Thursday, May 29, 2008


Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”

I did a Christian songwriting seminar @ Inspire ’08 that went really well. I joined songwriter Don Kock (In Christ Alone, Mercy Came Running and Basics of Life and other massive, Dove award winning songs) to talk about ways to think as a song writer. I thought you might like to see the talking points from this seminar. It’s basically a few ways to think as you improve your songwriting. Enjoy and write big!

Think Biblically
• The Bible is our foundation for truth in the Christian faith. It is the measure of every belief we have. Make sure it is the measure of every word you choose to write in a song.
• There is no better standard for content in writing Christian songs. If you can’t back it up with the Bible, it is not worth saying. This is the highest ethic in Christian songwriting.
• Knowing the Bible and being able to synthesize what it says into song is the first place to start for every worship writer.
Think Melodically
• Melody is king of music.
• Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Happy Birthday, Jesus Loves Me… All the hits are based on amazing melody.
• Your song has to have a good melody or it will not really work. Great lyric is important, but great melody is what makes your song stick with people…it’s what makes songs last.

Think Critically
• Always be willing to criticize, edit and remodel your work.
• The best songs are not written, they are re-written. Toss your work out to your peers or competitors. Not your grandma who loves everything you do, but someone who is well acquainted with Proverbs 27:6…”faithful are the wounds of a friend”
• Don’t fall in love with your original idea…let it breathe and see where you might land on the second or third try!

Think Creatively
• Be original when you write. Pay respect to your influences without ripping them off. I have written enough mediocre Steven Curtis Chapman tributes to know.
• Originality will distinguish your songs from the rest.

Think Consistently
• Collect everything that could be used in a song. Sayings, articles, thoughts, melodies
• Always keep something with you to record your collection. Note pads, voice recorder, leave your self a voicemail…what ever it takes, but always be ready to trap the music.
• Listen to people pray. I have written more songs from listening to old people pray than any other source. Listen to old people pray…remember what they say.
• Raise your sense of awareness when it comes to gathering information. Listen with your ears on every time you can. Most people talk in “song hooks” and say things that make great songs without even knowing it…be ready for that.
• Don’t wait for Inspiration…train it to show up when you want it. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for the perfect church…if it does emerge, it won’t last long, so you have to be the one to make it great. Train your inspiration/ muse by putting it to work on a daily basis. Write, Write, Write…do not wait. Write. Read “On Writing” by Stephen King
Think Collectively
• Invite others into your experience. Community is always stronger than solo. Your songs have double the power to get heard because, they are backed by a team and not a one-man band. Two heads are better than one.
• Co-write as much as you can to improve your end result.
Think Responsibly
• You are charged with putting words about God and the Christian experience into people’s mouths. Songs are uniquely capable of sticking with people, so make sure what you say holds water. Make sure what you put in people’s mouths is nutritious and delicious.
• Exhaust yourself to make your music and your lyrics represent the clearest truth. Do not settle for the easy way out.

Think Globally
• Write things that people everywhere would want to say. Global themes are common to everyone, so write something that connects on numerous levels. Personally and globally…
Think Poetically
• Use imagery and word pictures with your lyrics…”the leaves were so green” BAD “the leaves looked like emerald drops” BETTER
• Think about rhyme as much as you can. Never write something so that you force it to rhyme and the expense of making clear sense or being conversational.
• Avoid Yoda Speak to fit a rhyme in. “You always have been good, me you understood”. BAD This is not how people talk…write conversations. “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus” BETTER
• Avoid passive voice: form of "to be" + past participle = passive voice. “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” BAD Use the most direct and conversational word orders that you can…it promotes clarity and drives home you point better

Think Courageously
• Say something that breaks a bond when you write.
• Don’t waste words on something that has already been said or more importantly don’t waste your time adding to the pantheon of things that have been poorly said. Songs that have substance always have an element of risk to them and they always last.
• Don’t be afraid to call people to action, challenge thought, encourage passion, ignite courage
• Be proud of your songs. If God gave them to you, it’s either because he did not want them anymore (ha) or he wanted you to use it to bless someone else. Be gracious about it, but play your songs for people…music is for people and not for private personal consumption. If you have been given the gift to make it, never keep it to yourself and never be ashamed of it. Treat your songs like you treat your kids. Show them off every chance you get in public, but in private, do the disciplined, consistent work it takes to get them ready to leave the house and not embarrass you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I met a guy a few years ago named Smooth. Odd I know. I first met him through e-mail and on the phone when we talked about some web-site stuff. He is a web designer. I imagined a guy, hold up in his basement, pounding out code in between games of World of War Craft and Slurpee gulps. It turns out that the name is a family thing given in boyhood and not something hastily chosen as a screen name for AOL.
Fortunately, when i did meet him in person, he was a really nice guy. Once I got to know him a little more, it turns out Smooth prays for people...he fights for them and when I need it most, I usually get a perfectly timed voicemail from Smooth that tells me he has been praying for me. My most recent voicemail from my seldom seen friend went a little like this. "Hey Carl. It's Smooth. I am driving my wife's car today and she had your CD in the player. I heard it and started praying for you. See you soon." You cannot put a price on a man who has prayer instincts. Get one in your corner if you can. A brother, who you may not even see or talk to a lot, but has connected with you enough to know when to lift you up and follow that up with a call. I have about four guys in my life like that and everyone of them has helped me bear unnamed burdens and unnumbered hurts. Thanks Smooth. Thanks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Catching (huff) Breath (huff) can't believe it all!!! (huff)

Finally back on the ground after Inspire 08, and just let me say, I have way more to share than one blog than can possibly digest, so I'll promise to break it down a few entries at a time. First of all, we ended up with 87 who came (and four who bailed out at the last minute) and 20 or so staff, presenters and special guests. This was a miracle in itself, since it was our first conference and we had never marketed something like this before. As He has always done in the past, God moved mightily on our behalf as we cried out to him. He has been savior over and over again through the whole process and he has been faithful and he has been the defender of the weak and he has qualified the unqualified and he has been justification and redemption and majestic and creative and a million things more. I am just amazed at how powerfully he worked in our midst.

We had great reviews and evaluations from everyone and the majority of the complaints were wishing the conference lasted longer. Good news is, that we'll be doing it again in a year. I am taking a day this week to get away and pray and seek God for clear direction on this new path he has opened up for me. I never expected things to go the way they have, but God revealed a new facet of my calling this past week. I have been a David (1 Samuel 17), (under-qualified, unexpected and under the radar) but used by God is specific and unique ways to lead his people. But now I see I must add a Samuel to that picture (1 Samuel 16)... ones who seeks out the under-qualified, unexpected and under the radar and calls out greatness in them, lay my hands on them and anoint them...pour my life out for them, getting them ready to be giant killers. Warriors in worship. This is what I personally took away from the conference, and I think God moved as powerfully in the life of every person there. It was amazing.

Be on the look out for an announcement about all the recorded content from Inspire 08. We'll get everything we can up on Youtube and our soon to be launched Inspire Worship Pod Cast.

If you prayed for this conference, thanks. If you came, thanks. If you think we've only just begun to see the power of the risen Christ at work, you're right.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We're Here!!!

We're on the ground at Inspire '08 and it is going great. it has been my dream for over a year to see this baby delivered and it's finally here and almost out! Yesterday during set up, God won a major victory for us in the 11th hour...simply amazing battle that I had resigned as lost. Last nights service was incredible and overwhelming...I could not have asked for more and I was was pretty greedy with my prayers. Aubrey Spears was a perfect choice for the message and his passion was so engaging!! I love that guy. Tonight is Christy Nockels leading worship and Steven Furtick preaching. I am looking forward to a night off and a night to worship without a "to-do" list.
More tomorrow on tonights service...see you soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Oak Breaks Bad. Heather Stays Awesome.

My otherwise sweet and loving Oak has taken to his new brother like power takes to corruption. In the last four days, I have seen Oak abandon everything I have taught him about kindness and virtue, to fully embrace the life of a boy bent on abuse. He will stop at nothing in his bid to destroy his brother. So far he has…hit him with a flip flop (from across the room), them hit him in the forehead with a spoon, then went traditional with the fist a few times, followed up by a kick here and there. What happened to my son!? He is now one of the meanest kids I know. I still love the little guy more than I ever have, but if he leaves his mother in tears one more time; I might send him to camp a little early this summer. He has gotten the best of my patience on several occasions this week, but other powers are at work to make me stop and take note of how it’s really done.
Enter Heather: my wife, Oak and Ezra’s mom. She is in the midst of a truly difficult conflict. Having to give, literally, round the clock care to our three week old Ezra and lamenting the fact that our self-feeding, walking, talking, strong will asserting, two year old gets less concentrated attention from his beloved mommy than he once did.
I love watching her navigate these waters. Both avoiding the rocks of favoritism toward either boy and steering clear of the emotional explosions that lay just beneath the surface when tested by Oak’s surly behavior. My wife is remarkable. She nurses Ezra and plays with Oak all at the same time. She makes lunch, reads stories, plays trucks, makes “ha-cun” (also known as pop-corn) and changes diapers by the “load”. (Especially Ezra who has developed a unique “tell” as to when he will use the bathroom…it’s right after he has been freshly diapered. It rarely fails…I’d say 88% of the time.)
While she is doing all that, she looks good doing it. Always getting ready in the AM and looking her best, even if she is at the house all day. She has a standard and she keeps it, even if she is not celebrated or awarded for the effort. She could even expect to have her hair clumped with oatmeal for the effort, but she does it anyway…because she’s amazing. While I am at it, nothing is better than the sound of your wife praying for your sons and blessing them with a future and imparting a vision for their young lives.
So on this weekend of honoring the institution of motherhood, I will throw my hat in the ring and say that Heather Cartee is bearing the burdens of raising very young boys with patience, tenacity and great wisdom…all the while looking hotter than ever.
I love my wife and am honored to see her do her thing. It’s like watching one of the great masters at a really young age…before they were known by the world, they were know by only a few, but those few got a glimpse into greatness. The work she is putting into our boys will come to light, one day, through their own contributions to the Kingdom. They are going to be great, because my wife is great.

Great job “Heb”. Happy Mothers Day! I love you.

Be nice to your brother…he is growing faster than you and probably has an internal score that is kept now, to be settled later.