To not be wanted based on your performance — We all have those relationships in life where we are loved based on how good of a friend we are or how good of a daughter or son, sister or brother we are. It’s conditional and it never seems to be enough. This song is calling out to the outcast and saying, ‘You’re not unlovable. You’re never too far gone — in your worst moment, in your loneliest moment, you are still wanted, just as much as the person that seemingly has it all together, is loved by everyone and looks to have this perfect life.’ The baby that opens its eyes for the first time and the hardened criminal that gets sent to jail for the millionth time, does God want one more or less? We are all the same, we are all in need of Jesus and we are all desperately wanted by a Father that won’t stop until He finds every child that is lost.”

 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalms 139:7-10 New King James Version)

 

“I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting to share with you my friends, the ones that have been such a support and on this journey with me, the heartbeat behind the song and ultimately, this record,” continues Maclean. “My prayer is that every note reveals the heart of God the Father and that His Love does what it always does. It heals, restores and makes new again.”

 

Powerful vocalist and songwriter Dara Maclean first sparked the music industry’s interest with her 2011 debut, You Got My Attention. The album introduced a powerful new voice in Christian pop, steeped in Motown and soul and beaming a heart for the broken and struggling. The LP reached the Top 10 on Billboard‘s Christian Albums chart, and album tracks “Suitcases” and “Free” each hit the Top 20 on Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart. “Suitcases” appeared on the 2012 installment of WOW Hits, celebrating Christian radio’s biggest songs, and You Got My Attention closer “Home” was included in The Bible: Music Inspired By The Epic Mini-Series, a companion to the smash History Channel series. The Texas-bred singer-songwriter earned a New Artist of the Year nomination in the 43rd Annual GMA Dove Awards, and spent nearly two years straight on the road with some of Christian music’s biggest names, including Casting Crowns and Newsong, and on major tours including Winter Jam and the KLOVE Acoustic Christmas Tour. Maclean has earned high critical praise throughout, NewReleaseTuesday including her among its Top 10 New Female Christian Singers in 2012, noting that “Dara displays the strongest vocals I’ve heard in years.” Maclean is also passionate about raising awareness and bringing an end to human trafficking and is an advocate for the International Justice Mission.

 

For additional information on Dara Maclean, please visit www.DaraMaclean.com.

 

Facebook: Facebook.com/DaraMaclean

Twitter: Twitter.com/DaraMaclean

YouTube: YouTube.com/DaraMaclean

 

About Word Entertainment

A leader in the music industry for over 60 years, Word Entertainment, a Warner/Curb company, is a unique, comprehensive entertainment company comprised of multi-faceted artist service departments including publishing, merchandising, booking, and online initiatives. Word Entertainment represents some of the top names and brands in music, including Meredith Andrews, Chris August, BarlowGirl, Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Jason Castro, Patrick Ryan Clark, Everfound, for KING & COUNTRY, Group 1 Crew, Love & The Outcome,Dara Maclean, Point Of Grace and Sidewalk Prophets and is home to 25 Entertainment, Word Distribution (representing Curb Records and Big Idea/VeggieTales among others), Word Print, Word Films, Word Music Publishing and Word Label Group’s Word Records, Word Worship and Fervent Records.

A Confession…and an Interview With Big Daddy Weave

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been holding out on you, my faithful readers.

Okay, so maybe that sounds a little more dramatic than necessary, but it’s still kind of true.  On Friday, March 22nd, 2013 I had one of the nicest conversations/interviews of the year with someone who I know you all already adore.

How do I know y’all adore this guy and his band, you might be thinking?  Well, I faithfully read my blog’s search engine statistics, and the band Big Daddy Weave  is surpassed  in search engine statistic popularity on my blog each month only by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame.  (Don’t ask why a blog about Christian music gets thousands of hits about Duck Dynasty on a weekly basis.  I can’t figure it out either!)

Prior to meeting Mike Weaver, lead singer of  Big Daddy Weave, I didn’t really get why Mike and BDW were causing such a stir on my monthly blog reports. Not to be flippant or anything, but there are Christian artists who have been around longer and perhaps have more big name recognition than the guys in BDW; like, for instance, tobyMac and Michael Tait of the Newsboys.  I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a report with Michael Tait’s name on it, which, come to think of it, is another one of the internet’s great mysteries (at least to me anyways!)  There are also a lot of flashier, new up and coming bands that I frequently write about, like for King & Country and the City Harmonic, who generate some readership for me but don’t ever even come close to the numbers that BDW generates.

After meeting Mike and BDW, however, I think I now totally get what makes these guys a fan favorite on the world-wide web.

They are a study in dichotomies.

Hilarious, but with a serious message.

Successful, but oh so very humble.

Fun, but never-failing to point out the fact that their joy comes from the Lord.

Calling BDW ‘special’ doesn’t really seem to do them justice.

The band Big Daddy Weave in a recent promotional shot

The band Big Daddy Weave in a recent promotional shot

After almost 15 years together as a band, you might think that when Big Daddy Weave heads out on tour, to a certain extent things would be more of the same old, same old just in a different zip code with new faces each night.

You’d be sorely mistaken.

In fact, one of the few things that might be same wherever Big Daddy Weave goes is the standard interviews with local press.  You could have colored me surprised when, immediately after introducing myself and sitting down for my chat with Mike Weaver, he took the lead in the interview.

“First, let’s talk about this name, Big Daddy Weave,” he said with a smile.

I got the very distinct impression that he had probably been asked at least a million and a half times already about the origin of the band’s name.  Ironically enough, I really had no intention of asking him about the band’s name.  Thanks to the modern miracle of Google, I already had a pretty good handle on the origins of the band’s name.

“”Okay,” I replied.  “Let’s talk about it.”

“You know, we get asked about our name all the time,” said Weaver.  “I bet the Casting Crowns never get asked that question.”

“Probably not,” I said.

“We never thought we’d still be doing this after almost 15 years,” Weaver said thoughtfully, tapping his finger against his chin.  “If we did, we would have called ourselves something way cooler than ‘Big Daddy Weave’.”

“So, if you could rename the band anything else at this point, what would it be?” I asked.

Without missing a beat, he replied “MercyMe.”

“That’s a good name,” I said.  “Solid.  I think it has a lot of potential, some real traction.”

“I can only imagine,” said Weaver, sending the entire room into spasms of laughter.  (You might need to be familiar with MercyMe’s body of work to really get this one!)

Before the concert having a laugh with my BFF Sarah and BDW's Mike and Jay Weaver

Before the concert having a laugh with my BFF Sarah and BDW’s Mike and Jay Weaver

Back in the days before the band members of Big Daddy Weave had even met, much less given themselves a name other than ‘MercyMe’, Mike Weaver was a worship leader at a church in Florida along with his brother Jay (who plays the bass and sings).  Part of the deal with the church’s pastor, according to Mike, was that he had to attend college in addition to fulfilling his duties at the church.

Early on, Weaver’s pastor noticed that he was always hanging around at church so he sent him to a college an hour away in Mobile, Alabama; a good enough distance to keep him away and focused on his courses during the week, but still close enough for him to get back to church on Sunday.

During Weaver’s first semester of school in Mobile, he met all of the original members of Big Daddy Weave.

I asked Weaver, because of his background leading worship, how performing in a concert varies from leading worship.

“The only thing that makes a concert a concert is the billing,” said Weaver.  “That, and the sound and lighting that is used to make it look that way.  The heart is still very much in worship mode.”

Weaver recalls being told early in his career by an industry professional to never label Big Daddy Weave as a worship band.  “I was very offended by that statement,” said Weaver emphatically.  “We are worshippers, that’s who and what we are.  The Lord convicted me to not worry about what we are called, but to worry about who and what we are.”

Our discussion of the difference between concerts and worship (or rather, the lack thereof), naturally segued into a topic that Weaver is obviously passionate about:  worship.  “We have songs that work in a corporate kind of setting, and then there are songs that don’t necessarily work in that kind of setting but boy do they sure work on the radio,” he told me.  “At the heart of what we do, at the heart of worship, is responding to who He is.  That’s what worship is, seeing Him, seeing how great He is, and responding naturally to who He is.  That’s what we encourage people to do every night, it’s what we pray for every night.  We want Him to be revealed, because that’s a game changer.  If He shows up, we’re not leaving the same way that we came.”

At this point, the witty and light-hearted Weaver turns more contemplative.  “You know, as a band  there were a lot of nights on tour when we did leave the same way that we came, and I’m just being completely honest with you, probably worse than when we came,” said Weaver, quietly but directly.  “We knew the right words to say, you know what I mean?  It wasn’t that we did it on purpose, and we always, always knew in our hearts that there was something more.  In these last couple of years, we’ve really seen Him, we’ve seen Him move, and it has altered us.”

This revelation has led to a deeper, more intense focus for the band to personally minister to those they meet on the road at their concerts.  This truth was plainly evident to me as I attended the band’s Redeemed Tour at Blackhawk Ministries on March 22nd.  At the conclusion of the tour, band member Joe led concertgoers in simple worship songs as Mike invited attendees who wanted to know more about Christ, or those who felt compelled to seek prayers or spiritual guidance to come to the front and speak with the rest of the band.

“Let me be clear about this,” Weaver told concert attendees at the beginning of this portion of the evening.  “If you come forward with a Sharpie asking for an autograph right now, you will be turned away.  There will be time for that later.  This is the time for something more.”

I watched as dozens of people went forward, many with tears streaming down their faces.

I turned in my seat to face my own friend, Sarah, who had accompanied me to the concert.

She had tears streaming down her face.

“I am so moved right now,” said Sarah.  “I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this before at a concert,” she added, using her sleeve to dot at her tears with a shrug and a smile.

Me either, and I get paid to attend and write about concerts, usually well over a hundred a year.

Mike Weaver

Mike Weaver

Just a short hour earlier, Weaver and I had discussed his songwriting process (he writes or co-writes all of Big Daddy Weave’s music).  “You know, there’s no point in the process where I say to myself, ‘Now, if I change to this chord or say this instead of that, everyone is really going to start giving their heart up to the Lord,” he said with his trademark dry wit.  “There’s never a part in the songwriting process where you’re like, ‘Well, that right there is a winner.  That’s going to turn somebody’s life around.’  The Holy Spirit has to do that; but, He wants to.”

Of the band’s immensely popular song, Redeemed, Weaver said after authoring the song with co-writer Benji Cowart (a worship leader in New York) on Skype, he initially planned to keep the song for his own personal collection.  “When we finished writing Redeemed, I didn’t even give it to the label.  I thought, this song is for me.  I thought, this song is too slow.  I thought it was all these other things, but the Lord just started using it.”

Perhaps the reason Weaver was somewhat hesitant to share the song initially was due to its intensely personal origins.

“I’d had the chorus rolling around in my head for a while that day I Skyped with Benji,” Weaver told me.  “We just began talking about it, and talking about everything:  my own inadequacies and my own hatred of myself that I have lived with for so long but never really knew how to pinpoint that’s what it was.  It was just who I was.  I didn’t know what it was.  All I knew was, I didn’t like me.  I always thought that if I could somehow change me, then I would like me better.  The Lord has shown me that I was not truly receiving who I am in Him,” said Weaver simply.

“You know, He makes some pretty clear, seemingly audacious statements about who we are in Him.  He looks at things that aren’t pretty and says, ‘Nope.  Beautiful.’  Know what I mean?  He looks at what is not holy and says, ‘Nope.  Sanctified.'” says Weaver, snapping his fingers.  “Because of what He has done, He is IT.  For us to disagree with Him, it’s like ‘Who are we, anyway?’   He’s the King of the universe!  Oh, I think I might know….well, nothing compared to what He knows.  He is and He knows and He loves.  He loves people, and I’m more sure of that now than I’ve ever been in my entire life because I know that He loves me.”

Weaver is quiet for a moment, pensive, carefully selecting the words he wants to say next.  “I think this message is important to God.  I think this message is important to His heart.  He wants people to know that He’s not mad at them.  When the angels said ‘Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men,’ they were talking about the person of Jesus and what He was there to do.  They weren’t talking about the absence of violence in the world.  This rift between God and us, it’s reconciled.  The blood of Jesus holds back the entire wrath of God from us.  It shows us His Daddy’s heart.  He loves us, every single one of us.  That’s what he wants to get across.  It is done.  It is finished.  He said, it is finished, and it is finished.  Now it’s up to us, to receive what has already been done.”

So, so true.

Even though Weaver and Big Daddy Weave have a serious message and a serious ministry to carry out, don’t be fooled into thinking that the Redeemed Tour is lacking in the fun department.  Contrary to popular belief, Christians can and do have a lot of fun.

If this statement of fact is ever called into question, the shenanigans on the  Redeemed Tour bus could very well be the defense’s Exhibit A.

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Chris August on stage at the Redeemed Tour stop at Blackhawk Ministries on March 22nd, 2013

Chris August, (a notorious prankster and) one of the opening performers for the first leg of the 2013 Redeemed Tour, told me in an interview on the 22nd that he can’t think of a night on tour that the guys haven’t literally laughed until they cried.

Mike Weaver agreed.  “Every night, it’s a regular variety show out on the bus,” he said.

One source of entertainment for the guys is something Weaver likes to call ‘Bus Diving.’

“I hope the Olympic Committee will consider Bus Diving for the next Olympics, actually,” said Weaver of the sport that he claims to have invented.  “I’m the initiator of Bus Diving.  Don’t you at least get a medal or something if you invent an Olympic sport?” he asked me.

Probably not, but you might get a 3 minute documentary of your life tenderly voiced over by Bob Costas during the midnight to 2 am Olympic time slot (if it’s a slow news day).

When I asked Weaver if he could explain to me just what exactly Bus Diving is, his answers became a little cagey.  “We try to be careful, but it’s a fact that people get hurt Bus Diving.  It’s not without casualties,” he said rather elusively.

Chris August, on the other hand, became very animated when I asked him to describe this sporting phenomenon known as Bus Diving.  “It’s a frightening thing,” said August.  “I can just be sittin’ on the bus, minding my own stuff, and Mike will walk by, say ‘Bus Dive’, and then fall over on top of me.  You don’t even want to go there,” adds August with a disarming smile.

“I can only imagine,” I replied, realizing after the fact that once again, MercyMe has elbowed its way into this story.

I would, without a doubt, be remiss if I didn’t mention that the BDW gang (in addition to their Bus Diving proclivities) also have a penchant for taxidermied mascots.

(I would also be remiss if I didn’t say the tour’s manager, Brad, cannot be lumped into this overgeneralization.)

The band’s former mascot is a bobcat named Cathy that Todd Agnew originally rescued from a middle school’s janitorial closet in South Carolina.  To make a long story short, Cathy was offered to me as a gift during my interview with Mike and the band on the 22nd.

Mike Weaver, Me, and, well, Cathy

(I’m thinking an exquisite yet freakish creature like Cathy truly deserves, at the very least, her own blog entry.  For Pete’s sake, she has her own Twitter account!   How many taxidermied, traveling bobcats can there be?  Also, I wouldn’t want her to get jealous or anything.  She has some seriously sharp-looking teeth and claws for a stuffed animal!) 

Cathy.  Rawr.

Cathy. Rawr.

While the leg of the Redeemed Tour with Chris August and Cathy has ended since my interview with the band (August is currently out with Matt Maher and Bellarive on the All The People tour), the fun and ministry of BDW’s Redeemed Tour travels on with Mikeschair (love ’em!) and Citizen Way.

Yet, when all is said and done, Big Daddy Weave is more about striving to meet the challenge of living a life that is different from that of this world than tour bus antics.  What they are about is living a life that is fully yielded to the Lord.

“I’m not saying that we ever lived like we’re heathens,” said Weaver, “and I’m not saying that we are even at 100% yet.  But we’ve traded in our brokenness for His perfection, and because of that, we need to live differently.  We’re learning to live our lives yielding to the Lord on a daily basis, when no one is looking.   That’s the goal.”

Big Daddy Weave's current album, Love Come to Life

Because life’s not the kind of gift that you can hold
The only way you can keep it is to let it go

I wanna give my life away
Cause I know that’s what You want me to do
Wanna give myself to You
Gonna give my life away
I’ve been changed by the Truth
If I give myself away
I’ll find myself in You 

~Lyrics to the song Give My Life Away,

from Big Daddy Weave’s 2012 album, Love Come to Life, which is available wherever music is sold

For more information about Big Daddy Weave and the Redeemed Tour, visit www.BigDaddyWeave.com

A special thank you to Mike Weaver and Chris August for their time, and Ms. Montine Felso with Warner Music Group/Word Entertainment for her very gracious assistance arranging this interview

The Great Debate: Is Christian music as good musically as other genres?

If someone said to you, “I just don’t think Christian music is good music. The lyrics are great, but it’s just not as good, musically” – what would you say?

Who’s music would you play for them or give to them, to try to convince them otherwise?

This topic is a frequent source of conversation among me, my family and friends.  I personally like to recommend tobyMac, for King & Country and The City Harmonic to naysayers of Christian music to prove my point.  

What do you think?  Who would you recommend?

Leave a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail to let me know which Christian performers/bands debunk the myth that Christian music isn’t as good musically as other styles of music. 

27 Days of Christmas Music: Matt Maher’s Silent Night (Emmanuel)

matt maher

Matt Maher – Silent Night (Emmanuel)

One of the most beloved, yet ironic, Christmas songs ever (in my opinion) is “Silent Night”.

You see, in my experience as the one time mother of a newborn, you’d be hard pressed to find a recollection of a silent night when Alex was a baby.

With this being said, one of my favorite stories to tell (now, at least…at the time, it wasn’t so funny) is of Jon & my first night at home with our new baby.

I had just had a c-section a few days earlier, and had been hospitalized just hours shy of a week.  Alex had been in the NICU for several days after his birth, which resulted in many a sleepless night for me.  (Jon, on the other hand, seemed to sleep just fine on the window seat in my hospital room.)

The hospital finally let us leave late on Sunday night.  In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was in such a rush to leave considering that I had a direct line to both the kitchen and housekeeping staff, but that’s beside the point.

If I’m being honest, Jon and I had no business bringing a real live newborn baby home from the hospital.  We didn’t have a clue what we were doing.  Sure, we had all the stuff we needed for Alex (and probably a lot of stuff we didn’t really need), but as for the hands on aspects of parenting we were clueless.

I’m not exaggerating when I say It took us a good twenty minutes to change his diaper at first…by the time we had Alex in a fresh diaper and dressed again, he’d usually have his diaper refilled and we’d have to start all over.

I was exhausted and sore and more overwhelmed than I had ever been in my entire life.  Jon had gone to bed because he had to go back to work the next day, and I was looking forward to putting Alex in his crib and getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed.

I swaddled my sweet, sleeping  little baby and gently laid him in his crib.

As soon as his back touched the mattress in his crib, his eyed opened wide.  To this day, I swear it was as if he looked at me and thought to himself, “Just where do you think you’re going, lady?  You didn’t really think it was going to be that easy, did you?”

With that, my sweet little baby turned into a wildly screaming, bright pink banshee.

I tried everything I could think of to get him to calm down and go to sleep.  Fresh diapers, a feeding, twelve different kinds of pacifiers, burping him.

Alex wasn’t having any of it.

I was beyond tired and becoming more desperate by the minute.

I attempted to wake Jon up, but he was sound asleep.  Not even the wailing of our son when placed right next to his ear woke him up.

As I stood next to Jon sleeping peacefully in our bed, I seriously contemplated smothering him with a pillow.  I was pretty sure not a jury in the world would convict me.

It was at this low point in my 5 day career as a mother  that I remembered Trent, a little boy I used to baby-sit for.  When he was a baby, his mother would have to turn either the vacuum or dryer on to get him to go to sleep.

I spied my vacuum in the corner of our bedroom and decided it was worth a try.  With Alex cradled in one arm and my other arm running the vacuum, I swept my floors within an inch of their existence.

Alex slept like a baby should as long as the vacuum was running (and he was in my arms.) 

After I was done sweeping the floors, I moved on to using the accessories to clean the curtains and the comforter on our bed.  Yes, Jon even slept thru me basically running the vacuum over him.  (I thought about strangling him again but decided against it.) 

As Alex grew, so did his love for the vacuum running while he slept.  I grew weary of vacuuming, so eventually I decided the ultimate solution was to just prop the vacuum up next to his crib and turn it on.  Alex then slept in his crib and I slept in the rocking chair in his room.

We may have burned up the motor on a couple of cheap vacuums from Wal-Mart this way, but at least I finally got some sleep.

With my own experiences in mind, I can’t help but snicker at the thought of the song “Silent Night”.  I mean, was this song written by a man who has never spent time with an a newborn infant in the house?  Was he a deep sleeper like my husband Jon?

Even if we just look at the facts surrounding Jesus’ birth, I have a hard time believing it was a silent one.

First of all, Jesus was born in a stable surrounded by animals.  I grew up in Indiana surrounded by farms, and let me tell you, there is nothing silent about your typical barnyard animals.

Their noisyness is rivaled only by how bad they smell.

Secondly, Jesus was born in crowded Bethlehem, a city so full of people that there wasn’t even a spare room for a woman giving birth.

Third, there were angels and shepherds and wise men and who knows who else popping in and out of the stable to see the newborn king for days and weeks on end.

Silent Night?  I don’t think so.  Definitely a beautiful sentiment, but probably very inaccurate.

You know what is true about this song, though, particularly the Matt Maher version ‘Silent Night (Emanuel)’?

Jesus is the Son of God, love’s pure light.

Truly, His birth was the dawn of redeeming grace.

Because He so loved the world, He came and gave His very life for us to heal the great divide our sins have created between us and our Heavenly Father.

Whether or not the nights surrounding His birth were silent or not are irrelevant.

What is relevant is the fact that He came, that little baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, to one day swaddle us in His grace.

The only other thing I’m sure of about that so-called ‘Silent Night’?

Mary never contemplated suffocating a sleeping Joseph with a pillow or strangling him with a vacuum cleaner.

She’s way out of my league in that respect.

27 Days of Christmas Music: Day 7, Relient K’s I Celebrate the Day

Relient K – I Celebrate the Day

I love a good, old-fashioned Christmas carol just about as much as anyone…perhaps even more so.  Traditions and customs, including songs, passed down from one generation to the next is in my opinion what makes Christmas time so very magical.

I love it when I hear my Grandma’s favorite Christmas song, Ave Maria, this time of year and one of my favorite decorations that hang on my tree is a Star of Bethlehem ornament that once hung on my great grandmother’s tree.  In honor of my other grandma, I put real cinnamon sticks in Alex’s hot cocoa just like my grandma used to do for me when I was little.

Even though I can still picture in my mind’s eye many of the ornaments I used to hang on my own mother’s tree as a little girl, I always love it when I hear a new Christmas song or create a new Christmas tradition with my own family.

One of my favorite modern Christmas songs is Relient K’s ‘I Celebrate the Day’, which has been in frequent rotation on my most played songs list lately.  Just the other day as my son Alex and I were driving along I-469 outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana, we were listening to this song when Alex simply said to me, “Mommy, what does this song mean?”

I looked in my rearview mirror at my little blonde haired, blue-eyed boy as he sat in his booster seat behind me.  I couldn’t help but notice how big he is getting, and how much is starting to look more like a boy and less like the little baby I once held in my arms.

I didn’t really know how to explain the song to him.

So, I simply said, “It’s a Christmas song.”

“How come they  aren’t singing about Mary and angels and the manger?” Alex asked astutely.

“Well, not all Christmas songs have to be about those things,” I explained.  “This song is more about why Jesus came at Christmas time.”

“Jesus was born so that we could live with Him in heaven one day,” Alex said quietly.

“That’s right,” I replied, smiling at Alex in the mirror.

His eyes met mine, and he said very directly, “Mommy, is it true what they sing?  That when Jesus opened his eyes on Christmas, he knew about me?”

“I believe that’s true,” I said.  “I think that’s the only reason why Jesus was able to do what He came to do:  because He knew each one of us, and loved us so much, that He was able to die for us,” I told Alex.

“Now that’s love,” said Alex.

“Indeed it is,” I replied.

“Merry Christmas, Mommy!” In the back seat of my car, Alex gave me a knowing smile.

“Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” I responded with tears in my eyes, realizing that I had a new Christmas traditon (and memory)…listening to “I Celebrate the Day” with my son, Alex.

 

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

I Celebrate the Day lyrics

by Relient K

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me, in the exact same place as New Year’s eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

27 Days of Christmas Music, Day 5: Mandisa’s Christmas Makes Me Cry

Mandisa

Matthew West – Christmas Makes Me Cry – feat. Mandisa

I’m going to be completely frank for the next few minutes.

For a lot of people out there, Christmas sucks.

Harsh as this may sound, you know as well as I do that it’s true.  We live in a completely broken, torn apart world.  Even while Psalm 47:8 plainly tells us, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne,” I’d be lying if I didn’t freely admit that most of the time it seems like the only thing reigning in this messed up world is our own brokenness.

You better believe Mandisa and Matthew West aren’t the only ones Christmas has the potential to make cry.

I’d be surprised if anyone, anywhere didn’t at one time or another feel pretty darn miserable at Christmas.

I know I hurt when I think about how much I miss my grandmothers at Christmas time.

My heart breaks when I think about the Christmas memories I didn’t get a chance to make with my little girl.

I turn into a floodgate of emotions when faced with Hallmark Commercials, photos of golden retriever puppies wearing Christmas bows, sappy romantic holiday movies and stories revealing the true meaning of Christmas this time of year.

Niagara Falls has nothing on me in these instances, that much is certain.

Tonight as I ponder the true meaning of all my Christmas tears, an unexpected thought pops into my mind.

No one has ever written a song called “Easter Makes Me Cry.”

For a brief moment, I wonder why this is the case?  I mean, all the holiday stuff that makes people cry at Christmas is still pretty applicable at Easter.  Come to think of it, the story of Easter comes right on the heels of Jesus spending three days being tortured, dying a horrific death, and taking a trip to hell for sins He never committed.

Shouldn’t we not just be crying at Easter over the atrocities committed against our Savior, but tearing out our hair and gnashing our teeth as well?

I mean, seriously, if we are crying at Christmas time over the sweet story about the birth of a little baby boy lying in manger, shouldn’t Easter be filled with a little more angst?

Of course not.

(Had you going there for a minute, though, didn’t I?!)

So why all the tears at Christmas and not Easter?

Perhaps my favorite line of lyrics in Christmas Makes Me Cry explains why our emotions are closer to the surface at Christmas time than any other time of the year:

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

As I picture my precious Savior lying in that lowly manger, the joy I feel as I celebrate His birth is coupled with the full knowledge of what Christmas would one day cost Him.

Because of me.  (You, too!)

…I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth

That He would send His only Son to die

While I’ve shed many tears at Christmas time, I can’t stop my heart from rejoicing with the knowledge that our Savior’s story didn’t end at Christmas.

It didn’t end when He died, arms outstretched, for you and for me, on the cross at Calgary either.

The promise that was made to us on that Christmas night so long ago was fulfilled in its entirety on that blessed Easter morn when the angel triumphantly announced, “He is not here; for he has risen as he said he would.” (Matthew 28:6)

Because of Easter, because my Lord is risen indeed, I believe with unsurpassing confidence that one day the tears I’ve shed in the past will matter no more, and all the pain and brokenness and death of this world will pass away.

All that will remain is the joy I feel knowing that the price my Savior paid for me has set me free from all of my tears, all of my sadness, and all of my pain forevermore.

No one cries at Easter because Jesus is alive!  Hallelujah!  (And a very merry Christmas, too!)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4

27 Days of Christmas, Day 4: TobyMac’s This Christmas (Father to the Fatherless)

I had a so-traditional-it’s-crazy kind of upbringing as a child. My Mom, Sandy, left her job as an elementary school teacher to stay home with my brother, sister, and I in our rural Indiana farmhouse. My Dad, Rick, worked full-time at the local factory to provide for his family. Money was frequently tight, so our food budget was stretched by growing our own vegetables in the garden in the summer time for canning. My Dad was also an avid fisherman and hunter, so whatever he could catch or shoot would often times end up on the table for dinner.

A major part of my childhood was attending church with my family. We went to the church my Mom attended as a young girl, and the church my Grandma Bricker attended up until the time of her death in 2005. Unless I was on my own deathbed with an illness, I never missed a church service or Sunday School. I can maybe remember in 18 years missing 3 or 4 Sundays; one of those Sundays was due to the blizzard of 1978, so it was kind of unavoidable.

The older I became, however, the more I began to question why going to church was so important in the first place. I mean, I already had one father who was an expert in ruining all of my fun. Why did I really need another?

What it all boiled down to in my mind was that having a meaningful relationship with God was the equivalent of inviting another member of the Fun Police into my business.

I had it all figured out, and I didn’t need Him. I didn’t need the Dad I already had, either.

Or did I?

It actually wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to truly see just how important a father is in the life of a child. I began to reflect upon my relationship with my own fathers, both of them, as I observed the growing relationships between my young son and his earthly and heavenly fathers.

What I realize now, and have come to sincerely appreciate from the depths of my heart, is the fatherly love I have been blessed with my entire life.

Even when I ran away from this love, it never left me.

Even when I didn’t deserve it, I always, always, had the love of my fathers.

By their very presence in my life, my fathers showed me over and over again the true meaning of love and grace.

Doesn’t every one deserve to have the same?

In TobyMac’s song, This Christmas (Father of the Fatherless), he tells the story about a nine-year old orphan named Johnie, and how he came to find his fathers. A chorus in the song, in my opinion, is especially poignant, and one that we should remember not just at Christmas but all year-long:

Father of the fatherless

Be with your sons and daughters this Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ’til you choose to give

Love and Joy and Peace to one of His)

Father let us not forget

The children who are all alone at Christmas, this Christmas

(You ain’t livin’ ’til you choose to give

Love and Joy and Peace to one of His)

With these lyrics in mind, I want to encourage you to look around you this Christmas time and ask yourself, ‘Who are the fatherless in my circle of influence?’

Maybe it’s the little neighbor girl from down the street riding the pink bicycle.

Maybe it’s the college student serving up your cappuccino at the local coffee hot spot in your town.

Maybe it’s the widow who just lost their spouse this past year that you see at the park while walking your dog, or maybe it’s the single father of three who coaches your daughter’s basketball team.

The fatherless come in all shapes and all sizes.

They are in every community, in every neighborhood, from the projects to the affluent.

They speak every language, from English and Spanish to Burmese and Swahili.

They come in a rainbow of assorted colors. Some have dark skin, some have light skin. Some may even have tattooed skin and blue hair.

Yet in spite of their differences, the one thing they all have in common is the fact that they each have a Father who loves them to the ends of the earth. He loves them so much He came to earth as a tiny baby, delivered in humblest of places, and lived His life for the express purpose of dying so that one day we all might spend eternity with Him in heaven.

I ask you, what could be a better gift to give this Christmas time than telling someone they have a Father who loves them like that?

It’s up to you this Christmas to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the fatherless.

Won’t you join me?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

27 Days of Christmas Music

Dear Friends,

This year, I’m going to try something fun for the days leading up to Christmas on my blog!  I’ve chosen 27 (okay, actually 29 if you count the two bonus songs I couldn’t live without!) of my favorite Christmas songs performed by some of my very favorite artists.  Each day leading up to Christmas, I will blog a song of the day with links to listen to the song on Spotify or view the song’s video on YouTube.  I will also include a short little mini-essay about why I chose the song of the day. 

I hope you will enjoy my musical selections leading up to Christmas!  Feel free to peruse my complete playlist of Christmas Music over on Spotify:

27 Days of Christmas Music (Plus 2 Bonuses!)

Merry Christmas!

Beth

27 Days of Christmas Music: Day 2, Josh Wilson’s Once A Year

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson – Once a Year – feat. Andrew Peterson

(from Josh Wilson’s 2012 album, Noel)

I really like this song, especially these lyrics from the song’s chorus:

Once a year, December’s here

And our hearts open up

Once a year, we give with cheer

To those who don’t have enough

Wouldn’t it be something

If we all learned to love like it’s Christmas

More than once a year

Every year in the Stauffer household at Christmas time, I try and make a little extra effort when it comes to impressing upon Alex the importance of giving to others and doing our part to make the world we live in a better place because of Christian faith.  My husband Jon and I try to be good examples all year long of these values; Jon is a volunteer firefighter and very involved in multiple non-profit organizations in the community, and I volunteer and participate in church activities and other community events.

Come Christmas every year, however, we seem to be filled with a little extra goodwill in our hearts that leads us to try and do a little more.  In the past, we’ve delivered groceries to shut-ins as a family and assembled countless shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Last year, Alex and I drove around Fort Wayne in the days before Christmas passing out Blessings Bags and gift cards/free coupons to fast food establishments to the homeless.  We’ve provided food for holiday meals to shut-ins, mittens to preschoolers from low income families, and gifts for senior citizens thru the Secret Santa program at Walgreens.

Yet somehow, it still doesn’t seem like it is enough.  I wonder if Alex is really seeing the “why” behind what we do?  Will he grow up with the same love in his heart for helping others that his father and I have?  Will the times we’ve spent together “giving with cheer to those who don’t have enough” be the times he remembers most as an adult, or will he only remember the getting of his own presents on Christmas morning?

I guess only time will tell how Alex will turn out.  I have highest of  hopes that he will have a heart for sharing the love of Christmas with others more than once a year.

How are you sharing the love of Christmas more than once a year with others?  I’d love to hear your story!  E-mail me at beth@bethstauffer.com!

(Big, huge, gigantic side note:  If you are in the Fort Wayne area, you can see Josh Wilson perform Once A Year during his Christmas concert, Noel, at Lifebridge Church on Corbin Road beginning at 7:30 pm.  TIckets start at $15 and will be available at the door.  I saw Josh perform twice this past year while he was out on tour with the Sidewalk Prophets and he is a fantastically talented songwriter and musician.  In my opinion, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with more overall musical talent than Josh Wilson.  This spring, he will join forces with Third Day on their ‘Miracle’ tour so if you can’t make it out to see him tonight you’ll have another chance this March at the St. Francis Performing Arts Center.  Tickets for tonight’s Christmas concert can be found by clicking here and tickets for the Miracle Tour with Third Day, Josh Wilson, and American Idol’s Colton Dixon can be found here.)