Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - 3 Priorities for 3 Days!

The calendar is not my friend right now. No matter how much I stare at it, it refuses to add any more days.

This Sunday - a mere 3 days away - we leave for our 5th East Coast Tour! 

Our first week will be all travel as we drive directly to Newfoundland. Our second week will be the East Coast Music Week, and all the excitement of the East Coast Music Award celebrations. From there, we kick off 7 weeks of concerts! So far, we have 20 events in 5 provinces, with several more awaiting confirmation.

We're tremendously excited, but WOW - there's still so much to do! I really need someone to invite a 10-day week...

Here are our top 3 priorities for the next 3 days:



PACKING

9 weeks on the road requires guitars, sound system, hostess gifts, clothes for both winter & spring weather, and enough CDs for 20+ concerts. This week, we become master Jenga players, trying to squeeze all of that into one little SUV without the whole thing toppling over. I always hope the car will act like Mary Poppin's carpet bag - small on the outside with inexhaustible storage on the inside.



PLANNING

The first leg of our trip will entail 3000 KM of driving, plus a ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. This past week, the ferry looked like this:


Yes, that's the Newfoundland ferry, stuck in the ice. Stuck for several days actually. So, we've planned our drive, but allowed for a few buffer days on the front end. We're watching weather reports and updating our GPS apps. We had our mechanic scour our car and make the appropriate repairs. We renewed our CAA membership. And of course, we're also adding in lots of...


PRAYER

We've been praying over this tour for months. We've prayed for the churches who are hosting our ministry, for all who are helping in the planning, and all who will attend. We've prayed for our East Coast Music Awards experience, that whatever we do there will be honouring to God. And as we approach the drive, we're praying for safe travels!

We would love for you to join us in prayer for this exciting adventure

If you live in the East Coast, we invite you to attend a concert, or consider hosting your own.

We invite you to join us on the journey by following our site and Facebook posts.


Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: Same Kind Of Different As Me, by Ron Hall & Denver Moore

"A modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together."

With a subtitle like that, how could I not be intrigued?

Denver Moore and Ron Hall tell the story of an amazing friendship. Denver - a 20th century sharecropper who set out into the world, only to find himself homeless and friendless. Ron - an affluent and successful art dealer, living in a world of power and pride. That is, until Ron's feisty wife, Deborah, feels called by God to serve at a local mission. Ron dutifully joins her, bringing his wealth of prejudices with him. Even though we might want to look down on Ron, it's to our own shame - if we're being honest, most of us carry these same prejudices. In their weekly visits to the mission, they meet Denver - large, sullen, and violent. But Deborah's generous heart reaches through the socio-economic gap to meet Denver with a faith-inspired love. The journey of Denver, Ron, and Deborah will have you turning pages, laughing, crying, and rethinking the way we view the homeless. It speaks deeply to one of my favourite themes: the power of being loved.

I love the way this book is written, with Ron and Denver writing alternating chapters. Each tells their side of the story in their own distinctive voice, and the effect is powerful. The final pages of the book include a reader's guide, a follow up with the authors, and a few family photos.

Denver and Ron came from vastly opposing backgrounds, but through their struggles, faith, and commitment, they find their common humanity in their uncommon friendship.

I highly recommend this deeply moving story. May it inspire each of us to reach across the gap and love someone who is the same kind of different as us.


Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - In The Shadow Of The Cross - By Gerald Flemming

Today's blog is a guest post by my husband and Infinitely More partner, 
Gerald Flemming.


IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS...
By Gerald Flemming

Recently I had a very humbling and conflicting experience.  I was asked to play music for the wedding of two really good friends of ours.  They wanted twenty minutes of pre-service music and then a few pieces in the service itself.  They wanted specific hymns and they wanted all of it to be instrumental.  Whew…okay.

As anybody who plays guitar knows, note-perfect fingerstyle guitar arrangements of songs take quite a while to either put together yourself or to learn.  I decided to do signature arrangements because I felt it would be more personal as this was to be mine and Allison’s gift to them.  It ended up being between 10-12 original guitar arrangements of hymns and it took about 30-40 hours to construct and play competently.  It was a real investment in time when other things were pulling on me to do simultaneously, but again, we do and should make these sacrifices for each other as friends and as Christians.

The day came and with it, an extreme amount of weather that threw everything into a bit of disarray.  A couple of lovely young singers were late and had to rehearse while the congregation was sitting there waiting for things to begin.  I started about fifteen minutes late which was fine, but by this point everybody was excited/agitated and wasn’t really in the mood to listen to twenty minutes of instrumental guitar music.  So everyone talked and got reacquainted waiting for the main show to begin.

At this point I just martialled through, smiling and playing, trying to be aware of the script and the timing of how everything was to play out.  It reminded me of some of my time as a secular musician in a bar competing with a million different agendas, the last of which was listening.  The ceremony was beautiful and both of our friends (who are going into the ministry together), had a wonderful bonding experience, with the Groom’s mother being the person who married them.

On the way to the reception, I felt a little tweak.  I thought to myself that what had happened hadn’t been very ‘artistically’ satisfying.  It would have been easy for me to just improvise and play a bunch of different pieces of music off the top of my head as background music before the festivities were to begin.  I felt weirdly silly for having gone to all of the trouble that I did.  And then in response to that I felt guilty for feeling that way, because it was a gift and there shouldn’t be any expectations about how a gift is received.

Two days later Allison showed me a photo she had taken.  It was me working, just before the service.  Those last bits of prep, trying to make something as good as I could possibly make it.  And I’m standing there in the shadow of the cross, just another servant, wanting desperately to do good work.

Who was the music really for?  It was for the One who sacrificed everything for us.  
The One who, without promise of glory or praise, died and was risen to save us all. 

Sometimes we have these brief bouts of ego.  These petty needs to be bigger than our gifts.  It makes us human.  It reminds us how broken we are, and the work that we still need to do.  I was being reminded of something.  Something I actually strive to remind myself of.  That it’s about the service.  

How can I better serve here, in the shadow of the cross?  




Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - How The Light Gets In

On last fall's East Coast Tour, we shot 3 performances for NTV's Heart Matters
This week, we posted the title song from our ECMA nominated album - How The Light Gets In:



I've written before about the journey of our songs
and How The Light Gets In is one song that's had a great journey.

It was a special homecoming to perform this song for a Newfoundland television show. Gerald actually started the song on a previous East Coast Tour. One night, while the ink was still wet on the page, we shared this new song, announcing it was a 'world debut.' People responded positively, so we continued to share it each night. At first, it was a solo song for Gerald with my harmonies on the chorus. It became one of my favourite parts of the show. As the tour went deeper into the fall and the weather got colder, singing the song felt warm, 
like a summer's day.

Some songs are meant to be solos, but others begin to reveal themselves as duets. One day, I went to Gerald and said, "I really feel like this song is meant to be a conversation, a shared message of two voices." I suggested we could alternate the couplets in the verses, and then come together in the chorus. He smiled and said, "I was actually thinking the same thing." 

As we went through the process of choosing songs for our new CD, How The Light Gets In started to work its way to the top of the list. It become the title song of the album, inspired our CD cover, and has become a staple in our repertoire. 

We hope this song will inspire you, and add a little 'summer' to a chilly winter day!


How The Light Gets In 
Written by Gerald Flemming (c) 2014

All that we are given
Is yet to be revealed
As we seek out the stillness 
Of a silent promise sealed

And in this gentle season 
Where storms are held at bay 
The smallest here among us 
Are lifted by His grace

We open up our eyes to the brilliance in the skies 
That’s how the light gets in
There’s a warmth on our face from the beauty and the grace 
That’s how the light gets in
How the light get in

As the morning gently holds us 
In the quiet of His hand 
The restlessness is calmed by 
The promise of His plan

And in that peace we're given 
A joy that knows no bounds 
Every sin’s forgiven
In the splendor of the crown

We open up our eyes to the brilliance in the skies 
That’s how the light gets in
There’s a warmth on our face from the beauty and the grace 
That’s how the light gets in
How the light gets in

All that we are given 
Is yet to be revealed


To hear the full album, please visit our Store.



Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - Why I Gave Up Chocolate For Lent

The announcement to my family brought shocked faces. "Are you sure?" "Isn't that just self torture?" "Are you going to take it out on the rest of us?"

Okay, maybe not that severe, but it was still a surprise when I announced that I would give up chocolate for Lent this year.

If you know me well at all, you'll know I passionately love chocolate, 
as evidenced here...


... and here...


... and here! 



I love eating chocolate and making chocolate. I love visiting chocolate stores and trying chocolate desserts in restaurants. We had a chocolate fountain at our wedding, leaving my bridal party to wrap my voluminous white gown with large serviettes to protect me from dark chocolate drips.

It's actually been years since I've given up anything for Lent. In recent years, I've joined the trend of "taking up." Sometimes it's been a Bible study, or reaching out to old friends, or a songwriting project.

But this year is different. 
This year, we have no home church.

When we made the decision to tour full time, it meant a lot of changes to our lives. We left our home church of 4 years, including our wonderful small group, and moved out of Toronto to lower our living expenses. We've been blessed with a lot of travel in the past year, but all that travel has meant very few Sundays in our new city. Even though we've visited a few churches, we haven't been around enough to make a commitment to any of them.

Even last year, we were at All Saints Church in St. Andrew's, NB, for Ash Wednesday and part of Lent.

Worship planning has been a huge part of our Lenten journey over the past few years. Through our weekly meetings with church staff, song planning, psalm writing, and playing with our band, we've been deeply involved in the season that is Lent. We've sat in its themes of silence, repentance, and transformation. We've written and played music that, Sunday by Sunday, brings us along the epic path from Lent to Holy Week to the glory of Easter morning.

Without that home church presence, things are different this year. Last week, Ash Wednesday caught me by surprise. I realized that without a home church, it would be too easy for Lent to pass me by. I'm currently spending my days booking our upcoming East Coast Tour. "Taking up" for Lent would only add to my busyness, and would be too easy to drop as we get closer to the tour.

"So," I thought, "let's give something up." It had to be something significant. If the idea was to keep Lent in the forefront of my mind, it had to be something that was part of my daily routine. I didn't want it to be something that would negatively affect my productivity (no, I'm not giving up espresso!!), but something that I would miss. It needed to be something I enjoy. I wanted it to feel like a loss, an empty space to remind me that this is a season of letting go.

Chocolate became the obvious choice. 
Not the desired choice, but the obvious one.

It's been a week, and it's working. I haven't had any chocolate, but I've certainly missed it. I put together a non-chocolate dessert last week and Gerald asked, "Um, does this mean I'm giving up chocolate for Lent too?" I laughed and offered to buy him some chocolate covered almonds this week.

No, this is my simple journey. I want to be aware of this season of holiness. I want to be reminded of the dangers of excess and the power of simplicity. I want to be aware of how blessed we are to live in such abundance, and how there are so many in this world who desperately need the basics. I want to be reminded that when we have less stuff, we can open up more space for peace, listening, loving, and creating.

So, even though it may seem like a trivial choice to some, for me, giving up chocolate actually has the potential to bring me closer to God. And that's worth more than gold, or chocolate!


What are you giving up or taking up for Lent?
Please share in the Comments below!


Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - My Ash Wednesday Playlist...

Last night, we feasted.

Today, we fast.

As we mark Ash Wednesday with stillness and simplicity, 
we can also remember with the music we choose.

Here are some of my favourite songs to start the Lenten journey:


Wait For The Lord

Often sung in Advent, this Taize chorus also sets us up for Lent with its ache and longing...



The Sound of Silence

The power of bringing a 'secular' song into the spiritual realm...



What Wondrous Love Is This

The themes of Love and Death mingle together in Lent. This hymn reflects that beautifully...


Refiner's Fire

A call for purification during the Lenten season...



How Deep The Father's Love for Us

Well suited for Good Friday, listening to it today sets us up for the journey ahead...



What are you favourite songs for Ash Wednesday?
Leave your suggestions in the comments below...


Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - 3 Tips to Book a 5-Province Tour

Recently, we shared the news of our first East Coast Music Award nomination. (You can read about it HERE.) The awards ceremony is part of the larger East Coast Music Week (ECMW) - an annual celebration of showcases, workshops, seminars, concerts, and general music awesomeness. This year, ECMW will be held in my hometown of St. John's, Newfoundland, in April. In recent years, we've toured the East Coast in the fall, but if we're going to travel all that way in April, it made sense to move this year's tour to the spring.

So for the last two weeks, I've been in Booking Mode! I have 2 months in which to book an 8-week concert tour covering 5 provinces with a goal of 30 events. Crazy, I know!

Since I'm in Booking Mode, I thought I'd share 3 of my favourite tips 
for booking a multi-province tour:

#1 - ORGANIZE

I can't stress this enough! Booking 20-30 events will mean more than 200-300 emails, phone calls, and texts. The most important step for booking: find a system that works for you. I use email folders to keep track of all my communications. I also use Numbers (like Excel but for Mac) to create a massive spreadsheet. This is my master list with venue names, contact info, communications, and ultimately, all the info about the booking.


#2 - MAPS

I'm a visual person, and I love to see a sense of my progress. To give myself a view of the big picture, I actually use paper road maps to plan our tours. It's not high tech, but it works for me, and that's all that matters. As a CAA member, I get free road maps. I'll pick up maps for our tour provinces, and stick them to my office wall. I trim the edges and put them tight together to give a better sense of our tour area. Then, I pull out the Post It Notes. I use yellow to mark the cities we'll contact. When I get a positive response, I change it out to green. When I book the city, I change it to pink (because pink is always best!) Seeing the clear visual of our travel route keeps me aware of the big picture, and the colour-coding of the Post Its helps me track our process and see the areas that still need attention.


My low-tech map system, partway through our 2014 planning. You can see how the different coloured Post Its show the progress of the different bookings, and point out the areas that still needed work or confirmation.


#3 - WORK DAILY

Planning a tour of this size is an epic amount of work. There are hours of communications, negotiations, and the inevitable rejections. In a general week, I'll do 10 hours of booking, but I can put in up to 30 hours when we're in the big crush of things. It can get exhausting, especially if I'm trying to squeeze that into a few days. Plan to do a little every day. Don't let it overwhelm you. And make sure you're also planning time each day to write, rehearse, and actually make the music you love.


I hope these tips help you with your tour planning! 
Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section...


Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!