Miracles…

Last week I was honored to attend my first graduation ceremony through the IFI program at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility.  I’ve been serving in some capacity there for a few years.  The IFI (Innerchange Freedom Initiative) is an affiliate of Prison Fellowship, designed to help inmates who are seeking a change, through the power and love of Christ.  It is voluntary, open to anyone who is interested.  Just as the Gospel is.

I have to tell you, seeing a room full of men singing praises to God, who a year or so earlier would never have dreamed of using the word “god” in any other way than a cuss word, is – well, a MIRACLE.  I’ve been blessed to witness this multiple times.  God is so good…

Last week, I got to hear a story of a young man who is now on fire for the Lord.  He has around 90 days left in his stay, then physical freedom.  He also has COMPLETE freedom, in Christ.

This young man lived a very rough life.  He did not grow up in a church family, or a religious family.   His “religion” was drugs and violence.  His mom was an addict, his father a hostile, violent man – and that was when he was around.

This young man first smoked crack at 10 years old.  TEN YEARS OLD!  Drugs and violence were all he knew.  His entire family was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.  His mother sold her body to support her habit – and he had to get into selling drugs to try and support his.

He entered into prison at seventeen…

I did not catch how old he is now, or I cannot recall (I’m getting old…).  But he’s spent some time in prison.  A year ago, he got the opportunity to enter the IFI program.  He was an unbeliever, and honestly thought believers were “foolish”, “naive”, “crazy”.  But he saw this as an opportunity to get into medium security.  So he took it.

He described it this way:

  • The first three months we just went with the program, so he could come to and stay at Lino Lakes
  • The next thee months he thought, “I should try and apply what the Bible says to my life, so I can better it”.  That pretty much describes his relationship with God at the time.  Religious, trying to “gain favor”, or “improve self”
  • But around six months in – Jesus met him face to face.  This young man fell in love with his Lord and Savior.  He never looked back…
  • Over the course of six months, members of his family – including his mother – have accepted Christ, and through their salvation have themselves become sober!  A handful of miracles, all because Jesus met this young man in prison!  Woah…

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20)

And this was just one man’s story!

I left Lino Lakes that night last week, overjoyed, thrilled, excited, that I got to hear of and witness so many lives transformed.  Not just the men  – but their families as well!  You want to see a miracle?  Go talk to one of these young men, you will see one with your own eyes.

God is so good….

I Love You… The Songs…

I Love You

A couple weeks ago, I released a new record of old songs.  These are songs I’ve written over the last nine years.  Originally I wanted to do this with a couple buddies, in a “power trio” style.  Would have meant they would be loud, rocking renditions.  But timing did not work out, so I went a different direction.

As one of the timing things was my drummer, I ended up using drum loops.  Due to this, I forced myself to record these songs around drum sounds from the Motown era.  This meant for me, toning the songs down a bit.  I cleaned up my guitar parts, using less fuzzy distortion, making the songs stand out more than the guitar or drum sound.  Heck – some of the songs even came out entirely different than they were originally conceieved.  Here is a rundown.

Lead Me In the Way Everlasting – I opened with this song, as this was the first song I wrote after my salvation.  I was so young in my faith, so on fire – and so quick to put things down on tape that I neglected to re-read Psalm 139 to check my lyrics.  Due to this, the original versions of this song were titled “Lead Me TO the Way Everlasting”.  Kids…

The original version of this song was recorded with my good friend Tony Preston.  He and I formed Once Blind, shortly after I was saved – we both quit the band we were in to form a “Christian band”.  We had no idea what we were doing, and most of what we did together was write and record.  Good times…  Anyway, Tony lends his guitar wizardry skills via the burning solo at the end of the song.  He also claps hands, alongside myself and my lovely wife.  He is also the one yelling at me in the beginning of the song.  I must confess, that was somewhat scripted.  It was a tribute to the days past, where Tony and I would spend hours in the studio, just messing around with whatever instrument, voice, lyric or thought came to mind.  Good good times…

Elise Magalis lends harmony vocals to this track.  Wonderful.  Simply wonderful.

My brother Tom Carlon plays bass on this track.  Tom’s bass playing brings the attack this song needs, that’s what I can always count on him for.  It’s just what Tom does, and he does it so well.  Tom plays bass on six of the seven songs in this collection.

Psalm 139 is a favorite of mine.  The truth that Christ KNOWS me.  ME, a relatively normal, unextraordinary, random guy.  The Creator of the universe knows me!  Woah…

Kingdom Come – This song is a re-work of a hard rocking song I wrote in 2008.  We played this song many many times in Once Blind.  I actually recorded it first, as Tony left the band.  Tony always had an affinity for heavier rock music.  I did not.  The band was taking a more mellow direction (Or I was – Sorry Tony), and Tony decided to pursue other things.  I wrote this in response, kinda like saying, “Hey, I can rock too!”

So as I was going to do this power trio thing, I thought this song just HAS to be on the record!  Then, as things changed, I wasn’t so sure it would fit.  Until I started playing around with a synthesizer.  The song took new form.  And wow, did it ever!

This is probably one of my favorite songs on this collection.  God is good.

This is the only song on this collection where I recorded all parts myself.  That’s kinda how I did much of my recording for a few years.  It’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve started working with friends again.  I gotta say, I prefer working with friends.  Still, there are occasions where I may end up doing all the parts.  C’est la vie.

Behold the Man! – This song was borne out of my confessions to the Lord, “I don’t have it together”.  Also, “You, Lord, do – and my hope is in You”.

This rendition doesn’t really divert much from the original.  But it’s one of the songs where I had this gang vocal thing going on.  So with this version, I was bless to have friends doing that with me.  Tony, Elise and Tom joined in, as well as Nathan and Joan Boyer.

Press On – This is a song Tony wrote, back in the Once Blind days.  His version was a lot harder than this one.  I wanted to make this more into a “Bowie-esque” song.  Not sure I accomplished this, but I do like how it turned out.

Tony and Tom lend backing vocals, and Tony is the one playing the scorching guitar solo at the end of the song.  I LOVE how the ending explodes on this version of the song!

Nathan and Joan helped with re-working the song, as they did on several of my songs on this and other collections.  They are quite a blessing to me.

I love the narrative of this song.  Reminds me of Philippians 3:13-14:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus

How Am I Supposed To Know? – This song.  This is my feeble attempt at sharing the Gospel.  I played this song in many a bar, and would use this as my opportunity to share Christ.  Something that I’m honestly terrified to do.  I have no idea why, but I am.  It’s easier to sing it, I guess.  🙂

I have always loved this song.  I was a minority though, as most others who helped me on this record thought otherwise.  So I toyed around with the arrangement, played the opening part on a Rhodes, the middle part on piano – trying to give it more of a dynamic, verses just playing the same thing.  I hope I accomplished what I was going for?  Time will tell.  Either way though, this song has a special place in my heart, as it communicates as best I can the truth that WE are the ones putting conditions around God’s love.  He’s perfect in every way, and even with our conditions, He wins us over.  God is good…

Oh!  Sweet Love – I love this song.  I know I owe Joe Cocker some props on this song.  I was going for a classic feel with this song.  Lyrically, I was trying to portray my desire for us as believers to overcome the urge to tell everyone they are wrong, and instead show the world we are Christ’s disciples by how we love each other.

So this song has the gang vocal thing going again.  And thanks again to Tom, Tony, Elise, Joan and Nathan for your help on this!

Tom texted me, as we were prepping to record, asking what I thought about him tackling the lead vocal.  I was skeptical at first – I mean, it’s MY SONG, for the love!  But I thought, why not, let’s give it a shot.  And wow!  Tom took this song to a new level.  Wonderful!  I hope you enjoy.

Ain’t Gonna Hide No More – This is a fun, sweet little number.  And a fun, sweet way to end a record.  From the knee slapping rhythm, to the piano thump, to Elise’s sharing lead vocals with me (man, that girl can sing!  By the way, the cool country vocal harmonies at the end were a complete accident, and we all told her we wanted to keep it cause it was so darn cool!), to Tom’s 12 string bass part (Yes – TWELVE STRING BASS) – this really came together quite well.

What a wonderful way to end a record that praises God.  What a statement – “I love you”.  I can say that only because You loved me first, Lord.  You are so good…

I’m giving all monies raised on this record to the Salvage Project.  You can read about their ministry, as well as give directly here.

So there you have it.  I hope you enjoy!

I love you,

T.

I Love You…

New Music – AGAIN…

I Love You

I Love You…

Yes, I have new music, AGAIN.

Or better- it’s older songs of mine, that I re-worked, re-recorded.  So – in a way, it’s new!

I got a ton of help on this one.

  • Nathan and Joan Boyer again helped with re-shaping the songs – mostly lyrically, but also with forming a song into something usable.  They also helped with vocals on a few songs
  • Elise Magalis helped with vocals, including sharing lead vocals on “Ain’t Gonna Hide No More”
  • Tom Carlon played bass on all but one song.  And he shared lead vocals on “Oh!  Sweet Love”
  • Tony Preston, who crafted the song “Press On”, also lent vocals, lead guitar and hand claps
  • My lovely wife helped with hand claps – she’s the best hand clapper out there!
  • While I took the pictures on the cover – I was with my lovely daughter as I took each one.  So I gotta give her credit as well.  😉

This was a lot of fun to make!  I hope you enjoy!

As with my last records, I’m going to give away any money raised.  This time around, all monies raised will go to benefit the Salvage Project, my dear brother Jeromy Darling’s non-profit.  Their mission is, in their words, “To repurpose forgotten people and broken lives through music and stories that transmit the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ.”  You can read more about their ministry here .  I’ve been privileged to be part of what they are doing, and it’s incredible to be able to share hope with those who many want to avoid.  Showing someone in real, tangible ways, that they matter, are valued, valuable, created in God’s image – LOVED – that is an awesome thing.  It’s God moving through His children. It’s a beautiful thing…

So – there you have it!  You may or may not know these songs?  But either way, I trust you will enjoy yourself.  Would love to hear your feedback!

I love you…

T.

Download “I Love You…”