Tag Archives: music with a message

Out Of Nashville Comes Beauty That Is Colorblind: Introducing Neely

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                                   http://neelymusic.com

The streets of Nashville are paved with the blood, sweat and tears of many a musician – and frankly, many who fancy themselves as such. Also walking the streets where musicians dream is a duo made up of two incredibly beautiful human beings, a husband and wife team: Jeremy and Kaci Neely, collectively known as Neely. There are not enough words in written language to explain these two and their approach to music, and sharing it with the world – but, that won’t stop me from trying.

The music industry as a whole likes people to fit into a cookie cutter mold of a single musical genre. Neely, however, defies this with their approach to music and the people who they know are listening. They do not fit into a neat little packaged box. Nor do their beats and lyrics fit neatly into one single musical genre.

There may be a country twang, or a bluesy feel – maybe a touch of rock. No matter what beat or sound their music entertains you with, you can be sure of one thing; they connect deeply with the human condition. They are unafraid of pain, or of emotion. Their transparency in music comes from life. They have a past, and it’s not all a bed of roses. They don’t hide the parts of their past that they may not be proud of. As storytellers, they allow their lives, the good and not so great, to tell of the journey that brought them to where they are today. Theirs is a story of grace and redemption – full of hope, and backed by love.

I had the honor and opportunity to have a conversation and ask a few questions – an informal interview of sorts. I have seen the love that fuels the duo play out time and time again on social much media, but in talking to them – their words matched their online persona.

In speaking with Jeremy, I watched his love for people, all people, play out. I asked if the duo has a target audience, and any age range they seem to cater more to. His answer did not surprise me, though it was precious. He thought for a moment and said that their music’s goal is, as previously mentioned, to be in touch with the human condition. People everywhere. All people. From the young to the old – all are important in their eyes. People have all experienced life in different ways, but many common threads exist.

What Neely does is play an epic game of connect the dots.

They connect with any living breathing person with ears to hear. They are able to connect those dots and meet people where they are – whatever walks of life they come from, and with whatever they bring to the virtual table.

The passion in his voice was undeniable when I asked Jeremy if there was any one message Neely would like to share with anyone reading this. With many examples of life, pain and even brokenness – They want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles – that they are truly loved, where they are, and who they are.

They have a heart for God, and also for people. Neely strongly values family, and community – and have coined the hashtag #NEELYFam on social media. They strive to create a community that is close, and forms bonds like family. I learned all this without having heard word one of their lyrics or music. Their hearts, and their mission- those things shine through like a bright beacon in a dark and dreary land. I knew they were musicians, but, I hadn’t actually known their music also. Fast forward. I listened, and it grabbed my heart in an undeniable way.

This is the effect their music has. On people of all ages. I have had the honor of watching several live reactions to Neely’s remastered for radio edit of their song – actually releasing today, Colorblind. People reacted differently hearing Colorblind for the first time. In those reactions were smiles and also tears; people found hope, and people made choices to be intentional with seeing people and life from outside the status quo – stepping outside comfort zones to impact their world. 

I had the opportunity for a sneak peak at this remastered version of the song, and immediately felt compelled to share it with you, my friends and readers – and the entire world at large. This song is pertinent to our world, and especially the state of our Nation.

“…Everything changes. Everything changes when we see inside. Everything changes when we become colorblind.”

That, if I could sum up the entirety of this song – it would be those lines. However, this song encompasses more of the human condition – and shows how pain and brokenness can collide with love – and the hope, unity, compassion and community form as a result of us just seeing things from an different vantage point, when we become colorblind.

Please do your heart a favor and listen to this song today. If you feel led, and I pray you do, please consider supporting them and downloading it from one of these sources: ITunesApple MusicAmazonGoogle, and Spotify. Neely isn’t represented by a producer, or any major labels. Instead, they are supported by their fans, and in a huge way, by their local church. Any download of this song would allow their mission to continue, and allow YOU to link arms with them, and the people desperately needing their mission and music worldwide.

Jeremy mentioned the love and incredible support of his church community and family, and the multinational congregation they have. He explains that there are more than 17 different countries represented, all under the same roof. In the same way, he says on any given day, he watches as people join together simply as people – business people, politicians, musicians, people with jobs of varying degrees, people with expensive homes, and people with no homes. The homeless person locking arms with people of incredible influence within their community and beyond. People being people. Doing life together. Love. That is God’s heart, and also the heartbeat of Neely. 

No matter who you are, and no matter your status in life – or what brings you to where you are today, please allow me to echo something I have said before (and will likely say again) – and as I mentioned, the heart of Neely: you are not alone! You are loved, right where you are – who you are. For YOU. Please know that the world is brighter with you in it, and your life matters. Take time to listen to some music. Take time to take care of YOU. You are valued. If you are in a place right now where you need help, know that it’s okay to not be okay. Reach out. Allow others the honor of reaching back.

If any of these thoughts, or any of Neely songs resonate with you today, it would be an honor to hear from you. You can feel free to post in the comment section below, or for more personal replies, you can reach out through my “contact me” page. I will also gladly pass along anything you’d like shared with Neely, other readers or just the general public. Anonymity, if needed, is offered. It is an honor to do life alongside you.

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The Power In Music – Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe Concert

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Music is powerful. That is more than a statement, and music truly is more than a song. Many artists freely admit that their songs stem from their own stories. They write from their own heart – which often contains unimaginable pain. To the naked eye, these songs are just pretty music with nice words. This is where I challenge things. Not that those thoughts are wrong, but I’d simply like to add. A song allows the artist to tell a story – and that story may include pain, hope, sadness, joy or a myriad of other emotions. But, it tells a story and that story resonates with different people on different levels – but does do Aggy whatever step on this journey through life they are taking.

To share a practical example of this principle in action, I’d like to share a personal moment with you. I was invited to a concert to see Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe live. Part of me wanted so much to go, but the other part of me wrestled with this. I was physically tired, and not feeling like getting out of bed after the late afternoon nap I couldn’t avoid. But, my choice to go and to be with friends for a night if music won that battle. I went. And I’m glad.

To further explain just the significance of those moments in time…

To backtrack a slight bit, I’ll briefly tell you why I was in the mood and frame of mind that I was. As you may or may not know, we lost a baby through miscarriage, and also seven years later – we lost our precious 7 year olddaughter Janet after a very courageous battle with what we’d learn was terminal brain cancer. I’ve lost friends and military unit members to suicide. I’ve experienced abuse, and know the effects of trauma. I know the pain of depression and the effects of mental illness.

I was thinking, mostly about missing my little girl since her death is still so fresh. (She passed away Feb. 13, 2016.) But, those thoughts brought up so many more. Thoughts of brokenness. Thoughts of pain. Thoughts of hope and love – often hidden or elusive. I really wasn’t okay.

In those moments, I really wasn’t okay. I wasn’t actually suicidal. But, I’d be lying if I told you that living through this kind of personal hell on earth can be seemingly impossible. I was thinking about life being unfair, and seeming so broken, almost beyond repair. I was thinking about life after death. I was thinking about seeing my daughter, and so many others who have gone before and after her. Thinking of the epic reunion that would be.

But, the thought of going to a concert again won. I had attended several concerts with Janet. She adored music as well, and could sing right along to many songs. Songs with messages. I had to remember that. I had to go and see what messages I would hear. I wondered if there would be anything spoken or otherwise delivered that could still touch my shattered heart. I may have had doubts there, but the desire was there for a reason.

Love, comfort, peace and strength were just a few of those reasons.

The first band to take the stage was Zealand Worship. I had never seen them before. Their words and their songs were spot on. They made me smile, and wish for a CD. To see the raised hands (the bands, but countless others around the arena) in worship did something. It sparked a memory of love – if a time in life that did know pain, but more accurately also knew tremendous hope.

The next band to walk on stage was Citizen Way. This band is one I met roughly five or six years ago at A Christmas concert. At the time, my daughter hasn’t even been diagnosed with cancer, but life still knew pain. At the time, they spoke words directly from God to me heart. This concert was no different. In fact, meaningful took on a whole new meaning. Ben Calhoun (from the band) spoke so many words that my heart grabbed onto. But, when he started to talk about the pain and trains behind some of the passion in their music, I held onto every word. You see, he and his wife had to say goodbye to a son (Jeremiah) that they never had the opportunity to know this side of Heaven. They may have had the opportunity to hold him, and to experience death in a strong, personal, and very real way. When Ben related how he felt His God was speaking to him – that, that grabbed hold of my heart. God’s warm and loving hands were holding Jeremiah in His hands. From Ben and his wife’s hands, directly into the hands of God. That thought brought me so much peace and comfort in that very moment. It helped me see my own story in a similar light – as I had a similar experience with pregnancy loss, but also in the death of my seven year old princess. Citizen Way’s songs just spoke to my heart than they ever had before. They spoke to my heart on a personal level. They were instrumental in the tears in my eyes being happy instead of painful tears.

After Zealand Worship and Citizen Way were finished, I wondered what more was in store – what ways God could use music notes and words from a page to bring peace, comfort, strength, and love to this broken heart. To this depressed and hurting (proud to be recognized as) child of God. So, I opened my heart to the possibility of hope being real again, even of life having purpose once again. For love to hold me. So, there I remained – now with renewed expectancy. Next up was the final band of the evening.

The final band to bless the arena with its presence, and to share the heart of God with the same kind of passion of the two bands on stage before them, was MercyMe. Their lead singer, Bart Millard spoke from his heart – sharing so much pain and yet so much hope and peace in spite of the hurts. As a case in point example, he spoke of a venerable part of his story with such heartbreaking transparency – to an audience around six thousand, give or take. He shared the original hell on earth he lived as he endured verbal and physical abuse from his father – from someone who should have been busy protecting his heart, not crushing it. Then he shared the real miracle. His father came to know Jesus as the Lord and Savior of his life. Though skeptical, he watched his father’s heart and entire life surrender to Christ. Through that process, he was able to forgive his father, and a relationship built on love was permitted instead of one surrounded by painful memories. He even said he hopes to be like him when/if he ever grows up. (Bart, for what it’s worth – I don’t think you ever need to be concerned with you ever growing up. I don’t believe that’s a thing – it even possible! But you are a man with a heart like it sounds like your father finally came to know – – one of so much love and compassion.)

I’ll now circle back to my own thoughts, feelings and emotions that evening. There were thoughts of pain and hurting, of not wanting to live life this way, and of wishing for escape – that point where hope seems elusive. You can know in your head that how was never lost, but convincing your heart to believe it – sometimes very difficult. So I went there to spend time with dear friends, but left with so much more. I went to what I knew would be nice – maybe even encouraging music. What I did not expect was the very real infusion of hope and love right back into my heart. God’s love, largely in part due to the words and messages in the songs and spoken words, was able to permeate more broken places in what I feel is my shattered heart. But, what I realized was that He is still God. He is still good. And, He is still in control. No amount of pain or loss will ever take that away. He holds every single shattered piece of my heart (and yours too, if it’s broken) in the palm of His loving hands – close to His heart. I found myself falling in love with the heart again in such a sweet way.

So, if you’re a musician, songwriter, or anyone (from all thees venues, staff, and all members of the bands) who makes this possible – thank you. Don’t EVER doubt your worth – personally or as a team. What you do matters, and is life changing – life saving even. I may never have the opportunity to personally meet you. But, if I did, I’d consider it an honor to just look you in the eyes and say thank you. To say job well done. To say I’m proud of you for stepping outside your respective comfort zones and sharing intimate details of your life, and allowing those details (even the pain) to bring hope and healing while allowing countless others (myself included) to know they aren’t alone. Ever. Through anything.

Thank you for helping me remember these things.

If you are a fellow music lover such as myself, I want you to also hear these words. You are not alone. It’s okay to not always be okay. But, it’s also okay to allow yourself the freedom that comes with also allowing yourself to feel joy. No matter where you are in life, or what personal hell you’re going through, you don’t have to experience life alone. Please don’t believe the lie that tells you you’re alone, or that no one could possibly understand. No one can understand your specific brand of pain – bit they can relate on a universal level – that pain hurts. Allow others in. If this is you and if you’re hurting, please reach out. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, your pastor, your family, a counselor or therapist, or right here on the internet. Speak and be known. Feel free to reach out here and post in comments or send me a message via the contract me option. I’ll look forward to connecting and sharing life with you. Yes, I mean that. And yes, I’m still talking to you. You – you are loved and hope is real. Rescue is possible.

To everyone reading, a side note – May is a number of things, but two of them are near and dear to my heart. May holds title of brain cancer and also mental health awareness. So, as such – take the time to surround anyone you know (especially those fighting brain or any cancer) With love. Take the time to get to know people on more than skin deep levels. Let people know you’re willing to walk with them, or sour together in the pain. You have no idea the impact you can have or the absolute fact that you could potentially be saving a life. Even when you know a person, unless they choose to take off the mask, you may not fully know them. Be that for someone else, and allow someone the honor of being that for you. You be you, and know you’re loved. Right where you are. No questions asked. You ate a human being, worthy of so much love and grace. Again, you be you – your the best person to play your part.

For a slideshow videos of more pictures from this event, please feel free to check this link out. Concert pictures on YouTube

365 Moments Of Gratitude – Thankful For The Redeemed Tour

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I am blessed and encouraged to know that in a few short hours I will be able to attend the Redeemed Tour with Citizen Way, Chris August and Big Daddy Weave. It has been almost two years since I’ve been able to attend a concert. In an amazing showing of God’s love for me, a way has been made for me to attend a completely sold out show. What a blessing to be able to go “as a guest” of one of the artists.

These last couple of weeks have been an interesting variety of curveballs thrown by life. I believe this concert will a perfectly timed oasis in the midst of recent chaos.

Thankful for this opportunity. Now it’s time to hit the road and get there nice and early.

365 Moments Of Gratitude: Thankful For WIBI Memories

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Well, today marked the “end” of Family Friendly WIBI Radio. I say “end” because, as referenced in this post, the call letters “WIBI” have been retired, so to speak. But, all is not lost. Instead, a larger extended family is gained. At 7 PM this evening, the switch was flipped, and WIBI was officially taken under the wings of then sister stations WBGL and WCIC.

A little before 7 PM, I felt some unexpected emotions. I was not prepared for tears. As I sat there, I had both “sad” but also really happy tears. Sad, only because WIBI was instrumental in seeing me, my family and so many people through many trials and life’s circumstances. I am grateful for the friendships and prayers that have become a part of my life because of a radio station that put God first, and allowed Him to reach out across the airways to meet people exactly where they are. I have had the honor of meeting much of the staff, and many of the volunteers over the course of time. I consider myself blessed to have been able to volunteer in the WIBI studio several times in support of this station that has come to mean so much in so many lives. Hearing the voices essentially say goodbye, that was sad. Hearing them say, “but welcome to WBGL and/or WCIC” that was happy. Hearing the heartfelt passion and love the on air personalities have displayed and I’m sure will continue to display on an ongoing basis – it was heartwarming, and very much a blessing.

All of these reflections have me going back through some of the pictures I have taken over the course of spending time with the WIBI family. This has been an honor, one I am grateful to now be sharing with the WBGL family.

Anyway, I’d love to share some pictures and videos with you. I have plenty more – and as I sift through them, I will update. To any of you pictured in these photos, know it was an honor to meet you, and to have you as a part of my life. No matter how small or how large of a part you have played, know that I am grateful.


Spotlight on Chris Habermehl: All Things New

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Chris Habermehl is a humble person with a heart of gold. He loves God, and he loves people. He is the worship pastor at Skyline Church in O’Fallon, IL. His newly released CD entitled “All Things New” has many songs that will connect you with the heart of worship. Have you picked up a copy yet? You can order through his website. It’s also available for download at iTunes or Amazon.

One song in particular, “All Things New” is beautiful, and holds great meaning to me. There is so much hope in the music and message contained in this song. This song is comprised of some beautiful instrumentals and vocals alike. God has blessed Chris with talent like no other. His heart and love for God and loving people enough to create music that connects them with God points back to his character. He is someone I am honored to call friend.

This is a song that reached out and touched me – right where I was. The lyrics are my hearts cry to our God larger than life. All of it. It’s pertinent in every way to me. “My heart is overwhelmed.” I often feel this way. I cannot imagine His amazing love. God has such crazy, unrelenting love for each of us. It can honestly feel overwhelming. Even when I don’t feel worthy, His love is redeeming. That’s the thing. I’m NOT worthy, but through Him, I’m precious. And, you are too.

As I mentioned previously, I was recently (January 6th) baptized, and this song just speaks volumes to me – especially in light of and in the timing of that. It speaks of being in despair and how God reaches deep within, lifting up my head, not letting go — and then being made whole. God takes each and every one of us from whatever place we come to Him and turns us into new creations — beautiful in His eyes. He lifts us up, and never lets us go. He makes us clean – all dirt washed away. He loves us that much.

He, and He alone can make all things new. This song so sweetly captures the heart of God and His love for us. That love is life changing. He makes all things new.

Thank you, Chris, for allowing God’s heart to flow through your music. This CD will touch the heart of many people.

Spotlight on Chris Lockwood – Coming Alive: I’m Still Standing

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Did you know that Chris Lockwood has a new EP out? Have you purchased / downloaded his Coming Alive EP? You can find out more at his website.

I can’t think of enough words to adequately describe this music. Full of heart and passion. My goodness – some phenomenal talent. The vocals and music are amazing. I will share my thoughts on the other songs on this EP as well, but this song – man, it’s good! The raw emotions – the perseverance – the fight — so real.

Do you ever feel out of place – like the new kid on the block? Like an outsider peeking in?

This song tackles the idea that life isn’t always easy. It isn’t always going to be smooth sailing, and you won’t always want to plaster on a fake smile. There may be times where you look around, eager to grasp onto anything – anything at all – that will give you strength. You may realize that things that were once of paramount importance are nowhere to be found. The question is – will you give up?

There will undoubtedly be times when you look around, and simply do not like what you see. Even when it seems like your world may come crashing down around you at any moment, never give up. Don’t ever allow life’s circumstances to get to you to the point that you lose your footing. Stand firm. Even if you find yourself staring life in the face, and feel like you’re losing that staring contest, always remember hope — and to stand. Keep on standing.

Never give up. Life’s not always going to be easy, but keep on standing.

Chris – I just want to thank you for creating this EP. Talk about moving and powerful. It really speaks volumes, on so many levels. You, my friend, are an inspiration.

Spotlight On 33 Miles – Let It Be Glory

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This new CD “Let It Be Glory” from 33 Miles has, literally, a message for anyone – any living breathing human being. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat listening, tears in my eyes, as God touches me and blesses my heart – exactly where I am, exactly when I need to hear the words. When this CD is released, you need to get your hands on a copy. If you, or if someone you know is hurting, your heart will give thanks for playing this CD. I can speak from a personal place when I say this is God’s heart poured out right here.

This song, also entitled “Let It Be Glory” is so very powerful. It speaks volumes to the hurting heart. It contains a powerful reminder to those who are struggling – who are walking through life, dealing with what may seem to be a sequence of unbearable trials. In a way hard to put in words (yet they did so beautifully) this song brings peace by explaining that you are not alone. No matter what burden you bear, there IS hope. Things may be hard, and you may not be able to see the light at the end of the virtual tunnel. You are not, however, alone. What you are going through right now will not last forever.

The biggest thing I walk away from this song knowing is that I am not alone in my struggles. In the midst of those, there is – and always will be – HOPE. No matter what I am, or will go through, God’s hand is in the midst of it. There is a reason for every tear, for every moment, for everything that is a part of my story.

God is God, no matter what. He is in control.

If this speaks to you as much as it has to me, I urge you to pick up a copy of this CD when it comes out in a few months. In the mean time, if you would like to talk about it, please don’t hesitate to post below, or send a message via my “contact me” page. I look forward to connecting with you.

Smile. You are not alone. Hope is real. Don’t ever forget how very loved you are.

To 33 Miles, you have my gratitude (again) for following after the heart of God continuously with such passion. You may never know the impact your music has on people, but never doubt the difference it makes. Your hearts and love of God and people touch and bless so many countless people, myself included. Also, never doubt how loved and appreciated you are.