This year I had the privilege of producing a modern gospel record for Vineyard Worship called VINEYARD SOUL: WE ARE READY. This video features Tina Colón Williams, one of my favorite vocalists in the Vineyard movement today. ALL THINGS RISE is a modern hymn written by Sam Yoder from the Vineyard church in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Great song, great vocal.. Love it!
Here’s the album description:
Vineyard Soul is a multi-ethnic community of worshippers seeking to broaden the sound and expression of Vineyard Worship. The culmination of these efforts is WE ARE READY, a 13-song album featuring voices of color representing 20 Vineyard churches. Bursting with rhythmic grooves and vocal arrangements, the album captures the heartbeat and sounds of the growing number of multiethnic churches in the Vineyard movement. Featuring R&B tunes (“Who Can Compare,” “You Have Set Me Free”), worship anthems (“Yahweh”), and artfully reimagined classics (“One Thing Remains,” “More Love More Power,” and “Good Good Father”), WE ARE READY embodies the soulful sound emerging from the heart of the Vineyard. The title track, sung by Dee Wilson, is the cry of a culture declaring with open arms that it will enter worship with its full attention and affection on God, singing “We’re ready / We are ready / We are waiting here for you.”
As I continue on my journey toward long term sustainable health, many people have asked what I have been doing to lose weight. My method is actually pretty simple.
Here is the basic 3 point method I’ve been using:
For me, eating better started with basic calorie counting with a little bit of attention paid to cutting back on carbs. This idea of eating better also brings with it the need to drink an adequate amount of water. A good rule of thumb is to take your current body weight and divide by two. The number you get by dividing by two is the amount of ounces that you should try to drink per day. Moving forward I’m trying to pay more deliberate attention to the specific nutrient levels. Specifically speaking, I’m trying to increase my protein and dietary fiber intake while keeping carbs and saturated fats in check. Those are the basics for me at the moment.
As mentioned in my previous post, How I Lost 50 Pounds In The Last 7 Months, my initial plan was to walk out my front door for fifteen minutes and then walk back. I lost 35 pounds using this simple method. I continue to increase my running intervals keeping on track toward running a 5K in early 2015.
In an effort to start strength training I recently joined a bootcamp program at a local gym called The Bear Pit. Some friends from Vineyard Anaheim have been going for quite awhile and love the program. They mentioned that The Bear Pit was offering a Groupon for 8 weeks for $40. $5 per week… sign me up! The Bear Pit has definitely been a stretch for me but it has been exactly what I needed to the next step in my journey.
A typical hour-long workout looks something like this (although they mix it up every day):
A quick Groupon search in my area shows numerous gym/bootcamp/crossfit/etc. offers. If you are interested in taking the next step I’d suggest checking out one of these various options. If you live in North Orange County, check out the The Bear Pit. I’ve had a great experience there.
This is has been the most significant part of my process. The process of keeping track helps me make better decisions all throughout my day.
Here’s a list of what I’m tracking at the moment:
This list may seem like a lot to manage but it’s actually quite simple. I’ve been using various iOS apps to track more and more health details as I have gone further along my journey.
I started by using these two apps:
MyPlate – free
There are more than one version of this app in the App Store. I’m not sure why. I use the one with the orange logo. I automatically tracks at a more detailed level.
Argus – free
I use Argus as both my pedometer and to map my walk/run each day. Its quirky interface sets it apart from other apps and it’s easy to use.
MyFitnessPal – free
I recently have been trying out the MyFitnessPal app as it tracks nutritional information in more detail than MyPlate. MyPlate is easier to use, but I think I’m moving on to MyFitnessPal due the better nutrition data tracking.
I recently started using the new Apple Health app. It tracks data from my iPhone 5s such as daily step count as well as interfacing with third party apps such as the ones I mentioned above. Some data needs to be manually entered (blood pressure for example). This app will be far more interesting to me as time goes on. That said I’m currently using it quite a bit.
Here are some new goals I’ve set recently.
It’s been really amazing to interact with so many of you as you move towards a healthier lifestyle! Let’s keep the conversation going!!
Question – Let me know about your current health journey. What’s been working for you?
There is some dispute about whether Ernest Hemingway actually said the words, “write drunk, edit sober”. Whether or not this is an authentic Hemingway quote, this saying has become quite popular in artistic circles. Some see the popularity of this quote as a glorification of addiction. Others take this advice quite literally seeking to imitate their artistic role models in both life and art. I think there is something deeper at work here.
Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
This leads me to my second observation from Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.
The majority of those profiled had a significant drug and/or alcohol problem.
A cliché about the creative personality? For sure, but even a casual look into the daily rituals of the 161 world-renowned artists profiled in Daily Rituals reveals a prevalence of substance abuse that is hard to miss. The reasons for this reality are generally not hard to see. There are some that use mind-altering substances for the express purpose of expanding their creativity. For other it is a symptom of their obsessive-compulsive personalities. For some, it functioned as an anesthetic numbing significant personal pain. Arguably for many their substance abuse proved fruitful in freeing them from their personal issue for a season. However, many times their excesses in drug and alcohol use lead to a decline in creative output, declining health, and sometimes even death. A two edged sword.
Rather than taking Hemingway’s advice literally, let’s take a different approach. I think what we are observing here is the pursuit of creative freedom. As anyone who spends any amount of time doing creative work knows there is an ongoing battle between the idea generation process and the editing process. The battle between the “editor” and “free creativity” is a classic artistic roadblock. The voice of the “editor” can be difficult to turn off. Let’s look at some healthier examples of this ongoing pursuit of creative freedom.
Pat Pattison, a professor at Berklee School of Music in Boston, shared his first Nashville co-writing experience in his blog post, CO-WRITING: THE “NO” FREE ZONE. Being new to the Nashville process of co-writing songs, he was nervous.
Pat describes his state of mind in his own words:
“I was waiting in the SESAC writer’s room with my notes and titles, some complete lyrics, song ideas, and I was feeling nervous. I, after all, am a big-time Professor at the biggest time music school in the world – Berklee, where I teach lyric writing. What if I can’t come up with anything? What if he thinks all my ideas are dumb? They don’t look too good to me right now either…”
His co-writer entered the room and double checked to see that the door was sufficiently shut. Setting the stage for their co-writing session, he encouraged Pat to say everything that came to his mind. Don’t censoring anything not matter how dumb it may seem. A dumb idea may lead the other writer to a less dumb idea which may lead to a good idea which might lead to a great idea. But it all starts from the freedom to SAY DUMB THINGS.
Business guru, James Altucher suggests a daily practice that he calls exercising the “Idea Muscle”. He writes down ten ideas per day, every day. The topics vary day to day but the practice stays the same. He suggests this practice as a way of keeping your creativity “in shape”.
Here’s his advice for those who find it hard to come up with ten ideas per day:
“Here’s the magic trick: if you can’t come up with ten ideas, come up with 20 ideas. You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle. Perfectionism is your brain trying to protect you from harm. From coming up with an idea that is embarassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain.”
The point being that if you struggle to come up with ten ideas you aren’t allowing yourself the freedom to come up with something that might be a bad idea.
Click here to read the rest of James’ thoughts on this subject.
Well known songwriter, Matt Redman has this advice. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open”. Start your writing process with a “closed door” sense of freedom, writing like no one is listening. The time for the “open door” objective editing process will come later. Fellow worship songwriter Paul Baloche talks about staying in a place of play as long as possible in the initial songwriting process.
Many theologians refer to John Wimber as “The Great Practitioner” due to his emphasis on “Doing the Stuff”, walking out the Kingdom ministry of Jesus in daily life. With this in mind, I am reminded of the often quoted John Wimber saying “Faith is spelled “R-I-S-K”. While this quote has a specific ministry context, I think this idea can bleed into all areas of our lives. This idea of “risking” involves being freed up from what others may think of us. Wimber is giving us the freedom to look foolish as we step out into unfamiliar territory walking out our creative calling.
Also built in to Wimber’s thinking on this subject is the reality that our creative work is a partnership with the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit works in us, we can experience a deeper level of creative freedom beyond the effects of other substance – a true freedom born from the God of Creation.
Question – What are ways you find creative freedom?
Question – What does your creative routine look like? What are your best practices?
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work written by Mason Currey is a book that documents the daily life rhythms of “161 inspired, and inspiring, minds—among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians.” Each short chapter focuses on one person’s daily work. Some of the notable people profiled in Daily Rituals include Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Mozart, Picasso, Benjamin Franklin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Søren Kierkegaard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.
Over the summer I discovered a book entitled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work written by Mason Currey. It documents the daily life rhythms of “161 inspired, and inspiring, minds—among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians.” Each short chapter focuses on one person’s daily work. Some of the notable people profiled in Daily Rituals include Jane Austen, Mozart, Picasso, Benjamin Franklin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Søren Kierkegaard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.
Daily Rituals is a fascinating read to say the least. Having the daily lives of so many creative people described back to back allowed some interesting over-arching themes to emerge. In my observation, most of the people represented in the book had three main things in common. My first observation was the following:
Daily work was generally done in routine and focused blocks of time with distractions kept to a minimum.
These time-blocks were generally in the 2-4 hour range with the shortest example being only 30 minutes per day. Many times, a given days work consisted only of one time-block. Of course there were the obsessive exceptions to this rule but this general rhythm was present more often than not. The rest of the day was spent doing other activities some of which I will unpack in the next few blog posts as I believe they are integral pieces of the overall creative process in their own right.
This practice of time-blocking seems to include a few underlying ideas.
One example comes from the life of renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
The author Mason Currey writes:A friend of Frank Lloyd Wright’s once observed that for as long as she had known him, the architect seemed to spend the day doing everything but actually working on his building designs. He held meetings, took phone calls, answered letters, supervised students—but was rarely seen at the drafting table. The friend wanted to know: When did Wright conceive the ideas and make the sketches for his buildings?
“Between 4 and 7 o’clock in the morning,” Wright told her. “I go to sleep promptly when I go to bed. Then I wake up around 4 and can’t sleep. But my mind’s clear, so I get up and work for three or four hours. Then I go to bed for another nap.”
On a related note, I was recently reminded of an article written by Paul Graham entitled Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. Written in July 2009, this simple 1100 word article has sparked a lot of dialog and rethinking about the way these two important but very different roles should interact. The basic idea behind the article is that the manager’s schedule is generally broken into hourly segments typically changing what you do every hour. In other words, a manager’s schedule is meeting based and meeting driven. The maker’s schedule tends to be based on focused units of at least a half day. You can see where the rub starts to come in. Paul’s company Y Combinator moved their entire infrastructure to this “maker’s schedule.”
As a creative person, this practice of time-blocking rings true with my experience. Being a creative person that also serves on staff at a local church I know the tension that can exist between daily pastoral ministry and scheduling dedicated time to create, even when we are creating as an extension of God’s call on our lives.
I believe we can also see a similar tension at work in Acts 6:1-4.
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Represented here are two important ministry activities. One involves meeting a very practical physical need – the distribution of food to widows. The other involves attending to spiritual needs, giving time to hearing from God and distilling God’s word for the people – aligning our hearts with the very will of God in the process.
As I wrestle with walking out these ideas in my own life, I believe that we need to live in both of these worlds, making sure not to neglect one expression over the other. Both are important.
I think there is a very real connection in this practice of time-blocking our creative work to the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, and study. When we give our energy toward writing a song, preparing a sermon, or any other creative work, there is an opportunity to turn our efforts into an act of devotion. Giving dedicated time to creative work is important for our own lives before God as well as for the people we serve.
Question – How does this idea of time-blocking fit into your own experience?
Question – What restraints are currently in the way of giving dedicated time to your creative expression?
Sarah Brusco has an amazing story. A complication in dealing with an ovarian tumor resulted in the hardening of her vocal chords. She was told that she would never sing again. Sarah’s journey recently culminated in the release of her latest project “The Woven Whisper”.
I am honored to be a part of Sarah’s project with the inclusion of a song I co-wrote with Sarah’s husband, Eben. Sarah’s version is delicate and heartfelt and includes the beautifully haunting cello work of Sharon Gerber (Imogen Heap).
In the fall of last year we were going through a series entitled “God In Us” at Vineyard Anaheim. The idea of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can sometimes be under-emphasized perspective in certain corners of the church. A regular prayer of ours is “Come, Holy Spirit”. We talk quite a bit about the Kingdom coming “on earth as it is in heaven”. This idea is also very common in the language of many popular modern worship songs. I’m on board with this popular concept of the work and activity of the Holy Spirit. However, on the topic of “God in us” I just couldn’t find enough material.
I’ve learned that when I am struggling to find the right song to serve my current need, I’ve found a great opportunity to write a song.
During a mid-week rehearsal, as we were working through the Bryan and Katie Torwalt song, “Holy Spirit” a melodic motif started to take shape. The original lyrics were “Hallelujah, oh my Lord”. For me, there is an x-factor that takes an idea from just “messing around” to being a potential song or “song seed”. I like to think of it as “the kiss of God”, that something special attached to a lyric, melody, and/or chord progression. This “Hallelujah, oh my Lord” idea had that “kiss of God” on it. Then the work began.
Putting this melodic idea through the lens of “God is us” a new phrase came leaping to life – “make Your home inside my heart”. More forward motion. Here’s an iPhone demo of this initial idea in process from October of 2013:
A about a week later I had a Skype co-writing session with Eben where I played him this initial idea. Things were starting to take shape. Eben and I bounced ideas back and forth over the next few weeks. Then one Sunday night at Vineyard Anaheim I was free singing over an extended ministry time when a new melodic phrase emerged inspired by Psalm 139 – “search me, know me, make Your home within me”. This eventually became the bridge and the capstone to the finished song.
Here’s another iPhone demo with the raw bridge idea:
Some melodic tweaking to the bridge and lyrical work to fill out the verses and we were there.
I love what Sarah and Eben have done with the song.
Here’s a lyric video Eben put together recently:
Sarah’s project is now available on iTunes by clicking here:
When we moved back to California in the summer of 2013 I was coming off of 10+ years of a heavy travel schedule working for Vineyard Worship and I was tired. I was also the heaviest I’d ever been in my life weighing in at 245 pounds. I had made significant changes in my life moving back to California and going back into local church ministry at the Anaheim Vineyard. I knew that I needed to make even more changes especially when it came to my personal health and fitness.
FINDING THE MOTIVATION
In January I went in for an initial visit with my new doctor. My blood work came back showing that my cholesterol numbers were too high. My doctor immediately wanted to put me on cholesterol medication. Not wanting to add another medication to my life, I found the motivation I needed to finally get up and get active again.
GETTING OUT MY FRONT DOOR
My approach was simple and uncomplicated. I walked out my front door for 15 minutes and then another 15 minutes walking back. I tried to do this everyday except Sunday skipping the odd day for weather, sickness, or schedule complication. I also started diligently logging my food intake.
My walk took up the hill from my house and then down to the Hiltscher Park Trail – one many paths in the trail system in Fullerton, the town where we live. It took about 10 minutes to get to the trail head which left me only 5 minutes of trail walking before it was time to head back. I was walking about 2 miles a day during this stretch.
UPPING MY GAME
One morning In early July I decided to see where trail lead. This took me on a 5 mile journey looping back to my house – more than double my normal distance. Something happened when I took this longer route. I hit some sort tipping point where my desire to get out and walk was greater than the resistance to avoid it. At the same time, I also discovered the “Couch to 5k” running program. This stoked the growing fire within me to keep pressing forward.
I had started to add longer stretches of jogging into my routine and was unknowingly working “intervals” between my walking and jogging. I had no strategy whatsoever in how I was doing this interval training. I basically ran until I had to stop and walk. This generally left me with a feeling of failure as I could only manage to run about 2-3 minutes at a time. The “Couch to 5K” program gave me a real path forward and I was hooked. Now, I’m using this interval training approach to build up my stamina with the goal of actually running a 5K sometime in early 2015. This has opened a whole new world to me.
DISCOVERING THE “QUANTIFIED SELF”
Another discovery I made was in the area of what’s been called the “quantified self”. On top of apps that logged my food intake I also found apps that track my water intake, nutrients, exercise, and total daily steps (my current goal is 10,000 steps per day). One revelation from all of this activity tracking is that Sundays are my most physically active day of the week. Each Sunday I stand playing guitar and leading worship for a total of 4-5 hours due to the multiple services and rehearsal time involved. This reality helps me to feel better about making Sunday a bit of a “cheat day” in my new eating plan. With this, another piece of my new life rhythm is locks into place. I think this good news for musicians and worship leaders. 🙂
7 months in and I’ve lost 50 pounds so far. A quick check of my body mass index tells me that at the 208 pound mark I went from “obese” to “overweight”. Yikes!! I still have a ways to go. That said, my energy level is higher than it’s been in long time and I’m feeling great. Recently, I crossed under the 200 pound mark for the first time since I was in my 20s. As of this writing my current weight is 194 pounds.
MY NEW GOALS
1 – Add more strength training to my regimen.
My wife says she doesn’t want me looking scrawny. 🙂
2 – Run a 5K in early 2015.
I want to be able to run the entire 5K without walking.
So that’s my story. It’s still ongoing. I’ll post more along the way. It all started from a very simple place. I just decided to do what could with the time I had and with little to no money out of pocket. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for me to succeed.
MY APP LIST
Here are a few things that helped me along my way making things easier for me.
1 – iTunes and Spotify
It’s not news that my iPhone allows me to carry my entire audio library with me. One of the ways I’ve been using this time in the morning is to discover lots of new music.
2 – Apple’s podcast app – free
I’ve always been a podcast junkie. My new morning routine has allowed me to catch up on some old favorites as well as discover a whole new batch of new offerings in the podcast space. More on this in future posts. More great free content all the time!
3 – MyPlate calorie tracker app – $.99
I’ve been using this app for a number of years. There are other apps out there but since this app was already on my iPhone I went with it. It does a solid job of tracking calories by meal, exercise, weight, and water consumption. Simple and easy to use.
4 – Argus – free
I use Argus as both my pedometer and to map my walk/run each day. Its quirky interface sets it apart from other apps and it’s easy to use. I’m considering moving to a device such as the Fitbit Flex or the Nike FuelBand as these motion tracking apps on the iPhone are a battery life killer. The new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch also look pretty interesting when it comes to health and fitness tracking. I may just wait for the Apple Watch to be released. Any suggestions?
For now, Argus fits the bill.
5 – Seconds – free
For the interval training I am using an app called seconds. It has a number of timer options and is easy to use. It does the job but I’m open to other suggestions. I use the free version as my needs are pretty straight forward.
6 – The Fullerton trail system – free
Less than a mile out my front door is the beginning of the Hiltscher Trail. The Fullerton trail system has been in place since the mid-20th century. It’s a country path in the middle of the suburban landscape. I love it.
Here’s my regular route:
Question: What does your exercise routine look like? What are your best practices here?
Question: If you don’t have a regular routine, what simple things can you do to get up and get active on a regular basis? Make it easy for yourself to say yes.
In light of the anniversary of 9/11 I am reposting this blog from 2012. Since the writing of this blog the River has relocated to a high school in lower Manhattan. “From the sky to the streets” is how they’ve described the move. Same mission, different vantage point.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of leading worship at a church called the River that meets in lower Manhattan. I’ve known the leadership of this church for a number of years but I’ve never been to their Sunday gatherings.
They currently meet on the 40th floor of the newly rebuilt 7 World Trade Center in the main auditorium for the New York Academy of Sciences.
The River is a doing a wonderful work among the people of Manhattan and is thriving in a culture that is perhaps one of the most secular in the US.
Here’s their mission statement:
Planted in the heart of Manhattan, the River is a diverse church that welcomes New Yorkers of all backgrounds. Our goal is to create a warm & inviting space where we can connect to God and each other to pursue life in all its fullness.
The views from their main auditorium are unbelievable. Out the window to the left looking from the stage you look uptown into the heart of Manhattan with the Empire State Building in center frame. Out of the window to the right you get the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, and on the horizon the blue rim of the Atlantic Ocean.
The views are breathtaking for sure but I was moved at a much deeper level. As we poured out our hearts to God I was struck by the power of what we were doing. We were literally inviting the Kingdom of God into the heart of New York City and asking for His Kingdom breakthrough over the city – literally while we overlook much of Manhattan.
Going a little deeper, the original 7 World Trade Center was destroyed in the events of 9/11 and when the new 7 World Trade Center was completed in 2006 it was the first tower rebuilt at Ground Zero after the attacks. On this site of incredible devastation, on what maybe the deepest wound in American spirit there is a community of faith that meets every week asking for the Kingdom of God to come and bring healing and mercy and make things right.
As I stood on the stage looking uptown at the Empire State building I was deeply moved by this reality. On this day of remembrance I remember my time on the 40th floor of 7 World Trade Center. I remember that “Mercy triumphs over Judgement” and I say a prayer of thanks for The River church as they weekly minister God’s healing power on the site of such tragedy. God bless their work!!
I’m a sucker for a good documentary. Today I stumbled upon “Mile, Mile and a Half” on Netflix.
Growing up I spent large amounts of my summer in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve always had a deep love for the outdoors. “Mile, Mile and a Half” chronicles a team of artists as the hike the John Muir Trail traveling 211 miles in 25 days. Looks like I have another item for the bucket list.
Here’s the press synopsis:
“Just 250 miles from Los Angeles and fewer than 200 from San Francisco, the John Muir Trail (JMT) stretches 211 miles through some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness in the world.
In July of 2011, five friends and artisans set out on an epic 25-day journey on the JMT from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney to document the sights and sounds of the Sierra Nevada high country.
What began as an adventure to see – let’s be honest – if they could complete the trail, became the need to capture the experience in order to share the trail with others. For this is not the story of die-hard rugged athletes defying all odds to endure a harsh environment. It is the tale of five friends with passions in the arts and the outdoors that join with like-minded people and share an escapade like no other.
The unique visions of artists on the trail are exposed in video, photography, paint and music, as this unlikely group grows, creates art and gathers others along the way. Artisans are joined by teachers and students, seniors and preschoolers, families and a solo hiker from Japan, all becoming a trail family that together summits the highest point in the contiguous United States.
Take the trip of a lifetime with them as they face epic once in a generation snow conditions, capture the wild and pure alpine beauty of the mountains and create lasting friendships with the eclectic crew of characters they met along the way.
Come laugh, limp, sing and walk with us.”
ABOUT THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL:
There’s a reason that “Backpacker Magazine” ranked California’s John Muir Trail as the best Hike in the World in it’s November 2010 issue.
Stretching 215 miles from Yosemite Valley to the summit of the contiguous United States’ highest peak, Mount Whitney, it rambles through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery that the heart and mind could conceive. Most of your days are spent above 10,000 feet, where you’ll experience the High Sierras in all of it’s grandeur and beauty as you hike through: Yosemite, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Devils Postpile National Monument, John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks.
Some perspective on how far 211 miles is. (Give or take a few miles.) Think of walking from:
We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.
– John Cleese