Sunday, May 31, 2009

Small Voice - Back Issue #2

It's better to have a little and be content, than to have amassed stock piles of ill gotten gain, this is what wise king Solomon once said. Yes, we're the small ones, and we're moving somewhere beneath the radar of the worlds power and influence. Relatively undetected. Within random rooms and forgettable cities we work quietly, using what resources are within reason, pushing and exploring the parameters of our less than perfect instruments and surroundings...and thoughts. We're hoping to handcraft something, anything, that has integrity and purpose, even if it's made from another mans trash. "Those who are full loath the taste of honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." We're living within a gridlocked structure, a system that is loathsome and full, that refuses to feed its inhabitants with anything of substance. And now, we little ones are hungry, and we're digging through the trash heaps and roaming the forgotten woods; searching, stalking, and slowly banding together to survive on the bitter roots and bread crusts we happen to find and share. We are joyful and content with what we've been given, as we sit around the fire sharing our stories, pictures, and songs that bare a reflection of the lives we've chosen to live. With love, and respect for one another we'll find the meaning and purpose embedded in life once again. For the answers the psycho-systematic spokesmen have sung to us have been as empty as our stomachs, and we're tired of chewing on that meatless bone. The devil cannot feed us true food because he is the little god of emptiness, the the god of what is not. But there's manna from heaven, free and fullfilling, for all who have been led out of slavery.
Small Voice. A homespun record label, created to house and nurture musicians and artists who are willing to walk the path of a slow and steady growth. A growth in art, faith, and character that only comes from continually living out personal conviction, belief, and purpose. I believe that meaningful art is a byproduct of the process of real life, real sorrow, and real hope. When these foundational building blocks of true experience are bypassed and replaced by quick gain, words and story become an irrelevant soundbyte that are then exploited unto the masses. History shows us that the masses then begin to believe what the loudspeaker of mass-media is telling them. Compromise, falseness, and vanity become the norm and are even embraced by those who have been seduced by the false promise of reaching a glorious end without ever knowing or embracing the means to this end. To make the leap straight from "A" to "Z" without learning all the letters in between those two endpoints would mean that you have no ability, authority, or message to convey to us. My hope and vision for myself and for all who are to join this community that is Small Voice, is that we would remain true to that small voice that has been placed within us. Oh, that we would live, and produce art honestly with the utmost care, and do so despite any current media trends or flawed industry standards that scream for our attention, and threaten to engulf us. We will feel inadequate and humble in the presence of these powerful giants, but that does not make our stance wrong. This label will grow as we grow, and as we build this house, slowly, with our own hands we'll add on when there's need. Eventually, others will come from near and far, and take part in this work with us. Our front porch will be the make-shift platform as we stomp our feet and sing stories of the beauty and truth we've found together. The wind will carry the echoes of these homespun hymns wherever it pleases, and perhaps in a quiet moment there will be some who will pause, and listen...and be pleased.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Prophets - Back Issue #1

For years I kept pseudo-blog on my old website, under the "news" section.  When launching my "new and improved" website, I decided to bite the bullet and transfer these journal type writings to a proper blog.  Below is a sort of reissue of a three part series I had written over the span of about a year and a half, concerning the artist as a prophet.  I'll be posting more of these older writings in the future.

*The Prophets: Part One
I was talking with a friend last night while packing up after a show, and eventually the subject of "the prophet and the artist" arose between us. We both agreed that within the arts there is the amazing potential to shake souls and move mass culture, either toward further degradation or further restoration. When this power is placed in an artists hands, his/her selfcentered-greed or selfless-service toward fellow man will become evident. I use the word "potential" because many who call themselves artists (creators) do not in fact hold the key (authority/privilage) to enter into peoples hearts and souls with the work they create. Such work is mediocre and impotent due to its formulaic unoriginality. There is spirit and mystery in powerful work, and this moves beyond expensive and time-consuming technical training. Then there are the others who have actually been given the key, yet fear to use it, because the voice that has been placed within them is unlike anything they hear or see around themselves. The parameters of an established society of thought and image have no place for this new unknown entity, so the small voice is hushed and the interior dream abandoned. The few who end up using the key must then choose what to do with it; to control or to liberate our brothers and sisters. Build or destroy....
A.W Tozer writes, "Another kind of leader must arise from among us. He must be the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breaths with mortal breath." I can only hope to become one of these men.

*The Prophets: Part 2
If we are created to create, we must confront the impatience within our own souls, and then say "No" to a society that tells us to rush ourselves and bypass the process. Over and over again I meet young and old aspiring artists and musicians who are living in extreme anxiety. Hearts buckling under the pressure of a few heavy questions. "Is life as an artist feasable? Is it practical? Could I provide for myself with this work? Could I support a wife and a newborn child?". These are realistic questions, but if one doesn't stay on gaurd, unneeded fear and anxiety can worm their way into the decision making process of day to day living. One temptation is to disengage from actively taking risks with our time and our art. When this happens, money and comfort have taken priority over the inner desire to create and explore. All too often the art then becomes a hobby or a pastime activity that is relegated to an evening here and a free saturday morning there. For most, these focused moments of creation can be life-giving, but for the one who has been called to the work and has a fire in their bones to create, this will not be enough. They will not be able to shake the feeling of unfulfillment, for they are not only cheating themselves, but those who would be positively affected by their work. The next temptation is to rush, and bypass the process of growth and revelation, in order to reach what is seen as the end destination....right NOW. Compromise your values, integrity, and your work in order to receive the whole cake immediately. Then, you won't have to worry about money, respect, or whether or not you're really "worth it" in the end. Everyone will love you, and you'll have a huge platform to broadcast your work that is obviously so important it must be heard. Right? If you choose this path of compromise you will cut the legs out from underneath yourself and your work, rendering yourself impotent and crippled. You will be swayed by your newfound "audience" and bend to their will, and you will abandon that small powerful voice that was placed within you. Your first love will be lost, but maybe you'll be media idol to some distant faceless person who has believed your lie. Unfulfillment will find you on this end of the spectrum also, as you've deceived yourself of your true voice and true calling. We must engage in the full process, no matter how slow, tedious, unknown, or joyful. The fullness of time. True art will come from a true life lived, not from a fearful retreat from life and risk. Be courageous. Stand up. Have faith to live the impossible. While in the desert fasting for 40 days Christ was tempted Satan (the god of this world). Satan said, "Bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world." Compromise, and I'll give you what you know is destined to be yours anyway. If Christ had bowed down, his life would have been rendered impotent, and he would not have tread the long road of suffering that led to the cross. He knew his path, his identity, his high calling, and he lived it out day by day in power without compromising. In the end he was exalted to the highest place of honor, and given authority to grant eternal life to all who call on his name. He owns the earth and the heavens, and broke Satan's power. I share this because we, too, must walk this same road of trust and conviction. If you do, you will be given authority and revelation that is not of yourself, and you will overcome the vain powers that are trying to intimidate you into a life of impotent formulaic mediocrity. Follow the most holy spirit to freedom and new creation.

*The Prophets: Part 3
What compels us onward in our most heartfelt pursuits? Is it the recognition & applaud of our family, friends, fans or critics? If our work is contingent upon the acceptance or rejection of our fickle fellow men, we are doomed to the slow degradation of compromise, and eventually impotence. You cannot truly love anyone who holds power over your life: your decisions, work, identity & destiny. You will hate them yet serve them out of fear, as the pagan bows down to an idol that makes his life miserable & un-free. If the idol is appeased it may grant its worshipper some small fleeting reward; if it is angered it is feared for its power to hurt & destroy. The house that is built upon the sand will be washed away when the storm comes crashing down, and its fall will be great. Our lives, our words & art--these are not meant to be swept away by the power of men or idols, but they?re meant to stand fast, like a strong refuge amidst the beating torrent, offering shelter & blessing to mankind. The wise man built his house upon the rock. We must perch ourselves upon the unmovable rock, like a lighthouse on the edge of a raging sea, issuing forth a flame of hope and warning. The solitude and resolve of this rock dwelling station may seem laughable & outdated in a world of ever-changing opinions & seasons. Yet, when the tempest of the dark night rains down with fury, & homes are washed away, & ships are lost at sea, many will see & thankfully understand why the house of flame rests upon the rock. So it must be with the prophet/artist, & the fire that has been placed in his bones. He must speak true things, continually, regardless of external pressures, criticism, or even opposition. He must live, create, & speak out of deep conviction & sincere love for mankind, calling hearts to hope and to warning, all the while knowing that his work may be misunderstood, rejected, & scoffed at by his fellow men. The acceptance or rejection of his work does not move him from his work, for his work is founded in love. A prophet toils in freedom & in love because no man has control or power over him. Alas, like a mystery revealed, many will see and joyously understand his words & deeds, perhaps long after he?s gone, & in this revelation many will find blessing and shelter from a shifting & unforgiving world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hope International

My wife Michelle is in the midst of taking a course dealing with the micro-financing aspect of development work in developing countries. Michelle was born in the Amazon jungle of Peru, South America, and she ended up going back after college to work with Food For The Hungry in the same jungle village where she grew up.  She moved back to the states to marry me, but her heart still longs to be back on the field doing what she does best.  Currently, we're living in North Carolina, and actively wondering, waiting, and working toward a way that we can mesh music and art with cross-cultural development work.  The puzzle pieces are slowly getting put together. Recently my friend Nic Mclean took a trip to Haiti with Hope International and filmed the following short documentary about Hopes work there. Michelle and I are encouraged by it, and I hope you are too.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Jedidiah - Gabriel House

It's been a joy to work with, and collaborate with, the folks at Jedidiah.  Here's a touching piece documenting their trip to Mexico to spend time with the kids at Gabriel House.