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Interviews

  • Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Posted on April 1, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who you are. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that time frame when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the Delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services. This is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records.

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

     

     

     

    MATT MAHER INTERVIEW Edited by JLF

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who Matt is. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Matt: Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that timeframe when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    John: What was his name?

    Matt: His name was Tom Boos. He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    John: If I put you on the spot there, I apologize.

    Matt: I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin-Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin-Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services like Spotify; this is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now. You know? Now you go to sites like Noise Train, and find that a lot of independent artists are giving away their music.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too. If you ever come to East Nashville, there’s a great coffee shop right around the corner from my house, and I will gladly take you there. It’s a really fantastic cup of coffee.

    John: I may have to take you up on that. I used to live down in Springhill.

    Matt: Oh really?

    John: Yes. I was there for six years but now I’m back up here in Grand Rapids.

    Matt: That’s funny. I was in Michigan last weekend!

    John: You were?

    Matt: Yes. I played … where was it Friday night? Flint, and then Saturday in Holland.

    John: You were that close man!

    Matt: I know! I actually flew out of Grand Rapids airport Sunday morning!

    John: We could have chatted face-to-face!

    Matt: It would’ve been great!

    John: Oh, well. Next time!

    Matt: I’m going to be back. I know I’m going to be back in April with Chris August and Bella Reid.

    John: Oh. Well, that’s cool.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records. I don’t have your Indie records so maybe one day I’ll try to find those somewhere!

    Matt: (laughs).

    John: The records that you have done, honestly man… terrific!

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

    Burning In My Soul - Lyric Video

  • Four Questions with Britt Nicole

    Posted on March 28, 2013 by John van der Veen

    So Britt...

    Britt

    1. Your song, ‘All This Time,’ seems to be dealing with the loss and brokenness of this world and God’s grace to overcome it. Would you mind sharing the story behind the lyrics?

    This song is very personal to me, but people relate to it in all different ways. For me the song is all about the moment that I realized I was not alone, but that God was right there with me. I was seven years old and my family was going through some hard things and I didn't know what to do, or where to go. I remember running to my room, with tears rolling down my face, and grabbing my bible. My grandfather is a pastor and he told me that Jesus would always be there for me. The song talks about how God sees our heartache, He sees our broken dreams, and how He's right there with us through it all, It's a reminder that we don't have to walk alone, God is right there and He always will be.

    2. In your song ‘Ready or Not,’ you did a collaboration with Lecrae. What was that like?

    I really look up to Lecrae, for his talent but even more for who he is. He is truly speaking into the lives of young people all over the world, so it was amazing to be able to work with him! The song is one of my favorites on the record.

    3. Britt, you’re an entertainer, an evangelist for the Gospel, a wife, a soon-to-be-mom; how do you handle “life?”

    Ummmmm..... Sometimes it's crazy! :) No, honestly by the grace of God and taking one day at a time. I focus on not worrying about tomorrow but trusting that God knows and has everything I need for today, whether that is joy, patience, rest, a pedicure..... He knows, haha! Life has only gotten sweeter since I have become a wife, and I can not wait to be a Momma! :)

    4. Who are your influences? What authors do you follow? What artists do you listen to?

    I look up to people like Heidi Baker, Mother Teresa, Esther in the Bible.... These are woman who changed and are still changing the world. The courage, grace and love that they have for people and God is hard to put into words, I just know that I want to learn from their life and be that hope for my generation that they were for theirs!

    I listen to a lot of worship, Jenn Johnson, Bethel, and Hillsong United are a few of my favorites.

    Britt Nicole - Gold

  • Jeremy Camp on Family, Art and Fame

    Posted on March 28, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Jeremy Camp’s seventh recorded studio album Reckless needs a warning sign: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

    Jeremy

    Camp explains the concept of recklessness through the life of Paul. In Acts 14, Paul returns to Lystra to share the gospel—a city where he had been stoned and left for dead just days before. Sounds crazy that he would return to a place like that. But as Camp explains, it’s more reckless than crazy, and there’s a difference. “[Paul] wasn’t being crazy for crazy’s sake, saying ‘I don’t care what’s going to happen. I just want to go.’ No, when you feel God calling you to do something, you have to be obedient. And that’s the difference. Paul was just obedient. That’s what reckless is.”

    I caught up with Jeremy before one of his concerts. Sitting across the table from this man, you can certainly see his genuineness.  He is a real man that has a heart for God. For his wife. For his kids. And for the church.

    John: We’re here to talk with Jeremy Camp about the new record coming out, Reckless. But before we talk about the record, I just want to hear a little refresher on who you are today and what’s been going on with you. We know you’re married, that you have three kids, and that life is good and that you’re basically having fun.

    Jeremy: Yes, and this has definitely been a year of reflection for me. I’ve got three kids now. One of my daughters is eight, and she’s rocking the piano and even writing songs. She’ll sit there and I’ll walk in, and she’s singing worship songs that she’s learning. It’s unbelievable.

    John: I was going to ask, are any of the kids going to be future singer/songwriters? I mean, they have two artists as parents.

    Jeremy: Yes, I think so... My oldest is more of a Type A personality, but she’s creative too. Kind of like me. It’s the Type A personality with a creative side as well, and so she’ll be putting together the songs. She’ll sing harmonies and be the more structured one. Then Arie, my six year old, has the voice where she does the vibrato at the end already. I’m like, “Holy cow!” When she’s messing around, she does all these things with her voice. But she’s too goofy right now to really do it in seriousness, which is okay, of course. Let her have fun!

    John: She’s having fun.

    Jeremy: Yep, so I don’t care. But wow, I could hear her in a few more years when she actually wants to start singing... I could see the girls working together. Bella writing the songs, structuring things out, her singing the lead, and Arie holding down the fort and singing harmonies. That’s kind of what I see. but we haven’t pushed them that way.

    John: And your son on percussion.

    Jeremy: My son, he rocks! He likes to dance, so he gets down and he does this jig thing and then he’ll clap his hands. I mean, every once in a while he’s on beat. It’s because it just happened to be that way, not because he’s really on beat. So, I think it’s definitely something that has to naturally happen. We haven’t forced my girls to play anything or do anything. My daughter just goes in there and wants to practice, so I’m like, cool. Because I’ve always said, I want them to do what they feel like they are called to do. Not, “Hey, you should do music because we did.” So, that’s been a joy watching my kids grow up. It’s really cool to have a boy that I can play football with too. He loves watching me. He can’t grip the football, even the little kid’s kind yet, so he gives it to me and just wants me to throw it. He’ll get it for me and wants me to throw it again. So he enjoys that, you know, he’ll watch football with me and if I turn it, he gets kind of bummed. Which is sweet, because I love it.

    My wife is doing great. She’s home-schooling and a super mom. She’s been huge, just in the season too of saying, “Honey, let’s just do it. Even if we move somewhere random. If that’s what God has, I don’t care.” And these are her words. She told me, she said, "Listen, I’ll live in a shack somewhere, if we’re just ministering as we’re going, I don’t care." And she meant it.

    The

    It’s like one of those things that you just don’t say, right? Unless you mean it. And you’re like, I’ll do this. She’s like, “I really at this point, I just want to be completely in God’s will. Because I want God’s perfect will and we can step into that. Because I already know what I can be doing practically, but I want to be willing to move if He says move or go here if He says go here.” So, it’s been neat to watch my wife be so on fire, and it’s great that we’re on the same page. Whatever the Lord is leading us to do, I feel we can let each other know, and we can pray about it and that’s where we’re at.

    John: That’s really awesome. Putting your artist hat aside, how do you feel that both you and Adie have changed or grown by having kids?

    Jeremy: Oh man. We definitely understand, I know it’s very cliché to say, but it’s just true. The heart of a father. And for me I always understood Jesus as my Savior and I’m in desperate need of the Savior. And even His comfort and understanding when you read about Him washing His disciples’ feet and all these different things, but there is something to the heart of the father, the protector, the comforter, the encourager. And Jesus does all of that too. You know what I’m saying? It’s all one. You’ve got the Father, you’ve got the Son, you’ve got the Holy Spirit, but there’s that nature of God the Father that helps me see things when I make mistakes. How it’s not discipline and anger, or discipline and frustration. It’s like, “Hey, I’m disciplining you because I love you, because I don’t want you to make these mistakes.” I tell my kids, "Girls, the reason why daddy is disciplining you is not because he’s angry or frustrated, it’s because when you grow up, if we don’t instruct you in these ways, it’s going to be very difficult for you. If you don’t understand authority and stepping under authority, you’re going to have a very rough life. We’re helping you in the future because we love you. We want you to grow up and understand how to step into the world, and understand how to walk and how God wants you to walk." And so that’s a huge perspective that we have to have.

    John: Definitely. So, your new record this time is obviously about living out a “reckless” life.

    Jeremy: Right.

    John: Why don’t you briefly explain what that means, and let’s just start there. What does that mean to you to live a reckless life?

    Jeremy: I think it’s giving up all your rights and saying, “God, my life is not my own; it’s yours.” And I think there are so many times in the Bible that we see people that were used by the Lord in a great way. They made mistakes. Look at David. He did some crazy things. And you have Moses. He was like, "I don’t want to speak and God, I can’t articulate anything." And God is like, fine, he is arrogant, but God still used Moses and led him into the wilderness. And Moses is like, “All right God, here we go. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know I’m supposed to be going to the Promised Land, but there’s the Red Sea, there’s no food, there are all these different things.” Even people creating idols. I mean, all throughout the Bible we see people that just had this faith of, “All right Lord, I’m just going to recklessly abandon myself to you.”

    And so, I think what that means is: “God, I’m willing to go and do whatever it is—despite the consequences and what it looks like.” That is what faith is to me. You look at Esther. She’s like, “I’m going to go to the King because if my people don’t bow down they’re going to get killed. So, I’m going to go and say this is an awful thing. I’m one of those people. I’m just going to walk in, even uninvited.” And so she walks in. She could have been killed, but she didn’t care. She knew she needed to do it. And what happened? Something good happened in that case. But good things don’t always happen, of course. But here we have these people in different parts of the country that were willing to be martyred for their faith—that’s truly being reckless in the best sense! People don’t like hear that who live in America where it’s very comfortable, without much of challenge. But I’m not necessarily saying that in order to be reckless, we have to say, “I will die for my faith.”

    As I was saying earlier, it could be. I mean, I know people that right now are going into places in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan that are saying I literally could die for my faith, but I know God is calling me. Not that they should do it because they want to die for their faith, or just being crazy for crazy sake. But because they are being fully obedient even without knowing what’s going to happen. Paul was such a great example. Because how do you truly do that when we live in a bubble here in America. (Not that there’s not great things happening here, but it’s just a fact.) I live in it and get caught up in it. I get distracted. I am selfish and all that, but Paul is like, “Hey, my life’s not my own anyway.” That’s the whole point to being reckless.

    John: Yes. I think, to some extent, there are a lot of people within the Evangelical Church that when they go to church Sunday morning or Sunday night, Wednesday night, or what have you, like when they’re in a bible study, they’re more than willing to live their life in a reckless way there. How do you challenge them both as a Pastor and as a singer/songwriter to say, “Well, that’s good, but let’s move outside of that bubble”?

    Jeremy: Here’s a couple of things people say: “Okay, I’m ready to go do something, but what do I do now?” Well, the Bible clearly states—and this is what I love—the Great Commission, to go into all the nations and preach the gospel to every creature. So, whether it be in your community, your neighbor or others, we can actually just step out and invite them over and give them the love of Christ and preach the gospel. There are practical things we can be doing.

    Or, they’ll say, “I want to go and take six months of my life and go to this mission field—whatever it may be.” So, it’s another practical thing we can be doing. Well, the Bible also says to make disciples. That’s what Jesus says. There are things He says that we can be doing. So take that person that is Saved, and raise them up and encourage them; take time out and pour into them. Walk life with them. That may be rough. You may feel the pain that they may be going through. Because when one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.

    James said it. It’s from the heart of the Lord. It’s what is pure and undefiled religion to take care of the widows and the orphans. So, what do I do? I don’t know, Lord. I don’t know how to be of use. He tells us of practical things we could be doing all the time. I think we just have to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes and ask, “What’s the situation?” Like the people who are in church doing things, possibly even when they could be stepping out of their comfort zone. It might be a little rough trying to do that. I don’t know how to even do it. But, it’s okay. Be loved by the spirit. If you have a heart and spend time with the Lord and that heart is there, then He’s going to give you the wisdom and the ability to do things for Him. So, there are practical things we can be doing. Then, there are things that I think He might say personally to you. Give this up or go here and I do believe those things too. He just wants a willing heart.

    John: And sometimes those things are not huge, necessarily, like going to the other side of the world...

    Jeremy: Right. It doesn’t make you more spiritual either to do that. I mean it‘s just being obedient when he calls you to. Sometimes you don’t know what that really is, but He knows what it is. So, you just go, and that’s where being “reckless” comes in. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and it may not end up great. Paul kept having these struggles. But, it’s okay because our life is not our own anyway. It’s easier said than done, I know, trust me. I say this stuff and God’s challenging me with, “Okay, are you willing? “

    John: Yes, and the second half of that promise in the Great Commission is the fact that Christ, himself, goes with us. I mean, how beautiful is that? He’s not saying, “Go! Now I’m going to leave you alone.” He promises He’s going to be with us.

    Jeremy: Yes, take heart. “I’m going to be with you.”

    John: You have had many songs that have made a big impact on people. And, at times, I guess the things that people tend to do is put an artist like you on a pedestal, and make much of you. When you are at a show and people see you perform, there’s a tendency in a lot of hearts to worship Jeremy Camp. Up on the stage, how do you steer the audience away from that and say, “This is not about Jeremy Camp. This is all about Christ.”

    Jeremy: That’s a challenge, because you know people will say, you have a new CD coming out and I want to see you do that. It’s a reality, and you have record companies saying this too. So it’s like this: How do I get stuff out there but not make it about me? And still prompt them to go out and get the record or the ticket? It’s a challenge. But God gave us Scripture for this, and in Isaiah 42 it says, “I’m the Lord, that’s my name, and I will not share my glory with anyone else” (nor praise to idols).

    So once you realize this, you have to walk a very fine line, knowing He won’t share His glory with anyone else. I think the best thing we can do is to steer people away from their natural tendency to worship me, as an artist, and get them into Scriptures and point them that way as much as I can. You can’t control what people do, but you can control what you do as much as you can.

    If I can share Scripture and try to leave them in a good place at the end of the night, then it was a great show. I know I can always count on the Lord. The biggest thing for me is that we have prayer time before we go on. Asking the Holy Spirit to move and do the work in our hearts and those of the people in the audience, allowing us to just be the vessels He flows through. People are going to be what people are going be. You have to do the best you can to point them to Christ, and let the Holy Spirit move letting God do His thing; all the while, praying that hopefully artist worship won’t happen. It’s part of the business, and honestly, it’s not always easy.

    John: Well, I’m sure you’re tempted along that road as well.

    Jeremy: For me, the temptation is more about how the song is doing on the radio? And how the album sales are coming along. If those things are doing well, it feels good because it seems to solidify what you’re doing—even though that’s not actually the case at all! But there’s still a battle. I still have that battle. So, it’s not that I want that praise on stage, but that I like to see them engaged, and hopefully I’m letting the Holy Spirit move. I think that can be a challenge.

    You can’t find your worth in how many sales you have or how a song on the radio is doing. You have to find your worth in Christ, so that those circumstances won’t determine your joy or happiness. Joy should always be there—in Christ. Your happiness can sway back and forth. If your worth is in Christ, those things won’t matter. Not that I always say to myself, my worth is in Christ, so it doesn’t matter ever. I battle it too, and that’s why every single day I pray and go, “All right, I blew it again Lord,” and I let that bother me. So it’s a constant battle because we live in a fleshly world and a fallen age where we do daily battle.

    That’s the hope of Heaven too. Personally, I can’t wait to not have to battle this anymore. I can’t wait until none of that matters anymore. So, I’m moving towards that the rest of my life, but I’m going to have to keep battling those things. That’s why we need Jesus. If we didn’t have those battles, we wouldn’t be desperately going, “I need you Lord.” That’s why we need Jesus. God kept showing people in the Bible that they couldn’t do it on their own. He pointed out, “See where you turn when you think you can do it by yourself? You start making idols. You start worshiping a calf!” He constantly shows us that we can’t do it on our own. It’s kind of discouraging to always face this struggle, but it actually just comes down to understanding that we need Jesus every day, desperately.

    John: What is the most important song you’ve ever sung for you?

    Jeremy: Honestly, I think “I Still Believe.” Because, here’s the deal. There’s honesty that we have to have, and David was very honest in the songs. How many times has he said, “Why are my enemies prospering? Why is this happening to me?” But he always resolved it. So, he was honest in what was going on because he went through struggles and saw things happen, but his resolve was this: “Your loving kindness endures forever. Your mercies are new every morning. You’re good. You’re a faithful God.” All these things are resolved at the end of that.

    So the reality of us in our lives is that we’re going to go through struggles and we’re going to say, “Why is this?” And that whole song asks questions in the verses. But I still believe that you’re faithful. I still believe that you’re true, and I still believe that your Word is still here. Even when I don’t understand, I still believe. It’s a truth that we can always hold onto, but the honesty of what happens in our life being here on this earth—the goodness—is that He is still faithful. That His Word is still true and that we have to hold on to that.

    John: It is a great song. And I think, to some extent, Jeremy, whether you would agree with me or not, that’s okay, but I think the idea of living a reckless life is a continuation of that song.

    Jeremy: Absolutely.

    John: Because the whole world is telling us to give up. Just like the wife of Job. She’s saying, “Just give up, curse God, and you’ll be fine. And to some extent that’s what the whole world is doing to us. But I think your call in this new record to live a reckless life is for us all to continue to believe.

    Jeremy: No matter what the circumstances. Amen.

    John: Who are your influences, authors, pastors, singer/songwriters, artists? Who speaks to you?

    Jeremy: My dad was a big influence to me growing up, and I also see a lot of things when I go out and meet a lot of great people. But to live with my father, of course growing up, and see him love on people and to see us have hard times, but then to watch him stay faithful was the greatest teacher I could ever have—because he was someone close to me. Nowadays, people like John Corsin, a pastor in Oregon, influences me. He went through losing his wife to a car accident and then two years later his daughter in a car accident. So two major tragedies. So those types of people speak into my life because I understand the pain they’ve been through. When they speak things, they speak through experience. As far as singer/songwriters go, I like Tim Hughes and Matt Redman with their worship songs because there’s just something different there. It seems deep. Or Steven Curtis Chapman. If you hear some of his songs and really listen, you can hear that he has a walk with the Lord. He gets it. And so I think there’s some good influences throughout the years that I have had, with musicians and others who I respect and have gleaned experience from.

    John: Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

    Jeremy: Thanks for having me.

    For more on Jeremy and his career, click here.

    Jeremy Camp - Living "Reckless"

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

    Posted on March 26, 2013 by John van der Veen

    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.

    What follows is a candid conversation about how all of this transpired. It's raw. It's honest. It's real. What follows is a story of how God is continuing to heal a family.

    John: I’m wondering if maybe you can give us a little bit of background information about who the Storch family is. You mentioned that you’re from Dallas. Give us kind of a breakdown: kids, where you guys are profession-wise, just a little snippet into your life.

    Tara: Okay, I’ll start with that one. Looking into the Storch world, to me, Todd and I met at Texas A&M University, and we’ve been married 20 years. Moved to Coppell, Texas, mainly because of the school system, knowing that we were going to be starting a family at some point.

    In ’96, Taylor was born, our first-born daughter. In ’98, came Ryan, and in 2000, came Peyton. We had them right in a row.

    Todd: Girl, boy, girl.

    Tara: Todd had always been in media, working in sales and radio stations. Then moved up the ladder there, being general manager of stations and then started getting into consulting. After he left the consulting side, he started working with media companies all over the nation, consulting for them with a company, a small company called Center for Sales Strategy.

    I have always been a stay home mom since ‘96 doing little side businesses here and there to get some mad money and help with vacations. Main profession before all this happened was that I was a home stager where I did home decorating, interior design and the like for houses being sold.

    When everything happened with Taylor, life really came to a halt. Todd and I really had this strong pull that this is what we need to be doing. It was almost like, I remember Todd sitting with me saying, “This is … I feel like if I don’t try to do this, then I’m going to be disobedient.” From there, we decided to make a career change and make this our life mission.

    Todd: Tara, I mean, it’s crazy, thinking back and meeting at Texas A&M our sophomore years, and we started dating our senior year. She was just something special. We got engaged maybe nine months after we graduated. Thank goodness she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me.

    The career thing? We are very much like a typical family. We thought we had it all figured out and Tara being a stay home mom, and that’s what we had always wanted for our family.

    I began the career chain and working at big companies and trying to do what was best for the family. Sometimes you can look at life and get to the top of the ladder, or you’re climbing a ladder and you can look and realize that you’ve been climbing the wrong one. A lot of times we saw that and just tried to adapt with what was going on with our family.

    Of course, with the biggest change in our lives, with the loss of Taylor, brought lots of intentional decisions that we had to face and brought lots of …

    Tara: Questions.

    Todd: Lots of questions and …

    Tara: About our purpose.

    Todd: Really challenged our faith and strengthened our faith. That’s a little bit of a history. We could talk a lot about this for a long time, but I’m sure that you have questions.

    John: Sure. Let’s talk a little bit about things before Taylor’s accident. As a family, structurally wise, how did you guys lead your family toward Christ? Were you active members in your church? What was that like and how did you participate in walking with Jesus?

    Tara: You know, it’s always been our priority to put God first, family second and everything else third. That’s how we’ve lived our life. We really try to be an example for that in the kids and the fact of just really leading by example with our marriage. We knew that we are constant examples to our children, of what marriage should be like. Marriage is a holy sacrament that we have, and we are a living example to them of a beautiful, holy moment.

    Todd

    We’re very involved in our church, St. Anne’s Catholic Parish, very involved. We teach Sunday school, teach religious education. Todd’s been involved in lots of programs, been asked to sit on boards. We have our hands in church a lot, it’s our second family.

    When everything happened, that really, oh gosh, just brought it all up. We’re so thankful we were surrounded by faith and surrounded by people who were going to walk with us no matter what. It’s very challenging. Todd had mentioned our faith was strengthened. We walked on this path differently, and the fact is, my faith was very shaken when all this happened. It wasn’t broken, but it was very shaken because ifs or whys roll around and just collapse you.

    Back to your question about how we led our family, we had this beautiful rhythm going. We were the perfect five-piece puzzle. We had this perfect, we thought, great rhythm in our family and God was the center of it. Prayers have always been part of our children’s lives, always. Since they’ve been little, it has been part of their nightly routine. God is who we go to when we’re struggling, trying to remind them to keep their eyes on him and not of this world. It’s a challenge, it’s not easy, but we’re trying to do the best we can.

    John: Let’s talk a little about the accident, and then I want to bring up this "shaken" part again. You guys were on a family vacation, is that correct?

    Todd: Yeah. It was March of 2010, and it was our spring break. It was the first time we, as an entire family, had gone on a ski trip and we were on that ski trip vacation.

    John: Then, there was an accident, obviously.

    Todd: Yeah. We headed off to Beaver Creek and were just really excited about it. My son and I, Ryan, used to ski every year with a father-son group. I grew up skiing. Tara and I had gone a few times before we had kids. This was the first time we all went as a family.

    We headed off on just a fantastic trip. We drove; we had a really long drive from Dallas to Colorado and were just having a fantastic time. It was a fun road trip, with a lot of neat things to look forward to. A client of mine was up there, and we got to stay there.

    Our very first day on the slopes, we had everything planned out. Tara and Taylor and Peyton went to ski school. Taylor was just an unbelievable athlete, amazingly athletic—a volleyball player, which was her passion. They went to ski school and after we picked them up in the afternoon, we always remember the ski instructor said, “Taylor’s never skied before?” We’re like, “No, this is her first time.” “Well, I have to keep moving her out of the classes because she just skis circles around these kids.” She was skiing with these high school kids. Taylor’s face just beamed; she was just very excited. She was tall and athletic and really starting to develop as an eighth-grader, as a young woman.

    Tara: I remember the ski instructor said, "You should’ve been skiing on greens and blues all day. Y’all are going to have a great time."

    Todd: Oh, yeah… so, toward the end of the day, it was about 3:30 pm and we had about an hour left, and Taylor wanted to go up and ski. Ryan, my son, he can ski 24 hours a day. Me, Ryan and Taylor went up the slopes. Peyton, being the youngest, was really tired and exhausted, and Tara was pretty tired too from the long day. I told Tara, “We’ll meet you down at the resort at 4:40 pm,” or whatever time it was. I said, “We’ll be back in an hour.”

    Taylor

    We went up and the kids planned a route down. Ryan just couldn’t wait to ski with his sister and Taylor was just beaming. We got all the way down to the final run before we came in. On that final run, it’s when Taylor lost control a little bit and I was right behind her and filming and taking pictures the way a dad would do. She went into the trees and from that accident, this eventually would cause her to pass away.

    John: In that moment, what makes you cling to Christ all the more? How does someone in such a desperate situation look to Christ? Tara, you mentioned the fact that your faith was shaken. Describe your reaction in that moment.

    Tara: The reaction in that moment is your panic and shock, and you beg, is what you do, for God to save your child. Todd and Ryan were both with Taylor when this happened, so not only are they dealing with grief, but they’re dealing with trauma. It’s a whole different level of shock … of how your body handles it… I just don’t think a human is meant to go through despair like this.

    Your question of how you deal with something like that, how do you keep Christ in the center? Well, it completely throws you off. You feel like you have this complete strength, this, "I can go through anything. God is with me by my side." It’s really going good because everything in your life is going good. You feel like you have this great relationship with Christ and you’re walking along and it’s not a bumpy road. You feel good about everything. Then, this throws you off into the darkness and then you feel like you’re completely grasping.

    How you deal with it is that you beg and you cry out to Him, and he doesn’t always answer your prayer. He didn’t answer our prayer—His answer to us was, “No.” When we begged him to save Taylor and he said, "No," then how do you deal with that? You deal with it with the only little faith that you have, and at that very moment, for me, it became very little. I was so shaken in my faith. I was very upset with the answer or … the question of “why?” Why in the world would God take our child?

    It doesn’t make any sense, and this is something you have no control over. Before, I was happy; you do feel in control. I always felt I had this great rhythm with the kids. I was in control of their social, athletic and school schedules. Todd was in control of his work schedule, and when he was going to travel, we felt in control.

    This is something that completely knocked the wind out of us—the fact that we had no control. That’s where you find your faith, because you realize you never had control from the beginning.

    Todd: What we also felt blessed with is that our heads and our hearts were open enough to make the choice of faith because we all have it. Every single one of us have it. Tara and I grieved completely different as most families do, as most people do just because grief is just an individualized thing.

    I will tell you that we are just so blessed that we had the wherewithal, the ability in that free will moment, to whether it was conscious or unconscious, to say, “You know what Lord, I’m going to follow you here.” We eventually got to the point at different times where it wasn’t a question of “why,” it became a question of, “why not.” There’s just some things we have to accept.

    Tara: The keyword that I think came to us, John, was the word, “surrender.” We had to surrender it all over to Christ.

    John: Obviously, when we read through Scripture, we see the patriarchs of faith certainly moving in that direction. As a follower of Christ in the here-and-now, to be called to do just that, that is a very hard transition. That’s certainly something that I’m hearing both of you guys say today.

    Todd: It’s just so beautiful how God works. Again, the decision of, as a father in the real world, I had the immediate decisions that face a husband and someone that’s working as, "Okay, what is this going to do to my family? What are we doing tomorrow? What does the next week look like?"

    Tara: Try to fix it.

    Todd: What do I fix? How do I get this done? How do I make this pain go away? All those things that seem natural to a protectionist father and man, it can be so exaggerated. God programs us that way, but there are times we take over and it can be harmful.

    I somehow made the decision, because it wasn’t mine, but somehow I came to the decision that I’ve got to surround myself with people that know me better than anyone, and I’ve got to stay close to them. I’m going to stay faithful because my job right now is to figure out how to keep my family together in what I can imagine is the worst thing that could’ve ever happened to us.

    Choices became easy. Those aren’t the right words. It’s hard to describe it, but there was almost this discernment as to what I had to do as a father. That discernment became, "God, where are you in this, and will you just please show me what my first step is, my second step and …"

    Tara: Your first instinct was to run.

    Todd: Yeah, my natural instinct, and we talked about this, my first natural instinct was, “I can get away from this.” I traveled like crazy, had a great job. My mind started racing to places I needed to be in the next few weeks, and it was like, “You know what, I can escape.” That’s what I remember—the memory of just how, of what that escapism looked like and how that would just separate me from God and my family. Thank goodness I recognized it and that it scared me into other decisions.

    Tara: You know, we had a choice. Like Todd said, it was a free will or fate. God gives us that free will. We had a choice to either crawl up in the grief of it all and live in the darkness, or we try to find the good—and we knew God was in the good. It wasn’t easy. This is not something like a light switch goes on and you go, “Okay, I think I’m going to be okay now. I’m going to find the good now.” It’s a struggle and people say to take baby steps, and that’s exactly what it is.

    God has an invisible rope tied around your waist, and He’s just slowly pulling you toward him. He pulls and carries you through it because you can’t walk on your own.

    Todd: You know John, it’s also important to point out that Tara and I have a perspective now. We have a perspective now that as a couple, as a married couple, we’re at a place where we can reflect on this and have been for a little while, but we’ve got to be completely honest. This type of conversation, Tara wouldn’t be capable of having this conversation a while back. There’s just times that it wouldn’t be possible. So it’s really important to the reader, to anyone that understands our story, to know that there’s not a prescriptive path to get through something like this.

    This is our path. God wanted me to do this, and God wanted Tara to grieve this way and we were going to come together at this time. For other families, for other individuals, they have their own individual paths. It’s not like if you follow the Todd and Tara Storch 10 steps to recovery, it’s going to work.

    What’s constant in all of this is the communication with your wife, the communication with your friends and family. The most important one is faith, just being open to the communication that you have to have with God and how you can get through it.

    John: Todd, Tara, the interesting thing, and maybe this is the grace-filled thing, was within that moment, you guys made some very interesting decisions in regards to Taylor’s organs. As parents, did you have that in the back of your head all these years? Explain how you guys decided to donate her organs.

    Todd: First of all, we talk about this very freely. Here we are as organ donor advocates right now. We’re very open that the conversation about organ donation never was a part of our family, we never had any conversations about it. We never had family meetings or talked about it around the dinner table.

    I think when I was 16, I checked “yes,” but I don’t have any recollection of it. When it was that moment in the hospital room and the organ procurement organizations, the physicians, told us that Taylor was an excellent candidate for an organ donor, I knew immediately inside of me that it was right. I immediately turned to Tara and we just communicated through our eyes—and the answer was “yes,” it was like “absolutely.” Tara and I both just knew immediately.

    That’s part of what is fueling the work that we do with our Foundation, Taylor’s Gift, which is it could have been so simple and so easy for us to say “no.” Wracked with grief, we’ve got too much to deal with, how dare you come in here and talk about that, all the things that you can get wrapped in. For some reason, we had the ability to say “yes” immediately. From that decision, so much beauty and greatness has come from that—through lots of pain, of course, but we’re an example of that.

    Tara: Yeah, it gave us purpose. It gave us purpose in the pain, is what it did. Out of all the decisions we were making and that the world had stopped, that was the easiest decision. You know what, it gave us control over something. We knew, because of who Taylor was—the giving child, the wanting to help others kind of kid—we knew this was something she would’ve wanted. Although we never had the conversation, it was impressed on both of us that “yes” was the answer. It was one of those moments that we had to hang on to. People had asked us if it had given us any sort of peace to make that decision, or if it had given us any sort of peace to have connected with her recipients. We always say it never gives us peace. It’s not like, “We’ve met you, I’m better now.” What it does, it gives us strength. It gives us strength to get out of bed in the morning and to keep going and knowing that this is part of God’s purpose for us, whether we like it or not.

    When Todd and I were sitting outside, he told me, “The quote of my grandfather keeps going in my head, that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to it that does.” We had a choice of how we were going to react. That’s why we decided, and it is a choice, to look for the good and to walk towards the light. We knew that Taylor is with God. So the farther we are from God, the farther we are from her, and that’s not where we want to be.

    John: Tara, you mentioned some of the recipients of Taylor’s organs. What was that like, and how soon did you start meeting these people?

    Tara: We connected … there’s a process you go through, supposed to go through where you … I would write a letter, it would be sent to the middleman who is the OPO, which is Organ Procurement Organization. They will read it to make sure there’s not too much personal information in it like I’m throwing in my address and phone number in it. They send it to the recipient. If the recipient wants to write a letter back … they’re like the middleman.

    Todd: It’s a good procedure because of the things surrounding it.

    Tara: We’ve met, connected with our first recipient on Facebook. This was probably four weeks after we got home. Todd was on the computer, and he goes, “Oh, my gosh! I think I have just been connecting with the daughter of the person who has Taylor’s kidney and pancreas,” as if “Go reach out to Todd over at Facebook and say, “I believe my father has your daughter’s kidney and pancreas.”

    Through us calling the OPO and trying to work through how we’re going to connect with them, going through the procedure of it all, we decided that we were going to connect. Taylor passed away in March, and in June, we met Jeff, who has her kidney and pancreas. He had diabetes for 40 years, and was insulin dependent. He was doing dialysis because his kidneys were failing and he got Taylor’s kidney and pancreas. He has since given away all of his insulin, and is no longer diabetic. He has given away and sent back all of his dialysis equipment. He’s living a life that he hasn’t had. It was a blessing to hear that and connect with him.

    John: Yes, what is that like…?

    Tara: It is so bittersweet, because it’s a position we’d never want to be in, but then it’s a position we sort of do want to be in, making a difference.

    Todd: It’s every emotion, it’s every single emotion, the ones you weren’t able to talk about, the ones you haven’t felt before. It’s excitement, it’s fantastic, it’s love, it’s sad, it’s bittersweet, it’s everything. Ultimately, it’s been amazing.

    Tara and I, we also realize, how blessed we are. For us to be able to connect with just one recipient is a complete blessing. For us to have connected with four of the five, is …

    Tara: Very rare.

    Todd: Very rare. We don’t take that lightly. We’ve met so many families in our position that would give anything to meet a recipient. We don’t take it lightly.

    Tara: We’re so thankful that the recipients have allowed us in their lives. There’s so many emotions on their side when it comes to guilt because our daughter passed away for them to survive. I mean, there’s guilt, there’s fear, there’s feeling responsible in a way, of making sure in a way that they’re taking care of her. You go through these emotions of praying that the person that receives this sees it as precious. We’ve been very blessed to meet and connect with these people who truly know that their gift is precious.

    John: Todd and Tara, I am amazed at your story. I think you would probably agree with this that it’s just not your story or Taylor’s story. This is really a God story.

    Tara: Yes.

    Todd: Yes.

    John: The moment that I first heard about this, my mind went to the promise that is found in the book of Ezekiel, where in somewhat of a similar manner, God says to his children that he will give them a new heart.

    What a beautiful gospel representation that your family has gone through that has the ability to share ultimately the gospel story with people. What a beautiful story this is, and my prayer for the Storch family is that, like we just said, this is not to make much of you guys, but hopefully to have made much of Christ and what He is doing and has done through your family. What a beautiful family and beautiful story. I’m so thankful for this time.

    Tara: One of Taylor’s favorite Scripture was Luke 18:27, ”What’s impossible with man is possible with God.” We have lived by that, because there are so many situations in our life that are completely impossible; ones that we thought we could never survive… like this. It should be impossible for us to survive the death of our child, but with God it’s been possible.

    Todd: Again, we just really appreciate this and the Scripture and what you just read. It’s one of the beautiful reasons we connected with Max Lucado. He wrote the foreword and just that connectivity of receiving Christ, receiving a spiritual heart transplant, it’s a beautiful connection. We know how much we’re loved, and we are fortunate to be reminded of that, not just with friends and family, but just of how God has just wrapped us up in the Holy Spirit and just clothed us with love to get through this.

    The whole reason of even doing this book is, it’s not about Todd and Tara. It’s truly a love story of how we, through this tragic story, show others just how much hope and inspiration is out there for people, no matter that tragic situation. You don’t have to lose your daughter to have tragedy in your life. We just feel obligated through these blessings to help others by sharing it. We appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and just really appreciate it and thank you for doing it.

    John: Thank you very much you guys. I so appreciate this time. God bless you both and your ministry, and thank you for the opportunity to chat today. I appreciate it.

    To read an excerpt of Taylor's Gift, right click and download here.

    To purchase the Taylor's Gift book, click here.

    Taylor's Gift by Todd Storch and Tara Storch

     

  • A Q&A With Finding Favour

    Posted on March 22, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Gotee Records signed the south-Georgia band, Finding Favour. On their new ep, they  collaborated with acclaimed producers Rob Hawkins (Building 429), Christopher Stevens (tobyMac, Sanctus Real, Mandisa) and Dustin Burnett (Kingsfoil) to produce the six-track release.

    1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?

    My background is similar to what I do right now actually. I'm from a place called Vidalia, GA (the sweet onion capital of the world!) and I grew up singing in the church with my family. We traveled almost every weekend singing southern gospel music and that's where my love for music and ministry started.

    2 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?

    Spiritually some of our biggest influencers have been our families and pastors. We're actually pretty careful about letting any and everyone point us in a thousand different directions. In all things we try to be led by the Holy Spirit for our decisions and actions. Musically our influences range from Collective Soul to Chris Tomlin with everything else thrown in the middle!

    3 - What does your live show look like?

    Our live show are always a work in progress. We try to bring energy and honesty to the platform every single night with stories, songs and a corny joke here and there.

    4 - Coffee or Mountain Dew?

    Definitely coffee!

     
    Slip On By (lyric video)

  • Q & A for Dr. Alister McGrath, author of C. S. Lewis—A Life

    Posted on March 19, 2013 by Family Christian


    Alister McGrath is one of the world's leading Christian theologians. He is Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College London, and Head of its Center for Theology, Religion and Culture. Before moving to King's College, he was Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University.

    Like Lewis, Alister was born in Belfast, and became an atheist as a young man, before rediscovering the Christian faith at Oxford University. His deep knowledge of Christian theology, history, and literature allowed him to interpret Lewis against a broad backdrop, presenting a fascinating portrait of the development of Lewis's mind and his impact on western culture.

    1. What stimulated your interest in writing a new biography of C. S. Lewis?

    I started reading Lewis in the 1970s, when I was a student at Oxford University, and my admiration for him has grown over the years. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of his death, and it seemed right to mark the occasion with a new biography.

    2. Describe the parallels between your own spiritual journey and that of Lewis.

    Lewis and I have many things in common. We were both born in Belfast and spent our childhoods there. We were both students and then dons at Oxford University. Both of us were atheists who discovered Christianity at Oxford. And we both try to defend Christianity against its critics. I think these parallels made it easier for me to understand Lewis.

    3. You note that in the late 1940s, the famed “Kilns” where Lewis and his brother, Warnie, lived had become a dysfunctional household. What created the tension, and how did this affect Lewis’s writing?

    Lewis shared The Kilns with his brother, Warnie, Mrs. Moore, and her daughter, Maureen. Maureen left home after her marriage in 1940. Shortly after this, it became obvious that Warnie had become an alcoholic, and Mrs. Moore began to develop dementia. By the late 1940s, Lewis found himself acting as a full-time nurse to Mrs. Moore (who could no longer look after herself) while trying to cope with his brother’s frequent absences on alcoholic binges in Ireland and their aftermath. It was unquestionably one of the darkest periods of his life.

    4. Lewis was regarded by many of his academic colleagues at Oxford with suspicion or derision during that same period. Why did he experience such academic hostility?

    There were two sources of concern to Lewis’s academic colleagues at Oxford in the 1940s. The first was Lewis’s explicit commitment to Christianity, which irritated the more dogmatic academic atheists of his day. Yet the evidence suggests that this was not the major concern. Academic hostility towards Lewis really began to develop in the early 1940s, and largely rested on the perception that he had become a populariser rather than a serious scholar. This impression arose primarily as a result of The Screwtape Letters. These were seen by many of his colleagues as academically frivolous and lightweight. Lewis would probably have got away with this, if he had produced some major academic works around this time. But it was not until 1954 that Lewis produced a really serious piece of scholarship, which restored his academic reputation and helped secure his appointment as Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University.

    5. One of the most compelling aspects of your research involves the redating of Lewis’s conversion to theism. What led you to reexamine this chronology?

    I did not expect to raise questions about the traditional dating of Lewis’s conversion to theism. Yet the method of research I used forced me to this conclusion. In preparation for this work, I read everything that Lewis wrote in chronological order. After I had read everything for 1929—the traditional date of his “conversion”—I was puzzled. Nothing fundamental seemed to have changed.

    Yet beginning in February 1930, his writings show obvious signs of some kind of reorientation. I then examined the evidence for the traditional date of his conversion in minute detail, and concluded—for reasons set out clearly in the biography—that his conversion must have taken place a year later than everyone had believed. I think this is the most significant finding reported in the biography.

    6. In the course of your research, you conducted a complete, chronological analysis of the entire collection of Lewis’s letters and archives. How long did this take you?

    This took me fifteen months and involved long periods of reading and note-taking. But it was fascinating, seeing how Lewis’s ideas and style developed and how his authorial “voice” emerged. I took the view that you simply could not write a biography of Lewis without reading his total output.

    One result of this is that I quote from Lewis more than many of his earlier biographers so that my readers can hear Lewis’s voice, and not simply my own. I also explored archives, mainly in Oxford, and was able to turn up some important material never used by Lewis’s biographers that casts new light on his life, especially during the 1910s.

    7. Many readers are fascinated by the love relationship late in life between Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. You quote her son Douglas as stating that his mother originally went to England with one specific intention: “To seduce C. S. Lewis.” How did he come to assess the situation in that manner?

    Douglas Gresham bases his judgment on his memories of his mother from that time. We don’t know quite what led him to that judgment, but the evidence now available confirms his suspicions. It is clear from some of Joy’s writings of the period—especially a collection of “Sonnets” that have only very recently come to light—that she actively set out to seduce Lewis. We can hope to have some fine new biographies of Joy from significant scholars in the near future which will explore this matter in much greater detail.

    8. You write that Joy’s marriage to Jack was, in Lewis’s view, purely a marriage of convenience at first. At what point did Lewis’s feelings for her begin to change?

    Lewis initially saw his clandestine civil marriage to Joy as a chivalrous act which would enable her to remain in England and develop her career as a journalist and writer. The evidence strongly suggests that Lewis’s feelings towards Joy began to change when he became conscious that she was seriously ill. The realization that he might soon lose her seems to have triggered a deep sense of compassionand care, resulting in a romantic love for Joy that doesn’t seem to have been present earlier. It’s hard to date this development, but it’s clearly reflected in a letter Lewis wrote to the novelist Dorothy L. Sayers in June 1957.

    9. The friendship between Lewis and Tolkien cooled as the years progressed. Why did Tolkien’s views about Lewis darken?

    The relationship between Lewis and Tolkien was of major importance to both throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s. The cooling seems to have taken place mainly on Tolkien’s side, reflecting three issues. The first was what seems to have been jealousy on Tolkien’s part about the growing influence that the novelist Charles Williams had on Lewis in the early 1940s. This was alleviated somewhat with Williams’s death in 1945. The second emerged in the early 1950s, when Tolkien began to suspect that Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia borrowed some of his own ideas without due acknowledgment. Third, Tolkien regarded Lewis’s views of marriage as inadequate and was dismayed by Lewis marrying a divorcée and hurt by the fact that Lewis failed to tell him about it. In any case, Tolkien cordially detested Joy personally. Yet Lewis always respected and admired Tolkien. One of my discoveries in researching this biography was a hitherto unknown letter in which Lewis proposed Tolkien for the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature, which clearly reflects this high regard.

    10. Lewis’s death on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed in the media by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. How are we to judge Lewis’s life and legacy fifty years after his death?

    The most important thing is that more people read Lewis today than at any point in his lifetime. Although many—including Lewis himself—believed that his influence and reputation would quickly fade after his death, Lewis has bounced back. Partly this reflects the imaginative appeal of the Chronicles of Narnia, particularly now that some of the novels have been turned into major movies. But there is also substantial interest in Lewis’s literary and religious writings, some of which have established themselves as “classics.” My biography provides a solid base for future exploration of Lewis’s legacy, which I think is going to be significant for some considerable time to come.

    To download and read the first chapter of C.S. Lewis - A Life, just right click and "save as" here.

    A CS Lewis Biography

  • Grace, Gold and Christ. Gabby Douglas

    Posted on March 15, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Gabrielle Douglas
    is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, she made history, becoming the first US gymnast to take home a team and an individual gold medal in the same Olympics. Gabrielle began her training at age six, and became the Virginia State Champion only two years later. When she was fourteen, she left her family in Virginia Beach to train with coach Liang Chow in Des Moines, Iowa. Under Chow’s guidance, and with tremendous faith in God’s plan for her, Gabrielle competed in the Olympic Trials and walked away with the only guaranteed spot on the team. Since her Olympic triumph, Gabrielle has used her platform to inspire millions with a powerful message: With hard work and persistence, any dream is possible.

    I sat down with Gabby to ask about her upbringing, life as an athlete and your ultimate goal.

    John: I'm wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your life and what God has been doing in and through you, and maybe if you could just give us a little precursor of what's going to take place in this next year for you as well.

    Gabby, how did you get interested in gymnastics? What started it all for you?

    Gabby: My oldest sister, she actually encouraged me. Before gymnastics she was doing a couple tricks and she taught me. She told my mom to put me in and after a while she put me in. I started my first rec class when I was six.

    John: You were only six years old?

    Gabby: Yes.

    John: Did everything just kind of started snowballing after that? You just became more or less addicted to it?

    Gabby: Yes I fell in love with the sport of gymnastics. I always loved to flip and tumble and compete. When I started my first rec class, I just loved gymnastics.

    John: Your sister was not jealous of you surpassing her at all, was she?

    Gabby: I don't think so. I think we were kind of doing our own thing.

    John: At what age, Gabby, were you when you started setting your eye on the Olympic stage?

    Gabby: I was about eight or nine years old, and I was watching the 2004 Olympics. Carly Patterson, she was the 2004 one of the gold medalists, and I saw her doing a skill called Uneven Bars. I saw what she was doing and I would kind of learn the same thing, and I decided I wanted to go to the Olympics at that time.

    John:  For someone who has not just gone to the Olympics, but has also taken gold in them, how do you keep your focus on Christ at the centerpiece of who you are?

    Gabby: It's always been a part of me. People tell me, how do you balance the two? It's not hard to balance since it has always been a part of me. I read on the plane, whenever I get it in. I read my bible. Every competition and every time I'm about to go out on the Olympic stage, I pray and say one Scripture verse before I go out just to get me confident and have a peace of mind before I go out there and compete.

    John: When you got there, did you find there were other believers that were like minded as you were?

    Gabby: No, not really. They were kind of focusing on themselves and so was I, and the other countries were too, so I kind of just kept to myself.

    John: You obviously had a support system, your mom was there with you.

    Gabby: Yes. My family went to London. They're my support system. I am so glad they could make it out to London and watch me compete. They were so excited just walking over to the arena. It was very thrilling having them watch me at the Olympics.

    John: What was it like when you found out that you got the gold? How did you feel in your heart?

    Gabby: Oh my goodness, I don't know if words can describe. It was just a wow moment. First thing I did was hug Chow and say thank you for everything, Chow. It was just an amazing feeling knowing that all the hard work and sacrifice, effort and money spent in the gym and mom spent, the sacrifices my siblings made. It was a lot of hard work and it took diligence to get me where I am today. It was a lot of emotion going everywhere.

    John: What is your goal now for the rest of this year, for 2013? What are you working on?

    Gabby: I am not quite back in the gym yet. I really hope to be back soon and I really want to attend 2016, another Olympics. That's my goal.

    John: What would you say to all the little "Gabbys" that are out there, that are four or six years old right now, that are thinking about gymnastics or thinking about your life, how would you encourage them?

    Gabby: I would just tell them take it one step at a time. There's no need to rush it, but still have your goals in line, but just have fun along the way. Competing is fun. After a competition you get goody bags and go to a banquet. I say just enjoy the ride and keep pushing yourself, give 100% at what you do.

    John: Gabby, how would you encourage somebody in their walk with Christ, especially another 17-year-old?

    Gabby: Walk with Christ, just pray, read your Bible, something just to get you motivated, whether it's your favorite scripture or whether it's your favorite quote, and something like that, I think.

    For more information on Gabby Douglas, click here.

  • One on One with Keith Getty

    Posted on March 11, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Keith

    Keith & Kristyn Getty Irish singer/songwriters and recording artists Keith & Kristyn Getty are among the preeminent modern hymn composers of this generation. Best known for “In Christ Alone” (penned by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend), the world-renowned hymn has been recorded by numerous artists over the past decade—including Owl City, Natalie Grant and Newsboys—and is a classic sung in churches around the globe.

    I recently had a phone chat with Keith, where we were able to catch up on life in the Getty home.

    John:    Hello, Keith. Could you share a little bit about your background.

    Keith:   Sure, well I come from Belfast in the north of Ireland. I grew up in a Christian home and learned music when I was about ten, and I have been involved in it ever since.  After college I went into the music industry professionally, and wrote hymns in my spare time and fell in love with a girl called Kristyn. Soon after, we got married—when I turned 30. We quit the music industry work to focus exclusively on writing and developing hymns.

    John:    Then together you set out to inspire so many people all over the world, in a sense, to rediscover a deeper theology in worship. Is that something that you guys set out to do from the beginning?

    Keith:   Well, that's a very kind thing to say. I guess at some level we were trying to do that, but we never could have imagined the degree to which it would have happened and we're very grateful for that.

    John:    When you look at the discography of the songs that you guys have produced, what do you think is the most important song you have written in your history?

    Keith:   Well for me, obviously, the most popular and significant hymn in my history as an artist was the first one I wrote, which was “In Christ Alone.”  The ones that I'm most excited about, of course, are the ones that I'm working on at the moment. We are working on three or four new songs, looking at subjects such as prayer and passion and different things I mentioned. I’m very excited about those.

    John:    How did it come about that you and Stuart Townend have been able to work together? Are you part of a network of songwriters?

    The

    Keith:   Well, Stu was introduced to us by our publishers, and that really was the most significant production partnership that we ever had, in the sense of being able to work with someone who is older and really was a guide to me. So I'm always grateful for that relationship and what it brought.  Other than that it has just been people that I have met along the way who I enjoy spending time with. That’s how those things work out, I guess.

    John:   What is your overall goal in going into the songwriting process? You mentioned the fact that you're currently writing a few. What do you hope to come out of those songs?

    Keith:   I guess with the songs that we write there are two or three real things that we're passionate about. One is what you so eloquently mentioned earlier which was to write songs that teach the faith. That's what hymn singing and God’s people’s singing has been throughout history, throughout the Old Testament that led their faith. Martin Luther and John Calvin talked about catechizing the congregation through what they sing. Luther had a vision of reforming the Church through the preaching and the singing of the Word, so that's a really important thing to us. But all of the music is congregationally central, which is important to us. And we would love to write music that blesses others… that perhaps has an opportunity to last a little longer. So, those are our goals, at least, and if we could achieve any small amount of that, we would be more than thankful.

    John:    So in that process, as you just said (I 'm going to paraphrase a little bit), Calvin and Luther talked about teaching or helping the congregation grow in the theology that they are singing about, and that to some extent, that is your goal in the songwriting process, right?

    Keith:   Yes, absolutely.

    John:    I know that you have been here in the states as well as over back home. Do you guys travel all over the world?

    Keith:   We travel mostly in the West.  For the most part, we work in the USA.  We spend a couple of months back in Ireland every year.  We tend to do concerts in the UK on average, every couple of years, but primarily work throughout North America.

    John:    Would you say that you reside here in the United States now?

    Keith:   Yeah, our main home is in Nashville, but we have a little tiny place on the coast of Ireland, which we go back to, to hide and write in the summer.

    John:    Keith, do you and Kristyn have any children?

    Keith:   Yeah, we are just so thankful to have a little girl called Eliza Joy.

    John:    That's wonderful.

    John:    As you and Krysten hear new music coming from various music labels, are you worried about the worship music “scene?” Are you encouraged by what you're hearing from other artists? What are your thoughts as a songwriter?

    Keith:   On one level, of course, it's not my business what other people do, and certainly most labels are simply commercial companies trying to sell music. So, the weight of that is on the church and on the writers to write music that is rich. To look for music that is rich and to desire music that is rich, and I think if that becomes an overwhelming desire, then other things will follow.

    John:    So in other words, maybe we do have some room to grow in our worship here in the West?

    Keith:   Oh, absolutely.

    John:    Are you guys book readers?

    Keith:   Yeah, my wife is more so than I am, but I do enjoy reading.  I tend towards reading biographies and books more on vision and leadership and that kind of thing. And then I also read poetry.  My wife tends more towards reading novels and she enjoys that very much.

    John:    Have you guys toured with other artists in your past, or is it primarily just you and Kristyn together?

    Keith:   Really, yes.  When we go to the UK we bring Stuart Townend with us because he is so much a part of what we do. When we tour in America, we always have done it ourselves.  We have had a few guest artists, like Ricky Scaggs guested on the Christmas tour, Buddy Greene guested on the Christmas tour and we have a couple of people guesting with us at St. Patrick's at the Ryman in three weeks’ time. But, for the most part, we tend to just work with our own team. We've also been privileged to have a wonderful band and so we've been trying to develop their identity in the show and are trying to emphasize their own personal brilliance, which has been really inspiring for people, and we thoroughly enjoy that.

    John:    Keith, thank you for taking the time to chat today. I so appreciate it.

    Keith:   Well, thank you so much. Thank you, indeed.

    John:    God bless you. Bye-bye.

    Keith:   Bye-bye. Thank you back.

    Hymns for the Christian Life

    To see more from Keith & Kristen, click here.

  • Is God Leading You to Africa?

    Posted on March 8, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Help to change the life of a child this summer by serving on a 10-day mission trip to central Kenya with Good Goers.

    Kids Alive was founded in 1916 and is a Christian faith mission dedicated to rescuing orphans and vulnerable children – meeting their spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs. They provide children with the love and care every child deserves, and raise them to be contributing members of their society and witnesses to their family and community. While serving in Kenya, you would work alongside the children in their residential program as well as community children in their school. For fun, you would visit an animal orphanage.

    Meredith Melby has been working in Kenya with Kids Alive since 2011. We ask her to share a bit about life on the mission field.

    Meredith

    Family Christian (FC): What brought you to Kids Alive?

    Meredith (M): My involvement with Kids Alive started before I was born! My great grandfather was the first president of KAI, and my grandfather and father have both served on the KAI board, so I’ve always been aware of the work that they do, but honestly, I never thought I’d end up working for them. I began sponsoring a little girl at the KAI home in the Dominican Republic when I was 12 years old, and had the opportunity to visit her when I was in the 8th grade. What an amazing experience! That trip, along with several other international experiences in high school and college, sparked my interest in cross-cultural ministry. During my Senior year at Wheaton College, I felt God’s call to work abroad. and as I researched different opportunities and organizations, I found that I strongly agreed with the thoughtfulness of the ministry philosophies espoused by Kids Alive – an organization that had been right under my nose for so long! I applied and was accepted as a Kids Alive Missionary, spent some time preparing and fundraising, and finally moved to Kenya in October, 2011. It’s exciting to be able to continue my family’s legacy with this ministry, and I absolutely LOVE my job here. I feel so blessed to work with such a dedicated Kenyan team, and I really enjoy being able to expose our US, Canadian and British teams to God’s work here in Kenya.

    FC: Can you share with us some examples of Gospel transformation that you have seen with others?

    A few months ago, one of our missionaries was walking through our local town with one of our older boys who is now studying international relations at a top university in Nairobi. He is a strong Christian young man, leads worship at his church and disciples his younger brothers in the home when he visits on school holidays. Our staff are all excited about his potential, and can’t wait to see what God has in store for him. As they walked, He pointed to a group of street boys, high on glue and suffering from brain damage due to years of drug abuse, and said “those are the guys I used to hang out with when I lived on the streets. If Kids Alive hadn’t rescued me 10 years ago, I’d be just like them now”. When I heard this story, my heart burst. It burst with love and praise for my God who rescued this young man from such desperation and has given him such purpose, and it broke for those young men still living on the streets – what could they have become, if we’d had the resources to rescue all of them?

    Just last week I was talking with some of our middle school girls for whom I lead a weekly Bible study. All of them come from desperate backgrounds, and each has her own story of trauma, struggle and redemption. I asked them what they had done over the weekend, and they told me that they had heard that our social worker was visiting one of the more needy families in our community and asked to go along. The girls receive about $5 every other month for personal spending, and often use it to get their hair done or buy some new shoes, but upon hearing about the visit the social worker was planning, they decided on their own to pool their small resources and buy enough cooking oil, rice, flour, sugar, tea and soap for this needy family of 4 for a whole month. When I asked them why they’d chosen to do this, they responded “God had given us so much – it’s only right that we give back to His people in need”. My heart swelled with pride and praise to God for these beautiful young women He has rescued and redeemed, and is using even now at their young ages for His glory and service.

    FC: Did you have to get used to some new types of food while living in Kenya?

    I really enjoy Kenyan food. The fruit here is incredible – makes American fruit taste like cardboard. We eat a lot of rice, beans, maize and potatoes on a daily basis, and on special occasions we cook a flat bread called chapatti. The strangest food I’ve eaten in Kenya is goat head. It’s a delicacy usually reserved for men and respected older women, but I was allowed to try the cheek once. I actually found it tasted pretty good! I wasn’t brave enough to try the ear though, which most people say is their favorite – it still had fur on it!

    FC: Is there anything that you miss on a daily basis from the US?

    Fast internet, vacuum cleaners and Dove chocolate.

    FC: How has God grown you through your experience with Kids Alive?

    These

    My experience with Kids Alive has taught me to trust God in a deeper way than I’ve ever had to before. From fundraising to working through culture shock, building relationships with the kids and my Kenyan coworkers to dealing with the CRAZY drivers here, God has proven to me again and again that He can and will take care of me no matter what circumstances I

    meet. I’ve also gained much more confidence in my God-given abilities and talents. There are so many things I do here that I initially think “I don’t know if I’m qualified for this”, but then I take a deep breath and jump in, trusting that He’ll pull me through, and God has always given me exactly what I need to perform well and succeed in the work He’s given me to do. It’s a crazy adventure He’s taking me on, and I absolutely love it.

    FC: What is your biggest burden in Kenya?

    I think there are two: knowing that there are so many more needy children in our community who we currently don’t have the capacity to help, and trying to find the best ways to nurture and guide the children who are in our care to produce responsible Kenyan young adults who are serious about their faith and want to give back to their home communities.

    FC: How can we pray for you?

    Personally, please pray for continued strength to do what God has called me to here in Kenya, and that He will continue to fold me closer into his loving arms and perfect will. Please also pray for the work of Kids Alive Kenya, that we as a staff will be able care for these children in a way that is glorifying to God, and that we will prudently use the resources He’s given us to thoughtfully and effectively further His important work here in Kenya.


    If you’d like to know how else you can pray for me or are interested in following my adventure with Kids Alive in Kenya, please visit my blog: Gracious Becomings

    For more information on how you or your family can be a part of short term trip to Kenya, visit the Good Goers web site.

     

  • Audio Adrenaline Strikes Back

    Posted on February 20, 2013 by John van der Veen


    After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back - by popular demand and with a renewed mission. The faces may look a little different, but the heart and passion of this GRAMMY-winning band remains unchanged. Yes, that's Kevin Max of dcTalk and solo fame at the mic and founding member Will McGinniss on bass. The new lineup is rounded out by CCM vets Dave Ghazorian (Superchick), Jared Byers (Bleach), and singer-songwriter Jason Walker. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart remains very involved and contributed to many of the songs for the new album.

    This talented group of like- minded musicians share a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. Lead single, "Kings & Queens" is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about.

    I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with both Will and Kevin one late afternoon. What follows is a real and honest conversation about where these guys have been and where they are going.

    All within and by the grace of God.

    John van der Veen (FC):
    First of all, I did send out a couple of tweets to the people that follow us on Family here, and there’s a few questions that came back to us, and I’m going to throw those out to you first and then we can kind of just build on those.

    First question is: Did you guys ever think about bringing Bob Herdman or Tyler Burkhum back to the band when Audio A was basically trying to rejoin back together again?

    Will McGinniss: Uh, yeah, I’ll take that—this is Will. I mean, basically, Bob has been out of the band for a number of years. He came off the road in the 90s actually to start a record label. He ran that for a number of years and then he also, of course, helped us start hands and feet and then worked for H&F for a few of years as well. He‘s on the board of H&F too, still permanently. So, Bob’s obviously in ministry with Mark and I and has been through the years and will continue helping us with Hands & Feet.

    He really probably wouldn’t have been one that would have been one of the core band guys. After he came off the road, the band kind of took on a whole new kinda shape and format and just kept on going. And so we did go back to the band members that we had on the road in 2007 when Mark’s voice went out and we shut it down. And we went back to Ben (Cissell) and Tyler and we asked them if they’d like to redo this thing with Kevin singing and they’re just at different places in their lives right now. Ben’s more in a corporate setting. And Tyler’s got his own band and is traveling around playing guitar for other groups as well, so he just wasn’t able to make it work. But both of them were very amicable, both of them love what we’re doing and that we’re getting back together, especially with the connection to Hands & Feet, which both of them helped start. So, very amicable and very excited for us and they wish us well.

    FC: Will Mark (Stuart) join you guys when you go on tour. I mean, how involved is Mark in all things Audio A right now?

    Will: Well, you know, he’s super instrumental. He was the heart of Audio A. He was the lead singer and kind of the main speaker for H&F, if you will. He and I spoke a lot on stage. He’s been writing a lot on this new record. He’s got writing credits on almost every song. He is the exec dir of H&F. He and I had plugged into H&F and were doing ministry outside of Audio A in Haiti. So, he and I are still in ministry together. I’m on the board and it was for that reason that Audio even got back together. I mean when Wes Campbell, who is our manager, came to us with the idea of putting Audio back out there, you know with this idea of putting Kevin at lead singer, you know, we didn’t go for it at first because just to go back out there and play our instruments again or to rock out or whatever for no reason just wasn’t that exciting to us.

    And personally I’ve gotten some great family rhythms and all that with my family and it would take something pretty special to get me back out there. And so that component that was the special piece of the puzzle was that we can broaden Hands & Feet’s reach. We can broaden the story of the orphan and widow in Haiti. We can broaden the work there and so for me that made all the difference in the world. My family is plugged into H&F at a deep level, my wife works for them and I take my kids there every summer, and so that’s the piece that really made sense and so Mark’s gonna go out when it makes sense for him to speak on behalf of H&F and to be able to represent [them] in that way. We’ll use Audio in that way whenever we can and he’ll have some comments in the album art about H&F and what he’s doing. We have several webisodes that are out there that kind of explain it in depth. How Mark’s handing off this thing to Kevin and how we’re all connected as one big family still.

    FC: Kevin, let’s talk a little bit about that. What are your thoughts as you’re stepping into the role of what Mark has done for a number of years. I mean, what is that feeling like for you?

    audio

    Kevin Max: It’s interesting because you know it’s familiar and yet it’s not at the same time. So if that makes sense. We traveled quite a bit together back in the day and you know I was friends with the band for many, many years. I’m a fan of what the band’s done and I’m a fan of all of the guys in band—all of the previous members. The only guy that I really didn’t know was Tyler Burkhum, but I know Bob really well and I knew Barry really well and I knew Will and Mark and of course Ben Sisal, and so I feel like putting me in the group was kind of an easy fit. But I feel like what Mark did as a lead singer is very different from what I do. But, in cool ways it’s different, you know, and I can learn a lot from Mark. I can really kind of watch what Mark does and what he says about what he would do in different situations. I’m still learning actually from hanging out with mark as a friend. Will and Mark still live here in Nashville, so it’s kind of cool to be able to hang out quite a bit and we’ve been doing a lot of radio tours together. And Mark has come out and has been there with us on all of these trips. So what’s going to be kind of odd in my opinion is to go out and perform without Mark being there, because he has been still even though he’s not singing like he was back in the day, been a part of this the whole way. But I take this job very seriously and I have absolutely wanted to be in a rock band since I was a kid, and I guess maybe this is the first time I’ve been able to do that.

    FC: Kevin, what is it like singing Audio Adrenaline songs? I’m assuming that once you guys go on tour, there’s going to be some catalog songs as part of that. How does it feel singing older, classic Audio A songs?

    Kevin: It feels great!

    Again, Mark and I have a very similar range, so when I’m singing these tunes, you know, they’re not out of my range. Actually my range is very strange. I can sing pretty low. People don’t realize how low I can sing. I’m kind of known as the guy who sings kind of high, but I’ve actually got kind of a low voice as well. So it’s fun to sing these songs and put my spin on them. And they’re all really great. I mean, Will is careful and so is Mark about picking what songs we do from the past. The songs that I’ll be singing for the new album and performing from the new album, I think that they’re also some unbelievably great songs on this album. So we’re all excited about what kind of packet we can throw together from a live standpoint, and, you know, uh, we’ll just shoot for the stars and hopefully hit somewhere on the horizon.

    FC: When does the tour begin, or has that been nailed down yet?

    Kevin: Wait, wait, that was a really weird quote. I apologize.

    FC: I liked it, actually.

    Kevin: Uh... I’ll let Will pick it up from here.

    Will: Yeh, no, you’re all good. We have the album dropping March Tuesday, March 12, so we’re finishing that up now to get it out. And then the tour, I believe, kicks off March 1st. We do have a handful of dates in January, uh, and then we move into summer festivals after a short spring run. It’s not gonna be too crazy, just wanta get some shows under our belt to refine and connect as a band and get some things nailed down and then I think that summer festivals are really the big kick-off. We’re headlining some of those, and also are opening for the mainstay acts that are headlining for some of those festivals and then looking to the fall after that, so.

    FC: Are you guys gonna be playing “Big House”?

    Will: Heh, heh. Yeh, actually that is one of the ones we’ve been playing. I’ll tell you the ones we’ve been playing. We’ve been playing “Ocean Floor,” “Our Hands & Feet,” “Get Down,” “Big House,” “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus,” but we’ve also talked about including like “Mighty Good Leader” and maybe “Some Kind of Zombie,” “I’m Not the King” and a few more of the rock side, and remove some of those others, or “Chevette” that’s been one that’s come up. So that’s kind of the quiver that we have at our disposal of the old catalog. There’s tons to go through, I don’t know, we may go through more and come up with more. I mean the set’s gonna be, depending on the length of the set, maybe 50/50, or 60 new / 40 old, or 50/50, whatever, so we’ll have to play it by ear and see how much time we have to play and all that kind of stuff. If we’re doing an opening set of 40 minutes, then obviously we’re limited by that, but we’re going to give the fans old and new, things that they can relate to and connect with.

    FC: That’s great.

    I’m going to switch gears a little bit. I’m gooing ask some questions about how you guys sort of came back together again. Just, because it’s not just the reforming of a band, but it’s also, as we touched on earlier, Kevin stepping in and doing vocals. I mean, what was that like for either one of you guys? Uh, was it like this “Paul” kind of experience, where this bright shining light was being cascaded down on Kevin, and Kevin you were knocked off of your donkey and you said, “Oh, I have to start singing for Audio A now”? You were doing your own thing and successful with that, making a solo career and now this. How did this whole transition kind of fall into place?

    Kevin: I actually was kind of brought into the idea of it slowly and there were probably a couple of different scenarios. One was me singing on the Newsboy’s project, God’s Not Dead, I sang on two of the songs on that album. And when one of those songs started charting, they asked me to come down and go on the road with them for about six shows, and I was singing on stage with them for the Newsboys. And we had such a great time, I think the manager for the Newsboys at that time was just like, “Wow, I’ve been basically bugging Audio Adrenaline for some time to do the same thing, so we get Audio Adrenaline back up and running, because it’s such a great band. And it’s a shame—or, not a shame necessarily—but kind of a group tragedy that they’re not able to continue because of Mark’s voice and we wanted to get them back out there with another singer. And Mark has given his blessing, and we’re looking at guys to do it. So, well, my take on that immediately, was “Absolutely!” I’ve know these guys from the very beginning. At dcTalk, we found them early on in Kentucky and basically brought them to the label at the time, which was Forefront, and they went on to great success.

    Um, and so I feel like I’m a part of that story and after that, throughout the years we’ve toured together and we became great friends, and so it’s a very, very good fit, you know, even on paper. But I think that what really kinda got me was that mark was so passionate about making the right decision, and so was Will. And, also including Hands & Feet into the story of what’s happening now. So that when we go forward with albums, we’re actually raising awareness for H&F project, which in my opinion is much cooler than just being a rock band. So we’ve got lots of different things that are happening here that are just exciting and that just make sense to me.

    FC: Kevin, did this decision involve you saying, “Okay, I’m putting down my solo career for a time being, or this is just the new path that God has for me?

    Kevin: My solo career has been from one moment to the next both somewhat successful and completely tragic (laughs), in terms of success. In terms of personal gratification and what feel like I’ve been able to do, I’m extremely happy with what I’ve done on my solo career. Even though I haven’t reached even close to the numbers we did with dcTalk, I think that I’ve reached a completely different crowd. And that’s primarily what I set out to do as a solo artist. To create music that I wanted to create and not necessarily follow the rhyme and the rhythm of what Talk did from the beginning. You know? So, in way, personally, I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground and am extremely proud of what I’ve done.

    At this time when I decided to do this, I wasn't really taking my musical career very seriously because I'd been writing a novel. What a lot of people don't know – they will know at some point – is that I wrote a sci-fi novel about angels and basically it's going to publishers now. I spent close to two years writing this book. I'll be pretty transparent and say during those years I really wasn't interested in being on stage anymore. I kind of went through a period of not self-loathing but I just didn't want to be the guy on stage. I gained a certain amount of weight and I was just a family guy and I wanted to get into books and I didn't want to be the front man necessarily. So when this was brought up to me, I'd kind of written the book and was kind of going through a different period in my life, you know? When Wes approached me and Mark and Will, I had to go back to my wife and go, "How serious are we going to be about this? We have to do some major shifts in our life to make this happen. I'm going to have to go on the road." I've got four kids that are under the age of 7 so I really had to make a decision. So I got serious and I started writing songs and lost a bunch of weight, basically talked about getting back to Nashville. I've lived in Nashville for over 20 years but sold our house in East Nashville a few years previously, so we basically had to move back to Nashville. So, there's been a lot of changes, but It's interesting, you know?

    FC: Is Audio Adrenaline all about taking care of the widow or the orphan right now? “Hands and Feet” – is that the banner that is being raised up by Audio Adrenaline right now?

    Kevin: Yeah, it's one of the major we're raising. It is Hands and Feet because the idea of doing this in the first place was to raise awareness for Hands and Feet. I think Mark and Will were hesitant at first about even putting it back on the road of that wasn't a part of it, so of course, we're all extremely excited about raising awareness. Also, it's something that we can connect to on so many different levels, from the live show to Internet to merch stands. It's something that we're not ashamed of at all. In fact, we're proud of. And just to get people to understand what's going on over there right now is huge. So definitely, it’s a huge part of what's going on right now.

    FC: Will, are you back? (Dropped call with Will)

    Will: Yeah, I'm here. Sorry about that.

    FC: No problem. I was just asking the question if Hands and Feet were basically the banner for Audio Adrenaline. I think Kevin did a fine job in answering it.

    Audio Adrenaline - Kings & Queens

    What are you guys most looking forward to doing in 2013?

    Will: Oh man. That's a big one. I mean for me, I feel like what you're saying is true. I feel like the momentum we have right now is incredible, nothing short of miraculous. I feel like God is doing something way bigger than us. And just the favor I feel that we have…I feel like if you compare it to Michael going to The Newsboys…they were up against a lot more. They had a lot more criticism, a lot more opposition. It was a totally different scenario, I understand that, but this is similar in the fact that we're adding a lead singer to a pretty significant brand that's already been out there. And even new other members. I'm the only member of Audio A in this thing.

    But, to me, God has orchestrated a thing here that's just crazy. You couldn't have wrote this. He's an amazing author. So many redemptive stories at play with the different guys in the band and our stories and our families and Kevin's story. So, for me, I think the Hands and Feet component is what's the most significant, I think by and large. Mark being so involved in this thing, so attached to it with Hands and Feet and also writing a lot of the songs, being a part of that process, being a part of putting the record together, being a part of the future. For me, I'm just excited to see what God does. Like I said, it's going to be bigger than all of us can imagine. It's gonna be great music and all those things as well, but I think there's gonna be surprises along the way that we couldn't expect. Little turns He'll write into the story that we didn't expect, you know? But for me, we're just going to try to, with as much grace and with as much love and mercy move into this thing and tour it and leave our families again and walk through all of those situations with as much grace and mercy as we can and just see what God does with it. I think each show we want to take one at a time and really be intentional about connecting with the people that are there backstage, the people in the crowd, whatever, and giving them our full attention and just doing it in a way that is excellent and that you know that we're there for you and to serve you that day.

    FC: Are either one of you coffee drinkers? Or is it Mountain Dew? Or Red Bull?

    Kevin: I'm huge into coffee. I'm drinking like my fourth cup right now. Just to stay awake during these interviews. You've done really well asking some really great questions. I will say sometimes the questioner can lead me down a path to deep slumber.

    FC: Well, I certainly appreciate both of you guys taking the time to talk with me today. And as I said, I just want to echo what the feeling is in our building and with a lot of our customers: we're anxiously waiting for March 12 to come around. I think it's going to be an exciting day. And then, of course, the tour.

    Will: It's crazy, the favor we have. I always liken it to the Bad News Bears, where we're so bad but everyone wants us to do well.

    FC: Oh, come on!

    Kevin: I don't know if I like that one either. Don’t sell yourself short, man.

    Will: Just trying to be humble. But "Kings and Queens" is the biggest single out of the box in Audio A history ever. So something big is happening and it's abnormal for even Audio things, so I'm just stoked.

    FC: Well, congratulations to you guys. God bless you and thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today.

    Because Mark is on a continual voice rest, I had the chance to email him a few questions.

    Mark

    They are listed here:

    FC: Mark, what is the transition like for you? Moving from you to Kevin being the lead singer? How do you feel that you were the voice for AA and now someone else is?

    Mark: It would be very strange for me to give the reigns over to someone else if I wasn't able to contribute to the record making process. I definitely miss being a front man and the excitement of leading an audience. But to be able to help craft a record and collaborate in writing is a huge thrill for me. I miss the creative process much more than being on the road. I feel as much a part of this record as any previous Audio Adrenaline album. It's a blessing to be in the mix!!!

    FC: Is your voice getting better?

    Mark: Unfortunately, my voice continues to get weaker, even though I'm not singing. It can be frustrating for sure. However, I truly believe that God is directing my path. My focus, on a daily basis, is no longer being in a band or getting my voice back, but becoming a better leader, and stronger voice for the orphans of Haiti.

    FC: What is your involvement with AA going forward?

    Mark: I will continue to partner with the guys in writing and producing records, but the bigger partnership is with the Hands and Feet Project. The heartbeat of Audio A moving forward is furthering the cause of the Hands and Feet Project and the children of Haiti. The Audio A guys and I are always dreaming of ways we can use our music and our platform to bring hope to the next generation of Haiti.

    A Message From Mark Stuart

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