Friday 30 December 2011

Making the Most of your Time


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:
1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.


I was reading a devotion today and it was on the subject of time. It got me thinking about that precious commodity and how we are bound by it, ruled by it, and for the majority of us, we try to make the most of it.
The devotion describes our attitude to time like this: "We manage time; we waste time. We spend time; we save time. We wish the time would come; we wish the time would pass. We see time fly; we feel time drag. We watch clocks and carry calendars, creating the illusion that we somehow control time, yet all the while moments flow forward like a mighty river that cannot be stopped, harnessed, or re-routed."

A Time for Everything

The book of Ecclesiastes states that there is a right time for every activity under heaven. 
In the Book of Esther, Mordecai tells the young queen that maybe the reason for her great beauty, the reason that the King chose to marry her, was to bring deliverance to the Jews, for such a time as this. 

Making Time.

It's funny that for how little time we say we have, we all make time for the things we deem important. We are hard pressed for time and pulled in all sorts of directions; with time demands placed on us that at some points seem completely unreasonable.  And yet somehow we manage, we get through another day, exhausted, ready to sleep it off and be refreshed for another crack at it but of course more time has slipped away. 
As I write this, I am attending a family reunion. Almost everyone of my large and ever increasing family has made it to this event. 
 We have come literally from all over the world to be here to catch up and have time together; it truly is an amazing scene. Over the coming weekend, we will take the time to re-aquatint ourselves with family, renew friendships, to forgive past hurts (if there are any), to reach out to that person sitting on their own. Time is short, time is precious, and the only thing you can take to heaven with you is family so this is an important time for all of us. 
Among the range of fun activities lined up, we will take the time this weekend to relax, unwind, have fun, catch up, and make great memories that we can take with us. 

The importance of time

To me family is very important, so is time. Both are precious gifts from God, and God will hold us to account for both: "What did you do with the family I gave you? What did you do with your time?"
Time is a challenge that will not go away. It does not stop or wait, we cannot turn it back. Today, according to our text, it is time: 
Time to plant 
A time to heal.
 A time to build up.
A time to laugh. And maybe a time to cry
 A time to dance.
A time to embrace 
A time to keep and a time to throw away
 A time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love 
And a time for peace.

How are you spending your time today, this week, this month, this year?
God Bless you as you ponder this thought. 

Monday 12 December 2011

Turning a bad Sunday into a good Sunday

I never cease to be amazed at the Holy Spirit' ability and willingness to complete what I start.
I was rostered on the lead worship this morning , and to be quite honest, with all the Christmas based commitments like carols by candle light, church production, and other, I was completely unaware that I was rostered on until last night.
Needless to say I felt a little "behind the eight-ball" to start with and unprepared even though I still had plenty of time to get ready.
I went to bed really tired from the Christmas production, with a promise to myself and God to get up early the next morning. I did get up at 5:30 this morning and quietly snuck out to the lounge for my one-on-one with my Jesus. I prayed, looked through the music, read a bit of scripture, did a devotion, and chose a couple songs. I spent a couple of hours doing this and then showered, got dressed, made my wife coffee ( a very important part of my day) and shot off to church.
All the time I felt uncertain about a couple of things. Firstly, how was I going to keep it all together and give the God the best I could give Him in my somewhat depleted state of tiredness.
Secondly I was uneasy with my song choice; and yet somehow nothing else jumped out at me when I was doing the song list. This is when you really have to trust God. I also picked a couple of Just-in-case songs.
Practise was terrible! The sound man wasn't cooperating with me, one of my backing vocalists didn't turn up, another one was having a off day, and I was feeling the tiredness building. Not a good recipe for great worship.
I found myself snapping at the sound man, repeatedly asking the bass guitarist to (wait for it:) turn up the volume, and phoning my wife to ask her if she could please come early and grab a mike, because I was desperately short of confident singers.
In short, I felt a little out of control.
Good thing is, when I am out of control, there is a good opportunity for God to take over.

Worship leader, I want to encourage you, when all you have to offer God is 2 widow's mites worth of preparation and practise, He will value that as more than $1000 worth of profession and polish.
That does not negate the need to be prepared, practised and polished, we need all that to be ready at all times. You can not withdraw money out of a bank without first having made a deposit.

So what transpired this morning? The worship went great! God was in the house, and the songs I had picked somehow miraculously worked their way into a beautiful theme of God's undying love, His amazing, consistent and unceasing provision, and how this gives us the ability and capacity to sing :It is well with my soul!" a theme which our pastor picked up on, ran with and a base from which he immediately launched into his message.

When you submit to God and prepare your service, No matter how ill- prepared you feel, God will not leave you hanging. After all didn't He promise in John 14 to send you another Helper?

Have a great Sunday!


Saturday 10 December 2011

Vocal Preparation

The other night I was at a music practise. 
  We were preparing for a Christmas presentation and being a Thursday, everyone was nearing the end of a "full on" week.  We have busy lifestyles and I know that in my business things start to become manic at this time of year. Needless to say, I have had no time to even think about singing or practising outside of the designated commitments. 
It was interesting to hear out music director giving instructions to singers about voice conservation and preparation. 
So I thought I can feel a blogpost coming on. 

The importance of warming up

I have been a singer ever since I could string a row of words into a sentence. I remember my first big part, I guess I was about 6 or 7 years old and I had to audition for the part. In the end it was between me and this girl, and I got the gig.  The only other thing I remembered about my first brush with fame was that I swallowed in the middle of a line! … nerves… 
I have sung to congregations as small as a hand full and as large as 10,000. Every time I have done so has been a privilege. 

Because I was young and I sang constantly, I never saw the need to practise or warm up. The vocal warm ups to me back then seemed a little silly at best and a complete waste of time at worst. 
Of course, now that I am a little older, I have also become somewhat wiser... Or at least I'd like to think that. 
When you sing all the time, your vocal chords and throat muscles are constantly being stretched and exercised.  And like any muscle there are keys to keeping your throat and vocal chords in good shape. 
I want to share with you what I have learnt over the years. 

How to kill your voice

Some years ago, when my children were still in primary school, our family went to a large Christian convention. There we were among thousands of adoring followers, and pretty soon swept up with the proceedings. Everyone was excited. So was I. So excited in fact that I couldn't contain myself, and soon I too was screaming at the top of my lungs until something went' pop. That day I lost the top 1/3 of my vocal range. And it didn't come back For a long time. 

How not to kill your voice

This is my number one point; don't strain your voice. Don't abuse it by throwing your voice into compromising situations. Last week I sang Using a mike that was faulty. The result: voice strain. For the past few days I have had a rough throat. 
I have been sucking on vitamin C and drinking heaps of water.  

Learn how to be loud

Don't scream and shout. If you need to raise your voice, do it with your head voice. 
If you can yell high pitched ( bit like a siren) this should not affect your  voice. You need to exercise extreme caution at all times when raising your voice. Voice projection is a skill that can be learnt.


What goes past your gums is really important to the quality of your voice. 
I know that different people respond differently to each other but I have learnt that the majority of people are at least the same. 
High protein and low dairy are what I eat. Dairy gives me the gurgles. If I have anything like cheese, milk, yoghurt or ice-cream, I end up with that much phlegm I could start a collection service.  
I also think it's really important that you watch your food intake prior to singing. Personally I never sing on a full stomach. This means if I am leading worship on a Sunday morning, I fast until after the service. 
If I am doing an evening gig, I make sure there is at least 4-6 hours of no food intake before I sing. 
There are drinks we definitely should be staying away from before and during singing: like coffee, alcohol and milk drinks. I have already explained about dairy. Alcohol is to be avoided not least because of the altered state it can produce but also because it is a diuretic which can de-lubricate your voice. Coffee has the same effect. I love coffee, but can't drink it before I sing. 
Lastly it’s really important to lubricate your voice while singing. But here is a big important key: Don't drink sweet drinks, don’t drink coffee, don’t drink cold. The best thing is water at room temperature or slightly warm.

Vocal Warm ups.

There are a number of exercises that work really well as warm ups and stretches:
 I like sirens. This is a technique whereby you start low and wail like a siren, increasing pitch to the most comfortable pitch and then ease back down to the lowest you can go. Repeat this any number of times, gradually pushing your voice both higher and lower. You'll be amazed at the progress you make. 
Breathing is another good one. One singing teacher I had years ago would get us to fill our lungs with as much air as possible, and then in a very controlled manner pronouncing each letter accurately,  recite the alphabet as many times as possible. Again the more you do this the better you will become. Give each letter no more or less time than it takes to pronounce it properly. 
Another good beginning warm up is humming scales. 
The good thing with this exercise is that you don't have to do this at the top of your voice, so you don't annoy or scare anyone, especially at 6.00am. 
The humming exercise involves humming harmonic scales, increasing one semi-tone at a time until you reach your top register. 

Don't sing tired. 

I really want to encourage you to be conscious of your rest patterns. Like most other parts of your body, your voice involves the use of muscles, and these need to be well rested to be at the top of your game. 
If you are a singer, your voice is your instrument. You never heard of a violinist leaving his Stradivarius lying around e exposed to the elements, not being cared for?? Treat your voice like that Stradivarius! A good example is Celine Dion. Check out what she did and does  to preserve and protect her voice. 
You are blessed to be a blessing, use the God given gift to His Glory!

God bless you, 
Have a great week!