Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas to you! I really hope your holiday season has been beautiful so far.

Here’s a quick Christmas thought that is so simple that it’s almost not worth saying. And yet, I think it’s so fundamentally important to get. And we don’t say it enough:

Who you are is enough. You are radically okay. God loves you--just how you are this moment.

Can you let yourself believe it?

In the Incarnation, we Christians believe that God became flesh and lived among us. In so doing, God put his divine stamp of approval on our humanity. It is good to be human. It is enough. As Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Embrace who you are, and who God made you to be. All of your beauty and humanity. All of your quirks and awkwardness. 

Be YOU. That will always be enough.

Merry Christmas!! Love to you and your family. I hope this is the best Christmas you’ve ever had. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Song Story: "Where You Stand"

I recently released a song on NoiseTrade called "Where You Stand." If you didn't get it, you can download it free here. Here's a little bit about where that song came from.

A few years back, I went into a deep and lasting spiritual emptiness. I can't tell you how it started--but once I was in it, I was IN. IT. It was a time when God could not be felt, could not be sensed. God was silent. God was absent. At times, I was sure that the entire faith thing was merely a delusion, some chemical cocktail my brain drank to make me feel better. [Not easy to lead worship when you're going through this kind of struggle, by the way.]

Prior to this period of my life, I had always been comforted and energized by worship, reading the Scriptures, and various goings-on of faith-based groups I was a part of. I loved the practices of my faith--I felt God's presence and nearness, and was regularly inspired by God's movement.

But then, before I realized what had happened, nothing. 

It's cliche, but color drained from the world. Songs that once touched me now didn't. Theology and service and community that once was so powerful for me now rang hollow. God was gone.

The Bible talks about Jacob wrestling with God, or at least, some figurative version of God. And in the end, Jacob didn't win or lose. All he could do was hold on. And, as the story goes, "God" touched his hip, dislocating it. Jacob would walk with a limp for the rest of his life.

This is the perfect metaphor for my struggle with God. I would love to say that I went to some Christian concert and "got saved" again. Or that I took a pill and POOF, the emptiness disappeared. But I can't say that. The doubt and emptiness didn't go away. It stayed, and I held on. 

And now I walk with a limp. The limp is an ongoing struggle with haunting questions, with doubt. The limp is faltering attempts trying to embrace the mystery.

But all I can do is hold on. And somehow, God has given me the grace to believe that God is there. Present to me--when I feel it, and when I don't.

This song defines that struggle for me. What that period of life was like, and if I'm being honest, what it still is like sometimes.

Can you relate?

Download the song for free here.

Here we go again.
On the outside looking in
All was found and now is lost
All was near and now is gone

And once I knew
And once I knew
Tell me where You stand
Tell me where You stand
And I'll be right there

I know I get off the track
Searching for what won't be found
Prone to wander from the path
How long 'til You bring me back?
How long 'til You bring me back?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Releasing One's EP To the Public [And How It Freaks One Out]

This week, I released my debut EP of worship music. We worked for over 13 months on these songs, and gave our all to them. In the end, I'm really proud of how they have turned out.

But that doesn't stop my lizard brain from obsessing and freaking out about every little thing. Below is a glimpse into my raging insecurities, throughout the production and release of this project.

Making An Album: The Mental Process

Song Selection
     - Will people like this?
     - Or this?

     - Does this sound good?
     - Am I good enough to even be doing this?
     - Work work work work work work work.

     - I wish I was better at this.
     - Am I good enough to even be doing this?
     - Work work work work work work work.

     - Ah...the work is over.
     - Oh, crap. Will people like this?
     - Check social media obsessively.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Website

I am so excited about the launch of my new website, which will track my journey as a worship artist. Check it out:

Thanks so much to my friend Rachel Austen Anderson for the great design and layout! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

How I Write Music

I follow a careful plan for songwriting. I simply proceed through the following steps:

1. Get out guitar and legal pad.

2. Tune guitar.

3. Begin strumming a chord or two.

4. Realize it sounds like an awesome Hillsong song.

5. Play and sing awesome Hillsong song.

6. Play a different Hillsong song.

7. Recognize in heart that Hillsong has sold their souls to Satan to explain how awesome they are at everything.

8. Snack.

9. Look through old lyrics written and discarded.

10. Recognize in heart that they are crap.

11. Play a different Hillsong song.

12. Recognize in heart that inspiration is lacking.

13. Read a book.

14. Snack.

15. Return to guitar and play a final Hillsong song.

16. Resolve to try again tomorrow.

Okay, it's not always like that. Some days I use Coldplay, or Dave Matthews, or whomever. 

For those of you who are wondering [or even if you aren't wondering] I'll post more about my songwriting process in an upcoming blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unveiling the Title of Debut EP

I'm pleased to announce that my debut EP will be titled "fringes // ep01." Allow me to break it down:

"Fringes" is the name of one of the songs on the EP. It's a song that reflects on God as our Center. It explores how we sometimes find ourselves on the fringes of life, hurt and broken by our own choices, by others, and by circumstances of life. But in the midst of that darkness and wandering, we, the broken, can find hope in Jesus. That we, God's children, are invited to come from the fringes back to God.

Of the songs appearing on the EP, this song is the most personal for me, the song closest to the bone. It seemed, from the beginning, like this was the song that would define the EP. So, we're recording it, and it will be what it will be.

I also am using a subtitle of "ep01", because this is the first of what I hope will be a series of EPs that I release in the future. Rather than work forever on a 10-12 song album, I'm hoping to release shorter 3-6 song EPs from time to time. That way, I can get music out faster. I can also creatively explore different ideas thematically, musically, sonically, and more. I'm really excited about this approach. [And I'm indebted to my engineer/producer Christian Kemp for the idea].

I'm so excited to share fringes // ep01 with you soon. We are all working hard, and it's coming through in the music. I'll talk to you soon.

What do you think of the title? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Embracing My Identity

A recent podcast I listened to talked about deciding what your identity will be, and then embracing it, and living that out. As an example, the speaker said that he was an athlete, and when he declared himself so, he then changed some lifestyle patterns based on that new identity.

I have been thinking about that, and have decided to intentionally embrace four core identities, which will hopefully shape me more and more. Also, as a result, I am thinking about ramifications. That is, how I will live in light of these identities. Here is my preliminary thinking on them:

Identity #1: I am a son of God. Therefore, I will spend time cultivating that relationship, being intentional in my prayer and devotional life.

Identity #2: I am a husband and father. Therefore, I will make time for quality time for family. I will not parent lazily. I will carefully curate the culture of our family, and take responsibility for it.

Identity #3: I am an artist. Therefore, I will make time for my creative pursuits, particularly, songwriting. I will invest time in developing my artistic horizons by exposing myself to books, music, film, and artwork that inspires me to respond creatively. I will spend time alone reflecting and observing. I will embrace my uniqueness.

Identity #4: I am a professional. Therefore, I will not accept amateurish behavior from myself. I will show up and work, whether I feel like it or not. I will grind. I will take, at all times, a professional approach to my work.

How about you? Any identities you need to embrace?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On Music and Transcendence

"If your songs come forth with great fervor, you not only reach deity, but deity comes and possesses you, becomes part of you, and gives you the strength to do whatever you've got to do to win your battles, to harvest your crop."
Joe Carter

My moments of greatest transcendence, where I have briefly escaped the routine of daily life and experienced a higher spiritual plane, have largely taken place in the musical world. That's why I love this quote from Joe Carter [not the baseball player]. It rings true for me. I have been grasped and possessed by deity in the context of music.

I think everyone is searching for transcendence. Something to get our heads away from the mundane reality of our day-to-day laundry and taxes and lunch-packing routines. We seek to be a part of something great, something Bigger. At our worst, we seek it though addiction--to drugs, to hobbies, to religion, to politics, to our children. At our best, we receive a taste and see, however briefly, that the Lord is good. 

Personally, I taste and see most often in music that "comes forth with great fervor." But it isn't the music that bring the high. Instead, I believe the high is very literally God. It is a felt sense of the presence of God.

But even those who commit their lives to remaining in God's presence receive only a taste. No one lives in a perpetual state of transcendence. God is not to be grasped. Transcendence is a rare gift from the Giver.

It is not transcendence that we should seek, but rather God, the author of every good thing.

Transcendence is the icing, not the cake.

In what contexts have you experienced a higher spiritual plane? Music? Prayer? Nature? Family? Something else?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Six Bands I Love Right Now

Here are some of the bands I'm listening to right now, and what I like about them:

1. Sigur Ros - Nobody does the musical slow burn better. They, as much as any group I've ever heard, create opportunities for transcendence. It's non-worship-music worship music. Try not to cry at the beauty.

2. The National - This band manages to be singable while still incredibly unique. I also enjoy their lead singer's lower, more relaxed vocals. 

3. Fun. - I shared some of their music with a friend, and he said they are music for people with ADD. He's right--every song of Fun.'s has three songs within it. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting group right now. And yes, their music is

4. Gungor - A new album comes out in October from these guys. They are a good model for an artist like me, because they have some songs that could be classified as "worship" music, but others that are songs just about life and faith. And God is in the in-between. The more I write, the more I find myself in this position. So I have lots to learn from a group like this.

5. Bon Iver - I have rediscovered this album from earlier in the year. Such a unique sound, and such creatively structured songs. Every song is hooky, but not cheesy. Instead, the hook finds its root in sonic and lyrical depth. Very impressive. And try not to emote during "Holocene," I dare you.

6. Passion Pit - Well-produced, melodic, unique, pop-tastic. This group has everything.

How about you? What are you listening to?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creative Voice

Last week, as I worked from home and wrote new music, I realized the biggest challenge in songwriting is to find my own voice. Particularly, in writing lyrics [or these blog posts], it's difficult to voice who I am and to articulate my own paradigms.

I have noticed that it's much easier for me to emulate some artist or songwriter, as if I were writing a song for them, than it is for me to simply create something original. In fact, many of the songs I've written have been emulations of some famous artist. In many of these instances, I can tell you the exact song I was trying to emulate. [But I won't, because then you'll never be able to shake the comparison!]

Steven Pressfield [must reading for anyone who works creatively] says that our aim as artists is to "get better, go deeper, and work closer to the bone."

I love that phrase, and I am trying to allow it to guide my work. I feel like I am brand new to this journey, despite the fact that I've been songwriting for over a decade.

I think, in the end, it takes time and practice to find one's own voice. Habits must be undertaken; disciplines adhered to; reps "repped." So, I am beginning to work hard to do these things.

How about you? Have you found your own unique creative voice? Or are you still chasing it?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Being Biblical

On any given issue, most Christians I know want to have a bibilical position--that is, they want to form the basis of their position on the Scriptures. Here's the problem: there are often several "biblical positions" on any given issue. In fact, the Bible presents several viewpoints on many foundational Christian doctrines and discussions[heaven, hell, salvation, judgment, war, end times, capital punishment, atonement, creation, marriage, etc.].

The Bible is simply too messy. As much as we would love it to be, it is not a legal constitution. It is poem, narrative, legend, song, letter, prophesy, and much more.

Wouldn't we be wiser [and more humble?] to offer others A biblical position, or perhaps OUR biblical position, rather than assuming that we always offer THE biblical position?

Friday, August 10, 2012


Last weekend I played the Feed Ur Soul Conference, and as part of that event, played a concert. This was a bit of a coming-out party for me, as I had never before played a concert that was billed as "Terry Waggoner, Live In Concert." I introduced a lot of new material that people hadn't heard, and put myself out there for the first time.

While I loved being a part of the event, and feel like it went well, the whole process was extraordinarily stressful for me. Here's why:

1. I battle perfectionist tendencies. "Good" wouldn't be good enough. I wanted to be unbelieveable. 

2. I am a people pleaser. So I wanted everyone to like everything I did, even though art is subjective. It was highly unlikely that a roomful of people would have the same musical taste, which would be uniquely be met by my music alone. Didn't matter to me--everyone had to love everything. 

3. I want to be authentic, and not pander to what I knew would "work." In a roomful of enthusiastic Christians, it would have been easy for me to just yell "Jesus!" every few minutes and get people into it. However, I wanted to be myself, and do it the way I would do it.

4. The concert was challenging in a number of ways. I don't talk a lot leading worship---but I would have to for this, in order to set up songs, explain ideas, and such. Additionally, the material would stretch me as a vocalist and guitarist. So I knew going in that it wasn't going to be easy.

In the end, things went quite well. It was well received [Christians can be good encouragers], and I feel like I played pretty well. I am now trying to see how this artistic journey is just that--a journey. Not a one-off, end-all-be-all concert event. So I feel good about last weekend as jumping off point for this artistic journey. More to come.

Which of these inner battles do you fight most--perfectionism? People-pleasing? Authenticity? Inadequacy? Feel free to comment below.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Feeling A Pull

Lately I've been feeling this pull, this desire [either from God or my own heart or both] to take what I'm doing in worship music more seriously than I have in the past. I don't know what that means necessarily. I only know that it is time for me to take what I am doing in worship music to the next level.

I think any artist struggles with the value of their work, and whether or not it truly matters. In light of all that goes on in the world, in light of all the pain and need, does it really make much a difference if I write one more song, or produce one more video, or spend so much time focusing on this art? Or would my time be better spent actually trying to make a tangible difference in my community and in our world? It's a struggle I've gone back and forth on over my years doing what I do.

But thanks be to God, who continues to affirm me in the work that I do. And in the midst of this affirmation, I'm feeling a call to go in deeper, to invest more, to take this art more seriously. So, I'll be working out what that means for me in the coming months/years.

This will have ramifications for this EP project, my worship leading, my church, my songwriting....nearly everything I touch. And I don't know what those will be.

All I know is I'm feeling a pull, and I'm going with it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Safe or Risky?

The hard part about selecting material to put on this project is this:

I have written several three-minute, basic pop worship songs. They are catchy, memorable, and not bad.

I have also written several less-accessible, but more artistically interesting songs that will probably not resonate with as broad of a scope of people. However, I find them far more interesting.

So do I record songs that will appeal to a broader spectrum of people, and are generally a safer bet? Or do I record songs that I find more interesting, and maybe people won't like as much? Or both? Or neither?

I have made a decision about this question....but what do you think?