5 Things of Inspiration // Stu Faris

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1. Reflection

Before we look forward, I always think it’s a great idea and practice to look back. What better time of the calendar year to do this then right now! Another year behind us, another year ahead of us. I find it not only helpful to look back at the past year that has passed, but to also look back at the last two, five, ten, or twenty years and search for little nuggets of helpful growth and understanding to use as a foundation for whatever I’d like to accomplish in the new year ahead. Reflect on what I’ve been through, what has made me strong, what has made me weak, what has made me feel good or bad, what has made me ME. Look back, then turn around and don’t look back

2. Restlessness

Never settling for the norm. Never being comfortable with the way things may be at the present. Never being happy with just doing the easy thing or trying to be safe. I find that looking for new ways to reinvent and redo the things I’m involved in not only keep things fresh but keep me looking for ways to be creative. It’s always very normal for me, and many of us, this time of year to feel very restless. With all the changes that are happening, from the super obvious calendar change, to the resolutions made, the things given up, and even the slow shift towards daylight savings time that is happening. Don’t be okay with just being. One of the things I tell my kids at least once a week is to be yourself and how boring this world would be if we were all the same, if we were all trying to be like one another. This time of year makes me more restless than any other time because it’s a time to re-evaluate myself and the changes I would like to make in myself and the projects I want to work on this year.

3. Rest

I thought it was important to also follow up, as strange as it may seem, by saying to it’s also very important to rest. Let me explain more. I’m thinking more in terms of recharging. Recharge your creative batteries. We all are creative in one way or another. Even if you don’t think you are, there is SOME way that you are. We were created to create. Our Creator made us to be creative. That can be SO many different ways, so many areas of life, so many corners of the world. This time of year, I use it to restlessly reflect, but also use moments within all of this to rest, to recharge. Recharge by simply stepping away from things that are to loud in your creative life. Recharge your soul by centering yourself, by meditating, by praying, by being in worship, or by just being present.

4. Restarting

This is an important step for me and I think the most important step of all. Once we figure out who we are at this very moment, it’s important to readjust ourselves and to press restart in some ways, in lots of ways. Start new projects, start saying NO to things that aren’t helping us out with what we are being called to do, starting to live a more honest life that is full of more love, restarting our creative motors, then...

5. Run

Hit the ground running! Run with whatever it is that we are wanting to run with. Run away from the things that are not a positive influence in our lives. Run towards our dreams. Run towards our goals. Run towards the people and things that inspire and lift us up. Run through the walls that may keep us away from what we are trying to accomplish. Run full speed at a life of being great while finding a life that honors Christ and takes care of our brothers and sisters around us. Run and gun!

Whatever you do every year to plan for the year ahead, I urge you to always try and switch it up a little somewhere. Change is GOOD! And always remember God is great!

Try new things. You’ll be OK. It’ll all be OK.

Here’s to a wonderful and creative 2018 ahead!

5 Practices to Stay Creative at Christmastime

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As a musician, I find that it’s hardest to be creative and inspiring during the holiday season. Since we started working on songs for “Run & Tell” in the spring and recorded all summer, by the time we get to holiday music in December, I’m, well… just over it. I don’t think this applies exclusively to worship leaders, but most folks that work in the creative arts industry. Many people spend a LOT of time and energy crafting their work for the “most wonderful time of the year.” The elementary school Christmas concert you prepped for back in October, the window display of your boutique shop you designed in November, the planning of your company’s big Christmas party back when budgets were due in July. So when the big month is here, we can often experience the “well… now what?” feeling. We’ve habituated to our own music and art and it doesn’t seem special anymore.

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So how do we find inspiration this time of year as creative people? I have five simple practices you can incorporate in the busyness of the season to help you find inspiration.  

  1. Talk to other people about your own work. Not your mom (although I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, and her opinions are important, too), and not your best friend. Find someone who knows a thing or two specifically about what you do and ask for honest feedback. We learn from those we admire, and who are honestly better than we are at what we do. Find someone you professionally or creatively admire, and treat them to coffee. Ask them what inspires them, if they've seen or heard your work, and then ask them (perhaps with butterflies in your stomach) what you can do better. I guarantee that leaving that coffee shop you'll think about your own work differently and be inspired to create in a whole new light.
  2. Unplug. My husband Neil is really good at this. It’s ironic that I’m writing a blog post on this, but after you’ve read through this, turn. off. your. phone. Turn it off especially during meals, movies, of course while you’re driving, and even at work for a while. We are so attached to our little devices that we might be missing beautiful things in REAL LIFE that is right in front of our faces. And that beautiful thing waiting for us when we put down our phone can be inspiring.  

  3. Write. Related to unplugging, I truly value the physical effort and satisfying feeling of writing with a pen and paper. All of my lyrics to songs are hand written. All of my recipes for our food blog are hand written. There is something about not being able to delete your previous thought, actually seeing it and choosing to scribble it out or perhaps circle and come back to later that I really enjoy about the creative process. Get away from the screen, from thesaurus.com, from checking Facebook in another tab while you think of lyrics, and just write.

  4. Pray. Out loud. In the car. On the way to work. When we lived in North Carolina, I had a 60-minute drive to work. While I loathed this drive at first, I began to look forward to it as I realized it was the only time in my day where I could just… be. I don’t know about you, but I have to pray out loud. There is waaaay too much going on in my brain for me to keep my prayers on-topic and not get distracted if I don’t. After moving back to St. Louis I’ve kept this practice of praying in the morning, out loud, driving to work. Yes, I might look a little looney or like I’m talking to myself, but it helps me wake up, focus my day, and spend good time with the Lord. That time to me with God is precious and I’ve been inspired many mornings as I’m praying and watching the firey sun rise.

  5. Remember. Spend some time this holiday season remembering why you continually choose to share your creativity with others. This goes with anything you start to burn out on: art, vocations, relationships. It’s a healthy practice to stop and just take a few minutes to reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing. Remember that even in the bleak midwinter, God made new a world that longed for hope. And he did that through the gift of his son. It’s imperative that even today, we live in a broken world that needs to be made new through the gift of Jesus. Christmas is a beautiful reminder of that gift that freely came to us, and that we need Him to come again and again. We need to be reminded of it again and again. So, take some time to remember.

I hope this Christmas season you honor the nostalgic wonder of the season while also remembering why it’s so important and what part your art will play in it. When you feel burned out and like the beauty of Christmas has faded before it’s even begun, talk. unplug. write. pray. and remember. Merry Christmas, and keep creating.

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Whitney Ostercamp is a board-certified music therapist in St. Louis. She works in the public school system helping students with special needs through research-based music therapy interventions. Ostercamp is a volunteer worship leader at the Clayton Site of The Gathering, and frequently writes original music with Made New Creative, including the title track of the album “We Are Your Love," and "Holy Child," from the Made New Creative's latest release, "Run & Tell." In addition to music therapy and worship leading, Ostercamp is a freelance writer and food photographer at thenewlywedchefs.com

Weekly Inspiration // Aly Chisum

Hi there, my name is Aly Chisum and I am a worship leader with the Gathering UMC. One of my favorite things about music is the ability it has to create meaning during a specific time, and to bring back memories that are almost tangible later down the road. We’re forming those associations almost constantly without knowing it, only to find out later what a sweet impact the lyrics and melodies have. Here are some things that have been creating meaning for me as of late!

The Head and the Heart
This band makes it in the top three favorites of all time for me. Including intricate three part harmonies in almost every song they do, The Head and the Heart molds unconventional lyrics with extremely complex musicianship to create incredible sounds. I know that when the leaves start changing it’s time to go back to some old favorites like Down in the Valley and 10,000 Weight In Gold. They are definitely my “cool weather” band!

Tedeschi Trucks Band
This group is led by acclaimed musician Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi. Through a fellow musician at the Gathering I have become a huge fan of this group! Their sweet blues lines make you forget how long an 8 minute song is going on for because you are enthralled with the intricate solos you are hearing. I have especially enjoyed listening to their song These Walls (the beat drops at about the 2:40 mark, after quite the sarod solo).

Tiny Desk Concerts
NPR’s brilliant way of making amazing live music accessible to pretty much anyone! I can (and have) spend hours just clicking through to the next Tiny Desk Concert, seeing favorites charm the cubicle and learning about new artists. Leon Bridges absolutely slays it in his feature , and I often turn this on when I’m around the house and feelin’ smooth.

Dear Evan Hansen
Last and certainly not least, I am a musical theatre nerd. Like, know all the lyrics to every song of the three hour show Hamilton nerd. Following Hamilton’s Tony award for Best Musical in 2016 came the new winner of 2017, Dear Evan Hansen. This show was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are known for their song cycle Edges and more notably for the lyrics to La La Land. Dear Evan Hansen is a completely original  musical, and tells the story of a shy high school kid who is learning about how to gain confidence in himself and work through prevalent issues that face kids and young adults alike, not excluding love and loss. The songs are so well written, catchy, and of course include the classic musical theatre uplifting tune to close Act I, called You Will Be Found.


I hope you gain some inspiration and meaning from the glimpse at what I’ve been listening to lately! There is exponentially more, and I would love to hear what gets your heart beating and blood pumping.

Best,

Aly

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What Story Are You Telling?

News headlines, political controversy, and current events can weaken us to the core.  And sure, there’s more than enough negativity to break us.  But there’s also an incredible amount of beauty and inspiration bubbling up around and within us that needs to be shared.  

And to positively move forward, we must create new normals.  We must shift our ways of thinking, seeing, and doing.  We must embrace the world around us, not to become worldly for worldliness' sake, but instead to become part of its story.  

We must tell new stories.  
Better stories.  
Beautiful stories.  
Stories that resonate.  
Stories that inspire.

How?

First, expect beauty.  Move from a place where beauty is only captured in art museums, ocean side vacations, or photoshopped everything.  Instead, start noticing the richness of color, texture, depth, creation, conversation, uniqueness, and love.  When we do that, everything begins to change around us.  We can expect to be surrounded by fragments of beauty each and every day.  And once we’ve seen that amazing beauty already surrounds us, we can’t help but be transformed.

Second, revel in it.  When we see beauty, capture it, breathe it, draw it, write it, and fully immerse yourself in it.  We must do  whatever we can to experience the beauty we've found ourselves in.

Third, make it our story.  The story of beauty needs telling, and retelling, and retelling again.  Because in the story of beauty, is a story of creation, creativity, humanity, and love.  When we experience beauty, we must be confident in the promise that, "It is good."  And in the goodness of this new found beauty, may we make it our own story to tell.

Peace,
Ross Donaldson

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My name is Ross Donaldson.  I'm a worship leader here at The Gathering.  I'm also a songwriter, author, creative consultant, and recently founded my first startup, Sunstation USA.

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Weekly Inspiration // Stu Faris

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Hi Everyone,

My name is Stu and I’m the Audio Visual Coordinator at The Gathering. You can find me behind the mixing console most of the time but occasionally I’m behind the kit. Thanks for checking this out! I’m excited to tell you about some stuff that has been keeping my creative blood flowing to my artistic heart. There is so much stuff that inspires me and I’m literally all over the road with things that I’m into, listen to, and just do from day to day. I’m a rocker at heart, but I also don’t in any way stick to just that. I’ve literally been into so many different kinds of music and was raised on many types of music. I go back to the music that has formed who I am from time to time. I’ll start old with a few bands that I’ve recently gone back to, and then work my way to the present. After that, I’ll get into some other things that have really inspired different work that I’ve been a part of lately. So buckle up, here we go…


MUSIC

Bruce Springsteen:
I know that at first mention, most folks are like “no way”! His voice is distinct. His songwriting is classic and so so good. If you could seriously wipe away everything in his catalog from 1984 to the present, he would still be without a doubt, one of the best ever. I suggest going and checking out Greeting from Asbury Park and Nebraska. These two albums are some of the finest written albums of this era. Don’t even get into that whole Born in the U.S.A. time of Bruce. Trust me. Check it out here.

NOMEANSNO:
This is probably one of my favorite bands of all time. Canadian punk rockers originally from Victoria, British Columbia. Formed in 1979 by brothers Rob and John Wright, they eventually would be considered foundational in the punk jazz and post-hardcore movement and one of the originators and a formative influence of math rock. Their stuff is a little tougher to find but is all out there. Here’s a quick link.

J Mascis:
The frontman, guitarist and main songwriter for Dinosaur Jr. is known for his blinding loud Marshall stacks and killer vintage guitar collection. Well, he has some really great solo albums and Several Shades of Why is an album of some of his songs done acoustically. It’s such a great mellow album and musically beautiful. The change from electric to acoustic is really nice and tasteful all the way through. Give it listen

Fantastic Negrito:
I have so much good stuff to say about this guy, but I can’t do it any justice. I’ll just add what I originally found out about him on his website…”Fantastic Negrito is a man’s truth told in the form of black roots music. Each song the true story of a musician from Oakland who experienced the highs of a million dollar record deal, the lows of a near fatal car accident that put him in a coma, and is now in the phase of rebirth despite his playing hand being mangled. Negrito’s music emphasizes rawness and space. Slide guitar, drums, piano. Rather than update the Delta Blues, Fantastic Negrito leaves the original sounds of Lead Belly and Skip James intact, building bridges to a modern sound with loops and samples of his own live instruments. But the primary element that drives Fantastic Negrito’s music is uncut realness and zero concern for “pop” anything.” Nothing else needed to say but check it out.


PODCASTS

Recording Studio Rockstars:
This is a really cool podcast I enjoy and there’s some really great episodes with some of the greats. There’s a cool episode with one of my all-time favorite producers, Steve Albini. He produced some great music and is the owner of Electric Audio Studio in Chicago.

Tape Op:
This is a podcast that was created by the fine folks over at Tape Op magazine. If you care to learn about producing, recording gear, recording studios, or anything in that vein, this is the podcast to check out. AND you can subscribe to the magazine for free!!!


ARTISTIC

Outside The Box Woodworking:
This is a really cool family owned woodworking company that builds some beautiful tables and pieces. Period. They put a lot of love into their stuff and if surely shows in the end.

The Old Wood Company:
Another small woodworking company that is really producing some artistic wood pieces. I love the way they produce things. They specialize in using fine reclaimed wood as well as environmentally friendly and health-conscious finishing methods. Very cool stuff. Very cool for our planet.

Greiner Kilmer Drums:
Simply put, high quality hand built drums from a couple guys in Bainbridge, PA. Take a look!

DRAS fab:
Local sculpture Andrew Andrasko is a sculptor that works in metal, wood, stone, and found objects. He forges steel and fabricates steel sculptures as well as some other really cool stuff. I’m glad to know him and call him a friend. Check his stuff out.


PEOPLE

Kids:
I’m inspired in so many ways with the innocence of kids. From my kids to the 6-8 year old kids I get to coach in hockey, they are amazing in so many ways. They learn and want to learn and soak things up like a sponge. They are special in so many ways. Each kid out there is so special and inspires me to teach, to pause, and to never stop having fun.


OK, I’ve rambled on enough and could keep on bouncing from art to music to technology and will on my own personal time. But just one thing to leave you with. Art is everywhere. Beauty is all around us. Stop. Take more time to just notice the beauty that’s all around you. In anything from your shoes, to your car, to the table your computer may be sitting on at this moment. Smell nature. See the human race. Be a part of it all. Create something!

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Stu Faris is an Audio Visual Lighting Producer and loves learning and is a jack-of-all-trades kind of a guy. He really loves life and enjoys music and being a part of any aspect of it that he can. He’s played drums in numerous bands over the past 27 plus years as well as had the chance to be a part of making some great music, producing shows and records, and creating art. He currently plays in The Thunderclaps and the Dirty 30s. He loves art in any form from creating music, to mixing and engineering music, to drawing, and building things.

 

 

 

In This Together // Stu Faris

I know it sounds completely cliche, but it’s true.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “there is no I in team”.

The society we are a part of today seems to be more and more “individual” and we seem to retreat back to our corners a lot, stay on our “individual” social media sites, and look to better our own “individual” achievements.. There are so many ways that we have become more and more separated, especially in the many current events going on in the world today. There is political partisanship, religious separation, racial and economic division, and more.  It can go on and on, ever-changing and yet the same, day after day, week after week, year after year. These things are in some ways the same as they’ve always been, but have been represented in different forms since the beginning of time. Humans just can’t seem to get it right.  

But we’re in this thing together!

And we need each other, right?

Yes, we do!

Even though we have certain careers or parts of the jobs that we perform in our careers that need us to go off on our own to accomplish these goals, we need each other. We have to come back together to form a group in many cases.  And sometimes we need to ask for help.

It has almost become a sign of weakness in our modern society to go and ask for help or for someone to know that you don’t know everything and don’t have ALL the answers. But it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to learn. One of the things that I consistently tell my kids is to make sure to learn something every single day, like I do.

It’s ok to ask for help!

It’s ok to need each other!

We can learn in so many ways that we need each other. For example, we see the flocks of geese that fly south before every winter season. If you observe a flock's behavior, you'll see the geese in that flock working together to achieve the common goal of reaching their winter grounds. The geese honk at each other to encourage other geese who are getting tired or straggling. When the entire flock flies together in the V formation, each goose creates uplift and reduces drag for the goose flying behind it. Each goose in a flock shares and rotates the "front bird" position. This is teamwork! Individuals that come together to create a common goal.

In so many ways, the church world is exactly the same. Without individuals coming together to form a team that creates and serves the church, and in-turn the community and the world, it just wouldn’t work. We are all needed. We all have our own strengths, our own tools, and our own roles or positions.  Our own personalities. Our own stories.

We are one.

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The AVL (Audio / Visual / Lighting) Team at The Gathering is a prime example of this. In every worship service there are needs. We meet those needs via individuals that serve at each worship service on audio, visuals, and lights. They work together, but as individuals. What they do forms a team that helps the worship leaders, worship bands, and pastors create compelling worship experiences:  Individuals working together as a team to accomplish an end goal.

I tell my kids all the time that our world would be such a boring place if we were all the same. We need individuals. We need to be ourselves and not try to be anyone else. BUT, we also have to try to work together. It is depressing to be all alone and it has been proven that plants and animals benefit from each other and in many cases depend on each other. Just look at the food chain and the circle of life. We need each other!!!

In this same way, we need each other in a spiritual way. We need to be ourselves, but also be more like Christ, as individuals that also come together to help each other out. 

There is no "I" in team but there is an "I" in Christ and we can be single human beings that come together, work together, love one another, to be more like Jesus Christ.

Be yourself.

Love more.

Work together.

We’re all in this together!


 

Driving With Dad // Whitney Ostercamp

It’s a sunny day and the windows are rolled down. My father has just picked me up from elementary school and we’re headed to the grocery store to grab ingredients for dinner and, if I’m lucky, I might get to snag a cookie for an after-school treat. As we make our way to the store, we do what we always do in the car: sing. He transforms the steering wheel to a snare drum, center console and his door into toms, the dash into cymbals, and provides a steady percussive beat as we begin to sing a cappella to one of “our songs.” He starts out making up words about this and that, then looks at me to cue my entrance. Without missing a beat, I jump in making up on-the-spot rhymes and adding a harmonious counterpoint to his melodic lines.  

This was our usual routine. If dad and I were in the car, we’d sing. Of course the singing immediately stopped once we reached our destination, but sometimes if there was nobody around in the grocery store aisle we’d start up with the refrain one more time. Occasionally, we’d come home with hilarious new lyrics and try to recall them for mom. Many of dad’s melodies, I later learned, were motifs from TV shows he watched growing up, musicals, or radio jingles. (You should have seen my face when we were at the Fox Theater watching Les Miserables and I thought Javier stole my dad’s song! I thought dad made up that melody!)  Neither of my parents would label themselves as professional musicians, but their love of music saturated our household (my mom knows every word of just about every Broadway show from Oklahoma to Hamilton), and influenced my life in a way far greater than can be described in one blog post. 

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Fast-forward 15 years. After majoring in vocal performance in college and not feeling 100% sure that was what I wanted to do with my life, a friend recommended I check out the profession of music therapy, which sounded like a fake profession to me at the time. I observed a class at UMKC and immediately knew that day that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Board-certified music therapists help others reach non-music goals (speech, cognition, fine motor, social, academic, etc.) through the use of individualized research-based music interventions. 

Songwriting is a huge part of being a music therapist. I’ve written songs to help students with autism learn conversation skills. I’ve written songs to help rehabilitation patients in a nursing home gain a more normal gait pattern when working with their physical therapist. I’ve written songs to help early childhood students learn how to read. I’ve written songs for pediatric oncology patients to make the hospital setting feel more normal. I’ve written songs for parents in the NICU to bond with their newborn babies. I’ve written songs for patients with Alzheimer’s to help them remember their kids names. I’ve written songs for patients on hospice in their final moments of life. My songs are not GRAMMY winners, and they’re not intended to be. They’re rooted in research, individualized, and designed to help each person get from point A to point B. In music therapy, we call this the iso-principle: meeting our clients where they are, and taking them where they need to be.

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Outside of my career, I have more recently begun writing songs for the church. Similar to songwriting for music therapy, I recognize that others who hear or sing my original songs are at point A, and that my job as a songwriter is to help them get to point B. The thing that excites me as a creative person is the infinite space between those two points. In music therapy, that space is where science and art intersect and where research and creativity collide. In songwriting for worship, that space is where I allow room for God to influence my work and where inspiration is brought forth from the community, conversations with friends, or what’s on my heart.  

Growing up, I hadn’t planned to be a songwriter and certainly hadn’t imagined delving into a profession like music therapy. Over the years, I’ve come to believe this: I was born to help others be their best selves, and my unique way of doing that is through music. As I reflect on what led me to my profession, which happens to also be my passion, I think of those car rides with dad. I don’t think in my dad’s wildest dreams did he understand that he was fine-tuning skills that I would use every single day. Car ride after car ride, lyric upon silly lyric, my dad was developing my musical and lyrical abilities that ultimately would one day help others. 

God knew I would be a music therapist. God knew I would write songs. God knew that my songs, that only could come from me, would one day help kids with autism, patients with Alzheimer’s, clients in recovery, lonely people find hope, and hopeless people find joy. You never know the impact you’re having on other people through the ordinary, simple things you do every day, like singing in the car with your daughter after school. 

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Whitney Ostercamp is a board-certified music therapist in St. Louis. She works in the public school system helping students with special needs through research-based music therapy interventions. Ostercamp is a volunteer worship leader at the Clayton Site of The Gathering, and frequently writes original music with Made New Creative, including the title track of the album “We Are Your Love.” In addition to music therapy and worship leading, Ostercamp is a freelance writer and food photographer at thenewlywedchefs.com

 

Weekly Inspiration // Matthew Moore

Hello friends! My name is Matthew Moore, and I’m really excited to share some things that have been inspiring me lately. I am constantly inspired by different aspects of media, but today I wanted to focus my attention on podcasts. If you’ve ever been intimidated by getting into podcasts or maybe want to dive deeper into this world, I hope today’s post is inspiring to you!

Overcast:
If you’re looking to really dive into listening to podcasts, the first step is to download an excellent podcast application. Sure, you can use the built-in Podcasts app that Apple supplies, but Overcast has a lot of great features that make listening to podcasts even easier. It’s super simple to make playlists of episodes, it takes up less storage space on your phone than the Podcasts app, and has so many other great nitpicky features that make this app a great alternative.
Download Overcast


This American Life:
If you’ve never listened to a podcast before in your life, this is where I recommend everyone start. Show producer Ira Glass has set the standard for narrative podcasts, and has influenced the sound and storytelling for countless creatives. Their backlog in their podcast feed is pretty shallow, but you can listen to their entire archive reaching back to the show’s inception in 1995 on their website. I would recommend the episode called Abdi and the Golden Ticket.
Subscribe to This American Life


StartUp:
If you’re a creative, you’re constantly imagining what’s next. Thinking about starting a new idea, a new business, or a new adventure can be daunting, and that’s what the podcast StartUp is here for. The origin of the podcast told the story about how the creators of the show started their own business, which was a company that creates podcasts. The show now focuses on entrepreneurs who are figuring out how to manage employees, deal with the pressures of marketing, and learn how to successfully fail. One of my favorite episodes is called Diversity Report.
Subscribe to StartUp Podcast


Reply All:
Reply All labels itself as a “show about the internet,” but it is really so much more than that. It is a show that is obviously influenced by This American Life, but takes storytelling to a very different level. They often cover topics you’ve never heard about and find ways to not only inform you about the subject, but leave you yearning for more story at the end. This podcast takes the art of storytelling and stretches it in a way that leaves you feeling inspired to be a better artist after each episode. One of my favorite episodes is called This Proves Everything.
Subscribe to Reply All


Judge John Hodgman:
One of my favorite things about the podcast medium is the way people can use it to create an arbitrary set of presuppositions and use it as the new normal. That is a pious way of introducing this extremely goofy podcast that has quickly become my favorite show I listen to. The premise of the Judge John Hodgman podcast is that the host, John Hodgman, is a judge in “fake, internet court.” He hears the cases of litigants, who are usually avid fans of the show, and helps to rule judgement of their disputes. John Hodgman is in no way an actual judge, and the disputes he normally rules over are shallow and pedantic, but the seriousness that every party involved takes in the show makes it an extremely entertaining show. My favorite episode is called Dad Nauseum, which is about a dispute between a father and son, in which the son wants the father to stop using the same exact “dad joke” every chance he gets.
Subscribe to Judge John Hodgman

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Matthew Moore is the worship leader at The Gathering’s BarChurch site. He is featured on The Desert, where he worked as the lead songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist on the record. When he’s not working on music, odds are you’ll see him around town riding his olive green scooter with some earbuds in playing the latest episode of some podcast.

The Big Question // Aly Chisum

Everyone has the ability to create things. In fact, we have no choice. We, as adaptive and dynamic creatures, create almost constantly. We create responses from friends with our facial cues. We create hope or despair with our comments at work. We create motivation with goals for ourselves and others, and unfortunately, we create regression and defeat with the way we fail to seek improvement and excellence.

This concept certainly applies to the creation of art, as well. Our choices and strokes and words and notes become the launchpad for somebody else’s inspiration, or even an important fleeting moment of a shift in mindset.

SO... the big question exists:  How do we maintain an attitude of hope in what we create? How do we live in the space of love and grace even when we don’t notice that every second is creating something new for ourselves and those around us?

Making music, be it at church or at a dive bar’s open mic, is my own escape. I have power over what I’m creating, at least most of the time, because I am well rehearsed and familiar with the way things go. At my full time job as a nurse however, the interactions that I have are often fast and shallow. It gets discouraging to think that my quick opportunities to create hope with patients and advocate for excellence with co-workers can slip by during 13 hour shifts that seem to be over in a blink.

Lately, I’ve been holding onto Paul’s words in his second letter to the church in Thessaloniki. He says this in 2 Thessalonians 2:17 (The Message):

May Jesus Himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, and enliven your speech.

What a phenomenal surprise! We have been given- out of the blue, undeserved, and most likely not even fully grasped- marvelous tools of help and confidence from God. We create and respond not because we have the ability to produce good things on our own, but because we know and reflect the One who IS good and who created us.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need my work invigorated sometimes. I need my speech enlivened, and I need the things I create to reflect my Creator more and more. Hopefully, this reminder that Christ is our launchpad can center us more and more, not only our art, but in our motivations to act.

 

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Aly Chisum is the Associate Worship Leader at the The Gathering's McCausland Site and a vital part of the Made New Creative team.  She is featured on The Desertour most recent EP release, as a performer and songwriter, and she typically leads at our 5pm worship service on Saturday evenings.  She completed our internship program in the summer of  2015, and also works full-time as a registered nurse.  

Weekly Inspiration // Neil Ostercamp

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Hi Everyone,

My name is Neil and I’m one of the worship leaders at The Gathering.  Thanks for taking the time to read our blog.  The purpose of this entry is to share a few things that are inspiring to me as an artist.  Please take a minute to click around and discover some great work that you may not be familiar with.
 

Tyson Motsenbocker:
I’ve been listening to his music for awhile now and have a real connection to his lyrics and tasteful instrumentation.  Check out the newest Almira EP as well as Letter to Lost Loves.  Also, the song Path in the Weeds off of the Rivers & Roads EP is worth a listen.
http://www.tysonmotsenbocker.com/music/

Gerald Clayton:
One of the best jazz pianists out there today is Gerald Clayton.  His music is truly exceptional and even if you don’t consider yourself a jazz fan, you should check out everything he’s released.  Tributary Tales is his latest record.
http://geraldclayton.com

Rachel See:
My friend Rachel is good at everything.  I met her through my wife and she has become a cherished collaborator in music, photography, subtle humor, and the consumption of fried pickles.  Her photography is worth noticing.  Here’s a link to what she’s been up to:
http://rachelsee.net/portfolio/

French Wine:
I have two close friends that recently traveled to France for a wedding.  They returned with a new appreciation for French wine, which we’ve shared over dinner and watch parties of The Bachelorette.  Here’s a generic link I found on the Internet, and a helpful map if you don’t like to read.
http://winefolly.com/review/french-wine-tips/

Smokey James and the Avalanche:
I’m not ashamed to promote a band that I’m in.  Over the last few months, Smokey James and the Avalanche has had the chance to play at a number of significant events in Kansas City including Middle of the Map Fest and TEDxKC.  Take a look at our minimalistic website for social media links.  
http://smokeyjames.com/

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Neil Ostercamp is a dedicated performer, composer, and educator.  His first Made New Creative release is a collection of original songs and hymns containing scripturally based lyrics, original orchestration, and an introspective approach to songwriting.  He will release another EP in November 2017 featuring the Clayton Chamber Ensemble, which includes new songs for the season of Advent.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Neil Ostercamp can be seen and heard playing a wide variety of musical styles.  He has played throughout the country as a dual classical/jazz saxophonist, is the founder of multiple ensembles including Missouri Saxophone Quartet, Trio Chymera, Free Collective, and Zoo/Forest Initiative and makes a living in St. Louis as a worship leader and university professor.

This is no ordinary time.

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The times we are living in are extraordinary.  Moving at the speed of light from one opportunity or tragedy to the next, with the world at your fingertips, it seems like there is always something incredible in the rear-view mirror or on the horizon.  Yet, if you’re like me, you still live most of your life in the in-between.  And sometimes, you can’t help but feel stuck there.  Things aren’t bad, but they’re not particularly good either.  Life just feels uninspired.  A bit too ordinary.  

The Church’s liturgical calendar has a version of this too.  Easter is far behind us and Christmas is coming soon.  The two holidays are the reference points that orient the rest of the Christian year, and in many ways, that of our broader culture.  No matter where we are on the calendar at any given time, you can always look back on one and ahead to the other, along with their associated seasons of preparation: Lent (leading up to Easter) and Advent (leading up to Christmas).  The ebb and flow of these seasons and holidays do much to guide our traditions and inspire us to action and reflection.  They shape our spending habits, what we eat, where we go, who we spend time with, and influence our lives in powerful ways, accompanied by a palpable sense of wonder and the Kingdom of God “breaking in” to our world.  The phenomenon is nearly impossible to ignore.  But what about the rest of the Church calendar?  The in-between?  Well, there’s a name for it…  Ordinary.  No, seriously.  Stretching from Pentecost in the spring, all the way to the start of Advent four weeks prior to Christmas, the vast part of the Christian Year is officially called “Ordinary Time”.  So the church, much like the rest of us, spends most days hanging out in the in-between.  A time designated not for preparation or celebration, but for reflection and the living out of the Christian life in a post-resurrection reality.  Which, when you think about it, is far from ordinary.  These are no ordinary times, and this is not ordinary life.  The Living God is at work in us and all around us, making the ordinary extraordinary.  Making all things new.  Redeeming the world and trading ashes for beauty, one person and one moment at a time, if we only have eyes to see.  

So look around!  Beauty and inspiration are everywhere!  And as image-bearers of our Creator-God, it is our job to reveal to the world and to everyone around us the beauty that we discover in every-day life with Christ and shout it from the rooftops!  

I know.  I know.  This is starting to overwhelm some of you.  But not to worry!  The Made New Creative team is here to help!  The artists and creatives of The Gathering are working hard every day to reveal the beauty in all that we encounter in pursuit of the extraordinary life that Christ invites us all to.  And even if we wanted to (we don’t), there’s no way we could keep it to ourselves.  So we are launching this weekly inspiration blog where, every Thursday, different artists and creatives in the Gathering community will be sharing and reflecting on the extraordinary things that they encounter.  So be sure to check back here often, or subscribe, and share with others who may be in need of a little inspiration.  And let’s be real… we all are. Because our God is extraordinary, and this is no ordinary time. 

See you again next Thursday!

Ryan Hebel
Worship & Creative Arts Director
The Gathering // Made New Creative

 

Finding Inspiration: A breath of fresh air.

in·spi·ra·tion

/ˌinspəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

    1.     the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative."Helen had one of her flashes of inspiration"
    
2.     the drawing in of breath; inhalation.


Inspiration matters.  It is a vital part of staying ALIVE and doing anything worth doing.  The very breath in our lungs.  Yet, more often than not, we make our way through life holding our breath with our eyes, and especially our hearts, closed.  We retreat to our own corner and then spend all of our energy wondering why there’s no magic.  This isn’t something that we do on purpose.  It just… happens.  And it can be paralyzing.  Instead of giving everything we’ve got pursuing inspiration, we waste it all doing nothing, worrying that we’ll never find it again or than we can’t contribute anything worthwhile. It’s a lie and it’s killing us.  

The truth is that there’s a big beautiful world out there and it was created by a big, beautiful, loving God who is alive and close.  Amazing is happening around us all the time, and we are invited to the party.  But that’s not even the best part.  Amazing is happening IN us everyday as we are shaped in God’s image and as we reflect that image in unique ways to places and people that desperately need a breath of fresh air.  

That’s part of our mission at Made New Creative: Inspire to create and create to inspire.  And part of that effort will be regularly curating and sharing the best of what we come across via this blog.  Check back often for creative inspiration or subscribe via email below to get updates and stay in the loop. 

When was the last time you were truly inspired?  What about the last time you inspired someone else?  Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @madenewcreative.  

Inspiration is a noun.  You can find it.  You can even BE it.  But there is effort involved.  You have to look.  You have to listen.  You have to breathe.  

 

Grace+Peace,

Ryan Hebel
Worship & Creative Arts Director


Need a little inspiration for today?  Here’s a pep talk, from Kid President to brighten up your election season.

 

Creativity: It's do or die.

Like most creative people, I have lots of ideas.  Most of them are amazing (of course), but a high percentage of them never see the light of day.  They appear into my consciousness in a flash of brilliance and inspiration and fade into oblivion just as quickly.  And this is a problem.  Call it what you want: losing the muse, writer's block, too busy, uninspired... The reality is that being creative implies that you create something, and a certain talent, personality, age, location, and wardrobe are not required.  However, ACTION is essential.  


"We have to act!  If we don't act, we are not creative.  We are imaginative and have great ideas... But that's not creating."    -James Rhodes, Classical Pianist & Recording Artist


And here's why it matters.  Creating is a part of us.  It's built-in, and it has been from the start.  The opening lines of scripture center us on this fact, "In the beginning, God created...".  And if we are made in the image of God, as scripture tells us, then the creative act is a part of our very nature.  It is real reflection of God's image and an authentic expression of our truest self.  This is the work that sets us on the path to becoming truly alive.  Not.  Optional.  

So whether you consider yourself a creative person or not, I'l like to issue you a challenge today to create something.  Just try it and make something happen.  Take a risk, invite God into it, and dare to be what God intended you to be.  A CREATIVE.


"The only ideas that really matter are the ones that get turned into realities.  There is no proof of creativity without action.  The creative act requires both sides: it requires creativity AND it requires action."    -Erwin McManus, Author & Pastor


And because I'm not one to leave you hanging, here are some great ways to engage with creativity at The Gathering:  

WORSHIP - Just by showing up to worship on a weekend, you are creating something amazing.  Your presence there matters and creates a community that is not the same when you are gone.  You are entering into the presence of God with the gathered Body of Christ (the Church) and elevating a collective worship experience for other people who desperately need it.  And you need it too.  So just show up and create something! 
http://www.gatheringnow.org/times-locations/


SERVE - There are over 130 volunteers serving and collaborating up front and behind the scenes to make the details of worship happen on a weekend: musicians, artists, designers, a/v techs, photographers, and the list goes on.  Their collective acts of creativity inspire hundreds of people every weekend and create a worship experience that literally changes lives, by the power of the Spirit, every week!  

Be a part of it and contact us here for more information.  
http://madenewcreative.org/contact/


CONNECT - Be inspired by the creative gifts of others in the Gathering community by learning about the artists at Made New Creative and the work that they are doing in the Church and beyond.  See what we're up to by regularly checking out the "artists" and "events" pages on our website (http://madenewcreative.org) or by following @madenewcreative on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  And we are adding more artist profiles in different genres all the time, so contact us via the above link if you are an artist and would like to be featured.  


CREATE - Make stuff happen!!!  Got a great idea for a project and need help getting it off the ground or bringing it to fruition?  Want to get your work in front of a larger audience and inspire others?  Are you hosting or do you want to host an event that could use a creative shot in the arm from the work and/or presence of some of The Gathering's musicians, artists, and other creators?  Contact us through the above link or talk with a  Worship Leader at any site to get the ball rolling or to pitch a concept, or just get in touch with me personally and I'll walk you through it:

ryan.hebel@gatheringnow.org 
@r_hebel (twitter & instagram)
Ryan Hebel (facebook)

Now get creating!

Grace+Peace,

-Ryan-