Monday, July 9, 2012

Joel: A Study In Parallelism; or About The Artwork.

Today, A Journey In Exile has the pleasure of hosting a post by Aaron Cosner, the Ace who made this little piece of awesomeness:

The following are his insight into the art, music and scripture embedded in the whole project. Enjoy.

I was honored by the opportunity to help Brian create the visual element of his album. At the beginning of any album’s design, I always ask the musician what they’re seeing in their mind, so as to gain a starting point. I don’t remember what Brian said, really, besides the fact that it was all of two or three sentences. But I did remember the word “locust.” In other words, he left the art almost entirely to my discretion.

Joel is a small book with a huge soteriological message. The beginning passages evokes desperation and detachment -- a coming fury. There’s invasion, first by those locusts, then by the surrounding nations. By the book’s end, the Lord has reaffirmed his love for the nation, and the invaders are decimated.

The art communicates the dichotomy of calamity and reconciliation. The left half, colorless, is devoid of life. The focus is wholly on the locusts, the instruments of justice. The right portion of the work is similar to the left in that the locusts are still present, but the setting has been cast over by a shade of green, which is often associated in Scripture with hope (seen in the olive branch found by Noah’s dove) and mercy (as seen in the plant which shades Jonah). As the remembrance of past trials, the locusts remain visible in the right half. But they are now understood as subordinate to the sovereignty of Israel’s God. The title of the book resides in a gray circle, so as not to diminish the memory of past suffering. But the gray is surrounded by the feeling of peace and prosperity -- a reminder that though suffering is real, the God of all nations lifts his people out of darkness and into new life.

Read more of Ace's writing at his blog: On Learning In Wartime and check out the record if you haven't yet.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joel: The Studio And The Story Behind The Record

And by studio, I mean my bedroom. This is where I wrote, recorded and produced Joel.

A few months ago, while I was still in the middle of spring classes, Graham Cochrane (the music making machine from The Recording Revolution) brought to my attention that Sweetwater (music instruments & pro audio) was running a sweet deal on Pro Tools, the best recording software on the planet. I was amazed that I, a nobody musician, with maybe $50 in my savings (at this very moment) could afford to get top notch stuff and have the ability to produce the music that has only been sounding in my head.

Soon thereafter, I started putting the puzzle pieces together, which revealed the big picture and God's fingerprints were evident to me. I may appear to be speaking in riddles so let me tel you more of my story.

In 2008-2009 I attended a non-degree Bible Institute with the sole purpose of getting a grip on what the whole book was about. I was 18 years old and I had been a Christian for more that half of those years. I knew that I loved Jesus and I wanted the rest of my days to be spent doing what He wanted me to do, but no idea what that would be. I also knew that there was all kinds of content in the Bible of which I had read but did not understand, so the one-year Bible School was the next logical step. I learned a few valuable lessons that year, and one of them was that God deliberately initiated my life-story, that He is perfectly capable of directing it, and is completely willing to take full-responsibility and credit for it. In other words: I am not random, and the seeming contradictions of my life are just part of the specific story God is telling through my life.

I had been playing guitar for more that five years at that point, and I had a few interests but music was the only one in which felt like I excelled. I loved math too, but after Geometry it was an uphill battle just trying to pass. Either way, I wanted to be a "real" musician for Jesus, but saw no avenue for that. I had no skill for classical or art music, and I knew I couldn't be a rockstar if I wanted. But man did I have a desire to make music that was good enough for the King of the Universe! That seemed to be enough of a contradiction. The prayer of a[n in]famous (and fictitious) friar really captures the conflict of my days in Bible School: Precious Father, why have you given me the desire to be a great wrestler, and then made me such a stinky warrior?

That lesson I mentioned earlier freed me from the pressure of making music, and God's sovereign hand  has given me the courage and the resources to do so. Those were huge chunks of the puzzle I've been piecing together. Furthermore, I am amazed by the changing circumstances surrounding the music industry. As the business appears to be failing, music as a whole seems to be thriving. Little independent musicians and bands are have been surfacing, and grabbing the attention of many, and music industry giants are fading leaving more room for the good stuff. It's not a perfectly level playing-field, but it's closer than ever before.

The picture revealed by the puzzle is that even I can take the truths of God's words and express them through creative means, such as songs. I don't dare to compare my the music I'm making with any other out there, but I am thrilled that God has given me the opportunity, the tools, and the ability along with the desire to make music for Him. God will decide how much impact it will have.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Joel Lyrics: Hear This

The lyrics on the record are adapted from the book of Joel. I tried to take as much content straight from the text, but adapted quite a bit throughout. Here are the lyrics for the first track:

Hear this
Hear this word
The word of the Lord
Listen, hear this word
Tell it to your sons 
Let your daughters know
Are you listening?

If you haven't checked out Joel, please do so on bandcamp. Also please consider buying the record. You would be supporting my music ministry, and directly supporting the spread of the gospel by sending me to Ireland (read last post).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Irish Sojourning, or Mission to Ireland, or the Locust Invasion Across the Ocean

The last time I wrote here I was in Nicaragua doing the work of expanding the Kingdom of Jesus among Miskitu natives (of which I am one, or at least half) but you knew that if you read the last post in 2010.


It is fitting, then, that my return is prompted by a new opportunity to proclaim Jesus in word and deed in a land other than my own. This July I'm going across the pond with some friends from Aletheia Tampa. The tittle may have given away the location of our sojourning. We will be spending two weeks encouraging and serving a couple of new churches in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

You may, or may not know that I happen to be Irish. Thomas Keogh is my father, the Irish influence. I am an exile after him. You can follow his story here. I'm sure there are better storytellers somewhere in the world but I don't know them, so they don't count.

I digress. This trip is a journey to a land in which I have some roots that I am eager to discover. As my Father in heaven continues to write my life story, I hope to share the portion that I know with people in Belfast this summer and show Jesus' fingerprints (at least those which are obvious to me).


Another monumentally exciting development in my Journey is that I recently wrote, recorded and produced my first record! It is a collection of five songs inspired by the book of Joel. A few years ago, my Father in heaven commissioned me to express the truths of His word through creative means. I suppose part of that will be writing songs. I intended to make this record so that people who heard it would be blessed and reminded of His words.

I am very humbled and joyous to inaugurate this part of my ministry with the upcoming release of Joel. Please go give it a good listen. I also want to invite you to take part in this mission trip to Ireland, and in my music ministry. Please consider buying and download Joel.

From the moment the opportunity appeared to go share the love and good news of Jesus in Ireland, I immediately had a desire to go but had no idea how to make it happen financially. Within days, God provided my flight tickets across the ocean. Then, I thanked Him in prayer and asked for Him to continue to provide and His answer was a command: writing and recording Joel. I loved the idea of this record being a blessing to the listeners and also blessing people through missions.

So here is how it works: If you and 119 people buy and download the record at $5 each, then all the costs ($500-$600) for the trip will be covered: including where I sleep, the food I eat, and also the monetary costs of encouraging believers and reaching out to the community. One thing our group is really focused on, is blessing the people we meet as much as we can, and I really want you to have a part in that. How awesome!

For updates follow me here on blogger and on twitter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mission Trip Update #2 or Nicaraguans love Jon Foreman or The Ballad of Felix

Hello everyone. My journey continues in the Nicaraguan town of Waspam on the Rio Coco. Last time I wrote, I mentioned the 2 Peter bible study I led two weeks ago. God has continued to work through me and through His people here. On the Sunday following the 2 Peter study, my Dad, Nutie, and I were invited to go to the Iglesia Morava Renovada in the village of Ulwas, where my father taught a sermon on Genesis 11, and Nutie and I shared some songs. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, Tom Keogh (my dad) led a bible study through Galatians for some of the local students who remained here after others returned to Puerto Cabezas after semester break.

In my time here I've befriended many of the young people through the bible studies. One with whom I have got along particularly well is a 20 year-old young man named Felix. He's a Honduran born Nicaraguan whose family, refugees during the Contra Wars, returned when he was 6 months old. Tom and Nutie have been discipling Felix, who is fluent in Miskitu, Spanish, and English. In many ways he and I are similar. We are dual-citizenship holding, trilingual Miskitu (he more than I) young men, who want to serve the Lord. I discovered we had one more thing in common when I was asked to lead in worship before we started bible study one day. Not knowing any Miskitu worship songs, I played my favorite worship song, 'Your Love is Strong' written by Jon Foreman. Next thing I know this has become Felix's favorite song. Later he insisted we play it at his Moravian Church Conference taking place that week (Thursday, July 15-Sunday, July 18). We translated part of the song into Miskitu and began practicing. Quickly, his friends Tony, John (the Moravian Pastor's youngest son) and his friend Joel joined us in our practices.

I told both of my church families at Aletheia Tampa and Grace Church of Sebring, that I was coming down to Waspam to work in refocusing local churches on worshiping God out of a thankful heart and not focusing on the how impressively loud their sound system is. I wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish this goal, but as soon as I got tight with these guys I began to get the picture. We played our arrangement of 'Your Love is Strong' on Friday night; the second night that the local Moravian believers were holding their conference in mourning. Tragedy struck on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the conference was scheduled to begin. One of the trucks coming from the town of Puerto Cabezas with 49 passengers on-board wrecked on it's way to the Moravian Church Conference. Nine of the passengers died, including one Pastor. Apparently the driver, who was making the Puerto Cabezas-Waspam trek for the first time, was coming down a hill at high speed. While attempting to avoid a deep puddle made by the recent rains, and swerved causing the truck to flip. The driver was taken to jail, and the church in Waspam was deeply grieved, and so began the conference with a heavy heart.

On Friday night Felix looked tired from spending the previous night attending the needs of the injured, and allocating the rest of the visitors from the surrounding villages. He almost fell asleep as we sat in the pews, waiting for the call to play the song. Then, we all fumbled our way up to the front and huddled with our acoustic instruments around a single condenser mic, while the man directing the service introduced us as "Grupo Brayan." Conferences such as this one, are the venue for young and talented musicians to play in front of a crowd and sometimes present their music as an offering to God, but most times just like to play and sing through an over-driven PA system and have their 15-minutes of fame. I was chuckling to myself because I understood the silliness of what was happening at the surface, however I was very mindful that we were trying to accomplish something greater. We were trying to offer worship that pleased God. Felix explained over the microphone that the song was the "Lord's Prayer" set to music, then the boys recited the prayer in Miskitu and the music began. Our sound and the English lyrics ensured that everyone, including people walking by stopped and payed attention. At the end of the song we repeated the chorus in Miskitu, and as most times I wasn't paying to much attention to the people in the pews, but I remember that everyone except our little ensemble was completely silent. At first, I though they might not have liked the song, but later I realized that everyone was blown away by, and didn't immediately know how to respond. I know it wasn't our performance that moved them, but the Holy Spirit opening their eyes to the simplicity of heart-felt worship.

The people here really like the song. I showed Felix some more Jon Foreman tunes, and he was really digging them. What can I say? He's got good taste. He aspires to become a linguist in order to further develop his native language, so as to preserve the Miskitu language and culture. He dreams of being able to attend University in the United States. I have the sense God has even bigger plans for Felix. I think that if he was given the opportunity, he would be an excellent GCBI student. He loves the Lord and he is a very bright and personable guy, and he would be very effective in furthering the Kingdom back in Nicaragua, or wherever God would place him.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nicaragua Mission Trip Update #1

The day before yesterday was the culmination of my first week here in Waspam, Nicaragua. The Lord has been good to me and has provided my every need on my way here and even during this whole week.

On Friday, July 2 the whole trip seemed to be doomed from the start when my connecting flight to Houston had not even left TX because all flights going in and out of IAH were grounded due to high speed winds from the storm in the gulf. Though my flight was scheduled to depart TPA at noon, weather conditions didn't allow my flight to leave until 2:40 p.m. It was not until then that I was glad to have a three-hour layover before flying to Managua. That plane was also delayed; this time, because the crew had been diverted elsewhere, but the wait was not as long and it gave me a chance to eat some Panda Express before Continental had to check my passport.

Finally I was in the air around 7:30 p.m. (central) and landed in Managua around 9:50 p.m. local time which was almost midnight for my eastern time accustomed self. The next morning, I took a single engine airplane from the capital city to Waspam on the edge of the Nicaragua-Honduras border. As we circled the town to get in position to land I looked over the Rio Coco and gazed longingly at the Honduran side where I felt at home for the last time more than 5 years ago. I said a prayer, asking God to use my surrendered life to accomplish His will in my time here in Nicaragua.

Soon after landing I was greeted by familiar elements though I had never stepped foot in this country before. First, there was the smell of cow-pies, since people let their cattle feed on the grass along the runway. Then the humidity, which almost feels like your swimming through it. Love it. And finally, My dad and his wife Nutie who were so happy to see me, as I was glad to see them. My dad is walking around with a pair crutches or a super cool cane, since he recently had surgery on his knee to repair an old injury. The doctor said that within a month he'll be back to spanking guys half his age on the basketball court. For know I'm glad to be around to remind him to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N (which is really hard for him because he's a super active soon-to-be 60 year-old), and fetch whatever he needs so he doesn't have to put weight on his knee.

Sometimes my efforts to assist my dad only frustrate him to the point of shaking his awesome cane at me. Haha.

Within a day or two, my dad and Nutie planned a four-day bible study for students who were home on break. I, of course, pulled out 2 Peter out of my back pocket since it was fresh on my mind from the last time I taught through it late in the Spring.
I came down here hoping to share with these people the idea that our identity can only be found in Christ, yet at the same time God wants unity within His body, not uniformity. What I mean by this is that the Miskito people of the Rio Coco, do not have to look like their brothers and sisters in North America to have communion with them and with the Father. What seems to be the trend is that many pastors aspire to grow a mega-church here in rural Nicaragua, because that is what the world outside of the US sees as a successful American church. So my hope is that I can show a faith that needs no cultural gimmicks, only God's Word and His divine nature, through which I have everything supplied to me abundantly, concerning life and godliness.

My dad made a flyer to invite the youth of the town to the bible study. Can you tell which picture he added because he was the proud father of the guy teaching?

Though this is a new place to me, there are many things that are familiar and which I missed from living in the Honduran Moskitia. Rice and beans everyday, multiple cups of coffee throughout the day (thanks Nutie), heavy rain crashing against the tin roofs, and the best of all is the night sky (when it's not too cloudy). The night sky is absolutely amazing, devoid of the light pollution of most every 'civilized' dwelling back up north. God even supplied a good-ol power outage from lightning striking the town's generator on the day before I flew in. I can't express how odd it is to find a brand new place to be so familiar, nor can I express how wonderful the night sky really is. I guess I'll count them as a nice bonus to following God's calling and coming out here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010