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  • New transMission CD - Marty's Journal; Entry #5: Three In One (The Mystery Hymn) (or A Lesson On The 3rd Doctrine of The Salvation Army)

    Doctrine #3:

    We believe that there are three person in the God-head, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.


    I have never been good at math. 
     
    Ever.  
     
    Numbers just aren't my thing.  As a musician, I find myself sticking to predictable phrases, or the length of a term of beats, measures, and so on… For example, in the morning, when making myself a glass of tasty chocolate milk, I count to myself as I put 32 swirls of Hershey's chocolate syrup in my 1% milk (in a good size glass, mind you, at a clip of about 150 beats per minute).  I don't count 30 or 35.  No, it HAS to equal an 8 measure phrase, in 4/4 time.  It just feels right.  Why?  Because I'm a musician, of course.  And it tastes amazing.  I'm just sayin' is all.

    What I have just unpacked for you is the extent of my arithmetical prowess.  Now, string some flowery words together, accompanied by somewhat mediocre and average chord progressions… THAT, I can do!  Compound interest, dealing with probabilities, long division, calculating tips, (shoot, even trying to figure out stats in baseball), these all perplex me, and if I'm really bothered by it, I'll ask someone for clarification (these days, it's one Brad Rowland, drummer/math whiz).  But that's only if I'm bothered by it.  Most of the time I am not.  Perhaps this is why it took me 3 shots at passing the same math class in college (sorry, Mom), and that was AFTER taking 2 prep remedial math classes!  (I should also mention that I was a poor test-taker. At least that's my theory).  
     
    Additionally, my first non-summer-camp job was as an employee at a Salvation Army Thrift Store.  I'm positive the commanding officer had pity on me, realizing that I may not be the best fit for what he had in mind for me.  I'm grateful he took a chance, but clearly I wasn't cut from the right cloth.  Here's why: for the first two weeks in my new job (that had nothing to do with washing dishes, or even teaching music to kids at camp) I was given some pretty interesting tasks.  (Okay, let's be honest… I was BORED out of my mind after spending 4 hours sorting through donated goods).  After my supervisor realized that even this was too much for me to handle, he put me out on the floor of the store.  This was better.  At least I could see windows.  Fast forward another month, and the saintly woman that I now reported to drew my attention to this modern marvel of a machine called a cash register.  "I'm gonna teach you how to use this," she said.  "It's easy," she said.  "Even a monkey could do this," she said.  (I'm getting to the point, promise!).  Well, after spending nearly 2 hours, she explained what had to be done.  I asked my questions, she gave her answers.  All was good.  They were careful about how much responsibility they gave me, and for good reason.  After doing this earth-shattering work, they offered me a chance of a lifetime.  See, I had started this fantastical job over a Christmas break.  By the time the spring semester came around, I told them it was going to be difficult commuting all the way across town to get some hours in.  The solution was genius.  They scheduled me in at another location!  A much smaller store, only 3 miles from my college campus.  Awesome.  Except for one thing… I had to settle my own accounts after every shift.  Oh, and I also closed the store out BY MYSELF every time, making sure the deposit was counted and calculated properly.  Clearly, by now, the fine folks in charge of things had lost their minds, entrusting me with such responsibility.  Long story short(er), I never once settled a balanced shift.  Not once did I ever have what register said I should have.  Sometimes there wasn't enough.  Most times, there was more than I was supposed to have (we're not talking big amounts here… maybe ten cents here and there).  To this day, I still have no idea how they kept me on as long as they did.  (The business manager, who played the aforementioned part of the "saintly woman" finally had a word with me, and it was agreed that I made a better sorter than a cashier.  Only I didn't want to sort.  So I got a job at Old Navy instead.  Sorting.  They asked if I was interested in being a cashier.  I declined.)

    So you understand my plight by now, hopefully… Me and numbers don't get along.  And assigning myself the task of writing about the single greatest mystery in the history of all mankind (which, of course, involves NUMBERS!)???  Now it would appear that I am the one who's lost his mind.
     
    HOW ON EARTH (OR HEAVEN, FOR THAT MATTER) IS THE TRINITY EVEN REMOTELY FATHOMABLE TO OUR LIMITED SCOPE OF UNDERSTANDING AS HUMANS?  

    I may be horrible at math, but even I know the notion that God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit all being ONE, while distinctly being THREE at the same time, doesn't add up.  
     
    Or does it?  
     
    You've most likely heard and seen all the analogies that accompany the explanation of the Holy Trinity:  
     
    The ooey, gooey berry cobbler, whose innards, when cut, still fuse back together (another mystery!)  The crust/top may have been divided, but the insides were still one.  
     
    Then there's the Water/Steam/Ice analogy.  That's a good one.  Water, when it is heated turns to steam.  Somehow it's still water.  But when it's frozen, it's ice.  So, is ice frozen steam?  Or it is frozen water?  This is too much… Science is too much like math.  I'm bad at math, remember?  
     
    Oh, what about the 3-blade propellor?  Or, one of my personal favorites, the egg: Shell/White/Yolk… (I love eggs!).  How about the three-leaf clover (???  Just found that one on Google).
     
    As you might imagine, there's plenty that has been shared on this subject.  And while I could point you to any number of theologians, one that I always find to be thought-provoking is A.W. Tozer.  Here's what he has to say, from his book "The Knowledge of the Holy":
     
    To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. Some persons who reject all they cannot explain have denied that God is a Trinity. Subjecting the Most High to their cold, level-headed scrutiny, they conclude that it is impossible that He could be both One and Three. These forget that their whole life is enshrouded in mystery. They fail to consider that any real explanation of even the simplest phenomenon in nature lies hidden in obscurity and can no more be explained than can the mystery of the Godhead.

    What I love about this is that, even in my dumbfounded-ness, I can accept in faith who God says He is.  I'm not a high thinking individual.  I don't read works on philosophy or theology for fun.  I don't spend time arguing the greatest mysteries, or debate lofty rhetoric.  And it's not that I don't want to.  It's that I can't.  I am simply not wired that way.  However, I know, as Tozer suggests, that all of life is "shrouded in mystery," and that if there is one area of life that I'll never be able to explain, then there is no area of life that I'll EVER be able to explain.  But it's this MYSTERY that absolutely fascinates me.  It's this MYSTERY that has me hooked, with bated breath, every time I encounter the LIVING GOD who has created me (God, the Father), saved me (Jesus, the Son), and sustains me (The Holy Spirit).  
     
    The bottom line is this:  I don't want to be able to understand it.  Even if it's never explained to me on either side of Heaven, here or there, I will forever embrace the mystery.  All of it.  I believe it.  I may not be able to argue a case about it.  I may never scratch the surface of human thought regarding the Father, Son and Spirit, and that's absolutely fine by me.  I still put all my stock in the MYSTERY.  
     
    Here is what I've come up with for this astounding statement of ours, in homage to this Triune God we believe in:
     
    Three In One (The Mystery Hymn)
     
    The mystery, how can it be
    Three persons undivided, Trinity
    In essence all three are the same
    Sharing the glory and the power of Their Name
     
    The mystery, the God-head three
    Before all time began, in perfect unity
    Our Father Love, Creator Grand
    Holds all the universe inside His mighty hand
     
    The mystery, that on a tree
    Jesus, the Son, would die for our Liberty
    The maker of that tree would stand
    And raise to life again, His perfect Warrior-Lamb
     
    The Holy Spirit, Oh Holy Spirit
    Moving among us, around us and through us
    Come move among us, around us and through us
     
    Father, Son, Spirit One
    Your will be done here, Your will be done
    God the Judge, Jesus the Son
    Spirit, convict us, make us one

    Here's to getting rid of our thinking-caps and perhaps for the first time believing in faith, without analogy or explanation, in this great MYSTERY!  
     
    Marty 
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  • New transMission CD - Marty's Journal; Entry #4: You Alone (or A Lesson On The 2nd Doctrine of The Salvation Army)

    Doctrine # 2:


    We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

    I waited a long time to start writing this.  A long time.  I wanted to make sure I could confidently approach this with biblical accuracy.  And it's not too difficult to do, to see God's sovereignty through scripture, if you're willing to look for it. 

    There are many elements to this doctrine, many facets to who God is: Perfect Creator.  Preserver.  Governor.  And my favorite: The ONLY proper object of religious worship.  I think it would be easy to tackle this last one, because we're caught up in worship.  There's a lot of worship happening all over the world… mostly idol worship, mis-guided and mis-directed worship.  But we, as humans, have been wired to worship.  This is something that I've spent a lot of time over the last 7 years trying to figure out.  And I'd love to share all of these findings. 

    But I'm not going to do that here.  Instead, I've decided to approach this one from a different angle.  

    Sovereignty.  

    There aren't a lot of situations where we might use this word.  There aren't many instances where we'd say that something was sovereign, above all else in power and authority.  Perhaps government, depending on our nationality.  In earlier eras, kings and emperors would exercise power and authority, sovereign above their kingdoms and empires.  Many times, however, history proves that this power and authority turns corrupt those who were considered to be, at one point or another, fair, just, and righteous.  Power has a way of clouding vision.  

    To say that God is sovereign, however, is another thing altogether.  An OTHER thing.  An ABOVE ALL thing.  My dictionary defines "Sovereign" as "possessing supreme or ultimate power."  David cries out in a moving prayer, as recorded in 2nd Samuel 7, "How great you are, Sovereign LORD!  There is no one like you, and there is no God but you…" (v. 22)

    David knew it.  Millions of others before and since have known it.  Simply put, God is above all else.  He has no equal.  No rival.  No peer.  No similarity.  No parallel.  No match.  

    So when we're dealing with trying to understand certain things in life, it will confuse us when we try to make God fit into our idea of who we think He is.  We have no frame of reference.  We have nothing to compare Him to.  Even when we read of His Son, Jesus, telling his audiences about the Kingdom of Heaven, many onlookers are left perplexed, scratching their heads.  Nowhere is this more frustrating than when we face the painful times in life.  

    Especially tragedy.  

    Helen Hunt and Bette Midler star in a movie called "Then She Found Me."  I'm not sure I understand the entire plot, other than it's a telling depiction of how someone handles life as curve balls are thrown at them.  Hunt's character, April, after enduring several heartbreaking events, is unsuccessfully consoled by her new-found birth mother, Bernice, as she is about to face yet another potentially life-changing situation.  Bernice, noticing that her daughter, a devout Jew, is about to face this situation without praying, says "Aren't you going to pray?  You always pray.  You pray before eating a bowl of spaghetti… and now, before you do the most important thing you'll ever do in your life, suddenly you're not interested?"  April simply concludes that because of all she's been through, she's tired of being disappointed by God.  "What's the use?  I had faith" she says.  "I thought God was good."  And upon breaking down (notably the first time in the storyline), April is offered these entirely profound words from Bernice: "Maybe God is… difficult… awful… complicated…"  

    April begins to pray a traditional Hebrew prayer, the Sh'ma Yisrael.  Bernice asks, "What does that mean?"  "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one."  "Listen O Israel, the God of love and the God of fear are ONE."  (Deut. 6:4)

    He is higher-than.  He is wider-than.  And He is other-than… We will never fully understand why God is seemingly so hard to find in life's darkest hours.  And days, months, even years…

    Another reason I waited so long to write this was because of what happened on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.  Like so many other tragedies, the events from that Friday morning left countless numbers of people pleading and clawing for an answer: God, how could you let this happen?  Where are you?  If you were really in control… why didn't you stop this evil???  

    I don't pretend to understand all of this.  I won't try to explain how such a loving God would allow for so much pain and destruction.  And I'm certainly not comfortable claiming to be God's spokesperson, though I am charged with being His hands and feet... 

    But I do know that God is still in control.  He is still sovereign.  He is still on the throne of it all.  He's still got the whole world in His hands.  And He is still above all else.  He is greater than evil.  He is stronger than death.  He is higher and wider, deeper and deeper still, than anything else we can imagine.  He alone is INFINITELY PERFECT.  He alone is CREATOR, PRESERVER, and GOVERNOR of ALL THINGS.

    One day, this will all be clear.  And until that day, may I offer a voice to those who would join me in declaring the unrivaled, infinitely perfect ways of God… 



    "You Alone"


    You hold all things together, You speak and life begins
    You say the word and winds obey Your commands
    You are the Sovereign King, You, who made everything
    You hold the whole world in the palm of your hand
    And now we sing to You, for You have made us new
    Yours is the name above all


    You alone do we honor, You alone do we love
    You alone are the author of life and ruler of all


    We stand in awe of You, God, and of Your majesty
    Even when we don't understand Your ways
    You breathe new life within us, You draw us to Yourself
    Forever lead us through the end of our days
    For You we only sing, Creator, Lord and King
    Yours is the name above all


    Perfect in all Your ways, You are the same
    Yesterday, today, forever
    O God, You reign
    You'll never leave us, ever to lead us 
     

    Persevering through the cloudy, let us continue running the race set before us.  Life is full of obstacles and hurdles, but God perpetually gives the grace and strength to overcome them.  Hallelujah.  

    Marty 

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  • New transMission CD - Marty's Journal; Entry #3: Lead Me (or A Lesson On The 9th Doctrine of The Salvation Army)

    Doctrine # 9

    We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

    If you're around me for any length of time, you will, at some point, hear a story of some kind that involves my young family.  Many will know that I have 2 sprouting kids, Justice (6) and Grace (3).  They are the light of my life, and they continually teach me more and more about the love and character of God the Father.  As many others who have traversed this treacherous path called parenthood will know and understand, sometimes we, as parents, learn more about life from our kids than from anything else.

    One such thing in my 6 years of fatherhood is the undeniably significant area of obedience.  It seems rather simple to me (as many things often do) that obedience should be black or white in the areas of our development.  There is no gray.  You are either obedient or you are not.  You do what you're told, or you do not.  Simple, see…?  Or is it?

    In the case of my 6 year old son, our experience has been challenging as we forge our way into his adolescent years.  I have quickly learned that while I may lay the law down, he does not see it so clearly.  He has established in his young mind that perhaps there are areas that can be challenged, as if he is throwing a red flag onto the playing field.  Now, I don't think he does this on purpose. He's just trying to get his way.  But he still does.

    And so do we.  

    Our brains are actively seeking ways to accomplish and attain the end, without really trying to muddle through the means to that end.  It's kind of clever when you think about it.  (Read, "how can I get what I want without having to do the hard work?" or, "how can I do the bare minimum in order to make so-and-so happy?").  But if there's one thing I've learned in my 3-plus decades of life, it's that there are no short cuts to true obedience.  

    So it is in our relationship with our Creator-Father, Almighty God.  Sometimes we think we can cut a corner to make God happy.  But He doesn't buy it.  Nor should He.  He is sovereign (that's another Doctrine, number 2, actually) and He can see our fingers when they're crossed behind our backs.

    Here's what it comes down to, in my humble opinion: He wants it all.  Everything.  The good, the bad and everything in between.  And when God asks us to obey, He isn't setting us up for failure.  He's not lining us up for a task that He isn't absolutely convinced HE can bring us through.  So why do we think we need to take matters into our own hands?  

    And I'm not just talking about the tough areas in our lives.  He wants to have His way on the good days, just as much as He does on the immensely difficult days.  He promises us that He will lead us.  He will protect us.  He will direct us.  He will guide us.  But similar to my 6 year old, if we are unwilling to submit to authority, we can make no progress kicking and screaming.  

    Much has been said about how this plays out in our daily lives.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that if we're willing to submit to God's authority and sovereignty, He will lead us in all truth (see John 16:13).  He is for us (see Romans 8:31).  He doesn't promise roses and doughnuts on our journey (see John 16:33), but He is promising that He will give us peace.  

    Forgive me, I'm nearly finished… 

    I'm saying all of this to set up the song that I've chosen to go along with Doctrine #9.  It's called "Lead Me," and when I wrote it nearly 4 years ago, my wife and I were traveling through some of life's toughest terrain as we faced head on the scary face of a failed pregnancy.  I won't go into all the details, but one of the things that I love about this story is that on the very day that my wife had the procedure to finalize the miscarriage (DNC), she helped me write the lyrics to this song.  On our way home from the outpatient facility at Piedmont Hospital, the one thing she really wanted was a tasty treat from Starbucks.  As we tried to relax on that otherwise beautiful Monday in April, she looked across the coffee table and asked if I'd been working on any new songs.  I told her about the idea of this song and that it was musically finished, but that I needed some help with the lyrics on verse 2.  I shared my thoughts, and she suggested this idea that we're to be like obedient children, those who learn to listen to, and obey God's voice.  So we hashed out some lyrics, and by the end of the day, the song was pretty much finished.  Even though we still had the mud of life fresh on our boots, we were determined to make a decision that day to do all that we could to be obedient to God's leading, even if it meant slogging it out through the emotional mess that we eventually found our way out of, by God's GRACE.  

    Here are the words:

    I hear you calling me to a life of unquestionable character
    To be the one I know you created me to be
    You called me out of darkness, into light and so I will shine for you
    Jesus, I love you and I really want to be like you

    You, you have not forsaken me
    And I have every reason to trust You

    Lead me, Lord, I will follow
    To the lost or to the cross, my life is yours
    Lead me, Lord, I will follow
    You are the way, the truth and life
    I will follow you

    I hear you asking me to love you with unwavering faithfulness
    To be the child that learns to listen to you and obey
    You called me out of death and into life, and so I will live for you
    Jesus, I love you and I really want to be like you

    You have not forsaken me…

    I will follow you in all I say and do
    Deny myself, take up my cross and go
    I will follow you in all I say and do
    Deny myself, take up my cross…  

    Be challenged today.  Consider what it takes to be obedient to God.  He will lead you.  Through it all.

    -Marty

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  • New transMission CD - Marty's Journal; Entry #2: Shout Hosanna (or A Lesson On The 6th Doctrine of The Salvation Army)

    Thursday, 9/27/12

    Doctrine #6

    We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

    Salvation. It's our middle name.  The SALVATION Army.

    This is no small thing.

    Well-known songbirds Shane & Shane have a great song that says: "When I think about the Lord, how he saved me… it makes me want to shout!"  It's such an amazing thought, isn't it?  I'm positive that each of us remember the moment when we knew that we were rescued out of the pit of the miry clay, our feet planted on a rock (see Psalm 40).  In the blink of an eye, at one moment we were transformed into a new thing, a new creation.  And it wasn't an emotional thing.  It was real. "Behold, I am making all things new," says our Creator!  (Revelation 21:5) 

    And yet we have to know that our salvation, the rescue mission that God sent His son on over 2,000 years ago, was also no small thing.  In fact, it was even bigger.  While our salvation is a huge thing, the weight of the sacrifice that Christ made for us is infinitely more significant.  He took on all the sins of mankind.  ALL the sins.  Of ALL mankind.  HE became sin, He who knew no sin.

    Unthinkable?  To us, definitely.  But it wasn't unthinkable to God, the Father.  He knew that this outlandish plan was exactly what it would take to make us right with Him again.  Reconciled. Restored.  Ransomed.  Delivered.  MADE FREE!

    I don't know about you, but there have been plenty of times in my life, SINCE I gave Jesus control, when I was faced with struggle, embarrassment, trial, hardship, adversity and turmoil.  Ever lost a loved one?  Ever experienced unimaginable disaster?  Ever watched the pain on your spouse's face after you've been told the tiny, once-beating heart in her womb has failed? To put it mildly, life can really suck sometimes.  It's easy to sulk.  To mope.  To stare at our toes when we can finally muster the strength to stand up and walk.

    But you have to know this:  Jesus, in His faithfulness and fullness, came to save us from that.  Not to remove us from the muck of life, or to make our here-on-out existences pain and trial free.  Nope.  Read John 16:33.  Go ahead.

    "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

    Jesus said this AFTER telling his disciples that they'd basically wimp out and abandon him when things started taking a drastic turn for the worse.  Classic.

    But, wait… Did you catch that?

    "I have overcome… the… world."  He has come to SAVE us!

    Here's a little Old Testament look-back:  Remember Joshua?  He "fit" the battle of Jericho, walls crumbling in his rearview mirror, on his way out of town, remember?  After being placed in charge of the Children of Israel, he's told that in order to get into the Promised Land, they have to overcome one of the last things standing in their way - this stronghold called "Jericho."  Not to be stopped or outdone, Joshua places his faith in the Living God once again and follows some pretty outrageous instructions (not unlike "Hey Noah, build a massive boat out of gofer wood, big enough to take up two of every land creature.):

    1. March around the Jericho walls once a day.  
    2. Do this for six days.  
    3. On the seventh day, pick up the pace and march around the city walls seven times.  
    4. When you hear a trumpet blow, SHOUT AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS.

    The result?  The Lord removed the obstacle of Jericho from the path of the Children of Israel.  God had saved them.  BECAUSE THEY SHOUTED!!!

    Do you think they moped then?  Do you think they were sulking?  I should hope not.  If I could capture this image, it would be of all the thousands of Israelites jumping all over the place, with their heads lifted, uncontrollably cheering with joy.  Arms and hands in the air (think Rocky Balboa, here).  They still hadn't made it to the Promised Land, but they were hopeful.  They still had more of the journey ahead of them, but they were filled with more fuel in the salvation that God had provided them once again.

    Psalm 34:5 says, "Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame."

    This is a lot to simply say this:  LIFT YOUR EYES, HE IS COMING TO SAVE US; FIX YOUR EYES ON THE SAVIOR.

    Here are the lyrics to our first song, "Shout Hosanna" from our next album:

    Like a groom come to get his bride
    He is coming to make us right
    Reconciled by the Father's love
    He has shown He is enough

    Welcome Lord, have Your way
    We crown You with our praises

    Shout Hosanna!  Sing Hosanna! 
    Lift your eyes, He is coming to save us
    Shout Hosanna!  Sing Hosanna!
    Fix your eyes on the Savior

    We were captive to our sin
    Destroying darkness, light flooded in
    We've been ransomed, delivered, made free
    And now we celebrate in victory

    By Your might we are saved
    So we crown You with our praises

    Shout unto God with a voice of triumph
    Shout unto God with a voice of praise

    Coincidentally, "Hosanna" in Hebrew, literally means "Save, Rescue."  Hmm...

    Lift your eyes.

    Marty

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  • New transMission CD - Marty's Journal; Entry #1

    So, we're going to be working on another project.  Another CD.  Over the next few months, you'll be able to hear some of my thoughts on how the journey is treating us.  

    Here's my first entry:

    Sunday, 9/2/12, 9:52 PM

    It was Wednesday night, or maybe it was Thursday night… I can't remember exactly when, but I remember it was in the middle of the night.  Kind of like one of those "ideas that woke me up from a deep sleep."  Only, you have to know that I'm a deeper-than-average deep sleeper.  I suppose it could have been any sort of digestive distress as well.  But that doesn't sound as idealistic and, well, awesome.  Anyway, the truth is, I was up because, for the 3rd time that night, my 2 year old daughter - who is experiencing the joys and liberties of sleeping in a big-girl bed - had snuck into our room again, faintly whimpering and longing for someone to notice her.  This particular time it was my turn to  attend to the child, and safely guide her back into her bedroom.  With a little snuggle and a pat on the back, she was back asleep.  And then it hit me…

    The rocking chair ottoman in her room…

    And also the idea that I had been praying to receive, anxiously awaiting it's arrival from on high… (this is beginning to sound like Christmas.  There were no angels.  I digress.)

    You see, every time I approach a new transMission CD I suffer a incredibly short-term mini-anxiety attack that sabotages my psyche.  Every time.  I remember after The World For God was released, thinking, How on earth are we going to come up with the next project?  There's nowhere to go from here.  Well, let's rewind to the late summer of 2010, to find a supposed song list that had been collecting various thoughts and ideas for songbook rewrites and other original material.  It was making itself abundantly clear, and filling up rather quickly.  (An aside: I always keep a current folder with ideas that haven't been developed.  If I hear a song on a typical Sunday morning and the words really grab my attention, I save the song, along with it's list of appropriate tune numbers, and mark it in one fashion or another.) The first song on that list was "Christ for the World," a song I had been asked to rewrite for a certain occasion. The next on the list was a song from the songbook whose words had subsequently infiltrated my heart: "Awake, awake!  Fling off the night," and so on.  Over the course of a year, I was able to come back to this collection and figure out how to make something out of these candidates for yet another contemporary, non-traditional worship resource for The Salvation Army.  Thus, Majestic was born.  

    Nifty.  A clever story, you might say.  "Oh, that's how these CDs are born."

    Not this time.  Not even close.

    It's September.  Officially, the end of the summer.  I have no new songs, save one that we developed and shared at TYI (Salvation Army regional youth retreat at the end of the summer every year).  I'm torn.  What do we do?  What do I do?  What's next?  (Enter unnecessary caveat: We were planning all along through the early months of 2012 to attempt a live recording.  We felt it was time to capture the passion and energy that the better known transMission songs have come to invoke in the recent past.  For several reasons which I'll not bore you with or go into, the proposal for this project was moved to a back burner. Maybe one day…)

    Okay, that's enough of the less-than-riveting back story.  Clearly you can see my plight.

    I'll cut to the chase.  The idea that struck me in my toddler's room at 3:12 AM that fateful night was this:  "Doctrines."

    I hope this isn't a let down for you.  Having had no other ideas engrossing my mind and motivating my creative prowess, I begin to realize something.  Our Doctrines (of The Salvation Army) aren't just some fancy guidelines under which we come up with great debate and discussion.  Uh-uh.  No, these doctrines aren't just an exhaustive list of ideal traits that we expect from our members.  These words, these 11 statements, make up who we are.  These ideas are interwoven into our fabric.  When we say "We Believe…" we aren't just rattling off a nice phrase, a feely-good notion that perhaps might seem outdated or otherwise irrelevant to some.  If you believe in something, you defend it.  You soak it in.  You take on as much of it as you can.  You operate under its measures, sure, but you also gauge every decision, every thought, every motive, with the weight of what it is you say makes you who you are.

    Our Army.  In more countries than McDonald's… Think about that for a second.  And we all (in countless amounts of differing language) profess that we BELIEVE this list, these attributes, these traits that make us who we are.

    So, in a matter of speaking, I realize that if these 11 doctrines, these 11 statements that we agree make us who we are, are so moving and profoundly powerful, then perhaps we ought to be singing about these things too.  These ideals are song-worthy.  (Clearly, I do recognize that this is not a new idea.  Officers, soldiers, Generals have been doing it since our great Army was born.  But I feel as though I am being asked to approach these with new and fresh attention and vigor.) When we talk about salvation (#6), we should be shouting at the top of our lungs "Shout Hosanna!"  When we talk about continued obedience in Christ (#9), we should be praying together, "Lead me, Lord, I will follow, to the lost or to the cross, my life is Yours."  And so on.

    We're allowing what we believe our Army make-up is to guide our thoughts to this end.  11 songs to convey 11 statements of faith.  11 complete ideas to represent each cord in a proverbial 11-cord rope that we use to rescue the last, the lost and the least.

    Now, I realize that this is a huge undertaking.  It's daunting, to say the least.  At this point, we have 2 songs.  That's it.  We'll need 9 more.  But I trust the Lord will provide the vision and clarity to create and to write within these parameters.

    The amazing journey begins…

    So, are we crazy?  Have we bitten off way more than we can chew?  I don't think so.  We're hungry!

    Here's the big picture:  11 songs that tackle, in one way or another, each of the ideas in our 11 doctrines.  To be clear, we are not arranging music to go along with text verbatim.  (I can hear it now… "Hey, this doesn't say 'We believe that the scriptures of the old and new testaments…'")  So I apologize if someone was really hoping for that.  On a grander scale, each song will take the concept of a doctrine, presenting the concept and idea of their respective statement in some sort of musical fashion.

    Here we are at the beginning of this massive step.  We would appreciate the prayer support of any of those willing to remember us to the Father.

    Stay tuned for updates!

    Marty (et. al)

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  • Song Story - Christ For The World

    Christ For The World - words by Samuel Wolcott & Marty Mikles, music by Marty Mikles

    Salvation Army Song Book # 825

    It was late April of 2010, and I was away from work on family leave following the birth of my little girl, Grace Marie.  I'd previously been asked by Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood if I could arrange a new version of this classic song from The Salvation Army's song book.  He was responsible for a string of meetings on the Saturday of Commissioning Weekend (the festivities that surround the ordination of The Salvation Army's newest ministers), and he wanted this particular song to be sung in all 3 meetings.  

    As I began working on this one, I had to really think hard about how to treat this song.  It's such a great hymn, and I didn't want to obliterate its timeless message.  Written well over 125 years ago (Wolcott died in 1886), these words have been sung by countless congregations, no doubt, probably all around the world. However, it was hard work trying to get them to flow in an updated setting (what we like to call "bringing it into the 21st century").  For example, here's the original text to verse 1:

    Christ for the world, we sing;

    The world to Christ we bring

    With loving zeal;

    The poor and those who mourn,

    The faint and overborne,

    Sin-sick and sorrow-worn,

    Whom Christ doth heal.

     

    I'm hoping that you'll see how metrically odd this stanza is.  While the words are outstanding, they're in a strophic style that doesn't easily lend itself to even phrasing.  So this style was replaced by four simple lines.  Verse 1 in its new format:

    The poor, despised and overborne

    The faint, the weak, and those who mourn

    The plagued and sin-sick, sorrow-worn

    Our Christ can heal, with loving zeal.

    (In comparing the 2 versions, you'll notice "with loving zeal" takes on a whole new meaning this way... it originally was done just to make the lyric fit better.  But after singing it through a few times, I really began to love the imagery of Christ zealously loving to heal his children.  It doesn't hold the original intent of the lyric, but I think this is a suitable substitution).

     

    Another thing I immediately noticed was that each of the four verses started with the same line: "Christ for the world, we sing; the world to Christ we bring..."  That seemed like a good solid chorus right there, something to keep coming back to.  So I went with it, and wrote the rest of the chorus:

    Christ for the world we sing, the world to Christ we bring

    All of its suffering untold

    Every tribe and tongue into the strong arms of God

    Christ for the world, Christ for the world we sing

     

    The bridge is basically lifted from verse 4 of the original:

    Christ for the world, we sing;

    The world to Christ we bring

    With one accord;

    With us the work to share,

    With us the reproach to dare,

    With us the cross to bear,

    For Christ our Lord

     

    In thinking through all of this, all while working on it at a small desk in my house, while my weeks-old daughter was sleeping upstairs in her crib, I was really moved by the amazing, soul-stirring and missional message of this song.  I thought of the legacy that I would leave to my children, about how I might be able to teach and instill in them the urgency that we read about in the Gospels.  Jesus taught us so clearly that when we reach out in His name, meeting a need and showing His love, that we become His hands and feet.  I love the idea that every tribe and tongue can join in this song that Christ sings over the world.  It's a song that doesn't exclude one race, one nation, one tribe or people group.  Isn't that the perfect picture of how inclusive our Savior's love is?!  And we get to be a part of that love.  We get to give and share that love.  With the whole world.  

    We've been doing this song since the end of the summer last year, and one of the things that happens in this song that I love is the massive sound of the "OH's" at the beginning and the end of the song.  I know that the simple vowel sound doesn't have anything to do with the message of this song... but people LOVE singing this part.  Here's my take on this... I really believe that if we let the message of this song (and others like it) filter into our hearts, past our heads, and we start to live our lives reflecting the beauty of God's great redemptive love, then our lives would be transformed.  Every part of our lives.  The words we speak.  The conversations we hold.  The way we work.  Everything!  Even the words we sing... These can all reflect the wonder of God's great love for the world that He loves.  And so when we sing, even if it's just by singing "OH," we should be reminded of Christ's call on our lives to share His love with absolutely everyone that He puts in our path.  

    May you be challenged to bring the world to Christ, with all of its suffering, in every aspect of your life.  Trust God's incredibly and capably loving arms to use you to show His love to someone.  

    Blessings,

    Marty

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  • Song Stories

    Greetings, friends.  Thanks for stopping by.  

    As the release of this new album, "Majestic" gets closer and closer, I was given the great idea by best pal and groomsman in my wedding, Phil Laeger, that I should start thinking about sharing the stories behind the songs on this CD.  

    So, as I start to work on those, know that we'll try to post a song story every week, right here at our virb page.  

    We'd love to hear from you regarding these stories... are there any songs in particular that you'd definitely like to know about?  Let us know by sending us a note... you can do that by simply clicking on the "Contact" tab above.  

    Thanks, and many blessings!

    Marty

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  • Thoughts from Week 1

    Week 1

    We've been working hard lately, and some amazing things are happening.  Such as:

    We started work in the studio this week, on our next modern worship resource, in the form of a 2-disc CD that will include, as usual, a Demonstration CD, an Accompaniment CD (for those who might like to lead worship using these songs, but don't have any instrumentalists who can play for them), and PDF files of all of the music on the CD (for those in a worship team setting). 

    We have been blessed to work with some amazingly talented people in the past, and it's certainly no different this time around.  We've enlisted the help of an amazing producer and engineer from Griffin, Georgia, named Trey Roth.  He's worked with all kinds of people in the industry, from Casting Crowns to Third Day, and he's just a great guy.  What he's contributed to this project already is just mind-blowing.  

    We also have Jason Hoard once again putting down some amazing electric guitar parts.  The crazy thing about Jason is that he's actually recording his parts while on the road with a little Christian Rock band from Atlanta called Third Day.  I've not heard any of his parts yet, but I'm sure they'll be amazing, as usual.  

    We're glad to announce that we've got Brandon Coker back on board with this project (he played almost all the drums on the Unfailing Love CD that came out 4 years ago).  He's just a great guy all around, but his drumming and his ears are golden!  Brandon played drums on 4 songs, and he's also making some really cool sounding loops for us.

    We have the usual help from our bassist-extraordinaire, Lex Roberson.  He's always bringing energy and laughter, and that's why we like to keep him around!  With his expertise in all things low-end, we know we can't go wrong.  He's also going to be making our Behind-The-Scenes highlight video(s) and we're looking forward to that visual representation of all of our work.  

    New to the tracking process is Chris Hofer.  He's playing drums on 4 songs, and his fingerprint on this music is fresh and exciting.  It's great to have his perspective on this music.  As with all good musicians, Chris has his own style and it adds so much to bigger picture of every song he plays on.  Welcome to the fold, Mr. Hofer.  

    This was all the happenings of week 1.  We had such a blast down at Black Cat Studios in Griffin, GA.  (Thanks, Jason, for letting us use your place!  It's such a great place to be creative!). 

    Next week we'll be tracking a lot of vocals (hopefully, all of them!), with the voices of Sheena Hampton, Phil Laeger, Melissa Stokes and myself (Marty), as well as all the acoustic guitar parts.  

    Along with his vocals, Phil Laeger joins us again (it doesn't feel like a transMission recording project without him!), to lend his keyboard and piano playing talents to us.  He'll be tracking keys and piano stuff this week.  It's always a blessing to have Phil's input on these projects.  

    There will be opportunity to get some horns involved on some of these songs, which is always exciting.  We're hoping to include Dr. Tom Gibson on trombone, Darion Emory on sax, and the inimitable Darry Crossland on trumpet.  That's always a special day when we can get some horn playing goodness recorded.  

    Finally, you'll want to keep your ear to the ground on this one... we need to capture a lot of voices on several songs (a "Congregational Choir," if you will).  This is where YOU come in.  We need your help to make this part of the process sound amazing.  Stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook and our site here at Virb to make sure you get the chance to sing on our new project.  Details will be released soon... 

    Have a fantastic day.  See you soon!

    Marty

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  • Greetings!

    Hi.  

    This is Marty.  Thanks for stoping by.  We have all kinds of fun stuff in store for the fall this year, including a new transMission project, yet to be titled.  It's gonna be different, and hopefully even better than the last album we released (The World For God).  

    More news and info to follow shortly.  

    Check back often for updates.  

    MM

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  • Soldier's Hymn - Atlantic Congress promo

    This video gives a glimpse of St.John's and the 6 Corps in the immediate area as promotion for The Salvation Army's Atlantic Congress and Commissioning held in St.John's, Newfoundland, Canada on June 18 to June 20, 2010. The theme for congress is "Destiny" led by General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton and supported by Territorial Leaders, Commissioners William and Marilyn Francis along with Colonels Floyd and Tracy Tidd. The music featured is "Soldiers Hymn" by TransMission from their album "The World for God". TransMission will be musical guests at Atlantic Congress 2010.

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