Tag Archives: casting crowns

Women of Faith: Finding My Faith with a Weirdo

11 Sep

The Women of Faith “Imagine” weekend in Philadelphia was not what I expected.  At all.  Instead of an authentic women’s conference, Women of Faith felt more like a fabricated “worship experience” that could be plopped down in any city to be enjoyed by the throngs.  In essence, I suppose that is what a Women of Faith weekend is—something that can be easily created and re-created for women all over the country.  Then again, isn’t that also what a concert tour is?  Yes.  But here’s how my Casting Crowns concert experience differed from Women of Faith—with Casting Crowns, I felt like I was having an authentic experience, but with Women of Faith, I felt like I was just another cog in the ol’ money making machine (which strikes me as funny since I received comp tickets for writing about the event).

The event started with a worship team made up of four female singers, who had excellent vocals.  However, there was no worship band, which meant the praise music was piped into the stadium and the ladies led the audience in a big sing-a-long.  In between songs, the singers shared one-to-two sentence insights, and dived into the next song.  These songs were loud, upbeat, and instead of leading worship, I felt like I was watching a Point of Grace concert.  It was just too perfect.  A live band, who could led worship by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, though it would require more set-up/tear down would have improved the worship immensely.

Sheila Walsh

Next, Sheila Walsh spoke about the woman who was bleeding for years before being healed by Jesus. Walsh was flawless in her presentation, using a combination of personal anecdotes, Scripture, and body language that really drove her message home.  I was very impressed with Walsh, but slightly confused when the lights went down at the end of her talk and she belted out “Amazing Grace.”  Apparently, Walsh is not only an author and a speaker, but a singer as well.  Anyway, she received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Then Women of Faith president, Mary Graham, took the stage to introduce well-known author and speaker Dr. Henry Cloud, who somehow snuck into a Women of Faith event, despite his obvious maleness.  Graham asked the audience if they knew what day it was.  One woman yelled out, “Your birthday?”  No, it was not Graham’s birthday, but it was “Wonderful Weirdos Day.”  Graham said that if anyone knew about weirdos, it was certainly Dr. Cloud (she called him “Henry,” but I feel more comfortable calling him Dr. Cloud or just “Cloud”).

Dr. Henry Cloud

While those around me seemed to think this was both a charming and personal introduction, I tried my best to hide the tears streaming down my face.  See, Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist, the “weirdos” he works with are mentally ill.  As someone who has been in therapy since 2006, I suppose I could count myself among the “weirdos.”  It was then I wondered if I truly belonged at Women of Faith.  I thought about leaving, but I was in the very first row, so I tried in vain to choke back my tears.

Dr. Cloud mentioned a verse here and there, but mentioned his latest book, The Law of Happiness, a lot more.  I mean, if there was a drinking game for each mention of Boundaries or his latest book, the Women of Faith audience would have been rip roarin’ plastered.  Still, I thought Cloud was OK…until his second talk.  This time Cloud casually mentioned “hoarders.”  Instead of treating hoarding as a serious mental issue, Cloud talked lightly about how hoarders don’t get rid of things because they “might need it someday” or because of the emotional attachment to object.  Then Cloud joked that a hoarder probably wouldn’t get rid of her baby’s first poopy diaper because of its sentimental value.  What could have been a very important spiritual lesson about keeping things we don’t need (I do believe that was supposed to be Cloud’s point), the illustration derailed into a joke about hoarders.  Ha-ha, let’s all laugh at the mentally ill people whose gross houses we see on television.  As if seeing a half-hour program on someone’s life truly illustrates the frustrations of obsessive-compulsive disorder!  I assumed that Dr. Cloud, being a trained clinical psychologist would treat mental illness with a soft touch. He came across as brash and uncaring, especially when interchangeably throwing around the words “wacko” and “crazy.”

Pretty doodads hanging from the center of the "Imagine" WoF stage.

When Mary Graham took the stage again to announce that Sheila Walsh was going to talk about “their little monkeys” at World Vision, I just got up and left.  I didn’t even look back to see if my friend who accompanied me was following me out.  I ran right smack into a crowd of women gathered around the Women of Faith merchandise table.  “How much is this bag?” a well-dressed middle-aged woman asked a volunteer.

“Oh, you can’t buy that bag,” said the volunteer.  “It comes as part of a set.”  Apparently, it was a set-up to generate more income because in order to get a tote bag, a woman had to purchase either a $50 set (bag, mug, and some other stuff) or an $85 set (bag, two books, two albums, and a special treat). I could get a nicer bag at the Fossil outlet for the same amount of cash.  But I guess it wouldn’t have the Women of Faith logo on it!

However, I did leave my mark at Women of Faith, just after eating the subpar lunch provided for attendees, I decided to fill out a card for the Q&A session with Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud.  I wrote, “Dr. Cloud, as a mental health professional do you think it’s appropriate to refer to the mentally ill as ‘weirdos’ and ‘wackos’?”

Then I turned the card over and wrote, “I have an M.A. in counseling.  I am mentally ill.  And, yes, my feelings were hurt.”  I doubt my question was chosen for the Q&A.  I guess I will never know.

"Wheat Field in Rain" or simply "Rain" by Vincent Van Gogh

I hoped my Women of Faith weekend in Philadelphia would be a time to reconnect my hardened heart with a living God—and it was.  However, that didn’t happen at the Women of Faith weekend; it occurred at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  There was something magnificent about glimpsing at Vincent Van Gogh’sStill Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers” painting for the first time—the real painting—not a print.  To discover the dimensions in his blobs of paint, to have tangible proof that my favorite painter lived and died, to be reminded that he was a madman (a “weirdo” or a “wacko”) and not recognized as a genius in his time.  I’m not calling myself a genius or believe that my “art,” my writing, will outlive my life.  I suppose I just felt more at home with a fellow weirdo’s priceless painting.

I was most affected by, “Wheat Field in Rain”, his depiction of beauty beyond the window of his asylum. Despite being interned at a mental hospital, Van Gogh still saw value in the world and still painted.  Sixteen dollars to get into the Philadelphia Museum of Art versus 100 bucks for a pre-fabricated “worship” experience at Women of Faith?  Next time, I’m going to skip the conference and head straight for the art museum.

*In exchange for a fair and honest evaluation of the Women of Faith weekend, I was given two complimentary tickets by Thomas Nelson.  Clearly, I was not required to write a positive review, only a fair review, and that is what I feel I did.  Other views may differ, and I truly hope that others did have a good time to connect with God and others at Women of Faith weekends and other events.*

A Sunday Story:: Becoming Real

20 Dec

By Brittney Switala, Special to Backseat Writer I’ll never forget that fatefully night in 3rd grade when I discovered the truth. It was late fall and the chill in the air seemed to make its way through my bedroom window and into my heart. I grabbed one Kleenex after another, stifling my sobs as I tried to make sense of it all. Santa Claus wasn’t real.

Earlier that day a friend told me a convincing story that rocked all that I believed to be true.  I had heard the naysayers before, but never listened. I knew there were some fake Santas at the mall. Santa was busy at his workshop and couldn’t make it to all of his engagements. But the one that comes on Christmas morning, now he was the real deal.

I came home from school and asked my mom about Santa. It was then that the house of cards fell. The letter Santa wrote back to me, an elaborate arrangement my parents had once made to keep me out of the house (including a trip to see Santa at the library) while mom finished putting the presents under the tree, both fakes. I remembered a phone call my dad had made to the Tooth Fairy to explain a situation of a tooth I’d lost that I didn’t have to put under my pillow. One after another I pondered the lies in my mind with anger and distrust. No Santa, so that means no Tooth Fairy and no Easter Bunny. What else shouldn’t I believe in?

“No Santa, so that means no Tooth Fairy and no Easter Bunny. What else shouldn’t I believe in?”

After holding me and attempting to comfort me my mom finally told me that it would help me to think about something else. So I finally came downstairs and watched “Who’s the Boss?” Mom was right, I laughed and ate popcorn. But I couldn’t shake the question, “So, is Jesus for real?”

My parents assured me that there were no more cover-ups. We went to church, read Bible stories and prayed because our faith was something that we valued. I had prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” as a five-year-old and desired to please Jesus with my life. I learned what behaviors were most frowned upon- cussing, divorce, and disrespecting your parents. The older I got, the longer I realized the list was. I tried as hard as I could to be good enough, to answer the questions correctly in Sunday school. I kept my grades up and I spoke openly against abortion, pre-marital sex and underage drinking during high school.

It wasn’t until I was 30 that I discovered the shocking truth about Christians- we sin just like the world. Just as the truth that Santa was a fake should have been obvious to me as a nine year-old, the “perfect” Christian façade had all but escaped me. The PTL scandal, people who left our church because of divorce, a respected pastor who left the ministry because of alcoholism… I was convinced they were all exceptions to the rule. I had gone to church my whole life and knew how a Christian was supposed to live. In my mind, if they had all just tried harder they wouldn’t have fallen into sin.

I had gone to church my whole life and knew how a Christian was supposed to live. In my mind, if they had all just tried harder they wouldn’t have fallen into sin.

I honestly had never known that sin was an option for me.  We had good conversations at the dinner table as a family and talked about people who fell into affairs or got into drugs. We’d get upset about the country’s moral decline and feel sorry for the broken families. We’d read the Bible story of Joseph and praise him for fleeing a woman who wanted to take advantage of him. Overall I had a sense that if you were a Christian, an active follower of Jesus, then you would always overcome visible sin. In my own mind I was keeping all the rules of a good Christian life, without a whole lot of prayer or time in the Bible. So what was wrong with these pastors and evangelists who did spend all that time studying?

Four years ago my world came crashing down as I learned that someone close to me was being sexually abused and at about the same time I learned my husband was struggling with a pornography addiction.

Four years ago my world came crashing down as I learned that someone close to me was being sexually abused and at about the same time I learned my husband was struggling with a pornography addiction. My world view was rocked once again, strangely in a similar way to when I was nine years old. I yelled, out loud and in my journal, “I have been good, God, I have done all these things for You and I deserve better! You didn’t keep your end of the bargain! I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there were times when I hated God. He had disappointed me and there was no simple “cause and effect” to explain my family’s upheaval.

My worldview had been very black and white, a worldview parents have ingrained in their children for generations. “Do something good, get a reward. Do something bad and get punished.” There was also no room in my heart for Christians to blatantly sin, and for me to respond with compassion. I had always been taught not to hang out with bad influences, which in a way is very good advice. But that also makes for a very small circle of friends, or at least a circle of people who I thought I could “help” because of their “issues.” And what if that scared sinner is me?

Among other things I struggle with bitterness, anxiety, pride, prayerlessness, and a fear that I’ll never be or look good enough.

Enter “Sinners Anonymous.” Hi, my name is Brittney. Among other things I struggle with bitterness, anxiety, pride, prayerlessness, and a fear that I’ll never be or look good enough. I don’t have an illness, an addiction, mistakes or hang-ups: I have sins, real and raw. I also know that habitual sins are just as prevalent among Christians as they are among non-Christians. Instead of being shocked and pointing fingers I’m more and more convinced that we should help people through their issues because we’ve been there, not because we are better. My husband has been an online mentor for men struggling with sexual sins for several years now. It is not uncommon for these mentors to work with 10-30 men at a time because the need is so great.

I am so glad that I now understand Christians are real people, but I never learned that from going to church or growing up in a Christian home. It happened when I came to grips with my pride about my personal “goodness” being as ugly a sin to God as mass murder. That is not a concept that often comes out in our black and white discipline at home. It is easy to assume that our “good kids” have a good understanding of God, when in fact our good kids may just be striving for positive attention.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
Casting Crowns “Stained Glass Masquerade” from their CD “Lifesong”

What about at church? The church would be a better place if we’d pray about sin more than we do about our body aches and pains. How many people stay away from our churches because they don’t think they are “good enough?” And how many people inside the church (like I was) assume that they just need to keep working harder to be “good” like the people sitting beside me in the church pew.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. Becoming a Christian is not a silver bullet that means you won’t sin again. Christians do sin; often, horrifically, blatantly, and at times, unintentionally. They commit the same sins as non-Christians, but they have the power through Christ alone to choose not to sin. Freedom from habitual sin is possible through Jesus, but perfection is not happening on this side of eternity.

Santa brings the world toys in one night. Christians are “mostly” sinless. One by one I find myself chipping through the lies I’ve believed and I’m beginning to discover what it means to be “real.”

Brittney Switala is a Christian radio DJ for His Radio in Raleigh, North Carolina and voice talent for Yours and His Productions. Brittney has her B.A. in English/Communications from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.  Brittney has been married for 12 years and has two children, Lindsey and Micah. When not surfing Christian artist websites for the latest scoop, Brittney enjoys a good conversation and a cup of “gas station” cappuccino. Recently, Brittney’s biggest accomplishments have been finishing all the laundry and helping her son get potty trained.  Brittney has a passion for strong marriages. She is currently writing a book called Dare to Go Unnoticed, addressing how flirting and dressing to get noticed are dirty little secrets of the Christian female community.

Music Review:: Glory Revealed II: The Word of God in Worship

13 Jul

Finally!  Glory Revealed II: The Word of God in Worship, the follow-up to the multiple Dove Award-winning 2007 release Glory Revealed, is hitting the shelves today.  The album was written and recorded during a week long artist retreat and features 21 different artists including project leader Mac Powell (Third Day), Brandon Heath, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Shane & Shane, and many more!  The music itself is a fusion of grass roots, folk, and rock music blended with the incredible vocal talents of Christian music’s top talent.  Every song on the album is a toe-tapping, sing-along-out-loud blast of soul music.  My favorites include, “Wake Up Oh Sleeper” and “Cup O’ Salvation.”  Reminiscent of the City on a Hill series, Glory Revealed is not only getting artists to work on collaborative projects, but raising the bar on worship music.

Amy’s Score: 4.5 (out of 5)

Review:: Peace on Earth – Casting Crowns

2 Dec

By Clay W. Ginn From the haunting piano opening of “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” to the stirring string arrangement which closes “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, Casting Crowns has created a beautiful Christmas album well worth a listen.

Creativity:: 7 - There is not a single original song on Peace on Earth. All are either traditional Christmas songs, covers of another artist’s music (Amy Grant’s “God Is With Us” and Paul Baloche’s “Christmas Offering”), or a rearrangement of their own music (“While You Were Sleeping” from Casting Crown’s 2005 album Lifesong). That being said, the arrangements are classic Casting Crowns. Lush piano blends with layered string arrangements, all held together by steady acoustic guitar.

Original Songs:: 4 – The only song that could be considered to be original could be “While You Were Sleeping” but it was previously released. The second verse is changed from the lyric that was on Lifesong, reflecting more of the Christmas story. It’s a deeply moving song to me, but for the purpose of originality, it’s been heard before.

Classic Covers:: 8 – The arrangements created by Casting Crowns on this album are solid, giving a unique take on them. The soft rock sound favored by the band makes these songs memorable, yet quiet enough to be played as background at you Christmas get-togethers.

Musical Score:: 9 – As stated before, the blending of the various musical elements is beautifully done.

Overall Holly Jolliness: 10 – After I listened to this disc the first time, I wanted my wife to listen to it. It’s a great addition to our Christmas collection (which we listen to more than just during the holiday season) and we’ll be listening to it often this year.

Total = 38 - Fans of Casting Crowns and fans of soft rock Christmas music can expect to find this album under their trees this year. It’s available now, so go out and get it!

Print copy of review.

To read our review guide lines, go here.

You can find Peace on Earth and the rest of our great “12 Days of Christmas Music” reviewed albums in Backseat Writer’s online store, Drive-By Shopping, under the “12 Days of Christmas Music” category!

Clay W Ginn is a software developer for a small company in North Texas. I’ve been married for nearly 12 years and am the father of three. I’m an avid reader, weather nut, and love playing my guitar and singing. My wife and I are huge fans of Walt Disney World, trying to get there once every couple of years. I grew up on a farm in rural Kansas, and attended seven different colleges before completing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology and a Master’s degree in Information Systems. In the past I’ve been a youth leader, worship leader, police dispatcher, accounting clerk, customer service representative, and a gumball machine builder. I love writing anything, from movie and music reviews to political screeds to comparisons of culture and faith. I’m even working on a novel as well.

Alive 2008 Recap

22 Jun

My dear friend, Jeff Greathouse, his beautiful wife, and their kids attended Alive 2008, a Christian music festivals taking place in Ohio. To read all about Jeff’s take on the fest, go to his blog (Alive:Wednesday, Alive: Thursday, Festival Photos, Concert Photos). He graciously allowed me to post some of his stellar concert pics on BSW.

dc

David Crowder with a funny looking instrument.

dc

David Crowder and his adoring public in black and white.

hawk nelson

…and Hawk Nelson! (Read BSW’s interview with Hawk Nelson’s front man, Jason Dunn here).

casting crowns

Casting Crowns

You can see the rest of Jeff’s concert pics on his blog. If you are attending a festival this summer, please shoot me an e-mail (amy@backseatwriter.com) and tell me all about it! I definitely want to get as many pics and recaps up as possible.

Slow Fade

23 May

Casting Crowns just released a music video for “Slow Fade” one of their songs off their latest album The Altar and the Door.  I previously blogged about this song, but I’m gonna repost part of that entry after the video.  Below is the dramatic “Slow Fade” video…

From Jan. 8, 2008’s entry, “It’s a Slow Fade When You Give Yourself Away“…

At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of attending Casting Crowns current tour, The Altar and the Door (based on their latest album by the same title). The tour also includes Leeland and John Waller. I had listened to the new album a few times before I saw the concert, but not enough to have truly melded into the music. It’s when lead singer Mark Hall began to sing “Slow Fade” that tears started to well up in my eyes. As the song continued, the lyrics rang so true to my life, that I was a sloppy mess by the end of the song.

Ever since I first experienced the song that night, I’ve realized how sin in our lives can take us on that slow fade into unbelief. How each and every little compromise we make in our faith is one step closer to collapse. Fortunately, we have a merciful and loving God who is always faithful to welcome us back into the arms of grace. However, what about those who suffer along the way due to our actions, and what if we fade so far we never choose to come back?

In relationships with both of my parents, I can see their slow fade into something else and how that’s truly damaged the family unit we once had. Of course, now my parents are divorced and with other partners, which leads into complicated family dynamics. Yet it’s a slow fade when a daddy uses the internet to chat, ends up chatting with women, bears his soul to someone other than his wife, talks to that woman on the phone, meets her in person, has a romantic relationship with her, leaves his family, and gets a divorce. Each and every step along the way adds to the slow fade.

I love that Mark Hall has his daughter sing the last stanza of this song on the album (which by the way, if you don’t have it, you should pick it up). It serves as a reminder to Daddies (and Mommies) everywhere that a compromise is not just about you, but it’s about your kids, too. Children don’t choose to be “children of divorce”–it’s just thrust upon them. Kids don’t have a say when a new step dad comes into the family; they have to accept it. There is so much hurt, pain, abandonment before the divorce, during the divorce, and after the divorce that children (not just minors–any children, even adult children) must carry around. The little girl’s singing has a haunting effect serving as a reminder how choices affect others, especially the ones we love. Yet the song rips out the very heart of someone who can see the anguishing slow fade of a parent, friend, mentor, and a loved one.

2008 Dove Award Winners

24 Apr

The 2008 GMA Dove Awards winners were announced last night during an awards ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville marking the end of this year’s GMA Week. Was I there? No. Did I want to be there? Sort of. Will I be there next year? God only knows. But I would definitely want to be someone’s date to the Dove Awards so I could wear a cool dress and, uh, have a date. Alas, my dating life is not the topic of this post, so without further ado (and foolish asides), I bring you the winners of the 2008 Dove Awards (of course you could just as easily read about them here you would miss my amusing banter)…

Song of the Year went to “East to West” a song off Casting Crowns‘ latest album, The Altar and the Door. Casting Crowns also picked up an award for Group of the Year. The only female nominated for Songwriter of the Year, Cindy Morgan, took that award home while one of the only other ladies to win an award, Natalie Grant, won for Female Vocalist of the Year. Chris Tomlin the reigning king of Vocalist of the Year won again, but TobyMac was pronounced Aritst of the Year.

While all these artists should be congratulated for their hard work and recognition, there were two wins that really touched my heart–Producer of the Year Ian Eskelin and New Artist of the Year Brandon Heath. Having interviewed both Eskelin (read “Creative Output” and “Making Love”) and Heath (read “Missional Musician”), I found both men to be kind, godly, and dedicated artists. Ian Eskelin is truly one of my favorite producers (and musicians) and I enjoy Brandon Heath’s singer/songwriter style. Congrats, guys!

Although I still think that All Star United’s cheeky “Song of the Year” should have been nominated–I mean, how funny would that be?

Leeland: Raising Up a Worship Generation

8 Apr

By Amy Sondova w/ Melissa Brown A best-selling album, a GRAMMY nod and several Dove Award nominations, a new marriage, and the Feb. 26 release of sophomore album, Opposite Way—that’s a lifetime of accomplishments for 19 year-old Leeland Mooring, frontman of the band, Leeland. The band’s first album, Sound of Melodies, was heralded by audiences and commanded attention and respect from the pillars of the Christian music industry, including Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, and Chris Tomlin.

In addition to the band’s namesake, the band is comprised of Leeland’s big brother, Jack Mooring (keys/vocals), the Mooring boys’ cousin Jake Holtz (bass), and friends Mike Smith (drums) and Mike Campbell (guitars). In hot demand, the band has been touring nearly non-stop for the past two years, which has given them a lot of time to craft an album that continues the excellence that excited audiences in Sound of Melodies.

Just as Opposite Ways first cut was just being released to the media, Melissa Brown and I had a chance to sit down and chat with the members of Leeland, who despite being 19-24, were intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally mature. Perched on a seat neat to me was Leeland, who rolled up my business card and stuck it in his sock during the interview. Despite his apparent disdain for paper objects, he was surprisingly attentive and well-spoken as were the other band members. Next to Leeland sat Mike C., then Jake, followed by Mike S., Jack, and finally Mel.

Jack took special care to make sure that questions were answered accurately and appropriately and helped moderate discussion. Jake, one of the youngest members, was amazing and forthright, often making the everyone laugh (especially Leeland) while the duo of Mike’s were less talkative, yet insightful. Passionate about raising up a generation of worshippers, Leeland the band was eager to talk and even nicely shared the microphone.

START TRANSMISSION

Amy: I’ll start with Leeland. Everyone loves the fact that you’re 19. Youth workers love the fact that you’re young. What kind of response have you had from youth workers about ministering to teenagers?

Leeland: What’s really cool is when we get to minister at church. We sing for youth groups and the youth pastors are really encouraged. First of all, we see tons of kids that are my age, and I’ve had tons of kids come up to me and say, ‘How do I get that passion for God that you guys have? I look up to you guys and your walk with God.’ It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time for us.

As far as youth workers, we’ve got to really inspire youth workers to nurture the gifts in their own youth groups. We’re trying to encourage youth with their dreams. There might be a kid that loves to draw, loves art, writes poetry, love music, or loves speaking—we love to encourage that and see that develop.

Amy: When people think of “worship”, they think of music. Worship can encompass so much more. What are other ways you guys are encouraging worship in other ways, besides music, even though you are obviously involved within the music genre?

Jack: I think that goes back to our main topic of what we’re taking about, which is raising up a generation of worshipers. Does that mean raising up a generation of songwriters or singers? No. It means maybe quite the opposite. Raising up a generation of worshipers means going past songs and past music into living a lifestyle that glorifies God.

Yes, music is amazing and a great way to worship God, but there are so many other ways to worship Him aside from art. Our goal is to help people to find ways to dedicate their whole lives to God and worship in every aspect of their lives. I definitely think there are lots of ways we’ve missed as a Church to worship God.

Matt S.: For us, it’s more of a lifestyle. We try to be the same on the stage, on the bus, or wherever. Worship is definitely living a lifestyle of prayer and being in a relationship with God. I think if you really want to define worship it’s a lifestyle that is trying to be pleasing to God.

Leeland: Worship is anything that’s glorifying God whether that’s praying or hanging out or cleaning up the church after worship or cleaning the toilet—anything that’s glorifying God in your life or in a song is worship. It literally is your whole life devoted to God.

Amy: Leeland here is the youngest in the band and he’s kind of the “leader of the band”. How do you older guys deal with that?

Mike C: We have a good open line of communication and Leeland’s always been good about pushing everything back towards the band and towards us and making it a group thing. We were the ones that made him take the band name ‘Leeland’. He didn’t want it in the beginning, we were just in our youth group back home playing worship and then we started playing other places as ‘The Leeland Mooring Band’.

Amy: So you guys all went to youth group together?

Jake: Jack and Leeland’s parents started a church about five years ago and yeah, so we started in the church. We met Mike at IHOP and Matt went to a church across the street and Jack was the youth pastor. That’s how it started—in youth band.

Jack: Leeland I were brothers and our parents actually started the church, and maybe the people didn’t know that… (Everyone chuckles at him.)

Amy: You were brothers? What are you now?

Jack: Actually you know we did an official separation for purposes of the band. We didn’t want things to get personal, you know? So, yeah, I was actually youth pastor at the time and Leeland started writing all these songs—he was 12 years old! It was a really cool time in our lives because I would get up and preach and Jake would play bass and Leeland would get up and lead worship. It all came about because of our youth ministry. Without our youth ministry, we wouldn’t be here.

Amy: OK, let’s head back towards youth ministry. There are a lot of kids who are pretty talented and write songs. Obviously, Leeland over here is a musical genius, but how do you encourage kids in their craft without crushing their dreams?

Leeland: In the beginning, the songs may not be that great. But one of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that when someone is really, really close to the Lord and when they’re really been seeking God and have an innocent relationship with the Lord, they could be singing ‘Kumbaya’ and the presence of God will come. I’ve been around some places where the person’s voice wasn’t that amazing or they weren’t great with the instrument, but you could just tell that they were so close to the Lord and loved God so much that when they were playing I felt the Lord and felt him stronger than professional musicians.

Keep encouraging kids to write songs and keep writing and to seek after God as they’re writing. That’s the difference between a great song writer and a great worship leader. A great worship leader is so in tune with the Lord that they could be up there singing anything and the presence of God will come.

Amy: A lot of people look up to you guys as a band—both youth and youth workers because the music’s great and the lyrics are real. What do you think is a critical issue in youth workers? What do youth workers need to know?

Jack: I actually worked with youth before I was in the band. One thing I can say as a word of encouragement is to make time to spend with God and for your self. Youth workers are very selfless people, so they don’t have time for themselves.

Leeland: You are selfless and you give and give and give so much you come to the point where you’re tired. But if you devote yourself to the Lord, you are able to keep your dreams alive for your group and your city. A lot of youth workers start out with great dreams, but they lay down their dreams because they’re tired because they don’t seek the Lord and the presence of God.

Youth workers need to say, ‘God, let your presence fill out youth group.’ We can have Playstations and games all day long, and these worldly things don’t edify. They attract people, but they don’t edify. The presence of God is what our churches need to be asking for, that’s when people are changed.

Jack: Games and all those really cool fun lights attracts the kids, but once they’re there, what happens? Where’s the beef? Where’s the meat? Are they going to take something more home than meeting their friends and beating Guitar Hero? I think that’s where the youth workers need to get on their faces before God.

Amy: Youth workers can be guilty of neglecting their families because they think that ministry is the highest calling, but also family is ministry. How do you guys keep the romance alive with your wives?

Jack: Literally, your family is your ministry. It’s amazing that we’re going to minister to all these people, but 20 years from now if our kids aren’t serving God and our wives have been neglected, I don’t really see the point. When we stand before the Lord, he’s going to ask us how we treated our families, how you treat your children and your wife is going to affect many generations to come.

Amy: So, Jack, honestly, what’s it like being Michael W. Smith’s son-in-law?

Jack: They’re an amazing family. He has a reputation of integrity, and he’s put his family first. You can just tell when you spend time with them. He’s been nice to me and hasn’t given me a hard time.

Amy: We’ve been talking about the Michael W. Smith fan cruise. I was like, “It’s going to be 50 year-old ladies and Leeland”. So, really, what was it like?

Jake: It was like a worship conference to me. It was awesome. It wasn’t all 50 year-old peple. There were younger people there and some people brought their kids. We went to Alaska and spent 7-8 days there. It was free food the entire time. Ice cream in the middle of the night. Milk and cookies.

Jack: And we saw whales and that was amazing.

(Random incoherent mumblings from which I could glean, “We drove the ship into an iceberg.” Mel asks, “Did anyone abandon ship?” All of a sudden Leeland grabs the mic to make this announcement.)

Leeland: The blue whale is the biggest thing in the entire world. Its tongue weighs as much an elephant. It weighs 200 tons and its heart is as big as a car. Its tail is as wide as a small aircraft and you could swim in its largest blood vessel.

Amy: Ooo-kay. On that note, anything that you want to say in closing?

Leeland: Keep dreaming for your city and know that God is with you and be encouraged. God is doing something incredible in the hearts of youth today. Keep encouraging your kids to devote their lives to God.

END TRANSMISSION

For more information on Leeland and their current tour “The Altar and the Door” with Casting Crowns, visit the band’s website (LINK: http://www.leelandonline.com). Also remember to check out their latest album, Opposite Way, which released February 26.

Print copy of interview.

Slow Fade When You Give Yourself Away

8 Jan

Photo Credit: Dan Phillips

At the beginning of November, I had the pleasure of attending Casting Crowns current tour, The Altar and the Door (based on their latest album by the same title). The tour also includes Leeland and John Waller. I had listened to the new album a few times before I saw the concert, but not enough to have truly melded into the music. It’s when lead singer Mark Hall began to sing “Slow Fade” that tears started to well up in my eyes. As the song continued, the lyrics rang so true to my life, that I was a sloppy mess by the end of the song.

Ever since I first experienced the song that night, I’ve realized how sin in our lives can take us on that slow fade into unbelief. How each and every little compromise we make in our faith is one step closer to collapse. Fortunately, we have a merciful and loving God who is always faithful to welcome us back into the arms of grace. However, what about those who suffer along the way due to our actions, and what if we fade so far we never choose to come back?

In relationships with both of my parents, I can see their slow fade into something else and how that’s truly damaged the family unit we once had. Of course, now my parents are divorced and with other partners, which leads into complicated family dynamics. Yet it’s a slow fade when a daddy uses the internet to chat, ends up chatting with women, bears his soul to someone other than his wife, talks to that woman on the phone, meets her in person, has a romantic relationship with her, leaves his family, and gets a divorce. Each and every step along the way adds to the slow fade.

I love that Mark Hall has his daughter sing the last stanza of this song on the album (which by the way, if you don’t have it, you should pick it up). It serves as a reminder to Daddies (and Mommies) everywhere that a compromise is not just about you, but it’s about your kids, too. Children don’t choose to be “children of divorce”–it’s just thrust upon them. Kids don’t have a say when a new step dad comes into the family; they have to accept it. There is so much hurt, pain, abandonment before the divorce, during the divorce, and after the divorce that children (not just minors–any children, even adult children) must carry around. The little girl’s singing has a haunting effect serving as a reminder how choices affect others, especially the ones we love. Yet the song rips out the very heart of someone who can see the anguishing slow fade of a parent, friend, mentor, and a loved one.

The song has apparently struck a chord with a lot of people. On YouTube, plenty of people have made their own music videos for the song. Here’s one of the best I found–it was used as a call to worship for a church. I personally like the pirated iStock photo. I also posted the song lyrics below…

“Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

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