Mar 14, 2012
Posted by Dale
The Conference part 1
Just finished the “Lift” conference here in Atlanta. I am writing this as I wait to board my plane back home to Wichita, KS. I am exhausted, overwhelmed and my voice is cracking like a 13 year old boy. My heart is full to the point of overflowing and Sunday, tomorrow cannot come soon enough! It seemed the main point of the conference was to fill up worship leaders and the continual theme weaved throughout the conference was “STOP TRYING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!” Stop trying to make it big. Stop trying to force God’s hand. The Holy Spirit is the best talent agent out there and if He prefers to use you, He knows where you are.
SLS, The Genesis:
My journey to Atlanta and this conference began probably about 8 years ago when Shine Like Stars began in Irvine, California. I had a vision of a touring worship band committed to a home Church, which wrote songs to be used in the Church all over America. However, I have sent our CD to about ten record labels and the only one that responded was Six Step Records who sent back a very nice letter saying they don’t have time to listen to random CD’s but they will pray for me. D’oh.
10 states and 3 tours later I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to book tours in my own power. I’m tired of the 200 calls and emails that lead to one gig…sometimes. I’m tired of worrying about the tour all year long. I’m tired.
This year the plan was to go through Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. More on that later…
On December 2nd our son was born three weeks early. He was induced because he was failing to grow well in utero. Complicated by some heart concerns we induced and had a beautiful 5 pound 3 ounce boy. I wept like a child at his birth. I also almost barfed.
Since then our prayer has been that his life would bring glory to God. Also since then he has struggled to eat and has had various ailments including three surgeries and four stints in the hospital. I would not trade our son for the world but at times wish he could just be healthy. He may have significant metabolic disorders as well as other problems with his heart, brain, eyes and esophagus. Or he could end up okay. Frederick (or FX) has become a new concern for me as we try to book our tour. Would he do okay for weeks on the road? What if he were still sick and we were far from his doctors? A seed began to grow in my mind that God might not want us to go on this tour.
For the longest time I wanted to be a great surfer. I am clumsy, scared of the ocean and not particularly graceful but I worked really hard at surfing. Whenever I went surfing with friends I would often hope they saw me do something cool, even to the point where I would often, annoyingly, ask them if they saw me do tricks. Often they would say no, so as to shut me up. (They saw) With music I didn’t ever really care how well people thought I could sing or play guitar. Not that I didn’t take many, many lessons, but it was never work for me. It was a God given talent and I really felt like I couldn’t take credit for it. So I took it for granted. Ironically I entered in Surf contests to show how great I could be without God’s natural talent. I had moxie, dangit! I didn’t need talent! I was fourth once in a dinky amateur contest and it was one of the greatest honors I ever received. Funny how I wouldn’t accept God’s blessing on something. I preferred to show what I could do on my own, without Him. Whoopie! Check me out. Fourth place! Beat that, God. What a moron.
The tour part one:
So here I am trying to book another tour and I have a sick son and very little interest from Churches so far. My wife has questioned out loud the timing of our tour with our son’s illness. Doug’s new son will arrive a few months before the tour as well. God, what are you trying to say? Should I try harder to book this tour?
The new CD:
Lately God has been giving me new songs in abundance, like those little mailers that fall out of your magazines. Jeez those things are annoying. It seems every time you turn a page you learn you can save 50% off the newsstand price of Newsweek. By page six you get it. Lately every time I turn a page in life or our Church focuses on a new subject another stack of original songs fall into my lap. You’ll never hear most of them, but the best end up in our congregation and will be on the next CD.
Our Church and our wonderful lead Pastor, Casey Casamento are inspiring me to write and I really am just inspired most of the time. Lyrics, guitar parts and little melodies are falling out of my brain like a leaky faucet. Leak is an underwhelming term here. They are GUSHING out of my head. But with my limited time, I need to do my job, take care of my family and book a tour. It would make sense for me to get us in the studio ASAP so people can hear what I believe may be the greatest musical work of my life but I need to conserve time and cash for the tour. This tour is the only way we will get our music out. This tour is a way I can earn it without God. I will use my work ethic to make it happen. It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen.
(tears) It has to happen…
The conference part 2:
So last Sunday night and I receive a call from a friend who believes in and supports our music. He says he wants me to go to the “Lift” conference in Atlanta Georgia, IN FIVE DAYS! He says his wife will help take care of our son and my family. He says he is buying me a flight, a hotel room, food, the conference ticket and cab fare. I can’t go, I say. My wife is too burdened. Her response: “You better go.” God wanted me there. We figured he wanted me to meet the big wigs in the Christian music industry who were going to be there. My friend said to take 20 CD’s and give them to said big wigs. I figured if the conference was about 200 I could probably swing it. Um, there were around 2000 people there. No way to get in front of a big wig. No way to catch Chris Tomlin in the hall and casually bring up how awesome I am. No way to corner David Crowder at the buffet and shove headphones on his huge melon. No way to walk up the stairs with Louie Giglio and transition in conversation from the weather to why they should sign us.
I decided to still network anyway and ended up becoming friends with Chris, a new worship leader at a Church of 60. Chris is an awesome man of God and I felt blessed getting to know him as he picked me up at my hotel, took me to the first Chic Fil A and dropped me off at the airport. A mover and a shaker, though, he was not. He would not get my name out. Shine Like Stars will not break it big from his help. But he prayed over me and my family. The conference was a great encouragement sitting next to such a cool guy as I wept through most worship songs and prayed on behalf of my beautiful son. I must have been a gross snotty mess. Ugh.
As lunch time approached today, I knew I would have to make the two mile walk to chic fil if I wanted to eat. I had talked to some intern via email the day before about my food allergy. The sandwiches offered would get me super sick if I ate them. As I began to walk to the Chic Fil A it was flipping cold and I began to have second thoughts. As I reached the edge of the block I received an email. It was the intern guy saying they had Mexican food for me. I went back to the Passion Church building and asked for him by name. “Do you know him?” They asked? “He is very busy.” I responded in the affirmative. They sent me to someone else at the help desk. “Do you know him?” They asked? “He is very busy, he is in basically in charge of the whole conference.” Whaaaaaat? Yeah, not an intern. Out he came and walked me to the restricted area to eat with the sound crew. He asked me lots of questions and had another dude assisting him. He served me food. Brought me drinks. Oh and did I mention he is a large part of Six Step records? Remember, the label, which sent me the nice letter? Yeah, them. He continued to serve me. Bro, you are super important. I am a lame underling, go away already. You have more important things to think about. However, he stuck around. He talked to me he served me. I had already decided that morning I was done trying to make it happen anymore for my music. What the heck? I kept waiting for him to leave me with an an actually intern. Instead he offered me fruit from the fruit plate. He asked me about my Church, my home. He served me. Okay God, I get it. I handed him two CD’s and asked him to listen to them. He was gracious. Whether he will or not is inconsequential. God was flexing His muscle. See what I can do Dale? See what I can do? I AM! Do you not think I can get your music out there?
The Tour part two:
As far as I can see on this foggy boat ride, called life, I see this tour off. We will still gig some this Summer for sure. We will play Riverfest and anything else God calls us to. I will not stop networking at appropriate times, but I am done trying to make it happen. I am done trying to be God. He is God, if he would like to promote us, he will. If we are meant to only be the worship band for City Life Church, so be it. I love our Church and see it as an amazing blessing to be a part of. We have the most incredible staff anywhere.
We (Shine Like Stars) are going to make a record. It feels like this is God’s timing. Also this is not us saying we give up, only we are regrouping and rethinking. The guys have requested time off from work for tour so their schedules should be wide open for us to record for about a week. I would like to record in Kansas at a studio nearby. I have a studio in mind but will wait to reveal it until we have booked it. Doug, our drummer, will be able to spend more time with his newborn son and ours will be in town near the hospital and his doctors. My son, FX is more important than any tour ever…ever.
I hope this doesn’t come across as a confession of mediocrity. I believe Shine Like Stars to be a unique, gifted and anointed worship band. I believe we sound like no one else. My punk/emo inspired background mixed with incredible musicians and worshippers from very different backgrounds sounds like a winner to me. My theology and songwriting skills have been refined by constant mentoring by people much smarter and more talented than myself. Our style is like no other worship band and honestly, when by myself, I blast our music in my car. It’s good. I think if a record company took a chance on us it would pay dividends a hundred fold with those who seek something a little different. If that sounds braggy, well. Yeah, I am bragging a bit. Moving on…
Ca$h…Or the CD part 2:
We don’t fully have enough money to make this record and produce it as well as duplicate it. I am undecided if I should go to donors and ask for money. I have had a few people offer help in the past. I may ask if they would still like to help, but other than that, I will leave the finances up to God. If you would like to donate a NON-tax-deductible gift to Shine Like Stars you can send it to us and we would love you for it. Maybe we will send you something in return, but probably not.
You could also bless us by sharing this on your twitter or Facebook wall or printing it out and giving it to others who might want to help us financially or through prayer. I have no expectations; only that God will make this CD happen his way, not mine. I believe this record will be one of the greatest things I have ever made and if that is true, God will bless it in a way I can’t foresee.
Two more ways God is showing me he can do great things with my music, (if He wanted to) lately. A friend recently called this week saying he may have a connection with a talent scout out of New York this week. I may never meet with him, but this is further confirmation of what God can do if He so chose. Finally before I finished writing this very blog I met a man waiting to get on the plane. He is a pastor at a Church in Hutchinson, KS. He is a friend of acclaimed worship leader, Charlie Hall. He was talking with him TODAY. He was asking me about our Church and the band. He said he would pass on my information to Charlie Hall. Seriously God? Have I said that yet? Seriously?
My dad always taught me to work harder at things than anyone else. Especially things I am not talented at, like baseball, surfing or booking a tour. However, my Father in heaven has been trying to wrest my music away from me for years. I just didn’t know it. I’ve held it tightly in my fist like a child gripping a toy they prefer not share. My hands have been callused, scuffed and bloody holding on to my music and my pride. Slowly, through this weekend, my scarred hands have opened. God here is my music. Do with it what you will. I am done trying to do it myself. I cannot any longer. I have sinned against You. I have not trusted You. Lord, if you would have me sink further into obscurity, so be it. If you would take my music across the world, I know it won’t be of my doing.
I lift my empty hands to you. My offering is nothing. My offering is my weakness and brokenness. Your will be done. Your name will be glorified. King of Kings and Lord of Lords we exalt YOU and not ourselves.
Shine Like Stars