Friday, January 25, 2008

Beefing up my iTunes playlist

If you're like me you have a bunch of cassette tapes collecting dust in a storage container out in the garage. I have about 300-400 cassettes that I collected up to, oh, about 1993. I never got rid of them, but I never listened to them either. I always told myself that I would transfer them to CD sometime (yeah right). Never happened. So, through 3 moves, from Indiana to Ohio to Idaho those tapes have always accompanied me. Kind of like baseball cards, you know, which is a whole different post.

Anyway, I investigated different options to transfer my cassettes to a digital format: freeware, new sound cards, everything I could think of. I never did find freeware that I was happy with, the new sound cards were too expensive, so over time I just forgot about it. Well, one of my Christmas presents was the Xitel INport Deluxe for PC. This handy little product has taken all of those complicated steps out of the cassette to digital format process. Simply plug one end of an RCA cord into the cassette deck and the other end into the Inport adaptor and plug the adaptor's USB cable into your computer. It's that easy! Now, you do have to transfer in real time, no short cuts there, but the end result is so rewarding. The accompanying software includes a click corrector that allows the user to clean up the files. The LP Ripper allows you to trim tracks, isolate tracks, whatever you need to do to get them ready to import into iTunes or whatever jukebox program you use. The tracks are recorded in wav format, but there's a little free add-on available for download that allows you to convert them to mp3s. I highly recommend it. I'm rediscovering some great music. For instance, in the last few days I've imported:

Dean Hopper: Solo But Never Alone
Mid South Boys: Shoulder to Shoulder (an awesome album)
Take 6: So Much 2 Say
The Talleys: Typical Day
Christ Church Choir: All Praise
Gold City: Portrait
Russ Taff: (self-titled)
Perfect Heart: I Hold a Clear Title
Michael English: Freedom
Wayne Watson: How Time Flies
Heavenbound: We Are Those Children

If you want to get rid of all those extra cassettes and don't want to mess with importing them in, box them up and mail them to:

Keith Waggoner
16702 Ardyce Ave.
Caldwell, ID 83607

I'll give them a good home. I promise.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


This morning I had breakfast with a guy who had this to say about his church:
"I was raised in a strict fundamentalist church who was obsessed with being right. We might have been small, not growing, but that didn't matter 'because we're RIGHT'! As I got older I went through a dark time in my life and got away from church. About two years after my divorce I showed up at church a broken man, nervous. But those people loved me. You know looking at it now it kinda reminds me of the Oakland Raiders: they take people who are on the downside of their career, believe in them, and give them another chance. That's what my church did for me. They loved me and helped me come back to Jesus."
Is that an awesome testimony or what? That's what a church should be about.

By the way, his church is Boise Calvary Chapel. I don't know anything about the church, but I'm impressed. It's not the first time I've heard that from their attendees. I've never met Bob Caldwell, but the fact that his people are willing to lay down their lives for him (in a good way, not a cultist way) speaks volumes about his ministry.

Reminds me of the line from the JD Sumner & the Stamps song: "What kind of church would my church be if every member was just like me?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soapbox Rant

OK, I admit it: I'm a music freak. No, not because I sing in a group, not because I graduated with a degree in music, nothing like that. I just enjoy music. It's one of the pleasures God has blessed us with and I revel in it. You know, I'm thankful ol' Jubal got things rolling back in the day. Music has evolved from that time to now, taking on new forms, sounds, and meaning. In one of my recent posts I shared how I was discovering great music that I never knew existed. I now have 15,090 songs loaded on iTunes. I like to hit shuffle and wait to see what comes up on the playlist. To give you an idea, here's what I've heard in the last 45 minutes or so:

The Lefevres: Without Him (Southern Gospel)
Boston Pops Orchestra: Long Live the King (a Tribute to Elvis)
Phillips, Craig, and Dean: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas)
The Hoppers: Old Time Religion (Southern Gospel)
Squire Parsons: You're Not Alone (Southern Gospel)
Michael W. Smith: Agnus Dei (Praise and Worship)
Erich Kunzel & the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra: Live and Let Die (Movie Score)
BackTraxx: Passage (background music)
Avalon: The Christmas Song (Christmas)
Vineyard Music: I Believe in Jesus (Praise and Worship)
Ray Stevens: In the Mood (chickens crowing this jazz standard)
Out of Eden: Paradise (Christian R&B)
Jonathan Heath & Paul Stetler: Ring the Bells of Heaven (sacred instrumental)
Kathy Troccoli: Sounds of Heaven (CCM)
Geoff Moore and the Distance: Home Run (CCM)
Alan Jackson: Silent Night (Christmas)
Peter Duchin: Day by Day (easy listening instrumental)
Michelle Swift & the Maranatha Singers: You're Worthy of My Praise (Praise and Worship)
The Rambos: He Looked Beyond My Fault (Southern Gospel)
Fletch Wiley: For the Beauty of the Earth (Jazz instrumental)
Steve Taylor: I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good (satirical take on extremists who blow up abortion clinics; Christian Rock)
Ernie Haase: Redemption Draweth Nigh (Southern Gospel; from a Gaither taping)

Looking over the list, I enjoyed them all. Well, I don't know, that whole chicken clucking thing on In the Mood did get a little old. Obviously, there were some songs I enjoyed more than others for some reason or another, but I did like them all. I feel the same way about church music.

I've been in about every type and stripe of church that you can imagine in the last 2 years. Everything from Presbyterian to Charismatic, Nazarene to Southern Baptist. One thing that all churches seem to share is an intolerance for each other's music styles. I'm talking about within the church, not Nazarene vs. Baptist. Some of the most awkward moments I've been part of have involved this stupid debate. Yep, that's right: stupid. While talking to the music pastor or senior pastor, I've often been interrupted by some agenda-driven individual who will blurt, "I'm glad we're finally getting some real music in this church" or some inane comment like that. On the other hand, we've been to churches where it was all the praise team could do to talk to us, with us singing that inferior, irrelevant music and all. They tried their best to tout their musical grandiosity and make us feel inferior. Whatever. Both sides are wrong.

Some try to make it an issue of old vs. young. So, they divide up the church and go to 3 styles of services: traditional, contemporary, and modern. I have no problem when a church hosts several services because they have to, but when you do it because we can't agree on the songs we're singing, something is wrong. I have a good friend who hates new "7-11" music (that's the sneering reference used by traditionalists for praise and worship music). I led the music at his church and it just so happened led a couple of Gospel songs that he liked (one of them was Blessed Assurance). After the service, he grabbed my hand and told me how much he appreciated me leading the "good" songs. He had made a comment to me before, so I asked, "What are the good songs?" His response was "something that's old, says something, and has stood the test of time." My response was "thank God someone had the good sense to start singing Blessed Assurance before it stood the test of time or it wouldn't have."

I've been on both sides of the coin. I know what it's like to get criticized because I'm singing "new" songs. And, I know what it's like to feel pressure to not include hymns in my worship leading. I've also learned that at the end of the day neither groups know what they're talking about. And, the intolerance of both sides is splitting the church. It's done it in more than one instance.

I'm convinced that God directs the sensitive worship leader to the right songs for a service, just like he leads the pastor to the proper passage and theme. As a worship leader, if God calls you to lead 7 new choruses or 4 old hymns, than so be it. Lead what He directs. Don't throw in a token song, you know, one to appease a certain segment of the congregation. And, don't run away from any one style of music. The reality is, good and bad songs have always been written. Their worth isn't determined by when it was written. Judge a song on the merits of it's message, not it's age. Discover the church classics; you'll be enriched. Listen to contemporary compositions; you'll be stirred. If you're not a worship leader, take the same recommendations. Open up your minds. There is no spiritual significance in traditionalism or modernism. Relevance is mostly determined by intentional application.

This morning I was reading in Ephesians 4 about living a life worthy of the calling we have received. Unity isn't some unattainable, pie-in-the-sky concept. It is Christ's goal for His bride. I just touched on music, because it seems to be the hot-button issue that I run into the most. We need to make the effort to be unified in our love, respect, appreciation for each other. We're the church! So, the next time you go to church, intentionally worship. Get past your initial misgivings about whatever. Dwell on the words, learn the melody, and sing a new (or old) song unto the Lord.

And, to think, I didn't put 2 and 2 together until I turned on iTunes while working here at my desk.

Closing Thoughts
By the way, I've found that most of those praise team members and musicians who initially look down their noses at us, are some of the first to come up to us at the end of the concert, sharing how much our ministry touched them. And, they sheepishly admit that they liked the music. They don't say that because we're the best musicians. We're not (well, at least I'm not). They say it because we sing the songs God leads us to sing for that time, that place. And, no, we don't sing the same set every concert (sound of gunshot; another myth falls).

In contemporary churches, guess what our best-selling CDs are? You got it, the Timeless Treasured Hymns series.

Oh yeah, one more: If a person under 40 comes to the product table, guess what CD they invariably buy? Uh-huh, a CD from our Timeless Treasured Hymns series. Hmmmm...

Try this: tell your worship leader how much you appreciate their song service on Sunday. It's not going to kill you, I promise.