Friday, October 17, 2008

Creatively Speaking

Now that life has at least temporarily slowed down a bit after the wedding and honeymoon, I am beginning to consider where I want to go creatively in this new stage. This Saturday, we’re going to a wrap party for my friend Ben’s movie The Horseman. I’m excited to see the final product on the big screen (hopefully, there’ll be a showing here in Columbus at some point). Although it was a fun project to work on, it’s nice to have a little more free time to do other things. My weekends have also slowed down a bit as Crystal and I are attending a new church, and I am no longer running sound Sunday mornings at the Presbyterian Church where I’ve worked for the last four years. This makes for a bit less responsibility on my plate. I’ll still be working a handful of weddings and concerts, but we’re now dedicating Sunday mornings to growing and learning instead of laboring. I had really felt God tugging on my heart to do this for some time.

I’ve put a lot of effort these last several years into building up my resume of custom music. Along with this, I’ve stepped back from making albums and touring with a band in an attempt to position myself (and now my family) better financially. Instead of investing my resources into one project (ie. Backstage Pass), I’ve slowly acquired gear and samples which now allow me to make original music for a variety of clients and in a variety of styles. Although I enjoy helping clients achieve their personal visions musically (these are the jobs that pay), I often miss the freedom of writing words and music which express more specifically the passions and convictions of my own heart. I think this is a perplexity that every musician will face at some point in his (or her) life, especially if the reality of making a living has set in.

A couple of the biggest questions I’ve been asking myself over the last three years is “What God does want me to write about?” and “Where should I go stylistically?” I have literally worked on dozens of songs since the release of Backstage Pass, but I have thrown most of them away, either because I’m unsatisfied with their content and/or delivery, or I am uneasy about their musical direction. At times, I’ve worried about losing my creative touch and on occasion, I’ve been discouraged at the fruitlessness of my own artistic wanderings.

Backstage Pass was essentially a product of frustration. It was my attempt to be understood deeper, and it was an opportunity to express the pain I felt at that time. I have one musician friend who claims he mostly quit writing songs after he was married, mainly because he was no longer lonely, and loneliness was what had always fueled his artistic inspiration. Hopefully, this will not be my case as I think I have much to express beyond my own potential anxieties (I say potential because I feel rather good as of now, but trials will come), but in any case, I still continue to wrestle with the uncertainly of what I want to communicate through song. The blog has been a good vehicle to express many emotions, some of which would be difficult to abbreviate in 100 words or less (as a song often requires). However, I still miss song writing. It’s just honestly a lot more work. Also, a new blog can be about anything. It can come in any color. It makes sense that songs should be related in shade, at least if they are to go on an album. This takes more planning and focus. Maybe there’s just part of me that’s creatively lazy. Nevertheless, like many efforts, writing songs should get easier the more you do it. That’s at least what I tell myself. I probably need to practice writing melodic stories about other people, for certainly there is always struggle around us, even if the struggle inside feels distant.

The creative mind brings with it a blessing and a curse (many of my artist friends would agree). On one hand, you are gifted with highlighting nuances that others might not otherwise appreciate. However, along with this, you often wrestle with a creative discontentment and an itch to capture that which out does your previous work.

At times, I wonder what the creative types will do in heaven. I’m guessing our sole motivation in writing (if we are able to do so) will be to glorify God. However, down here, the Lord may be uplifted in our private songs, but we won’t dare let them see the light of day until we feel they make us look good as artists. Funny. :)

As you read this, I would appreciate your prayers. I do long to write a new batch of songs but I need God’s direction and leading.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Singlehood in the Rear View: Chapter 2

Well, we’ve finally started to settle into our apartment. We just opened our wedding gifts this past Saturday at my parent’s house and with the help of Crystal’s mom, we put away most of our new place settings and cooking gadgets. We have so many kitchen gizmos, we’ve joked we may start a catering business! Along with organizing, we’ve started to adjust to “normal” life in Columbus. I just went back to work on Friday, and we’re slowly taking care of post wedding to do’s (Crystal has to officially change her last name, we are combining bank accounts, etc.).

Goodbye Honeymoon, Hello Downer!
Well, I guess you could say the honeymoon is over. By that, I simply mean that we are back from Aruba and I’m out of vacation days. However, it’s interesting how some people would suggest that the transition back to regular life after the excitement of the wedding and the post nuptial celebrations is destined to bring with it a huge let down and a disheartening wake-up call.

This past Sunday, Crystal and I attended our first newly married Bible study. During the group discussion, we were asked if we were enjoying married life and if it was “everything we had been told it would be.” We cheerfully exclaimed that “we were having a great time” to which one young man responded, “Did she tell you to say that?” Wow. I’m still amazed how people respond when you tell them your marriage is wonderful. To this, some would argue, “Just you wait. You’re only newly weds. The honeymoon will be over soon” to which I would differ, “Why does the honeymoon have to ever end?”

I had a good talk with a co-worker yesterday who said he and his wife had had the same cynical responses in a Bible study when they were first married ten years ago. He was also disgusted by the way some Christians (of all people) vocalize their pathetic outlook towards what marriage can be and should be (when it’s centered in Christ).

Some may ask, “how can a newly wed couple have any concept of whether marriage can be good?” First, because God calls it good on a number of occasions (Genesis is an example), and second, we are each eye witnesses of living examples. To start, both Crystal and I are blessed with fabulous Christian parents who have not only stuck together for over 35 years, but are likewise still in love, and even more in love than the day they said “I do.” What a rarity that is these days! We pray that like our parents, we will still be holding hands in public and writing special notes to each other some 40 years from now. Amid all the couples who have seemingly lost their honeymoon, we still see a handful who are overjoyed at the privileged gift they have in one other.

May The Best Spouse Win
It’s frustrating how many Christian marriage books talk of “having a good fight.” Is it really healthy for a husband and wife to fight? (read the definition of fight here) Of course, disagreements will arise, but in fighting, there is always a loser, and there is really no place for a loser in a teammate relationship. If you were running a track relay race, would it make sense to kick your teammate in the shins just before the starting gun was fired? That probably isn’t going to win you a trophy, let alone build moral. The same principle holds true in marriage. In Ephesians 5:28 Paul says, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” When you hurt your spouse, you’re hurting yourself, and worse, you’re damaging the fibers of unity which hold your marriage together. In other words, you’re a loser when your spouse loses. There may be compromise, but there should never be hostile competitiveness. Differences should be settled without defensiveness. Adaptation should be made without accusations. Words can be both loving and direct, but they will destroy a marriage if they are loose and demeaning.

Bird Seeds and Limousines
As a special gift for our wedding, my mom designed for us a beautiful cookbook which contains a number of recipes from our family members. One entry which stands out is a sweet 3x5 card from Crystal’s grandma which reads, “Here is a verse I have appreciated. It’s a good one to memorize! Prov 3:6, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ Here is a word of wisdom to both you and Marc. Never go to bed with any ill feelings towards your mate. Admit your anger, pray and forgive.”

Life is certainly filled with trials, and thank God we can’t see every trouble which lies ahead. Along with this, we are all sinful and imperfect people. However, in the midst of a corrupt world, we can learn to be grateful, and we can learn to forgive like Jesus. We can even rediscover gifts which we’ve taken for granted. Maybe you and your mate have drifted apart. Maybe you’ve bought the lie that says your wedding day was the climax of the celebration. Maybe you’ve kissed your honeymoon goodbye and packed it away in an old dusty photo box. Maybe today, Jesus wants you to take a fresh look at your marriage, and what it can be. Maybe you’ll find that “riding off into the sunset” is much more than an event, it’s ultimately a lifestyle and an attitude of the heart.

To read chapter 3 of Singlehood in the Rear View, click here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Story of Marc & Crystal

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, but with all the wedding planning and more recently, honeymooning, it’s been a challenge to find the time to blog as much as I used to. However, I’m excited to finally share with you the story of how Crystal and I found each other. It is quite an amazing tale, and I can only attribute our meeting to the Lord.

At the ripe age of 32, I had pretty much resolved I was preordained to be single for the rest of my life. In my mind, there was simply no way that I was going to meet a lady that I was attracted to, a lady I clicked with, and a lady who was likewise just as enthusiastic about me as I was for her. It had become too much of a burden to hope any longer.

I dated some during college (at Word of Life and Liberty University), but nothing ever worked out. Come May of 1998, I was discouraged. I had earned a communications degree, but like many Christian college seniors, my expectations of finding a mate in the university single’s pool had been drowned.

After college, I entered the strange world of the church single’s group. What better place to find a mate than at church? Sadly, the first church I attended out of college hardly had a singles’ group, and the few girls I met in this group didn’t fall within the parameters of what I thought God would have me look for. Then, in 2001, I began dating a girl rather seriously for four months, but our differences led us to break it off. It was an especially sad time in my life, a period which inspired many emotions and several songs, including “Hurricane” and “After Everything.”

Looking back, I can see how God was orchestrating those years of trials and lonely nights for good. It’s easy to say now, but those valleys were tough, and even now, I feel for my single friends who haven’t yet found that special someone. This world can be a lonely place, and I think everyone needs a companion, a tangible friend of flesh and bone who can connect at the deepest heart level. It is only by providence that I found the love of my life. I often pray for my single friends that God will do the same for them. The story of Crystal and I is a testament that miracles do happen. If you’re single, be faithful in prayer and hang in there. Crazy stuff happens.

Around 2001, my parents told me about an older friend of theirs in his 60’s who had met his second wife through a Christian web site, Mom and dad kindly suggested I give the service a whirl. Honestly, I was sceptical at first, but having given up on the long shots of the church single’s group scene, I decided that I didn’t have much to lose. It was slow going at first as I received a good number of boring, and at times downright frightening profiles. To add to the equation, many of the profiles didn’t have pictures. To make a long story short, I tried eHarmony on and off for almost six years. In fact, I even traveled all the way to Florida and to Mississippi to meet a couple girls. In both cases, the chemistry was not there... on a lot of levels. I will leave it at that. I spent a bunch of money over that time, and often, I felt like I was throwing dollar bills to the wind. After a number of disappointments and seasons of searching, I decided to give online dating a rest. I finally accepted the reality that God might not want me to get married, and I think I was ok with that.

Then, in the winter of 2007, for some reason, I was inspired to give Neil Waren Clark’s baby another go. I was surprised to discover that there were a number of interesting matches, many more than I had seen in past endeavors. Apparently, the pool had grown. Some mornings, I’d open up my email to discover two to three new people who wanted to correspond. Unfortunately, these were generally girls which didn’t interest me. Often, I saved profiles of people I might be interested in. This list grew to be rather large. However, I rarely actually contacted these matches. In addition to this list was the collection of potentials I was pretty sure I wanted to meet, but in many cases, these were the women who either closed me or ignored my requests to communicate. It always baffled me how this worked almost as a pattern. If a girl was good looking, she was either in the bar scene, or she ignored me. I was surprised to find what seemed to be a lot of ladies getting out of the bar scene and searching for a nice “religious guy” with no preference of his doctrine. Behind the appearance, I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with a lady who loved Jesus Christ, not just “God” or “good morals.” The pool at eHarmony had grown, but now I felt like I just had too many choices of nothing I wanted.

Come January 2007, I was alerted that I had been matched with a girl named Crystal from Ashland, OH (and she was also notified that she had been matched with me). I initiated the online conversation by selecting and sending her 5 multiple choice questions (the first stage of communication on eHarmony). She responded by sending me 5 multiple choice questions and liking her answers, I replied. The following stages of communication included, (2) 5 open ended questions which you write or select from a list, (3) exchange of your “must haves and can’t stands” and finally, (4) open communication (where you can freely email one another through eharmony’s secure email system). Within a week or two, Crystal and I were exchanging personal email addresses, and eventually, we began speaking on the phone a couple times a week. However, the more I talked to Crystal, the more I realized that our backgrounds and convictions were quite different, and after several weeks of correspondence, I began to wonder if I honestly wanted to communicate any further. This is where the story gets a bit strange.

One morning as I was sipping a cappuccino at the Mean Bean in Powell, I checked my email only to discover a message which read “Crystal from Ashland would like to begin communicating with you.” Needless to say, I was confused. Wasn’t I already corresponding with Crystal from Ashland? Turns out there was another Crystal in Ashland, OH on eHarmony, and even more interesting, like me, she attended a Grace Brethren Church, and like me, she grew up as a missionary kid!! Wacky and ironic stuff!! It’s also crazy as I was Crystal’s first match on eHarmony (and she had to literally be match # 2000 or so for me!) and wilder still, she had casually signed up on a whim after receiving a junk email from Neil Warren Clark! We still joke that “God can even work through spam!”

To make a long story short, I tapered off my communication with the first Crystal, and spend more and more time talking to the second Crystal through email. (The second Crystal was such a contrast from the first Crystal, and I think it is this drastic contrast which God used to initially draw me to her.) About two weeks into our correspondence, Crystal mentioned that her family was coming to Columbus to celebrate her sister’s birthday, and they were actually eating at a restaurant literally across from the tv station where I work! “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “it might be a bit quick, but maybe we should meet up in person so I can see if this girl and I have any chemistry.” So, putting thought to action, I email Crystal and asked her if she wanted to get together while she was in Columbus. (We hadn’t even talked on the phone yet!) She enthusiastically agreed, and actually invited me to dinner with her sister and her parents! Talk about a high pressure first date!!

It was a Wednesday evening slightly before 7pm, and I was watching out our office window for a cute girl and her family to walk into the entrance of the Cheesecake Factory. I was slightly nervous, but surprisingly calm given the circumstances. After a few minutes of spying (and not seeing any family of these specifications), I decided to make my way down to the restaurant where Crystal and I (and her family) would have our first rendezvous.

As I walked in the doors of the Cheesecake Factory, I noticed a pretty young lady waiting on a bench seat. Looking at me, she rose and said, “Hi, I’m Crystal!” and she shook my hand (she now tells me she had no idea what to do except to shake my hand). “Hi!” I exclaimed, “and of course, I’m Marc.” She smiled (and what beautiful smile it was) and led me back to a booth seat where her parents, her sister, and a friend of her sister were waiting. As I sat down, I already felt quite comfortable around your family. They were really easy to talk to, and the continued gorgeous gaze and smile of Crystal across the table put me at further ease. The server brought us some rolls and butter and ice water, and only moments into our conversation, I reached for a piece of bread and inavertently spilled a glass of water all over Crystal and her flowered dress! “Now that’s the way to make a first impression!” I exclaimed with a non chalant chuckle. Crystal and her family graciously excused the blunder, and we continued our small talk about siblings, hobbies, and employment. Ever after the water incident, I felt unusually relaxed.

I remember people telling me over the years, “When you meet the right one, you will know.” I swore I had “known” on numerous occasions, but this time, something was different. Even my initial interactions with Crystal lacked the awkwardness and doubts I felt with so many prior dates. This first meeting was just the beginning of what would prove to be an unusual and divinely designed encounter.

We concluded the evening with a tour of the tv station where I work, and after this, Crystal and her family returned home to Ashland, with each of us feeling a sense of “Wow, what just happened?”

Crystal and I continued dating throughout the spring and summer of 2008, mostly alternating travel destinations on the weekend (Columbus or Ashland). I also would often make the hour and 15 minute drive to Ashland on either a Tuesday or Wednesday night, returning to work by 10am the next morning. It worked out great as she could stay at my parents in Columbus (only 15 minutes away from my apartment) and I could stay at her parents in Ashland (only 10 minutes from her house). Ah yes, her house. This brings me to yet another sign of God’s foresight and planning.

Like myself, Crystal (at the age of 28) had concluded that she would probably be single for the rest of her life. She decided to settle down in Ashland, and along with this, she purchased a nice two-story, three bedroom home (which had been foreclosed on), ironically about a month before she received my profile via. eHarmony. (It’s funny as her dad had told her that she would probably be married within a year of buying the home. He may have the gift of prophesy!) The purchase of the home (like the sale, as you will soon hear) was rather unusual. First, Crystal actually sold her own home to herself and was paid commission (she was a real estate agent at the time). Next, she was able to sell the home after living in it for four months, and she never even had to put it up on the market, and she again made more money on it! Speaking of junk mail, the previous owners (who had foreclosed on the home) contacted Crystal via email and asked if she would be interested in selling the house back to them. How often does that happen?!! If Crystal wouldn’t have checked her bulk folder, she would have again missed a golden opportunity (as I mentioned previously, she had signed up for eHarmony because of a junk mail). Turns out, the original owners of the home were unable to get a loan, so would you believe it, two other people contacted Crystal directly about the house (again, it was never on the market), and the third person bit and bought the home one day after Crystal and I were engaged (May 21st). Amazing how God works!!

This blog is already turning into a novel, but in closing, I will share one last story. I don’t necessarily consider the following a “fleece,” but I think it does illustrate God’s attention to detail, and may contain some sprinklings of His humor. As a birthday gift, my artist dad decided to design a beautiful calligraphy of Crystal’s favorite verse Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper, not to harm, plans to give you a future and a hope.” At the time, Crystal was still living in her new house, and her bedroom was decorated with blueish purple paint and a queen sized bed with a beautiful dark wood bed frame and intricately carved bed posts. I remember my dad asking me, “What colors does Crystal like?” I told him that her favorite shade was purple, as was the color of her bed room walls. He then asked, “Pray that God will give me wisdom as I am choosing colors” and I did. Come the end of March, my parents came up to Ashland to surprise Crystal on her birthday. They were already at one of her favorite restaurants and appeared just as we stepped up to put our name in for a table. Crystal was wide eyed with surprise. After dinner, we went back to Crystal’s house for ice cream cake, and soon there after, my dad revealed his carefully wrapped birthday present. Crystal opened the gift, and was thrilled with his calligraphy, especially as it included both her favorite verse and her favorite colors. Crystal immediately took the framed artwork to her room to see how it looked. I, my parents, Crystal’s parents, and Crystal’s sister all followed. As she held the calligraphy up to the wall, we were all amazed. The purple of the artwork matched the purple of the wall precisely!! And even more crazy, the frame of the calligraphy had the same wood and carved design as Crystal’s bed head board and bed posts!!
None of us really knew what to say, except for Crystal’s mom who quickly uttered to me as we left the room, “Marc, we believe you are Crystal’s future and hope.” If that isn’t a subtle hint (of in-law blessing), I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, I will just say the Lord has been so evident in how He brought Crystal and I together, and how He has opened doors along the way. I hope you have enjoyed hearing a few of the highlights.

Crystal Whipped

Here’s a crazy tale about dreams come true
I was kickin’ it alone at age thirty two
It was real slim pickin’s in the single’s scene
I was a king with a castle, but I had no queen
No curtains in my room, no dressers for my clothes,
Boxed dinners each night and mixed laundry loads
All settled in to the bachelor’s life
‘Til my parents got me hip to this sweet web site
e-Harmony dot com was the place
With Neil Warren Clark and his salesman’s face
I logged in and took the hour profile test
Next day I was landin’ matches right and left
But sadly, I kept on comin’ back empty
Drove down to Florida, even once to Mississippi
A sad dateless loop that was gettin’ strange
But my big frowny world was about to change

All the fellas in the house say...
All the ladies in the house say...
Like a quick gun smack to the back of the head
I got..., he got...

The years went by, and I took a hiatus
Burned out on dating, my hopes had all faded
‘Til One morning in a coffee shop
I check my yahoo and my white jaw dropped
I saw this fine lady up in Ashland town
She had the greenest eyes and cutest smile around
We chatted for a week or three in cyberspace
Then I met up with her family for some sweet cheescake
15,000 miles on my brand new Matrix
On the road like a gypsy, but I wouldn’t dare trade it
Talking on the tele’ nearly all the time,
I was floating with my baby on cloud called nine

All the fellas in the house say Crystal Whipped
All the ladies in the house say Crystal Whipped
Like a quick gun smack to the back of my head
I got Crystal Whipped, he got Crystal Whipped


So now my apartment, well, it smells like candles
Doiles on the table, pictures on the mantel
Flowers on the wall in the purple bedroom
The sink is lined up with soaps and perfumes
All transformed, a lady’s in the house
And if you see my face, that’s what I’m smilin’ about
Spent my whole life lookin’, finally found my pearl,
And I thank the Lord above for my Weaver girl

All the fellas in the house say Crystal Whipped
All the ladies in the house say Crystal Whipped
Like a quick gun smack to the back of my head
I got Crystal Whipped, he got Crystal Whipped


I wrote this rap song for our reception. You can listen to the mp3 here.