A Simple Life Hack that will Help You Focus on the Important

Have you ever studied a passage of scripture in the morning, then as you go through your day, it never crosses your mind again? Or have the tasks of the day ever hit you so fast you never once thought about scripture?

I’ve started something recently that has helped me focus.

I’ve begun listing the most important tasks in my journal either first thing in the morning or the night before.  (I started listing only 5-7, a hack that Hyatt mentions in his website freebie e-book).  Then, underneath, I’ll write a verse I’m studying along with a prayer based on that verse.
journalThroughout the day, I’m looking at the tasks lists, checking them off as I get them done.  As I do, I see a reminder of what I studied that morning along with any prayer requests that are pressing.

Of course, I just returned from vacation with my family, so I’m getting reoriented to the routine.

How do you keep important tasks and important truths in front of you all day?


Takeaways from video project

Just finished a project for my daughter’s K5 graduation video. I used an Alesis Q88 MIDI controller (and the YAMAHA Clavinova in my office) to record background music. The software I used was Ableton Live Lite, which came free with the controller. 

Overall, I was pleased with the result. Here are a few takeaways:

  1. There is a skill to recording to Ableton. There was a slight delay from the time I played to the one I heard it coming through the earbuds. That made it challenging to layer. I had to anticipate the beat of the layer I had already recorded. There are times that the layers are slightly off from each other. It works for a project like this. It gives the song a feeling of clumsiness like children have. I wouldn’t want it on a CD project. 
  2. I realized I have a comfort zone of mellow, melancholy music. It was more of a challenge for me to come up with playful music. I need to work on that kind of music more. 
  3. Playing is easier than writing, at least for me anyway. Writing notation takes time and more thought, while playing comes more naturally. It’s comparable to the difference between speaking and writing words. 

I enjoyed the process and could see doing more of these kinds of projects. 


Repetition: The affect of immediate context

Last week, I said that we music directors must repeat songs.

Why do you think that is the case?

One reason we should repeat songs more often is that the impact of a song is affected by its context.  Here’s what I mean.

A different combination of songs will bring attention to different truths from the same song.

The beauty of many of our songs is that, though they may have just one theme, they contain many thoughts pertaining to that theme.  The song may be about grace, and stanza one is about grace in redemption while stanza four is about the return of Christ.  Stanza three might point to grace that is given during trials.  The song before or after, depending on its content, will affect what is already in the congregants mind when they sing this song or after they sing this song.

Due to this fact, a different combination of songs will bring attention to different truths from the same song.

Again, don’t be afraid to repeat songs.  Repeating will help the congregation internalize the songs they are singing.

As you plan your next worship service, consider using a song you have sung recently, but pair it differently than you did last time.  Take note of how it affects you and what thoughts come to mind that didn’t last time.

Have you seen the impact of songs being affected by the surrounding songs in a worship service?  Comment below.


Powerful Combinations: Jesus Saves

One privilege you have in planning worship services is the opportunity to mix and match songs.  Colossians 3:16 tells us to teach each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Giving attention to the flow of thought from one song to the next facilitates this kind of teaching.

There are many ways to apply this principle.  One effective way to drive a truth home is to put two songs with parallel themes together, the second one building upon the first.

This can be done with any combination of congregational hymns, choral anthems or small group specials.

Read More


Why You Should Not Fear Asking

The fear that says, “They will not want to play/sing,” is unfounded.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that instrumentalists love to play and singers love to sing.  Don’t feel like you are inconveniencing them by having them practice or by scheduling them to play.

This year, God led us to turn our church orchestra from one that only accompanied the congregational singing into one that accompanies the choir every Sunday morning. We started with a trial run, holding weekly rehearsals for six weeks.

Read More


Worship Shells

Hard work is right.  But don’t work to the neglect of quiet, private worship.

As a leader in worship, your work is fueled by your private worship. To do the one without the other is to present God and your people with a shell.

Don’t be a hollow shell.  Let work flow from your worship.


The NYC Subway and How You Play Music

Last year, I visited New York City with our church’s youth group.  I had been to NYC once before, when I was a teen.  This time, I had the responsibility of leading the group.

We were using the subway system as our only method of transportation for the week.  To prep for it, I studied our routes on the MTA site, charted our courses, and downloaded an app.  I typed out a card with the entire week’s schedule, the departure times, what stations to enter what train and when.  I had it all laid out.

Read More


Service Planning: Overuse or Neglect?

Worship leaders at times fear repeating a song too often.  We’ll pass over a song as we are planning because we feel we’ve sung it too recently.

While there is a danger in wearing out a song (and I’m sure each of us has that song the congregation feels we sing too much), I have found the opposite to be true.  Repetition is necessary.

There is a point in time, somewhere between

Read More


Helpful Resources: Song Select

You spend hours searching for the perfect song. Then, when you find it, it’s in the wrong key!  You’re leading the youth group in a worship service, and you know that no one is going to sing that high!

You could plug it into Finale, but you don’t have the time.  You could ask the pianist to transpose it, but she doesn’t do that.  What are you going to do?

Read More


Music: Creating Moments that Last

photo credit | jerjones |morguefile.com

photo credit | jerjones |morguefile.com

Music is a passion of mine.  Learning it and creating it has been a major part of my life since my first piano lesson in second grade when Mrs. Croker taught me the black notes using the song “Peanut Butter and Jam.”  From the Broadway tunes I grew up singing to the moments of meaningful worship in church, I have always pursued music.  Now, as a part of my vocation, I get to lead a group of committed people in using music to worship.  It’s an awesome privilege!

Yet, if you’ve been involved in music for any length of time, you know that along with the times of inspiration come the challenges of planning a schedule, finding music for your musicians, balancing budgets, organizing rehearsals, rehearsing the music, and then executing well. No matter how much you love what you do, there are times of simply grinding it out.

What keeps a musician going when the notes become blah and the schedule becomes repetitive?

Read More