Monday, July 26, 2010

Man in the Middle, Mom on the Sidelines

It is July 24th and I've been looking forward to this moment since the blizzard back in February. I've just sung two of my favorite songs, played bass like a man, and my husband, two microphones away, is about to sing a big crowd pleaser, "The Man in the Middle." The band is hot (I'm so lucky to be playing with these guys), the summer breeze is cool, the sound crew is skilled, the folks at Morgan Arts Council are wonderful. This is a terrific day and a terrific moment to be here and now.

And then in a flash of chance and gravity, things go horribly wrong.

I look up from the stage and see my son, Jim Dill, in horrible pain, and bleeding profusely from a gash in his shin.

A million thoughts and impulses fly through my head like a freight train. My heart leaps out of my chest, across the canal, and into the gaping wound. How did things go so bad so fast?

OK, let's go back in time.

It's February 2010. I'm snowed-in in what will be known as the Snowpocalypse. The phone rings and it's Gordon Macleod from the Morgan Arts Council. He says they want the Dill Pickers to play in their summer concert series. My friend Lynn Greer has helped us get this gig by hand carrying our press kit and I'm so happy for her support. Now, they say they like our sound and we discuss the business end (I'm terrible at this) and schedules and money and such. I grab my laptop and email the other pickers, who are as excited as I am. This is gonna be a great summer.

Fast forward a month or two and add the much prayed for springtime thaw. I'm cyber-chatting with my good buddy Ron Furgerson. Ron has been a Dill Picker supporter from the beginning and has even used our music in some of his youTube videos. Ron would really really really like to have a video of us performing "The Man in the Middle." I would, too, and I think that maybe this summer's gig in Berkeley Springs will be a great time to film it.

And that's how it happened.

At the gig, Jim was hired to be videographer and photographer. He was using my camera to take some stills and some video. I had asked him to be sure to get "The Man in the Middle" on video. Jim was not expecting to have to be filming so early in the set and was nowhere close to the stage when I asked him publicly and into the mic to start the video. Jim's a good photographer and he takes his job seriously so he rushed back to the stage to catch the song from the beginning. And he almost got it, too.

But on the way, he had to cross the stone waterway. One leg makes it, the other leg slams shin first into the edge of the stone retaining wall. *Expletive*

And we got the aftermath on video, because even badly hurt, Jim does what he says he will do. So as the camera runs, you can hear Jim react to the fall, the blood, the wound, and the feeling that his leg may be broken. The video is very hard to watch. For the first 10 seconds, Jim is breathing heavily and groaning in pain. And yet, somehow he continues to hold the camera and continue with the video. At 0:55, he says calmly "That was a mistake." At 1:38, someone off camera comes to help and offers to bring some ice. At 2:14, the folks getting ice alert the wonderful Dr. Matt. Yes, there's a doctor in the house. Hallelujah. The ice arrives at 2:24 and Jim asks for medical attention, initially asking for an ambulance, but getting a better solution with Dr. Matt just a few feet away. Dr. Matt and my friend Kathryn Rack arrive at 3:00, one to check out the situation and then retrieve his black bag, and the other to check out the situation and offer help with the video camera. At 3:30, Jim utters the understatement "I tried to jump the gap."

From 3:30 on, the video looks normal. Kat frames the band, even getting happy footage of the dancing girl on the front row.

Looks normal from the outside, but I know what's happening on the inside. My child is in terrible pain, maybe even terrible danger, and my heart is breaking with worry and guilt. But on the tape, I look fine, sing fine, play fine. You can't tell what's going on inside me. I suppose that's a good thing.

At 4:40, before the song is over, I turn to Frank and ask him to talk for 30 seconds so I can run off stage and check it out. I drop my bass and scurry off to see about Jim. By that time, Dr. Matt is in motion, Jim has shown that he can walk on the leg, and I'm a little bit calmer. Frank is wonderful, chatting happily with the crowd about anything and everything. I'm back on stage a few seconds after that and the show must go on.

Now that it's over, a few words of heart-felt thanks.

Now that it's over and the gig still went well, now that we know that Jim's leg is not broken and he didn't need stitches or an ambulance ride or a tetanus shot, now that we got that Berkeley Springs crowd to dance a little in the 99 degree heat, now is the time for me to express my gratitude to the folks who were so fabulous.

Thanks to my fellow band members, Keith Dill and Jamie Leonard, and especially to Frank Nanna, for holding it together and covering for me while I freaked out inside. I definitely lost my mojo that day and these guys made it all fine with their amazing musical skills and supportive attitudes. Frank's banter while I ran off stage is just another example of what a great entertainer and improvisor he is. I am so lucky to be playing with you all.

Thanks to my friend Kat Rack, who was wearing a MOMS ROCK piece of flair, for stepping in to quietly fill in the mama role. You rock, indeed my friend. I don't think you had to do much, but seeing you there and knowing that you had your eye and your love on things is so greatly appreciated.

Thanks to the Morgan Arts Council for their support, in particular to Dr. Matt Hahn for answering "yes" to "Is there a doctor in the house?"

And thanks to all the kind folks who came out to the gig. We had so much fun and you guys make our work all play. You rock our worlds and we love you like nothing else. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hope to see you again, maybe next year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flying in a BGV Formation - I love harmony vocals!

This blog post is for all of you who love singing backup vocal, which we in the biz call BGV for BackGround Vocals.

I love singing with you guys. We fit together in a tightly controlled and yet totally organic formation, like a flock of geese flying in a V. Our lead vocalist goes up, we go up. Our lead vocalist goes down, we go down. Our lead vocalist crescendos (that's fancy music talk for getting louder), we crescendo. Our lead vocalist decrescendos, we back off slightly, too, staying just a hair behind so that the lead is still out in front, in the point position of the V formation. It's magic and yet it's reproducible, both an art and a science.

So let's teach the others how to fly along with us. Feel free to add comments if I miss anything. I'd love to grow our numbers because well-sung harmonies are so rare and so wonderful.

Flying in your zone, it's like soccer or basketball

So if you don't like the flying geese analogy, let's look at the zone analogy.

In soccer and basketball, each player has a zone. You get in your zone and you stay in your zone. If you go into another player's zone two bad things happen: nobody is now in your zone (say, right forward) and your team now has 2 players in another zone.

In singing harmony, finding and staying in your zone is also important. For example, if your job is to sing just a little higher than the melody or lead (we call this position the "tenor" position) then you should find your position and stay there. Don't venture lower, either into the melody/lead position or farther down into the "baritone" position. Don't venture higher, up into the "high baritone" position a full 5th above the melody. There are already players in those positions, so you'll color that position too darkly and worse, nobody is singing tenor now.

Find your zone. Embrace your zone. We need you there. We sound full and warm with all of us in our zones.

Flying slightly behind the leader

This concept is easy to explain. We need the melody to be prominent, easy to pick out and recognize. So we BGVs stay just a little behind, both in volume and in timing.

As far as volume goes, much of this is up to our sound techs. Pray for them, that God will guide their fingers and open their ears. I mean, we gotta all hear each other or this thing doesn't work. So we all need to be strong in the monitors, if we're going electric. And never underestimate the power of a good compressor to balance and shape the vocals. If we're going acoustic, we need to stand close together, so everyone is within earshot, even if the banjo is banjo-loud.

Now timing is an art, almost a psychic connection. We all need to make our attacks (fancy musical term that means how we start the note) and decays in formation. Us BGVs need to be just a nanosecond behind the lead on the attack, and just a smidgen ahead in the decay. This way, the melody/lead is the first and last thing heard in the vocal blend. This letting go of the note in submission to the leader's lead is hard for us diva types. We love to embrace that note and hold it for all it's worth. Resist this impulse, it's of the devil.

Flying with the leader

Here's the last little instruction: follow the leader. If the leader goes up a small interval (fancy musical term for the number of pitches between notes in a passage), then we go up a small interval, staying within the chord and holding our positions. If the leader goes up a large interval, then we also go up a large interval, not a small one, not holding the same note we just embraced.

When the leader makes a big leap, you need to make a big leap, too. If you don't make an equally big leap, you'll be doubling somebody else's part, either your other BGV team mate, or the melody, making that part too dark and leaving a big hole where your part should be in the blend. So make that leap. Whee, it's musical bungee fun!

Now, let me take just a moment to rant about counter-melody. Don't do it. Don't even think about it. Counter-melody is similar to harmony because it's something that fits in the chord and is not the melody. But it's not harmony. Counter-melody draws attention to itself. It says "Hey, I'm singing over here. Look at me!" and draws attention away from the melody, messing up the nice warm blend of a tightly flying harmony. If you want to sing out front, sing the melody role for goodness sake. Then you can be the goose out front for all the world to see and admire. I hope I've made my point. Counter-melody, like refusing to decay in time, is of the devil.

Harmony Evangelism

So there you have it. My small bit of musical evangelism. Singing harmony is for anybody who can sing. It's simple but it's not easy. But you can do it. I believe in you.

Please join us. We'd love to sing with you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tribute to My Parents - Part Four - Mom the Great Audience

Mom, the Great Audience

Today's post is the fourth in a four part tribute. To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

After dinner, the girls would spend time together in the kitchen. Dad was not expected to do kitchen work at that time. Mom could have escaped with him, and left the clean up to Debby and me. But she didn’t.

Mom stayed with us, in the kitchen, listening to our songs, laughing at our jokes, being a great audience. These endless hours were another way of telling us “I care what you think. I’m interested in the things that interest you.”

Frequently, our stories recounted funny things that had happened in our family:
  • The time that dad couldn’t ask for directions to the Botanical Gardens in Arizona because his Roanoke lips couldn’t say “Botanical.”
  • Our brother Eddie’s first joke about farts that went “Batman offered to Flatman and said ‘Pew.’”
  • Eddie’s emotional trip to the Hallmark store during one of dad’s many business trip seasons when his little heart cried for the “sad bug.”
  • Our own inability to stop giggling during a serious family dinner, especially if that dinner was preceded by an extended blessing prayer. We frequently had to eat dinner with our napkins covering our faces, so that we didn’t catch eyes again and burst into renewed laughter.
  • The grinch-like comments of an overnight baby-sitting shrew, “You girls still wear bibs?”

Mom was our co-conspirator, our confidant, our encourager, our audience. She taught us songs like “She has freckles on her BUTT she is pretty” and helped us pen the famous “Tongue is on the Floor” ballad which we wrote during an especially lengthy car ride to Watoga State Park in West Virginia.

The song lyrics go something like this:
Drivin’ down the highway
Doin’ 94
I looked at my mother,
She was hanging out the door.
I said “Oh, mother dear
Why don’t you come back here?”
She said “I cannot daughter
‘Cause my tongue is on the floor.”

Oh, her tongue is on the floor
Her tongue is on the floor
She cannot come back here because
Her tongue is on the floor

Well, maybe you had to have been there. It was really funny.

Mom’s life spoke many important messages. Messages that life is to be enjoyed, family times are good times, loving means sharing, laughing together makes us strong. These were lessons that shape my view of life.

Tribute to My Parents - Epilogue - Looking Back

Looking Back

As I write this, I look back on the family of my childhood. Our numbers have grown from the original five members to eight, not counting pets. I have lost a dad, I have gained sisters-in-law, I have substituted one husband for another, I have been blessed with a son. And yet, so much remains the same. The lessons taught us by mom and dad about God, about ourselves, about love and about life will live on. They will live on in the hearts of those remaining and in the lives of people we touch.

Thank you, Mom and Dad for caring enough to carry the message. I love you very much.

Today's post is the epilogue to a four part tribute.
To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tribute to My Parents - Part Three - Mom the Tolerant

Mom, the Tolerant

Today's post is the third in a four part tribute. I will be posting the other parts in the coming days.To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

In order to have an understanding of mom, at least the tolerant mom that I remember, you must first get an understanding of exactly how much there was to tolerate. You have to understand dad to understand mom.

Dad, ever the engineer, had a desire to do things bigger and stronger. This works great if you’re planning to build a wall or hang Christmas lights. This can create problems if you’re trying to plant a vegetable garden.

Dad’s garden plots got larger and larger every year. The idea was to till a larger area but plant the same amount of seedlings, so that the rows would be better spaced, more widely spaced, and easier to work.

But that big plot of freshly tilled earth was too much for my dad’s engineering brain to resist. After all that talk about not overplanting, my dad could not resist the temptation to plant more, more, more stuff in the garden.

Not only was the garden itself larger and more densely planted every year, but the vegetables themselves got larger and larger. Most of his vegetables looked like they had be grown near Three Mile Island.

The zucchini were as large as those self-lighting logs you can buy at Christmas. The yellow squash were the size of trumpets. The tomatoes busted their own skins and became food for the birds and deer.

Dad would bring the big produce into the kitchen, like the great buffalo hunter, presenting the prize tatonka to his squaw for skinning. Mom would smile, cook it for hours, and serve it to us with a proud statement about how the meal came fresh from dad’s garden.

During this whole time, mom offered very little criticism about the situation. If asked, mom would say that she wished that our father had picked the zucchini earlier, or that she wished that he had planted less densely. But she’d only say it once. She didn’t pretend, but she didn’t nag either.

Somehow mom was able to keep a balance between saying too much and not saying enough. She was the perfect example of saying what you mean, meaning what you say, but realizing that unity is more important than the size of the produce or the taste of the meal.

She was wise enough to know the difference between those things that must be accepted because they could not be changed and those things that were worth fighting for. Her words and deeds were completely in line with each other: she displayed integrity.

Without saying a word, she taught me that people are more important than things, that loving means putting up with something less (or in this case, more) than perfection. These were lessons that shaped my view of family and marriage.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tribute to My Parents - Part Two - Dad the Man of Vision

Dad, the Man of Vision

Today's post is the second in a four part tribute. I will be posting the other parts in the coming days. To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

Dad had a way of talking about the future. He had a way of spending time with you, making you feel that you were the most important part of the world at that very moment. His actions and his manner communicated that you had great value. He saw not only your present usefulness, but your future value as well.

I remember dad as always having a bunch of projects going. He liked to build big structures, using stones, brick and concrete. We moved a lot. With every new house, dad saw a fresh opportunity to make a permanent structure. He built stone walls to hold back hills. He built brick walls to define flower beds. We always had the best sand pile in the neighborhood. Sometimes dad’s mortar hardened with plastic dinosaur heads sticking out of the walls.

Once, when he was finishing a wrought iron fence on top of one of his famous walls, dad let me hang around and help him with his work. He told me I had an important job to do. He gave me a small clean paint brush. He gave me an old coffee can filled with clear turpentine and told me it was primer. I had no idea what primer was but dad said the word with a very serious face. He gave me clear instructions to use the brush and “primer” to make the fence ready for the next coat of paint. This was an important job, I could tell just by the look in dad’s eyes. That look said that I was up to the job.

I felt like a skilled craftsman as I concentrated on my solemn duty. My dad trusts me. I can do this. I have value. Somewhere inside me, a sleeping artist/engineer began to awaken. Dad had set the alarm clock.

Dad had a way of talking about the future as though good things were already happening. “If” was not in his vocabulary. Dad always said “when.”

It seemed like at least once a year, we would visit dad’s Alma Mater, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, VPI it was called back then. Dad would walk around the grounds of the school, pointing out the academic buildings, saying “Viqui, here’s McBryde Hall, where you’ll take Math.” As we pass the quads, dad would point to the dormitory buildings, whispering “That’s Eggleston. It was a men’s dorm when I slept there but now it’s a women’s dorm where you’ll sleep.”

Again, I found myself believing, sharing the vision. I can do this. I’m already here. These were lessons that shaped my view of myself.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tribute to My Parents - Part One - Dad the Superhero

Dad, the Superhero

Today's post is the first in a four part tribute. I will be posting the other parts in the coming days. To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

I don’t know who it was that put a chain drive mechanism on a tricycle, but the Patterson family, our neighbors on Longridge Road in Charleston, West Virginia, bought the trike and gave it to their girls to ride. That chain drive enabled the rider to develop unbelievable speed; the rider who could not balance well enough to ride even a bike with training wheels was wheeling up and down the street at high speed on a tricycle. It seemed to me that trike could go faster than a car on that West Virginia road.

The roads in West Virginia are many things. But no one would describe them as flat, straight, side-walked or wide-shouldered. In short, these were not good roads for kids on wheels. But there we were: my sister, Debby, and I, skating, running, and tricycling up and down the street. Fortunately, these were the days before working moms and two-car families. So we small-wheelers had the roads to ourselves most of the time.

One Saturday afternoon, Janie Patterson let me ride her chain driven tricycle. Janie was not frequently given to sharing, so I felt supremely honored.

I don’t remember much of the beginning or middle of the ride, but I remember vividly the end. I rode that trike off the road with no shoulder, off the road that was not flat, off the road and over the side and tumbled into the woods. I lay there, face in the dark dirt. Wondering what would happen next.

I did not have to wonder for long. Within the time it took me to realize what had happened and scream my well-practiced, little girl scream, my dad appeared from nowhere. He scooped me up in his arms and carried me back home, where mom worked her boo-boo magic.

There must have been other events like this one that I’ve long since forgotten, events that taught me that people are good, adults can be trusted, loving means caring. These were lessons that shaped my view of the Father God.

I’ll never know how he knew so well where I was, what I was doing, or how much I needed his rescue. I’ll forever believe that he was a super hero. Coming out of nowhere, at just the right time, just when I needed him most.

Tribute to My Parents - Prologue - To My Mother and Father

To my mother and father

Lately I have been wishing that I could remember more about both of you. Memories that used to be so fresh and reliable seem to be slipping away. And I am left with only sketchy recollections, diluted by time. The purpose of this tribute is to record some of my best childhood memories, before these recollections become too pale.

I think about the values that you taught me. You were skilled teachers, using the best teaching methods possible. I think about the lessons you passed on just by being yourselves, leading the lives you had been given.

I like to take these memories out and try to revisit them without the burden of teenage rebellion, peer pressure and hormones.

I remember mom, with her encouragement and humor.
I remember dad, the visionary, the hero.

Today's post is the prologue to a four part tribute. I will be posting the other parts in the coming days.
To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

Happy Fathers Day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hey! Who Turned off the Water? - The Worship/Shower Analogy

Here's me and my hair leading worship at Chris and Heather's home.
A great worship experience is like a great shower and shampoo. When it's going great, you can just stand there and let the whole thing wash over and envelop you. Ahhh, that wonderful washed clean feeling. Surrender to it.

There are a couple of things that can cause this awesome experience to fail. These are what I'll call my "pet peeves" of worship, which I'm going to rant about in today's post.

This post is #3 in a series about worship. Also see my previous, kinder, gentler posts, 4 Musical Languages of Worship and I Kiss with my Eyes Closed.

So for a minute, imagine yourself in the shower, getting ready to wash your hair. You're looking forward to it. You have everything you need in easy reach. Shampoo, creme rinse, soap, towel, hot and cold water controls. The water temperature is perfect. The water pressure is just right, not too hard, and not too soft. Everything is perfect. Grab the shampoo, palm it for a second, then massage it into the top of your head. That fantastic smell is all around you, that wonderful immersion into the bubbles and the water is deep within you. Let's let it happen.

Ok, so now for a minute, imagine yourself in the best worship situation possible. The lights are dim but you can still see. The music is perfectly balanced and seems to come from all around. Feel the bass and kick drum gently rock your rib cage. You know the song by heart, the words and tune, you're ready to start belting out your heart to your awesome God who loves you so very very much. Open up your heart, take a deep breath, sing the words of your joy and pain into the ear of the God who gave Himself for you. It's bliss. Let's let it happen.

Now, we get to the pet peeve part. The song winds down and the sound stops. The worship leader is talking about the next song. The moment that was, is no more. We've moved on to the next song, but we're not quite there yet. Waiting in between as the worship leader breaks the mood by pausing the worship and talking.

This is one of my pet peeves. It's like somebody turned off your water in mid-shampoo. What the heck? Who would do such a thing? What could possibly be so important that we have to stop the worship experience just because we're moving from one song to another? Do I need to be told that this next song is new? Do I need to be told what the song is about? Do I need to hear anything other than the conversation I'm already having with God?

Nope, nope, nope. I don't want any of that. What I want is that worship experience turned back on as soon as possible. I want that wonderful water washing over me again, renewing and cleaning me inside and out. That’s what I want and I’m not getting it. My worship is interrupted. It’s going to take me a couple verses of the next song before I can get back in the zone again.

Now that it's been said, let me let go of the rant. Let me find forgiveness for the worship leader who's just trying to do his job. Let me return to thoughts of that wonderful worship experience I crave like no other. Let me stop ranting and start to beg.

Please, Mr. Worship Leader, I know your heart is in the right place. I know you love the Lord as much as I do and all you want is to lead others into His throne room. But please, sir, once the worship starts happening, just get out of the way and let it happen. Embrace the medley. Embrace the parade of same-sounding familiar, even trite and mindless songs. We love those songs like we love that same shampoo we've bought and used since junior high school. Embrace that familiar warm cocoon of worship that seems to go on forever. Let us lather, rinse and repeat again and again. Let us stand in that warm water long after the last of the creme rinse has gone down the drain. Let us dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

That wonderful washed clean feeling. Surrender to it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Kiss with my Eyes Closed

I kiss with my eyes closed. I also take a shower with my eyes closed and I worship that way, too.

This post is #2 in a series about worship. Also see my previous post, 4 Musical Languages of Worship.

I think worship is a lot like kissing and showering. Worship is an experiential activity and when it's good, I want to put my whole self into it. I close my eyes and I let go, just like kissing and showering. To do that, I need to be into it, I need to feel safe, and I need to know what I'm doing.

Let me explain.

I'm into it.

When I'm into it, I'm connected and engaged. I'm kissing a guy I like, the very one I have a crush on, and to whom I want to say "I love you" in a language without words. Maybe I've been waiting for hours or days for him to kiss me, and now the moment has arrived and I'm so very glad it's finally happening. Nothing feels as good as this moment right here and now. I close my eyes and pretend the world is only me and him. I'm into it.

Or perhaps I'm taking a shower to get myself ready for a wonderful day, a big date, or a special event. Maybe I'm showering away the dirt of a day well spent, sweat I poured out persevering through a tough time. Nothing feels so good as that warm water on my skin. I feel my muscles relax as the stress of my day goes down the drain. I close my eyes and relax. I'm into it.

In worship, there are times when I arrive badly in need of time with God. I'm battled and bruised from the week behind me, I'm fearful about things that might happen in the week ahead. I want to run into God's throne room, crawl up in His lap, bury my face in His shoulder and disappear into Him. I raise my hands in the air saying "Lift me up, I've fallen down." Or maybe I've had such a great week that I can't wait to thank God about it. I want to kneel at His feet and pour out my gratitude to Him. I raise my hands in the air for a big high five with God. This is an intimate moment and my heart aches for quality time with Jesus. Nothing feels as good as this moment of Just me and Him, that's all there is in the world and that's all I need. I'm into it.

I'm safe.

OK, let's get to a confession. I'm afraid of being judged. Judgment is just a precursor to condemnation and I fear it like nothing else. What if I'm not good enough or smart enough? What if other people stare at me or laugh at me? If I'm kissing or showering or worshiping, I want complete freedom to enjoy myself. I want complete privacy, even invisibility. We know how this plays out with kissing and showering. In worship, it might take some explanation.

I want dark.

I want the room to be as dark as possible. In the dark, I think you can't see me and I'm safe in the dark. I have complete privacy in the dark. I can make faces of joy or I can weep quietly and only God will know if I'm here in the dark. I'm free from any embarrassment about how silly I might look. I'm safe here in the dark to worship.

I want loud.

Loud is to being overheard as dark is to being seen. I want the music to be loud for the same reason I want the room to be dark. I don't want you to be able to hear me because I'm afraid you might judge my singing. Think about a rock concert held in an arena. It's so loud, I can't hear my friend screaming right next to me. It's the perfect environment for total all out top of my lungs singing along. It won't matter if I sing the wrong words, the wrong tune, at the wrong time or during a big solo. Nobody hears me but God. And that's just how I want it. I throw my head back and belt out my heart to God. I'm safe here where the music's loud and I can worship with total abandon.

This desire for a really loud worship experience might offend some of my friends who complain when it gets loud in church. I know you want the volume of the music to be close to what it is at your home listening to your stereo. I understand that's a comfortable listening level. But that's the point - you're not supposed to be listening. You're supposed to be worshiping, singing along at the top of your lungs, too. This is a different experience than the experience of listening and the music level has to be different to make it happen. We want to be safe to participate without embarrassment or judgment and that takes really loud music. With loud music, we're safe.

I want lots of other worshipers.

Think "rock concert" for a second. The stadium is packed with lots and lots of us, getting into the music, having an awesome time. The sound and excitement in the air are so thick, you can see them. Nobody is looking around. All the attention is focused elsewhere. In a concert, we are focusing on what's happening on stage: the music, the lights, the performance. In worship, we are reaching for the spirit of God in the room. It's a paradox of worship that the more crowded it is, the more privacy the individual worshipers have. Other folks, in the dark, surrounded by the sounds, raising their hands, raising their voices, closing our eyes, kneeling, dancing, worshiping. It's a picture of heaven.

I know just what to do.

So I'm in my happy place, worshiping with all my heart because I'm totally into it and I'm totally safe. This will go well as long as I know just what to do.

Knowing what to do means I'm familiar with the music. I blogged about that in a previous post, 4 Musical Languages of Worship.

I know the next word coming up without having to open my eyes and read the slide. Maybe it's a familiar song I've sung a hundred times before. This song comes alive in a new way for me right here, right now because I'm truly immersed in it. Even an old song becomes new when I'm offering it up in a new way. Eyes closed, alone with God and enjoying my time in the throne room, pouring out my broken heart to my loving Father, or singing out my thanks for the great things He has done for me. I don't have to think, I don't have to see, I just open up my heart and let Him fill it up.

How about you? Are you like me? Do you kiss and shower and worship with your eyes closed? Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this blog and let me know.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4 Musical Languages of Worship

Hey, it's Viqui Dill again. I haven't blogged in a while and now I have something to say. I want to hear your thoughts about it, too. So please please please leave a comment.

Today I want to talk about the 4 Musical Languages of Worship.

We don't all speak the same language. The language or languages you speak depend on the places you've been, how you grew up, and the languages you heard as a kid.

The same is true for music. Music is language and we don't all speak the same one. The music that moves you, makes it possible for you to worship, will depend on the music of the places you've been, the music you enjoyed in happy times, the music that comforted you in tough times, the musical language of your walk though history.

The quickest way to get somebody in the worship mood is to speak their musical language. The quickest way to disconnect them is to urge them out of their musical comfort zone. So I think it's important to try to speak each person's musical language at some time during the worship experience.

I think there are 4 such languages, and the languages correspond to the group of folks that speak that language. There are four groups: the regulars, the n00bs, the shoppers, and the traditionals. Let me explain.

The regulars
The regulars are the folks who come out to worship regularly. Like Homer having a beer at Moe's Tavern, the regulars want things to be pretty much the same as they were last week. They loved the way things were last week or they wouldn't be coming back week after week. The regulars like to worship to songs that they know, songs from the top 10 or 20 songs on your CCLI play list, the songs you play week after week. The regulars love the hits from past Sundays. The regulars love those contemporary worship songs that you sing regularly. The regulars love what you play already.

The n00bs
The n00bs have never been to your worship, in fact they may not have ever been to any worship of any kind in their adult life, so they won't know much contemporary church music. They'll know and like the music they hear in their regular lives, music that gets airplay, music that gets downloaded, ambient music played at the gym and the grocery store, music from movies, music from tv, music of the street.

The shoppers
The shoppers have a background of regular worship attendance but for some reason, they're not plugged in to your specific community. They are looking for a new place to plug in, with all of the things that they loved about the old place, just none of the things that made them decide to make a change. This group includes college students away from home, kids at a new summer camp, family members visiting relatives from out of town, committed worshipers who are new to the area, as well as folks looking for a change because they just don't like where they've been going. What kind of musical language do the shoppers speak? They like the hits, the songs from the CCLI top 25 for the last year, the songs chosen for compilation CDs and WOW Worship. Like the n00bs, the shoppers listen to some kind of radio station, and like the songs played on the radio, downloads, movies and tv. But this time, the stations, downloads, tv shows and movies are playing Christian music. For the shoppers, we should choose those popular worship songs that worship leaders love to hate. Yes, we've played "Shout to the Lord" a zillion times, and yes, we're tired of it and want to play newer cooler songs, but the older reliable songs are the ones that will touch the heart of worshipers who are not familiar yet with your current favorites.

The traditionals
Traditionals love that old time religion and are still looking for a place to get some. They like those old hymns, and some of the new hymns too. The more traditional the hymn, the more comfortable the traditional worshiper will be. n00bs might like traditional hymns, too if they had an older relative that loved them very much and brought them to church. I have seen small group worship experiences dissolve into happy tears whenever I'd play a traditional hymn. Afterward, folks would come up and tell me "That was my grandmother's favorite hymn. She used to let me sit on her lap when we visited her church. I cried just thinking about her."

So, there are the four groups of people with their preferred musical languages, the songs they prefer to hear in a worship experience:
  • regulars like what you already play
  • n00bs like what's popular on secular radio, on tv, or downloaded
  • shoppers like the top worship hits, what's popular nationwide
  • traditionals like those old hymns
So why not speak all four languages when you're choosing songs for worship? You'll be helping more folks plug in to the worship service because they'll hear the gospel spoken in their own language at sometime during the service.

Need a scripture reference for this? Try these. God asks us to speak in the language of the listener, not in our preferred language. Check these out.

Acts 2:7-9 (New International Version)

7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

1 Corinthians 14:16-17 (New International Version)

16If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

So let's learn to speak the language of our worshipers. Let's learn some music that may be not our favorite, but will speak love into the world of those who hear it. Let's learn some songs that may be new to us, but will speak comfort and love into the ears of the listener, whether they're regulars, shoppers, n00bs, or even traditionals.