(2127 comments, 558 posts)
Interests: God, my wife Jamianne, music, U2, tone, pretending.
Home page: http://guitarforworship.com
Posts by Karl
This is an article I wrote one year ago. It’s a good day to remind myself of it.
What are we doing?
It’s a good question to ask ourselves from time to time. Few people start off wanting to move away from the central point of glorifying God. Instead, it happens almost imperceptibly. And if we continue to fail to train ourselves to stop and look around every so often and honestly question why we’re doing the things we do, that imperceptible drift becomes almost inevitable.
This may be old news to a lot of you, but a few days ago I somehow came across an interview from a few years back, talking about the Newsboys scandal of the late ’90′s. The article is linked to there if you want to read it rather than me explaining it, because if I went through something like that, I’d want to be able to tell it in my own words too, rather than having the story told in someone else’s words around the internet. The important part is that one of the members became involved in illicit sin, was asked to leave, and then the official statement was that he was leaving to do church ministry. (Thank God that that is in the past, and He seems to have restored the folks involved.) Ironically, around that same time, they released a song containing these lyrics:
“Are You still listening
Because we’re obviously not.
We’ve forgotten our first love
We have lost the plot.”
Now I’m not really a Newsboys fan. I remember owning some albums in the ’90′s, mostly due to the fact that I was 10 years old, and 10-year-old little boys from Christian families listen to the Newsboys. I have to admit still listening to those ’90′s albums; I’m not sure if it’s because I subconsciously associate them with my childhood, because Jody Davis is a fantastically tasteful guitarist when they let him play, or because ‘Going Public’ is basically U2′s ‘Zooropa’ with more compression and overtly Christian lyrics. Probably a little bit of all of those. But I do know for sure that part of the reason is lyrics like those above. Not every song had them…but some of the ones that Steve Taylor helped write, had an honesty found often in the Psalms, and not often in Christian music.
Interestingly enough, in the article I linked to, the former Newsboys member refers a couple times to ‘losing the plot.’ I checked the liner notes, and he did not have a hand in writing or singing that particular song. But perhaps it was making an impact on him as he left. And it’s making an impact on me, or rather bringing to point something that has been brewing for a while. The last couple years for me have seen a lot of church scandal, both locally and nationally. Leaders who have failed. Pastors who have done the unthinkable. People wrecked with doubt over believing themselves to be have been healed of an ailment by someone, only to find out later that while they were healed, that person had had a secret life contrary to God. And then to combat that ever-growing doubt, we scramble to get closer to God, to bring on more elders, to increase accountability, to change our church by-laws…etc., etc., etc. And I’m glad we do that. But statistically, it’s not really working to bring about less scandal.
David slept with Bathsheba, and thousands of years later, despite our most valiant (and I mean that sincerely) efforts, nothing has changed. This has really hit home for me in the past two years, as I’ve seen six churches within my home town go through this. Mega-churches. Mid-sized churches. And small churches. Non-denominational and ultra-denominational. All the things that I’ve said over the years…’Well, that’s the problem with the charismatic church’, or ‘Well, that’s the problem with a congregationally-run church’…they just don’t matter. I’ve seen it happen everywhere.
And as I got to thinking about it, I started to wonder if this will ever change. Meaning, as long as we live in a sinful world, will this ever change? What if Peter had been the pastor of a church? His church would’ve melted after he denied Christ publicly. Moses killed a dude. Abraham slept with his servant. James and John wanted to be at Jesus’ left and right hands. All things that perhaps would’ve disqualified these guys from ministry for at the very least a few years by our current standards.
For those of you getting a little worried about me after that last paragraph, don’t worry; this is not the point where I say, ‘Well…everyone fails, nothing you can do about it, so let’s live and let live and keep on preaching the Gospel!’ Not in the slightest. We live in a real world where there are consequences that God has set up for some very good reasons. Pastor embezzles money? I’m gonna have a hard time giving money to that church. Elder mistreats and neglects his wife? I can’t send my younger friends to him for pre-marital counseling. Rockstar sleeps around? Gonna have a real hard time listening to him sing about the contentment found in Christ alone. Real world consequences, real world stepping out of ministry. It’s just how it is.
But…this is the point where I talk about our culture’s fascination with church leaders, church rockstars, church authors. See, if history has taught us anything, it’s that people will fail. Christian leaders absolutely not excluded. And that brings consequences for those people. The issue is, that it also brings consequences for hundreds, thousands, millions of people around them. The scandal is not that someone sinned. The scandal is that people were trusting this person not to sin. This person was romanticized, made into a hero, thought to be above sin, looked to for answers and purpose, and then they crashed and burned, wrecking all our hopes and faith along with them. And that is what I believe needs to change: a culture where we look to people instead of God.
Of course, we don’t often put this into words. If someone asked us why we went to church, we would say for God. But this culture of subtle hero worship is defined not through our words, but through our actions. For instance, I quite often hear, ‘Ah man. Did you hear what Chan said in his latest podcast?’ And let’s be clear, nothing against speakers with podcasts. Those are great. But, and I could be way off here, if what he said made a lasting impact on your spiritual life, wouldn’t you be more apt to say, ‘Ah, man. I can’t believe what I learned about God this week!’ It’s a subtle difference, but if the podcast and the pastor are only the means to the end of glorifying God, wouldn’t we have just a few less instances of people getting excited about the means, and a few more instances of people getting excited about the end result? In many ways, Christianity has become slightly less about people loving God, and slightly more about a passion or a hobby. Some people like the Denver Broncos, and discuss all things relating to football; but not for the end result of playing football…just simply because they’re a football fan. Others like listening to preachers on podcast and discussing all things related to ministry and theology; but not for the end result of how that theology can help us glorify God more…just simply because they’re a Christian. And if we were a little less hero-focused, and a little more God-focused, I think we wouldn’t necessarily have to change what we say, but that what we say would flow naturally from the fact that we’re not viewing these preachers as anything more than guys trying to get us closer to God. And I’m going to assume that the majority of these preachers would agree (hopefully), and would be overjoyed to see their names ‘trending’ less on Twitter, but the Godly concepts they helped bring to light, trending more.
Another thing I hear quite often is, ‘Dude! That Hillsong concert rocked!’ or ‘The new Elevation Church album was so epic!’ Again, nothing wrong with that. Hillsong, thank you for rocking the concert, and Elevation Church, thank you for epicly producing another album. I just think that if the focus were worship of God, you’d hear a lot more often than you do, ‘Dude! I’ve never worshiped God so freely before’ or ‘Last night I just sat in my room, turned on this album, and lost myself in prayer. It was epic.’ And I just don’t hear those things too often. I hear so much about the heroes, who are supposed to be…if I can use a very Christian metaphor here…the donkey on which Jesus rides into Jerusalem. That’s our role, and the role of all Christian celebrities, or heroes, or whatever you want to call them. The plot is about Jesus. And we are supposed to celebrate Jesus. And we pay upwards of $40 to celebrate Him sometimes. I’m not saying paid worship concerts are bad; but we market them as worship with posters of people lifting their hands to God, all the lyrics are pointing towards God, we call it a worship concert, but then we pay $40 to see a band. If that’s for entertainment, or art that’s God-centered, then cool. But if you market it as worship, then we should probably be attending in order to simply worship, should talk afterwards about God and not the band, and pay our $40 as an offering to help pay for the band’s gas or plane ticket. And if it is all about worshiping, then maybe we have to ask ourselves why we spent $40 instead of just going to a local church worship night for free. So maybe it’s not exactly all about worshiping, and is somewhat about the band and the celebrities. Which is not sinful or wrong, and maybe that band does give a great experience where you can let go and worship God; but a $40 experience? If it’s the presence of God we’re looking for, I think He’s also at the local church worship night, our late night Bible-reading, our visiting a friend in the hospital, or in taking care of a wife or family who may need us. We might need to admit that these paid concerts are for more than just God’s presence. Which could be fine…I’m all for concerts, and it’s not bad or sinful to enjoy a worship band for art’s sake, or entertainment’s sake with a positive message; but it does go to help prove the point that we do tend to be a very celebrity-driven culture, and church culture.
It is this very celebrity-driven culture within churches that causes people to become so wrecked after church scandals. Rather, what if we all saw each other as human, and somberly prepared for these scandals? And definitely dealt with them Biblically when they arose, but also were so real about them, that we set church and Christian culture up differently so that everything did not rest upon the charisma of one person, or one worship band, or one movement? But it rested upon Christ alone, and the glorification of Him as the main plot, which everything else supported. Ironically, we might even see less scandals. Worship albums, Christian books, podcasts, pastors, paid worship concerts…keep them all, if you want. But keep them in their proper place of mere support beams for this glorification of a huge God of which we may have lost sight. Nobody starts off wanting to replace God with a concert, or a person, or a culture. But as we use these things with good intentions to glorify God, sometimes they become all God is to us. And that needs to change. It’s a subtle shift in our mindset. But a shift that puts God back in His rightful place in our lives and our culture, and downgrades people, celebrities, and ideas to tools in the quest to love and glorify that God, is a shift that could have universal consequences.
“Once we could follow,
Now we cannot.
You would not fit our image,
So we lost the plot.
Once we could hear you,
Now our senses are shot.
We’ve forgotten our first love.
We have lost the plot.
When I saw You for the first time
You were hanging with a thief
And I knew my hands were dirty,
And I dropped my gaze.
Then You said I was forgiven
And You welcomed me with laughter.
I was happy ever after.
I was counting the days
When You’d come back again.
We’ll be waiting for You
When You comin’ back again?
We’ll be ready for You
Maybe we’ll wake up when…
Maybe we’ll wake up when
You come back again.
Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little unfaithful.
What do you want?
Are You still listening?
‘Cause we’re obviously not
We’ve forgotten our first love
We have lost the plot.
And why are You still calling?
You forgave, we forgot.
We’re such experts at stalling
That we’ve lost the plot.
Lost the plot.”
As always, I’m a person; so as such, this could be dead wrong. But I think there’s some merit to it. I’m not against any of this stuff; on the contrary, I’m for it in it’s proper place…with the glorification of Christ alone as its purpose. The plot is God’s glory, and if we don’t like the answer to the question of ‘What are we doing?’, then it may be time that we, myself included, brought Him back into it.
So, I was trying to update my ‘gear owned and previously owned’ list, and I started looking through my Photobucket uploads. Seriously, pedals I have no memory of owning. Also, a history of blog uploads. So I figured I’d share it with you all…a Guitar for Worship pictorial history. Free digital hug to the first person who can find and number every Tim pedal. There’s an uncalled for amount.
Hey guys, is there any interest in a Guitar for Worship Facebook group instead of the forums we have here? I know, I know, the last thing we need is another worship guitar facebook group. But it would really help the smoothness of the site to get rid of the forums without me having to pay a ton for a dedicated server, and it would give us a place to congregate while I try (so incredibly slowly) to move servers.
Or are you really attached to the forums here? Judging by the dates on the posts, it doesn’t seem so. So if you’d like to join the Guitar for Worship Facebook Group, it’s here:
And I’ll try to get this thing running so much faster than it is. Sorry.
Hey guys, I’m trying to move away from terrible Blue Host and over to hopefully awesome Dream Host. The site may be down for a few days, but afterwards, hopefully the site will once again be a place you actually want to visit…instead of getting that stuck on the 101/Highland interchange after a John Williams concert feeling. (This actually happened. And they didn’t stack-park us. They unruly-mob-parked us. Don’t park at the Hollywood Bowl.)
My sincere apologies for how slow this site has gotten. Basically if your site gets too much traffic, Blue Host throttles your bandwidth so that you don’t take it from the other sites. So you get punished for people reading your blog until you upgrade to a dedicated server. Or another company.
See ya on the flip side, 1992.
I have found that I am very good at talking about things. Not so much on the doing of them. Over the last year or so, I have become more and more fascinated with life and people and God and living, and less with the discussing it. And art has been a wonderful way of expressing myself through this journey. This is a wrap-up of my year in art so far…
I wrote some more music, and called it Collections II. For me, what started as a way to make a free project to thank everyone who bought my music and helped support our local charity over the holidays, turned into what I didn’t realize until later a collection of songs that were about exactly what I am going through right now. Your feelings have a way of coming out, no matter if you think you’re hiding them or not. It’s been out for about a month now, because I don’t share all my musical endeavors on my blog; not sure why. But for you guys reading this, there is a very large portion of the first track that is an exploration into delay, modulation, and Michael Brook.
(The closing track.)
I have also been working tirelessly on…a new blog. You have to write about what you’re passionate about, and the difference between op-amp chips and true bypass switches just isn’t doing it for me anymore. This blog will always stay open because it seems to have a life of its own, but a lot of my time has been in the new one. More details to come soon.
I’m currently scoring a new series, working with some of the most talented people in my life. It’s very exciting, and I can’t wait to share the music.
I have two new projects in the works; one is therapeutic, and the other is meant to give to the people who want to worship God. This one will be a few months coming.
And lastly, I am also writing a book. I write books all the time, that are too terrible to finish. But this one is a little different. I hope to release it in a couple months.
It’s been so far the most frightening year I have ever lived, because when you get truly honest with yourself…I mean truly honest…it’s hard to come to terms with what is in the hidden places of your heart. But as always in life, it has also been the three months of the most personal and spiritual growth I have ever had. When I look back on my life so far, I realize that the most frightening times and the most important times have almost always been one and the same.
As always, thanks for reading, everyone. Each of you whom I have gotten to know through this blog, means a great deal to me.
P.S. I also got an analog synthesizer. Another highlight of the year.
Over my years of tone-chasing (stressing, obsessing, dying and living again with the rise and fall of each new pedal), I have observed:
Tone is in the hands.
Tone is in the gear.
Tone is in the Matchless.
Tone is in the Fender.
Tone is in the touch.
Tone is in the mind.
Tone is in the ear of the beholder.
Tone is in the listener.
Tone is in the player.
Tone is in the dotted eighth.
Tone is in the quarter note.
Tone is in the dry tone.
Tone is in the guy with super skills and no pedals.
Tone is in the guy with no skill and four dozen pedals.
Tone is in the Wampler.
Tone is in the Dr. Scientist.
Tone is in the Digitech.
Tone is in the tubes.
Tone is in the direct line. (Well… )
Tone is in the guy who says his amp slays all the other amps.
Tone is in all the other amps that guy says his slays.
Tone is in the Line 6.
Tone is in the Damage Control. (Looks, maybe not…but tone, yes.)
Tone is in the vintage.
Tone is in the new.
Tone is in the mass-produced.
Tone is in the boutique.
Tone is in the head.
Tone is in the heart.
Tone is in the feel, man.
Tone is in the theory.
Tone is in the Suhr.
Tone is in the ’80′s Japanese-made Squire back when they were better than current Fender’s.
Tone is in the ’90′s American-made Squire back when they were not better than anything.
Tone is in the headroom.
Tone is in the low wattage.
Tone is in the gear.
Tone is in the post-effects.
Tone and music that grabs your heart can be found in pretty much anything. Except the dogma of where are the only places tone be found. I have heard tone personally in each of these things; and I have heard bad tone personally in each of these things. (And by the second ‘personally’, I mean ‘when it has been in my hands.’ ) It is only in dogma that tone ceases to exist. Tone and let tone.
Been a long time since an honesty post. I’d like to think that is because my mistakes have lessened. It’s not.
In the last few weeks, I have:
- Rocked a C sharp chord. Not a C#. A ‘C…sharp.’ That’s that one where you miss the frets and play your C chord slid up a half step. The open notes unfortunately stay the same.
- Railed on my band for not playing the right chords, only to then realize that my transposition in my head so that I could capo up and play rhythm and lead at the same time because of my awesome skill and theory, did not go as well as I had planned. Oh that’s where the ii chord goes. Carry on, everyone. Carry on.
- Started a service without my amp on. Faked it, and then pretended to go mess with the volume while I sneak-attacked it on.
- Held out pads in between two songs while I went to switch guitars, only to find that I had wrapped each’s strap around the other’s stand. I was back there a while. ‘What is the worship leader doing over there in the corner?’
- Actually believed an email I got saying ‘We love your music. Can we professionally review it on our 40,000 reader a month website? It’ll only be x amount of dollars.’ Ended up with a negative review that obviously only cursorily listened to the music, cut and pasted my bio from my facebook page, and did not bother to spellcheck, grammar-check, or even name the album correctly. At least no one will ever read it, as it shows up behind the bit-torrent sites on a Google search. This would be a coming-of-age moment, except that I’ve come of age on this stuff like 157 times already.
- Tripped trying to turn on a pedal on my just-slightly-larger-than-normal board. Just a couple times.
- Left my pads up in one key while I modulated to another.
- Tried to buy a new guitar AGAIN before just changing my strings.
- Sat in my office re-editing a video for the service while said service started. Ended up having to use the backstage entrance I’ve told the band never to use. Because it makes you look like a rockstar who just sits in his office until the last possible second to make a backstage entrance.
- Bought a pedal I don’t need. Or even want. Did get a good instagram photo out of it, though.
- And of course, blanked on the Awakening lyrics (yes, we still do Awakening) once again, but very deftly turned it into a vocal trill of inexpressible emotion that fooled nobody ever.
Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? No matter what gear makes up my rig, whether it’s expensive, whether it’s cheap, whether I’ve maintained it, whether I’ve not played in days, if I plug in to a guitar amp in a store, it will almost always sound better than mine. So then what. Well, we buy said better tone, get it home, and lo and behold, we sound better. For a couple weeks. And then, the next time we go into a guitar shop, we have to buy whatever we’re playing on because it just has that ‘it’ factor that our gear at home doesn’t have.
I’ve noticed this for myself for the last few years, and have been trying to figure it out. Ear fatigue? Are my ears just getting accustomed to my rig and so something different sounds better? Or maybe it’s just plain and simple gear lust? I want something new and shiny so I convince my brain it sounds better? Better power in the gear shops? The ability to turn up louder? Better acoustics? These all seemed like valid reasons, and I’m sure at some point or another they have been fully or partially true as to why the tone in the shop always sounds better than my tone at home. But it hit me the other day that the reason I sometimes start to hate my tone, is that I have spent so much money on my gear and have become so intrinsically tied to it, that in my head it ‘should’ sound good. Hence, I cease trying to sound good with each note I play, but look to my rig as its own entity that should sound good.
(This is not how I define myself. Well, it is…but it shouldn’t be. )
So when I go to a guitar shop and plug in to a Blues Junior and start to panic that I’ve wasted all this money on my gear because the Blues Junior sounds better, I’m forgetting that when I sat down at that Blues Junior, I wasn’t expecting it to sound all that great. So what did I do? I twisted knobs until it sounded decent. I backed off the guitar’s volume. I changed my pick attack. I chose notes that complemented the amp. And then it sounded good. All things that at home on my rig, I don’t do. Because my rig has become so personally attached to me, perhaps even personified in my mind, that ‘it’ needs to sound good. I am the guitarist with the awesome rig that sounds good. Not I am the guitarist who sounds good, like it actually should be. We can get so tied up in our gear, that we lose the whole premise of making things sound good. If you want it to sound good, then make it do so. There is no rig. There are only tools. And these tools need to be manipulated and re-manipulated depending on the day, the room, the power, the band, the situation, your mood, etc. In the guitar store, we unconsciously make it sound good. At home, on our rig, we feel like our rig should sound good, and we stop ‘making it sound good.’
You are not your rig. You are not your tone. You are the person who wants to touch people sonically. Make it happen.
Easter is the oddest holiday for me. There have been many years where I have decried the church as a whole putting their various programs and attendance graphs above truly remembering Jesus during this time, while all the while inadvertently falling into the exact same thing myself as I work at my own church. So a few years back, I decided to break the cycle in my own life by giving something away to all churches that might help in some small way to take off the pressure of the holiday and the programs. Once again, through Sunday night, all of my ambient music is free, including the two albums of pads that can play seamlessly behind your band or your prayer service. Helps to take away those awkward transitions, or allows you to focus more on leading, or even to get off the stage and participate while they just play. More info here:
And since I’ve been surprised over the years how much feedback I’ve gotten from a lot of my music being used at Good Friday and Easter services, everything I’ve got is free this weekend. Just enter zero in the little box.
And then lastly, I’ve also just released a video of my entire second album of ambient pads, Water: Music for Meditation. Please feel free to copy the link into keepvid or savevid and download and use the video wherever it might fit.
Looking forward to celebrating a God who took our place this weekend, alongside all of you out there.
P.S. Oh and one more gift for all of you…
- The single, biggest improvement to my tone has been giving the amp more headroom and lightening my touch.
- I can never figure out if my pride stems from my insecurity, or my insecurity stems from my pride.
- The other day a friend and I a/b’d a pedal whilst unknowingly plugged directly into the amp. We both heard a huge difference.
- I still get nervous when I look into the congregation and see other musicians.
- Do you ever think that if people were doing Christianity right, we’d never hear about it because part of doing it right would be being humble about it? This one’s literally a question; I absolutely see the benefit in sharing a new Biblical approach to life. I just wonder sometimes if there’re people and churches out there doing it very well and not podcasting or selling books about it. You’d think there’d have to be. Which then leads me to ask myself that were God to show me something that would truly benefit people as they followed Him, would I give it away or write a book? Getting paid for your work is not wrong; this is just a question that I continually wrestle with, and it might be okay to wrestle with it the rest of my life.
- Oh, Radiohead. So ambient/post-rock before it was even cool.
- Oh, Pentangle. So hipster before it was cool. Or rather, when it was last cool. We first heard this in an old book store on an art walk whilst searching for LP’s. Oh yes. A million tiny mustaches just cried tears of ya-that’s-pretty-cool-I-guess behind their hundred dollar neon thrift store glasses.
- Speaking of Radiohead, this sound got so infused with the soul of my being (yep), that I went out and bought a Dave Smith synth. And it is everything I dreamed it would be without the actual talent. I guess the user has to provide that or something? That’s odd…Strymon pedals don’t make you do that.
- The best time of worship I’ve had at my current church of three years came a couple weeks ago, and it came at someone’s house with a bunch of the team. Without a stage, without tone, and without a guitar. Just voices singing a melody to God.
- Why isn’t everyone using a Fryette Valvulator? One of the world’s great mysteries.
- There are so many “boutique” pedal and amp companies now that I simply cannot keep up. And still the Tim sounds good. And still the Blues Driver sounds good. And still your Fender’s own drive sounds good. And still I’m curious every time I hear about a new company.
- I’m going on four years with the same amp. That physically hurts me. I literally have to plug into it every day and actually play music so that the good tone can soothe me out of the lovely days and weeks of searching for a new one. It’s terrible.
- I almost died while we were building our new church building. We were cutting chain on the stage steps to hang the speakers, and I laid down on the stage with my laptop to draw a quick rendering of how I wanted the sound baffling hung. And then a chain snapped and flew into the wall inches from my head. I moved to the lobby.
- I can’t even count the number of mistakes I made on stage last weekend at our services. Including starting a song without my amp on, and narrowly realizing that my capo was on the third fret right before I was supposed to start the song on the second fret. And for some of you, the mistake of just using the capo in the first place.
- There was this one time I had this blog, and I used to post stuff on it…