“I Can Go In” by Abigail Miller

Sunday morning, I sang “I Can Go In” by Abigail Miller in church, and, just like the last time, I couldn’t make it through without choking up.  Poor church had listen to me blubber through one of the verses.

Needless to say, it’s a great song about how we get to heaven.  I encourage you to check out the CD here or the individual mp3s here
or you can look her up on iTunes.  She has a lot of other music at abigailmiller.com.  I particularly appreciate the stories she has put to music, like “I Can Go In” or “He Did Not Cast a Stone.”

And, yes, some of the links are affiliate links.

The Space Between the Songs

There’s nothing like escaping to a beautiful mountain stream when life is busy.  I recently went fishing early in the morning with my brother.  He was fishing up stream a bit, and I was downstream just taking in the serene setting.

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

It was spectacular.  Mist rising off the stream. The chill of the morning. It was crazy peaceful.

Now, this didn’t happen, but imagine whatever peaceful escape you like to go to.  You’re there enjoying the stillness, then a helicopter flies by.  All the stillness is interrupted by the loud chopper!  Moment over.

Music can have the same calming impact on a person’s spirit as a mountain stream.  But, as leaders, we can interrupt it because of poor planning.  Awkward transitions chop up the service like a helicopter flying over a mountain stream.

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Why You Should Kill the Nagging Insecurities

I entered college with too many interests but no clear direction. I began as a music major, then changed majors several times. Meanwhile, I felt the call to serve in a preaching capacity.

I chose a major that would allow me to finish quickly and still get training in preaching.

My wife and I were married one month after graduation. We worked for two years to pay off school debt. During that time, I helped in the youth ministry of our church leading the singing and organizing the youth choir.

Then God allowed me the opportunity to move to Tennessee to serve in a church as music director and office manager.

All along the way I was gaining invaluable experience in church music and Bible teaching.

But there was a nagging insecurity because I had transferred out of a music major in college but ended up working in music for my career. It affected how I interacted with other musicians in the church. It impacted my confidence as I led or played.

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Joshua Earle

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Joshua Earle

I was always comparing myself to other people in the field who had a degree. I was allowing some of those early decisions to define me for years. I was telling myself that I wasn’t qualified as a musician because I didn’t have a degree, but ignoring what I had gained during my time in the program, what I had achieved and the experience I was gaining.

I was somehow less than what God wanted me to be.  Or so I thought.

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Free Piano Arrangement – “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Download the Song >>

When I was in college, during a theory class, we were all in a piano lab.  Rows and rows of small keyboards, all connected to the teacher’s headphones.  He could push a button and listen into what we were playing. He would then discuss with us how we were applying the material.

photo credit: morguefile.com | pippalou

I don’t remember the specific assignment, but I remember playing for him a chord progression under the melody of “Sweet Hour of Prayer” that has stayed with me to this day.  I’ve played it a few times in church, repeatedly in private, but I have never developed it into a full arrangement.

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3 Realities the Perfectionist Forgets

The worst part of a roller coaster — the eternal ride up that first hill.  Can you feel the chain catch the bottom as the car rolls onto it? Then clank-clank-clank – you’re on your way up!


photocredit: morguefile.com | monosodium


Fear overtakes you.  You think to yourself, “What was I thinking?!” You feel trapped, but there’s no turning back.

If you have any fear of roller coasters, just the thought of being harnessed into that ride makes your heart beat faster and grips you with fear.  Even though the ride has been thoroughly tested, people ride it every day, and you are safely strapped in, your whole system goes into panic mode. In spite of those realities, you are gripped by your fear.

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The Soundtrack of My Generation – James Horner

Mr. James Horner,

I heard of the tragic plane crash that took your life.  I looked across the list of films you composed the score for, and I saw a spectrum of movies that bring back memories throughout my lifetime. My childhood in A Land Before Time, An American Tail, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and the Rocketeer; teen years in Braveheart – I never saw it, but its soundtrack was a favorite of mine. I’ll never forget the inspiration of the last scene of Glory. You captured the essence of John Nash’s struggle in A Beautiful Mind.

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Music Resource Links – 6/19/15

Here are a few links to some helpful resources for the music director.  Enjoy!

Choir and workshop leaders: make sure you’re on the receiving end from time to time

Chris Rowbury reminds choir directors to occasionally take part in a choir or singing day as a reminder of what it’s like to be in a choir.

Brilliant Fundraising – The $60K Chorus Auction

This unique approach to fundraising could jumpstart your music budget for next year.

Middle School Chorus Teachers: What to do with Summer?

Dale Duncan offers thoughts to music teachers about how to use the summer months to recharge and prepare for next year.

Why Have an Instrumental Ministry?

James Koerts lists benefits of having an emphasis on instrumental music in your church’s worship services.

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.