Archive for May, 2011

I wonder how many of us spend our todays worrying about tomorrow. I’m reminded of a sign I once saw painted on the side of a Mexican Restaurant that said, “Free Tamales Tomorrow”. The problem is “tomorrow” is always a day away. This morning I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Boy, ain’t that the truth. The problem is; it’s easier said than done. We all have deadlines and commitments and the older you get, the more responsibility you have, and the more deadlines and commitments there are to meet. I was speaking to a young lady yesterday who just graduated from college with a degree in nursing. She’s completed her education and is now ready to enter her field of profession and make a difference. The problem is, she’s having a difficult time finding a position and needless to say, she’s a little discouraged. On top of that she has school loans coming due soon. She’s worried about tomorrow and who can blame her; deadlines and commitments.

So, the question is, what is Jesus saying to her, to me, to you in Matthew 6:34? Is he telling us not to give a second thought to our future or the obligations that we have? No, I don’t think so. If we all lived life that way we could really get into a bind, not to mention we would have a poor testimony for our Lord. The key to understanding what Jesus is saying is found in the word “therefore” which points us back to what he had previously said. In verse 33 Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus is not telling us to live carelessly, he’s telling us not to get so caught up in our worries that we forget to live for him today. If we will remember to put him first in our lives today, everyday, then the things that we’re doing will be the things that he has for us to do. The things that we commit to will be the things that he has called us to. It’s interesting to note that Jesus never said that our days would be trouble free; in fact, he said that we will have enough trouble each day to keep us occupied for that day. The thing is, if we live each day for the one who gave his life for us then whatever we go through, he will see us through. We can face each day knowing that our heavenly Father has our back. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. Let’s live today seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness first, and then let’s do it again tomorrow.

One of my passions is playing guitar. I play in the praise band Jericho Down and though I love and enjoy different styles of music, especially guitar oriented music, my desire is to use my ability to worship and lead others in worship of God. This leads me to an ongoing search for great musical tone through the equipment that I play as well as how to become a better guitar player and to incorporate different styles into the music that I play with my band. The other day I had a Facebook conversation with my old friend and former band mate (from Souled Out) Philip Melton along these lines so I decided that I would blog about the equipment that I use and how I use it. This is not my typical kind of blog post and will no doubt only appeal to a particular audience so if you’re not into this sort of thing I apologize and promise that I will post something devotional soon. My hope is that some who are into this kind of thing would weigh in and share their thoughts as well as the type of equipment they use and how they use it in a worship setting. Having said all of that, here is a break-down of what I play and how I try to incorporate gear and style into the music I play.

I have been playing praise and worship music for about ten years now and I have noticed a trend in the direction of this genre that I like and that has certainly shaped my style of playing. The guys in my band are from similar musical backgrounds and enjoy the same taste in music now so we work together to try to develop our own sound. We play a lot of contemporary praise and worship music but we give it our own twist and when we write we try to incorporate our roots into what we do but also keep it modern. I don’t know that we always pull it off, but we try. The equipment we use is a big part of this. You can see a list of our equipment, as well as pics here.

I have been learning to play guitar since I was a teenager. Of course, back then I was into heavy metal and what is now known as classic rock. I have owned lots of equipment over the years and as my interests in music have changed, so has my interest in musical equipment. To be honest, I used to play whatever I could get my hands on, now I am a little more particular. I have discovered that I’m a Fender guy. That’s not to say that I’m against Gibson’s or other brands, I’m not. There are many great products out there. I just like Fender guitars and amps. Right now I have two Mexican Strats that use. Both have been modified to suit my taste and I give both an equal amount of playing time because I dig the tones I get from each of them even though they are very different.

My sunburst Strat has a rosewood fret board and a Seymour Duncan lipstick pup in the neck position. The other two pups are factory. I have also installed a mini-toggle switch that turns the bridge pup on all the time. The lipstick tube pup is really warm sounding and when played with the middle pup it sounds really chimey and bell like. When played with the bridge pup I can get close to a Tele type tone. Of course I can get that classic Strat sound out of the 2nd position. I use this guitar a lot for clean tones when picking through triads or for bluesy or country type stuff. It will jam too and sounds good overdriven or distorted.

My white Strat is one I put together myself. It has a maple fret board (which was originally on my sunburst Strat) and two GFS humbucker pups (Crunchy Pat in the bridge, Fat Pat in the neck) that are both coil tapped. This guitar is the best of both worlds. It plays like a Strat and I can get Strat tones by  tapping the coils (bridge is tapped by pulling up on the tone knob, neck is tappedby pulling up on the volume knob) but I can also get some Les Paul type tones from the double coiled humbuckers. This guitar cleans up nice but it really shines on hard rocking stuff with lots of overdrive or distortion.

I played through a 1964 Fender Bandmaster head and cab for years. It was a great amp with classic blackface fender tone but it was a monster to haul around. I have recently switched to a VHT Special 6 head and cab This is a point to point hand wired tube amp with great tone. The controls are very simple, just tone and volume (just the way I like it). The tone knob will go from a Vox like tone to a Fender like tone. I tend to keep it on the Fender tone side (I just can’t help it, it’s what I like). This little amp is easy to carry around and is surprisingly loud for only 6 watts. Of course I mic it for large rooms. I tend to play a little bright so I can cut through the mix without raising my volume too much. I plan on doing some mods on this amp soon to trim the low end tone a little. I’m just waiting for the parts right now.

I have played through a POD XT Live for several years and a POD 1.0 before that. I’m using the POD XT Live exclusively on our CD except for a few guitar parts on He Died For Me and Step Into The Water where I’m using Ty’s VHT Combo (you can listen to these songs on our My Space page). I still use the XT Live for Sunday mornings at church but I have gone back to stomp pedals when playing with the band. Here is a list of my pedals in order: Ernie Ball Volume, Planet Waves Chromatic Tuner, Dunlop CBG-95 Cry Baby Wah, BBE Green Screamer Overdrive, ProCo You Dirty Rat Distortion, Marshall Echohead Delay, Digitech Digidelay (run through a Radial Bigshot True By-pass Looper), Line 6 Tonecore Tap Tremelo, MXR Phase 90, VestaFire Stereo Chorus, and a Marshall Reflector Reverb. I also have a KMD on/off switch for the boost function on my amp.

Here’s how I use them.

The volume pedal is great for cutting volume between songs or my guitar parts in a song and when switching guitars. I also do volume swells in some songs so I have the taper switch set to the volume curve I like for this effect.

I’ve had the Cry Baby Wah pedal for years. So long I don’t even remember when and where I got it. It’s a classic and I use it in a variety of ways. I’m playing this pedal on our song He Died for Me in a fixed position for my rhythm track and for the solo at the end of the song. It just gives it a real classic rock type sound. I also use it in a very different way on Revelation Song as I’m picking through triads.

The BBE Green Screamer is a Tubescreamer 808 clone. It’s a great overdrive, breaks up nicely on the high end so it suits my playing. It also cleans up well with the volume knob. I use this a lot for songs that I want to have a southern rock type feel like You are So Good to Me by Third Day or that I want to sound somewhat clean but need a little extra sustain like Starry Night by Chris August. I use this live on our version of Coming Home.

The ProCo You Dirty Rat is a great distortion pedal. It gets nasty but doesn’t get too muddy so I like it. The filter knob allows me to get the treble bite that I like. I use this pedal a lot for kicking in the jams on songs like Glorious Day by Casting Crowns or Amazed by Kutless. When I stack the Green Screamer in front of this pedal I get some great sustain.

I love my Marshall pedals. They are really well built, true by-pass, and sound great. I have the Echohead set on analog delay and just have it where it ever so slightly repeats the note, just kind of stretching it out a bit and giving some body to what I’m playing. I use this a lot unless I’m really going for a punchy classic rock sound. I like this pedal a lot but would consider an MXR Carbon Copy if I ran across one for the right price.

My Digidelay is a great pedal because it’s affordable and has a tap tempo function. I have to run it through the Radial Bigshot True By-pass Looper for the tap function to be usable in a live setting but that’s okay because this pedal is noisy so the looper kills two birds with one stone. I like this pedal but would replace it with perhaps a TC Electronics Nova delay or maybe an Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy if I had the money. I have this set to 1-4 sec delay (tapped to the tempo of the song) with about 3 or 4 repeats. I use this on How He Loves by David Crowder and Our God by Chris Tomlin. I also stack both delay pedals for a U2 type sound on songs like Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman or Our God Saves by Paul Baloche.

My Line 6 Tremolo pedal is great because it has a very usable tap tempo function. I use this for an airy type sound while picking through triads on songs like At The Foot Of The Cross by Kathryn Scott or How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin.

The MXR Phase 90 is a classic phase pedal. I keep it at about 9 o’clock so it’s just kind of a smooth and gradual shift while I’m playing. I use this while picking through open chords on songs like Holy And Anointed One. I also use it with the ProCo You Dirty Rat on our version of If We Are The Body by Casting Crowns and with distortion and delay on The Undiscovered by Rock and Roll Worship Circus.

The VestaFire Stereo Chorus is one of those rare pawn shop finds. This pedal is hideous to look at but the chorus sounds it produces are oh so sweet. I use this on our cover of Third Day’s Born Again and with the ProCo You Dirty Rat on Amazed.

Last but not least is my Marshall Reflector Reverb pedal. I keep this on hall reverb. How much I use it depends on the song and the room I’m playing in.

I run everything on a Virtual Sound One Spot except the Digidelay and the Line 6 Tap Tremelo. Each of these has its own power supply to keep the noise down. It took some trial and error to isolate the noisy pedals but it worked. Surprisingly I have been able to keep the noise level way down.

That’s pretty much it. I made the pedal board myself out of poplar, velcro, and black paint. This is my second one because my first turned out to be too small, go figure. I have used other pedals (some borrowed from Ty, the other guitar player in the band) like a Digitech Bad Monkey, Digitech Hot Head, Boss Blues Driver, Dunlop Hi-Gain Volume, Morley Pro Series II Wah, Fender Tuner, and a Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker but didn’t keep them for various reasons. This is my current line-up but it’s subject to change as I’m always combing pawn shops and music stores for good deals. It can get expensive so you just have to shop around. I think the ProCo You Dirty Rat is the only pedal I paid full price for. Some of the others I bought new but got them on sale and most I just found at pawn shops. The best deal I ever got was on a Boss DD-3 and a Boss RC-2 Loop Station, walked out with both for $50 straight up. I gave the DD-3 to my son (who also has my first pedal board) and I use the RC-2 for practicing. Just thought I’d throw that in.

I love worshiping through music and trying to combine classic rock sounds with modern praise and worship music. I’d love to hear from others so feel free to comment or share some of your thoughts, equipment, stories, song samples, and/ or links. One last shameless plug, you can purchase our CD, Life Abundantly, on iTunes just in case you’re interested.

This is going to sound kind of weird but this morning, as I was driving to the office, I was listening to John Mayer and thinking about Elijah, you know, the guy from the Bible who killed all the false prophets (told you this was going to sound weird). Anyway, I thought, “Man, if Elijah would’ve had a guitar he would’ve made a great blues man.” Think of the songs he might have written: Down by the River Cherith; Plenty of Biscuits (But No Gravy to go Around); Mountains High and Valleys Low; Earth, Wind, and Fire; The Sound of Your Voice; Fire in the Sky… Elijah had a lot of experiences that would’ve made some great songs because beauty is born from pain. That’s what makes blues music so good (to me anyway).

We could all probably write some pretty good blues songs couldn’t we? Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, Christians and ministers (like myself) included. We sometimes think it should be different for Christians and especially those who have surrendered to God’s call to ministry, but often it’s not. We often find ourselves having the blues even though we know God is at work in us and around us, kind of like Elijah. Think about it. Elijah was a man who had enough faith and courage to stand alone in front of all of Israel, including the king and all of the false prophets of a false god, and proclaim the word of the one true God, and not only that but slay all 450 of those false prophets. Wow, what a man of God and what a victory for God right? So why does Elijah seem to have the blues after such a great victory? Good question. I can only speculate but maybe he thought that all the people of Israel would change their ways and truly follow God in their hearts. Maybe he thought that the king and queen would repent and commit themselves to serve the one true God. Maybe even after the mighty display of God’s power it just didn’t really feel like a victory to Elijah. Either way, he found himself still in a battle and he was depressed. As the story goes Elijah ran to the mountain of God. This was the same mountain where God spoke to Moses. Elijah evidently just wanted to give up the fight and be alone with God. God did meet with Elijah and He even gave another mighty show of His power, maybe to just remind Elijah of who He was and what He could. God could work in the lives of His people in a mighty way, or He could simply call to them through the voice of one who would stand against the odds and speak the truth. God wasn’t in the mighty wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Instead He chose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice and here’s what He said, “What are you doing here Elijah? Go return on your way” (1 Kings 19:13 and 15).

Funny thing about the blues, when we have them we want to have them. When I’m down, I don’t always want to be cheered up. Sometimes I just need to go through the process and let some things run their course and inevitably God will come to me in the midst of of where I am and he’ll remind me that He’s still God. He’s still in control. His word is true. His Spirit is present with me. He’s still at work. He still has a plan and He still has work for me to do. The Bible says that Elijah got up and went from there.

A victory doesn’t always feel like a victory because we never wanted to fight in the first place. The struggles of life, even the Christian life, and especially in ministry, will bring us down. When you get down look up, look to God, listen for His voice, and get up and go from there. Elijah’s biggest hit could have been The Light at the End of the Tunnel. The Christian life is not without its struggles, but it is always filled with hope.