What Can You Learn In 5 Minutes from Keith Urban? 

What can you learn in 5 minutes from Keith Urban?

A lot actually. No, I didn’t take notes...on paper but I was really curious to see how this super star would interact with my friends and I. So this whole thing started with an idea: I wanted to meet one of my favorite guitar players. My sister bought me a membership to Keith’s fan club and right after they announced his tour dates they announced a contest in the fan club. AND I WON! This would be the first time I’ve ever had a long shot idea and it worked out.

We arrived in Houston the day of the concert and checked into the hotel. We decided to go for a quick swim before dinner...on the way to the pool Parker (my son) got a nose bleed (that ultimately ended the swimming early) and I got stung by a bee. Off to a great start! We met up with some friends for dinner before the concert and though the skies appeared clear something similar to a hurricane came through. A huge down pour that knocked out the power in areas of Houston...luckily it only delayed sound check for the concert and the show went on.

We met Keith before the concert and he was really nice. Hugged the ladies, shook the guys hands, got a group photo and then knelt down and talked to my son and asked if he could take a picture just with him. Parker obliged and I’m glad he will have this picture to look back on as he grows up. I then pulled out a guitar pedal from my pocket that he uses on his pedal board and told him I understood he couldn’t autograph the pedal (they told us before hand he couldn’t do autographs) but maybe we could take a picture. He quickly grabbed a sharpie and signed the pedal...then we took a picture of with it, he was amused. I also got a chance to tell him that I look up to him as a songwriter and that he had influenced me and my writing and I offered him a copy of my CD which he graciously took and then clarified which track was written using an approach I had heard him talk about in an interview. We said our goodbyes and made our way out. His crew had made custom t-shirts for us listing off all of us who had come as part of the contest...it was awesome and totally unexpected. Then there’s the show...

Dustin Lynch opened and was awesome, Little Big Town was so impressive, the harmonies are just as good live as on the CD and between DL and LBT the crowd was warmed up and ready for KU. Keith casually walked on stage, waived, and started playing...and playing...and playing. For 2 hours he rocked the house with his band. He never lost steam, his vocals were great and his interaction with the audience was great. He signed and gave away a guitar at the end of one song. He and his drummer and bass player played a set at the back of the pavilion halfway through the show so everyone truly had great seats! Now I have no idea if he plays 2 hour sets all the time, the video screen got soaked in Austin the night before and it had not dried out by concert time so I think he played a little extra. By the time the show was over and we were walking out I looked back to see that he was still standing at the front of the stage shaking hands and signing autographs. After two hours of working his rear off he was still standing and giving time to people. Obviously I have a high opinion of him but I think he’s earned it.

As though that wasn’t enough, the night got even awesomer. Former Dallas resident Chris LaCorte was playing guitar for Dustin Lynch. He came out after Little Big Town’s set and stuck around for the first half of Keith Urban’s set. I had a play by play of the guitar gear as well as year and model of every axe being played on every song. Once again...even awesomer.

So I left inspired and refreshed that a guy who comes off so down to earth on American Idol and interviews but to see that lived out in the backstage experience and the concert was great!

“Little Richie Mullins” 

That’s what my buddy Jon and I called him to our youth group. We were at a week long youth camp in Colorado and we had gotten word that CCM Artist Rich Mullins would be performing. A little back story: Jon and I grew up going to church together and both play guitar. We would often pull out guitars and jam and we both were excited to see what the concert would hold in store. We were also both idiots (and still are at least sometimes). You know, a youth leaders nightmare, never serious when they wanted us to be and usually making comments off topic during a lesson. Pretty much typical Sr. High Youth! So we coined him “Little Richie Mullins” as if we had known him from when he was little and would always be that “little guy” to us. But really he was a big deal to us.

We saw a rental truck backed up to the gymnasium where our evening events were held and a bunch of guys were unloading gear. We wandered over and one of them mentioned if we wanted to come by during sound check Rich would probably hang out and talk with us. So we cut out of our afternoon class early making some excuse to the teacher about how our Youth Minister needed us to assist him with something, (by the look on the teacher’s face we didn’t sell it well), and went over to the gymnasium to hang out. There was a million instruments on the stage and everyone in the band was a multi-instrumentalist and they were good. We were definitely taking the whole scene in as we sat in the chairs in front of the state. We saw an 8 string guitar and said to each other, I wonder what that is and heard someone say, oh, that’s a mando-cello. We looked and sure enough, Rich Mullins had sat down with us and was chiming in on our convo. We were stunned. I don’t remember much else from our informal conversation but it wasn’t long and he was back on stage for sound check.

Funny how tonight as I came across a video on YouTube of Rich in concert (forgetting the words to “The Love of God”) I was instantly filled with a similar respect and awe for this guy. If you haven’t heard much about Rich Mullins he was a very successful Christian Artist but didn’t live like it. He had a board of directors who received the funds from his record sales, paid him a small salary (I think I heard around 22,000.00) and donated the rest. He lived on a reservation and ministered to the Indian population when he wasn’t on the road. I found myself immediately convicted and asking questions like: “Why don’t I dig deeper in my relationship with God like this guy does?”. “Why do I spend so much time trying to convince myself I’m ok when duh, I’m not.” Honestly, I would much easier accept a gospel that tells me God kinda loves me but is really looking forward to when I’m completely sanctified and more loveable. This is a powerless gospel and completely untrue.

I’m convinced I rob myself of the power of God’s love everyday...at least a little. I spend so much time trying to justify myself and that I’m doing better than yesterday or that I know I need to do things I specifically feel led to do and will, when I have time, later. In a moment of brutal honesty I must call this what it is...deception. (Personal confession) I have allowed myself to become so numb to daily life and the grind that most of the time I’m in survival mode and my life has become a list of tasks I need to accomplish today to get to tomorrow to accomplish those tasks. Wow. This is not what we’re called to. We’re called to a passionate relationship with the One who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. We’re called to rest in a grace and love so much greater than anything we’ve known and if we can muster up a mustard seeds worth of faith in this it could move a mountain. When Rich would talk at his concerts you’d often see his eyes start watering, something just welled up in him as he would talk about Jesus. The love of God just overwhelmed this guy. When is the last time I was overwhelmed?

If you’ve come out to one of my shows before you’ve probably heard me talk about my return to writing songs and how I set out to not write Christian songs because I felt like that was just my default (I’m sure God got a good chuckle). As it turned out the first song I wrote was a song called Sustainer and it talks about how God has been with me through all the good and bad. I guess I was being ridiculous looking back. Songwriters are transparent, there’s no way God would not come through in any song I write. So this is what I will say: 1. I will be reevaluating the way I have been living my life and as convicted I will boldly make changes. 2. I will begin pursuing God with more dedication than I’ve ever had before. 3. I will take every opportunity I am given to share my testimony and the songs God has given me.

May God stir us all to grow deeper in relationship with Him and seek to better understand his immeasurable love for us.



The Sunday Morning Gathering 

Have you given up the gathering? Or in simple English, have you quit going to church? I'm not a pastor on staff, I don't have a "dog in the fight" if you will. But have you left corporate worship? If so why? Disheartened? Broken? Hurt? The main reason I ask is because there was a time not long ago where I was done with church.
For a while I couldn't admit it to myself and if you know much about me you understand why. I grew up in church. Church was my favorite place to be. The community was awesome, our church music was great and God was moving in a big way and it was obvious to me, even as a kid (thought I probably wouldn’t have said it just like this).
So what happened you ask? In retrospect I can clearly see the point where the understanding I had of God and how He and I interacted didn't add up anymore. That's a painful state of being. It occurred not because God failed me, but rather God didn't live up to my expectations. My child-like faith served me well and was also the crux of this crisis. So how can this be?

I had a true golden age in my life, it lasted about 20 years. Life was easy to explain and I could clearly see God’s blessing in my life. But then things happened in my personal and family life. There were certain expectations I had for how the church might respond to me when I brought these hurts to them and guess what, they didn’t meet those expectations. I’ll just say some were reasonable expectations, and some (looking back) were not. The fact is, looking for someone who hasn’t been hurt in church life is like trying to find a sibling who’s never had their toy taken by their brother or sister (not likely). “Ok Matt, so you are saying you aren’t bitter, what’s all this about?”
It’s about God and the way He moves when a group of people worship Him together. It’s about standing with 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000, or 10,000 other people who sing with mended hearts or hearts on the mend, confessing and proclaiming that He is good and His love endures forever. That there is no God like our God. If you’ve ever sensed the Spirit of God move in a time of corporate worship then you know what I’m talking about and you know I could never put it into words on a website. I write to encourage you, if you’ve sensed the Spirit of God move in corporate worship in the past, but haven’t recently, seek it. If you’re not attending somewhere, start looking for a church home. If you are thinking: “Well I’ve been hurt by church and don’t care to return.” Don’t go to that church, but don’t give up on God and worshiping with fellow believers just because one church made mistakes and didn’t respond the way you would have liked or the way they should have (pleading more than preaching here).
Once again, I’m not on staff at a church, and I’ve been wounded by church people. I’m grateful to say I’ve been able to work through my hurts and am grateful to worship with fellow believers and witness God moving in corporate worship. In Hebrews we’re reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us and then we’re encouraged with these words in Chapter 10:24-25

“24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

May we celebrate each opportunity we have to worship Him together and give thanks to God for who He is, what He’s done, and that His mercies are new every morning. If you need prayer on finding a church home please feel free to Email, Facebook or Tweet me and I’ll be happy to pray for you and encourage you.



Psalm 51:12 

I'm somewhat familiar with Psalm 51. It has been adapted and used as lyrics in the song "Create In Me A Clean Heart". Since I've lead worship corporately for almost a decade (scary to think!) I know the song well and have led it many times. I recently encountered a place of great discouragement that left me questioning what am I to do and what will it take to get over this. Psalm 51:12 says: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." I read that verse and it stopped me in my tracks. I immediately went to the footnotes thinking, "What is this grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."? Footnotes don't address it. I pull up my Bible software that also doesn't have any notes on it...so I'm left...to...reflect and ask God for wisdom. Psalm 51 is no doubt a plea for help, asking not to be cast from the presence of God, asking God for a pure heart; but how does a willing spirit sustain me? Later in the text it mentions that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. So, I must assume that a willing spirit might be one that is in fact broken. It is one that flexes and bends to the will of God and His plans for each of us. Could it be that when we are inflexible to what God's doing in our lives that we are not sustained? Could it be that in those times we are in fact taking things into our own hands and exhausting ourselves and are left empty and defeated? Bitter and confused? Lost and abandoned?

I'm a pretty motivated person which my wife might say is an understatement at times. She notices I get in these moods where I won't shut down or stop working and she will say "Oh, I think I've lost you for the night." "You're not going to stop are you?" What she means is I'm overworking (did I mention I can be unbalanced?). Sometimes I'm unwilling to sit down and relax. And sometimes I get ahead of what God's doing. Or maybe I lose the joy of His salvation because my Spirit is not willing to hear what He's saying to me, or do what He's called me to do, or let go when I need to let go. Some of us need God to "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." If you are feeling "unsustained", perhaps it's time to stop, submit, and present God a sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart to whatever His will is so You may be sustained and joy may be restored.


A Year In Review 

I can’t believe that we are nearing the end of 2012! I also can’t believe all that has happened in the past year. Here are my highlights:
January begins with conversations of the EP. I talked with Chris Clayton and we both agreed we would enjoy working together. I got a quote on what it would take to have him produce my first EP.

In February we shot a video explaining the “The MC Project” (my wife’s came up with the name of the cd, I really liked it). Seth Thorpe did a great job on the video. I also got to share the stage at The Door with Cameron Ernst, D.O.R.A., Caleb and Jillian Edwards. It was a really great night of music and I was blessed to be a part of it.
March was our first venture out of state to share my music. The band and I hauled up to Oakwood Christian Church and led worship on a Sunday morning and then played a concert that night. The music that evening was well received and the whole weekend was a blast (though the round trip was done in about 30 hours!)
We started putting shape to the Kickstarter project in April selecting the different rewards and Seth started sharing edited versions of the video.

In May we launched the Kickstarter project. In 30 days we raised 5,600 dollars to fund “The MC Project”!

June was spent emailing various songs to Chris Clayton. I knew we’d set out to complete a 5 song project, I sent him 14-15 songs I had written and he gave me feedback on his favorite 5. Our lists compared well. Nicole suggested that Chris and I try a cowrite for the project. That went well and we dropped one of the songs and added our co-written song (we didn’t finish the words till the day of pre-production!) June also marked the beginning of my vocal sessions with Christine Dente. I wanted someone with lots of studio experience to give me feed back on my vocals and Christine did an awesome job!

Tracking began in July. We started with preproduction on a Friday and tracked drums and bass that next Monday. We tracked most of the guitar parts in August and by the end of September the keyboard and programing had been completed and it was time for vocals.

In October we tracked all of the vocals and Chris mixed the CD. By the end of the month we had it off to mastering and then to duplication in November. Now we’re in December and my updated website is about to post this week!

So I had no idea how busy of a year it would be or how much work it would take to accomplish the goals I had set, mainly, put out the EP. In addition to everything that has gone on with my music Nicole and I moved, received our license to foster/adopt and got our first placement, a two year old girl who is awesome.

Thanks for taking time to read the year in review and thanks for your support. I’m looking forward to all that’s in store in 2013!