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:


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.


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!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - Rope Off The Pews!

The sun is shining rainbows through the stained glass. The flowers look fresh and invigorating as they grace the platform. The choir and band take their place. The minister stands up on the front steps to welcome the congregation, and that's when it becomes visible - the gap.

Even though there's a good crowd in church today, there they all are - 
sitting in the back rows!

Haven't we all seen this? It's one of the biggest complaints we've heard from pastors, music directors, and even congregations. It's particularly bad if the main entrance is at the back of the sanctuary or if, like one church we served, there's a cross aisle splitting the space in half.

For many, there's a comfort in sitting so far back in the sanctuary. Perhaps they harken back to their school days. When you sat in the back, you could get away with passing notes or doodling on your desk. The teacher didn't call on you as often. You could get lost in your daydreams...

But is that really what we want in our church?

There are countless articles about how worship music - contemporary or traditional, depending on the author - has become a "performance." These writers blame the volume, instruments, vocalists, song choices, band clothing, lighting, and a host of other factors on turning Congregations into Audiences.

I've already had my say on the slamming of the word "Performance" 
(you can read it HERE.)

 So let me add this:

Nothing contributes more to turning a Congregation into an Audience
 than that big swath of empty front pews!

We need each other in worship! We need to hear each other pray and sing. We need to feel the friendly energy of the woman behind us, and the pain of the young man sitting beside us. We need to laugh together at the minister's joke, and smile as the children perform their special song.

And those folks at the front, they desperately need you! As much as all of us in ministry love what we do, we're not doing it just for ourselves. We're doing it for God and for you. We need you to join us. We want to hear your voices and feel your spirit.

Think about the best show you ever attended. Chances are, the audience was full. Not only could you feel the energy of the performers, you could actually feel the energy of the audience. When we're close to each other, we become part of something larger than ourselves. We have a unique experience of community and togetherness. We're connected in ways we can never be when we sit far apart.

Yes, we all need moments of silence and solitude in our faith walk but corporate worship isn't one of them. It's our time to experience the full body of Christ. It's our moment to be a member of a family connected by love.

So Churches, rope off those back pews this week! Have the ushers invite folks up to the front.
 And Worshippers, let's come together on Sunday, and sit a little closer. 

We're all in this together, so let's be together.

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