Monday, December 27, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Blog

Happy day-after Boxing Day!

Yesterday morning, I attended church at St. John's Rockwood (near Guelph, Ontario) where my Dad is currently holding the position of Interim Rector.

He preached his awesome The 12 Days of Christmas Sermon, where he takes us through the traditional song and shows how each gift actually represents an aspect of the Christian faith and practice. Dad and I have done this sermon together a few times, with me singing each verse, Dad teaching about the gift, and then whole congregation singing the song together at the end. (Yesterday, the choir sang each verse.) It's so effective, and gives a whole new meaning to a song that many people consider just a secular ditty.

To expand on this, Dad is also blogging for the 12 Days of Christmas, starting December 25 and going until January 5. Each day, he explains the Christian meaning behind a verse of the song, and gives an action you can do to reinforce the lesson.

You can follow his blog here:

http://mossfromarollingstone.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Combating Christmas Craziness

There were no carts in front of Costco today.

Usually, there are hundreds sitting in front of the store, waiting for customers, but today, they were all in use.

I took a deep breath and joined the stream of people entering the warehouse.

As I got close to the front door, the line of people was stopped by a screaming mother of two.

"You hit my ankle! Move your cart! You're hitting my ankle!"

The poor man behind her looked bewildered. Had his cart hit her ankle? Maybe. There were such throngs of shoppers, anyone's cart could have hit anything.

But this woman felt the need to stop everyone in their tracks and scream at this man and his shopping cart.

The tirade was stopped by a woman who said, "Wow, it's Christmas, you know."

As the line moved forward, I laughed and made a decision.


I am not, NOT going to complain about my blessings this Christmas!


Here's what I mean:

  • I refuse to get stressed about last minute shopping. Instead, I'm thankful that I can afford to buy groceries for our Christmas Eve dinner.
  • I refuse to get stressed about all the driving I have to do over the next few days. Instead, I'm thankful that my car is finally in great working order.
  • I refuse to get stressed about working wild hours and singing Jingle Bells a hundred times. Instead, I'm thankful that I can make a living singing Christmas carols with my husband to people who appreciate what we do.
  • I refuse to get stressed about having to balance visiting both sides of the family. Instead, I'm thankful that our families are healthy and living close enough that we can visit them easily.

So when I get that temptation to lean on my car horn, or push my cart in front of the woman who's taking forever to pick out a bag of potatoes, I'm taking a deep breath, saying a little prayer of thanks, and singing a Christmas carol to myself.... but not Jingle Bells!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Confessions of a Victorian Christmas Caroler

Two years ago, I wrote the following article for SGMRadio.com. Since we're in the thick of the season, I thought I'd share it with you today. Enjoy!

**********

CONFESSIONS OF A VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CAROLER

Each December, I dress up in costume, smile pretty, and sing Christmas carols to perfect strangers.

Yes Virginia, I'm a Victorian Christmas Caroler.

You know exactly what I'm talking about. You've seen us in malls and seniors’ centers. Maybe we made an appearance at your office party, or your local craft fair. It all started innocently enough. In university, I needed some extra money for Christmas presents, and the opportunity was just
too sweet. All I had to do was wear a fancy dress, sing carols, and someone would pay me. How could I not accept that offer?

By the end of the first season, I was hooked. Within a few years, I had started my own quartet, and then my own company. I made costumes and assembled a book of my favorite carol arrangements. My friends loved me because I was now providing them with jobs for their extra Christmas money.

Victorian caroling has brought me some of the coolest, and silliest, Christmas memories ever.

One year, our alto decided she would send our brochure to the NBA Raptors office, just for fun. As the booking agent for the group, I almost fell off my chair when I received a phone call from the Raptors event coordinator! We were booked to sing their Christmas game. We walked into
the very large Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, gleefully dressed in our Victorian attire. We sang carols to fans as they entered the arena, and then, we walked out onto the court and sang the national anthems. We even got platinum level seats for the game! What a Christmas gift!

Then there was the office building that had a Christmas party in each of its 31 office areas. We were asked to travel to each area, sing a few carols, and move on to the next area. We would try to do a few fun songs, take a request, and then move on. Well, when you take requests at
Christmas, you probably know what's going to happen - 31 renditions of Jingle Bells!

But here's the reason why all the silliness, all the craziness, is worth it:

Last year, my husband, Gerald, and I were booked to carol in a seniors’ home for their Christmas party. After singing for the gathering, we offered to visit the rooms of any residents who were unable to leave their beds to attend the party. We wandered from room to room, singing a song
for anyone we met.

In one room, we found an elderly gentleman lying in bed. Standing with him were two women, who we assumed were his wife and daughter. They broke out in smiles as soon as they saw us. We asked if they had a favorite carol. “Do you know ‘Deck the Halls’?" Gerald and I found our notes, and started the joyful song. As soon as the song began, the little family moved closer
together. They held hands, and then, they started to cry. Silent tears fell throughout the entire song. Gerald and I took deeper breaths to hold back our own tears. After the last verse, they said, “Thank you." We said, "Merry Christmas" and "God bless," and then we left for the next room. In
the hall outside the room, we wiped tears from our eyes, held hands, and said silent prayers of thanks for our own health, and our own marriage.

I don't know what that family was experiencing, I don't know why they requested "Deck the Halls," and I don't know what they were thinking when we sang it. But I do know this - in that moment, they needed that song. And I praise God that He brought us to that little room on that night.

Sometimes it may be a fun job, sometimes it may be a weird job, but in all of it, I am reminded that these are not simply Christmas ditties. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These songs tell the greatest story of the greatest birth ever. And I'm honored for the opportunity to sing that story again and again.

So this Christmas, when you see us in our funny costumes, singing our fourteenth rendition of "Jingle Bells," give us a smile and a nod, and sing along! The Christ is born, and we've got to sing it!

Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Concert Canceled!

We are sorry to announce that our St. Luke's Palermo concert for this Saturday, December 11 has been canceled.

We love singing at St. Luke's, so we'll let you know if the event is rescheduled.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

FREE Christmas Angels!

When we perform live in December, we offer lots of specials on our CDs, but since we have a new site this year, we wanted to offer an online special too.

For every CD purchased from www.AllisonLynn.com this month, we'll include a free Christmas angel ornament!



These charming crocheted ornaments are perfect for hanging on the tree or tying on a Christmas present.

Please visit www.AllisonLynn.com/Store for more details.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Victory Churches

At a time when so many churches are facing threat of closure, it's interesting to visit a ministry whose mission is planting new churches.

Victory Churches started about 30 years ago in Alberta, and have now planted churches around the world, including 9 in the GTA.

Tonight, Gerald and I sang for their local pastors' dinner. A small group of pastors gathered in the church for an amazing dinner, followed by a short message, and our music. We offered a few of our favourite songs - Just a Closer Walk, Your Grace is Enough, My Heart is the Manger - and ended with an awesome sing-along, complete with audience harmony.

It was such a lovely and gentle kind of night, with good conversation and great inspiration.

St. Barnabas, Peterborough

Christmas has begun!

Last night, Infinitely More performed the first concert of the Christmas season, so our Christmas has now officially begun.

We sang at the wonderful church of St. Barnabas in Peterborough. Together with ROC, they do amazing outreach work, both locally and internationally.

They had requested a night of Gospel music, with a smattering of Christmas music, and I think we assembled a very eclectic and fun program. We mixed our originals with Praise & Worship and our own interpretations of classic hymns. We ended with a few classic Christmas songs, a boisterous sing-along, and Gerald's awesome Christmas song, "My Heart is the Manger."

A photographer was there from Snap Peterborough, so I'll post a link if the photos make it in next month.

Getting to and from Peterborough was a lot of driving on a Friday night, but it was more than worth it - an appreciative crowd, a fun night of music, and some of the best shortbread I've ever tasted. And we've been invited back for next Christmas!

Last night also marks the beginning of our 8-performances-in-5-days extravaganza. Or as I'm also calling it, "Sing, Eat, Sleep... Sing, Eat, Sleep... Sing, Eat, Sleep..."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Infinitely More site!!!


Gerald & I have just launched a new site to celebrate our new duo, Infinitely More!

Blending Gospel, Praise & Worship, Country, and Jazz, Infinitely More wants to create a fresh new sound for the church.

Using original songs and fresh interpretations of the classics, we aim to encourage and inspire both the seeker and the lifelong Christian.

Our goal is to bring the Gospel message into churches of all denominations, as well as into unconventional and unexpected venues.

You can visit our new site at www.InfinitelyMore.ca

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cut for Cancer Updates

My hair has arrived at Pantene by now, and has started the process of becoming a wig!

I've built a new Cut for Cancer page on my site and a new photo album on Facebook to share my story.

I had long hair for years, but only thought about donating it because I saw someone else do it on tv.

If you have long hair, or you know someone who might be interested in donating their hair, please share this information with them. Donating is easier than you think!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Hair Cut for Cancer

A few years ago, my aunt had cancer. At the time, we lived so far apart that I felt there was little I could do to support her.

I remember her talking about losing her hair, and thinking how fortunate she was that she could purchase a wig.

And then I realized what I could do.

I could donate my hair.

Last year, I decided that I would donate again. I start growing it, and growing it, and growing it, and today, we finally did the cut!


Here's my before shot. We did the cut at my cousin Laurel's fabulous salon:


And here I am after the cut! Almost 10 inches!
We gathered the hair in ponytails and snipped them off, elastics still intact.


After that, I was treated to a fabulous makeover!
Heather did my cut, and Laurel did my colour.


My ponytails were put in a baggie, and mailed to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.


I'm so grateful for this experience. I didn't know if it would be as profound the second time around, but it really was.

As I cared for my hair over the past few months, I realized that it wasn't my hair anymore - I was just taking care of it until I could pass it on to someone else.

In the past few weeks, I started praying for the woman who would get my hair. I don't know anything about her - her age, her looks, her background, her family - but I do know that she's going to be scared, and I know she's going to need faith and hope to get her through.

It takes 6 donations to make one wig, so my hair will join forces with the hair of 5 other women. I thought about those women, how different we all might be, how similar. I imagined having lattes with them and hearing the stories behind their hair donations.


So here I am, with my new look!

Laurel, Me, Heather

Many thanks to Laurel Richards Hair for doing my cut and making me feel fantastic! Laurel and her crew do an annual Cut for Cancer day each June. Be sure to look them up if you're close to Ajax, Ontario.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths collects ponytails and makes them into wigs for women who can't afford them both in Canada and in the States. If you're interested in donating your hair, please consult their site for all the details.

And a special thanks to my family for supporting me in this project. Gerald took a video, and I'll be posting that on the weekend. I'll also be making a page on my website and a gallery on facebook, so I'll let you know when all that is available for viewing.

And now, I just have to get used to using less shampoo!



Sunday, November 14, 2010

The All Day St. John's York Mills Day

What an awesome day of music and worship!

Gerald and I led the worship team at both services today. This morning, we were joined by Brian on percussion, Ambrose on base, and his new bride, Cleo, on vocals. We had a fantastic rehearsal on Thursday, which meant we could walk in this morning, nice and relaxed and ready to make music.

We had a good mix of our favourites - "How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)" - and a new song - "All Who are Thirsty." We did my song, "Living Manna", during communion, and for the first time, we had all the vocalists singing lead on it. Usually I take a solo on the vocals, with just a bit of harmony. It was awesome to hear everyone singing my melody. I couldn't stop grinning the whole time.

Tonight, we had Brian back for percussion, and our friend Susan joined the team for the first time. Her gifts on piano and vocals are wonderful, and we quickly gelled as a team. We kept the songs uptempo with "Your Grace is Enough", "Indescribable," and "Beautiful One."

I've been reading "Captured by Grace" by Dr. David Jeremiah, and the chapter I just finished was on Romans 5. As I prepared for tonight's service, a few verses kept ringing through my head:


Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.



"Glory in our sufferings..." I couldn't stop thinking about that. I thought of all the people in our congregation who are suffering right now, from illness, grief, unemployment, and just tough situations. As our worship progressed tonight, I read these verses in between songs, and in a way that only God can move things, it fit right into Drew's message.

I'm really happy with today. We welcomed 2 new people to our team, had a great time making music, and recognized, once again, that we're a small part of something wonderful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We all need days like this...

I'm feeling so encouraged these days!

In the past week, I've received some tremendous compliments and feedback on our music. I've heard a story of someone using one of our songs in a challenging situation. I've confirmed 4 bookings in 3 days. I was part of an amazing rehearsal on Thursday night. New doors are opening daily.

So often, we make music and pursue bookings and keep sowing seeds, wondering if anything is taking root.

That's why times like this are so valuable. They feed the moment, and the season to come.

Feeling grateful tonight, for so many blessings...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

We're going to Break Forth!

We are so excited tonight!

A few weeks ago, Dad gave us a brochure for a worship conference in Alberta called Break Forth. We've attended a lot of workshops, but this one just looks awesome!

Tonight, Gerald and I registered! In January, we'll head out to Alberta for 3 days of songwriting workshops, worship leading seminars, connecting with other musicians, and awesome concerts.

We're also hoping to book a few concerts for ourselves while we're there.

The poster is below. Let me know if you'll be attending! If not, I'll be blogging every night (of course!).




Sunday, November 07, 2010

I'm a Guest Blogger

I meant to post this earlier, but Nashville worship leader and songwriter, Eric Wyse, recently used one of my posts (with permission) as a guest blog post!

You can read it here.

Thanks, Eric!

Communion Trio

Today I had Holy Communion in three different churches, which I think is a personal record.

We started the day at St. John's West, where Gerald and I led the music for a Remembrance themed service. We sang songs of peace, like "The Strangest Dream" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth." To celebrate the theme of sacrificial service, we sang Gerald's song, "Somebody's Angel." We also introduced our new childrens dismissal song, "Let the Children Come Unto Me." So encouraging to see everyone singing along with us!

In the early evening, we played on the worship team at St. John's York Mills for the Gathering service. This service is usually prayer, music, and a dialogue sermon, but for tonight, we gathered around the table and had an intimate Communion. Just beautiful.

Then, I went to St. Clements to attend their evening service called Surface. Described as an 'emerging' worship experience, Surface combines scripture, poetry, prayer, and secular songs of inspiration to create an unique worship experience. We also had Communion in the round, which was lovely and powerful. Gerald and I will be leading the music for this service in a few weeks - looking forward to it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cafe Church


St. John's Weston has decided that the final Sunday of every month will be Something Different Sunday, and today, we were part of that something.

Instead of hosting a traditional Anglican service of Holy Communion, St. John's hosted their first Cafe Church. Tables, chair, coffee, and sweets were set up on the parish hall. A small altar, complete with candles, was set up at one end, and we lead music from the stage. (The photo above shows our view from the stage.)

Gerald and I have played cafe worship services before, so we're really comfortable with the setting. They still kept the full Anglican service, complete with liturgy and Scripture readings. The priest, Michelle, wore robes, as did the lay minister. The contrast between the formality of the "Anglicanisms" and the casualness of the cafe setting was striking and lovely.

Instead of a sermon, Michelle encouraged each table to write their own prayer. During the prayers of the people, someone from each table stood and read their prayer for the group. It was so powerful, and when Michelle wrapped it up by praying "these are the prayers of your faithful people," it really was the prayers of the faithful people!

For the congregational music, we used Taize choruses, and Gerald and I did our own songs before the service and during Communion. We had 2 songs chosen for Communion, but they had such a crowd that we had to pull out a few more and did 4 in total. It always helps to have a few songs memorized and a few extra charts in the back of your binder!

What a great time of community! In the evening, we played at our St. John's with the worship team, for another great time of casual worship and discussion.

Kind of happy we only had one trick-or-treater - a night of relaxing and eating candy is a nice way to end a busy weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sound of Music on Oprah!

I was glued to my tv this evening as I watched the cast of "The Sound of Music" reunite to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the landmark film.

As I watched it, I was flooded with memories of watching the film, singing the songs, reading Maria Von Trapp's autobiography that started it all...

I'm such a fan, and I could write for days about my love of the film and its music, but let me share these two wonderful memories that rose to the top today:

For our first date, Gerald took me to Stratford to see Christopher Plummer in "King Lear." Later, when we drove by the theatre, we saw a limo pull up, and out stepped Julie Andrews! Long story short (and if you ever want to hear this story in person, this is my favourite story to tell in play-by-play detail!), I stalked her in the gift shop until I got up the nerve to speak to her! I thanked her for how much her music had influenced me, she graciously said "Thank you, thank you very much," and I walked away with tears streaming down my face.

A few years later, I was cast in Disney's "The Pacifier" in the role of Maria. (The film contains a rather over-the-top rendition of the musical.) I spent 2 days in a high end studio singing Maria's songs, 10 days in rehearsal with award winning directors, and 4 days on set, singing and dancing out scenes from the musical. Most of our work ended up on the cutting room floor, but it was truly a wonderful experience.


To celebrate today's memories, here's a photo from the set of "The Pacifier":


"The Lonely Goatherd"
This scene was hilarious, but ended up on the cutting room floor.
And yes, that's a wig!


"Fill us up, and send us out..."

...is the bridge of one of my new favourite songs, "God of Justice" by Tim Hughes.

I feel like today was a "send us out" kind of day.

We reached out to both ends of the country and down to two different states - sending songs, planning tours, and sharing creative ideas.

I continue to marvel at technology, and the way we can use it to share our ministry and build our relationships.

I feel blessed and humbled by such a productive day.

I'm excited about what tomorrow may bring ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning from my Dad

My Dad just wrote a new blog post of old material.

In 2007, my Dad retired from a full-time career of preaching and pastoring. But in 1964, he was a newly ordained deacon, ready to take on the challenges of ministry. For his recent blog post, Dad shared part of his sermon from that ordination service.


Two things struck me while reading his sermon:

#1. His voice is still the same! His style of writing, turns of phrase, even the way I can imagine him reading his words have hardly changed at all.

#2. His philosophies are still the same.
My Dad is open to new ideas, and I know his thoughts have been shaped by his experiences, but his basic thoughts about ministry that are reflected in that sermon are the same ones I've heard him preach over the years: humility in service, the need for prayer, and the importance of each individual's personal ministry.


As I read this sermon (written before my Dad had even met my Mom!), I reflected on how Dad's philosophy of ministry has affected my life and, subsequently, my ministry.

I'm honest with myself about my faults, knowing that is it through this honesty that I can battle ego and pride. I'm also honoured that God would call me into ministry, so I strive to bring my best to it every day.

I have many memories of Dad standing in front of our congregation and saying, "Each person here has a ministry. Not just the clergy, but you. What is your personal ministry?"

Even before receiving my 'calling,' I knew that my role wasn't simply to sing in the choir, but how could I, as a choir member, use that position to minister to our congregation?

And to bring it full circle, now that I'm in leadership, how can I help other people discover their personal ministries?


I know Dad learned a lot about himself as he re-read that sermon, but I didn't know that I'd learn so much about myself too.

To read Dad's blog post, please visit here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Permission to Write Badly

Early in our Sunday morning services, the children are brought up to the front and then sent out to attend Sunday school until they return to join us for Communion. And every Sunday, the piano or organ improvises a hymn tune while the children leave.

One Sunday I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could sing a song for the children while they're walking out? Something that would let them know they're special, and remind us of the importance of caring for our children in the church?"

So I mulled it over, had a little inspiration, and wrote a very simple 4-line lyric.

Then came the melody. There would be no chorus, no bridge, so all the melodic interest had to be packed into those simple 4 lines. It needed to be simple enough for the congregation to sing, but interesting enough to make it an enjoyable sing.

The challenge began!

I had one idea that kind of stuck in my head, and I finished it, but I wasn't happy with it. It wasn't beautiful enough. It was the kind of melody that, in our house, we call a "na-na" melody.

I sang it for Gerald who confirmed my suspicions. But then I had to go back to square one - how do I create an interesting melody for 4 lines?

So, I gave myself permission to write a bad melody.

For two days, I sang the lyric in hundreds of ways, and none of it was pretty. I changed keys and time signatures in the middle of lines. I sang one note melodies and 2 octave melodies. I sang weird rhythms and atonal intervals.

And then, it came!

The beautiful, singable, 4 line melody I was looking for.

I sang it several times to allow it to settle into place. The phrasing felt very natural. There was a good flow, good prosody.

I sang it for Gerald, and his smile on the first line let me know I had found my melody.

Sometimes, as artists, we need to allow ourselves to make art that is messy, or weird, or just plain bad so we can discover the art that is truly beautiful, and that says what we need it to say.

Happy creative discovery, everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keith Getty Inspiration!

I just watched a great interview with Keith Getty (of "In Christ Alone" fame). He and Nashville worship leader, Eric Wyse, were interviewed by the director of Lifeway Worship about songwriting, music planning, and art in worship.

The whole thing is quite brilliant, but here are a few of my favourite moments:

- Keith talked about a creative approach to Sunday worship, and the importance of making each Sunday the best is can be. Best quote of the interview: Imagine each "Sunday's your next Carnegie Hall."

- Keith wasn't afraid to speak about the beauty and mystery of Art. Both Keith and Eric talked about the wonderful, varied, and sometimes messy processes that occur in the writing of a song.

- Keith reminded us that the definition of "hymn" vs "song" is relative. I know this from my own experience of living in two countries. Many pieces that we'd consider Gospel songs here in Toronto are standard hymns in the South.

- Eric talked about the importance of encouraging the creativity and unique musical voice of each congregation.

- The interviewer brought up the point that many hymn-writers of the past were also pastors, but this doesn't seem to be the trend anymore. I've never given this any thought, but I am reading a book about John Newton who, of course, was both. Thoughts were discussed, but it would be interesting to discuss this with a group of pastors. Maybe lyric writing seems too daunting? Too difficult? Maybe it's seen as a distraction from preaching? I don't know, but it's an interesting question.

To see the whole video, please visit here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New online stuff...

If you're looking for a few more ways to drift around the internet on this rainy afternoon, check out these new online treats:

- I've added a Hymns poll to the Home page of www.AllisonLynn.com Come visit and give your thoughts on your favourite hymns.

- My Dad has just written a great blog post about Harvest. You can read it here.

- I've created a facebook album from our visit to Calvary Church this summer. You can visit it here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I can't help but reflect on this past year and all it has brought:

- our move home to Toronto
- our recovery from our car accident, both physically and emotionally
- our new position on the music staff at St. John's York Mills
- finishing "Hymns in the Key of Grace"
- recording Gerald's demos
- travels to Illinois, NYC, and Nashville
- countless new friends, new experiences, and new memories!

And as I relax today, my mind drifts into the dreams and plans for the next few months:

- the launch of our new duo, Infinitely More
- the launch of our new Christmas music site
- sending Gerald's demos to publishers and artists
- planning our East Coast tour for next summer
- our fireside concert in January
- new songs and new musical experiments!

Today, I'm so thankful for my family, our friends, our puppies, our church, our ministry, and our health. I'm so grateful that Gerald and I have been called into making music together. We have faced many challenges this past year, but we never forget that we are BLESSED beyond measure!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Music in the Garden - CANCELED!!!!!!!

Dear friends,

We're very sorry to announce that we will be canceling our Music in the Garden - Infinitely More Launch Concert this Saturday.

Since last week, we have been plagued by illness - colds, bad sinuses, and a terrible flu. If we were doing a concert at a church or other venue, we would make it work. But hosting a concert in your own backyard requires an enormous amount of work, and with all this sickness, we just haven't had time to prepare music, the backyard, or ourselves.

Our deepest apologies for any inconvenience this cancellation may cause!

That said, Infinitely More is still moving forward! This month, we will launch our new website with an Online Site Party! We're appearing at several churches over the next few months, and we're already taking bookings for Christmas services, parties, and other events.

Also, we're planning a Fireside Concert for the winter!

To follow all our events, please check in regularly with us on Allison's site, this blog, and Facebook.

Thank you for all your prayers and support for this event, and for our music! Please feel free to contact us with any questions!

Blessings,
Allison + Gerald
Infinitely More

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gerald's Song Online!

Lisa Mowry, our amazing demo singer (and friend), has posted the demo for Gerald's song "Fifteen Minutes of Shame" on her website!

Lisa recorded the song while we were in Nashville last month, and on her site, she called Gerald "one of my very favourite songwriters"!

Visit her site to hear "Fifteen Minutes of Shame", and turn up your speakers - the song will begin automatically:

http://lisamowrymusic.com/

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Double Church Day

Actually, it was a double St. John's day!

This morning, we played at St. John's West for a service of Baptism and Holy Communion. A wonderful couple in the church just adopted a baby girl from Vietnam. I find baptisms emotional any time, but this one was especially beautiful. The family chose the hymns, and they reflected the love and support they want for their child's life in Christ.

In the late afternoon/early evening, we joined the worship team to play for the Gathering at St. John's York Mills. We sang great songs like "Indescribable" and "Your Grace is Enough." Rehearsal went really well, but when we got into the service, something else took over. I'd like to think it was us, but I know it wasn't.

When those moments hit, how can you not believe in something greater than yourself?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pastors & Musicians - The Great Debate

A few months ago, our bishop thought it would be a great idea to connect clergy and church musicians for a time of sharing, debating, and, hopefully, learning.

Today, ministers and musicians from the York-Scarborough Anglican diocese gathered for panels, discussions, and a little music making.

Many large issues came up:
  • What is the role of music in worship?
  • What is the relationship between clergy and organist/music director?
  • In worship, is the lyric or the melody more important?
  • Entertainment vs worship.
  • The changing role of the church choir.
  • How do we teach new music and new musical directions to our congregations?
  • How can we see everyone in our congregation as a 'musician'?
  • Vocal worship vs instrumental worship.
  • Should worship meet culture, reflect culture, or lead culture?
Overall, the day was really good and, I think, crucial, to what we're all trying to do. Clergy generally have some way to connect with other clergy through regular pastoral gatherings, but church musicians tend to get isolated. With our touring ministry, I tend to forget how lucky Gerald and I are to meet and play with so many different church musicians.

My one disappointment in the day was the lack of contemporary praise and worship music. The Anglican church in Toronto has started to embrace a wide variety of musical styles - classical, world, African, jazz, Gospel, Celtic, etc. But praise and worship music is taking the world by storm, and it's a critical part of worship at our church. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but sometimes, we need to recognize that what's 'church' for us, may not be 'church' for other people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We're forming a duo!!!

So, I've been hinting at new things on this blog and on facebook, so here's the big news... (insert drum roll here!)....

Gerald and I are forming a duo!

We started singing together long before we ever started dating, and we've been performing together on a regular basis for several years. As of October 2nd, we'll now be operating as:


Infinitely More


We're so excited about this new musical adventure! Infinitely More will mix new songs with fresh arrangements of classic Gospel songs. We want to serve churches of all denominations, and bring the Gospel into unexpected and unconventional venues.

We're inspired by Esphesians 3:20 which states,"Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." (God's Word Translation)

We're building a new site, and we have plans for a new CD in 2011.

And we're kicking it off with a concert!

Please join us on Saturday, October 2nd to celebrate this new endeavor!

Pastors and clergy, please contact me directly for a very special invitation.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning to Sync...

I've just learned how I can sync my blog with my site!

You can now read my blog at this address, or by visiting my site and clicking the Blog tab.

Yay! I'm so in love with Bandzoogle - not to do a commercial, but if you're interested in designing your own site, I completely and utterly recommend Bandzoogle. Contact me with any questions or for a free 60-day trial link. (Couldn't avoid it - that does sound like a commercial! I should get paid for this...)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Quran, The Pastor, and My Choice


Let me start with a footnote: I'm not a political person, and this is not a political post. I vote, but I'm not associated with any political party, and you'll never hear any political talking points from me, either from the stage, my site, or this blog. Okay, here's what's on my mind tonight...



"I love Jesus, but sometimes, Christians drive me nuts."

That was my facebook status two days ago.

I wrote it just after Gerald told me about the pastor in Florida who wants to mark the 9th anniversary of 9/11 by burning Qurans.

This story has flooded the news and consumed my thoughts. I've thought about how I would feel if a group was marking a special event by burning Bibles. I've thought about how this man's actions affect the reputation of churches everywhere. I've thought about the troops and the dangers it may bring their way.

I started writing a blog post just after that, and I've been working on it for days. At first, I ranted and raved. I thought, "I'll show them! I have freedom of speech too!"

Every time I'd have a conversation about this pastor and what he's doing, someone would bring up the classic question, "What would Jesus do?"

And that got me thinking: "What if I turned this question not just on the church in Florida, but also on myself?"

And maybe not exactly, "What would Jesus do," but "What would Jesus ask me to do?"

Wow. That changes everything.

In "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey shows that after any incident, we as humans have a moment where we can decide to either react or act.

Last night, as I continued to edit my blog post, I realized that I was reacting.

What if Jesus was asking me to act instead?

So, that's what I've decided to do. I'm still mad, and horrified, and generally upset over the situation in Florida, but that anger is affecting no one but myself (and possibly my patient husband who gets to witness my rants.)


Instead, here's how I'm choosing to act over the next few days:

- PRAY - I'm praying for the pastor and for his congregation. I'm praying that their hearts are turned away from this hateful act. I'm praying for the Muslim community that is so hurt by this act, and I'm praying for safety in areas where this event may lead to more conflict.

- READ - I've just finished reading "Three Cups of Tea," which is a real-life example of how education can bring peace and healing. I highly, highly recommend you read it too!

- LEARN - We are all a little too ignorant about the different racial and religious groups that live in our own towns and cities. How can we ever love our neighbours when we don't know anything about them? This week, I'm going to take time to learn a little more about the Islamic community in my city.

- LOVE - If we do nothing more than love someone this week, imagine the difference that could make in our world. This week, I'm going to find a moment when I'd usually be tempted into gossip or sarcasm, and try to react in love.

- ENCOURAGE - I'm going to encourage you to choose action over reaction this week. I encourage you to be loving to those who are different than you, and to pray for peace and generosity in our world.


What is Jesus asking you to do this week?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calvary Church

We arrived home Friday night, thankful for a safe drive and a productive trip. I can't remember the last time we worked so hard, and we weren't ready to stop yet.

Earlier this year, my friend Deanna suggested we come to her church, and this morning, it came to fruition. Calvary Church is a great church at Pape and Danforth in Toronto. From the outside, it's an old, beautiful brick church, but inside, the sanctuary is fresh and contemporary.

The church uses a rotation system for its large roster of volunteer musicians and worship leaders. This morning, Deanna lead a team that included guitar, drums, piano, bass, flute, violin, and vocals.

Gerald and I did three feature songs - "Just a Closer Walk," "Give Me Jesus," and "A Church Song Broke Me Down" (Deanna's favourite!) We also joined the team for "Blessed Be Your Name," which was very cool!

The people at Calvary Church were awesome, and we spent lots of time after the service chatting and sharing stories. After packing up, we headed over to Deanna's for a relaxing barbecue, and the unofficial start of our week off!

What was supposed to be a fairly relaxing summer has been awesome, but busy, so we're taking the next week to relax, enjoy our backyard, and just do nothing!

*bliss*

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Final Studio Day

I've been trying to blog at the end of the day, but today is so long, and it's far from over, so to avoid falling asleep while I write, I'm writing from the studio.

We've been here since noon, and it's now 7:43pm. We had to take a meeting this morning, so the studio had a bit of a late start. Kind of wish now we'd started it all earlier. We're still on the fourth song, and we have one more to go after this.

Not trying to complain (even though I know it sounds like I'm complaining) - I'm just tired, and we have a long drive tomorrow, so I really want to get a good night's sleep.

The recording process has been amazing. Everyone has been so creative and awesome. Our demo singers have really inspired me in different ways - Lisa is so prepared and present, and Justin has great harmony skills.

Denny has started some rough mixes already, and he'll continue that after we leave. I don't know how long it'll take for us to get the final mixes, but when we do, we'll post them on Gerald's myspace page (I'll post a link when they're up).

After we leave here, we're going to join Tara and Kyle for a late supper, then get as much sleep as we can before tomorrow morning.

I'm not as anxious about the drive as I was last week, but if you're the praying kind, I'd still appreciate you lifting a few up for us over the next few days. Thanks...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Vocals and Overdubs!

Too tired to blog.

Lisa finished her vocals - amazing!

Scott came to the studio and added a gritty guitar to one song.

Finally got a little time for shopping and visiting with friends.

Happy, tired, and ready for our final Nashville day tomorrow.

My Dad is a Blogger!

Please welcome my Dad, Rev. Hollis Hiscock, to the world of blogging!

Dad is a great writer, preacher, and photographer, and I know his blog will be awesome!

Feel free to check him out and leave him a comment at Moss from a Rolling Stone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Female Vocals - Day 1

With the car at the dealership, we were so grateful that our vocalist for the day is also a good friend of ours.

Lisa picked us up this morning and we all gathered at the studio to record the vocals for Gerald’s female songs. Lisa has a fantastic ability to sing all-out power vocals, and then pull it down to a beautiful, intimate sound.

Her voice was soulful on “Johnny Cash’s Eyes” and sweet and powerful on “Me and Patsy Cline.” When we got to the background vocals, Gerald asked me to recreate what Monika and I did on last month’s worktapes. I added the upper harmony and Lisa added the lower line.

I also stepped into the booth for “All Her Flowers are Wild.” I always sing harmonies on this one live, but when we moved it from Gerald’s key up to Lisa’s key, the parts didn’t work as well. With Denny’s expertise, we created a new harmony line, and I actually sang both the upper and lower parts. Recording harmonies feels very different than singing them live, but I’m really happy with what we were able to do.

At the end of a very long and productive day, Lisa drove us to the dealership to pick up our car. We’re hoping it’s fixed forever now. Can’t say I’m happy with the unexpected expense, but if it keeps us safe on the drive home, I’m happy for that.

The dealership is on Broadway, so we went down the street a little so I could have a quick shopping trip at the amazing Lifeway Christian Bookstore - my favourite! The store almost cheered when I walked through the doors...

As a treat to ourselves, we went to Maggiano’s for an awesome meal and some decompression time. In the morning, we’ll be packing up and heading to Tara’s for a few nights. We’re back at the studio again tomorrow, and then again on Wednesday. Non-stop...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Redeemer and Rounds

The day started bright and early when I awoke at 6:15am. The last time I sang at Church of the Redeemer was a year ago this month, and I couldn't wait to join Jenna and team for rehearsal (though the new 7:45am rehearsal time was less than thrilling).

Our return to Nashville has been wonderful, but this morning, I really felt like I had come home. Singing with Jenna is so natural, and she had built a great team and chosen great songs for this morning. Throughout the morning, I was greeted and hugged and loved on. I got to see almost everyone I wanted to see, and it all felt so good.

After the service, everyone gathered downstairs for a presentation by the recent mission team. They had taken a trip to our sister parish in Rwanda to work with local children. The stories and videos were incredible. I've never taken a mission trip, but I can feel the desire brewing in me...

Jenna and I slipped out early so we could enjoy some lunch and catching up time. As we finished lunch, I realized that Mary Tom Speer was sitting at the table behind us! What an awesome blessing! I just love Miss Mary Tom!

Jenna and I spent the rest of the afternoon sipping cappuccinos and chatting about music, throwing ideas around, and encouraging each other. While we were out, Gerald sent me a text saying that Denny Martin had asked him to play a round at the Commodore tonight! Whoo-hoo!

I thought, "Perfect - I'll drive home, take a little nap, and be all refreshed for the round."

I pulled into a gas station to fill up, and when I was done, I turned the key...

the car wouldn't start.

The car wouldn't start!

The car wouldn't start!!

Two and a half hot and tiring hours later, the tow truck dropped our car off at the dealership. Everything was closed today, so we'll have to get on that tomorrow morning before we hit the studio.

*sigh*

Meanwhile, Gerald had come to meet me, so the tow truck driver also brought us to the Commodore. I was going to sing harmony, but I was so tired and overheated that I decided to simply sip sweet tea and play the role of Proud Wife.

Gerald was awesome! His songs really stood out, and his performance was great! After his round, the featured round started, and it was fantastic! These guys were seasoned writers and performers, and it showed in the quality of the songs. You'd pay $20 a head to hear something like this at the Bluebird, and here we were watching it for free. It was seriously good. Whenever they'd sing a great line or a great hook, the audience of songwriters would cheer and applaud. Really, really good.

I was thinking tonight about the diversity of our summer - July in NYC - August in Nashville - both so different, yet both fantastic!

We're wondering what it would take to live in three cities...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Overdubs and Elijah Conference - Day 4

We were back at the studio first thing this morning for overdubs. If yesterday was the landscape of the painting - the grass, water, and sky - then the overdubs are the flowers and other decorative flourishes that are scattered over the canvas.

Scott was our 'utility' player. He brought pedal steel, mandolin, and dobro and added parts to four of Gerald's songs. In a short 2 hours, the songs had been brought to yet another level. Just beautiful! Can't wait for the vocal sessions next week. (We're not doing our own vocals. Instead, we've hired some amazing country singers. It's going to be great!)

After the session, Gerald and I drove to Grace Nazarene for the final sessions of the Elijah Conference. Allison was giving everyone one more chance to sing today. I hadn't been able to sing yet, so Gerald and I did two songs - "A Church Song Broke Me Down" and "Give Me Jesus." Allison was pretty gentle with us, but gave us some great feedback.

The conference ended with a blessing, lots of hugs, and plans to meet up on facebook.

We left the church and walked out into a wild thunderstorm, which we took as a sign to stay in for the evening. It's been a crazy four days, and tomorrow will be early for me, so a quiet night was just the ticket.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In the Studio - LIVE BLOGGING!


Welcome to my first day of live blogging!

Today we're in the studio recording Gerald's demos, and I'll be blogging throughout the day in real time. I'll keep this post open, and just keep adding to the bottom. Check back often and remember to refresh this page so you can join in the adventure of the day!

9:18am - We're here in Antioch at the studio of Denny Martin. The players are arriving and enjoying the Krispy Kremes we brought with us. The coffee is flowing...




9:31am - The players are all here in the booth with us, reviewing charts for the first song. Everyone's nodding along as they listen to Gerald's worktape and review the charts. People are taking notes, figuring out the tempo, and debating how to play the details. Compliments are flowing - nice! These guys hear a lot of songs.

9:40am - Gerald is in the vocal booth to record a scratch vocal. The demo singer will sing the final vocal next week. The scratch is simply to guide the musicians. They've started - it sounds AWESOME!!!!! WHOO-HOO!!!! I'm grinning like an idiot :)

9:54am - Instruments on the session are keyboard, drums, electric bass, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. Denny just explained that when the band is playing, the electric guitar will play rhythm, keeping along with the band. After he'll do an overdub to do more solo, wailing, cool stuff. Amazing to see all this creativity coming together.

10:00am - "I'm not very smart, but I'm a good listener and a good eater." as said by the guitar player. Possibly the best quote of the day :)

10:08am - Instrumental solos and licks are being improvised by the guitars and keys. Wow.

10:13am - First song done! On to the next!

10:20am - Reviewing charts for song 2. Gerald is showing them how he wants the hook played.


10:33am - Just received a note from Monika asking for song titles. So far, we've done "Watertower", and now they're doing "Last Payphone in the World." It's sounding amazing. The players are so tight and so fast, and in between takes they're sharing jokes, jabs, and kudos.

10:54am - Debating tempo. Tempo can make or break a song. Should it be more Kenny Chesney or more Brad Paisley? Playing it several ways right now, different speeds, different grooves.

11:13am - Here's how the music looks as Denny is recording the different tracks. Each coloured line represents a different instrument. The half lines on the screen are the solos/overdubs being added to the tracks that the full band just recorded.



11:33am - Starting "Me and Patsy Cline." Debating starting with just piano and building the track by having the band come in on the chorus. Making sure the key will work for Lisa on Monday. Making sure all the chords on the chart match what Gerald is playing on the worktape.

11: 40am - Gerald waving from inside the booth.


11:54am - Doing the first take of "Me and Patsy Cline." Finally understand what Gerald meant when he said they way we play it is too 'folk' for country radio. This sounds like something you'd hear on the radio. It has more drive, more power - really embodies the empowerment experienced by the lead character. Sounds different to hear it this way, but it's really cool.

12:30pm - Lunch!

1:27pm - Back from lunch. Awesome little Italian buffet with piles of pizza, eggplant, and mussels.

1:29pm - Starting the afternoon with "Johnny Cash's Eyes."

1:38pm - The players are getting back in place after the lunch break, new charts in hand. Retuning the guitars and making sure we have all the right sounds on the keys and drums. The drummer is behind the panels, and that's Denny on the left making sure everyone has what they need.



2:17pm - Just took a slew of photos. Going to post a few today, but I'll post lots of facebook and my site later, maybe when we get home. Getting ready to start "All Her Flowers are Wild" - one my favourite songs Gerald has ever written!!!

2: 27pm - Here's a shot of the chart for "Johnny Cash's Eyes." If you click on it, it should get larger and then you can see the Nashville Number System in action. The numbers allow the players to change keys without changing charts. Notice too how the foam is placed between the cymbal and its mic to act as a bit of a buffer (I'm sure there's a technical name for this? Feel free to add to the comments if you know it.)


2:57pm- Couldn't get online for a few minutes - freaked me out! Back now, and they're doing the first pass of "Fifteen Minutes of Shame." This is a song that needs a great band, and it sounds amazing. It's incredible how these guys can make a first pass sound like a song they've been playing for years.

3:14pm - My drum solo...


3:19pm - Adding B3 organ to "Fifteen Minutes of Shame" - we're all very happy!

3:47 - Don't think I've said this yet, but I'm realizing that session players are process-based and not product-based musicians. They're not saving and using all their creativity for their own completed songs or CDs. Instead, they get in the studio every day, sharing their creativity with other artists and other songwriters. They won't get copies of all their work and they won't get to play their arrangements every night on the road. Instead, the joy is in the process of making great music, in this short moment, and then moving on to the next great moment of creativity.

3:54pm - Moving on to the last song of the day, "When Saturday Morning was All Day Long." A few weeks ago, I suggested to Gerald that this would make a great duet, so that's how they're going to record it! Still pushing to see if that qualifies me for a co-writing credit...

4:04pm - Debating a last minute key change - whether dropping it a semi-tone will make it too low to sing nice harmonies next week?

4:10pm - After one take, we've decided the new key doesn't work, so we're back to the original. Going to slow it down a click or two. Gerald is showing them the vocal on the bridge so everything can get tight. Doing a water bottle run out to the vocal booth.

4:19pm - New key and new tempo sound great! Single take is done. Now the different players are going back and saying "Just let me redo bar 5 of the chorus..." and other such tweaks. Denny will just punch those in when he's doing the final mix.


4:34pm - Learning the history of the people we're working with. Our acoustic guitar player didn't start playing til after university. Amazing! Don't ever think it's too late to start following your dream...

4:41pm - Our songs are DONE! Whoo-hoo!!! Just wrapping up now. The players are going to do one more short piece of their own before we pack up.

4:53pm - After playing country music all day, the players have flicked the music switch in their heads and are now playing a 50's style film soundtrack.

5:11pm - Taking group photos and collecting email addresses.



5:22pm - Photo of us and Denny.



5:23pm - We're finished and packing up and heading out. Saying thank you and making sure we have everything we brought with us. Heading into Nashville for supper and to watch a round at the Commodore. Love live blogging! Hope you enjoyed it too :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Elijah Conference - Day 2 and Demo Prep

First, an announcement:

Tomorrow, I'm LIVE BLOGGING!

We'll be in studio all day, and they have wifi. Instead of blogging in the evening, I'm going to post updates throughout the day about our experience. Tune in tomorrow anytime after 9:00am Central Time and I'll be posting updates. I'll try to post photos during the day too!

*****

Today was awesome. We spent the morning chatting with our producer, Denny Martin, and working through the arrangements for tomorrow. Last week, Gerald sent him rough guitar-vocal recordings of his songs. Denny took these 'worktapes' and wrote out all the musical arrangements, including the chords, the song structure, and which instruments will play on each song. We're recording nine songs, so this planning will make tomorrow run smoothly.

After lunch, I returned to the Elijah Conference. I started my afternoon right with an awesome cappuccino, courtesy of my friend, Wess Adams. He and his wife, Susan, are some of my dearest Stamps-Baxter friends.

The friendships are half the reason to attend Elijah. There are so many sweet and talented people here. Today, I finally met my friend Rhonda Frye in real life - we met on facebook a year ago! And I also got to witness the birth of my friend Jennifer's new blog. Yay, blogging!

The teaching today was intense! To put it in a nutshell, Allison focused on being authentic in our ministry. Everyone gets tired of the church cliches - what can I say that is new and fresh and personal?

After this intense afternoon, I picked up Gerald and we went out to Antioch to see the studio and finalize the arrangements with Denny. I got to sing through Gerald's songs as we put the girl songs in a good key for our female vocalist (our awesomely talented friend, Lisa Mowry.)

Gerald and Denny started talking flat sevenths and minor fifths and diminished something-or-anothers and my head started to spin. That kind harmonic knowledge just blows my mind - not just the technical knowledge - I've got that - but the ability to use it to write songs and create new and exciting sounds. Love it!

We went back to the area where we used to live - had a late supper at our old Cracker Barrel (Coca-Cola cake!) and picked up provisions at our old Kroger. We're overwhelmed with how surreal it feels to be back. We're traveling in another country, and yet we're home. Pretty awesome...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elijah Conference - Day 1

I have that bleary-eyed tiredness that only comes after a full day of good stuff.

After our two-day drive, I was in pretty rough shape this morning - not just tired, but my neck was really stiff. I treated myself to a gentle start of stretching and espresso, and arrived at the Elijah Conference during Allison's first performance training session.

The focus of Elijah is to train people in music ministry to balance their dual role as Artist and Servant. The core of the conference is Performance Training. Designed like a classical masterclass, each participant performs one song, which Allison then dissects and tweaks to bring out that individual's personal strengths and artistry. It takes real courage to allow yourself to be critiqued in public, and the singers today were awesome. I'm looking forward to singing for Allison later this week, but even as I say that, I can feel the butterflies doing a salsa in my stomach...

The training sessions are separated by guest speakers and lecturers. Stephen Hill dropped by this morning to share his passion about singing the Gospel. Stephen is huge, odd, and chock full of wisdom (and no, I'm not speaking about him behind his back - he'd be the first to say he's odd). I took tons of notes, and then marvelled (as usual) at his killer chops and awesome songs. Yes, I'm a fan.

This afternoon, Pastor Ken Dove spoke about "The Traveling Musician Through the Eyes of a Pastor." What makes a pastor love having a certain artist at his or her church? What can I do that will make sure I get invited back? What could I do that could prevent me from receiving a return invitation? Lots of wisdom, more notes.

And of course, one of the best things about Elijah Conference is the people! It's been awesome to see so many dear Stamps-Baxter friends, and meet all the new folks too. And we are in the South so, you know, there's some eating going on...

I had to miss last year's Elijah Conference. After our accident, we just couldn't afford to make the trip to Nashville. I'm so, so, so very happy to be here!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're in Nashville!

We arrived around supper time tonight - tired, but very happy.

We had a great drive over two days with almost perfect weather, and an awesome hotel last night.

The final hour was all crazy thunderstorms, but there were no tornadoes, so we can't complain too much.

Resting and relaxing tonight. Up bright and early tomorrow morning for the Elijah Conference!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

St. Philip's Anglican Church

In the midst of our crazy Nashville planning week, we've been rehearsing for an awesome gig booked for this morning.

St. Philip's is a great little church right on the edge of Etobicoke. The musical theme for the service was inspired by "Hymns in the Key of Grace" with songs like "Softly and Tenderly", "Come Thou Fount" and "Give Me Jesus." For focus and communion songs, we shared some of our originals - "Somebody's Angel", "A Church Song Broke Me Down", and "Living Manna, Living Bread."

The people joined us in song, and a good time was had by all!

After church, we finished packing, made the final arrangements with the house-sitter, and took the first leg our trip so we could bring our puppies to my parents for a vacation of their own.

Tomorrow, we start our drive to Nashville.

This is the first time we've done the trip by ourselves since before our accident.

I'd be lying if I said we didn't have some anxiety.

But we have a plan, and I'm always good with a plan.

We also have prayer, and faith, and each other, and that's better than anything.

If you're the praying kind, please throw one out for us this week.

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gearing up for Nashville!

Next week this time, I'll be blogging from Nashville!

It'll be the first time we've returned since moving home to Canada, which was actually a year ago yesterday.

I'm excited, nervous, excited...

Excited because we'll be recording demos for Gerald, attending the Elijah School of Performance, seeing friends, and singing at our Nashville home church, Church of the Redeemer.

I'm nervous because it'll be the first time I've done the Toronto-Nashville drive since our accident.

We have a plan in place, and that always makes me feel better - 2 days to do the drive, scheduled breaks, great play list on the iPod...

So right now, our days are filled with prep work. I feel a little like a wrung out face cloth, but I'm hoping to have everything done by Friday night so we can enjoy the weekend.

Oh, and I'm also excited to be heading to the land of pulled pork and red velvet cake... bring it on!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Gospel at the Moonshine Cafe

A few months ago, the folks at Chartwell Baptist Church in Oakville invited us to perform a night of music at the Moonshine Cafe for a very special part of their congregation. The members of the Kerr St. community live in the area, but don't attend a lot of events. Well, they came ready for a good time tonight!

We broke away from the usual singer-songwriter mode of the Moonshine to present an evening of inspirational music. We mixed Gospel, hymns, praise & worship, and originals to create a night that would be cool and fun. We invited people to sing on the familiar songs, and we shared the stories behind our originals. It was awesome!

The members of the Kerr St. community have faced some amazing trials in their lives. Despite the challenges that Gerald and I have both overcome - in our individual lives and in the past year - we still have moments of short-sightedness, when we allow the little things to become too important, and when frustrations and impatience rule our decisions. Meeting the people of Kerr St, hearing their stories and seeing their strength, reminded me of just how blessed we are.

I know that sounds like a selfish reason for appreciating people ("Seeing your pain makes me realize how lucky I am!") and we're all guilty of it (thus the success of daytime talk shows), but sometimes, hearing the stories of others really can remind us that we are abundantly blessed, and we should just get off our self-built pity pedestals and appreciate it.

Sermon's done - happy for a great night of music!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Are Dreams Selfish?

I'm feeling very inspired tonight!

For the past 8 weeks, I've been taking a course on manifesting your dreams. Run by creativity expert, SARK, the class offers practical and creative ways to go from "dreaming to doing." We covered topics like support systems, productivity, and self-care. SARK's approach to living your dream is holistic - don't just have your dream, but have a life that is happy and peaceful and healthy.

Each week, we would have an amazing teleconference phone call and a printable workbook. An interactive website allowed all the students (from across North America and around the world) to connect, encourage, and inspire each other.


When you focus on following your dreams, it's amazing how things start to link together:

Today, one of my favourite bloggers, Matthew Paul Turner, wrote a post on following your dreams.

This afternoon, my musical friend and AWARE partner,
Deanna, sent me an article on following your dreams.

And on tonight's final teleclass, I chatted with a woman from Toronto!



All these little pieces swirling together to inspire and encourage!


We don't like to talk about "following our dreams" in ministry. I think we consider it flighty, or immature, or worst of all, selfish.


But the Bible tells us that God knows the desires of our heart, and that He has great plans for us.


Doesn't that sound like dreaming to you?


I could write for hours and hours about this, but let me just leave you with this thought for tonight:

What dream - large or small - has God given you that you've been ignoring?

What small step can you take towards making that dream come true?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gage Park

Long day with a short blog.

Afternoon singing for seniors - mixed program of Gospel songs and senior 'classics'.

Never fails to amaze me how people will sing along to "In the Garden" - amazing!

Evening singing at Gage Park in Brampton. Mix of originals and our version of classic and praise songs.

Good music, great volunteers, and awesome audience.

Been racing around since NYC. Ready for a day off any time now...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

NYC - The Day After

Friday was a whirlwind.

We packed, checked out, left our luggage at the hotel, and grabbed the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's hard to describe the size and scope of this place in just a few words. "Mammoth" and "ginormous" (which is probably not an actual word) come to mind, but they pass over the intricate details of the place.

We spent hours and hours roaming through ancient Egyptian temples, Medieval sacred art, and Impressionist masterpieces. The Roof Garden was swamped by an ever-evolving network of bamboo that you could walk through and climb over. The special Picasso exhibit showcased room after room of sketches and paintings. Our favourite atrium was filled with gorgeous, glowing Tiffany windows and mosaics.

(this photo doesn't even do this window justice!)

After soaking ourselves in art, we wandered outside to explore Central Park. I fell in love with the ancient trees, the gorgeous stone carvings, and the absolutely charming Alice in Wonderland statue.



Our final few hours were spent visiting yet another Mac store, snapping photos of the Plaza Hotel, and grabbing souvenirs. After taking a speed demon cab out to JFK, we discovered our flight was delayed. Some time around 4:00 am, we arrived home.

There's lots to do over the next week, but today, we're just telling stories and looking at photos and nibbling treasures from the Time Square Hershey store... lovely...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC - Day 3

Between the heat and the walking, I'm pretty sure my feet are swollen to twice their normal size.

Highlights of the day:

We had a chess-filled morning. Gerald played speed chess with a guy named Bear in Washington Square, we looked at elaborate and expensive chess sets, and Gerald played a 20-year-old International Master in a chess store that's open 24-7. You can play, learn, or shop chess any time, day or night.



I have fallen in love with Cafe Reggio - possibly the world's best cappuccino.



Tonight, we went to the Barrymore Theatre to see David Mamet's new play, Race. The play itself isn't perfect, but provocative and well acted. Eddie Izzard is just excellent, and the play keeps you talking.



Can't believe we're heading back home tomorrow. The week has flown by, but we'll be back soon...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NYC - Day 2

Another long and awesome day in NYC!

The 2 musical highlights:

Rudy's Music store in Time Square is a tiny two stories packed with awesome guitars. Gerald played a Froggy Bottom (love them!) and a Lowden - combined list price: just over $20,000.00 USD. No, we did not shop there.

Million Dollar Quartet is a musical based on the one night Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash jammed and recorded at Sun Records. The cast is incredible, and if you love this music and this particular slice of history, it's a must see.



Tomorrow, more theatre, and hopefully, not too many thunderstorms...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NYC - Day 1



The Day in Two Acts:



ACT ONE

Arrive in NYC!

Strand Bookstore.

Vintage store.

Street meat.

Max Brenner's Willy Wonka-esque chocolate experience.

Guitar store.

Mac store.

Ipad.

Iphone 4.

Face Time!

Walking ... Gawking ... Walking ... Gawking ...

Check in.

Rest.

(wandering the stacks of Strand)


ACT TWO

Our rest was disturbed by a phone call. Our meeting was moved from tomorrow to tonight!

I don't want to talk about it too much, but let me just say that the meeting went really, really well. We walked in well prepared, and I really think we represented ourselves well. We left our music, and he's asked us to contact him tomorrow.

So, even though the meeting caught us by surprise, it also meant that it was done, so we could fully enjoy tonight.

Ever since our accident last year, I've had a heightened sensitivity to risky driving. Let's just say that the New York cab drivers are pushing my sensitivity to a whole new level.

We arrived at the Birdland just in time to order snacks and settle in for an amazing show with Charlie Haden and his Quartet West - tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Alan Broadbent and drummer Rodney Green. The music was rich and interesting and dynamic. Haden is 72, and his vibrant stage presence is a testament to living a creative life.



After the show, we walked past the theatres and through Time Square.

People keep saying, "We want Dundas Square (in Toronto) to be like Time Square."

You know what, I don't think we do.

At the risk of sounding overly pious - as much as I loved the energy of Time Square, I also had to recognize that I was standing in a sea of advertising, and maybe a Temple of Consumerism isn't the best we have to offer?

Anyways - off my soapbox! New York is amazing, and so far, I love it!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Mark your calendar...

Gerald and I are going to host another Music in the Garden concert on Sunday, September 26.

I'll be posting details over the next few weeks, but I wanted you to know the date asap.

Mark your calendars, and let's pray for good weather!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: "The Voice - New Testament"

I first discovered The Voice project when I heard Chris Seay speak at Unite in Worship a few years ago. His desire to unite the voices of poets, songwriters, artists, and theologians to "rediscover the story of the Bible" sparked my creative interest.

The Voice has taken on several Bible books, and this year, they're coming out with their unique version of the New Testament.

Reading The Voice is different than reading other versions of the Bible. The "translation" is written in regular text. Extra words or phrases that give more information are written in italics. Boxed sections elaborate on certain topics. It sounds choppy, but the different sections flow to create a lively and dramatic reading of the Bible.

I started with Matthew 1, the dreaded "begats," and I've never enjoyed them more. Seriously! I could see the characters and their connections in a new way that was exciting and dynamic.

I wouldn't recommend this for your academic study or if you're trying to read several chapters a day (the extra text makes it a longer read), but if you're looking for something that will spark your personal Bible study, you may want to check out The Voice.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their 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.”