Shine Like Stars – Time to #BeRich

I love my church so much and am continuously blown away that I get the opportunity to play and write music sung in rooms full of the best people around.
One of my favorite things our church does is something called Be Rich.

Quick back story:
Be Rich is our annual giving and serving campaign—when our 6 churches in metro Atlanta and 24 partner churches domestically and internationally unleash a wave of generosity in our communities and around the world through our nonprofit partnerships—
that began in 2007 as a response to 1 Timothy 6:18,
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds,
and to be generous and willing to share.”

So this year, when I was presented with the opportunity to contribute through music
– I was FLOORED.  I love writing songs and when I get the chance to write for something special like this, it’s humbling and exciting!
The song is called “Shine Like Stars” and is inspired from Philippians 2:15 and the theme Andy Stanley is taking us through for this year’s initiative.
We believe that what this verse says is true, that in self-centered culture, when we put others first, we will SHINE LIKE STARS!
The song had to be written and recorded quickly and the entire process took a team of rock stars to pull it off like Jared Hamilton, Evan McLaughlin, Todd Fields, Brad Bretz and so many others across all the churches.
Ultimately the song exists to help capture the theme and encourage us in the days ahead as we move forward in love and generosity that we believe can change the world –and the reputation of the Church in the world!

You can download the song for FREE here:
http://howtoberich.org/freesong/

And then maybe check out how else you can be a part either with our initiative or in your own local church and community! #BeRich14

“Shine Like Stars” Lyrics:

VERSE 1
A new day is dawning and love is on the move
For all who are broken, a light is breaking through
To the wounded and weary who’ve had enough
Hope is not that far

CHORUS
Wherever we are, We shine like stars
Wherever we go, We will take your heart
Carrying freedom, Bringing your kingdom to all the world
Cause when we love one another, we light up the dark
Wherever we are
We will shine like stars
Whoa oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh

VERSE 2
With one spark of kindness, the healing begins
Where dreams have been shattered, let hope shine again
In the here and now let compassion rise
Let mercy come alive

BRIDGE
Stars that light the way
Burning like a flame
With every act of love
Your Kingdom comes

For in us you put your light
And what was dead is now alive
Like a city on a hill
We will shine

Hindsight is a PAINFUL 20/20

photo

I found some board-mix Cd’s of me leading worship from 2000-2002.
I’m not sure what these emotions are that I’m experiencing currently,
but in short… it’s bad.  Real bad.

It’s difficult to listen to because I can actually hear me trying to find my voice and it ain’t pretty.
One minute I’m in N*Sync-ville, the next I’m Mac Powell with an occasional hint of DC talk and Lifehouse or Creed. Ugh.

I can see it now, the bleach-tips, baggy abercrombie jeans, Christian-ironic shirts and Justin Timberlake hair…
Crazy over-singing.
Attempting Key changes that were epic fails.
And Christian-eeze that makes my skin crawl, strait preaching at the audience when setting songs up!

Don’t even get me started on the prayers!!!
“God, You are just God… and God we just worship you… we worship you God, cause you’re God and I can only imagine…”

My only defense is that I was helping a youth band and I recall none of us could hear anything.
We had no in-ear monitors with wedges on stage and everyone blasting their own instrument.
Not to mention around 12 singers trying to find their own part to sing.  Chaos. Pandamonium.

But as I was preparing to light these incriminating CDs on fire and bury the ashes deep beneath the earth of my back yard…
I was filled with such gratefulness, that I had to blog about it real fast.

Grateful that God used me, despite what my ears are telling me.
And I’m grateful for the GRACE of others to let me learn and for EVER giving me a chance back then.
(Mike Linch, Ike Reighard, Russ Butcher, Cynthia Cullen and so many more – especially my wife Anisa!!!)
Not sure what they saw in me but I’m humbled to pieces. Lots of pieces.

So today this has me looking behind me and realizing a few things:
   1.  Those days were NOT a waist because I learned SO much. I was growing.
2.  I want to continue being teachable. This is key in continuing to grow and getting better.

   3.  I too need to extend the grace I was shown, allowing others to learn the lessons I was allowed to learn.

I was young and unaware of myself, out of time, pitchy and RAW!!!
I had a “good heart” but sheesh…

Seriously though, I do remember my heart.
I remember what my desires were and why I got into singing in the first place.
I see now God gifted me, but left out the microwave setting. No teenage phenom here.
God’s shaping process is unique for each of us.
And for me, I was shaped at His pace for His timing which was going to be different then others.

But I didn’t give up. And I got better… eventually.
( I’ll be honest after hearing these, I kinda want to now haha… but seriously 😉 )

So if you’re reading this and wrestling with insecurity and doubt,
know that You are not alone. Don’t give up.
And be careful of falling into the trap of comparing yourself and your timeline to others.
I wasn’t behind but rather just waiting for His particular assignment for me.
And as Andy Stanley says, “There’s no win in comparison.”

Remember the promise in Philippians 1:6 (MSG)

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish”

Do keep practicing and doing the hard work of evaluation.
Invite others in that will be honest with you.

Be TEACHABLE.

Read His word and trust Him, believing that if He has purposed you for it, He will open the right doors at the right time.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

As for me, I saw God open doors in ways I never saw coming and by His grace I was prepared.
And now I’m VERY grateful things like youtube didn’t exist when I thought I was ready.
Boy am I grateful.

Anyone else out there had any hindsite 20/20 moments like this?!?

Hope this was encouraging… now back to setting a fire to these CD’s!!!

Let My Soul Sing

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Today at Buckhead church we sang this song above from my new record.
Was such a humbling joy to lead and see it connecting so well the 1st time through.
I wrote this song with a friend of mine Ross King just before summer time.
We were talking about many things, but one of those being how, once you find hope in Jesus, it changes you.
How once you are standing in light of the truth that has rescued you, you have to respond to it.

Once you know how Jesus came (humbly), and how He was treated all the way to the cross (horribly) and how He did what we couldn’t do for ourselves and overcame sin and death… it causes a shift in your thinking and reason for living.  
Or it at least it should.

John 8: 31-32  (the message)

“Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”

It’s the “living out” part that we get hung up on sometimes.
Letting the lyrics on screens translate into a life of praise.
I’ll confess, the singing is the easy part. My actions don’t line up like they should.
Which is all the more reason to sing often and keep re-aligning my heart and mind with His.

So with “Let My Soul Sing” we chose the hymn-style, more timeless route and hopefully it will draw people to the truth of who Jesus is, what He did for us on the cross and then what our response should be.
And lets be honest… our response should be… a lot… a lot of response.
How’s that for grammar.
Singing songs?  Yes.    Raising hands?  Absolutely.    Dancing?  If you have the skills 😉
But also..
Forgiving others?  You bet.    Loving our enemies?  With all we have.    Kindess instead of vengance?  YES.

To sum it up:
    He is holy, He alone is worthy, and our greatest song will be a life lived out for His glory.

I’ve enjoyed leading this song in the new year and I’m excited for how God might use it to draw people in to His great love for them in ways that will change our lives.
To help with that, we are giving out the song and chord charts at the links below for FREE!!!
There will be more to come with this in the future, but just to get things started, help youself to the links below!

FREE CHART to use at Church:
http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=a8b4cf0a47b908b24aa28cce2&id=ba3f714d49

You can get the song here on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/let-my-soul-sing/id736379450?i=736379468
(of course I’m obligated to ask you to check the whole record out if you would, as we are excited about it!)

or get the song HERE for FREE: (2 options)
1. http://freeccm.com/2014/01/14/free-download-from-casey-darnell/
2. http://ht.ly/sAoCP (scroll down)

*Also, coming soon, a live video of this song and more from Buckhead and North Point Church. 

*Picture Credit: Dave Adamson (your rock sir!!)

I know who goes before me…

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I was riding one of those tandem bikes with my daughter Ava this past summer, and we were a few miles out, when out of nowhere one of those gulf-coast storms descended on us.
Around the panhandle area of Florida, massive storms can show up in minutes and that’s exactly what happened.
Lightning and thunder accompanied the ever-approaching and GROWING dark clouds.
The kind of lightning and thunder that happen simultaneously, sounding like it hit the tree beside you, so you know it means business.

At this point, Ava and I hadn’t been riding this type of bike long and I had just gained her confidence that I could stear both of us without crashing. However this storm brought on a new sense of fear for me.
Mainly… my daughter is in harms way and this situation has become very dangerous for both of us.

The next moment I won’t ever forget.
Desparately trying to get us to shelter, completely soaked and barely able to see through the rain,
I glanced and yelled back, “Ava you okay back there?!?”
Fully expecting to see her terrofied and crying, I saw and heard something totally different.

Ava responded, “DAD, THIS IS AWESOME!!! BEST DAY EVER!!! God You are AMAZING!!!”

Awesome?!? Amazing?!?
I busted out laughing and was like “It sure is Ava, God is awesome… just keep holding on!!!”

We got home safe and sound. Got cleaned up and had a blast of a time.

Later on I was leading worship and this story jumped in my mind right before setting up the song “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)”
How was Ava able to be so excited and say that in the midst of a clearly scarey storm?
In the face of something terrofying, over our head and out of our control, Ava was worshipping with her heart full of amazement and her voice full of praise.

She was able to rejoice in a storm, because she believed that the one who went before her was in control and would bring her through it. Her trust in me gave her freedom to sing!

It painted such a picture for me of what that song is putting voice to, that I had to share the story before we sang.
When leading, I love finding ways to re-canvas a song when I can or feel it’s needed.
Taking the lyrics we’ve maybe been singing a lot and giving them a fresh perspective for the audience.

It also lead to the writing of the song “Marvelous” I wrote about in a previous post.
Marvelous was heavily inspired by what I saw in Ava and was written a couple weeks later.

His strength abounds in our weakness, and we are changed from the inside out when we declare how awesome and marvelous He truly is, regardless of the storms of life we may be experiencing.
Our attention is shifted from the storms that surround us, all that is broken in this world and in our lives, to the ONE who will one day heal and restore all things!  We can choose to lift our grateful voices in song and praise Him, “even when…”

So may we have that same joy and confidence that I saw in my little girl, knowing He goes before us and is by our side! May we trust Him, with confidence that He is always with us, in everything… so that we too can say,
        “THIS IS AWESOME!!! BEST DAY EVER!!! God You are AMAZING!!!”

Marvelous

Since the release of my self-titled record in November 2013, we’ve been traveling around the country a good bit doing our best to incorporate some of the new songs in worship.  Primarily Let My Soul Sing, All The World, We Believe and Marvelous.

The song “Marvelous” has shown itself to be a grabbable tune right out the gate, bringing a high energy to the front end of a set list.
At the core, it’s a song of gratefulness and sets the foundation of “Why” we sing… kickin off a time of worship in praise for all God has done.
A shift can happen in our thinking and in the way we view our circumstances or purpose in life, when we proclaim His power and awesomeness over our lives.

However, since its release, it has undergone some… changes… updates if you will.
Enough so that we’ve been getting a lot of questions about it… 2 things actually:  (the reason for this blog post)
     1. How to play the song (chords etc)
     2. How we play it live (why is it different) vs. the recording.

In short, this song was a late addition to the record.
We were already done tracking 10 songs and had begun vocals when this song showed up.
Feeling like their might be a gap on the record, Ian and I, basically wrote this song in the kitchen of his studio in about an hour, and then tracked it and sang it down the next day.
Sometimes that can be an awesome thing, othertimes it can cut short the process needed to make sure it’s right.
Unfortunately this wasn’t realized in time.
Not that there is anything wrong with the original version, but with some encouragement and help from friends of mine like Todd Fields, it became clear the song could be better.
However, it’s the hard work of taking criticism, keeping humble and choosing to see if something could be better, that ALWAYS pays off in the end.
So we feel like that’s what we now have in Marvelous… a better song.
(Huge thanks to Todd for believing in and pushing on this song and helping make it better!!!)

So what changed???

About half the lyrics got a face-lift.
The video demos those and how they sit in the melody.
The melody and arrangement are basically the same.
Overall it gained focus, became more co-hesive and now connects better.

Hope you like it and if you try it out leading worship, I’d love to know how it connected for you!

VERSE 1
Em                                    C             G
We can’t hold back our grateful song
Em                                    C                  G
For Who You are, For what You’ve done

PRE-CHORUS
C                                                   Em    D
Wonderful Savior, No One is Greater

CHORUS
G
How awesome is the Lord our God
C
Rich in grace and full of love
Em                                 C                        G
How marvelous, how marvelous You are

TURN G

VERSE 2
Em                               C       G
Day after Day, Your glory shines
Em                              C                  G
Salvation’s Love, Redemption’s Light

(repeat PRE-CHORUS)

CHORUS 2
G
How awesome is the Lord our God
C
Rich in grace and full of love
Em                        C
How marvelous, how marvelous
G
You are, the hope for all our days
C
With every breath, We sing Your praise
Em                     C                            G
How marvelous, how marvelous You are

BRIDGE
G                                                     C
We sing for the Risen Son, We sing for the Victory won
G                                                   C                          C
For Jesus has overcome, Marvelous, He’s Marvelous
G                                                     C
We sing for the Risen Son, We sing for the Victory won
Em                                               C                              C
For Jesus has overcome, Marvelous, He’s Marvelous

(repeat CHORUS)

Leadership 101: “Lose the snooze button”

This morning… oh this morning…
It started out with an alarm I hit the snooze on (multiple times), by accident of course, followed by my 6 year old grabbing my face saying,“GET UP DAD!! We are going to be LATE for school!!!”
One look at the clock and I realized she’s right, I’ve way over-slept and so begins my hurried morning.

I wish I could say my attitude, tone of voice and general disposition were… less then snappy…
But over the next 30 minutes, picture me in a tornado of exhausted preparation.

I raced down the stairs to help my wife make lunches, make smoothies,
change our daughter’s clothes,change that diaper that is peeling paint off the walls…
((pause for a reflective cup of coffee))
…wait… ain’t nobody got time for that!

The kitchen is a wreck but who cares… We. Are. LATE!!!
At this time I realize I’m not ready myself, so in a mad dash through my room,
I grab my sweat pants and hoodie and I’m out the door lookin’ like Rocky IV.
A quick hug and kiss from my wife, who by the way has an, “I told you to get up” look on her face,
and we’re out the door.
The conversation on the way to school goes as follows:

“Ava did you make your bed and brush your teeth?”
“No dad.”
“Ava, why not?!?! Why do I have to keep telling you these things?!?!”
“But dad, you didn’t make your bed or brush your teeth???”

End scene.
The final score:
Being late to school and silenced by your 6 1/2 yr old  =  1
Daddy’s demonstration of leadership and self-discipline  =  0

It’s interesting to note that Ava didn’t remind me of what I’ve been telling her.
Truth is, she never does.
It’s always a reference back to what she saw me do… or not do 😦

I realize more and more, there are 2 lessons I’m teaching my daughter’s:
1.  What daddy says
2.  What daddy does

I’m learning the 2nd one is having the most impact.

The reality is we have a lot to say. We talk a lot and we know a lot.
We love to “preach” don’t we?
However, our greatest sermon will never be with our words but with our walk.

This morning was NOT one of my finer moments.
But one thing I am learning and in some ways, it’s the silver lining of these moments.
The power in saying, “Daddy was wrong, forgive me.”
Not over explaining or trying to justify my reasons and lack of self-discipline, but merely owning it.
It diffuses the moment and an even greater lesson can be learned.

Leadership is not a lifestyle of perfection or knowing more then the people you lead.
If we are to be successful in our leadership, at work or at home, we must be lead first.

I’ll do you a favor and spare you the endless “one liners” on leadership.
Instead, here’s some encouragement. God’s not done with us yet.

You may be leading a whole team of people at a corporate job, or at a church, or maybe just an army of children,
dead-set on making sure you never sleep again… (true story) …but know this, God is still at work on YOU.

On the days I wake up early and let God’s word speak to me first, before all the demands of the day come at me,
I find all these other things are “added unto me.” (Matthew 6:33)
All my weakness and strengths are aligned, not in who I am, but in Who is at work in me.
My desires to know Him more, be a good husband and father, grow as a worship leader & songwriter,
are focused and put in their proper place.

God knows I need Him. He knows what the day holds and also knows that what comes out of my mouth,
will not be as impactful as what flows from my life lived out in front of others.

So, If you find yourself having a day like I did, don’t excuse it, own it!
Making mistakes and asking for forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness, but one of great strength.

A great line I remember from the movie “Captain America” comes to mind.
Dr. Abraham Erskine says to Steve Rogers (Captain ‘merica), when explaining what the serum will do to him after they inject it:

“The serum (or leadership) amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great.
Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen.
Because a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power.
But a WEAK man… a weak man, knows the value of strength and knows compassion.”

Steve is chosen as a leader, not because of his perfection but because of what’s inside him.
Self-control and self-discipline don’t happen on their own.
Try all we want to fix ourselves, but we’ll keep on falling short.

God’s not done with us, no matter how high of a leader we are, we need His strength as our source.

So, as we seek Him first, may our walks grow ever-louder than our words.
…oh, and maybe loose the snooze button.

I Will Stand By You

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My family and I have been serving the last 6 years with an organization called Lighthouse Family Fetreat.
LFR serves children with cancer and their families at a seaside retreat to help them to laugh, restore family relationships and ultimately find hope in God.

One of the reasons this happens is because of families that give up a week of their year to serve and volunteer.
When I’m there serving, for me it has become a very real picture of what I believe Heaven will look like!
People being the church, showing unconditional love, serving, eating, playing & laughing together.
Pure joy!

I’m honored to serve in the host role, leading worship, leading morning and night devotions and helping creat the atmosphere for the week… which for me means being as big a goof ball as possible to help kids laugh and see their faces light up!  I started out in children’s ministry when I was 18 and so I’m right at home singing and dancing and just having a blast with the families.

IMG_7705 IMG_7676
We celebrate the life God has given us, and thank Him for every GOOD thing.
We sing and dance and play nearly the entire day… napping a good bit after lunch.
We do our best to help mom and dad re-connect.
We give our all to help that sibling that’s been lost in the shadows to rediscover their dreams again!
There’s no room for rockstar attitudes AND the last and least are FIRST in line!

Being a dad has it’s humbling moments.  There’s something about holding a dirty diaper that just doesn’t ring “rock star!”
I guess I’m constantly reminded of how quickly things can get “messy.”
Honestly, I feel a bit in over my head with our season of life.
Work, travel, home, our ever-increasingly busy schedule with the kids… did I mention we’re pregnant?!
With all of this, I can’t imagine if one of them had cancer.
The pain and fear I’d be experiencing on top of everything else.
The overwhelming amount of help my family would immediately need.

At some point, we all will walk through difficult times and sooner or later will need help.
However, we were never meant to go through it alone and in these times of life, when I jump into the “mess” with someone, I realize I’m as much in line with His will as I’ll ever be.
Just read the first few verses of most of Paul’s letters, they are all filled with love and encouragement to lift each other up, pray for each other and to not give up!

My daughter said it best recently, as we were once again bringing luggage up and down the stairs after serving at Lighthouse, she said, “these times are hard dad, but it’s sure worth it.”

I laughed because of how cute this was to me and how she believed we are all in this together and she’s doing her part.
And.. she’s right… the real joy and satisfaction in life isn’t a life void of hardship,
it’s found in giving our lives away, and in the end it will be worth it.

IMG_5551 IMG_0960

So I wrote this song “I Will Stand By You” inspired by my experiences there.
I had just gotten back from a retreat and wanted to capture, in a fun way, what the heart is of Lighthouse.
It’s a song about the self-sacrificing love on display at LFR day after day that is changing lives.
The chorus in some ways is kind of the mission statement of the volunteers at Lighthouse.
Families reaching out a hand to other families they’ve just met, carrying their burdens and helping them know they aren’t alone… altogether being the love of Jesus, not just singing about it.

“I will walk with you through desert lands, I will lift you from the sinking sand
When you have no strength, just hold my hand,
I will stand, I will stand by you”

It’s of course easier said then done.

I met a 9 yr old girl name Niki Reyes over a year ago, and I won’t ever forget her.
She glowed. Like seemed to actually glow. Her joy was so outwardly it made her face radiate.
She spoke of God and her faith in Jesus in a way that made Him so real.
I hear me say, I believe in Jesus and trust in Jesus… God is REAL.
But the way Niki talked about her was different and with a confidence that was infectious.
I remember serving her strawberries at breakfast and her telling me how she saw angels and talked to God in her hospital room recently. I said “Wow, that’s awesome, what did you talk about!?”
She said, “The angels don’t say much, but God told me the blood I needed would be enough.”
The week ended and shortly after I discovered Niki was much sicker then I realized.
Doctors wanted her on hospice care as they had done all they could for her, but her family didn’t want to give up yet.
We always pray and hope for healing and miracles, but also know that He sometimes ultimately heals them and takes them home.
We made a youtube video for Niki to encourage her and kept praying for her, but in March of this past year,
I got the phone call that our beautiful little flower Niki, had gone home to be with Jesus.

IMG_0953
(This is me with Niki in the middle and her sister)

We were heartbroken.
Niki gave us a gift we weren’t expecting, of a deeper faith in Jesus and a vision of what the joy of the Lord really looks like.
I’ll never forget Niki Reyes.

I’ll be honest, in the areas of life like this, I want to run.
I want to hide from the broken things in this world and live in a reality that is less painful.
But instead of running from the heartbrake that comes with serving children with cancer…
Our resolve continues to grow stronger, by the grace of God, to run towards these families.
To help them laugh again.
Help them dream again.
And to help them find hope in God.

IMG_5610
(helping a dad reconnect with his daughter by giving them a special date night and private evening together)

IMG_0345 
(Common Grounds for the parents to reconnect and share their story)

IMG_0351 
(volunteers offering a spa afternoon for the moms)

We remember, that it won’t be like this forever.
This is not the end of the story.
In the end cancer… and death… does not win.
Jesus has the final say.
He alone stands victorious over all that is broken in this world.
It’s the reason we can sing and dance and play and laugh and dream… even when we don’t understand…
because we know He carry’s our hope and our eternity is secure!!!

My prayer is this song will be an encouragement to us, and a motivation towards helping others discover what being the “hands and feet” of Jesus is really all about.

For more info on LFR visit: www.LighthouseFamilyRetreat.org
*They are currently accepting family partners applications as well as donations to help make the retreats possible

To hear the song visit iTunes or click the link:  “I Will Stand By You”
*If you would like a FREE chord chart –  message me on here, or on my FB page and I’ll email you one.

Galatians 6:2  “Carry each other’s burdens”
1 Thessalonians 5:11  “Therefor encourage each other and build each other up”
Matthew 25  (whenever you did it to them, you did it to me)
Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as unto the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

IMG_5589

“I Will Stand By You”
LYRICS:

Verse 1:
Everybody gets week
When our broken hearts send us to our knees
And everyone of us grieves
And needs a helping hand back up on our feet
To just believe

Chorus:
I will walk with you through desert lands
I will lift you from the sinking sand
When you have no strength, just hold my hand
I will stand, I will stand by you
I will stand, I will stand by you

Verse 2:
When it’s hard to just breathe
From doing all you can just to make ends meet
When you’re lost in life’s give and take, yep
I will be there to help you find your way
Yeah, we’ll find our way

(Chorus)

Bridge:
We were meant to walk this
Broken world together
In the days of pain and
In the stormy weather
knowing this is not how
It will be forever
I’ll stand by you