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User Archives: John van der Veen

  • Creative Extremists - Martin Luther King

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by John van der Veen

    "Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love:
    "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
    Was not Amos an extremist for justice:
    "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
    Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel:
    "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."
    Was not Martin Luther an extremist:
    "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God."
    And John Bunyan:
    "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience."
    And Abraham Lincoln:
    "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free."
    And Thomas Jefferson:
    "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. . ."
    So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.
    Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative
    extremists."


    The above is taken from Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. Written April 16, 1963. You may find the whole letter here.

    This post was posted in Uncategorized and was tagged with Featured, Martin Luther King

  • Remembering Heart in Motion - Amy Grant

    Posted on January 14, 2014 by John van der Veen

    It doesn't take much to unlock the memories of our past. It might be a smell in the air that brings us back to summer camps. Or a taste that helps us remember a grandmother's cooking. Or, in this case, a song.

    Do you remember what you were doing in 1991? Songstress, Amy Grant released her eighth album, Heart in Motion then. It was the follow up to the more acoustic album, Lead Me On and more mainstream pop album, Unguarded.

    Heart in Motion was certainly a pop album, meaning that it was "popular." It was commercial in every sense. Lyrically though, it varied from light songs about relationships (Good For Me) to heavier songs dealing with dark pain (Ask Me). Also, many of our churches have sung, and some still do, Hope Set High.

    Heart in Motion made a huge impact on the Christian music landscape. By the time 1997 rolled around, it had sold more than 5 million copies. Singles; Baby Baby, Every Heartbeat, Good for Me, and I Will Remember You all held #1 or #2 slots on mainstream radio stations for months on end. The album itself was listed as #30 in the book (now out-of-print) CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music. It also was nominated for a Grammy.

    Do you remember where you were when you heard Heart in Motion for the first time?

    Heart in Motion was a landmark release for me. “I will Remember You” and “Hope Set High” are two of my favorite Amy Grant songs of all-time. - Dan Hubka, Music Buyer; Family Christian

    It's fantastic. She's fantastic. Amy helped pave the way for girl singer - songwriter-guitarists like me. Ironically it came out the year I was born. - Jamie Grace

    "That album still holds a sweet spot in my heart and will forever have on my iPod. Also, that cover made me and many others get unfortunate perms, velvet dresses and a locket necklace." - Anita Renfroe

    Baby Baby

    That's What Love is For

    Good For Me


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Amy Grant

  • The Ministry of Tenth Ave. North

    Posted on January 7, 2014 by John van der Veen



    Of course, fans of Tenth Ave. North know about their great music. For it's built on two foundations - depth in lyrics and musical creativity. For those of use who have seen the band live, have also been exposed to much more. A challenge to live our lives with a great passion for the glory of the Gospel.

    Mike Donehey continues to strike a cord of tension with those who are willing to listen. Some tension in life is truly good if it encourages us to do something. Mike, for the most part, does just that. His talks, whether in a live show or in a video, or an interruption that many of us need. He continues to make those that are comfortable, uncomfortable. Those that are sleepy in faith, awake.

    Below, we have grabbed a few videos that have been released by the band. These highlight what I am mentioning above. Take a few minutes today and see for yourself. Be encouraged. The struggle that God calls us to in the context of the Gospel is real. And good.

    "We really fostered the dance of both the music and they lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there."


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Music and was tagged with Featured, Tenth Ave. North

  • New Year - More Inspiration

    Posted on December 31, 2013 by John van der Veen


    During this time, every year, all of us look both backward and forward. Back at where God had brought us, and forward in thinking where the Lord will be bringing us. It's good to do. To have a plan. A plan with perspective.

    We know that our Heavenly Father has a specific plan for us. Mostly to be a worshipper. To be a person that lives "doxologically-minded." Beyond that, there is a lot of freedom.

    Here are some resources that may help in guiding us to that "closer walk with Him."

    Discover an innovative approach to achieving a healthy lifestyle in community. Built on a scriptural foundation, The Daniel Plan, from pastor Rick Warren, will help you learn how to optimize your health in the key areas of faith, food, fitness, focus and friends.

    The Daniel Plan teaches simple ways to incorporate healthy choices into a reader's current lifestyle and helps them understand the kind of foods God created to keep them fit and strong. These concepts encourage readers to deepen their relationship with God and offer inspiration as they make positive choices each and every day.

    Take an in-depth look at the first Christians and discover how generosity was the hallmark of the early church—how giving changed everything, drawing people to the most generous of givers, Jesus Christ. Generosity changed the world once; it could happen again. How to Be Rich: It's Not What You Have. It's What You Do With What You Have. by pastor Andy Stanley explores 1 Timothy 6:18, biblically redefining what wealth is, how to use it and helping you practice being rich so you will be good at it if you should ever be so fortunate.

    Is that how people in our communities would describe us today? How to Be Rich will force conversation and reflection around the topic of what to do with what we have. Jesus could not have been any clearer - it’s not what you have that matters. It’s what you do with what you have that will count for you or against you in the kingdom of heaven.

    Billy Graham’s devotionals are impactful and empowering. Now you can hear them paired with beloved hymns—recorded in a variety of styles, including symphonic orchestra to solo piano from beautiful vocals to the rich sound of a full choir. Exclusive gift set includes 100-song, 4-CD set with companion book of 100 devotionals from Dr. Graham.

    This exclusive gift set includes both Songs of Faith, 4-CDs of over 100 hymns coupled with and Words of Promise, a companion book of 100 devotionals from the writings of Billy Graham. Recorded in a variety of styles - from symphonic orchestra to solo piano and from soaring vocals to the rich sound of full choir - this treasury of music will inspire you every time that you listen. In addition, each hymn is paired with a devotional text to compliment the message of the song.

    Songs of Faith / Words of Promise celebrates the message and the power of Billy Graham's ministry throughout the years.

    After preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world for the better part of the last century, Billy Graham has one more message to share in My Hope America. In conjunction with his book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation, Graham seeks to empower America to turn back to Christ and to eventually inspire the world through a genuine relationship with Jesus.

    Following a simple biblical model, My Hope America with Billy Graham combines the video programs with the power of personal relationships, encouraging people to share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues and neighbors through these videos featuring Billy Graham, dynamic music and testimonies.

    Learn how to be part of the effort to reach people across the United States with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This essential three-DVD resource—with more than seven hours of content—follows a simple biblical model using the life-changing testimonies and powerful message from Billy Graham.

    What is on your New Years list?


    This post was posted in Music, Books and was tagged with Featured, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Andy Stanley

  • Blog Summary for November 2013

    Posted on November 28, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of November.

    Liz Curtis Higgs - The Women of Christmas

    A sacred season is about to unfold for three women whose hearts belong to God. Elizabeth is barren, yet her trust in God remains fertile. Mary is betrothed in marriage, yet she is willing to bear God’s Son. Anna is a widow full of years, yet she waits patiently, prayerfully for the Messiah to appear in the temple courts.

    Following in their footsteps, you too can prepare for the Savior to enter your heart, your mind, and your life in a vibrant, new way this season. In The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, bestselling author Liz Curtis Higgs explores the biblical stories of these three women, unwrapping each verse with tender care and introducing you afresh to The Women of Christmas.

    Read the full interview here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Read the full interview here.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    Read the full interview here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujici

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
    physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
    enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
    rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
    there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
    style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Read the full Q&A here.

    Clinging to Christ in the Middle of the Hurricane - Natalie Grant

    In the opening lines of “In The End,” the spirited but poignant unplugged track that wraps her latest album Hurricane, Natalie Grant puts it as plainly as she ever has in dealing with the troubling storms we all face: “Can’t catch a break/You’ve had your fill of old clichés…”. Emerging from a dark, spiritually challenging time in her own life, the multi-talented singer/songwriter—a Grammy nominated, five time GMA (Gospel Music Association) Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the Year – breaks through the well worn and cheerful, but not completely truthful, phrases that often leave those who are struggling in need of more.

    Natalie and I sat down (with her daughter, Sadie, on her lap) and talked about what went into her new album. The ups and downs of life. Times of depression. Times of joy.

    Read the full interview here.

    Operation Christmas Child

    1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ.

    Twenty years ago, Franklin Graham made a promise to collect a few gifts for boys and girls in war-torn Bosnia. Today, Operation Christmas Child has become a year-round, international project, delivering millions of shoeboxes to children in nearly 100 countries each year.

    Two decades after it started, Operation Christmas Child continues to deliver shoebox gifts and the Good News of Jesus Christ to boys and girls around the world.

    Read the full story here.

    Taylor's Gift - An interview with Todd & Tara Storch

    It was the last run of their first day on the slopes, the beginning of another great family vacation for Todd and Tara Storch and their three children. But when thirteen-year-old Taylor’s life was tragically cut short in a skiing accident, the Storches were overcome by the devastating loss of their daughter. Still in shock, they were asked a question no parents ever think they will hear: “Would you be willing to donate Taylor’s organs?”

    Their answer would change their family’s lives forever and provide comfort during their darkest moments. It would also save the lives of five desperate people anxiously waiting for a heart, a liver, a cornea, a pancreas, and a kidney.

    Read the full interview here.

    Everfound - God of the Impossible

    The four brothers of the Russian-born band Everfound, who immigrated to Denver, Colorado when they were young children, have been inspired by their ancestors’ commitment to their faith in the face of oppression in the Soviet Union. Although their ancestors were not legally allowed to profess their Christian faith, Everfound has sung freely and clearly about Jesus on four independent albums, and they will do so again on their major label debut with Word Records, the self-titled Everfound.

    For this album, they wrote 75 songs and narrowed it down to the best 12, including the lead-off hit single "Never Beyond Repair." While these songs are intensely personal, they were written with the a generation in mind. Everfound’s goal was to write songs that would serve as the soundtrack to people’s daily lives.

    See the full post here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Nick Vujicic, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Todd Storch, Tara Storch, Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Natalie Grant, Liz Curtis Higgs, Operation Christmas Child, Everfound

  • The Rhett Walker Band - Faith on the Road

    Posted on November 12, 2013 by John van der Veen


    “I won’t be caged to the status quo. I’m not afraid to stand and say what people won’t.” -Rhett Walker, “Get Up Get Out”

    Now there’s an understatement. Rhett Walker is not like any rising Christian musician you have met before or will meet again soon. The outspoken 25-year-old son of a preacher was born and raised around the South, his mellow yet animated voice a sure mix of Georgia and the Carolinas. In that drawl, he tells an intense wild oats story tempered by God’s grace, a testimony that fuels the deep-fried rock found on Rhett Walker Band’s debut, Come To The River.

    Indeed, Rhett is a shining example of faith, family, and country values today—an experienced man who teaches that grace comes with a calling.

    I caught up with Rhett and band at a summer festival earlier this year. I have to admit that the interview was more laughing than actually talking, I was challenged by what these guys have been through.

    John: Be honest. How did you come up with the name?

    Rhett: Funny thing. It's actually Joe; his last name is Bande, B-A-N-D-E. I'm Rhett. Kenny, his third middle name is actually an Indian name, was Walker. We just kind of put it together. Kevin is not a part of the band.

    Kenny: I'm not in the band.

    Rhett: So it's Rhett Walker Bande. We figured, make that "Band." It looks cooler.

    John: I love it. Why don't you give a little bit of background: Where did you guys come from?

    Rhett: We all come from different places: Kenny's from Texas and Joe’s from Oklahoma and I'm from South Carolina and Mr. Kevin's from North Carolina. We all come from different areas, but I'd say about ... How long ago was that? Probably about three years ago? Three or four years ago, when me and you met? How long have we known each other?

    Kenny: Dude, almost six years ago.

    Rhett: Oh wow.

    Joe: No way.

    John: As a band you've been together for six years?

    Rhett: No. About six years ago, me and Kenny, we met. I led worship at a church and he played drums there, so we started doing music together, and that's where we met Joe. Joe has his own studio and we were doing some demos. Nashville's a big city, but it's actually pretty daggone small. So we all kind of got in that middle circle and met everybody, and we just all clicked, man.

    It takes time to do anything. We played shows and ... Slowly, but surely, we kind of played shows, and about a year, exactly almost a year ago we put out our first record. We haven't been playing long. We're a new band, but we've known each other for a long time. We kind of, more or less, knew each other at first because we were all in different bands. It kind of all happened.

    John: The record's been out for about a year. What was it like to, all of a sudden, go, "We're now playing on a national level?" Before, you guys were playing churches, bars maybe, whatever. And now you guys are there.

    Rhett: It's cool, man. We were just talking about this. We just got back from the West Coast last week, and we were playing in clubs and stuff and churches last year, and we were thankful for 80 people were showing up. It's kind of funny to see what a year does and what radio does, and becoming on the, like you said, the national level, because now we're pulling eight hundred to a thousand in a room by ourself. And it's like, man, last year we were thankful when the first two rows were filled. This year we got people standing around, so ...

    It's just cool, too, because then you're playing shows and people are singing your songs and it's more of just a Rhett Walker Band thing. It's like, we're all here playing music. We love music, that's why we do it. These people love music; that's why they're here. It just becomes kind of a big party and we're all just hanging out doing our thing, you know?

    John: What do you guys play live? Do you basically play through the whole record, or do you try to incorporate some other songs in there as well, that aren’t necessarily Walker songs?

    Kenny: Well, sometimes we like to play songs off of Joe Kane and the Buttercream Gang record, solo EP. There's songs that we play off of the record. We've been playing a lot of new songs. And every once in a while, we'll get the hankering to do some covers: maybe some Skynyrd, maybe some CCR or John Fogerty, kind of a mix of good old time music and partying and fun and hanging out.

    John: You guys like playing live? Is it fun?

    Kenny: Oh yeah.

    Kevin: Yeah, playing live is great.

    Joe: Except for Kevin. As long we can, we get a lot of experience.

    John: Playing live experience?

    Kenny: His name is Mr. Kevin.

    Kevin: I'm Mr. Kevin.

    Kenny: Aka, the principal.

    Rhett: The principal.

    Kevin: That's what I've been called.

    John: Why's that?

    Kevin: I got my degree in education and I used to teach ...

    Kevin: Do you want to know anything about the live shows specifically? Or just …

    John: No, just talk about the live shows.

    Kenny: Your experience. Your favorite part.

    Kevin: My favorite part is that it's a band dynamic on stage. We'll switch the set list up every night. We'll play different songs in different orders. Sometimes we'll drag out solos. Sometimes we'll add stuff. Take it away. I don't know, man. It's just like, we don't have a laptop computer that we plug in and press "Play." We all play our instruments and all sing.

    John: You're a real band. You're not playing the tracks.

    Kevin: Exactly.

    Kenny: Exactly, yeah.

    Kevin: I take a lot ... I'm not ashamed to take pride in that, I don't think. I mean.

    Kenny: Kevin also has a tendency to yell and scream out of joy and excitement at points. And beat his chest, kind of like a gorilla. Real low.

    John: So Kevin, what do you play?

    Kevin: I play the bass.

    Kenny: Drums.

    Joe: Guitar.

    Kenny: Joe Kahn and the Buttercream Gang.

    John: That's what the EP came from?

    Joe: Yeah.

    Rhett: And I play the microphone.

    John: Any obscure live experience so far?

    Kevin: Yea.

    John: Like falling off the stage? People diving off the stage? Mosh pits?

    Rhett: No. I mean, we've had some mosh pits.

    Kenny: You climbed some ...

    Joe: Rafters.

    Kenny: Some truss once.

    Rhett: I, one time, climbed a rafter and a raptor. One time I climbed a rapper. I climbed on top of LeCrae and Kanye West.

    Kenny: One time Kevin threw his bass up in the air and forgot that it was a low ceiling, and threw it into the ceiling. Remember that?

    Kevin: Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.

    Rhett: One time we got kicked out of a church.

    John: Really?

    Rhett: Yeah.

    Joe: And got the pastor fired.

    Rhett: I mean, just good days of getting shut down by the police, you know? Just because we're too loud or something like that.

    Kevin: Sometimes Joe just takes off into the crowd and plays a guitar solo. I still don't know why he does that.

    Joe: There's usually food out there, and I'm so freaking hungry.

    Kevin: Going for a hot dog, man.

    John: So if the record came out last year, what's on your bucket list for this year?

    Rhett: Well, we've just been playing a lot of shows. But we're getting ready ... We're writing right now. So we're kind of looking forward to November. We're going to record a new record.

    John: So a new record early ‘14?

    Rhett: Yeah. I would say about summertime.

    Kevin: Yeah.

    Rhett: We're kind of dialing them songs and doing that number and mailing them out.

    Rhett: You know, just trying to figure out exactly what we want to say on this record, because the first record, you just write a butt-load of songs and then you pick the best. This one, we're all writing together on this out on the road, so we're singing a lot of ... There's some love songs to our brides back at home, there's songs about our faith on the road, and there's songs that are just feel-good songs. It's coming out in the summer. We're writing this in the summer, so it's just American music. I wouldn't say it's any type of thing other than just we got instruments and we play them and sing about life. And that's kind of what we want to do on this record.

    John: You guys book readers?

    Joe: Yes

    Kenny: Yeah, sometimes.

    John: What are you reading, Joe?

    Joe: What do I read? Currently?

    Kenny: I can tell you what Joe's been reading right now.

    Rhett: Ask him what he's been reading right now.

    Joe: I was this close to not turning to this. Okay, normally I enjoy the classics very much.

    Kenny: But now ...

    Joe: But currently ...

    John: It's a Harlequin Romance.

    Joe: Currently, I'm reading this sweet series called The Animorphs. And I've read two books today, and I'm probably going to finish two more before I go to bed. They're short.

    Kenny: Short tales about ...

    Joe: But I read them when I was a kid, so it's a nostalgia thing.

    John: Yeah.

    Kenny: There you go.

    Kevin: Bring back good memories.

    Rhett: I'm reading what I read as a kid, what I always read: The Bible.

    Kenny: Okay.

    Joe: That was good.

    John: Kevin?

    Kevin: Good one, Rhett. I've been reading this book by a rabbi. It's called Yearnings. I don't know the name of the author. I've only gotten a few chapters into it.

    Joe: Wow.

    Kevin: I love stuff like that.

    Kenny: Don't put me in on this, because after that, I would seem like an idiot.

    Joe: Man. I find obscure things to read.

    Kevin: On the spiritual side, I actually just finished, again, The Ragamuffin Gospel.

    John: Yeah, great book.

    Kevin: Yea. I read it a long time ago, and after his passing thought I'd pick it up again. But, then, I also finished, because of nostalgia, Where the Red Fern Grows.

    John: Oh.

    Joe: Oh, you just finished that?

    Kevin: Yea.

    Joe: That's a good one.

    Kenny: I remember that.

    Kevin: It's in the van. You can read it if ...

    Joe: You going to read Summer of the Monkeys now?

    Kevin: I could.

    Joe: I wasn't making fun of you. I was genuinely asking.

    Kevin: Genuinely serious.

    Rhett: Cool.

    So of course, the interview ended in laughter. These guys are a lot of fun to hang out with. They are a lot of fun to see live.  In the meantime, make sure that you check out their debut album, Come to the River.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Rhett Walker Band, Brennan Manning

  • Diving Deep with Casting Crowns

    Posted on October 31, 2013 by John van der Veen


    "If I could just get to the weekend."
    "If I could just get through this semester."
    "If I could just get to the vacation.”
    "If I could just make it through today.”

    So many of us today are simply surviving.
    But we were not made to survive, we were made to Thrive.

    Like a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:7-8) we should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    I caught up with Mark, Melody and Juan from Casting Crowns at a summer festival this year. I wanted them to feel me in on their new album and what has been going on in their life as a band.

    John: You guys just got done in the studio, recording the new record. Is there a title for this thing yet?

    Mark: Yep, the name of the record is Thrive. It's named after the thing we've been teaching our student ministry in our church for several years. It's just a picture of digging deep and reaching out, what a healthy believer looks like after Psalm chapter one.

    John: I love it. When does it come out?

    Mark: Comes out ...

    Melody: January 28th.

    John: January 28th, Thrive. New record from Casting Crowns. That's pretty cool. A little bit of background information then. When you guys record a record, do you actually go through the process of teaching, through all of the lyrical content of the record first, and then go, "Okay, you know what? Now, we have 12 great songs from these 12 great lessons we just went through." Or is it reverse? Do you put the record out in front of people then go, "Now we're going to hammer you all over again"?

    Mark: What happens is, we're just teaching what we're teaching. Just pouring into believers, it’s discipleship. Then when it's time to write, we go back and usually the things that have been resonating throughout the year, sort of start emerging on their own. It's not really ... I don't know how to say that.

    Juan: It starts out as Mark is saying something from the stage. I'm usually playing the guitar, always talking like, "Oh, it's pretty cool." Then, it becomes a Bible study on Wednesday night for the teenagers and students, and then it turns into a song, usually after that.

    Mark: And new book comes out in January, as well.

    Juan: Mark has a new book coming out in January, same title.

    Mark: The record is called Thrive, the book is called Thrive. It's a little easier to make the book happen, because I get to say everything I wanted to say for every subject. You got to turn these Bible studies into a song. That's why Crowns can't write a song under five minutes long, because we have preacher's writing. The book is coming out as well, and I also have a children's book coming out, and it's called ...

    John: This is your first children's title.

    Mark: Yes, first one. It's called City on the Hill. It's after a song in the last record about how we are all different before we come together to make the body, so I’m pretty excited about that.

    John: That is very cool. When you guys go and set out to write these songs, do you have specific people in mind when you write a particular song? Name a song, can you name a song from the new record?

    Mark: Sure. There's a song called “House of Their Dreams,” that we’ll actually do tonight. A song about a family. When we sing a song about a girl, it's a song about a girl. It’s in these things that are going on around us.

    Juan: These are real stories that you ...

    Mark: They're real stories. Because our church will hear them, sometimes I'll shift things around to protect people, but these are just real life situations. That's what's cool about them, it’s that God lives in real life situations. That's where the hope is.

    John: With that in mind, what do you guys hope that this record will do, once it goes out there next year?

    Mark: For me, we've been doing concerts for a while. All of our concerts are really to pour into that young believer. The gospel is obviously going to be shared every time we're on the stage. But I'm trying to pour in it, for those not just young in age, but a believer who's young in their faith, to help them grow a little bit. I'd notice, I would say things in the teaching moments, and people in the crowd looking at me like, "Where has this been? How do I do this?" I can tell I need to give more. This record, the goal was to take that Psalm 1 passage about us being a tree planted by streams of water, and just look at what a believer should look like. Instead of going out and trying to be an awesome Christian, let's just dig in our roots and let God define for us some things. Let Him define who He is, and let Him define who we are.

    Once we grow in our roots, fruit will begin to happen. Instead of something we try, it's something we let God do in us. Six of the songs are all about digging deep in your roots and understanding God. Six of the songs are all about reaching out, and leting God use you in the world. It's really ... I'm just trying to pour into this bigger church that we've been coming in contact with.

    John: These songs, did they affect you guys as a band? I mean, are you just as moved, as maybe your audience is? How involved are you in responding to your own music?

    Melody: I don't write the words, the music; Mark usually does that. Sometimes he’ll co-write with somebody, but I know who he’s talking about in a lot of the songs. That is a bigger connection emotionally. One of the songs in the new record is called “Broken Together,” and it's about marriage. It's about a couple of marriages of friends that are close to us, that are just going through really hard times. When he was recording it, I was already crying, because when you know who is about, it means so much more.

    Mark: For me, it usually takes a few times for some of these songs to get through. A couple of these like, “Broken Together,” I don't know. It would probably be a rough couple of concerts to get through...

    Melody: He cries, I cry and then...

    Juan: And then everybody's crying.

    Melody: I'm the band crier. I cry at the drop of a hat.

    John: Anything on your bucket list for this year?

    Melody: Bucket list? Just survive first grade.

    Juan: I’m a big C. S. Lewis fan. They're doing a thing, it’s a big event, and I have to get to London, is it the day before or day after my daughter's birthday. It'd be like a three day deal.

    John: What are they doing?

    Juan: They're erecting a memorial stone, and poets corner, Westminster Abbey, honoring C. S. Lewis, so it will be beside Shakespeare, and Alfred Lawrence Tennyson, all those guys.

    John: You think you're going to go?

    Juan: I don't know.

    Melody: You want to really bad.

    Mark: I stepped out in faith, and I reserved the ticket to be able to do that. It was free to register, so I don't know. I think I'll start in a kick-starter. Please, please, send me money.

    Melody: I love it.

    Juan: There’s always some great kick-starters out there. I want to go the Switchfoot concert. Kick-starter for that.

    Mark: Good idea.

    Melody: I just want to survive first grade.

    Everyone: [Laughing]

    Bonus: All You've Ever Wanted (Official Lyric Video)


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Casting Crowns

  • Brandon Heath on Being Thankful for Christmas

    Posted on October 31, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Brandon Heath has some hard and fast rules about Christmas.

    1) Christmas music always sounds better on vinyl.
    2) Parents should never lie to their children about Santa Claus.
    3) Decorating should never,ever commence under any circumstance until the day after Thanksgiving.

    Brandon has dreamed of creating a Christmas album for a long time, writing quite a few songs along the way in anticipation for a future holiday release. In the end, he wrote three originals that made the album, Christmas is Here. In the few months leading up to recording he enlisted some friends to make the process memorable. Sonja Isaacs, Ellie Holcomb, Andy Gullahorn and Matt Wertz to name a few. Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz) produced the album, which was recorded in mid-July.

    I sat down with the Nashville native on a warm autumn day. The leaves were just starting to turn some color and the hint of "Frosty The Snowman" was a long way off.

    John: Okay Brandon, we need to talk about your song "The Day After Thanksgiving." I’m sensing maybe there’s a little bit of angst in that song.

    Brandon: There might be a little angst. I really just wanted to make this Christmas record fit me, and I’ve been wanting to make one for a long time.

    John: Okay... We need to talk a little bit about that.

    Brandon: Yeah.

    John: Who wrote the song?

    Brandon: I wrote it with my friend Ross Copperman and Lee Thomas Miller.

    Brandon: I have a very strict rule about Christmas music in that I don’t listen to any Christmas music or want to see decorations, or inflatables, or anything until the day after Thanksgiving. Consumerism has just taken over Christmas, and I think I really just want … fall is a great time of the year.

    John: It is.

    Brandon: Pumpkins and apple cider, and football games, and …

    John: Candy corn?

    Brandon: Candy corn, absolutely. All those things are great things that we should celebrate about fall. The seasons are an amazing time, so it’s unfortunate to me that the mall forgets about the fall, or maybe they’re celebrating the fall in the summertime. You just fast forward to Christmas every year, and by the time Christmas actually gets here you’re kind of tired of it.

    John: Yeah.

    Brandon: I wanted to really kind of punctuate that, like a Christmas gift, there is a time to open the gift and I think it starts the day after Thanksgiving.

    John: Yeah. For you, the Christmas tradition … so post-Thanksgiving Christmas tradition, what would that be like in your family growing up? What are some of the fond memories that you have? Are you bringing any of those into who you are today?

    Brandon: Yeah. One of the most fond memories I think of about our family Christmases was really, honestly, the music. Whenever we listened to music, it was usually on vinyl, and so I really wanted to … I think we tend to adopt, as children, we adopt the music that our parents listened to for Christmas.

    Mine would have been Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin. Kind of the crooner-type of Christmas music with great arrangements, and so I wanted that to influence this record. I did “Silent Night,” a very close rendition to what Nat King Cole did, which is all choral. It’s just a choir in the background, a cappella, very free-flowing. There’s not really a meter to it. Then his version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” which is actually called “The Christmas Song.”

    John: Yeah.

    Brandon: He was the first person to ever record that song, and I think he did it the right way, so we basically borrowed from old Nat King Cole. Every time I hear that song, that to me, that song is the official beginning of Christmas when I hear that song.

    John: What do you think it is? You’re talking about this idea that a lot of people have in trying to go back to this childhood. One might say, "It was greater back then." What do you think that is? What draws us to that sense of thought, of ideal, of philosophy when it comes to Christmas? Why do we do that this time of year?

    Brandon: I think Christmas is personified by a child. I think we think about The Child, the baby. There's something about maybe even gift giving that kind of comes from the Three Wise Men. I think we have made a tradition of giving gifts at that time of the year because of the Christmas story in the Bible. There is something about tradition that I think makes Christmas really special to people.

    It’s a time when family comes together. It might be that the only time that you see your family is at Christmastime every year. It’s important to know where we come from and who we belong to, and I think the Christmas story certainly fits in all that. Jesus was born to remind us who we belong to. His life was to remind us who we are, and that we’re loved.

    I think that’s why, after all these ages, it’s still important, even though people would argue and even old Brandon Heath would argue that consumerism has really kind of come in and invaded Christmas. I don’t think that you can completely extinguish what it’s all about, and that’s the birth of Christ.

    John: How does someone in pursuit of Jesus during the Christmas Season, how do they continually have the heart that says, “This is what this time of the year is about”? How do you wrestle with that? On your record, you certainly have these great, very fun, sentimental Christmas songs that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Christ. You’re talking about Santa, “Mama don’t lie to me.” You are talking about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. There’s that, but then there is this explosive idea of God becoming Man and just entering into humanity. How do we, as a follower of Christ … how do we transition to this idea of "remembering that God with us" is what it’s really all about?

    Brandon: Well, I think a lot of people think about Emmanuel, which means God with us. It helps us to feel not so alone, and it’s not necessarily as much an emotion as it is just the fact that God is with us. He is with us. I think that changes everything. We can live in confidence knowing that we’re not without purpose, and that we’re not alone. I think that that can really be a game-changer for people who have been looking for something to live for.

    When the Creator extends His hand and says, “This is who you are and this is why I made you; so that I could delight in you, and you could delight in Me.” It was the Trinity’s, not necessarily last-ditch effort, to connect with Man. The Trinity certainly could have chosen to start over. They, God, created us and He can choose not to have us anymore, but He does choose us. I think we should certainly celebrate that. I really wanted this Christmas record, it’s called Christmas Is Here, I really wanted it to remind people of their memories from a long time ago.

    I also wanted to bring in some new, fresh stories. There’s a story about the innkeeper that I took some liberties with. We don’t really know what happened with the innkeeper, but I wanted him to be remorseful. I wanted him to realize that, “Oh, I just turned away a pregnant woman; I could have helped her.” Then he finds out, “This was the Son of God that was born, I could have had a part in that. God gave me this opportunity, but I said, ‘No.’”

    In contrast, you have Mary, who could have said no but said yes. Isn’t it a great thing that she said yes? That God chose someone like her, a 15-year-old girl, who in our world would be a very unlikely character to carry out the birth of Jesus, but she did and in an unlikely place like Bethlehem, that’s where He was born. Any of us who say that we’re not qualified should think maybe twice about who God uses to carry out His great works.

    John: Do you think that God opens doors of opportunity, or windows of opportunity, towards us and many of us are blind to that?

    Brandon: Mm-hmm.

    John: You have had a lot of success in your life. You’ve had some great, very inspiring singles on the radio. You have toured very successfully. You seem to be a man who is walking into those opportunities that God has given you.

    Brandon: That’s key right there, what you just said.

    John: How does one discern God telling us, “Left, right, not this door, that door?” How do you pursue Jesus in your everyday life when it comes to stuff like that?

    Brandon: It’s definitely been a fun ride for me. I have had some success, but I’ve also had some failures and I’m really thankful for those. In the moment, I’m not so thankful for those, but in hindsight I’m glad that I have failures because then I can celebrate my successes more.

    I also am thankful for that because it reminds me that I’m not God. That I can’t govern what happens in my life but everything is by His Grace and His Power, and it’s His Plan. It kind of humbles you. How do you know which direction to walk? There’s really no way to tell that, but I think that … we were just talking about Mary and she just said yes.

    I think you kind of know when those doors open, you just have a feeling. It may not be an angel appearing to you and saying, “This is what God’s Will is for you,” but the ultimate reality is that all of our calling is to spread the Gospel. Everybody’s calling is to spread the Gospel. Now how you do that is gonna be different for each of us. My gift is music and I’ve known that for a while, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way that I can spread the Gospel. It’s certainly the most fun way that I could think of, and I feel like I’ve got a gift at it.

    It’s just applying the commandment to spread The Word, and applying my gift with that commandment, and it’s flourished. I guess in some ways I’m not surprised, but honestly I’m always surprised because somebody at the end of the day will say, “Your song did this for me.” I will never get used to that, that God’s used me in that way. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for that.

    John: What’s on your bucket list?

    Brandon: What’s on my bucket list? I would like to, and this is so typical, I’d love to summit a mountain 14,000 feet or above. I’d love to summit a mountain.

    John: How far up have you climbed before?

    Brandon: Seven thousand.

    John: Which was?

    Brandon: In British Columbia, Canada. There’s a mountain there called One Eye, it’s 7,000 feet. That was cool, but that’s going from sea level to seven.

    John: Oh, sure.

    Brandon: You think about in Colorado you’ve got 14,000-15,000 footers, but you start at 9,000.

    John: Right.

    Brandon: It was a long hike, but it’s an amazing experience. It’s about a 3-day trip, spending a couple of nights in the woods. You could take it slower if you want, but we packed really light so that we could do it pretty quickly.

    John: Yeah, that’s cool.

    John: Are you still riding the Harley?

    Brandon: I still ride, yup.

    John: Did you take it with you?

    Brandon: It’s not with me on this trip. I was telling somebody today it is 80 degrees in Michigan; it would have been a perfect day to ride but, no, I didn’t bring it with me.

    John: It’s all right.

    Brandon: Yeah, next time.

    John: Let's circle back to the new album. Christmas Is Here certainly encourages us to celebrate the memories, the traditions, the joy and the meaning leading up to December 25. There’s a reason you want us to hold out to celebrate. Isn't there?

    Brandon: Christmas is like a good surprise, like a present. You should wait and open it when it’s time instead of opening it as soon as you get it, and then there’s nothing special about it anymore,” he says. “I think you should restrain yourself and say, ‘Okay, I’m not going to fully engage in this until it’s time.’ And Christmas is one of those things for me. I want people to savor the moment...just wait.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Brandon Heath, Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz, The Isaacs

  • Blog Summary for October 2013

    Posted on October 30, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of October.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    Read the full interview here.

    Clinging to Christ in the Middle of the Hurricane - Natalie Grant

    In the opening lines of “In The End,” the spirited but poignant unplugged track that wraps her latest album Hurricane, Natalie Grant puts it as plainly as she ever has in dealing with the troubling storms we all face: “Can’t catch a break/You’ve had your fill of old clichés…”. Emerging from a dark, spiritually challenging time in her own life, the multi-talented singer/songwriter—a Grammy nominated, five time GMA (Gospel Music Association) Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the Year – breaks through the well worn and cheerful, but not completely truthful, phrases that often leave those who are struggling in need of more.

    Natalie and I sat down (with her daughter, Sadie, on her lap) and talked about what went into her new album. The ups and downs of life. Times of depression. Times of joy.

    Read the full interview here.

    One On One with Mark Batterson

    Mark Batterson serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C. Recognized as “one of America’s 25 most innovative churches,” NCC is one church with seven locations. Mark’s blog and webcast also reach a virtual congregation around the world. He is the author of several bestselling books, including New York Times Bestseller - The Circle Maker and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Mark holds a doctorate degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with this wife, Lora, and their three children.

    Read the full interview here.

    Laura Story - I Can Just Be Me - Story Behind the Song

    Talented worship leader and songwriter Laura Story is best known for her inspirational hit "Blessings" and for co-writing "Indescribable," a Chris Tomlin anthem. Now, with her third studio album, God of Every Story, Laura returns to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord and honesty with herself. Award-winning producer Ed Cash helmed the deeply personal project, and their shared Carolina roots led to the incorporation of acoustic and epic instruments into this worshipful pop album. Lyrically, God of Every Story draws from Laura’s own life. Her husband’s brain tumor early in their marriage led the young family down a painful path she wouldn’t have chosen, but one that deepened her faith and her music.

    Read the full post here.

    God's Not Dead

    God's Not Dead is a new film about faith and the limits one young man will go to in order to defend his belief in God. Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), a freshman college student, enrolls in a philosophy class taught by an infamous and dictatorial professor. Dr. Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) demands that all of his students must sign a declaration that "God is dead" in order to get a passing grade. Josh refuses. But, he needs to take this class to meet his academic requirements. And so the professor strikes a bargain: Josh must defend his position that "God is alive" in a series of debates with him in order to stay in the class. If he loses, he flunks. When Josh accepts the challenge, he gets more than he bargained for -- jeopardizing his faith, his relationships and even his future.

    Read the full post as well as watch the movie trailer here.

    John MacArthur's Call to the Church - Beware of Strange Fire

    John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.

    In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. Under John’s leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members participate every week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, most led by lay leaders and each dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.

    Read the full interview here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Read the full interview here.

    "Grace Unplugged" Film Soundtrack to Release in August

    Soundtrack Features Songs From The Film's Stars AJ Michalka And Jamie Grace, Also Includes Songs From TobyMac, Colton Dixon, Chris Tomlin And More

    Sparrow Records and Capitol Christian Music Group announce the "GRACE Unplugged" movie soundtrack, set for release on August 27th at both retail and online. "GRACE Unplugged," a Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions feature film starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollack, Jamie Grace and more, is slated to hit theaters nationwide October 4.

    Read the full post here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujici

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full interview here.

    Liz Curtis Higgs - She's Smart. Witty. Serious. (And a cat lover).

    In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God’s grace anew.

    Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Dinah, Ruth, and Naomi to eighteenth-century Scotland, also have invited readers to view these familiar characters in a new light.

    Read the full interview here.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Movies, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Laura Story, Nick Vujicic, John MacArthur, Phil Robertson, Mark Batterson, Grace Unplugged, Natalie Grant, God's Not Dead, Liz Curtis Higgs

  • God's Unfolding Story In the Life of Laura Story

    Posted on October 25, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Now Martin is thankful he's alive;
    The doctors said he might not survive.
    That was seven years ago...
    What a miracle.

    And now there's this new baby girl
    And with one breath she's changed our whole world.
    Some say she looks like dad,
    But she looks like grace to me.
    Your grace to me.

    You're the God of every story,
    You see each tear that falls.
    We may not understand but one thing is certain.
    You are faithful, You are faithful.

    It’s one thing to write compelling, heart-stirring, emotionally rich songs of worship, praise and honor to Christ. People have been doing it for centuries, forming the backbone of faith traditions the world over.

    It’s another thing entirely to bare your soul, share your vulnerabilities and risk criticism and career success by challenging the mold and daring to say that God is not necessarily a God of happy endings.

    Instead, He is the God of every story. This is what Laura Story is learning day by day.

    On her new album, God of Every Story, Laura becomes the most vulnerable. In Great God Who Saves and Blessings we certainly heard the heart of who Laura is, but it was within the established relationship of artist and listener. With her new title, she attempts to bring those walls down, bridging the separation.  God of Every Story is an album where we don't just see Laura's heart in some sort of abstract way - from a distance, but she asks us to join her in seeing what God is writing in Laura's life.

    Mountains high. Valleys low. The ebb and flow of life. The daily grind. The spiritual high. Often in our own lives we get frustrated with the minutia of all that is around us. Be it the piling laundry, the undone devotions, the angry spouse, the undisciplined children... LIFE. Laura, in her tender way, gives us a glimpse into how a family deals with life. No pat answers. No this-problem-will-be-solved-in-a-30-minute-sitcom-on-TV type of thing. This is the real life. How do we deal with the here and now?

    John: Laura, you started your musical career with a band called Silers Bald that was signed with Essential Records.

    Laura: Actually, I left them six months before they landed the deal with Essential.

    John: Oh, you did?

    Laura: So, part of me was thinking … We did this process eating cheese food out of the back of a van and all of a sudden they get a record deal and I’m thinking, “Man, I really missed out.” But the truth of it was I feel like God let me leave right before all that happened just because I was supposed to finish school.

    I had gone to school part time for probably six years and I needed to go back and do one full year on campus in order to finish it up. It’s just something I had been meaning to do and I probably would have never done it if it hadn’t of been for me leaving that band.

    John: So you were part of this indie band out of the Carolinas and then you finished school and you started working at your church as a worship leader, is that correct?

    Laura: Well, not really. I finished school and wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I had gotten reconnected with my high school sweetheart, Martin. I played bass guitar for Silers Bald and then I met Andrew Peterson through that and I went on the road with Andy for a couple of tours. I continued to play bass, I was in a bluegrass band, I was kind of doing a few different things. Then Martin and I got married, so I did about a year of college ministry with him. That’s when we got the call from Perimeter Church and that’s where I have been serving for eight years now.

    John: You came out with your first record and it did incredibly well. “Mighty to Save” certainly was a song that you helped both catapult you on radio. Then you came out with Blessings and shocked the world again by having your song being played on mainstream radio. What has that been like since that has happened?

    Laura: Well, it’s been a little bit crazy, John. It’s been a wild thing. The thing with recording “Mighty to Save,” was just that it was so much fun because there was this church in Australia that was writing these fantastic songs that a lot of churches in the U.S. had been playing, but not all of them. So it was nice to get to be one of the artists who helped get those songs here to the states and to the church here in the United States. That was huge in and of itself. Then the thing with “Blessings,” was just that God used me as a songwriter to share about truly one of the most personal things that I’ve walked through with my husband and the fact that as I was processing everything with Martin’s health.

    What that’s looked like over the past few years is that I process all that through song form and all of a sudden it ends up on the radio. It was the most honoring thing, yet it left me… well, it’s a pretty vulnerable song. But what we found is the more honest we’ve been before God about our doubts and our questions--and admitting that sometimes faith is just an obedience thing, where you just trust God even when it doesn’t make sense--the more we are honest with other people about our feelings, the more we see God’s faithfulness in using those stories really to bless others. And that’s been a beautiful thing. It’s been such a beautiful thing to see how the trials that we’ve walked through (which we’re nowhere near the other side of), God has used through song-form to reach a lot of other people in the midst of their hard journey.

    John: When you have a song like “Blessings,” you talk about the vulnerability of something. Has that opened up a door of conversation with people that perhaps you would have not been able to talk to five years ago about?

    Laura: Oh, absolutely. I meet people at my concerts that don’t listen to Christian music. That never heard of me before, but someone at their workplace that was battling cancer would send them the YouTube link of a video that someone made with this song as a background. And all of a sudden, they end up at this event and they’re hearing this thing called the gospel. That there’s a God that is bigger than the here-and-now and that He has a plan for our lives that’s bigger than the pain we’re walking through in this life. The fact that we’ve been able to talk to people about that, that really weren’t interested in spiritual things at all, that’s just a pretty amazing thing.

    John: Yes, for sure. When you set out to write a song, Laura, do you feel like you’re writing a song to yourself, or do you have people in mind? Do you have your family in mind, or your church in mind? Do you have the faces that you see while you’re out touring in mind? Who do you write your songs for?

    Laura: That’s a great question. I’d say that it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes I’ll write songs just as a worship leader at my church. Like this past Easter, my Pastor was in a servant series and I knew exactly what kind of closing point it was going to be and I thought, “Man, I wish there was a song out that really could just allow people to soak in that truth that he’s going to land on right here.” So, I start looking through songs and kind of feel like God is saying, “No, no that’s a song you’re supposed to write.” And so, one of the new songs on my record is song called “You Gave Your Life For Me,” and it was written out of necessity. They needed a song in church that Sunday about that very truth, so a lot of times it is having the church in mind and it’s having other people in mind.

    There’s another song on my new CD called “Forgiven,” written for that girl in the very back row who doesn’t feel worthy to be in church. She doesn’t feel worthy to ever experience the love of Jesus. It’s a song declaring the heart of forgiveness and the grace of God, and the more you get into that song, you realize that each of us is that girl on the back row. None of us are worthy of God’s grace. And not to get too deep into the different songs on the record, but all of them are written for other people, yet they’re all written for me as well in a way. A lot of times people have this misconception of songwriters, that we have mastered this truth and now we’re going to bless everyone with it.

    That’s usually not the case--at least with me. It’s usually the truth of God that I’m struggling to believe myself. Those are the truths that God will sneak into these song formats and I myself sing them each night. Not as a truth that I’ve mastered, so much, that I want to share with others, but a truth that God is wanting to seep into the depths of who I am. The truth that God wants to be an anchor for my soul, and so I share it with other people, as one theologian said, “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” That’s very much how I feel. I’m just another follower of Jesus trying to hang on to His truth in the midst of life’s trials. So yes, all the songs I’ve written, they’re for other people but they’re also always for me.

    John: Then there’s “God of Every Story.” You do look at those individual faces to some extent, and at the same time, you keep yourself in mind recognizing that there is this greater story going on. How did you come to the point of saying, “Okay, God, you are involved in every story going on here?”

    Laura: Well, that song is kind of a funny one how that came about. At the very beginning, before I had written any songs for this new CD, I came to Ed Cash, the producer, and said, “I want the whole CD to be called God of Every Story. And, I want to write a song called “God of Every Story,” and I want the whole CD to be about how every story finds their ultimate purpose within the context of God’s overall story. And if I’m trying to find purpose in my individual story, I’m just going to be frustrated because all of our lives are meant to be lived out like that bigger picture, that bigger story. So I came into it saying that, but then we never did it. We just wrote all these other songs and it ended up being a sweet CD.

    When we were at the very end of it and had two songs left until we were done, all of a sudden, Ed said, “Yes, it does feel like we were supposed to write that song called ‘God of Every Story.’” Literally, we wrote it probably a week before we turned the CD in and it so captured the theme of the whole CD that we actually, at the very last minute, changed the name of the whole CD to God of Every Story. So, I guess that’s kind of what the CD is about. It is about all of our individual stories, whether it’s those really fun, joyful chapters or the really hard, grueling chapters. In every single story, in every life out there, our stories find their greater purpose in the context of a bigger story. It’s this beautiful story of redemption when God is in the process of redeeming all people in all things. I know that’s probably too big to even talk about. I hope I’m giving you something helpful.

    John: It is and it is a huge story or a huge concept to behold, but I think as people are reading this blog, Laura, obviously everyone’s struggles in finding identity. And if they recognize that God is doing something in their life, hopefully they will be able to find themselves in Him.

    Laura: Yes, and the song “Blessings” was such a good example.

    John: Yes.

    Laura: That song was written by a wife struggling with her husband’s disability. It’s just as simple as that. Although I found people think it was some huge thing, it was nothing like that. It was just a life struggle with her husband’s disability, struggling with the unanswered prayer’s that I’ve prayed for the past 10 years. And being honest with people about that and I also suddenly just saw God through this beautiful thing, where he has used this song to help people mourn the loss of children.

    John: What was the writing and recording process like?

    Laura: Writing and recording this record, honestly, was a fantastic experience. I got to work with Ed Cash, who’s someone I have been friends with and done ministry with for the past 16 years. So it was kind of a natural thing that we would get to be working on a record about God being the God of every story because our families’ stories have been so intertwined just because of our relationships. And also, because he and I are both storytellers as well as worship leaders. So, it was just so easy to work with him and it was a great experience. There were a lot of wonderful co-writing experiences and yet some of those experiences on that album were just of writing some songs in my car by myself. Those real tender moments just alone with the Lord, it probably is the best experience making a record I’ve ever done in a long time.

    John: How is this different than Blessings? What do you feel like God is teaching you at this point in your life and how does that relate to the songs or theme of this record?

    Laura: The last record, Blessings… I like the record, but the song “Blessings” seemed a little out of place from the rest of the record. I tried to really figure out what it is about the song “Blessings” that seemed to stand out, not just in my heart, but seemingly in the hearts of so many other people. What I’ve been realizing is that I wrote the song “Blessings” from just such a vulnerable place. I was willing to tell a story that isn’t a finished story. It’s not a story where I understand every component of the story. It’s about God being faithful and blessing us in the midst of our open-ended stories.

    It’s not a story with Martin and I and his perfect health; it doesn’t have a tidy bow on it. It’s still very much playing out right now. And writing “Blessings” from that place of authenticity and vulnerability was a new experience for me. But in this new record, I really sought to write from that same place and even writing some songs about the new stage of life I’m in, which is being a mom. There’s so much about being a mom that impacted my songwriting. You know, writing about a father’s love for his kids that I understand a lot better being a parent now.

    John: Tell us the story behind the title track “God of Every Story.”

    Laura: “God of Every Story” is a song written about this life lesson I’m learning of seeing God in the midst of every story. Not just in my story, but in so many stories I’ve been privileged to hear over the past couple of years since the release of “Blessings.” It seems like I was unaware of how many people really felt that same way of struggling and pressing on believing that God is faithful and God is good in the midst of hard circumstances. And after hearing all of these stories, I became more convinced than ever that God is in the midst of every story--both in the joyful and in the hard chapters--and not just that He’s in the midst of every story, but that He has purpose for every story.

    A lot of times I feel like we get hung up in trying to find out the purpose for why things happen in our lives. As you look to the Scriptures, you see that God doesn’t necessarily promise us that our lives will make sense. He doesn’t promise that our stories will always have happy endings in and of themselves, but the thing He does promise is that our stories find their greater purpose in context of His story of redemption. It’s not so much that we’re supposed to figure out why this happened to us, but more, how might God use what’s happened to bring glory to Himself and to further His kingdom.

    I play a good many roles in my life. Worship leader, songwriter, artist, mom, wife of a disabled husband. And often I find myself trying to play the extra role of God. I find myself trying to take on tasks I was never meant to do. Not necessarily trying to part of the sea of Atlanta traffic, but I find myself trying to manipulate situations that are out of my control. That’s not just blasphemous; it’s futile. I would be a terrible God. I’m barely a decent me. I hate to appear that I’m needy, but I am a needy person because God created me that way. I’m learning just to submit and honor His role as God in my life.

    That’s the journey…the heart…the transparency that makes God Of Every Story more than just another album or great collection of songs. It’s more than eloquent words to an infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent God.

    More than another happy ending…

    More than just another story.

    It’s every story.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Andrew Peterson, Laura Story

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