Creative Christian Moments – Blog Article 26: Email Interview with Eowyn

Creative Christian Moments

“Reviews of up and coming Christians in the arts community.”

Blog Article 26: Email Interview with Eowyn

In a former blog post entitled “Blog Article 24: Eowyn and Her CD Beautiful Ashes”, I introduced you to a Christian metal diva by the name of Eowyn (Rebecca Eowyn Riggins) and reviewed her CD Beautiful Ashes. You can check out the article with this link and sample some of her music from the posted videos: https://barryirwinbrophy.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/creative-christian-moments-blog-article-24-eowyn-and-her-cd-beautiful-ashes/ . What my readers did not know between this time period and now was that I was also trying to orchestrate an interview with Riggins but we had both lost communication. Given the circumstances, I still published the review in order for my readers to glean the wisdom of how and indie Christian musician can produce such amazing music and videos with a limited budget. My hope and prayer for this follow up blog post is for my readers glean the fruit of her experience in the music industry as a ministry, the trials and tribulations she has endured in her journey, and inspire other artists to use their talents for God.

The Interview

Barry Irwin Brophy: For those who may not know about you or your band, could you tell us a bit about yourself and the band?

Eowyn Riggins: Well, I’ve been around for many years….about 15 to be exact. It’s crazy to think about! I get asked all the time if Eowyn is my real name and it is. My dad was a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and Eowyn is one of the characters. Even though Eowyn was never technically a band name I could never do what I do without the guys. I’ve had the privilege to have had several amazing musicians play with me over the years. Truly, I would be just a rock girl head banging by myself to some tracks without them! Plus my hubby is on keys so that’s always pretty amazing to have him on stage with me!

As far as the music, I have five albums and the first one “One More Chance” sounded a little country with a dose of rock and over the years I evolved into what I love to call industrial rock. People who like Flyleaf, Skillet, The Letter Black, and Fireflight should like it pretty well.

On a more personal level, I’m a little bit of a klutz and have been known to accidentally throw my microphone off stage as well as fall off a stage. I’ve been told I can look creepy from stage because of my movements but people warm up to me once I say something. (I’ve really been told this a ton! Ha!) I speak a little “southern” and people say I should sing country. Ha ha…no thank you. Lastly, I’ve always battled with insecurities which is why my main purpose in doing music is to reach those
suffering with depression and self-worth and point them to a Savior who absolutely adores them!

Barry Irwin Brophy: How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?

Eowyn Riggins: When I was 4 years old I told mom I wanted to ask Jesus in my heart. I had always seen the relationship that my mom and dad had with the Lord and I knew I wanted the same thing! I know it seems young, but I remember the day like it was yesterday! My mom and I knelt beside my bed and said a simple prayer that drastically changed my life. I would not be who I am today without my loving Savior and I think that’s why I want to share His love with as many people as possible! He changes everything!

Barry Irwin Brophy: Tell us a bit about your current music projects. Music videos, new songs, tours, etc.?

Eowyn Riggins: Well a year ago my hubby, Russell and I moved out of Nashville and moved to Reston, VA outside of D.C. After touring for many years we felt it was time for Russell to reenter the career that he had left behind when we first started the music ministry. In doing so, I had to leave behind my band and therefore had to stop taking shows until I found new musicians. Instead of immediately doing this I decided to take a little time to get plugged into my new city and also decided to begin a side career. So in the fall, I will be going back to school to become an Interior Designer. While I do hope to tour again, it may take another year before I can due to school. In the meantime, this month I will be releasing my newest single “For the Life of Me” to Christian Rock radio and I plan to begin writing for the new album that I want to launch by next year!

Barry Irwin Brophy: How has God been using the band to spread His Gospel message? Any stories?

Eowyn Riggins: The most amazing stories have actually come from facebook. People write me on a continual basis telling me how God used one of my songs to draw them out of depression or give them hope in hard times. It’s so cool to see that God is the one spreading the message, my songs just happen to be the occasional tool he uses. One of my favorite stories recently was when a guy wrote and said he was considering killing himself and then he heard the lyrics to one of my songs and it gave him hope once again. It just shows how powerful words can be.

Barry Irwin Brophy: I hear a lot of negative talk about how Christian rock is not an effective means of sharing the Gospel. What do you think are the biggest obstacles within the Christian Church institution in America and how can we change to be more effective in preaching the Gospel?

Eowyn Riggins: Obviously this is just my opinion but I think the biggest obstacle is nostalgia, when we look back to the past and wish we could continue experiencing it that way again and again. For instance, when a church has always played hymns it may be hard to think that anything but hymns could allow us to feel a sense of worship or reach people for God. I’m not saying throw out the hymns, I’m just saying that it’s okay to add a praise song or yes, even a “rock” song. To me, God can use anything he wants to bring someone closer to him. He can even use mainstream music. I’m probably gonna get some people mad at me for saying that but again, God can use anything. He used a burning bush to speak to Moses. He used a donkey to speak to Balaam. Was the bush “Christian”? Was the donkey? The point is that we are not God and all we need to do is be open to his leading. If he is leading a church to bring a Christian Rock band to come minister, why not? Don’t be afraid of something new just because it’s different but I also don’t want people to use this as excuse to go against the bible and say “God led me to do this” if God clearly spoke against it in his word.

Barry Irwin Brophy: How do you think your music will influence the coming revival?

Eowyn Riggins: I’m not sure. I hope it will bring people closer to God. I’ve been around so long though that it may be the newer bands that influence it now more than I will.

Barry Irwin Brophy: What advice would you like to give to Christian musicians just getting started? Please provide any helpful tips or painful lessons of what not to do.

Eowyn Riggins: My biggest advice on what to do is simple…always follow the Lord’s leading. Go where you feel God is leading you to go and don’t take the opportunities that you feel he is trying to shut the door on. This may open up another question. How do you know where God is leading? Well, honestly you don’t always know for sure. What I have found is that if you really pray for his direction and really stop to listen, you will be surprised just how much you can feel him guiding you on what to do next.

As far as what NOT to do. I have a few of those. Don’t rest on your own strength and talent. The music industry is harder than most people think and you will need help so don’t turn it down when someone offers. I often did that myself because I didn’t want to seem needy but in realty I was. Of course I needed help. We all do! Another what not to do is don’t follow certain steps just because it’s what everyone else in the industry has done. Obviously it’s okay to do what other people have done but don’t rest solely on those things. Think outside of the box and don’t be scared to do it differently. I was told by many people to play a ton of gigs in my own city and build a fan base there before I tried to gain fans in other states. Ironically I never did play more than a few shows in my home town but I toured the entire United States for years and was known more in other cities than in my own. It worked better for me this way, but it doesn’t mean it will for others. Again, do what’s right for you!

Lastly don’t compare yourself to others. This was always a hard one for me and I think it held me back on many occasions. Be the artist God has called you to be and be okay with your journey. You may not make it as “huge” as another band but that’s okay. Enjoy the doors that do open for you and do it for the glory of God!

Barry Irwin Brophy: What software, equipment, etc. would you recommend to someone on a tight music budget or just getting started?

Eowyn Riggins: This kind of falls along the lines of what not to do again but don’t spend more money on equipment then what you have to spend. Don’t allow yourself to get into debt over it. I’ve been there, done that and it’s not worth it. I would recommend to save some money to buy high quality amps, guitars, mics, etc. but spend your money on the things where quality does matter the most, not on things trying to make you look bigger than what you are (example lights and fog machines). As far as what actual gear to buy I’m not the one to ask. My hubby took care of all of that. I will say that anything we could build ourselves or do on our own we did. When we wanted to have a music video we built our own set. When we wanted a cool keyboard stand my hubby built one. So if you have the talent…do it yourself cause it will save you some cash.

Barry Irwin Brophy: I’ve also encounter many struggling Christian musicians who have given up on pursuing their calling because of chaotic hardships in every form imaginable. These guys and girls are really in the fire right now and have been severely burned. If you were speaking with them one on one what would you say to them.

Eowyn Riggins: I’ve been there. It’s a hard place to be for sure. The thing to remember is that if God has called you to do something…HE will make a way. I’m not saying that you don’t have to work at it and try your best but again it goes back to my earlier point. You have to let God lead you. He is more than capable to open doors, to heal hearts, to bring favor and to make a way where there seems to be no way. We just have to trust him. We also have to trust in his perfect timing. Sometimes we want things now and yet God knows we aren’t ready. Sometimes we want things that he knows we will never be able to handle. The point is…HE knows. We don’t. Rest assured that any plan that we have for ourselves is no match to the plan that God has for us!

Barry Irwin Brophy’s Closing Thoughts on the Interview:
This email interview, by far, has been one of the best I have had the privilege of reading. From Riggins answers to my questions I can tell she is a writer and I appreciate the brutal honesty she provides in her answers. Personally, I found that Riggins’ answers give me hope as I walk out my own faith journey in Christ and I pray my readers will also benefit from her wisdom. What struck me most about the interview was Riggins’ answer about using Christian rock as a means of ministry. If you have read more than one blog post on my site I have tried to project a general theme to encourage my readers: God uses artists to share His Gospel message. When an artist is yielded to this calling we become the paintbrushes, camera, pencils, instruments, and other artistic devices in the hand of the Almighty to present Himself to a world that does not know Him. Though the walk is tough (which Riggins illustrated in some helpful tips of what not to do), she continues to pursue her calling in her season of change with her relocation to Virginia. God will and is using the the creativity of artists because His divine nature is creativity, too. So many in American church culture are afraid of this and have hindered the Holy Spirit’s ability to minister to more people through this medium by quenching the Spirit. Some leaders are even so insecure about this concept that they fight against such implementation by abusing their position of leadership in church authority. It is so hard to believe that this can occur but I could tell you countless stories about the broken nature of many leaders in the American Christian Church. My retort to such challenges is if it does not contradict Biblical teachings and produces the fruit of salvation or spreading the Gospel message, how can we argue it is not of God? So the next time someone scoffs at what you are doing and says something like “how could God possibly use what you are doing” smile and rejoice because you are on the correct path in obedience to serving God with your talents!

Jesus’ own words in John 6:44a states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” God draws humanity to the revelation of Jesus Christ and often times He will use what we are familiar with to bridge our understanding; especially in circumstances where one is does not have the opportunity of examining the Bible for themselves or is in extreme opposition to doing so. For me personally, Christian musicians producing revelatory rock and metal music played a major role in establishing my foundation to pursue Christianity through hardships. Riggins and countless other musicians in this genre receive these messages all the time from fans about how their music became that foundational bridge they could relate to in understanding and ultimately believe in the Gospel message.

As I close, I pray that we would continue to be artists that say “yes Lord” to opportunities of using our talents to share His message. You can support Riggins through prayer, connecting with her on social media, hosting her for a concert (especially the DC area), and purchasing her music and book. With her new song “For the Life of Me” being released this week, contact your local Christian rock stations and request it!

Eowyn’s pages:
Official Website: http://www.eowynmusic.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eowyn-Music/138192782876312
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/eowynmusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Eowunmusic
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCel_hPjeOs9glU-S4r5qzgA
“For the Life of Me” Song: http://www.eowynmusic.com/music/s/for_the_life_of_me

References
Eowyn, “For the Life of Me”, Unpublished, 2014. MP3.
Eowyn. Profile Picture. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/138192782876312/photos/pb.138192782876312.-2207520000.1403641736./605315806164005/?type=3&theater (accessed June 23, 2014).
Riggins, Rebecca Eowyn, e-mail message to author, June 16, 2014.

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Creative Christian Moments – Blog Article 25: Email Interview with Kingdom

Creative Christian Moments

“Reviews of up and coming Christians in the arts community.”

Blog Article 25: Email Interview with Kingdom

“Let You kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In many Christian churches around the world, the Lord’s Prayer is often recited and read as an example of the totality of Christ’s power as God. The quotes of Jesus from Matthew 6:10 speak about beseeching the Lord to mold our carnal fallen world to the model of His perfect world of heaven. As Christians, the concept of “a glimpse of heaven” sprouts up when the Holy Spirit moves in power such as when we read a Godly inspired book, watch ministries of hospitality blossom in desolated communities, the process of restoration occurring in relationships in statistically impossible situations, or random acts of kindness to undeserving individuals. Following this same pattern of “a glimpse of heaven”, I believe I have seen the physical manifestation of this reality in the worship music of a band echoing the truths of the Gospel message. They call themselves Kingdom.

In their own words from their official website, they state, “KINGDOM is made up of normal people dedicated to fulfilling the great commission of making disciples of Jesus Christ” (Kingdom, 2014, para. 2). Their statement reflects humility, a welcoming inclusive stance on ministry, and an arrow like focus on their purpose of the glorification of Jesus Christ. Through their music, they invite their listeners to partner with them in worship.

I first discovered the music of Kingdom while listening to the infamous ChristianRock.Net Internet radio. Their song “God of Fire” was playing and was incredibly catchy. Through conversations via Facebook, Kingdom agreed to participate in an email interview to introduce my readers to their music and their views on a variety of topics relating to Christianity in arts; particularly the purpose of influential Christian music.

The Interview

Barry Irwin Brophy: For those who may not know about you or your band, could you tell us a bit about yourself and the band?

Kingdom: Kingdom was never really intended to be a band honestly. It all started in 2011 when Jordan (lead vocals) wrote and recorded a song, now known as ‘Flood Song”, to give to a local ministry for at risk teen girls called Mercy Ministries as a Christmas present. While unbeknownst to him, our guitar players mom had taken the song and entered it into a contest where the winner gets the opening slot for the rock and worship roadshow…and we won! The problem was, there were no more songs, there wasn’t even really a band, so Kingdom was formed. With Jordan on lead vocals and guitar he recruited his longtime friends who had all led worship together for years at their local church and went into the studio to record a few more songs that would eventually be their first record. The members of Kingdom consisted of Jordan (Vocals/Guitar) Veronica (Vocals) Steven (Drums) Sean (Guitar) and Justin (Keys). Nate (Bass) later joined the band in 2012, solidifying the lineup. Since then we have been given the opportunity to travel and lead worship all over the country as well as release two albums with DREAM records and have two songs chart on Christian rock radio. Even though we have broadened our audience, we remain what we have always set out to be, a worship band that seeks to write and perform songs that glorify Christ regardless of the venue or environment we are in. We aren’t really interested in being a “Christian rock” band, or writing songs that are sort of about Jesus, we write songs about Jesus, we serve in churches that are about Jesus and hopefully live lives that are about Jesus.

Barry Irwin Brophy: How did the individuals of the band come to faith in Jesus Christ?

Nate: We have all had different roads to Christ. Some of us were born under church pews and some of us come from broken homes, but we have all found that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It all starts with someone sharing the Gospel with someone else, that’s what we always strive to do with our music, it’s the only message that matters.

Barry Irwin Brophy: Tell us a bit about your current music projects. Music videos, new songs, tours, etc.?

Kingdom: We are doing some traveling over the coming months leading worship at conferences and churches mostly in California, but we will be headed up to Oregon and out to Arizona as well. We love to travel but our first priority is our home church, so we just have to make sure and keep a balanced travel schedule. As for our next album, we have already started writing and hope to get into the studio this fall.

Barry Irwin Brophy: How has God been using the band to spread His Gospel message? Any stories?

Kingdom: It has been pretty humbling to see how God orchestrates the events of this band. We always say we are the least hard working band we know because the opportunities we have gotten are totally undeserved. Regardless of what event we do we always share the gospel message, our lead vocalist, Jordan, is a preacher, so he can’t really help himself, it just comes out. We have a particular song called “Victorious” that has become our “come to Jesus” song, we have heard a lot of great stories of people finding faith in Christ through that moment in our set, it’s probably our favorite song to play because of that.

Barry Irwin Brophy: I hear a lot of negative talk about how Christian rock is not an effective means of sharing the Gospel. What do you think are the biggest obstacles within the Christian Church institution in America and how can we change to be more effective in preaching the Gospel?

Nate: The term Christian rock is an interesting term because it suggests that “things” can be Christian, like a Christian car or something. People are Christians, and what they do represents Christ, but I understand the need to identify things such as music or movies. One of the big issues I see in Christian music in general, not just Christian rock, is that the lyrical content is so vague, the song could just as easily be about a boyfriend or girlfriend as it could be about Jesus. If you turn on Christian radio, you will most likely hear songs veiled in ambiguity and metaphors that are supposed to communicate the saving gospel of Christ. I think it just comes out of lack of trust in the sufficiency of the Gospel to save. We need to stop trying to compete with the world, trying to make Christian knock offs of pop music and embrace the fact that we are not supposed to fit in, we should sound different and our message is clear and unchanging.

Barry Irwin Brophy: How do you think your music will influence the coming revival?

Kingdom: We believe that there is a resurgence of Christ centered worship music, and by God’s grace we will continue to write and sing songs about God, to God, and for God.

Barry Irwin Brophy: What advice would you like to give to Christian musicians just getting started? Please provide any helpful tips or painful lessons of what not to do.

Kingdom: Start small and prepare big. When I decided to use my musical talents for God I started playing worship for my local church, started writing songs for my local church, and my band mates and I had hopes that we would.

Barry Irwin Brophy: What software, equipment, etc. would you recommend to someone on a tight music budget or just getting started?

Kingdom: Long answer: Depends on the goal. If you are recording, I would always recommend Pro-Tools, but you can make beautiful things happen with Logic Pro as well. If you are talking about playback in a live environment, Ableton live is the only way to go… It is a brilliant way to play back tracks, back up a set with midi clock, edit on the fly, etc. You could spend thousands of dollars in either case (recording or live playback) on plug ins and digital instruments. But if bang for your buck is the name of the game, I would recommend buying an ableton license, downloading Ableton Live, and using it for recording and playback. If you know what you are doing, you can make music just as well in ableton live and anything else. Just be prepared to invest in a good sample library no matter what you do. These softwares are simply the tools, what you are building is what really matters. You need good sounds, tuned drums, flawless tones, and a lot of talent to do anything in the music industry.

Steven: Short Answer: No matter what you do, it’s going to cost some money. But here is the bang for your buck.
Logic Pro (Recording) & Ableton Live (Live Playback)
Omnisphere (Digital Samples)
Addictive Drums or Steven Slate Drums (Drum Samples)
An Apogee Duet Interface
and borrowing everything else (Vocal Mics, Recording Space, Guitars, etc)

Barry Irwin Brophy: I’ve also encounter many struggling Christian musicians who have given up on pursuing their calling because of chaotic hardships in every form imaginable. These guys and girls are really in the fire right now and have been severely burned. If you were speaking with them one on one what would you say to them?

Nate: The tough part about pursuing your calling is that it requires trusting that God knows what He is doing, and sometimes that means His idea of what our life should look like is different from what we think it should be. Ultimately, our lives are designed to give God glory and we can do that in so many different ways, but we live in a culture that says if it isn’t “big” it isn’t successful, and many in the church have adopted this philosophy. If you have a dream and a desire to do something great, then go for it, you never want to look back and think what could have been. If you are going to fail, fail big time! But don’t get caught in the trap that you are only glorifying God when you do something big, God is glorified in the simple things like loving your neighbor and being an integrous employee at work. I would say bloom where you’re planted, never give up on your calling, which is to glorify Christ, in every way that presents itself, glorify Christ.

Barry Irwin Brophy’s Closing Thoughts on the Interview:
During the interview process, the responses from Kingdom and especially Nate really resonated hard truths about the call of the Christian artist. Sometimes I feel that when I present an interview, it’s like the answers were directly specific to me. I am sure many of my readers may experience the same, too. Nate had some challenging words at the end of the interview about how tough it is for us to trust God with our own callings. Personally, I can reflect on my own life and see chances that appeared frequently only to be snatched away from me in an instant. But what I find encouraging is the importance of holding onto the small embers of hope of God’s faithfulness; even when circumstances and relationships argue against what we know in our hearts we have been called to do by God. The men and women of Kingdom understand the importance of their music ministry and I look forward to how God will use their music to glorify His name.

As always, you can support Kingdom through prayer, purchasing their music, hosting them at your church or event, and reaching out to them on one of their social media pages. Kingdom’s desire is to worship God with others and as I finish this blog, I wish to leave my readers with Kingdom’s own statement.

“Although we love music, we have no desire to be another Christian rock band, our heart is always to bring people into a deeper understanding and relationship with Jesus through worship and the word. We also believe in edifying the body of Christ and each member of KINGDOM is on staff or serves in a ministry at our local church” (Kingdom, 2014, para. 2).

Pursuit of the arts is often paralleled with our ability to serve in ministry and I challenge all my Christian readers out there to do likewise and watch God blossom your gifting to reap the fruits of your labor in the near future.

Kingdom Pages:
Official Website: http://www.worshipwithkingdom.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kingdomband
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDGvQ8uLyCJwTagRx0VfJ7A
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KINGDOMband
Booking Agent: brandy@faithartistagency.com

References
“God of Fire” Music Video – Kingdom, YouTube, 3:37, posted by Kingdom Band, November 21, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdjG4hmZbTM (accessed June 4, 2014)
Kingdom. Group Photo. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=675713315789610&set=a.185756164785330.47688.183622581665355&type=3&theater (accessed June 13, 2014)
Kingdom. “Who We Are.” Kingdom. http://www.worshipwithkingdom.com/who-we-are.html (accessed June 12, 2014)

Creative Christian Moments Special Event: The Studio Spring Coffeehouse 2014

Creative Christian Moments Special Event: The Studio Spring Coffeehouse 2014

“If God is the Creator of us and we are created in His image, must we not create?” – Stan Sinasohn, host of The Studio Art’s Group.

Every spring and fall, The Studio Arts Group of Mill Creek Foursquare Church hosts a collaborative Christian artist event celebrating the Holy Spirit’s influence of artists in the area. The night is filled with the best baked goods prepared by local foodies, melodious music, poetry readings, and displays of poignant paintings and photography. As I write such articles for event coverage, I often reflect on what God wants to relay to me and the viewers of my blog. The rhetorical question asked by The Studio Arts Group that best sums up this evening was stated by host Stan Sinasohn, “If God is the Creator of us and we are created in His image, must we not create?”

In the depths of every Christian artist’s soul, this simple question consumes our thoughts. Christian artists are provoked to create their crafts of artwork, music, dance, and whatever other medium is categorized as art because the mission is one of perdurable significance. To spread the Gospel by whatever means we have been gifted with; we must create, because this is the nature by which the Christian artist has been designed. It is a notion common to those who are considered born again and as natural as the breathing of air. As a statement of digression, I would also like to state that during this performance many of my cameras failed on me so the last few performances have been recorded via smartphone.

The first artist of the evening was a musician named Douglas Judy who performed free playing acoustic music. Before his performance, Judy explained that his style of play is to allow his instincts and subconscious to feel the music organically. Judy is not the only musician who adopted this approach tonight and sometimes the best worship is just to listen to the sound of instruments in the background. When a musician is allowed the freedom to worship through their instruments, the Holy Spirit is able to lead like a conductor would in an orchestra. The musician becomes the very instrument of God echoing His eternal Truths while avoiding humanity’s fallen tendencies to overcompensate on accuracy, conformity, and rigid rules of structure.

Sinasohn compared our next musician to a Christian version of Mumford and Son. His name is Nathaniel Chapman and he has serenaded spiritual shockwaves through Christian music in Washington state. Before he performed his music, Chapman discussed the origins of his song with the audience. “There is an attribute about God that I think we tend forget; that oversees His love, His mercy, His grace, His compassion towards us,” states Chapman. This attribute is the holiness of God and I find this topic is so seldom preached about in the majority of American Christianity. Love is the most popular attribute preached about but to solely preach on this one attribute is to skew the perception of what God says about Himself. Above all else, it is God’s holiness that governs the other attributes.

Sinasohn read a poetry piece he had written about the mind’s process of sifting through the trials and tribulations of life that often leave one with emotional baggage of redundancy. “I’m not asking for the nations,” he states, “I’m just tired of slaving” and oh how many times can I personally relate to this season of life. Everyone of us eventually endures a period or periods of spiritual redundancy and Sinasohn’s poetic piece is an illustration of the human condition’s struggle with this season while trying to focus on God. It is in these periods of the dark night of the soul that we cry as Sinasohn has for God to “be thou my vision.”

“If you know me, you know I like to write worship music,” states our next musician Dustin Miller. Miller described the inspiration for his song as wanting to know God more. As a worship leader, Miller described that the more he progresses in his walk with God, the more he wants to understand God in greater capacities. Miller finds these opportunities in worship music and singing praises to God with this point reiterated constantly in his sentences.

Makena Bigelow leads worship in Mill Creek’s children’s church and followed the performance of Miller. She chose to do perform a common worship song she uses in children’s church by Kari Jobe entitled “Love Came Down.” What I appreciate about Bigelow’s music is the maturity conveyed to the audience. Her piano skills and vocals suggest a music prodigy well older than what she appears. I look forward to the doors God will open for her in the Christian music scene.

The next musician of the evening was Buzz Smith. Smith reminds me of fusion of country music with the deep vocals exhibited by the late Johnny Cash. The focus of Smith’s song was about how we run from God throughout our lives often to our detriment. Smith reiterated that the inspiration for this song came from multiple conversations with a friend of his who is constantly seeking God but has not made the decision to commit to a relationship with Him. “The one thing that keeps us from God is ourselves,” states Smith. In our post-modern philosophical society that celebrates pantheism, this action is quite common and illustrates the proverbial fenced position by which the majority of humanity sits in making a decision to believe the Gospel message. Sitting on the fence in decision making is the same as saying no to the Gospel message.

Steve Sprague can be considered a regular when it comes to performances and associations with The Studio Arts Group. In the past few months, I learned that Sprague was able to open for many shows of local artists in similar events. I was overjoyed by this news and Sprague’s life reflects, like many others in this blog, that age is irrelevant when it comes to pursuing your talent. God honors those who simply use the gifts He has given them. Sprague performed a song called “Average Joe” that night and discussed that sometimes artists can only complete what seems like so little because that is the best they can offer in their current circumstances. He stated throughout the song that he would not trade the experiences of his own personal trials and tribulations for how they produced a deeper walk with God.

Author Dan McKinnon was the next artist of the night and shared a story from his recently published book Breadcrumbs entitled “Soldier”. McKinnon’s story is a personal narrative about his experience with working with his church in disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims in the early 2000s. While assisting in repairing the damage, McKinnon and a group of his congregation came upon a dog they named Soldier who had been abandoned during the event. As they continued their service in helping clean up one of the many disaster areas, McKinnon dwelt upon Soldier’s origins which led to him dwelling upon philosophical thoughts about how God views us. At the end of his presentation, McKinnon ended with the words of John 3:16.

Rachel Kearns was one of our younger musicians and shared an inspirational song about teenage girls’ personal self-respect in selecting honorable teenage boys for romance. Having a daughter of my own, Kearns’ song reminded me of the innocence girls embody and as parents we must guard their hearts from the toxic messages society preaches as virtues. Kearns’ song reminds me that as I raise my own daughter to be independent and confident, character, intelligence, virtue of morals, and righteous actions are what define true beauty. If society is to truly embrace this change, more songs like Kearns are needed to saturate the culture.

Newcomer, Travis Setzer was the next musician to perform and was the only guitarist to play a twelve string guitar. In describing his style of music, Setzer stated that “the Lord’s given me music to Scripture.” Setzer displayed an amazing ability to sing common Bible passages to the sound of his acoustic guitar. What I admire about Setzer’s ability to do this is it helps one memorize Scripture as the human brain has been documented to best remember memories by using music. When one reads through Psalms, these Scriptures were hymns themselves so it’s great to see this in action in our present day.

Like the first performance by Judy, Matthew Knowles chose to perform a freestyle play of worship through guitar. Knowles appeared a bit nervous but mustered up the courage to play for the audience. What I admire about Knowles is his humility and he is also a gifted painter. Hopefully, in a future post my readers will be able to partake of his painting skills.

“God does not create cookie cutter carbon copy Christians,” stated Jeff Quill, quoting a statement his wife told him when they were discussing his performance before the coffeehouse event. Quill struck me as a man who speaks his mind about his faith and he performed an acoustic song about how each person is a treasured and unique creation by God.

There is a saying that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and I can see this in Alesia McNeal. She is the daughter of musician Jessi McNeal and has the same talent her mother possesses in music. McNeal shared a song about a crush she had on a boy and the song reminded me of something familiar from a dramatic television show. McNeal, like many of the other musicians embodies a gifted maturity in her music and I constantly lament as to why the music industry does not attend such events like these. McNeal, like many of the others, could be the next musician that speaks to society in a powerful way. I thank God that He has allowed me to document such performances and look forward to who He raises up.

Kyle Bigelow was our next musician that night and is also the father of Makena Bigelow. Bigelow shared that his inspiration for worship music came from volunteering with the Everett Gospel Mission. Weekly, Bigelow and a group of men volunteer at the shelter and play worship music for the homeless. Bigelow enjoys doing this because he can truly see the real Gospel message in action and has also met “some of the finest people” down at the mission in character, morals, and virtue. The song he performed was a assimilation of stories about these individuals and the redemption Christ grants for everyone.

The last performance of the night came from musician Jessi McNeal. Having released her first album Pen to Paper in 2013, McNeal informed the audience that she has been working on her second album and chose to perform one of her new songs. McNeal has had the opportunity of touring the local Seattle circuit and I am exstatic to see her musical dreams blossom into reality. I cannot wait for her next album to be published and I will write another blog review when it occurs.

What can we walk away with from the performances tonight? Christian artists are compelled to create because our Creator, God Almighty, has placed this ability in His creation. Part of the Christian artist’s struggle lies with identifying our artistic gifts and honoring Him with them. Many of the artists identified have invested their own resources and talents into pursuit of these gifts; furthermore, what many will probably seldom hear about is the struggles many of these individuals have endured in their families, finances, physical, and emotional health just to present their gifts tonight. But the joy of the Christian artist lies not just within these circumstances but the truth that persevering to honor God has its own reward of knowing Him more in this life and the next.

Related Links:
Mill Creek Foursquare Church: http://www.mc4s.org/
The Studio Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thestudio.mc4s
Nathaniel Chapman: https://fandalism.com/salvationsinger
Matthew Knowles: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.knowles.925?fref=ts
Dustin Miller: https://www.facebook.com/dustinmillermusic
Dan McKinnon: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781628718669
Jessi McNeal: https://www.facebook.com/JessiMcNeal
Steve Sprague: https://www.facebook.com/stevespraguemusic?filter=1

References
Kari Jobe, “Love Came Down”, Sparrow records, 2012. MP3.
Spring Coffeehouse. By Mill Creek Foursquare Church. Directed by The Studio. Building B, Lynnwood, WA, May 10, 2014.
The Studio. “About.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/thestudio.mc4s/info (accessed May 29, 2014)
The Studio. Logo. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=601286313246005&set=a.160899973951310.28220.160898427284798&type=1&theater (accessed May 29, 2014)
The Studio Spring Coffeehouse 2014, YouTube, 1:16:11, posted by Barry Brophy, May 31, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fJ1Lp1yVrs (accessed May 31, 2014)